Zen Of Design

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

Month: June 2007 (page 1 of 2)

WoW To Add Flesh To Bones in China

According to WoW, the art for the ‘Scourge’ race will be redone in the Chinese version of the game. El articulo:

The9 (Nasdaq: NCTY) changed the looks of the Scourge race in its licensed MMORPG World of Warcraft (WoW) on June 26, reports Southern Metropolitan News. Scourge are an undead race that in previous versions showed part flesh and part skeleton. The9 modified the look to show no skeleton, and changed scourge corpses from bones to tombs. The9 claimed that it made the change because the original look of the Scourge race was too scary and thus unlikely to pass new Chinese censorship review.

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Shadowrun’s “If You Can’t Beat ‘Em” Gameplay

The Shadowrun game (recently discussed here) came out over the last week or so and… well… you owe it to yourself to try the demo out. Disregarding whether or not it is true to the Shadowrun license’s feel (as well as my own personal longing for a Bioware-style RPG set in the SR universe), it does some very interesting things in terms of design.

The game is unabashedly a shooter, but the powers have all been tweaked to stretch what has been done in FPS titles previously, most notably things like using powers to see through walls, glide between buildings and teleport at will into the next room over. It’s… well, it’s very different. Continue reading

Apparently, They’re Really Sick of Killing Onyxia Over In China

From this article (emphasis mine):

A promoter for The9’s (Nasdaq: NCTY) licensed MMORPG Soul of the Ultimate Nation (SUN) was recently attacked by a player of The9’s World of Warcraft (WoW), according to a post on TGBus.com. The WoW player became angry when the SUN promoter pushed him to play SUN in an Internet Cafe. According to a friend of the angry WoW player, the angry gamer has waited a long time for WoW’s expansion pack “The Burning Crusade”, but The9 has delayed the release in favor of SUN. Other players in the cafe were dissatisfied with The Burning Crusade’s delay as well, and applauded after the assault.

Sounds like World of Warcraft has caught fire over in China. Of course, that whole relationship of WoW vs. Sun should get a lot more interesting now that Electronic Arts, publisher of Warhammer Online, has purchased 15% of the organization.

Im N Ur Disn3yL4nd, B0mb1n Ur G1ant M0us3

Check out Goggles, a flight sim where you can bomb locations pulled directly from Google Maps. You can even bomb your own neighborhood, in theory, although I didn’t try due to the fact that the instructions started with ‘how to delete your internet cache’.

Now imagine merging that with Photosynth, with a little help from Streetview.

Pretty soon, bombing your own school won’t be limited to disgruntled emo teens anymore.


Funny Guild Names

Need a self-esteem boost? Get a priest to 70 and then ditch your guild. Anyway, while shopping for guilds over my lunch break, I stumbled upon this thread of great guild names. A quick google found some other sources, including this article andthis thread. Some of my favs include:

< Holy Gnoman Empire >
< Naga Please >
< stole your bucket >
< Steaks on a Plain >
< The Cowbell Compels Me >
< dontmakemegetmymain >
< Blood Bath and Beyond >
< Straight Outta Hillsbrad >
< At Least We Have Stables >
< Hooters > (Wife pointed out this all-moonkin guild name)
< My Little Pwnies >
< The ORLY Factor >
< I Crit My Pants >
< Exalted with your Mom >
< Seal Cub Clubbing Club >
< We Killed Kenny >
< Boyz in DaHorde >
< It hurts when i Pvp >
< And Two Stealthed Rogues >
< Im thinkin arby’s >
< Gnomeland Security >
< Power Word Drunk >
< Dude Wheres my Mount >
< Built Horde Tough >
< Team Redundancy Team >

What are your favorite guild names? Note: don’t use HTML-style brackets. Brackets result in very existential posts.


Original comments thread is here.

You’ll Poke Your Eye Out!

It appears that the Soul Caliber franchise has a new art director. Take a look at the new Taki and the new Ivy.

Now, I’m generally pro-good looking people in my games, and I don’t mind a bare midriff now and then. Most people want to play avatars that look either attractive or cool. We’re in the entertainment business, and most people want good looking people in their movies and TV shows.

Still, Soul Caliber seems to have fallen well into ‘you can’t be serious’ territory. I can only imagine they are somehow responding to DOA. Which is a shame. Other than being totally superior in terms of game mechanics, Soul Caliber also had the distinction of being the fighting game you can play in front of your parents and/or girlfriend.

Let’s Not Dismiss the YouGames Generation Just Yet

Raph has been keeping an eye out on a lot of people promising to make a ‘YouTube for games’ or an ‘Open Game’ platform. Do any of these have a shot in hell? The industry vets seem to doubt it.

“There’s a reason some of us are employed and paid to make games, and there’s a reason why most people are not. It’s because they’re really bad at it,” added Starr Long, game director of NCsoft.

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Do You Really Only Get One Launch?

The Escapist has an interesting read on Star Wars Galaxies “New Game Experience”, which were of course the changes designed to make the game more mass market. A quote:

“Don’t change the game after launch.” After Sony Online released its NGE, Star Wars players dramatically confirmed Mulligan’s lesson, much as the Hindenburg conveyed an important message about hydrogen. Yet like “Never fight a land war in Asia,” this lesson cannot be taught, only learned. Each generation, and publisher, must learn it anew.

More commentary is elsewhere, with some of the best being Brandon and Calandryll’s commentary in Scott’s thread. Most of the rest of the commentary trends towards the old rule – you only get one launch. And that is indeed the conventional wisdom. As a general rule, after 2-3 months live, you can expect your ceiling to be about 2-4 times what your numbers are there. UO quickly hit 100K, and settled in around 250K. EQ quickly hit 200K, and got around twice that. WoW bolted to 2M, and then settled in at 6-8M. An exact science? No, not at all. But one thing that seems constant for traditional box product MMOs – they don’t seem to escape their initial order of magnitude.

There’s a Seinfeld episode where Jerry decides that he doesn’t like the girlfriend he has, but really likes her roommate. George responds that it’s not possible:

“Do you realize in the entire history of western civilization no one has successfully accomplished the roommate switch. In the middle ages you could get locked up for even suggesting it.”

In some respects, this is what the NGE was. The powers that be apparently decided they weren’t happy with the audience they had, and decided they wanted the two birds in the bush. In doing so, they seemed to do everything in their power to alienate the bird in hand. Unfortunately, the hardcore audience they had built up of dedicated craftsmen and dancers took their betrayal very seriously, and their stories started showing up in Wired, Slashdot and eventually, even the New York Times and Washington Post. The most audacious attempt for a box product to escape its launch velocity and graduate to a new order of magnitude, by most reports, ended up resulting in a downgrade of subscribers.

Of course, this has all been said before, and some are sick of hearing it. I’ve only brought it up because I’ve concluded that the maxim “You only get one launch” isn’t always true, though, and it’s clear that there are some situations where games have ’slow burned’ to long term success. The two examples that come to mind are, of course, Second Life and Eve Online, both of which has small, mild launches but now have strong momentum, devoted fanbases and relatively good buzz – and are among the more successful gamer-oriented MMOs in the WoW age that aren’t WoW. What do these games have in common?

  • Small launches. Because both games launched relatively below radar, they could reshape their identities and refine their major selling points after launch.
  • Unique niches. No men in tights here. Both games had core visions that were very different from the Diku reality, and both are unflinching towards serving the design towards that vision.
  • Sink or swim situations. Both companies had no other games in the pipeline other than the one they were shipping. Both depended on that game succeeding for their survival, and can throw all men on deck at a game that’s having troubles. By comparison, a troubled game in NCSoft, Sony or a larger studio is going to find it’s resources moved to one with greater odds of success.

The one that stands out to me the most – Second Life and Eve are, unflinchingly and without reservations, true to themselves. Second Life occasionally takes crap from curmudgeons like me for it. Still, the people who love Second Life and Eve really do, and are vocal proponents of their favorite virtual worlds. In a wired world (and especially in a genre where every fan is guarunteed to have a net connection), appreciating, and then building upon the central promise of your game which your existing audience is there for appears to be the only way to truly take your virtual world to the next level.


Original comments thread is here.

Guild to Girls: You Cause Drama

Nihilum is one of the top-ranked WoW guilds in the world. Housed on Magtheridon, this European guild is credited for many World First kills and even some service-wide first kills. Some ranking sites consider it the best raiding guild in the world.

And for all you European readers out there, take note – they’re recruiting! But according to this post on WoW Insider, if you’re a girl gamer, you’re out of luck. The guild avoids doing so because (a) girl gamers tend not to be able to take abuse and (b) girl gamers cause drama, by their very existence. Continue reading

Um, yeah, we’re gonna need you to come in spec’ed holy… oh, and kings too. That’d be great.

My wife refuses to sully her slick and professional blog with silly stuff, but I have no such qualms with pointing out the good stuff she finds.

Many WoW Paladins have become despondent that, once they get to the end-game, tanking and DPS paladins are considered subpar and are rejected in favor of Healing Paladins, who are the most efficient single-target healers in the game and also have the survivability that Priests lack. Unfortunately, healing as a paladin is by most account a soul-sucking experience – they have two heals that they spam over and over again. Continue reading

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