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 MelnibonĂ© 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.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Lords of the Dead

Lords of the Dead is a very old guild having gotten started in SSI’s Dark Sun Online in 1995. They were a powerful PK guild on the Baja server in Ultima Online and have also had a presence in Asheron’s Call, Dark Age of Camelog, Everquest, Guild Wars, Shadowbane and Star Wars Galaxies.

They added FURY to their list of upcoming games they were interested in at the beginning of the month and have just now wrangled a very good set of Questions and Answers from our lead Designer. Both of those two links are hosted in their forums so you can read the reaction posts of their community as well.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Ganked versus Pwned 2

After rereading my previous post just now; I should have been more careful writing it. The key element that differentiates being ganked and being pwned is expectation.

Just because you are a 3rd level character and you are killed by a 75th level character doesn’t mean you were ganked.

If you walked up and smacked the 75th level character and he turned around and killed you just by raising his eyebrow, you were pwned. If you were wandering around in an area of the game mean for characters of that level and one of them popped your head off as he rode by, you were pwned. You should know better in these cases. You deserved to get beaten. You brought it on yourself. Did you really expect thing to happen differently?

-Now for my answers to the 5 situation questions:

1. You have a group of high level players hiding out at the crossroads and along comes a lower level player picking flowers. Your “gank” group leaps out and starts smacking him around when suddenly his allies who were just using him as bait teleport in and kill you and your team.
You’re expectation was that there would be a fight. You instigated the fight, you just didn’t realize they were not only expecting it as well, they were also better prepared. You were pwned.

An even more complicated example of that situation happened to me in WoW last month. I was on an alternate low level character grinding through some quest mobs when a character of my level that was flagged for PvP kept trying to steal my mobs. Because we are on a PvE server he can’t attack me because I am not flagged for PvP until I attack him.

Now, I’m not a complete idiot and I knew he was just doing it to bait me into attacking him. And eventually when I was finished I thought I would toss a fireball his way before running off. I didn’t want to waste time fighting him, just wanted to have the last word so to speak. As soon as that fireball hit him his friend, the high level rogue, popped out of hiding and sends me to the graveyard.

Now I felt like I was ganked. He was definitely baiting me. But it was my fault. I knew he was baiting me, I knew that the way he was baiting me was specifically against the rules but I took the bait and I got pwned.
2. You sneak into the other team’s tower and go to grab their flag when 6 opponents who were hiding behind the door fill you full of holes.
You are in the other team’s tower. Again your expectation is that there is going to be a fight. You may have hopped to avoid it by sneaking in, but you failed. You were pwned.
3. You are tooling around in the game when you wife walks by wearing that skimpy outfit she wore on the honeymoon. You chase her off into the bedroom and return to the keyboard 3 minutes later to find you were killed.
You weren’t at the computer. Your expectations have much more to do with the bird and bees than with the game. This one is a very grey area. Because you left the computer with your character in a place where he could be attacked and killed, your expectation should have been that you could be in for a fight. But I am going to say you were ganked but you deserved it.
4. You are dueling another player when suddenly he does something that causes the game to bug out and kill you.
This one may seem like a grey area. Obviously your expectation is for a fight by the fact that you are dueling. But taking advantage of a bug is an exploit and not only completely unfair but should get the other player suspended or banned from the game. Exploits are outside of your expectation of the game. You were ganked.
5. A game master is in the game doing a story event of some sort. You decide to attack him with your meteor showers of instant death. But it doesn’t have any effect on his character and he turns and kills you with a developer command.
What did you think would happen? You attacked a GM. You were attempting to disrupt an in game event. You expectation should have been that you were going to get pwned and you were.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Ganked versus Pwned

After last E3 it became clear to me that way to many people don’t know the difference between being “ganked” and being “pwned.” These are two completely different ways of getting your butt kicked online, they do not mean the same thing.

For example in my upcoming game Fury, we advertise there is no “ganking.” But that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to get “pwned.” So let’s see if we can straighten this out.

First off let me preface this by say that for the purpose of this discussion I don’t care about the origin of the terms, who is credited with first coining them or what other uses they have besides how they are applied to gaming. I just want to stop them from blurring together and becoming synonymous when applied to being defeated.

Ganked PosterThat being said lets look at ganked and pwned on Urban Dictionary. You can kind of see the difference in the two words but there is way to much signal to noise on that site.

So now let’s try Wikipedia where we find ganked and pwned. Those are much better definitions.

Do you see the difference?

“Ganking” is when a player or players use a massive and unfair advantage to defeat another player. The defeated player wasn’t expecting to be in a fight and didn’t really stand a chance.

“Pwned” is soundly defeating a prepared opponent. The loser may have been caught by a surprise tactic, he may not really have stood a chance against the better player that defeated him, but he knew he would be in for a fight and got beat bad.

Examples of being Ganked: (Edited after I put up next post)
• You are jumped and killed and killed by a much more powerful character in a place where you thought you were safe from PvP.
• You are defeated while AFK (edit: very grey area, if you left your character somewhere he was vulnerable and that means you don't have the 'unexpected' excuse. But killing somebody who is AFK is pretty lame so I'll go ahead and say you were ganked. You deserved it though.)
• You opponent takes advantage of a exploit to defeat you
• You are attacked by surprise and caught completely unprepared and are defeated before you even knew what was going on
• You are tricked into performing what the game thinks is a hostile action in an area where NPCs will kill you if you do hostile actions
• You are attacked while you are already fighting another player or NPC and defeated

Examples of being Pwned:
• You duel somebody and they defeat you without taking much damage
• You jump out of the bushes in an attempt to gank a lower level player and he kills you instead
• You do something really stupid and your opponent defeats you.
• You talk a lot of smack about how you are going to defeat your opponent and he beats you

I guess it is important to mention some examples that are neither ganked or pwned. These are just cases where you won and dancing around saying pwned them will just make you look stupid and if he starts whining that you ganked him makes him an idiot:
• You are dueling somebody and beat them but not by a lot nor by any superior playing on your part
• You are fighting another player and defeat him by accident caused by some advantage that neither of you was aware of
• You defeat a more powerful opponent who was already just about dead from another fight

Now let’s have a quiz.

1. You have a group of high level players hiding out at the crossroads and along comes a lower level player picking flowers. Your “gank” group leaps out and starts smacking him around when suddenly his allies who were just using him as bait teleport in and kill you and your team. Were you ganked or pwned?

2. You sneak into the other team’s tower and go to grab their flag when 6 opponents who were hiding behind the door fill you full of holes. Were you ganked or pwned?

3. You are tooling around in the game when you wife walks by wearing that skimpy outfit she wore on the honeymoon. You chase her off into the bedroom and return to the keyboard 3 minutes later to find you were killed. Were you ganked or pwned?

4. You are dueling another player when suddenly he does something that causes the game to bug out and kill you. Were you ganked or pwned?

5. A game master is in the game doing a story event of some sort. You decide to attack him with your meteor showers of instant death. But it doesn’t have any effect on his character and he turns and kills you with a developer command. Were you ganked or pwned?

Post your answers in the comments.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Various Stuff

The Warcry Network has a video interview with our lead designer, Adam Carpenter. It was done in the very tiny and cramped office we had at our booth at E3 and the audio is really bad with the loud clamor of E3 in the background.

I hung out yesterday with Anthony Costoro, aka Sunsword, who’s blog “Sunsword’s Edge" is linked over there on the right. Got to talk a lot about things going on in the industry and the people we know in common.

We also went and saw Superman Returns. FYI: Superman's costume is bullet proof but not Kryponite proof. Thumbs up though, I liked it.

George Hincapie took the yellow jersey after stage 1 yesterday so I am wearing my Team Discovery Channel bike team jersey to work today. People always give me funny looks when I wear bike team jerseys but people wear football (rugby or AFL downunder) jerseys and they all think that is fine! Well the Team Discovery Channel jersey isn’t as odd looking as the U.S. Postal Team’s Jersey. Having that big U.S. Postal logo on the front is kind of odd. When I bought my Trek 5200 I had the option of buying it as the Lance Armstrong special edition but I just couldn’t get over having all those U.S. Postal logos on it. It made me think I should be delivering the mail.

2006 Tour de France

I just found out I had missed the prologue of the Tour de France. I had checked up on the Tour website last week but completely forgot that it started yesterday. I’m watching stage 1 live as I write this.

In years past I was able to listen to the previous stages audio at work but last year the Outdoor Life Network (the US cable TV station that broadcasts the Tour) didn’t offer it. I’ll have to do some web surfing tomorrow to see if somebody is offering it this year.

Lance Armstrong isn’t racing anymore but I am going to stick with Team Discovery Channel, formerly the US Postal team. They were running a bunch of humorous commercials and webisodes of “The Race to Replace Lance” that lead up to their announcing the team makeup for this year’s race. George Hincapie who is an American and former main Lance Armstrong teammate is my favorite this year. He came in second in the prologue stage by .73 seconds. I like the idea that US riders have been doing so well in the tour.

The Tour website is offering a Tour De France video game. You play the part of team manager. I’d buy it if I thought I had any time to actually play it.