Friday, December 28, 2007

Lay On McDuff

The job search is still on going though it is completely stalled since it is the middle of the holidays and everybody is on vacation. I’ve taken advantage of the situation by not doing much myself except trying my best to be up and in the shower before noon. I do have several projects I’ve been wanting to get started on though, some writing, a few t-shirt ideas to put up on cafĂ© press, taking that new picture of myself with short hair and reorganizing my audio book collection off my iPod and back onto a computer. I had been buying, downloading, and storing them on my work computer and am still thankful that my new iPod is was big enough to store all the ones that I had not already copied and taken home.

We do have to be out of this apartment by the middle of February though, as the owner sold the place and the new people plan on living here. Hopefully I will have at least some idea of what is going on by then. My mother has dropped more than one hint that we could always move in with her back in Vegas while I look for another job back in the U.S. I do miss the states a little. I somehow was found myself watching an episode of Cops that came on after one of those FBI profiler shows where I was too lazy to change the channel. I was glued to the TV watching the guy in the patrol car drive around Vegas trying to pick out landmarks I knew including one excited shout of “Look! A Wienerschnitzel!” Oh chili cheese dog, how you haunt my dreams.I do want to thank Pandemic Studios; another Brisbane based game company, for throwing a Christmas party for all the ‘retrenched’ Auran people. Somebody over there found out our Christmas party had been canceled as part of the whole company being insolvent thing. They stepped up and managed to put together a party for us at the last minute. I won a $50 Myer gift certificate as one of the door prizes.

As 2007 draws to a close amidst a dark cloud where I am out of work, will cease to have a daily excuse for writing 2007 with a little hanging bit and the cross through the center of the 7 that I learned from David Copperfield back in the early 80’s and we find that Spider-Man’s continuity has been rewritten so that he was never married to Mary Jane. I’m sorry if I’m spoiling the end of the “One More Day” storyline for you but we pretty much expected that’s how this awful arc would come to an end.

To 2008 I say this:
Lay on, McDuff, and damned be him who first cries ‘Hold, Enough!’

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Looking for Work

It’s been a wild four years, but Auran Developments has been declared insolvent and officially let everybody go today. There is talk of re-hiring a core Fury team to move the game forward to its release in China where I expect it will do very well. I don’t know if I am going to be offered a place on that team or not but as of now officially looking for another job.

So if anybody is looking to hire a game designer let me know. I do interface design, specs, world building, writing, quests… content designer sort of stuff. I have a good deal of experience with MMO games and generally enjoy all aspects of multi-player gameplay.

Resume and full list published titles available in the link over on the right, under my picture that I still haven't updated now that I cut my hair.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Korean Predictions for WoW from April 6th 2004

Way back in the deep dark roots that eventually became Fury, we were originally working on a completely different game, a full blown MMORPG for a Korean publisher. One of the problems we had was trying to push them to moving forward, to innovate, and to just be different from the others Korean MMORPGs. You know the old saying, seen one Korean MMO you’ve seen them all. Green fields of monsters with very little depth of gameplay.

I’m not trying to put down Korean game companies. Despite anything bad we can say about their MMO games, they seem to be doing okay for themselves. But the question is, would they know a good thing when they see it? 3 years later WoW is now an unqualified success in Korea with about 2 million of WoW's 9 million world-wide subscribers coming from the Korean market. But how did they think WoW would do back at release?

Well here is an email from a guy at our Korean publisher written Tuesday, 6 April 2004. I found it while cleaning out some old folders in Outlook.
Subject: World of Warcraft feedback from Korea

Here is some feedback from 10 industry insiders(developers and marketing managers).

Overall, Korean developers released their initial tension on WOW.
Many forecast WoW will be end just like other western games in Korea.
It is only good game for hardcore target but not more than that.
They are expecting maximum concurrent users will be 20,000.

The Biggest weakness is keyboard movement, Character look and weak characteristic of items.
Also weak party play elements are mentioned many times.

● Strong Points
+ Well optimized. Geforce 2 friendly, good game play on Pentium 800
+ Overall world design and atmosphere is good.
+ Fun quest and every efficient
+ There are many ways to get XP, feel like enjoying real adventure
+ Efficiently managed packet data
+ NPC is very active, which give alive world feelings.
+ Sound support is great, easy to notice and handle when error occurred
+ Light and fun PVP
+ Maintained strong point and improved weak point from Diablo

● Weak Points
+ Movement, it is not mouse point and click. Have to be adapted
+ Character taste is quite different, which make obstacle to immerse in game world.
+ Item collection is not convenient. One more step to collect them.
+ Unstable balancing. Colouring for level difference is ambiguous.
+ Item system is not stable. There are many items are abandoned in game world.
+ Uneven HP recovery for each races
+ Weak item identity
+ Not strong party play leading.
First thing: he says 20,000 "maximum concurrent users." He doesn't say "subscribers" nor does he say "online users" which is good because giving that English is his second language we wouldn't want to pass too much judgment on what may be a translation issue. But even giving them the benefit of the doubt, at 2 million subscribers you can bet WoW's concurrent online users is still much higher than 20,000 players. And he does clearly say that the game will only do well with hardcore game players and will fail like other Western games that have tried to penetrate the Korean market.

Take what you want from the strong points they are pretty straight forward. Lets jump right to the weak points:

Point and Click movement, the bane of our existence back then. Blizzard did eventually capitulate and put in an optional point and click movement system. It went in during the final stage of the beta and was in the game when these guys were playing. If what I’ve been hearing is true, nobody uses it even now.

Character taste, they hate the ‘cartoon’ characters, fair enough lots of Western players said the same.

The item collection thing, what he is talking about is having to click on the mob’s corpse in order to loot them. In most of the Korean MMORPGs when you kill something all the items drop directly to the ground. I should note here that in most of those games they drop right to the ground where anybody can pick them up, not just the player who defeated the mob. So he is saying they don't like the extra step of having to click on the corpse and then loot.

Coloring again refers to items. He is saying they are saying the game’s itemization is unbalanced and they think the way they color the names of items to show its power/rarity is ambiguous.

The item system being unstable is his comment on the vendor trash items found on mobs. He is saying that useless items liter the game world. I assume at this point that they didn’t get far enough or didn’t understand the trade skills to take those items into account. But there are "grey" items which are just meant to be sold to vendors. It is actually a very good sub-reward system on top of straight coin reward. Coins add nothing to your inventory; you can just keep getting more. Items on the other hand take up inventory space and you can run out of room. It is a way of giving you money, but you have to manage your inventory and go back to town and sell them to a vendor to actually get that gold. I’m trying to remember what Korean MMOs I’ve seen with vendor trash items; they do tend to blend together after awhile but I’m sure the vendor trash thing has never really been just a Western game design element.

Uneven hit point recovery. I think they didn’t follow that one of your character’s stats affected your hit point recovery rate. Actually I have a hard time believing that is what they meant here. Maybe that two different character from different races had different hit point total, which again is still based on your character's stats. I dunno.

Weak item identity I don’t understand.

Not strong party play leading I don’t understand either. If you measure it up against something like Lineage they might be talking about the Prince/Princess class who are the only characters who can create a blood pledge and lead their followers to take over castles in game.

After he wrote that email he linked us to a Korean site that tracks games played in PC cafe's in Korea. I watched it for several months and Lineage, Lineage 2 and WoW were always right up there together with very little difference in numbers of players between them. Note that is Lineage 1 and 2 as two separate entries. I don't think I still have that link but I'd be interested to see how that data comes out today.

Take what you will from all that, I'd ramble on some more but I really do need to get to bed.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I don't like Chocolate

I have a dreaded dark secret that I’ve been trying to keep hidden from everyone for years. You already know what it is because it’s the title of this post: I don’t like chocolate. I like white chocolate with my favorite being the White Toblerone bars, Mmmm. I’m okay with chocolate cake, brownies, tootsie rolls, and even peanut M&Ms; straight up chocolate however is right out. The purer the chocolate the more I hate it. I bought Connie a 99% cocoa gourmet Lindt chocolate bar once and she had me try some. It was the second worst thing I have ever had tasted. I was going to say ‘had in my mouth’ but that just conjured up all the wrong associations.

When people, especially women, find out about my strong dislike for this revered confectionery they treat me like some kind of alien. They seem to find this whole admission even more offensive being that I was born on Valentines day thought they don't seem to be bothered by the fact that I don't run around in a diaper with a little bow and arrow. My only defense on the chocolate issue is to say that if I were to buy them some chocolate... say as a gift; they can rest assured that I won’t try to steal any. This usually grants me a temporary reprieve until they realize that the times I do happen to buy them some chocolate are few and far between. Its not that I’m not a loving, gift giving kinda guy, it’s just that I would rather get them something I can steal some of.

Now however, I have found any ally who understands my plight.