Friday, August 26, 2005

Who am I?

Your identity and your success go hand in hand. Many people sacrifice their identities by not doing what they really want to do. And that's why they're not successful.
-Lila Swell
The only place I’ve published the yahoo email address is on this site. I created the yahoo email address specifically for this site. I bring this up because it appears that this blog has gotten linked somewhere industry related because I got 4 recruitment type emails today. That’s right, 4 in one day. Wow, that probably means my readership more than tripled in one day!

Now its not the recruitment letters that bother me. The only thing that is worse than getting recruitment letters is not getting recruitment letters. What really gets me is the ones that mention the specific position they are looking for are for artist. The resume is right over there on the right just under my picture. It says “designer” at the top. Look at the title of this blog, “Working as Designed.” Get it? Designed? Work – Designed.

Granted I used to be an artist, had fancy business cards that said “senior artist” and a whole collection of colored pencils. Actually I still have the colored pencils but that is beside the point. I didn’t keep up technology wise, stick 3DS Max or Maya in front of me and I’ll just start laying out a level using low poly models. You aren’t going to get game ready 3D modeling out of me and I know that’s what you want from an artist.

I can whip out a cool little picture in Photoshop to show you exactly what the GUI I spec’ed should look like. I might go poking around in the spell icons and come up with a set that shows exactly how the art style should reflect to the different magic schools I designed. I might even hack around with a few textures to use in the level I’ve layed out. But let us be clear about this, I am a game designer. Not an artist.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Team Kills and Punishment

To err is human; to forgive, infrequent.
-Franklin P. Adams
I got to play a little Battlefield 2 on my newly reformatted game machine last night (there are other problems with the machine that I don't want to think about at the moment). It got me thinking about the punishment system for team killing. In BF2 you lose a few points off your total if you damage or kill a teammate. If you actually kill a teammate he has the option of punishing you which causes you loose even more points.

You do have to have a system that lets players have some sort of recourse against their team mates who do them wrong, because there are people out there who get bored with the game and then decide its fun to ruin your game.

Turning off friendly fire isn’t really an option because it ruins a lot of the balance and dramtic tension. With friendly fire turned off there isn’t any drawback to just tossing grenades around, zooming around in a buggy running not caring who you run over, and just firing your mini-gun at any and everything in the hope that you'll hit any enemy.

The first problem with the punishment system in BF2 is the way they implemented it in their user interface. During the game people can call for votes of various things such as voting to kick people off the server, voting to change maps, or voting to mutiny against your commander. When voting in all these cases it is the Page Up key to vote “Yes” and the Page Down key for “No”. But after being killed by a teammate it asked if you want to “Forgive”. So if you follow that you would be voting “No” I don’t want to kick this player off the server, “No” I don’t want to change maps, “No” I don’t want to mutiny, but then its “Yes” that I do want to forgive. It should be asking you if want to “Punish” him so the “Yes” and “No” answers are consistent with the other votes.

The second problem and the one I was thinking about was that it is too easy to punish. Most players of these types of games, safely protected by the anonymity of the online community are jerks. They punish every time they are team killed. Most team kills are accidents. Yes there are a few asses out there that do stupid stuff like shooting their teammates when they don’t get a seat in the Blackhawk or some such, but overall most are accidents. They are obvious accidents. Hell, a lot of them are accidents caused by the person getting killed, running out in front of a vehicle or not paying attention and running into friendly artillery fire. But they all punish.

There are posts in various forums where some people talk about some mythical promised land where eventually the community will come in line with some polite code of conduct. Not happening won’t happen, not with this type of game, these types of players, in this environment. By the way, for every “don’t punish” thread on the forum there is a “that’s it I don’t care anymore, I punishing everybody now too” post. I personally tried the televangelist thing where after I forgave somebody I would preach to the team channel “I have been TK’ed and I have forgiven!” It didn’t catch on.

The problem is the people punishing aren’t losing anything themselves. It is no skin off their nose. As a game designer you only want players to punish other players when those players deserve to be punished. So make the person who is punishing lose a few points too. If person who is presented with the question of punishing or forgiving is going to lose something too, they might not just punish by default. This is assuming it is implemented in such a way that the player is informed of this when he is asked if he wants to forgive or punish. (Another problem with Battlefield 2 is there is just so much they don’t tell you, but that is another rant.)

I should note there are other problems with Battlefield 2 that if fixed would help alleviate this problem. For example it is too hard to see the icon warning you of a mine or claymore set by a friendly unit. There is also a bug where sometimes you will see a friendly target with a red name. I have personally starting shooting at a helicopter with a red name that suddenly turned into a blue name after I had hit it with a missile.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

More Serenity and other TV Shows on DVD

Okay I haven’t posted in a little bit, but really how do you top a Serenity sneak peak? You are reading the 3 issue Serenity comic right? The second issue just came out last week and the first issue sold out and is getting a second printing. There was a post on the Browncoat's Forum from "our Captain" Nathan Fillion about his adventure in a local Canadian comic store trying to buy an issue for his mother. I tried to find the specific link but you have to sign in first and then find the post. Here is what it said:

It is times like these that I feel like Malcolm Reynolds. This is something that would surely get you kicked into an engine. I just went to a comic store to purchase the Serenity comic for my mom. The sweetheart that she is, gave her issues (with her favorite character on the front) to relatives who were having trouble tracking one down. Please bear in mind that Canada is a wondrous place where the service industry is polite and helpful, and that this experience is not the norm. The store I chose, which shall remain nameless (Warp 1 Comics), at an undisclosed location (just off Whyte Ave), has the singlemost sanctimonious, condescending, dishonest a$$hole I've had the misfortune of meeting. My brother and I called ahead to find out they had one issue left, but upon arriving, found out they are gouging people $20 bucks for the damned thing! "That's what they're worth." he sneered at me. I asked him to show me a listing of some sort to back it up. "Well, I just know what I paid Dark Horse for it." He wouldn't show me that, either. I am aware that Dark Horse wasn't expecting these books to sell as well as they are, and that they are going into a second printing, but I just picked up three of them two days ago at cover price at another store. My brother piped up with a, "What an interesting attitude you have." Let me tell you folks, this fella had an attitude, and a smirk that you wanted to knock off his face with a baseball bat dipped in dog poop. Of course, my brother couldn't help letting this guy know who he was trying to hose by holding the issue next to my face. "This guy look familliar? This isn't some JoJo off the street! He knows what he's talking about!" Check this out- the reply of this crap-catcher, who shall remain nameless (Darryl) was, (and imagine a dullards voice- how we make people we don't like sound in a story) "Well, then you can call Joss Whedon and ask him." I had to tell this purplebelly that I was being sacastic when I thanked him for his excellent service, and I don't think he knew what sanctimonious meant!

Wouldn't a smart business man ask me to sign an issue and sell me one at a fair price? Wouldn't that fetch a prettier penny than ripping me off for one issue? Congratulations, dude! You are now on the Browncoat $hitlist.

Never have I tried to wield power in this way, but if being Malcolm Reynolds has taught me anything, it's to follow my over-developed sense of vengeance. BOYCOTT WARP ONE COMICS! If you are in the neighborhood, drop by to tell "the Buttress" that Browncoats don't take $hit from anyone. Tell your friends not to shop there, and lock 'em in the airlock if they do. Copy this post and e-mail it to fellow Edmontonians. Bump it to keep it alive.

Thank you. Thank you for letting me rant. If you feel I'm overboard, please feel free to, as Joss would say, contemplate silently.

The Captain

Edited to be less cruel, and to mention how wonderfully my dear mom was treated at HAPPY HARBOR. Thank you, staff and owners at Happy Harbor. You made my mom's day. Turns out, Warp One tried to hose her, too, by telling her that the Jayne covered issue was a rarity. Love you, Adam B. You ARE a rarity. Nothin' agin you. But will these butt-tards stoop so low as to steal from a woman? For shame, Warp One, for shame.
I fully understand the difficult position comic book shop owners are in and that they don't make tons of money but this guy was a complete ass. Forget selling an issue to him at the cover price he should have given the issue to Nathan for FREE, asked him to autograph a few copies and then gotten a picture of him in the shop to hang up behind the register. In my best Simpson's Comic Book Guy voice: "Biggest... idiot... evvver."

I did piddle around with my DKP history and start a rant about the horrible mistakes they made in the social systems they tried to put into Battlefield 2. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to finish either.

I have been also been spending extra time at work doing stuff I am not allowed to talk about yet as well as spending last weekend watching season 1 of Deadwood. I feel like I am missing out on so much of modern American culture living in Australia. I just found out the other day that there are new nickels! We have tomorrow off and I will be camping out on the couch with season 1 of Dead Like Me to watch.

I just meant to post a quick rant about Zone Alarm and wound up with all the above. So I split the Zone Alarm post off and posted it first.

Zone Alarm Killed My Computer

Last night I tried to upgrade Zone Alarm on my gaming machine and it looks like I might have to reformat and reinstall Windows. There are all sorts of horrible things being said on their forums. I hadn’t realized that there had been a change of ownership and things have been going down hill but it does look like it isn’t the God send program it used to be.

I won’t go into the whole long story about what I’ve gone through so far, but at this point I can’t uninstall Zone Alarm even in Safe Mode.

All I can say is if you’re currently running it to stick with the current version and if you’re not using it keep it that way.