Saturday, January 31, 2009

Five Ways to Fix Broken MMOs

This is in direct response to the Fidgit article "Five reasons MMOs are Broken," and since no one ever reads this blog, I'll probably post this in the comments for the original article as well.

Let me start by saying that I don't play MMOs. I tried Guild Wars, and hated the grind. I'm too cheap for WoW. I'm looking forward to seeing what some of the up and coming MMOs have to offer, especially Star Wars: The Old Republic, but I'm not holding my breath.

5) The problem: subscription fees

The solution: A one time fee, or a subscription. Not both. It is ridiculous to think that for me to get into WoW now, I would have to pay almost $100 for the games, and then have to pay $15 a month to play the game that I already payed for.

4) The problem: aggro

The solution: Don't make the enemy AI so obviously stupid. There is a real world precedent for the strongest one in the team to be a distraction, but at some point the enemy should figure out that they're being played.

3) The problem: button lock

The solution: Get rid of all the freakin' numbers already! You don't hear people in the military referring to anyone as an "E5 Soldier," they say "Sergeant." No one (well, outside of the geek community) says their health is down to 50%, they actually describe how they feel. And is it so much to ask for a minimalist approach to the HUD?

2) The problem: static worlds

The solution: Start with user generated content. I don't necessarily mean importing 3d models and textures, I just mean let the player actually build something. As far as the quests go, don't make them so easy. If it's something that people will have to team up to do, and takes them a very long time, then it's something they can be proud of. Especially if there was another group racing to do the same thing.

1) The problem: you can't play with the people you want to play with

The solution: Is this really a problem? Everyone I know that plays WoW is usually talking to their friends at work about the raid that they're going to do that night. In any case, the best way to make more advanced players want to group with new players is to have some sort of reward for it that can't be achieved any other way, just as teachers do in the real world.

Friday, January 30, 2009


MMO ideas are like (insert your own analogy here) - everybody's got one, and they all... whatever. But anyway, here's mine. Just so my reader (if I have such a thing) is aware, I don't really play MMOs. World of Warcraft is not my thing. There are a few MMOs coming out that look promising, but as of right now, I don't play.

So far I'm calling my idea "Sovereign." Honestly, it wouldn't matter whether it was sci-fi or fantasy. I would like to see a game that encourages people to really group together. None of this "Yeah, well, so-and-so is in my guild, so you don't want to mess with me!" garbage. I mean get together and make a city.

The player would start in an existing city where there is no PvP. There would be NPCs that could do pretty much anything you need - sell, trade, train, whatever. This stuff is pretty normal.

In that city your home would be in a sort of apartment complex. You might give the player an instance of their own sort of home that they could play with a bit, kind of like Playstation Home has now.

What would set this apart though would be the ability to leave the city, go to the PvP area, and build a home. This would be a persistent addition to the game, meaning that even after you log off, the house is still there. Here's where the problem with a persistent world becomes the strength of this game. So, you're not online. Your house is just sitting there, and you're hoping no one attacks it. What's the best plan? Some security would help, and that would definitely be in the game, but the best way is to find someone who can defend it. And it would take more than one guy to have it always defended, so you'd end up with this small community of people all helping each other out.

It would of course be best for that community if each member had something more to contribute than just a sword (or whatever weapon they have). The community should be self-sustaining. Forget the NPC's. Let the players have professions that help each other. Soon those communities would become cities and maybe even countries. Alliances would be formed, wars would start. I'm sure you see where I'm going with this.

I would also allow for players to become some sort of gypsy, nomad, mercenary, traveling salesman, or other type of character that doesn't necessarily have a home. Maybe a vehicle for a home. Not everyone feels like being friendly.

Okay, so now the weakness in my plan. It would only work if there were a LOT of people in the game. No, we don't need 11 million like WoW, but there would have to be quite a few, and it would probably have to be worldwide so someone can watch your house at night.

The technical requirements might be a bit of a pain, but not impossible. We already have games where we can build our own stuff, and we already have vehicles. It would also require a lot of professions. A bunch of mini-games would have to be thrown in for those professions, like raising livestock, mining, that sort of thing.

Anyway, the benefits of this kind of game would mostly be the sense of community that would develop. The other would be that players would have a sense of obligation to continue playing on a regular basis, because other players depend on them.

So there's the overall plan for an MMO. I have plenty of ideas for some of the little details, but they're things that I'd like to see in any MMO, so I'll save them for another post.

Technically, I'm Overweight

Yeah, that's me. The fat guy. Oh, wait. No I'm not! Anyone who's ever seen me would describe me as the tall skinny guy, but according to my BMI, I'm overweight. 6' 2" and 200 lbs is a BMI of 25.68. And anything over 25.00 is overweight.

Now, I did notice the little disclaimer after my results, "BMI can not determine between the overweight and the more muscular." But here's the thing. I'm not that muscular either.

So, to use what is probably an outdated phrase, what gives? Honestly, I have no idea.

I'm not going to get into all of my opinions on the types of models and actresses out there. That's been argued way too many times already. It's one thing for a couple of industries to tell us that we need to be super thin, but it's another entirely for this calculator to be used on every last one of us. I had never even considered it until I found out that my life insurance would be higher because of it. It just seems to me that something so fundamentally flawed shouldn't be so commonly used.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Narnia Lives On!

Okay, I know my posts are totally random, but whatever.

I love the Narnia books. They are probably some of the best I have ever read. Sure, they're written for a younger audience, but they don't insult your intelligence, and they manage to make you think of things that don't even seem to be in the writing. C.S. Lewis was probably one of the smartest people to ever walk this earth. His religious writings are definitely worth a read as well.

So I was not happy when Disney dropped the Narnia franchise. I didn't really care about Prince Caspian. The book wasn't that great. It was mostly just to bridge The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. For some reason, Disney decided that Caspian didn't make nearly enough money (It grossed about twice what it cost), and they wouldn't do The Dawn Treader.

Wait, what? No, bad! Bad! The Dawn Treader was the best book of all of them! This is bad!

But, apparently Fox has decided to pick it up. This makes me very happy.

By the way, for those of you who are wondering how I could be happy about Fox taking over something after what they did to Firefly, the Fox 2000 movie company is not the same as Fox TV. And Fox TV has been kind enough to bring us Terminator and Dollhouse anyway.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Why I haven't even played the new Tomb Raider game

I'm seeing all over the place how one of the most famous names in video games is having a lot of trouble lately. There's a rather good article at gamesetwatch about making Lara Croft more female friendly, and another (from the other end of the spectrum) about making it an M rated game.

Well, I can tell you three very specific reasons that my wife and I didn't buy the last game. They're the same reasons we still haven't finished the one before that.

One - Give me the freakin' camera already! I can't stand having the camera yanked around with the excuse of "cinematography". I'm all for making things as pretty as possible, but I don't know how many times I've been lining up a jump and the camera moved. And in case the developers haven't noticed, that makes the controls a little difficult.

Two - There's only one solution for the puzzles. The player's not allowed to come up with a solution, just to figure out what solution the designer wanted.

Three - the difficulty is not consistent. This is why my wife gets frustrated. She makes it through most of the game without having to stress much of anything, and then she gets to a boss fight, and suddenly she can't get past it because she doesn't know some combo move or another.

I'm sure you've noticed that I've linked to the same list repeatedly. None of these complaints are new. They're all at “Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie!” This isn't some obscure list, it's published annually at Gamasutra (the site for the game industry, for those who don't know). All the designers need to do is read what their peers have said.

Personally, I like the Tomb Raider games, there's just a few things that make the game almost unplayable. It's not that we don't like the story, or the look of the game, or any of that. It's just a few design tweaks. I hope to see the Tomb Raider games keep going for a long time.

Friday, January 23, 2009

I am Superman!

Apparently I'm Superman. Or, well, a rip off of him... Wait a second. Uh, anyway, see for yourself.

Noble and true, you are the hero other heroes aspire to be. You are a natural leader, selfless and kind, who will put the lives of others above your own, and are steadfast in your pursuit of justice.

Take the quiz!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

And There It Was

One of my ideas from my last post actually showed up right after I posted it. Yes, I know that means someone has worked on it for years already, but it was nice to see it. The characters in the new Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe game actually take damage, specifically tearing their clothing when they get hit. It's not much of an indicator of your health - you still have to watch the health bar at the top of the screen, but it's an improvement. I like it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bye bye Linux. You'll be missed.


This is really going to tick off one of my old mission friends, since he's a huge Ubuntu supporter, but I no longer run it. I have been using it for more than five years on a couple different machines, and it's even saved me a lot of headaches at times.

But here's the problem - If something goes wrong, I don't have a clue what to do. Yeah, I know, I can do a quick Google search and find the solution most times (most anyway), and the Linux community is always really helpful, but I really don't have time to fight with it. If something happens in Windows, I just fix it. It's pretty rare that I can't find the solution on my own. Linux assumes that you love the command line. Sure, Ubuntu does a really good job of putting the GUI right out there and making it easy, but like I said, if something goes wrong, I'm up a creek without a paddle.

So when Windows 7 showed up, I decided to give it a try. It was a testament to how little I used Ubuntu when I found that I only had one file on the computer, and I didn't even need it. Now, just to be clear, Windows 7 isn't the reason I dropped Linux, it just happened to come at the right time. I was ready to put XP back on that machine (we won't even get into why I'm not using the Vista cd that came with the laptop).

I'm still a big supporter of open source software. I love, and GIMP is freakin' awesome. If you're not using Firefox, you're really missing out (all though IE8 that came with Windows 7 is pretty impressive). But I need an OS that I understand, and that I know how to fix quickly when something weird happens.

And just in case you're wondering, Windows 7 is pretty sweet.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Crazy Kids!

I just uploaded a huge Flickr set of pictures of the kids. These were included in the "Monster Book of Monsters" that we made for Genae for Christmas.