Zen Of Design

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

Month: February 2009

Going Out With Style

Tabula Rasa’s final event is tonight.

We request that all military personnel begin fortifying defenses at every AFS base in preparation for a massive Bane assault. If enemy troop movements are as large as we fear, and the Neph are truly prepared to lead all out war against us, this may be our last stand. Penumbra has been informed of the situation and is standing by on the use of their last resort weapon. We can not afford to be complacent or uncertain, but if it is truly our destiny to be destroyed, we are taking them all with us.

Put shorter, Tabula Rasa is shutting down with an event designed to be the end of Humanity. You gotta give them style points.


Original comments thread is here.

Eve Learning Curve

This was sent out at work last week with the header “Oldie but Goodie”. And so it is…


Original comments thread is here.

Focusing Your Innovation

A version of this article first appeared in the February 2009 issue of Game Developer magazine.


There’s an urban legend that, in the early days of the space program, NASA determined that ball-point pens wouldn’t write in space, and so they pressed their engineers to design a pen that could, which after months of time and millions of dollars in research, they finally did.  The Russians, when presented with the same problem, simply had their cosmonauts carry a pencil.

As a veteran in the industry, this myth is compelling because it speaks to a problem that plagues game development teams throughout the industry, that of mismanaged innovation.  We have finite resources – limited time, limited budget, and limited engineering cycles – and these resources dwindle as the realities of development occur and unexpected problems arise.  Given these challenges, even well-funded teams stumble, resulting in failed innovations and often doomed projects. Continue reading

Are You A Data Nerd?

Man, this is cool of Sony – releasing 60 Terabytes of game data to game researchers so they can investigate play patterns inside a modern MMO. If this sort of thing excites you, you may have the right frame of mind to be an MMO designer.

Hopefully the researchers will find some good stuff, and we’ll get to talk about some of their findings here. Also hopefully,other games follow suit, so we can detect trends between MMOs, and identify what is universal vs. differing from online world to online world.


Original comments thread is here.

Have Music Games Run Their Course?

Quick lunchtime read for you: Rock Band and Guitar Hero sales are slumping. Was this all a fad? Or are they running out of ‘must have’ songs?

I still play, but my frequency is way down — to usually once every couple of weeks, rather than every other night, and my wife and I are less fanatical about following the latest DMC. The drum kit is pretty close to being relegated to being shoved in the closet, and only pulled out for game nights.


Dynamic Player Statues

My wife pointed me to this cool feature: Warhammer is doing in-game statues of their top players in the capital cities, creating a sort of visual leaderboards.

Cool, but perhaps not entirely original: I coded the same thing into a “Hall of Heroes” in Meridian 59 a decade ago. I know of many text MUDs that had a similar feature before us, but I -believe- we were the first graphical game to do so.

The “Hall of Heroes” had one of the most marvelous easter eggs ever, if I do say so myself. If you used our ‘/unstuck’ ability in the room, you would be teleported to a copy of the Hall of Heroes, where all the statues were replaced with statues of the Dev Team. I remember coding this in the time between handing in my two weeks notice at 3DO, and actually leaving. It was deeply satisfying, especially since most of the statues were of people who had already left.

GTA for the Intellivision

I think perhaps some companies pursue too many platform SKUs.

Kicking Down Sand Castles

This map of Eve space is interesting for what’s not in it: namely a Corporation called Band of Brothers (BoB). BoB was previously one of the biggest Corps in the game, controlling the majority of what is now shown as unclaimed space. Stories here and here. Continue reading

The ‘Secret Languge’ of World of Warcraft

I have a deep hatred of all local news anywhere in general. This YouTube is a good summation of why.

As Kotaku points out, “Someone has been feeding their girlfriend a line of bullshit.”


Original comment thread is here.


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