Zen Of Design

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

Month: June 2013

Why PvE Content Will Be a Coral Reef

This was forwarded to me not too long ago.

Game developers often release PVE content that is like a Coral Reef, i.e. it’s relevant for a period of time (e.g. for some part of an expansion), but eventually with vertical progression (levels and/or gear), players outgrow that content and it’s essentially dead. By the next expansion, the previous expansion’s zones are ghost towns and only visited by those people leveling new characters through them. Over time, what you have is a world where 80% of the zones are no longer relevant, and only 20% is. That is, you have PVE content that evolves like a Coral Reef, and this is primarily due to the unsustainable nature of vertical scaling.

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Google+ Games Dies a Quiet, Dignified Death

A lot of talk has been given to the radically quick collapse of the Facebook gaming universe, including Zynga’s recent troubles and jump to the online gambling space.  Left unsaid is that, if you’re a social network other than Facebook, things are probably a lot worse.

Confirmation of that came in the form of this report from Google+, announcing they are phasing out their games channel. I suppose this isn’t a surprise, in that in my limited usage of Google+, I haven’t ever even CONSIDERED playing a game on that platform.  Which in a platform that’s supposed to encourage some level of virality, pretty telling.  Whether its telling about Google+’s viability as a game platform, or its viability overall, is hard to tell.

And They’re Off…

It’s hard for me to diagnose whether my general preference for the XBox One over PS4’s announcement is built upon fact, or upon the general idea that I am, apparently, a Microsoft fan boy.  Or more appropriately, a Sony hater.

In my household, my 360 sees usage nearly daily, although much of that is as a Netflix provider.  The PS3 is probably one of my most hated game-related purchases of all time, and if it weren’t for the fact that it also doubles as my Blu-Ray player, I’m not sure I would have turned it on in the last 6 months.  I don’t think I’ve ever turned it on without it having a compatibility update. The controllers seem to run out of battery life in 24 hours, even when they and the console are off.  The blu-ray player was constantly having compatibility problems.  For God’s sake, they pursued a proprietary remote control technology so that you would be forced to buy one of their shitty remotes instead of being able to use a universal remote. Continue reading

Why Shut Down OMGPOP?

Buried in the article describing how, rather than being sad about being laid off, most of Zynga New York (formerly OMGPOP) descended into deliriously happy bacchanalia, is this stray observation:

It was hard for the New York office not to take Zynga’s layoffs personally. Mark Pincus said in a company-wide memo that the cuts would aid Zynga’s mobile-first strategy…  But hardly any of the desktop-first Farmville 2 team, comprised of former Facebookers, had been let go.  “We thought, ‘You just laid off your most talented mobile team,'” the former employee says. “We were totally under-utilized.”

OMGPOP is, of course, the company most famous for perhaps Zynga’s most famous mobile game, Draw Something.  That being said, scuttlebutt is that OMGPOP did the web version and contracted out the mobile version to a contract studio, and then refused to let that team advertise that fact.  Which, if true, is interesting in the karma department.

Just Mostly Dead…

The primary problem with the concept of Permadeath in MMOs has always been in a vast disparity between the emotional connection that different kinds of players have towards their characters.  For hardcore roleplayers, their characters are a work of art and passion, personas built over hours, days or months of collaborative playtime with their peers.  For the type of cold-blooded murderer who likes to bathe in the pixellated blood of noobs, though, their avatars aren’t very important.  They are a tools, a means to an end, a hammer in the toolbox used to bash in the hopes and dreams of the innocent.  PK them?  OK, we’ll just make another. Continue reading

Where’s Facebook Gaming Going?

Looked at in a vacuum, the Zynga layoffs may seem like just another game developer having standard game developer trouble, similar to the layoffs that Bioware, Blizzard, Rockstar, Midway, and countless other developers have had over the years. Continue reading

World of Tanks Steps Tentatively Away from ‘Pay to Win’

This article is significant, in that World of Tanks is considered the premier ‘pay to win’ success story in the North American market.

The core basis of “free-to-win” is to remove all payable options that could be viewed as giving a player an advantage in battle. Revenue will come from sales of non-advantageous content, such as premium vehicles, personalization options and the like.

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Yes, Virginia, XBox One’s DRM Move Is The Right One

It’s now been about a week since XBox announced The One, including obliquely hinting that games will be locked to one console, and the entire Internet responded with rage not seen the Matrix: Reloaded turned out to be an exercise in Wachowski wankery. This caused Microsoft to backpedal, albeit in a vague, nondescript sort of way that suggests they are either changing their plans or pummelling their PR department into figuring out how to spin the move as being a good one for consumers. Which is a shame, because it probably is. Continue reading

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