Gaming Massively

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Some seriously tasty geekiness - and something I'd been wondering for a while - check out how Eve Online does their servers.

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Stargate Worlds Youtube Channel

Massively notes the existence of a YouTube channel from Firesky devoted to Stargate Worlds.

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Are we really dying of surprise here? Apparently Age of Conan is merging servers.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gender and Learning Styles - from Austin GDC

There's a pretty interesting article up over at Massively about the panel held by Sheri Graner Ray on the topic of learning styles, gender, and MMOs. Actually, the description conflates two topics - one, that people have different learning styles, and two, that women tend to have a different style than men. This is then applied to, for example, how to introduce a new game to people - how they will learn the controls, whether they will even pick it up, etc.

It's interesting, because one of the things I've noticed in the betas I've played (almost all of them, actually), is that there is no 'starter island' - first off, there is no 'how to work your character' explanation, and often there is no 'what do I do now?' Whatever happened to F1 for help?

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Colbert is Immortal

So did you see the Stephen Colbert interview with Richard Garriot? I love the fact that, other than the screen shot (which was really small), Tabula Rasa got no mention at all. I'm not sure how effective that was as marketing, but it certainly was amusing. I wonder if Garriot made it to space, or is still being held by the Russians?

Massively also did a post on this, with lots of link love.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Game Econ, more

You may remember I posted a bit back about a series Massively was doing on a theoretical game economy. Well, now part two of that series is up, and I'm afraid they've lost me completely now. I think the key idea of this whole thought experiment is that it's a closed loop system - there is a set amount of stuff in the world, and no more is getting in. It may change form (the copper in your level one copper shield might become a decorative copper insignia in your level one zillion sword of epic killing spree). And I'm honestly down with this idea. I just don't like the magical way stuff disappears and reappears - I would prefer the NPCs to be part of a fully functioning economy.

But I've said that already - on to part two, where the whole concept is built around a server's 'age', i.e. as the game is played the number of people at any given level will change, and the monsters and loot should react accordingly. Here again I feel that rather the game should be able to sustain those low level areas independent of characters. This may be because I'm such a fan of huge worlds. I would much prefer the AI does crazy stuff with massive numbers of NPCs to keep stuff interesting, than phasing them out in favor of higher level hordes once everyone is levelled up. Among other things, it interferes with the suspension of disbelief, if the village simply disappears.

As an aside, does anyone know why gaming companies aren't having massive AI battles for players to wander into? It's probably some sort of server load thing, isn't it. Argh! For better computers!!

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Monday, September 15, 2008


I think the big stuff happening right now in MMO-land is the Austin Game Developer's conference. Raph has some sexy statistics up (I love numbers!) from one of the presentations.

WAR is still, uh, WAR-ing. Seems like things are going pretty well for a game that's just come out. If this is true, kudos to Mythic for not screwing it up!

Conan seems to still be going along. I'll be interested to see if they can hang on once the big guys are both up and running (i.e. WAR and WoW III).

Looks like All Points Bulletin is hiring. I've been keeping an eye on this game - it has a few innovations I'm interested in seeing, even though I'm not sure I'm a cops and robbers type of guy.

Atlantica Online is still working towards release - they seem to be quite close to open beta. I'm not sure what to think about the idea of a turn-based MMO, but that's why I keep watching!

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Free stuff, quid pro quos, et cetera

Eating Bees made an interesting post this week, detailing the rights and responsibilities, as she sees it, of game reporters / bloggers who come to events and get free stuff. Geek Critique offered up a reporter's response to her post, and she has now responded, as well as expanding on the original themes.

There's so much meat in the discussion these two are having. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, like when I used to roll with the serious blog academics. The initial post raises all the points about ethics that you might expect, and unfortunately probably doesn't help the bloggers who claim to be uninfluenced despite having received something for free (I'm thinking of Tobold here, e.g., and you should totally read his posts on the topic if you haven't), simply by creating the impression that there's a quid pro quo. The response, happily, addresses that.

I haven't given a lot of thought to the idea of community managers, because I've never worked in gaming (I don't know that I could - I have a very negative view of gaming companies' treatment of their employees, which may or may not be accurate), and I'm not a very serious gamer. But I think now I have a better idea of where they live in the whole circus that is this particular variant of the entertainment industry. And that is another reason why the posts are so darned interesting.

OK - I'm out of blather - get to reading their posts, already!

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Monday, September 8, 2008

Burning Sea resurgence?

I was over at the Pirates of the Burning Sea blog, wondering what they were up to these days, as I hadn't heard anything in a while. Turns out they planned it that way. In what was probably a very good move if you have the wherewithal to do it, they basically went underground while they fixed all the bugs and such, and are now (like, right now) going to start a new advertising campaign to bring people in. They're also hiring several of people, which is hopefully a good sign.

I have to say I found the game enjoyable, and that's impressive, given that it was the beta I was playing. I just didn't see it replacing WoW at the time, and I couldn't bring myself to do two subscriptions. And now I'm off gaming, for the most part - too much going on in RL. I really wish they didn't have the subscription model - I would love to be able to play some of these games more casually....

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game economics

Alexis Kassan has an article up over at massively detailing a theoretical economic model for an MMO. I have more than a passing interest in the economics of gaming, so I gave it a good long read. It proposes basically a game where there is no crafting, and where resources are fixed in game - no sudden influx of thorium to throw the game into an inflationary tailspin. It's a little odd to me how the proposal is phrased, seeming to indicate that the economy would only encompass players - it would seem better to set economic processes in place so that the NPCs are also participating, but in a totally rational way, so at least they wouldn't contribute to the crazy if some weird financial disease were to afflict the player base (gold sellers, e.g.).

I much preferred the way PotBS tried to do things (have chars construct all in-game items) - I was, however, sad that they seemed to not have NPCs participating in the economy, as I think that's the only way to prevent the character levelling from screwing up your economy. I've a sneaky suspicion that Eve Online is now mature enough that they can get away with a true player run economy, and I think the practices they perfect may become the ideal by which all others are measured. But, not having played, that's just speculation.

Given the epic fail happening in the (real) world economy right now, it's pretty clear that economics is tough. But games have it somewhat easier - their oversight can be 100% effective. But I think economics may be something only mature games (or games with a whole lot of time and money for prep) should do big. It's not tough - you don't even need a working graphics engine to do the economics, as long as you're planning well enough. But planning seems very often to be a big challenge, and if you don't plan it right, well, you have to bail out your virtual Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

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big releases

Lots of exciting stuff in gaming, the biggest of course being the WAR Open Beta. I tried to get in a couple of times but so far, no luck - I don't know where my invite went - maybe my email ate it. At one point had 300K beta keys, then 7K then 10K. If they aren't making stuff up that means 317K people at least are playing the beta. Not counting the pre-order people. That's a whole lot of people. You can check here to see if they've opened more keys.

While the US launch seems to be doing ok, the european launch appears to have failed mightily. They even had to roll out the CEO for an apology. I quite enjoyed the Greenskin's reaction to the european fail, in which he quotes in full the wikipedia definition of anger.

Spore is also out the door, which is... amazing. I mean the fact that it was released, not the game - I haven't played the game, so can't comment. But given that I had decided it was going to be the next Duke Nukem, I'm really pleased it's out. People seem pleased so far. I may actually have to pick it up, as I think my wife might enjoy it.

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