Zen Of Design

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

Month: February 2008

Got Aggro

Cameron has some things to say about Aggro Radii over on his blog.

The idea of the aggro radius is inherently understood by longtime MMOG fans, even if you don’t describe it as such. It’s the knowledge you develop over time, by the harsh experience of repeatedly being attacked, that there’s a magic circle around your enemies which if entered will cause them to start angrily hurling everything they have at you. Eventually, you learn how big it is and how to avoid it…

This is how the aggro radius works. Aren’t pictures great?This concept, however, is completely unintuitive for people who don’t play MMOGs. When my fiancee was first learning how to play WoW, I explained the concept to her. She hated it. Even though she knew there were these invisible circles around her enemies, she could never figure out how big they were or whether she was successfully avoiding them (she wasn’t– leveling with her was interesting in those days). It really annoyed her that she could be standing in plain sight of an enemy whose friends she had just killed, but the enemy wouldn’t even glance at her until she wandered into its circle.

Continue reading

How To Write Great Design Documents, Take Two

I’m back home from GDC, so now I can catch up on things that have been lingering a bit. Such as finally watching the series premier of Knight Rider.

My presentation on game design documents went well, for what is a decidedly non-sexy topic. The conference associates told me that I had more than 500 people as an audience – not bad for a talk that was basically a revisit of last year’s talk. For those seeking slides, they are here:


I’ve been carded

Seriously, the 9 of hearts?


Check out what all those folks across the street from Bioware’s office are building.


The Presidents Race Actually Matters in Texas

Texas is not used to mattering in the presidential race at all. The state going Republican in the general election is, these days, a foregone conclusion, and the primaries happen so late that by the time the race gets here, the nominees of both parties typically have things in the bag. I know that those living in important primary states (New Hampshire, Iowa) and battleground states (Ohio, Florida) get sick of political ads, but its still kind of novel here. Continue reading

Great Moments in Community Management

3rd Place: “Shut up and give me my ten bucks per month, little man. My Porsche needs some performance upgrades.”
2nd Place: “It’s not a mirror.”
1st Place: “I disagree with what you said.”

Other nominations?


Original comments thread is here.

The Great Marvel Ghost Ship…

… has once again sailed away, as Microsoft mentions off-handedly that the title is ‘dead in the water’.

“I’ll confirm. Marvel and we have agreed to end development on the MMO. It was an amicable decision,” claimed Kim. “It’s just something that we felt that, for us and for them, it would be better if we ended development. Which is disappointing, because that had a lot of promise. But sometimes you have to make these decisions.”

Meanwhile, no one’s heard anything about Sony’s DC game in ages.

Reset Buttons and Permadeath

After my post last week about Shadowbane, I was asked, both in the thread and in email, whether or not one of the various Permadeath designs could be seen as a reset button. To me, the answer is simple: Unless you are talking about universally applied systematic character permadeath (i.e. a character wipe), I would argue that it wouldn’t.

Why? Well, the whole point of the reset button is to level the playing field, and bring everything back to an even keel. Reset the risk board. Get back to the land rush, where everyone has an equal chance of getting their stake. Continue reading

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