Zen Of Design

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

Month: August 2006 (page 1 of 3)

Vivendi’s SEC Filing

Here’s an SEC filing for Vivendi, who of course owns Blizzard. I’m a tad busy at work today so I can’t give it the dissection I’d like to, but this number popped out at me:

Over 1,300 Game Masters provide 24×7 customer support in 6 languages directly to players while playing the game.

That’s a whole lot of “I cannot help you with that” – 1 GM per every 5000 paying customers, if my math is correct. That’s a serious commitment to providing and maintaining a high level of quality service.


Weinstein Gets Famous

Good friend of Zen, and one of my favorite people to drink with is Dave Weinstein. He left the glamorous job of making games to go on to… scaring the hell out of people who make them. Here he is on CNN:

“Those of you who are working on massively multiplayer online games, organized crime is already looking at you,” said Dave Weinstein, a Microsoft security development engineer at the company’s Gamefest video game development conference.

Continue reading

My Hero

My grandfather was always my hero.

When he was 13 years old, he was working on the family farm when he got his leg caught in a combine (a large piece of farming apparatus). He survived, but lost the leg. Even though he was the eldest son, his family effectively disowned him, with the logic that a wooden leg would rob him of the mobility needed to run the family farm. Continue reading

Just as an Aside…

Paying a $2000 bill to surgically repair a cat’s snapped femur is a… very unique feeling.

Classes (plus, If Quoting History, You Should Know It)

Thomas Mortensen at MMORPG wrote up an article discussing classes in MMOs. He immediately gets off on a wrong foot.

The MMORPG genre has changed a lot since the early days of Meridian 59 and Ultima Online, but the games still relies on the basic classes introduced back then.

Pssst. Neither UO nor Meridian 59 HAD classes. Both were tankmagalicious. Continue reading

Yet Another Challenges of Licenses…

Stargate: SG-1 was cancelled. In true Hollywood fashion, it was done on the eve of the show’s finest hour. The move wasn’t a surprise: the actor’s salaries had been rising for years at the same time that the ratings had been falling. 10 years is a good run for any show, and may be a record for science fiction.

In possibly related news, Dark Horizons reports that two new Stargate movies are in the works. The fun part is this: Continue reading

Dungeon Siege Discovers How Far Is Too Far

Ars Technica is all agog over this bit of in-game product placement in the new “Dungeon Siege” game. (I strongly recommend going there to see the screenshots)

In Dungeon Siege 2: Broken World, our forum goer Scero found an NPC that told him about the Dungeon Siege PSP game and offered him a code for it, as well as saying the PSP game had a code for items in the game he was playing. Way to help us suspend disbelief. Even worse, this “ad” was voiced by the character.

Really, it’s the Voice Over that turns this from a bad idea to a stupendously bad one.

There are any number of ways that they could have presented this opportunity to the player. Heck, they even could have had a window show up while playing the game. But by tying it to an in-game NPC, they destroyed the sense of immersion that the game was trying to create.


UO’s New Coat of Paint

Looks like the UO team is updating their visuals again. I know the team has long wanted to do so, and it’s gratifying that they’re moving forward. The screenshots are pretty nice – especially when you consider they’re attached to a 9 year old game.

The first question I have, as a player, is what will happen to the pianos and other random furniture pieces that players have created? This bizarre branch of creativity was one of my favorite parts of UO. Continue reading

Validating the Corner Bar Mentality

A lot of people have been poking fun at this study, which is if you read it carefully, pretty close to my corner bar theory, only with academic citations.

The researchers, Constance Steinkuehler and Dmitri Williams, claim that MMOs function not like solitary dungeon cells, but more like virtual coffee shops or pubs where something called “social bridging” takes place. They even liken playing such games as “Asheron’s Call” and “Lineage” to dropping in at “Cheers,” the fictional TV bar “where everybody knows your name.” “By providing places for social interaction and relationships beyond the workplace and home, MMOs have the capacity to function much like the hangouts of old,” they said.

Continue reading

Gamers Are Trained to Game

Raph pointed out this article regarding how hard it is for non-gamers to play games. I’d recommend any developer to read it. It rings true to me – for the life of me, I can’t play Halo. An FPS without mouselook eludes me. Continue reading

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