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Atlantean Trilogy Cover Atlantean Trilogy (1984, 1986)
Orig. Publisher: Bard Games
Curr. Publisher: Morrigan Press
Copyright: (c) 1984 Stephan Michael Sechi and Vernie Taylor (The Arcanum)
Features: extensive and diverse classes, combined skill and class character definition system, various styles of magic, interesting setting (Atlantean Earth) with significant detail

The Atlantean Trilogy (first edition) is another one of those games that is fun to read through simply because there is so much detail packed into the nooks and crannies of the system that you are likely to come across a quirky little idea you hadn’t noticed before, but that really strikes your fancy at the time.  These are the types of rulebooks and systems that I really like as resource material: not always the easiest games to actually play, but definitely fertile in terms of generating new ideas.

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There’s a bit of a flame war going on out there in the blogosphere revolving around a recent Gamasutra soapbox article (reg. required) which took a few stabs at the MMO status quo, and has received some less-than-positive responses in return at locations such as here and here.  Other luminaries such as Scott Jennings (Lum the Mad) and Jessica Mulligan have chimed in as well in comments.  Just figured I’d rant a little rant of my own… I’d hate to be left out…

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Spent the weekend concentrating on my Voyages project, which was nice and productive… but did leave the blog here a bit unattended.  It was a pretty thin weekend all around from a review of my most-visited blogs… everyone must be busy out there.

Psychochild has a weekend challenge up re: serious games… I need to stop in and comment on that one at some point.  All my ideas boil down to either accounting or politics, or both…

Hoping to play a little catch-up on my RPG Archive when I take some time off in the next few weeks.  Maybe a Gamma World mini-marathon (4 versions so far…  or is it 5?  I’ve lost count…)

Oh, well, back to the salt mines…

Just a brief musing inspired by the Grouchy Gnome’s post (Nerfbat) titled Definition Wars: Hardcore vs. Casual.

Contrary to his post, I do actually think there are multiple definitions, spectrums really, of “hardcore” and “casual”, all of which impact design in one way or another.  Some examples:

Edit: as was pointed out in the comments, there has been quite a bit of discussion in the comments over at Nerfbat, and quite a bit of development of the original idea into a larger model.  I definitely recommend heading over and reading it all… good stuff.

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Mr. Schubert of Zen of Design posted overviews of his two other roundtables from GDC last week, one focused on Combat, the other on Classes, Levels, and the “grind”.  Both posts are interesting, and I’ve wanted to comment on the last one for some time, but finding the right words to express my thoughts has proved elusive… so as I usually do in such situations, I’m just going to go “stream of consciousness” and hope I don’t type anything really obviously stupid as I go along. 

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Psychochild’s weekend challenge for this week is up, and hits on a topic that I’ve turned over in my mind for years.  To quote…

…Let’s say you’re working on a typical combat-focused online RPG. One feature requested on the forums is that players that take wounds should perform worse than a fully healed character. Your job is to design this system to work within a game…

Obviously an atypical implementation.  I’m not sure I can recall more than a couple of CRPGs that implemented anything similar… the only one I can link to offhand is UnReal World, a roguelike variant out of Finland.  (It’s an interesting game, btw, I recommend giving it a whirl if you haven’t already.)

(Edited to add a link to the original post… good grief, how did I forget to do that?)

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Another situation where it’s always “feast or famine”.  Typical.

As I mentioned a week ago, a review of the usual suspects (i.e. blogs I usually visit) was pretty light on content, particularly content that I had any comments about…

Today?  I’ve got at least three items that I could probably ramble on for hours about… and nowhere near that much time to give. (sigh)

A few links, perhaps to pursue later…

Over at Tales of the Rampant Coyote, a perfect Rogue’s Lament that I am 110% in agreement with.  150% even.  With emphasis.  (Just for starters: could you guys at least not superglue 99% of the treasure to the various monster’s loinclothes?)  The Coyote is a prolific and always interesting blogger, btw… if he’s not on your feed list, I would strongly recommend adding him.

Craig Perko has been his usual thought-provoking self even more often than usual of late, and I particularly liked this post on the Three Levels of Immersion.  Which is why I linked to it, obviously.

Our Supreme Overlord of Snark, the blogger formerly known Lum the Mad, was the first on my blogroll to notice and report on the sudden demise of CGM and Massive/MMO Games… and was even non-snarky about it in deference to the occasion.   Nerfbat also followed up on the story.  Kinda sad actually: I just got the latest edition of the just-renamed MMO Games yesterday… it wasn’t half bad, I think they were headed in the right direction in terms of content and variety.

Anyway, some posts with actual depth coming soon…

Commentary that I just posted to the mud-dev2 mailing list, adding to a discussion thread entitled “Homogenized MMORPG Engines”.

Adam Martin wrote…

> OK, what exactly are you aiming at here? The vast majority of
> competent programmers will know one (or both) of those two languages,
> and if they don’t would probably benefit from starting (given they are
> responsible for the vast vast majority of all programming jobs
> worldwide, or so I’m told by people with vested interests ;)).
>
> If you want to make this available to people who both cannot program
> and have no interest in learning to do so with modern mainstream
> programming languages, then my above comment is irrelevant. But, if
> that’s the case, I seriously doubt you’re going to see any non-trivial
> game, certainly little that is interesting and novel.

I can’t speak to what the original poster was necessarily aiming for, but I’d like to chime in with my own two cents on the topic.

Frankly, I think most of this thread is coming at the problem from the wrong perspective.  Is this about generating creativity in terms of hacking out code, or about generating creativity in terms of designing “game”?

The creators of Dungeons and Dragons, Monopoly, Texas Hold’em, American Rules Football, and/or Yahtzee didn’t need to know “modern mainstream programming languages” to design and develop apparently interesting and engaging _games_.  In many cases, they didn’t even need to know how to cast plastic dice, print playing cards, or forge metal goalposts in order to design and develop their games.  They just needed to have someone who could generate those resources for them at a reasonable price.

And, as a matter of fact, if they had been required to take the time and expend the effort to build all that infrastructure, even from base pattern and with copious instructions, they probably never would have gotten around to actually creating the games that so many have played and enjoyed.  They’d still be messing around with the different types of face card art, or new ways of making sure the dice were perfectly balanced, or inflating the footballs with different gases to “improve hang time”, etc.

Same deal here.

If the intent is to let people experiment with new ideas and concepts at the “game” level, then perhaps that is the level the toolset should attempt to provide the foundation for?  For example, I can only think of 2 mainstream 3D MMO titles off-hand where having the ability to walk a humanoid figure around the screen is not central to the experience (i.e. Eve and Auto Assault: yes, I know, there are probably more, just bear with me a sec, ok?).

A walking animation applied to a basic human model has to have been done 10^6 times or more.  Yet, to use most of the toolkits that have been mentioned so far, you’ll be doing it for the 10^6+1st time.

Right now, all of the offerings looking to offer a leg-up to those who want to experiment at the “game design” level fall on two ends of possible spectrum, IMO.  (Note that for this purpose, I’ve even dropped the “massive” part of the equation.)

Engines——————————-(Toolkits)—————————Mods

BigWorld                                                ???                                             Sphere

MultiVerse                                                                                                NWN(1+2)

Torque                                                                                                      Arcanum

Engines give you the tools to build an entire universe utterly to your specs… as long as you want to start with protons and electrons, (or maybe even just quarks) and build your way up from there.  You can define any game mechanics your heart desires… but you’ve got one hell of a lot of (busy)work to do first.

Mods are far easier to get somewhere with very quickly, since Life, the Universe, and Everything has pretty much already been built… you really just need to rearrange the furniture a little.  Create a map, plop a character mob in the center, write a couple of lines of pseudocode applying the walk() method… ta dum!  Problem is, you won’t be making your own game, designing your own systems or rules… no, no, you’ll be using theirs.  Don’t have Hit Points in your game design?  Too bad… use them anyway.

Again, if the point is to experiment with new “game” ideas, then give people all the fundamental resources necessary to allow them to quickly prototype, test, and refine the “game”.  On the other hand, if the point is to teach C++ programming, or 3D modeling, or about direct preparation for jobs in the industry, that’d be a horse of a different color. But I was under the impression that the discussion was about the former topic, not any of the latter.

-=-

So, assuming someone ever makes such a thing, who would buy it?  Well, I obviously can’t speak for anyone else, but _I_ certainly would.  And here’s my perspective, in case that helps…

It is -not- that I don’t know how to crank out code: I write code all day long, multiple languages on multiple OS depending upon the client/need, all sandwiched between running the business end of my small business and helping handle service calls.  (Need a custom IVR app, or a speech rec/TTS platform, or a VoIP-enabled PBX?  Drop me a line.)

It is -not- that I don’t know the basics of 3D modeling and animation: took a series of classes specifically for that, as matter of fact.  Got 3DSMax sitting right on my desktop right now. Not very good at it, admittedly, but visual art has never been my forte.

It -is- that doing all of that is essentially a distraction (at best) from what I really want to be doing… working on/weeding thru my game design ideas, trying new twists, testing concepts to keep or send to the discard heap.  That “quick iteration” design process that’s been mentioned a couple times elsewhere?  Bingo.

-=-

There are products heading this direction, I know.  Some appear to be closing in pretty fast, actually (Torque/MMOKit), and others are at least making some nods in that direction (Multiverse).  I guess the point is, make something with some of the flexibility of the “Engines”, and some of the resources and ease-of-use of the “Mods”, and I am reasonably sure I could guarantee you at least one customer.

/rant off

My two cents…

Craig Huber

(crossposted to my blog)

http://damianov.wordpress.com

I was reading Damion’s commentary on his “Moving Beyond Men In Tights”, Day 1 roundtable, and thought I’d offer my own reactions to the points raised.  I should probably reaffirm that I solidly agree with the need to at least address the points being raised when looking at a new MMO product/endeavor… I just don’t agree in some cases with some of the underlying background/reasoning in certain cases.

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Psychochild has yet another interesting weekend challenge up… what features make for a good conference, more specifically a good “professional conference”?

My list would be as follows, riffing off some of the comments already posted as well as my own experiences with non-gaming-related conferences…

Downtime is good, but directed downtime is better.  Downtime works best for the innately gregarious, they’re the ones that find their way into those interesting discussions that everyone wants to be a part of.  As a classical (almost clinical) introvert, the agenda/structure gives me the reason/excuse/invitation to participate that I need to achieve a reasonable comfort level.

I obviously prefer smaller sizes, as well… wading thru crowds is problematic for me to begin with, since they trigger an automatic and occasionally rather drastic “fight-or-flight” response in me.  (I don’t bother trying to visit the exhibition halls very often, let’s put it that way.)  AGC 2006’s exhibition hall was right at my limit of tolerance in terms of crowding, to set a marker in the sand.

Finding ways to channel people of similar interests but different experiences into locations/groups is probably good.  Roundtables can achieve this, for example, if you spread them out and let people mingle freely after the “official” time slot is over.  If you are chasing one group out of the room to let the next in, however… not so good.

I’d also agree with shorter is better… 2-3 days is probably the sweet spot, depending upon travel time.  I’ve personally found that single day conferences can feel very “rushed” and less valuable if you don’t live in the immediate area or at most a short (1 hour or so) flight away.  After all, in that situation you probably lose the day before and the day after to simply getting there/getting home…

Video (or at least audio) recordings of the various presentations should be standard, in my opinion, and made available as quickly as possible (i.e. same day).  Frankly, some of the presentations could/should be taped pre-conference, then offered up as potential fodder for scheduled and/or impromptu roundtable sessions… people can at least bat ideas back and forth at their leisure, even if the original presenter isn’t there.

On a related note, I’m thinking about avoiding multi-presenter panels entirely from now on… too little info, usually not very coordinated, and then too little Q+A at the end because everyone on the panel needed their 5 minutes and more just to outline what they wanted to say, let alone explain it to any significant degree.

Hmmm, guess that’s my two cents on that…

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