Zen Of Design

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

Month: September 2007

Why MetaPlace Just Might Work Out

Once upon a time, massively multiplayers were pretty much entirely a culture steeped in open source. This is back in the MUD days, when great worldbuilding meant concise yet interesting blocks of text, and the term ‘massively multiplayer’ was still waiting to be invented by some overzealous marketing droid.

Success was defined by reaching 100 simultaneous users. Wild success was reaching 200. The developers actually feared wild success – we were usually running on the back end of university email mainframes and whatnot, often without the IT department’s permission, and wild success meant they might notice, and pull the plug on your world. There were many, many stories of MUDs who encountered a service interruption of that sort, and who lost their entire player base in the 2 week period it took to find a new internet-connected mainframe to call home.

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UO’s Tenth Anniversary

UO reached it’s tenth birthday today, a fact that surprised me even though we celebrated Meridian 59’s decennial not long ago.

My thoughts on this pioneer of the MMO industry are best captured in an article I wrote quite some time ago: The Beautiful, Broken Legacy of UO.

Congratulations, UO. May you live 10 more.

Video Games as Useful Teaching Tools

Good news – video game researchers have found that game playing can make women no longer the inferior sex!

[T]he researchers were not surprised to discover a discrepancy between the two. The test asked people to identify an “odd man out” object in a briefly displayed field of two dozen otherwise identical objects. Men had a 68% success rate. Women had a 55% success rate….

Had they left it at that, Dr Spence and his colleagues might have concluded that they had uncovered yet another evolved difference between the sexes, come up with a “Just So” story to explain it in terms of division of labour on the African savannah, and moved on. However, they did not leave it at that. Instead, they asked some of their volunteers to spend ten hours playing an action-packed, shoot-’em-up video game, called “Medal of Honour: Pacific Assault”. As a control, other volunteers were asked to play a decidedly non-action-packed puzzle game, called “Ballance”, for a similar time. Both sets were then asked to do the odd-man-out test again.

Among the Ballancers, there was no change in the ability to pick out the unusual. Among those who had played “Medal of Honour”, both sexes improved their performances.

That is not surprising, given the different natures of the games. However, the improvement in the women was greater than the improvement in the men—so much so that there was no longer a significant difference between the two.

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Random Linkage of the Week

The chairman of ITV says that games are evolving in a moral vacuum. Wait, the TELEVISION INDUSTRY is accusing anyone else of being morally bankrupt?

A Chinese gamer died from playing games 3 days straight. Tasteless comment overheard elsewhere: “”Shit, I hope that’s not the guy I hired to powerlevel my new character.” In all seriousness, there’s been about half a dozen of these in Asia over the years. Has there ever been one in the US? What, culturally, is the difference? Continue reading

Blizzard as an Anomaly

Steve Danuser has an excellent post, discussing why Blizzard succeeded with WoW. His conclusion, that it all comes down to Blizzard’s ability to execute, is in my opinion dead on. Ask any venture capitalist: ideas are cheap. Success comes down to the ability to actually put those ideas into action. Surprisingly, few game companies have that. Most end up attempting to do to much, and execute too little of it well.

Brian has taken umbrage at this statement, bizarrely (and in my opinion, very mistakenly). His pathway to Blizzard’s success is simple. Spend a shitload of money. Have a huge name. Have a huge fanbase. Ship when ‘it’s done’. Easy as pie. And all a factor in their success. Continue reading

RIP, World Series of Video Games, We Hardly Knew Ye

Remember how the World Series of Video Games was actually being televised on CBS? Yeah, apparently that’s not in danger of happening again.

Is the Bartle’s Four Important?

So Brandon keeps grilling me on the Bartle’s Four. Is it still important? Is it relevant?

One viewpoint.

At AGDC this year, Erik Bethke talked about data mining the GoPets experience. GoPets was originally designed to be a purely social game. They ‘carpet bombed’ the social quarter of Bartle’s grid, in Erik’s words. They did okay. Continue reading

Cop in CoH Proves Stupidity Not Limited to MySpace, Teens

Let’s say that you have a hobby. You might want to post about it online. This is benign if your hobby is, say, Magic cards. Or pottery. Or Star Trek furry fan fic.

It may be less benign if your hobby is tasering inmates at the correctional facility you work at.

“Seeing someone get TASER’d is second only to being the guy pulling the trigger,” Thompson wrote on [a City of Heroes] message board Aug. 25. “That is money. Puts a smile on your face.”

Asked by the Portland Tribune to review the posts and comment, Sheriff Bernie Giusto launched an internal investigation of Thompson that will examine, among other things, whether he lied while accusing an inmate of assaulting him as a way to justify having injured the inmate.

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AGC Talk 2007: Zen of Online Game Design

My talk went, in general, very well. At least, the people who liked it were willing to tell me so. You never know who doesn’t like it – people don’t exactly rush the stage to tell you off if they’re bored or disgusted by your talk. Various talk writeups:

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