Miscellaneous Madness Theoretical Thoughts

Weekend – Open Beta Version

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed in EQ2. There are so many different things I want to do that I find myself paralyzed by choice.

This weekend I decided that what I needed was a change of scenery and since both Champions Online and Fallen Earth had open “betas” I figured I’d give them look. I plan on writing a more detailed post on each of them later but here’s my one line review.

Champions: City of Heroes 2.0 or maybe CoX evolved and that’s not a bad thing.

Fallen Earth: The love child of Fallout 3 and Eve with a crafting system that I find very compelling.

More later – the iPhone is ok for short posts but not so much for longer writing.

Design Deliberations Theoretical Thoughts

Grinding Levels

I think it all started a couple of weeks back with Tom Chick explaining why MMO’s are Broken which was basically a re-hash of every “Why this game suxors” post on every MMO forum out there. The next day Trembling Hand jumped on the bandwagon. Scott Jennings over on Broken Toys tried to explain to both of them that first, MMO <> WoW, and secondly, while most MMO’s are fantasy based, they’re not developed in Fantasy Land.

As I said earlier, all of this is stuff that those of us that have been playing these games awhile have heard thousands of times and Scott pretty much nailed the response that we’ve all hashed out over the years. However, yesterday a friend of mine, Pentane, linked this Scientific American article on the Expert Mind. I highly recommend it for all you armchair game designers – even you real world designers will find it interesting but I’m guessing quite a few of you have already read it or some of the books that have been written from those studies. Also yesterday, Psychochild, posted the first in a series of articles on How to Replace Levels.

These two articles combined got me thinking about the whole levels in MMO’s debate again but in a slightly different way and I came up with a kind of challenge – design a multiplayer that doesn’t have levels of some sort.

The trick here is to think of a “level” as a game mechanic that meets the criteria in Psychochild’s post. In other words anything that is used to mark Achievement, provide others Information or help with Pacing through your game world is considered a level. So far I’ve only come up with one way that it can be done and while I think the game might have some interest it would be a decidedly niche game and I wouldn’t want to propose it in today’s market.

Industry Insights

Breaking into the games industry

I was originally going to write about the new ideas for death penalties the folks over at Sigil are implementing for Vanguard. However, triggered by Moorgard’s thoughts on landing a job in the industry and spurred on by Michael French’s recent opinion piece on Next Generation I decided the time was right for my “Breaking into games” rant.

Industry Insights

EvE TV, a primer for game TV?

When I first started watching soccer, football for the rest of the world, I had no clue about the rules or the nuances of the game. I started out catching BBC America’s weekly recap/preview show and eventually started watching full English Premier League matches on what’s now the Fox Soccer Channel. The thing I liked most about the match commentators is that they didn’t feel a need to talk down to their audience. They would show the offsides, with a yellow line on the field, and sometimes give you a “obviously offsides”, or “close call” type comment but they just assumed that if you were watching you understood. The same with penalties, the most you’d usually get was something like “obvious penalty but I’m not sure it warrants a card” and it was left up to the viewer to decide what the actual infraction was.

As I said, I knew nothing about the rules of the game so you’d think that this kind of coverage would have been frustrating but in reality it allowed me to learn the subtlties of the game much faster. I had to watch what was happening, think about what the commentator said and try and relate the two to figure out what was going on. This kept me much more engaged in the match and I started to see plays developing. As a result I now find soccer much more entertaining than, say, American football.

This weekend I found myself experiencing that same engagement watching people play a video game that I have very little interest in actually playing myself, EvE Online. This weekend, and again next weekend, CCP is running a series of in-game PvP matches and they’re streaming live coverage of them over the web via a service they’re calling EveTV.

Design Deliberations

MMO Crafting and Me

The recent articles by each of the three members of the MMO Round Table, Moorgard, Nerfbat and Aggro Me, got me thinking about my experiences with crafting in MMO’s.

As anyone that knows me can tell you I’ve never been a huge fan of crafting in most MMO’s. EQ1 crafting was so tedious that I’d find myself nodding off after only 5 minutes. WoW wasn’t that much more exciting but at least I didn’t risk carpal tunnel from all the clicking and dragging. At launch the actual act of crafting in EQ2 was entertaining but having to spend hours doing sub-combines to make the components that you could then use for the final object you wanted to make was annoying to say the least. About the only system that I was able to tolerate for any length of time was the one in DAoC and that was only because I just had to have my components, go to the proper crafting station and click on the button to start it. I could then walk away and do something else while the crafting process completed. If I didn’t have anything else I wanted to do though it was boring as heck watching that little bar fill up.

The recent changes to EQ2’s crafting system have actually made that system entertaining for me, I have a couple of characters that have a higher tradeskill level than adventure level even, so thinking about the new system and reading those posts got me thinking about a perfect – for me – crafting system.

Industry Insights Reflective Reviews

E3 Reviews

It’s been a week since E3 and I’ve been going over my notes to finally put together my review of the games, besides Hero’s Journey, that I had a chance to look at.

This was my first experience at E3 and while it was a lot of fun it was also very tiring, I think my feet started proceedings to disown me on Thursday, and loud. I understand that they had some strict noise policies in place and this year they were enforcing them but still, when you’ve got 100’s of games playing at even normal volume the din can be overwhelming. I heard that the NCSoft booth got fined for one of their bands being to loud and I can believe it, lets just say that watching someone playing Aion on a system 10 feet from the stage is NOT where you want to be when the drummers started up.

The demise of the booth babe was also overly exaggerated, they were still out in force and there were still lines of gamers lined up to get their picture taken with them…kind of sad really. There were also quite a few women gamers/developers there too which just goes to show it’s not strictly a “boy’s game” anymore – a good thing if you ask me.

And now on with the reviews…

Industry Insights

On Death and Penalties

Over at MMORPG.Com there is an editorial debate on Death Penalties. While I’m a strong believer in the theory that challenging MMO’s will have a longer lifespan than those with little or no challenge and that death in an MMO should be something that the player is encouraged to avoid I don’t agree that this requires the harsh death penalties advocated by Frank Mignone in this article.

Theoretical Thoughts

Shifting paradigms in future MMO’s

In his most recent post my friend Pentane raised some interesting points about the state of roleplaying, or the lack of it, in the current crop of MMO’s. As someone that hopes to one day work in the MMO genre there is a lot of food for thought in there but the main point I want to address today is one that he kind of glossed over, the conservative player syndrome.

Industry Insights

Women, Marketing and Magazines

UPDATE: June 10th 2018.

I originally wrote this in October of 2005 and the only reason it isn’t as relevant today as it was then is that I focused on gaming magazines. Those are no longer as relevant as they once were.

I have to admit that browsing the major gaming websites (Kotaku, IGN, Gamespot etc.) today the front pages look mostly benign. Of course, today is the start of E3 2018 so it’s mostly about who’s announcing what but at least they  have images from the games and not tons of photos of booth bunny’s.

So while it may be improving I think things like GamerGate and the way women are treated in the majority of the gaming community’s still show that many of the sentiments expressed 13 years ago still hold true today.

Next-Gen is reporting on a speech by Suzanne Freyjadis-Chuberka, the Conference Director, at the Women’s Game Conference being held in Austin this week. In it she claims that there are plenty of games out there that women would find enjoyable if they would just sit down and play them. According to her, the issue isn’t the games and their content but in how they’re marketed and how the gaming press presents them.