Saturday, February 25, 2006

STARTLING REVELATIONS

So, I watched a couple of movies tonight that I had not seen before. Two of them were fairly decent, one is the Greatest Film I Have Ever Seen, at least for the next few days. I ended up formulating a bit stronger a problem I have with games as a result. Video games, as a whole, have little variety in their content.

Too, too often, a game boils down to "kill the other guy," or "get to other side of the map, with killable and dangerous things along the way." Even in the casual set, there are some alchemical formulae that I have not studied which form the basis for most of their games. The independents largely create new examples of dead genres. There's a place for this, sure (and I should stop bitching and make something New and Wonderful, I realize), but not when it's the only thing.

I can understand some of it. Video games are a very young medium. We're really only developing structuralist theories of games now. Further, video games are difficult to make. Artsy types who might come up with stuff meet the technical limitations of making the computer do stuff. Some large portion of programmer types don't give a fuck about the artsy types and what they like. I don't mean no offense to them, they just prefer being creative in other ways. And in the Bigger Business part, it's expensive and dangerous to try out staggeringly new ground. None of this is new.

But, why do we gamey types seem to limit our concept of the possible emotional reactions games can produce? Exhiliration, defeat, OMGFRUSTRATION, relief, triumph, guilt... all these wonderful, active emotions. These are good things to work with (except for frustration, but that's unavoidable in some respects). But what else can we do?



Also, Wild Zero is an amazing goddamn movie. It's a Japanese zombie/romance movie with rock and roll provided by Guitar Wolf. It's ridiculous and I love it as a result.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

LFG FAFNIR PST

Over on Raph Koster's blog, I made some negative comments about his olde Beowulf quest. As far as Massive quests go, it's really damn good. It exhibits the same basic elements as our current quests, except that it's steeped in Germanic Lore and the foozle killing is automagically accomplished by getting an almost comically long succession of Magic Swords. The technology of MUDs permit some things to happen better, as it's easier to define spaces in MUDs. There's no illusion of continuity to uphold, so it's easier to implement mazes, bellies of giant whales, and Grendel's Lair. My problem is that it's still an EPIC (groan) event waiting for everyone to stumble on. This isn't about hiding content from the vast, unwashed masses. I've only been part of the vast, unwashed masses in every massive I've ever played. I don't have the stick-to-it-iveness to get the final ding. This colors my opinion slightly, as I can't speak first hand about Molten Core or Zul'Gurub or wherever the hell else the kids are playing these days in World of Warcraft. I can still say they sound remarkably boring after the first time, and the novelty of fighting a Very Big Monster by playing your class just how it was meant to be played has worn off. Or I could be bitter and antagonistic! That's definitely possible.

So, I'm going to be positive for once. I'll say what sort of quests I -do- want to see. First and overarching all my further tyrannical and improbable demands is this: All quests must have some real, tangible aspect of the world that can not be easily achieved any other way, mechanically. Compelling storylines, the fattest of loots, and moral rectitude come second to that demand. An example of a quest that can repeat and still fill this requirement would be being a mail carrier. Every town would have a postmaster. He gives out quests to carry mailbags around to other postmasters. The actual effect of this would be players getting their mail. This specific proposal has flaws, as I well realize. Player mail is kinda really unimportant, as we have these /tells and /guilds and /wallabies. But it results in a material change to the world and produces a repeatable quest structure.

We also need to reconsider our relation to one-off quests. These would have to be capable of supporting a large number of players, or otherwise have an effect on a large number of players who have options at that point. For example, there can be the Tomb of the Vile Necromancer, which has all sorts of gold and jewels. Deep down in the tomb, there's a big, valuable, enticing gem. Some wise player will one day decide to steal it. Promptly, all hell breaks loose. Undead monsters of all kinds and colors will rise up in the area, involving the poor passersby. Quests that arise as a result can include return the gem, get the gem out of there, help the undead, help the village of Monsterbait, etc.

As an aside, I do realize that my quests drawn out here suck. There's maybe a good five minutes of brainstorming behind them. I've been spending a lot longer on the underlying ideas, I swear.

There are shitloads of things in massives with whom we've only begun to toy. We ignore our most useful and defining characteristics (lots of people, shared, persistent world). I can go days in World of Warcraft without feeling the affect of another player, and persistence is limited to my toys. Don't get me wrong, we do have games which explore these things. But not nearly enough.

I'd love to put my money where my mouth is, but I have neither the skills nor the resources to make a massive right now. So I'll just bitch until someone listens to me.

Also, Soul Calibur 3 is pretty alright, speaking as someone who never got into the second game, and this has the most awesome desktops in the world.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Wow. Over a month since my last post. I should try to post at least once a month. Maybe more if people pay attention to this.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

I've had Shadow of the Collosus for a while. I find it enjoyable. This is because, as a child, I was attacked by a giant, ancient, peaceful buffalo who held necromantic powers and glowy magical weak spots. I first played it at a big get-together of friends, who are also the only people who know about this blog. The general consensus was that it was So Cool. The downside was that it was all on the host's memory card. We got halfway through the game. This leads me to the problem: I just killed the 3rd Collosus (the totally awesome bellydancer/knight guy) for the second time.

It's not as fun the second time. I'm not scrabbling for my life, evading it swinging at me and desperately, DESPERATELY trying to figure out how to harm it. On the plus side, the whole "try to swing me off" part is still awesome. I do wonder if there was a better way to handle climbing and holding on than the General Strength Circle, as it does seem like a Funbar.

Land bridges. Fuck yeah.

First post!

Once upon a time, I tried the whole blog thing. It didn't pan out. Let's give it another go, then!

I'll be talking games here, mostly. Game ideas, game design, game whatever the hell I want to talk about. I'm going to try and keep it more on the theoretical and critical side than going on about how cool games are. This leads us to the first Editorial Principle of this (Hey, folk, I need a better word for "blog." You know, something that doesn't make me sound like an asshole. Until then, let's just pretend that word's in here, kk?).

1: VIDEO GAMES, LARGELY, ARE TERRIBLE


They certainly can be fun and interesting diversions, but that does not imply they are. The majority of offerings at Ye Olde Game Shoppe aren't worth playing. Maybe this is just the song of a life-long gamer who's falling out of love with it all. Maybe there's just no place in this world for a man who can't enjoy the simple pleasure of artificial genocide in a fantasy world, pretending to be an Orcish Paladin. Maybe I just can't come up with any more wistful reflections.

Besides games, I'll waffle on about whatever else is interesting me that second.



Elsewise, I've lately been interested in emotional simulation by computers. Not necessarily the visual aspects, but the creation of characters who display active emotional lives. I've been tossing some ideas around on how to make this, but I don't know if they're remotely viable for one man, no matter how handsome, well-hung and brilliant, to make, or even if I could find references on AI and AL. I don't think that their nonexistence prevents games from being true ARt (art with a capital A and R, that is), but that they do serve as interesting and recognizable elements for larger systems of games.
And I don't count Sims. I never really saw them to have personalities. They engaged in emotional mimeisis and all, but they had only the barest of personalities, defined mostly by whom they fraternized with and some other matters of social interaction, or by some overarching Life Goal. But then, I never got too deep in The Sims, so I don't know how accurate that is.

-Wondersaurus Fantabulorus