Tighten Up Those Graphics

tighten_up_those_graphicsI’d like to take a few moments to discuss “The Tester”, this new reality show being put out by Sony and the good folks behind Flavor of Love. By way of establishing my bona fides to comment on this issue, I’ll reveal that I’ve been working in software quality assurance (i.e. testing), mostly for video games, since May of 2005. I’ve worked at publishers and developers both in America and abroad, and I’ve worked with literally hundreds of game testers. I think I can speak with some authority when I say that holding a talent contest to select a game tester is meaningless, deceptive, and foolish on a level that’s usually reserved for political talk show commentaries.

Come with me now to press release-land, and I’ll point out a few interesting landmarks:

Continue reading Tighten Up Those Graphics

An End to XP

I was thinking again about the upcoming 40K MMO, and what I might do if I were designing it. One interesting sort of design question that I’ve been pondering is whether you could get rid of levels in an RPG, or in an MMO at all, for that matter.

Levels are a nice way to measure and reward player progression steadily. As long as players do stuff for which you give them XP (or whatever your leveling currency is), they will eventually level up, along with that nice heroin-shot-in-the-vein feeling that always accompanies a good ding. Levels also allow players to easily compare characters against one another, and they are a handy way to gate content, for example by only allowing characters of a certain level into various content.

Still, levels feel awfully artificial in the context of most fiction, and it’s the fiction that draws in people like me. Worse, XP in particular lends itself to grinding, that soul-sucking treadmill that so many gamers put themselves on in the course of turning their fun into work. I was pondering what you might replace levels and/or XP with, at least in the context of 40K, and began thinking about campaigns. Nobody talks about how many levels a Marine captain has gained, but they often mention how old they are. This doesn’t really have enough reward for player effort; you can’t get old any faster or slower than other people, and you gain age even if you don’t play at all. The other thing that often arises in a discussion of a marine’s history is what campaigns they have served in. Ding! Continue reading An End to XP

And Speaking of Inspiration

As I’ve noted elsewhere, I’m an idea man, but I work way better when I’m riffing off of the flawed ideas of others than when I’m trying to invent my own stuff out of whole cloth.

I haven’t finished Dead Rising yet; the whole mall full of zombies and ways to kill them thing sounded awesome, but those bastards at Capcom decided to put in that crazy time limit for saving all the survivors and getting all the story events to appear. If you just run around killing zombies with all the cool shit in the mall, you won’t lose the game, but you won’t really “win” either, at least as I measure it.

Ok, yes, I’m a little bit crazy about collecting everything and getting the best ending and all that and shut up I’m perfectly normal I just like getting the most out of my games.

I imagine that this is the designers’ stab at having you feel some tension and excitement, as defending yourself is actually pretty easy once you’re leveled up. If your zombie-killing capacity is nearly unlimited, the only way that Capcom can could inject some kind of scarcity to limit you is to give you a scarcity of time instead of, say, weapons. But this means that you don’t get to run around the mall stocking up on chainsaws and fireaxes and shredding crowds of undead; instead you just have to grab those things when you happen upon them while you’re sprinting like a camera-laden Jesse Owens to try and kill your way to the next survivor before he cowers himself to death. Continue reading And Speaking of Inspiration

Ordo Cartographicus – Resource Distribution

This isn’t really much of a post, but I’ve been mucking around with the DoW2 map editor to see if I can use it to work on my design chops – “Christ, another blogger and/or game tester who wants to be a game designer?” Yes. Sorry – and I figured I may as well share any results in a public forum.

One of the early things I like to do when I’m working up a map is put down power and requisition points. In fact, it’s the third thing I do, right behind placing bases and positioning victory points. However, it’s occurred to me that I don’t really know how many of each is a good balance. I suppose more points will equal more resources and a faster fight, but too many would lead to clutter and imbalance. With these concerns in mind, I decided to have a look at Relic’s official maps for the game.

The short version is that for 1v1 maps Relic likes 4 or 5 of each, usually with a bit more requisition if you don’t feel like keeping it identical; the 6 requisition points in Green Tooth Gorge are a bit of an outlier. For 2v2, they like 5 of each, maybe 6 for a crowded slugfest map (p.s. I hate you in all your evil forms, Calderis Refinery). For 3v3 Relic likes 6 of each, with 5 in a map that needs lots of room to maneuver and 7 in a really big open map or another ugly sluggathon. Ugly but complete chart of data follows:

1v1 Maps Power Req
Green Tooth Gorge 4 6
Siwal Frontier 4 5
Calderis Refinery 4 4
Legis High Stratum 4 4
Leviathan Hive 5 4
Outer Reaches 4 5
Green Tooth Jungle 4 5
2v2 Maps Power Req
Calderis Refinery 6 6
Medean Cliff Mines 5 5
Golgotha Depths 5 5
Ruins of Argus 5 5
3v3 Maps Power Req
Angel Gate 6 7
Typhon Arena 5 5
Argus Desert Gate 6 6
Calderis Refinery 6 6
Tiber Outpost 6 6
Capital Spire 5 6
Siccaris Plateau 6 7

Ante Carto, Nullum Mundus