Zen Of Design

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

Month: March 2005 (page 1 of 2)

Microtransactions are Coming

Over at Press the Buttons, Matt G has waxed philosophically about microtransactions, and what they mean for the industry. He predicts doom and gloom for fans of affordable gaming. I know his mindset. I was there ten years ago. As I’ve aged, though, I’ve actually become more open to the idea. I’m not there yet, but I’m intrigued by the possibilities.

Microtransactions are not a new idea. 3DO and Sega both experimented with the technology back in the ’90s, and neither initiative really got off the ground. The problems weren’t all market pressure — it feels risky to claim that Microtransactions are going to be your bread and butter when many MMOs can’t keep from occasionally double-billing you. It feels financially unsound when many MMOs can’t keep the occasional dupe bug from slipping through the cracks. It feels legally terrifying when many MMOs occasionally just plain lose a player house. Microtransactions takes these engineering problems, and elevates them from ‘this is pretty damned important’ to ‘if this doesn’t work flawlessly, we’ll all be wearing barrels in a Tijuana jail’. Continue reading

Turbine escapes Eye of Vivendi, seizes One License

For months, little information has come out from Turbine regarding their MMO based upon the hottest fantasy license in the world. In retrospect, it seems inevitable. Vivendi has been trying to build a Middle Earth Online for nearly a decade as far as I know of, including two attempts to build it at their Sierra studio. Their first attempt was cancelled near the beginning of UO2 development. Which was a lifetime ago. When looked at that way, from a business perspective it’s absolutely shameful that some version of MEO wasn’t up and running when the Peter Jackson movies were providing joygasms to the entire geek universe. Continue reading

God of War is Awesome

Note: Everything I said about realism and 3D doesn’t change the fact that God of War is shit hot. I mean, it’s really, really visceral. I haven’t even gotten a chance to play it yet — I invited friends over Saturday, and just watching it made me twitchy. In a good way.

That’s not to say that God of War totally contradicts what I said. One thing you notice really fast is that the hero is very iconic. It’s hard to mistake him for something you see in another game, and that really helps brand identity. Or maybe I’m just playing CYA.

Last year at E3, God of War was one of two games that I thought were really innovative and interesting. The other being, sadly, Playboy Mansion — last year was awash in sequels, Vietnam shooters, and bad GTA wannabes that didn’t understand what was so cool about GTA. This year, I’m taking a pass on E3. Maybe it’ll regain it’s magic if I skip a year.


The Place of 3D on the Handheld

I’m not going to join the general mindless adolation of the new PSP platform that’s happening around the web (and how interesting to see that there are still plenty of boxes on the shelves). To be honest, the new age of handhelds depresses me for one reason — they brought 3D to the handheld. This is the beginning of the end of what made the handheld so cool to a developer. Before this, the handheld was still a place where a team of 6 guys could make a hot shit, gameplay-driven little game. Now, the handheld is in the ridiculous arms race that has engulfed the consoles. Continue reading

Singing Simlish

Gamespot has a very cool article on songs in Simlish, (i.e. the making of the songs with gobbleygook lyrics you hear if you turn on your Sim’s stereo).

The Sound of Inevitability

Based out of Austin, TX, Playsend is a new organization in the business of facilitating eBay trades of virtual world goods. (Not selling gold, mind you, just… facilitating trades between other parties). Continue reading

Taking the Long View of WoW

On the heels of Blizzard’s announcement that they’ve reached the 1.5 million mark, Thor Alexander (former UO2 AI guy and currently editor of the recently released Massively Multiplayer Game Development 2) asks an interesting question: could WoW kill Blizzard? Sure, this seems like an absurd question, until you realize that in retrospect, UO killed Origin (and, I might add, outlived it). Salient quote:

It reminds me of Origin back in 1999 after the success of Ultima Online when the studio announced that it would forsake any further single player game development in favor of all MMP games. When I asked my project manager about the radical shift I was enlightened to the fact that UO had brought in more revenue then all single player Ultima games combined.

Continue reading

Matrix Turned Inside Out

Matrix wins the award for best end-of-beta event, with trippy melting reality, red, lidless eyes in the sky, and as a piece de resistance, turning all the player avatars inside out (last link is wmv file, found via Kotaku).

As a developer, one can only say ’someone spent time making that work’. Perhaps it’s used for something else. I know that if I were a CSR, it’d be my favorite way to tell Little Script Kiddie to STFU.


The Power of Persistence

I, personally, think of instanced dungeons much like butter on popcorn – a tasty addition, but easy to overdo if you’re not careful. With that mentality, I went to listen to Raph Koster, Anthony Castoro (Producer of UO), Marc Jacobs (DAoC) and Jack Emmert (of CoH fame) debated instantiated spaces vs persistent ones at GDC.

There seemed to be an odd belief that WoW is a victory for the instantiated space model. Personally, I think quite the opposite – I’ve played WoW substantially, and yet probably spent fewer than 5% of that time has been spent in instances. Instances are the cherry on top of their persistent world, but by no means does the experience center on them. This works well. It also stands in stark contrast to the ‘mostly instantiated’ philosophy that seems to drive the next generation of titles such as City of Heroes, Guild Wars and Tabula Rasa. Continue reading

The Continuing Simplification of Games

For those who found the original Tetris just too complicated, I present: Tetris 1D!! (Thanks, Idlenews)

There’s an interesting commentary here about the constant battle between the hardcore gamers who tend to make hardcore games for themselves, and the marketing people who want to make the game as braindead as possible, and would also like to package a collectable drool cup in the box as well. Continue reading

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