Monday, December 27, 2010

A present for y'all

Here's a neat taste of what improvements they have made to flash and its drawing/physiucs abilities. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Haul

I got a haul of games this year, and other fun toys. I've really been enjoying the old ones the most though. Icewind Dale 2 multi-player ftw! its even fun with just three people, but we had all my brothers and my sister, 6! Totally awesome strategy and lots of stupid moves and reloads :) . The games I got were Trine which is also available on PS3 and is a very decent platformer if you have at least two people to play. Very fun to be the wizard with all the physics in that one. (He can levitate stuff while the other players stand upon it) Next up were two Wii games that I haven't opened yet but look like fun. I told me sister she has until my birthday and I'm commandeering my Wii back. The games are Rune Factory Frontier (woot!) and Crystal Chronicles the Crystal Bearers (Hope its not just a lot of fighting cutscenes like most FF games during battle).

In case you didn't read his comments, here is what Anton got:

I cheated and bought myself 6 games this week. I got Portal from Steam for $4 and a 5-game indie pack including Crayon Physics Deluxe, Max and the Magic Marker, Toki Tori, Delve Deeper, and Secret of the Magic Crystals, all for $5. Also just renewed my WoW expansion...I got my son Zelda 4 Sword Adventures which he will be playing with me in the morning, if there's any room for more excitement after all his other presents. Merry Christmas! "

Anton, Toki tori is an awesome Wiiware puzzle game. 4 swords adventures is fun sometimes... Frustrating other times when your fellow players are determined to impede your progress because they get bored or frustrated too ;) I'm waiting for a report on the other ones. Hope all our readers are having a great time!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Chistmas!

Merry Christmas everybody! I'm so happy to be taking the next week off! My family is in town and we've been playing five player Icewind Dale 2 which is totally da bomb. On another tangent, I saw Tangled and liked it more than the latest Harry Potter Movie. I might begin to question my masculinity but critics and fans alike have acclaimed it to be better as well, it grossed higher and got a higher metascore (whatever that means). I still want to see Megamind though of course. How are all your Christmases going? Hope you get lots of great games!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"ur gay" -- What does that even mean?

Last night, a friend and I used World of Warcraft's dungeon finder to join a 5-man group for a dungeon. I was very impressed with everyone, and the run went perfectly smooth from start to finish. Except after the 3rd or 4th boss, they all decided to tell me "ur gay". This is the first time I've turned a whole party on me like this.

What does "ur gay" even mean?

I didn't have a retort or defense on hand. I only tried to ignore it and keep things up as usual, but they only said it more.

I thought about this a lot until it dawned on me...People are very emotional creatures. I decided that "ur gay" usually doesn't mean what the words themselves mean. It is merely a part of internet culture that for many has come to represent distaste for another person. If you look at the emotion behind the words, it's simply a way to communicate negative feelings towards another.

I tend to talk a lot, so obviously, it was either something I said, or just the excessiveness of it that set them off. Again, this is my emotion coming was the first time I'd played the dungeon, so I was showing lots of enthusiasm, excitement, and friendliness as frequently as possible.

It is very tempting to retort when one insults you. I tried to think of cruel, witty things to say or do to get back at them, but that didn't seem like it would help anything. Continuing to chatter the way I like to didn't work, either. But seeing the insult as a representation of an emotion makes the statement very clear. Rather than "ur gay," they might have said, "Something you said (or Some things you said) have made me uncomfortable/upset/bothered."

Stated like this, it's far more clear how to respond. If someone is hurt by what you said, you can simply apologize, try to clear possible misunderstandings, and offer to change your behavior.

Suppose the conversation had gone like this:
"ur gay"
"Oh, I'm sorry, did something I say bother you?"
"Yeah, you're annoying"
"You mean I'm talking too much?"
"And stop using !!! all the time."
"Sorry about that...I was just excited because it's the first time I've been in this dungeon. I'll try to tone back and say things that are more relevant to beating this dungeon."

I think that could have resulted in them coming off with a much better perception of me, and they might have dropped the whole "ur gay" thing at that point.

Saying sorry is important too. People generally forgive when you apologize. And if not, you did your best to keep the experience positive for everyone. would have tasted so sweet to just stop lending heals on that final boss *evil grin*.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I won a free copy of WoW:Cataclysm from Unicorn City!

I have seen not one, but TWO documentaries about LARPing. I have long held an ambition to one day develop a Fiction film or Video game based on LARPing.

Someone beat me to it.

Unicorn City is a new movie about a guy who wants to get a job...To get leadership experience for his resume, he invents a Utopia of his own that he will rule...a LARPing community.

Who will sabotage his attempt to rule Unicorn City? His girlfriend, who would really prefer he didn't move away to the new job? The rival player who decides his character wants to be the new ruler of Unicorn City? Or the cops, who just don't understand these people the way we do?

Unicorn City is a completely finished film that has already appeared at Sundance Film Festival and others. The producers are pushing hard for a theatrical release. Go show them support on the facebook fan page:!/UnicornCity?v=wall

and link everything you can to their website:

They need all the support they can get to put this movie to theaters, and as for me...I really would love to see this in theaters!

They just held a drawing through their Facebook page and I won a free copy of Cataclysm! I was not planning on purchasing Cataclysm because of the price, and I still haven't gotten a character to level 80 (I just started up a new character to play with some work friends). I'm so excited I will now get to enjoy the new game features I would not have otherwise gotten to try out.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New Elves and Dwarves intro is much better

Last night I did a friend and favor and rolled him an elf guardian through the newbie land tutorial instances of Lotro. I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did though. What I got instead of drudgery was completely revamped areas, quests, ominous plot buildups, a ton less running around for no reason, and an exciting finale where try to escape a collapsing tomb. They actually went through and added new 3D mob designs for the dourhand dwarves which look much more interesting and grouchy. They changed the countryside and added a dwarven stair shortcut, a dourhand mine, changed the silver deep to more obviously be the source of geodes which are used every year in the dwarven winter festival, and obviously used some of the things they learned from building Moria as well. All in all I give them a gold star for improving it, though at the very beginning there was a bit of talking. They also changed the layout of the text windows so that quest backlog is on one side and requirements are in yellow on the other making it easier for the many many people who don't care to read to just glance at what they need to do to advance while us more literate players can enjoy unadulterated text instead.

And that's just the intro, I wonder what else has changed....

Pummeling Foes in WoW as a team. Also, Dueling.

I play WoW with 2 work friends now.
I'm a holy paladin, they are Mage and Tank Warrior.
We are unstoppable!
Typically in solo play, I would have to run to an enemy, use all my cool abilities, wait for them to recharge, then use them at least a second time to finish it off. Not so here!
In a party of 3 like ours, we would all charge in together, all fire off our abilities at once, and foes would drop almost instantly. It's really exciting to be in an unstoppable team like ours!

Next time, we're trying our first instance, Ragefire Chasm. We might try 3-manning it at level 16/17 each.

Also, I was challenged to my first duel by a random Blood Elf Warrior, he was the same level as me, if not +- 1.
The duel was pretty fun, my first pvp in WoW since 2 years back when I played before. As holy, I healed myself 2-3 times. The Warrior burned a potion, but I didn't mind. It got down to whether or not my next attack would charge next or his, so I spammed my Holy Shock button until the charge was ready, watching our life bars drop...both of us to a sliver! SHOCK! Got him! Pretty exciting. We both laughed after, at just how close that was.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

WoW Cataclysm...Tricked me to play again, ha

With a free 7-days of WoW offer in my mailbox, I ended up connecting with work friends and did in fact re-subscribe after 2 years of avoiding it to save money.

Anyways, Cataclysm is here...Half of Stormwind is gone and there's a Tauren settlement squeezed into the back of Orgrimmar. It's definitely a new world! Dalaran in Northrend no longer has portals to the other parts of the world. A few mages were making a killing in gold offereing portals, I happy traded 5 gold to go see the changes in Stormwind.

I'm currently focusing on a new character, now level 13, a blood elf named Alida on Azjol-Nerub, along with two work friends, we're going to play through the early content and see what's new!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Playing RPG's with your kids

A few weeks back I started my son on Zelda games. He watched me play through the 2nd quest of Zelda, then I even got him to play for an evening on his own.

Soon when we were outside, he just wanted to run around and pretend to fight Ganon with his toy sword. Random things outdoors became secret passages, and monsters were everywhere, just swing around your toy weapon.

I decided next to get him Zelda: A Link to the Past (Super NES Zelda), one of my all-time favorites, and closer to the original Zelda than any other since. He watched me play through that game the 2 weeks that followed.

We finished Zelda: A Link to the Past, and I had to find what we could play next. On a visit to a used game store I found Gameboy Advance-Gamecube connector cables at a great price. I had Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles in my collection, but hadn't really played it much. To play 2-4 players, you have to have the connector cables.

So I brought those home on Saturday, and my son and I finally played a 2-player rpg together for the first time. This was a pretty amazing experience.

He has just enough experience with games now, that if I tell him a few times to go left and point my hand, he can usually go the way I ask. I can even tell him to follow my character on the screen and he does pretty good with that, too.

Playing with my 3-year-old boy is also an amazingly challenging and satisfying game experience...He has enough coordination to walk and fight, while I handle Cure and Life Spells to keep him running. We walked through the first level of the game, and I hardly used any attack powers period.

It's pretty exciting to see a little baby grow three years, and finally become a playmate sophisticated enough to play games that even I enjoy right alongside me.

When we get to the boss (He knows alllll about bosses now), he gets excited, and sometimes jumps and screams. The frantic fighting that ensues is rather intense for both of us, and at the end, I get a big hug and an "I love you, daddy." True gamer father-son bonding right there.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

WoW for a week

I just got an email from Blizzard, inviting me to play 7 days of WoW before Cataclysm comes out...I'm actually excited about this because I was only recently in another lull of missing WoW but not having spending money available for additional games. Yay for free game time!

It seems like a really good marketing ploy to hand out free game time to people whose accounts have been inactive for long periods of time. Smart thinking, Blizzard...I'm somewhat tempted to keep playing, though I would need spending money again...we'll see!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lesson in Big Bang Development

Warning: the below content is astonishingly obvious stuff that could change the video game industry but just won't unless they gain a truly amazing perception of the obvious.

Here's a software development lesson for you that I thought up while stuck in traffic on the way home today: There are two ways to develop software. Big Bang, and Pay As You Go.

Big Bang involves coding a bunch of stuff and then testing i to see if it works. If it doesn't work, you try and figure out what went wrong, someplace back on line 546 or perhaps line 1234 of your code. Shoot, now I need to change the combination on my luggage... This can apply to coding but it also applies to politics, (making bills for healthcare that are too large for anybody to understand), music (Beethoven wrote and rewrote his works line by line I'm sure) and anything else created that's worthwhile.

Pay As You Go involves lots more testing, testing every step of the way. Seasoned good developers do this all the time. I am sure that, in the code sense, developers in every company do this because its the only way to get done in a reasonable amount of time because if something goes wrong, you know exactly where it is because you JUST wrote it.

Where am I going with this thought? Why is this significant if everyone already does it? Well the thing is, NOBODY does this with testing with consumers (except for perhaps Minecraft which has let everyone buy its alpha product) Now there have been (ahem.. lame. ahem...) reasons for this over the years. But most of it boils down to being steeped in tradition and coddled in safety. Video game companies sell things in huge installments because they want good reviews from the content locusts. If they sold them in small, incremental chunks and adapted to customer feedback, kind of like a service, it would make a lot more sense. (Here comes my tinfoil hat) You would see a lot more success and better funner games in the MMO sphere and a lot less plunking out of what people don't want. Untested, stale, grindy content. I call for a revolution in making games, a common sense revolution. Unless we want most of our MMO's to be like fireworks. Bright for an instant then burn out.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Finally Beat the Second Quest!

I don't remember if I beat the second quest in Zelda 1 when I was a kid. I probably did, but I'm not certain.

I bought the Virtual Console version 4 years ago, when Wii was brand new and there were only 5 NES titles to download. Since I've been playing it infrequently, the first quest of Zelda took about a year and a half to complete.

Last week, I was still on level 4 of the second quest. But I played it early last week, and my 3-year-old started to take interest. His favorite things to do were to spin around and fall down when I died, wave his toy sword at the screen whenever a monster was on it, and talk endlessly about secret passages.

It dawned on me too that secret passages are so much more fun when there's one in every single screen of a game, and why don't more games hide an endless array of them like this old, tried-and-true classic? It seems like the newer Zelda games even only give you a few boulders here and there, clearly marked, spaced by vast regions that do little more than ensure that the area takes a little longer to traverse.

After beating the second quest, another fun thing happened...I got my 3-year-old to start up his own game. For the last week he's been cheerleading my playing, but upon starting his own game, he built up from not knowing even how to walk up, down, left, or right, to actually walking around while hitting the sword button and watching the screen all at once in 45 minutes...And he's never played a game that long before (unless you count dancing to Beatles Rock Band). I'm excited to see where this kid goes now that his attention span and skill is finally developed enough to handle Zelda.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Artemis Spaceship Simulator

Oh wow...You can finally man an old-school style Star Trek-like bridge simulation for $60, 5 buddies, and an uber lan party...If only the graphics were better!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lotro gets expensive

So I didn't know this before but apparently my PTP (Pay to play) friends are getting reamed by Turbine. Turbine charges you (in Turbine points) for every mount riding ability you want to earn with every character you play with. A number of other things like that are going on too. I'm ok with charging one time fees for content or dinging stupid people for perks that don't help or for potions but some of this stuff is ridiculous... Honestly.. speeding up deeds? Cmon... How low can you go? (Sing it with me now!)

(they also ding you for shared bank storage and the two extra classes which were part of Moria. (Not surprised on the classes one, I had to pay for them too..)

Any good games?

So this is a blog post asking my fellow bloggers what good games they have heard of that are coming out soon. (Don't have to be MMO's) It will be shopping season for us soon and I'd like to know what's cooking.

As a side note... I think the new dungeon feature in Lotro is cool but the first dungeon has a bugged encounter in one wing (the maze) A word to the wise, before you take on the master elite barrow wight, tell everyone to stay downstairs or the encounter will reset annoyingly.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What's Hot, What's Not in Lotro

So I've been busy playing the new book chapters and trying out all the new fangled features. I've come up with a small list of likes and dislikes from what I've seen in the changes to the game.

1. I don't like the color scheme of the exp bar, I liked the old one better.
2. I don't like the blaring annoying "Lotro store icon" in the lower right that is now always there instead of hidden away in a menu. (the marketing ninjas probably required that)
3. I don't like the names I'm seeing come up on some of the new players, they are rather offensive (prolly came straight from WoW :P)
4. I don't like how you can buy travel things/deeds/etc, that you used to and still can earn the hard way. I agree with Keen on this point, that it trivializes past accomplishments.
5. I don't like how low the population bar is set on the new area layering technology. It seems like if 40 people come into an area, it splits it into two instances of 20 people unless they are already in a raid
6. I don't like how they have given us "perks" that fill our already overflowing bags up.
7. I thought they said that the new area was going to be an alternative place to level from 60-65 but make no mistake about it folks. This new area (Enedwaith) is for lvl 64+ characters.

1. I do like seeing lots of new players around everywhere. The game and world is alive again!
2. I do like chatting with people in OOC chat and there is a lot of chatting going on.
3. I do like they are making more real money off of the suckers willing to buy potions and perks in the game instead of craft/earn them so that they can afford to develop more gorgeous areas and more importantly, PlayerVersusMonsterPlayer skirmishes!!!!
4. I do like the new area they added (its really pretty), though the quest designers need to be given a lesson in creative quest design. They should all be sentenced to play Baldur's gate 2 for 2 hours every night, in which there are NO kill 10 rats quests and very very few "run to this side of the map and then run back" quests just to waste your time.
5. I do like that they upgraded the graphics engine to directx11 now.
6. I do like the instance join option. I may actually get to see some instances I never got to run now, like Annuminas!
7. I do like the newly revamped Hobbit/human area involving you with Aragorn and politics of the area more in the quest line.
8. I do like the fact that my friends who played WoW are now considering jumping (and some have) into Lotro.

All in all I think more good qill come of this than bad because if things get really unbalanced Turbine has thus far been pretty good at hitting things with the nerf bat eventually. But there's always the few who will buy their way to world domination and then leave cuz there's nothing left to improve and thus they get bored. They too help fund additions to the game so bully for them... (I guess I'm not a purist after all :P)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor Day Special

I had a great horse race with my wife and my little sister last week in lotro, and this week I got to raid with my sister-in-law, soon to be brother-in-law, sister, and friends I made in-game. We started up a "Hand of Smack" (our kin) raid and had 6 people in no time! took me about 20 minutes to round up another 6 and bam! we were rolling.

This was to be a lvl 34 raid of the Seige of Gondamon. Not something to do lightly, I might add. The enemies were fierce and the waves came on two sides sometimes. I foudn that once (not if) the outer defenders died, it was best for the group to stay in the middle downstairs and just deal with everything there. If you hang out upstairs there's more chance something will kill Mathi and that's never good. On our second try we downed both dragons, and the Mr.Heat Wave Dourhand Dwarf. (You have to fight three bosses at once in raid mode, and they all do tons of damage. They really DO want to take down the city of Gondamon after all) Lastly I spent some time playing a vicious game of Scrabble, swimming in the pool, and helping my brother-in-law learn how to craft and navigate quests in Lotro with his newbie hunter who is now lvl 16.

And today, I can't play so I'm writing instead. Cuz apparently the servers are down until tomorrow. I'm kinda reserving my judgment on this whole FTP thing until I see the results. It might be beneficial for the long term health of the game. But personally I think they should have at least let them have the lone lands free, if they really wanted them to get hooked, or at a discount anyways. Well I live on Windfola, one of the least populated servers previously so maybe it'll be a great thing. Maybe I better start recruiting noobs. Who knows. If any of you bloggers come to Windfola add Thallian to your friends list and send me a letter. I'll add you to my friends too, and invite you to the kin when I catch you on. ;)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fun with da wife

This week, I've been having a bit of a recoup from finding jobs and getting used to my new job. I think I like my new place of work, the people seem nice, there is plenty to do, and I don't feel useless, even though I do get frustrated with how much I don't know about their architecture and the limitations this puts on me.

In my home life I taught my wife how to play Mario Kart double dash with me this week, and we beat the flower cup on 100cc after three tries (won a bronze the other two)  I've also been showing her Zelda 64, Ocarina of Time. I'm on the Fire Temple right now in that game. She likes to watch. Today we went to Great America and got sick spinning on the rides (urp!) And also exhausted ourselves looking for a new house somewhere south (Fremont or San Jose/Sunnyvale area) I am right now working on a php and flash based logo design which, once functional I will encourage all my readers here to go tell their friends about but not yet. It is mostly done I just need to work out some kinks in the pre-shopping cart and make a nice page for logo designers to log in and submit logo images for us to sell/use. I think early on we may not even have a database. We might just do everything by email. No need to go grandiose with this until orders start flying in.

Lastly, and most importantly for this blog, I've been playing Lotro again, huzzah! I'm doing the Mirkwood quests and finding new ones and new places I never noticed the first time because I was in such a rush to level. It's also a very different experience with my captain (who has a npc helper) than my minstrel who does not. I'm prolly gonna save a couple of his levels for when the new area comes out since it will be lvl 61-65 I think, and finally I'm planning a horse race today with my wife and sister to get their horses for the first time.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Too Much Game!

We got Beatles Rockband in December as an early Christmas present. My then 2-year-old son fell in love with the game so much, that now all he wants to do is rock out. Guitar, Drums, and Microphones are pretty much the only toys he ever wants to play with.

Somewhere along the line, we stopped actually playing the game, and started to just listen to/sing/play the songs ourselves. I hardly ever play Beatles Rockband any more, but I am always singing the music. As I stopped to think about this, I realized that lately, every time the idea to turn on the game has come to my mind, I instead would prefer to just play my real guitar that I got, or just sing the songs.

The game is old for us. We can hardly stand to turn it on...yet we still love it.

Anybody have experiences where you entirely love a game, but you've played it so much you couldn't stand to turn it on again?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

Mary Poppins - Sorceress of Game Design

In ev'ry job that must be done
There is an element of fun
you find the fun and snap!
The job's a game

Mary Poppins sang this 46 years ago.

Games can be put into anything. We all grew up following mazes on the back of Lucky Charms boxes. Thanks to General Mills, breakfast was FUN.

You can go the other way, and make any real-life chore into a great video game.

How does crossing the plains in a covered wagon sound? How about Oregon Trail?
Another one I remember playing when I was young is Lemonade Stand.

While thinking of new game ideas, try looking at real life. Then, you find the fun, and snap! It's a game!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Thallian is Awesome... OK Anton is too

And in other news.. Yes I'm awesome! I just had a good job interview today so hopefully I'll have a new job soon and can have some free time to blog at home instead of all this job hunting I've been doing.

Secondly, I've done a couple changes to the blog. Now anyone can post comments, even anonymous people, hooray! Due to a certain Chinese spammer though, I've decided to turn on comment moderation. His comments will no longer plague our website. And to (mis)quote him directly "dripping water does not always cut through the toughest stone, if you shut the faucet off!" If we go a year without spam I might consider turning moderation off again.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

Anton's Weekly(Yearly) Sketch

I haven't really been interested in sharing a lot about games lately on this blog. But I realized I've been drawing a ton and sharing none. So, enjoy this piece, drawn last Friday for my Indie Game, Siphon Spirit (which is months and months behind what we expected--but it's going to be Awesome).

Sunday, July 11, 2010

GEEX this Friday and Saturday!

This Friday and Saturday is the GEEX show in Sandy, UT (just a short drive South of Salt Lake City). I'll be on stage to give a little speech on the development of my Independent game, as well as my insights on working in the game industry. Any self-respecting gamer in Utah should be there!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Good Game Cube Era RPG's

Hi everyone, as promised I've come up with a nice list of my favorite RPG's from the game cube era.
Skies of Arcadia: This was a Dreamcast game and it shows in the graphics but what you can't tell is that the storyline is super original and funny and the world is one of the most unique ones you'll ever play in. You fly a pirate ship around in space helping the blue pirates (good) and helpless countries against the black pirates and the conniving Empire, and end up doing lots of crazy things like going to center of the earth and the moon. Particularly unique to this game are the ship battles, which play out like a tense, "sudden death is possible but you can usually recover and overcome", card game. I won't spoil it further.. just buy this if you ever see it on (not a sponsored link)

FF9: I usually avoid posting about Squaresoft rpg's on general principle but I do believe I should open with Final Fantasy 9 simply because I love the storyline and it is so creative and fun. I loved the music too. I played this one when I was in college, my junior year. The story starts out with a play which becomes an abduction, then a flight from the evil royalty with their good princess daughter, all across the continent and then into another dimension of course. The plot variety in the game is tip top as the war is not always one-sided. Sometimes the good guys win and sometimes the bad.

Paper Mario - The Thousand Year Door: The writing in this game is priceless. Dry witty humor worth hours of entertainment. The storyline is top-rate, the puzzles are hard and clever. But the game isn't impossible, and never devolves into ridiculous cheesiness unlike its sequel on the Wii.... There's even and old cave type experience alla Lufia 2, a never ending pit of dispair you can delve through and leave every 5 levels.

Phantasy Star Online: The only "online" game to come out for game cube, it supports 4 player at the same time on one console as well, and more levels than we ever got through alive. The game cube version has a new adventure with invisible cloaking and uncloaking enemies, lush environs, crazy hard bosses, etc.. I like episode one more personally but at any rate this one is a fun long game to play with friends.

Zelda Twilight Princess + Zelda Wind Waker: Twilight Princess is a fantastic achievement on low powered hardware. The graphics, sounds, puzzles, story, all top rate and very dark, detailed and you get to fight the scariest looking Ganon you've ever faced, he can even possess people.
The monsters posses a much better "Artificial stupidity" than usual also, so you might find the random mobs to be more of a problem than usual.
Zelda Wind Waker is on the other hand cutesy but deceivingly so because it requires thought for its puzzles, and has great heart in its story. It takes place after all the other Zelda's to follow in our time-line and it is where Ganon finally dies after losing his connection to the Triforce, never to return. You also get to know the original King of Hyrule a lot better ;)

Some dragon game on the PS2 that Anton showed me. (He'll give me the name shortly I'm sure)

Anton says: Dragon Game on the PS2...Could it be Dragon Quest 8? That is probably the best RPG I played on PS2. Or if you're thinking of Radiata Stories, I might have shown you that one, and it has a few dragons. That game was disjointed and the humor wasn't funny, but the art style was breathtaking and time-passage in the city meant things were always happening, which made that part of the game the highlight for me!

Don't forget Shadow of the Colossus, ICO, and Beyond Good and Evil, as the highest quality experiences I ever had on ps2. FFXII would have blown me away had I played it sooner, also, but now my interests and expectations have shifted drastically...ever since I started playing games online, that's all I care for any more!

Baiten Kaitos A unique card game played RPG with very cleverly done battle mechanics and gorgeous hand drawn graphics. The plot however is a bit.. weird. Still a fun game to play nonetheless. Some of the puzzles are OK too, but I don't like how at the very very end the difficulty goes through the roof forcing you to grind levels up before finishing it like so many Japan RPGS do.

And we can't forget my favorite fighting RPG, and Anton's least favorite, Tales of Symphonia!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Style in Games

I recently played a pen-and-paper game (via ventrilo) with a coworker and 3 other friends. It wasn't Dungeons and Dragons. In fact, the game is experimental and yet unpublished (Unsure whether it will be or not).

The intent of the game is to role-play as if your character were one of the stars of an anime series. Before playing, you create a character sheet and write a bunch of skills down that you deem your character has. When you're in any kind of encounter, you pick a skill that seems appropriate and roll the dice. On a pass, you narrate how the encounter plays out. In any character-appropriate way you want.

I noticed that the game's focus is Style. The Game-Master (GM) presented a plot, and essentially, we were guaranteed to succeed in the end. But the important part of the game was that opportunity of succeeding your way.

Players all want something different. I won't take the time to explain how diverse our characters were in the Pen-and-paper game I've been talking about, but they were each completely unique.

Thinking about it, the best video games allow players to do things their way. It's easy to criticize World of Warcraft for forcing players into a tank/dps/healer group structure, but at the same time, each individual player gets to choose from various classes. You also get to choose races, the quests you want to accept, the areas you want to explore--even pvp vs. questing vs. raiding.

Some shooters give you many choices of how to defeat your opponents. Different tools/weapons, and even different results for shooting a monster in the arm versus the leg or torso.

The games that will succeed on a grand scale will cater to each player's style. The current trends point to games doing one thing really well. But fortunately, there are many games to choose from. Find one that suits your style or play one that lets everybody play their way. What really matters is doing things your way.

Monday, June 21, 2010

My thoughts on 3D television and games

And E3 came and went, and... stuff happened. Yeah. that's it! Well, not completely. But there were a lot of sequels announced, plus a couple of innovations, and I'm glad Zelda is finally going to feel more like swinging a sword and all, but honestly, they say they are going to break from the formula but I don't think they can stand to. Now along comes the 3D DS. A first tm (third?) attempt at 3D hand-held gaming with no glasses. And it looks like it'll finally work this time. But am I excited? Not really. I'm sure some kids are though and that's what counts. 3D just makes games harder to code and thus more expensive with lower quality for a while until people really figure things out and then it becomes normal tm.

I'm glad however to be alive and enjoying my time in Lotro and with my family on my old Game Cube that got me through college. I need to steal my Wii back from my little sister one of these days. I have thought about it and I think I want to next blog about my favorite Game Cube era RPG's. That includes form the other systems as well. (PS2, XBox1, PC) Will be blogging about that shortly.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Monster Hunter Tri

So, I've seen monster Hunter now and it has a number of appealing features. There are no levels, everything is gear/skill based. You have learn a number of moves if you switch weapons, and a number of dodging and other types of moves. Also, the monsters, well, the big ones anyways, are not constrained by the area they spawn in, they can run all over the world map, and you can even lose track of them from your tracking radar or they can get to some other monster and eat and heal or other things could happen. They also get into fights with other big monsters. And then there's the ridiculously big monsters, which are best tackled with a group of people. But yes, this game IS only about combat. What did you expect, given the name? Monster Crafter? Monster Farmer? Well you do do some ordering of people in the village to do things like craft and gather resources but really its about killin' stuff. REAL big stuff. One thing I didn't appreciate was the annoying dance guy who's always talking, but maybe that's just me, I'd rather have a sidekick you can fight effectively than one who dances, agroes the enemy then gets trampled, poisoned, roasted, etc.. repeatedly then comes back in 5 minutes without a scratch. You honestly don't care about him, he's an annoying sideshow at best IMO. I really like the online component. Every game for the Wii where this makes any sense should have this already. Honestly. its 2010 after all. And I've always loved dinosaurs, ever since I was little. Who doesn't?

Thoughts on Transformers 2

(warning spoilers ahead) I watched Transformers 2 recently and was rather disappointed. It didn't have the spirit and fluidity that the first one had. It felt rushed in many places too. I know I should never expect Hollywood to do a good job on a sequel but, what with a few good ones like Dark Knight coming out, I guess I foolishly let my hopes get up. There was a bit too much mystical voodoo and jumping through plot holes in this one. For example the matrix turning to dust, then reforming. and Optimus suddenly being able to pull huge parts and then not being able to sustain them... that reeked of a Super Mario invincibility star style plot thingy. Plus, you would think the military would expect something like what happened with the shard they were guarding. I mean they know these robots can transform into anything, you why weren't they expecting them to drop nanites in? They should seal it in a box with no opening and lik 20 feet of metal. That'd at least hold the enemy off long enough to respond in kind. As for the pretender thing with Sam, you'd think he would have said more than his girlfriends name like "help its a Decepticon" or something. honestly. A lot of people I talked to really didn't like the jive talking robots, but I personally didn't mind them. Still I think the one who got sucked up shoulda died in there.

GEEX Coming soon in Utah

GEEX (Gaming & Electronics EXpo) is July 16th and 17th in Utah!

This is a huuge convention. I know the guy who's leading the committee, and he is putting me in a position to speak on one of the floors about Indie Game Development.

It's pretty much the only choice for folks in or around Utah for a gamer convention. I believe they told me the first one, held 2 years ago, had 16,000 attendees. Be sure to check it out!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Snoopy Flying Ace: XBLA 9/10 on IGN

I knew this game was great, but 9/10 on IGN is astounding!

I didn't get to work on it personally, but it's from the studio I work in, so if you own an XBox, be sure to check it out!

This Just In, Lotro going Free To Play

 Mordor or Bust called it straight up, props to him:

Warner Bros. is to make its recently acquired flagship MMO free-to-play this fall, beta to start June 16.

Massively multiplayer online role-playing game Lord of the Rings Online is to go free-to-play, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Codemasters announced today. This will make LOTRO Warner Bros' second free-to-play MMO, after the successful switch away from a subscription model for Dungeons and Dragons Online last year.

No word on whether WBIE plans to charge extra for torches.

Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar was released to critical acclaim in 2007, with expansions following in 2008 and 2009. Subscriptions to play currently cost up to $15 a month. The game will be free to play, but a new online LOTRO Store will allow players to purchase "expansions, quest packs, items, and account services a la carte," according to Warner Brothers. As with DDO, players will also be able to buy a VIP package, which gives players access to all of the premium features for one price--though the price itself was not revealed.

The project will be among the first overseen by Jeff Junge, WBIE's newly appointed senior vice president of online games and digital games platforms. Junge was given responsibility for the firm's entire digital games business in May. Codemasters will continue to publish the title in Europe alongside DDO, which it also publishes in the region.

LOTRO is developed by Turbine, which WBIE acquired in April to consolidate its control of Lord of The Rings gaming licences. The acquisition followed the Warner's re-acqusition of non-MMO rights to the franchise in March 2009. LOTRO was originally published by the now-defunct Midway Games.

The move will see LOTRO and its expansions disappear from store shelves, as all the distribution will be done through the new LOTRO online store. WBIE has said that the free-to-play version of the MMO will be available to play at the Electronic Entertainment Expo later this month.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Semi-Persistent Worlds

Traditional MMO's are persistent worlds. But Players are only Semi-Persistent. We have to do Real Life.

This means traditional MMO's are always seeing a flux of players entering and leaving, and the likelihood of you seeing the same players consistently is diminished.

Also, when events happen, they have to last days or weeks to make sure everybody has a chance to take advantage of them.

I propose Semi-Persistent MMO's.

Imagine upon entering your new MMO, you discover a list of servers which are not only organized by time zone and population, but also by play schedules.

You could choose a server that only plays Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 to midnight for example. But there would also be some that play from 8pm to 2am every day of the week. Or even morning servers. If you wanted to play even MORE you could play on multiple servers with different schedules.

Just think...In a world where ALL players are present every time the game is running, you could create consistent rivalries, and player-made factions. In-game events could happen every night. Nobody on the server would miss an event.

Sports teams and clubs have operated this way forever. Why not run a server this way?


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Eve's Secret to Success

In case you missed it, Gamasutra recently published a very good article on EVE and how it succeeded and continues to succeed and most importantly, how any other developing group with big ideas and who can scrape together 12 million in starting funds from various sources, can probably do the same thing. Just thought I'd share. the world needs more Sandbox MMO's. I'm waiting for a space one where I actually feel like a pilot. EVE doesn't give me that. But maybe yours will..

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Guild Wars 2 - Is Someone Actually Listening to Us?

Here it is. An article on ign, today. Guild Wars 2 reveals plans to create a truly dynamic world--where quest chains have massive repurcussions on the world itself. Where you don't read a block of quest text, but the man from up the hill runs at you with "Help! We're under attack!" Read the article!

Is someone actually listening to bloggers' complaints about how static and pre-packaged the current MMO model is? I sure hope it turns out great! We could be playing this sometime next year!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Big Reminder: Mother's Day Sunday!

Take a break from Video Games this Sunday! It's Mother's Day! And remember, your wife will expect the following (even if you do not have children, this should apply):

1 flowers (Must)
2 a treat
3 a favor (extra chore from normal)
4 some embarrassing creative thing like a poem, song, drawing, etc.
5 a card
6 your spare time all day
7 a simple (or elaborate) gift

Personally, I think you can get all of this for $15 (Single rose, small chocolates, make your own card, small gift), but if you have the money, by all means, go nuts.

Enjoy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

DM Experience

Having hosted a weekly DM'd Neverwinter Nights campaign for the last 8 months straight, I have picked out some observations about gamers.

1 Players have more fun interacting with each other than with my world. Even though the world is necessary to provide a place to do so.

2 If a player doesn't have a choice, don't give them a choice.

3 Prepared adventures are never as exciting as adventures that are improvised around the players' current situation.

4 All you need for an adventure are friends, something to do, people to see, places to go, prizes to earn, and stuff to kill.

5 Some players can initiate their own quests proactively, but MOST are not accustomed to that privilege. Generally, offer varied choices and make it clear what their choices are, or you might just find yourself sitting their doing nothing.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Monster Hunter 3 So Far

I finally got it! And loving it!

Only played maybe 2 hours so far. But I can see all the ways the game is improved from number 1 that I enjoyed so much for all those late nights 3 years back.

I'll just give the lowdown on the features I was most intested in. The bottom-line is...everything I anticipated and learned from online research was correct. So this is a happy report. There are also some bonuses I didn't expect.

Game control: either wii remote or classic controller. Does NOT work with Gamecube controller, but I'm finding the wii remote controls are actually quite nice.

Offline mode: Better guided and more RPG-like than the original. In a good way. There are long walls of text in npc dialogues, though, which might have been interesting to read if I weren't trying to play while my son was around.

2-Player mode: Arena battle mode is split-screen combat. You can earn money for your character while completing arena challenges. A good addition to the game (though I wish offline 2-player questing were available...oh well)

Online mode: Logging into servers is very easy. Just go to City instead of Village, and choose a server. You don't actually have to log in with a username and password, it just lets you go right in, which speeds things up. To connect with friends, just communicate beforehand which server to meet in. There's probably a friends list feature built-in, though I haven't looked into it (MH1 had a friends list, so it's gotta be there).

Online chat: Wii Speak or any USB keyboard works. There's also the onscreen keyboard.

Excited to keep playing! If anyone else has this game and wants to try to play together, let me know!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why do we like raiding so much? What would a raiding only game consist of?

I open this post with an invitation to all to participate in the dialogue. Why do we like raiding so much? This is a very personal question to extent that everyone probably has a different answer. Tobold got me thinking about it. How can you make a commercially feasible raiding based game? Is raiding fun for you? Why? I believe there IS an answer to these questions, in fact I believe the best books, music, and games have not yet been written.

Anyways what makes raiding so appealing to us? I enjoyed being a raid leader in my days because I had an awesome guild in Warcraft, and in Lord of the Rings I found a new group of friends who made funny jokes, kicked butt, and showed up generally on time and excited to be there. So social factors are definitely a big part of it. Doing something epic with your friends, on a schedule is awesome. Its like being on a soccer team and winning a championship after lots of hard work, training and strategies. In fact raiding is very much like being on a sports team. For me, raiding is all about strategically tackling something difficult. I've seen bloggers lately go off about how raiding is jsut killing a big boss. This is like saying feasting always involves turkey. Just because you've always done something a particular way doesn't mean its the only way to do it. I remember one of my favorite encounters in World of Warcraft in Zul Furrak where you defend against an army of Troll cultists. But there are so many more possibilities for raiding that haven't been explored. How about a raiding skirmish where you have to stay off forces using several small groups and good communication and teamwork? Or perhaps a puzzle raid or a tricky player versus player one where you can only indirectly influence the other team with funny consequences...?

Lastly my question of what would a raiding only game consist of? A mix of pve, puzzle, pvp, and other raids, or just a pure raiding experience? How could it work. Obviously a quick matching service would be a must, but its not too hard to get ten people online at the same time, as we've seen from most pvp games online. Should everyone start at the level cap? Personally I say NO! People should be able to level up through raiding! Why not? And they should be able to get deeds and other stuff. Soldiers in Lotro are a great step towards requiring less humans for the same level of epicness. What are your thoughts?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Wahoo!!! Indie Night.

I dropped into Indie Game Night at Wahoo Studios in Orem, UT last night to get a chance to share my Indie game with some of the local Indie game enthusiasts. I missed the presentation at the beginning because I was late, and I didn't really get to play any other games except this one.

But sharing Siphon Spirit's new features was very satisfying, actually. My friend who is programming it has done a lot of work-

(I don't expect you to know what all this means, but it's still an impressive list of new features)
Save/Load Screen
New Cluster Type-Enemy Turret
New Cluster Type-Regenerating Enemy
New Cluster Type-Free Energy
New Cluster Type-Free Energy Emitter
New Cluster Type-Turret
New Cluster Type-Turret
Spellcast Effect
Cutscene functionality
Art oscillation
Cluster oscillation
Cluster Proximity Highlight effect
Multiple Language Support framework
In-level art display/text display/sound play

I also showed 17 new pieces of finished art, and I have a lot more in the works.

Very positive feedback from everyone there, and nobody mentioned how many months longer it's taking to develop our game than we'd originally said.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lego Universe Trailer

Credit goes to The Banstick for posting this fun trailer about Lego Universe. Enjoy :)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Wild Week

So I've been attending to the birth of my new son, and in the previous weeks I've been preparing for it so that's why you might have seen less of me lately. I thought, mostly due to Anton's demands but also, just because I'm a proud parent and want you to see, I'd show you some pictures of him, so here you go.

Here's us grinding our minute fingernail cutting skills. Those tiny nails are hard to see!

Here's our little Confucius-to-be

and this is him on the /lfg channel. Trust me, its effective.

and here's our party, ready for adventure! And saying Thank you for all the supportive, insightful comments and blogging. :D

Catering to the Players

I stumbled on a player hook while DM'ing Neverwinter Nights. Since I can control the game as it is in-progress, I have the ability to cater exactly to the players' every interest as it arises.

What I've found, is that the best way to get players involved, is to listen to what they want and give it to them.

Is this any surprise? No.

But it does take effort, and consideration. The more the players feel like I am acknowledging their role-play efforts, and doing something specifically for each one of them, the better they seem to respond.

The real trick is doing this in a single player game. How do you cater to a player that you've never met, and give them exactly what they want? My guess would be simply to provide a wide range of options and opportunities. WoW is successful with sooo many players, because it offers sooo many different options, each designed for different types of players.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What the back of a game's box won't tell you

What the back of a game's box won't tell you:

2-Player! (VS mode only, unlockable after about 16 hours into single-player mode)
Online Play! (No chat though, so you should probably play single player against the AI for a better balanced game anyways.)
Over 60 Hours of (Very Repetitive) Gameplay!

This came up when a game designer colleague mentioned something about the relationship between game developers and game advertisers. He said that if you let game advertisers get involved too early in a game's development, that they will start asking you to add features so that they can put them on the box.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Good luck, Thallian!

Thallian texted my cell phone today and said he and his wife are inducing their baby either today or tomorrow. I just thought I'd say congrats to them!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

New Pics for the Blog

I forgot to post these. Also Anton and I have been doing book 2 and will finish it this week, and My little sisters have really really enjoyed skirmishes at lvl 30 and the newly revamped Garth Agarwen. Its much harder than before but we've beaten each thing except for Ivar. Anyone know how to open his door? Its shut tight. Anyways, enjoy!

An underground watery cavern

the infamous hall of mirrors

A creepy glowing thing that I'm supposed to smash in book 8, but didn't have he quest so I just screenshotted it at this point. And a Caerog who lives right around the corner.

The Beast... nobody knows what he is..

and lastly .. a glimpse of entering Lothlorien

And in other news, my wife is going to have a baby any time now. Its a boy and we're sooo excited. I spent all day today buying baby stuff which hopefully we won't have to do again if we have another one. Anyways. Cheers! -Thallian

Friday, April 9, 2010

Making Use of Player Imagination

I'd like to discuss how games and film are able to take advantage of player imagination to create a better experience for players--And might even save development costs doing so.

As a Neverwinter Nights DM, I sometimes have to do things that the game doesn't support. A common obstacle is allowing player characters to travel to or through locations that I haven't actually built into my module. Also, letting them climb over things, or swim through pools of water.

This was kind of tricky at first, but I solved this issue by making myself into a narrator. I treat it as a tabletop game, and pretend I'm just sitting there with them, telling them what happened.

"You journey through a wind-blasted desert. A sandstorm blinds your group, but in keeping your bearings, you press onward until you take refuge under a cliff face. You shortly discover a cavern entrance, and seek shelter inside." At this point, I teleport the players to any cave in my module I might have available, and then run ahead to set up a few monster encounters.

People fill in a lot of stuff, and it's possible that this description is more memorable than the rest of the game session.

I'd like to point out another example from filmography. Do you remember the original Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back? Not the Special Edition, the ORIGINAL. In the original release, you hardly got a glimpse of the monster. This was probably MOSTLY due to horrible special effects, but maybe not. Tell me which image is scarier.

Watching the original version, you merely get glimpses of the monster. You hear his grunts. The music heightens. Your brain imagines something is coming, and your brain foresees the most horrifying thing possible.

The special edition shows you the monster from the start, eating up Luke's poor Taun Taun. The scene doesn't really make you scared. Instead, it evokes fascination. "Oh, look at that cool-looking monster. I always wondered what he looked like."

Video games can do this too. Think about the earliest games you played as a kid. The graphics were bits and blocks next to the almost-photo-real renders we see now. But how did the developers get around this? They always included box art and a little booklet with fun pictures in it. Suddenly, when you played Zelda, that little green man looked so much cooler in your head than he did on screen. And you believed it. (Incidentally, Nintendo really should put some of that art into its Virtual Console interface somewhere).

But what about now? The best developers should still be aware of this and tell their stories as such. Those that do will make more powerful experiences for the players, and may even save development costs.

I'm sure many games pull this off well, even now. If you know of any other good examples, leave a comment!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Snoopy Flying Ace for X-Box Live

Why am I promoting a game on XBox when I don't even have one? Because this is being developed at my workplace! I'm not on the team that's making it, so don't credit me, but I have seen this game played and I am very impressed by the visuals. VERY impressed. This review confirms that it's also a very fun game. They say it's coming out in June for XBox Live. Supports multiplayer DOGfights. And yes, you do get to fly the dog house, but only as a bonus.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Monster Hunter 3, April 20th!

  • This is the only Wii game left that I was excited about since launch.I played Monster Hunter 1 on PS2...In fact, I think this screenshot is from Monster Hunter 1, but not sure...The game's premise is simple...our village is hungry...go get us food. Eventually your livestock is threatened by wyverns and it gets a bit more dangerous. If you get to the really tough quests, you're fighting a dragon that's 1/2 a mile long that threatens to destroy your village.
  • The Wii version coming out this month seems to be not much different, other than updated graphics, new challenges, new monsters, and the addition of water quests (boating and underwater swimming from what I can tell).
  • What I really played for back then was the online feature. You meet in a town setting to form a party on servers that allow 8 players in a town. You form parties of 4 and choose quests, then you go out together and Hunt! I know the Wii version has parties of 4 for hunts, but I don't know how grouping will happen yet.
  • Wii's version features 4 player online play, with usb keyboard chat support. Also, Wii Speak functionality (but who wants to buy that :P ).
  • MH3 has a Co-op split-screen play for local 2-player games, but I understand that this is only for a specific arena game mode and not the missions. I'm not too sure about that.
  • I am hanging on whether or not to spend $50 on this game, I've wanted it for so long now...It's been out in Japan since last summer and I read that it is to this date the top-selling non-first-party Nintendo seller on Wii over there. If there's a game worth getting, this is the one.
  • I'll let you know if I spring for the purchase or not.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Shared Characters

Secret of Mana had a wonderful feature that allowed you complete control over 3 characters at once. You could just control 1 character and allow the AI to operate the others. You could control all three in an alternating pattern. Or you could even bring a friend along and allow them to control the second and third characters for you. Additionally, you or your friend could enter and exit the game at any time, as long as one player was always present.

Is this one of the secrets to the game's success? Let's look at another example...the highly popular LEGO game franchise. If you've played any of these, you'll notice a similar mechanic. In single player mode, an A.I. controls your companion. But at any moment, a friend can join in, or leave the game.

This leads me to a suggestion for MMO's. Suppose you allow players to share a character across accounts. Now, I could have multiple characters, and if my friend wants to raid with me, I can share that character with him.

Suppose I'm in a raid, and I have to go elsewhere for awhile...I could leave and let AI take over my character for awhile, so long as another human player is still around.

Suppose we need to fill more slots in a raid...What if I could bring 2 of my other characters along and allow them to AI battle for me, or swap between the three at any moment?

It's all about more power to the players, and more choices of how to play. I'd like to see someone try this out.

Happy Easter!

I found this. And I love it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Easy Ways to Add Replayability to a Game

I played Lost Winds awhile back. It was fantastic. For 4 hours. Then it was literally over. I beat the game and got all its extras. With such a gorgeous-looking, well-designed puzzle game, and costing $10, I felt like the experience was cut short.

Adding replayability to a game is so simple, it's amazing to me when developers fail to do so. ICO suffered a similar problem. Although I think it felt more satisfying because it lasted twice as long as Lost Winds. Still, it could have used a reason to try again. Unfortunately, like Lost Winds, ICO is a puzzle game and has a similar lack of interest for a second challenge.

Then, the ICO team brought us Shadow of the Colossus. Not only did it offer twice as much gameplay to begin with, but they unlocked a new difficulty level and a second gameplay mode upon completion. Now if you were left wanting more, there was somewhere to go.

Some simple was to add replay value:

  • Play through with weaker monsters replaced by stronger ones (Super Mario Bros)
  • Reconfigure/reposition puzzle elements the second go (Zelda)
  • Play again with a different look for your character (Metroid 1)
  • Offer a time-limited mode ( Shadow of the Colossus)
  • Offer an increased difficulty mode (Shadow of the Colossus)
  • Put a score on each level, and unlock new hidden areas for achieving higher scores in the primary areas
  • Open up an arena mode for battling and throw in tiers and challenges
  • Incorporate a quest system that has innumerable little things you can go do in the same world (WoW, right?)
  • Incorporate an achievement system that has more innumerable little things you can go do in the same world (WoW again)

Alternate Endings--I think these are poor ways to motivate additional play. An ending is not play. So now you must go online and find out what you did wrong and go do everything over? That really doesn't count, for me. Replay value needs to be incorporated into play.

So what could LostWinds have done? I think it would have been easy enough for them to make the monsters a bit harder, or maybe add a ton more monsters. Slightly altering the puzzles in the game would have been great. As a reward, they might have had an extra character appear that teaches you a little additional background lore about the world that you didn't learn the first time. If they had a little more time, it would have been awesome if the world changed visually from day to night, too.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fools Links

Here are some of the best jokes of this year's April Fools:

Google (Topeka)


YouTube TEXTp

World of Warcraft



Oh wait. This is real.

...This site has a bunch more highlights...look at Google's Translate for animals, haha.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

They don't make em like they used to

Or maybe they do, but I was playing Total Annihilation with my wife last night and it was remarkable. Here was a game produced in 1996 that surpasses any real time strategy game Blizzard or EA has made as far as customizable controls, selecting hundreds of units at once, holding a button and giving your units a lengthy list of their own AI commands, or using and abusing the terrain around you. Some major love went into this game and it shows. It wasn't built just for profit, it was built with love. Then another stark lesson popped into my mind from this game. As much of a success that Total Annihilation was, the sequel by Cavedog, TA Kingdoms, was awfully done, and pushed out long before it was ready or very fun. This caused Cavedog to lose all face and bomb off the face of the earth. Blizzard, though the original Warcraft wasn't even close to TA, did an ok job, and on their second attempt did something ten times better (funnier and better story, still not a very complex RTS but oh well) Then they did and even better job on the story for Starcraft and Diablo and so on. The character development and creativity and masterful artistry has done well for Blizzard. Each game they make they try to do ten times better than the previous iteration. If you want to flourish with sequels this is what you gotta do. I still say their RTS's are simplistic and not as good as TA or its later version, Supreme Commander. But I'm just talking about mechanics and tactical options and coolness. In many other regards, (story, characters, lore, art, music) Blizzard takes the cake.

Gameplay Inputs

Gameplay input refers to the game taking some kind of data from an exterior source. Gameplay inputs are the essences of what allow us to play games. Understanding our options when designing games can be all it takes to create more unique experiences.

The most common form is a boolean input. A button press is a boolean type on/off type of data, if you will. If playing with one button, the only way to enter data to a game is by pressing and depressing it. You can still make a lot of variation by using patterns, rhythm, by having the player hold or tap for differing lengths of time. By adding multiple buttons, you allow them to do button combinations, or hold down different buttons simultaneously. By arranging the buttons in a different configuration, such as the up-down-left-right buttons, they take on a meaning to the player.

Another type of input is the analog input. Joysticks are analogs, but so are the velocities of the different axes of a wii remote for example. The position of the mouse cursor on either axis might be considered analog. Analog refers to a control that always sends the game a number within a range, rather than simply being on or off.

Some interesting things to note about inputs is that the way they are collected can completely change the experience. Such as taking data from the accelerometers in a Wii remote versus detecting how far a joystick has been pushed. The game machine takes this data in as numbers in either case, but the difference can be billions of dollars of sales. The important thing is, creating unique experiences with satisfying controls that come intuitively to the player.

There are many other types of inputs, and I wonder how many others we can discover. Consider for example, database input...Facebook games draw input from user profiles. This alters the game, linking content to your profile. I have seen some games that analyze wavelengths of mp3's to generate custom content. World of Warcraft uses a real-time clock to determine what time it should be in the game.

It's amazing to me to see how many ways buttons and joysticks have been used. When you think about it, we take for granted what you can do with buttons. (How many of you knew for example that the PS2 controllers' buttons are actually analog...they can sense how hard they are being pressed, not just boolean information). What types of inputs are underused? How can we arrange or change existing inputs to create new types of games? There are so many possibilities, and games have barely scratched the surface!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Who do you play with?

When you're looking for a game, WHO do you have in mind? Some games I buy so I can play them myself, but I often choose a game to play with my wife, or my son, or to play online with a coworker, or a buddy from high school...

When I got started playing Neverwinter Nights, something rather interesting happened. I convinced three friends to buy the game even got a second copy for my wife to play. None of them actually hung around, even though they all tried it out. But their participation was long enough for me to find a great server and make a dozen friends through the game itself.

NOW, I count each of these people I met online through the game as friends and I play with them regularly. Now, it's intriguing to me that I started out trying to play a game with people I know, and in due time, I ended up meeting new people to play with. The game itself only carried this process so far. All things considered, it was friends I wanted to play with in the start, and now again in the end.

How often do you actually buy games just to play yourself versus buying games to be enjoyed with others? And who do you have in mind to play them with most of the time?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Everybody go see How To Train Your Dragon

This is the most adventurous, fun adventure I've seen in a CG film since The Incredibles. I'm usually not that big a fan of Dreamworks Animation, but I was excited about this film so I saw it tonight. I was not disappointed!

The Wizard 2!

No, they're not making a sequel.
Instead, I was musing over this writer's conclusion that The Wizard is more than a 90-minute commercial for Nintendo games. It is a historical snapshot of the culture created by Nintendo in 1989. A culture which I was a part of myself.
But this made me wonder about what a snapshot of today's video game culture would be? If they were to make The Wizard 2, what do you think the plot would be?
Here's one of my ideas: They could cast...the SAME ACTORS. People who played video games in 1989 were about 10 years old. People who play them now, are about 30. In other words...It's still heavily us.
But instead of finding a hidden warp zone in Mario 3, the 2010 version might feature WoW Cataclism...And now, Jimmy has to travel to California to compete in the pre-release contest to see which guild leader can take his guild through the level 85 content first. Every gamer's dream now, right? Or...Hmm...Maybe I'm off on this...
...What film could be made now to embody the video game culture of 2010? Preferably something we could laugh about in 20 years...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Games by the Dozen

There are more than enough games to play. When I was in elementary school, it seemed like everybody played Super Mario Bros. Everybody played Castlevania. Everybody played Metroid.

Now...things are different.

There is no one game that everybody plays. We have options. A LOT of options. Every video game fan has a list of a thousand dollars worth of games that they wish they could play, but can't. And it's only partially because of the thousand dollars. We just can't play that many games in one lifetime.

These days, if I discover a friend has played the same game as me, it's a surprise.

I quit Allods almost as soon as I started. Not because I wasn't having a great time--I just got busy. After 2 weeks go by and you realize you haven't played a game, you wonder why you should bother going back at all. This happens to me a lot lately.

It's not really a bad thing. We have options. Personally, my opinion is...with so many games out there, and so little time...that means we don't have to spend any of our precious time playing anything but the most fantastic games at the lowest possible price. It's a great age to be a gamer. And it will only get better.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Multiplayer Single Player RPG's

I've just realized something. Almost every RPG I've ever loved, I never played by myself. Even single-player.

The first time I "played" Final Fantasy 7, I was actually watching it with 3 other friends, all huddled around the tv together, while one friend played and the rest of us watched and even read aloud the lines of different characters.

Most RPG's I've played in the last 6 years have been played while my wife was watching, or at least sitting by me. Some she even participated, but lately she folds laundry or something and watches.

We will all remember Secret of Mana, that classic which actually focused and thrived on its being a 3-player adventure. I think the 3-player formula works wonderfully. And nothing beats sitting in a room together.

Last Saturday I got together with 2 other guys at one of their homes and I watched a friend play Parasite Eve (PS1) for 2 hours. Why was that so fun? I realized I never could have sat through that game on my own, but we had a blast.

I got into MMO's for one big's very difficult to meet at friends' homes any more, since I generally put my son to bed every night and I wouldn't want to leave my wife alone any evening when I already spend so much time working out of the house. So it fills that friends gap. Still, if there were a way to make the experience even more like sitting around with your buddies in an MMO, I'd welcome it. A co-op game like Secret of Mana playable online would be great. In fact, I don't think any offline games have come close to that 3-player co-op experience since.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Role Play or Roll Play?

I think people confuse Role and Roll in Role Play.

Role means...a part in an enactment, such as a character in a theater.
Roll tumble...such as tossing a die.

Much of Role Play in games has been reduced to Roll Play. Random number crunching based off of statistics. True Role Play involves immersing one's self in a character or at least learning his part in the situations he is presented with within the Role Play.

Role Play Gaming is often credited to Dungeons and Dragons. Interestingly, Dungeons and Dragons has many elements of Role Play and Roll Play. However, the Roll Play aspect has a Role Play purpose...While pretending to be a different person in a different world, you have to know how your character differs from yourself. Thus, you might Role Play a character that is smarter than you. So how do you play a character smarter than you? If you want to try to do something smart, you have a stat that allows you to know how smart your character is, and using that stat, your character could pass a skill check that lets her do something smart. The introduction of stats was a great blessing to Role Play games, but it seems to have been blown out of proportions and lost some of its purpose in most games.

A Roll Play game can be fun. I think every MMORPG fits into this category by their very natures. You cannot immerse yourself into the MMORPG environment or character because MMORPG's don't let you make decisions with any impact on the environment. It's all about finding stuff, killing stuff, and collecting stuff. This is fun, and their worlds can be very glorious and alive because of the art and populations.

It's hard to find great Role Play out there, though. I have immersed myself in Neverwinter Nights as a Dungeon Master. Several skilled Role-Players join my games regularly.

I have found they enjoy simple adventures not because of the world I created, but because they enjoy interacting in-character with each other. As they play together from week to week, their characters are developing...Not just personally, but also they seem to develop relationships. One character will start to anticipate the actions of the other characters. There's something built there that's not a statistic, and if it were reduced to one, it would lose everything that's enjoyable about it.

Role Play also has Consequences which are not stat-related. The best consequences are founded on players' decisions. As Dungeon Master, I have the chance to place characters into difficult situations. The classic example is that of Spiderman. The Goblin kidnaps Spiderman's girlfriend, Mary Jane, and also captures a busload of elementary children. Now Spiderman faces a difficult choice. He can rescue Mary Jane, or the Children, or he can attempt to rescue both. The attempt has a chance of failure, but the other choices represent a type of moral dilemna.

In a Role Play game, a choice like Spiderman's would have permanent consequences. The loss of the children might cause feelings of remorse. He may face outside consequences, such as hatred by the community. The loss of Mary Jane would have been obvious by the lack of her presence.

Can you imagine a choice like this in a game like World of Warcraft? The game's design doesn't allow for anything like it. The whole world resets itself for the next player. There's no consequence. It's just players going through the quests.

There are serious limitations to the way MMORPG's are designed these days. And it's obvious that the industry is stuck on it. For players to experience something truly fantastic, someone needs to find a way to make this work. Sure, there's always a place for a simple, fun, fight-the-monsters and get rewards gaming experience. But there is certainly also a group of people out there...and I bet it's bigger than people give it credit...that are craving for a more meaningful experience in their online games. Perhaps the next big hit in MMORPG's will be from the studio that distinguishes the lack of Role Play, not Roll Play, in Online Games.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mega Man 10 launches

Mega Man 10 is now available. As long as we keep buying Mega Man games, they'll keep making them! I love Mega Man like the next fellow but the last one left me sore. It was way too difficult, more so than the first one even. Somehow Anton got a lot farther than me in it too. Which just injured my pride. Fortunately Mega Man 10 as you'll see in this trailer has an easy mode! Now we can see the plot with training wheels on. Solid awesome!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Siphon Spirit Art Continued...

My Indie game Siphon Spirit is progressing. Here's a new demon monster. The final game will feature 120 levels, with 24 of those being demon bosses like this.
This is the actual art you'll see, since the game is based around particle effect gameplay, and the artwork is background eye-candy.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

MMO For Raiders Only

When I started WoW 3 years ago, I continued playing for 2 years. From the outset, I wanted to raid with my friends.

Instead, I spent exactly 1 year hitting level 70, at which point all my friends left the game until Wrath of the Lich King came out. Then I played until Lich King arrived, leveled to 78, then got laid off and ran out of money for monthly fees.

I enjoyed the game, and I had 3 or 4 friends that I played with regularly. We had fun...but if what I really wanted to do was raid the whole time...why 70 or 80 levels just to do that?

I propose an MMO be created, designed for raiding from the outset of the game. If the whole game were based around a series of raids, some of which were accessible from the very beginning...would it really be a problem? I think if the game developers designed raids for beginners that didn't really require a lot of communication, then built up to more and more organization as you went, certain players would find it to be a good experience.

This wouldn't be for everybody, but most especially for the people who started an MMO with the intent of "getting to 80 so I can raid with my friends."

How would you design an MMO around raiding? What challenges would you foresee, and how would you deal with them?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Recent Adventures

enjoy! :) clicky on them to see them big.