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Archive for March, 2012

I took a recent trip to see my sister’s family in southern Utah.  En route, I put my new camera through some paces.

First, taking photos at 80 miles per hour through the window of a van usually produces little more than a blur, but this surprised me.  I counter-moved the camera as we went past a rock wall, and hoped for a decent shot.  This is what came of that little experiment.  The diagonal focus band is what really surprised me, and this is one of my favorite images from the trip.

rocks by road at 80 mph

Then there’s the rather largish gas station that is, well… abandoned.  The sunshine went dark, I guess.  Just my sort of playground.  There’s more at the Picasa site for this, but here are a couple of my favorites.

Sunshine Station Close

Looking Up

Last but not least, there’s the little burned tourist trap shack by the Cove Fort gas station.  It was built to look like an old log cabin, but it’s suffered some hard times.  Naturally, this makes for some great photos.  (Again, more at the Picasa site.)

Burned Panel

Burned Door

Now, to plan some other trips to see some natural wonders and ghost towns.  Maybe even Yellowstone someday.  It’s not that far away.

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I had no idea this was in the works.  Sneaky ninjas.

The Indie Royale guys have a new bundle up of NinjaBee games, four with a fifth if you beat the minimum price.  I’ve worked on four of these, though, admittedly, only on a phone port for Outpost Kaloki, not the original game.  Cloning Clyde was done before I joined the Wahoo/NinjaBee team, as was the original Outpost Kaloki.

Still, I did a few bits of the art for Ancients of Ooga, a fair bit of art for Band of Bugs, and a lot of art for A Kingdom for Keflings.  (Oh, and we’re working on more DLC for the sequel, A World of Keflings, as a result of this contest from a little while ago.)

So yeah, go check it out, y’all!  It’s hard to beat the price on these.  Am I shilling for my company?  Yes, yes I am.  They are good games, too, and ones I’d recommend as great indie titles anyway.  I have a soft spot for Band of Bugs especially, tactical game nerd that I am.

Oh, and speaking of ninjas and hidden secret things, I’ll come back to that “hidden” photo from last post.  There’s an art point I want to make with it, but I’ll let it sit for the weekend.

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7005 Words

Per Big Bear Butt’s challenge:

JUICY

SLENDER

VAIN

SHAFT

TORCH

STAR

HIDDEN

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Climate Change

Three days ago it was 75 degrees F.  Nice, pleasant weather, a proper desert spring.

This was what it looked like at 1 A.M. this morning…

Let It Snow

Silent Night

…and this is what it looked like at 8 A.M.

Snowflakes in a Pear Tree

Yup, climate changes.  Apparently we moved to a taiga overnight.  My new camera is happy.

Edited to add a few other shots I took on the way to work.  There’s a link to the Picasa folder of all of the shots at the bottom of the post.

Mountain, Trees, Sun, Snow?

My Front Yard

Frosted Tips

Snowflake Orchard

Edited again to add the link to the rest of the shots and a couple of panoramic composites.  Via Picasa, of course.

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OK, I caved and jumped back into World of Warcraft thanks to that absurd Scroll of Resurrection thing.  It’s kind of a big deal.  Sorta.  If the conspiracies are to be believed.  (I still say they should sell level capped characters.)

Me?  I just used it to make an insta-80 Shaman, a Dwarf I’m calling Rumblethump, so I could use Far Sight to take more esoteric screenshots.  We’ll see what I come up with.

…that’s probably not what Blizzard intended, but hey, I finally used one of my 30-day time codes from the VISA rewards card, so that’s less of a chance of me losing out on that value in the eventual shift to a glorious subscription-free WoW.  Anyone for buying my retail 60-day card?

In the meantime, I might get my “main” past level 78 and poke into Icecrown, then finally tame myself a Venomhide Raptor mount.  Yeah, tourist priorities.  Then I’ll take a lot of pictures.

So there.

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“Video Games” run a theoretical spectrum from almost purely mechanical beasties like FoldIt to barely interactive… things, like Dear Esther, Trauma or one of those atrocious “Full Motion Video” games from days best forgotten.  I’m not certain that you could ever have something purely mechanical with no context, and something purely narrative with no input wanders off into “Movie” territory.  I’ve written before on some of what I think games are and what they perhaps should be, even specifically about narrative in games.  There’s a blog devoted entirely to the notion, and many others that are quite eloquent about game design.

So… yeah, nothing really new to offer on that count, but I did want to highlight a post from Tobold today.  He’s writing about skill requirements in WoW over thisaway.

I was going to comment there, but it got long and linky, so I brought it here.  I think that putting level, group size and skill gates on content that completes the WoW narrative is asking for angst.  I see two major avenues to relieve the stress:

1. Give raids several levels of difficulty for the same content, from an uncapped zergfest to solo.

2. Pull the narrative out of raids.  (Alternatively, drop dev narrative, but that’s not going to happen.)

In any discussion of raiding and the dichotomy between the elites (self-defined, of course) and the unwashed hordes (the other guys, no matter their actual skill level), I think it’s also crucial to split the discussion of playing content from receiving rewards.  (It’s also worth noting that I say “playing content”, not “watching content on YouTube”; they aren’t the same thing.)

I am all for special rewards for demonstrating skill.  To me, that’s the essence of gaming, developing skills, learning game systems, and being rewarded for it with further tools to explore the game systems.  The whole “play for a while, watch a cutscene, repeat ad nauseum” design we see in a Final Fantasy RPG uses narrative as a lure and reward for grinding through the game, which is far less satisfying to me than expanding the gameplay itself.  I do love most Final Fantasies and many other RPGs, but that’s usually because there’s some good gaming under the hood.  The story is only tangential to what I think of when I play these games.

…and yet, I do like the story and characters sometimes.  I’m one of those that bought Advent Children and actually like it (yes, it’s cheesy, yes, it has problems, yes, I still like it).  I don’t want to go back and play through Final Fantasy VII to see that story, but I’d probably happily go through a tour of the cutscenes and crucial story points.  Yeah, I had fun with the chocobo racing and materia wrangling when I played the game, but I won’t do it again just for the story.

Maybe that makes me a terrible, no good, awful tourist or consumer or something, but hey, I did buy Advent Children, and I bought almost every Final Fantasy, so I’m a customer.

Point being, these “game” things we play tend to be a mishmash of interaction and passive fluff.  If the fluff is going to be important to all of your players, they need to be able to get to it.  I see no problem gating loot and even some game mechanics behind skill tests, because that’s what gaming pretty much is.  I’m not a fan of gating fluff behind skill checks, especially if you’re trying to build up a narrative that you want players to care about.

RPGs tend to alleviate that by letting players overlevel content, RTS games allow cheat codes and so on… MMOs have no such release valve for raiding.  Even the much-vaunted (or vilified) Looking For Raid doesn’t open the gates much, and what it does do tends to just mash together more people with different gameplay goals, always a stressful thing.

I’m not convinced that dev narrative needs to be the “fourth pillar” or dev focus for MMOs, but if it’s going to be important, it has to be accessible to as many players as possible.

Oh, and latebreaking but oh-so-relevant, Mass Effect 3 and multiplayer… apparently, the “best” ending demands multiplayer.  Ick.  Bad designer, no twinkie.

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