Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cherry On Top

I put a reference to Cherry On Top frozen yogurt in Highborn and now Cherry On Top has announced on their blog that if you take a screen shot of that bit and send it in, you could win stuff.

I do think they have the best frozen yogurt. Yum.

Go read about the contest here.

Merry Christmas from Jet Set and Floyd

I did another quick Jet Set Games Christmas picture. I didn't get a chance to spend as much time on this one as I would have liked. I imagined a scene with Floyd as Santa, carrying a bag of presents, and filling a lot of 'odd' shaped stocking hanging above a fireplace. Each stocking would have a picture of one of the Worgon kids with a large picture of Enzo and Jessica on the mantle.

...but since Danny didn't have the time to actually do I real picture like that, I Photoshopped this together from the Chapter 3 key art in under and hour. Brett commented that it was very Tim Burton and asked if maybe we could have an alternate one featuring says, Trillian. I have to remind him that we are hard at work on an exciting new game and I did this on my own, seriously cutting into my video game playing time.

I do wish I had saved all of the thrown together Christmas pictures I've done over the years.

In other news:  Rade and I just did an interview with PC Game about creating the original Command & Conquer where it was pointed out that I have worked on more C&C games than anyone. This is only due to a technicality. I re-did some artwork for the German version of C&C Generals, turning the infantry on the sidebar to androids, giving me a one up on the rest of the core C&C team. That article is probably a few issues off from showing up though. I'll remind you about it later.

I also, just this second, found a Highborn page on TV Tropes, amazing level of detail. I am going to have to go back over my dialog file to see if they missed anything. You should go check out the page to see if you caught all the stuff they did.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Birth of the First Real-Time Strategy Game

I happened to look at the trivia section for Dune II on Moby Games. I found the following entry:
This game is commonly called "the first real-time strategy game", but that designation is incorrect. Dune 2 borrowed many elements from a previous Westwood release, Battletech: The Crescent Hawk's Revenge. And thatgame borrowed elements from what is probably the first true game in the typical "RTS" genre, The Ancient Art of War.
This is all false. I was an artist and designer on Battletech: The Cresent Hawk's Revenge and its predecessor Battletech: The Cresent Hawk's Inception. I must, somewhat embarrassingly, admit that I never played The Ancient Art of War though I heard it was a very good game. I could also point out that some of Westwood's earliest projects were converting SSI's games to the Amiga and Atari ST. But the point that this guy doesn't seem to understand, and made funny by this comment of "typical RTS" was that those were all "turn-based" strategy (TBS) games. Dune II was the first "real-time" strategy (RTS) game. Maybe he just never knew what R.T.S stood for.

I don't have the text of my update and it is pending approval on Moby Games. When they approve or reject it I'll get an email where I'll have access to the text of it again. I'll post it here when they do.

I figured since I was at it I would also share some other information on the game's history.

French developer Cryo Interactive was developing a Dune game for Virgin Interactive, but it wasn't going anywhere. Not wanting to waste the Dune license, Virgin gave the game to Westwood, who they had just acquired. This is circa 1992 and when Westwood change from Westwood Associates to Westwood Studios. Virgin was planning on canceling the Cryo game, but instead one of their producers flew out to France and got things going again and did. Virgin soon found they had two Dune games, though they were quite different. Cryo’s Dune is more of an adventure game that basically followed the story of the first book/movie. Westwood’s Dune was the first Real-Time Strategy game. Cryo finished their game first and it was released first, hence this game being Dune II.

Westwood wanted to just call the game, Dune: The Battle for Arrakis, but Virgin’s American marketing department insisted on calling it “Dune II” and they didn’t like the sub-title, “Battle for Arrakis” because they thought it made the game sound too much like one of those slow and boring, turn-based, strategy games that were dying out at the time. It should also be noted that some of Westwood’s first products were porting SSI’s turn-based strategy games onto the Atari ST and Amiga. Virgin wanted to emphasize the building and development aspect of the Dune II, so it would appeal to people who liked games such as the then popular: Populous and Civilization, two of the three games that inspired the gameplay in Dune II by the way. The third game that inspired Dune II was the Sega Genesis game, Herzog Zwei.

Later when Virgin’s European office was given the game to market in their territories, without knowing anything of the previous argument, renamed it, “Dune: The Battle for Arrakis.”

Friday, December 09, 2011

Blade Runner, the Cool Twitter Kids and I

One of the cool things about twitter is getting to listen in on people (I was gonna say famous people, but that sounds lame, especially when the people I am talking about aren't mega-famous, just authors or artist I like) talking to each other. There is the somewhat neat factor when you find out the people you like and follow also follow and talk to each other. You get the feeling that you are there with them while they are talking about stuff. That all still sounds pretty Access Hollywood lame, but there you go.

My point, which is covered up by my new hat everybody seems to like, though somebody did say I look like a shady character, is that I was reading a twitter conversation between Joe Hill, Ed Brubaker, and Michael Oeming where Oeming mentioned how much he liked playing the Blade Runner game we made at Westwood Studios back in 1997.

I should admit that, although I worked on the project in the beginning, nothing I did remained in the project when it shipped. For the longest time the Windows icon was the last thing remaining that I had created, but at the last minute they changed it. Mine was the silhouette of Decker used in the title on the movie poster, which I thought was the perfect icon. No idea why they changed it. I'd ask Rade, as he was the producer on the project, but after all these years I don't really care that much. My heart has since mended.

Anyway, nerd boner. Though I will admit I have no plans to frame these tweets like I want to do with the ones where Monkey Island creator, Ron Gilbert, praised my game, Highborn, on the iPad.  Note, that I haven't framed Gilbert's tweets, I just have had plans to frame them for about a year now.

Copy & Paste Customer Service

Following this introduction is my exchange with a Blizzard customer support representative regarding the issue in my previous post.

Now, I cast the blame partly on him and partly on the corporate mentality that emphasizes issue resolve time and neatly worded replies. I worked briefly in Customer Service for Star Wars Galaxies at launch so I know what goes on. I had plenty of co-workers who would do nothing but use a program that pasted issue solutions. They did just what Osomveskin does, see the basics of the problem paste the generic response. You can the same thing on a lot of phone support where you can tell they are following a flow-chart. Yes, they appear to have a great resolve time, but they it is still HORRIBLE customer service because they not only don't solve the customer's problem, they look like idiotic monkeys.

All is not lost however, there are some companies who shine at customer service like and American Express. With both of those companies I have personally experienced, and heard many stories from others, about how they listen to your problem and fix it beyond the customer's expectations.

You'll note in my response to Osomveskin that I did figure out what the problem is with a further search of the forums.
12/8/2011 8:39 PM
I have been accepted into the Diablo III beta and played for a little while. I have found, however, that I cannot post in the Diablo III forums. I get the "game license has expired or been cancelled" message when trying to reply and creating a new topic. A search for this error has only given me old information pertaining to other games.

Customer Service Representative
1 hour ago

Thank you for contacting the Blizzard Entertainment Tech Support Department.
If you are having problems accessing or using the Forums, we have some steps for you to try to correct the problem. Note that an active StarCraft II or WoW account is required to post on the forums.

1. As a general step, you may want to clear the temporary internet files and 'cookies' on this computer. Please note that this may clear your saved passwords and settings for certain websites. Instructions on how to remove cached files and cookies for some of the more common browsers are listed below. If your browser is not listed please consult your browser's help files on how to delete cached files and cookies.

If you are using Internet explorer, click on Tools in the menu bar at the top, select Internet Options, Look for the Temporary Files or Browsing History section and click the Delete button. Make sure to delete Files and Cookies when prompted.

For Firefox, select Tools from the menu bar, click Clear Private Data, and make sure Cache and Cookies are selected and click the "Clear Private data now" button.

For Safari, in the menu bar click on Safari, select Preferences, Security, Show cookies and Click remove all.

Cookies must be enabled for you to access the forums. Your browser security settings or computer security software can stop you from accessing the page properly. If you are unsure how to clear your temporary internet files, or change the security settings for your internet browser, please see your browser's help section for further assistance. You may even want to try a different web browser.

2. If you receive a "Login Server Down" message, the login server itself may be experiencing a temporary downtime. This is often concurrent with login problems with the game itself, and should be resolved shortly after the login server is back online.

3. If you receive any generic or specific "Error" when you try to post, please wait 5-15 minutes and give it another try. This can occur during website maintenance or even during login server issues
If you are using Google Web Accelerator with your internet browser please try disabling it and then log back on to the forums. If you are not sure how to disable the Google Web Accelerator, please visit for further assistance.


Freddy M.
Customer Support
Blizzard Entertainment

A few seconds ago
Thank you for your cut and pasted reply that doesn't address my issue at all and was a complete waste of my time to read.

Here is a link to the actual solution to my problem:

I just got home and found that they took the Diablo III beta server down until tomorrow, but as I'll be out of town until Sunday night it means I won't get to play this weekend.

I did get another update to my customer service ticket though, and this guy actually read my email and spend the time to type out an actual response. See, they aren't all bad. I don't even mind the mistakes (yeah, like I'm one to talk) because this way I know that I am actually getting his attention where the pre-typed out response makes me feel like I'm being ignored.

Customer Service Representative 3 hours ago Hey there Joseph =)! I do apologize for the earlier response and it was just a general troubleshooting for a lot of forum threads. For beta testing within D3 (congratz btw!) some of the issues and answers can be found on the forums as you found =). If you do run into any future D3 issues I do implore that you do post on the forums as well as the developers *do* read them and it is important we document any problems as well. Thanks in advance for future feedback and hope you enjoy your time in D3 not only in Beta but on actual release as well =). Happy holidays! Thanks and take care! 
- James

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Diablo III beta

I have been in the Diablo III beta for two nights now. At this point it sucks because I can't play.

I got to play a little last night, but it keeps losing connection to the server. If you've kept up, you have to be connected to the server in order to play, even if you are playing the single-player game. They've said some things but we all know it is for two reason which are not in any particular order: anti-piracy for one. And two, the real-money auction house where you can buy and sell items and they really want to make sure you aren't going to cheat. But watching the server go up again down like (insert inappropriate joke about your mom here) you can see where the concept is slightly flawed.

The worst part, and the reason I am so frustrated, is that the launcher gives you an error that is a number that tells you nothing. I think I have seen three different error numbers but I don't know what they mean. At first I thought maybe there was something wrong on my end, but at least I on the forums this isn't the case. The last post from Blizzard was over two hours ago and said the server is back up, which is then immediately followed a few minutes later by a billion posts from people who can't get on. Nothing else official has been posted.

Oh, and I can't post on the forums. I get "This account has limited posting access due to the following condition: This game license has expired or been cancelled."

I tried to search their forums for what this problem was related to, but all the information I could find was related to the old Starcraft II beta and not relevant. I went to their customer service section and filled out the web form, of course their neatly organized categories didn't really come anywhere close to the problem I was having. I picked something that seemed relevant if you squint. Hopefully it will get passed along to the right department.