Zen Of Design

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

Month: March 2009

Kaplan on WoW Quests

I’ve long wanted to write this article, which is excellent, but Jeff Kaplan wrote it, and he has the position of authority on the matter, being the lead content designer on WoW. Interesting quote:

I’m as guilty of this as anyone else. We’re so fortunate and privileged to work in a medium that is not only an art, but a revolutionary interactive form of entertainment. It’s unfortunate to see so many games try to be what they’re not, including our game at times. Of course we should embrace the concept of story… art, literature, film, song, they’ve all embraced story as well. But they all tell it in their own unique way.

I feel like we need to deliver our story in a way that is uniquely video game. We need to engage our audience by letting them be the hero or the villain or the victim. [Art, film, literature], they’re tools. But we need to engage our players in sort of an inspiring experience, and the sooner we accept that we are not Shakespeare, Scorsese, Tolstoy or the Beatles, the better off we are.

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What Are The Odds Two Arrows Hit Each Other?

My wife sent me this excellent article about an airplane crash that happened over Brazilian airspace half a decade ago.  This particular crash is interesting, in that it is one of the few mid-air collisions between two aircraft – an exceedingly rare occurrence, as most crashes occur on takeoff or landing.  In this particular case, a small executive jet sheared off the wing of a Boeing passenger jet at 37000 feet.

The article is interesting, in that it discusses a couple of failures of industrial design.  Of particular note, virtually all planes have an on-board computer that is designed to prevent in-air collisions.  But it only works if the plane’s transponder is on.  In this case, the pilots of the smaller jet accidentally turned their transponders off.  Unfortunately, the collision computer didn’t have an angry blinking error message, and instead had the benign error code “Standby”.  The two pilots had never flown the jet before, and as such didn’t notice that something was wrong.

Another interesting part of the article discussed how navigation computers have perversely made things less safe.  When humans fly planes, there’s a lot of wiggle room in the exact paths they end up on – there’s no guaruntee that a pilot will follow his exact planned flight path, or go to his exact prescribed elevation.  But when computers are choosing the flight path and driving the plane, it creates actually increased chance that two planes will be put on exactly the same trajectory.

iPhone Developers: “Quality is Irrelevant”

From Kotaku: a couple of top iPhone developers discuss their experiences developing for the platform. Their conclusions are interesting (and also touch upon web games and user-created content platforms, such as Metaplace and Whirled).

“I think quality is largely irrelevant,” said Saltsman, whose newest iPhone game is about popping zits. “I think the defining thing is how quickly you can describe your product to someone else.”

The example they used was Galcon versus Mood Touch. Mood Touch is “a crappy mood ring for your iPhone. There, I’m done, that’s it,” said Saltsman. Galcon, on the other hand, took him 15 seconds to describe as essentially an in-depth, one-on-one real time strategy game. It’s obvious which one had the better quality — but Mood Touch made the top 10 in the App Store while Galcon didn’t even break into the top 100 (that Saltsman knew of).

What’re The Swedes Up To?

I last posted about Project Entropia five years ago. Incidentally, that post is effectively a zombie thread – once every six months ago, out of the blue, someone else decides to post on it, describing their (usually negative) experience with the game. Back then, I asked “these guys haven’t been litigated out of business yet?”

File this under “this must mean something, I’m just not sure what”, but Entropia Universe has been granted a banking license by the Swedish government. The same article claims they generated $420M last year. A subscription-based game that charged $15 bucks a month would need 2.3M subscribers to get that level of revenue.



There’s been a ghost ship sighting.

Schulz City: That Yellow Shirted Such-and-Such

Frank Miller’s Charlie Brown.

Schulz City: That Yellow S.1 by ninjaink



The Watchmen

Screw you all…. I liked the Watchmen. Certainly more than this guy.

My take: if you liked the Watchmen, but didn’t treat it as holy scripture, they did a good job. I’m sure some people have issues with what was changed and tweaked, but too be honest, I think too often the director was TOO deferential to the source material. I can’t help but think that someone who had no idea what the Watchmen was all about would have found the whole thing confusing as hell.

In the grand scheme of comic book movie adaptations, it’s probably a solid B. Not as good as, say, 300 or the Crow, but easily lightyears better than LXG.

Also, there’s this:


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