It’s already Thursday, and I’m slacking. I meant to do this earlier, but because I’m late to the game, I’m going to cram it all into one post. This should not be construed as apathy for bandwagon’s sake; Just economical.
Super special thanks to Scarybooster for keeping this ball rolling. Despite his on-again, off-again affair with blogging, this yearly effort is a huge boon to both the developers and the community.
You’re All Winners!
No, that’s not the whole post. However, I do believe that all developers need to be appreciated. Most of us are adults, and we all have to go to work (or work from home). We all report to someone in exchange for a paycheck, and chances are a lot of folks only work because they need the paycheck.
Game developers have great jobs: it’s not something you accidentally fall into because you were assigned there through a temp agency. You need to be a great programmer, or artist, or musician, or server admin. You need to make contacts. You need to love what you do because developers also have amazingly shitty jobs. They get so much grief from so many people for the least rational of reasons, and yet they will almost always tell you –enthusiastically – that they love what they do, and wouldn’t dream of doing anything else. And for that, I love all developers.
I used to play Rift back in the day, and I loved it. Me being me, though, I stopped playing, but I always remember how excellent Trion was during beta, and afterwards. I’m looking forward to Defiance because I am. I enjoy the game, and really that’s why we’re here, isn’t it? To enjoy the games we play? Right? Maybe it’s just me. I’m also eager for the TV show. I don’t watch a lot of TV, so that’s a Big Deal for me. That Trion is making a go of this “trans-media” thing is pretty ballsy, no matter how it turns out.
The Secret World doesn’t treat you like an idiot by dangling artificial “rewards” in front of you. EVE Online usually gets the high-fives for it’s meta-gaming, but TSW meta-games just as well, and even better. You don’t have to be a douchebag to feel good about yourself in TSW; that feeling comes from stretching your intelligence and expanding your knowledge. It’s a big gamble, treating players like intelligent folks instead of greedy gear-whores, because if most comment threads are any indication, they could have been over-estimating the range of their audience. But I’m glad they made a game that actually requires thinking.
I know it seems like a pandering choice, but when a game holds my interest so that I can actually reach the cap, that’s saying something. I’m not a fan of their rapid-fire content updates or their habit of scheduling them in relatively small windows. They’ve achieved an almost Blizzard-like Zen with Guild Wars 2: instead of layering on mechanic after mechanic, they’ve stripped the systems to the bare minimum, and built up the content. If there’s a game up for consideration that pushes the genre in a different direction, this should be it.
I sometimes feel like a fair-weather friend when it comes to gaming, because I don’t actually pay attention to a game until about a week before it’s release. I don’t hang out on forums, or start fan sites or anything like that the way I used to, and that holds true for DC’s Emerald Kingdom, but the good thing is that the DC crew aren’t sequestered in their office; they’re out beating the pavement, milling around with the populace, and aren’t afraid to talk about their vision instead of spouting meaningless PR. I don’t think there’s been a more honest group out there, really.
Cryptic does cash shops right. In Star Trek Online, their shop is filled with things that people want, not what they think they need to be able to just play the game. STO is one of the few games that no matter where I go, there’s a ton of people present and on screen. I’m hoping to see this trend continue in Neverwinter. And super-massive props for their Foundry. Building in a way for users to create content not only serves the community, allowing the community to serve itself, but is a strong draw to return for both the creativity and consumption.
Post event Post. No fancy lead-in. Let’s just get to it.
This year, I accidentally booked the wrong hotel. I signed up for the Renaissance Waterfront, not the Westin Waterfront, but after walking from the hotel to the center, it wasn’t so bad. We were spared the foot-traffic, but missed out on the convenience. But there was a benefit, as we made a friend on Friday morning while standing in the 30F weather outside the convention hall. Yvonne was attending the convention from New Jersey, and was there with her boss. Turns out her company prints the cards for Cards Against Humanity, a game near and dear to our hearts. She and I attended the Blizzard panel, while Matt went to the keynote, and Chris and Keven held down the line to the expo hall.
Blizzard: You’re Only Disappointed In Yourselves.
Blizzard’s presence at PAX was a Big Deal. They hinted at some kind of reveal. People were peeing their pants in anticipation. Our queue room was full, and people were being turned away. That Blizzard was making a reveal outside of Blizzcon was massive, at least to us, so we had to be there.
So it was a collectable card game (CCG) set in the Warcraft universe. The internet (and the room) deflates, and excitement is replaced by polite applause.
But really, what did people expect? Titan? Announced at an East coast gaming convention that was well outside the usual bombastic spectacle of Blizzcon? From what I saw, the game is pretty slick, and looks like fun, but then I remembered that gamers instantly hate things that don’t meet their expectations or cater to their whims, and it all made sense.
In no particular order, I got to lay hands on the following in one way or another:
- Neverwinter: Nothing new here. I got to drive the control wizard, completed a short area at one of the higher levels, and got a real-world bag and an “invisibility potion” (an empty bottle with the Neverwinter branding). We did get to talk with Brandon Felczer about Star Trek Online, though, which was cool.
- Marvel Heroes: We started this off at the panel, and then went down to the floor to check it out. I didn’t play it myself, but watched Keven and Matt play. It’s a Diablo-esque brawler which centers around collecting heroes. Oddly enough, you can’t buy new characters in the store!. You earn them all through game-play although you can buy tokens to increase your odds of rare character drops. Their founders program is rather convoluted and I don’t really understand it, so I’ll not try to explain it here.
- Wildstar: In all of the years of MMO games that have been compared to World of Warcraft, Wildstar looks very much like WoW. It has the same color pallet, the same blocky-like art, and while WoW is at time unintentionally funny as a result, Wildstar seems to focus on the humor. At the panel, the Carbine folks seemed more intent on selling us on the humor than they were on the reasons we’d want to play/continue playing the game. I enjoyed the demo, though; it was smooth and interesting, and talking to the devs in-line answered several questions I had. And their housing system seems very cool.
- The Elder Scrolls Online: Winner of the “Better Than Expected” award. This was the last “Must See” thing on my list — and on everyone’s list. As soon as the queue line broke on Sunday morning, several hundred geeks were speed-walking, cutting through exhibits, and bouncing off one another in an approximation of the world’s largest and geekiest bumper-pool game. As it was, our position was estimated at an hour wait; the line quickly spread around the convention hall, and was capped at somewhere around 5 hours. But the game is beautiful, and while it’s not Skyrim, it retains a lot of familiar Skyrim aesthetics. It won’t cause heart palpitations in anyone but the most rabid TES fans, but if they price it right, it’ll be a nice addition to the pantheon of MMOs.
- The NVidia Shield: I was excited to see this, and was stupendously pleased to see that it actually worked as advertised. The main purpose is not to stream from the PC; it’s to play Android games on a larger screen and a more powerful device than you have on your phone. Still, the streaming aspect worked great, and we were dumbfounded to find out that a PC with at least a GTX 660 and a laptop with a GTX660m can do the exact same thing. The streaming is an aspect of the driver package, and I suspect that the Shield’s drivers are simply taking advantage of this as a happy side effect.
- Zombie Dice: Chris bought this simple dice-rolling game from the tabletop zone, and we played it several times while in line during the weekend. Highly recommended, even for kids. It really has little to do with zombies, so it’s totally safe for the entire family.
We hit up a few panels this year.
- Blizzard: Again, STFU. Play or don’t play.
- Gazillion (Marvel Heroes): It seems like a good group play game, or a good casual play game. Keven is a Marvel/DC fan, so he was all over the founders packages, as was Matt.
- Music in Games Composers panel: THIS was the highlight of my weekend. Inon Zur, Kevin Riepl, Greg Edmonson, Jason Graves, and Jack Wall were there, which pretty much represents one of my top playlists in Spotify. If Marty O’Donnell and Jeremy Soule had been there, it would have been perfect. But all of the panelists were insanely appreciative of our attendance: there were no spare seats, and they ended up thanking us more often than we were able to applaud them.
- Gearbox: This was a more appreciated reveal than the Blizzard panel. We got to hear about the new Vault Hunter for Borderlands 2, and got a code to get it for free (a $10 USD value!). We also heard about the upcoming level cap increase, third run-though-mode, pearlescent weapons, and a tease on the fourth DLC. When they brought up Aliens: Colonial Marines, though, the room became as slient as a crypt, with only polite applause to let the panel know we were still there. I felt for the poor Geebox guy who had to talk about it: he sounded horribly nervous, and it was obvious he’d rather have been anywhere else, doing anything else, than being on the firing-line.
This year, I think there were fewer exhibitors, or else the expo space was smaller. The queue room was larger, and more space was given over to non-expo space (tables, fringe walking-space, etc). As a consequence, walking was kind of tight, although I suppose no different from previous years.
The anchor for the expo was League of Legends, for the sole reason that they had a very large booth showing live matches, always had a crowd, and as a consequence, was the loudest booth in the place. You could orient yourself based on which direction the cheering was coming from. Riot really should have had it’s own section in the complex. People would have sat there watching the matches all day.
There were booths for The Last Of Us and Watch Dogs, neither of which I stood in line for. The indie section was a big as ever, although I didn’t spend much time there this year, as nothing really caught my eye. Hardware vendors were seemingly in short supply; Intel’s booth was over in the PC tournament area which was outside the main expo hall. Conspicuously absent was local developers Turbine, although they had some kind of party on Friday I was told.
This was a bizarre, bizarre year for events. First, I heard that the representatives from Wargaming.Net didn’t even show up to their panel, and that some audience members actually took over for them. Then there was the Bethesda party debacle, in which anyone who showed up was allowed in, causing some kind of overwhelming cluster-fuck. We had some tickets for the Curse Wildstar party, but opted to spend an hour playing Borderlands 2 on the free-play PCs. From what I heard, we made the right choice.
Our Tweetup went well…sort of. Apparently, using the lobby bar as a place to hang out got leaked to the general population, as the lobby was packed by the time we got there. To make matters worse, it was “Earth Hour” that night. At 8:30, they shut down most of the lighting in the lobby, leaving us in the dim glow of peripheral lamps, and we were serenaded by some kind of hippie quartet doing cover versions of I can’t remember what. The bar service was terrible, when we could get someone’s attention, and although everyone had fun, we had disbanded by 10:30. I’m considering alternative options for next year, as it seems that our secret is out. We were in the lobby bar before it was cool.
I left this part for last because I’ve been dreading it.
Even before I got into the expo hall on Sunday morning, I just wanted to leave. The people this year were more crass, more obnoxious, more everything that’s stereotypically wrong with gamer culture than ever before. It wasn’t the crowds, and we actually met good people there this year, but ultimately, the one-off douchebaggery was piling up, in the queue lines, in the expo halls, in the panels, and even in my social network streams. People just seem to really prefer being angry, annoyed, and grumpy, and find it easier to give into the need to let anyone and everyone know about it. I cannot fathom how people claim to love gaming, yet feel that it’s more important to be negative, to be abusive to one another, and to treat one another and the hobby like absolute shit.
By the time I got home last night, I was contemplating how far I could go to sever my ties to the overall community while still retaining connections to the painfully few people that I actually love and respect. I hated gamers that much after this weekend. All of them. I wished that if all they had were negative things to say about games and about each other, that they just find another hobby. Please.
Still, this weekend was a positive experience, as it usually is. There are so many people there that the only way to deal with it is to blank them out when you’re in the middle of them so that they become background noise, allowing you to focus on the games themselves. In this mode, the people were tolerable; we were all there for the same reason, and by and large people were respectful of one another, apologizing for bumping into one another, and letting folks pass. The cosplayers were just OK this year, but they were all accommodating for those who wanted pictures. There seemed to be a lot more kids this year, and I swear there were a hell of a lot more women overall. But on the down-side, I’m going to suggest a panel for next year on proper intestinal health, because for some reason, folks had a lot more trouble with that than they had in years past.
Leaving the convention left me with a feeling that I cannot find suitable words for. When we go on vacation, we have fun because it’s a distraction. We go to amusement parks and ride the rides for that “in the moment” enjoyment, and when we finally head home, we’re more sorry that we have to go back to work the next day than we are about leaving the vacation behind. We rely on our pictures to remind us of the fun we had, because let’s face it: vacations rarely change our everyday lives.
When you’re immersed in an event that is focused on a core part of your life, though, leaving is like walking through a door that dumps you out into an alien world. The convention was the “normal”; driving home and looking at the houses near the highway and thinking about doing laundry and sweeping floors and making dinner and watching TV, and seeing the businesses where people go in the morning, sit at their desks, make small talk with the co-workers…that all just felt surreal and boring. The world around me is populated by people to whom I can’t talk about the things I like and know about. They don’t “get” it when I make a reference, and although they may tolerate some conversation on the subject of gaming, they’d rather talk about something else. There is a very deep sorrow to detaching oneself from what is more of a pilgrimage than it is a vacation, or even an event. You can’t just leave something like that behind and not be affected by the leaving.
One of the “heavy lifting” chores of creating an adventure is the population of the story. It’s not so much an issue if the adventure is strictly a dungeon crawl; there might be a few personalities that the players can interact with, but mainly it’s just cannon-fodder. For anything greater, the DM needs to come up with personalities through which he or she can engage the players.
I don’t know how other DMs do this, but I am one of those OCD kinds of designers who believes that if there are going to be words coming out of the NPCs mouth, then that NPC needs a full character sheet. Who knows if the players are going to gang-press the poor mannequin into accompanying them into danger. Or maybe eventually, circumstances require that the NPC use skills or perform saving throws. Most of those unknowns come from stuff that the players do that require a DM response, and although there’s the old Deus Ex Machina in the DM Voice, responding through the In Game Voice is much preferred, and more engrossing.
Creating a stable of on-hand NPCs, or even random encounters for those times when your players are feeling especially safe and comfortable, is a chore. If you’ve ever been forced to turn a minor, throwaway character into a major plot point, then I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. So for DMs out there, my question is this: Is there an online repository where DMs can post characters/NPCs? If not, is this something that people could see as worthwhile?
Being able to enter keywords to find an NPC that matches criteria could be helpful. Say I need a shopkeeper. Simple enough: BAM! There’s a shopkeeper. But what if I need to flesh out the story a bit? Maybe that shopkeeper is a high ranking official in the thieves guild? Now I might need a whole character sheet for him. There’s a lot of creative people out there, and a lot of them like to showcase their talents. Why not have a place for folks to contribute material for one another’s campaigns?
What do people think?
The Gaming Internet is filled with examples of players behaving badly, whether it’s gamers shouting at others, hurling insults, slurs, misogynistic comments, or excessive trash talking, or giving into temper tantrums resulting in team abandonment or even team sabotage as a way express a player’s displeasure at how the game is progressing. The game doesn’t even need to be competitive for this to happen, as anyone who’s run an excessive number of dungeons or raids with random folk can attest to.
Naturally, the more competitive the game or scenario, the higher the probability for bad behavior, which is why League of Legends operator Riot Games has instigated a unique “tribunal” system which allows the players to receive anonymous incident reports, and to suggest action. Should a player receive in excessive number of complaints, however, Riot reserves the right to ban the player for a period of time of their choosing. Surprisingly, this ban-hammer has been used not only against house-bound Summoners, but also against “pro” gamers.
Banning a player is strictly in the wheelhouse of the operator, but some people don’t agree that the operator should be allowed to “censor” their player base to the point of banning them from accessing the product that they have probably spent money on. In the case of pro-gamers, their high-profile participation has certainly done good things for the game itself in providing free advertising to those who watch the many live streams of eSports games. In essence, banning any loyal and paying customer is like biting the hand that feeds the game.
The end user license agreement is something we all know about, but which few people read. Whether or not it’s legally binding is a question for more specialized minds than mine, but I do believe that it’s been used in a few court cases that have favored the service operator. League of Legends EULA has an entire section devoted to “Code of Conduct” (Section 5), which specifically spells out the legal jargon on what Riot will not tolerate. This includes harassing, stalking, or threatening other players, and also and specifically:
Transmitting or communicating any content which, in the sole and exclusive discretion of Riot Games, is deemed offensive, including, but not limited to, language that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, sexually explicit, or racially, ethnically, or otherwise objectionable; (Emphasis mine)
There is also a separate ”Summoner’s Code” which is a plain-language version of how to be a “good player” or, if you prefer, how not to get on Riot’s bad side.
Opponents of Riot’s “free-wheeling ban-hammer” claim that this is the Internet. People behave badly all over the place, and LoL is one of the few venues that takes such an extreme stance on player behavior, to the point where they’re an anomaly and not a rule. They’re not going to change people’s behavior, and they shouldn’t be the arbiters of how people behave when people behave like this all the time in other corners of the net. If they’re feeling particularly combatitive, they’ll throw in complaints of “censorship” for good measure. But you know what? Riot is correct in their stance and in their actions.
Regardless of whether or not the EULA is legally defensible, it spells out, up front, what Riot expects of the players, and what will happen if the players violate the terms of the EULA. You didn’t read the EULA when you installed the game? Irrelevant, from the operator’s point of view. Although these license agreements may be underhanded by some (companies know we don’t read them, and try and sneak stuff in there all the time), ignorance is no excuse for violating them. Much has been made of LoLs Summoner Code, their tribunal, and now, high profile consequences of violating the rules that the game operator has laid down. Just as we cannot exploit bugs in a game without the possibility of being banned (which is covered in their EULAs, by the way), outright anti-social behavior that exceeds the allowable threshold for what the operator reserves as their right to define, is an acceptable reason for a ban.
The thing is, this is really not about what’s in the EULA. This is as much a business decision as it is a punishment for those who break the rules. Taking away the toys of those who behave badly is an ancient parental practice for kids who misbehave. In this case, kids who misbehave cost Riot potential customers. I’ve played LoL, but always with friends, and against the AI because I decided that I would not willfully put myself in the potential situation where I’d be on the receiving end of someone else’s blackened version of “sportsmanship”. It’s not a guarantee that’d I’d run into someone who makes me regret my decision, but so long as the chance is there, I wouldn’t want to willfully ruin my own enjoyment, and so I have only dabbled in the game. Riot won’t get any money out of me because of the potential toxic environment, so it’s in their interest as a company that needs to earn money to pay the bills that keep the game up and running and their employees fed and clothed to ensure that their game is as accessible as possible for the widest audience possible.
And there’s no reason it shouldn’t be. Competition is not carte blanche to be a douchebag, and it’s not in Riot’s interest to allow a few players to drive a potential client base away. It doesn’t belong to those with “thick skins”, except in their own point of view that only those who can “take it” are entitled to play. The game belongs to Riot, and it’s not a gift to people who don’t know how to behave. I wish more companies took the approach that Riot has taken with their tribunal system, but I wish even more that people would stop using bad behavior to mark territory that clearly isn’t theirs to claim.
I am not a game developer, although I have tried to develop games. In Ye Olden Tymes (the 1980′s), I used to write programs in BASIC on the Commodore 64, including games. Since becoming a developer of Non Game Things, I’ve turned my spare attention to XNA and, more recently, Unity. In between, I’ve tried some of the off-the-shelf game design packages that claim to allow you to make great games with as little sweat as possible.
Thing is, sweat is a necessary evil because unless you have a Team, or are stupidly gifted to the point of freakishness, you will have a very demarcated division between developers and designers. Developers make things work; designers make things look good. The kicker is that anyone can be a developer. I mean, look at me! I have no formal training, am entirely self-taught, and I currently work as a full time, in-house web and application developer. So anyone can learn to develop, but design is another matter entirely. It’s art. It’s recognizing and replicating proportions, understanding how what your eye sees isn’t what it really sees, but you have to understand it as your eye thinks it sees…see? Splines, vertices, textures, meshes, UV…I have a better time trying to decipher tax codes than I do in trying to wrap my head around 3D modeling and all that it entails. Even when UI understand the book-stuff, actually doing the thing is another matter entirely.
So with that rambling pre-amble out of the way, I want to talk about Axis Game Factory.
This is a project in the throes of it’s own Kickstarter. Don’t let that dissuade you. The project is moving along, and I know this because the fine folks at Heavy Water have opened their builds to anyone who backs the project, not just those at the nose-bleed tiers. I’ve been playing around with it, and I’m enjoying it so far (inasmuch as I can, being that it’s a very early stage in development and is lacking a lot of usability features and polish).
What does it do? Well, it’s one of those off-the-shelf game builders I mentioned in the intro. Using assets from a warehouse, you throw down art, arrange it just so, set some parameters, and press play. No seriously. That’s what you do, which makes it’s stupidly easy to make a side-scroller or a platformer, or an action/adventure game. You can share your creation with other players, or collaborate with friends and compatriots to build and link zones, making a huge game world (so say the Kickstarter pitch materials). And just recently, Heavy Water announced a partnership with Exit Games to bring Photon Server support for multiplayer games. I’ve tried Photon, and I like it a lot, so this is some pretty swanky news.
But queuing the Sara McLachlan music, the KS campaign isn’t doing so hot right now (theoretical projections only, and not for gambling purposes), and I’m at a loss for why, so I’m going to chalk it up to a lack of exposure. Kickstarter, as we all know, can be a dumping ground, and finding meaningful projects can be difficult. AGF, I think, is one of those projects that is unfairly buried because it is moving along nicely — I’ve got the app on my desktop to prove it! — and could really use the boost in visibility.
But why AGF and not something else new, or more established? Remember in my intro, how I went on and on about how I’m a developer and not a designer? That wasn’t just my usual busy-talk; It was to set the stage for explaining that AGF is focusing heavily on getting assets into the hands of AGF users. Hit up any hobbyist game developer forum, and there will be loads of developers, but only a few designers, and those designers are literally the belles of the ball. Must be nice. But they can’t handle all the requests, and even if they could, not all hobbyists could afford to “rent a designer”. Heavy Water is providing asset packs for purchase that can be used in AGF to create a soup-to-nuts vidja game. Hell, you don’t even need to know how to develop to produce something this time around! Sure, Unity Proper has an asset store, but with the assets provided by Heavy Water, you get consistency, ensuring that your product has a uniform aesthetic that you can’t get by cobbling together assets from different artists.
If you’ve got a hankerin’ to make some kind of game, or better yet, if you have children (or are an educator, because they’ve got a deal for you!), and want to get them on the path towards creating, consider getting involved with Axis Game Factory‘s funding campaign.
(In an attempt to ward off troll-bait, I am not affiliated with Heavy Water or Axis Game Factory. As a backer, I do have a stake in seeing the project receive it’s funding though, though, so I’m pimping this of my own volition. End of line.)
One of the things my wife and I try to instill in our daughter is a sense of pride in doing good work. She’s a straight A student, an excellent artist, and loves to create. But she’s entering the teens, and that brings with it a reversal of fortune. Whereas before our pats on the back may have had something to do with her striving for excellence, now she’s starting to find ways to assert herself, which usually involves pissing us off.
Part of growing up is finding one’s own path, and in taking our dreams and turning them into reality if we’re able. Some dreams are a little easier than others, like getting a driver’s license or sinking low enough to get a reality show deal. On the opposite end of the spectrum, where turning dreams into reality is a lot harder, are gamers.
The thing about gaming is that it requires a suspension of disbelief. That, in turn, requires a very rich imagination. People too grounded in reality would certainly question standard fantasy tropes like…magic, no matter how well-explained it’s origins might be, but especially if it weren’t explained at all. Of course, imagination is it’s own beast, and among creative types often manifests as “flights of fancy”: unbridled exclamations of imagination so untethered in reality that there’s no real way to relate them to reality. Without being grounding in some sort of reality, this level of imagination can lead to spectacular – and craptacular – things.
Apparently and unconsciously, Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aime understands this…and loathes it. Although Reggie takes the tact PR approach, he is basically calling out the gaming culture for being spoiled, jaded, and too hipster to be impressed by virtually anything that any company produces. Nothing seems good enough for gamers in certain segments. No matter what developers release – and we’re not talking about bugs or day one patches – there will be those who are just loudly unhappy with what they receive. I don’t think anything will ever be as good as the gaming community believes it to be during the days preceding release, but I think both gamers and the gaming industry have a hand in spoiling this broth.
The industry relies heavily on a well choreographed dance of public relations by spooling out information – but not too much information. “Leave them wanting more” was a phrase coined by a masterful promoter of days gone by, but it seems to be the Golden Rule in video game marketing, and is carried out by purposefully leaving blanks in the roadmap described to salivating fans who are encouraged to speculate and guess, and to engage their fertile imaginations…their unchecked, unrestrained, invalidated imaginations.
Filling in blanks with speculation isn’t a very reliable method for nailing down facts, but gamers are so damn good at it. Bringing it back around, “flights of fancy” seems to apply in this situation. Video games are totally contrived worlds which are impossible, impractical, or improbable in reality. Gamers are asked at every turn to engage their geek superpowers of suspending their disbelief, to embrace the fantastic, and to use their creativity and imagination to place themselves in the game. So it’s really no wonder that gamers aren’t ever going to be satisfied by products which they envision that could be so much more. After all, in video games, nothing is impossible; why should Game X stop at just providing us with feature Y? Why not features A through W, and throw in Z just because you can. Give us everything, because we’re being asked to accept that anything is possible. That can be done, right?
Of course not. There’s the aforementioned technical limitations of why World of Warcraft can’t be converted into World of Minecraft. Now, sit back and close your eyes. Did you think, even for an instant, how cool it would be if you could just…dig and build, Minecraft style, in WoW? Hell, I wrote it, and then thought how cool that could be! But it won’t happen because it’s not in the design of WoW, doesn’t jive with Blizzard’s plans, and probably doesn’t fall in line with Activision’s financial goals. In every business decision made by every business around the world, lines must be drawn. Some lines are easy to draw, and some are unbearably hard to shake when the designer firmly believes in their value. Maybe it’s time, maybe it’s money, or maybe the feature roster is already full. Cutting something or denying it for consideration is going to be unpopular internally and externally, but if the lines aren’t drawn, the product is never going to ship, or it’ll be so unwieldy with so many moving parts that bug hunting will need to be incorporated as a set of achievements in the game.
Nothing that can be produced by companies constrained by reality can ever match the product delivered in the wildest, RP fueled imaginations of it’s consumers. Developers usually get hell because the products they pitch from the caboose of the hype train don’t look like they did in the ads once we have them in our homes. Gamers can go off the rails often by choosing not to appreciate anything but absolute, 100% perfection to match their desires. If these two groups were people, the state would mandate either jail time, or counseling, based on the levels of animosity the two exhibit towards one another. It’s a horrible cycle, and unless both sides admit there’s a problem, and decide to do something about it, it’s not something that will just go away on it’s own.
I’ll try and keep this brief.
There’s always been this idea that Google Plus (G+) is a “ghost town” because to the casual observer (i.e. the media), there’s not a lot of “public” posts being posted. The truth is that the point of G+ is that users only talk to people they want to talk to, unlike Facebook where the default is to flash your unappealing privates to your neighbors, your parents, prospective employers, random strangers, and what might have been your future soul mate.
Now we have to deal with the impending fallout of news that EA and something called a Wooga are pulling their games from G+. First, I think I speak for a lot of hardcore G+ users when I say, “G+ had games?” Second, which follows the first in more than numerical order, is that G+ users didn’t pick G+ to play games. They picked it because it’s full of targeted, meaningful con-ver-fucking-say-shun, which is so absent from Facebook that if Facebook didn’t have games to distract the easily distracted, it’d be up to it’s armpits in posts trawling for sympathy, drunken rants, homophobia, shitty inspirational quotes, and chain-letter inspired bullshit.
Oh, wait. Nevermind.
So the loss of EA from G+ is going to get spun by those with some phantom axe to grind against Google as a sign that their already “silent” social network is going to get silent…er, because the “two people using G+” won’t be able to play Bejeweled.
Seriously, anyone who writes something along those lines should lose their job and apply at McDonalds. But they probably have some embarrassing shit on Facebook that would disqualify them from even that low level of a job.
Although I debated whether or not to lump any Guild Wars 2 post in here at LC, or to create something dedicated to what will certainly be a fountain of content, the stars aligned as stars are sometimes known to do, and The Tyria Chronicles was born.
This Guild Wars 2 site is a collaboration between Slurms of Multiplaying.net fame and myself. We both seem to have been taken by the game enough to want to dedicate an entire space to news, opinion, experiences, fiction, and – most importantly – discussion about Guild Wars 2.
The only problem right now is that the game is still in beta, so there’s not a lot to talk about except the community’s mad scramble to ramp up their usual pre-MMO show filled with character builders, guides, videos, and editorials.
So please add us to your general gaming or GW2 themed RSS reader, and bear with us as we anxiously await the release of Guild Wars 2.
Gaming is a hobby for some, a lifestyle for others, and a job for others still. We spend a lot of time blogging about it, reading about it, talking about it, and that doesn’t even factor in the times we’re actually playing games.
Like all good hobbies, there’s always an opportunity to do something else with our free time. There’s “family” and “friends” to spend time with. I’ve even heard of something called “the outdoors”, which is some kind of unfathomable void that Amazon and Newegg are magically able to traverse (I don’t ask how this voodoo happens). But a hobby is something that sticks out in our minds when we’re not doing it, and when we are, we tend to get lost in it. There’s something about whatever hobby we find our selves drawn to that motivates us to return to that trough again and again.
Since this blog is about “gaming”, I want to know what motivates you in a game. Any game and every game. Some games give you an obvious carrot, while others promise you a carrot. Others ask you to bring your own carrot, those cheap bastards, so each title or genre requires us to seek out different motivators.
I know some people could say “exploring!” or “loot!” or “it gives my life meaning!”, but think deeper than that. What does exploring do to you? What’s does getting that hard to find gear mean to you? Beyond that, how do these games use the tools at their disposal to motivate you, and what could they do to motivate you better when you start to lose interest?
There’s two kinds of bloggers: people who blog for themselves and the enjoyment that they receive from writing and from interacting with the community, and those who are looking to make a name for themselves, either within the community or as a means to an end in order to get a job with a “pro” blogging network.
Starting a personal blog is easy: just sign up for a free account somewhere and get going! But if you plan on setting up a blog as a first step in gamer world domination…well, good luck with that.
A lot of new bloggers believe that part of running a blog “like a business” or, more specifically, “like a brand” is that you have to always be on. By “be on”, I mean that you have to be a crass and shameless self-promoter, 24/7. People aren’t going to flock to your blog just because you’ve decided to put words on the Internet. They have a lot of choices out there, and even if you’ve got some consistently unique points of view and are a master wordsmith, you’re going to need to get people to think about you as more than just “a blogger”. You need promotion, and sometimes that’s where things get a bit screwy.
When I started Levelcapped, my friends and I had gotten together and brainstormed this whole ecosystem of tomfoolery. We set up the WordPress account, and even bought one of those expensive “magazine style themes” that relies on the users to provide images for each and every post. We started small, wanting to stock the site with articles and images, and get everyone writing so that we could have an entire set of authors, each with a different voice, so that all readers could find someone writing something that they could get on board with. Then we’d kick it up a notch and start with give-aways and maybe some visibility at PAX East, with printed shirts and business cards.
Well, the authors fell away like staged booster rockets. The theme was too hefty for one person to maintain. We only had one voice, really, and that visibility thing at PAX? Cheestastic. That place is stocked with bloggers who had the same idea that everyone would want their business cards and would be running up to them to find out what their site was all about. At the end of the day, the floors and tables were littered with abandoned wannabe network promo materials. So to this day, I think I dodged a bullet by falling back on the “personal blog” format.
It’s not that fame and fortune can’t happen to you though blogging, but if you set your foot on that path with the express notion that you’re going to take the world by storm, don’t be afraid to start small. Building a network from the site outward is probably the best option, because you can’t engineer a viral campaign unless you have a sure fire gimmick. In the absence of said gimmick, writing well, writing interesting posts, being thoughtful and respectful and – if you can pull it off – offering unique insight will get people to return again and again. Engage your readers in the comments: it’s a conversation, and your involvement doesn’t end with the post. If you can accomplish all that, then your readers will help spread the word by linking to your posts in their own blogs and re-posting your blog post announcements. If you write about a specific game, thoughtfully and often, you might catch the eyes of their community team. Expand organically, don’t try and force your way through any doors, and you’ll see a wider and stronger base of success over time.