Zen Of Design

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

Month: April 2006 (page 1 of 2)

XFire Hits Jackpot

Another shout-out goes to the XFire gang, who are reported to be selling out to Viacom for $102 Million. As mentioned previously, one of the XFire head honchos is Chris Kirmse, who was one of the two tech visionaries on Meridian 59.

I had more to say on the subject, but to be honest, Raph beat me to almost exactly what I was going to say.


In Praise of EA Spouse

This is just a quick shout out to Erin Hoffman, who was outed today as EA Spouse, the same day that EA settled a class-action lawsuit against them for their employment practices. Thanks partially to her, everyone I’m talking to about potential employment falls over themselves to stress they’re trying to forge a healthy work culture.

Maybe I’m dreaming, but maybe things really are turning a corner in the quality of life angle.


Mindmelding With Marketing Suit Types

Every now and then, I try to convince a producer that “Billing model” is one of the next great design challenges. It usually takes more convincing than you would think. There’s an old line of thinking in this industry that billing is a business decision, not a design one. In fact, in no company that I’ve worked for have the designers sat at the table with the business guys to decide what to charge players for a monthly fee.

This is pretty classical thoery inside of the business world. Marketing students are taught ‘the four P’s’ – pricing, promotion, product and placement – as the primary decisions to make when marketing your item. The inference is clear – pricing what you’re selling is very different than deciding what you’re going to sell. Of course, even in the classic world, the business strategy is more unified than that. Netflix and Budget Rent-A-Car are two companies that compete on price in unique ways – and both companies built a product specifically with that in mind. Continue reading

Voltron-Style Combat

A WoW April Fool’s Day joke some time ago purported that Blizzard was adding Two Headed Giants as a playable race, where two different players played each head. Apparently, the guys at Carpe Diem saw that as a challenge. Continue reading

25 To Life “Not A Good Title” – says Publisher

I’ve pointed out before how 25 to Life has gotten abysmal reviews. This article talks about how the game’s sales are being fueled by the controversy stoked by game activists. The part that made me chuckle was this quote from a publicist for the game:

“Frankly, it is not a good title and under normal circumstances it would not be selling as well,” said Michelle Curran, a public relations director for Eidos, the British producer of the game….When the game was released, Curran said, the company did nothing to promote it. There were no TV ads, magazine campaigns or other promotions. The company did not think the game had much potential.

And that’s the publicist talking.

An Employment Non-Update

I keep being asked how things are going on the old job hunt. My response has been pretty universally, “Interesting times and all that.”

Yes, I appear to have prospects beyond May. No, nothing’s official yet. No, I’m not talking beyond that.

No, I won’t disparage Ubi. I’m sorry they killed my project, which was a pretty cool idea (hint: it was an MMO but not an RPG). Still overall, they were a good publisher to work for, with a solid plan on how to move forward and compete with the big boys. I wouldn’t mind working for or with Ubi again in the future, if my career arc led in that direction.

Other news: my AGC talk has been submitted. Tentative title: Moving Beyond Men In Tights. Actually sketching out the talk has provided a nice distraction from the resume & recruiter dance that otherwise fills my life.

Last but not least, here’s a creepy but cool video of a two-legged dog.

There’s No Such Thing As “Best” Practices

So Jamie and Jason are talking about game production issues, specifically Jason’s recent Escapist article on the matter.

I think they’re both right, although I think Jamie’s heart is closer to mine when he says that he’s tired of hearing how we’re all fuckups. Jamie’s money quote:

Game development is one of the most difficult endeavors known to man – it combines the unpredictability of software engineering with the unpredictability of film-making and the unpredictability of creating an interactive experience that’s different for every user…unpredictability cubed.

Continue reading

Good For Us!

Sure, they won’t be my employers much longer, but still, I can’t help but feel a swell of pride on the note that Ubisoft is pulling Starforce from it’s products. This makes me happy.

Being part of the MMO bastard stepchild of the games industry, I’ve always been a bit more laissez-faire with the whole piracy thing, but this undoubtedly comes from the fact that games that require serial codes verified on the server you play on are pretty hard to pirate, at least until someone backwards-engineers your client and puts up a ‘grey’ server. Really, piracy may well be the only part of MMO development that is actually EASIER than making a standalone game. Continue reading

Majestic Sued For Making Crappy Life Crappier

Spotted on the blog of my favorite lawyer, someone wants to sue Electronic Arts over Majestic. Apparently, the game scared her into having multiple heart attacks.

Your company described your “game” Majestic which was said to be a “persuasive gaming harness” built around fictional characters in an “interactive suspense thriller” borrows from The X-Files, War Games, and Michael Douglas’ movie The Game as it entwines players in a dark conspiracy on the Web, then tracks them down in real life, outside the anonymous safety of a Web browser.” It certainly wasn’t contained to the safety of the Web Browser as you are still continuing to experience even now.

Continue reading

Dashing Diners and Shooting Up Office Space

So what have I been spending time on lately? Well, other than the whole figuring out what I’m doing for the rest of my life, I’ve been dividing my focus on two games: FEAR and Diner Dash.

Diner Dash I played to have something to click around when the TV’s on – I seem to have developed a pattern now where I play one casual and one hardcore game at any particular phase of my life. Diner Dash I like a lot – sure it’s casual, and sure I’m not part of it’s target market, but… well, it’s all about optimization. I’m a sucker for optimization. I love to pore over maps to see if I can find a way home that gives me one more minute of my life every day. I’m the type of lead designer that actually gets off on building schedules, and trying to figure out the optimal path to actually getting it all done. Optimization is fun to me. Continue reading

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