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Showing posts from January, 2008

Dealing With Change: PC Gaming's "Demise"

Recently, I noticed that the PC Demo quantity had been drastically cut and thought that it was finally the PC gaming end times. After all, I had noticed earlier that there's few-to-no PC games in many games stores, much like how it was before my Amiga went south. However, these are largely subjective observations, and I only decided to blog about after seeing a Tom's Games dialogue on the matter.

The 2007 PC gaming sales were actually very poor. For example, Call of Duty 4 sold millions of XBox 360 titles in the first week while the PC version of the same game sold a few hundred thousand total. The developers attribute this gap to piracy.

The PC hardware differs from consoles in that they have the means to replicate software included. Software crackers are very good at what they do and there's insufficient enforcement measures to stop them. The path of least resistance dictates that most people would rather get something for free than pay for it. Certainly, piracy…


I surprised myself by putting down a few (and I do mean a few) lines of code defining an RPG in Java. It's not much, but it's a start, and I tend to finish things I've taken the first steps on.

It was in taking these first steps that my brainstorming quickly pointed out that most RPG mechanics are unashamedly Dungeons and Dragons rip-offs. This is because they're based on a system of a few core attributes (from the original Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma) and derive some mods from that which determine odds of success. Well, I'm experimenting with breaking away from that tradition and seeing where it takes me.

My overall goal is to put together Roguelike with both ground and space travel elements. I've actually a lot of interesting brainstorming about some stuff I can do with that, but, as Chris Crawford recommended in his excellent, "The Education of a Game Designer" article, I've decided to stick to a …

Simple Sophistication

Yesterday, I downloaded MAGI, a shareware PC indy game. The premise is that you're an magic user strengthening yourself for a confrontation for the day when Death comes to claim you. The actual gameplay was quite simple: It's a one on one fight between you and another mage, add spells to the casting cue in the right order to win. Then, after winning the battles, you might "level up" and pump 5 core attributes that improve your abilities in some way or another and occasionally earn another spell.

Magi screenshot (older version). I can tell the player has been at it for awhile because they've unlocked most of the spells.

The interesting thing to consider about Magi is that it's the purest form of RPG combat mechanics, and really no less complicated than many MMORPGs out there. In ways, such as considering the wide variety if differing effects available to the user, it's a little more complicated.

It's disappointing, but at the same time sort of li…

Impossibilities met and then something else

Within City of Heroes, I had achieved what I had thought impossible, but this ultimately lead to one fundamental truth: I needed to do something else for a bit. So I did.

Intelligence is an insatiable monster that becomes fixated on sufficiently engaging things in order to chomp its way through. However, sooner or later you run out of substance to chew on. Thus, in a scenario of hundreds of possibilities, it is no a small amount of shame that I make the following confession:

"I think I've finally run out of possible new characters to create in City of Heroes."

My rolling alts was a form of experimentation as I really felt out the game, but now this phase seems over. I may not have used every single power, but I've probably used an identical-feeling version from another power set.

I now believe that the core of City of Heroes balance, laid bare, looks like this:
ArchetypeWhat they do bestMy favorite combinationBlasterQuickly Apply Damage.Assault Rifle/Electric Man…

Ice/Kin for me

It's been a busy week in gaming for me, but admittedly this time was spent in the same old boring pasttime of mine, City of Heroes.

From an outsider's perspective, there's probably very little to appreciate about a fellow debating the ins and outs of various superhero builds. After all, the human mind has an incredible propensity to make something more difficult than it is. However, don't mock the grubby looking man who spends hours scribbling on the ground with wooden stick muttering to himself, as the results of his protracted tinkering with imagined concepts can produce surprisingly useful knowledge. Like mathematics.

In City of Heroes' case, like any other human invented virtual environment, I'm already operating on arbitrarily defined rules and physics and so likely won't produce anything of practical use outside of the game. But then, what's practical isn't necessarily fun.

In any case, I've been involved in an endeavor I call "Al…

MMORPG Foraging Report: Jan '08

My search went poorly. The list of games at has no shortage of selection, but I can tell just by looking that most are crap. The very games I mentioned on the last Blog entry made up the bulk of the highest rated.

I ended up looking in the direction of the Korean invasion. My experience with Korean online games are that they're engineered to be cheap enough to be sold in plastic gumball machines. I'm not saying Koreans suck as making games, but rarely can one savor cyber-cafe fare.

I gave them a chance and tried 9Dragons, which had higher-than-usual production values. However, it still lacked the deep gameplay I was hoping for, unashamedly touting that damnable auto-attack combat. 9Dragons is essentially Lineage 2 set in ancient China with the players as wandering martial artists. Considering the production values, it is well worth the price: free, with micro-payments.

Cabal Online looks like it might be good. If not very deep, then it at least make it quick,…

Addendum to the Infinite

Perhaps, when it comes to an unchanging virtual world, loss of meaning is not the consequence: loss of story is. After all, RPGs were always supposed to be about telling a story. Most MMORPGs are like Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan the Barbarian pushing that millstone around for the entire movie. The hero gets stronger, the seasons change, but it's still only a story about pushing the millstone.

I'm part of the problem. EvE Online is has a changing universe, one of player-forged alliances and economics, but I'm afraid to play it. I just know I'll get PK'd and lose a lot of work, inconvenienced by the very forces of change I said I want.

My CoH subscription is about to expire, and I'm wondering where to go next.
I never liked World of Warcraft. Artificial looking, simple game mechanics, and it just doesn't take itself seriously. Great for the casual, but not for the distinguished gamer.EverQuest 2 and Final Fantasy XI are excellent for different reaso…

No Room For Heroes

When the alt-a-holicism reaches such a fevered pitch that I can't even get a character to level 5 without feeling bored out of my skull, it is then that I know my City of Heroes burnout has reached fruition, and it's time for a break. Account canceled.

I canceled because I had enough of the core game for now, but there was another problem: I had nothing to look forward to. I reached level 50 before, found it was pretty much the drill as level 1, and become discouraged. I level up a baby hero to the pantheon of Gods and what do I get? Early retirement. Was this some kind of terrible joke? Where was my heroic destiny? Where was the meaning?

"It's a game," you might say, "games aren't supposed to have meaning."
Well, good art has meaning, doesn't it? Games and good literature really should be able to generate the same kind of meaning. Without, it's a little wonder the participant is left feeling unsatisfied.

So, where is this artist…

Power Down, Squishypants

The caffeine wore off, the involved biochemistry slowed down, and I realized that my ranting about the idiots of the world was only done through a considerable suspension of wisdom and compassion. When push comes to shove, you can't quantify intelligence, so you respect your differences and try not to let them sour your sense of humor. I failed along those lines, and instead embodied an excellent Garth Marenghi impression.

Honestly, I don't look that different in real life. I wonder if Dean Learner runs a forum?

Too little, too late. Oh well, if forgiveness is a skill too, maybe I can raise it a level or two by grinding not reading a certain thread.

In City of Heroes, I'm thinking I might roll up a Dual Blades/Dark Armor Scrapper since my GiAnT bRaIn apparently isn't happy with Dual Blades/Super Reflexes. There's something to be said for how a game that lets you customize your character's capabilities to a great degree will enable you to have a wide variety…

Digitally Staving Off Homework

It seems I have some eyes on my Blog. Of course, many of these eyes have been trained to find my faults, fixated in my direction if only because in their minds I'm producing the equivalent of a digital train wreck. Perhaps, even now, I'm delivering.

Regardless, you have to appreciate a negative slanted critic whose sufficiently bored as to spend his time reading someone he hates. 99.9% of the time you might attract more barbed comment about the things clearly wrong with you (as though there are not things clearly wrong with everyone) but the 0.1% of the time you might manage to make them go, "Holy shit, that's good" are priceless. Best of all, you don't need to wait with baited breath for the golden moments as, after all, the odds of producing them are only 0.1% - at best.

Like you, I'm bored, because classes are still warming up, and that means they're starting with the easily grokked concepts before breaking into things that will hopefully make …

Caffeine and buyer's remorse

Perhaps I'm not entirely over my recent ejection from a certain social circle yet, or perhaps it's taught me something, or maybe it's the decision to have a 24 oz Diet Dr. Pepper every morning. Whatever the case, I find myself in a strangely manic attitude. Unnecessary purchases are the inevitable result.

Gone (or at least diminished) is the usual self-apprehension. Instead I've adopted the attitude that many of the strangers I deal with are idiots and my attempts to fit neatly into their demented fold will fail to make the world a better place. Oh well, I never particularly cared about being popular, I don't see why I should start now.

Thus far, this approach has only confirmed my opinions. Approach a problem with logic and wisdom and before long you're a holier-than thou douchebag whose unwillingness to kiss their feet surely indicates a sanity deficiency. Granted, on Internet forums, I'm sure many fine upstanding people behave much more stupidly tha…

City of Heroes: Smoother Experience Curves On The Way

Good news for City of Heroes drop outs, it seems that NCSoft (formerly Cryptic) is planning on smoothing the experience curve.

"One thing that we constantly examine is the rate of advancement in the game. In a future version, we intend to smooth out the leveling curve by changing how much experience is given out for defeating opponents. The intent is to smooth out the “bumps” where players typically get stuck leveling up their characters. Keep an eye on coming patch notes for specifics."

This is something I'd been advocating for awhile. Currently, the new powers drop off far too rapidly, causing most players to roll alts somewhere in the level 12-30 period. It's only when they actually reach level 32 that they have enough powers to have a fairly self-perpetuating satisfying experience.

[Jan 25 edit: the test server has been updated with the affected levels: 13 to 20 and 36 to 50. I thoroughly approve.]

These are on a list of "short-term changes," Lighthou…

Forum Theory

Looks like I'm going to enjoy my Monday classes, which span Digital Diversity and Electronic Literature subjects. Both classes have put me in a mood to avoid homework take Grimwell's advice and see about hosting my own forum somewhere. While I'm aware there's a goodly chance it'll end up a total ghost town (much like places I've been in the past) it should be a good learning experience.

What I'd like to do is have a relatively self-maintaining forum that operates on a ratings system. Going into this without much knowledge of what's involved, what I'm about to write will either be lightyears ahead of most forums or decades behind. It's basically a sort of a wiki/slashdot take to message boards.

All posters will have the capacity to rate messages from 1 to 5. They are warned not to rate spam at above 1 or non-spam messages at below a 2. They are somehow rewarded for performing consistent proper ratings.Newly posted messages have a default rat…

Oh Cruel /Devices: Another One Bites The Dust

This Blog entry is dedicated to more City of Heroes alt-a-holicism: the deletion of Garage Hero (Assault/Devices Blaster) and the creation of The Transcendi (Storm/Archery Defender).

Garage Hero, my new City of Heroes Assault/Devices Blaster, was doomed to failure and was deleted today at a young age of level 21. Comparing him to Blasters that have the patented "Build Up" power (which doubles attack firepower for 10 seconds) he simply didn't have a chance. Even slotting a special enhancement that provided a random chance of a similar effect to go off, it was no comparison to being able to trigger it at will right before unloading a deadly barrage of area of effect attacks. Being able to drop trip mines and time bombs might have helped compensate for /Device's weakness here, but the trouble is that teams tend to move forward, not backwards, and so those powers are rarely useful.

My time with Garage Hero was not entirely wasted, however, as I sent about 15,000,000…

Player Influentialness In MMORPGs

So anyway, something that hit me the other day is that the primary reason I tend to stick with City of Heroes is that you can build heroes who are truly influential in battle. When I say "truly influential" I define this as being able to change the course of combat gone wrong through your skills alone.

Most MMORPGs turn me off specifically because they have severely limited how much influence the players have. Chances are they require so little interaction from the player that you simply can't "try harder": Engage auto-attack, tap hotkeys in an easy-to-figure-out optimal order, repeat until battle is over. When things get hairy, there's simply not alternative options (other than to run - in certain balances this may turn out to doom the rest of the party).

In contrast, City of Heroes clearly provides alternative options in at least two fundamental ways.

One is the generally greater potency of the individual powers. You might think that I'm confu…