Showing posts from March, 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.

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?

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 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

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 th

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 horiz

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 f

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 ever

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 conte

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 .

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 showi

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,

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.

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 mor

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.

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

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.

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.

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 p

Initial Impressions: Final Fantasy XIII

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

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 Blizza

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.

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

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 applica

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

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