Archive for June, 2009

Game Design Concepts Course

30 June 2009 Leave a comment
Challenges for Game Designers

Challenges for Game Designers

For those of you interested in game design yet don’t have the funds to go to one of them fancy schools, designer and scholar Ian Schreiber has constructed a free online course for you to take part in. The classes are held every Monday and Thursday via a wordpress blog, and there’s also a message board and wiki available to students as well. You can find the syllabus for the course here.

For those of you simply interested in finding out what the textbook is as well as what the recommended reading are:

Categories: design, education, gdcu

Where have all the PvPers gone?

29 June 2009 Leave a comment
Waaaaa *cough*

Waaaaa *cough*

There’s a tremendous amount of talk in both the media and the innerWebs about how much of a disaster Warhammer Online is. Prior to its launch, WAR generated a lot of interest, both from MMO addicts as well as your usual Warhammer gamer. Of particular interest was how WAR would fare towards knocking down World of Warcraft, the world leader in MMO customer acquisition. Oh, and the whole Realm v Realm PvP design stuffage they were bringing to the table. (The Mark Jacobs leaving Mythic/EA won’t be part of this discussion. You can go here to read all about it). Thanks to having EA as a publisher, expectations were extremely high, many boxes were shipped and sold, hundreds of thousands of accounts were created, and hundreds of servers set up and taken to the masses for squig loving. As it stands now, WAR is considered lucky to have 300,000 active accounts, whereas the game that I work for is seen as a success story for having the same number six years after launch. Expectations are a bitch, man.

In general, I am not a PvPer, with the exception of some time as pencils in Battlefield 2 and 2142. Many games are fairly hardcore when it comes to PvP, and in my long history as an MMO gamer I’ve pretty much stuck to the PvE is where to be mould. I’ve always been the kind of gamer who makes an easy victim, who is always afraid of losing my toys, and who will always wind up with man jizz in my face afterwards, cleaning myself off with the ruined tatters of a bloodstained cloak or something (and no, I don’t RP either =P). This changed to a degree when I got BF2. I learned to enjoy the adreneline rush of the play in a structured environment where I was expected to be shot at by other players, and I was expected to shoot back. I was as good as my mouse was steady. When World of Warcraft released battlegrounds, I checked it out and had a lot of fun, despite being told I was a moron for wielding a shield (how else was I going to stop spellcasters from casting?!). What attracted me was the fact that battlegrounds are closed environments specific to PvP. Death was only important within that realm; my regular gaming could go on as scheduled without fear of getting my ass kicked while killing a boar. You still won’t see me on a PvP-specific server ever, however. I’m still loving the PvE too much in any game for that.

Which brings us to WAR with its Realm v Realm and scenario content (there are other types of PvP, but I’ve not yet enjoyed them). Each map has a specific area dedicated to PvP. If you enter the area and stay for ten seconds, you’re PvP flagged. If you fire off one of the cannons at warcamps you are also automatically flagged for RvR PvP. There are some missions that you can do in these locations (usually to check out a flag (PvE in a PvP environment!) or kill “x” number of players), but mostly it’s a capture-the-flag kind of thing. You can also siege keeps and stuff. I think every game should have some sort of gameplay where hot oil is dropped upon you while you’re battering down a keep door.

Scenarios are very much like battlegrounds: instanced PvP maps with different objectives. Each tier (there are four per race) has three scenarios. These are generally limited to time or point wins: you get a certain number of minutes to win with the most points; your side can also win if they get 500 points before time is up. These maps are generally quick, filled with a lot of death, and a tremendous amount of fun. They are also excellent XP earners, and if you gain enough RP you can purchase some rather excellent weapons, armor and accessories.

Public Quests (aka PQs) are also a rather interesting addition to the game. PQs are in public spaces with a number of different goals that need to be completed in a certain period of time. As you progress in each chapter (which usually has several PQs assigned to them), you gain influence points. IPs have three tiers wherein you can acquire excellent loot as a reward for participating in that chapter’s PQ’s. If you successfully complete the PQ, you and those who participated are rewarded with a loot bag, the quality of which depends upon your level of participation in the PQ.

I spent a good amount of this weekend playing WAR. In addition to running missions, I wound up mostly soloing PQ’s for influence points. Every once in a while another person would show up, which would piss me off because I was farming for IP so I could claim phat loot. While farming, I waited in queue for scenarios, first in tier two, then tier three. I played about 15 hours this weekend. That’s a lot of IP. And ZERO scenarios. Not one. I spent 15 hours, mostly during what should be American weekend prime time, with not one scenario played.

I don’t think this is how WAR’s designers meant for the game to be played. PQs are meant to be played with other players. Scenarios as well. Here I was geared towards playing with others, something I am not at all known for (ironically, considering I’m an MMO player), and I spent the weekend soloing against my will. Even Altdorf was a ghost town.

My friend RJO pointed out that there are probably a lot of players checking out the new Land of the Dead map. This is probably true, however, there were still a handful of players such as myself not getting boners over Zandri. WAR is also most probably going through the beginnings of the traditional summer slump, when players are out of college and into their pools and parental narcotics stashes.

There is also a rumor that WAR will close down more servers in order to get the populations closer.

Regardless, where have all the PvPers gone?

Categories: MMO

Amazing Pixel Poster Details Video Game History

15 June 2009 Leave a comment

This beautiful piece of art was delivered to Edge subscribers recently. Want!

Edge Pixel Poster

Edge Pixel Poster

Categories: art, classic games, history

New Game Design Challenge: What You Say?

14 June 2009 Leave a comment


Game Career Guide published a new Game Design Challenge. The newest challenge, due on June 24, 2009, is as follows:

Design a social interaction system for a massively multiplayer game featuring friendly characters who can’t understand each other.

My vote is for semaphore-like gesturing and curling a la Help!

Categories: design

Freebook: Well Played 1.0

14 June 2009 Leave a comment
Well Played 1.0

Well Played 1.0

I’ve not yet read it, but you can obtain a free copy of Well Played 1.0: Video Games, Value and Meaning from Lulu. Here’s the description:

Video games can be “well played” in two senses. On the one hand, well played is to games as well read is to books. On the other hand, well played as in well done. This book is full of in-depth close readings of video games that parse out the various meanings to be found in the experience of playing a game. 22 contributors (developers, scholars, reviewers and bloggers) look at video games through both senses of “well played.” The goal is to help develop and define a literacy of games as well as a sense of their value as an experience. Video games are a complex medium that merits careful interpretation and insightful analysis.

Categories: books, design

Plants vs. Zombies

14 June 2009 Leave a comment


I have a new addiction. It does entail eating brains and gardening, neither of which I can imagine myself doing in real life. Thank God for Popcap Games and its newest hit Plants vs Zombies. Here’s the premise: you’re a home owner (which I am), and your house is being attacked by a myriad group of zombies with different abilities. Your job is to prevent them from getting across either your front or back yards by planting things such as pea-shooting plants, zombie-blocking wall-nuts, and 40 other plant things that you can use to stop them. Some of those zombies ride zambonis, so you really need to be on your toes else they will most probably eat them, too.

As you can expect with a Popcap game, the levels are really well-thought out. Each progresses in difficulty logically and the fun factor follows suit. It’s not often where I find myself literally biting my nails as I barely make it through a level (right now I’m only on 3-9… I can only imagine how long my nails will last at this rate!). A mini-game is made available to you after every 10 levels, and so far I’ve opened three of them up. Each has been extremely well-done and are complete games in and of themselves. They are also a great way to earn money. Money lets you buy important tools from your crazy neighbor’s store, as well as extra slots for you to utilize. The slot prices do seem a bit high. For example, a 10-slot costs $80,000 does seem a bit steep, but you can pay only $200 for a rake weapon that lasts three rounds. This translates to spending a lot of time playing mini-games for those dollars. And lord knows I can certainly use more seed slots!

My one real complaint about the game is the backyard pool zombies. While it’s relatively inexpensive to use some water-based seed units, some of those zombies can be tough to beat, and therefore it winds up being much more expensive to protect your pool tiles than it is to protect the rest of your yard. But, then again, if you’ve ever seen my backyard in real life, you’d know that I’m really just not too keen on backyards to begin with.

Overall, Plants vs Zombies is an absolutely excellent title. It’s well-designed, has a very amusing theme, and overall is just plain fun. I give this 4.5 out of 5 brains.

Special thanks to Miss Alisa for convincing me to check the game out!
Categories: casual games, pc gaming