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,'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.