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Delicious Copypasta: Moore's Law, Wildstar Online, and Dungeon Of The Endless

I've been quite verbose today, but my blog remains without an update, so it's time to resort to lazy, cut-and-paste methodology.  Ooh, I feel like a professional coder on the cutting edge of barely not reblogging right now!

Source: My comment on RockPaperShotgun about Moore's Law and its impact on technology.
I think that games may be improving, but it’s actually being done in spite of Moore’s Law.
The thing is, the developers had been investing big, big bucks in trying to make really high fidelity games. Such games require big budgets, not because of the cost of the technology, but because of the cost of hiring professionals capable of rendering usable content that actually takes advantage of that technology. (Just read the credits screen for Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it’s comparable to the size of a blockbuster movie!) Only trouble is, these investments tend to blow up in their faces because they’re not recouping the money that went into creating that thing.
A lot of that inability to recoup the price of development is due to piracy but lets not get into that barrel of fish, and I’ll say competition is a major factor, too: when one outfit is making a technologically advanced game, that’s a hot commodity, but when everybody is making a game like that, it’s highly unlikely the demand will be sufficient to make sure everybody gets paid. MMORPGs are one such example: quite lucrative when there were only a few of them, but now competition is so fierce they have to offer the game for free just to get people to try it out. (This generally pays off because, after all, MMORPGs are addictive by design – the real trick is just to get the fish to nibble on the hook.)
When the big companies migrated most of their resources to potentially more lucrative platforms, the indies moved right in and exploited an audience which is largely sick of clones. Here is where games actually have a chance of getting better, because the prevailing problems of investors being afraid of investing in anything that isn’t a brazen clone has been strangling the game market for so long, many of us have even forgotten it is happening. Note that indies usually don’t have the money needed to develop high fidelity stuff, and this is why we’re seeing a lot of pixel art. (Do we really even need cutting edge 3D graphics? Not really, they’re great for producing breathtaking sights, but they contribute next to nothing to quality gameplay. My condolences to the type of gamer who buys hardware in order to render Crysis 4 at maximum resolution in 6 monitors at once.)
So technology and Mr. Moore are basically being given the finger here: not many people care about transistor count anymore, we got plenty of firepower to do what needs to be doing, and the real challenge is just producing something worthwhile to do. Incidentally, this is also the reason why the PS4 and XBone are trying to push Social Media and TV (respectively) as their primary selling points: when the need for additional computation firepower is moot, there was absolutely no need to introduce a new generation of consoles, but that infusion of money is a hard habit to kick. (Then they gutted reverse compatibility deliberately, and this was essentially committing suicide seeing how the real bottleneck was in worthwhile games to play.)
Source: My comment on RockPaperShotgun about Wildstar Online.  (Currently awaiting moderation due to excessive links triggering the preemptive spam filter.)
I think Wildstar has two big points against it.

1. It’s yet another game trying to make a run at World of Warcraft’s crown. Blizzard successfully captured the theme park MMORPG idea and drove it into the ground considering everybody and their dog has already burned out from the concept of grinding. Here’s the meat of being, “Way too late to the party,” as you put it.

2. It’s being published by NCSoft. They’ve been embroiled in a great deal of controversy lately, not the least of bit being pulling the plug on everybody’s favorite super hero MMORPG. They have a nasty habit of getting hacked. Auto Assault and Tabula Rasa didn’t go over really well, and most of the games they’re currently running are masochistic grinds. Put all these issues and others on the table, and it’s clear why the brand has become very toxic in the mind of many gamers.

So basically, to get me to play it, Wildstar not only has to establish for me that I somehow want to play a theme park MMORPG again, it also has to establish it’s so incredibly awesome that I’m willing to take anotehr chance on NCSoft.

Honestly, I’m probably just not their audience; I wouldn’t even try against those odds. Hopefully there’s enough new blood out there that might actually want to play this game, because it’s certainly won’t work for burnouts.
Source: My comment on RockPaperShotgun about Dungeon Of The Endless that was actually addressing a concern/snarky comment about the prevalence of procedurally generated games these days, where he compared it to the excess of zombie games.
“Procedural generation” is sort of a strange buzz term, really. Technically speaking, all games are procedurally generated, because the very code they run on is a procedure that generates what shows up on the screen. What we tend to refer to with “Procedural generation” has more to do with actual content of the game being randomized in some way, which essentially creates additional replay value.

Now, you might rightly point out that hand-crafted content has a certain benefit over procedural generated content. However, what you might not realize is that procedurally generated content does have the potential to go beyond just being random. If you provide enough instructions to the generation routine, you can generate content procedurally that rivals, or even exceeds, the quality of most hand-crafted content, and generates a lot faster; it’s ever been the case that a comprehensively instructed computer can beat a novice at performing the same task. It’s just a matter of how much time and talent the programmers are able to put into the routines since, after all, computers take a long time to instruct to do anything!

So, overall, zombies versus procedural generation is not even an apples vs oranges comparison. It’s comparing a spanner to shade of paint; procedural generation is a useful tool, not a backdrop.

Saying, “Oh my goodness, there seems to be an excessive trend to buildings being built with tools” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, either. They’ve always been built with tools. But if you’re that sick of spanners, you might be a bit of a nut… [completely deliberate pun]
 I was hesistant to buy Dungeon Of The Endless unless I knew for sure that the
current version of the Early Access status game was worth playing.  This
video from thPionGaming established for me that it was, indeed.

Source: My review on Steam about Dungeon Of The Endless.
Unlike a lot of "Early Access" games, v0.1.1 of Dungeon of The Endless feels like a relatively complete game. It's stable and has a great mix of overall game mechanics that work well to produce a coherent game.

To try to describe this game in conventional terms might just confuse you. Yes, it has aspects of roguelike games, real time strategy games, role playing games, tower defense games, and board games. Personally, I think of it as mostly a board game with each "turn" divided into a time before you open another door, which will reveal treasure, a merchant, waves of enemies, blueprints, or something else - you never know! Then it's a mad scramble reminiscent of a real time strategy/tower defensive hybrid to keep everything upright until the next turn. When deciding who to level up or equip with gear, that's where the RPG aspect enters the picture.

This board-game like mechanic can be a good thing because it introduces a lot of interesting choices. If I assign my hero here, will they be able to make it back to where they need to be if enemies appear there? Do I spend my industry points on producing more industry points, producing things I need, or do I try to scimp on points now so I have more avaialble to use on the next map? Do I invest my dust in that great piece of equipment, or is it more important that I power rooms? These choices are clever in that many of them are just comprimises; there's often not a "right" choice, just a good guess at what might work out in the long run.

I like a game that makes me think. Yet, Endless Dungeon is rarely ever overwhelming, just rich with important choices to make and requiring you pay attention when your heroes are fighting so they don't get slain needlessly.

It's quite remarkable they consider this quite-playable product such an early version. True, you're limited to just three (four?) random map levels per game (which you can exhaust in an hour), there's not yet skills on the heroes, the tech tree systems isn't in yet, and so on. Yet, the game is more complete than many $15 titles I've bought. Amplitude studios seems to know what they're doing, and if they call this version v0.1.x, then it's clear this game should be of staggering, epic proportions if they see their plans through to completion.
Besides playing the new version of Starbound (which is a bit less buggy but overall less exciting than the first time through), this is basically what I've been up to lately.  Where does all the time go?


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