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.