Tag Archive for game

Real Issues with Real ID

Lots of people are in a huff over Blizzard’s new Real ID.

I won’t go into it very much, but let me just drop this on you… None of the “good” parts of Real ID, the cross server chat, cross game chat, seeing people’s alts, and so on, required the use of real names and an “all or nothing” design.  Why aren’t some of these features part of World of Warcraft’s existing friend list design?  Why does it have to be ALL of my characters on ALL of my servers?  Do I have to get a second account now if I want some “alone time”?

I hope things continue to change, because right now all I am seeing is a feature I’d never use for more than maybe one or two people in the whole world.

Innovation and Iteration

This is an interesting article about how Nintendo and the Wii “invented” the casual game market (spoiler: they didn’t).  It is a long but good read, and while it is a couple years old and not every prediction toward the end has come to pass, it does paint an excellent picture.

One thing is certain.  The Wii came in and got millions of people who never would have bought a 360 or PS3 to buy a console entirely based on casual “silly” games, and this year both Microsoft and Sony are chasing that market with the Kinect and Move respectively.

Read and discuss…

The Gamer I Am Today

This month’s Gamer Banter is “What was the game that made you a gamer?”

To be honest, I’ve been a gamer since my dad brought home a Pong system in the late 70s.  Then it was the Atari 2600.  The games that cemented me as a gamer were Yar’s Revenge and Pitfall.  I played those games for hours on end, entire days, flipped them and kept on playing.  Sure, we had dozens of games, but those are the ones that stand out.  We had an NES too eventually, and we got a PC.

Over the years there have been many games.  Zelda and Mario on the NES (and Pro Wresting… Starman forever!), while over on the PC it was dominated by Sierra games, from The Black Cauldron to Leisure Suit Larry through the King’s, Police, Space and Hero’s Quests, The Colonel’s Bequest, Gabriel Knight and the Manhunter games.  And Doom.

Doom was a game changer.  By that time I had discovered BBSs and had a group of friends online.  Much like I’d once bought, with my own money, an Adlib Sound Card to play games like Loom that required better sound and a 1200 baud modem so I could get online, I bought a token ring network card and then begged my parents to let me take the PC to a friend’s house.  I’d played Doom through dozens of times on my 386, but with 4 PCs in the same room, network cards and coaxial cable, suddenly we were deathmatching.  We were yelling at each other across the room, taunting each other in text chat.  Gaming stopped being something I did by myself and started being something I did with other people.

Sure, the BBSs had multiplayer door games, but this was different.  It became a regular thing, and soon it became something we could do over the Internet.

Even so, as much as I was a gamer, I still did other things.  Then along came Team Fortress for Quakeworld.  See, deathmatch was fun, but it never felt quite right for me.  But here came a game where not only were we on a team, but roles in that team formed.  I wasn’t the best player, but I was a demon on defense.  Those BBS people, we formed a clan and we played in tournaments.  We played against teams in other states, in other countries.  It was a new kind of social element to gaming.  Deathmatch had its culture too, but it was ultra-competitive, insular, everyone was your enemy.  Team Fortress fostered camaraderie.  When not in a tournament match, hopping on a public server meant you worked with your team whether they were in your clan or not.  It lead to a lot of respect on the battlefield.

Then came EverQuest.  In some ways it was so natural to shift.  From being part of a team in Team Fortress to being part of a group in EverQuest.  I was comfortable with the idea that I couldn’t win on my own.  I didn’t want to play alone.  Groups and raids and guilds, sitting in the East Commons tunnel on Saturdays looking for deals, message boards, all of it.  It was another level of social.  In the Quakeworld world after tools like GameSpy came out it was easier to track down your friends, or people you’d enjoyed playing with, but in EverQuest, anyone you played with you could put on a list and look for them anytime you were on because they were always on the same server as you.  And it was lasting.  I’m still friends with a couple people from the TF days, but I still talk daily with a bunch of people from my EQ server.

Looking back and looking forward, the kind of gamer I am is one that enjoys active social interaction with his game.  This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that reads my blog as my biggest complaint about most MMOs is when they lack a good social aspect or community.  My Venn diagrams summed it up pretty well I thought.

I was always a gamer, born into a gaming world, but I’d have to say that Team Fortress and EverQuest are the games that made me the gamer I am today, and the gamer I will probably be for the rest of my life.

This post was part of Gamer Banter, a monthly video game discussion coordinated by Terry at Game Couch. If you’re interested in being part, please email him for details.

Other Gamer Banter participants:
carocat.co.uk: A Trip Down Memory Lane
Yuki-Pedia: A Tale of Two Games
gunthera1_gamer: Early Gaming Experience
Extra Guy: Ah yes, I remember it well
The Average Gamer: What Made Me a Gamer
Sivercublogger: Uncovering Lost Treasures
Master Kitty’s World: Gaming Through the Years
Gamer Unit: What was the game that made you a gamer?
Game Couch: Karateka
Next Jen: What Made Me into a Gamer

I didn’t shoot you…

… you walked in front of me while I was shooting the bad guys, dumbass.

One thing playing Red Dead Redemption has shown me over the past couple of weeks is that some people simply refuse to learn how to play with other people.  It isn’t hard.  First off, if you are going to group with people in a posse, then how about you get out of your private chat with your buddy who isn’t playing this game so we can actually communicate.  Second, if I get there first and go in first, I’m first, until I’m dead.  When I die, you can be first.  So, until I bite the big one, how about you stop running in front of me?  Am I moving too slow?  How about you tell me that and say, “I’m taking lead.”  Of course, you’d need to be talking to me first.

Next, when I kill you because you are a dumbass who stepped in front of me, coming back and knifing me, and then shooting me, and then shooting me again, and then finding me and shooting me again, and then waiting until I get into a room and blowing me up with dynamite is not “making it fair.”  It was your damn fault you got killed, killing me 47 times and slowing us down isn’t going to cure your stupidity.  We are in a posse, doing this hideout together, quit being a tool and start killing the bad guys.

And when I get fed up, switch to the sniper rifle and sit at a safe distance killing everything so that you don’t get killed, don’t yell at me.  Don’t tell me I need to come in.  See the scoreboard at the end?  I got 47 kills and 29 head shots.  You got 6 kills.  All my deaths?  That’s you killing me.  Your deaths?  That’s you stepping in front of me and also repeatedly charging into the fort.  There are like twenty five guys in there.  How about you stay back here and help me kill them instead of charging in.

When I quit your posse, don’t give me a bad review.

Sigh.

What’s wrong with Free-to-Play?

The short answer: nothing.

Seriously though, as a person who likes to try out different games and hates have to cancel and resubscribe every time I jump, games without barriers to entry are awesome.  The latest rumble in the Internet is Turbine taking Lord of the Rings Online “free”.  As an observer of the MMO market, it isn’t hard to see why they might do this.  Some reports claim that Dungeons & Dragons Online experienced a 500% or more growth in revenue with their switch.  LotRO has always been a decently performing game, but if the switch gets them more players and more money while also making the game easier to try, well, more power to them.

And before people go off half-cocked calling them money grubbing or greedy, making games costs money.  DDO has had several content expansions since they went “free” and that is entirely due to the influx of money.  If companies don’t keep an eye on the bottom line, they can’t afford to make new stuff, and without new stuff people quit, which just leads to less new stuff.

To be honest, the only issue I have with the current trend of F2P games is that I feel the term is less and less accurate.  Sure, technically all these games are free to play, to a point.  But all of them have velvet ropes for subscription and/or item stores and more.  A better term, in my opinion, would be to call them “Pay What You Want” or “A La Carte” games.  The reason is that, for example, if DDOs 500% revenue growth is true, I doubt it is an even distribution.  Some players probably pay less now than they did when it was a subscription game, some pay nothing at all, while other players may be paying ten or twenty times more that the original subscription.

For me, I say, “Bring ‘em on!”  Games with a low barrier for entry get my time and have a better chance of earning my money.  Heck, the game I spent the most on in the last year is Wizard 101 as I play through and buy content as I need it, playing and paying at my own pace.  I’ve been playing Puzzle Pirates for years and I’ve never invested a dime into it… but I’ve traded earned cash for bought cash (Pieces of Eight for Doubloons) that someone else had to buy, so my playing has earned them money.

I see nothing but win in this trend…  Games that are well designed are worth playing no matter the pricing structure.  Games that are blatant cash grabs will (should) have a short life.

The RPG for the MMO

Dig through enough of my posts here and you’ll find a few about managing expectations.  It is, in my opinion, one of the fundamental elements of success that most people simply ignore, usually while their marketing team is lying to them.  You have to ensure your audience is approaching your product expecting the product you are actually delivering.  In order words: avoid misleading or overselling.

The people at BioWare are poised to bring us a new MMORPG at some point… probably 2012.  Which means we will all get to play it for a couple months before the world ends.  Or maybe Star Wars: The Old Republic is the apocalypse that destroys the World (of Warcraft) prophesied by the Mayans.  That’s all speculation, and I’ll never call any game a WoW-killer, but BioWare, or at least some people from there, has no problem going around talking about how awesome their game is going to be.

Last week, we got this:

BioWare designer and writing director Daniel Erickson told CVG that the Mass Effect studio had been disappointed by the “lack of fun” in other MMO titles on the market.

He said: “In the early days when they first announced that there were MMOs, like the existence of them, I knew in my head what that meant – because I played Role Playing Games. It was just giant Role Playing Games.

“And then MMO [games] showed up, and it wasn’t that. It was the ruleset to an RPG: There was combat, and there were areas, but that was all. Someone had left out the module. There was no story, there was no point. You just kind of wandered around. And that hasn’t really changed all that much over the years.

“We’ve always had that thought in the back of our heads: That Old Republic should be all the things we thought an MMO would be in the first place – which is all the parts of an RPG. Which means – and this is the most radical idea – it should just be fun. Like, just fun to play. You shouldn’t be trying to ignore all of the content to get to the end as fast as possible.”

And there was much responding and on-topic posting: Tobold, Zubon, Darren, Jaye, Tuebit, Syncane, and more.

To me, the thing to watch here is the lead.  BioWare is out there telling everyone that their game is going to be totally story driven, non-grind based and essentially the complete opposite of the bulk of the content that exists in most games.  Will they be able to deliver?  Will people want it if they do?

Personally, I’m both excited and wary of what they have to say.  I want more story, I want things to matter… but I don’t want to be isolated from the world in a directed story, I don’t want to play a single player game with multi-player features tossed in (and especially not for a monthly fee).  At this point, BioWare has shown me some things and they’ve told me some things, but I haven’t actually seen the game unfiltered through marketing yet.  They haven’t yet shown me the answer to “How does it feel to play?”

I’m keeping my eye on them, but I’m tempted to just ignore them until they get much much closer to release.

Rewards

The main problem I have with yesterday’s video is that I’m pretty sure the scenarios he gets into at the end are right.  For the most part, I have remained neutral on Xbox achievements.  I like getting them, but rarely do I ever spend time playing a game in a manner I do not enjoy just for an achievement.  For example, there is one in the game Assassin’s Creed for watching all the “glitches” and while playing I did try to hit my button when I noticed a glitch but at the end of the game I didn’t have that achievement because I had obviously missed one.  There is also one for getting all the flags, and while I loved noticing and finding flags while playing, when I got to the end I didn’t have them all.  I loved playing the game, it was fun, but when I finished I did not go back and try to finish off these achievements.  I know some people who cannot leave a game until they’ve gotten every single one.

On the other hand, I have a credit card with a rewards program and I use the card at every single opportunity in order to not miss out on the free points which turn into free gifts later.  So for me, the dividing line appears to be virtual rewards versus real rewards.  If Xbox achievements came with Xbox Live points that I could use to buy items from the Marketplace, I’d probably spend more time trying to get them all.

After watching the video, I thought to myself, “You know, sometimes I do forget to brush my teeth. Would I remember it every day if I earned points for doing it?”  I do brush my teeth with fair regularity, enough that I don’t have cavities or other teeth issues (partly, I suspect, this is due to habits I formed while having braces on my teeth for almost 5 years, the manner in which I eat and the amount of licking, probing and sucking I do throughout the day keeps food particles from settling between my teeth and in my gums), but if brushing every day earned me some “free stuff” then I have to admit, I probably would do it every day.

Do I want to see point systems and rewards on everything?  Not really.  But I do expect it to come.  I just hope that the power to manipulate behavior with games is handled with some care as it invades more aspects of life.

Movie Round-Up: May 28th, 2010

Sex and the City 2:

Didn’t watch the show.  (Okay, I saw some episodes, randomly chosen by happenstance, didn’t care enough to try to see more.)  Haven’t seen the first movie.  (I think I saw the end once on TV, and possibly caught a few scattered minutes, but not enough to understand the plot, or make me want to see more.)  Won’t be seeing this one either.  (I watch enough crap that it is highly possible that I will, at some point, see part of this movie, but it won’t be because I sought it out.)

Prince of Persia – The Sands of Time:

The previews look very full of action, but still I’m just not excited, not chomping at the bit, to see this film.  I never played the game it is based on (though I did play the original, long ago), however that might be a good thing since I wouldn’t be able to say the game was better.  I’m not going to make special plans to go see this on the big screen, but I will probably watch it when it is available on DVD.

Friends Through The End

This month’s Gamer Banter topic didn’t inspire me.  It was “Which game character do you identify yourself with most/least and why?” and I spent time thinking about it and the simple fact is that I don’t really even identify with video game characters at all.  Sure, I like to follow along the story, and I might be immersed for the duration, but it rarely lingers.  The characters that stick are the ones I create in MMOs.  Even now, years after cancelling my EQ account, I still think about Ishiro Takagi, my human agnostic monk from Qeynos.

But after firing off an email to the Gamer Banter coordinator about how I wasn’t inspired to participate, I thought of a new angle on the topic.

The closest I even came to identifying with a character was Gordon Freeman in the Half-Life series.  The reason was because Gordon is a shell in which I sit while I play.  Gordon never speaks, and the game never has a 3rd person view cut scene.  I am Gordon at all times.  This makes Gordon more like my MMO characters than your traditional video game character because he has no personality unless I give it to him.

Thinking along this line, I drifted to a couple other games by Valve: Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2.  Here, we don’t have Gordon-like shells.  The four survivors in each game quip and banter, they call for help.  Even when I play one, I’m not them, I’m just controlling them.  However, because the game is light on cut scenes and outside the quips and banter the characters are player or AI controlled and not just standing around, these games have given me a group of friends to survive the zombie apocalypse with.  And through them and their banter, I care about them.  Ellis has told me so many stories about his buddy Keith that I want to know if Keith is out there surviving the onslaught of the undead too.  (I secretly pray that Keith is one of the survivors in the inevitable Left 4 Dead 3.)  In fact, since most of the time I play with my friends, the survivors are my friends.

These eight characters have come to define my view of zombie Armageddon.  When the day comes, I want these people, or at least people like them, by my side.  Even when I’m playing solo, I find myself rushing to their aid, not just to keep them alive but because I don’t want them to die.  A subtle distinction, but an important one.  Even when playing solo, I find myself talking to the other survivors, asking them what the hell they are doing, telling them to hurry up, even reminding them to cover me.  It’s almost a little unnerving to realize that I do that, but there it is.

So yeah, the truth is that most of the time I don’t identify with characters, but in Valve’s Left 4 Dead series, they’ve added just enough to the shell I (and my friends, and the AI) inhabit to evoke a response.

This post was part of Gamer Banter, a monthly video game discussion coordinated by Terry at Game Couch. If you’re interested in being part, please email him for details.

Other Gamer Banter participants:
Pioneer Project: The importance of character creation
Silvercublogger: Will Sing Opera For Italian Food
Game Couch: Gabriel Knight
Extra Guy: Who I Identify With
Next Jen: I’d Rather Be Me
carocat.co.uk: A rushed love letter

Putting the Game in Facebook Game

After quitting FarmVille I went I on to play a number of other Facebook Games, and for the most part, they all play the same.  On one hand you have FarmVille, where you plant things and then wait for harvest.  On the other hand you have Hero World, where you have an energy stat and you can click on things until your stat runs out and then you wait for the stat to recover.  At best, the only real “game” there is in strategically deciding what to click before waiting.

Just yesterday, I decided to give SOE’s The Agency: Covert Ops game a try.  In some aspects, it is the same as a bunch of other games: you click, you wait, etc.  But in addition to that, as Darren posted about today, there are some actual games.  Just in the few minutes I played, I was given a nifty game where a computer screen is asking for an access code and I am shown which letters on the keyboard have fingerprints and I have to guess the word.  For example, the access code is a 5 letter words and the keys with prints are E, R, V and N.  I type in N-E-V-E-R, success, and move on to the next word.

So, now I’m on the hunt for Facebook Games with actual Game in them rather than just clicking, waiting and spamming.  I’m open to suggestions…