Thursday, December 27, 2012

SWTOR: F2P

This is a difficult discussion to have at this very moment. As it is, F2P in SWTOR is in a state of flux, and they are slowly granting the Preferred class of players more for having spent money. Essentially, a Gold Membership still have the best deal, if you are going to be doing EVERYTHING in SWTOR, otherwise, you can piecemeal yourself the aspects of the game that you want.

The issue is that for a while, if you weren't Gold, you might as well not even bother. But they are changing that. As a note, I spent $5, to get Preferred status. That means I get several bonuses, as well as unlocking some cosmetic functionality (legacy name display, for example).

Things I don't like in the game, are things like, having to unlock the ability to wear Purple gear (unnecessary as it may be, it limits what I can get from the game). As well as unlocks for accessing certain gear. Even your partner's skin requires an unlock to use, and to even get at one point! That's right, there are rewards you cannot pick up unless access to it is unlocked. And you can't even unlock it later to use in most cases!

That aside, they have quite a few cosmetic items, which I'd be interested in, if I invest enough into the game to get to level 50. The game is quite playable for free, but I suggest dropping at least $5, even early on, to get the preferred member status.

Also, though the limit is only 2 characters, you can make 2 characters per server, so it is quite possible to negotiate all the storylines. As far as I can tell, members to go from Gold to F2P will keep their characters, but only 2 can have items bought for them. I would need further testing though, and I just didn't have the money to test it out.

If you like the game, I suggest getting the $5 bonus pack they sell in the cartel store (gives a lot of little trinkets, a ride, and gives you preferred status).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Overwhelming Schedule

I'm going to be taking a break for the holidays. Between work and now 2 high speed classes to attend, I simply don't have much time for anything else. I think that after the holidays I'll have more time to devote to side projects. See you then!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pathfinder Passion Penumbra

I had never played D&D 3, 3.5 or Pathfinder before. A couple of weeks ago, I had my first Pathfinder game with some new friends. The interesting thing is that this was with a relatively newer DM (dungeon master) and with a team and system I was not familiar with. There were times where I was acting a certain way, which mechanically was counter to my benefit. A few other things went wrong with the game as well: I was tired from a long day of work, the DM favors realism/simulation, we were playing online instead of face to face, we were using a program new to most of us (and it was buggy to boot).

Regardless of this, the game was fun, and I learned a bit about the mechanics of the game (I always prefer to learn "live"). The thing is that it made me want to DM again (DMing was my primary activity in almost all D&D and RP games I have played). It made me realize how much I loved crafting story and combat events for players.

Thing is, I don't really want to also learn this program that we used (using it as a player is fine, but our DM seemed to have spent a lot of time on this). My solution would probably be to set something up in google docs drawing, but I would need to find a shared screen die roller.

Also, I really only have experience with 2nd edition and 4th edition (I'm probably skipping next and going for the edition after next). So if anyone has experience with DMing multiple game systems from D&D, I'd love to hear some good tips.

I'm not sure if I'd like to DM a Pathfinder game, or a strong simulation game (the group seems to have a strong hate for 4th edition), but I'm definitely thinking about it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

League of Legends - Honor Initiative

For a little bit now, League of Legends has started an initiative, where at the end of a match, a player gets rewarded by the others with praises of being helpful, friendly or displaying good teamwork or friendly competition. This is a post-game mechanic that is added beyond the typical "gg" at the end of a game.

The interesting thing is... that its working. I have seen an increase in the number of players saying thank you, glhf and in general at least saying hello. Where as before, that was something that existed and was slowly starting to slag off.

Now this does not mean that the opposite has been abandoned. Several, players still continue to swear, and deteriorate into juvenile actions. The fact, that such a system can at least encourage those who used to be nice to come back out of their shells, is huge.

I think that many more games should try to encourage things like this. Loading bumpers with, "Always start a game with a Good Luck, Have Fun," or "Help those who are new, don't forget you used to be new yourself!"

I've covered such actions before in an older post, but I feel that the company actively sending messages, being supportive will greatly help those who play that way to do so, regardless of the jerks and trolls. Let people be positive, let people who are negative be punished, and let the players dictate that.

Sure there are times when such mechanics will be gamed, but I think it is a great support to continual and traditional customer support and service. Between this initiative, and the tribunal, I think that Riot is taking several steps in the right direction, and that other MMOs should start looking to Riot on how to curb certain behaviors.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tetrahedron Twister

Well, here's an upload of a game I made for last month's class.

Its buggy, but I'm really proud of it. I'm using it as a prototype of what I can do, perhaps in game maker.

goo.gl/MXiCu

The concept (since the tutorial was slapdashed together) is for the player to make each side of a tetrahedron have the same color, by picking up one color tile at a time.

Please post any reviews or comments below. Thank you.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Gating as Reward

Gating is the act of restricting access until conditions are met. Many games work by using gating (WoW uses level as a gate, Mario 64 uses stars, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions uses level completion), and its often an accepted form of game design. Many people would never blink an eye-lash if you said you had to beat Level 1 of Ghosts and Goblins before moving on to Level 2.

Even Mega Man, which gives you a choice of the first 8 levels, requires the completion of those levels before you head out towards Wily's Castle.

But, what is it that these gates reward the player with? More game.

Playing level one lets you play level 2. Level 2 is harder than level 1, and you don't know level 2. So there's a bit of discovery and exploration involved in level 2. Maybe, level 2 is different from level 1. Maybe you can do more. Maybe you can do something different.

If leveling in WoW is pointless (the point of the game is to reach max level and raid/pvp/scenario), then the point of leveling is to teach how to play, guide the player through story/narrative, and provide the player with time to get to know and in turn, fall in love with, their character. Leveling allows the player to consume more story, gain more things to do in combat (and out of combat, in the form of new resource nodes, new dungeons etc).

WoW is a multi-game. It is more than just an MMO. It is a community game, and exploration game, a challenge game. It does almost everything.

Mario 64, is an adventure game. It provides platforming as a challenge. Its what you do in it. The game rewards you with new an different ways to platform.

Anyways, back to WoW, the issue with the game is that leveling is not what you do at the end of the game. To change this, evolve questing to scenarios/dungeons and pvp. Each time the player completes a scenario, dungeon or pvp, allow them to gain new skills. To get something more, they have to finish different ones. The skill rewards could even be tied to the kind of play the accomplish.

Now instead of trying to get to level 90, you're trying to finish the scenarios and dungeons that allow you to have the skills needed to raid heal.

The key here is that newer MMOs need to look outside of pure exp/leveling mechanics to something that will fit what they want their game to do. If I was designing a WoW clone, I would seriously ask, what aspect of WoW are we trying to compete with. And if its raiding, then the question becomes, do we need levels? How else can we gate?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

How I feel currently

Light permission, escaping me
Life is like a filigree
Contained and lost in its maze
decoration for death's gaze

The end game coming through and thru
nite time leading, like a shrew
in the darkness the rodent hides
and bites and bides its time and lies

shit the herald screams in glee
as I realize I won't be free
in time to enjoy the darkness approach
but nevermind, life has yet to -

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Weaving

I created a toy project for school. I wanted to share it, as a way of having it up online. Its a perlenspiel project.

Perlenspiel is a java coded environment, that allows for the manipulation of "beads" or little squares on the screen. The designer can control the size of the grid, the border thickness of the beads, the color of the beads, glyphs that show up on the beads, etc etc.

This folder share I'm doing includes the perlenspiel code as well as my own code. I'm very proud of this. Now unfortunately, none of my online "sites" allow for ftp set ups like my old Geocities website did. This means that I'd have to create a wordpress blog to really have this "posted". Considering that I'd also like to share my other work (including my flash inventory example), I may have to switch to word press, or create a wordpress blog specifically for my projects. I'll update as it happens.

If anyone has experience with word press please let me know.

Anyways, the toy is a "weaving" toy. You set up a pattern, click weave and it goes up one. I coded it so that I could change the number of rows and columns to fit my mood.

This week I'm working on a puzzle game for the class, also in perlenspiel. I'll share it when I'm done and its been turned in.

Note to other Full Sail students, code is checked, and it is possible for teachers to find out if you copy pasted code. There are things for that. Most of them much more advanced than this online one.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Trolling RL

Would a real name have stopped this?

Gabriel's Greater Internet Dickwad Theory requires anonymity to be included, with the result being a troll. A person who is playing a game with the Real Life feeling and emotions of others. On the internet, for the most part, that means you simple say, "They're not real either" and move on with your life.

But when they start mailing things to your house? Hacking into YOUR personal site and email? This isn't the first time this has happened, but its the first time I've heard of the troll getting caught.

Leo here lucked out, but what about Anita Sarkeesian? She's never going to meet some of the people who hacked and harassed her. Are they doing it for the same reason? Could they be someone who knows her? Would the fact that they know her cause them to be more aggressive and spiteful?

We know that real names would deter some people, but it also would open more people up to harassment. And as Leo's article shows, the police would do nothing, at least not until they actually crossed the threshold of your house. At least not until they had killed you or your family.

This kind of behavior escalates. Just like how lying and stealing will escalate. But would it have ever stopped? Would this 17 year old have ever stopped harassing this man?

One thing I know, is that be NOT having him arrested, he has given this kid a chance to actually grow; for him to change directions.

Those people attacking Anita though. They have not been caught, shamed, or anything. They simply continue to exist, to troll, and to be evil.

Real names online give more power to Trolls than it takes away. Instead, we need places like Twitter, Facebook, Google and our online communities to step up about who these people are. When harassment occurs, we need to be able to have those people be made public and responsible. We need to be able to out the trolls while protecting those who behave.

Are there any other solutions or ideas about this? Or... are there any defenders to trolling?

Monday, September 24, 2012

F2P StarCraft 2 Multiplayer

PC Gamer has been talking to Dustin Browder, a lead designer of Star Craft 2, about how they could make SC2 free to play.

Dustin says, that they have no idea how to monetize it. Obviously, you couldn't just give it for free, because SC2's main point is multiplayer, and putting it out for free would mean that sales of it might stop, unless someone wants to know more about the storyline.

They don't want to sell units (thank goodness), so what can they do? Well, how about alternate unit sprites? This provides a small advantage, when an opponent can't immediately identify your unit because they can't tell what it is.

Can you imagine having the humans replaced by fantasy units? Eldar as Elves? Etc etc? Diablo or Zombie themed Zerg instead?

You can also add value to the units by giving them new sound files as well. This would be a purely cosmetic upgrade, and available only through real money.

Along with that, they can make alternate units. These would replace a unit, fit a similar function. These are unit replacers that they can turn on or off. The idea is that they are not better, but maybe better in a different situation while losing something somewhere else.

These could be earned through gameplay or sold for money.

Would these be enough to make it free to play? Would they sell units by groups or one at a time? Would it be $5 for a new unit, or would they aim for impulse buying at $1 or $2? A whole team for $20-$30?

Would alternate sprites be sold by the group and alternate units individually? Could they make a grab bag with a random 3 units? Would you be able to trade them? Would you be able to morph them into a 3rd alternate currency... or send it to your WoW account as a summonable pet, that you could then battle with others?

Could you crunch it into resources for your Diablo 3 character? Or.... have it become a boost to be able to earn points faster for new alternate units.

Well, hopefully they think this through.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Having Fun in Champions Online

Recently a classmate has joined me in Champions Online, and he brought a friend with him. My character was level 25, and their characters had just barely finished the intro. So what did we do? We teamed up, the lowbie shared their missions. We were just having fun. The game did not stop me from playing with them.

What does the game do that allows you to play with whoever you want?

A) You can scale up/down to the leader's level. If the leader is level 11, everyone can go down, so that the game is properly challenging.

B) Missions can be shared, even if the person is not yet eligible or has already done the mission. They get a shared version of the quest, which allows them to do the quest, and turn it in for a reward. Many quest rewards also allow you to get tokens for special shops instead.

Yup, the game has leveling, but its more as a way to guide you through the storyline and as a way to limit growth so you can experience the game.

Also I recommend everyone having a similar travel power. If you're flying, go all flying, or all acrobatics, or all speed/tunneling (with that in mind, I don't recommend tunneling).

Overall, the experience is a lot of fun, just like any game you play in a group, it is what you make of it, but Champions Online, makes it easier for you to make it fun.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Blame it on the Gaze

The poem I wrote, is written with the male gaze. Quite honestly, everything I write and create will have a male gaze to it, regardless of what I do, mainly because I am in fact, a male.

Yet, is it possible for male gaze to be more than the focus of gawking, peeping and objectifying? Or is it because so much has been created with that type of male gaze that it is forever to be how the male view is perceived?

Does the male gaze apply to things when the object in question is not female? The definition has its origins in feminist studies, where it becomes important to understand that from a young age, men and women have been forced to view the world as if they were a man, and in the case of the film camera, that "man" is often a pervert who focuses quite often on specific body parts.

Horror movies use the male gaze to show the man outside the window, peeking in on the half naked woman before going in and killing her.

The male gaze decides that the over the shoulder camera of a mounted female will be back far enough to show her thong as she rides.

The male gaze, is what is used by costume designers in many video games to decide the outfits female characters will wear.

Notice that all these are doing things that when applied to another man, would be avoided. If a man is inside a room naked, more often, you will see the stalker outside through the window, while the camera stays inside. A man riding on a horse would have the camera properly behind him, and showing him above the waist. A man's outfit will often cover his entire body, especially in the case of armor.

If you treat male characters the same as you would female characters, it would actually make some men uncomfortable. Either because they feel a little gay for the view, because of what it is usually used for (recent shows use male gaze on a male rear end before revealing the subject is a male to get that exact reaction), or because they feel that it is too gay for their tastes (peoples tastes gradient from a little gay to way super gay).

So why is all this important? Why should men care? Because like everything else, it starts collapsing in on itself. It will be magnified, and become a mockery of itself (horror movies already do it). But at the same time, there is a place for it.

So go on and look for it. Look for where the camera lingers. Where something interrupts a man, and the camera explores it from every angle. Where it lingers on key features. Where the camera is in the view point of a predator.

What else do you identify as male gaze?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Blame it on the Gaze - Poem

Looking.

Eyes staring, consuming, obsessing over shape. Imagining functions.

Perversion. Reluctance. Desire.

Touching.

Caressing. Fondling. Groping. Hurting.

Rejection. Fear. Denial.

Hatred.

Misogyny.

Looking.

Monday, September 10, 2012

My Problem with Conservatives

Listening to Republicans Conservatives talk is one of the most frustrating things I can imagine doing. There is a severe lack of respect for women, homosexuals, and essentially anyone who is not themselves.

I work with Conservatives. They say things like, "It must be so hard for him to keep this job, since he's black. I won't write him up this time."

I don't even know where to start with this statement. I can't even start on it. I get physically ill, and go into a near rage just thinking about it. Its not cute and old-timey just because the person saying it is 80. Its sickening to hear them side with Akin after his comments on legitimate rape. And it is confusing that these are people as poor as me, most of them women, who think that rich people need tax cuts, women need to stop choosing to be raped, and everyone needs to believe in God.

These are people who are ignorant about who they are, what they need, and about the realities of other people. But, this is just my view from the outside. Biased with everything I believe in.

So how can I objectively view their statements without coloring my opinion of it? I honestly don't think I can. So I have to look at my personal beliefs, and wonder at what point does it matter if what I believe is correct or not, and a law has to work a certain way for the benefit of the minority of people who need to be protected?

That is the honest argument, from birth control to taxation.

How do you define life? Well, Biology has 7 requirements that something has to meet all or most of, before it is considered alive (according to wikipedia). Can that be used to define a fetus? If it is missing 2 or 3 of them, does it count as a living organism? Or does it only count as such when it is able to live on its own outside the womb?

These are the points of contention, and currently liberal and conservatives sit on opposing ends, unable to meet anywhere in the middle.

But here's a quick question... should men have any opinion on this? To be fair, a man's contribution to the process is minor in comparison to what women go through. Should their opinion be equally minor, to the point of an opinion? Or should the Biological definition stand on its own without opinion?

But it doesn't matter, because the issue is obfuscated by men shouting about legitimate rape, conservatives shouting about the bible, and women who's bodies are fucking them over just needing birth control to maintain a sense of dignity and prevent anemia from blood loss.

Finally, when it comes to rape, I think that if you haven't experienced it, you should shut up. You have no clue what you are saying on the matter. You have no idea of the lifetime change that can occur from it.

So in the end, my issue with Conservatives is that they are extremely fundamentalist in their mentality. Which continues to be the issue I have with people in general. There can't seem to be a meeting of ideas, or any sense of cooperation on issues.

 For a long time I thought that once some of these older white males left office, and younger blood came in, that perhaps a change of opinion could begin, but I forgot about brainwashed children, who continue to spout off their parent's beliefs without actually understanding what they are talking about. And they continue to be white males.

I want to talk to them, to find out what is actually going through their heads when they talk about these things. I want to open a dialogue. So here it is, if you have any opinion on this, go ahead and comment, and lets see what is going on. I've said my side, now its your turn.

I beat Penny Arcade to the Punch Line by 3 months

On June 11, 2012, I posted on Google+:

"I think the Wii U could be a great console to develop a live D&D style game, where the person with the touchscreen remote is the DM and the other 3 are players within the game. I'm putting this out there, because if I can't get to making it, someone else should!"

almost 3 months later, Penny Arcade posts:


Not only is this something I think plenty of people have thought of, it appears that Penny Arcade thought of it last. Way to be topical guys. You're 3 months late to this discussion.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

City of Heroes; dies

Unfortunate news comes out that NCsoft is closing down City of Heroes. The article says 80 employees will be affected. This is (according to the article) happening about a year after the game went free-to-play. I think its important to look at the fact that free-to-play is not some sort of balm you can apply to your game and have it become more popular or make more money.

The sad thing is, that City of Heroes/Villains, was not even considered a bad MMO! It wasn't excellent, but it wasn't a bad game. Their free to play model was interesting in that they had 3 tiers (free tier, one for if you had bought something before, and a VIP monthly membership).

Like Star Wars, end game in City of Heroes was only available to those who were VIP members. Other strange VIP only things were the ability to write in forums, creating super groups (if you were not middle tier you couldn't even join), the ability to talk in all channels (if you were a free tier you couldn't even whisper people, only local and team chat).

So here you have a game where the free model is nothing more than a trial that goes all the way to the end. Fine if you and your friends have communication outside of the game, and if you have no care about doing something at the end of the game.

I think that it wasn't that they went free to play, or that they had a game that wasn't good enough. I'm not even sure about their population numbers or income. (...here...125k active subs in 3rd Q 2008, which meant bringing in $5.3million) What I do know is that executives didn't want it anymore, and that their free-to-play model was poorly executed. I found in the comments of the article linked on top of the page, that they were down to a couple of thousand active players (not sure if they were even VIP or not). I'm not sure of the accuracy of that number though.

With this in mind, keep an eye out for what SWTOR is actually going to be providing free-to-play members. It could be that giving more than they should (the whole story arc) is what makes people play the game and desire to spend money to raid etc.

I hope that all those affected by this land on their feet.

Going Back to Champions Online - part 3

So I created another character a Glacier Archetype (tanky/control). Glaciers are meant to freeze/trap certain enemies while getting a lot of aggro and taking a lot of damage.

One thing I noticed from my typical build is that she needs to auto more (this is true of many builds that don't focus on cost reduction or having more energy). There are some levels along the way that you get choices in power, you get to pick whichever advantages you want for the power, and though your super stats are set, the talents you can pick from the super stats are also yours to choose.

In other words, its like picking a class. All the class roles are there, and for $5 you can get a different one. Making a character without pay for items is actually easy, since MOST of the outfit choices are free. Overall, for just trying out the game, you can play it for free for pretty cheap, and what they do sell are either things to help players who sometimes play alone (sidekicks), who don't play often enough to keep up with friends (XP boosts), and costumes/powersets (which are not needed to play the game).

The interesting thing is the random grab bags. I haven't bought one yet, because I'm not sure what is in them, and whether I should bother at all, since I have gold. So if anyone has done those, please let me know.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Going Back to Champions Online - part 2

I created a new custom character (custom as in powerset) and leveled her up to level 9. A few things from where they were 3 years ago. The game makes the story much more about what YOU are doing. New cutscenes help strengthen that concept.

The Qular invasion intro is much leaner. The positive is that they also bridge the gap between invasion and helping out the city much cleaner and have it make more sense than before. Overall that starting storyline is simply better than it was at launch.

Pre-level 10, the game is very much like the CO of old. You get your powers and what not, but the introduction to gear is done in the powerhouse, with a gift of 3 pieces of primary gear. Even unlocking things with the token system is a better choice (you earn tokens as random drop or as quest rewards).

Tokens allow you to purchase costume pieces, unique travel powers (that can NOT be bought) and gear (if none of the costumes/travel powers interest you). I tried doing a quick search (no more than 30 seconds invested) and I was unable to find images of what the costumes look like. This means that its more of a gamble than the C-store purchase, but I don't believe these are available anywhere else.

Powers also reinforce being used within a single set or origin set (there are crossovers with the elements for example). I built a wind/lightning hybrid, where the idea is that the wind is a natural power and the lightning comes from a special powersuit they have. I ended up picking up a powerform that enhances both crushing (wind) and electric damage, which is great considering the combination I have going.

Coming at 10 is something I experienced with my other character, which is customizing his powers based on what their superstats are. This makes for interesting choices on both the stat level and the role level. You can still customize your powers with things that are particularly good for tanking (it generates more threat), but I wish that ability would change based on your role instead (so that it would do less threat if you were in an offensive position).

But the main issue with the game for many people is how much of it is behind a pay wall. To this point I can agree with the fact that the best parts of the character creator (custom build, travel powers, costume pieces) are not available for free. Despite that, the majority of costumes are free, and there are plenty of travel powers that are free.

I see it like this, you can play the game for free, and if you get to the point where you feel you are having fun and want to invest more in the character, then you are able to do so. Playing the game to completion is not only possible without paying, the only reason to pay is because you feel that the game is something you want.

For those who are now used to this model, getting a custom build for a silver account will cost $50 (this will be a permanent unlock of allowing custom build choices only), most travel powers cost a bit over $5 (becomes available for every character), and most powersets cost about $12 (powersets also are for every character).

I'll be going back and building a character using a powerset to talk more about that and powers in general in the next installment.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Going back to Champions Online - part 1

Champions Online is the MMO that people seem to forget exists, but still has a group of people playing it. I go back every so often to spend my built up gold on shiny costumes and play around with the character editor.

They've revamped quite a few things, and I'm starting to wonder if I can even play the game with my older characters from 3 years ago. They have this thing where they give you a quest that kinda fixes where you are and what you should be doing, especially if you are low level. Whole zones seem to have been retooled, while keeping the same shape. So I have a great deal of exploring to do. I have a bit of an off week from school, having finished some work ahead of time, and I figured, I'd spend it in Champions Online.

Consider this a 3 year progress report.

First impressions from hopping back on to CO, is that they do an excellent job telling you everything you missed from 3 years ago. They have a nice comic book style set of pages that pop up, they tell you to check out the new stuff, and they also tell you that gear has been revamped, and that new stuff you get will wildly outclass your old stuff. And so far, it is slightly better. They redid the gear system, so you have only a primary and secondary slot.

Along with powers you can specialize starting at level 10 (think a talent system) that is actually based on your primary and secondary stats. This means that an Ego hero will have talents that are different from a Strength hero. Overall, quite a bit of depth has been added to the characters.

As a free to play game, I have trouble rating this, so imagine my review is coming from someone who wants to sub into the game (this gives access to all stories and some costumes as well as custom power sets. The thing is that all of this can be "bought" if you want your silver account to have access to certain benefits without having to keep paying a monthly fee.

Where CO seems to really be trying to define itself is with costumes and powersets. Some costumes can ONLY be unlocked by playing the game, and others require money. They also have a billion and a half new movement powers which I greedily bought. Quite a few are to fit specific characters that I have made (in particular the Phoenix Flight).

The game is still fun, and they even have a new system I'll be checking out which is a sort of Dungeon Finder. Except it has different categories with different rewards. I'll get to those later. The main thing is, is that the game is similar but different. It has progressed leaps and bounds in what it can do, and might be worth another look to people who like making characters and running around with super powers.

I've always liked Champions Online, and quite frankly, they've only improved with time. Though some people will say its more of the same, I don't particularly hate this kind of gameplay. Instead I find it a great form of abnegation.

A few other notes, the game can be hard to solo. It is important to pick up defensive powers and to shield the big attacks. Playing with a friend is more fun, but then again, that's always true. I've been wanting to find a friend to play with, but most people are committed to their games already. I'll update later with my experiences rerolling a character from level 1.


Friday, June 29, 2012

DOTA2 versus LoL

As someone who played Warcraft 2 and League of Legends before ever playing a DOTA game, I have to say that DOTA2 is practically unplayable to me. To better define this, there are things that work a certain way in League of Legends (such as auto attacking), that are so hard to manage in DOTA2 that I could not stand to play the game.

There are other severe differences that makes the game more... boring from a player perspective. Certain guys have abilities that use up almost all their mana. It makes you wonder why you would ever use a rank 1 Q ability if its not meant to be used more than once. The camera lags a bit, so that moving the camera while moving away quickly results in the camera NOT moving fast enough and the character turning around to auto attack.

Secondly, the character names are really boring for so many of them. Its more like you are picking a class rather than a character to play. I would rather be choosing more of a character, the way Street Fighter is more about choosing the fighter than the Shotoken Karate guy.

This is not a game you check out if you started with League of Legends. It is a game you play if you loved DOTA and though League of Legends was too mainstream. DOTA2 focuses its gameplay towards the hardcore player. As such, I don't see them equaling the numbers that League of Legends has reached.

Has anybody else played DOTA2 and League of Legends? Was your experience different?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

MMO concept: Mechanized World

I've been thinking of what kind of setting and player customizations I would want in an MMO.  I feel that when thinking of a game, the story should come first, and then you can build the mechanics around the story. Even if all you have of the story is a single phrase.

"Mechanized world, where three factions have splintered to control the world."

The idea is that you would create the society first and split it from there. I'd split it as Renegades, Enforcement and Scientists.

Players choose a faction, which determines parts and style available to make their avatar. The avatar would be a modifiable robot. The game would not have any leveling up. Everyone would begin with standard gear. New gear that is found would have positives and negatives balancing each other out, i.e.: this laser is more powerful, but causes you to overheat.

As you customize your avatar and decide on his weapons, armor etc., you would also have macros designed to cause special effects with your weapons. These programs would be part of the gameplay (concept is still being worked on, I might reveal more later).

The question becomes, what are you willing to sacrifice to function a certain way? I'm not sure how big this game would get, but I can see flaws already in here.

But, are the things that I see just things that really don't work, or are they things that are so different from the current MMO or RPG models, that I don't know how to work with them?

Other things come to mind, such as showing that someone is improving (I mean, with equal negatives, it is assumed that you are just as functional as a neutral person), or giving a sense of progression (with a game designed for everyone to be able to play right from the start, how do you show progress?).

These are answers for a different time, for now, lets think of what combat systems would give us the most options of giving negatives to the player so that we can give them more benefits. I immediately thought of a skill based combat system, where you could allow for targeted attacks be giving up some power, or give your attacks more aggro by increasing the base damage.  By having your attacks require scaling for damage, you would negate the aggro, but require more stat manipulation to get the attack's damage up. There is a great deal that can be done here, and not much more unless we design some stats to track.

Finally, we can attach an element system to this (perhaps a modified Chaos system). All these interesting game decisions came from a story idea, and I think it makes for the most interesting design decisions. Have I mentioned crafting yet? No, but you could easily see how getting parts from defeated machines would work out (especially when using Chaos as the element system). So there you go. The beginnings of a game.

Fanfiction.net / Sad Face

I got an e-mail saying that one of my stories went above and beyond what was allowed on fanfiction.net.  I was upset, since my stories never go past a traditional R rating in a movie (I don't really go into too much detail, just enough to squick somebody before I move on with the narrative). I believe that the specific issue was that my story was too much like Hostel or Saw in its maturity, where as soft core porn makes it through all the time.

So even though I had taken someone's advice and spread the story to adultfanfiction.net (which not only can accept my story, it can categorize it), I decided to also create a deviantart page which will contain my stories (I also want to use it to contain my artwork as I make it). This along with this blog and a website coming later will create a triumvirate super power of a portfolio for me (this is just an allegation of a portfolio as it is). Essentially allowing people to experience my content however they choose to.

http://pangoriafallstar.deviantart.com

Monday, June 4, 2012

Korra - Temporary Streaming only

So an interesting thing about what nick.com is doing with Legend of Korra. They are only showing the episodes for a short while. After the release of the 8th episode, the first 2 episodes disappeared. This means that that only 6 episodes are currently available.

This makes sense though, when you look at their business model. The goal is to give dedicated viewers free streaming video, while allowing those coming later, to buy the videos from Amazon.com or iTunes (though not from Google Play). I'm all for people watching these video's legally, which is why when I saw that the first 2 episodes disappeared, I immediately wanted to direct people to the cheapest alternatives.

iTunes and Amazon.com have the shows in HD for $2.99 each. iTunes as a bonus has episodes 1&2 together for $4.99 (a $1 savings). Furthermore, Amazon.com has the shows in Standard Format for $1.99 each.

Amazon.com also gives you their TV pass. TV pass is essentially a subscription for the season. You pay for each episode at a reduced price, and are charged the reduced price as the show is made available. You get to keep all episodes purchased this way as well.

I still wish they would make it available for Hulu Plus or Netflix subscribers (the way Phineas & Ferb are available to Netflix for example). But just because its not, does not mean you should pirate the videos. It's only $2! So please, if you want to watch the first 2 episodes, go to Amazon.com and download them for $4 (or if you want them in HD get both from iTunes for $5).

Continued support of online distribution methods is the only way we'll see other shows (like Game of Thrones, which is only available if you also have HBO on your cable/satellite subscription) made available to us. Thank you for your time.

/soapbox

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Game Flow - Super Mario Bros.

Stage 1-1, Start

Designer/Game
Goal - Mario starts sitting alone in a field. The goal is unclear at this point in the game.
Conflict - A timer is ticking down, and soon enough a goomba will show up.
End State - timer reaching zero, mario getting touched while small, falling, reaching the goal or warp pipe

Player/Gamer
Reaction - Since this is a player's reaction, it includes reactions to the goals, the conflict and the potential end states. Possible reactions to the goal include experimentation of movement with the controller. The conflict is presented with a countdown timer. Most people would assume that the game ends at the end of the countdown. Even without input and enemy eventually appears and kills the player if they do not react to it. There are too many states to list every possible experiment in this blog, so lets move on.
Analysis - Again, this is the player's analysis of the goals, conflict and end states. It is important to note that reaction and analysis float continuously back and forth and through the decision, unlike a novel which tends to be more linear. Analysis occurs after they react to a to what happens after each decision they make. Such as, "Oh the timer is counting down, well let me try to do something in this game,"
Decision - Decisions are just that. These are things that the player tries to do. Overall decisions are a result of reaction and analysis.

All this is happening within the first seconds of the game. As you can see, the player side is clearly defined, and the game/designer side is clearly separated. I believe that this balance is an example of why Super Mario Bros. is such a fun game. It allows the player to control themselves, instead of letting the game control them.

On a higher level, there is very little control of the overall goals and conflict of the game. The player has the decision of which level is next mostly taken away from them, except in the cases of the secret warp pipes. In these cases, the player experiences a similar state of automation as they do on the micro level. There are designer stated limitations that the player works within to make a decision on how to proceed with the game.

Designer/Gamer
Goal - Get Mario to the end of the last stage. This will include passing by or defeating Bowser.
Conflict - Several stages and bosses until the end of the game. Limited number of lives to succeed before a complete reset occurs.
End State - Losing all lives, reaching the end of the game.
Reaction - Mario automatically proceeds to the next level when the goal is reached. The player has no control over what Mario does once an end state is reached on the micro level.

Player/Gamer
Analysis - By playing the game, the gamer can identify warp pipes and short cuts and life loops that allow them to manage their gameplay a bit.
Decision - The gamer chooses whether to go through a warp pipe or simply go after level goals.

The overall control of the Mario games is not up to the player in the macro level. They lose a bit of automation. If you look at future Mario games, they like to give the player the ability to control their macro level game play (starting with Super Mario Bros. 3 which introduced and overworld, and improved upon in Mario 64 and Mario Sunshine, where he goes through portals from a central hub).

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Legend of Korra, S4 E7

The reason I keep posting these, is that I want to continue supporting companies like Nick.com, who not only air wonderful shows such as these on their channel, but also stream the episodes online. I wish that more channels would follow this model, or even putting their shows on Hulu or Netflix streaming. Not everyone wants TV. So please, go watch all the episodes streaming over on Nick.com. Thank you.


Legend of Korra: "The Aftermath" S4
Get More: Legend of Korra Episodes,Legend of Korra,Legend of Korra Games

Free Cataclysm

Just picked up Cataclysm for free for my wife and me. Not that she's even remotely interested in WoW right now. Ultimately, it was available for us to do so, and I took advantage of saving myself $80. So I'm playing through Cataclysm, primarily the whole underwater zone of... v.... something? Anyways, its a beautiful place to swim around in, but I really feel trapped in there. So I did a few dungeon finder places, and overall I feel mostly lost.

I haven't even touched the new races. I don't know if I want to actually come back to World of Warcraft, but if I ever do, I figured I might as well get the expansion for free. Now my friend said they do not need the mount, and since after this week I'll be super busy again, I figured, I'll just enjoy this week and see if there is any interest in keeping this game going.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

SWTOR numbers going down, but Still Profitable

Though subscriber numbers are going down, SWTOR will soon surpass its sunk cost of $200 million by the end of May (if you believe that is the cost). If they are able to stay above 1 million subscribers by the end of the year, they will be in the black as far as server maintenance and continued development costs go.

The question is, will it be able to maintain a subscription model, or will they have to find a way to go free to play?

Tera Online Weekend Beta

So I decided to try the Weekend Beta of Tera Online. I downloaded the client, installed the patch, and then, nothing. It wouldn't start up. Oh well. Uninstall.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Revised Scene Flow

Taking from previous attempts to use storytelling analysis in the context of a game, I think most people have begun to realize that due to the dynamic state of a game, the analysis must not only be viewed on different levels, but in a different way completely.

We still have two basic breakdowns, which can be viewed as Design (Goal, Conflict, End State) and Play (Reaction, Analysis, Decision). These can be further broken down in that Goals generated by Decisions, and that Conflict and End States affect Reaction and Analysis. Finally, Reaction and Analysis affect the Decision, and Goals affect the Conflict and End State (prevention of the goal).

These can still be viewed on several levels, from Macro gameplay levels all the way down to moment-to-moment gameplay and even into the Metagame and Design levels (if a game is a living beta such as an MMO or any e-sports level pvp game). Decisions on one level can affect others as well.

Design is usually the domain of the game Designer. They set up the goal for the game and the level. The create the conflict and the End States. As a gamer gains control of this part of the game, they enter a more sandbox experience.

Play on the other hand, is usually in the domain of the Gamer. In this case it is mostly in their mind. As design encroaches on these aspects of gameplay the game becomes more linear. The player loses their autonomy, and can at times remove the game aspect of a game.

I believe that this is the better way of handling this analysis in a game. I'll take a few posts practicing it, and I encourage others to try as well (please link back to this post if you do so). If anyone has any suggestions about this, please leave a comment, or send an e-mail. Thank you.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Q&A of Scene Flow Analysis

I received a question on this, so I'd like to address them here in this post. Lets just get to it shall we (questions remain anonymous)?

1. Does Scene Analysis allow an interpretation of a player's action determining how much his future actions become guided?

Yes. At the decision point, a new goal is usually set. In a game where exploration is sandbox (take Batman: Arkham City for example), choices that alter the landscape can suddenly limit exploration possibilities (or expand it more). It really does depend on the game, and it depends on how decisions alter the Goal. Many games allow for resetting of such situations where a player limits their possible decisions to not allowing progress (at which point the decision to reset opens up more possible choices which they will consider during the Dilemma section).

Though the Action (Goal, Conflict, Disaster) and Reaction (Reflection, Dilemma, Decision) can be processed separately in games, they still form a six step loop that is shared by the system and the gamer. The fact is, that Scene Analysis works on several levels at once in game analysis. There is a level Goal, an area Goal, and even a moment to moment Goal. Decisions at the area level can affect the moment to moment Goals (flooding a room which then allows you to swim up to a ledge for example).

I think I should rework the wording to better fit into game analysis. Anyone have any suggestions?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Using Scene Flow in Video Games

A good, well flowing story scene usually contains six steps (you can break this mold, just like everything else, but since we are using these six steps, bare with me): Goal, Conflict, Disaster, Reaction, Dilemma, Decision. The point of these is to clearly point the protagonist at something, watch them fail, then watch them do something about that failure.

In a well written story, that doing something amounts to a new goal in which they no go towards. Even if the disaster does not full impede them, it still prevents them from reaching the goal. An example of conflict that is resolved but does not lead to the goal, is Mario stomping on a goomba. Though it resolved the conflict of what was happening then, it does not exactly get him to the end of the level. The game doesn't end at that resolution.

In a story, you would see the hero stop the bad guy from killing someone, but the bad guy would get away. So lets go into each step as it relates to passive story telling mediums.
  1. Goal - The protagonist, or POV character in the scene (if you are doing a scene with the bad guy POV), wants something. This is what they are trying to accomplish in the scene
  2. Conflict - This is something that is preventing the goal from occurring. The POV character is being stopped by this conflict, either self, person or environment, etc.
  3. Disaster - This is the point where the character fails the goal. This should continue until they get to the end, at which point disaster is flipped. This does not equate to character death, but it should cause the current goal to no longer be viable.
  4. Reaction - This is where the story flips from being about external factors and focuses in on the POV character. What does the Disaster mean to them and their Goal?
  5. Dilemma - With the Goal no inaccessible, what are the choices presented to the POV character.
  6. Decision - This is where the POV character decides on a choice presented in the Dilemma. They should choose the least bad choice of what to do next (in a comedy they would choose the worst choice).
Now, I'll go through these and break them down in parts and moments of a game. Lets try Mario 64. Don't forget, it may not have every aspect of this, and some of it (especially, the last 3, tend to be internalized with the player).
  1. Goal - At the start of a level, Mario is presented with the goal, get to the star.
  2. Conflict - The environment and enemies are stopping Mario from getting to his goal. This is not a disaster yet, because the goal is still within reach.
  3. Disaster - This does not exist in the case of a Mario 64 level. It does occur though on the level of the player attempting to get through a portion of the level.
  4. Reaction - This is the player's feelings at failing to get through a challenge.
  5. Dilemma - These are the options that the player has after failing to reach the goal (in cases are catastrophic disasters, this may be restart from a previous save).
  6. Decision - Again this is usually put on the player, they decide to keep playing, try their new tactic, or quit.
A good game level, will allow for these six steps to repeat enough times before the character has failed enough to make the goal something to cheer about, but not so many times, that the goal ceases to be viable.

Breaking the steps in half, reveals that the first three steps tend to be external, while the final three steps tend to be internal. This is true in both scenes and in gameplay. Switching back and forth between these moments is what allows the consumer (movie goer, reader, gamer) to keep interested in the product.

Applying this into an MMO scene, we can see where people have issues with quests and missions in MMOs. A scene in this case will be the quest. The issue with quests is that the Disaster has occurred already. The actual event that is happening for the player is that someone else has reacted to the disaster, experienced a dilemma, and found that asking the player for help is the best decision.

All of the internal player stuff is being done by the NPC. The decision of what to do about something is out of the player's hand. They are not making a decision about how to solve the disaster, instead, they are living out an NPC's decision. The only control the player has is rejecting the decision, which means that no quest, therefore no scene occurs.

To change this, The Old Republic tried making the player part of the decision making process. This works sometimes (Commando quest where the guy asks to kill the pirate instead of rescuing him). At these moments, the game succeeds in fixing bad questing.

Yet this step is not without constant and ever present failures. Quite often the game's dialogue options lead to no changes at all in what is going to happen as far as the decision goes. The issue continues to be that the more choices that are presented to the player as valid for progressing their story (not the game's story, but the player character's story of adventuring), the more time and energy and resources that get lost, and eventually the smaller the game will feel (though each play through would allow for countless choices, how far you could follow them would continue to diminish due to how expansive the choices would have to be).

So how can games allow for players to make the decision on how to deal with a disaster? One way would be more ambiguous quest directions. That means, that instead of killing 8 boars, the quest should be to thin their numbers in the forest. Then provide different ways for the player to interact with the boars.

They could kill them, trap them and sell them to a farmer or lead them away. The key is to allow the player to experience those internal steps: Reaction, Dilemma and Decision.

Scene info taken from Randy Ingermanson's website.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

TMS

So I was catching up with podcasts today, and heard my request on TMS. I wanted to thank Brian Ibbott, for playing my request! Yay! Made my day.

I quite honestly have been swamped with work and school. Its all I've done for a while now. I'll try to keep everyone updated. But as you know, the first two years are essentially useless. I'm getting to the good stuff now, and I want to share if its worth it or not with everyone.

Aside from that, I'd like to open this post up for any topics that anyone has in mind to discuss.