Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Philippines Deluge

Just in case you had time to look up from Fallen Earth or whatever is floating your boat at the moment, the Philippines and Vietnam have gotten hit pretty hard with a hurricane that make Katrina look like a midsummer's breeze, its floating their furniture, neighbors, and appliances out to sea as we speak. 80% of Manila was flooded. On top of tis some government dum-dum's opened all three of the dams to avoid them breaking Those two countries need our prayers, thoughts, and/or donations, so I'd encourage you to find a good distributor and donate a little. We have so much and we should give to the less fortunate. Especially if we have 50 extra bucks to splurge on a new game, we can certainly some spare bucks to feed a family/get them fresh water for a day. (link goes to Philippine Red Cross page)

p.s. they are due to receive another deluge in about 6 days. Many people are in single story evacuation shelters and the government is struggling to feed them.

p.p.s. My inlaws and their neighborhood lost their stuff due to flotation and looting and were on the roof all night to avoid drowning. 59 people died in their subdivision alone. I don't say this for pity or donations for myself (I will refuse them, send them to the red cross) but I say it to personalize this a bit more. Katrina happened and the U.S. cared because it was in our backyard. The Philippines is a far away place so maybe some have a harder time caring. The question is, does it matter so much to you? Why is a Philippine life worth any less to us than a U.S. one?

No Morr betas 4 I. (burp) I R full. K Thx I luv u bye bye!

:) I love lolcats. And lolcats love to eat betas. (the fish kind) In other news, I am not interested in eating any more betas, including Star Wars the Old Republic. Especially after having a great time in Warhammer in the beta and then not having a great time post launch. Just like the stock market reminds us daily, "past performance is not an indication of future success". I will play SWTOR.. but only after they launch. Next on my list to try after I save up enough to fix my fish light and buy
Mirkwood, is Champions Online. Heck by then the servers should even be happy.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Heroes of Newerth Beta Key

Anyone want a spare Heroes of Newerth Beta key? I got given one in my email but I don't have time to investigate so I figured I'd give it to one of our visitors. First person to comment on this post gets it :)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Full Disclosure

Someone (a nongovernment, nonsalacious, nonoffensive company) has bought a link and I placed it on one of my blog pages you probably won't ever see. (Here's a fun game.. see if you can find it lol) Anyways I don't mind since it was put somewhere my loyal readers will not be bothered by, only random google traffic. Now of course you know about it cuz I told you but that's just the kind of guy I am. No secrets. And no banner adds.

Btw I played DnDOnline with a group of friends on Tuesday and the first 5 dungeons were very fun. I particularly like the fact that you can screw your teammates over with pulling the wrong levers and breaking through floors and so on. I killed my team at least once. And I broke the ice floor and sent several plummeting to the icy water below once too. Was pretty fun all in all. If you do try the game make sure you do enough quests to get out of the first town before deciding if you like it or not.

P.S. Screwing teammates over isnt the only fun thing, we also had a great time killing bosses, gettigng exp and exploring and finding treasure with things on hard and elite mode.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Making Grouping Fun

So I went off the deep end a little there in the previous article. Maybe its cuz my kinship left me on Lotro this last week (except for three faithful friends) to go to greener pastures. This is nothing new, its happened in every game where I don't have enough time to be on all the time and keep them entertained.

Anyways, what are some things that can be done to make grouping fun?

1. Well made dungeons is definitely number 1. I still loved running the Deadmines or Scholomance or Maraudon long after these dungeons were worthless to me for gear/whatever. There are some dungeons in Lotro which make this bar now, I'd say Urugarth is one. It's still fun to run, even though its gotten pretty easy. I like Agamaur also, though its too low level for most people to even spend enough time on to beat the red maid. Of the new dungeons I've tried, Forges has annoying trolls you have to walk through on every corpse run and Fil Gashan has annoying alarms. Grand Stair is good but it's run too often and the end boss is a joke if you do him right. I like my end bosses to be challenging even if you do know what you are doing, but not impossible the first time to beat either.

There aren't really any dungeons in Lotro that people can run "just for fun" like Dire Maul and Blackrock Spire in WoW though. Really. They are all about gear lately, not about running for fun. I'm not saying they aren't fun, didn't I just say a few of them were quite fun? But they lack that "this is so fun I want to just run it just because it's there to do" quality. They need that because its sorely lacking in the game.

2. OK Number 2. is Accessibility. This is dangerous. Give people too much accessibility to dungeons and they become less exciting. If its too easy to get there it doesn't seem like there's any reason why this place is so dangerous, if its in town, why haven't the city guards taken care of it already? If you can select it from a hot menu and warp there, then it doesn't seem like its a part of the world, its more just an extra battle room on Battle.nat/gamespy/Team Fortress/whatever. Give people too little accessibility though and you end up with 1 hour to get your group together at the dungeon entrance before you can even start. And every time you die you have to go rescue the guys who died so they can get back to the dungeon from the respawn point. Not really ideal either. the happy medium is somewhere in the middle. City of Heroes did a really good job on this I think. Players moved fast enough across the map that wait times were negligible, and they could teleport others when in the same zone. But they didn't get the overpowered warlock port that should just be replaced with a UI button that queues you for dungeons and/or lets you pick your group from those also queued. I both love and hate the queued scenarios of WAR. They were a good example of how to reduce wasting time, but at the same time, they wasted my time by making the rest of the game appear like a waste of time and thus you couldn't wait until you got into another scenario to fight people cuz that's where the action was. I loved though that they auto leveled you up to a certain level, and that they popped so frequently. I wonder how well the "skirmish" system of Lotro will work? I hope they have thought about the other effects it will have on people if its too fun or too rewarding or whatever.

3. Randomness: example the rare spawn miner boss dude in the Deadmines who drops the blue shield. He's not there every time, only like one in four times you run the dungeon. But its fun to see if he's there or not. Another example: the dungeons that change in shape every time of City of Heroes and Diablo 2. Third and last example: puzzles that don't ever have the same solution twice, like bejeweled on steroids.

4. World grouping quests that are fun and give GOOD rewards. Different rewards than what you can get soloing in the world but not as good as dungeon rewards. They make these huge worlds and fill them with trash mobs and only occasionally add some neat dragons and stuff. They should have plenty of normal bosses which you can get repeatable group quests to do. (Dailies or whatever.) Lotro did this recently with their bounty quests. Its a good start but now there's some freaking huge monsters running around in ... odd places like the marsh of the shire. WoW did this better with many good quests "outdoors" like the drum one in the Hinterlands where you have to fight through lots of elite trolls to kill a boss troll and fix a drum on an altar or something... I can't remember all the details honestly.

5. Reward variety. Reward varying tactics. I haven't seen a game yet who does this well. Reward people who pull stuff off in unusual ways. Reward players by not forcing them to run a dungeon with a holy trinity group, maybe they could all be hybrids or something else entirely. Mostly dps? that's fine! Maybe some people have weak healing and ok tanking or CC (Crowd Control) or whatever. Great, you can pull it off. Have the dungeon adapt to what they have. If they have CC make it so the dungeon has more monsters. If they have lots of healing in the group make it so the monsters do more aoe damage but have less life cuz healers tend to do less damage. If they have tanks tank tanks, make it so the monsters do more single target dps or put bleeds that stack or something cuz the tanks have a lot of hit points and can swap off. Make things require intelligent solutions, not just pat answers. Don't always react the same way. Surprise the players. If they have all dps then the monsters get tanks, and you can't shoot through them, you have to fight them. (If you don't want to implement collision detection just do a blood pact though collision detection is better)

6. Listen to your players. If some encounter or dungeon isn't fun enough or doesn't have good enough rewards, ramp up the fun or the rewards. Fun CAN be programmed. It involves witty banter, funny looking items, stuff for players/rogues to do (see traps, locks, puzzles, picking pockets, etc..) and varying up your themes and making sure each pull takes something slightly new. Add fuzzy logic to the AI and it's minions. Surprise players with reactions to what they do. Make them fight themselves after a manner of speaking.

7. Make sure EVERY boss, including the gatekeeper outside, gives good rewards. Nothing saps fun like having to kill a sack of hitpoints that gives you nothing in return except access to the dungeon (see Annuminas). Even if its a 1 in 4 chance, its better than nothing, but why couldn't there be 4 1 in 4 chance items that drop off it/him/her?

8. Make boss encounters more than simple tank 'n spank.

Try something where your party has to split into two groups and one of them has to run up past trash mobs to a switch while the others continue beating back the boss, until the switch is thrown, so that the boss's super shield goes down or something. Or at least an occasional "Go stand over there, or take damage from cave-ins" or a logical order to defeat encounters involving more than one enemy at a time.

9. What are your ideas?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Some neat MMO articles

I've been reading around and I came across some good insightful articles I thought I'd point you folks to. Here they are:

Syncaine's insightful article on impact pvp and why its a niche worth considering now but not for the mainstream. I personally really liked his comparison between gambling and impact pvp. I truly think you have to like the thrill of gambling to like impact pvp. You have to want to have the chance to win or lose it all. It has to thrill, not chill you.

Next was the article on Gamasutra by turbine about console MMO design. An insightful read.
And then there was the article about Final Fantasy Online and building MMO's where the player base is speaking different languages and giving you feedback. They also had some interesting insight about that boss who took 16 hours to kill fiasco that they had earlier (Pandemonium I believe was his name)

Lastly Blizzard pompously told Gamasutra their secret that "won't help any of their competitors" (bogus if you ask me) is "endless iteration". In other words they take forever to make sure their games come out right before they release them and the endless iterations are them actually play testing the product until it's polished. Could anyone with a big budget and ... wait for it... proper management and discipline (ouch) pull this off? Of course. So of course this secret COULD help their competitors, but Blizzard is really saying here that it won't because they feel their competitors are either too budget constrained or two messily managed and disciplined to handle such a high and holy order of game development. I can't wait till someone comes along and kicks their butt. "Pride precedeth the fall" after all. How long that will take though, who knows, they might take a while like the Roman Empire did.

Last but not least, Tobold doles out wisdom in his wonderful article "Grouping Kills You" which has wisdom rarely seen in dev board rooms for MMO's. Basically, if you get killed more grouping than you do soloing, and if failure in a group rewards you with nothing... why are we raiding with losers again? Why don't we just hop guilds and get free rides until we have all the phat lewts and then quit the game after posturing for a while. (I don't think like this but I went through plenty of guildies who did) Fortunately, some players are on MMO's to make actual friends and have actual fun and actual adventures, but for those who just want to do what it takes to get their treasure, the climb to the top is obvious: exploit others and to heck with your reputation, you can just transfer servers! This isn't as true in some games where there is a one server architecture and gear is fleeting, like Darkfall or EVE Online but it holds true for the majority of places.

I personally think grouping should be encouraged from lvl 6, just like crafting and everything else once you've got your skills figured out. Or rather without the second hour of gaming if you are wise and have no levels in your game. BUT soloers need to have "something to do" that is meaningful, though and challenging... in fact I think you could have both give good rewards and just let people pick what they'd like to do. Some content could be easier with a group and still give good rewards but doable solo, I can see that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Some behind the scenes work

Here's a drawing Anton sent me August first and what I sent back to him two weeks later.. Yes, I'm no professional artist (yet) but darn it, I only have a mouse and Gimp! :P

Hopefully we'll get it finished sometime.. hopefully. (and you thought coloring in the lines was little kid stuff)

A couple of mirkwood maps already (leak?)


So Lotrolife has the following maps up for people to see and ti shows about 6 new areas that comprise Mirkwood, namely
  • Ashenslades --burn foggy forest of creepiness
  • Dol Guldur --end game fortress of doom for the next year
  • Emyn Lum --don't leave the path in mirkwood or you'll be lost forever
  • Gathburz --looks like a Barrrow downs type area or Imlad Balcoreth
  • Mirk-eaves --Newbie area is sufficiently deforested by orcs
  • Taur Morvith --is it suddenly fall here? I never cease to puzzle over how zone boundaries can change seasons automatically
  • The Dourstocks --classic mirkwood with what looks like a cave/dungeon (prolly the first dungeon in the expansion)
  • The Drownholt --looks like the waterworks part 2 only above ground and with rotting trees this time.
  • The Scuttledells --looks like the logging area in the canyon adjacent to the barrens in Warcraft. Has a dungeon/cave thing. Perhaps the second dungeon?
:) I love to speculate based on one image, it's fun!

also this from massively: "Even more importantly, mounts are being made more functional. No longer will they simply move players around the game world quickly. With Siege of Mirkwood you can talk to an NPC on your mount, buy stuff from a vendor, cross land block boundaries, enter large spaces on horse without dismounting, emote on your horse -- you can even name your horse. If this isn't Turbine hinting at their next expansion's setting then they've got a pretty cruel sense of humor." Can't wait for these improvements that should have been in at the launch of the game, honestly.

DnDOnline chars

On Khyber I, Thallian and playing "Felynx Thallian" the rogue and
Anton is playing "Orphel Razek" the cleric.
My wife is playing "Fynyx" the Sorceress I think, and we've got a friend playing a dwarf paladin for good measure. If anyone wants to add me to friends/ play with me feel free to email me or give me a tell in game.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Behold! The ruin of my old guild!


Apparently.. if I was to reactivate my old account, my guild on Warcraft still exists on their database.. there were that many "dead" accounts still in the guild that never left. Even after our destructive merger and falling apart. I wonder how many dead account Blizzard has to keep track of anyways? Doesn't that cost them database space? well, I think they never delete them as long as the game is still going so "Tram Defenders" and many others will be around a long, long time. They just won't be doing much other than rolling in their graves during the Cataclism ;)

Speaking of old guilds.. I wonder how Casualties of WAR is doing...

Crystal Bearers gets Launch Date

Final Fantasy Crystal Bearers just got a launch date. Nov 25th in Japan (good) Dec 26th in the US. Whoever thought that US launch day up ought to be fired for stupidity. Nobody can shop on the 26th.. all the stores are closed because people are on vacation with their families. I guess they are aiming for the New Year's Presents crowd or something? Anyways the game look very pretty and its on the Wii, which is good, but the fact that it may or may not be only single player might equal suck.. anyone out there know? I want another Crystal Chronicles like the Gamecube one only with no requirement of having Gameboys in order to play with your friends, personally.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Masively Multiplayer Monopoly (say that ten times fast)

Monopoly has gone massively multiplayer and its hooked up through google maps but its only scheduled to last for four months! Kind of neat I think everyone should check this out once at least.


I'm reminded of the quote from friends "Nobody ever says, Jolly good game of Monopoly, old chum. No its always: You #$@$%#$%#$% and your friggin' hotels on boardwalk!"

Directx 11 timing, demos and thoughts


There's some neat directx11 demos here and directx 11 should be out in Oct or November. Certain features will probably require new cards to work and those cards will be out by Christmas, albeit at a ridiculously high price.

According to one website I visited:"Support for DirectX 10 Hardware
Quite a few features—with the exception of hardware tessellation—will be supported on DX10 hardware. Of course, DX10 hardware will continue to run games and apps in DX10 mode. But unlike DX10, which only runs on DX10-compliant hardware, elements of DX11-specific features will also run on DX10 hardware.

Multithreading will work, although deferred contexts will have to be implemented at the API (software) level rather than in the hardware. The object oriented features added should also work, though how efficiently is anyone's guess. The new texture compression formats could be implemented at the driver level, though that would be slower than dedicated hardware."

I believe that Windows 7 will come with Directx 11 installed but 11 will also be available for download on Vista.

As far as the timing goes, I wonder how much effect Directx11 will have on the graphics card market and on the game developmetn market, specifically the MMO market. Lotro was the first to support 10, followed by Age of Conan I think and then DnD Online. Lotro might be the first to support 11 also. They are big on tech over at Turbine.

I'm personally very excited for Windows 7 even though I can't afford it (or much of anything) and the tesselation and shaders performance boost of directx11.

Lack of variety in MMO's

So in order to keep this constructive, I'm going to underline something negative and let's discuss solutions instead of just moaning about how its a problem. The negative thing is this: Syncaine pointed out, rather rightly, that MMO's have no challenge.

One potential solution is to raise the danger level or challenge of the mobs you face. This can be done through raw stats (see easy and boring way p.20) Another is through the use of scripted 'Intelligence', another is through fuzzy logic, where the game picks from several options based on your actions. And yet another is to add ... variety. Yes variety. In other words, add traps, puzzles, secret doors, surprises. Things that make this about more than just killing. DDO does this to a teeny tiny extent but I'm thinking, why do Zelda and Lufia get all the good puzzles? Why can't MMO's have some?

I'm good at making puzzles, my Fantasia game I made with Anton in college had plenty. I'm sure developers are capable. Its just that none of their management has any guts/creativity/gumption/whatever. They stick to the tried and true.. kill stuff and get phat lewts. Occasionally there are some easy puzzles, which usually involve killing more stuff in the right order or touching certain things and killing stuff.

But why not have a genuine puzzle or two? One that keeps you thinking or trying for 10 to 15 mins or half an hour to solve it? How bout lots? How bout we reward puzzles equivalently to boss battles? And why not have bosses who are not waiting around to be killed? Perhaps they have to be trapped or tricked through spying and intrigue or actually talking to citizens and planning a coup.. ok I'm just getting too creative here. But you get the idea.. what ways have video games already taught us to think inside a box that isn't really there? There are so many ways to develop an adventure that is more fun and compelling that the MOTS (More of the Same) stuff we have already.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Last night/ this morning, DDO Unlimited first impressions

Somewhere around there I downloaded the high res client for DDO. I started with the low res client but the graphics were so atrocious (for me) that I had to go high res. Thus far with directx10 and everything on it looks pretty nice actually. I started on Khyber or some server thing like that and made a male dwarven fighter named Frumples Grumpet. I explored the newbie island and almsot got somewhere in the first dungeon before I had to go to work. I think this game has potential. Its UI needs some overlay work compared to Lotro, but it has potential and I hope that it starts to get the money necessary to raise it out of obscurity into the land of profitability.

More Mirkwood details.. finally! combat fixes!

From ign: "Perhaps the most interesting feature of skirmishes is the soldier, an ally that you can create and customize as far as race, role and appearance, and who also levels up through skirmish points obtained every time you complete one.

Various other existing features are being enhanced as well. The main one is the combat improvement, which now allows auto-attack to be interrupted any time a skill is invoked. The sluggish feel of combat in LOTRO has always been a complaint among players. Mounts will be converted to skills so you don't need an inventory slot for every horse in your stable and a new mount will be introduced. Players will also have access to a shared storage space across all characters in the account."

All I can say is FINALLY! This combat fix should have been done the year before yesterday. And the mount thing is just pure genius. The only thing I want in my inventory is crafting mats, loot, and the occasional potion or food. I'm also looking forward to customizing my own extra helper minion. Nothing like faceless minions to let the orcs know who's in charge.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Skirmishes are neat! I'm beginning to get excited. Here's some details you may have missed.
  • You can begin a skirmish starting at level 30 (LotRO Team forum post)
  • You create a skirmish from your UI (Massively)
  • You can set your party size (3, 6, 12 although IGN listed a party of 1 in their write up)
  • You can invite your friends to said skirmish
  • You can select a difficult for the skirmish (easy, medium, hard according to Massively)
  • Each player is accompanied by a customizable solider
  • Customizations include appearance and performance (with skills that you can rank with points)
  • Skirmishes last around 30-40 minutes (IGN)
  • When your skirmish is over you pop up from where ever you were when you left
  • Skirmishes reward experience points, skirmish points, and loot drops (Massively)
  • Skirmishes are PvE and skirmishes are not session play (LotRO Team forum post)
  • Skirmish accomplishments will be tracked via MyLotro
stolen from (http://www.examiner.com/x-5942-Oklahoma-City-MMORPG-Examiner~y2009m9d8-Details-on-skirmishes-in-Lord-of-the-Rings-SoM)

Potential issues: Skirmishes might become more fun or more played than the rest of the game like WAR's battleground thingies. (I forget their name.. its been a while)

Skirmishes might suck on the other hand and just be something nice that they tried but aren't really compelling. A lot will hang on the fun level and the reward tuning. It needs to be on par with instances for fun level and slightly below them for rewards because instances are harder to arrange a party for and harder to lead and yadda yadda. Still the rewards need to be better than for the silly Angmar thingies they did which were quite hard yet had no significant rewards compared to the instances.

Last but not least.. they need to copy Champions Online and do skirmishes with pvmp mixed in. That is all.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Lotro Expansion Thoughts

First, thank to Darren for summing this up well. They have finally broken the silence on book 9 and they are taking a page out of Blizzard's book and only raising the cap 5 levels, thus making things less frustrating for those of us super casuals who have only reached 59 so far (me) and only run a couple of the dungeons and were still looking forward to running some, yet pleasing the hardcore people with more content that doesn't totally obliterate their old progress. Making things more gradual is fine and dandy and welcome.

As far as skirmishes with helpers go.. I am happy about it. It provides an option better than true soloing but not quite as good as playing with real people. Players will alwyas be better due to true intelligence if not for the fact that they are also usually more powerful than NPC's, but its nice to see some new party mechanics being developed for the game too.

I like the fact that they are taking a detour to Mirkwood. This is good. Pushing straight for Rohan with mounted combat would have been something EA would have done. Turbine lakes their time to expand the world and help people smell the roses. I finally got into Lothlorien this last week also adn it was gorgeous. Really. The music is awesome. The ambience is way better than Rivendell. It's a must see.

I'd personally rather they expand north a bit more and get the rest of mirkwood, the eastern misty mountains, and connect it all, but Rohan beckons so likely that's what's on their plate for next year while they figure out how to do mounted combat which they act like is some huge feat. (Nevermind that Age of Conan, Darkfall, and so many other games have already implemented it with lower budgets... yeah I have no sympathy for them in this, if they want to do it right jsut look at how its done in Zelda, twilight princess. Now that's fun mounted combat.)

Anyways I like what they are doing. the legendary weaopns need help so hopefully they umm.. fix them correctly, and the fortress of Dol Guldur sounds like a fine place to have as an end game for a while. Maybe we'll get Fanghorn next instead of the Lonely mountain but oh well. They should add Beorn's people as a new race capable of shapeshifting... yeah...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Nintendo finally does what it should have done in the first place


The Wii internet channel is now free. If you paid for it, like I did, just to test it out, you now get reimbursed in the form of a NEW NES GAME! Aren't you excited? I know I am. Maybe I'll get Super Mario Bros or something.