Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mac Gets Games

Steam recently announced that they are bringing the Steam platform and Source Engine games to Macs.  The viral campaign preceding the announcement had some cool images.

I have never owned a Mac because I love to play games on the computer.  Besides Blizzard, publishers rarely release games for mac.  The gaming market is dominated by the PC.

Don't get me wrong, I use macs all the time.  I know their advantages and uses.  But, when it comes time to buy a new computer for my own use I wouldn't even consider an Mac.  The lack of gaming support is that important for me.  It is a deal breaker.

Maybe Steam coming to the Mac is the first step towards developers returning there.  I'll wait and see what comes from this, but for now I'm keeping my awesome PC.

PSA: Kids Sing Still Alive

Oh my god.  This is epic.  A children's choir sung Still Alive from Portal.  This is definitely a must see.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A 1-Up for DDO

By all accounts Dungeons and Dragons Online has resurrected itself by switching its business model.  Since it has gone free-to-play over one million players have joined.  Before the switch over DDO was in its death throes.

Pretty awesome business move if you ask me.

This made me think, which MMOs would I be playing right now if they were F2P?  Well, probably quite a few.  I wonder why more companies don't try this out?

I know new games are coming out designed around the F2P model, but maybe some of our current stock of MMOs could be saved - or expanded - if they were switched to F2P.  You could even throw in some micro-transactions and I wouldn't mind.

I want to know, what games would you be playing right now - that you currently are not - if you didn't have to pay a monthly subscription for them?

Monday, March 29, 2010

I Kind of Want a PS3

I've been thinking about buying a PS3 lately.  I think it is mostly because they finally have a backlog of interesting console exclusives.  I would love to try Uncharted 2 and Little Big Planet especially.  On top of this, the recent announcement of Playstation Move and the poor video quality of FFXIII on my Xbox 360 have all pointed me towards getting a PS3.  I think I'll lay out my thinking.

Reasons to buy:
-Finally has enough console exclusives to warrant attention
-PSN has FFVII, FFVIII, and soon FFIX
-Blue ray player
-Playstation Move
-It has come down in price

Reasons to not buy:
-I have a Xbox 360
-Most games are not console exclusive
-All of my friends play on Xbox Live or PC, not PSN
-PS3 still costs a lot of money

Looking at my lists I'm thinking no PS3 for now.  I don't want to spend the money.  But, if the console were to drop in price or come in an awesome bundle I might have to change my mind.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Reading: Expansions

Game by Night has an interesting prediction about Cataclysm's content structure.  It fits in nicely with the expansion theme of the past week here on A Green Mushroom.  It asks whether Cataclysm will last long enough to keep players interested and makes some educated guesses about 5-man instances and upcoming raids.

In my opinion, Syp's most interesting post this week was about middlers.  He wrote about how many of us never reach endgame in our MMOs.  I think it goes along with expansion discussion week because what is the point of expanding if the majority of your players will never reach the new content?

Also, Tobold has an interesting thought experiment up about how the MMO scene would look if WoW wasn't a part of it.

I would also like to ask my readers, what do you like to see in expansion packs?  Do you want new content? New features?  Do you like more updates consistently or lots of new material packaged together in an expansion pack?  What gets you excited to play the game?

Enjoy your Sunday Reading and don't forget to play some games.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Expansion Packs: Two Case Studies

After writing all week about expansion packs I've been thinking about two prime examples of expansions packs in action.  Namely, World of Warcraft and EVE Online.  Although their update structure is different, they both have some of the best updating practices on the entire MMO market.

EVE Online uses the consistent but incremental system that I outlined in my last post.  They release expansion packs for free through patches containing new content and features. Sometimes these features are quite ambitious and create entire new ways to play EVE.  In the past they introduced exploration as a skill-set that differs from all the others.  They are currently working on implementing planet control and harvesting.  Their goal with the expansion beyond that is to allow players to walk in space stations and have a human avatar outside of their ship.

Not only do the features introduce new scope to the game, but they are delivered consistently and freely.  This helps EVE players feel that they are in a growing world, which in turn lets them stay engaged with the game.

World of Warcraft takes a different approach.  WoW releases patches that add new content - and sometimes features - between the release of their expansion packs.  When the expansion packs are released they are bristling with new content for players to explore in the form of further vertical advancement (levels).  Although there may be a long wait between expansion packs WoW's patches help fill the gap.  Usually they consist of a new raid or instance that is harder than current raids and instances.

WoW has recently gotten better at adding features, not just content.  The Looking for Dungeon tool added a more streamlined approach to grouping with other players and allowed for more dungeon play.  It also adds incentives for players that play together.  Another feature that was prominent with the release of Wrath of the Lich King was a completely new class.  A new class adds new ways to play the game and gives players a reason to replay old content.

With their next expansion WoW aims to do something never done before, destroy their old world and create a new one.  This is going to cause an influx of old players to resubscribe and create brand new level 1 characters to go adventuring with.  On top of redoing the old they are also adding 5 new levels to the top of the game.  Along with these come the new instances and raids we have all come to expect.  Path of the Titans introduces a new way to advance characters at the max level, although not much has been revealed about that feature yet.

Here we have two models presently deployed and functional in the real world.  They have their downsides, but compared to all other MMO update structures they work exceptionally well.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Expansion Packs vs Patches

Patches and expansion packs both add new features and content to the games we know and love.  The difference is that patches happen on a small scale and expansion packs happen on a large scale.  Which is the better model to use when releasing updates?  Let's weigh some pros and cons.

Patches allow developers to deliver new things to their players constantly.  Players are always itching for new features and content so they love having the influx of new stuff that consistent patches bring.  It also gives players a sense that the development team cares about the community and that they haven't abandoned the game.  If new content and features are added to the game regularly it gives the world a feeling of progression, it keeps the world from growing stagnant.  Another thing to keep in mind is that no one is going to argue with receiving free updates, which is exactly what patches do.

Expansion packs help out the developer more than the players.  With an expansion on the horizon the game company can market and build hype for it.  They may be able to draw in brand new players or convince former players to resubscribe.  Not only does it help subscription numbers but it also allows the game company to get $50 per person that picks up the expansion pack.  That's a lot of money they wouldn't otherwise see if they pushed updates through patches instead.

Patches don't generate revenue through box sales the way expansion packs do.  They usually don't generate the same amount of hype either.

A major downside of expansion packs is that players get burned out on the current content in the game before the next expansion is released .  Players feel like the developers are just sitting on a ton of new content (which they are) that they would like to play, even though they are no longer having fun in the game's current state.  This results in players unsubscribing to the game, and no developer wants that.  It is easier to retain a customer than to win one back once they have become jaded.

So, should companies patch their MMOs full of new and exciting things or should they save it up for a good old fashion expansion pack?  Well, probably both.  I suppose it just depends on the game.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Expansion Packs: Features vs Content

After discussing leveling the playing field while adding new content I want to mention another option for expansion packs.  Instead of adding content and levels, these expansion packs (and sometimes patches) can add new features to the game.

People may have different definitions for features and content.  For my purposes, features are things which add new ways to play the game.  These are also known as horizontal gameplay options. Content, on the other hand, adds new options for vertical advancement through the game.

Here are some quick examples of my working definitions.  The looking for dungeon tool that was added to WoW in a recent patch is a feature.  It gives players a new way to organize and play the game at all levels.  But, when WoW patches in new high-end raids they are adding content.  Players need to be at the top levels to continue into the new raid, which will then gain them better gear.  This is a type of vertical advancement.

A great model to look at for adding features instead of content is EVE Online.  They have a game world which is already defined.  The players in EVE decide what they want to do in the world with the tools provided.  When they release a new expansion (which they do - for free - through patches) they add new ways to interact with the world.  At one point EVE released an entire new profession, exploration.  Soon they are going to add the option to claim and harvest planets.  Right now the planets are there, but they don't do much.  EVE doesn't add high end content (although they balance it) they add new features instead.  Their players love this.

When a game adds features - instead of content - it keeps the level gap manageable between top players and new players.  This works in the company's favor because new players actually have a chance to get into the action without a huge grind for levels.  I have seen so many complaints from players saying that they understand the gameplay after reaching 25% of the level cap but they still have to slog through 75% of the levels before they reach new gameplay options (like raiding and balanced pvp).  In between the 25% mark and reaching the level cap it is the same gameplay with different graphics.  I wonder how many players quit between when they understand the gameplay and when they get access to new gameplay?

The addition of horizontal gameplay options also adds replayability to MMOs.  New content does not do this when it is added only to the top levels.  Too often, new content is simply the same gameplay with a new coat of paint slapped on.  Adding new features is an excellent way to diversify types of gameplay and keep a MMO feeling fresh.

On the market today, sandbox MMOs tend to add features regularly while themepark MMOs gravitate toward adding content.  These are the current trends, but both types of MMOs can benefit from the addition of features and content.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Expansion Packs: Leveling the Playing Field

Themeparks run out of content.  I know this.  When I reach the end of content I want more to play through.  Instead of immediate new content I am forced to run on the gear treadmill, slowly gaining small upgrades for a huge amount of effort invested.  After raiding 5 days each week for months I might have the best armor and weapons in the game for my class... until the next expansion.

This is why the gear treadmill is so unappealing to me.  Why work my ass off to be the "best" on the server when the playing field will be leveled come the next expansion?  And that next expansion is always on the horizon for any MMO with a decent following.

As long as I am max level it won't matter what kind of gear I have when the next expansion hits.  The MMO developer will want everyone at the max level to be able to participate at the max level +1.  Therefore, the content will be tuned to the lowest common denominator; someone who has newly attained the max level.

They want everyone to buy the expansion, so they need to create an expansion in which everyone can play.

This is one of the reasons some people rush to endgame.  They want to feel special and be the best on the server.  They don't want to admit that they are the same as everyone else again, even if just for a day.  They need to be "hardcore" and I think that is a little sad.

I tried raiding for a few weeks and determined it wasn't for me.  Too much effort expended for too little reward.  I quickly realized I was on a treadmill and felt that I was being held hostage for my monthly subscription money.  I did not enjoy the feeling.

So, while many of you run full-speed ahead on that hamster wheel of raiding, I'm spending my time with other games, hobbies, and pursuits.  But - once that expansion pack draws near - I will be there with you, on the same level, enjoying the same content, and paying my monthly subscription fee once again.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Themepark MMOs Run Out of Content

It has happened to every die-hard MMO fan.  You play an awesome MMO and you're going strong until you hit the level cap.  Then you may raid, do pvp, or play with the economy... but eventually you'll run out of developer made content.

Keep in mind, I am talking about themepark MMOs.  Sandbox MMOs don't run into this problem if they are designed correctly.  Instead, they give players the tools to create their own content.

Themepark MMOs draw you through an adventure until you max out your level and complete all the quests.  You hit the ceiling on character progression.  Then what?  No matter which themepark MMO you play, you will run out of content.

That is where expansion packs come in. On top of this, content patches fill the gaps between expansions.  They extend the life of the game.  Look at WoW.  Every new content patch has people resubscribing to fight in the latest raid and explore the new content.

Nonetheless, a themepark MMO will never be able to create content at the rate which players can consume it.  Not hand crafted high quality content at any rate.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Reading: Ubisoft DRM

I'm keeping an eye on Ubisoft and their DRM.  I really hate DRM because it ends up hurting customers who pay for the product and basically adds incentives for pirates to acquire games illegally.  Ubisoft launched their new DRM with Assassin's Creed 2 for PC last month.  It requires an active internet connection to play.  This makes no sense since AC2 is a single player game.

Syp had a great summary of the situation up over at Bio Break.  Also worth looking at are the two Joystiq articles about Ubisoft DRM running into some trouble already.

All worthy of your reading time.  Also, Penny-Arcade's cyclical argument with a literal strawman.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Marketing Fail

These video game trailers and screenshots aren't cutting it marketing departments.  They just don't work for me.  Take some notes.  Here we go:

New screenshots and trailers are released all the time for upcoming games, but they are not compelling.  I'm not buying it anymore.  As a gamer, all I want are hands-on impressions and videos with actual gameplay.  Think of all the trailers and videos that are released which are entirely CG cutscenes or quick cuts of in-game footage that only last for 2 seconds each.  This is entirely the wrong approach.

Games are not movies!  Marketing departments forget this.  Games are interactive!  Show me how I will be interacting with this game.  Don't show me the introductory video.  Don't show me a "badass" CG clip.  Don't show me a video that was made entirely for marketing purposes!  I want to know what the experience will be like once I get to the gameplay.  The meat of the game, as it were.

If you are showing me a pre-rendered CG movie then I equate it with the fact that you don't think the gameplay can stand on its own two feet.  That is the message you are sending.  If you take the tact of quickly cutting together 2 second shots to make a 30 second montage you are no better.  I didn't see your gameplay, all I saw was a flashy commercial.  Guess what you forgot?  That you are selling an interactive game, not a movie.

Want to see the right way to do it?  Look at StarCraft 2.  I know I have used this example before, but it bears spelling it out again.  The StarCraft 2 beta has no NDA which in effect allows gamers to talk, write, and make videos about the beta.  There is no Blizzard marketing department shoving pre-packaged 30 second commercials down our throats (yet) but there is still an enormous amount of community support and excitement about SC2's upcoming release.  Job well done.

Want to know another way to get people pumped for your game's release day?  Release the demo before the game comes out.  I can't believe how many companies put this off until months down the road.  If you want the demo to be effective it needs to arrive with all the other marketing efforts that happen around a game's release.  If your game has been out for a month and you are now releasing a demo for it you have already failed.

Learn your lesson marketing departments, gamers want to know about gameplay!  If we see a game that looks interesting we want to get our hands on it right away.  Don't make us watch a generic flashy video instead.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Remembering to Play Games

Sometimes I get caught up in the meta-gaming.  I read all about games, game theory, development, new ideas, new releases, and everything else relating to this hobby.  So, sometimes I forget to play games.

It's not entirely my fault.  There are so many excellent sources of information.  I love to read Joystiq, Massively, Penny-Arcade, Tobold, and Syp.  Those are probably my favorites websites on the internet.  My love of meta-gaming and constant readership of these sites is the reason I decided to start this blog.

Whenever I really get into a game I'll look up all the theorycrafting behind making my characters the best they can be.  I remember spending hours of time looking up the best gear and talent builds in WoW when I used to play.  I like having all the information when it comes to a subject I'm interested in.

This is my long winded approach to saying that I haven't been playing games enough lately.  Nothing has really grabbed me and pulled me in.  But, for right now, I'm going to stop typing and go play something.  You should too.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Achievements Strike Again: Replaying Portal

I have mentioned before that I like achievements.  They add replayability and diversity to game play.  It's nice to see one pop up while playing the game normally, but there is a huge sense of accomplishment when I complete an achievement that I've been striving for.

I replayed Portal last night because of achievements. Portal is a great game in its own right but I haven't thought about replaying it for quite some time.

That changed last week when Valve released an update for Portal which added hidden radios throughout the game.  The player needs to retrieve the radios and then take them to an unspecified location in the level, then the radio tunes and gives a secret message.  There is an achievement for doing this with all 26 radios.  These messages have led to an entire mystery surrounding Portal 2.

Now the community has a mystery to solve, players have new goals to achieve, and Portal 2 is building some hype.  As usual with achievements, everybody wins.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Playing (and Paying) Multiple MMOs

Syp from Bio Break had a post up about a month ago about playing multiple MMOs.  Some people do it, some do not.

I am one who does not, generally.  I'll make an exception, from time to time, when a new MMO is released that I am excited about.  I'll give it a month of my time even if I am currently invested in another MMO.  I'll only play the first (free) month before I make a decision and choose one MMO over the other.

My problem with playing multiple MMOs at the same time is that I feel like I'm wasting money.  If I have 60 hours each month to play an MMO and can pay $15 for that month of play time, then that is great.  If I add another MMO to the mix I end up paying $30 each month for the same 60 hours of entertainment.

I understand the desire to have different gaming experiences.  I play (and pay for) all sorts of games.  Some months I buy multiple new games.  I treat MMOs differently because of their recurring subscription fees.

I wish MMOs would offer more than one subscription model per game.  Some games would be worth it for me to pay a flat rate each month.  Other games I would keep on my computer and pay as I play, if they charged an hourly rate. Why does it have to be one or the other?  Why can't one game offer more than one subscription model.

There are games I keep on my computer right now because they are free to play, but I can buy helpful items or services if I choose to.  This is a move in the right direction, but there is more leeway.

I just wish that there was more of a middle ground between $15 per month and free to play.  Maybe it is time for Western developed MMOs to try the pay as you play model like Asian MMOs have been using for years.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Making Up Words

Final Fantasy makes up a lot of interesting terminology.  This is fine as long as it is defined to the player before the player has a chance to become confused.

Final Fantasy XIII uses many terms which they leave undefined until you figure it out on your own.  On top of that, a few of the terms sound similar to one another.  I'm finally getting it sorted out in my head, but I was lost for the first few hours of the game.

I don't think players should have to dig through an in-game database to understand what is going on in the main story.  Having a database is great in case the player wants to find out more about the world, but it shouldn't be mandatory reading to comprehend the game.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Being Linear vs Feeling Linear

Final Fantasy XIII has a problem, it feels extremely linear.  For the first hour of the game the player is literally on rails (a train track) which only goes one direction.  After the literal rails go away the player is still on rails throughout the game.  No one wants to feel like they have no say in where they are going.

Once I started thinking about it, I realized that almost all the Final Fantasy games are on rails.  That isn't the problem.  The problem is the player realizing how structured the path in front of them really is.  There is most definitely a difference between a game being linear and a game feeling linear.

If you take a look at the older Final Fantasy games a  few things stick out that make the world feel open.  The most important in my mind is having an overworld.  The overworld lets a player roam freely, even if they only have one destination they are aiming for.  Even in Final Fantasy X there are large areas to roam, although there is no classic overworld to speak of.  These areas give the feeling of openness, which is paramount.

On top of the overworld there are also optional side-quests that require treks across the world.  Not only does this add replayability to areas (since the player must travel back to them) but it also lets the player decide when and if they are going to complete a quest.  Even that little amount of player control makes a world of difference.  It is the difference between having a say in the story and having the story be completely out of your hands.

When a player begins to feel that they have no say in the story they get frustrated and immersion is lost.  This is especially true in a game like FFXIII where there are so many non-interactive cutscenes.  Many times I felt that I might as well be watching FFXIII the movie since I was barely having any input in what was happening on-screen.

Developers need to be very careful when designing a game in such a linear style, otherwise they risk losing players who feel like they have no control of the game they are playing.

Sunday Viewing: Classic Games Re-Visited

This gallery is amazing.  It makes me pine for a new take on the StarFox series.  There are so many classic games that I would love to see remade with cutting edge graphics and controls.

Are there any games that stand out in your mind which deserve an update?

As a bonus Sunday Reading; I would like to point you to this StarCraft 2 thread which is a great primer for an absolute beginner.  It's a long post, but it is quality reading material.  Thanks to Klelith for the heads up on it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Indie Game: SteamBirds

I play a lot of free games, trials, lite versions, and demos but I don't like to directly link to games unless they are worth your time.

That being said, SteamBirds is worth your time.  It is a turn based strategy game where the player controls steampunk versions of WWI style planes.

It may seem strange, but the gameplay shines.  After entering commands for all your planes you advance and all the aircraft in the game move at the same time.  This gives the game strategy and tactical elements but doesn't completely devolve the game into a turn based system.

Although the game is hard to explain you should go check it out right now, even if you are a casual gamer.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Motion Controls

With the PS3's new motion control, the Move, trying to take over GDC headlines I started thinking about the direction motion controllers are going.

In the next year all three consoles will have a motion controller.  The PS3 and the Wii have similar handheld devices while the Xbox 360 will use multiple cameras to detect the player's body.

The PS3 looks to have more accuracy than the Wii and it is also able to gauge distance, which the Wii cannot.  This is important because the PS3 may be able to give gamers 1:1 control, something that has never happened before.  Imagine swinging a controller and having your avatar swing a sword on-screen in exactly the same way.

The 360 is trying to go one step beyond this.  Project Natal gives players motion controls without having a controller in hand.  This, too, may allow gamers to experience 1:1 control.  Without the necessity of a complex controller the 360 may also start to appeal to a more casual audience.  These are the same people that the Wii has been attracting in droves.  They are a large market waiting to be tapped.

It will be interesting to see how the industry shifts to accommodate so many motion controls.  I don't think we will see the end of standard controllers on the PS3 or Xbox 360.  I can't see playing games like Halo without a standard controller.  There are many other "hardcore" games that use the standard controller which wouldn't translate well into motion controls.

I wonder if the Wii is going to take a major hit once competition reaches the market.  With Nintendo not ready to create a new console they may be in trouble.  The only reason I've played my Wii in the past year and a half is because of games with Mario in the title.  I'm willing to bet that third party developers will want to stop competing with all the shovelware on Wii and start creating games for the PS3 and Xbox 360 instead.

At the very least, there should soon be new gaming experiences for us to try out.  Giving the gaming industry a breath of fresh air is never a bad thing.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Initial Impressions: Final Fantasy XIII

After an hour or so of FFXIII I have some initial impressions; both good and bad. 

-My 360 version has pre-rendered cutscenes that looks low-res compared to the in game engine.  It is definitely not running 1080p.
-The floaty camera controls really bother me.  I think it has acceleration on it or something.  It drives me crazy when I want to look around quickly.
-Auto-Battle feels like cheating.
-Fights get ratings for some reason, but that reason isn't explained.
-So far no sign of a leveling or a progression system at all.
-I have no idea what is going on in the story... two groups are fighting, I guess... for some reason.

-The flow of battle is constant and exciting.
-Controlling one member of the party feels different, but it's working for me.
-Characters can interact with the environment a bit (they jump sometimes!)
-I like the art style.
-The in-game engine is really crisp (I wish they would do more in-engine and less pre-rendered).
-The music is good.
-Baby chocobos are awesome!

Monday, March 8, 2010

StarCraft 2 NDA

I think it is a brilliant move by Blizzard to not have an NDA for StarCraft 2.

Most companies hide their games while they are in beta.  Most beta releases are unpolished and have many missing features.  The devs still need to drop in content and flesh out the game.  No wonder they want to cover up the reception their games are receiving.  Look at any beta forums and you will realize almost every thread is tearing the game apart, railing against all the things that need to be fixed.

Compare this to Blizzard.  Blizzard entertainment only releases a game "when it's done."  They finish adding all their features and content before the game ever reaches any public eyes.  This makes a huge difference.  This way no consumer confidence is lost in the game or in Blizzard as a game company.  It is basically the difference between presenting an unfinished unpolished game and presenting a fully realized game that just needs a little balancing.

Not only does this allow Blizzard to market a finished game, but it lets the community become it's own marketing force for the game.  Blizzard's strategy of releasing a game "when it's done" is a win win for them and for the gaming community.  All the community coverage is making StarCraft 2 more appealing each day.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Portable MMOs

Do you think that MMOs with the complexity of WoW will ever be available on portable devices like the ipod touch or smart phones?  I don't doubt that we will soon see "MMOs" in the vein of Farmville on such portable devices.  I just wonder how long it will take until we see a full-fledged MMO like WoW.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cross-Platforming for Portable Devices

My ipod touch trend this week got me thinking about the different types of games that are available on the device.

Right now I can go into the app store and find any genre that I play on consoles.  The problem is that some of these port better than others.

After playing a few FPS games on the ipod touch my conclusion is that the control scheme just isn't there.  Every time I attempt one I feel like I lose all the precision of console and PC FPS games.  Without physical buttons it is easy to lose control of what you are doing in a twitchy FPS.  There are some valiant attempts to make FPSs work, but they all fall a bit flat.

On the other hand, many casual games make the transition beautifully.  I would even say some are better on the ipod touch than they are on the PC or console.  Not only because of the portability of the game but also because of gameplay factors.  Once again, it comes down to the control scheme.

I've been playing Plants vs Zombies a lot since I picked it up a few days ago.  In my opinion it is better than its PC counterpart.  In PvZ the player has to collect sunshine pieces.  They are the resource that the player needs to build units.  In the PC version the player has to drag the mouse from wherever it was, place it over the sunshine piece, and click.  This doesn't take much time for any single sunshine piece, but it adds up in the hectic later levels.  In the ipod touch version I get to simply tap a sunshine piece whenever I see it.  It is a very slight difference, but I think it makes the game flow a lot better.

Some games just work better when they are played on a touch interface.  Some games are even designed entirely around the touch interface.  It will be interesting to see what types of games touch interface developers concentrate their efforts on in the future.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Side Programs for MMOs

What if an MMO created a casual game on the side which would give you a connection to the main MMO while away from it?  I think there is potential there for some interesting interactions.

An example: What if WoW made an iphone game (or browser game) that is extremely easy to pick up and play.  It would be in the casual game category.  By obtaining an average score in one quick sitting (maybe 60 seconds) you gain 1 gold in WoW.

It doesn't need to be gold that is acquired.  It could be a buff that lasts for 30 minutes next time the player logs in.  Or it could give you a very minor amount of experience.  Maybe it would give you a special in game currency that can be exchanged for minor items.

The game could even do something completely different.  It could let you play with your vanity pets outside of the MMO.  It could be a game where you customize your player housing or pick out a new pattern for your armor.

It may even be a program more than a game.  It could be an application which lets you have complete access to the auction house while away from the MMO.  Or a program that lets you sort all the items in your bags and bank.  Maybe a program that lets the user send and receive in-game mail while out of the game.

The closest thing to a side program or game that I have seen is Capsuleer for the ipod touch and iphone.  It is a community made program for EVE Online.  It's a great example of an application that gives you access to game data while on the go.  It lets the player track character skills, skill queue, location, corp, money, and keep in touch with EVE news.

The idea here is to have a side game or program that gives the player a way to feel connected to a favorite MMO while away from it.  I think this is something that the community would like to see for more MMOs.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

60 Second Games

Apparently I am interested in talking about ipod touch and iphone games this week.  This got me thinking about the different types of ipod touch and iphone games that I enjoy.

I realized that the majority of the time I boot up an ipod touch game I play fairly simple games.  I like to call them 60 second games.  They are bite sized chunks of gaming that I can fully appreciate in about a minute.  I don't have to sit down and play for half an hour to feel like it was worth my time.

I think we will see the trend of 60 second games continue.  A lot of people refer to these as casual games.  These are the games your mom or girlfriend, who have never touched a video game, could still play and enjoy.  I think this is great!  The more people we can draw into the hobby of gaming the better off we all are.

My two games of choice at the moment are Doodle Jump and Orbital.  If you have an ipod touch or an iphone they are worth the investment.  Almost any game by PopCap is worth checking out as well.  Peggle and Plants vs Zombies are great games that only take slightly more than 60 seconds to appreciate.

Does anyone have recommendations for more 60 second games to try?

Monday, March 1, 2010

App Store Search

As a follow up to this weekend's post on impulse buys I would like to point out that the app store needs some work.

There is no good way to sort search findings in the app store.  In my opinion, this is a huge problem.

I would love to buy more games for my ipod touch and I'm sure they want to sell them to me too.  But, I want to see a list of every game in their entire system sorted by customer rating and I can't.  I have wanted this from day 1.  If I could do this chances are extremely high that I would buy a ton of games near the top of that list.

Instead, I am stuck dealing with "what's hot" or the "featured" apps.  I can find the "top 25" but what does that really mean?  Does anyone know?  None of these sections of the app store are bad by themselves, but without a sorting tool in the search function they greatly frustrate me.  This is because they are close to what I want but not quite good enough.  I don't want to see what apple thinks are the hot or top 25 apps.  I want to see what the customers think are the best.

Not only would this feature make me happy, it would also increase profits for apple (since I would buy more).  I think they are making a mistake by leaving out this functionality.