Gaming Massively

Thursday, November 29, 2007

EVE article in NYT

There's a cute little article in the New York Times about EVE Online. It gives an overview of the game, and asserts that the game is now hitting its stride.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Star Trek craziness

Well, I never held much hope for it, but news that Star Trek's MMO has been purchased and repositioned is still something of a shock. It's funny how the most valuable IPs can be abused in this fashion - it's why I never expect any of them to do anything. Large players are only too happy to throw together any crap thing under the assumption it will sell regardless, and Star Trek has certainly been a victim of that. It's funny - Star Trek has, to my mind, one of the most well developed background stories, something I've asserted again and again was part of the key to success for an MMO. And yet I just can't believe anyone would make a good game out of it. Oh well. Still plenty of time for the new owners to prove me wrong.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

MS SQL? Really?

I'm always interested in the way an MMO gets put together, and while I don't read a lot of dev blogs I will pop over if one has something particularly interesting to say. Thus I found myself at Joe Ludwig's blog reading the post how to make MS SQL cry like a baby. I will confess - I'm an open source fanatic, and when MySQL can't get the job done I turn to Oracle. So it came as more than a little bit of a surprise to me that Pirates of the Burning Sea was running Microsoft. I would have said it couldn't be done, but they are obviously out to prove me wrong.

If you have survived my tech talk, here's an article on crafting in PotBS to help you unwind. I've been following this aspect of the game with some interest - I really like the idea that everything in-game can be built, though it makes striking a balance even more important - how do you prevent someone (or a cartel) from cornering the market on a key good? Of course, maybe there's a military option I haven't heard about....

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

something for n00bs

Massively pointed me to an article on How Stuff Works titled How World of Warcraft Works, which is an overview of massive game technology, using WoW as the example game.

This isn't exactly what I had expected when I clicked through. I had expected a tutorial for people who hadn't played massive games before.

Given that WoW is now doing TV ads (with Mr. T and William Shatner), some sort of primer is probably going to become necessary. I learned the game by watching someone else play, but I imagine the ads are targeting an audience that doesn't have that experience (or rather, more likely, they're targeting the parents of an audience that doesn't have that experience). As the industry matures, instruction may become less necessary, but right now I bet there are a lot of people looking for serious guidance.

Actually, that was my experience with Tabula Rasa. Obviously I know more or less how an MMO works, but the details are important, and I found the intro section simply didn't offer enough guidance on those details. At least, I assume there were details I was missing - the alternative is that combat was really terrible, and I find it hard to believe that the main point of the game wasn't polished.

A game doesn't have to be dumbed down to have a good tutorial - one of the NDA games I've played has a very good tutorial, I thought. But if you want to bring in people who find your game through a flippin' TV ad, you better have something!

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

still moving forward

I made it to level 50 with my druid in WoW last night. It was pretty exciting, as it allowed me to max out my balance skills, and now I can summon treants to put the smack down on my enemies, which is very exciting - I love seeing them maul my enemies.

Rereading that sentence, I wonder if I should get Conan when it comes out. I wonder if there will actually be the sounds of 'the lamentations of their women' in the audio track (that's from Conan the Barbarian, if you're wondering).

Anyway, despite my more recent successes, I have been feeling a bit down on WoW lately. I'm afraid my guild is a bit too 'level 70' for me right now. We'll have to see if it continues. I'm pleased with the new levelling system, which makes for faster progression, and I like the fact that there are a lot of new quests. But I can't shake the feeling that all I'm really doing is trying to get to 70 so I can do instances with my guild. Which is a shame, really, as I think the content isn't bad at my level - merely a little lonely. It'll be interesting to see how this resolves.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

EVE mechanics as the ultimate game

A while back Tobold posted on the assertion Syncaine from Hardcore Casual made that EVE has the MMO thing down pat. I didn't really pay much attention to it, because I've seen those sorts of things before. But I quite like Tipa's thought exercise which takes this to the next level - what if EVE were a fantasy MMO? In the comments, Syncaine notes having also gone down this path. That post is a bit more specific in its details of how mechanics might translate. It's really interesting to see how easily these things can move around. Additionally, I think it shows a little bit of the genius Nintendo had when they did the Wii. If there really is nothing new under the sun, then introducing something revolutionary is pretty big.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pirates beta take 2

Oh boy - another stress test for Pirates of the Burning Sea. You can head over to fileplanet to register. I'm hoping my key from the first one will work. We'll see what happens.

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Not often I see gaming news in Le Monde, but an article today (Le français Ubisoft résiste à l'hégémonie américaine) talks about France's sole remaining player in the gaming world, Ubisoft. I tried to get a job with them at one point to work on Worlds of Myst or whatever it was called (Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, apparently), their foray into massive gaming.

The article does make a good point - for whatever reason, gaming right now is dominated by American companies. I wonder what sort of interesting developments we're missing because of this. As many people have noted previously, creating games, and especially massive games, has gotten very expensive. This tends to lead to consolidation. But why has all the consolidation taken company ownership to the US, I wonder?

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One of my guildies had the dreaded WoW won't update problem with Vista this morning. As you may or may not be aware, WoW needs to run as administrator to launch the updater, otherwise it just dies - no warning, no request for upgraded permission - just dies.

I don't know if this is game designers not knowing how to design for vista, or if it's a design flaw in vista. Either way, add it to the list of annoying things about upgrading (is it an upgrade if things don't work as well?) your OS.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

WoW updated today

As I'm sure you've seen somewhere by now, patch 2.3 is going live as we speak. A lot of people have complained about the level 20-60 speedup, calling it a dumbing down. My personal pick for the dumbing down award goes to the UI update (as detailed on WoW Insider): "Game objects that you can interact with now have a glow around them and their name over them. Wow! No more searching for twenty minutes just to find that little switch you have to click on." Now, I'm not necessarily saying I enjoyed some of those quests, but I'm not sure this is the best solution. I would have said a simple color tweak was a better fix in many cases, or making the quest text more clear. But in the end, I'm sure I'll like this, as I'm a lazy gamer, when it comes down to it.

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Friday, November 9, 2007

Dell laptops

I wanted a new rig so I could play WoW on my laptop, so I hunted around for small laptops (I have a 17 inch now, and it's too big to be on my lap) and finally settled on a Dell Vostro with an nVidia 8400M card. It arrived yesterday, and that was when the nightmare began.

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Too much AoE

We ran Zul'Farrak last night, again. I think I've been through three or four times now, and I still don't quite know how to play it. It's interesting how different the game play is when you play solo versus when you are playing with a lot of other people - my AoE is a bit too potent until the mobs have been reduced to about half their life, but I'm not really inclined to sit on my hands for half the fight. Clearly I'm missing something, which I'm sure will turn up eventually. The up side, of course, is that I can just ask my guild.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Following on my post last week involving alternate endgame options, Tobold posted the question as to whether or not you couldn't just skip the levels altogether. Massively picked up on his post as well. In my original post I said no, because people like the feeling of advancing. The comments on his post seem to back this up, although there were some interesting variations - a lot of people noted that FPS basically is a MMO without levels.

I often find I enjoy doing the quests which follow sequentially - there's one in WoW where you run all over the planet trying to find a missing diplomat, and another where you have to head to someone's hometown to find out more about them. Those sorts of opportunities for storytelling often work without levelling. And as LotRO has done, you could add a title by your name when you complete a complex chain.

I also liked, and yet was frightened by, the person who suggested a game in which the only skill-ups were the ones you actually learned for yourself. How to pick a lock, in a lock-picking mini game, or actually memorizing the prayers which heal people, or whatnot. The idea of a mini-game for certain skills is appealing - I can see it for the rogue and the fighting classes, e.g. Others I'm not so clear on - mages, I suppose, could have verbal and somatic components that had to happen at a certain time. But that doesn't really appeal (though if I could do it with a WiiMote I might find it more entertaining).

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Monday, November 5, 2007

The psychology of mmorpgs

I don't know how I missed this site for so long - The Daedalus Project examines the psychology of MMORPGs. Now, from what I've seen some of the results as are dippy as you might expect, but some of the stuff is more interesting. You can also participate in the surveys if you like.

I'm personally more interested in the economics of MMOs than the psychology, and have followed the progress of Edward Castronova as he became the poster boy of this research (in looking up his papers, I see he is ranked 15th at SSRN. I do not even get a rank, perhaps to protect my pride). Most recently I see he has a paper titled Dragon Kill Points: A Summary Whitepaper.

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Friday, November 2, 2007

random news

Random events: WAR has been delayed until at least April, for more polish (not 'more DoTs!'). Also today, the Weblogs Inc people launched a new massive gaming news site called... Massively. I guess they couldn't come up with a good name either. Oh well - it gets the point across.

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