Zen Of Design

The design and business of gaming from the perspective of an experienced developer

Month: July 2002

Making Better Bosses

A version of this article first appeared in the August 2001 issue of Game Developer magazine.

There’s an epidemic sweeping across the games industry.  It’s a sweeping onslaught of gaming tedium that makes an average day of C-Span seem like New Year’s 2000.  I am referring to our boss monster encounters.  The elements of the game that should act as the climaxes of our gaming experience are devolving into boredom and frustration, instead of providing the pure gaming bliss that they should.

Now, I’m not naïve.  I know that boss encounters are usually lackluster because they require special code and art, which in turn translates to money, time, and bugs.  Also, they are often moved to the schedule’s end, which makes them ripe for gross oversimplification (if they don’t get cut altogether).  Complex bosses also cannot be reused easily – and resources you can only use once per game are extremely expensive.  Still, we can do better.

In this age of beautiful graphics and sound and well-crafted stories, most boss encounters are still “whip out your biggest gun, go mano a mano, and hope you don’t die.”  Which usually devolves into a health meter that moves down too slowly and way too many quickloads.  We’ve seen minor progress, but this usually “Shoot him when he taunts”, “shoot him in the stomach”, or if we designers are really clever, “Shoot him in the stomach when he taunts.”

Been there.  Done that.

Continue reading

Baseball is Officially Broken

Steroids, okay. I dealt with that. Ridiculous inequities between teams? Okay, needs change, but I’m still a fan. But, Christ almighty, ending the all-star game with a tie – I don’t know why, but it breaks the camel’s back. The final ignomy was that, due to the fact that the game ended in a tie, no MVP award was given, even though it was renamed in favor of Ted Williams just yesterday.

I’m now fully in the camp of ‘everyone associated with this sport is a whining crybaby’. You’ve got 10 pitchers on a team, and you can’t cover 12 innings? Everyone’s up past their bedtime? And you aren’t getting paid enough?

Baseball needs to clean up it’s act. Get rid of the drugs. Fix the prima donna attitudes. Install a salary cap. Stop talking about contracting teams. And finish the damn games.

My Neverwinter Nights Design Notes

So I finished Neverwinter Nights over the weekend. It took a lot to get into it, but thankfully, I had almost interminable insomnia. This allowed me to finish it, and better yet, gave me something more entertaining to do than count ceiling fan rotations.

My overall review: the single player game is good, but made me want to run crawling back to the infinitely better Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale. The multiplayer game was laggy, but so far hasn’t really lived up to its promise as ‘reinventing the D&D experience’. Currently, it’s sort of like Diablo with a better story and worse rules. The tools editor is a breeze. I give it 3 out of five stars.

That being said, I’ve read so many people talking about this game with such sparkly gleams in their eyes that I feel compelled to offer the truth. I’ve seen no end of shiny, happy things written about NWN that I thought that someone needed to say the things that I’ve seen missed or glossed over in all of the reviews. That being said, here are 10 things to hate about Neverwinter Nights. Continue reading

Jack Chick: High Comedy, Emphasis on ‘High’

A new Jack Chick Tract is up. Be sure to watch for the angel with the camcorder and the highly amusing Dear John letter.

And now, for those who remember the awfulness that is Jack Chick’s anti-gaming “Dark Dungeons”, I present you Dork Dungeons (thanks, I believe, to Delusion from the extinct Lum the Mad site) and MST3K does Dark Dungeons. Both of these make me think there may be hope for the human race.


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