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Showing posts from July, 2008

The Dumbening

Like out of some kind of cheap summer horror flick, it is upon us like a ravenous monster threatening all of gaming kind. No one knows where it comes from or completely understands the nature of the beast. However, the reasons it has found its way onto this plane of existence go something like this:
Game developer realizes that no game is going to please everyone, so they need to target a niche.Game developer wants to make a lot of money (perhaps because they anticipate the development cost of their game will run into the millions) so they go for the biggest niche possible.The "casual gaming" niche, made up of people who don't normally play games, is identified as being a much bigger niche than people who do.Game developer thus develops a casual game which, as any anonymous Wikipedia contributor knows, features:
"Extremely simple gameplay, like a puzzle game that can be played entirely using a one-button mouse or cellphone keypad.""Allowing gameplay in sho…

The Dangers of Safe Gaming

Lately, I ran across a thread in The Escapist Magazine forums: "Most suicidal moment in gaming that actually worked." Therein, the poster proposed that people compile a list of awesome game experiences which they did something suicidal but it actually worked.

On the surface, that sounds wicked cool. However, a little deeper than that, I realized there's a major fault in the premise. The thing is, there's no such thing as "suicidal but actually worked" in a game. Games offer a virtual environment for you to pretty much experiment and find all sorts of crazy things that work.

Thus, if you sit down to your gaming session wearing one of these...

... you've probably missed the point of computer gaming. There's no risk to you in playing the game, so go nuts - experiment - for the love of God: have fun.

I should probably read more books on game design, because I keep bringing up Raph Koster's Theory of Fun as it's one of the few good books o…

Playing the Numbers: Why many RPGs fail to entertain

I was feeling in a slightly MMORPG-ish mood, so I took EverQuest 2 for another spin before my free trial ran out. I had forgotten just how beautiful the game was. Once you get over the squat appearance of the characters, everything's beautifully textured into one hell of a fantasy land. So why is it that I can't seem to enjoy this game?

As I flit about with my EQ2 newbling faery Fury, slowly killing hordes of level 6 Goblins with assorted DoTs, I realized the fundamental problem. It's because - as far as games go - most RPGs are pretty weak in terms of game mechanic strength.

Lets say we're making our own roleplaying game. We want to represent real things with statistics. We want these statistics interact with eachother in such a way as to produce some kind of enjoyable experience. We decide to implement an element of chance, and so we implement some random number generators via dice.

Now, lets make this game of ours fun. We tinker with the mechanics for hour…

Loosen up, squishypants

My latest major changes to this Blog have been to cut down on this:

Mentally, of course.

Basically, by writing about whatever I was playing lately, I fell down a slippery slope. I was writing about desperate attempts to enjoy games I was long bored of. Like boring computer games were some kind of Rubik's Cube that unlock the fun when solved. Consequently, my entire Blog became buried under the deep porous ectoplasm of mental wankery.

After an extensive jog on the treadmill that woke up parts of my brain long covered with cobwebs, I was motivated to remove said entries. Now, my Blog looks like this:

Much of the remaining entries of this Blog depress the hell out of me. They're boring, academic-yet-casual writing that serve mostly to whine about life's imperfections. Probably because when I was writing them, I was a boring, academic-yet-casual, malcontent in real life.

I had details - quarter-life crisis, no social life, pc gaming sucks, yadda yadda - but I cut them …

Resurrected: Two Main Aspects Of A Good MMORPG

I've come to believe there are two main aspects to be found in a good Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Game:
Aspect 1: A MMORPG has to be an entertaining game.

This is a point that is lost on many aspiring MMORPG developers to be: That a game is massively multiplayer does not give it permission to be a poor game. It needs to be a game, unless you're making a MMORP. Maybe only a MMO, if you've no roleplay. It just sort of hangs there, unfinished. This isn't an anagram joke because I've played a ton of boring, half-finished MMOs before. You need that G for Game.

What's more, it needs to be a good game. You're expecting players to spend hundreds of hours playing this game. To simply implement a series of repetitive tasks and a leveling treadmill only gives the players something to do, it doesn't assure you've given them a fun thing to do. No matter how many "hooks" (aspect #2 below) you have in the player, once they'v…

Impressions: Phantom Brave, Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker

I've achieved pretty much nothing in terms of NWN2 development, as it seems I've really no interest in playing that game right now. For that matter, a first taste of Phantom Brave and Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker has revealed that I'm in no mood to play simple anime-themed strategy games either.

Dealing from the bottom of the deck

Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker is clearly an attempt to mold Pokemon in a different direction. Pokemon was always a good time waster, but never a terribly deep game, thanks to a 4-move limit per Pokemon and a 1 on 1 or 2 on 2 match options only. Dragon Quest Monsters: Jokers takes this already simple formula, raises the match to 3 on 3, then botches things up and makes things even more braindead. This is primarily the fault of forcing the player to slowly level their monsters up to four moves, and largely doing away with the strategy involved in matching "types" of monsters to do battle (at least immediately from the start).

Dragon Quest…

The Careful Prodding Of A Dormant Willpower

Well, a day has passed and not much progress has been made towards my Neverwinter Nights 2 module. I pretty much spent the day watching TV and playing a bit of Sacred: Gold... the Dwarf is fun, I like his pistols and backpack cannon/flamethrower/mortar. Still, I feel like I should be doing something more productive than play a game, and am mostly stopped up by deciding what to commit to.

Neverwinter Nights 2 is a good way to walk before I start running because it includes a great deal of powerful content and tools. Coming up with ample content and the tools that work well it is probably the most time-intensive part of game development, and they hand it to you on a silver platter. Got to love that. However, using a pre-existing game's modding tools is limited by still being the same overall game.

I'm considering that I should reacquaint myself with Java instead. Unlike Flash Actionscript, I've access both to a good book on the subject and a free IDE. Though Flash is …

A Precursor Demonstrating The Dynamic

Before I once again dump Neverwinter Nights 2, possibly never to pick it up again, I'm considering taking a run at the editor. I'm not completely new to NWN2 development, having familiarized myself with the toolset by putting together a module I called The Gauntlet. This was a simple, boring, but powerful module in that you could take a character up to maximum level on a single respawning map.

I made The Gauntlet about a year and a half ago, and my philosophy towards Neverwinter Nights 2 has changed. I used to consider the D20 system rather poor because of the excessive randomness leading to a constant need to reload saved games. Now, I'm now willing to consider the D20 system to be reasonably worth playing (though luck is still a major factor).

I'm considering writing another module, this time one that has many more dynamic features and a compelling story. Off the top of my head, some of these ideas include:
A central focus around the player character(s) involved …

Sacred: Is Not Nothing, But Nothing Is

Ah, so begins another week between me and Fall 2008 semester. The temp agencies have been informed of my availability, and I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt they're going to contact me this week. All that remains is figure out how to burn time.

Yesterday (Monday) I finished off Beyond Good and Evil, right down to the last collectible, and now I've no longer an awesome game to play. GameFly is sending me Phantom Brave and Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker, but they're not here yet. I'm not in the mood for MMORPGs, or else I might be playing EQ2 and Vanguard's free trials. In the end, I turned to the fairly reviewed Diablo clone, Sacred: Gold. (Complementary as part of my GameTap offerings.)

The trailer for Sacred. Includes a pretty accurate look at the gameplay.

Developed primarily by German Ascaron Entertainment, Sacred Gold is a re-release of the game that includes an expansion and patches. No Diablo clone has really managed to top the gameplay mecha…

Good. Evil. I'm the one with the camera.

With over 40 days left until Fall 2008 semester begins, obligation seems too far off to worry about, and I end up so lost and purposeless that it's a prominent problem that interjects itself before gaming. Yet, thanks to registering for temp work lately, it's possible my free time could disappear in a blink (and, considering I'm sick of having no money, that'd be a good thing). Suddenly, my free time feels a lot more precious, and consequently I want to fill it with something I enjoy.

Enter Ubisoft's 2003 game, Beyond Good And Evil. I bought it years ago, it was only $20 new because the publishers didn't think it'd sell well. As it turns out, they were right That's a shame, because this game belongs in an exclusive club of games that are made by talented developers who were honestly working on creating an excellent game. I was distracted back then (probably because I just got fired from a job I held for nearly 4 years) and never really got a chanc…

New Movies, Old First-Person Shooters

Yesterday, I saw Hellboy 2. It was good in that it was more Hellboy, but it didn't stick with me in the same way Wall-E did. Despite being a G-rated movie and me being 31, I liked Wall-E enough to buy some shelf art, finish the PC game, and fully intend to get the DVD when it is released. Hellboy 2, despite having many of the same merchandise, doesn't have that kind of appeal. It's probably because the message wasn't as deep in comparison. Hellboy is a deeper character than most superheroes, but the superhero formula prevents me from calling the movie a Masterpiece for the Ages.

Smooth move Pixar, you spoiled me. Apparently I can't watch movies anymore without wishing they were Wall-E. I'll probably see Hancock sometime this weekend, and as Will Smith delivers a tremendous performance as some kind of hobo god trying to clean up his act at the cost of his own immortality, I'll be the one in the audience yelling, "OMG, this isn't as deep as th…

Cheesy RogueWizard Fun

My Neverwinter Nights 2 alt-a-holicism issues appear to be a thing of the past thanks to the approach of taking an already existing character I'm doing fairly well with and giving it a formidable tweak in the direction I want to go.

The last several entries have my Sorceror/Arcane Scholar complaining about needing to drag the provided Rogue along everywhere to disarms traps while barely needing to cast a spell because my buff/debuff tactics require extraordinarily few.

My solution is an Arcane Trickster with a Wizard base and some levels of Duelist. The Wizard base swaps out quantity of casts for quality of tactical preparedness, and that's something I should have realized is really more my thing from the start. The Arcane Trickster merges with the prerequisite base 3 Rogue levels to become 10 levels of awesome Wizard progression in which I also get more skill points and sneak attack progression.

The levels of Duelist are what broke my earlier reservations about an Arcane …

Bored Enough To Seek Gainful Employment

Well, I never thought I'd happen, but I'm thoroughly bored of gaming in general. I'm not sure what flipped the switch: Poor showings lately? Excessive stir-craziness? In any case, I've signed up with some temp agencies, who seemed very impressed, and may soon be toiling away as a vigilant hired cog in this great machine we call capitalism. The scary thing is, I think I actually look forward to work more than gaming.

That's not to say I won't enjoy playing games from time to time, of course: Old habits die hard and wanton obsessions even more so. Lately, my blunted gaming appetite has been lightly toying with a family movie game (Wall-E for the PC) and a couple of Mario DS titles (New Super Mario Bros. and March of the Minis).

I recently rated the version of Wall-E for the PC rather well. I liked the movie, the game was cheap ($20 new), and the reviews looked better than the next-gen console version. Upon installing the retail version, I discovered a rela…

Is the PC a second banana platform now?

I enjoyed the movie Wall-E, it's one of those Pixar movies that manages to tug the heartstrings of kids and adults alike. Plus, the quality of the computer graphics are so mindbendingly good that I could drink in the rich details of every scene like some kind of light-consisted ambrosia. If you haven't seen this movie, go do that. Boost those box office numbers, I want a sequel.

However, I'm not here to gush over the movie. Looking at the licensed games THQ has released, I notice something mildly disturbing about the place of the PC platform these days.

From the Official Wall-E: The Game Website, I can see that there's essentially five separate versions of said game (not counting minor adjustments for the hardware capacity of the individual platforms):
A Playstation 3 and XBox 360 version by Heavy Iron Studios. This version can be identified by the solar gauge, longer Eve flight sequences, and probably the shiniest graphics.A slightly different version of that for …

Virtual Fashion Slaves and Mercenaries Ahoy

"The World Ends With You" is indeed proving to be a pretty solid Square-Enix title. I'm not going to bother writing out a whole review about it, but I will mention a few features I found cool:
They more than doubled the challenge of typical JRPG action combat by requiring you control separate fights on two screens at once.They separated individual stylus gestures into equipped "pins." It's like a mini game for every equipped weapon.The artistic style, which exudes pure creative talent, exalts Japanese and youth culture to a fantastic (likely better than life) degree.The JPop/Trance music is an unusual choice that lends a unique flavor to the game.The plot somehow makes the main characters' forced slavery ("do this in x amount of time or be erased") downright hip.There's a Tamagotchi-like system that allows your characters to digest only so much stat-enhancing food in a 24 (real life) hour period. (Your equipped "pins" also leve…

Digital Dawdling

It seems I've totally lost my gaming groove as of late. All I've been doing lately is wasting a good deal of my free time rerolling Neverwinter Nights 2 characters. Come to think of it, that isn't all that different from months I spent rerolling in City of Heroes. I'm in a rut. So, on days like this, that's what I tend to talk about.

My most recent NWN2 character is a kind of fantasy-themed detective, a fencing Sherlock Homes who occasionally pulls out a Wand of Lightning to even the odds. That's a cooler concept than most adventurers, and probably a step in the right direction: More "find a flavor of hero that resembles what I admire and enjoy it" and less "there is only one correct character choice out of thousands: find it." This is significantly better for my stress level.

Neverwinter Nights 2 Character Generation. Repeat 20 times for my average NWN2 gaming session.

However, that nagging itch in the back of my mind that leads me to…


I had a long entry here that ultimately devolved into a lovely tirade about how stupidity is the ultimate sin in the face of creation itself. However, I later decided that intolerance for the wantonly ignorant is in itself a form of wanton ignorance.

So, while a haphazardly assembled logical train of thought on this topic might make for an interesting term paper, its pretense on my Blog is only good to get my car egged.

Instead, I'll just say I'm not in a very good mood for gaming lately on account on how gaming is all I've really done lately. There needs to be a certain reaffirmation of societal responsibility before I really feel comfortable in blowing so much time.

Real Life - The constant reaffirmation of truth in existance from a rationally irrational, semi-creationist, gamer's viewpoint

If you were to ask me if I was a gamer for life, I'd have to say that I've made every indication to support this. From a 6 year old on a Vic 20 to my current 31 years of age, I've spent every scrap of my spare time gaming. However, at some point games just didn't satisfy like they used to anymore, and I'm left wondering what to do with myself.

I usually enjoy gaming, the occupation for the impatient and easily bored, yes. However, tackling these difficult quarter-life crisis "what the hell am I doing with my life" issues has a tendency to come first. I'm afraid I've little drive to play much of everything with more pressing issues on my plate.

Employment, yes, but that's just a subset of the whole meaning-in-life thing. I don't just need money in the bank, though it does help verify my existence on a certain societal level in that what I'm doing is important enough as to be a part of the economy. However, in a broader scope, I …