Gaming Massively

Friday, February 29, 2008

BlizzCast 2

I see the new BlizzCast is up. If, like me, you don't do podcasts, you can also read the transcript on the Blizzard website. I have to say that I didn't see anything that interested me much, but it has some WotLK stuff and Starcraft stuff, if that's your bag.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Revisiting the tank

Keen and Graev have posted an interesting essay on why the tank sucks in PvP, and what can be done to fix it. The thing that really caught my eye:

Immunities and resistances. Two incredibly overlooked and underutilized factors that should make all the difference in the world. Crank up the magic resistance and physical defenses on a tank. Allow them to run in to the thick of things and use their taunts. There needs to be a big enough change to the resistances that no one will think "root/mez the tank". They should be saying "OmG move! Here comes the tank!".

It's been a while since I played D&D, but even I remember that if you made your saving throw, you could resist a spell. I don't know how it works in the various games currently available, but I'm pretty sure that in my mind, fighters should resist fear spells and tear through roots pretty quickly.

I'm also wondering about mass in games with collision detection - if I'm a little guy, and a big guy comes running at me, I would expect to be pushed back. The knockback I've seen in WoW isn't very impressive - I'm sure it could be done better.

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pox arcanum

I mentioned earlier I had run across a group of bloggers who had formed a guild to level together. As bloggers do, they started a blog. From the sounds of it, the plan to pwn is working nicely.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

WAR details

By way of tobold and the greenskin I found a terrific overview of the forthcoming Warhammer MMO. It has lots of flavor text mingled with incredibly detailed descriptions of the game, and reveals lots of fun things being planned that I hadn't heard about before. One that really caught my eye:

Your WAR character will not be staring blankly ahead, but will instead express its emotions with a range of facial animations. As a player you will be able to set your character's mood, and everyone else will be able to see it - meaning you can give your character a brooding, sad or happy temperament (among others), and the world will know it. As you do things, your character grimaces and looks excited and otherwise changes expression to react to the activity.

It's like facebook, only more so. And, let's face it - if you don't see social networks and web 2.0 sites merging with MMOs in the coming years, I think you're probably not looking.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

over the top

I'm not sure, but I think AFK Gamer is unimpressed by the hardcore players who want their 'name to sparkle and the ground glow at their feet' to show how much better they are than casual players.

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I read about APB a little bit on various blogs at GDC, and I thought it sounded pretty interesting, though perhaps not my cup of tea. Now I've found a pretty good preview, and it sounds like people are getting excited about what they've seen thus far. I love the idea of a sandbox game, and the idea of having an 'instant match-up' system of questing seems novel. Will it work? Dunno. But it sure sounds interesting.

I think I'll be watching development on this one pretty closely.

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They've got rhinos?!

I really like the idea of mounted combat. Age of Conan apparently has it, and more:
The game offers three mounts: horses, rhinos and elephants. Two of them - rhinos and mammoths - are available through pre-order deals, though. If someone pre-orders from BestBuy they will have a fancy new rhino waiting for them. GameStop pre-orders unlock the mammoth, while horses are purchased in the world. At this time, there is no plan to make the elephant or rhino mounts available through the game itself.
It's quite nearly enough to make me pre-order, the idea of a shiny new rhino waiting for me at level 40 with which to crush my opponents underfoot. I'll be very curious to see how this game does on release - I think timing may be everything, as I'm not sure how many outlays of fifty dollars or whatever people will be willing to make. So you get out before WAR, or you make a lot less money.

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Pirate ambassadors

I really enjoy the idea of ambassadors, though perhaps not as PotBS has envisioned it. According to massively, a certain number of Australian players will be given a year free to help... I don't know, actually, what they're helping do. I originally thought the idea was to choose especially good players from elsewhere and have them play on the Australian servers, but that's not the case at all. It seems like it could work, if you needed to seed a new country, to have some well developed guilds and intense players already in-game - and I guess that's what they're doing here, but the whole thing seems to suffer from a 'chicken and egg' type problem to me, whereas I could see pulling in people from a place the game was already well underway to help a new area be more lively on day one. It also seems to fit the spirit of the game (though I haven't played since it went live, so I don't know if it fits the current spirit of the game or not...).

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Saturday, February 23, 2008


A session at GDC was devoted to dissecting portal. Some of the responses were quite good:
Q) Do they think having girls on the team was partially responsible for the uniqueness of the game? A) Swift says she's not sure ... Wolpaw says, "Having girls on the team makes the room smell better."

you can read the whole thing, which has some interesting commentary on small team game design and playtesting, here.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

GDC is just too much

GDC is killing me! There's obviously a whole lot happening, but I'd much prefer to separate the wheat from the chaff than post about 348 new games, most of which will probably be rehashes of something else.

There was a discussion on the future of MMOs that I had high hopes for, but it let me down big time.

So overall, I'm going to wait and see what comes - so far I haven't seen anything that makes me jump up and down.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Indie games

Tom's Games, like everyone else this week, is at GDC, and they posted an article on the challenges of being an indie developer. It's not a new idea - good content in large volumes takes time, and staff, both of which cost money. But they cite a couple of interesting examples of small games that have been well received, but nevertheless presented challenges for their companies due to the scale involved.


Bug reporting

The forum for Stargate Worlds has an interesting thread about best practices for reporting bugs in a game beta. References are made to other tools people have seen, different ways of entering data, etc. One point that comes up repeatedly is that the beta testers really want to give the best possible reports, but they also want to know they are being heard. It's crazy how much free labor MMOs get from their fan base, in exchange for very little in return. But in the end a good beta makes a good game, and that makes everyone happy.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

levelling, ensemble

I ran across, courtesy of the game dame, a plot on outland bound to create a guild of alts, with the intention of levelling them up together. It's interesting, because I remember how much people hated that Dungeons and Dragons Online required groups to quest, and now all I (and apparently others) want out of an MMO is running in groups.

Anyway, the post inspired me to go back to my alt, a warrior, and level her a bit, with an eye out for deadmines with some others alts in my guild.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

games do not require combat

It terrifies me they feel the need to ask the question - Massively wonders aloud to its readers 'would you ever play a noncombatant?'. My wife used to have a dancer in SWG, back before it broke. She didn't own a weapon, never went on any combat missions, and loved it. She's been trying to get back to that game ever since, I think. And it's a damned shame noone seems able to accommodate. There's a reason they put 'rpg' on the end of 'mmo'.

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A social networking site for gamers?

TechCrunch, a site that reports on new web projects, is reporting that a new site called UGAME is aiming to be the facebook of PC gamers. It has all the basics, plus some new twists:
They’ve built in lots of functionality that will be immediately familiar: news feeds, profiles, friends, blogs, photo galleries, status updates, etc.

But they’ve also added gaming twists to these features and built out new features that don’t exist elsewhere. To name a few: members can post their gaming achievements from both tournament and non-tournament events; they can list their favorite games and computer hardware specs; and they can join teams that are allotted their own public-facing profiles.
I like some of the ideas, though I'm not really convinced this couldn't work better as a facebook app.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008


Taunting is one of those things that has always bothered me about massive games - it works against the computer, and not at all against other players, even though in theory it is a power your character has to attract attention. Aggro management in general is very different in PvP, which is fine except where an ability that should be able to affect it, doesn't.

Tobold directed me to a post which indicates that, to some degree, WAR intends to fix this.

Their solution, to reduce the damage caused by affected targets, wouldn't be mine - I would much prefer if the taunt caused affected players to actually target the tank instead of their current target, and even run towards the target if a melee attack was indicated (basically a reverse fear). But that's a lot more complex, so I understand not doing it. But hopefully at some point the games get complex enough to force these kind of behaviours.

It would be interesting to have an AI that learns your attack strategy and mimics it on occasions when you are being taunted.

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Earth Eternal and VC

I don't really know anything about Earth Eternal, except that it will be based on a 'browser-based massively multiplayer 3D game platform'. I didn't realize the CEO of Sparkplay Media (the game's maker) kept a blog. Today I learned both, and a little bit about Venture Capital as well. It seems the company got some funding recently, and the CEO made an interesting post about his experience with VC funding, versus his expectations.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Metaplace beta test

Tobold pointed out that Metaplace will be doing a beta test to see how robust their servers are. In reading through their blog posts it occurs to me that I may not have been thinking through the game architecture they have proposed as well as I should have. It looks like, in addition to some form of web-based MMO platform, they're also planning on implementing APIs - functions that you can call from other applications.

Now, I don't know that their strategy works this way, but it suddenly occurred to me that the ability to call APIs from multiple servers means never having to instance, and never having issues of concurrent users.

Here's the deal - we need to track the location of everyone in our game, their current health, what they are doing, whether they have aggro'd monsters, etc. etc. That's a whole lot of computing power.

But rather than having each area chew up a giant server, we could allow certain functions to live on one server, certain on another. For example, hand off combat to a combat server, that only knows you, your weapons and spells, and the beasty you are fighting. Let another server track positions (use a mobile phone tower model, where position just gets handed off). Another just for chat. Etc.

Now that I've said it, it's so obvious I can't imagine people aren't doing it. What am I missing?

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

gamers getting older

Slashdot links to a story in the NY Times on the demographics of gamers, noting several trends in the big games of 2007. Massive games are, uh, massive, and they also note a trend towards simpler games (exemplified by the Wii).

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Monday, February 11, 2008


Well, I thought I was going to get to beta a new game over the weekend, but I totally failed in my conversion of time zones, so no soup for me. It was sad too, because the client was (as they all are) giant, and I hate to have wasted that much energy for nothing. Oh well - maybe there will be an open beta I can do.

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Friday, February 8, 2008

a little humour

I think Penny Arcade has decided Dungeons and Dragons Online has jumped the shark.

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

link love

Hah! It figures - I go on holiday for a week, and someone finally links to the blog. Oh well - thanks to The Ancient Gaming Noob anyhow. I'll endeavor to make up for my absence.

No, the -other- Warhammer

I knew it! I knew it! I knew that someone, somewhere, had to be doing a Warhammer 40K MMO. And now Massively has confirmed it! Their report links to an article on gamasutra, which interviews THQ president Brian Farrell. THQ, apparently, is working on the property, and although it's still early days, at least there exists the possibility that there will be some massive space marine fun someday.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

NVIDIA gets PhysX

Only slightly off topic: news (from kotaku)that NVIDIA is buying AGEIA Technologies, the ones who make the PhysX card that is so darned awesome:
NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA), the world leader in visual computing technologies and the inventor of the GPU, today announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire AGEIA Technologies, Inc., the industry leader in gaming physics technology. AGEIA's PhysX software is widely adopted with more than 140 PhysX-based games shipping or in development on Sony Playstation3, Microsoft XBOX 360, Nintendo Wii and Gaming PCs.
On the subject of photorealistic gaming, this will go a long way towards making everything more alive.


not dead

I'm not dead! Merely on holiday to London (not hellgate, just plain old). I've just gained access to some more game that I can't talk about, so obviously that won't be providing content.

On my end, a break from WoW has been nice, but I'm not sure how thrilled I am to go back in - I'm not sure I'll make it to 70 without some serious raid help from my guild. On the other hand, PvP is still appealing, so perhaps that's the direction I'll be going.

Anyhow, keep watching this space. And in the meantime, chew on Tobold's what an MMO will look like in 2020.

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