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, 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.

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


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.