Archives for January, 2010

How To Afford An Indie Game – gamedrinkcode

Posted on Jan 30, 2010 under Discussion | No Comment

gamedrinkcode has a quick comic about how to afford a $15 indie game.   It’s funny how a pretty box and shrinkwrap will dramatically change the perceived value of a game! I don’t hate mainstream titles just because I also like indie games, though.

Via gamedrinkcode » Archive » How to afford an indie game

Popularity: 2% [?]

Do Tell

Posted on Jan 27, 2010 under Gaming News, Unplugged Games | 12 Comments

The new party game DoTell sets up simple rules for a social game of truth-or-dare. Players race a simple spiral path, moving ahead for completed tasks, but I use “race” loosely, since the focus is on the journey, not the destination. (Quick sidenote: Play makes use of clear icons that didn’t rely on distinguishing between colors or, my personal game hate, squinting at tiny symbols. I’m looking at you, Magic:The Gathering.)

We quickly came up with game mods, swapping the game’s two six-sided dice for two four-sided dice to regulate movement. Even through Do Tell is not very competitive, the variation in 2d6 for movement can frustrate the player who rolls a 3 early on and never catches up.

The game offers eight pastel tokens, but it’s easy to add a mancala gem or a Monopoly boat to mod it for a larger group. Do Tell is so interactive that it works well with a large group, and each turn is independent of what’s gone before, so it’s a perfect choice to begin with on game night as you wait for guests to arrive.

Tell cards ask players to answer a questions and share something (The DoTell Facebook page offers a list of possible questions), and players quickly begin to share stories and laugh.

Do cards ask a player to sing a song, do an impression, dance, pose or act something out. These were a hit with strangers and long-term partners alike. Other players loved dancing or singing along, or just clapping after performance.  One Do asks the player to be the devil preparing his to-do list, which is a fantastic chance to see if your friends would plan plagues and worldwide floods, or just legions of telemarketers and poorly designed parking lots.

A Mirror question has one player asking a Tell, instead of answering, and all the other players try to figure out what he or she would answer.  When we started playing, Mirror questions slowed the game to a crawl, as players who didn’t know each other fumbled for some innocuous answer to a soul-baring Tell.  But after a little while, answers to other questions made it easier and easier to guess. For a group of long-time friends, the Mirrors were hilarious.

The official rules for Mirror questions have a note that some Tells don’t make very good Mirrors, so they should be skipped. No legalese about how they should be skipped, no tiny icons in the corner of the cards to let know which ones should be skipped. We think this refers to the Tells that ask the player to draw a Risk or a Do, but we really liked this rule. Think this is a bad Mirror? Draw again! This is exactly what we were looking for in a party game.

On my second playthrough, we opened up the, ahem, adult Risk cards, glanced at them, and added house rules.  Take a spicy Risk instead of a regular Risk at any time, but it can be swapped for a regular Risk if it’s too risque. Don’t like the card you’ve drawn? Swap any underwhelming Tell or too-wild Do for the next spicy Risk! (You can also get the Family Version for Spicy-free play, or just put those cards away when you have the fam over to play)

With the exception of one reference to American Idol, DoTell does not require pop culture knowledge (my one complaint with usual party games like Cranium or Apples to Apples is the number of celebrities I don’t know), but feel free to work random trivia or favorite songs into other questions.

Overall, this is a hilarious social game. Sure, you can race to the center, but the real focus is on laughing with friends.

Popularity: 4% [?]

Inmate Loses Fight To Play D&D

Posted on Jan 27, 2010 under Discussion | No Comment

A man serving life in prison for first-degree intentional homicide lost his legal battle Monday to play Dungeons & Dragons behind bars.

Prison officials instigated the Dungeons & Dragons ban among concerns that playing the game promoted gang-related activity and was a threat to security. Singer challenged the ban but the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday upheld it as a reasonable policy.

Dungeons & Dragons players create fictional characters and carry out their adventures, often working together as a group, with the help of complicated rules.

I don’t think we should punish murderers by letting them hang out and play D&D in the first place… but it seems a bit odd that prisoners can watch cable and read other books, but not D&D. Maybe prison officials are afraid of someone getting shanked over the division of party loot?

Via Game over: Inmate can’t play Dungeons & Dragons – Odd News – Fresnobee.com

Popularity: 3% [?]

JayIsGames’ Best of Casual Gameplay 2009

Posted on Jan 14, 2010 under Game Contests, PC Games | 1 Comment

The awesome JayIsGames site is running a Best of Casual Gameplay 2009 contest.

Adventure is a hard call — since Monkey Island: Screaming Narwhal, Time Gentlemen, Please! and Wonderland Adventures: Mysteries of Fire Island are all in the running. I think Monkey Island wins for me… with TGP in second . I enjoyed Wonderland Adventures, but it just can’t compete with Guybrush Threepwood or foulmouthed Dan and Ben.

Some of my other favorites on this list are A Case Of The Crabs, under Browser Adventure, Nancy Drew Dossier: Resorting To Danger under Hidden Objects. (I also helped out with NDD: Resorting to Danger so I’m not entirely unbiased) Faerie Solitaire is running for best Time Management… so is Build-a-Lot 4, which means I am officially the only person who hated Build-a-Lot 3. The frustrating Don’t Look Back under Interactive Art, although this game was made for  people with more patience and skill than me, I did like the myth theme.

Vote for your favorites, or just use this as list of games to check out.

Popularity: 7% [?]

Kill 10 Rats And Bring Me Their Tails!

Posted on Jan 04, 2010 under Discussion | No Comment

Guest author Lexton “Lunarhound” Collins discusses the upcoming Guild Wars 2, believable NPC drama, heroic errand-running, and shares his perspective on what makes a good MMO great.

Most gamers, both fans and detractors, would agree that MMO’s need shaking up. It’s happened before, when City of Heroes and, shortly afterward, World of Warcraft made camp grinding a thing of the past and brought quest-based advancement to the mainstream. Suddenly, characters had purpose-driven lives. Other games followed suit, and life was good in cyberland.

Now, several years later, gamers are growing weary of the new grind. It’s tough to ensure that every single one of the hundreds of quests necessary to keep an MMO going are interesting, and players are growing weary of the endless variations on “kill ten rats and bring me their tails”. Mini dramas acted out by NPC’s cease to feel immersive when sticking around for a minute afterward lets you watch the world reset before your eyes so that the next players in line can ride. Collecting exclamation marks and running errands for people too lazy to deliver their own letters or fight their own battles feels less like an adventure and more like checking off a list of chores. Few want to go back to the way things were, but developers, and many players, seem to be finding it difficult to see a way forward.

There have been efforts to do something different but they’ve gone largely unnoticed. Guild Wars came hot on the heels of World of Warcraft, and attempted to remedy many of the ‘theme park’ issues that came with a static world that had to reset each quest for the next player by making heavy use of instancing. Players see each other in towns, but once outside, you and your party had your own private copy of the world. This allowed them to change things permanently based on your actions. Unfortunately, this lead to many players not considering it a real MMO and, despite its commercial success, it didn’t inspire many imitators. Additional problems came from the fact that players could not jump, climb or swim and the world was full of invisible walls that forced strict adherence to the current mission path. Dungeons & Dragons Online came along a few years later with a similar world structure coupled with much better implementation of the mission-based game play and a great new action combat system, but the facts that it couldn’t (at the time) effectively be played solo and it required a monthly fee, it also ended up being relegated to niche status.

Now, Guild Wars has a sequel on the way. ArenaNet was very secretive about it for quite some time after its announcement, and even now information is limited, but what is beginning to emerge paints an interesting picture of a title that is trying to shake up the genre all over again. With the inclusion of open world areas and much greater mobility (players will be able to jump, swim and climb as they can in most other MMO’s), as well as new attitudes toward creative use of instancing, they might actually succeed this time.

In a preview at Eurogamer, back in August, lead designer Eric Flannum states that “I think I can safely say that you won’t see a single exclamation mark floating above a character’s head in Guild Wars 2.” This one little sentence makes for a pretty bold statement considering the direction of MMO’s for the past few years and, luckily, he elaborates:

“We actually don’t have a traditional RPG/MMO quest system… Instead what we’ve got are Events. Think of them as group-orientated activities. This is one of the many things that will encourage the player to explore the world – you can wander through and never quite know what you’re going to see. You might come across a fortress that’s being attacked by centaurs, or it might be that the centaurs attacked half an hour before you got there and they hold it now. You might start walking along a road you’ve walked a hundred times and suddenly there’s a caravan traveling along that road that you may not have seen, and you can go help that caravan out.”

Supposedly, these events will form a complex web within any given public area, spawning new ones and phasing out old ones based on cause and effect. An older example given is that of a dragon attacking a bridge. Players can band together to defeat the dragon, which might open up a new chain of events that can be participated in. Alternately, they might fail, choose not to help, or simply not be there when the dragon attacks, which would result in the bridge being destroyed and a completely different chain of events opening up, revolving around repairing the bridge. The difference between this and something like Warhammer Online’s public quests is that they will not simply reset repeatedly so that players can do them over again. The assertion that there will not be a traditional quest system seems to indicate that public areas will consist of countless such events and, rather than wandering around looking for someone with an exclamation mark to tell them what to do, players will spend their time looking for something actually happening. The potential of such a system to change the way questing is seen in online games is staggering.

That isn’t to say that all adventuring will be completely directionless. Each player will have a personal quest chain to play through that reflects his or her own character. From an interview with MMORPG.com in December:

“When a player creates a character in Guild Wars 2, they will be able to answer many questions about their personal character history. These answers will help determine your personal story in the game. As many fans have theorized, one of the first things you choose is a ‘subdivision’ of your race, which provides a more personal feel to your character’s history. For the humans, that means their ancestry–Elonan, Krytan, Ascalonian and Canthan–and also their social status as gentry or commoners of the city of Divinity’s Reach. For charr, it primarily means their legion, whether Blood, Ash, or Iron. The asura choose between the three most respected colleges of learning; Synergetics, Dynamics, and Statics. The sylvari follow the path of their seasonal cycle, or the time of day in which they awakened, being Dawn, Day, Twilight or Night. The norn choose their personal totem, and may choose to walk in the path of bear, snow leopard, raven or wolf. From these and other initial determinations, a wealth of personalized storylines develop, so that each player in the game experiences a story that is individually tailored to their character.”

According to ArenaNet, these choices, though part of character creation, will not affect class or power in any way. Their sole impact is on the player’s own personal narrative. This sounds tantalizingly like the Origins system in Dragon Age: Origins, and is an exciting thought when considered in the context of an MMORPG.

There’s no telling, of course, how much of an impact any of this will have or how well it will be received until the game is available to the public in some form. And if these claims were being made by a smaller developer without the experience or budget to back them up, they might be only a faint cause for hope at best. But ArenaNet has the budget and the talent to back up its big ideas, and it has already proven with one successful series that it knows what it’s doing.

Most seem to believe that the ultimate feat for an MMORPG would be to topple World of Warcraft. I’m not so sure. I think the ultimate measure of success is moving the genre as a whole forward. With a new approach to quest content, a strong focus on providing the player with a personal storyline, and the lack of any sort of monthly fee, Guild Wars 2 stands poised to do exactly that. Will it topple World of Warcraft? I doubt it. But it may force Blizzard to change in order to compete, which would almost certainly lead to other games following suit. Now that would be an accomplishment.

Popularity: 6% [?]

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