The Infamous Noob

August 15, 2010

Believing in Magic

Filed under: Design, Games, Real Life — infamousnoob @ 7:27 pm

What makes a game transform from numbers and letters on bits of paper and cardboard into something that has a dedicated and fanatical following? I think it can be boiled down to a belief in something magical. If a game (or anything for that matter) can draw you into its world and be self-consistent enough that it always makes sense, then you believe it.

I think this extends beyond the realm of games and into everyday things. People (in the U.S. at least) associate certain events with monumental changes in life: high school graduation, college graduation, marriage, new jobs, having kids, etc. In reality, however, these events don’t necessarily cause a change in lifestyle. But because there’s this expectation that things will magically change, we unconsciously work to shape them into what we expect.

This belief is what keeps the game world turning. As long as there is an expectation that certain things will happen, and that expectation is never directly contradicted, then people are happy. For example, if your game allows every player to win as long as they do an arbitrary amount of trivial things, then as long as there is an available path to win, they won’t care if they actually do. This is particularly evident in MMOs. Everyone has the opportunity to be an “endgame” player, but most aren’t. They know how to be one, and the pieces are all available, but they simply don’t utilize them. The same is true of single player games that people just don’t get around to finishing.

Immersion is the key to keeping an active player base. Create a world that is complete in every way, and as long as it’s consistent, it will be popular.

May 25, 2010

New Beginnings

Filed under: Design, Games, Real Life — Tags: , , — infamousnoob @ 12:50 am

I finally got organized enough after the recent culmination of my higher education to apply to what I imagine to be my dream job: Game Designer for Blizzard Entertainment. Even though this has almost nothing to do with my extremely expensive piece of paper proclaiming my qualifications, I’m very excited at the prospect of it. I’ve been preparing for the interview that probably won’t happen by reading, listening and watching everything I can get my hands on by famous game designers.

The latest installment of this endeavor was a lecture by Brenda Brathwaite given at the GDC about how video games are a powerful medium to convey emotion. She talks a lot about her game Train that attempts to convey some idea of what happened to Jews in Germany during the 1940s. It’s very interesting (titled “Train: or How I Dumped Electricity and Learned to Love Design”), but I think that it plays too much on political charge. Her other projects currently in progress are about how the Irish were driven of the island and how the American Indians were relocated to Oklahoma. All of which are very much the same vein of politics, if not exactly the same events.

The secondary point that she makes is how design is not about writing lines of code or anything like that, but more about imagining a complete experience and using a corollary to Sid Meier’s “interesting decisions” in the form of interesting designs to elicit a particular response from the audience. I think that this is the more important part, though she doesn’t spend much time talking about it. I hope to be able to get enough practice to become deft enough at wielding game mechanics to tailor the response I want to get a more refined emotion that just “happy” or “angry”.

June 19, 2009

The Joys of Whitespace: The Worries of Acceptance

Filed under: Design, Games, Real Life — Tags: , — infamousnoob @ 12:44 pm

I’ve been reading a bit about Python lately, and I like it. It will be what the back end of my game ends up being written in. I’m still debating with my cohort about whether the front end will be browser-based or downloaded, but in the case of the former, I have a sample game screen written in HTML/CSS already. In the case of the latter, I guess we’ll just Python more.

The whole process has been quite interesting so far. It’s something that very few people (I think few, anyway) ever do, but it’s given me a unique perspective on things. Most notably, when I see WoW patch notes, I think about what must have been the conversation that took place and I wonder what the other options were before whatever I see was decided on. Actually, now that I think about it, everything about design is simply a decision-making process. Ironically, that’s what my schooling has been about so far too, even though I didn’t know it for most of the time.

I think the thing that I worry most about, though, isn’t whether or not my game will be “good”. I know what quality it will be already. I won’t let it be any less, and I don’t think I have the patience or motivation to make it more. I’m worried about how it will be received. Even though I don’t expect it to reach more than a dozen people, I want them to enjoy it. I don’t even <i>have</i> a game yet, but I’m worried about what people will think of it. I must be going crazy.

What I really need now is a good way to store and retrieve the boatloads of information that I’ll be passing back and forth from server to client. I’m sure there are tons of very good methods out there already, but since this project is one of educational flavor, I think I’ll just start from scratch and see what I come up with. Maybe I’ll even get something completely new, and sell it to Google for a million dollars! And then go have a beer with Santa and the Easter Bunny and Jesus! Or maybe I’ll just learn what I can and then implement what’s already been developed by more knowledgeable than me. Either one.

April 20, 2009

Quality vs. Quantity

Filed under: Design, Games, Real Life — infamousnoob @ 12:08 pm

This is the age-old question. When you’re marketing a product, do you make it really, really, REALLY good, or just make it good enough that you can appease the masses?

I’ve had an idea brewing in the back of my head for a while about a nebulous game-like thing that I’d like to create. But some big questions that I hav about it are whether I want to appeal to the general public, or if I want to make a specific “niche” game that will only appeal to a relatively few gamers, but have a higher quality in some aspect. Now, I’m not saying that I’m a wonderful game-designer and that I can produce results for either one of these scenarios. But I think that it’s an important question to consider.

From what I’ve seen in the world around me, it’s ALWAYS more profitable to make a lower-quality product. Microsoft is almost the embodiment of this principle. Mac OS is better, but more expensive hardware. The Xbox is hardly more than a Windows machine masquarading with controllers, but it has more market share that either the Wii or PS3 (sadly).

People say that they want things of high quality, but I think that when the dust settles, they really just want -things-. Quality is very nice and will win out over a very long period of time (sometimes a generation or more), but for any product/business that wants to turn a profit soon, just putting a product out there (and having a lot of units available) is the sure-fire way to start the cash flowing.

January 20, 2009

3.0.8 hits, Most Users Still Whiners. More to Follow.

Filed under: Real Life, World of Warcraft — Tags: , , , , , — infamousnoob @ 2:07 pm

I’ve been trying to keep up with people on the role forums about what they want from the game. In particular, the tanking and healing forums have me very, very confused.

They both complain that content is incredibly easy (this sentiment is echoed throughout most of the subscribers, however). But when talking about the nerfs to Circle of Healing/Wild Growth, or the removal of the Titanguard enchant (BEFORE it was even in-game!!), they both cry out that these things are unfair. That’s the part that confuses me. There are dozens (possibly hundreds) of posts about how easy the game is, but when it’s made harder, that’s bad too. I think the problem is that the game caters to too many kinds of people, and it’s impossible to satisfy everyone. Instead of having several great games that have specific target audiences in mind, we get one huge game that is good, but mediocre in several places in order to accomodate everyone.

The biggest culprit of this is the constant struggle to balance classes for both PvP and PvE. Some abilities (everything that involves huge burst damage) work fine in PvE, but are considerably overpowered in PvP. In fact, when it comes to this situation, the two facets of the game are at opposing ends of each other. Everything about PvE is focused towards how well you can kill bosses, and this means sustainable damage/healing/suvivability. In PvP, it doesn’t matter if you can sustain 5,000 dps/hps if you can’t put out 20,000 damage/healing in 4.5 seconds. The introduction of PvP tanks with this expansion helps to close the gap, but I don’t think that it’s a viable solution right now. PvE and PvP really should be broken away from each other, so that the debacle of Retribution Paladins through the Beta isn’t repeated.

I think that this is pushing me away from the game, honestly. I still thoroughly enjoy raiding and completing content, but I’m becoming increasingly intolerent of the other players. For as much as people complain that the current available content is too easy, there still aren’t very many people I’ve met who I would voluntarily go into a heroic/raid with. Sadly, my DoIKnowYou is filling up with red marks, while the only green marks I have are people who I knew already. I suppose that’s the nature of the beast, though.

My brother has told me that he’s quitting WoW in March when his account expires, and it’s made me consider what I like about the game. I think I would be just as happy playing an offline console RPG (<3 FFVII) as I am on the occasions where I am able to complete content (a.k.a. raid) in WoW. The downside to this is that I spend time outside of raiding collecting materials for item enhancements, upkeep on my characters, building reputations, etc. Most of those things are “required” in offline games too, but they don’t have timelines. If I want to raid in WoW, I have to put in X amount of time each week for the attempts we make, and the support activities that go along with that.

One of the reasons that I chose the specific name of this blog, instead of something WoW related, is that I knew <i>eventually</i> I would stop playing. Whether the game dried up, or I just wasn’t enjoying it anymore, I knew that someday I wouldn’t be writing about World of Warcraft. But I’ve always had a passion for gaming. I enjoy board games and card games, tabletop and video games. I like puzzles and riddles. I just like figuring out the system that’s presented to me and understandig what makes it tick. So, in the event that I’m not covering WoW anymore, I’ll still have some hobby to ramble about. But don’t worry — that’ll definitely be after Ulduar is released.

Currently, I’m trying to diagnose what went “POP” in my Windows computer, and attempt to replace that part before the warranty runs out. I’m fairly certain that it’s the power supply at this point, but I still have little bits of power around the motherboard so it’s not completely dead if it is the problem.

As a side note, I definitely need to post more than once a week. I end up with about four different topics in each post because I can’t decide what to cut out.

January 13, 2009

Off At a Gallop!

Filed under: Real Life, World of Warcraft — Tags: , , , , — infamousnoob @ 12:54 pm

The new year has brought a huge amount of activity for me. I built a new computer to do all my Windowsy things, transferred schools, and started classes. I also did some things in WoW, like started raiding 25-mans, started collecting Fury tier pieces on my warrior, and started a priest. I love new beginnings.

I have a sense that I’m loading up with more than I can handle, but if worse come to worst I’ll just drop my priest and quit transferring schools. That should cut down on my workload by at least half.

In news related to this blog, there are a few changes that have been discussed about druids and warriors. I’ll start with the warrior ones.

Titan’s Grip is getting the 5% hit penalty removed. Obviously, this is a buff. Of about 5% damage. w00t.

Deep Wounds is being discussed by Blizzard for a possible nerf. Personally, I think this is a good thing. When I give up talents in prot to dip into Deep Wounds because it means that I’m doing 1300 dps instead of 1100, something is a little off. Also, it’s being reported that some dps warriors are accounting for anywhere between 20% and 50% of their damage from Deep Wounds ticks. Obviously this depends on how much crit you have, but 50% damage from a couple talent points seems a little excessive. Assuming a single-roll combat system, this means that crit is more valuable than hit, too. I really like the mechanic and hope that it stays. But it needs to be reined in somehow so that the variance isn’t quite so much as 30% of total damage. Arms warriors would be buffed if Deep Wounds is indeed nerfed, probably something fairly deep like Mortal Strike or lower in the tree.

Druid changes!

Wild Growth is getting a six second cooldown. I can appreciate that in 25-mans and even some cases in 10-mans this is a nerf. But it’s not really something horrible. Druid healers still have all the tools in enough quantity to heal through anything. Priest’s Circle of Healing trivialized a lot of encounters simly because of the massive throughput they could attain. Wild Growth was a close second. A Shaman’s Chain Heal was a distant third.

Nourish will benefit from having Wild Growth on the target. This is definitely a buff, but I think a very small one, contrary to what other druids say. The boost to the T7 4-piece will be nice, but the likelyhood of having all 4 HoTs on a target at once for the full 20% extra healing (on top of the natural boost that Nourish receives from having any of them up) is slim, unless it counts other druid’s HoTs as well as your own. In that case, I can see a raid having a HoTer and a Nourisher, since the synnergy is almost too good to pass up. Numbers would have to be crunched, of course. But I think there’s something good there.

Also in-game, but not related to warriors or druids, mining is getting a change. Now, instead of having to pick away at a mineral node 2-8 times, you’ll only have to hit it once. I like this change, because as “real” as the current system is, it lends itself to having your mineral ninja’d by someone with lower latency. So I’m willing to give up that little bit of flavor in favor of convenience.

I mentioned having a priest, but he’s only 17 at the moment. I’m sure he’ll level quickly because of the shoulders I was able to grab from turning in Stone Keeper’s Shards, but I’m pretty sure I’ll never raid with him. I think I just like the idea of the healing versitality they offer, what with two healing specs and all. Of course, he’s a dwarf. I think that dwarves are the single most awesome race in WoW, if only for their jokes and emotes. One of their racial bonuses should be drunkeness resistance.

But I digress. Priests are fun, but only once you get to the point where you have some tools to work with. The first ten levels made me question whether I wanted this character every step of the way. As I get higher, it makes me wonder how people got to high levels to begin with. Cloth wearing classes are so hard to keep alive. 😛

That wraps up the first of many (hopefully) posts to come. You should see me more often now that things have started settling into some semblance of routine.

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