Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

Well it is 2007 here. As I am slightly in the future as far as some of you may be concerned I thought I should mention that still no flying cars or silver jumpsuits. Our sci-fi fiction has lied to us.

Friday, December 29, 2006

2007 MMO calendar

Speaking of “the children” MMO Portals Network has put out a 2007 MMO calendar.

All of the proceeds from the Calendar’s sale go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Each month features a different MMO game and has autographs from the developers of each game. It features the following MMO games:

• Dark Age of Camelot
• Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach
• Eve Online
• EverQuest II
• Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising
• Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar
• Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided
• The Chronicles of SpellBorn
• Ultima Online
• Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
• Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning
• World of Warcraft

Little late for a Christmas present but for all of us who didn't buy a calendar yet because we were worried we might be getting a few for Christmas and didn't, it is pretty snazzy. Either way it’s nice to see another gamers giving to children’s hospitals especially with Child’s Play Charity pulling in just shy of a million dollars this year. They say the full results are still trickling in so they might just make that million dollar mark. Here’s hoping they do, and if not this year then next year for sure.

Killing Monsters

The effects of violence in video games and in the popular media as a whole has become another one of those issues where anybody who dares to go against prevailing opinion is instantly vilified. I often find myself on the beating end of some tirade about video game violence. I usually recommend this book: Killing Monsters Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence.

Not to long ago one of the local news stations did yet another regurgitated, no actual investigation, puff piece on those dangerous video games corrupting the children “Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children!” and I fired off a surely ignored letter to the station also recommending the book.

Anyway!!! Gamasutra posted an interview with Gerard Jones the book author.

There is another book called The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales by Bruno Bettelheim published in 1975 that I also want to read but I’ve always been too lazy to order from Amazon.

Secrets of Game Design: 3

When I came up with the whole “Secrets of Game Design” idea, it was really just a way to vent in a silly way about Adam making me change verb tense in all the game design documents. To be fair he doesn’t actually make me change them, he does it himself when he reviews the docs if I don’t do it when writing them. It was also a way for me to set up the joke about things happening to the “player” as opposed to the player’s “character” in the second Secrets post which I really just didn’t follow through with. It was a pretty lame post. Lacking "umph" you could say. So for this one I’ll actually be somewhat serious.

When playing a game, just like when watching the theatre, I am willing to let a lot of things go, but there is a line; a line where you are forced to see the props behind the curtain. They “break the fourth wall” to continue with the theatre analogies.

For example in “World of Warcraft” you will often get quests to kill some number of baddies. Then after doing that, you’ll get a follow-up quest to kill the leader baddie. The leader baddie is usually far in the back of where the regular baddies are. If you went really gung-ho when killing the baddies for the first quest you might have killed the leader baddie already. When you get the second quest you have to then pretend you didn’t kill him. You have to just play-along with the storyline and go kill him again. That’s fine. I can do that. I can see the painted backdrop and flat plywood trees on the stage and still say, “Okay, I see where you are going with this. I’ll use my imagination. It’s a forest.”

But I have run into two newbie quests that screw this up in the closed beta expansion of a game that I don’t believe I am allowed to publicly talk about yet... ahem...

In the first quest line you have to kill some number of baddies. Then you get a quest to kill the 4 baddie bosses. Then you get the final quest to release the captured apprentices. The problem is that the captured apprentices are in the same general rooms as each of the bosses. You were already in those rooms and saw the apprentices tied down to the sacrificial alters. Granted in the storyline of the quests you need some magic pixie dust or something to waken them so they can escape. Okay, maybe they were two heavy for your group to carry out, tied down with magical chains, or something the first time you were there. I’ll give the quest designers that much leeway.

The problem is that they are in the rooms with each boss meaning you have to fight the bosses again. Following the story progression though, the bosses are already dead! I understand that baddies respawn so they can be alive and ready for the next set of eager adventures. I can pretend not to notice that they are alive and well the next time I go there. But the quest storyline itself should not put me in that situation. Even if they are thinking like an advanced game designer who wants to make sure that more people are available to group up because they have to keep going into the baddie area with each successive quest, they could have finessed it better.

The second quest is even more glaring (though now as I reread this as posting it, it actually pretty much the same). In the first part of the quest series you have to kill some number of baddies. Then in the second stage you are asked to investigate the cave they are in further to find what could be causing these baddies to act like ummm baddies. This turns out to be a red glowing crystal thing. Once you find this and tell the quest guy about it he wants you to kill this 2 headed dog thing that is somehow tied in with it all. I kinda forget the details here. The problem is the red crystal thing you had to find in the second stage is directly behind where the dog spawns. There is no way you could have gotten to the red crystal thing without already having killed the dog.

This isn’t the same as the example in the 2nd paragraph, because in that example you could have done the first part without kill the boss. In this example, as I've said, you can’t get to the red crystal without killing the 2-headed dog. By following their quest line I am forced to break that fourth wall. By all rights when the guy tells me about the 2-headed dog I should be able to respond, “Oh him? Yeah, I pwn’d him already. Give me the prize.”

You could then go on to sing, “I am the one, the only one. I am the God of kingdom come, GIVE ME THE PRIZE.” But only if you are a big Highlander / Queen fan.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Political Activism on the Playground

So President Ford passed away. Guess he couldn’t live in a world without James Brown. So if they come in 3’s who is your guess for the third? And shouldn't the saying be, "they GO in 3's?"

President Ford was my first bit of political activism. On the playground during recess I used the swing set as my platform to lead the chant of “Up with Ford! Down with Carter!” Didn’t last long before the recess monitor told us that because of the time difference, being in Italy, the election was already over and Carter won.

I had no reason to pick Ford over Carter other than that my parents, being a military family stationed at San Vito dei Normanni Air Force base in Italy at the time, were voting for Ford. It wasn’t until midway through the Regan administration that I came across political views of my own.

I often check Google Maps to see if they have gotten new versions of the maps of Italy so I can see where I lived. The town of 'San Vito dei Normanni' is in the ‘heel of the boot’ near Brindisi. It should not be confused with just plain 'San Vito' which is another town in northern Italy. In Google Maps its just a blurry white thing. I can just make out what I think is the soccer stadium near where I lived but it’s just a guess.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Merry Christmas

Here is the link to the "Fury" Christmas card we sent out to those that subscribed to the news letter.

It has already gotten a few programmers talking about seasonal things they would like to do to the game.

Merry Christmas from the Fury team.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Secrets of Game Design: 2

You should never cause or let anything bad to happen to the player. For example you shouldn't hurt the player and you should NEVER kill the player. Killing the player would be bad. The player is the customer and killing him would be detrimental the success of your game.

You can cause lots of toil and trouble for his CHARACTER though.

This secret of Game Design is one my personal pet peeves. All of these design documents that say things like "If he player takes damage then decrease the health counter and bla bla bla" No! If the player takes damage CALL AN AMBULANCE!!!

I don't really want to drag this out anymore than I have to but there are lots of places in the design documents that mixing up "player" and the "player's character" can cause things to get really confusing.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Codemasters Press Release

Codemasters has a very interesting press release up.
30th November 2006
Codemasters Online Gaming EXCLUSIVE Play Test

Codemasters Online Gaming is thrilled to offer you the EXCLUSIVE chance to play test a totally unique concept in online gaming! We are offering a selection of qualified participants the once in a lifetime chance to take part in an exclusive play test on 8th and 9th December 2006.

Based on an award-winning engine, this game is ultimate in competitive online RPGs and features a unique fusion of combat and fast-paced action as well as an abundance of awe-inspiring visuals and dynamic game play characteristics.

In order to be in with a chance of being selected for this exclusive play test, gamers are asked to fill in their details on a simple form. Full details of the play test and prizes available can be found here!
Maybe you should check it out. Might be something fun. You might be furious if you miss it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Fury Podcast and the Oncoming Summer

I'm here flying without a net. Just reformatted this machine and just this second realized that I haven't reinstalled MS:Office which means no MS:Word which means no spell checker. Though this beta version of Blogger appears to have its own. And you didn't even realize I had switched to the beta version.

But, why you ask would I risk coming forth without the aid and backing of Microsoft's mammoth personal word processor? Because I have breaking Fury news! This week on Game/On, MMORPG.com's Podcast show, co-host Jon Wood is joined by special guest and former co-host, Michael Hampden. Mike is currently working at Auran Games on the MMO, Fury. The two discuss Ryzom, the Wii and much more.

Direct MP3 link: HERE

Who is this Michael Hampden you now ask? Quite full of questions today aren't you? Michael Hampden is the newest addition to Fury's International design team. Michael is now responsible for all the story, text and verbiage in the game. He has even gone through and renamed the all of the abilities. This being the third time they have been christened might mean they may actually stick this time. The good news is he took my ability icon art into account when naming them so they are no longer out of sync with the art. The last renaming was based on the ability description not the art which was based mostly on the previous set of names. Don't look at me like that, I just work here.

In other computer news, besides reformatting this haunted machine in an attempt to exorcise it I have opted for a $500 and some dollar portable air conditioner. Hopefully now we won't have to drag all of the computers and such out into the living room where the normal air conditioner is. I use the word 'normal' only in comparison only to what appears to be the standard downunder. I understand what they call "ducted AC" is somewhat rare. I find now while looking for a picture of these wall mounted "split" AC's that only 45% of Australian households own an air conditioner. Not even half and its damn hot and humid here. As Matthew Broderick once said:
"Man it's hot. It's like Africa hot. Tarzan couldn't take this kind of hot."
Anyway, you can see a picture of a wall mounted "split system" air conditioner HERE. The worst part of these split systems is that they always seemed to be mounted at the end of the wall, in the corner. Obviously that is closest to where the connection goes to the main unit outside, but it is never anywhere near the optimal place for it to be to cool the place.

I haven't given this portable AC thing a try yet. Its actually been stormy this weekend and is forcast to continue as such for the rest of the week. So its been pretty cool in the evenings and doesn't look like I'll get to put it to the test till next weekend. Also I just spend another $50 bucks on a sheet of foam today. The portable AC has an exhaust hose like on the back of a dryer, well not an Australian cloths dryer as they just blow right out into the room but lets not get started on that. Anyway, on the box the portable AC is pictured in front of a sliding glass door, exactly what I have here in my home office. But the two pieces of foam they give you to fit into the window opening (the exhaust hose goes through a hole in one of the foam pieces) aren't enough for the sliding glass door. So I went to Clark Rubber and tried to buy a strip of foam. It would have cost me $60 bucks for two strips the size I needed (2 because I wanted and extra just in case). But because I was having the guy cut it it was more expensive than buying the whole sheet. $50 bucks for this giant sheet of foam. And the worse part is that I have cut the strip I need and yet I still have this giant sheet of foam. I was thinking maybe I could pawn it off on some kids playing in the pool.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Work Work Work

I’ve been slaving away all this week trying to get all of the game’s user interface graphics into two 1024x1024 textures. It took me twice as long as I thought it would to cram all the On-Screen UI stuff into the first one and am now banging my head against the wall trying to get all the Dialog Menu UI pieces onto the second. As of today I am officially behind schedule! There is also this thinking that once I get everything onto the two master textures that it won’t be any work getting it all to work in game. I am pretty sure there will be quite a bit of time spent by me and the programmers putting it all back into the game.

Connie was promoted to “Lead Quality Assurance” on Fury today. My review is on Tuesday, I’ll let you know if the decide to toss me out or not.

I just found out the other day that we are going to be showing off Fury at the Game Connect expo this Friday and Saturday. I’ll be working the booth Saturday.

Monday, November 20, 2006

eGames Expo

So the gang was at the eGames expo this last weekend. It was at the same place where I was at two weeks ago but where that was an auto show with a new video games thing added on, this is an actual video game show. We think they had somewhere between 5 and 10 thousand people attendees over its 2 and a half day run.

The Nintendo Wii was there again as well and was again a major draw now 1 week ahead of its Australian debut.

This 3D Video thing that is currently being Slashdotted was there but none of the people who were there that I asked actually saw it. They all said it was there; other people saw it and said it was pretty cool, but I’ve yet to interrogate any of them.

Anyway people really seemed to really like Fury. Lots of people say that it was much better than WoW or Guild Wars though I will add that would be in context of what Fury is compared to what those other games offer along those lines, which is pure Player versus Player action.

Comments from the MMO players were:
“So much faster than a normal MMO”.
“No boring level grind”
“I don’t have time to play Wow any more – I got to 60 and now there’s nothing to do that takes less than 4 hours”
“Battlegrounds is full of twinks and uber-geared players”
Comments from the FPS gamers were:
“I don’t play MMO’s because they’re too slow and boring – and I don’t have the time”
“I really like it – it feels like Unreal Tournament but with swords”
Tony mentioned that when he talked to a few of the people who didn’t seem to be getting it, he got comments along the lines of “I found the controls awkward.” But upon further investigation he found these people were more FPS type gamers who aren’t used to the 3rd person controls found in most MMO games. We do have plans to have a more FPS friendly keymap default in the game and Adam is now talking about adding the keymap selection to character creation.

The best part about the show is these audio clips Tony did we he asks people what they thought of Fury. When one player compared it to WoW, Tony asked him what server he plays on and the kids starts saying “Oh I play on a” and its about there he realizes what he is saying and as the words are coming out of his mouth you can hear him trying to draw them back in “on a private server.” Whoops.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Secrets of Game Design: 1

I have decided to reveal some game design secrets. The first of which is that when you are writing design documents you have to say stuff happens. I take it from your stunned silence you don’t get it. I’m sure you get that stuff happens but you don’t get my point. You have to write that stuff happens not that stuff will happen. I have this problem when I write I say things like “When the player presses the close button the GUI menu will close.” That’s bad. You have to change that to “When the player presses the close button the GUI closes.” See the difference?

Every time I finish writing a design document I have to then spend another 30 minutes changing all the “will do stuff” to “does stuff”.

But Joseph, what does it matter? It’s the same thing! Why does it matter?

Beats me.

But be sure to join me next time on SECRETS OF GAME DESGIN!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Last Weekend in Melbourne

I finished typing this up Friday night but was going to pull a picture off my camera but forgot about it. I've been slaving away at Customer Service Tools all weekend and only realized I didn't post this when I went to shut the computer down and found the doc still open. So anyway without further ado I spent last weekend at the Game1 expo in Melbourne. Let me tell you about it…

First of all Ashwin doesn’t show up at the airport. He is one of the two marketing guys going to the show with me. The second marketing guy, Paul, is supposed to take another flight. Ashwin is the guy running the show, he knows who we are getting the rental computers from, where we are getting the monitors from, where we are getting the plasma TV from, who to talk to about setting up the booth and other little stuff like where the expo is actually being held. He’s the guy in the know. Me? I’m just the guy carrying the GIGANTIC, two-handed laptop computer that will be running the server. The problem is that Ashwin hasn’t shown up at the airport.

I get on the plane and after about 10 minutes sitting at the gate there is an announcement on the PA that if Mr. Segkar was on board could he please make himself known to a member of the flight crew. I look around… nope he’s not here. Then about 5 minutes later a ground crew guy comes on the plane and starts giving me the third degree right there in my seat where all of the other passengers can assign this delay on me.

“Am I traveling with Mr. Segkar? Did I check in with Mr. Segkar? Have I seen Mr. Segkar at all this morning? Is there a phone number where I could try to call Mr. Segkar?” I think he even asked me I was, or have I ever been a member of the Communist Party?”

I’m sure they are going doubly nuts because of the foreign sounding name. All I have that I can think of to give them before they start in with the thumbscrews is the cell phone number of Andrew, my assistant producer. I don’t know if he has Ashwin’s phone number or not, but hey it’s early in the morning and I figure he’d probably appreciate the wake up call. They leave me alone after that and about 15 minutes later we take off. I shrink back into my seat, pop on my $500 Bose, noise reduction headphones, and pretend I can’t feel the eyes of the other passengers on me.

I should interject that my Bose, noise reduction headphones ROCK. The whole background airplane noise was gone. I have The Prestige by Christopher Priest unabridged audiobook on my iPod. I saw the trailer for the movie adaptation a few days ago and it looks awesome so when I saw the audio book on Audible.Com I grabbed it. The movie is already out in the states but doesn’t open here till the 17th which is still a week away for those of you reading this at some alternate future time.

Consider that a message from our sponsors, back to the story…

I land in Melbourne and get to the hotel. We were supposed to stay in the Holiday Inn but it was booked up as it is the weekend before the Melbourne Cup horse race. Instead we get a place right around the corner. I was told the Holiday Inn got 3 stars and this place got 4, though I realize now that I don’t know exactly what system this is and what it’s star’s might mean. For all I know the stars could represent the number of unsolved homicides in the hotel the previous month.

This place is several very old buildings chopped up on the inside, divided into closet sized rooms with a tiny bathroom added on. It has a 12 inch TV mounted way up in the corner of one wall with no cable or movie service. I can’t remember the last time I went to sleep in a hotel room without the Discovery Channel on the background. It has a little internet room down in the lobby but the wireless doesn’t even connect from the room.

It did have a very large piece of green, furry, spiked, carpet that crawls along the baseboard.

But who cares about the room, it’s a place to sleep and I can live without the Discovery channel especially with the wonderful wildlife already living in the room. I toss my bags onto the bed and call Andrew to find out what’s going on.

Ashwin had problems with his rental car return, told the airline he would need to take the next flight and they removed his bags from the plane. The problem appears to be the ground crew didn’t get that update. All they knew was they had some guy with foreign name not show up for the flight but had luggage on the plane they couldn’t actually find. It must have been fun for them.

The important thing is that he was actually on his way which is more than we can say for Paul. I heard one story that he was bleeding from the ears and was taken to the hospital and another that had something to do with him getting a tooth pulled the day before and him not being well. Never did find out what happened there.

Fast forward a few hours and Ashwin arrives and goes right to the Expo center. He gives me a call and tells me to “grab a cab” and head on over.

Have you ever tried to grab a cab, downtown in a major city at 4:00 on a Friday afternoon? I go out front and give up after a few minutes. The hotel is on the very corner of the central business district and the street outside is very busy and had a physical divider along the center. All the cabs driving by on my side of the street have already gone through the city and have passengers, all the cabs entering the area are on the other side of the barrier.

I go back into the hotel ask the front desk to call me a cab. The receptionist tells me that there is a cab stand around the corner in front of the Holiday Inn. I go up and around the corner. There is a cab there. I ask him if he is on duty and he says yes. I get in. He asks where I want to go. I say the Melbourne Expo center. Suddenly he can’t take me because he is waiting for somebody in the hotel. Umm… Okay. I get out.

But a woman comes right out of the hotel and gets in the cab. He puts her luggage in the trunk and gets back in. Then there is some arm waving and shouting type gestures from both of them and they both get out and he takes her bags out of the trunk. She demands his card and says she is going to report him. He drives off with out a passenger and she leaves her luggage on the curb and storms back into the hotel. By this time there is a couple waiting for a cab as well. The problem here is the traffic is at a dead stand still so no cabs are going to get here any time soon. Eventually one works its way up and two businessmen come out of the hotel and walk right up and into the cab. We shout that there is a line. The guys looks at me and says, “Its okay, you can get the next one.” I give him a suggestion that he probably would need several years gymnast training to accomplish and go back to my hotel and tell them that the cab stand is a bust and I need her to call me a cab.

Fifteen minutes later a cab shows up. I get in and tell him I’m going to the Melbourne Expo center. He looks at me confused. He points out the window, “But that’s right there!” One city block in the cab, 10 bucks. Granted though it was a long city block, a good 10-15 minute walk. Except that isn’t the end of it. I go into the Expo center and ask the woman in the front desk how to get to the Game1 Expo. She apologizes before telling me that I have to walk the length of the expo center, go out the back, the width of expo center, then back halfway up the other side. The length of the expo center is about the same distance from the hotel.

So about another 20-30 minutes later I BS my way into onto the floor because of course I don’t have a badge or any sort of registration. Ashwin tells me that the computers have just arrived too. Oh that’s great! Only it isn’t because of the 7 computers we were supposed to get (6 and a spare) we have 5. They should all have 2 gigs of ram and two of these have 1 gig and the 3 have 512mb. Ashwin takes care of this. We have the guys doing our computers for the up coming eGames get us computers. Ashwin we have need more tables, he finds more tables. We need chairs, he finds chairs.

I set up the computer. Yes me. Normally I am the LAST person you want setting up computers and installing things because things just go wrong for me. But no this seems to all be working. Turn them on and half of them boot right up. Check the others and then they boot right up too. Install “Fury” and “Call of Juarez” on them just in time for them to kick us out at 11pm. Show runs 10 to 10 the next day and I call Andrew and tell him to expect my call at 9 (8 his time as there is no daylight saving time in Brisbane) to have him walk me through setting up the server. We had prearranged that he would have to walk me though the server set-up. I set the alarm for 7 so I’ll have time to eat something in the morning except that who ever put the clocks forward in the room got the AM / PM thing messed up. After oversleeping and missing breakfast I do manage to get to the expo floor at 9:00 and call Andrew. Setting up all the IP stuff goes fine but although machines can ping the server just fine the game won’t connect to the server and we can’t figure out why. We start calling other people, we believe people from playtest are in the office but can’t find a phone number that will bypass the “Auran office hours” recording. Eventually Andrews manages to get ahold of Chris Bergman who calls me and after a few minutes he solves the problem. The server is trying to use the ‘main’ database which isn’t there instead of the local database on the machine. To make the mater worse the program to switch which database the server uses isn’t installed on the laptop. So Chris talks me through editing the registry to repoint it to the right database. Me editing the registry are another thing you generally don’t want me doing but again this time it all works find. The machines connect, the game loads, yay!

So the rest of the show went pretty much okay not counting there are only two of use for a booth that really needs 3 minimum, 12 hours show days, and one of machines kept overheating while another kept losing connection to the server. I never did get to go stand in line to try out the Wii but looks like people were having fun with it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

IGN Australia

So I spent the weekend at the Game1 expo in Melbourne. I am in the process of writing a whole incident report but I really need to get back to work on this design spec so I’ll leave that for tomorrow.

In the meantime I feel bad that I haven’t posted anything so here are two Fury links from IGN Australia. First their Studio Tour of Auran and then their Fury Hands On.

There are some memorable quotes. My personal favorite is:
"twitch gaming skills move to twitch thinking"
I also guess nobody told him the “low-flying dragon clutching a large crystal” is called a Perkon. Or maybe they did and he just didn’t it sounded as cool as a ““low-flying dragon clutching a large crystal” and you know, he may have a point there. Where did we come up with the name "Perkon" anyway?

He also got a little mixed up with the elements. The game is based on 5 elements kind of taken from Asian lore. It is Water (Life, Positive Energy, Blue) opposed to Fire (Death, Negative Energy, Red) and Nature (Growth, Positive Form, Green) opposed to Air (Decay, Negative Form, Purple). Earth, the 5th element is neutral and isn’t involved in the elemental parts of game play. For the purest Air really should be Metal in the Asian system we are using, but the effect of metal became lightning and eventually the name got changed to the more Western-like “Air”. For the simplistic its just Red vs. Blue and Purple vs. Green.

He makes a little mistake trying to peg Fury’s place in the current pantheon of next generation game graphics:
"Although bettered by Gears of War and others, the Unreal Engine 3.0 kicks some serious butt. Gorgeous."
The Problem is that Gears of War was also built using the Unreal Engine 3.0. DOH!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Rambling On

So it’s another exciting Friday night. I’m sitting in Ironforge waiting on the Battleground queues that are all over an hour, 20-30 minutes apart from each other and yet will inevitably all pop on top of each other. (note as I’m posting this: they did pop on top of each other) To make matters worse I’m watching “How to Lose a Guy in 10 days” on TV. It could be worse as we have “First 50 Dates” and “Cold Mountain” on the other channels. Actually, had I thought about it, I probably would have picked the Adam Sandler movie but this one came on after Smallville and I was too busy in Alterac Valley to change the channel. Now I don’t want to change since I already missed the beginning.

You are probably thinking “Oh swept in after Smallville, I can see that” but had I gotten of my ass and finished buying the DVDs I would have seen this Smallville already. You see I’m in Australia which means that the latest episode of Smallville is actually over a season behind the U.S. They occasionally air something simultaneously as the U.S. and then make a big deal about how you can “EXPERIENCE IT SIMULTANIOUSLY WITH THE U.S.” That is what they are doing with Jerico, you know about Jerico don’t you? You’ve heard of shows that are advertised as “LOST ON ACID!” well Jerico is “Lost that probably took some acid or something at a party Friday night, a party that lasted till sometime Sunday and is now hung over on a Monday morning as it stumbles into work.” Actually no, that implies too much excitement. It’s just “Lost that stumbled in late and tired on a Monday morning.” I so much want to like the show but its boring me to tears. The naivety of these people in the show, the country’s been nuked and they are busy playing soap opera.

I haven’t been keeping on posting all the Fury in the news links lately not that there has been a lot of new and exciting information released but I’ll be at the Game1 expo in Melbourne next weekend showing off Fury. Auran will also be at the eGames Expo at the same place two weeks later (Nov 17-19th). We have some older stuff like this German review based on seeing the game at PAX (You can make fun of this Google translation if you don’t speak German), this audio interview with Adam on Cybershack, and Adam’s latest Dev Diary is in the latest PC PowerPlay. I have a scan of it but decided not to post it. Who would want to put our crap in their rag if I just go and post scans of it instead of making you go buy the issue? I did a Dev Diary myself on designing and creating the ability icons but it sucks so I am going to redo it. It’s full of good info and insight to the process, just doesn’t have my trademark witty humor.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

No adware notice the Aussie BF 2142 box

Kotaku has a post up that the Australian Battlefield 2142 box comes with no such adware notice. One of the commenters who goes by the handle Aeternum claims she is an EB empoyee and says:
I just finished a shift at EB and it's true, no note, but we have to tell them about the spywear. so we do get the spyware, but we don't have as many returns because people tell us to shove it before they buy it.
I've decided I'm going to put my money where my mouth is and not umm... not on the counter at my local EB... meaning umm... I'm not going to buy the game. That analogy didn't quite come out the way I planned. Who would want to put money in their mouth anyway?

I will go to my local EB this weekend and see if they do indeed tell people about the adware.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

EA - Adware, Its In The Game.

In the latest (October 11th, 2006) Computer Gaming World radio podcast they open up an advance retail box of the very soon to be released "Battlefield 2142". Inside the box they find a disclaimer notice informing you that the game includes monitoring software which runs while your computer is online, records personal information and sends it back to the advertising companies which provide the in-game advertising. ADWARE!!!!

There doesn’t seem to be much major news coverage of this yet but its popping up on a few independent game forums followed by a plethora of "fuck EA I won’t be buying this game" posts.

Now I’ve long been a fan of "Fuck EA" I mean fan of Battlefield 2 and I’ve been really excited about Battlefield 2142’s release... until now.

I remember when I first heard of EA when I bought "Archon" for the Commodore 64. I read the little "about EA" blurb and thought they were such a cool company. I was walking on air when a game I worked on, "The Mars Saga", was published by EA with my picture on the inside flap with their old, cool “cube, sphere, pyramid” logo. I loved that logo and I think they sold their soul about the same time they stopped using it. By the way, the little "about the developer blurb" that went with our picture for "The Mar's Saga" was the first time I snuck Douglas Adam’s references into some of my published writings. EA trimmed my original text a bit which ruined the pacing but they had legitimate space issues so I didn’t mind.

SERIOUSLY THOUGH ADWARE! I’m really upset about this. Okay there is something you should know about me. I have a computer curse. Things go wrong for me, mysterious things that nobody can explain; IT people have actually resorted to waving dead poultry over my machines. Back at Westwood I used to be required to bring my home machine in to test the install of our games because they would ALWAYS screw up for me… unless somebody was watching, but you probably guessed that part. Anyway I would bring my machine in and run the install program and then call the guys in from out in the hall (because it wouldn't do it if they were in the room) to see the machine after it had screwed up.

Because of that I don’t even surf the net on my game machine… ever! If I need something for that machine, I download it on this machine and then copy it over to that one. It is my clean machine. I am deadly afraid of installing the wrong thing that is going to slow that machine down. And now EA wants to install Adware on my clean machine! I am all for in game advertising, but this is going too far. I understand they think this information is valuable to them but it’s a bit more valuable to me. If Mr. Advertising Agency guy wants that information I’ll sell it to him but my price is going to be slightly higher than me paying full price for a game and having software on my machine slowing it down. It’s funny that I don’t feel that I am coming out ahead in their deal.

Now I do think that people are erroring on the side of chaos in what this adware actually does, but after the Sony rootkit scandal I don’t blame them. I lost all faith in Logitech when I found them installing adware with my new G15 Keyboard and G5 mouse. The infamous Real-player admitting it installs adware and not caring what you think about it. We simply can’t trust the big, main stream companies anymore than we can trust some back alley warz website. The fact that EA is scared enough about what they are doing to warn you with an actual writing on paper notice instead of something hidden away in a 12-page, 6 point font, end user license agreement written in lawyer language should tell us something.

There is another thing about this that intrigues me though. This is a notice inside the box for an online game where the game’s serial number is then attached to your online account so the game can’t be used again by somebody else. Most software stores have a no return policy on those types of games once opened. So what is the chance Mr. Software_Story_Guy is going to allow you to return the game once you’ve opened it, read this adware warning notice, and decided that you rather not have EA sodomize you?

Speaking of Computer Gaming World, the latest issue is the last issue under that name. They are being reborn as “Games for Windows: The Official magazine”. While you are spouting off your opinions of that, you can download PDF versions of the first 100 issues that they scanned and put online. I’d like to point your attention to my first game cover (well half a cover anyway) Number 55 from January 1989 with "Battletech: The Crescent Hawk’s Inception". Or Number 71 from May 1990 featuring "DragonStrike". Then a few months later we see Number 75 from November 1990 showing "Battletech II: The Crescent Hawk’s Revenge".

Don’t look for mega-hit "Eye of the Beholder" on the cover of Number 83 from 1991 because it got beat out by "Legend’s Timequest"... tell me who went down on Scorpia to get that deal through?

Before end this and go get my jammies on I’d like to point out the legendary vaporware "Champions" cover from March of 1992. A game that never got released made the cover. It was a very big embarrassment for them. I wonder who was forced to go down on Scorpia as punishement for that one?

Friday, September 29, 2006

This Blog Sucks (+Fury Q&A link)

Fury-Sanctuary has another Q&A with world famous computer game designer Joseph B. Hewitt IV and some yokel named Cameron McNeil.

Not so much slamming Cameron McNeil there but more of an opportunity to say the phrase “computer game designer Joseph B. Hewitt IV” I have to say the phrase “computer game designer Joseph B. Hewitt IV” because a friend of mine complained that he had a hard time finding my blog “Working As Designed” while web searching for it. He pointed out that I don’t mention my own name, computer game designer Joseph B. Hewitt IV, enough and that by changing the title “Working As Designed” to a graphic instead of the actual text “Working As Designed” means it probably won’t be picked up as easily by search engines.

He also said I am a very funny writer and that I can and have produced some really really hilarious stuff. Knowing that he asked why then my blog sucks so much.

Taking this very seriously I thought about it. It is almost like I go into some ‘official reporter mode’ when writing here. It’s like I think I am some stuffed shirt, news reporter taking everything way too seriously. “Today on the Intertubes there was this funny thing… and umm here I’ll link to it for you.”

He’s right! What is that crap? And even when I do make an attempt its only half hearted. Look at yesterday’s post, see that at the end, the bit about the gay prison sex reference? It’s a good joke, how can you go wrong with a gay prison sex reference, but the execution is only half hearted. No real wind up, lame prison guy names, and weak final delivery.

Now compare that to this post I made on the Fury Sanctuary forums a few months ago. That was all right off the top of my head without even trying.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Girl Rocks Halo on the Violin and More Urban Tile Art


I meant to post this a few days ago but the “blog this” link from YouTube wasn’t appearing here and I had to figure out how to do it by hand. Not that hard (the secret is to remember to remove the equal sign from the end of the URL code) but while doing it a WoW Battleground popped and after it was over I forgot about it. The smell of dead Horde players does that to me.

Anyway, the above YouTube video showing what appears to be a High School talent show with a teenaged, female, violinist rocking out the XBox Halo theme song has been going around the net. At first nothing was known about the girl, the group, or the performance. It caught the attention of Bungie who put up a higher res-ed uncompressed version on their site.

Now (well a few days ago) Florian of Kotaku.com managed to get an interview with Hana Stuart the above mentioned violinist.

Kotaku also has another picture of some retro tiled urban street art. I really love this stuff especially since I used to do game art back then. I am seriously thinking about doing some of this myself. Technically it is graffiti though and you could still get arrested for defacing private property. Can you imagine being in jail, doing the face down with Ice-Pick Bob and Larry the Cannibal, and having to answer the “what’ya in for?” question with “doing Nintendo art on the side of building.” Yeah, unfortunately the Princess is in another castle and you’ll be standing in for her.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Fury Stuff with add bonus: Lawyers versus Marketing

Auran CEO Tony Hilliam, Fury Lead Designer Adam Carpenter and Art Director Jason Robson share their thoughts on what went down at PAX’06 over on our own site.

Game Musketeers has a interview with our Producer Paul Whipp.

There are few other write-ups that I’ve proof read for Paul and Adam that should pop-up in the next few days. I know what you are thinking, "You? Proof read?!" Well not "proof reading" for grammar or anything like that. Content proof-reading type stuff: don’t use that word because it makes it sound like your implying this when you really mean that. That sort of stuff.

If I hadn’t gotten into Games I would have probably done really well in marketing. That is kind of odd since I consider marketing people to be the most evil people on the planet.

The common belief is lawyers are the most evil, but that is only because marketing people have sold you on that idea to throw you off the real scent. You see lawyers are just tools. You got an lawyer to fight for you? Well I can hire my own lawyer to fight your lawyer. We can send them off in the arena, I mean, courtroom to fight it out while we head off to Starbucks for some coffee. But if you got a marketing evil demon trying to sell me on something, I can’t hire my own marketing demon to fight your marketing demon. By the time we get back they can have it all worked out.

For example, there used to be a commercial for Lucky’s super-market. They claimed to be the “Low Price Leader” and to prove this they had an independent accounting firm with an impeccable reputation choose 100 items at random and then they compared their price on those items with those of other stores. Would you believe it that Lucky’s actually had the lower prices of all the stores!!! Boy that would sure have been embarrassing for them if they shot that commercial with the hot babe (I’m lying she wasn’t hot, I actually found her annoying) only to have to admit at the end that another super market had a lower price on those randomly chosen items. How did they know they would come out cheaper? An accounting firm with an impeccable reputation, items chosen at RANDOM! Why it’s water tight, they must actually be the low price leader!

Now see if I were to hire my own marketing person he could try and sell Lucky’s on the idea that I am the Ultimate Shopper! But that doesn’t really break their “Low Price Leader” evil plan!

But wait! If I were to hire a lawyer he would point out that Lucky’s never said just how many times they had the accounting firm choose 100 items at random. Isn’t it true Mr. Lucky’s that you actually had the accounting firm pick 100 items at random hundreds of times? And of all those lists where some times you came out lower and some times you came out higher didn’t you then picked which list of 100 items that you used on your commercials? The list where you came out the lowest? Isn’t it also true that you caught your wife having an affair with your best friend and in a fit of jealous rage murdered them both and concealed their bodies in the false bottom of your refrigerator where my client found them when putting away the cantaloupes he purchased at a competitor’s super-market?!

See the lawyer is my tool which I can use to defeat the evil marketing person and marking people know that which is why they decided to make us all think lawyers are the evil ones! You know that joke, “Why don’t sharks eat lawyers? Professional curtesy.” Marketing people came up with that joke!

Maybe later I’ll tell you how the anti-violent video game movement is actually a front for the Zombie Army. No really I figured it all out. It’s obvious once you see the pattern.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sorry Nintendo: No Wii for Me

If you are up on gaming news you might have read about Nintendo's VP of marketing Perrin Kaplan at the recent New York City press event said that the Nintendo Wii would be region free, meaning that games you bought in one country (region) could be played on the system bought in another.
“Like the Nintendo DS, the Wii will be able to play games from other regions, such as Japan, without any restriction.”
In my case that meant that if I bought a Nintendo Wii here in Australia I would still be able to buy games for it if I went back to the U.S.

After that was reported around the web there a Nintendo UK spokesman contradicted that saying the Nintendo U.S. arm had made a mistake:
"We are region-locked."
Well now Joystick.com claims to have finally gotten the straight answer from Nintendo:
"We've heard conflicting reports from lots of folks out there, but can tell you that Wii will be region encoded, as will first-party software."
So there ya go. Those of you who read my previous post on region locking will know my stance on it. So let me just say, “Sorry Nintendo but no Wii for me.” I had planned on actually reserving one at my local EB once the Australian release date was announced but it isn’t going happen now.

I’ll repeat what I said before in my previous post. Game companies have not gained any new console video game sales from me going on 3 years now. Now they are losing out on selling me their new expensive console systems all because of region coding. The only way they will regain me as a customer, the only way they will get any money from me, is if I move back to the United States or if I am willing to start modding my systems. Well either that or they can swap me a region 4 system and copy of every region 1 game I own for that system with a promise to swap them all back plus any new one's I've bought while in Australia for region 1 versions if I go back to the United States. Somehow I'm sure they will have some detailed business model rational on why that isn't a good idea even though the current business model that I just spelled out doesn't have me doing any actual business with them.

By the way I am not a Nintendo hater, I’m a big Nintendo supporter. I’m a Zelda, Mario, Metroid fanboy! I think Shigeru Miyamoto is god! I was really looking forward to the Wii. If I wasn’t busy typing this up while waiting for a WoW Battleground to pop I’d be playing my region free Nintendo DS instead.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Yet another write up from another trade show

MMORPG.COM has a “hands on” write-up by Laura Genender from the Austin Game Developer’s Conference.

There is one small mistake; she says “Though I had a mana bar, I never once looked at it.” The build we are showing off still has the mana (actually we called it Ki, it’s an Asian thing) bar but we had already taken its functionality out of the game. The version we have been allowing people to play with still has the old GUI so it the blue bar is still there.

If you look at the screenshot I posted over on the Fury-Sanctuary forums you can see how the health bar now extends overtop of the where the Ki bar was.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Online Comic Update

I'm adding a few more links to the comics section that should have been there all along: VG Cats, Mac Hall, and The Perry Bible Fellowship. Warning if you are easily offended you should steer way clear of PBF, don't let the word 'bible' fool you. It is hilarious though.

There was another comic that I wanted to link but I can't find the bookmark for it. It was black and white, single panel, and the main character is a serial killer with a goofy hockey mask. It was very dark and morbid comic and I am trying desperately to remember its name because it was one of my favorites. It’s very much like Johnny the Homicidal Maniac which isn’t an online comic.

Wait, found it! Chopping Block! It was there all along just thought that was something else. By the way, it too isn’t for the easily offended… like I said it is about serial killer.

In my search for Chopping Block stumbled upon an alarming fact! In reading all these comic news blurbs with the reasons they post about why they are late putting up their latest comic I have found that the internet is going down hourly, natural disasters are running amok across the country, car accidents, dogs sleeping with cats, water turning to blood, Armageddon is upon us! THE END IS NIGH!!!

Somebody alert the media, I’ll be cowering in the bathtub.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

More Fury being unleashed at PAX

I went looking to see if part 2 of the previoius post's interview was up but no luck. I did find these two videos though. The second one, which is just a quick talk to a couple of fans at PAX doesn't show any gameplay and was actually made by Auran at the show and contains a dirty word.
Fury at PAX


PAX 2006 - Fury Fans

Thursday, August 31, 2006

PAX 2006 Gameplay footage of Fury

Gamehelper.com has this gameplay footage as part one of their coverage of Fury.
I know many gamers were probably really annoyed by the really loud announcer guy yelling at everyone in the expo hall about "unleashing their fury" but if you didn't get a chance to unleash it, you can at least watch someone else do it...

I sat down with the folks over at the Fury booth (before the hall opened so I could get away from the loud dude) and play the game. I've got 2 videos for you to watch: the first is gameplay footage with developer commentary and the second is an interview with their lead (and hungover) designer Adam to discuss the finer points of unleashing our fury.
The footage isn’t all that exciting; its more basic introductory type stuff than furious PvP action.

I didn't think having the announcers was that great of an idea for E3 and I was wrong. They were great and really got people into the booth. The hot two Amazon-sized Fury booth babes helped too. At PAX though I can see how their style may not have meshed with the real hardcore gamers especially without the hot babes. Nothing is really as good without hot babes. I’ve always said that.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

PAX

MMORPG.COM has some pictures of PAX, (Penny Arcade Expo to you noobs) where you can see the Fury booth. I don’t want to imply anything, but compare the Fury Booth picture vs. the ArenaNet Guild Wars Booth picture.

Carolyn also mentions playing Fury in her coverage from the floor.

UPDATE! I was just told that Fury was also mentioned under the tournaments feature:

Fury on the other hand had no super fancy prizes. Their supremely well placed booth is in the center of everything and attracted a lot of attention, especially thanks to their two loud-mouth commentators. They simply randomly handed out loot on the first day to lucky “MVPs” of matches. Carolyn and I both played quite a bit and had a grand time, which I will get into in a more formal article later. Nonetheless, Fury looks like the ultimate game for jump in, causal, fast PvP action.

UPDATE! Dana Massey from MMORPG.COM posted her write up of Fury as part of their full coverage from the floor of the Penny Arcade expo. Few minor points were off the mark but a nice general primer.

Kane

I just saw the latest sneak peak video for Command & Conquer 3. No, I’m not going to link it. I’m not doing anything for EA unless they are giving me lots of money to do so. If I’m going to be a hypocrite I’ll at least have to be bought first. Yeah I redid all the infantry icons for the German version of C&C: Generals for them but it paid for my trip to Disney World. If you want to see all 20 seconds of the video it you can go looking for yourself. I just wanted to say: Joe, if you’re reading this. I hope you're making EA pay through the nose!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Check!

Breaking out the “things to do before I die list”… Snorkeling on The Great Barrier Reef… CHECK!!! Been there done that! It was very very cool and I am definitely thinking about going again.

I did loose my Tour de France hat though. I watched some lady go out onto the fore of the boat and have her hat just vanish. The wind was so strong coming up over the front of the boat and funneling along the side that it didn’t blow off, it vanished. So then a few minutes later when I was getting motion sick I made sure to hang on to my hat very tightly when I went out. I had a barf bag in my other hand but once I got up front the fresh air and being able to see the dips and waves coming calmed me down. I decided to stick the barf bag in my pocket but I couldn’t fold it up one-handed. I was going to take the hat off and tuck it under my arm but when I lifted it an inch off my head the wind caught it, ripped it out of my hand and it was gone. I replaced it with a hat from Quicksilver, the tour outfit that took us out to the reef.

We also went up to the Daintree Rainforest for two days where we hung on the beach and did some Jungle Surfing but missed out on the night forest walk because it was constantly booked up. On the drive back down to Cairns we did see a Cassowary standing in the middle of the road. One of the Jungle Surfing guides had asked us if we had seen one saying it had taken him 5 years of living up there before he saw one. We had read a sign somewhere that said we should report any encounters or sightings of the bird but none of us could remember where we had read that or where we were supposed to report it to. Besides we couldn’t figure out how to describe where we had seen it since “that curvy part of the road with all the trees” wasn’t going to narrow it down much.

I got a whole slew of pictures from the trip but I seem to have uninstalled Photoshop. I was using it a few weeks ago and did do some cleaning up of my harddrive since then when making room for ComicBase. I can only guess I uninstalled it by accident when using the Add/Remove Program list to remove crap.

Back to the list, it originally said “Scuba diving” not “Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef and last year I did go down to take scuba diving lessons. The first introduction lesson was free and we asked ahead of time if my diabetes and irregular heartbeat would be a problem and they said no worries. But once we showed up they said I would need a note from my doctor. I did plan on getting said note but then we spent that money on a trip to Sydney to see the Lord of Rings museum exhibit which was being extended an extra week.

What else have I done on the list? Play Poker in Vegas which isn’t really fair because I was living in Vegas when I first decided to make a list.

I’ve also seen Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC which was a disappointment because I found out that the theatre had collapsed in 1893, was rebuilt as a warehouse, then abandoned in 1931 then rebuilt and restored in 1967. So it’s not like it’s really “the same” Ford’s Theatre anymore. The museum in the basement was pretty cool though, seeing the coat President Lincoln was wearing stained with his blood really brings it all into reality. The coat had a big section cut out where somebody had been cutting it up and selling small squares of it as souvenirs to people.

Actually I’ve never actually “made” the list as in formally write it down. But if I did number one on things still to see would be the Aurora Borealis. I’ve wanted to see that since I heard about it. Then in no particular order Mount Rushmore, Great Wall of China (a remote part), Easter Island, Great Pyramid of Giza & the Sphinx. I’m a little wishy-washy about those last two now that I’ve checked the area out via Google Earth. The place looks like tourist hell. I would also have to include Uluru here in Australia.

I’ve had a chance to see the Statue of Liberty and to go up into the World Trade Center when I was in New York a few years ago. But I passed on those “standard” tourist things in favor of some other things. Of course now that the two towers aren’t there anymore I wish I hadn’t passed. I get to see the guy and kitchen they based the “Soup Nazi” on in Seinfeld, a Broadway show whose name I can’t remember, and hang out in Grand Central Station to people watch. I also saw a really scary, crazy, homeless man down in the sub-way. Not things on “the list” but still pretty cool.

Now after reading all this, you may think you really know what kind of dweeb I am but you'd be wrong. What was I doing while hanging out on the beach in the Daintree Rainforest? New Super Mario Bros on the Nintendo DS.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Fury / Duke Nuke'm Forever Combo Pack

Adam has an interview about Fury over at Game World Network where he totally busts me for making a Duke Nuke'm Forever joke.

ComicBase

I recently bought the Archive Edition of ComicBase. It’s a really powerful comic book inventory database program that is tied in with Comic Buyers Guide prices and has weekly updates (example of a weekly update here) of prices and new comics. The 1 long box, 2 short boxes and handful of graphic novels I brought with me to Australia have grown into 1 long box, 8 short boxes and over 200 graphic novels. In comparison I have 20ish long boxes and an unknown number of graphic novels in storage back in Vegas.

ComicBase is way and above the other inventory programs out there. Some of the other ones I’ve looked at aren’t much better than the one I wrote in basic on my Commodore 64 back in the 80’s. I called it CIA for Comic Inventory Assistant. Cool, huh?

I bought the Archive Edition of ComicBase, the most expensive of multiple flavors of the program, because God forbid I not spend forty bucks when I could spend three hundred. The Archive Edition comes with over 150,000 cover scans so you can see pictures of the issues in the program. It also allows me lots of cool options for the Windows slide show screensaver. I really wish the slide show screensaver didn’t suck so badly though, if the Megabucks Slot Machines used the same type of randomizer we’d all be multi-millionaires.

I also sprung for the handheld bar code reader which allows me to jump to and batch add comics just by scanning their bar code; provided they are new enough to have bar codes and that they were entered when the issue was added. This version of the program allows you to submit new or corrected data so I’m doing my part by entering and sending in the ones I have that it doesn’t. I would love to say I’m doing it out of a generous nature and desire to share with others, but honestly I just like playing with the bar code reader. Bleep!

I do have a problem with the program though. It is very ridged on what it will report. I was expecting to be able to build detailed, custom queries and reports. It allows me a number of custom fields and check boxes but I can’t build reports based on them. It also doesn’t allow me to build reports based on many of the fields it has built in nor does it let me alter the report format.

For example I want to print a wish list. It allows me to easily build an “Issues I am missing” list by taking the list of titles where I own at least one issue the series of and printing the issues I am missing. The problem is that I have a lot of comics from a lot of titles where I am not interested in the issues I am missing. I can easily print a report based on titles in my collection and then not select those titles, but besides the hassle of going through several hundred titles to do that I also have a good number of comics on my wish list where I don’t own any comics in that title series.

What I want to do is to be able to mark comics as being on my wish list and then to print just a list of those marked issues. To do that under the current system I have to use the provided “marked” check box which is fine, but then I have to print a title report of EVERY comic in the database and tell it to only print marked issues. At least I think that is what I have to do because it’s been a few hours and its still “preparing report.” I'll let it run overnite before giving it up.

I’m thinking at this point, at least for the wish list functionality, I’m better severed by the pocket-sized notebook I carry around.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Fury-Sanctuary Interview

Fury Sanctuary Q&A #2: Joseph HewittFury-Sanctuary just posted an interview I did with them last week. In the interview I paraphrased some quotes and then challenged them to find out where they are from. Cameron has been sitting in the IRC channel this morning and says that they arn't having any luck so far. I quote Kriuq "The internet is failing me".

I also signed up for some News Alerter service at MMORPG.COM which tells me they are kicking off their brand new series of exclusive screenshots. They say I should check back every Monday for 2 new images from Fury, the new MMORPG in production at Auran. Currently they have 2 shots of the School of Life. I'm pretty sure those are the first shots of that area. They are okay, its just doesn't look as cool frozen in a screenshot after you are used to seeing it while running around and animating.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Console Modding Versus Region Coding

Ozymandias is a Microsoft employee with a blog. I tried rewording that several times so that it didn’t sound like I was saying something I wasn’t. But it kept coming out sounding like, well like “Tommy is a 3 year old, a 3 year old with a gun!” But that isn’t what I’m saying at all. He is a blogger and he works for Microsoft, that’s all I’m saying.

Oh, and he wrote a bit entitled: The Problem with Modchips where he shares his thoughts and opinions on Modding. Modding being the purchasing and installing of special chips into your console game system; which in turn allows for playing of import games, creating your own custom content, and piracy. You all knew that unless you’re my mother reading my blog again. Everyone say hello to my mother.

So of those three in reverse order:

3) Piracy
Piracy is wrong. They are stealing. I too am a game developer and you are taking money out of my pocket. I don’t care if you wouldn’t have bought the game anyway. If you are playing it you should be paying for it.

2)Custom Content
Bah. He goes into the business model of the console systems and explains why you shouldn’t be doing what you want with your own hardware, making your own games but instead should be buying official games.

You know I don’t really see this as being a problem. I think the very few hardcore people that are making and sharing their own content are buying just as many games, if not more, than the rest of us. Plus they are gaining experience and are better positioned to get a job in the industry.

1) Import Games
Okay this is where he really looses me. Let me quote him:
The desire to play import games is at least a reason I can rationally understand, but cannot condone. Sure, there are games you might want to play that are either released earlier or, quite possibly, not released at all in your region. But sometimes companies have good reasons to either not release a title into a region or release it at different dates. It may be because of the time and cost of localization, marketing plans, ad buys, cultural considerations, or perhaps even because of the impact of piracy in the region. Whatever the case, it’s safe to assume the publisher has thought about it. The good news is that most publishers are developing with multiple platforms, regions, and languages in mind up front, so this is becoming less and less of an argument. (After all, it’s in the publisher’s best interest to sell as many copies as possible, right?)
What a load of bull$#!+ (remember my mother may be reading this so nobody tell her how to translate those symbols.) They might be valid reasons why the company didn’t release the game in that region, but none of those reasons are valid about why people that are actually paying above and beyond the cost of the game should be allowed to enjoy the game. They are spending their hard earned (well I assume its hard earned, but lets not judge) cash for the game. This is yet another sale for the publisher. On top of that they are also paying for the shipping cost of the game from what ever other region they are buying it from. Plus they paid for the mod chip and maybe even paid to have it installed. All of that so they could get a copy of a game that isn’t available in their own region.

Lets go through Ozymandias’ lame reasons and see if we can find any downside:

Time & Cost of Localization
The Company didn’t take the time nor did they pay the cost of localization and yet they made an extra sale of the game can’t really see the downside here.

Marketing Plans
Let’s not let the tail wag the dog here. Marketing plans are things to which the company does in order to get people to buy the game. Somebody bought the game, job well done have a cookie. It doesn’t spoil any marketing plan if somebody buys the game early.

“Oh my God! Somebody bought the game before our TV commercial came out! Our marketing plan is ruined! What ever will we do?”

Actually somebody buying the game early is a marketing plan itself. It is like when movie studios do sneak peeks before the movie is released in order to generate a buzz about the movie. I can’t see a problem here unless the game really sucks and they are afraid that the early purchaser is going to tell everybody it is turd in a box before their marketing plan can trick more people into wasting their money on it.

Ad Buys
WTF? He doesn’t have a lot of good reasons so he tried to fake another one but it this is more “Marketing Plan” crap. Seriously somebody bought the game without having to have witnessed some marketing spin; again I can’t see the downside.

Cultural Considerations
Like what? I think what he really means is that if the company doesn't think the game is the kind of game that would sell well in that country. I completely understand that a game company might think this due to the country's prevailing culture. That is a perfectly reasonable justification for not having released the game in that region. I do not expect a company to spend all the money it would take to sell a game in a region if they don’t think anybody there is going to buy it… but somebody did buy it! We are talking import purchases here remember. Somebody is buying the game even though the company didn’t release it in their region. That’s and extra sale!

I am not even trying to use any of this as a reason to say the company should have released the game in some other country. I know that just because some people imported the game doesn’t mean there would be enough people who would buy it to justify the expense of releasing it in that country. I am only saying that this isn’t a reason to be against somebody going through the extra effort of buying and importing it. Somebody bought the game that otherwise wouldn’t. Once more there is no downside.

Impact of Piracy in the Region
Okay this is the KEY POINT deserving of capital letters. If they are against modding of console systems for the very understandable reason of possible software piracy then why keep with the practice of region coding and restricting of consoles and games? It is companies like Microsoft that are region restricting the damn things in the first place! If people didn’t have to mod their console in order to play a game they imported from another region they wouldn’t also be able to play pirated games. Would some people still mod their consoles to play pirated games, sure. But modding wouldn’t be going more and more main stream with each console generation and in turn increasing the market for pirated games! (slam your fist down on the table when you read that, it helps with the effect.)

I do not currently own a modded console. But I do own a region 1 (United States region) Microsoft XBox, Sony Playstation 2, and Nintendo Game Cube each of which I bought the week they were released while I was in the United States. As you should know I moved to and am currently living in Australia now. Australia is region 4. I can not go down to my local game store and purchase games to play on any of those three systems because they only play region 1 games and aren’t modded to play region 4 games. My only choice is to import them from the United States which is a big pain in the ass so I haven’t been doing it.

In the past I have always bought all console systems that have come out right when they were released. I have yet to buy an XBox 360 and I probably won’t be buying a Sony PS/3 or Nintendo Wii right when they are released because I don’t want to buy a console that is restricted to region 4 because I will most likly be be going back to the US sometime in the future. Now I will admit I am not even sure if any of these systems are region restricted but I haven’t read anything to the contrary.

Game companies have not gained any new console video game sales from me in the last 2.5 years and they are losing out on selling me their new expensive console systems all because of region coding. The only way they will regain me as a customer is if I move back to the United States or if I am willing to start modding. Well either that or Microsoft can ship me a region 4 XBox and copy of every region 1 XBox game I own and then be willing to swap them all back plus any new one's I've bought while in Australia for region 1 versions if I go back to the United States. Somehow I'm sure they will have some detailed buisness model rational on why that isn't a good idea even though the current buisness model that I just spelled out doesn't have me doing any actual buisness with them.

Doing localized language versions is understandable, doing different packaging for each reason makes marketing sense, doing NTSC and PAL version is still unfortunately necessary even if just about all new PAL TVs support NTSC signals. But adding the region coding requires additional coding, packaging and versions without adding any real benefit in return. I’ve heard some song in dance in the past about how it’s done because retailers are demanding it, but since they are the ones selling and shipping the games to people ordering them outside their own region I do not believe it.

Papercraft Video Game Models

Papercraft LinkI really love vintage video game artsy stuff. I stumbled on this paper art site that has "papercraft" models from the Advanced Wars series, Legend of Zelda, Tomb Raider and others. The site offers template downloads of all the models with full instructions on how to assemble them so you can make your own.

I of course rushed to down load and print out copies of my own that I can now leave sitting on my desk, unassembled, for the next few years because who has that kinda time?

Monday, July 31, 2006

Fury Fan Videos


Online Welten has posted two videos of Fury that he took during E3. The first one above shows a few minutes of Vortex combat and the second video is just them watching the slow motion promo video that has been out for awhile.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

E3 Cancled?

E3Next-Gen.Biz is reporting that the major video game industry convention, in its present form, has been cancelled for next year and the foreseeable future. READ MORE

It's still Sunday in the rest of the world so they story doesn't seem to have spread much yet but I am sure we will see a lot more of this on all the news sites by tomorrow. The last I had heard was that the show had gotten so big they were planning on moving it to the Las Vegas Convention Center in 2008.

Personally I thought that the event was a bit of a money sink for a lot of reasons. But it did serve one really good purpose which was to put a lot of industry people together. It allowed industry people looking for jobs to get a lot of interviews with developers, it allowed developers to meet and show their products to a lot of publishers, etc. Just having been there as a developer looking for a publisher I got to experience a lot of that first hand. I loved going to the show before that just to see it all and I know a lot of people here at Auran who had never been before were just awestruck at how big and exciting it was. It was even great now that my former Westwood Studios co-workers are spread to the four winds to get a chance to run into a few of them.

If this story is true I'll be very disappointed.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Audio Books

I have been listening to unabridged audio books for many many years now. I was a big customer of Books-On-Tape and Recorded Books Inc. which were mail order rental companies plus I had a huge collection of well over 200 or so titles. For example I haven’t read a single Harry Potter book but instead own them all unabridged on CD. I also own the entire Lord of the Rings set including The Hobbit and the Silmarillion unabridged on CD.

Before I left the states I sold most of my collection to a used book store. I only kept ones that I thought I would be really listen to many more times such as my unabridged Douglas Adams collection which includes all 5 (1, 2, 3, 4 & 5) books in the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhikers Guide trilogy (plus 1-4 abridged which were my first audio books and were out long before the unabridged books were available), Last Chance to See, the 2 Dirk Gently books(1 & 2). (also a copy of the first one abridged which again came out before unabridged version), Douglas Adams at the BBC and Salmon of Doubt. The problem with these is all but the last two are on cassette not CD. Last time I listened to them I noticed that they are starting to exhibit some wear, really bad wear as they are about 18 years old. When my last cassette player gave out on me I figured I would get a new cassette player and then convert them to MP3 files so I would always have them to listen to before they completely disintegrated on me. Well you might not have noticed but you can’t easily buy a cassette player anymore.

Then I noticed several books on iTunes that I would like; most notably George R.R. Martin’s New York Times best-selling series: A Song of Ice and Fire. I already own and have read books 1 through 3 in the series. Let me expand on that because it kind of plays into my point later on. I already own the books 1 through 4 in hard cover and have 2 copies of books 1 through 3 in paper back. I also own two copies of the unabridged audio version on CD of book 4, though the second copy was given as a gift by my brother in-law who didn’t know I had already bought it for myself.

I bought books 1 and 2 in the series from iTunes. I would buy book 3 but although they have book 4, they don’t offer book 3. I wrote them email about it, no answer.

Here is the list of unabridged audio books I have purchased from iTunes since I bought my iPod:
• A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin for $52
• A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin for $27
• Evermore by Sean Williams for $8
• The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett for $35
• The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett for $35
• Elric of Melnibon√© by Michael Moorcock for $19
• Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde for $26

That is over $200 dollars in not a long period of time. Actually the last 5 of those were in the last 2 weeks. Point I am trying to make is I am the target hardcore customer of unabridged audio books.

I am really dying for the 3rd book in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. I tried listening to the 4th book on CD when I first bought it back in December but it has been so long since I had read the first 3 that I was lost. Yes, I actually READ them! Just because I listen to audio books doesn't mean that I don't also read books. Normally I have two books going at once, one that I'm listening to and one that I'm readying before going to sleep at night. Anyway I started re-reading the series but I was slogging through them very slowly and kept having days pass by where I would read something else at night. That is why I jumped at them on iTunes.

I noticed that they are provided to iTunes by a company called Audible.com. Heading over to their web site looking for the 3rd book, I found they sell the audio books but you can’t browse their collection unless you join. You can browse their categories and see about 8 titles in each, but that is all they will show you. At the lowest level plan you pay $9.95 for a re-occurring yearly membership where you can download 1 audio book. But I want to see their selection before I give them money. As with all shopping on the internet I’m a bit suspicious of anything that wants my money and the fact that they won’t even let me see what they are selling before taking my money makes me think they are hiding something.

I know they are a legit company. It would even appear they are selling downloads recorded by both Recorded Books Inc. and Books-On-Tape. A few of the books I have bought through iTunes are labled "Recorded by: Recorded Books Inc. Offered by: Audible.com" But still I hesitate and if I, their core customer type, hesitate; how many new customers are they scaring away? What hoops and hidden dangers luck inside Audible.com? What, dear reader, will our hero do?

Monday, July 24, 2006

2 new Fury Interviews

MMORPG Interview with Joseph HewittI have an interview up at MMORPG.com. You can tell it’s actually me who wrote the answers because of all the spelling mistakes. For example I wrote “sneak peak” instead of “sneak peek”.

There really is a message written as I’ve described it in the last question. It is one of two references to one of my favorite book series that I snuck in there.

Cameron, who sits next to me and is one of two designers who recently shaved his head, also has an interview up over at Fury-Sanctuary. He doesn’t get a cool header graphic though.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Half-life Portals

The Half-life Portals video has been going around and if you haven’t seen it you should give it a look-see. It shows off the puzzle type game play that I expected to find in Prey but didn’t. The portals in Prey weren’t used to any real effect except to A) to get you to a new place in much the same way a newly unlocked door can and B) allow mobs to spawn out of nowhere which is nothing new. Prey also had the gravity stuff which I liked but wasn’t used for nearly as much puzzles as it could have been.

The Portals video shows that it is much more a puzzle game, a 3D first person puzzle game, which is what I was looking for and failed to find in Prey. Half-life Portals is based on and being done by the team that did Narbacular Drop which I just downloaded. Expect that site to be down a lot as everybody and their giant robotic dog pet is heading over there to check it out since the Portal video has been released.

...actually its been a few days now, I started writing this post last Wednesday or Thursday and am just now getting around to finishing it. I forgot about it in all honestly and only just remember when uninstalling iTunes and now have to reboot. It’s a big pain involving copying all these Audio Books from my iPod to my home computer. What a pain in the ass.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I Told Them "No Archery"

Did you ever read an interview with a game developer and suddenly realize that he isn’t really answering any of the questions? I mean he is answering them by spouting off marketing points that don’t really say anything you didn’t already know or could guess. Take for example this question and answer regarding the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean MMO game that I found on Worthplaying:
Q: What differentiates this game from other MMOs and pirate games?

The biggest difference between this game and other MMOs is that the pirate-themed world we are designing will feature some supernatural elements that are unique to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise: defending your ship from sea monsters, fighting skeleton pirates, and casting voodoo spells. We will also include the classic pirate activities: epic sea battles, searching for buried treasure, playing dice and cards, and carousing in towns.
My first thought that this must be some new use of the word “unique” of which I was previously unaware. I mean aren’t defending your ship from sea monsters, fighting skeleton pirates, and casting voodoo spells pretty standard? Did this guy not play Secret of Monkey Island? Here is a posting from Ron Gilber, Designer of the Secret of Monkey Island, on his blog Grumpy Gamer which mentions the similarities and inside jokes that exist in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies that relate to The Secret of Monkey Island.

The point of this was that he didn’t really answer the question because none of those things differentiates that from other pirate games. Hell the pirate game I worked on, Pirates the Legend of Black Kat, had all those things. Here are some more screenshots from my old resume site.

He doesn’t really answer the question, just rattles off some stuff in his game. But you know what he wanted to say don’t you? He wanted to say, “The thing that is going to differentiates Pirates of the Caribbean MMO from other games is that mine is gonna be really great!” But he can’t say that. He would also probably love to go on about some really cool features that putting in but he can’t do that either because until those features are in the game, working, and balanced they are likely to change or get cut. People reading interviews tend to carve words in stone. Then if ANY part of those features changes, they like to drag those stones out, tie them to your legs and send you for a long walk off a short pier.

Another thing that developers are afraid to do is say that something isn’t in the game. For example if somebody were to ask me if we were going to have player housing in Fury I would be afraid to just say, “No. we aren’t.” But that is what I would want to say. And as soon as somebody opened their mouth to complain I would calmly explain to them that there is no player housing in Battlefield 2. There is no player housing in Command & Conquer! There is no player housing features in checkers! And then, when they pointed out that those are different kind of games I would beat them senseless with my keyboard while screaming, “Exactly my point” over and over.

So all that leads up to the fact that Weezer_blue posted about bows and archery in Fury over on the Fury-Sanctuary forums. I watched the thread for a little bit and then decided to bit the bullet and just come right out and say that there is no archery in Fury. It was a big risk. I think I might have actually pulled it off. Check it out its pretty good. Here are some quoted responses:
I must admit that this is certainly the best reply I have seen from a dev saying NO! to his fans.
-Tchakra

Well said.
-goku19123

Best answer from a Dev, ever...
-Bladen Skull

Best Answer from a dev or PR person ever...
- Lissar

That's easily the best response from a Dev I've read in a while, even if I don't particularly like the news.
- Weezer_blue

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Another Fury Fan Site and Another Fury Interview

Recently Library of Rage went online as Fury's second fan site.

MMOsite.com has also posted an interview with our Lead Designer, Adam Carpenter.
Interview with Adam CarpenterAuran will be showing Fury at PAX, thats the Penny Arcade Expo, next month. Unfortunately I won't be attending. I did however do an interview that should be up on MMORPG.com next week.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Prey

I bought Prey PC DVD Saturday afternoon at about 4ish in the afternoon. I had played the demo and thought the puzzle aspects of the portals and gravity changing stuff might have potential. I’ve always wanted to design a tesseract into a FPS. I used to use them in my AD&D campaigns after reading about how it work in an issue of Dragon Magazine back in the early 80's. I even managed to work one into my old live action game. There isn't one in Prey, but with their engine there could be one. So anyway sometime just about midnight I finished the game. One night that was it. I’m going to see if somebody at works wants to buy the very slightly used copy off me.

I don’t really fault the game for being short. I remember a good number of years ago when everybody was raving about the first Max Pain game saying it’s only flaw was that you could finish it over a weekend. I thought that was a good thing because a weekend is really the only time had between work and (at the time) raiding in Everquest.

It is why Prey is short that bugs me. I really feel that the designers dropped the ball on the game. I think the biggest problem was that you can’t die. Well you die but then you go to the spirit world, shoot some ghosts that fly around you, and then you are resurrected right back where you left off. This means there is no point trying to figure out how to get through a difficult level because you just blast away until you die, you resurrect, continue, rinse and repeat.

Because of this “no dying” thing the designers were allowed to get away with building some really bad boss encounters. I cannot believe they designed those encounters without expecting you to die, die a few times, to get through them. I’m sure if some really good, twitch-master, 14-year old FPS video game ultra-expert sat down he could do it, but me… I died a few times. There was a little thinking involved with finding the ‘trick’ to killing some of the bosses but nothing that stumped me for more than half a second.

I can almost see the designers doing a little creative thinking and coming up with some cool ideas for bosses… and then just putting them in as is with little follow up or additional tweaking. I’m just speculating here but I really didn’t get the feeling they spent much time on how the player is supposed to fight the boss. They didn’t seem to put in other things in the area that the player can use to avoid the boss when he charges, or shoots his barrage of missiles, or whatever. Most boss fights felt like you were just supposed to go toe to toe with the mob, die, shoot some ghosts with your spirit boy, resurrected and continue where you left off.

Another problem with Prey is the horrible script and voice acting. I certainly didn’t feel like the main was a Cherokee warrior reconnecting with his cultural heritage. I thought he was a doofus, a complete dork. I can certainly see why Jen, his girlfriend, didn’t want to leave the reservation with him. Starting back at the beginning: He is disillusioned with the whole reservation thing, doesn’t believe in any of that spiritual nonsense, and wants to leave and start a new life. Okay, I get that. But then Aliens abduct him (notice I don’t associate myself, the player, as being the main character), his girlfriend and the grandfather. The aliens kill his grandfather in front of him and then when he should have died in a fall to his death suddenly finds himself in the spirit world where he meets his grandfather again, gets the spirit of his childhood hawk pet as a companion, and learns to separate his body from go spirit walking. You would think by this point he would be open to new things, start to sit up and pay attention to what the old (dead) guy is saying. But no, next time he goes back to the spirit world he is the same stupid doofus.

I love lines like, “I have to find Jen! She has to be close by!”

Does she? Does she really HAVE to be close by? She wasn’t by the way.

The back-story, the story germ itself was okay. It just failed in its execution. Getting Art Bell for the radio bits was cool though.

In conclusion I thought the game was just okay. Great technical aspects and good artwork but the design let me down. Multi-player might be really good but I have World of Warcraft and Battlefield 2 taking up that time. I also downloaded The Ship from Steam last night too. At $20 bucks I figured it was worth a shot. I only got to play the offline version for 10 minutes today before we went out so I still don't know if it is any good or not.

Oh if you do spend a evening playing Prey, watch through to the end of the credits for a short sequel set-up. It’s nothing great but you might as well squeeze the last drop out of the game.