Friday, January 29, 2010

The Epicly Underestimated Power of Street Cred

Our friend and fellow MMO blogger Game Monkey recently posted an article in which he made a lot of good points. My reply to his post was somewhat too short for my liking so I'm going to ramble here instead.

I do take issue with one of the things he said about WoW. And that is his opening and closing thesis. WoW is popular because  “Because WoW is easy and people like easy.”. I disagree. That is only one factor. Certainly WoW had some hard parts in it also when it launched, and I never managed to raid a number of places. But I'm not here to argue about whether WoW is easy or not. WoW WAS easy to level from 1 to 60 when I played iti. And I'm sure its easy to level from 1 to 80 now.

One elephant in the room that everyone, developers especially, is ignoring though is Blizzard's Street Cred. This quality has other names in English like "reputation" and "track record" and "respect" and so on but I like to use "Street Cred" for a juvenile industry like gaming. WoW/Blizzard is successful because it has more Street Cred than any other development studio known to man. The other game companies that even remotely come close have been Valve, Bioware(now owned by evil EA), Black Isle(now extinct), Nintendo, Bungie, Turbine, and.. did I leave any out? Most others like Cryptic and EA have been doing everything in their power to annoy their loyal customer base. They don't consider that each game they make reflects their companies' production values. Instead they pump out half-baked, or almost good stuff before it's done cooking and ask the same price as the competition. Then they sit and wonder why they can't compete.

Gamasutra once did a good article on how much damage a bad game does to a company's good name, but I want to share my thoughts with my fellowmen on this. Think about it yourselves. How do you react when a company you trust develops a sub-par game? (KOTOR2 was kind of a let down for me for example) I personally stop buying everything they make at face value and I am much more careful and skeptical when examining their new products. In short it damages my reputation with them. And How do they get out of this hole once they dig themselves into it? They have to prove they "get" their mistakes and they have to fix it promptly.

Now as Gamer Monkey also mentioned,  VC's (Venture Capitalists) are part of the problem here. VC's don't care about your company's street cred. The companies with good street cred are not dependent on VC's to develop their dreams because they are already making money, and the small company's who ARE dependent on VC's cannot afford a failure but also cannot afford to defy the VC's wish to get 500% return and do it fast fast fast. This leaves indie dev companies to save the day (leads to lite MMO's like Dofus) or venerable companies to switch to MMO making (see Allod's Online, SWTOR etc...) If you want to enter the MMO arena cold turkey and make a AAA one you need a reality check unless you have a lot of means behind you, therefore, we really can't expect any MMO's of high quality from surprise sources. I think we can expect to see a lot of lite MMO's, a lot of FTP MMO's, and a few AAA ones pumped out at rare intervals over the next few years as the market readjusts through difficult times. And personally I think EA is poison because it does not care about the following adage coined by Miyamoto when he was building Zelda 64 and asking for more time "A late game is only late until it launches, a bad game is a bad game forever".


(Aside: Btw make sure you read the previous post by Anton and play his new game demo. It is really fun and creative.)

Siphon Spirit

I have to confess, I am a two-timer when it comes to Indie development. Thallian and I are still beating around Rhuidia together, but I have also been doing another called Siphon Spirit. This is a more compact game, and I've learned a lot about Indie Game development doing it. Currently, we are pre-beta demo ready. I set up a site http://www.califergames.com/ where you can try it out!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

New Title for Next Lotro Content Addition


Book 3's title is here.

Sapience let loose through a contest today that the title is:

"Volume III: Allies of The King
Book I: Oath of The Rangers"

Maybe it involves you mustering or defending Aragorn's Ranger allies. I wonder if the new area is Dunland or perhaps the area immediately south of Lothlorien and the Aragonath...

Here's a link with tons more info and pretty pictures http://www.lotro.com/gameinfo/601-oath-of-the-rangers 

(Edit: Nevermind I read the thing and it appears we will be goi ng to the "Northlands" next... a Google search returns this: http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Northlands So maybe we are going back to Eriador for a bit? Though prolly a lvl 65+ area...) Perhaps it is Forodwaith or near there then...

(Double Edit: I take that back, on further examination, Angmar and Forochel ARE the northlands. Obviously this new skirmish in Nurz Ghazu will be part of Volume 3.1. ) I therefore prognosticate that we are not getting a new area this time, we got enough area with Mirkwood to keep us busy I suppose in their minds. That and these new skirmish options, should keep us entertained. I personally hope that we get a new area and dungeons next time.. but more importantly I hope they use the spare time to hire some people to build a PVMP skirmish.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Some amusing role playing

In case you missed it

Good Times in Lotro, Great Barrows, And Lowbie fun

We had a fun run in Lotro on MLK day with me and my wife and my sister in law and little sister, and two friends. We ran the Great Barrows. Good times, good times.

Sunday I played with my wife and sister in law and helped them explore the north downs for the first time. Its kind of neat seeing places for the first time and running with someone who is seeing it for the first time also gives you a different perspective than doing it yourself. This Monday I was sick so we had some more fun. With my friend 'Aelderath' (That's his char's name) and he kinda got hooked on the game after playing his guard with us for the second time. He had to try the newbie intro instance 5 times before Dwalin survived but he was determined to succeed so he did. Then he got hooked on mining in the hills and Metalsmithing. He told me he had no idea that they had something like that in this game. I can't wait to take my sisters and my wife to the second dungeon and the end of book 2.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I Has a Sad...No Gibberlings for me!




Can't connect to Allods Online for some reason.... tried 12 times. Maybe I'll try again once it leaves beta. Could be that its the EU Client or maybe its cuz of some firewall. Nuts!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Nothing Happens Until It Does

After 2 months and 6 days, I accepted a job offer at Smart Bomb Interactive!

For all those who commented with suggestions and sympathy in my previous post, thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Unemployment is hard. Not just because of the financial aspect, but you start to wonder if your skills are really worth anything to anybody.

The fact that three studios contacted me in 2 days' time was a great reassurance, and I see it as more than that--A sign that my little trial is finally over.

"Its Actually Your Fault America"

I love it when people call it like it is. I just read this rather scathing blog about Pres. Obama's measure he's trying to push through today to regulate banks. I am in favor of bank regulation but I'm also in favor of telling the truth. I'll keep this short since this isn't a political blog (primarily) Enjoy

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Allods Online free week Begins!

Allods Online is having a free week! Starting the 18th until the 23rd they are going to allow people in of all shapes and sizes. I was really glad I checked out Champions during their free week and Lotro during its, one influenced me to buy and one influenced me to stay far far away. I can't wait to jump in and see what this game is like. I highly recommend it to everyone else too who's been sitting on the sidelines.

Friday, January 15, 2010

LFG for RL Work

I'm editing this post because I seem to have some prospects now. Thanks to everybody who posted information about job openings!

I'm leaving up some of my drawings:

Artwork











videoLaser Effect Test Animation

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Anton's Favorite Adventure Games

Monkey Island Games
I only played one, but it was hilarious!




Full Throttle is a game I sat and played start to finish in 4 or 5 hours and I must say it has the most unique characters in any Adventure Game.








Day of the Tentacle
Amazingly humorous, time traveling through toilet-bowl fun!



The dig was a Sci-Fi adventure game with a story written by Orson Scott Card. Lots of mysteries and weirdness happening, many things to discover in a survival on an alien planet where something that was meant to be a gift to the universe turned out to be a curse.



Return to Zork...
Actually, this is my entry for WORST adventure game ever.
We had to buy a hint book...Puzzles made NO sense. For example...To get transportation around the island, you needed a magnet and a special whistle to call the vultures. Because apparently vultures like whistles, and their talons are MAGNETIC. If that doesn't convince you, here's how to get the whistle: First, go pester the farmer until he throws a box of bras at you. Yes, bras. Get a cup full of water and go to the city's furnace. It has one. Now, pull the lever to open the top hatch of the furnace. Throw the bra box in. Push the lever to close the furnace. Push the button that starts the furnace. Let it incinerate the box. Pull the lever to open the lower compartment. All that is left of the bras is a single red-hot wire. Cool the wire with the glass of water you brought. Now take the wire down the road and pick the lock on the convenience store. Go inside and find the cereal. Shake the cereal 3 times. A toy surprise will surface. Now you have the whistle.

Not only one of the best adventure games of all time, but also probably THE BEST Indiana Jones game of all time! The writing of the characters of Indiana and Sophia is witty and fun.
"Sophia? How did you get over here?"
"While you were off bushwhacking, I found a path."
*Indiana fails to get the man to give any information. Turns to Sophia:*
"Here, you talk to the man."
*Man opens the door, sees the girl, comes outside to greet her.*
"Hello, beautiful!"
Space Quest Series: Hilarious again. Great adventure and Star Wars parody. My favorite was Space Quest 5. You had your own ship and you could travel around the galaxy to all kinds of places. At the start, you have to cheat on a test to become a ship captain. Copy the test of the alien creature with the giant brain head. And do it while the probe cheat-catcher bot isn't watching.

Sam and Max Hit the Road: This is a series they still make. But I only played the original, which was fabulous. Both characters are psychotic. That's really the only word I could think of to describe them. And their world is zany. Max is a rabbity-thing. Not a rabbit. A rabbity-thing.









King's Quest Series: I played through 5 and 6, and never made it through any of the others. If you want to know which ones are worth playing...play 5 and 6. Although, you will probably want to look up a few solutions here and there, they are tough games. There are a lot of classic fairy-tale, old legend, and mythological references in these games. Very pure and fun, not really funny games like most of the others.









Quest for Glory Series: Amazing! This doubles as an action rpg. You get to pick thief, fighter, or wizard, and eventually paladin. The remake of QFG1 is fantastic. Number 5 I played through at least 3 or 4 times, it was epic. That one ended the series by having you become king at the end and even getting married to the lady of your chosing, of 4.



























Okay, so that's all I could think of. It's practically all the adventure games I've ever played. I never played one I didn't like. Except for Zork. But even then, I did beat it and bought a hint book, so it must have had some appeal somehow.
A great place to go for this kind of game is Adventure Game Studio's site:
http://www.adventuregamestudio.co.uk/
Lots of people have used Adventure Game Studio to make mini adventure games. I recommend Apprentice...Very humorous, challenging, and aesthetic. There are more good ones if you look for them.

What I think about Google leaving China

Links to read: Google got hacked yesterday by China (ahem.. the Chinese government agents.. ahem)
Excuse me I have a cough
http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/01/new-approach-to-china.html
and in turn Iran hacked China (ahem.. interesting coincidence in timing no?)
http://seo101blog.com/2010/01/13/googles-stand-against-china-censorship-is-the-excuse-but-not-the-reason/

What do I think about all this? Well I've read a lot and discussed with coworkers. Some of their views are
1. That Google is trying to use its leverage for greedy under the table bonuses from the government (cynical view)

2. That Google is trying to force the Chinese government to open up in retaliation for hacking its servers, without openly accusing the Chinese government of course, because that's too hard to prove and pointless even if they do. (manipulator view)

3. That Google doesn't make more than 2% of its revenue from China so losing that is no huge blow and a great gain of PR in the eyes of the rest of the world that loathes censorship. (The Google doesn't care about China view)

or

4. That Google is awesome and might actually pull out of China unless the government bends over backwards and changes its policies (cough.. like that'll happen because of a search engine.. cough) (Idealistic view)

I personally think China isn't going to change anything for Google. It has Baidu (the government arm and leg into the internet) AND Microsoft's heartless, soulless empire in the form of Bing! which has no problem with "Do No Evil" since its not in their constitutional mission statement.

However I'm glad Google is at least being consistent with their statement, albeit after sinning for a while. I think Google is really going to leave. If you disagree and have something constructive to add or say I'd love to hear your opinion. I was personally comforted to hear that the hackers didn't get anything important.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Go Tipa Go!

Pete at Dragonchasers recently placed a link to Tipa's STO Marathon blog posts

Click there if you want to read them. I particularly enjoyed reading about pvp and Klingons. She seems to know here Star Trek really really well. I wonder if I log into this game if I will feel rather left out if I don't know everything there is to know. Or maybe I'll feel kind of geeky. Hmmm. Well my dad and brother like Star Trek and I enjoyed watching the episodes so its can't be that bad. As long as I don't study and learn every last little thing there is to know about it. Then I'll be safe... yeah...

STO Open Beta is .. well.. OPEN!

Just though my readers ought to know Star Trek Online's Open Beta starts today!

We should be getting a flood of info on the blogs soon. And you might be able to try it out now for free.

The game launches officially Feb 2nd. So save up your pennies and then smash open your piggy banks on Feb 2nd. But I personally recommend waiting until you've read a few blog reviews. ;)

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Thin Red Line

There seems to be a fine fine line between punishing difficulty and boringly easy. If developers can get us into this zone of finely polished content, the challenges are just hard enough to stimulate but not so hard they discourage. I.E. fun occurs. They should aim for this at all times. Including in raids, yes.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

DnDonline fun

I played DnDonline this weekend with my brother and little sister. They actually got more hooked into it than I did. I wonder if I'm just too..experienced with MMO's at this point to enjoy what's out right now to its fullest? I tried to get Anton into the action too but the patching took too long for him and we were done by the time he was ready. We'll have to try again next weekend. I finally did the instance where you beat the mind flayer controlling the dragon and destroy his precious enhancement artifact. Then you end up in a world with no more snow and free seas you can sail. I have yet to see Stormreach though. Its on my very slow to-do list. Along with conquering the world. Yes, must get to that sometime...

Monday, January 4, 2010

What it takes to add PVMP Skirmishes


So I thought I'd do something unusual here and add a "thought article" on a question I think most intelligent people, including the devs, have had on "What does it take to add PVMP skirmishes, even just one of them, to LOTRO?" (Turbine I hope someone there is listening (i.e. Frelorn, Jaylessa, Orion, or anyone))

I think first and foremost, before answering this question, we have to define what a PVMP skirmish really is. A PVMP skirmish would be a brawl of Freeps, against Creeps, in a predetermined number. It would ALSO include a soldier for freeps and a minion for creeps. Perhaps Creeps would have to do a quest to earn this but its shouldn't be made too hard. I would err on the side of "let any creep do it right away after a simple intro quest". Creep Minions could be of the same archetypes or entirely new ones. Maybe a few different goblin types, like a goblin shieldsman, warg rider, or bomber? Sure. How bout a goblin shaman or banner carrier? Why not.

Creeps might have to clear free people's npc's holding strategic points on a map and then hold these spots against attacks by npc's AND unpredictable assaults of normal players. Freep would have to do likewise. That's just one map kind though, and possibly the hardest one to execute. A second map type is capture the flag like Warsong Gulch. Capture it three times and you win. You could have npc defenders to spice things up, or not its ok, either way. Lastly you could have any number of other combinations of things, like Murder Ball style games from WAR or a simple death match arena between creeps and freeps in a canyon maze or something.

OK so we are not at a limit for ideas here but what are the technical hurdles? Well there's really three big things you gotta do. First you gotta make a map, a really really cool one. (or a second really really small one. Small maps can be good) Second you gotta build the UI for creeps for skirmishes. (Shouldn't take too too long for experienced developers. Third you gotta add a matching service to both UI's and to the server. Allow groups to queue up or just individuals and put checkboxes on the ones they are willing to participate in. If they are willing to participate in 6 vs 6 or 12 vs 12 or 24 vs 24 or whatever. The more options they select the sooner they get to play. Then let them play whatever they want while they wait for enough people to queue for it. This might take an hour or you might be surprised at how fast it comes up on a busy day. You could even get fancy and allow cross-server matches to allow people to play against others more often. (WoW Already did all of this, though not necessarily at launch)

Now why are we so excited for this if its already been done before? Because in one of these skirmishes, the sides have even numbers! And in 6 vs 6, the single player can contribute A LOT if he or she is awesome. What if you miss-match your classes against the enemy? Then you lose! And they win! And its over fast and you can queue for a different one with a different team. No biggie. I see this being a huge addition of fun to the game personally. Something extra to do that would be great.

The last thing they need to add for the creeps is Skimish marks of some kind and a reward system. (after all, what gets rewarded, gets done) But that could even wait for a later patch. I bet creeps would do it just because its fun and new and they still get infamy for killing freeps and stuff.

Yay! Its 2010 already!

I've been looking around and there's a lot of surveys on the news about whether or not people are optimistic for the new year. I remember most of the statistics being around 70~% optimistic and the rest not so keen on it. Personally I'm a lot more optimistic for this year than I was last year economically, but there's other good reasons to be optimistic. I'm looking forward to seeing what new things come out of the MMO scene. Embarrassingly enough I ran a yellow light a bit too fast and got a speeding ticket that is coming out of my play money, so I'm VARY (spelled wrong on purpose yes) interested in Allod's Online and all other free to play stuff, as well as the next two Lotro book updates. Any guesses as to what those will bring?

My prognostication for the first one in three months is that it will bring a couple more dungeons at level 65. More excitingly for me, it will bring more skirmishes! (Hopefully two!) What I'm also wondering is the big question, which area of middle earth is coming next? I predict Dunland since they already leaked that and its attached to Eregion which they already created. (And it leads up well to the next expansion) However they could throw us for a loop and not put in a new land mass in the next book (though I doubt they will do this as people love to explore new content)

Another route they make take is the area surrounding the Aragonath and dub it "part of Mirkwood" or "its own thing" Then connect that to Fanghorn forest, (which should be a really interesting forest, I love how they've done Mirkwood so far, especially in the eaves and near the haunted inn)

As we all know, book updates tend to bring.."other things". My favorite other things so far from the last one were the mount update, paving the way for mounted combat, and the lone lands revamp by a lone dev named Orion. We already know his next target is book 3 and the lone lands, which means we know his next target after that in summer will be the revamp of the Trollshaws (so if you want to play these areas as they were better get cracking...) I really like the solo option for instances, but I'd personally love to see a duo and trio option too. Yes this could conceivable greatly increase the work that needs to be done, but its doesn't of necessity. You could just do it the way that Orion did the current solo one, re-use the same instance but buff the player to be like an elite, only for a duo you buff them to be like signatures. (or whatever is balanced). and a trio just gets a slight buff. (We were almost able to finish the group instance "Retake Weathertop" in a three/four man. Anyways I love the new quest hubs and rewards that have been devised and I can't wait to see what gets done with the north downs, and then the Trollshaws (in which book 4 is a nightmare of running to Rivendell and back like 3 times.) I really love the trees in the Trollshaws though, and the fun canyons that are easy to get lost in. Its really not a very boring zone of the game, so maybe there isn't that much change that needs to be done. Tal Bruinen was added later and shows a lot more polish also.

Anyways what are your predictions? What is Turbine going to add next? When will we get mounted combat? PVMP skirmishes? (I predict Rohan)