Saturday, May 22, 2010
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
The OLPC is an education program wrapped in the engineering challenge of building, deploying and supporting a laptop that can handle ownership by children often in developing countries (and often in more rural areas than regular laptop owners) and costs only $100.
OLPC espouses five core principles:The first XO's started arriving at work this past week from the "give one, get one" program, and has elicited a lot of excitement. Why I think this is game worthy is to highlight 1) the effect large numbers of new entrants has had already on video games, and 2) the libraries already being developed for games for the XO.
1. Child ownership
2. Low ages. The hardware and software are designed for elementary school children aged 6-12.
5. Free and open source
Firstly, it's important to remember how MMO's changed, let alone video consoles in the late 80's, when games developed in Asia started being ported to the West. As the games moved, so did the players' interests and attitudes. In more recent years, the effect of Asian based players on MMO's like GuildWars and WoW has had a important stamp on the way MMO's are launched and developed. The semi-niche status of MMO's and even video games in the early 90's has long been over. Partly I think because of the success of cultures mixing and sharing a common interest.
So enter the XO, which is being sent to Haiti, Rwanda, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Mongolia. Mexico. Peru and the US are also being planned to have large numbers released. I like to speculate on what will happen with formerly uninterested or disadvantaged children and teens getting into computing. It will not solve all the world's ills, but it will hopefully help with education and community economic development long term. As far as games go, there are several initiatives underway to port games to the XO or to develop little apps specifically on the device.
If you reflect on this or if you were even around for the move from the Commodore 64 to the Apple ][ to the Mac and Win 3.2 you will realize how big this could be for gaming. Huge numbers of new players, developing for themselves and by other people games on a unique, ubiquitous platform should have some effect somewhere on the video game ecosystem. If you disagree, consider the novelty and popularity of the Nintendo DS and how many titles it has and how they have outsold so many generic PC titles. Just because it's an odd platform does not mean there can't be originality or innovation.
I think OLPC is a great education program, and I hope it will help the children and teens who receive the device. And while it may not seem an immediate commercial opportunity, I can see some companies developing titles or portals accessible by the OLPC (e.g. Dwarf Fortress). And maybe more realistically, I can see the kids building and sharing games for themselves. And that will an effect on gaming.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
I think the lesson is finding in your games small features which are cognitively simple to use, that are limited in power and effect, but are surprisingly popular and maybe are even used in an innovated way by players -- these are the things you want to seize on for future development. Those are in effect, player created designs. Your user base is frantically telling you to develop something with those small mini-games or features they are wasting time on. And if the feature is small and already supported you possibly have a much technically easier way of integrating it into your existing service or developing it into a new game on its own. You at the very least have a much easier way of introducing and teaching it to players, who already will be familiar with the intention, function, and context of the feature design. But woe to you if you screw it up, since you will be disappointing players in a double way.
This kind of iterative approach of experimenting in games is something really worth thinking about, but there's a bad side as well. The other side is the danger of exhaustion. You can take what was once a cherished, unique player created design and drive it into the ground. Sadly, I have to use SWG as an example. I say that with regret, because I don't think it's fair to kick that title any more than it has received already. However, it's made one mistake more or less recently worth noting.
I resubbed to SWG in June (along with UO) and I enjoyed a lot of of the expansions and fundamental changes. One problem I noticed immediately, however, was lack of inventory space. It's a funny design -- players need a capacity to collect things, and they accrue in power and complexity as player avatars the more stuff they hoard. In WoW and newer MMO's you can only unlock more inventory by progressing in level, but not so in the sandboxy SWG. The dilemma is that the game has increased in inventory challenge as much as it has simplified in character class and other mini-game (e.g. most sadly, the nerfing of crafting).
The collection mini-game in SWG is suffering from inflation both in virtual and in game design terms. The game could be argued to now be solely about collection. What was once a neat side game of collecting pieces to fit a final objective (just like WoW or EQ2 etc.). has now lead to an inflation such that the bonuses themselves are just inventory space. Let's recap. In SWG, the first example of collecting objects to make a rare item was the Firespray KSE blueprints (Boba Fett's starship) that Shipwrights could create. Then "crafting kits" were devised, which were rare drops that players ached for. These were ultimately only new pieces of furniture, but they were new, rare and so highly prized. With the NGE and the Trials of Obi-Wan, the whole expansion was designed around collection. Players could earn small items for buffing or furniture, while with end bosses in difficult instances they could gain great items. At any rate, this design has continued to now include socket crafting -- I think first introduced in DAoC circa 2000? post-Darkness Falls. So we now have in SWG the following item sets:
- Firespray KSE
- crafting kits
- Mustafar items
- socketing/bonus ability items ("Reverse Engineering")
- Treasure chests
- New chapter 7/8 items
I think the thesis at SOE was even if new, lowbie players pick up junk, the carrot of giving them a better item if they keep collecting would be an other motivator for them to keep playing. The problem is the game is overwhelming suffering from inflation. It's a very bad overuse of a neat and I think temporary design.
Games that evolve, that present small and unique designs which players cherish or react against badly often lead to very interesting options. Let's not forget, that is how PvP began. But when you take a good idea and repeat it without a thought of the impact and long term effect... well it's like open PvP -- there are things that have a tipping point which designers should respect. It may not be immediately evident, but it will come. Exhausting your designs, exhausts your players' goodwill. And no game needs to do that.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Unimpressed? Well Jeremy Soule will be in attendance at the Seattle concert (Jan.24). That would be interesting, inasmuch as I've enjoyed a lot of his tracks and it might be worthwhile to hear him speak. Pieces from several of his scores will be played. Regardless, this is not your average, run-O-the-mill Holiday Pops and Brass programming. I might attend. Here are the games they'll be playing selections from:
PLAY! A Video Game Symphony is a Symphony world-tour featuring music from blockbuster video games. The music is performed by some of the finest, world-class orchestras and choirs. All concerts take place in classy, prestigious venues. Graphics on large screens suspended above the orchestra accompany the scores, highlighting memorable moments from the video games.
The concert tour started off in North America on May 27, 2006 in Chicago, followed by a sold out show in Europe. PLAY! is embarking on a world tour.
- FINAL FANTASY®
- SUPER MARIO BROS.®
- SUPER MARIO WORLD®
- METAL GEAR SOLID®
- BLUE DRAGON®
- LOST ODYSSEYTM
- SONIC THE HEDGEHOGTM
- SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUSTM
- THE LEGEND OF ZELDA®
- CHRONO TRIGGERTM
- CHRONO CROSSTM
- WORLD OF WARCRAFT®
- KINGDOM HEARTSTM
- SILENT HILL®
- BATTLEFIELD 1942TM
- THE ELDER SCROLLS® III: MORROWINDTM
- STELLA DEUSTM
- DAYTONA USATM
- THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICKTM
- THE ELDER SCROLLS® IV: OBLIVIONTM
Friday, November 2, 2007
I haven't been following any of the hype or expectations around Hellgate: London. But enough people who seem to know something about gaming were looking forward to it, so I gave it a try. Apparently, I tried day of launch. Well, here we go with my results. No background, just user experience. Don't care I couldn't subscribe to multi-player day of launch, or it was locked down etc. This is mostly from solo play and then a few hours from online play last night.
It seems to have 3 problems. See screenie below. This is after around 5 mins of solo non-online play with 2 zonings, some combat, log in/out, etc. Imagine after an hour. Well, you can do the math from the possible results below.
This is a silly freeware tool, but I don't have access any more to a real workbench to inspect how Hellgate runs. At any rate, three modules didn't free memory after a graceful exit. Which was a "well-duh" moment, since the app runs very very poorly on my rig, which stood up well to LotRO and a few others like the fun of OrangeBox. On all lowest of low settings there's terrible lag for me in solo non-online play.
For some strange reason, there's no documentation on how to group, how to look for groups, or even how to chat. Mostly because I still have not found how to unhide the chat log box. However, a brief forum search showed I wasn't alone. There's strange graphic lag in inventory, with vendors, poor rendering in the skills window... I can forgive graphics if it's my fault (which was my first impression), but when there's no chat bar... Come on.
Borked Linear Quests
So an other final discovery has ended my HG:L play. Like a lot of new MMO's, there's an over-arching background narrative, hallmark-like quest which delivers characters between zones and introduces them to the world. In my case, and a few others, we got stopped at this point. After completing the fight with the boss, there was a new quest giver that was needed to be met to complete that task. Normal herald-quest like stuff. Unfortunately, when the guy is not available you are stuck. Normal fix procedure, and recommended, is to abandon the quest. Logic dictates you can repeat the whole boss encounter again, or just that herald task, to avoid sploiting on boss loot etc. Imagine. Reboot, relog. Nothing happened.
Thus, myself and other folks are left with no way to advance. The hallmark quests unlock the next zones, and the quest needs to be reset and probably complete redone. The issue here is HOW CAN YOU RELEASE A GAME WITH A ONE WAY DOOR? How can a company release a title with an effective doorway which locks behind gamers once they leave? It's not as if we did something even wrong -- it just broke. Regardless, we literally can not continue the title in multiplayer until it's fixed. Or unless we reroll. I mean, COME ON!
The only player invented recommendation is to group with someone else who has not done the quest and hope it works. Unfortunately, the lack of a chat window, and known mechanic to group makes that also rather difficult. So, I went off to watch a rerun of the Muppets and was more entertained.
Flagship's crack deployment project management
Oh, and "Tiggs" of SWG fame is in charge of the community. So, yeah. Enjoy. Yeesh.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
BBC Radio 4 has just launched the first in a new radio series dramatizing the Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency books. They have the producers from the last HHGTTG team and a Hobbit from the LotR movies. Ok it's only Pippin (Billy Boyd). From the site:
Featuring a star-studded cast with Harry Enfield in the lead role, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency will be produced by the same award-winning team that made the conclusion to The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. Harry is joined by Lord of the Rings actor Billy Boyd, Fawlty Towers' Andrew Sachs [Manuel!], The Golden Compass' Jim Carter and Peepshow's Olivia Colman.So, um yeah.