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Archive for November, 2008

Turning Back Time

I have at least three Playstation memory cards filled with Final Fantasy VIII save games. They are at key points in the plot, so that I can go back and relive the story without playing through the sometimes grindy game itself.

Ditto for FFVII, FFIX, FFX, Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2, Front Mission 3 and 4, Valkyrie Profile and VP: Silmeria, Star ocean 2 and 3, Arc the Lad (TotS), and probably a half dozen or so games that I’ve forgotten about. It’s one of the strengths of a console game that allows for multiple saves; I can replay the story (or show it to my wife or siblings) without making them sit through the “game” part. Don’t get me wrong, I usually like the game, or else I wouldn’t bother with it, but sometimes it’s really nice to go back and pick up the story without playing through everything again. It’s the curse of the “cutscene” storytelling in games; there are usually two parts of the title, the game and the story.  There’s no way around that if you want a strong narrative without the ability for the player to derail your story.

I love the option to “turn back the clock” and take a quick spin through the game. I love these long, involved RPGs, but I don’t have as much time as I did when I was young and didn’t need sleep. The ability to revisit parts of the game are a nice compromise between the desire to replay the game and the lack of time to do so. (more…)

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Just a simple concept today:

Perpetual growth in a finite world is mathematically impossible.

Pretty easy, right? Limited resources cannot possibly meet the demand of an exponential growth curve.

The repercussions of that simple common sense notion are profound: (more…)

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Pursuant to my comment over here, and following Zubon’s idea, I wanted to take a nostalgic look at Master of Magic, and with any luck, discern some game design principles that might be useful for designers today.

Ah, the MicroProse days.  Master of Orion was one of the first games I spent a lot of time in.  (The other being Star Control 2, another brilliant game that I’ll write about another time.)  Later, XCom: Terror from the Deep was fantastic (difficult and frustrating at times, but the core concept and gameplay were excellent).

At its heart, Master of Magic is a 4X game, an expansive strategy game based on the 4 “X”s: — eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate.  It borrows themes from Magic: The Gathering and gameplay mechanics from Master of Orion, throwing in a fair bit of Civilization and shades of D&D.  In other words, it uses time-honored gameplay and fantasy world elements.  There were no earth shatteringly new concepts in MOM, but the game pulled elements together into a very enjoyable whole. (more…)

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Stuck in the Web

Or, fun ways to waste your lunch break.

Shift

Shift 2

Shift 3

Eyeballing

QWOP

Snowflake

And this is fun for the upcoming snow, though it’s technically not a web application. Unless you’re in Australia, then you have to wait a bit longer than us Northies.

I’m sure there are plenty of other great toys and games, but these are the ones that have caught my attention of late. Game design isn’t all about the gears of war or worlds of warcraft.

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Apparently, Tabula Rasa is shutting down.  Is it strange that I think the name is strangely prescient?  It’s Latin for “blank slate“, and is typically used to suggest a newborn’s lack of mental content.  It even makes some sense in a game genre that is built around player-created and nurtured avatars.

And yet, I can’t shake two thoughts:

One, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”… the game will fade back into the nothingness from whence it came.  That’s the philosopher in me speaking, and he can often be safely ignored.  Philosophy is not reality, after all.

Two, expecting players to bring their own fun to fill the “blank slate” (and charge them for the privilege of doing so) isn’t necessarily the best business plan.  I’ve not played the game, and I know, it’s not like Second Life (which demands a lot of its “patrons”), but still, as a general rule, you can’t charge people for the privilege of being creative.  You can give them toys (tools), and charge them one time fees for those, but charging continued access to toys will, more often than not, mean that truly creative people will go find other toys.

…and that’s about as far as I’m going to take the analogy.  It’s a general game design philosophy; players want to have fun, and it’s the designer’s job to provide it.  User generated content may be all the rage in some game design circles, but you can’t charge people for making their own games.  You can charge for the middleware or take a percentage of the proceeds, but the subscription model doesn’t fit.  Also, thanks to Sturgeon’s Law, be prepared for a world based on user-generated content to be… well… full of static.

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Pretty Squiggly Lines

What a delightful little graph:

RGB Rollercoaster

Don’t forget, this one is EPIC.

[Edited to add a revised graph found here, now with 100% more Great Depression information.]

Oh, and if you want the audio, this guy’s worth listening to:

Nouriel Roubini

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Disclosure time. I don’t have an xBox. I did, however, work for these guys on this xBox game for the 360′s Live service. It should be out… sometime in the next 12 hours. Or thereabouts.

It’s a fun sandbox style kingdom building game that I’d definitely play… if I had the machine for it. As it is, I’ll probably be playing on our company’s machine here and there under the Gamertag “Silverook”.

Here’s the Facebook release party… thing. I don’t have a Facebook account either, so I’m pretty much out of the loop. All my blathering goes, well… here.  EDIT:  OK, I’ve caved and made a Facebook account.  This is so… weird.  I’m much better with blogging… and that’s still a hack job.

For the game, I did technical art… stuff, so the game would look all pretty and appealing. I built buildings, textured them, and handled some of the tech art geek stuff making Microsoft’s Avatars fit into our game. (Our engineers did the hard work, I just did some Maya and Max rigging and animation.) It’s very cool seeing their avatars in our game. (The pain making Maya play nice with Max is totally worth it.)

Other links:

xBox360 Fanboy

IGN

NinjaBee Forums (with various other links)

So yes, this is me shilling for a cool game that I worked on. Please tell anyone and everyone who might be interested about the game, and if all five of you buy the game, I might get a few cents in royalties. Whee! If all of your relatives and friends buy it too, that would make me happy.

It will be available for download on the Live service here fairly soon. If nothing else, there should be a playable demo, and you can get a feel for the sort of zaniness and fun that I get to work on. It’s really good to see everything come together. I’ll admit, it’s nice to earn money for it, too.

If there’s interest in it, I could probably construct a post mortem for the game, too. We’ve talked about doing one, so I’m sure that I could put together something interesting. I’m just a lowly technical artist, so I can’t promise anything… but I’d certainly welcome the opportunity to explain a bit about what went into the game.

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