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New computer in place

September 19, 2008 Comments off

Finally after a long wait my new computer has arrived and I am in the progress of setting up selected pieces of my old environment. Selected pieces, since there is always some junk that I cannot be bothered to transfer to the new machine from the backups made.

Step by step this means I am getting back into doing stuff in a more ergonomic position, larger screen and better hardware under the hood than my laptop. Good times.

Categories: Uncategorized

The influence of history – designers and gamers

June 29, 2008 Comments off

Raph Koster posted an interesting blog entry related to the latest discussions that popped up regarding the Richard Bartle transcript and the whole discussion that followed that.

Or rather, the blog entry and the comments that followed makes this a quite interesting piece, at least to me. The discussions there led me to a few interesting articles and presentations:

However, if you are mainly interested in finding out which MMO or other types of multiuser games that are fun and exciting, reading all history and influences will not give you much. And that is a difference that will likely to continue to create controversies like the last one regardign Richard Bartle’s statements.

To use an analogy with cars:

Most users of cars mainly care about rather obvious design choices. Does it feel good to drive, does it have a CD or MP3 player, does it have GPS navigator? Does it consume much fuel? Does it have good safety features? How many cup holders does it have? Which colours is it available in?

You can find drivers that swear by the latest Audi A6, by Toyota Camrys etc – do not dare to talk bad about my choice of car! If the speedometer uses the traditional eddy-current or uses a digital numeric display instead can be a major issue. In the realm of personal vehicles, cars in its current form (often 4 wheels, a couple of seats, steering wheel, combustion engine etc) is what is in the plausible scope for most users.

Look then at the designers of vehicles, what makes them tick? Do they care that their new car model now comes in 4 new colours and that a GPS navigator may be included? Do they that there are 4 cup holders in that car model? They might care, but that is because it is their job to understand what the drivers want or need. That probably does not make them excited and rush to work in the morning.

Now, if they were working on whole new ways to control the car, entirely or partially different types of engines, vehicles that do not use wheels etc – that would probably excite them more. After all, most cars although they have certainly more and nicer features for the driver, they are still in essence similar to the T-Fords and many other personal vehicles from almost a century ago.

And designers might have the view on vehicles or personal vehicles as the area of interest, while drivers are mainly focused on cars – different scope, different perceptions and views.

Categories: Uncategorized

The end of the blog year – game status

June 22, 2008 Comments off

Today on June 22nd is the last day of my first year blogging.

One of my first blog entries when I started was what games I play.  City of Heroes/Villains is still going strong and right now I do not see any end to that. The other games were Everquest 2 and Lord of the Ring Online, neither which I play any longer. LOTRO was even one of the titles I spent the shortest time with, not even playing 2 months even though I had paid for the 6 month preorder.

Everquest 2 is also a thing of the past which I do not plan to go back to.

Tabula Rasa is a game I have played a lot in this period also, although at the moment I do not log in often and play. A few games that I tried to revisit were Anarchy Online, EVE Online, Vanguard, Guild Wars and Dungeon & Dragons Online, but neither stuck with me.

And the latest that I left are of course Age of Conan. Fantasy games do just not seem to have any staying power for me. Thus games that I look forward to are more along the line of Champions Online, Jumpgate Evolution, Stargate Worlds, Blackstar and The Agency to mention a few.

When I started this blog I had set a goal for myself that I should write at least once per week, except perhaps when on vacation. Including this entry I have had 139 posts during this past year.

A big thank you to all of you who happen to read my ramblings from time to time. It is nice to know that there a few people out there who occasionally find it worthwhile to read 🙂

Categories: Uncategorized

Big Brother is watching you

June 19, 2008 Comments off

Normally I just stick to MMOG related posts here, but this time I felt I had to put in a more political entry.

Yesterday evening the Swedish parliament voted for a law that allows the government to monitor and eavesdrop on all information passing Swedish borders – that can be email, web access, chat, phone – everything that passes through cables.

They do not need any suspicion of crime to do this. And given the nature of the internet even traffic with the originator and the destination in Sweden could possibly pass the borders on its way and thus also be picked up.

Despite that the current government consists of generally liberal parties who have claimed to stand up for invidivual rights, privacy and integrity they have still forced through this law and actively worked for that the individual members of parliament to vote according to the party and government view here.

It only required that 4 members of parliament from the ruling parties to vote against it or abstain to stop this law. Only 2 of them did that.

And to add to this it seems that the department that has been set to perform this task (FRA) has already been doing some of this, without legal support for it – until now. That is not encouraging information, if they have bypassed the law or the intention of the law earlier.

The web site for one of the campaigns against the law is here. It is in Swedish, but have a link that generates a translated page through automatic translation. Which means English-speaking people may understand parts of it…

I am disappointed with the politicians I helped to vote to power today.

Categories: Uncategorized

Dropped the gallery

June 16, 2008 Comments off

I have decided to drop my character gallery page. It was not really reflecting what I actually played – characters I rarely played was there, while some I do play was not up there at all. The actual content on the page was quite limited.

I will add some other pages later with other themes and more content, but for now the character gallery is removed.

Categories: Uncategorized

Age of Conan – a question of millions

May 13, 2008 2 comments

Funcom put out an announcement with some numbers on beta and web site interest for Age of Conan – 1 million beta signups and 5 million unique visitors to the web site in 2008.

1 million signups does not mean there were that many in beta, just that 1 million applied for it. And 5 million visitors might not mean 5 million persons, only 5 million unique sources which is a bit different.

Still, the numbers do indicate that they have managed to get a lot of people intersted at some point and that they might have some good pre-order numbers in some regions at least.

I do hope it works out well for Funcom here, for three reasons:

* I do like to see more non-US developers succeed in the Western market, that should be good for diversity.
* While it is Yet Another Fantasy game, it is a different fantasy setting than most of the other MMORPGs in that area – again good for diversity and choice
* It has been fun to play, the little time I had to try it out

Remains to be seen at what state the performance and stability will be at launch and what other challenges may pop up.

Teaming: Why City of Heroes beats Tabula Rasa

May 11, 2008 2 comments

In the past 9 months there has been two MMOGs I have been playing regularly – City of Heroes/Villains and Tabula Rasa. The points I wanted to bring up here are applicable for other games also, but I have taken the two games I played much recently as the examples.

The short summary is that teaming in City of Heroes/Villains (CoH/CoV) makes a good job of avoiding obstacles to set up a team and have a bit of fun. Tabula Rasa (TR) has still some way to go here.

1. Team-oriented content:
In CoH/CoV everything and nothing is teamoriented. Almost all content can be played solo, but the same content is scaled up depending on team size and difficulty setting for the mission owner. More enemies and more difficult enemies is the result for larger teams. This is for instances only, but since almost all content is instance-based that could be said to be the general state.

In TR a lot of the content is on outdoor area, with some instances accesible through each outdoor area basically. The instances are designed for small teams primarily, but have some ability to scale, although this is more subtle than CoH/CoV. Also the control points in the outdoor areas are also places that benefits from having teams. Although it is stirctly not necessary to form teams, it generally requires multiple players – unless the player level is (sometimes substantially) higher than the enemies. If you get into the higher levels, the requirement to team even in the outdoor areas also becomes a bit more common.

Both have lots of content for teams, although CoH/CoV has the edge here with allowing everything to be team-oriented, while TR is almost forcing teams for some content.

2. Team requirements:
Both games are quite good in that they do generally not require a certain team set-up, e.g. “the holy trinity”. This makes it easier to find characters/players that fit and they are both better than many other MMOGs in that area.
Still, CoH/COV has the edge with the sidekick/exemplar functionality. While the actual level span that works for a team is quite small in the game the sidekick/exemplar functionality more than makes up for that limitation. This makes it possible to transform another players effective level to be quite close (same or 1 level below) to a player character they pair up with in the team.
Which means that almost anyone can be invited to a team. There is a split where heroes and villains cannot team together in most places of the game though.

In TR the usable level range is quite forgiving for team compared to some other games, so everyone does not have to be very close in level. However, without any sidekick/exemplar-like functionality there is still a shorter level span in practice for teaming.

3. Team content experience:
In CoH/CoV most instanced areas are built with with a few common building blocks and players become all too familiar with those. Some of the story content is quite good, but requires reading a number of text “clues”, which may be received at times when there is not much opportunity to read them.
In TR the instanced areas are much more varied and the environment itself a quite enjoyable experience and quite good-looking in comparision. The story is also more accessible and visible in TR. There are also text here to enhance the story experience, but this is generally associated with the missions taken.
Both games can take advantage of some scripted encounters and added allies in the missions.
In this are TR is the overall winner.

4. Mission re-play and co-play:
So bundling up a number of people to take on some team content missions, how does that work with what everyone in the team has done before or not?
In CoH/CoV everyone can participate in the mission content, regardless of whether they actually have the mission or not, or whether they have done it before or not. It is automatically shared with all in the team, including progess, objectives and rewards. Which means in practice that whether people have the same missions or are at the same step in a series of missions does not matter so much.
In TR, missions are more traditional. Most missions can only be played through once. If you join to play in an instance where you have already been, you do not get to participate in the story progress other than what you may see as an outside observer. This dimishes the experience unless you are all at the same page. Missions can be shared, but only if those mission could have been picked up directly anyway from the mission giver.
And what maybe is worse, many instances seem to get into “bug infestation mode” if your team has members that have partially completed the missions available while some others haven’t. The game logic seems to have trouble handling that, often resulting in some frustraing experiences trying to work around the limitations in some way.
Also, if people get disconnected from the game and have to log back in, the state if the instance and the mission may not be synchronized and they only way to be able to complete it is to reset the instance and start over again.
It requires everyone to be on the same page mission wise and also to potentially have some spare time and good relations between people if disconnects starts to happen. These are the most frustrating aspects of TR teaming in my opinion.

5. Looking for teams:
CoH/CoV has a pretty good search tool to find team members, which makes it easy to look for potential members and to “announce” if you are interested in teaming.
TR has an LFG chat channel, by default in a separat chat tab. There is a new LFG tool on its way in a future release, but right now CoH/CoV is simply much better in this area.

This past week has been a double XP week for teaming in Tabula Rasa – you get twice the normal XP in teams, which was already better than solo. Obviously this is to encourage people to team up more. Personally I do not care much for the exact amount of XP,but rather the other points mentioned here. Less obstacles and inconveniences will make for better and more enjoyable teaming, not more XP.

Chronicles of Spellborn changed release to autumn 2008

April 11, 2008 Comments off

It seems that the Spellborn people have found a potential publisher for the North American market, who wants to get some lead time for the project – 6 months.
So it seems they have decided to move the release date to accomodate this. So at the earliest the game will be released some time in October. In the meantime, the intend to use the P-word (not the people, the other one) and then do a concurrent release for both Europe and North America.

Perhaps that is better use of resources to coordinate marketing and release efforts. Or perhaps they think it may hurt American sales in case the game does not do too well in Europe and it would be less risky to do it all at the same time. Or they need more time and this is just another way to get a reason for it.

I cannot help but to think what the European (and Asian also) publisher Frogster thinks of the whole matter. Are they just happy going along with the changes? They have been signed up for quite a while now and it adds another delay to their schedule possibly.

And who is the publisher? SOE? EA is probably focusing on Warhammer Online which likely is released around the same time. Blizzard only do their own thing. NCSoft seems to focus more on internal projects and this might also potentially collide with Aion efforts.

I guess it is not any of the publishers of the various Korean-style F2P MMORPGs at least.

And perhaps not going head to head with Funcom and Age of Conan befoe summer is a good thing for them on European side. Only time will tell.

Virginworlds 100

January 29, 2008 Comments off

The Virginworlds podcast has reached a big milestone now, with show #100 being released. I am a big fan of the podcast and the web site in general. Brent provides some quite enjoyable podcasts on a wide variety of what may be included in “the MMORPG genre” and has a nice list of related news items. And all that with a clean web site design which makes it easy to read and browse.

The first time I learned about the web site was in the EQ2 Daily forums, as a I recall when Brent “The prognosticator” had made some reviews of a couple of different podcasts – my memory is a bit fuzzy here though. After that I started to visit the web site and also picked up the podcasts when they started, although I did not become a regular listener until sometime in their late 20s I believe.

I have only listened to a bit more than 1 hour of this 3 hour show at the time of writing, I like it so far. And people looked at me strangly on the underground when laughing and smiling at the montage – can’t have that…;)

I am sure the rest of the show will be great as well, so do pick it up and listen to it!

Heading home

July 14, 2007 Comments off

Today is the last day of the vacation in Iceland, early tomorrow morning the flight goes back home. No specific activities scheduled for today, just strolling around in lovely Reykjavik and doing nothing pretty much – along with the rest of the population that sits outside in the street cafes/bars, enjoying the sun, a cold beer or some coffee.

The weather has been sunny and nice pretty much the whole time, with some shorter exceptions. Definitely better than I excepted, neither my rain jacket nor the umbrella has been utilized. Iceland is a lovely country and many parts of the scenery would have been nice even with a bit bad weather. There will definitely be a future visit to Iceland again. It is a bit pricey though.

Nevertheless, it will be good to be in a proper home again rather than a hotel room.

Categories: Uncategorized