Tag Archive for content

Fifty Thousand Words

For the first time ever, I have won the NaNoWriMo.  By focusing on word counts over content, I was able to bang out over 50,000 words in 30 days…

… and I feel dirty.

In my time on this Earth I have written a number of things of which I am ashamed, but after the first fifteen thousand or so words this year’s WriMo project turned into the worst piece of shit I have ever created.  I will set it aside and sometime in January I might review it, and in all likelihood I’ll delete over 35,000 of those words and pretend they never existed.  And that’s if I can ever bring myself to review it, which I may not, because it really is a piece of shit.

Next year, I think I’ll go back to focusing on content and return to my previous years of losing with style.  I’ve never felt so poorly about winning in my entire life.

What’s wrong with Free-to-Play?

The short answer: nothing.

Seriously though, as a person who likes to try out different games and hates have to cancel and resubscribe every time I jump, games without barriers to entry are awesome.  The latest rumble in the Internet is Turbine taking Lord of the Rings Online “free”.  As an observer of the MMO market, it isn’t hard to see why they might do this.  Some reports claim that Dungeons & Dragons Online experienced a 500% or more growth in revenue with their switch.  LotRO has always been a decently performing game, but if the switch gets them more players and more money while also making the game easier to try, well, more power to them.

And before people go off half-cocked calling them money grubbing or greedy, making games costs money.  DDO has had several content expansions since they went “free” and that is entirely due to the influx of money.  If companies don’t keep an eye on the bottom line, they can’t afford to make new stuff, and without new stuff people quit, which just leads to less new stuff.

To be honest, the only issue I have with the current trend of F2P games is that I feel the term is less and less accurate.  Sure, technically all these games are free to play, to a point.  But all of them have velvet ropes for subscription and/or item stores and more.  A better term, in my opinion, would be to call them “Pay What You Want” or “A La Carte” games.  The reason is that, for example, if DDOs 500% revenue growth is true, I doubt it is an even distribution.  Some players probably pay less now than they did when it was a subscription game, some pay nothing at all, while other players may be paying ten or twenty times more that the original subscription.

For me, I say, “Bring ’em on!”  Games with a low barrier for entry get my time and have a better chance of earning my money.  Heck, the game I spent the most on in the last year is Wizard 101 as I play through and buy content as I need it, playing and paying at my own pace.  I’ve been playing Puzzle Pirates for years and I’ve never invested a dime into it… but I’ve traded earned cash for bought cash (Pieces of Eight for Doubloons) that someone else had to buy, so my playing has earned them money.

I see nothing but win in this trend…  Games that are well designed are worth playing no matter the pricing structure.  Games that are blatant cash grabs will (should) have a short life.

Guilds, Servers and Venn Diagrams

One thing I’ve mentioned a time or two on this blog is how I miss the old days when there was more, what I call, casual socialization.  The ironic part is that while it felt casual, it wasn’t.  EverQuest was hard and slow to play solo (not impossible), and so grouping with other people was very desirable.  While lots of people hated this “forced” grouping, the fact is that it lead to people having to talk to each other.  World of Warcraft, on the other hand, is so easy to play solo that barely anyone ever grouped, so much so that they had to invent an instant group making tool AND make it work across servers to get people to go do group instances.  That’s not entirely true, people were doing group instances to a degree, but how it was being done is the point of this post.

Playing EverQuest felt like this:

EQ Venn

While playing World of Warcraft felt like this:

WoW Venn

In EQ, my guild always felt like a subset of the server.  I raided with my guild (and their alliance) and I grouped with my guild, but I also grouped fairly often with other random people from other guilds and even raided with public raids (not to be confused with pickup raids where someone stands around shouting that they are forming a raid, but planned ahead of time, posted on the server message boards and open to signups by anyone).  In WoW, my guild felt like it was my entire world.  I raided with my guild and I grouped with my guild, and that’s it.  Occasionally out in the world working on a quest I’d casually group with someone working the same quest (kill ten raptors goes faster for everyone around if you group up… collect ten raptor hides, however, is a cutthroat business), and at the lowest levels you might find a random group doing an instance, but only back before about 2006 or so because nowadays most people just race solo through the low level content to get to “the real game”.

I want to love my server again, my whole community, not just my tiny corner of it.  But how do we do that?  Unfortunately, the answer is less instancing and less easy solo content.  In general, people will, even when it is detrimental, choose the path of least resistance.  Soloing is easier than grouping in that you don’t have to contend with the personalities of others and you don’t have to share rewards, when you make soloing also better experience and progression, people stop choosing to group except when in their own niche of the community, their guild.  When guilds don’t have to contend, compete and share content, they don’t have a reason to talk to each other.  Instead they’ll just go off into their own instance and get their own loot.

Of course, this all depends on what you want out of an MMO.  If you want a game, if you want pushing buttons to defeat monsters, if you want loot and to “grow” your character, above all else, then you want easy solo and instancing.  But if you are like me and the game, the fighting, the loot and advancement, are all secondary to playing in the world with other people, then you want harder solo and shared content.  Currently, WoW rules the roost.  It makes the most money, and money controls the flow of design, so every game since WoW took over the market has tried to be like WoW, more game, less world.  This is a great thing if you love WoW, except if you love WoW why would you want to leave a game you have investment in for a game that is exactly like WoW only you are level 1 instead of level 80?  Couldn’t you get the same experience on an alternate character in WoW?

In the meantime, I keep trying new games and hoping to find one with less easy solo and less instancing and more community inside the game world.  If you know of any, where you play with people not in your guild frequently because it has a vibrant community in the game, I’m all ears…

A World as big as the World

One of the things I’ve always dreamed of in an MMO was playing in a truly enormous world.  For example, if I were to play (or make) an MMO for a zombie apocalypse setting, I would want the world to be so large that even if I had millions of players, it could be as sparsely populated as you might expect a horror themed zombie game to be.  Of course, players could choose to cluster, for safety and companionship, but the possibility to walk for miles and miles and find no one else needs to exist.

The problem is that taking the time to build that world would be too much.  And that is why this has me very excited.

The CityEngine by the people over at Procedural just floors me.  Lots of people will tell you that hand crafted games will always be better than a procedurally generated one, and in one aspect they are right.  If your goal as a game maker is to tell a story, a narrative, like a Halo game, or Dead Rising, or any other traditional PC or console game, then yes, hand crafted content is the way to go.  Your story demands it.  But in an MMO or other Virtual World type game, where the players and their interactions are the real story, and your setting and lore are just a sandbox for them to play in, procedurally generated content done well is, in my opinion, the far better choice.

Thanks to Critical Distance for the link.

Hellboy: The God Machine

Finally finished reading Hellboy: The God Machine. The length of time it took to read had nothing to do with the content of the book, but more to do with the time available to read. The Holiday season is always rough.

But I did finish, and it didn’t disappoint. Like the other Hellboy books I’ve read, this one, written by Thomas E. Sniegoski, had a style all its own while still retaining the nature of the Hellboy universe. I think that’s what I enjoy most about these books. Each author has a slightly different take on the narrative, but it doesn’t mess up the fact that its a Hellboy book. Its like having a bunch of different painters paint the same bowl of fruit.

This book is about a group of people led by a man who speaks to God. Well, I should say god, little ‘g’, although its close. God wants the man to build a machine to bring him to the world so that he can help them make it a better place. Or at least that’s what the voice says. In reality, the god isn’t God but Qemu’el, one of three archons created by God (big ‘G’) to destroy the world if the world needs destroying. Only God decided he liked us humans and put the archons to sleep for eternity since he didn’t want the world destroyed. Two of the archons went quietly, while one, Qemu’el, managed to rip a tiny hole in the fabric of reality so he could stay awake and monitor the world, just in case God was wrong. And of course, he thinks God was wrong. Humans are messing up the planet and don’t deserve God’s gifts, so Qemu’el wants to do God a favor and wipe out the world so that it can be started again.

Meanwhile, Hellboy and his team are on the trail of missing artifacts of worship, and it just so happens that these items are being stolen by the group mentioned above to power their God Machine.

I enjoyed the book. Sniegoski has a good writing style, and while its not as good as the Tim Lebbon book I last read in the series, its good enough and certainly worth the read. I give this book a thumbs up.

Graphics in Games

One of the things that continues to baffle me is the push for more intense, more realistic graphics in games. While I’m sure that focus groups have show that people respond to the “better” graphics, and that shelf sales increase based on graphics buzz, every game I’ve ever played, and every game everyone I know has ever played, gets played longer based on the game play and has nothing to do with the graphics.

Seriously, if the game sucks, you put it down. In MMORPGs while box sales are important, continued subscribers and word of mouth are what make a game a long term success. World of Warcraft doesn’t have the best graphics in the world. Sure, they are highly stylized and pretty, but the fact that my 1GHz, 1GB RAM, 256MB ATI 9800 machine runs it great is just awesome. Other games that have come out almost refuse to install on my computer at all. And while I don’t want to put down WoWs graphics, its clearly obvious upon long and repeated play that Blizzard spent alot more time on game content and less time on the graphics than some of their competitors.

At arcades all over the world, despite their being a number of “better” games graphics wise, people still continue to put quarters in games like Pac-Man. Simple graphics with immediately engaging game play. City of Heroes grasped this concept well. With its fast paced wham-bang superhero action, its almost pure fun. Its only real flaw is that the snail’s pace at which later levels progress will make any but the more hardcore gamers and diehard fans stop logging in to play.

So, for me, the perfect MMORPG would have “good” yet not overly expensive or time consuming graphics. Less polygons and shaders, more variety of color and style, and with the millions being saved not being spent on a AAA graphics team, I’d be able to hire a few more content designers to help keep the game exciting to play even if its not the most exciting to look at.

Just Playin’ …

So, I spent a bunch of time looking through all the available themes for WordPress. There are a lot of very nice ones, however, none of them really sparked my interest. There are a few cool tricks that I’ll be stealing, but the layouts of them weren’t my bag.

See, I’m a big believer (most of the time) in letting the content fill the browser. Artificially limiting someone to a set width and leaving gaps either on both sides or the right just bugs me. Now, don’t get me wrong.. they have their place, and I use them, for ‘the Front Page’ and some of my other writings where I want the presentation to be exact for column length or whatnot. But in a place like a weblog or online journal or whatever, it just doesn’t fit. Especially when they use a 400 pixel width in the days where most people are running at 1024 x 768, or at the very least 800 x 600. Using only half the screen width just screams of poor layout design.

Anyway… so after reviewing a bunch of themes I’m going to be just sticking with and modifying the default theme. You may notice the colors are a little different today and the menu has moved a little. Baby steps…