Thursday, December 23, 2010

League of Legends

I suppose I'm late to the party. I kept putting off playing LoL because I kept hearing reports much like the linked blog. Belligerent players, hard to learn, not enough information. Well, one year after that post of the Beta of League of Legends, and the information is rampant online. Champions are tiered for high level effectiveness, Totalbiscuit is making videos on youtube about it. His video does an excellent sum-up of what is going on in League of Legends.

So why play League of Legends? Well, the game does an excellent job of presenting you how to play. Without visiting the forums I learned the basics of the gameplay, the win/lose conditions, and how to navigate the interface. The game's tutorial is very thorough, and well worth it for a first time player. While learning, the game also allows you to play against the computer until you learn what is going on. The game recommends items for you to purchase for your champion during gameplay. These items are only sometimes a good choice, but usually you'll want to explore other items to find something that will work with your playstyle.

Now none of these tutorials or guides are really good enough for helping you compete against better players. That's why playing versus the computer is so important. Until you are really comfortable with a champion, it is best to hold off on playing it against live players. For the details of gameplay though, you really need to look outside of the game. But here as well, Riot games does a good job of promoting their website and forums. Though I'm sure it is full of trolls, I have easily been able to find useful guides and information without having to interact with the trolls.

Furthermore, there is a plethora of information available through google. So for the last few days, I've been having a ton of fun and frustration playing LoL. Frustration? I thought I was writing a positive look at the game...

Yes, frustration. I'm not quite sure if its because they're summoner level is higher than mine or they are simply that much better than me in the game, but some opponents just simply murder me in seconds flat. Also, there are times where I don't stop and turn back, regardless of how often I click to go back. This has led to quite a few deaths. This level of frustration varies from game to game, and more often than not, I'm having a lot of fun with the game.

Honesty aside, since the game is free to play, and they have an interesting referral system, I decided to put a referral link here: http://signup.leagueoflegends.com/?ref=4d1270e83657f237550083

Monday, December 13, 2010

Warcraft Cataclysm has only 3 million subscribers?

WoW only sold 3.3 million copies in the first 24 hours. Burning Crusade sold 2.4 million in its first 24 hours. WoW claims and extra .5 million subscribers, which is only a bit less than the difference in sales of these two expansions.

Could the reality be that WoW has less then 12 million subscribers? Are there currently players out there stuck at 60? Or worse, never having made it to 60, are there players who are experiencing the shattering, and not able to appreciate even the differences in Thousand Needles, due to never having leveled that far?

How is is that a game with over 10 million subscribers only has an adoption rate of 25% for the expansion? Does that mean that only 25% of players are at level cap and/or want to play as Worgen/Goblin?

All I seem to be able to find online is day one sales. Frankly, that hardly matters to me. What about month 2 sales? One year sales? I understand that Cataclysm is only a week old, but Burning Crusade sales numbers would help us understand how many people will buy Cataclysm.

But, perhaps we should look at the numbers another way. Cataclysm has already raked in over $132 million dollars in sales.

Video games train you to Perform in Real Life

With examples of Flight Simulations and Racing Simulators being effective ways to train people, and with the Army having their own video game, it is not surprising that so many people are afraid of games being murder simulators. The issue of course is the necessary conversion and physical conditioning necessary to convert the video game/simulation experience into real life ability.

So, those kids who shot up schools and other kids, who claimed "video games" made them do it, would not be able to do what they did without real world training. They practiced firing real weapons first. Otherwise, the recoil would most likely have resulted in them hurting themselves as well. Just like a pilot or driver must train to resist the G-forces of actual flight and racing to not pass out or throw up.


With that in mind, what kind of games do I let my 6 year old play? Gardening games, reading games, math games, shape games, puzzle solving games, racing games, action platform games (the most violent games he plays). I also sit and play games with him, and ask him questions. He counts everything. I read to him, and make sure he reads a book every day.

I wish more parents took responsibility for their kids, and stopped trying to blame video games for the violence in schools. GTA: San Andreas has sold over 21 million copies (pdf), and we do not see 21 million school shootings since 2005. In fact according to infoplease.com, they have 19 school shootings from 2005 to 2009. The wikipedia article has 32 shootings from 2005 to 2009. So regardless of how many people have played a violent video game such as GTA, the number of school shootings is low compared to the number of sales. If there was ANY causal effect, we would see gun violence in schools up in the millions per year. Instead, we have less than 40 in 4 years. Though that number can be considered high because of the destruction of human lives, it is low compared to the number of violent video game sales.

With everyone talking about how video games can be used for learning, and how effect games can be to helping children learn, it is interesting to note how violent video games is NOT leading to healthy kids becoming deranged. Instead, we see kids that had other problems who liked playing violent video games. If it wasn't video games, they'd blame a porno, or a movie.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gating is Necessary for a Nascent MMO

We've seen it happen quite a few times in MMOs, some group gets their entire WoW guild to invest in a game, and they rush to the end. After reaching level cap before then end of the first month, they declare the game boring, as there is nothing to do at level cap. An MMO has more challenges than just creating a fun world to play in: they need to engage the player at the onset of the adventure, allow enough activity for them to survive the mid-level doldrums and they need to have an end-game worth investing time into.

In all three cases, the main ingredient is allowing the player to feel progress. Each level must have meaning, and each piece of gear must allow the player to differentiate himself from who he used to be. Though each level need not have the same rewards, it is important to have something there. With this being the case, perhaps there are other progression systems that can be made available throughout a game, so that there is always some ethereal goal to attain.

World of Warcraft does this in several ways. First there is the leveling game: this is the easiest to implement and most straight forward advancement possible. Next there is a gear's ilvl: at some point you will need to reach a certain threshold of gear to progress, and each piece of gear adds to your survivability or damage throughput. Next is faction advancement: this is currently the more ethereal concept, but the idea has been slowly advancing to commit to factions to gain gear. What is missing from the faction advancement is an alternative reward not tied to the ilvl advancement. WoW also has skill advancement: primary and secondary professions show a sort of advancement as well.

Of course, the problem is that all these systems are finite, and at some point you will reach a point where there is nothing else to do. WoW of course then added achievements, and rated PvP. These choices are slightly similar and different from ilvl and faction advancement, but they serve as a functional extension to those who enjoy them.

Of course, WoW is a six year old MMO, with quite a bit of history and expansion under its belt. So a new MMO surely does not have the amount of content to compete with WoW, even if they manage to squeeze over six different forms of character advancement into their game. If that's the case, what can a game do to slow down progress of level-cap rushing players, and still allow the game to give a feeling of progress? We saw the reaction given by the player base to Final Fantasy's concept of limiting player experience gains. We also have heard how people hated having to get keyed for raid access in WoW. Gating is very much a no go for gamers. The oldest form of gating would be grinding, and that is also something that is looked down upon by a majority of people.

The thing is anything that requires repetition is now a grind. The key is instead making the grind fun. I mean, stomping on goombas is a grind, yet people still have fun doing so (to be fair, koopas are more fun). So since a new MMO doesn't want people at level cap by the first five hours, it is important to find ways to extend game play without making the player feel like they are being held back, and instead make it feel like they are being pushed along.

SWTOR: Crew Skills


Friday, December 10, 2010

Why "Me Too" Game Design?

Over the years I've noticed something in products, from chips to movies, if someone else does it, you can do it cheaper and make money. Is the big movie company selling Alice in Wonderland for too much? Pay $5 and get Alicia in Wunderlund instead. Snakes on a Plane? Try Snakes on a Train. Kool-aid drink mix costs too much? Buy the cheap store brand.

This goes on to Tablets, dish soap, and all other things. Including video games. But in the case of video games, no one wants to pay for a bad game. Where a bad movie can have a certain appeal (there are people who only watch B movies), someone who plays only B games (60 on a metacritic score or lower), would instead be depriving themselves of quality and fun (unless the game happens to be niche).

So with game design, you can't necessarily think, I'll make a game that is less fun, and still make money. Unfortunately, people imitate another game, and all you have is the same game with perhaps less graphics, or missing that one really cool mechanic. Usually, you are disappointed, and realize you should have just spent the extra $15 on getting the good game.

Perhaps, if a game follows the idea of investing less graphics, or less sound quality (music, sound effects, etc.) they can make a game that is equal in fun or perhaps even more fun. In this case, they need word of mouth for people to go, hey, this game is cheap and more fun. I'll invest in that!

But to drag someone away from the heavier investment though, amazingly takes more work. That person's social graph needs to be following the cheaper, less impressive looking, but more fun game, to get to them. Don't forget they have time and money invested in the more expensive but slightly less fun product.

What if a company invests more money into their "me too" game? So that graphics, sound, and fun are in greater proportions, and they make the game equal in price or even higher. Don't forget, up to a point, people perceive price as a measure of quality. Although people want things cheap, they will invest into something that seems of better quality.

In this case, most people who are still happy with the first game, wait to see the results of this new game. Did people like it? Was there a bunch of bugs? Is it worth their time? Are their friends playing it?

People think that once a product reaches a certain point, then there is no way to dislodge it. But, at some point, you need competition. In the case of iPhone and iPad, the Android is creating serious competition. In the case of Google search, the competition has 40% of the remainder (meaning that though Google is on top, they are not the only search engine). The same is true for World of Warcraft. For years their numbers have remained about the same. Yet only 10% of all accounts make it past level 10. That means that 90% quit. 11.5 million is only 10% of all people who have tried WoW. Either that, or gold sellers have made 90 million WoW accounts.

So far, "me too" game design has not worked on gaining market share against WoW. Its competitors have had to switch to a different model. Perhaps, they were not different enough. Much like dealing with Facebook, some sort of revolution in the social graph would be required to take people from WoW. Failing to do so, everyone else should instead, look to working around WoW, and compete in that F2P micro-transaction area.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Playing Single Player WoW for Free

For the last month, I've been playing World of Warcraft for free. Unfortunately, this means that I have to play it as a single player game. There are other limits, most of which come with the single player play, but there are other limits: I can't level past 20.

If anyone is still guessing, I'm talking about the World of Warcraft free trial. In this sense, I am experiencing The Shattering, and playing the original races up to level 20, experiencing a good chunk of the changes that WoW 4.0 brings.

Since these trial accounts are throw-away accounts, I've been using a web service called Mailinator. Mailinator is a temporary e-mail service. Their slogan is, "Let them eat spam." Essentially the service saves a step in creating a rubbish Battle.net account.

As I register for Battle.net, I set an e-mail, such as Doodlybits1234567@mailinator.com. I proceed to set a password that I would never use, and put in false information. The confirmation e-mail is sent to Mailinator, where I (and actually, anyone else) can get to it, and click on the link to activate the Battle.net account. I then log-in, and ask for a WoW trial. After that, I'm able to immediately start playing WoW. All I have to do is copy my previous WTF/Account folder into the new WTF/Account folder, and I don't even have to worry about resetting key bindings.

I now have 10 days to level through as many starting zones and secondary starting zones as I can. When I get to level 15, I can choose to try out several instances, using the dungeon finder. On average, the 1-20 journey is about 10 hours, at the end of which I usually have a mount, since just questing gives more than enough gold for everything I would need.

So here are a few questions:

1) I am playing WoW for free. Is what I am doing wrong or am I simply playing within the confines of the Free Trial rules.

2) Morally (not technically), is there any difference between what I am doing, and playing on a Private Server?

3) Either way, I am not paying Blizzard, and will not do so for a while, does that change anything?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Multi-game

The idea of multiple games affecting each other is something that EVE creators CCP are experimenting with in Dust 514. For a long time I had been thinking of a Mega Game. A game that was persistent and had everything in it. MMOs covered part of it, and FreeRealms kind of did what I wanted. I haven't tried Lego Universe yet, but it seems to have a nice variety of activity in it.

No, a Mega Game is about being all games tied to a single Avatar. You would make your Avatar, and control him in a persistent world. This world would have adventure and hi-jinks. With this same character, with the stats and choices you make, you can then switch over to racing, fighting, puzzle combat, crafting, etc etc. Your choices in appearance, and stats would affect the other aspects of the game. So high agility or intelligence would give you faster acceleration in the racing game or strength and intelligence would give you a better top speed. Your car would look a certain way based on your gear and appearance choices (details were never figured out).

The other idea I've been hoping to see (or later on create) is a true Multi-game. Where I could release a city building Sim to casual players, which in turn becomes cities used in a strategy game. The cities layout would be used for when a unit invades an occupied city. The game would then become a Tower Defense style game.

OnLive, $9.99 plan

OnLive is rolling out a plan for unlimited gameplay for only $9.99 a month. The thing is, that not all games will be in the plan. Instead you get a selection of games that may or may not be available on the free/pay-as-you-go-plan. This also goes the other way around, where the newest games will not appear on the $9.99 plan. Go here to see what games are available on the subscription plan. They promise more to come, but expect it to be older games.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gold Members get $5 free

Champions Online appended their matrix to include that Gold members get a 400 point stipend. That's $5 real world value. This brings it inline with other F2P games that also have a monthly option. Lifetime members get this stipend since they are Gold Members.

How long until that $5 pays you back? 60 months or 5 years. Not too shabby...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Champions Online, F2P Changes, continued

Some more F2P changes, posted 10 days ago on the forums, sorry I'm late with this info, but I've been busy with school.

Passive abilities are getting changed to scale with your Super Stats. The difference here is that certain passives before, required a specific stat. This meant that if you wanted to use Invulnerability, you would have to have really high strength to make it useful. Now you can have the stats you usually use as your Super Stats (two stats that increase the functionality of your powers). This means that builds can actually be more consistent throughout.

Holds are being changed. I'd explain how holds worked before, but it was all rubbish and difficult to understand. Now hold strength is a consistent thing, and hold resistance will apply a direct reduction to a hold (12 seconds to 6 seconds to 3 seconds) on each subsequent cast, and then full resistance for awhile.

Also some new powers:
"Archery: Gas Arrow: Creates a Gas Cloud at your targets location, causing AoE Toxic damage over time to targets in the cloud.
- Darkness: Void Horror: Summons a single controllable pet made of shadow energy.
- Darkness: Summon Shadows: Creates 3 beings of shadow energy that fight your foes for a short while.
- Darkness: Void Shift: Blink out of existence for a moment and lunge at your target.
- Fire: Fire Shield: Fire now has access to a block power of its own! This block can apply Clinging Flames to nearby attackers.

- Ice: Avalanche: You rain down large chunks of ice on your foes.
- Munitions: Steady Shot: An additional Energy Builder for the Munitions Framework, Steady Shot utilizes a well-aimed single pistol to attack your foes.
- Sorcery: Pillar of Poz: Creates a column of magical energy, knocking your foes away from you.
- Sorcery: Hex of Suffering: Your target pulses with magical energy, taking damage and dealing damage to foes near your target.
- Sorcery: Vala's Breath: Heals friends in an area around your target.

- Telekinesis: Ego Blade: A melee Energy Builder that utilizes Ego/Id blades.
- Electricity: Lightning Storm: You repeatedly bring down lightning strikes upon your enemies.
- Force: Force Snap: Creates a burst of Force energy just behind your target, Knocking them toward you.
- Force: Force Geyser: You create a geyser of Force energy under your target, Knocking them up into the air.
- Force: Crushing Wave: A maintained 50 foot cone attack that repels your enemies.

While all of these are subject to change pending testing, these powers should all make it to the Live servers come Free to Play launch."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Life Time Subscriptions Return!

Champions Online is giving access to their life-time subscription service. This can be bought now, and will translate to the Free to Play change the same way current Life-Time subscribers will be. This also allows access to Life-time only costume pieces, an exclusive pet and title. Furthermore, you get a special color on your Forum Posts name.

More details will be made available later. This costs $299 and includes the price of the game (since the game will be free soon enough). This means that a new lifer, can simply purchase the life-time sub from Cryptic now, and not have to go to the store to get the game first.

I wonder how many people will prefer to have a life time gold membership, instead of purchasing things a la carte for their Silver Membership? In the long run, if you want to have everything, the Life-Time Subscription would be best.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

East vs. West

Keiji Inafune, the creator of Megaman, recently quit Capcom in a high risk attempt to change it. His thoughts (link to Gamasutra verified interview that had been translated and posted to a message board) are that with the life-time employment that Japanese companies offer, the employees have less reason to try to be competitive. Producers get no credit if the game does well, but take all the blame if the game fails. Designers like him have less reason to risk failure with a new idea. Instead they have stagnated, while in the West, games are thriving.

But, all I keep reading about in the west is how companies lay-off employees at the end of game cycles, resulting in 1/3 of all game designers being unemployed. Inafune though, points out that these designers are instead making their own studios and following the Indie route. This path apparently, is almost non-existent in Japan.

In the West, Indie developers can make downloadable games for X-box360, Playstation 3, Wii, DSi, iPhone, Andriod, Steam and other platforms (upcoming Ubuntu Download Center, and the Mac App store for the MacOSX).

So, will Capcom fail, or will their structure remain intact for the duration of the downturn? Will they be forced to restructure, resulting in up to 300 employee layoffs (estimates by Inafune)?

Update: They are taking a third route, restructuring while trying to keep all employees. Looks like his voice just took time to take effect? Or perhaps the very public interview he did, got to them.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Upcoming Supreme Court Case

Champions Online: Consolidated Q & A

Over here to check it out. One of the key answers that I read was that Gold members are distinguished from Silver by how much they can customize. I think I stated this in my last post, but most of the fun in Champions Online is from making your ideal super hero.

Still, many people make similar power choices, and archetypes are repeatedly stated as not being all from the same power set (though early ones will be predominantly of one power set).

If anything, I think they will get more people playing. It might also give them the incentive to pump out more adventure packs and power sets. Both of these are "free" to Gold members, and paid for by Silver members. This can cause Silver members to pay, and Gold members to keep their accounts active.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Champions Online: State of the Game

Well Tobold pointed out real quick that Champions Online is going F2P. But they are also pushing through several improvements to the game. I'll try to go over all the benefits of being either Silver (free) or Gold (paid) member.

First of all, if you are a lifetime subscriber you get Gold for free. Essentially, you are in the same boat you are in now, and perhaps a bit better off. If you are paying a monthly fee, you can keep paying and play the game the same way. If you are not paying for Champions Online, playing F2P will be best for you. I think some people who are Gold will switch to Silver, as the restrictions would not be enough to keep them from enjoying the game.

So with those claims made, lets review what the main difference is for not paying a monthly fee.

As Silver your main limitations (or perhaps advantages) are:
  • no customized power sets: You get Basic Archetypes (8), and purchasable Gold Archetypes (coming later, these are automatically available to Gold Members, it is more cost effective to do one time purchases for these). These are predetermined power sets. You can only customize where you spend your advantages. The Archetype examples they gave were "The Blade" or "The Brute". Since choosing if you are a Brick or a Striker is based on what advantages you choose, it is not exactly like picking a class.
  • Only 2 character slots: You can purchase more. Gold members start with 8 and can not only purchase more, they can EARN (having a Gold account for over 200 days, and 1 for each character that reaches 40) more, which Silver members cannot.
  • Need to pay for Adventure Packs: although like other F2P games, it might be better to be able to do the one time purchase. This will depend on the cost of the adventure packs.
  • Not all costumes available at start: There are over 3,000 costume pieces available. There are then Gold Costumes that Silver will have to purchase, as well as Premium Costumes that both have to purchase. Again, it might be better to just be a Silver player and purchase these costume pieces as you need them.
  • No Bonus Costume Slots: Except for the Super Group bonus, Silver members must pay for additional Costumes. Gold Members earn costumes at 15, 30, SuperGroup and by being a Gold member for 300 days (as well as purchasable).
  • Only 1 bag slot: 3 more purchasable. This may end up being cheaper as a one time purchase.
  • Not all Travel Powers Accessible: They have Basic and Gold Travel powers, this is once again a situation where the one time purchase is better.
  • No Power tinting: Only Gold Members can change the colors of their powers. Not purchasable.
  • Auction House limited: Silver members can only post 5 items at a time. Gold can post 10 at a time. The ability to post more at a time is available to both Silver and Gold members.
  • Temporary Limitations for Chat, Mail and SuperGroup CREATION: for the first 20 hours there are some chats and mail can not be done and the rate (or amount) you can send is limited, and SG creation is not available for the first 20 hours of Silver Accounts.
  • Forum limitations: Silver members can read all forums, but can only post in certain areas.
  • Customer Service: Silver members only get Knowledge base type help. Gold Members get live support (they say free, but you are paying $15 a month for it).
  • No priority Login: Only Gold members get priority login.
So looking over the above bullet points, it will be better for most people to switch to a Silver account, and purchase things as they need or want them. Silver members will have access to all base zones, and all levels. Silver members would have to purchase 2 character slot packs (comes with 4 slots each) character slots for $30, 1 costume slot pack (which gives 2 additional costume slots) for $5, 3 bag slots (price unknown), adventure packs (unknown prices), gold archetypes (unknown prices), gold costumes (400 of them at an unknown price) to come as close to a Gold Membership without having to pay a monthly fee.

They are reworking the opening tutorial, and the progress and narrative of the first 10 levels or so into a more streamlined experience (their claim, I'll post about it when it happens). The other question is, if you still need to buy the game to start playing it (and if you get a free month of Gold). I posted the question in the forums, and I'll let you guys know if I get a response.

Are all these changes final? Actually no, they are going to start a F2P beta in November, and this isn't slotted to come out until the first quarter of 2011. Some things might still change, regardless of all that, is that as it is right now, if you don't care about changing the color of your powers, priority login and or making a customized power set, then Silver will be your best choice.

Edit:
Got my answer pretty quick:

Hey Pangoria,
When Champions Free-to-Play launches, a retail copy will not be required. Players can download the client for free.

Because physical retail copies are still in circulation and digital clients will continued to be offered at places like Steam and D2D, we're going to try and price that client at $14.99. It will also still include 30-days of free gameplay, which will functionally become 30-days of Gold Membership. So, if you buy the box or a digital client when Champions Free-to-Play launches, you pay the same price as one month of Gold Membership and you get one month of Gold Membership out of it. That seemed like the most elegant solution.

To reiterate, a box will not be necessary. You can still download the free client and either play as a Silver Player free of charge or elect to subscribe and become a Gold Member.

I hope that answers your question.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Quiet but not Silent

I've been very busy, so its been awhile since I've updated. Posting is fun, so lets see what I can talk about today. Social gaming comes to mind as a topic that is on many peoples lips.

What I keep reading is that Social games are going against the entrapping stages, and the best Social games of the future will be closer to true casual games. So what are differences that must happen for a Social game to become a Casual game with social structures installed.
  1. Gaining skills, and mastering them: This means the player has to get a sense of getting better. In the case of puzzle games, they will start getting a higher score. If you create a level system, then there should be a significant difference between levels so that they can feel like they have improved.
  2. Allow the player to have choices. Choices (especially if its beyond a binary choice) give players a sense of power. Allow them to see and know all the things they can do (too much can also be overwhelming so its good to have some limits).
  3. Allow the players to feel that what they are doing matters to the game world (Farmville, for example, has plants die if you don't water them and harvest them on time).
  4. Don't just throw rewards at the player. Larisa recently pointed out how dissatisfying that can be.
  5. As a social game you want to allow the player to interact with his friends, but avoid anything that spams. Everyone hates spam.
  6. Allow for parallel competition with others. This is a social game, and it is good to be able to compare levels or restaurant size. Raid progress and sitting by a flight master with your drakes is similar to this.
  7. Make the game fun! This should really be number 1. This means to give tools and then challenge the player into using those tools. Everyone once in a while you up the challenge. Keep the player learning new things, and they will keep having fun.
  8. Have a long term goal. Why should the player keep playing? What is all this learning skill for?
  9. If you are going to make players use RMT, then make it worth their while. It shouldn't allow for someone to "cheat" their way to the top, but it should have a use, and it should be more than a minute one. (Amazingly enough, color changing is worth the investment, as the player gets to control the look of their avatar, and that has quite a bit of importance).
Well, what do you think? Would these changes to Social games make them true casual games, and lead the absorption of many "non-gamers" into real gaming?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Slow Down

Blogs are slowing down. MMOs are getting delayed. Even my blogging is taking a dip: school work is at the forefront of my priorities. There's not much to talk about.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Recent Items of Interest

Just a quick update, I have to get back to school work. I've had a headache for the last few days, and am a bit behind on getting my assignments done.

I recently received an e-mail from OnLive about their service going to a free model (sort of). I was able to log in, and essentially everything up to actually playing the full version of the game is free (free demos etc). OnLive is now more of a rental service. You can do a long term rental (up until 2014 2013) last time I checked) for the full price of the game, or you can do a temporary 3day or 5day rental, depending on the game. This is great, if you have the weekend off and just want to play through Batman. Not every game has this feature though, which really annoyed me. I was hooked up to my wi-fi and tried the wi-fi beta they had available. It works beautifully, exactly as advertised. If there was lag, I did not notice it. If you are in the US, I suggest you try OnLive's demos. Especially with it being free now, it is totally worth it.

Champions Online is doing another October event. This one is pretty cool in that it is actually different from what happened last year. Its another adventure pack, which will help with those leveling from 11-40. Recently I finished quite a few missions in the Desert area (though I haven't done all the public missions). I'll be heading over to Canada next, which personally has the most confusing layout of all the zones so far.

Monday, October 4, 2010

It's going to be a Cataclysm.



I love Nyhm's music videos... this isn't a video, but a very timely release of a song. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rifts: Planes of Telara

I just wanted to put this up for anyone who may of missed it. Rifts looks really interesting, and their game play idea has me intrigued.

A few points of interest:

  • Two factions, both going after a common goal of brining balance back to the world. They didn't specifically say PVP, which to me, makes it sound like a PVE style of conflict. Could be interesting.
  • What players do affect the world. Other planes (Fire, Life, Death, etc) are constantly breaking through the barrier of reality, and if not beat back, could overrun a server. Because so much of the world is based on player actions, no two servers would be alike.
  • As you progress in the game you gather 'souls'. These allow you to play as different classes. Yet, that is a bit of a misnomer. From the footage, a 'soul' is like a Talent Tree. The more you have, the more options you have in how to customize your character.
So, after watching the video... is anyone else interested?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lego MMO - interview

Interesting interview over at Gamasutra.

My favorite points:

Lego Pieces often have twice the polygons of a WoW Model.

Sharing your custom built area with the public requires human approval.

And this quote, "You should be able to hop in, have fun, play on your property for a while, build something, oh maybe you don't have enough bricks for the idea you have, so you'll play the game some more, get some leaderboard stuff going with some of the minigames with your friends, a little bit of fun, indirect competition going on, do a little co-op, go back to your property, build some stuff, go to your friends property, give them some models to help them build their property up -- that's more of the loop we're going for. Your own creativity is driving the depth you will get out of the game."

Check out the interview. Very awesome.

Monday, September 27, 2010

APB reimbursments

EA is offering a free game from their download store. Read more about it here. Go to their Customer Support to start the process.

The Eastern MMO Saturation

On MMORPG.com, they have 393 MMOs listed. This is an amazing number of MMOs considering that WoW has about 60% of the MMO market (oh, that was in 2008, the latest number is 54%).

From there, we extrapolate how many MMOs are in the East (China and Korea mostly), and how they are almost all F2P with Item Stores. Also, Piracy in China is thought to be massively rampant (I know some people who read Tobold's Blog who would feel at home there!). Interestingly, despite predicted growth of up to 9.2 billion dollars by 2014 in China for the MMO market, the Chinese are switching from MMOs, to Social Games.

Zynga (the company that has probably the most facebook games in existence, and what most people think of when Social Gaming is mentioned) reports 1 petabyte per day. They are expanding with 1000 new servers per week.

PopCap (makers of Bejeweled, and Plants vs. Zombies) did an interview recently of how they have been modifying their games to the Eastern Market. Shortly after that interview, they talked about how awesome they are compared to Zynga.

Now we have been eyeing Farmville for awhile now, and are mostly very much against it being considered as a game. On the other hand, Plants vs. Zombies is not only a good game, but is now being included in WoW.

So, we are seeing that in China, there are too many MMOs and they are switching from those to Social Games. In the US., Social Games and MMOs are two completely different markets, but... is it possible to switch it the other way? Will we see more people going from the Social market into the Casual MMO market? Or will they simply progress to PopCap games?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Writers Repeat Themselves (Game Designers should too)

Quite often as I read through a book, I will notice that each paragraph will describe the exact same thing three different ways. As time has gone by, and I have read more and more books, I have noticed this repeating pattern. I believe the first time I noticed this was while reading Shakespeare.


Iago:
O, sir, content you;
I follow him to serve my turn upon him:
We cannot all be masters, nor all masters
Cannot be truly follow'd. You shall mark
Many a duteous and knee-crooking knave,
That, doting on his own obsequious bondage,
Wears out his time, much like his master's ass,
For nought but provender, and when he's old, cashier'd:
Whip me such honest knaves. Others there are
Who, trimm'd in forms and visages of duty,
Keep yet their hearts attending on themselves,
And, throwing but shows of service on their lords,
Do well thrive by them and when they have lined
their coats
Do themselves homage: these fellows have some soul;
And such a one do I profess myself. For, sir,
It is as sure as you are Roderigo,
Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago:
In following him, I follow but myself;
Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,
But seeming so, for my peculiar end:
For when my outward action doth demonstrate
The native act and figure of my heart
In compliment extern, 'tis not long after
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at: I am not what I am.

Iago here, talks about how not all servants are loyal, and that he is not loyal. How he, like those servants who only pretend, is simply waiting for his chance to no longer be a servant.

Now in concept, we could simply leave this idea as is. We could simply follow the concept and apply three variations of phrasing to everything we write, and hope that imitation is good enough to make our writing seem adequate or, dare we say, even good.

For the most part, that would work out, but we need to capture the why of the action, or we'll be like those girls who never understand why to apply make-up a certain way, and end up looking like clowns instead.

So, is it important to use this tripling repetition all the time in writing? Or only during key moments, or important events? How about in a mystery, where you want the clue to exist, but to be forgotten until mentioned later? How about in instructions and directions?

I'm not sure if writing an entire novel in constantly repeating yet different sentences is a good idea. I've read a story like that, and about half way through I was frustrated and skipping the extra two sentences of information. Which after getting in the habit of doing, caused me to miss some scattered bit of info the author was trying to convey. So perhaps in such events, it might be better to only use the three step sentence when information is important.

What about in a mystery? By putting emphasis on something else, and having a single throwaway sentence for something of import, you may succeed in causing the reader to forget about the important item, and focus on what they thought was important.

How can this be used in games? How about in quest text? Quite often, people skip the quest text, as it is often pointless, and simply read the what the goal of the quest is. How about simply writing the goal where the quest text is. Followed by having the goal in the objectives section. Finally, you have it on the players HUD of active quests. This of course means that you have tell your story in a different way (I've seen videos of Cataclysm, where a few times, Blizzard has succeeded in changing quests to this form). This can make it difficult, as telling a story through gameplay is something that is not yet completely common.

So is there a way to use the repeating text concept in game design, to tell a story, where most people skip the reading? Are there games that have told a story without words or with few words?

Perhaps, you start with a simple quest, and you don't read the quest text and just do things. But, if those quests really do serve a purpose, you start seeing a pattern in what you are doing, even without reading the quest text. Just from the quest objectives you can start figuring out that hey, something is going on here. This means that you would have to have most quests NOT be kill 10 rats. You have to add another element, or even better, two more elements into the quest.

How about this: "Rats have been coming up from the cellar. There used to be an underground passage which was used during the occupation of the tyrannical orcs a while back. Looks like something new has moved into the passage ways. Perhaps, you would help me solve this problem? I'll make sure to reward you... appropriately."

First of all, the quest text itself mentions passage way and cellar and essentially going underground. Second, you would have updating or chain quests that would lead from one to the other. Is there more we can do?

In this case, we need to look at cut-scenes or things "like" a cut-scene to help tell the story. This would be the third step of telling a story three different ways.

So we can the quest to go into the cellar, where the quest updates to killing rats and we kill an arbitrary 10 rats. Once we kill the rats, we see one escape into another passage (the "cut-scene"). We follow, and see the passage ways that the quest giver was talking about. Now, we go deeper and explore. Now even without reading the quest text, we knew to go to the cellar, and because our objectives window is auto-updating, and we are seeing the rats escape down a passage, we follow and proceed with the quest.

Now, would you do this with every mission? Or only with important missions?

I would imagine that a developer would tier the significance of of their quests, so that as you go up in importance you have these additional steps taking place, to show the importance of these events. Perhaps even for the same reason that you would for writing.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

;heroicsit

Showing a possible costume, and emote from Champions Online. This is Moonlight, and the emote is Heroic Sitting. There are also more dances available that you can switch between. Of course, you can browse the Rate My Hero database, and see all the different heroes people have made.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Free Champions Online Giveaway!

MMOSanctuary is doing a Champions Online giveaway.  Here is the contest page. Why not give it a try and get a free Champions Online game! Open to anyone, anywhere in the world! (or so they say!)

All you have to do is register, then go back to their contest page. You start off with enough points after registering to enter the contest. If you are already a member and have additional points, you can register more times!

Now, there is only 5 entrants right now (I'm one of them), I figured, why not have MORE people signing up for a free copy! So go for it! Especially if you've been on the fence about this game, give it a free go! Contest ends late October (details on their page).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A possible solution to E-Peen

Larisa recently had a question of how to resolve the phobia of inefficiency (which is a quote from Ghostcrawler apparently). Not long after reading that I came across an article in Gamasutra, which may have some promising ideas.

The article talks about priming. The idea being that if you set people up to not worry about gearscore, they are more likely to not worry about gear score. Of course, Blizzard is actually priming players for using gearscore. What I mean by that is that, to enter heroics, you need to be at or mostly at a particular gearscore minimum.

But, is it possible, that using the loading screen tips, that Blizzard might be able to undo the society of fear they have created? Did their tips about taking a break and meeting your friends outside of WoW work?

How about everytime you use the LFD tool you get a message saying things like, "Everyone who is selected for your team is qualified for the dungeon, there's not reason to kick them out if their  gear is low."

That's also very blatant though. Perhaps it needs to be more subtle. How about, every time you go to vote kick, it asks you, "What would Thrall do?" or "Everytime a member gets kicks, Arthas eats a baby."

There are different ways to possibly undo what has happened, but the question is, how far will GC and Blizzard have to push to change the player base?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Casual Gaming: Converting Non-Believers

Video games, like religion, have those who know its rules, and those who are uninformed. Similar to religions, it wishes to convert those who do not understand it, into loyal followers. The idea of going door to door passing the "good news" can be shared by both (I submit exhibit A).

Casual games (note I am not talking about Social Games, which is currently a pejorative) are a leading off point to hardcore games. They start as simple, approachable games, where the rules are easy, or even intuitive. They take a simple concept, like clicking on an object to highlight it, and instill a codified gaming idea into the minds of its users (note that they are not necessarily gamers at this point).

Step by step a casual game leads the player into deeper interactions. Depending on the game, it might only go into the shallow waters, wading on the surf. At the end, it gives the player a reason to seek a similar game. That game, may be as casual, or may be designed with the idea that the person played a game like it before. Suddenly, new concepts enter the language of the user, and step by step, game by game, the user becomes a gamer.

For so long, we have had A for okay, and B for cancel, that even the X-box follows this convention (and further expand on the concept by making A green for go, and B red for stop). The Playstation, realized how ingrained button layouts were for gamers, that they made the O and X buttons to match the locations of the A and B buttons on the Super Nintendo controller. These are interface mechanics that codify into a players mind.

These general gaming ideas, are designed to make it simpler for a gamer to master interactions with the game. This effort, to make hardcore controls easier to grasp is for attracting newer players, but can also aid those gamers who have not yet mastered a game's interactions.

Tony Ventrice over at Gamasutra says that there are 6 things that makes a game hardcore, and it is those 6 things that need to have incremental steps in order to draw the casual gamer into the hardcore space.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Having No Personality

Blogging in a way that is tied to people you know, causes several things to happen. First of all, I do my best to not be a complete jerk. This is important, since friends and family potentially read this blog, and I like most of them enough to not want to hurt them.

Second of all, this blog is a bit of a face to what I think. Because of this, I've been rethinking some of my actions and decisions, of which, I will discuss later in this blog post. Unlike anonymous forums, this account is linked to my e-mail, my Facebook, and has my name attached directly to it.

Now, my friends who are closest to me, realize that my personality is different depending on the company. I may be more liberal in my views around certain company, or I may be conservative with others. I believe that this is true for everyone, but what is unique about this in a public facing blog, is that all my circles of friends can view my actions simultaneously.

Partly because of this, I tend to find my writing lacking a certain edge, that others like, Gevlon for example, seem to delight in. Furthermore, even others like Tobold, are able to take a opposing point of view to make a point, without confusing those in his circles (other than his readers at times).

When I think about how present myself in this blog, I feel similarly to when I am at work. I am constantly attempting to not hurt other people's feelings, and though I may make a strong stand against something, I do attempt to not be too childish about it.

So here goes my decision reversal. A while ago, there was a confluence negative feelings towards social media. Part of this was due to Blizzard announcing the use of real names in forums. Because of this I made a bold claim, no more posts about Blizzard games, and I would not be purchasing any of the games either.

Upon reflection, I have gained two points from this, A: It did not work for Tobold to not mention Darkfall, so why would it work for me? B: It turns out to be really childish, and results in posts that sound too edited.

So I am recalling my ban on mentioning Blizzard games on the blog, mostly to make things easier for myself. As for the not buying the games, lets be honest, I probably wouldn't have bought it on release anyways. I played WoW over a year after release. I didn't start playing Diablo 2 until a year or so after the expansion came out, and I bought StarCraft back in the day, and hated it immensely. Even Warcraft 2 was purchased a year later.

So will I buy Diablo 3, a year or two years after it comes out? Honestly, I do not know. What I do know, is that my public face is irrevocably linked to video games. So do I personally have a problem with my name being out there in forums? Not at all. But I still have an issue with how Blizzard had been trying to implement it. But for now, that is behind us.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Knights of the Old Republic

High off my recent acceptance to Uni, I decided to get myself a treat on Steam, and that treat presented itself deliciously, for only $2.50. Steam recently had a limited run daily sale. So what drove me to get this old game?

Well, I have played it before, but never to completion. Also, I wanted to spend some time in the Old Republic world, as a type of psych up, to help conceptualize how SWToR will play. Finally, the price was simply perfect.

Now, this game is pretty old, and perhaps playing Mass Effect 2, might give a better concept of how SWToR will actually play, but having played the demo of Mass Effect 2, I can easily re-imagine the dialogs in "wheel" format. What KotoR shows is the "world" of the Old Republic, such as races, city structures, plot elements (Mandalorians, Assassin Droids), and things that could help, visualize how they might make things matter in a story driven MMO.

Amazingly, what drew me to [unmentionable MMO], was how similarly auto combat looks between the games. In the end, if any game has a chance of equaling the top MMO, I think SWToR would be it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pricing Models

Amazon has a deal for writers who decide to put their books up for sale in their e-books store. The concept is, that you get everything formated and ready to go on your own, and put it up for sale.

To do this, you choose a price point. If you sell between $2.99 to $9.99 you get 60%, but if you go over $9.99 you only get 30% of the sale, which means you need to sell it for over $20 to get an equal amount of money from the $9.99 sale.

To me, the over $20 sales would only go to technical books, that teach some programming language or other useful skills. That means, for fiction writers you would be deciding between a $3 or a $10 book to sell. The usual paperbacks, sell for $5.99+ if its been out for awhile, or $17.99+ if it is more recent. To compete, you'd have to go under that, so practically, you would be selling your books for $2.99-$4.99.

That means per sale, you're netting about $2 average per sale. For me, with both me and my wife working, I'd want to be bringing in, $1000 per month, which means selling 500 books a month.

With that in mind, an independently published book is considered "a hit" if it sells 2000 copies. Extrapolating from that, I would be a successful independent writer if I completed (wrote, revised, put together, and published) a book every 4 months, or 3 books a year (and that's if it was a success each time).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Graduating Despite the Odds

High School for me was akin to a type of nightmare. I had a few good friends, most of who ended up treating me like crap by the end of high school, one who never spoke to me again, and two who are still a close and dear friends. I was friends more with teachers than with students, and even then, some teachers simply hated me.

My Junior year, I was accused of threatening to shoot students, and was expelled for the semester (final judgment came down to, "We can't say you did it, but since you were accused, we are kicking you out anyways"). I kept on studying, and came back for Senior year and finished off High School.

Looking at my HS Transcript, I remembered all the dark times I had at that high school, but... more excitingly, I remembered all the good times I had with my friends (while they were friends). Now even though I'm doing my best to be accepted into Full Sail, and go back to school (even on an online course), I'm excited. I'm really getting excited about this.

So while Larisa has her eyes on Cataclysm, I have my eyes on Full Sail. Yet I believe that both our eyes are covered with rosy spectacles, that color the future in a bright tint. Will our expectations be met, or even exceeded? I can't wait to find out.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Looking back at the Champions Online Anniversary

Found an excellent article on Massively about CO. Thought I'd share it.

David, Trek and Ami part 11

We finally get Trek, who was a goblin alchemist at the time (who knew that over 12 years later, a game would be available where you could be a goblin alchemist?). This ride is almost over, two more to go.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

David, Trek and Ami part 10

Ten entire comics setting up for this one joke. Did you see it coming? I'm kind of hoping that you were expecting this joke to occur.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Naming your Champion

All over, people seem to misunderstand how account names work in Champions Online, and I've tried to comment on their posts, but I'd like to clear things up in one spot, that everyone can point to and say, "there you go."

When you create a Cryptic account, you are asked for a few things: An Account name that is used to log-in, your e-mail, a password (to be used in conjunction with your account name), and a Handle (which is what most people out there are calling the @accountname), your birthday, and verification of humanity (captcha).

So, when I tell people that my Champions Online account name is @Pangoria, I'm actually talking about my Handle. So lets get our naming suggestions cleared up, and actually call it @Handle from now on (I'm as guilty of furthering this misconception as others).

David, Trek and Ami part 9

The story continues... chekov's gun coming up.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A step towards Destiny

I filled out an application for an online course with Full Sail University. Paid the $75 application fee, filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and talked to someone there about what the next steps will be.

There's some really good things about Full Sail, that really drew me to selecting them over other Universities, and online programs. The courses were first and foremost. Very interesting selection, with exactly the kind of things I wanted to study, for exactly the fields I wanted to enter.

Like other Universities, by the end of the course, I'm going to have lead a small group to completing a project. In this case though, I'll be doing so online. I also get to revisit the course in the future at no charge, even if the course changes to accommodate new technologies. Finally, I get to study on my time, and they start fresh each month, meaning that at anytime that you want to start course work, you can apply.

But that's not all. 13 of their graduates worked on Red Dead Redemption. 3 of them worked on Modern Warfare 2.

Everyone around me has been telling me to get back to educating myself, and to get a degree. Somehow, I see this decision as a better guarantee of future success than playing the lottery every day.

I'll find out more tomorrow, as FAFSA information, and other things carry on. I still need to get my High School Transcript, and look for grants. I'm pretty sure I can do this. I just hope that everyone who told me to go back to school will support me as I go after a fifteen year old dream.

David, Trek and Ami part 8

This was done back in 1998, so Final Fantasy 7 was big in my head at the time. The sprites are from Final Fantasy 5, which at the time had never been released in the US, and the only exposure I had to it, was a gag translation, which involved several jokes about ocular fornications (as well as nasal). Essentially, humor you would find on halolz, or 4chan.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Champions Online, Anniversary and Supergroup

Joined a supergroup called The Sorcerer's Circle. Made a SG costume for it, very big and demony (I'm on the right side of the image.

The anniversary has been good fun, and a few people according to the chats are planning on purchasing the game based on the experience of playing it during the free period.

According to Tobold, Direct2Drive is going to be selling CO for $6. I do encourage people to pick this game up, the creativity of costumes is boundless, and costume sets are often as cheap as $3.

David, Trek and Ami part 7

I think RPG World was doing something similar to this, where one character understood the game world, and the other was confused as to why the world functioned as strangely as it did.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

David, Trek and Ami part 6

As a note I used to use the name Maxim Mizukinkai when I was a teenage making these comics. This was of course, WAY before Naruto and the Mizukage thing. I wonder if any of our internet blogger buddies, who we read every week, used to have other aliases when they were younger, or if they have kept the same alias all these years.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

David, Trek and Ami part 5

This one was actually more a commentary of the time, and how many times webcomics wouldn't "make" their deadline (actually, it STILL happens). For me, I think, if you want to succeed and you say, you're going to do Mon-Wed-Fri, then your stuff better be out, Mon-Wed-Fri.

Friday, September 3, 2010

European Blogger Mafia

I'm not quite sure about the time line here, but there are certain interconnections that I noticed, and a certain separation between them and US (if you know what I mean). Tobold, Larisa and Gevlon are the head of a blogger network that stretches its control world wide, like a web or net, entrapping readers in an endless loop.

Time and time again, world of warcraft players are European. Ever heard of Totalbiscuit? How about Athene (the self proclaimed greatest paladin in the world).

Who are the American Bloggers? I can't even tell anymore, as American Bloggers continuously make themselves "appear" foreign. Is Ixobelle American, Japanese or European? Half the time, I'm not even sure "HE" is even human!

No, we have Rohan, and Mr. Green, and of course myself. I'm wondering how many are willing to add their name to the American Blogger Militia (A BM), and help combat the (E BM).

(All names used are for demonstration purposes only without their owners permission, and are not officially affiliated with any terrorist organizations, virtual or otherwise.)

David, Trek and Ami part 4

Originally, the title of each page gave a hint of what was going on. In this case, this comic was a flashback as to why Ami, who is a black mage, would agree to help kill black mages.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

David, Trek and Ami part 3

After these comics, I had done a couple of hand-drawn comics about a boy and his dog, who were being chased by the BPIA (baggy pants inspection agency). I never got too far with it, since my drawings were crappy, so getting a good enough image took forever.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

David, Trek, and Ami part 2

Continued upload of DTA. Looking back on this comic, I still find it "cute" instead of humorous. The typos are really annoying too. I would love to work on a real comic, but my artistic capabilities have always held me back. What I need is a Gabe and Tycho set up, where I write, and the other person draws, and we feed back and bounce ideas off each other.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

David, Trek, and Ami part 1

A long time ago (I'd say about 12 or so years), I was making sprite comics on a geocities website, to leave my mark on the internet. As I've recently found my old sprite comics, I decided to upload them (13 or so total), here for posterity, and as a back up as well. Forgive my indulgence.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sexuality

Everywhere I've been looking lately, I've been seeing people talk about sex. Whether virtual or discriminatory. The main point of it all, is that even after all this time, we haven't solved it, or figured it out to the point that everyone can agree. Now, I'm a big supporter that regardless of what anyone says, somethings are right, and some things are wrong. To me, figuring out the gray area, is what can lead us to advancement.

One of the problems with solving gray areas, and lets say, sexism, is that each man and woman is different. We are not all stereotypes. We are different gradations of what is expected, and because of that, there is no universal truth of what it means to be a woman, or a man, or gay, or straight. So what we have is each person's view of what it means to be a man and a woman, and they judge everything from that point of view. That point of view is formed by their parents, and by things that happened while they were growing up, and by in born genetic/hormonal effects (nurture AND nature). This means, that you have by default, your hormonal sex drive, which influences your behavior. Next you have what your parents taught you, or how they behaved around you while growing up (this can lead either to positive or negative views of what is taught), followed by events from outside the family unit (which either contradict or reinforce what the family taught).

So if your view is that "women like talking about clothing and shoes, and don't like to play sports, and since not many women are in the sciences, that means that women are stupid," then that is how you perceive every female. You then grade every woman you meet based on those criteria, and if they are more aggressive, then they are dykes, if they are smarter, then they have no life and never had sex, etc etc. You do the same thing for men, for children, for yourself. You also reflect what you think others think about you, and you add their views of you to how you view them. This all gets pretty complicated and layered in your head, even without really thinking about it.

So what stops people from becoming educated about the fact that not everyone fits a stereotype, and therefore proceed OUT of this misogynistic, anti-ethnic, xenophobic loop each and every generation?

The first hurdle is slowly being overtaken, which is globalization. By allowing us to more easily see the entire world, we can more easily come to understand the similarities that ties us together as a human race.

The second hurdle, is intelligence. I'm sorry to say, that there are many stupid people in the world, and as long as those people remain stupid, then we cannot even begin to challenge their way of thinking, since stupidity leads to the mule effect (stubbornness).

The third hurdle is ingrained teachings. This does not necessarily go hand in hand with stupidity, but it has similar traits. This is religion, fundamentalism, social nationalism, and other cult like brainwashing things.

Since intelligence is on a bell curve, we can assume, that 20-30% of people will always be too stupid to be reformed at an older age, meaning that we need to teach them before they are taught bigotry from their parents. This would also cover the ingrained teachings part.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Between a Nerd and a Jock Place

Its strange looking back at my life. I've never been much good for anything. All my efforts to be a good student or a good employee were nothing more than a pedantic waste, that amounted to nothing more than me becoming the most boring person in the world.

I've always been stuck in a strange roll in life. I was usually the top grade in my class, or at least in the top three. When teachers would grade finals on a bell curve, my grade was removed so that others would pass. I could do algebraic equations half asleep, fifteen minutes before class, and still get them all correct. I was the best reader in my classes, and I always put 100% into all of my work.

I would always strive to do my best in gym class. I was usually in the top five in running. On weights, despite my slight frame, I managed squatting over twice my weight. I never liked doing sports, but during sports days, I would do my best, which overall was below average, despite my best efforts.

So even though I was smart, and got good grades, I was a slacker, and didn't fit in with the other top students. They viewed me as a waste, and it seemed to upset them that I was coasting through the classes while they studied, and had a social stigma attached to them. Even so, I did become friends with a select few of them.

Even though I wasn't a slacker in P.E. the jocks didn't like socializing with me, because they viewed me as a nerd, and since I didn't participate in after school sports clubs, I was usually rejected.

I was never part of any group, yet I would visit all the different social groups of my school. I'd know one person at least in each one, and the rest of the group would hate me. I quote, "Why are you even here? No one here likes you, so why do you even hang out here? Go away!"

At the beginning of school, in both middle school and high school, the jocks would try to establish their dominance over the nerds. Most of the poor geeks would be bullied into submission. I would fight. I would scratch and bite, and yell, and punch and kick. After their first try, I would never be bullied again. Instead, I would be ignored.

Despite all these social limitations, I made a couple of friends (which I still talk to today, 10-16 years later). I was too much of a slacker to be a nerd, and I was too nerdy to be with the jocks. I refused to do drugs, so the slackers ignored me, after their first invitation. My laziness meant that I never tried to succeed, instead I'd get my A's, and I'd ignore everything else. I ignored college prep, I ignored life goals and planning. I got out of high school without a direction to go in. I wasn't interested in college, viewing it as nothing more than a continuation of the torture I had been experiencing for over 10 years.

I started working. At work I had the same attitude as I had in school, get the A, but don't bother with anything after that. It wasn't until I met the woman that would become my wife, that I went for a promotion.

So now, I've started planning for my future. One of those things is going to college. But old habits and feelings die hard, and the time to act is slipping by. Once again, I'm sabotaging myself. Even knowing this, looking to go to school, I feel the same strange weighted feelings in my chest. I'm not sure if its fear, or hate, or loathing. But the more I try to think about going, the more I feel like crying, and curling up.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Are 2nd Markets Piracy?


Such a huge topic today, almost as bad as the piracy debate itself. This goes hand in hand with piracy into causing things such as DRM, and the latest tactics of game companies: Not including the full game at retail. A while ago one of the VG podcasts I watch talked about how some games coming out, have DLC available right away. Sometimes for free, often times for another $15. Why would they do this?

The answer is simple, they are not getting money from the 2nd Market, which by definition they never would. So, does the 2nd Market only cause damage? Or is it really as bad as piracy? Are the gate keepers of the 2nd Market the reason that things are as bad as they are now, or have they been helping game companies?

So lets take a look at what exactly happens: Company A (the developer) makes a game. Company B (the distributer aka Gamestop) sells the game. Company B purchases the game from Company A, in bulk, and sells it for the MSRP. Customer A, buys the new game from Company B. Customer B cannot afford to buy the game new, and does not purchase the game. Customer A finishes the game, and decides he's done with it. Customer A goes to Company B, and trades the game in for in-store credit. Customer A now either uses that credit to purchase new or used games, but being the Customer A that he is, he buys new games. This may not directly support original Company A (Customer A may be buying a game from another developer), but it does get money going back to publishers. Customer B, sees the game he wanted on sale used, and purchases it, supporting Company B, helping them stay in business to sell new games to people like Customer A.

Now obviously, this works fine with brick and mortar stores, and games that are on a physical medium. But we are in a digital age, and as proponents for Piracy state over and over again, it takes no effort to copy 1s and 0s. We can understand a $60 MSRP, because of the cost to get the game on disc, and ship it, and the packaging, etc etc etc. But why is the same game $60 to download? Because the download services get a cut of the sale (Apple Itunes gets 20% I believe).

So digital distribution does not result in cheaper games for Buyers, but it does guarantee revenue for the game companies. Furthermore, Digital Distribution negates the possibility of the 2nd Market. But why shouldn't I be able to sell my right to play a game to someone else? I paid for that right, so if I no longer want it, I should be able to sell it, or even give it away to someone who would not have purchased it otherwise, right? I mean, they wouldn't have bought it for full price, but for cheaper or free, they at least are playing the game, resulting in more people online to bring the "fun" to those who did pay the original cost. I mean, its not really that different whether I'm playing it or someone else is it?

But game companies want to make money from the 2nd Market. So they release DLC on launch date, so that one day (and some games have done this already), if you purchase a game new, you get the DLC for free, but if you purchase it from the 2nd Market, you have to pay $15 for the DLC. DLC that isn't really DLC, but usually on the disc already, but locked. In other words, you have to pay $15 for a lie.

Now I suggested what the benefits and actual damage of Piracy was for the game companies, regardless of how I feel about that, it is still immoral. But with the 2nd hand market, you have similar benefits, sometimes better benefits (Customer A gets money to reinvest into game companies), and you end up with similar damages to piracy (developer gets no additional money, except for DLC, which is good for them right?).

So is the 2nd Market Piracy? I don't think so. I think its very good for game companies, and their efforts to damage it may end up damaging only themselves.

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

NWN - Without Roper

After two years, Chief Creative Officer, Bill Roper has left Cryptic to pursue something else (apparently to start a new company).

Now, for the past year, they've been working on Neverwinter Nights, and since they are starting to do interviews, I'm guessing that its starting to reach fulfillment. Now, Bill Roper was heavily involved with Champions Online, but he said he only barely touched on Star Trek Online. So how much involvement did he have with NWN, and if not enough, could that be why he left? Was he suddenly feeling stifled by it all?

Depending on how involved he was with this game, will decide for many people how much they feel they will like or dislike this game. Now, apparently I'm a big fun of Bill Roper (I may be the only one!?), so how sure can we be about the quality of this game? Who is involved?

So, I found an interview that Gamespot recently did with Jack Emmert (chief operating officer). Some points from the interview are as follows:

The game is not massively at all. It is simply an online multiplayer game. Imagine logging into (unmentionable MMO) and only using the Dungeon Finder. Some zones will be public, and some will be for teammates only. But not in the concept of a "hub world".

They are translating D&D4e rules into computer lingo, so, even though the starting classes are only five or so (fighter, wizard, rogue, ranger, cleric), we can expect that many can be showing up further down the line.

With how they break down the abilities, they translated D&D4e's, at-will, encounter, and daily powers into any-time, each encounter, and every few hours. This means that you would log in, play through a session, and log out for a few hours.

They are investing in including flanking, positioning, and tactics into the gameplay (not sure how it will be implemented, but in D&D4e, flanking makes it easier for you to hit).

The character editor, will be similar to CO and STO, and they will have Humans, Elves, Dwarves, and a few mysterious others (Drow, Eladrin, Warforged, Teifling, what? Honestly, being mysterious about this now is just stupid). It might mean that they are currently incomplete.

The storyline is tied into R.A. Salvatore stories (though not necessarily written by him). The adventures will occur within Neverwinter, and just outside of it, at least in the beginning. They have plans to expand after release. The game will take place 100 years in the future.

Players will be able to create stories, maps, and create quests for the map. Emmert specifically made the effort to point out that people will easily be able to tell they are using User Generated Content versus in-game content. So, that is almost a guarantee that "Forge" (their ingame creator) will be pretty lame.

It is set to be released in tandem with the R.A. Salvatore book, Gauntlegrym, which is being released October 5th, 2010.