Monday, December 14, 2009

I had food poisoning today, Oh joy!

When your told that a chicken pie is old, and you should throw it out, do it.
Eating it like a dumbass like me will only make you sick.

Spent my entire morning, which could have been better spend elsewhere, throwing up and sipping water in bed until I felt better.

Not one of my better mornings I assure you.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

I bought a PSP

Today, I bought myself a PSP.

Been meaning to get myself one for awhile now, and I was planning of getting myself one for Christmas, but I found a good pre Christmas deal I couldn't refuse.

Got a PSP, a 1GB memory stick, and Gran Turismo, for the bundle price of 4$ over usual retail price. Good deal I think.

Also got Final Fantasy: Dissidia. It looks like a cool game with some of my series favorites in it.
Controls are a little weird, but it's still good.

Well, I think that's my major spending for the year..... won't be doing that again anytime soon.


My work published in EON?

Well, CruzyKinux has come through for me recently, by getting me in contact with the publisher from EON magazine, seeding the idea of working with them to give me some leverage with CCP.

Why didn't I think of that?

Anyways, the publisher seems willing to hear me out, and I have already sent some of my better work from my portfolio to him, and am working on some more eye catching work.

So hopefully, if I'm half as good as I think I am, I may end up with my work published in the EON magazine.
Fucking A.

This could be very good, not only to gain notice of CCP in the short run, which in my opinion still won't be enough to get me in this time around.
But, if I were to continue working with them and get my work published in EON month after month, in six months time when I'm skilled up to where I think I need to be to get into CCP, then I'll also have something pretty decent on my resume to flaunt.

So in short, if I miss this time, this will almost certainly get me hired six months later.

So lets see if they will publish my work.

Cheers CrazyKinux.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Mortal Online

Well, just today Mortal Online had it's NDA lift.
And the flood gates have opened.

I've just spent the better part of 3 hours going over information about the game, watching videos, etc.
And I must say, it looks quite good.

With the NDA lift, they also stated on their website, that they are not far off the open beta.
And for once, I may actually do an open beta. Downloading the torrent as I type.

So within a couple of weeks, I'll be able to put her through her paces, and see how she handles.

So far I have been given the distinct impression that it would be like Oblivion online.
But that's good, because I really do like Oblivion.

Maybe not all the time, but it's good to play once in awhile.

Though I doubt it will hold me in the long run, it will it least have me for awhile should it live up to expectations.
(thou, I never really intend on any game keeping me for the long run)

But we shall see.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Boot to the Face

After an ongoing email conversation with Kelley Barnes-Harmann today, I feel a little less then enthused. She must have had her suit on, she was not playing.
The consistent feeling I was getting from her, was that I'm in for a world of hurt as to the likeness of me getting in at this point in time.
A shear cliff if you will.

Well that's good, I like a challenge.

Never the less, I have to face the realization, which I was already acutely aware of, that I may not be hired this time around.
That's fine.

I'll just have to buckle down and try again 6 months from now.

Of coarse I'm still going to finish my portfolio and submit it, even if I do get kicked in the face.
At the very least I'll learn where the benchmark is, and that'll give me an accurate direction to go in.
No more stabbing in the dark.

Still, all things considered, that when well I think.


The Aliens have landed!

Contact! I have made contact!

With CCP!

Misleading title eh?

Over the last month I have been attempting to start up an email conversation with somebody at CCP, as to get opinions on my portfolio work so far. And to build bridges, naturally.

And at long last, Kelley Barnes-Hermann has replied to my pleads.
I was right to think she was a nice person.
Right from the beginning I knew, "if anybody will reply, the lady will". And hey presto.

Now lets hope I'm as persuasive, and as good as an artist an I delusionally think that I am.

I pretty sure CrazyKinux had something to do with this, if so thanks, if not, thanks anyways.
That's motivation fuel for ya.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Massively Single Player games

There seems to be a new sub genre of games that has appeared over the last couple of years.
That being single player games that have elements of, or play like MMO's.

And this can be good or bad, depending on what they take away from them.

If it's the social mechanics, such as you are playing by yourself, but can compare your progress vs other players, then this can be quite good, as it builds community.
Always a good thing for a game.

However, sometimes I see games taking exactly the wrong message away from MMO's.
Namely, the tedious, grindy gameplay elements, often in lue of storyline, in order to artificially lengthen the game.

With an MMO, I can put up with it at times, as the social interactions are usually worth it.
But in a single player game, I'm not going to give it another thought, I'm probably going to drop it in a short order.

For example, I recently had a go of Phantasy Star: Zero.
What a boring freaken game.
Within minutes it's got me running thru randomly generated dungeons, killing ten rats.

There probably is a story under all that pointless BS, but I'm not going to spend money on something that feels like a second job 5mins in.
It does however have an online component, but from what I can tell it's rather shallow.

Earlier in the year I finally got around to playing Final Fantasy 12....... oh god it was painful to play. Not as much as Zero, but pretty damn close.
The story was cliche, the main character was a total douche, yet completely irrelevant to the story anyhow.
The only relief was that you could early on use any three or less characters you wanted to..... out of the staggering selecting of six..... wow.

But the girls were sexy.... so it's not all bad.
But any RPG that has me spending more time trying to look up the female casts skirts, rather then reading storyline dialog, doesn't have a whole lot going for it.

It seemed to be trying to hard. Spending more time on graphics, and finding new and imaginative ways for you to kill ten rats, rather then character and story development...... which is of coarse, only the entire point of an RPG.

To contrast this, a game I played even earlier in the year, Devil Survivor was a smash hit with me as an RPG.
Solid, engaging storyline. Great characters. And while not innovative, enjoyable and purely addictive gameplay.
This game ticks all of my boxes.

While not a long game, it's last just long enough to scratch that itch, while not hanging around like a bad smell like the previous two I mentioned.
It's just classic RPG, in all it's beauty. Something that we shouldn't forsake just to appease the MMO junkies. (yes I'm one too, calm down)

While there are some good lessons to be learned from MMO's, and there are some generally good mechanics that would work wonders in single player RPG's, we should not forget our RPG roots.
Sometimes good story telling is all it takes.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

It's all uphill from here

Well, my long awaited project is underway, building my portfolio for CCP.

And boy o boy, does it take a lot out of you.
I spend on average, 5-6 hours daily on it. Can't remember the last time I actually played a game.
Don't do much other than wake up, work, maybe get a bit of anime in, work, go to my part time job, come back, eat, and work some more.
Morning to night, art is all I think about.

And I have the next two months of that routine to look forward to.
Joy o joy.

Never the less, it'll all be worth it in the end.
I'm a lot better now then I was 8 months ago. So much so, that I'm easily on par with artwork CCP have done themselves, so I shouldn't have any problems getting in.

Let's see if persistence really does pay off.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Three Foundations of Society

After having an extended conversation on the Shut Up, We're Talking discussion thread on Virgin Worlds, and thinking further on my previous post, I've come to a series of interesting questions.

What makes society, society?
Or rather, what makes it work?
How does it have such power to bring people together for mutual interest?
And how can we mimic this with in MMO's?

This is my attempt at an answer to these questions.

The Three Pillars

There are three components that make up a functioning society. (more or less)
A: Social interaction and integration of the members of said society.
B: Economy and shared resources, coupled with personal wealth of each member.
C: Infrastructure, rules and regulations.

Remove one, and the whole thing collapses.
You need all three to some extent, which can vary.

I'll go over each one in order, explain them in more detail, and link them to game mechanics that work in favor or against said component.
This could take awhile, make yourself a coffee.

Social I.I.

Now what the bloody heck am I talking about here?

Interaction is obvious. People need to be able to talk to each other, and construct relationships.
If someone wants or needs something, they need to communicate that effectively.
Say, if someone needs medical attention, and if no one knows, then guess what?
That's probably one less member of that society. And of course on a larger scale, you just can't get things done that way.

But this is easy. People talk. You can hardly shut them up at times.
In game, at the very least you have chat channels.
The more specific, the better.

But chat is slow, and in the heat of battle, you just can't type as well.
The answer? Is voice chat. Duh!

However, while we are mostly familiar with third party chat programs by now, they are a bit of a hassle, and hardly seem worth the trouble at times.
Which is why inbuilt game voice chat is preferred..... if it actually works.

And then there is in game mail, allowing contact even when two or more players are not normally on at the same time.

Bottom line, the easier you can make it for people to communicate their wants and needs, the better your society will be.

Second, integration.
By this, it means for each member to fill a role within the society by in large, with preferably mutual interest as the net result.

ie, I work, this work provides service or produce to other members in my society, and I get money in return, which is in turn used to keep me feed with a roof over my head, hence I survive.
It is in my best interest to help others in my society.

But people have to be able to fill the needs of society. If a car breaks down, we need a mechanic fix it. If there are no mechanics, someone either fills the role, or we're fucked.

How this fits into MMO's, is that by limiting roles to preconceived notions, you ultimately cripple yourself in the long run.
In traditional level and class based games, where you pick you role right at the beginning, usually before you know how anything works, once you get into a group with certain requirements to be met, you either fit, or you don't. Often the latter.

It's the square peg, round hole dilemma. We've all seen this.
This system is too rigid, and as such when people need things, things just don't get done 9/10 times.

However, if it's sane we're talking about instead, round hole, square hole, it's doesn't matter.
Sand can change to fill whatever niche it comes in contact with.

And in MMO's, players have to be able to change as the situation dictates.
As such, sandbox style or classless systems are preferred here.
But also, the tools to change and meet a wide array of needs.

People can change, and their tastes and moods change often.
You are X just doesn't cut it anymore.

Economics and Wealth

Still with me? Haven't fallen asleep yet have you?

Economics in short is things need value, and things of value are exchanged between members of a society or between societies, for mutual gain.
As such, we come to rely on each other for goods and services that we just don't have the time of day in order to get ourselves individually.

If we each had to get our own food only, then we would do nothing but, just to stave off starvation.

It's much better for the society for a few to create a overabundance of a valued good, such as food, to provide for everyone else. This frees everyone else up to spend their time creating other goods and services, which a greater portion of society can utilize.
Hence, this improves the overall health of a society.

How this works in game, is that players obviously need to be able to trade things, first and foremost. And again, the easier you make it, and the wider audience you can reach, the better.
As a consumer, between ebay and the newspaper, which allows you to find what you need the quickest and easiest?

Ebay right.

As such, just direct player to player trading isn't enough.
Auction houses work so some extend. But it gets a bit cluttered, and is difficult to compare prices at times.
Region wide markets on the other hand, such as in EVE, work very, very well.
Allowing not only to reach a wide numbers of players, as well being hands off enough that you don't have to be online for things to sell, but also allow for real competition to creep in.

All it needs is branding and advertising, then it will be set.

However, mechanics that work against this are item drops, NPC rewards, and having a low number of constant requirements.

In most MMO's, you kill stuff, and they shit equipment. And when you only need weapons and armor for the most part, and one or both drop from enemies or are crafted via NPC's, with quality equal or often greater then player crafted gear, then this circumvents the entire player crafted economy.

If you could kill your neighbours cat, and it would drop a brand new pair of shoes once in awhile, then respawn 15min later, why would you ever go spend money for the same exact item?

For economy to work properly, you have to have sources of goods and services be mostly, or to some extent, player driven.
Again, in EVE, ships are a good which you use regularly, and it is required to play the game.
You cannot get ships by any other means, except via other players (or yourself) building them first and selling them to you.
As such, ships have value, and the resources that are used to build ships are valued.

Money makes the world go round.

Personal Wealth
As such, personal wealth is equally important.
For two reason, personal health and well being, and motivation.

Having stuff makes us happy. But it also allows us to micromanage our lives as we know best, making us more productive members of society.
If it was the duty of a handful of people to make sure everyone else was feed at a given time, a great deal of people would starve to death.

It's much more beneficial for society if we each took it apon ourselves to keeps ourselves healthy, happy, and therefore productive. Therefore we need stuff.

But also, having stuff and getting more stuff can be used to motivate us to go out and do things, things we may otherwise not do.
Say you want a new car. You currently may not be working a whole lot due to low expenses, but at the same time you are not saving anything either.
So in order to safe up enough to buy this new car, you either try to get a better/extra job, or get a raise or promotion within your current job.

Normally you wouldn't bother, but you want more stuff. And as such, you work more, and this means more productivity for society.

In game, just having your armor and weapons usually isn't enough. You have to have other things in which you can buy, or the currency becomes superfluous.
Houses, jewelry, pets, land, mounts, fluffy items, so on and so on.
The more stuff you can potentially buy, the more motivated you are likely to become.

Esp in the case that they are consumable items, that you need to replace often.
ie, Ships in EVE. When you die, you lose your ship, then have to buy another, and so you are motivated to stockpile cash and replacement ships.

And thus, you have supply and demand.
The foundation of economics.

Infrastructure and R&R

Bored yet?
Prepare to be catatonic.

In order to be a healthy, productive, and growing society, we need infrastructure.
Building, pumping and sewer systems, power plants and lines, roads, etc etc.

Without clean water being pumped into our houses each day, we can't drink or have sanitation, and we would all die after a couple of days if we didn't have water storage.
Or die sometime later due to disease or sickness.
Infrastructure keeps us clean and healthy.

But also, we need to be able to build infrastructure as our needs and numbers grow.
If for some reason we could only have a town or city with 100 houses max, we would quickly overpopulate beyond the means of those houses to provide shelter, and thus not only would large number of people roam the streets homeless, but each house would likely be packed.

Extrapolate that out further, and everything thing begins to fall apart with strict population controls.

Growth is important.
And in game, where 99/100 content and thus infrastructure is static, you regularly find locations where people a packed on top of each other, in a big, unorganized cluster fuck.
So finding the right people for the right job becomes endlessly more difficult.
Just getting things done become downright painful as your words get lost in the squawks of endless chatter.

People need space, and lots of it.
But they also need to be able to make use of that space, so the others know that their there, and to manage there own needs as they see fit.

If you we're to go into a zone or area, and there are lots of people running about trying to sell something to you, and in the center of the area there is a building that looks like a shop, which are you more likely to buy from?
The shop right?

You need places to store your stuff, and places to get certain things done.
You can't just fix a car in the middle of the street. (well you CAN, but it's a bad idea)

Personal storage chests and the like in games are a start, however these are usually located in static towns and outposts. And when your in the middle of nowhere, at war with another group, last thing you want to do is go back to town for a quiver of arrows and to repair your gear.

But to be able to build a base of operations with your guild or group, so as to supply you with what you need and storage for what you don't need at that minute, is important in a world in which distance matters.

In short, to have a proper in game society, you need lots of space which players can claim and occupy, with resources that can be made use of, and for infrastructure to be built to meet the groups needs.

Rules & Regulations
But of course, there is more to it then that.
You need rules and regulations to manage people, so that they can work together constructively, and not steal from and kill each other.
While in group rules are usually easy enough to mimic in games, where guild members just don't tend to screw each other over (provided there is good leadership), mechanically it is just made impossible to attack someone in your own group.

Which isn't always the best idea.
But that's something else entirely.

You need to be able to set rules that everyone can agree to, and be able to enforce them when there broken.
Again, EVE does a decent job at this.

In high sec, at any time you are ABLE to go and shoot someone in the face, however doing so will incur the wrath of CONCORD, which will promptly blow you up.
As such, even thou you can be an asshat, it is very rare to be attacked in high sec.
(unless you are at war)

However, in most other games, the rules or engagement vary between complete non-engagement, to lacking at best.
ie, In Guild Wars, there is no PvP outside of the PvP arenas.
And even within these arenas, you always know how many enemies your going to face, and basically what to expect.
This is canned PvP, and it's not very exciting.
Good for casual practice thou.

In Runes of Magic however, rules are piss poor. If you do stab someone, the guards will be angry with you, and glare at you from a distance.
Seriously, I've never seen NPC's guards actually do anything. And besides being red to other players, there is really very little stopping you from being a ganker/asshat.

0.0 in EVE is sort of like the latter there. No rules, no protection.
However, rules are generally, and informally set by thou's who inhabit the area.
Which is usually, not blue = shoot it.

Anyone surprised there isn't a rush to go down there?

What a functioning society in a world where there is nothing physically stopping from attacking people at random, like 0.0 sec in EVE, is for thou's who own the area to be able to publicly set the rules in a way in which all who enter their space can understand.

But, also allow for them to effectively enforce such rules.

For example, you and your guild/corp own a section of land/space, and your group decides that you don't want anyone within your area that is not apart of your group, to attack anyone else within your area. (regardless weather they are a part of your group or not)

And through mechanics, or a building with preset roles, you can set member of your group as 'enforcers'. As soon as someone breaks the rules, you know who they are, where they are, and what rule they broke.

Then the enforcers in the area can the enforce the rules as they see fit.
(and of course there would be some way of distinguishing them as enforces for thou's not within the group)

This way, players can set the rules for the area, and enforce them.
As such, thou's who abide by the rules set can have peace of mind, and are more likely to come and interact with you and your group if they feel safe.

Safety is important. People are less likely to deal with you if they feel unsafe.

All in all, you need not only to be able to provide buildings in order to organize and mange peoples needs, but also a framework of rules which all can agree to, in order to provide safety and security.
And most of all, rules must be enforced.
It's the only way to being order from disorder. (aka chaos)

Cliff Notes

Now that I've gone over in extensive detail what makes a society, and roughly how this fits into MMO's in the grand scheme of things, heres a short list of what mechanics promote in game societies, and which inhibit them.

What doesn't work:

Level/class based roles - Square peg, round hole.
Several severs - Segregating people is always a bad idea.
In game chat Only - Hard to communicate effectively.
Itemized drops - Circumvents player created goods, removing value.
Only non-consumables required - Stifles value in player created goods. Loss of motivation.
Few useful items - No motivation to get more stuff.
Only static infrastructure - Cluster fuck. No growth. Stifles productivity.
No rules - Ganking and asshattery. Lack of safety.
Too strict rules - No competition. Boredom.

What works:

Sandbox, defining your own role - Can change to met needs of the whole.
Single server - Lots of people. Single economy.
Inbuilt voice chat - Quick and efficient direct communication.
Mail system - Effective indirect communication.
Large usage of player created goods - Supply. Resources are valued.
Regular consumables - Demand. Money has value.
Lots of stuff to buy - Motivation.
Lots of space that can be claimed - Room to grow.
Player built infrastructure - Promotes growth. Allows greater organization.
Enforced rules - Safety and piece of mind.
Player generated rules - Allows for complex social interactions.

In Closing
Of course none of these are set in stone, however, it's just a good idea if your goal is social in nature. And because we are talking about MMO's here, social interactions are always going to be a large part of it.

A good in game community makes a healthy MMO.

Look at EVE, it has many of the right ideas and few of the bad, and it has by far one of the strongest, most lively communities I've ever seen in a game.
In terms of social and economic simulation, it is ahead of the pack by a country mile.
There is just nothing else like it, or even comes close.
(besides real life)

Not perfect, but any MMO's worth their salt should take a good hard look at it.

Because at the end of the day, it's people that make MMO's fun.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Future of Guilds

After a side comment by Karen, on the Shut Up, We're Talking podcast ep #55, about how the role of guilds are falling by the sideline in way of PUG's where you used to be in a guild for primarily raiding and gear centric purposes, and now game mechanics are allowing for PUG's to do this also.

So what's left for guilds?

As it stands, they seem more like glorified chat channels, there only for social rather than practical purposes.

While I admit, I'm not the most social person in the world, but I can definitely see the degradation of guilds in MMO's.

Now, where would I like to see them go in the future?
Well, obviously somewhere with more practical uses.

And of coarse, I'm going to bring up the game by the only people who always seem be ahead of the curve, EVE Online by CCP. (yeah, I'm a fanboy, bite me)

In EVE, while solo gameplay is quite boring (understatement), group content and corporations (guilds) are exceedingly good, allowing the corp to do damn near anything they want, from mission running, to full on conquest with real, meaningful war.

Being in a corp in EVE, is a critical component of the game. You just can't do anything meaningful with a PUG. (while I have never even heard of a PUG in EVE)
And solo content is again, boring and limited. But in a corp, the skies the limit.

But it could be better.

I'll add in here a part of my response on the SU,WT podcast to give you an idea of where I would like to see where guilds go in the future.

"Like building stuff, like a Keep for example. Say in a world whey you can build stuff, and that stuff can also be destroyed by other players, and there is a real, tangible and tactical reason for building stuff. (so like the real world then)

You and your guild could own a section of land, and in order to better fortify you position and stockpile goods, you go abouts building a keep. The task would require you to gather resources, use them to build the building piece by piece over the course of several days, or weeks (depending on how many hands you have), all the while protecting it from assault by rival groups and NPC mobs.

And even when built, you have to continue to guard it, maintain it, or risk it being captured or destroyed. And not in a perpetual tug of war sense either.
I mean once it's gone, it's bloody well gone. Then you would have to start over from scratch if that's the case."

The idea being for guilds to actively fight over limited space and resources, and build military and civilian building and infrastructure, as to support themselves and others as they see fit.
But at the same time, defend what they have.

And this will be, I think, beyond the abilities of both solo, small group content, or PUG's of any size, due to the time and coordination required.

Being able to shape the world as you see fit, what a more fitting purpose for a guild could there be?

As for how this could be worked into EVE, I would like for sovereignty turn into Command & Conquer in space, literary. Where you can, but don't necessarily need to, build various buildings that serve certain roles, allowing you and your corp to build a base to your needs.

Then you could use that base to expand or conduct activities you otherwise wouldn't be able to.
Rather than be solely about fleet engagements.

Just my 2 cents.

But that would be a nice future for guilds, don't you think?


Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Big Crunch

For the few whole actually pay any attention to me, sorry I haven't posted much of anything, RL has me quite occupied.

As I have said on a number of occasions, I'm working towards getting a job from CCP in the near future.
And as such I have to produce a portfolio of my work, which in itself is a lot of work. A hell of a lot of work.

So for the last few months I've been working on my skills as an artist, with some fairly decent result, in preparation for Nov-Dec, which are the months I will devote to my portfolio project. (even thou it's more time then I need)

And as the old saying goes, the more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.

As time has gotten closer to my practice deadline, I've come to understand my own level of skill, compared to thou's in the industry, and the gap is quite disparaging.
I have a long way to go to get to where I would like to.

However, in saying that, over the last 8 months, and esp the last 2, I've learned a lot, and have gotten a lot better and faster at what I do. So even if I'm not as good as I'd like to be, I'm still truly good enough to for entry level into the industry.
I'm probably shooting higher then I need to be, but even still, I've got to get as good as I can get while I still have the free time to do so.

So I have been spending increasingly more time towards my learning, as time draws shorter.
So I haven't had much time for anything else.

And once my project kicks off, I'll likely go into AFK mode, as I need to spend every waking moment working on my project, until I'm satisfied with it. Of course I'm never satisfied, so...

Just don't expect much from me during thou's months, I'll be hard at work.

But hopefully, a job will be waiting for me after the fact.
Otherwise I'll probably be put in an uncomfortable situation, where I need to find more grunt work, and I'd rather not do that if at all possible.

Of coarse I could always go to Iceland in person and knock on their door long enough, until they give a job, even if it's cleaning toilets, I don't fucking care. Give me an inch, and I'll take the whole damn mile.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Addiction is not always bad

After a post on massively today, it got me started on the topic of addictions in relation to video games, and I was the first to call bullshit.

There seems to be a very negative slant towards addiction, as if it were always a bad thing, and this is false. Partly because it is conflated and associated with other neurological conditions that are harmful, and because of confirmation bias.

I know this, as for all intents and purposes, I am addicted to video games.
But here's the thing, it's not harmful.

I live a perfectly normal-ish life, even thou if I were to go without gaming for too long, I get antsy and begin to break down. (thou not in a partially harmful fashion)
I only play maybe 1 hr a day, if that. And I'm happy to sub in other forms of media entertainment instead at times. But I always come back to video games eventually.
Nothing quite gives me the same high.

The nature of addiction is to become neurologically and thus physically dependent on something, be it substance or an activity, in which you are to some degree compelled to repeat often in order to get the high your brain provides, or suffer withdraw symptoms.

However, this in and of itself is not necessarily harmful, but rather it's other additional behavior or neglection of bodily requirements/daily activities which cause the real harm.

It should also be noted, to not confuse this with obsessive compulsive behavior.
You can be addicted to something, while not spending a great deal of time on it, and you can spend vast amounts of time on something regularly, while not be physically dependent on it.
(ie, your not getting a high out of it)

In addition, addiction doesn't always come as a result of, or result in depression.
While these two conditions can correlate at times, they are two different neurological conditions.
You can be addicted without being depressed, and you can be depressed without being addicted
(both of which I have been through at one point or another, for different reasons)

As stated earlier, part of the problem is confirmation bias. Counting the hits, while ignoring the misses.

How often do you hear of people being addicted to something, and it not causing harm?
Never right?

That's because we only ever hear of these kinds of conditions after they have caused problems, not before. If we were to redefine how we framed this issue, and measure how the brain reacts to certain activities, relative to others, we would probably find that the vast number of people out there are addicted to one thing or another, without it causing any real problems or harm.

But because addiction has become a umbrella term, to cover a whole host of negative neurological and behavior conditions, it's so frequently slated as 'being a bad thing', in which we must shy away from, and can apply to damn near anything or anyone.

To which point it is thrown around so willy-nilly, as to not longer have any real meaning.

But used in the scientific sense,
I for one am addicted, but I am not obsessive, and I am certainly not depressed.
I just really like video games.
It's a lifestyle choice for me.

And if there is no harm, then so fucking, bastardly what?


Friday, October 2, 2009

A Nice Gift

Today we have some more info and game footage on All Points Bulletin, and I must say, this, game, looks, awesome.
While I am not a huge fan of urban anything, or the GTA series in general, I can help but feel giddy about this title. It's like a breath of fresh air.

I will most likely be playing this game when it comes out.

Also a key note, is that is just going into beta, so if your interested in beta, time to get your lots in.
I unfortunately, don't really have that luxury. But still, nice game.

Just in time for my birthday.
25 and counting....... damn I'm getting old.

Had blue cod for dinner, it was nice.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Bad Taste of Layoffs

Why is it when ever a gaming studio layoffs off a whole slew of people, everyone gets a bitter taste in their mouth and right off any upcoming games by them to fields of failure?

It seems Funcom has gotten this treatment as of late, after having laid off about 20% of it's staff.

Now my first, knee-jerk reaction is to remember all of Funcom's other failures, and lump them all together to blame it on greed and/or incompetence on companies part, and start calling them names like Failcom, and thinking that The Secret World is heading for the toilet.

However, this reaction is of coarse, stupid.

While this isn't exactly pleasant news, and I'd rather it not happen if at all possible, this is balanced with the fact that they ARE a business, first and foremost. And layoffs happen.

The question is, why were they fired? And how does this affect upcoming games?
Now 20% is not a small number. With little over 300 staff, that's a good 60 people at least.
And no way will that not hurt them in some meaningful way.

At the very least it will delay The Secret World by several months.
However, will it reduce the overall quality of the game?

I don't think so.

It entirely depends on what the people were working on when they got laid off.
If they were working primarily on AOC, and were fired because they sucked evidently, well then that really won't affect TSW much, other then slow it down due to less manpower.

And that's really all this likely is, manpower. More than likely, all the brains of the outfit are still well and truly employed, and they have, by a country mile more impact on the quality of the end product.

It's more likely than non-essential staff were let go, and not the people that are in the middle of working on their upcoming game, which is probably the only thing that can pull them out of the fire at this point.

So can they still put out a great game? Yes, I see no reason to show that it a hopeless cause.

But does it make me doubt them a bit? Naturally, they don't exactly have the best track record, but we'll see in time.

However, even after all this, I can't help but feel a bit bitter, as we have seen this play out before, for craptastic results. (ie, Warhammer Online)
And even if the people fired did suck balls, I'd still rather find a way NOT to fire them. (ie, paycuts)

Because I feel if your going to cut jobs, start with your own.

But who knows, maybe trimming a bit of fat might be good for them in the long run.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

And now we wait

"Eric Flannum: Unfortunately we aren't speaking about specific game mechanics until sometime early next year.|"

God fucking damn it!

Another interview for Guild War 2 yielded this quote, which effectively means we are not going to hear anything substantial until next year.

The problem with releasing information like this is, by releasing info AFTER you've already put in the hard yards to set the mechanics in stone, if you wind up getting poor feedback, because you may have cocked something up big time along the way, it's already too late by that point to do anything.
(namely with core mechanics)

They're setting themselves up for a fall (in which almost every MMO studio does aswell), and so they better get it right the first time, because in the industry today, there is no forgiveness.

I hope they get it right, for both our sakes.


Pleasant wake up call

Shortly after getting up this morning, and going thru the usual blogs and such, I found something rather nice..... more Guild Wars 2 information.

Good start to the day.

And going by the link, it seems Areanet have a new YouTube account, so I spent a fair bit of time today going over the PAX videos.
Nothing too out of the ordinary, nothing specific, but nice all the same.
It's good to hear a perspective from the inside out for a change.

And after listening to all that, it reaffirmed that I'm on the right track with my art, and willingness to get into the industry.
It can happen.
Just gotta keep at it.

Now if only they would put out something besides lore.... that would be, nice.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Another blip on my radar

Well, it seems another game has gotten my attention, which in itself should be praised.
This time, The Secret World, just came out of the blue and slapped me.

While I have heard of this title before, this is the first time I've actually heard anything substantial on it enough to go digging for information, and I was impressed by what I found.

Again, this is another title that seems to have learned it's lesson from the past wave of fail, and is going with a 'look however you want to look, play however you want to play model', which means no levels or classes, naturally.
Always a good step in my books.

While I do hold some reservations, as it is entirely dependent on how they implement such mechanics, I am however happy to see this positive step in the right direction.
And so, I've signed up to keep an eye on this title, and I may even go out of my way to play beta, who knows.
But I'm diffidently going to give it a go, which is half the battle.

Maybe the next generation of MMO's is closer than I thought?


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

More MMO's and some scandals

Nothing too exciting, but after reading a post of Massively about a MMO I've never heard of before, Mortal Online, then going on to read and interview, I must say I'm rather impressed.

The developers of this game not only seem to be blatantly honest, knowing full well they are a niche game, but the seem to have taken all the right lessons from EVE Online.
No levels and no classes, a good start.
They seem to be going down a FPS sort of system, and I got the impression it was going to be Oblivion Online. Which is not a bad thing, Oblivion is a good game, it's just not for everyone.

It's a PvP centric game, so right off the bat it's not really my cup of tea. But all in all, they seem to be moving in an interesting and solid direction. Nothing that hasn't been done before, but good all the same.

So I think I'll be checking this one out.

Other then that, it seems EVE has had yet another scandal.
Some CSM member basically broke the NDA he signed, by attempting use knowledge of future changes in order to make a lot of isk.
But he was caught of course, rather quickly too, and was banned temporally and kicked off the CSM.

Nothing too out of the ordinary for EVE, but interesting all the same. I felt CCP dealt with this quickly and professionally, and the offending CSM member seems to have learned their lesson.
So I think it was rather well handled.

Yet another reason I want to work for CCP - Integrity


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Developer in the Making - Episode 2

It's been awhile since I did one of these.
I had intended on doing one a couple of weeks back, but I just couldn't be arsed.

This time I will go over my thought and work process during the month of March, which was my first real stride to becoming a developer.

Or at least I thought it was.

The Research

The very first thing I did was research.
My target, CCP and Iceland. I had to know more about them before I completely made up my mind.

So what did I find out?
Let's start with Iceland:

1) Their almost completely broke. During 2007, due to several years of having unregulated banks, the CEO's had overblown the currency and took a whole lot of money that wasn't theirs, and ran with it. Causing the entire economy to collapse overnight as a result.
They are, or at least were, effectively bankrupt.

2) They have a strong infrastructure, and have a healthy wealth of natural resources (fish), and a growing IT industry.

3) They only have a 300,000 populace. (yes, EVE Online has more players then Iceland has people)

4) They are a strong, independent people, which take care of one another.
They also have names which are hard to pronounce.

5) They are built on a volcano, and have lots of hot-springs.

So all in all, I found that I really like Icelandic people and their country. And while they are having financial difficulties, they have the attitude and the means to pick themselves up, dust their fat ass off, and try again.
As such, I have tremendous respect for them now.

As for CCP, I found them to be reflective of the country in which they are built.
Every video that I saw, I found them to be carefree, cheerful, hardworking and independent.
So their a lot like myself then.

Business wise, they are growing, and seemingly don't give a shit if you have qualifications or much experience, in order to have the job.
What they seem to care about above all else is personality and attitude. Which I am abundant in both.

And last, but certainly not least, they are always hiring.
Could it get any better?

So all things considered, this reaffirmed my desire to work for these people, and has since made me all the inspired to do the hard yards in order to get there.

My First Baby Steps

So, what have I done?
Or rather, what DID I do, back in March when I was so enthused?

Not as much as I'd like in retrospect.

As an artist, I knew if I had any shot at getting in, it would be via my art.
So to play to my strength, and to meet the requirement for the job I was gunning for, I had to make a portfolio.
What is one? Such a series of pictures of my creation, illustrating my skill.

And in this case, as I knew in advance who I wanted to work for, I could cater my portfolio to CCP.

So what I did was that I figured out that I needed to draw several spaceships, as well as characters, that I would otherwise be expected to draw should I be working for them.

As I had played EVE Online, what I decided to do was to draw two classes of ships, one for each race, for a total of 8 ships. In this case, it was Destroyers and Battlecruiser class ships, as I felt they were under represented in the game.

But drawing them wasn't enough. I had to also render them in color, with as much detail as I could with my skill level.
No holds bars.

So I started conceptualizing the ships, first the Destroyers then the Battlecruisers.
Sometimes I was able to sketch out a ship with little reference or failed previous designs. But a most of the time, I had to constantly reference EVE Online's ships and go through several designs before I was satisfied.

It took me about two weeks to sketch everything if I remember. Might have been one, IDK.

After that, I went about the rendering process of sketching them into my computer via my Wacom Intous 3 pen tablet, and Adobe Photoshop.
It went well at first. Got through three of them without too much difficulty.

But the more I did, the more I realized that I sucked ass. I could sketch and conceptualize really very well, but I just wasn't satisfied with the end results.
They weren't bad, but they just weren't good enough..... for me.

I knew I was getting better, and I knew where I wanted to get to. But the style that I was using at the time, just wasn't up to the task.

In Closing

And so, I put down my pencil at the end of March, and began to reevaluate just how the heck I was going to do this.

And over the months past, I came to rethink near about everything that I thought about MMO's, what I wanted, where I wanted to see the industry go, where I wanted to go, and how I was going to get there.

Truly, by the end of March, I realized my battle had only yet begun.

In the next episode, I'll cover some of the rollercoster that were my thought processes, as I changed they way I thought about damn near everything. (about mmo's ^^)

PS, Hopefully it won't be another month before I post on this topic again.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

EVE Alliance Tournament is go

AT 7 is just under way, as I've just come back from watching the first series of matches on YouTube.
You can watch it from CCP's account, so check it out if your at all interested in e-sports or internet space ships.

Even thou I no longer play EVE, and will unlikely go back to it anytime in the foreseeable future, I can't help but watch the tourny as it is always quite fun to watch.

I guess it's because while in general EVE is very, very boring and slow; when you get into great big slugfests, and given the very adaptive nature of the fittings and ships, it's really fun watching as several minds try to outwit and generally beat the crap out of each other.
PvP in EVE is really very good and meaningful, and the alliance tournament highlights this in the best possible way.

And as such, it's one of the reasons I continue to watch EVE like a hawk, always seeing if it's time to return to again. Where as with almost any other MMO I've stopped playing, I just don't care anymore, as they just don't have anything left to offer me, nor will they ever fundamentally change enough to warrant interest on my part.

To date, EVE Online is the only MMO that has kept me interested in it, after I've stopped playing. (not to say I haven't gone back to other mmo's sporadically, just to see if anything has improved)

And so, I'm going to continue to watch it, and the best way for that is the alliance tournament.

So if your not already watching it...... what are you waiting for?


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Champions Online stock in Freefall

Is it me, or has there been a hell of a lot of bad press on Champions lately?

It seems that every conceivable cock up possible, Cryptic are stumbling halfassed into them.
Really, I didn't think they were that bad of a development studio (thou, a bit vanilla), but could they play it any worse?

Their recent escapade involved completely borking in game defense and healing skills, while simultaneousness cranking up mob difficulty. Result, breaking soloiblity and royally pissing off a whole lotta fokes.
Yeah.... stay classy Cryptic.

While I admit mistakes happen, and if they role this back, no harm no foul I say. But this has been one of several mistakes in recent history, and all just before release.
It just doesn't make you look too good, ya'know.

Too me, someone who was on the fence as to play it or not, this does not exactly inspire confidence. It seems the more I hear on Champions, the less I want to hear on Champions.
Their stock with me is dropping fast, and at this point I find it very unlikely I'll even give it the time of day.

But in saying that, WoW apparently had a real shit time at launch..... so by comparison, I suppose Cryptic could to worse.
(but then I don't play WoW, and we are less tolerant nowadays)

Just..... try not to break anything else between now and launch.
Can you do that Cryptic?


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Not a whole lot going on

Haven't blogged in a while, as I've been busy with work and stuff.

There hasn't been anything really that interesting to talk about really.
(still haven't gotten back to replying to comments yet)
It's all been, really uneventful to say the least.

Read a blog post on massively the other day about sex in gaming, or rather boobs in gaming.
I couldn't be any more indifferent if I tried.

I don't really care whether characters in game are boobilishous, or whether marketing using girls in skimpy outfits in order to sell more copies. I don't care, nor does that angle of advertising affect me so.
I know they work on other men, but advertisement just doesn't work on me, plain and simple.
I don't watch TV, because ad's drove me nuts rather then anything else.

I guess it's because I have no desires, or rather no desires anybody else can fulfill.
Yeah, I like T'n'A as much as the next guy, but give me some credit.
I'm in it for the gameplay and social interactions, and that's it.
If your mechanics suck, then I don't care if you have the hottest bootstrap pair of titties the world has ever seen, I'm not buying.

Hench, I saw a video of Soal & Blade shortly after reading this blog...... and it seems to have more in common with Dead or Alive then an MMO.
Tits and Ass all the way with this game. Which begs the question, how shallow minded do these people think I am?
From what I could tell of the gameplay, it looks fake and superifical, like all the implants in this game. It seemed so..... scripted..... idk, weak sauce.

And also, with all the over abundance of T'n'A in this game, it just rubs me the wrong way.
I don't go to MMO's for this kind of thing. If I want porn, I get porn. If I want a game, I want a game. No need to mix the two.
Esp if it will piss off female gamers. I'd rather not hit that beehive, thankyou.

Besides that, did comment on a blog post over at Kill Ten Rats, on soloing.
Where I agree with what Ravious said, go check it out.

Might blog later in the week, depends on how busy I am.


Friday, August 21, 2009

A Formal Deconstruction of Levels

Consider by most MMO players to be a lynch-pin of the genre, or at the very least a perfectly working game mechanic.
But is it really?

I say no. Why? Because I never stop hearing complaints about it, that's why.

I listen to a lot of podcasts, and read a fair bit of gaming blogs. And I can tell you, some of the most common complaints stem from levels.

Can't play together with your friend because your at different levels?
Tough, sucks to be you.

Got your arse handed to you at a starter zone because of some ganking dipshit at max level?
Get used to it, your in for one heck of a ride.
Been brutally murdered by NPC mobs that were a couple of levels higher then you?
Get a ticket and stand in line.

Some people say it's a symptom due to the actions players take, and that levels aren't to blame.
I call bullshit. Because when you break the problem down, levels are entirely to blame.

I'm going to crack open levels and see what makes them tick, and as a result find just what, and where the problems lay.

The Level Equation

Ok, how do levels work.
Sounds fairly obvious. Kill things, finish quests and gain XP, which in turn grants you a level after a certain amount. Then rinse and repeat. As a result you become gradually more powerful.

But to find the root of the problem, we have to dig a little deeper.
It basically works like this:
Time --> Kills/Quests --> XP --> Levels --> Power

Or in short, Time = Power.

You see, the very point of levels is as a progression system.
And this progression system increases your overall power relative to each level you have obtained.
Which in turn allows you to take on stronger enemies, quests, and the like. In essence, gives you access to more advanced content.
So, business as usual then.

So why is that a problem? You might ask.
Because when it comes to social interactions between players, it becomes a barrier, preventing players from sharing the same content, or competing on a fair and balanced playing field.

As to how this is the case, lets move on to the next section.

The Breakdown

Now it's one thing know there is a problem, and another thing entirely to elaborate why there is a problem.
This is my attempt.

As I see it, there are two main problems with levels as a progression system in MMORPG's.

1) It becomes a barrier between players sharing content, and competing fairly.
2) It's association with grind when in conjunction with other mechanics.

Please keep in mind that levels do in fact do many things right, of which I am keenly aware of.
The consistent reward for effort is among the best out there for progression systems.
This however doesn't remove the fact that it still has problems.

So lets tackle the first one first. (duh)

How do levels become a social barrier?
First as I mentioned earlier, as you gain levels you gain power, and with that power you gain access to more content.

And it is this sharding of content relative to levels (ie, time spent) which causes the first part of our problem.

If Player A is at level 10,
and Player B is at level 20,
both players cannot share the same content.
And as such, cannot play together. (regardless whether they want to or not)

Because Player A cannot scale up to player B's content, because their too weak.
Player B can scale down, but then they are no longer sharing content, but rather Player B is doing the content for Player A, as Player B is far too strong for said content.

How do you resolve this problem? You can't.
Unless there is another mechanic built in to allow the higher level players to dumb down, so that they can play with lower level players, then your totally screwed.
But even then, that only solves half the problem. (well, not even that)

And that's only sharing content.

In terms of competition, the problem is much the same.
Because Time = Power, whoever spends the most time, becomes the strongest by default.
And the larger the divide between levels becomes, the more apparent this becomes, until it is no longer a contest anymore, but rather a slaughter.

Again, if Player A is at level 10,
and Player B is at level 20,
then there is not a hope in hell of Player A beating Player B,
regardless who is more skillful or knowledgeable.

Now this can be mitigated by the level cap, this however does little to nothing balance competition when there are variating levels between players.
(unless everybody competing are at the same level or level range. ie, look at Guild Wars)

Anybody that values fairness and balance can appreciate why this is a problem.
The metric for success in competition shouldn't be time, money, or gear, but rather personal skill. Because by winning via skill alone, you not only reward thous truly deserving of it, but make the act of winning far more valuable.

It's not winning if everyone and their dog can do it.

And surprisingly enough, were only half way there...... oh joy!
.... I'll try to keep this part shorter.

How do levels cause grind?

Grind being the act of any repetitive, and monotonous activities.
And in the case of levels, it's comes as a result of it's interactions with other mechanics, and in the absence of content.

Say you have to level from level 1 to level 20 without a single quest in the lot.
All you would have is killing the same mobs, often being different creatures but all fighting, and dying the same way.
I'm sure anybody would agree that would be a grind.

But what if it was to level 30, or 40, 60, 80, 120.... so on, and so on.
The greater the gap, the greater the grind. Most people would give up around level 30 or so of this crap.
But what is worse, is that the nature of levels is of a exponential cost requirement.
Each requiring more and more XP, and thus time. (and usually diminished returns)

So how can this be resolved? Easy. Break up the repetitiveness of it, with quests, social interactions, and other events.
However, the problem here is that quests are often very similar, and thus prone to repetitiveness. (hench quest grind)
Forcing social interactions (such as forced grouping), is always a disastrous idea.
And events tend to be few and far between.

By in large, the higher the level cap is, the more likely it is that you will repeat similar content.
(this is not always the case thou)

Now normally this isn't so much a problem, on your first way through.
But when your on your 4th or 5th time through or more, the act of leveling can get very old indeed. (esp so if the level cap is high)

But what can cause you to go through the leveling process all over again?

Another mechanic that is usually in close proximity to levels.
Classes in essence attempt to define your role, what you do within game, often in quite a strict sense at that. But what if you want to try some else out? What if your bored of your mage, priest, or warrior?

Tough, you really have little other option then to re-roll, and run the whole gamut all over again.
(or take a break)

Now some people really don't mind doing this, as a new class offers different experiences.
And the first dozen times it may be. But the problem is, that if you've played a class once in one game, then you've played it in every other game as well.

It's only a matter of time before this new experience, is not longer new experience.
In time this too becomes a grind. And all because you wanted to do something a little different.
What an awfully cumbersome way of doing things.

So much for keeping that part 'short'.

In the last part I'll go over what can be done to resolve some of these problems.

Problem Salving

As I've shown, the key problem is levels equating progression with Time = Power.
However, progression doesn't not necessitate an increase in power.
All you need is 'a' gradual increase of some kind.

And it starts with what your measuring success and separating content with.
If that measuring stick is say, skill, rather then power. Then you can avoid most of the problems, and build a more cohesive community as a result.

If I beat someone because I knew how to use a particular skill better the them, and the fight was balanced to begin with, then it was a fair fight. They might beat me next time. We each are able to learn from our mistakes, improve ourselves as a result, and thus we progress.

If I beat a mob or boss monster, simply because I knew what it was going to do, before it did it and avoided it, then me and a buddy of mine can still enjoy the same content even if they don't know.

A couple of good examples are Guild Wars and EVE Online.

In Guild Wars, the level cap was not only low (lvl 20 cap), but also didn't directly increase your power. Instead you gained attribute points that you used to power up skills, which could then be withdrawn and used again elsewhere.
And due to the amount you got, and the nature of their skill system, you do a lot with very little.

Once you hit level cap, which was very easy to do, everyone was on even ground, both in competition and
collaboration. What separated who won, and who eats a dirt sandwich, was none other then knowing what to use, and how to use it.

Progression by in large came down to collecting all the various skills, and learning the best way to use them. (on top of which you had a lot of ascetic progression, that didn't impact your performance)

While EVE Online, also has an interesting (yet exceedingly boring) skill system of it's own.
Instead you spend real-time to gain skill points in any particular skill you wanted.
In short, you got good at what you wanted to.

This is good because it is non-linear, and it also does away with the need for classes.
But what is most important, is that gaining these skills will have a minimal impact on power, but rather give you more options to work with. (skills give you access to other ships and equipment)

So as a result, it doesn't really matter how many skill points you have, it only matters what your doing and how you are doing it. (ie, it didn't matter if you have 50 million skill points, if your in a frigate..... your still in a frecken frigate)

Interestingly enough, because you can have one character do any given number of rolls, you can stick with one single character, and thus avoid any repetitiveness with re-rolling.

Wrapping Up

As such, it is possible to have progression without it causing problems with the social interactions of the player base. Nor does it have to be repetitive either. As you can have situation where you only need one character, and yet can do any job or roll you want to do at any given time.

Can levels be work in such a way to avoid all these problems? Sure, look at Guild Wars.
(although it still suffered from some repetitiveness of re-rolling)

But is that likely given it's history? No, not really, no.

I think the best solution is to build around a preferably new progression system, that not only avoids these kind of problems by being skill based, but also retains all the good parts of levels.
(ie, the consistent reward to effort thing.)

Of course, there isn't really anything you can do about the games in which it has already been implemented in. Once it's there, it's there for good.

But the first step in avoiding these problems in the future, it to know their even there to begin with.

Which brings us to the end of this..... colossally huge blog post.
Not exactly light reading.

But I hope it helps to some degree in understanding just what and where the problems of levels in MMORPG's are.
Given my track record for clearly explaining things, not a hope in hell I'm sure.

PS: I may very well in the future come back to edit this post, and try to make it shorter and more understandable. It's just too long......


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Guild Wars 2 - Light my Fire

Well, as I've stated before I had lost interest in this game as it has been 2 years since I had heard anything on it. Consider my flame rekindled.

Arenanet just released a 4 page preview and a 5min trailer.
Way to put up. It seems they've been busy little bees.

Color me impressed.
The trailer itself was quite appeasing. Not only gorgeous in that stylized kind of way Arenanet does, but it actually shows gameplay graphics as well, which are very, very nice. On par with Aion I'd say.

And the preview gave us a glimpse into how it will work. However of course they didn't reveal anything too specific, they did note that it will be more soloable then before, have open world persistence, have a new quest/event system, and possibly improve their skill system.
Oh, and you can jump too. ^^

So, nothing but gold so far.

While I admit that I am still a bit skeptical, as they did state originally that they will look at the level system, and their news about the skill system is a tad troubling.
But it seems they've learned they cocked up a fair bit in Guild Wars, so they may very well make things even better rather then worse.

And they did say they were keeping to the central tenants of GW. So that's reassuring.

Still, their not out of the woods yet, but we can see daylight.

So consider yourself at they top off my 'must buy' list GW2.
Don't disappoint me now.

Now if you don't mind, I'm going to go watch that trailer again.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On my game radar

Ok, what MMO titles on the horizon am I interested in.

Well, first I'm more attracted to skill based or action based games. I don't give a rats ass about hype, or graphics, or any of that other crap they try to sell you.
I'm only interested in how it handles.

1) Guild Wars 2 - As a long time fan of Guild Wars, I'm interested to see how this turns out. However, I have lost most of my interest in this game as it's been 2 freaken years, but whatever.
I think tomorrow they are going to release some more info, so we'll see if they are going to move forwards or backwards.
Given Arenanets history, I expect great things from them.

2) Dust 514 - Sounds epic. While I don't have a PS3 or Xbox360, nor intend on getting one, I'll probably won't be playing this game.
But even still, it's a stellar move by CCP. It's got epic win written all over it.
Still, I reserve judgment until they show the beef.

3) Final Fantasy 14 - At first this sounded like, and looked like a remake of FF11, but it seems to be only skin deep. Much like Guild Wars - Guild Wars 2.
Them losing the level system gain instant gratz with me. However it could also be disastrous, depending on what they put in it's place.
So far it's in alpha, and what little I saw of combat was...... well.... shit.
Good graphics, but that's par for the course these days.

4) Jumpgate: Evolution and Black Prophesy - Now these games I like.
I'm quite into space sims (EVE doesn't count), and they look quite fast paced and fun. Not too sure about some of their mechanics. I think they have a level system.... which of course I dispise, but it depends on how they do it.
Could be very, very good for the industry. Or they could bomb horribly.
It all depends.

5) Champions - Not terribly interested in this game, but it does have some nice features.
The customization looks epic. Looks like you can do just about anything you want.
But in saying that, the combat looks shoty, it still uses levels, and I just don't like superhero games. (never got into comics)
I might play it for a bit, but I don't expect it would hold me in the long run.

6) Aion - At one point it beeped onto my radar, until my bullshit-seeking ground to air missiles blew it out of the sky. It's pretty, has good customizations, and has some mildly good lore.
But the combat, skill system, and damn near everything else is vanilla.
Nothing I haven't seen before.
It looks like any other inventory management game I have ever seen, and I'm just not into that.
Bite me Aion.

And that's really about it.
Not a whole lot interests me atm. Some might do good should they put out, but until then, I reserve judgment. Could be good, could be business as usual.
We shall see.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Pay 2 Play - from left field?

After yesterdays blog, and after a comment on Virgin Worlds, it came to my attention that Global Agenda is also using a P2P business model.

This kind of snuck up on me, because thats two recent upcoming MMO's that are utilizing this system. And I got to say it sounds bloody wonderful!

As you can tell, I'm in favor of this type of business model.
As to why, well it goes back to my Guild Wars days, which also used an interesting business model - initial box cost only = free to play.
And what they were going for was flexibility, where you could pick the game up, drop it, and pick it up again without losing money over it.

And while RMT free to play mimic this, they take it out on gameplay as a result. (see last blog post)
But this wasn't the case with GW. They had all the stability of any subscription MMO, but had far greater flexibility for they players. (however they ended up having other problems as a result)

And what is great about P2P, is that it takes all that flexibility and stability, and yet gives the developers the financial returns they need to run and develop the game. Win win.
(it also allows them to avoid the same traps GW fell into)

However, the developers will likely not get as much money from this alone, which is why it should, and seems is (in the case of GA and Aion), supplemented by an additional revenue stream. Namely either initial box/download cost, or RMT. (not done in the same manner as RTM centric games thou)

I would go for the latter, as box/download cost makes the game less accessible.

I'm not above paying for a game, but I want to play it on my own terms, and not lose money should I decide to put it down for a week. And this business model exemplifies that.

Nice going Global Agenda and Aion. Way to stay on the ball.
Now it's down to the quality of the products. (sry Aion, you failed my test)


Sunday, August 16, 2009

RMT in the Future of MMORPG's

After a comment by BeauTurkey on the Massively Speaking podcast, episode 64, it provoked me to write something on my views of RTM now, and in the future are.

BeauTurkey is in favor of RTM's, as they have gained some ground in MMO's over the last couple of years, and are becoming more accepted. (why they were looked down in the first place I can't get my head 'round)

RTM are they way of the future, in essence is what he advocates. I don't agree.

Is there money in it? Counter intuitively, yes it seems.
Does 'free to play' bring in people? Clearly no argument there.
Can an RMT model game be a big budget AAA MMO? I don't see any reason why not.

So where is my point of contention? It has to do with gameplay.

The RMT model centers around being free to play, and getting you to spend money on their online store for 'stuff'. Now this doesn't necessarily mean content, but it does almost always involve ascetic items.

So how do you get people to by your online stuff? Easy, make things either difficult or dull for them, or both, in order to gently force their hand. Of course you can pander to their sense of greed, but that doesn't work on everybody.

Runes of Magic for example: Considered a full fledge MMO by most people.
Traveling in this game can be a pain in the arse at times. While you can teleport to major cities, you still spend an awful lot of time running around.
And of course the game has mount to make things 'easier', if your willing to fork up 10$ that is.
.... Not exactly what I would call micro, but ok.

Then there is the gear, which for the most part if fairly generic. Some if it is nice thou, don't get me wrong. But should you dare want to customize it, hahahahaaa.... no. Fork up please.

And on and on it goes. Either fork up, or things are going to feel like cardboard for you.
It feels like they are always holding back on you, doesn't it?

Well as you can tell, this way of running a MMO doesn't jive well with me.

I say full throttle. Either do it and go all the way, or don't. Don't hold back.
I want my customized gear, I want every scrap of content at the get go, I want to feel like the game isn't playing favorites by who has the deepest wallet.

Now that isn't to say RMT doesn't have a place. Sure it does. Just not as the main means of payment.
Otherwise it the game just feels second best.

I see the future of RMT working as a great supplement to subscription-like models, such as the P2P model Aion is currently implementing (massive kudos btw), as it is far more flexible and overall cheaper then the run-of-the-mill subs. This way the game can go full throttle, and have extras over and above as nice little bits and pieces, sort of like how Guild Wars handled it.

But the first step to getting people to use RMT, besides getting them into the game, is getting them to ENJOY the game. And that doesn't really work when you water down the game, and almost go so far as to coerce them into it.

Just my take on it.


A quick Update

Well, I haven't posted a blog post in a few days, but then I might not do much blogging on the weekends anyways, as I prefer to spend my time elsewhere.

Not much going on. Mostly spending my time working on my art, trying to figure out Corel Painter 11, as it is no walk in the park. Getting there thou.
Made my first picture in it the other day, just a sketch that I did with a single brush, but ok non the less.

Based on Koakuma, from the Touhou series, which as I find is quite the internet phenomena.
I'm only really been playing Touhoumon, a rom hack of pokemon: fire red.
And as you could guess, it's replaced all the pokemon with Touhou characters, as there is and insane number of them.
Reasonably fun.

Nothing all that interesting going on otherwise. I think I'll listen to some podcasts today, and maybe today or tomorrow watch that Second Skin doco people are on about, and give my commentary on it I suppose.

Well, I've got art to do.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Corel Painter 11

Downloaded a trial of painter today, after reading about it from a guy on DeviantART, named Elsevilla. (superb artist btw)

And for the longest time, I've been using an old version of Photoshop.
What a difference.

Now Photoshop is not bad, but it is a jack-of-all trades, giving you limits to just what you can do with your brush. It is quite easy to learn and use thou.

Painter on the other hand has an enormous amount more options for you to mess around with.
If your a serious digital painter/artist, you have to use Painter. Because it's a specialist product, built for digital artists.

The only real drawback I can see, is that it's a bit difficult to get your head 'round. It feels a lot different to what I'm used too, and there are so many more options that I get confused.
So I think I'm going to have to go over tutorials as to how everything works, and to create the brushes that I want.

But once I get the hang of it, it should significantly improve my art.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Rose coloured glasses Dilemma

Now this is an argument I've been wanting to flesh out for awhile now, and while I have touched on it once before, I never got there because it fell into an unproductive argument instead.

It came to me after listening to Paul Barnette, a creative director for Mythic Entertainment with Warhammer Online. (I swear I have nothing against the man, promise)
And I wondered, do these people not get it?
Did they not see the signs of failure?
How could they not see what seemed so obvious to me at the time? (and I'm not the only one)

I think we can count out being incompetent, because their not.
Nor do I think they're being deliberately deceitful either, churning out a product they know is no different, in order to try and make a quick buck. (cough, 'Nintendo' cough)

Then is it the consumers who are at fault? Are we too fickle?
No, I don't think that's it either. I believe there very much is a definitive thing we want, and it wasn't meet in the case of Warhammer Online.

I think there is a disconnect here, where Mythic really did think think they had a winner on their hands, given the information they had.
Which begs the question, was the information they had correct?
Could it have been skewed in anyway?
Did they see something as a positive rather than as a negative?
Possibly..... lets compare notes.

Lets use the case of the quote "core" mechanics of MMO's, also known as the status quo.
Now from my perspective, I have no inherent loyalties to any given mechanic, their all free game. A mechanic of a game stands or falls on it's own merits.
If it doesn't work as well as I'd like, then I'm more then happy to lose it in favor of something better.

So as far as levels (progression mechanic) and classes (skills system mechanic) goes, I think they work perfectly well in single player games, because it's all about me in that case.

But in MMO's, the goal changes. It's the social interactions that a key, and both levels and classes restrict these interactions and cause unnecessary strife as a result.
Needless to say, making a game painful to play is just poor game design, so in my mind, levels and classes have to go. (and be replaced of course)

So why is it that year after year, these 'broken' game mechanics get recycled?
Maybe it's because they can't imagen anything better, but that makes them look a bit stupid, and I don't think that's necessarily the case.
Or could it be that they don't see them as broken?
And as such, don't fix what isn't borken. (bork bork bork)

This is where I think the rose colored glasses comes in.

From my understanding, people like Paul Barnette and his colleagues (esp lead designers), were born in a generation that were introduced to the bedrock of modern RPG's and gaming, pen & paper RPG's, model painting, and the dawn of MMO's - MUD's.

And this is where a lot of these 'core' mechanics as you will, were invented. And they probably have very fond memories of these older kinds of games, even thou by todays standards, my generations standards, these are boring relics of the past.
In their time, they had to like it or lump it, they weren't as spoiled for choice like we are.

And as such, it is this attitude towards these long held mechanics, seems to be what is now causing this saturated, everything is 'vanilla' status quo, problem of the modern day MMO industry.

Whether they are oblivious to the problem, feel that people should just put up with it, or just can't bring themselves to let it go. These rose coloured glasses are getting in the bloody way, and somethings got to give.
Otherwise, get used to the status quo..... it's going to be here for awhile.

Which is why I hinge my bets on the younger demographic of developers. They in my mind, are far more likely to go against modern conventions, and try something new.
And it's this 'pushing the boundaries' attitude that will lead MMO's, and quite possibly games in general, into a whole new era of gaming.

Nothing improves by accepting medocity.


Losing respect

Ever have a conversation or argument with somebody which made you realize that the person in question wasn't as friendly or as rational as you had first thought?

Yeah..... I'm at that point.

Had an argument with sister Julie Whitefeather from Virgin Worlds, on her No Prisoners, No Mercy podcast thread today. And after a few exchanges, it quickly went downhill.

The entire time, I was trying to herd the conversation to something actually constructive, while I did lose my temper a bit at one point, but I get like that when people refuse to acknowledge points, and ask asinine questions that have little or nothing to do with the subject at hand. (strawmen)

Towards the end there, she seemed more concerned with my profanity, then any point I had made. Which is fine to some degree, as it was her show thread, which I promptly conceded that point, but even still, way to derail the conversation.... again.

But in the end, this wasn't good enough for her, and decided to throw a comment back it me when I pointed out that she (and one other bloke that was part of the discussion) didn't get anywhere near what I was talking about, and seemed to me, to be day dreaming. And thus put a end to the discussion.
How mature.

After all was said and done, all I can say is that I'm disappointed in you Juile, I actually expected more from you. I give you no points for rational discourse.

Now I'm just waiting to see if she'll attack me on her show when I'm not there to defend myself....yeah...... this should be fun.....


Monday, August 10, 2009

Developer in the Making - Episode 1

This will be my on-going series, that will chronology my efforts to gain employment in a MMORPG development studio, and in this case CCP. (Crowd Control Productions)

First, a bit of history about myself.
Ever since I was a wee lad, I have been a gamer, and since I can remember I have been interested in the production of said games.
I often dabbled in modifying code and level design to see what would happen if I switched this with that. I was a very curious lad, which would often lead me to breaking the game one way or another.

I was never satisfied. I could always imagen things better.

Flip forward to today, and I'm as insatiable as I have ever been.
So what to do, what to do.

Well, over the last couple of years, I've gotten right into MMO's, with Guild Wars being my first love. Now, even in the beginning there were aspects of the game that just irked me so, and as I looked around the MMO sphere, I saw overwhelming lack of innovation. Just the same game, reinterpreted.
I thought it might get better, but it hasn't. Any progress made seems to be made with equal helpings of fail, and fall backing on the status quo. It's, disheartening to say the least.

So what am I going to do about it? Well, I've never been one to stand on the sidelines and look on helplessly, so they only real option to jump into the machine and rip it apart from the inside.

So at the beginning of this year, I began planning to get my foot in the door of a development studio. Now there are several options available to you at this point. You can:

A) Broad brush your resume or portfolio and send it out to any development studio you can spell, and hope for a bite. But I found this to be a colossal waste of energy, so I went with something a little more..... direct.

B) Goto a meet-and-greet MMO/gaming expo, in order for networking and try and develop connections with developers. This may also incidently help narrow your selection criteria, so you can focus your resume/portfolio. I found this undoable, as I'm poor, and live in fucking New Zealand, and airfair cost is a bitch.

C) Select your favorite development studio, or one which gives you the most probability of success, and cater your resume/portfolio specifically for them. (ie, don't try to get a job at a development studio that has recently had layoffs)
My pick.

Now, at first I was going with option B, and I was thinking of saving up so I could go to PAX in September 2009, and try and make connections with Arenanet, as I love them so.
But at the beginning of March, I saw some insider videos put out by CCP, and decided on them instead for several reasons.
They were independent, carefree, and most importantly of all, growing. (meaning they were hiring)

So I made plans for how I would get in their good graces, and hopefully gain employment, mean while putting away whatever money I could to pay for airfares and other travel expenses should it come to that.

My plan, research CCP and subsequently Iceland and figure out what makes them tick, and build a portfolio catered specifically for them, and set a workable deadline for all this.
Now all of this happened back around March or so, as to the results..... well I'll get to that in another episode.
Waffled on for long enough already.

Until next time.... I am the lord of waffle.