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Showing posts from April, 2007

Precursor of Grief

Some people say that money is the root of all evil, and there I disagree. Money is merely a means of conveyance - a root goes to the source. The source is simple greed.

City of Heroes, now approaching its third year anniversary, is a game that has little to be greedy over. There are three ranks of enhancements and everybody can get their hands on them in time, choosing piecemeal which is most important to them at the time. The enhancements are purchased with influence points, and the influence points run in a great surplus at higher levels. What's left the bicker over is "Hami-Os" - special two-origin enhancements that can only be gained from completing the super-mega-raid in the game. That, and who gets to have all the fun with building the super group's base. Still, there's not much to be greedy over.

Issue 9: Breakthrough is going to change that a bit. It adds rare, must-have (but not everybody can) enhancements and the rare components used to build th…

Fun Versus Functionality

In retrospect, I see the problem with my April 15th blog entry: Given a choice between pain and pleasure, the pain option only applies to the masochists, and they're a niche audience. No, I'm not talking about the quality of my writing so much as the focus I chose (if you can call my writing focused or planned). The problem was that all you non-masochists out there don't need to learn why a game they like sucks on a fundamental level. So, time to focus my twenty-odd years of gaming experience on finding the good parts of games easily overlooked, rather than using my superpowers for evil.

This entry, however, is for another niche audience, perhaps even more masochistic than the masochists: Those armchair game designers who are looking to understand a gamers' state of mind. I'm broaching the topic of Fun versus Functionality, a force of cognitive dissonance that has governed much of my weekend.

Having finished the major project of the quarter, it's been a pre…

Liberal arts fairs and less officious forms of procrastination

Today, I've been stressing out over an upcoming school project and consequently paralyzed into procrastination in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and City of Heroes. That probably won't interest many people, but it's what's going on.

Well, I've successfully mixed business with pleasure: I'll be doing a exhibition, "Progress of Massively Multiplayer Space" down at the university on Friday. I'll be presenting using HTML and a collage of various MMOGs and how they brought new features to the table. I don't think it'll impress anyone that knows anything about MMOGs, as it is geared for those who do not consider them a credible textual medium. Considering this project counts for 40% of my grade, I'm crossing my fingers it meets and exceeds the instructors' expectations.

First, however, I have to generate the motivation to finish my presentation. That's been proving a bit difficult for me lately because I'm depressed. Why? Beca…

Mocking Success / Killing The Grind

Following up on my discussing restarting a character in Oblivion, I fell off the suspension of disbelief train and straight into realizing that even a 94/100 game has something worth mocking.

The worst failing of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is that, on the most basic level, it's a role playing game.

Now, I probably know what you're thinking: Hey, I've enjoyed RPGs before. Sure, there's something uber kewl about a game where you can play somebody else and have more fun than you do in real life. However, somewhere along the line it became all about the power. The ph4t l00tz and m4d st4tz, comparing your e-peen to the rest of humanity's because, lets face it, you need that kind reassurance when you're being subconsciously reminded that you didn't achieve much in real life while you were filling your leveling bar with pixels.

This is an old story because the smart game developers realized this problem and started to design away from it. World of Warcraft…

The Cost Of Mediocracy

For me, the ultimate challenge to conquer my own laziness is to take the first step. After that, I tend to see something through to completion. So, here is a practice post about the new direction I'm hoping to take with this Blog.

This weekend I played Elder Scrolls: Oblivion until I got sick of it (again) and then changed gears over to Jade Empire: Special Edition. Unfortunately, as my Gamespot review attests this edition of Jade Empire is "Special" in the wrong way. Here is a game that tried very hard to become a work of art, but tragically falls short due to a few nasty technical glitches, the most severe of which being a performance leak I am encountering.

I tried Take2 tech support, but they were unable to do a thing for me. Driver changes, disabling devices, and reinstalling the game wouldn't solve the problem, and that's all they knew how to do. So they simply stopped talking to me. It isn't their fault, I did tech support before and I know that…

Paying Attention

I suck at this. Maybe you do too. However, there's a lot more to it than I once thought.

Try counting from 0 to 10 to 0 again, slowly, with each count happening each time you breath out naturally. I'll wait.

It's a simple test, but if you're like me, chances are you're going to hit 11-25 a few times and realize that in the time it took you to reach 10 your mind wandered elsewhere. If you're good, you might manage it on the first try, but at the very least you're probably going to become aware of the difficulty keeping focused.

Focus is hard, and perhaps the most difficult truth for anyone to deal with is that it's damn hard to truly pay attention to life. I bring this up only because paying attention is an inherent difficulty extending to everything, and this includes gaming.

I'm getting frustrated that I can sit down to a good game and suddenly notice it's 5 hours later. Where did those five hours go, really? We say, "Time flies whe…

Back On Track With The Gaming Groove

Last afternoon/evening from 3:30pm - 1:30am was a lot of fun modding/playing Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and even a bit of City of Heroes.

First, I spent 3 hours (I timed it) in the Elder Scrolls Construction Set, setting my plans into motion. About two of those hours were spent in creating an Open Office database sheet containing basic information for all the opponents in the game. Armed with this data, I spent the remaining hour tweaking spawn tables. Once my three hours were up, I played quite a bit of Oblivion with my mod in place. Even with only two major spawn types tweaked, my changes brightened the selection of the mobs considerably for me. It's nice to be able to customize a game to my liking.

I discovered, much to my surprise, that there were some interesting dungeons that I had not uncovered with my previous characters. I ran across a new kind of Ayleid ruin trap and found a cave outside of the Imperial City that was unusually constructed with some very good traps…

Masochistic Dreams Of Game Design Oblivion

I ran across this post the other day on the website of Chris Crawford, veteran of the game biz.

It basically says "You can either break into the industry through a trade school or get a more formal liberal arts education and then a real job. The first way is quicker, but the second way is a much more reliable method to avoid getting assigned to mere grunt jobs."

As a University student seeking a DTC degree, that's got me in a good mood: I'm on the right track. To these ends, I've found myself emulating the other part of his article: While in school, play with game design.

Mr. Crawford advises building little "go karts" - crappy games that serve as educational means to understand how a game is put together. Truth of that matter is, I've already done a bit of muddling around with that in my Java and C++ days. That's the technical side of things, and now I'm looking at content quality side.

So it is that I've found myself once again…