Gaming Massively

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Turbine developing for the console

According to an article on Tom's, Turbine has already spent 20 million dollars developing basic infrastructure for a new console-based MMO. That's serious cash, though it has to be noted a few million doesn't go as far as it used to. The article speculates they might be building new gameplay models which are console specific (which wouldn't be a terrible idea, considering how different consoles are from PCs).

Labels: , , ,

Friday, August 14, 2009

APB and worldwide fame

Slashdot posted a story about an interview done with the creative director for APB, the upcoming (forgive me) cops and robbers MMO. Edge magazine has the interview (it's in two parts - use the links on left to go to part two), in which they discuss gameplay mechanics, launch dates, and something he calls 'heat mechanics':
if a criminal has just been on a complete rampage, recklessly blowing stuff up and killing people, heat builds up until eventually we unlock him to every single enforcer on the server. It’s not part of their missions, it’s just that this guy has become number one wanted and everyone has the authority to take him down. That’s a fun mechanic from both sides; everybody who’s a criminal is going to want to reach that and if you’re on a mission for the enforcers you’ll see that guy and wonder whether you should break away get him.
It's an interesting thing to think about, if it works. The idea certainly sounds fun. The interview makes it sound like there's a lot of new processing going on, new algorithms, etc., so it may be that when players get in it'll all blow up, but let's hope not - new is good.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I win!

It seems certain romance novel readers also think the video game market could do with a dose of originality. Specifically a dose of romance novel writing.
So you have high output with frequent, addictive variations on the same theme. You have episodic content. You have buyer lock-in. You have nimble adaptation to changing technology. Sound like the wet-dream fantasies of any industry we know? And to sweeten the deal, most romance readers are women. If videogame publishers want to extend their reach beyond the standard 18- to 34-year-old male demographic, they might want to form development teams with fewer gamers and more romance novelists.

You may remember my post back in January of 2008 concerning the idea of a romance novel mmo, and the various forms of gameplay available to designers of a game of that nature. I like that others are going there too. (Via Smart Bitches)

Labels: , ,

Saturday, July 4, 2009

What are they up to now? 38 Studios edition

It's funny how conservative young people can be. Keen has a post up, noting concern over recent statements by 38 Studios in an interview with Joystiq about their recent acquisition of Big Huge games. In the post, Keen notes that he is concerned that the game isn't well defined, and that makes him 'uneasy'.

Of course, the trick here is that with RA Salvatore, they don't need a game at all. They could create an IP and go crazy with it on t-shirts, posters, etc. (gotta keep all the artists busy somehow - otherwise why pay them?) and make a killing. The story will sell - we know that. And so do they. So take as a given that the key element - the IP - will be successful.

Now it's gravy time. And here there is some legitimate room for concern. The game could be built just like every other game that's been built on a successful IP. I'm thinking here of movie games (E.T. on the Atari 2600, anyone?) But let's, for the moment, give them the benefit of the doubt - these are professional game makers. With nothing defined except for the fact that they will have an awesome and successful storyline on which to build a game, I think it's a bit premature to start worrying the sky is falling (will fall).

The other nice thing is that, even if the main game sucks at first, with the funds they'll have from everything else (those t-shirts, etc.) they should have time to hold on and make it right. I think that's the biggest thing people forget is that longevity is the biggest factor in making a good game (or anything else - everyone knows the first gen has bugs). With their plans for making money in a variety of ways, they should have the resources to take their time and polish it up to shiny. And because the IP should be good, at least we can expect any games to come out to at least have a credible story - that may not help the game, but it can't hurt.

Finally, the only way gaming, as a genre, is going to get better is by people pushing the envelope. So if they release 15 crappy games and one truly new thing, we'll all be happier than if they released nothing at all.

Patience, Grasshopper.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jumpgate delay

Ars Technica says that Jumpgate Evolution has been delayed. Hopefully this won't be a major delay. I'm always a little surprised when things have to be taken back and redesigned - it would seem like inveterate gamers (which many of the designers seem to also be) would notice if a game isn't working. But I imagine you get in the zone, and you need someone to say 'but this isn't fun' - which is what I thought focus groups were for. Given that they have been demoing at events, I would have expected someone to pick up on this before now. But at least they're going back and doing it right. Now let's hope there's still cash to burn.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Free Realms

Oh - the Free Realms NDA apparently dropped, or so Keen says. But honestly, I don't have anything to add to what he said - polish is good, game is light and entertaining. I could see it doing very well - I might even log in periodically for the car racing and demolition derby stuff. If I don't have to pay.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, April 24, 2009

It could be the next big thing, based on some very old things...

You know, I was reading an article on Massively about Black Prophecy, and towards the bottom of the article they have a video of the gameplay (and let me note in passing how much I like YouTube's HD stream!). As I watched the gameplay, with its view out the front of your spaceship, I thought 'this is the most boring idea ever - who would want to do this for any period of time?' And then I remembered Privateer, which I absolutely loved, and which this game reminds me an awful lot of. Trade, space battles, and levelling - what else could you want? So I'm going to have to wait and see what this game ends up looking like - if it is, in fact, carebear Eve, it might do very well for itself. And if it's as good as Wing Commander (God I loved Wing Commander!) it might even be a great game!

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Stargate Worlds is still being developed!

In a recent interview with Gateworld, one of my favorite sites in the universe, Stargate executive producer Brad Wright said that the game was toast - "They had an opportunity and they got our support, and they obviously had significant funding, and it didn’t happen." The developers have come back saying "we're all fine here, now", noting "the lights here are still on and the development team is working hard every day to get this game built. Team members are in the office seven days a week to deliver Stargate Worlds. [...] unfortunately we had not recently updated [Brad Wright] on our progress or the impact from the current global economic crisis, and he was not fully aware of the continuing progress on our game." So in theory things are still moving forward. I think we'll just have to wait and see - I know I wouldn't want to be in a funding crunch right now, given the economy.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Slashdot pointed me to an article in the LA Times about a game based on the US attack on Fallujah. It's a fascinating concept, and one that I think has application for future MMOs. The level of realism (if the concept is carried through) makes this game a documentary, which seems like an oxymoron. But I think the closest parallel, the 'educational game', couldn't have the sense of realism, excitement, and... fun? I use a question mark because the LA Times article notes that "a realistic game about war that is fun is an oxymoron". If this goes through as planned, and works, I think there will be a real opportunity for some interesting new media projects in the future.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, February 27, 2009

Darkfall launch

Well, Darkfall launched, and it didn't go so smoothly. The only thing I could add to the comments others have made (Tobold has links to several) is that the game did launch, more or less when they said they would (although, to be fair, they didn't say it until fairly recently, but still). Hardcore PvP - I respect the idea - I've actually just gotten Team Fortress 2 up and running, and I love the mayhem. But it's not really the same thing. I'll be curious to see how it goes once people have had a chance to level a bit (or whatever you want to call it - skill up?). Given that I like some of the ideas they're implementing, I'm hoping they make a go of it.

I haven't looked yet, but I bet it's $15 a month, which would be a mistake. In going to look, I see the problems are pretty severe - the forums are closed except for a message saying 'we're working on it'. The webpage hasn't been updated since Feb 1, it looks like. Well, I guess I'll wait and see how it plays out.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Non-combat roles in Earthrise

I was reading the Earthrise forums a few days ago, and ran across their great 'question of the week' forum, in which they answer (more or less) one player question each week. In reading through them, I ran across the one that more often than not is the one I want to know about: what are my options for gameplay that don't involve killing things? The answer is not as detailed as one might like, and it's not absolutely clear to me that they value non-combat roles as highly, but it's nice to see they're at least thinking about it. It would certainly be nice to have a SF MMO that isn't WoW with lasers.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Well, the cost of software (plus a month of gaming, I assume) fell below $10 recently, and as such I decided to give Lord of the Rings Online a try. To my understanding, there are at least a few folks I read who are playing (The Ancient Gaming Noob, for example, who says people are really nice and mature in LotRO, which appeals to me more than a little, I have to confess). I'm not sure when I'll kick off playing, as I've just gotten back into Tabula Rasa for the free 'last hurrah' before it dies. I've never played a game to its demise before, so I want to spend as much time as possible doing that before it all goes bye-bye. But I'm installing the game now, so I can get some nice opening cinematic love (and presumably, some serious updates that take a year and a day).

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Really? Zork?

Well now here's a concept - Massively pointed me to the website for a new browser based MMO based on the old Zork game. That's been a while. According to the website, Legends of Zork will see players "take up the role of a recently laid-off salesman and part-time loot-gatherer, as he explores the Great Underground Empire." Who knows? Could be cool.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I was wondering if 38 Studios had any new developments (I'm quite excited about anything involving a writer like Salvatore), so I cruised on over to their site to see what was up. Looks like they've hired a UI designer from Blizzard, and some other details like that, but nothing really big. I also had a look at their jobs board, and while reading a posting noticed this little tidbit:
Based in Maynard, Massachusetts, the studio is a fun, energetic place to work, where the company mantra, "How cool would it be if . . . ?" infuses the team with a commitment to passion, integrity, and innovation.
Where they heck is Maynard, MA? Sadly, it's not as 'in the middle of nowhere' as I had hoped - looks like it a suburb of a suburb of Boston. Why had I hoped it was in the middle of nowhere, you ask? Because I'd like to imagine someday I might live near an MMO that I could work for. But since I make it a point to never live near big cities, and I've yet to have enough cash to live in a big city (Paris excepted, amusingly), I need to wait for an MMO to be headquartered somewhere rural. I've a sneaky suspicion I'll be waiting a while....

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, December 14, 2008

probably a bad sign...

Oh dear. Kill Ten Rats has pointed out that Ten Ton Hammer is running a pledge drive for workers at Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment, so they'll have cash for Christmas. I'm pretty sure that bodes ill for dev work on Stargate Worlds....

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wheel of Time MMO?

Slashdot, which seems to be chock full of gaming news today, has an extended article on the plans for movies, games, and an MMO based on Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. If you aren't familiar, this is a series of books that has been going on for two decades, and although Jordan passed away, he left extensive notes which Brandon Sanderson will complete the series with. There's apparently around 4 million words in the series (based on a post Brandon made), so heaven knows the IP is ripe for plucking. We'll see how well the folks at Red Eagle can pluck.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm back

Well, I took a little break from the crazy Lich King overload, though I read there are scads of world events taking place, which I approve of. It's too bad they're so technically difficult to do - I had expected WAR would have a more fluid feel to its world, but everything resets there, too. Anyway, some non-Lich news:

APB has new info out, indicating they are actually listening to their players (well, possible future players, I think). I'm interested in this game from a technical standpoint, although I'm not sure the real world cops and robbers theme is my thing.

A post over at /random addresses the question of how to tell your teammates they suck. I don't think it quite goes far enough, as a little politesse goes a long way in my book, but it's an interesting read.

Jumpgate is reporting over 150K beta signups, for whatever that's worth. I'm in the process of signing up right now, and you can do the same here.

I was also reading up on Free Realms, which has posted a handy 'What is Free Realms' video that, I think, did a fine job of telling me that I was too old for it.

Finally, on a slightly unrelated note, I wish to point out the making of a Schadenfreude Pie, complete with cute children doing sinister laughs.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, October 31, 2008

WAR is now in phase three

So I tend to think of the way people deal with a new MMO release in the same way I think about culture shock - it runs in phases. Phase one happens before the game is released. Phase two would be your initial release run (or in the case of culture shock, the first two months of living in the new culture), and phase three is the hate phase. Those who survive the hate phase will mellow over time, the rest will quit/go home. We appear to be in phase three for Warhammer Online, as a number of bloggers have now decided it isn't fun anymore. To be fair, there's also the levelling question, although to my understanding this shouldn't be a concern in a PvP game. The theory there is that if you build stuff for levels 1-20, once people hit level 21 you either need to churn out more content, or they'll get bored.

Of course, some people blame the players. I respect this position, but it's not really realistic - people game to have fun, and either they are or they aren't. There is no try, as Yoda would say. It may be the game was marketed poorly, or it may be that gamers as a class suck, and this sort of game could never work. I doubt that, but I'll throw it out there.

It's a shame these games take so darned long to build, and cost so much. Now we'll have to wait another year or so for the next big thing. And then we'll do the whole cycle again.

Labels: , , , ,

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?

Labels: , , , ,

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!

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, September 8, 2008

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.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

justify the grind

I was thinking about levelling in the context of rewards, and how players need positive feedback to keep them playing a game. And yet, real life doesn't have levels (heh - or does it?) but there's a sense of forward motion. How could one capture that to keep a game interesting without having to add levels every time you want to do a new expansion?

I think WAR may be onto one route, if what I've read about their combat system is correct. Making the combat a more skill-based system means that people can actually improve their combat skill (as opposed to just gaining skill points - I mean real hand-eye coordination type skill).

But then I got thinking about some of the other ways that we 'skill up', and how those skills require constant attention in order to maintain them.

For example: I have studied about six or so languages (not counting programming languages). Some of these (French, Japanese) I can operate in, with varying degrees of success. But the German I took in college, or the Greek I studied for a holiday? Those are gone. I might be able to get a cup of coffee or tell someone 'Good Morning!', but that is it.

If we envision this as skill points, it's very clear that when I was taking the class in German, my skill points were increasing rapidly. But as soon as I stopped using it, they started to go away.

Now, this is pretty basic stuff, and easy enough to implement in a game. If you were feeling a bit feistier, you could even have a second system that made your skills atrophy less quickly after you reach certain proficiency levels or after a long period of time (I doubt, for example, that I will ever lose my ability to speak French, whereas my Japanese, which I never really became comfortable in, requires constant attention).

You could also implement this in terms of physical skills (weightlifting, anyone?) and combat skills. More interesting might be various types of combat skills (versus, for example, Rodents of Unusual Size, and another against armed warriors).

An additional facet of this might be a variation on "Player Achievements". I had been thinking for a while that if you have earned the right to call yourself 'RoUS slayer' then shouldn't you be a mite bit better than the next guy at killing RoUSs? You know their wily ways, and you're ready for them when they leap at you from above in the fire swamp. This should grant combat bonuses. (on a side note, in the case of intelligent creatures who recognize you, they should either run away or call immediately for reinforcements).

This sort of system might also do away with the need for alts - your class is based on your education (heh - that's player class, not social class, though that's an awfully ironic mis-speak), so if you stop warrior-ing, and start wizarding, the change will happen organically. This would also allow Warriors who know a bit of magic, or wizards who carry a two-handed bastard sword, making every class individual (and making PvP a game of identifying what kind of enemy you're fighting during the fight.

Maybe there's already someone out there doing this. If not, I hope someone does!

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, August 22, 2008

More WAR

...and speaking of Tobold, he's managed to do something I didn't really think could be done: make me think I should try WAR. The description of how groups work in WAR that he gives sounds positively exciting. A whole pile of folks have noted that public quests are one of those head-smack type ideas where everyone goes 'that's so obvious - why didn't anyone do that before?!'

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

WAR NDA is off

Oh lordy - the NDA for Warhammer has apparently been lifted (at least, so says Tobold). I expect it's going to be tough to find folks talking about anything else for a while.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Stargate Worlds' AI

I've read multiple places now that the makers of Stargate Worlds hope to have a fairly complex battle AI. These plans were reiterated most recently in an interview. I've played a number of first person shooters, and to be honest I've never survived long enough to evaluate the AI. Of course, this will be different, as you'll see things from a different perspective, so maybe I'll live long enough to do better. I do know that I always found the WoW AI to be frustrating - if I set off an alarm, I expect the whole base to come get me, not just the one guy in my aggro radius. We'll see what they do, as this would be quite tough if you have 700 people running the instance at once....

Labels: , , , ,

Warhammer set to release the day before my birthday!

So it seems really real now that Warhammer will launch on September 18th. You all know what you can buy me as a present now, don't you?

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Back from the dead

...and I'm back! The move covered some 900 miles, and while I've been reading all the latest, I haven't been posting that much. There have been a few interesting developments, not least of which is that I get to play a new game I can't tell you about. Since my gaming computer should arrive with the movers on Monday (fingers crossed) that should keep me busy for a little while.

Let's see: if you haven't read it already, Tobold does a nice job using Magic: the Gathering to explain why games that require levelling will probably always add levels as part of their expansion. Let's hope some of the up-and-comers break the trend, as levelling, at least in the grindy-grind way, makes me sad.

As near as I can tell, in the past month Age of Conan has pretty much continued its downward spiral, at least as the blogs would have it. They continue to add content though, so at the point you play it your mileage may vary.

LotRO is prepping for their big Mines of Moria expansion, which will have some serious content, I have read. The trailer is online, and looks ... well... I'm sure it will be fun.

Honestly, I feel like most of the current gen of 'up and comers' still need some work. The stuff from 38 Studios I am very much looking forward to, but it sounds like another year before we even hear from them. The turn-based strategy games I want to look more at - they sound like they could be fun. We'll see.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, July 20, 2008

How many space combat games can we have?

An article on Massively talking about a forthcoming game called Black Prophecy made me think about space combat MMOs. I'm not sure how much room there is for them. I'm not saying the desire for a space combat MMO is zero - Eve Online would put paid to that - but I wonder if Eve hasn't cornered the market on this sort of gamer. To be fair, Eve has issues, by all accounts, so I suppose simply doing Eve better might reap a significant reward. We'll see how this new game does (I saw there was a beta signup - maybe I'll give it a run once I get my new setup in place (assuming the movers don't break my rig))

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, July 13, 2008

crazy news!

Wow! I turn my back for one second, and all kinds of news breaks! Flagship Studios goes under, and apparently citibank will have the rights to hellgate:london? And then WAR announces major cuts to the game at release.

It's a tough call, what to do when your game isn't ready. You need money coming in, but you're going to alienate people. Frankly, I expect they made exactly the right business decision - people are waiting for WAR, and they'll probably pay (regardless of how much they scream right now). So get something out there (that works) and add the rest.

Obviously the mistakes were in announcing the rest before they could actually be done. Don't any of these companies have a project manager? Or someone capable of telling them 'no, we can't do that in 12 months'.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


I'm not sure what I think about the idea of a turn-based MMO - it seems... odd to me. Although, as a general, one often gives orders and then has to wait to see how they turned out, so if done like that it might work.

What prompted this was a story on Atlantica (which I think should be here, tho the site didn't work for me). If the site gets working I may check it out - I'm curious how they plan to do it.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

slowly, slowly

Well, it's looking to be a long, slow end to 2008. I'm excited about stargate, in a general sort of way, and I'm eyeing eve, but for the most part, I'm waiting on what's next. Maybe WAR will be all that and a bag of chips, but I doubt it.

Taking a look at, I see the upcoming releases list on their site as follows:

* Requiem ( Q2 2008 )
* Wonderland Online ( Q2 2008 )
* Zu Online ( Q2 2008 )
* Godswar Online ( Q2 2008 )
* The Chronicles of Spellborn ( Q3 2008 )
* Warhammer Online : Age of Reckoning ( Q4 2008 )
* Aion ( 2008 )
* Stargate Worlds ( Q4 2008 )
* Huxley ( 2008 )
* Darkfall ( 2008 )
* Earthrise ( 2009 )

I doubt the 2008 release dates for Stargate, and Aion sounds... not my style. I'll have to check out some of these others, though, in hopes something catches my attention.

One that does sound interesting is Earthrise - back before Star Wars fell so far down, I thought it was great that you could be on one side or the other, or you could be neutral. Earthrise sounds like it may have that option, though it's a shame that one side is clearly supposed to be evil. We'll see.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

TV Shows and MMOs

Massively has pointed out the latest on the Sci-Fi Channel's upcoming TV Show/MMO. It will be Sci-Fi (no real big shock) and set on an alternate universe Earth. They then point to an article on Joystiq which asks whether or not this can work. The article rightly points out the challenges of creating the show, though I feel it misses the possibilities a bit - for example, does the show have to be weekly? Does every episode have to be game driven? Obviously I think the answer is 'no'. Sci Fi isn't my first thought in high quality self-produced content, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, for the moment.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, June 16, 2008

throwing people out

I love this! Massively pointed me to this video, showing the ways you can kick people out of your private space in a web based game called Sociotown.

I'm not sure where I'm at with browser based games yet - I'm beginning to think they might be viable, though I'll be sad to see the high-end graphics go away. Of course, maybe the next version of our favourite browsers will have high-end graphic capability...?

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sci-Fi to make TV Show / MMO

I think this could either go very well, or very badly - Sci-Fi (the american cable television channel) will be making a massive online game which is accompanied by a TV show (or is that the other way around), according to console patrol (via slashdot). According to the article, "Sci-Fi plans on revealing more about the project later this year at the San Diego Comic-Con", which is when we'll find out if this is a good idea, or a colossal blunder...

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I'd love to say there's lots of gaming news, and that I've been doing lots of fun stuff I can talk about and all that, but actually RL is eating seriously into my gaming time of late, and the rest is under NDA, which makes me sad, as I'd love to go crazy talking about it. I'm looking forward to all the good stuff coming this year, once we've completed all the RL tasks that are eating into my play time.


Monday, April 14, 2008


Massively has a post up on a new game called Saga, which looks (from the trailer) absolutely amazing. It's a Real-Time Strategy style game, in which you control armies in real-time. The post notes that this is what the author had expected World of Warcraft to be, which is reasonable, but I expect Warhammer 40K is a better candidate for the massive army control game.

All the same, it got me thinking about WoW, and what an interesting game it would be if, like in D&D, after a certain level you got a follower (or followers). In addition to making the PuG unnecessary and allowing for raiding (to an extent), the PvP could be amazing.

I kind of wanted Warhammer to be like Saga in their RvR play, at least, what the trailer says the play is like. From what I've seen I don't think that's going to happen. By the same token, from what I've seen of Conan nothing like that will be involved, though I don't think they ever claimed it would be. I expect what's going to have to happen is all the games now in beta will be released, and then someone will start developing a game which incorporates all the features they have, and that generation of games will be amazing.

Of course, it's an MMO, so in theory, they could re-develop. But I don't see any sign that, for example, Blizzard is going to make their game better, even though they could. Just milk it 'till it dies. It's sad, but that seems to be the way it works.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Free Realms

A post over on MMOG Nation alerted me to some interesting new developments Sony will be doing on their new game, Free Realms. I've commented in the past that social networks and MMOs are destined to come together, and the developments noted in the game description seem to indicate SOE will be taking a big step in that direction. I expect a lot more to follow. Why, for example, are there so many sig generator websites that are semi-functional, when the gaming company could create a reliable one (or a reliable API...)?

Add a splash of MyBlogLog and you might have some really interesting stuff happening.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, March 7, 2008

Another trickle from Cheyenne Mountain

Massively alerted me to a story on MPOGD which has a few more tidbits about Stargate Worlds. To sum up a short article, there will be no player controlled vehicles, and the content will be soloable. It never occurred to me, frankly, that anyone would try to make a non-soloable game, but there you go. Now head on over to the story and ogle the pretty pictures.

Labels: , , ,

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.

Labels: , , , ,

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.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, February 25, 2008


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.

Labels: , , ,

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.

Labels: , , ,

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.

Labels: ,

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.

Labels: , , , ,

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.

Labels: , , , ,

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.

Labels: , , , ,

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?

Labels: , , , ,

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.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

examples from the real world

I was thinking, in one of my less lucid moments (or maybe it was more lucid, but regardless) of a way to ensure that everyone participated in, or at least had an interest in, some sort of PvP area that could be controlled by either side. I drew on the real world example of mobile phones. Mobile phones use an ultra rare ingredient called Coltan that can be found in only a few places around the world. Since mobile phone production is so important, securing coltan has led in some cases to a real-world PvP sort of situation.

Once I had a real world crazy example, I thought 'why not get really crazy' and base the game on RMT, with currency having both a buy and sell rate (with a commission earned by the game maker in both directions).

Assuming you make the game fun enough in all other respects (big assumption, I know), this in-game element could become as contentious as the real-world example I drew from. Since we already know large organizations get involved whenever there is money to be made, one can imagine the whole thing blowing up into serious RL drama.

Obviously, this is all a thought exercise, as I don't think, in the end, this would make for a stable game play experience, but it is interesting (for me, at least) to think about ways in which the real world could be drawn into the game, giving the game a richer background.

I have the impression that Eve Online may live on the fringes of this sort of thing, but I need my games a lot more carebear, so I'm not sure.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

MMOs and perception

This topic had been hovering in the periphery of my mind today, and then Voyages in Eternity did a great post on the subject, complete with one possible way of implementing it.

The basic question is, how do you accurately reflect different skills or abilities in perception - noticing or hearing things. This is tricky, because of course the computer interface is not your head - you don't have peripheral vision because the screen isn't wide enough (exceptions apply). And it's your eyes looking at the screen, and your ears listening (maybe) to the sound - not your character's.

It's actually easier to reflect a lack of ability (sight/hearing) than an exceptional ability. If you don't show the object at all, you can guarantee the player won't see it. Ditto for sound - don't play it, it doesn't get heard.

As much as the glittering objects in WoW since 2.3 may be maligned, I think they were on the right path. Why not make things really obvious when your character notices them? By the same token, for peripheral vision, why not flicker one side of the screen? That would get the player to stop and look around.

You could have multiple levels of this sort of thing - don't display the object at all, show it but don't make it stand out, and then various levels of 'hey - look at me' for objects the character really noticed.

This could extend to all the other senses - hearing could be done using either sound or visual cues. Taste and touch and smell also - general visual cues that represent the character's perception of his or her environment.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Romance Novel MMO?

We discussed further this morning the idea from a couple days ago for a 19th century MMO. Things like skill trees (gambling, drinking, flirting, driving and riding), action bars (flirt, simper, rap knuckles with fan), PvP (duels, boxing, racing).

It leads to a question, though, about how to escape the fact that if the game designers are themselves gamers, and primarily male, and the gaming audience is primarily male (the daedalus project suggests mmo gamers are 85 percent male), how do you execute a game based on a genre that appeals primarily to women (according to the Romance Writers of America, 78 percent of readers are female). Something like this represents simultaneously a huge risk, and a huge opportunity. If you build it, will they come?

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, January 11, 2008

19th Century MMO?

My wife and I were discussing why there aren't more MMOs based on 'real-life'. She suggested, for example, a game based on the Napoleonic wars. As we discussed it, it became clear that many of the game elements World of Warcraft introduced could work very well for a game based in history (or in the present day). Because time is more or less fixed, you could run things through a little bit at a time (the armies are here, etc.) You could even stage 'events' where the actual battles would take place (since really, the war was a whole lot of maneuvering and very few days of pitched battles).

We also discussed how interesting the social side of a game set in this milieu could be - with a bajillion readers of romance novels and/or period pieces, why not have the game set in the upper class social world of the 19th century. The key statistic, then, would be your reputation, rather than health or stamina (although stamina could be used for, for example, the ballroom or the drinking hall). Levelling would include such traits as promotion within the government. You could grind rep with particularly influential people. Etc. It fits very well using the basic mechanics already well established in other games. And the audience, interestingly, is completely new - which either means great success, or great failure....

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Someone else likes Stargate

I was really pleased to see I'm not the only one waiting for Stargate to release, as Keen notes "If you’re as much a Stargate fan as I am" while posting about the contest to become a character in the game. At least now I know there's one other person!

Labels: , , , ,

not dead

Merely on holiday. I've been reading a bunch, but haven't seen anything that really struck my fancy too much. It's funny how much I don't know, even about the game I actually play (WoW). A big debate has been going on about how PvP gear is better than PvE gear, and so people grind PvP even though they don't like it, etc. etc. I only recently figured out that the badges I got from PvP were worth anything. I certainly can't have an opinion yet on the high-end gear. I love the fact that when people talk about the casual players, they still don't mean me, as I'm apparently more casual than they can conceive of.

For the most part, this has been fine - I don't have to worry about end game, as I probably won't get there before they extend it out another ten levels. But if, as has been asserted, the minority hardcore are the ones driving development, I wonder if the next generation of games, which seem to be taking their cues from the 800 pound gorilla, will be completely unaccessible to me. Which implies it will be the third generation when things really get interesting. I just wonder if, for example, WoW will be able to adapt when the new types of games start rolling out.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Combat in Conan

It may be that I've just started paying attention, but I feel like a lot more detail has been coming out about the combat system in Age of Conan. Apparently there will be three types of melee attack (top, left, and right) and from what I can tell an equal number of blocking moves. Getting hits in where your opponent isn't defending will make your attack more successful. There's a video in the massively article that shows a combat sequence. I believe you no longer target enemies, but rather swing, and it you hit an enemy, good. The blood fountains seem a bit much, but overall it looks like a pretty game. The twitch factor will turn some people off - my wife loves the 'click-and-kill' approach, for example. But for others who find the auto attack a little boring, this will be a welcome change.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Pirates reviewed

Hooray! Apparently the NDA has been listed from Pirates of the Burning Sea (which I have been playing a little bit of during the stress tests). Tobold has posted a lengthy overview of the game to get you started.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Of all things, my USA today this morning greeted me with an article on the two upcoming Conan games. Nothing special, but I thought it was an interesting statement on how mainstream these sorts of things had become.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Fall Game Preview

Tom's Hardware has a gaming section which recently published a two part Fall Gaming Preview. For the most part there's nothing new, but it does give a nice overview of what's coming out, and it's great for non-MMO titles. Tabula Rasa does make an appearance, but otherwise it's a whole lot of FPS (unless we count Tabula Rasa as FPS as well).

Labels: ,

Friday, September 28, 2007

up and coming

Keen and Graev have a post, which Tobold has responded to, on an article up at Yahoo which tries to guess what the next big MMORPG will be. If you are currently not up to snuff on who the up-and-comers are, reading these will get you a long way there.

Weighing in on the topic itself, there are a number of good features that certain games have created that haven't been all rolled into a new game. The current batch don't seem to be doing it either - Lord of the Rings is perhaps the closest, and they don't seem to have the right ideas to move forward - I think they may be too focused on WoW as a model. Too many of the others seem to be ignoring the fact that people enjoy doing things other than killing in-game. Really simple things like fashion and player housing have been ignored for far too long. See Tobold's post responding to Trinity for more on this subject.

Labels: ,