Zen Of Design

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

Month: December 2004 (page 1 of 3)

Fantasy Football

Fantasy Football is a brilliant design, especially to those trying to run the business of the NFL. It’s remarkable, really, how well it keeps football fans engaged in the game even when, say, the football team that they actually root for has no hope to get into the playoffs because Vinny Testaverde gives it up more often than the high school slut. Continue reading

CorpNews Interview

Corpnews asked me some questions, and I gave some overly polite and politically correct answers, as part of their end-of-year developer roundup. Read it here.

End of the ‘World’ As We Know It?

If you believe in the ‘world/game’ split of online world design, and are a fan of the ‘world’ camp, now must seem like a pretty grim time. The grand-daddy of ‘world’ design is suddenly having people talk about it in the past tense (prematurely, I should reiterate). Furthermore, new additions to the ‘world’ side of things such as Star Wars Galaxies, Shadowbane and the Sims Online have all gotten disappointing reviews, whereas on the ‘game’ side of things, we’ve had endless praise for City of Heroes, followed by reviewers arguing, out of EverQuest 2 and Worlds of Warcraft, which game can cure the most lepers. The future doesn’t look too bright – Tabula Rasa and Vanguard, obviously on the front lines of the next wave, both appear to be ‘game-y’ games. If you’re a fan of broad game design with do-anything attitudes, some would argue your time is over.

But, for Surly Bob and the other “old school evil players” nostalgic for the glory days of Ultima Online – it won’t happen again. Ever. That moment in time was unique – and it’s gone. Because there will never again be a time where there is only one MMO. The market has matured to the point where there will always be choices. And in a dog-eat-dog PvP game, there will only be the PvPers, not the targets. Because now people actually have the choice of selecting which game to play, which game suits them best. If a person is targeted for the tender mercies of “evil players” – they simply will cancel and move on. The days of UO’s One World where many mutually exclusive play styles are forced to interact, on the terms of the more socially maladroit, are over. The market has fragmented, and cannot be put back together. People, when forced to play the role of “sheep” or “stupid newbie”, will simply leave.

Let’s play devil’s advocate.  Continue reading

The Beautiful, Broken Legacy of UO

Talking about UO seems to be all the rage. Terranova is writing its eulogy. Scott is talking about why it was such a wondrous yet bad idea. I thought I’d talk about it from the unique point of view of someone who tried to make a sequel.

First and foremost, I’m extremely thankful for UO. The game captured the imagination like no other MMO ever has. People were absolutely enchanted with the idea. UO had ambition – a ridiculous amount of ambition, that it had no hope of living up to. But the ideas, man, they got in your head. You heard Raph talk about what could go on in UO, and your head spin with possibilities. Of course, half of those possibilities were exploits, but still. Continue reading

Assimilation is Inevitable

I suppose I should stop writing bad things about EA. I admit, I’d have to stop and ponder in cosmic wonder the notion of Wolfpack replacing Origin as EA’s Austin presence.

What a pleasant way to start off my Christmas vacation!

Video Game Awards – Travesty As Usual

The 55 things to hate about the Video Game Awards (thank god I had the ability to fast forward the Tivo’d version) and 3 things I liked.

1. Why have we opened with 2 rap songs and no awards?
2. Why have we opened with 3 rap songs and no awards?
3. Why have we opened with 4 rap songs and no awards?
4. Who thought that Snoop Dogg would add gravitas to a field that needs it?
5. How much did EA pay to pimp Def Jam twice in the first 10 minutes.
6. Who wrote these god awful jokes where Snoop Jokes with his alter ego?
7. “If there’s one thing I appreciate, it’s Human Females Performing for me”. Ugh. And who came up with the category “Best performance by a human female”?
8. Vectramonkey is the name of the award? And no, miss victoria secret angel, it’s not ‘hot’.
9. Were there no good voice actors who were also big stars?
10. My fiance’s response to “Hot girls read cheat codes” was, and I quote, “Fucking Christ.”
11. No one ever starts their sentences with “I racked my nuts” at the Academy Awards.
12. “The most addictive game feuled by Dew”. Can we get more shameless please?
13. I somehow doubt that that’s the only PSP in America.
14. “Halo 2″ by Microsoft, “Doom 3″ by Activision, “Unreal Tournament” by Atari. How about actually giving love to the people that MADE the game? You don’t give awards to the moneymen at the Oscars, do you?
15. How much did EA pay for that completely insubstantial zombie-Brando in-show advertisement for Godfather?
16. No, I think getting behind the wheel of a Ferrari is actually a little better than getting behind the wheel of a video game.
17. How many people who love driving games want to buy the GTO that Pontiac product-placed on stage? Maybe they should have tried a Porche or something?
18. Finally, music with drums.
19. Why have the musical acts play songs with words you have to bleep out? Do they not realize how unprofessional it makes it sound to have the sound cut out?
20. Sorry, it’s not impressive that Danny Masterson was playing video games while his costars were dating the likes of Lindsey Lohan. Is he an idiot?
21. Who are these idiots talking about how cool the game of the year candidates are? Why do I care about their opinions?
22. Wouldn’t it be more impressive to have a candidate for music that was exclusive in a video game, rather than major songs just slapped in?
23. Is it kosher to sing a song at a show you’re hosting?
24. Is it just my imagination, or can Snoop Dogg not sing? Why would you do that on national TV?
25. Who wants to waste time reading out pesky nominees when we could have bad rap? Do 7 categories at once, and only list the winners.
26. Was there really not a better fighting game last year than Mortal Combat?
27.”Cybervixen of the year”. Classy. Couldn’t they at least also have “Virtual Beefcake of the Year”?
28. Were these asian women ordered to dress up like prostitutes?
29. If you’re supposed to present an award, wouldn’t it be nice if you could speak English to some degree?
30. Samuel Jackson looks like the first person happy to have won. No, scratch that – bemused. Look at what the wacky kids are hip to this year!
31. Must we really have a rapoff between Snoop and Virtual Snoop?
32. The victoria secret angels hadning out awards is stupid and distracting.
33. “Riddick” gets best game based on a movie. Thankfully for the team, being based on a GOOD movie wasn’t a requirement.
34. This show is reminding me quickly that I hate rap.
35. Another batch of award winners that apparently don’t deserve more time that could be spent on, say, hot chicks reading cheat codes.
36. What the hell category is “Kickass Newcomer” and why does Carmen Electra qualify?
37. Was Halo 2 really the best designed game of the year? There was nothing more original anywhere?
38. Doesn’t GameSpot sponsor this thing? How’d they ‘win’ that award?
39. Samuel Jackson as coach: note to show creators – anytime you say to yourself ‘this skit will be kinda stupid but also kinda cute’ – no, it’ll just be really stupid.
40. “You know what’ll be cool? If the ‘envelope’ was a DVD cover!” Bah.
41. Nothing says spontaneity and surprise like Madden giving a long thank-you speech via prerecorded video.
42. Dear Busta Rhymes: your introduction should not be longer than the song you’re introducing.
43. Is it kosher to sing 2 songs at a show you’re hosting?
44. Re Snoop Dogg: Is this good rap? I hate rap, so I can’t tell, but this sure sounds like it sucks to me.
45. Re Snoop Dogg: If you must have a song with words bleeped out, could you choose one where those words weren’t in the frequently repeated chorus?
46. More Hot Girls Reading Cheat Codes. Enough said.
47. Snoop Dogg’s going to be in a video game! Even the host is product placement! We have reached product placement Utopia!
48. Why are the candidates for Reader’s Choice different than Game of the Year? How were the candidates for the former chosen?
49. “Whose better to announce biggest game of the year than Method Man, Red Man or Ludacris?” I don’t know, how about Will Wright, Peter Molyneoux, and Sid Meier?
50. Samuel L Jackson accepts the award for the “Grand Theft Auto 2″ team.
51. You would think that after 25 years of rocking, Motley Crue would have learned to, say, do soundchecks.
52. Flaming drumsets are, like, SO 1988.
53. Snoop Dogg and Motley Crue share the stage. Someone shoot me now.
54. Is it just me, or did it seem like Snoop Dogg wrote his rap interlude on the limo ride to the show?
55. Ted Williams expired with more dignity than this show.

3 Things I liked:
1. Katamari Damacy being mentioned.
2. I like Michelle Rodriguez on principle.
3. The Spy vs Spy ads.

Yes, it took me including the advertising to find 3 things I liked. Thank god that piece of crap is no longer on my DVR.

Original comment thread is here.


Anatomy of a Dung Pile

Scott Miller has a discussion on what makes a bad game. Go read the thread.

Why We Don’t Charge Like Lawyers

Someone on Slashdot games asks the question: why don’t we have hourly pay-to-play muds, i.e. muds that charge by the hour vs muds that charge by the month?

“With exciting MMO games like World of Warcraft and others existing, the current monthly fee plans that all MMO games that I’m aware of aren’t necessarily worth it for people that don’t have as much time to play games as others. For instance, I have about 3-5 hours to play games per week, if I’m lucky. On top of that, I like more than one game but I’m still interested in MMO games. I was wondering what Slashdot thinks about newer MMO games implementing some sort of pay-as-you-play system or at least having that option alongside the current monthly fees.”

Sonny, you missed the golden days. Before Meridian 59, all the ‘big guys’ (i.e. Simutronic’s Gemstone games, for example) were pay-to-play. This was the internet model in 1996, and the games followed suit. Now, the internet payment model is simpler (at least for end-users), and the games have followed suit as well.

Continue reading

FunCom Gives It Away

Press Release from FunCom, offering free Anarchy Online play for a year. The fine print:

In a unique move Funcom is removing all cost barriers in the ultimate sci-fi MMORPG, allowing all new players to enter and stay, free of cost! At the same time Funcom is departing from the obligatory need to register with a credit card, making for an easier entrance and registration process.

As mentioned existing users can also take advantage of this offer, but ONLY if you start a new account. In order to take advantage of the completely free offer you need to sign up a new Anarchy Online account between the 15th of December 2004 and 15th of January 2005. Once you have done so you can play free of charge until 1/1 2006. Other restrictions and conditions may apply. See registration information for details. We would also like to add that the free version does not include access to any of the three expansion packs. Should you wish to upgrade to any of the expansion packs regular monthly subscription and client fees will be added.

Continue reading

Midway to NFL: You Can’t Fire Us, We Quit!

As a followup to the big borg news, Midway has announced that they didn’t want those pesky rights anyway.

“No longer bound to the NFL license, there will be no league restrictions on content and gamers will finally experience what makes playing a football video game really fun: off-field controversies, dirty hits, excessive celebrations and much more,” Midway marketing chief Steve Allison said in a statement.

Continue reading

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