Zen Of Design

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

Month: September 2013

Tomb Raider is Really, Really Good

Here’s a great example of me wondering if I’m having a contrarian opinion just to have one, but here it is anyway: I thought Tomb Raider was a much better game than Last of Us.

I know, Last of Us has a superior story. Tomb Raider’s story could be best described as ‘imagine if the writers of Lost explained what was going on!’  Also, while there were interesting goings-ons in the various journals and artifacts you found throughout the island, the characters with actual speaking roles were little more than caricatures.  Also, I realize that working at Bioware has morphed me into being a VO snob, but other than Lara herself, the VO in TR ranges all the way from ‘bad’ to ‘dear lord godawful’.  There is certainly no one with the writing and depth of Ellie from LoU. Continue reading

Goodbye, Diablo 3 Auction House

The trick with playing with real money is when you start letting that real money drive game design decisions – or even give the appearance of doing so.  When Diablo III launched last summer, most people (myself included) felt like the game just wasn’t as sticky as it was in the old days.  Since the one thing that was significantly changed in the design was the introduction of the Auction House (for either real money or in-game gold), this was pointed to as a culprit- clearly, said the players, loot rates were driven down to make people used the auction house (this link is a very good read, btw). Continue reading

Free 2 Play is Not a Cancer (Unless It Is)

Sometime ago, someone sent me this article, in which a Free-to-Play designer described how he is not a ‘cancer’ on the games industry.  I read it, but I didn’t fully agree with it, but it took me a little while to figure out what’s wrong with it.

This is it:

You see, game development is a business and businesses in a capitalist society are ruled by market forces….But games like those published by Electronic Arts are paid for by the people who own stock in the company. At the end of the day, these investors do not care about artistic integrity, Metacritic score or DRM solutions, they only care about stock price and return on investment

Continue reading

Penny Arcade is Still Mostly A Force For Good

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: it’s pretty much criminally stupid to put out a t-shirt of what effectively has become the spirit animal of the worst mouthbreathing misogynistic trolls on the Internet, and then act surprised when it becomes a thing.  That’s not nearly as stupid as publically saying you regret taking it down.  So there’s that, and I won’t defend it.

That being said, I love PAX.  It is currently the best game show available, largely because it was organized by gamers, for gamers, and the event therefore feels like a real and genuine love affair with gaming, completely unlike the publisher-driven plastic-coated circle-jerk that is E3. The gaming is great, the independent games portion is a feast for people like me, and the convention has a hundred little subcommunities that are all welcoming and affirm your love for gaming.  I will continue to love PAX.  Despite the fact that it no longer is cool to do so. Continue reading

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