The zombie apocalypse happened — and we won.

But though society has recovered, the threat of infection is always there — and Los Angeles coroner Tommy Rossman is the man they call when things go wrong.

Innovation and Iteration

This is an interesting article about how Nintendo and the Wii “invented” the casual game market (spoiler: they didn’t).  It is a long but good read, and while it is a couple years old and not every prediction toward the end has come to pass, it does paint an excellent picture.

One thing is certain.  The Wii came in and got millions of people who never would have bought a 360 or PS3 to buy a console entirely based on casual “silly” games, and this year both Microsoft and Sony are chasing that market with the Kinect and Move respectively.

Read and discuss…


Last week, Raph Koster laid down an analysis of why strategy guides are cheating. He contends that playing the game is what you are supposed to do, and anything outside of playing the game is a form of cheating.

I agree. Raph says:

… RPGs do not give you the location of every spawn in advance, the stats on every weapon in advance, the solution to every quest in advance, and so on. For a reason. Finding the spawn, discovering the stats, solving the quest is part of the game.

Now,we may argue that this part of the game is tedious (“why should I have to click all over the screen to find the hotspot??” is exactly like “why should I have to traipse all over this dungeon to find the specific kobold!”). We may say that the game would be “better” if it provided you a waypoint directly to that location. But that is beside the point – the game chose to hide this info from you, therefore you are not supposed to have it, and having it is cheating.

Any info you get that isn’t presented to you by the game in normal gameplay sequence is not supposed to be available to you.

This is how I felt as I played through Ultima Online and EverQuest. I avoided strategy guides and spoiler sites as much as humanly possible. Most often when I did resort to hitting the web for EQ, it was because I was certain that I was right given all the information in the game but it wasn’t working, and probably 99.9% of the time, I was right and the game was broken. I felt immersed in those games because I was always “in” those games. Sure, I’d pop out and read some message boards and rant sites from time to time, but usually those times were to seek out other people trying to discuss and figure out the hidden information. Theorizing and learning.

In any event, however, my ability to play the game was never hampered by not going to spoiler sites. Everything I needed to play the game was in the game. As time has gone on though, some games have gotten so horribly vague with their in game information that parts of the game are practically unplayable without going to look at a strategy guide of some sort. When a quest giver says “south of the big rock” and that area encompasses miles while you are searching for inches, that is just silly. Making a player wander around aimlessly to waste time is bad design. Would it have killed the developers to say “south of the big rock near a cluster of orange leaved trees”, cutting the search time down from hours (even days) to a more manageable thirty minutes at most?

Following the comments on Raph’s post and after seeing similar discussions elsewhere, I keep seeing the same defense, and it leads directly to what I just stated above, games are beginning to suck in their ability to provide players with what they need to play the game AND keep that play enjoyable. To which I can only say, as I did over on Raph’s, if you find yourself unable to play and enjoy a game without using a strategy guide or spoiler site, you should not reward the developer by continuing to pay for their game.

The Path Not Spoiled

One discussion that always seems to come up with me over and over again is the problem with spoiler sites.

My first issue with them is that they are usually just information dumps. There is never any care put into the presentation of the information. Here is the quest, here are links to the item stats and maps for drops and comments from users including location coordinates and more. I would love to see sites that actually care for the game offering tiers of information, a couple levels of “hints” before the final reveal. Of course, that takes effort and since many spoiler sites ultimately strive to be ad driven click fountains of cash, its much easier to just dump information in its most Googleable form to generate as much traffic as possible.

The next issue is the justifications used by players who frequent spoiler sites. The big excuse is that they want to know what’s up with a dungeon or instance before they go so as to minimize the chance of a wipe out, especially since wiping out wastes time and costs in-game money for repairs and/or recovery. I tend to avoid spoiler sites, and when I get in groups and head into dungeons, I do my best to force my group to assess fights before charging in, to consider consequences. We don’t usually wipe out, but even if we do I try to ensure that everyone has fun doing it. Encourage people that we can do it and try again. The people who wipe out most groups are often the ones who went to a spoiler site. Either they got bad information, or incomplete information, or worse… they got spoiler tunnel vision. This happens when you need monster X for a quest and find the directions on where to find him and how to beat him, but the page you looked at didn’t mention the trap encounter in the room prior, or the 57 other encounters you have to get past before the one you want. After enough outings like this, the spoiler-reader will just up his research, making sure they know a dungeon inside out, soup to nuts, before stepping foot inside. People justify going to spoiler sites to avoid wipe outs, but it seems to me that most wipe outs occur from people using spoiler sites to avoid actually learning to play the game.

To me, games like MMOs are about the journey, the “how” of getting to your destination. The social interaction, working with others toward common goals, that is where the fun is at. It seems, from my experience, that lots of people focus entirely on the destination, and the answer to “how” is “as quickly and easily as possible.” I just don’t understand why people would invest so much time and effort into the game reducing it to collecting widgets, be it levels or items. Why play a game in a manner that intentionally avoids most of the game?

I used to play tennis. I was actually pretty good. Many of my opponents were confused by my play style (I have no back hand, I actually switch hands to utilize two fore hand swings). But I wasn’t great. I practiced, I played in a league, but as much fun as I had and as much as I wanted to play, there was a ceiling to my level of skill. So, I settled into a level of play where my opponents were challenging, where I had opportunities to both win and lose without dominating my playtime with either. And that is the approach I take toward all gaming. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, and I try to win more than I lose, but neither winning all the time nor losing all the time is fun. But even so, I enjoyed tennis most when practicing and leading up to a match, or playing the match. At the end, I won or I lost, and neither matter to me at long as I felt good about how I got there.

Was I raised differently than most people? Can someone help me understand why so many folks are focused completely on the ends and are willing to justify so many means to skip right to it?

Aspect of the The Walking Dead

I’ve written about The Walking Dead before, and in my continued efforts to talk about my game idea without rehashing the same stuff over and over, I will write about them again.

There are six collections now instead of four as when I wrote before, and the story remains good. There are elements in here that just make sense to me, and are in line with the story of the world I would present in my game. If you haven’t read all the comics, I’m about to ruin one thing for you, so skip the rest unless you want the spoiler… its not that huge of a spoiler, so don’t get too bent…

In the comic, one of the things revealed that I really liked is the idea that everyone is doomed. See, The Walking Dead doesn’t refer to just the zombies. After an incident where someone who died through other means, never having been bitten by a zombie, comes back as a zombie, its apparent that whatever causes the zombies is already in everyone, just dormant. They are all going to become zombies, no matter how they die, unless their death involves the destruction of their own bodies such that they can’t rise.

This aspect will be integral to my game. I talked earlier about how players will have to manage food and resources, and how those will deplete even when offline. When you die, you are dead. There is no resurrecting or respawning, if you want to play more you have to start a new character. Then, if you want, you can travel to your old character’s hide out and kill the zombie-old-you if someone hasn’t done it already. When you die, you are undead. Your body will rise as an NPC, and if there are people unfortunate enough to be living with you, if they aren’t careful, they may be undone from within.