Zen Of Design

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

Month: January 2006 (page 1 of 2)

The HoMMunity Speaks

On January 25th, merely a week ago, the HoMM community (which quaintly calls itself the ‘HoMMunity’) started a petition drive to delay Ubisoft (disclaimer: ultimately my employer) from launching Heroes of Might and Magic V in it’s current beta state. The gaming community was still smarting in the shorts from “HoMM IV: Ship It, 3DO Needs Cash NOW”. HoMM IV was considered a pale shadow of HoMM III (still considered by many to be one of the finest turn-based strategy games of all time).

The people who ran the notable HoMM community sites felt that the HoMM V beta (which is currently up on FilePlanet) did not bode well for HoMM V’s imminent release. So they not only collected signatures and started email campaigns of press releases to the gaming press, but they also employed an interesting tactic I don’t think I’ve seen used in a game community before: news suppression. Continue reading

Gamer Wonders If War Is Worth Dying 79 Times For

From The Onion

“After weeks of fighting for every pixel of ground and seeing 180 degrees of carnage in every direction, you start to wonder if it’s really worth it,” said 23-year-old Avers, who has been decorated 1,327 times since 1995, when he began fighting on his Sega Genesis. “I’ve already given my life several dozen times in this endless, senseless war game.”

Avers added: “Some nights, it’s all I can do to ‘continue.’”

Tracking Jack Muthafuckin’ Bauer

Somebody has finally found a cool and interesting use of Google Maps besides “Look, There’s My House!” Behold Jacktracker, a googlemaps addendum which shows Jack’s movement through LA during this season of 24.

Note: not only is Jack Bauer so badass he can kill 12 people before lunch armed with a set of tweezers, he is apparently capable of travelling the congested highways around LA at roughly 180 Miles Per Hour.

E3 – Toned Down, In Theory

The fiancee insisted that I point out that the powers that be at E3 have decided to cut down on the rampant nudity and other assorted naughtiness on the show floor.

I’m of two minds on this. I’m not adverse to a little skin and a little showmanship to hawk games. To be honest, I’m glad when Lara Croft signs photos – those 400 chuckleheads waiting in line are 400 idiots I don’t have to compete with in the line for something with, say, gameplay. And yes, ladies, I favor equal time in the form of Duke Nukem and the Prince of Persia in whatever state of undress works for you. Continue reading

“Audition” the MMO

There are some who say that we are trapped in fantasy, that making other genres, like a Western MMO, a Viking MMO, or even a Space Roman MMO is simply too hard. They claim that the Sims Online was doomed, because no MMO that doesn’t involve elves in tights could ever be successful.*

For all of you saying that, all I can say is, “Suck my Dance-based MMO“. Continue reading

The 360: Not Worth It (Yet)

I didn’t buy a 360. Sure, it’s true that I haven’t even seen an XBox 360 as of yet at the stores, but even if I’d come across one hidden in the back of a sales rack that everyone else had missed, I’m not sure I would have picked it up.

Given I’ve constantly harped about gameplay over graphics, this may not come as a surprise to a lot of Zen readers. It’s not that I don’t appreciate great graphics. But really, I don’t buy a console for ports of games that appear on other consoles. The 360 desperately needs an exclusive game made with it in mind. Continue reading

The 360 Sales Window

Speaking of the 360 and their sales figures of 600K, one is left with one inescapable conclusion: launching at Christmastime is the worst time to launch a game console. Think about it – they’re at 660K units now, far short of reaching their goal of 2.5M in 90 days and 5 million in 6 months. Most of these are due to problems filling the demand for the hardware, which has plagued pretty much every console launch. Continue reading

A Peaceful, More Tranquil Year

Buzzcut wants to point out that there were no M-Rated games in the top 10 games from last year. Which is interesting, given all the hoopla about video games provided by people named Thompson and Clinton. To be honest, the only M-Rated game that I thought was really excellent last year was God of War, which suffered from sub-par sales, so perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise.

Also of note: yet another Pokemon in the top 10. One wonders how much of Nintendo’s annual earnings are made by releasing a Pokemon title every year.

The Design of Zen

From CES comes an update about a game designed to improve your meditation, The Journey to the Wild Divine is a game where you attempt to manipulate an on-screen object (in this case, a new-agey crystal) with your biorhythms (in particular, staying calm).

This software includes sensors that attach to your fingers…The first level consisted of a pinwheel that was supposed to rotate when I took a deep breath. It would move, I would get excited about it moving and it would stop. The only way I could consistently make it move was if I talked to Mike about it. I guess I’m calmest when talking. How very apt.

My first thought when reading that was how frustrated failure in games makes me. Which is to say, I’m not sure this game’s for me. Whether it is or not, though, it turns out it’s a game that might not demo well.

The noisy Las Vegas Convention Center is the worst place on the planet to test meditation software. The few people who were willing to try the Journey to the Wild Divine were as equally unable to make the pinwheel move as I was.


Fantasy Baseball Lawsuit

There’s an interesting lawsuit that seems like it would have some interesting connotations for many industries, including online games. Previous to 2000, anyone could make a game, publish a book or baseball cards or otherwise take advantage of the stats of a sport. Then fantasy football happened. Once that industry became a multimillion dollar industry, Major League Baseball started claiming that their stats were their own proprietary information, and that only fantasy baseball leagues that licensed from them could use them.

A small company in St Louis has sued MLB. They used to have a license that allowed them to use the stats, but when the ante got raised, they found themselves left out, unable to afford baseball’s high price. So they’re suing. Their claim is that stats are merely historical facts, which can be used freely.

The interesting thing is, as this analysis points out, that MLB may be trying to protect a dime and foregoing a buck.

“Fantasy leagues clearly were giving more to the leagues than they were getting in return,” said Kim Beason, a professor at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville who conducts market research for the Fantasy Sports Trade Assn. Now, all the major sports operate fantasy games, recognizing that players are incredibly loyal fans — the type increasingly coveted by advertisers.

The NFL, which has placed a renewed emphasis on courting fantasy players, “found that people who play fantasy football end up watching two to three hours more NFL action on television,” said Brian Rolapp, the league’s vice president of media strategy. “We’re all watching these weird games that no one else wants to watch,” [said one player].”Who else is going to watch the [Cleveland] Browns and [Baltimore] Ravens unless Jamal Lewis is on your fantasy team?”

Which is to say, fantasy sports creates an appetite for the real thing, and creates interest in games that players otherwise would have no interest in. If MLB is not careful, they could drive out people who play free- and cheap- fantasy baseball, solely in hopes of driving those people to more expensive services that MLB could potentially make a buck off of.

Is this likely to dissuade MLB from the lawsuit? Tragically, no. What is likely to make them settle the case with the company in question is that they’re likely to lose, which would result in them losing the ability to sell their stats. So don’t expect stats to become historical facts – at least, not until the NEXT lawsuit.

Edit: Reading over this, I realize I forgot to ask the pertinent question to this blog, which is, does this affect gaming, especially MMOs? Could an MMO site sue a fan site for posting stats? How about event recaps? What about something like Thottbot?


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