Yes, it is true. I have a job.
Meanwhile, I finished up Dragon Age 2 just prior to starting work. It’s… I’m still trying to decide how I feel about it. On the one hand, I never finished Dragon Age Origins, because — while good — it felt bloated rather than epic, and it just didn’t hold my interest or make me care enough to see it through. On the other, I did finish Dragon Age 2, but I didn’t care about anyone in it, either. The Qunari were really the game’s most compelling characters. If the entire game had focused on their storyarc as opposed to the disjointed mess that it went with instead, I might be writing a very different post.
It doesn’t help that I very closely followed all of the news for The Old Republic during PAX East while I was playing it (thanks, Darth Hater!) and found it about a million times more interesting, visually stunning and fun-looking than what I was actually playing. I’m getting pretty excited for TOR. It looks better and more polished every time they show it off, and I am a huge sucker for Star Wars.
When my mother told me to magnitude of the earthquake that struck off the coast of Sendai, Japan, I thought for sure she’d misspoke. 8.9? That just doesn’t even sound possible. Since then, I have been sitting here glued to CNN and the BBC’s coverage. Even from this distance away, I am horrified. This footage is nightmarish. I’m trying not to imagine what the final death toll is going to be, but with flaming homes being swept kilometers inland on top of a tsunami, it’s hard not to. As far as I know, everyone that I know who lives in Japan is safe, but it’s a very small comfort.
There is gaming news today out of PAX, but I am way too shaken to actually write articulately right now — and it feels fairly unimportant in comparison. Donate if you can.
The last few weeks have been an explosion of activity and excitement over here and, with one of Corwyn’s professors out in San Francisco for GDC, he’s been able to be at home freaking out with me over a bit more than he would have otherwise. GOOD TIMING. Hopefully, I will be able to go into more details and have some happy news Soon, but until then (and for good luck), here is a dog on a trampoline.
I’ve been continuing to play Chrono Trigger, despite being busy with the aformentioned explosion, usually right before bed. I just picked up Robo, escaped the future (this time) and picked up ~* magic *~. I’m having a lot of fun with it so far, and it’s doing a good job of keeping me happy while I try to squirrel some money away to pick up Pokemon Black later.
I’ve also been marathoning through The Kids in the Hall on Netflix. Yes, again. I ran out of KitH to watch so I started over. (Trivia: Kids in the Hall is the reason why I have to resist the urge to start every single post on this blog with “They sayyyyyyyy…” (NSFW))
I’ve done a bit of drawing, too. Since I am exhausted and out of stuff I can talk about, I’ll share one that I already have scanned — the piece I broke in my new Copic grays with.
I’d really expected to be able to write that re-review by now! I’m sorry, guys. Soon<tm>! (It’s almost as if completely revamping your game and having a 1000% increase in players makes you busy or something!)
In the meantime, I’m going to blather on about something completely different: communities. (These are the things I think about while at the dentist.)
When most people hear the word “community manager,” they think of forums. There’s a whole lot more to being a good CM than just reading and moderating forums, though that is a big part of the job as well. This infographic, which I found thanks to a number of the CMs I follow on Twitter RTing it, really is incredibly accurate.
A good CM serves as the developers’ eyes and ears within their game’s community — and that community’s voice within the development team. They have to be able to accurately represent the playerbase’s wishes and needs to the people who are in a position to change the game and meet those needs, and oftentimes they have to know enough about the game development process to help explain, in layman’s terms, what’s coming down the pipes in a way that gets their players excited enough to stick around and play with them.
A CM represents two communities at any given time, really. One plays the game. The other makes it. In an ideal world, you want those two communities to feel a certain kinship and mutual respect, an interest in seeing the other one thrive and succeed. They feed off of one another, and as one grows stronger, larger, more productive and happy, the other benefits.
CMs also help create events for their communities — like helping organize a player/developer meetup for their game during PAX or E3, or helping come up with and promote in-game events — things that help build bridges and friendships between the players and developers.
One thing that I wish more games would do, though, is involve their community team in the creation of in-game community-building tools. Maybe they do — but the fact that I actively wish that they would probably means that they could do a better job of utilizing the talent they have available.
Your game’s community does not live or die based on your forum or ability to write a blog from your game account — it lives or dies based on how easy it is for it to communicate, find each other and play together in the actual game. It just so happens that the forums are one way of allowing that to happen. There are plenty of other, equally effective ways to do it, and most of them can go right into your game. Some games are doing this, which rules. Others are not, and I really wish they’d reconsider.
Custom chat channels (and tabbed chat, for easy sorting) are probably the easiest way to allow your players to form communities within your game. MU*s do it, a lot of MMOs do it. Hell, AOL did it, and it’s AOL. Don’t let America On-Line out-innovate you. Your players want to form cliques with like-minded players so they can more easily ignore the people they don’t get along with, and that is okay. Let the roleplayers create their own channels where they can organize and recruit for their guilds, while hardcore raiding players create their own, other channels, and PvPers create another one still. This is a good thing. Your players may be segregating themselves from one another, but they’re all doing it while playing your game, and your allowing them the opportunity to meet people with whom they share interests (and have an easier time dodging those they wouldn’t get on with very well) will do a lot to make them like you and, subsequently, your game.
Good guild tools are a must. A guild, from a game design standpoint, really needs to be more than a second friends list. I really like what Champions and STO have done with their guild functionality — you have a log of transactions made to/from the guild bank, a log of recent characters in the guild who have leveled up, a roster that shows character classes and levels with space for notes (written by the players about themselves, and a second set written by the officers about the players which not everyone can necessarily see!), a page for recruitment information (website, description, and a bunch of clickies that go into what kind of a guild it is (RP, PvP, Hardcore, etc)), and an events calendar with RSVP functionality.
It’s a good start — but it’s just a start. Take that guild window and add, say, DCUO’s voice chat and guild-wide broadcast of character achievements (though make them something people can mute), guild housing (I loved my kinship’s hall in LotRO, and as soon as STO has fleet starbases, I will be playing so much more frequently) and some form of guild progression (the more your guild plays, the more cool stuff the guild can put in their hall or use in the costume creator or any one of a number of things). You want to encourage guilds to be tight-knit, collaborative mini-communities of their own, because they are still a part of the overall game community. A bunch of awesome mini-communities can only help the bigger community that they are all a part of.
At the same time, don’t limit an events calendar to guilds only. Have an in-game events calendar that anybody can contribute to. Not everybody is in a guild, but they might want to create or join in on other events with the playerbase. Help them do it. Again, a forum can serve this function, but not everybody who plays your game uses the forum. Everybody who plays your game, however, plays your game.
Everything I’ve just been said has been geared towards MMOs, since that’s what I play the most right now — but this is a mindset that can be adapted and ported to other types of games as well. FPSes have clans and leaderboards — integrate the hell out of them! I’m currently trying to come up with some ways for Facebook games to do this, which is harder since not everybody is playing at the same time, so that interaction between players is rarely direct and instantaneous. Tricksy.
Sorry for the quiet week, gang. There just hasn’t been much to write about.
…well, that’s not entirely accurate. There just hasn’t been much that I can write about, whether it’s due to an aversion to counting chickens before they’ve hatched (my favorite reason to keep quiet!) or simply not having enough information yet (still waiting for the answers for some questions before I do my Champions re-review, Cryptic!).
In addition to taking on the job of remote-personal-assistant for my very best friend (who just got AN INSANELY CUTE DOGGY OH MY GOD), I’ve actually not been doing a ton of gaming this last week. My mind needed a change of pace, apparently, and it’s gone after it in three ways: drawing, reading, and worldbuilding.
I spent all day yesterday bouncing around OCRemix (which you should really do yourselves — djpretzel and McVaffe in particular have some amazing tracks) and drawing dragons, because I could. There is no better or more valid reason to draw dragons than that. Dragons rule. Draw some.
The day before that, I spent reading Ender’s Game. Why the hell had I not read that before? Once I finish Howl’s Moving Castle, which I grabbed on the same trip to the bookstore, I’m going to read it again. That book deserves every heap of praise it’s ever gotten. Seriously.
Today has mostly been spent being excited about things that are mere possibilities, and months-to-a-year down the road, to boot. Fucking maddening, but better than having nothing at all to even possibly be excited about. While I’m doing that, I’ve also started GMing an Old Republic-era Star Wars RP for some friends, which I hope will be fun and drum up some interest in the inevitable TOR guild. I know we’ll have one because the website and forums are already up.
This year, Global Game Jam was held (at least locally) at SPSU — Southern Polytechnic State University. Seeing as how that is literally a five minute drive from the house, we decided to form a team with some SCAD buddies and give it a shot.
GGJ, for those who do not know, is an annual, world-wide event for game designers of every level (amateurs, students, professionals, and everything in the middle) where they come together, form teams, are given a topic and spend 48 hours making a game related to it in some fashion. This year’s topic was extinction, and the phrase “…so if you think you’re doing dinosaurs, think again,” was bandied about on Twitter, which none of us were paying any attention to.
GGJ began Friday at 5pm, with an hourlong keynote (48 hours now down to 47). I was too migrainey to go in with Corwyn on Friday, but once our team found a place to brainstorm, he included me via AIM. They mused about doing a Canabalt clone, something Corwyn’d already done as a class project. Being slightly loopy on painkillers, I made my brilliant suggestion:
CAN YOU OUTRUN EXTINCTION??? You are a dinosaur and you have to outrun the asteroid — NO! YOU ARE A TINY PREHISTORIC MAMMAL AND YOU MUST OUTRUN THE ASTEROID IMPACT AND ALL THE DINOSAURS WHO ARE RUNNING FROM IT TOO OR ELSE HUMANITY NEVER EVOLVES.
This grew from a Canabalt clone into a clone of the stampede level in the Lion King video game — and then we heard about the moratorium on dinosaur games.
This led to our title, which you play with a Kinect sensor (or a keyboard if you don’t have one):
To make myself useful while everyone around me was programming, I did the title, victory and defeat screens, as well as concept art for our hero and the dinosaurs he needs to outmaneuver. (The pong reference on the title screen was entirely Daniel’s idea, and it is entirely wonderful.) The actual game sprites were done by another SCAD student, our friend Erin, who did an amazing job turning my concept sketches into the derpiest fucking dinosaurs you will ever see in your life, with very little time to prepare or spend on the task. ZOOM.
Due to our insistence on actually getting a sane amount of sleep during GGJ, unexpectedly losing one of our programmers for five hours more than anticipated (SCAD DAYYYYYYYY!) and GGJ ending at 3pm on Sunday (6pm — 3pm != 48 hours, you liars), it was quite a crunch. Enough so that I don’t think we had the victory condition actually programmed by the time GGJ ended, despite having a screen for it, though we did get the loss screen in!
All in all, it was a lot of fun, even if the food was kind of awful (I will not go into why I consider Chick-Fil-A awful, but I bet y’all can guess! (OTHER THAN PUTTING PICKLES ON A CHICKEN SANDWICH, the south is weird)) and SPSU has what are, without a doubt, the worst office chairs I have ever had the misfortune of subjecting my back to. They make the chair I am currently sitting in feel fantastic and it cost thirty dollars.
I do know that we have tentative plans to polish Bite Me up to a more presentable state (refine the sprites, get things working a little more reliably, polish up the screens, etc), but for a 30-someodd hour job done fairly casually, and with plenty of sleep? I’m very proud of what we did.
And I can now say, entirely truthfully, that I helped develop a real live video game.
That’s fuckin’ cool.
Yes, we survived Global Game Jam, and I will be writing about it soon! I will also be writing about Champions Online’s new freebie-ness, just as soon as I get my Q’s to the team… A’d. So hopefully not too long from now, but I am patient. You can be, too.
IN THE MEANTIME
Happy birthday, STO!
Earth Spacedock’s gotten a facelift (thank you, Q), there is trivia, there are prizes, Q is turning people into Horta, Stranded in Space has been upgraded (and it is rad), and there will be a Dance with the Devs in Earth Spacedock tonight at 3pm PST.
BE THERE OR BE SQUARE.
This coming week is going to be… interesting.
We picked up a Kinect and EA Sports Active 2, since we had wonderful results with the first one. I watched Corwyn do his first workout today and I have to say, it seems a lot better than the Wii version of the first title — the workout flows much better, the Kinect reads your movements about a million times better than the nunchuk/Wiimote combo ever did, the heart rate monitor is fantastic — and, on an entirely personal note, I am insanely proud of him for making it all the way through that workout. Goddamn.
So I’m going to be incorporating that into my mornings, which is going to be a little insane, for this week in particular. Why? Well, here is our schedule for this coming week.
- Monday: Work out. Clean the bajeebus out of the bedroom so we can accept delivery of a brand new sexy bed sometime during the day, get it all set up and enjoy. Play Champions Online F2P and take copious notes for a re-review. Work on SECRET PROJECT.
- Tuesday: Work out. Class for Corwyn. Clean the bajeebus out of the office so we can set up a wall mount for the TV to clear up some floor space, move all the consoles, and assemble a new bookcase. Rearrange bookcases’ contents. Play Champions Online F2P and take copious notes for a re-review. Work on SECRET PROJECT.
- Wednesday: Work out. Accompany Corwyn, Daniel, Molly and potentially others down to Thrust Interactive’s offices to meet some folk, play some stuff and do a bunch of talkin’. Cross fingers for people remembering our names in a positive manner afterwards, since one of the folk we’re meeting is the CEO. Play Champions Online F2P and take copious notes for a re-review. Work on SECRET PROJECT.
- Thursday: Work out. Class for Corwyn. Play Champions Online F2P and take copious notes for a re-review. Hopefully get a piece of gift art for a friend done, since this is the least busy day all week. Work on SECRET PROJECT.
- Friday: Work out. Make-up class for Corwyn. Assemble a bunch of questions about Champions Online and send them to good ol’ Joe Blancato, in the hopes of having him and the dev team field them so I can include them in my re-review. Buy groceries. Tabletop night. Work on SECRET PROJECT.
- Saturday & Sunday: ~* GLOBAL GAME JAM *~ and work on SECRET PROJECT.
I know that to most normal folk, this does not necessarily look like a very trying schedule. For me, though, this is an unusual amount of stuff that NEEDS to get done, and I have left out all of the incidental stuff that is not Written On A Schedule Important. I am also pretty sure I have forgotten a bunch of stuff, but WHATEVER.
Hopefully I can muster up the energy to write a proper What We’re Playing on EA Sports Active 2 sometime in all of this, but if not, this is why next week is probably going to be a bit quiet around here. Because I committed to too much crap at the same time and am trying not to die. :V
I’d love to tell you all about what sort of content DCUO has once you reach the level cap, but I can’t. My game crashed yesterday while I was doing one of my daily Vault runs for costume pieces shortly after reaching 30 on my main character, and I can no longer log in — the game doesn’t seem to realize it kicked me out. I filed a ticket but have yet to hear back on it. So, um. Derp.
I have become convinced that the real stars of DCUO are the cities, though. I am a Batman nerd but even I have to admit that Metropolis is a gorgeous, fully-realized city that is an awful lot of fun to explore. I mean, look at it:
We haven’t even unbottled the Daily Planet yet on Virtue & Vice, and it still feels like an iconic city. That’s crazy. The guys responsible for the design and implementation of both cities deserve some serious candy, as does whichever genius decided that each zone needed to have three different types of Crackdown-style exploration nodes to hunt down to learn more about the area and the people in it. It is addictive.
Also fun: dropping onto a random roof, having Harley Quinn club me in the head with her hammer, chirp that “If ya can’t join ‘em, BEAT EM!” and then disappear in a puff of confetti. I’ve also run into Hal Jordan in this manner, but he, thankfully, did not hit me in the head with a hammer. These random encounters with DC characters out in the actual game world do a lot to make the place feel real and alive.
I’d really like to get back in there today. Next week, I’m setting DCUO aside to try out CO’s free-to-play model and do a write-up on it, so I’d like the opportunity to get tired of DCUO and actually need a break first. Otherwise, I’ll spend all my time back in Champions wishing I was patrolling the rooftops in Gotham, and that’s no good at all.
UPDATE: Hey look, autorun and chatting is now possible if you hit enter to open the chatbox. I don’t know if I was bugged or if it was patched or what, but it works now! Happy faces all around! League chat also works… sometimes. That one, at least, is still incredibly buggy.
Yesterday, DC Universe Online launched for the masses. Despite my connection being insanely laggy and terrible due to the Winterdammerung gripping the southeast, I did get to play a fair amount. I haven’t read any other day one reviews, so this is all me, being a dweeb all on my own.
So the first thing you should know about DCUO is that it is not a typical MMO. The fact that it was developed concurrently for the PS3 is everywhere, from the very action-oriented gameplay (which is a welcome change of pace in the MMO sphere and I really, really look forward to all of the upcoming games that go in a similar direction) to the UI which is, if you’re on the PC like me, a fucking national tragedy. I play with a mouse and keyboard, and from this perspective, the UI in this game makes the UI in Final Fantasy XIV look polished and streamlined. My husband plays with a 360 controller and when asked how the UI feels from there, he said “It’s alright.” HIGH PRAISE INDEED.
The chat interface in particular is very awkward to use and literally impossible to use on the move. No hitting autorun and then chatting with your League-mates while you’re waiting to get where you’re going. For one thing, the UI was, again, designed with controllers in mind, which means that when you go from Game World to UI Window, the joystick/D-Pad/mouse is repurposed to navigate the UI instead. When you open the game menu, even if it’s just hitting enter to bring up chat, you stop on a dime and do not budge until you exit back into the Game World.
For another, as of this writing, League chat doesn’t actually work — so that’s another reason you won’t be talking to your guildies while on the go. Voice chat does currently work, however, which brings me to a short Public Service Announcement…
Voice chat is on by default. You have to turn on push-to-talk or turn voice off manually, or we will hear your every word if we are teamed with you. Please turn on push-to-talk.
The game has two things going for it, really. First, you have the actiony gameplay, which is a ton of fun if you are also a console gamer with games like Marvel Ultimate Alliance, The Force Unleashed and Bayonetta on your shelf. It’s pretty hack-and-slash and frenetic in its pace, and you execute different attacks one of two ways: a certain combination of button presses/mouse clicks, or by using your powers, which are the clickies down on your action bar. It works out pretty well in practice; it feels like it really nailed what Champions Online was trying to do in marrying MMOs and console action games.
The other thing that the game has going for it is its amazing utilization of the license. Look at this cast listing for the game. If you are familiar with the DC Animated Universe, there are a whole lot of familiar names on that list, reprising the roles that we know and love them for. Kevin Conroy as Batman? Check. Mark Hamill as the Joker with Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn? Check and check. Paul Williams as the Penguin? You betcha. Gotham itself feels perfect, cast in permanent darkness and full of buildings clearly designed for people using Acrobatics as their travel power to go leaping from rooftop to rooftop. The colors used in the design of Metropolis, meanwhile, lend it a sense of hopefulness and optimism, which feels great for Wonder Woman and the Man of Steel.
For people my age, it is nostalgia in a box with fun gameplay to boot, so really, it’s hard to go wrong.
While DCUO does have both Hero and Villain characters available, this does not necessarily mean there is a whole ton of content. On the contrary, you will find your villain running some of the same content as your hero does — Bane in Gotham, for example, or HIVE in Metropolis. It was kind of disappointing when I realized I’d be running a lot of the same stuff on my baddies — enough so that I’ll probably skip playing villains entirely unless they end up with some extra content.
For reasons previously noted, I can’t really speak to issues like latency and server stability, since my connection is currently suffering under the wrath of Mister Freeze. What I can do, though, is give you a tl;dr summary here at the end.
tl;dr – DC Universe Online is a pretty damned strong showing from SOE. While the UI may give me hives, their love of the license and the complete and utter absence of sandwich-inducing gameplay is enough to make up for it ’til they can revisit it later on (AND I DO HOPE THAT THEY DO). If you grew up watching B:TAS and Champions wasn’t quite what you were looking for, give this one a go. Punching the Joker in the face is really quite satisfying.