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Posts Tagged ‘star wars’

Just a few scattered thoughts and an announcement.

First and foremost, I now have a shopfront over at Shapeways.

Tish Tosh Tesh Toys

This is where I will be offering miniatures for games I’m designing as well as a smattering of other widgets and wodgets.  Yes, I’m making Zomblobs! into a tabletop game that maybe someday will be digital, but it won’t be the only miniatures game that I do (yes, there’s another IP I have in mind, I’ll dig into it once I nail down the Zomblobs! and get it out in the wild).  It will mean codifying some rules into dice rolls and the like (a convenient excuse to design dice, by the way), but that’s just a fun design challenge.  Presently in the shop, I just have some rings I’ve designed as a response to Big Bear Butt’s article over thisaway.

What to Get the Geek That Has Everything

I’ve been meaning to set up a Shapeways shop for a long time, and it seemed like a good time.  I still need to finish illustrating my mother’s book, but that’s close, so I’m trying to find ways to be productive and maybe earn a little coin.  It beats playing games all the time when there are bills to pay.

A few other things online caught my eye of late:

Doodling is good for your brain, apparently.  Seems right to me, but then, I’m an incurable doodler.  Even if I weren’t an artist (I planned on a career in the sciences at one point), I’d still doodle all the time.  It’s how I’m wired, I guess.

I also consider this to be doodling, albeit origami-inspired… this is where bad Magic the Gathering cards go to die in my office.  My coworkers play a lot of Magic, and some of the cards are just… bad.  As in, “don’t play with them because it might give you a bad impression of the otherwise excellent game” bad.  So, we may as well do something useful with them, right?  (Yes, that’s my computer, and yes, I made this.  It took a few minutes here and there over about 3 weeks.  Apologies for the phone camera shot, it’s all I had at the moment.)

MTG Menger Sponge

Questing and flow… I tend to think that the problem of losing track of what you’re doing while questing in an MMO task hub is that you have a lot of threads going at once, and that the quests aren’t really linked in any obvious way in your quest log.  I wonder what a better log might do; better record keeping and ways to review what you did before and how it connects would be one way to make quests and narrative work better.

Tangentially, I always find it hard to jump back into Final Fantasy XII after a week or month away.  I don’t always remember why I’m doing what I’m doing, and the game only gives me the barest direction of where to go.  I think a “last time on your adventure…” intro bit (optional, of course, maybe just text tucked away in a log with convenient wiki-like links to key players), like we see in serial TV, in a log would go a long way to making it all feel cohesive.  These games are so big and the narrative occasionally so byzantine (or would that be Gordian?) that a pocket primer of what we’re actually doing might be a useful thing.  Even in a linear game like FFXIII, time away can diffuse the narrative.

There’s a minor storm brewing about gear and the acquisition thereof that the MMO Melting Pot has been keeping tabs on.

Is It Actually Worth Gearing Up Any More?

Points-Based Loot, Difficulty and the Decline of WoW

I’ve only skimmed these, but I’ve written on difficulty before and even the “ease” of WoW, but as to gear, well, I really don’t like the lottery drop system.  Yes, grinding up currency via dungeoneering to buy special loot might seem like more of a chore than the lucky drop in the first run, but to my mind it’s more honest and easier to plan around.  If I’m going to care about gear (I usually don’t, I’m just sayin’), I want to be able to plan for it, not gamble.  The few pieces of loot I’ve tried to find to get the best gear for my level 20-capped Paladin in WoW’s Starter Edition are… frustrating.  One is a very rare drop from a rare spawn, and others are from dungeon bosses.  The randomness of achieving that goal undermine the desirability of doing so.  Getting these bits of gear wouldn’t be me achieving anything (I’ve already demonstrated mastery by beating the bad guys before), it’s not me learning anything new, it’s just me outlasting an evil Random Number Generator.  That’s not satisfying gaming in my book.

Gaming Addiction?  How about putting a face on it?  This is a great video from the Extra Credits guys:

Game Addiction Pt. 2

And I do try to avoid this sort of thing, but sometimes a financial/political post really just needs to be shared.  This is one of them:

OWS: Want to Turn the Tide?

It’s ultimately about math and how leverage and exponential functions are killing us, fueling political unrest.  We live in interesting times.  It will be interesting to see where things go, and just what sort of revolutions pop up.  Be prepared and pay attention.  Hopefully it’s a tempest in a teapot, but it doesn’t hurt to have food storage, water and emergency preparations ready to go.  Even if all the politics in the world suddenly turn really boring and inconsequential, nature can still break stuff and cause some trouble.

If nothing else, you should have enough for pancakes.  Everyone loves pancakes, right?

Star Wars Pancakes

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“The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

Grand Moff Tarkin

Grand Moff Tarkin, the Glare of Doom

(Picture shamelessly copied from the Wookieepedia article on Grand Moff Tarkin.)

Brian “Psychochild” Green thinks modern MMO design lacks adventure. I concur.  I can’t help but think that this is largely due to the developer impulse to control the game experience, rather than let the reins loose a bit and let the players be the content.  It’s wholly understandable, considering just how badly players can screw things up, but realistically, in a medium where audience choice is key to the experience (games), you must let players control the experience to some degree.

There’s no way around it if you’re actually making a game rather than a movie or Skinner box.  Games are interaction, experimentation and play.  We’ve lost that along with the adventure.

MMOs in particular need not spend time and effort trying to make groups of players go through a Pavlovian script, but rather, to leverage the inherent variability and instability that comes when you have people interacting as independent, yet interconnected, agents of change.  That’s part of the promise of these Multiplayer games, after all.

So, Luke, you scrappy little Force user with little more than dreams and prophecy to drive you, stop wasting your time with batches of ten womp rats.  Start flying a borrowed bit of middleware machinery, and craft a plan to demolish the triumphantly technological, carefully controlled Death Star that is modern MMO design.  Some of the clumsy few may die on the way through the trenches (R.I.P. Vanguard), but all it takes is one perfect shot to show that the Empire isn’t invincible.

The freedom of sentients everywhere depend on the actions of a brave few!

Death Star Under Construction

Death Star Under Construction

(Picture shamelessly pulled from the Wookieepedia article on the Death Star.)

Disclosure:  I am not in the SWTOR beta, and I don’t think it will be the Force I’m looking for.

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It snowed last week.

The first snow of the season always makes me happy.  I love Fall and Winter.  It’s my time of year, and always makes for some great photography.

It does make moving about a bit harder, though.  We’re looking to move to a new home, and my wife really wants to get in before it gets cold and really snowy outside, which would make things more troublesome.  Still, I’m really loving the colder temperatures.

At the same time, EA/Bioware is giving me the cold shoulder, much as the Gatheryn people did.  See, they opened up the floodgates for applications to beta test Star Wars:  The Old Republic.  I like the sound of the game, and would happily beta test it a bit, but according to the Beta Application terms, I’m disqualified because I work in the game industry.

I’m not out to steal their ideas.  If anything, I’d give them a few.  No, what I’d want out of tinkering with their beta is a chance to take a look, to offer some opinions, and to find some bugs.  I’ve done my share of testing games at my job, and I know what to look for and how to fix it.  I like fixing things, and offering ways to make a product better.  (Which gets me into trouble sometimes, actually.  Not everyone wants things fixed.)

I’m one of those weird souls who plays on a test server and actually tests things, though.  I know, the trend is to use betas as promotional tools (and the response to the SWTOR one, which crashed the application server, is a good indicator of the interest in the game).  I’ll admit, a beta is a good place for me to check out a game.  (I got into the DDO Unlimited beta and loved it, even as I found things to submit bug reports on… they only cared that I wasn’t working on another MMO.)  Still, I consider it my fair bit of the bargain to actually do some testing and help find problems with the game.  Strange, I know.

So, alas, I won’t be beta testing SWTOR.  I wish the game well, though.  I’m not bitter, just a bit… chilly.

In the meantime, though, I’ll be playing Puzzle Pirates a lot more.  One of the Ocean Masters over there (PP’s Game Master position, since servers are called Oceans) bestowed a very kind gift on my unworthy piratey soul.  (Quick plug:  there’s a link up there in the upper right to show you my pirate, and if you join the game via that link, there *should* be some in-game currency in the offering by way of the referral system.)

Demeter, the Greek goddess hailed by Homer as “bringer of seasons“, has kindly granted my PP account a year’s subscription.  She sent me an email explaining this, and that she knows that I like to play on the PP test ocean (effectively their Public Test Realm), the Ice Ocean.  It’s a wild frontier sort of place, where bug hunts are more important than hunting gold, and new species of game design are wont to rear their puzzling heads.

More than once, I’ve noted on the PP forums that I’d make Ice my home and play there almost exclusively.  (The trouble being that only subscribers or those who have purchased doubloons recently can go there.  The gift of a subscription unlocks the realm for me.)  Yes, it’s potentially subject to a complete wipe, but I don’t mind.  Playing on Ice is all about experimentation, exploration and taming the sometimes wild bugs that inevitably come up in game development.  That, to me, is far more interesting than playing on a “normal” server scrabbling around in the water for pieces of eight.  Ice, as a test server, is more about *playing* the game than accumulating more piratey *stuff*.  I can’t help but appreciate that.

(Which means yes, I’d likely do the same thing in WoW, if that were my game of choice.  Test realms are about the last “frontier” of MMO gaming, and that I get to help the devs that I like is icing on the cake.)

Plus, well, Three Rings does excellent work.  I’ve often held them up as an example in the game dev field, and I welcome the chance to spend a bit more time with their work.  I’m still busy and not really an online gaming fanatic, but if I’m going to play online, I’m going to play somewhere that I’m happy to do so.  The Ice Ocean is one of those places that just feels like going home.

So, even as my little family is finding a new home in this crazy “real life” thing, I feel like I’m going home to one of my sanctuaries in the online gaming world.  It’s a gift that I can’t thank Demeter enough for.  These Three Rings people are some of the best devs that I’ve had the chance to converse with.  (Special mention of Apollo, another OM, and the great fun that he’s offered as a forum admin and event runner.)

To be sure, it’s a relatively small thing in the grand scheme of Life and All That’s In It, but to me, it’s a very kind welcome mat and a magnanimous gesture that makes my heart warm, even as I go play in the snow.  Thank you, Demeter!

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Michael Stackpole’s “I, Jedi” book is my favorite novel in the Star Wars Extended Universe.  (Let us not speak of the travesty that they call The New Jedi Order.)  It’s an intriguing look at what it might be like to adopt the Jedi code, and how one adapts to using the Force and living as a Jedi Knight.

I never played Star Wars Galaxies.  I’m not sure if there was a similar sense of responsibility and power that was attached to the Jedi character class.  I hope there was, just like I hope that the lore is treated well in the Bioware MMO, Star Wars:  The Old Republic.  Being a Jedi should mean something beyond having a fancy lightsaber and an emo cloak.  (Yes, this means that I think George Lucas didn’t quite treat the lore all that well, either.  Yes, it’s his baby.  Yes, I’m a fan of what I think it could be, not what it has become.  Too bad.)

I want an I, Jedi experience from Bioware.  I want to know what it’s like to be a Jedi, not just some dude who takes turns trading lightsaber blows with some Sith NPC.  (Seriously, trading hits with a lightsaber?  Am I the only one getting serious Monty Python Black Knight flashbacks?)

I want to build my own lightsaber.

That is, I want to go through the entire process, like Corran Horn did.  I want a personalized piece of machinery, tuned to perfection for my abilities, and suiting my tastes.  I don’t want a generic Trainee lightsaber that I can only tune by swapping in some gems of +5 Rancorslaying.  I want to go hunting down an exotic monster’s horn, hollow it out and put the emitter in it, give it mother of pearl inlay and obsidian buttons, and install a secret compartment or two for when I get my MacGyver itch.  Or maybe scavenge a droid’s arm and make myself a unique hinged lightsaber.  I definitely want a dual phase blade.

In short, I want player-driven crafting in SWTOR, and I want craftsmanship and individuality to mean something.  Surely that’s something Bioware can do, right?

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