The reboot of Tomb Raider was always on my radar. I don’t have a particular loyalty to the IP, but since having played and enjoyed the heck out of the Uncharted series on the PS3, having a similar game on the PC (my platform of choice) was something I looked forward to. But as with a lot of things, my budget in cash and time only stretches so far, and Lady Croft had to sit on the sidelines until such time as my dance card freed up, or the game went on sale. Which it did, this weekend. For 50% off. And after having played for a while, I admit that I’m sorry I waited so long. It’s well worth the full price, and any commentary I may have had to offer during the whole initial crap-storm is rendered less important now that it’s passed through the steel sieve that is the “gamer’s collective memory”.
Still, the controversies were always in mind as I was playing. I had seen the breadth of the so-called “attempted rape scene” cinematic, and read the tear-down by PAR and came away feeling that the context did matter. A lot. Maybe now it’s all hindsight, but I didn’t actually feel that there was anything obtuse in that scene: Other ship members were being man-handled, beaten, shot and killed. Lara is trying to escape by sneaking from wall to wall until she’s discovered in a niche by the thug, who had been shown earlier to take pleasure in the act of torturing people, and who showed no remorse in killing. His act in that scene was to ensure that Lara knew that her attempts to escape meant that her life was over — which is what happens if you fail the subsequent quick-time event. There is no rape. It doesn’t trend that way when you see the bigger picture (especially the failure), although to some may deem it as the “obvious” conclusion because the thug is a male, and Lara is a female.
What really kept me up at night, though, was the comments that players will “want to protect [the new] Lara”.
I freely admit that this is the feeling I had when playing this game. I will also freely admit that it’s the same feeling I have when I play Pac Man, or Sonic the Hedgehog or pretty much any other game where what happens to my avatar is a direct result of my actions controlling that avatar.
I don’t think that we can argue that the point of playing a game is “not to lose”, which isn’t always the same as “to win”. Losing means we made a bad decision, or that someone else made a better decision than we did: we don’t reach our goals, and we pay for it in resources, and more importantly, time. Thankfully in video games we have the luxury of a do-over where we can remedy our past mistakes, but the real feeling of success comes from not failing the first time, to get it right despite the benefit that hindsight would grant us, to be justified that our hunches were correct, and that we have the skills to pull off a stunt that allows us to continue without interruption towards our goal. So yes, I want to keep Lara safe because when she dies, the guy at the desk failed. It has nothing to do with how “vulnerable” she is designed.
Actually, scratch that…Lara’s design actually makes me want her to succeed the fuck out of the situation. Knowing the destiny of the character, I felt like I was more along for the ride than being the one who has to take care of her in any way. When she fails, it’s my fault, because that’s when the game reveals itself as “a game”, but when she succeeds it’s totally the bad-ass Lara we know trying to emerge. It has absolutely nothing with any “player knows best” attitude. Even when the game attempts to present Lara at her most vulnerable, I recognize that she’s enduring a hell of a lot more than I suspect I could in a similar situation, and when she does succeed, I am excited for her, not for my own skills or decisions. So in that, I think that Crystal Dynamics has done something remarkable in creating a character presentation that does elicit empathy. It hurts a lot when Lara is hurt, and it’s absolutely fantastic when she succeeds. My participation in the process is nothing more than a convenient interloper.
Disclaimer – I am not a Foundry Expert. I’ve only poked my head into the Neverwinter version twice, and have given the Star Trek Online version some half-assed attempts (I don’t know the ST lore well enough to feel comfortable making something of worth). However, I have spent hours working with the Neverwinter Nights Aurora toolset which, while totally different from The Foundry tools, adheres to many of the same goals: ease of use, powerful, and comprehensive. This is a brief overview, and a preface to my 1:30 minute video presentation.
Game development is a Dark Art, or so it would seem. There are many gamers, but only a relatively few game creators, and those with the know-how to even put the most rudimentary avatar under user control have probably heard someone exclaim “I wish I knew how to make games” at some point in their professional lives.
The problem with giving players control to make content is that the general public is often ill equipped to be in public. The Penis Correlation states that the time between tool set availability and the point at which the first virtual genitals are seen in the game is directly related to…something something something. I don’t know. I just wanted to make a point that players can’t always be trusted to use good judgement when given the opportunity to show off in front of their fellow gamers.
But tools like The Foundry allow players to create content with restrictions, but with restrictions far enough out that they don’t hamper the creativity that players can express. The toolset itself looks horribly complex until you understand a few things, which help creators, and gives a pretty frank look into the process of actually creating content for games, in some cases.
A Foundry project starts with a timeline. This is a flowchart of things that happen, and the things that need to happen for things to happen. It’s a really big road-map of cause and effect, starting with a motivator, and ending with a reward. It can be as complex as Game of Thrones, spread out over several adventures, or as a simple as a three-act play involving a single player, and a single NPC.
Players can create maps by picking one from the existing roster used in the game itself, or they can create new ones room by room. The editor takes care of mundane tasks like creating doors, and minimizes the complexities of setting up lights and ambient audio by presenting options through dropdowns and pick lists complete with descriptive tool-tips. Once the layout is complete, rooms can be populated with details like tables, crates, tombstones, trees, and other decor. Finally, add in NPCs or packaged encounters, and voila! You’re well on your way.
For the more complex examples, the Foundry allows for the creation of complex dialog trees that include objective or item gating, triggers, and rewards. While not as robust as the dialog editor in the Aurora tools, I was pleased with the depth of what can be accomplished with this tool.
NPCs can be picked from stock examples that players will be familiar with from the game proper, but for a personal touch, each NPC can have his or her outfit customized in a near dizzying array of options. You’re not stuck with the standard studded leather thug; you can put that bruiser in a priest’s robe and wildly inappropriate pauldrons, if you’re so inclined.
You can even create flavor items. Sometimes your story will call for an item to be retrieved (it’s the bread and butter of MMOs, after all!), and you can create whatever item you need to fit into your story. You’re only limited by the fact that you can’t create usable tems: no armor or weapons or buffing items. The Foundry is for adventure, not twinking.
The last step is to put it all together on the Story tab, the place where you link the maps and the NPCs and the dialog together to create the flow of the story. This is where A + B = C, and where all the disparate pieces are put together to make a coherent experience for the players. All the triggers and conditions coalesce into your narrative and action-packed vision, and when you’re done, all it takes is a press of the Publish button to release it to the masses. You can even use the Foundry to review the reviews posted by those who have played your adventure.
After spending time putting together the most rudimentary map, and reading the documentation put together by community member gillgrmn, I can see how powerful the Foundry is. And why not? If I’m not mistaken, Cryptic used the Foundry to make Neverwinter itself! This follows a long but sadly sparse tradition of game developers releasing the tools they used to make their game, to the public. While making the video last night, I mentioned how the complexity of “the game” that we play is laid bare when we realize that it’s nothing but maps, NPCs, dialog, costumes, and items, arranged along a timeline controlled by triggers and conditions.
The best thing about The Foundry is that it’s like the Home Expansion Kit. In a best case scenario, the best authors will float to the top, and Cryptic can release more assets for people to use, resulting in a flood of top-notch, professional grade story arcs available on-demand from now until the point where the sun burns itself out. Sure, there’ll be duds, but word gets around on who makes the best adventures, which ones are worth your time, and which ones aren’t.
The Gateway is in beta, as is the game (“beta”), so it may not be working 100%, and not all features are enabled, possibly, but so far, it seems to be firing on all cylinders for what I’ve been using it for.
So what is Gateway?
- It’s a way to view your character online
- You can buy and sell through the auction house.
- You can send and receive in-game mail
- You can do…stuff…with your guild (Not in a guild yet, so I don’t know what is offered)
- You can update your professions progress (crafting)
I’ve been playing MMOs since the dawn of the “modern” design, and the one concept that has always been at the forefront of conceptualization was the idea that so long as we’re accessing game data through a client via the Internet, why can’t we access the same or a subset of data through other clients via the Internet? Granted, we’re talking about product data, which is essentially what we’re paying for, and what we’re paying the operators to keep safe on our behalf, so there’s the data integrity concerns, but if a company employs enough smart people who can create and run a real-time game that allows thousands of people to simultaneously dance naked in a virtual town square, I think they’d be up to the challenge of creating a web app to allow me to check my auctions and launch my crafting tasks through a browser. Why this hasn’t become standard is beyond me.
Granted, not everyone wants or needs to take care of game business…you know…from work or school. Here’s the thing: we’re rapidly transitioning from a gated model of online gaming to an honest to goodness ‘Murican buffet model. We have so many games to choose from that we buy them now at stupidly low prices or download them for free and promise that we’ll get to them some day before we die. Loyalty of the customer is, quite frankly, a thing of the past, or is relegated to those few with unusually strong wills. Not everyone can make a good product, which means even fewer people can make the kind of product that causes people to forego all other opportunities that are too good to pass up, or that they’re peer-pressured into adopting. If you want to attract people, and more importantly, to keep them playing your game, why not give them the opportunity to never leave? It’s an insidious plan worth of Illithid, sure, but it’s wrapped up in so much fun that folks will thank you for the privilege. Thanks, Cryptic!
More importantly, and as loath as I am to say this, the ubiquity of mobile devices practically begs for some kind of way to play without playing, and for companies to keep their product in the thoughts of it’s users no matter where they go. To be honest, if your online game isn’t offering some kind of portal that gives your players an opportunity to keep playing while on the go, I have to wonder if you’re as dedicated to being as “cutting edge” as your About Us page claims you are. Technically, this would have been cutting edge in 2000. Now a lack of extra-game tools is just a gaping hole of pure let-down in 2013.
Because as bloggers who jump from game to game, we are contractually obliged to post something about the new game on the block while the game is still relevant in order to get page views as people scour the Internet for information. The usual disclaimers apply: This is an impressions piece, not a review.
Founders got to get into the open beta period ahead of the general public as a thank you for shelling out money on a game that will be free to download, free to play. Cryptic is staging access, with the Big Spenders getting five days early access, the Moderate Spenders getting three days, and I think that’s it. Everyone else can get in on Tuesday. I like this system, as it means that the starting zones will be clear of the last round of entries when the next round enters. It sucks for friends who are on disparate plans, however.
But wait…Tuesday is usually Launch and Retail Day in the gaming world? Is this an open beta, or a launch? Soft launch, really, as there will be no wipes between open beta and the official launch date. It’s kind of squirrely, but Cryptic does things differently than other companies, I’ve learned.
If you’ve played Star Trek Online, you will be familiar with a lot of what Neverwinter does. Whereas many of what I’ll call “convenience features” were added to STO over the years, NW gets em all up front, and benefits from what Cryptic learned through STO.
When you load in, the first thing you see is a kind of dashboard. I love this. I think this is really what sets the tone for Cryptic’s M.O.: give people access to information about almost anything that’s going on almost anywhere in the game that doesn’t deal with the “main story”. Cryptic has scheduled events that rotate through a 24 hour period, like additional XP if you play Foundry missions, or additional Astral Diamonds if you do the team instances. Sometimes you want to log into the game, but not bust ass along the same old story trail that every game expects is the reason you’re playing the game, and Cryptic understands this. The Dashboard provides upcoming events (also available as a fly-out on the mini-map), featured Foundry missions, and even “Suggested Content” that you might like based on what you want to accomplish: earn cash, explore, or level. There’s even a calendar for a broader view, and the Dashboard allows you to queue for instances and PvP.
NW is an action take on the Dungeons & Dragons 4E ruleset, and that sound you just heard was the door slamming as several people left in disgust at the term Dungeons & Dragons 4E. Well, screw em, because if 4E was the “MMO-like” implementation of the D&D rules, then NW is the pudding that provides the proof. You don’t need to know 4E to “get” NW, but you’ll appreciate the way they’ve translated the rules to the game if you do.
You have a limited number of abilities that you can use, which is instantly going to turn off another segment who can’t abide by restrictions. I prefer to think of it as “tactical economy”, but I also like to make up phrases, so there’s that. There’s At-Will powers (bread & butter attacks that keep firing if you hold the mouse button down), Encounter powers (with cooldowns). and Daily powers (require you to build up a reserve of energy before you can use them, which is a conceit needed by a video game version of 4E). The gist is that you point your recticle at a target and go to town. It really doesn’t get much more complex than that, and that’s going to really piss off some people who want more more more options.
Thing is, D&D wouldn’t be worth a damn if it weren’t based on the story, and like it’s older cousin Dungeons & Dragons Online, NW strives to make your dungeon experiences more about the experience than they are about the experience points. There are traps to detect and disarm (if you can), and hidden areas to find. One nice/frustrating feature is the class-ability-specific items you’ll find. Clerics, for example, can access altars that they find, but other classes cannot, unless they are carrying special kits that grant them a percent chance to get something from the loot crate. In a balanced party, everyone has a chance, but soloists aren’t locked out totally either. I like their dungeon designs, and your quest log contains a running journal of Neverwinter lore that you find in dungeons or just by entering into an area within a zone. I’ve read the Neverwinter Campaign Setting book cover to cover, and I appreciate this “ground-level view” of the lore put into practice. Some folks just want to kill, and that’s fine; think of NW like a third-person Diablo and that should be all you need to put it into perspective.
Another convenience factor I discovered today was that the auction house will make recommendations for you. Seriously! You get a mission to talk to the broker, and he’ll offer you a list of a few things that are suitable for your level and class. Thing is, the dude also tells you that if you don’t want to pay, you can tackle a certain quest and get the item as a reward. I thought that was very sweet of him.
A bunch of us G+ers tackled the first group “instant action” scenario, and it went pretty well. You can queue as a party, or PUG it. We had to take on waves of undead, and then tackle the end boss monster. We did it during a scheduled time where we could earn Rough Astral Diamonds for our trouble.
So now that we’ve gotten rid of 4E haters and limited option haters, let’s complete the trifecta and talk about the cash shop. Cryptic relies very heavily on their cash shop, and because of it, we need to face some facts: these games are expensive to run in terms of hosting and support staff. We like new content, right? Well, those people need to be fed and watered (and get health benefits) so when your product is free to obtain and free to use, the money needs to come from somewhere. The trick is, then, to make the store contents enticing enough that people want to buy them, but don’t force people to need them. The Secret World excels at this because it’s got a core of avatar customization at it’s center, and people love to buy clothes and play dress-up. STO players know that Cryptic can seriously stock their shop with “nice to haves” that can easily be seen by some as “need to haves”. I don’t mean “need to have” as in “in order to play” or “in order to advance”. No. Actually, I was looking for XP boosts in NW’s shop, and they didn’t have any. What they do have are companions — NPC minions you can use in combat — mounts, limited outfit options, and rename and respec tokens, among other non-essential-but-convenient (there’s that word again!) items. People end up really wanting these things to enhance their gameplay, not continue it.
What may end up cheesing people off, though, is the Astral Diamond system. Similar to Dilithium in STO, ADs are a special breed of in-game currency that bridges the gap between totally worthless “game money” (copper, gold, etc), and real world money (cash, but you knew that). You usually earn Rough Astral Diamonds (RAD) that can be refined into regular AD at a rate of 1:1. However, you can only refine about 24,000 RAD per day. AD is used all over the game to buy all kinds of things, including a lot of things that really shouldn’t logically require ADs, like enhancements for your companions. Why not just use in-game cash? Well, it’s a hook to get you to buy Zen — Perfect World’s cash-for-currency denomination — and to convert it into AD. Want it now? Buy and convert Zen. Can you wait? Do events and earn RAD and refine it to standard AD. The cynical among us (read: the Internet) will probably jump on this as “bad” and “exploitative”, and I will admit that it can be annoying when A) you see things you want, and B) you don’t have the AD to buy them, and C) it’ll take you quite a while to earn the RAD for it, so naturally D) you’ll feel you’re being railroaded into paying for *GASP* something you enjoy. I know, Internet. I know. It’s horrible.
Crafting is…unique. Everyone can do all crafting branches, but there’s a prerequisite system in place. For example, if you want to craft mail items (shirt, boots, etc), you need to hire a prospector, which is represented as a dude. Just a dude. You need a prospector for each crafting task you undertake in this branch, so while you start out only being able to tackle one branch, you may end up needing many prospectors if you’re mass-producing some mail items. You then need materials, either found or bought, depending on the recipe. You can then queue up the activity if your crafting discipline is of appropriate level. The end result is that you’ll get the item(s) that you craft, and some XP specific to that crafting discipline. Some queues can take seconds, minutes, or hours, depending on the output and the complexity. At first I was unsure how to see this, then I realized that the “people” you hire through this process are nothing more than crafted materials needed to craft additional materials. It’s fun, though, especially since you can eventually queue up something like nine simultaneous activities across several disciplines.
The last feature is the doozie: The Foundry. I have only peeked under the hood on this one, since I’ve not read the documentation [here] and [here] on it. It’s supposedly more powerful than the Foundry in STO, which you need to be a subscriber to use, so I’m super excited to have this one available to everyone. I’ve played one mission made by the Internet’s Own @Wininoid which I enjoyed, and I’m eager to get into there myself. I was sad, however, to see that Cryptic didn’t include the Wall or the Chasm as map zones that could be used. I hope they remedy that in the future, although I can see those areas being held for an expansion, since the Chasm does extend down through the Underdark.
Despite the overpowering scent of sarcasm contained herein, there really isn’t a reason I can think of for not jumping into Neverwinter. It’s free. It’s got decades of IP behind it. It’s social (if you like that), and Cryptic does a stellar job of letting you know that you don’t need to follow the Golden Path every single time you log in, and they make it stupidly simple to explore the corners of the game rather then keeping them out of sight until you’ve reached a certain level or zone. While the AD situation can be off-putting with it’s insistence and ubiquity, that Cryptic allows players to earn RAD means that technically nothing is out of reach: I started today with no AD, and left with over 3000, which came just from two runs of the initial skirmish instance, and some other minor but enjoyable activities (fact: you can pray in-game every hour and the gods will reward you with some RAD). Neverwinter looks to be a good “pick up” game, alone or with friends, and since it doesn’t cost you anything except time and maybe the risk of being less of a grumpy-pants, then check it out this Tuesday at http://www.playneverwinter.com.
Added Bonus: Sometimes these things get obscured in the fancy UI, but I found three items of immediate note in case people were interested.
The first is that you can collapse the scheduled events next to the mini-map by clicking the tiny arrow below the scheduled items, and can roll it out again by clicking the arrow above the scheduled items.
The second is one thing that has plagued STO players for years: Instances and friends. While they are using a server setup, you can be in the same in-game area, but not see your friends who are also in
the same area. This is because Cryptic uses instances to balance the players. If you want to hop to the instance you’re friends are in, you can click the blue…thing…in the upper right corner of the mini-map to get the instance list.
And Jumping Jesus On A Hamburger, check out http://gateway.playneverwinter.com. It’s 2013, people. Why the hell isn’t this kind of thing standard?! You can view your character, check your auctions, do your friggin crafting, and check up on your guild. Seriously? There are rock-stupid and useless systems which have become “necessary” for an MMO to launch, yet this is something that still hasn’t caught on the way it should? We need to re-examine our priorities, people.
As many are aware, Raptr is offering current and possibly former RIFT players a free copy of the game AND a free copy of the Storm Legion expansion pack if you meet their play-time criteria. Never one to look a gift…gift…in the mouth, I picked it up because it also gives lapsed players 30 days worth of play time (I know RIFT has some level gated “free” play as well).
As many MMO nomads are aware, going back to a game after a lapse can be interesting at best, painful otherwise. It all depends on how long you’ve been away. RIFT is one of those games that I played a lot, but I also quit it quite some time ago, so when I re-installed and fired it up this morning, my first order of business was to figure out what had changed.
There’s good news, and bad news. The good news is that not much has changed. I recognize a lot of the game, which is good. Hitting the starting zones again (for the bazillionth time) has proven to be less of a chore, as Trion has reduced the chores in the tutorial zone. There’s a lot of “helper” aspects to the game now, with soul selectors and new ability pop-ups to let you know how powerful you’ve become.
Now the bad news. My main, a Defiant cleric, had her souls reset. If this was an overnight thing, I’d say OK, and get about putting things back the way I liked them. But I haven’t the slightest clue what abilities I had. My cleric was a finely tuned custom machine that was a real powerhouse to be reckoned with; now she’s an empty, confused shell in a mid-level haze. My only alternative was to start a new character from scratch and see if I can re-create the magic.
This is pretty much my standard situation when returning to a game. Learning a game is fun; re-learning a game is not so much fun. I remember enough to allow me to bypass a lot of tutorial junk, but have forgotten enough to actually be effective at the point where I left off.
Defiance is available on PC, Xbox, and PS3, which means that on a purely statistical level, 2/3 of people playing the game haven’t played an MMO before. I don’t actually believe that’s the actual ratio, but for the sake of argument, we need to acknowledge that there WILL be people who play nothing but consoles, and who have never approached a PC for gaming, let alone MMOs. In fact, one such example is the reviewer over at Xbox360achivements.org who talks about Defiance in this morning’s review.
The poor 360 players seem to be getting the royal shaft with this title. There seem to have been more troubles with Defiance on the Xbox than on any other platform, and a lot of it seems to be on the back end. If this were Trion’s first rodeo, it might be easy to point the finger at them, but they have always been amazingly responsive to issues in Defiance and RIFT, so it’s entirely possible that the Xbox engineers have been caught with their pants down. Microsoft has always been more hesitant to allow this kind of game on their console, and I think it’s coming back to haunt them. Consider this the “growing pains” for Durango, I suppose, but that’s not the point I want to raise here.
The review isn’t very favorable, ending with a score of 65/100. I think the author’s dissatisfaction stems from two conceits: that he’s exclusively a console gamer, and that he has little to no experience with MMOs. Console games generally are more focused on wringing the best visuals from the system, and not necessarily experimenting with alternative game play, so the author finds that Defiance is a pretty lackluster CONSOLE GAME compared to other, somewhat similar console games that he has experience with. Defiance doesn’t have the visual fidelity, or the console-specific focus that allows for a tighter, easier to manage UI, so in this aspect, I think it’s reasonable to give his opinion it’s due.
We long-term MMO players, however, might read the review and gloss over 98% of his dings for the game’s “MMO-ness” because they’re all aspects that we have (often begrudgingly) come to accept. Calling out the wide open world and the ability to play with others at the drop of a hat may make us nod sagely — welcome to the wider world of gaming, my friend! — but our vision might cloud when he takes exception with missions that seemingly go on forever, and seem to have no overarching point. We MMO players know this on a cellular level, but as is often the case, we’re so immersed in the genre that we can’t articulate the forest for the trees, something that this author does with ease because he comes at the MMO aspect of the game with no previous baggage. He can speak about Defiance’s “MMO-ness” with clear vision, and in doing so, raises points about most MMOs out there that we instinctively know, but may not have been able to talk about with such surity for a long time.
As a console game, Defiance may not on par with Call of Duty or Halo or Gears of War, and in my circles, I think the agreement is that as an MMO, it’s pretty OK, but not revolutionary. None of that really seems to be making a lot of difference in people’s enjoyment, though, as from where I sit it seems that the vast majority of people really like it. I’m not so interested in the opinion of the reviewer on the game as much as I was fascinated by the view of a non-MMO gamer on an MMO game, because it’s been so long since I felt objective about MMO mechanics that it was refreshing to see how someone who is not as steeped in the genre views the aspects that the rest of us have taken for granted.
I was fortunate enough to have the misfortune of finding Space Unity for Unity. First, this is one of the most bad-ass systems I’ve seen. Second, I’m sad that I don’t (YET!) have the money to buy it. Third, I say “misfortune” because it got me dreaming about my original concept for Project Universe, in which the player is a cargo ship, and the mission is nothing more exciting than building a financial empire by personally buying low and selling high (actually, there’s a lot more to it than that). Naturally, after seeing Space Unity in action, I couldn’t stop thinking about using it for this original purpose, which lead down a rabbit hole of system concepts, including resource availability and acquisition.
The sad thing is, I couldn’t stop thinking about EVE Online as a reference base. Sad, because I realized that I was thinking about this theoretical game as a re-built EVE. Specifically, I was hung up on resources, because a huge part of EVE is that players acquire and sell and use resources in a player driven economy. There’s little reason (or opportunity) to buy usable items from NPC vendors in EVE, as it’s mostly commodity crap that’s only good for new players to cut their teeth on trading. Everything else in the game starts off in a ship’s cargo hold.
And that’s where I got thinking: what if EVE ran out of raw materials? I mean, these materials come mostly from asteroids. Asteroids aren’t infinite; they are the remains of interstellar bodies, and planets and moons aren’t spontaneously detonating all over New Eden, right? So when a corporation mines the hell out of a belt, that belt should vanish! Or at least, be devoid of further materials. Logically. I understand that space is vast and contains infinite wonders and blah blah blah the chance of strip-mining the universe is really remote and etc I get it. This is a thought exercise, not a recommendation so don’t go looking for an argument.
So then what? People know that the resources are finite, and start hoarding materials, driving up the price on the market, allowing groups to control the flow of resources, bringing production to a halt, allowing a few corporations to corner markets and set prices. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? That would certainly drive many players away, as it would end up being prohibitive for new or less established players to replace ships and ammo, which leads to fewer people for players to engage. Boom! Implosion. So it’s a stupid idea, sure. Unless…
What if the system allowed you to turn scrap (I know it already exists in the game) back into usable resources? When you destroy a ship, you can collect the debris and refine it to a lesser amount/lesser quality raw material that can be used to make a new ship, or new ammo, or other components. Maybe you can sell scrap and earn a fortune. People are always going to be blowing things up in EVE, so there’ll be a never-ending cycle of raw materials to products to scrap to materials. I thought about how BattleTech used to work in regards to the lore, where humanity got so stupid that they couldn’t invent new ‘mechs, only salvage and repair and cobble together parts into existing designs.
Then I thought, what if each generation of salvage decreased the quality? So on the 20th salvage, the quality of the materials are so low that the structural integrity oft he ship/ammo/component is so paper-thin that a single jump tears it apart. This is EVE; players are used to the brutality anyway, so this should be right up their alley! But it would extend the life-cycle of the resource pool, possibly forever, but could give the illusion that some day, the universe won’t be able to make any more anything.
This whole thing came about when I was thinking about markets, moving resources around, and providing resource spigots for players, and how they seem to be never-ending. With unlimited resources, the value drops; with resource scarcity, the value skyrockets. Somewhere in between is a balance, and in EVE‘s case, I think it’s time. It takes a long time and a lot of effort for a single person to mine enough materials to be worthwhile (add in PI and you’ve got a whole lot more to worry about as well). You won’t see a flooded market because when you have dozens of people working together, chances are good they’re looking to USE those materials. When you have a single harvester, chances are he or she is going to flip the results.
You never really have an appreciation for a system until you try and consider changing it, I guess.
For some sticking with one game from start to finish is easy. For others — like me — it’s usually a chore of Herculean proportions. What I can say that I have never met a game I didn’t like, you could set your watch by the number of games I’ve abandoned half-way between starting out, and the level cap.
Guild Wars 2 is not one of them.
This afternoon, I finally achieved only my second level capped character in an MMO ever. Keliel, my human ranger, and her trusty bear sidekick Dudeson, representing Combat Wombat on Sanctum of Rall, reached the tipping point in a not so dramatic fashion: by discovering a PoI in the Wayfarer Foothills while waiting for a stage in The Maw group event.
I had started out the afternoon by attempting to complete the Temple of Balthazar, which I had stupidly failed a few weeks ago because I lost track of the zerg. This time, we got to the steps of the temple, but failed the requirements, damning the whole event. Requiem Soulbloom and Smashgut had jumped in, so we opted to see about tackling the timers events around the world, which lead us to The Maw, and which granted me the extra XP needed to get to the cap.
The thing is, this was a pretty “easy” journey. GW2 offers a lot to do, and the only thing that doesn’t give you XP is simply logging in. Near the end, though, the weekly dungeon runs that we’ve been doing made me rabid to advance in order to be able to keep up with the progression, so started using XP boosts almost every time I logged in. Add to that the XP from the dungeons, harvesting everything in sight, and running from event to event, and the momentum was maintained. At no time did I really feel that I was lagging: if I were sick of a zone, I’d simply go to another zone in another racial area and pick up from there.
I still have story to do (next stage is level 71), and the world completion, of course. We have a few dungeons to complete (and some I had to skip due to absence), and then there’s alts. I still have a lot of zones I haven’t seen yet, and stories that I haven’t experienced yet, and WvWvW. Hopefully I can eventually get another alt to the cap, which will probably cause the universe to implode.
You have been warned.
Minecraft was a cool experiment when it launched: It was a building game, without a “game”. Your goal was basically to survive by gathering through equivalent exchange: cut down a tree, get wood, make walls, and secure yourself for when night time comes.
The glory of Minecraft, though, is that people ran with it. And by “ran with it”, I mean “went absolutely ballistic” in what the game could do. People added mods, and different versions of the “vanilla” server soon surfaced which were also extensible. Modding isn’t difficult, but if you’re lazy, you were left alone with your plain, generic Minecraft.
But over time, Mojang as been adding features to the base game that are turning this “gameless game” into more of a LEGO Mindstorm kit. Patch notes for the latest update (1.5) contain elements that are less about helping you survive the creeper apocalypse, and more about helping you learn to program. Tellingly, the update is named “Redstone Update”, and as Minecraft users know, redstone is used as “circuits” in the game to connect switches to action objects. This update contains new objects like hoppers (adds items and moves them to containers), redstone comparator (used in redstone logic circuits), and even daylight sensor. A lot of this stuff has been hacked into mods for clients and servers (like Tekkit), but it seems Minecraft proper is making these things canon.
I like Minecraft for what it does, but have always wished it could do more. It’s already got the construction angle down pretty well, but I would like to see native ways to allow users to build games beyond just the survival mode. Enforcer is working on his Minecraft server, adding in mods that allow for programming NPCs with quests and such, which is certainly a start.
I am, however, glad to see Minecraft‘s subversive bent in cloaking programming fundamentals behind it’s pixelated facade. My daughter knows far more about how to use these systems than I do, but I know she isn’t even consciously aware that as I’m programming in text on my computer on the other side of the room, she’s also programming, thanks to Minecraft.
Yeesh. I don’t like politics on any day of the week, but being a politician who’s put in charge of building a city from scratch, growing it, and helping it prosper makes me want to throw my computer out the window. Such is my lot (called Scopiqueville) in the new SimCity.
I’ve played many versions of SimCity over the years, and while the general point of the game has remained the same, the execution has changed. I’ve never been horribly adept at building a massive metropolis, but this latest version is either out to get me, or I really shouldn’t be put in charge of anything larger than a broom closet.
We started a private region of 16 plots for our Google Plus community members, but during the rough patch of server issues, only myself and Stargrace were able to claim plots and begin building. My town started off on shaky ground (figuratively). I had enough money to build roads, power, waste disposal, and water, but that left me with pocket change and very little income. I tried to keep the unemployment low, and the taxes as high as I could without inciting a revolt.
It wasn’t until much later that I got word that I had a garbage problem. Sims are filthy creatures, and their trash was just piling up in the driveways so I needed to bite the bullet and spend money on the garbage collection.
The next day I got word that my water was polluted. Note to self: don’t put the water tower in an industrial zone.
For several Sim-days, I struggled with cash flow. I didn’t want to gouge my people in taxes, but I didn’t have enough income to be able to afford anything that would allow my houses to evolve into higher-earning households. Stargrace mentioned how she floated as many bonds as she could, up front, which meant she could afford a lot of buying, and have the padding necessary to weather the expense until the city started turning a profit. I took a bond of my own, which allowed me to get an elementary school to boost the standard of living for my town. But now I have the weight of the bond payments on top of ongoing maintenance, and am only bringing in 265s / hour while also having to listen to people complain about lack of services, and the high taxes. These services don’t grow on trees, people!
Now it’s a game of upgrades: getting better roads to handle higher density, and hopefully getting a clinic at some point. Stargrace has been handling my fire and medical, but the pollution from the industrial zone is causing no end to problems. With only 2,046s in the bank, what will become of Scopiqueville? A disease-ridden leper colony? A ghost-town due to high taxes?