Zen Of Design

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

Month: November 2007 (page 1 of 2)

Repeatability, and What Do You Do All Day?

Edward Castronova has posted that work on Arden, his students’ Shakespeare-themed world, will cease, and they will start looking ahead to the next game. He discusses some of the reasoning for this in his post, and I had a talk with him about when I was in Indiana last month. One persistent problem they had was answering the question: what do you actually DO all day?

‘What do you do all day’ is a surprisingly persistent problem, whenever the design powers-that-be considers exploring either new genres or gameplay paradigms. The answer that most MMOs have come to, combat and quests, is the chosen answer for a lot of good reasons, but it’s not the only solution. Still, it merits examination of why combat succeeds, and what any other activity needs to do to surplant it. Continue reading

When They Sell Out, They Do It With Style

Metal enthusiasts remember how Metallica eschewed music videos for nearly a decade before deciding to jump into the MTV fray with their first video, “One”. That video is simultaneously one of the finest music videos ever made, as well as the beginning of their descent into mediocrity (my guess is the success of ‘One’ gave them a taste for the sweet, sweet taste of steady paychecks).

Yesterday, it was leaked that Metallica would be releasing their next single on Rock Band first (in theory, before the radio or MTV). This is a wholehearted embrace of the game genre, especially after Metallica songs were noticeably absent (and sorely missed) from GHI, GHII and GHRt80s.

We now breathlessly await when (and more importantly, how) Metallica will get past their anti-P2P music stance.

Design Musings: The Questclamation Mark

One of my random and frequent overstatements, “The yellow exclamation mark is the greatest invention in the history of MMO design.” Now, I don’t really think that (the real greatest invention would be, of course, clickable hyperlinks for items in chat), but I still think it’s way up there.

Of course, WoW didn’t invent the ‘hey! there’s a quest here!’ signifier – several games, including some non-MMOs, had it at some point. Other games have made their own interpretations of it – I believe LotRO’s looks like a one ring, for example. There’s clear indication why this idea has persisted – it does good things for your game. Of note: Continue reading

Rock Band

So we got Rock Band on Wednesday, and have been playing a lot of it. Not non-stop because, well, it’s exhausting. I now have a whole new respect for drummers. Even on Medium, the game kicks my ass.

It’s kind of impressive how much better, slicker and more polished Rock Band is on every level than Guitar Hero III. Seriously, the latest GH seems pretty amateurish in almost every level. The exception: the GH3 guitar is seriously much more playable and responsive feeling than the new stratalike that comes with Rock Band, and we’ve been using it almost exclusively.

The game is good solo, but its quality increases an order of magnitude once you get it going multiplayer. So far, we’ve only done 2 players – I can’t wait to see how it plays once we have a full band going.


Romantics= Buzzkills

The Romantics are suing Activision (the publishers of Guitar Hero) for including a cover of ‘What I Like About You’ in Guitar Hero II Rocks the 80s. Developers Harmonix are not mentioned in the article.

The twist – the Romantics concede that they gave Activision the right to include a cover of their song, but feel that the cover was TOO FAITHFUL. The fact that it sounds so alike ‘infringes on the group’s ability to control its own likeness’.

On the flip side, any Guitar Hero/Rock Band fan will tell you that playing covers of songs that aren’t faithful are downright painful. Evidence A is the so-called cover of Rage Against the Machine in Guitar Hero II.


Oh, Those Wacky Burners

I see Jeff’s Dance Dance Counter-Revolution, and raise him one Dance Dance Immolation (read the Wired description of playing it).  Yet another brilliant game doomed by it’s need for an expensive peripheral.

Mr. T, Shatner Shills WoW

The linkage. I can’t seem to find a permalink right now, so if you’re not reading this today, you may have to scroll down a bit.

Seriously, did they hire Second Life’s PR person or what?

Guitar Hero Finally Gets a Bad Review

This guy’s complaint: “Guitar Hero broke my knee!”

We were neck in neck in points… I had to do something special. I needed STYLE points. I breathed deep, my rock meter was maxed out and I was going to make this audience feel it. I twisted to the right and threw my guitar in the air! Instead of a roaring audience I heard a loud snap! My knee slid to the outside of my leg and my leg bent sideways as I fell to the ground.

Half the people in the room were concerned the other half called me a pussy. I was writhing in pain and pushed my leg back into place. I hobbled to the bathroom to a closer look and couldn’t bend my swollen leg anymore.


Raids: Asynchronous Gameplay and the Great Race

On a personal level, I just wanted to note that last night, my guild finally dropped Lady Vashj (one of the more insanely complicated fights in WoW), after well over a month of trying two nights a week to get her down. Somehow, last night, everything just clicked, and on our third attempt, we beat her down with 20 people standing at the end.

This cements our status as the #1 guild on our server, according to WoWJutsu, which to our guild, is the really important thing. See, at the top end of the raiding game, there exists fierce competition on each server to be the best raiding guild, where ‘best’ is defined primarily by number of boss kills, with extra weight given to first kills. I like to call this competition the ‘Great Race’ – largely because it sounds pretentious. Anyway, WoWJutsu has codified this into a score for each guild (by scraping the Armory, which is admittedly imperfect at best), and is now considered by many raids to be the definitive WoW scoreboard. Continue reading

Conan to have ‘Titties’

In a show of maturity that we’ve come to expect, Conan will have, and I quote, ‘titties’. But only on certain servers, and rest assured, ESRB, this will be server-controlled, and completely unhackable by a twelve-year-old.

All being said, though, I suspect it won’t be nearly as disturbing as it could be.

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