Author Archive: Isey

Feast or Famine

Going to a new blogging style. The exciting ‘when I can/feel like it’. When I blogged regularly I blogged pretty hard, 3+ posts a week, keeping on top of current events and all the “excitement”. I took an extended break once, and in the same breadth kept lurking and reading my favorites without posting. I haven’t posted since December and plan on making it more regular (without any firm commitments!)

Now I’ll just have the odd meal, enjoy the writing part, and keep blogging for no ulterior purpose but to enjoy myself on much needed breaks.

So, what have I been up to gaming wise?

a) I broke my EA holdout 10 months after it started while in a gaming funk, and bought Dragons Age 2 on sale. As reviewed by others I was a bit dissappointed when compared to the first.

b) Long after Cataclysm was released, I did my WoW dance once again, enjoyed it for what it is, then left when all I could do was done. Un-subbed prior to 4.1 with little interest returning. Maybe next expansion for a 3 month ride to remind myself why I unsubbed in the first place =)

c) Played more of Minecraft – although given up on creating something completely awesome, I am strip mining to hollow out under the world but making all resources renewable – anything I take from the ground I have to reuse above ground. Will someday end up with a rediculous cavern underground and floating islands in the sky. It’s definitely Zen grinding down blocks then finding uses for them elsewhere

d) Played Rift until level 15, quit, much for the same uninspiring reasons the current-gen MMO mechanics I often lament

e) Trialed AION for the free 20 levels, enjoyed myself a bit, not buying.

f) Less excited than ever about SWTOR and their marketing giganticnous of the title, and looking forward to not buying it on release while waiting for the reviews to pour in from trusted like minded bloggers. I still expect to play it someday as I am a fan of the DA/ME conversation wheel choices, but everything I have read about it from the CE backward has me in pure holdout mode.

Work wise we are expanding into Asian and South American countries, so that has been interesting and exciting. My family and I (odd to make the distinction, heh) are moving this week to a new home 7 hours away for work.

How have you been? =)

Lambs to The Slaughter

After reading the comments of SWTOR’s latest QA from Friday, I noticed a couple of things:

  • Seems to be a lot of MMO rookies following this closely
  • There will be major disappointment for those rookies

Some random ones, amid the rabid fanboyism:

Can you imagine a small smuggler ship entering in Coruscant atmosphere with two passengers(you and your companion) hidden in secret compartments?

and republic soldiers (another plays) searching for illegal stuffs in that ship?

Sorry, Poster 345. You can’t imagine it. The Quest designer can though, and rest assured with that cool move, you and 4 million other characters will get to experience it!

This game is being build at such a grand scale… something i’ve never seen before. The dev teams deserve a monthly fee. Just look at their work O_o
You can just stand in AWE, gazing upon it’s greatness.

I too hope you can jump from the highest skyscraper and just dive for a couple of minutes.

Sure, if it’s scripted!

I’m pretty sure the heroic flashpoints will be different than we’ve seen in other games. Instead of like in WoW where they’re the regular dungeons that are repeated, but are more difficult. In ToR, I see it being entire brand new flashpoints with end-game in mind. By this I mean that they will still focus on story, but in a different way, so that they are repeatable and don’t feel like you’re playing the same story over and over

Not commenting.

I don’t get why they don’t let any faction visit any planet. I would understand barring the starter planets cause of the PvP servers, but places like corusaunt. They keep saying they want to make it like in the movies and books, well darth zannah went to corusant to the jedi temple itself and she was not the only sith to ever visit the place. Bunch of bounty hunters go to the repulic capital also to find work

So the content is fresh when you decide to try a different side. I mean, why could players go to any planet they want? That’s what rails are for!

I’m a bit disappointed that their are multiple servers… I like the entire “One Server” where your name can be heard and known by all, and your choices effect the game as a whole, not just your server… By the way, I’ve been wondering, to what extend is this “Your choices make a difference in the game” go to? Do your choices only effect immediate characters, like the captain, or do you capture worlds, defeat leaders, etc that die once, and EVERYONE’s story is different…? I don’t doubt it’ll be a great game either way, but it would be cool if one player’s choices could effect another on the other side of the galaxy…

Dare to dream, random poster, dare to dream. World impact is left for single player games.

Now, I used to be guilty of the same hopes and dreams when new games were announced and discussed. Most gamers have an active imagination, which is handy to have when playing in fantasy worlds. Just skimming the contents there are going to be a lot of disappointed people. I do think TOR will be successful, but really – take WoW, skin it as star wars, add in voice overs, and that is the crux of what you are going to get. The core gameplay will still be on rails, repeatable content.

Still may be awesome, but the fantastical quotes made me sign in nostalgia.

The Sandbox Knows No Bounds

Interesting thread over on the Project Reality forums about putting together a Minecraft Tournament.

The PR community is a war inspired bunch, their hobby being tactical shooter games. A lot of the forum members are members of the military as well (although not exclusively) and in the Politics sub forum there is a lot of chatter on engagements around the world, discussions of various armies, etc.

With that in mind, I was a bit surprised to see the Minecraft tournament suggestion (yet equally delighted). The short premise being discussed: Two teams on a big Minecraft map, both sides get two hours to build whatever they want, and then they go to war. No respawns, either. One side wins, one is decimated.

I didn’t expect MC to be a hit with the gamers in that community, and here is yet another way to enjoy the game in a manner I didn’t think it would be used for. I am definitely signing up and I’ll let you know how it goes (if it goes down).

Goes to show, if you (let them) build it, they will come.

Avoiding Disasters

Including Cataclysm.

A part of me was actually hoping I would have interest to buy the expansion, and based off the generaly quietness of blognation I may be in the minority. Although, the things the bloggers have turned out seem to be a lot of ‘content is almost done, when is the next expansion’ fun little remarks.

Quoting our good friend Syp here, when talking about a game that has all the things our MMO’s don’t:

One Chance made me think a lot about the choices we make in MMOs, and how few of them are (a) permanent, (b) impactful, and (c) meaningful

Will change ‘few’ to ‘none’ (in game decisions, anyway. I suppose our choice of guild can contain all three).

I’ve been only playing Project Reality. It’s pure awesome.

Project Reality 0.95

I wrote a bit about Project Reality when 0.8 was released as it was my first experience with it. After my gaming break I recently rebooted up the franchise in it’s 0.95 version. This Battlefield 2 mod does so much right for my gaming style and in general, that I want to share, promote, hug it, and force all of my Call of Duty/bunny hopping/Medal of Honor/dolphin diving friends to play it. And appreciate it.

You won't survive long without friends.

A bit of history – the mod is created by Black Sand Studios, which is a group of FPS enthusiasts who decided to improve the realism level of  Battlefield 2 way back in 2004. They do a lot of modding of various titles but Project Reality is their flagship. It is one of those ‘labour of love’ projects, as the mod is free to the community.

In the most simplest of comparisons, PR is EQ if Call Of Duty is WoW. That’s not meant to scare you off – there isn’t progression in PR (it’s a 64 multiplayer map game) but strip down all the silly from what we get in new FPS titles, and all the fluff that detracts from the experience, and you have the most solid core gameplay for any FPS out there with depth, consequence, reward and decision making that is sadly absent in the FPS of 2010.

More PR goodness after the break.

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How Not to Blog

Sorry, Peter Moore, your “blog” is a pretty big embarrassment.

I was surfing EA sites to find anyplace to complain that they stopped their major sports title development for the PC. Yes, I have complained about it a couple times already. I really want to play some football.

1) Most of the comments on that blog post I redirected you to is spam. I mean, Askimet is free. It blocks hundreds to my site a week. Even if your blogging software doesn’t have a spam checker, hire someone for minimum wage to keep an eye on it.

2) The posts that aren’t spam, are your customers who seem infuriated that you suggested the game you are blogging about is a big hit – their impression is complete trash. While that may not be the case you should probably address their issues.

There is no excuse for that level of an executive to not keep the blog clean. If you don’t want to manage it, turn off commenting. If you want it to be a place where you can connect and engage your customers, do so. If you want to start selling Gucci, Coach, and Ed Hardy knockoffs just leave it as is.

There is so much lazy and so much wrong with it. I am embarrassed for Mr. Moore and the EA brand. And I already don’t support your products anymore. (25 days and counting!)

Film Fund

Fun thing about being ‘successful’ and making contacts – I was asked, and agreed to, sit on a board of directors for a film fund.

I just signed back the paperwork today. It sat on my desk for a week, and to be honest movies aren’t any more of my forte than games – I have a lot to learn about the industry. I know they asked me for both my track record of raising funds, and my growing contact list – not my movie expertise. I think it will be a great learning experience and that I can bring some business experience to the group. I am probably most excited to get on the inside of another industry and learn the ins and outs.

It is as simple as it sounds – a group that raises money from investment sources to make movies. We raise funds, and find good projects to apply them to.

Give me a year and I’ll figure out how to get the group to put some funds towards gaming. =)

Nodding Wistfully – RMT, Gold Farming, and Jared.

Nodding Wistfully is a newer post-type here that has little content, but refers to a fellow blogger’s content that I either agree with strongly, or think is a very worthwhile read. Yes, I’ve only done two of them so far, but plan on continuing them!

PlayNoEvil has a great annotated video interview posted up that is an interesting watch/read. I just noticed that it’s from end of October, and sadly I missed it up when it was posted. It’s an interview with a Gold broker for the secondary market in MMO’s.

While I think there are ample opportunities for developers to harness the income from the secondary market, and/or design better ways to slow the practice in their online theme parks, it’s good ‘other side’ perspective content to consume. It’s 40 minutes long, so at bare minimum just read the annotated portion.

Quick note on Vindictus and what they do to stop/stem hacked accounts – when you log in from a new IP address you can’t do anything negative to your character for a short time period. Can’t sell things, can’t destroy items, and can’t use the mailbox. I thought this was a pretty interesting, non-invasive way to slow down account theft. Figured that is worth mentioning along with the theme of the above post.

Premium Market Position

While our MMO companies battle for the mainstream dollar, I can’t help but wonder if any are forward thinking to the premium dollar customers – or if that market even exists in the gaming world. In the simplest of comparisons think Price Chopper vs Whole Foods. The first provides basic food at cut rate prices. The second provides food that is better for you but costs a lot more. The first tends to be less clean, more crowded, and more basic. The second is a better overall shopping experience, if you are willing to pay for it. Even looking at their websites you get the impression of the difference in quality and the markets both are trying to capture.

I drive a Lexus. I don’t say that in any snooty way, or think that makes me special by any means. In fact, it barely cost more than the GM I drove before it. My experience with domestic car makers over the years has been a major let down on such a major purchase, and after getting a $1500 bill to repair my windshield wipers on my 2006 GM, I had had enough. While the entry price for the GM was more manageable (and I was supporting the local factory as well), every time I went into scheduled service after the warranty had run out it cost me an additional $500 to the aforementioned $1500. Beyond frustrated I did my research and bought the Lexus. I now have bumper to bumper warranty for 200,000 km, a safer, more comfortable drive, and something that will hold it’s value much better. Back to my GM for a second – it cost me $38,000 and was a 2006 model (with 128,000 km driven – yes, I drive a TON for work), and when I went to trade it in this year the black book value was $2500 – $5500. Compare that to my brother’s Toyota, that he has had for 9 years, has 300,000 km on it – still holding a black book value of $16,000.

Oooh, shiny!

Last car point before back to gaming – I drove over a nail on the highway two weeks ago, and was awful nervous what it was going to cost me to replace that tire (Pirelli). When I took it into Lexus for service they informed me my tires were covered for 36 months, and I got the tire replaced for free. I was very happy with this – afterall, the tire didnt fail from the manufacturer, neither they or myself could have controlled how that nail ended up on the highway at the point I was bombing down the highway. That surprised value has created a definite customer loyalty and satisfaction I haven’t had in my lifetime of owning domestic vehicles.

The point of talking about grocery stores and cars is to illustrate the point that as a consumer I will pay for value. My wife will argue that I am actually ‘cheap’, although I argue I just hate throwing money away. Investing in something that holds extra value isn’t cheap to me, its sensisble consumerism.

Most industries work this way. There is always a more expensive version of whatever you own, and savvy companies capitalize on this through branding and value and make their profits on margin vs units sold. In the gaming sphere, am I alone in saying that I would pay more for a better experience?

Easy gaming examples – I would pay more for WoW for an adult only server with extra features (with housing, for example). The server would most likely be less populated which would allow for housing in the first place. Other features that would be worth paying for for me including removing mechanics that artificially elongate content (dungeon lockouts, dailies, etc) and additional customization options. Blizzard has those items flagged as things that don’t add value to their current subscriber base, so they don’t allocate their scarce resources to build on them. They may be fluffy examples, but I would pay more for them. There are better ways to build the premium product, but those are just off the cuff.

In a gaming world where companies are going the other way – where they are easing entry barriers and going Wal-Mart in design instead of Boutique, surely a company out there can recognize that by making a better game they can position themselves not as ‘niche’, but ‘premium’. It makes the most sense for an existing company to build on their existing success to test this market. Back to cars, Toyota owns Lexus. They have thier base affordable car for the ‘masses’ but have that premium option. They sell far more cars branded Toyota than Lexus, but Lexus is very profitiable – because they build up from their base models and offer more. It takes far less effort to enhance the basic offering as the guts and basics are already there.

Instead of not paying $15 a month right now for a shallow and basic gaming experience, I’m willing to pay more to get something better. I would be surprised if there isn’t a growing consumer base willing to do so – when I started gaming the monthly sub was a lot to swallow, but as I matured and became more gainfully employed games didn’t grow in the same way. I bet that many people who grew up in the MMO marketplace are in the same position as I am – and are ready to invest in a premium MMO if so designed.

Bioware’s New Game is Shattered Steel (probably).

A lot of speculation out there, but here’s a visual cue on why it is probably a remake of Shattered Steel.

Capture from the video

That’s not a building, its a cockpit

See those two, round black bulb things above his head (and to the left?) He’s not shooting out of a window, he’s shooting out of a cockpit.

Oh look at this high rez screen from ages ago.

Either a complete coincidence, or nifty stuff.

EA probably heard I have banned myself from their products, and this is their clever way to get me back. I love giant robots.

More Proof of the Decline of Western Civilization

Stolen directly from Gregg Easterbrook of Tuesday Morning Quarterback (TMQ). The Zubon of the football world (meant as a compliment). And yes, it is game related.

Not only did huge numbers of people buy the latest “Call of Duty” video game — which allows you to play the role of Richard Nixon killing zombies — but Jeep announced a Call of Duty edition of its Wrangler model, to be released next month. Jeep is owned by Chrysler, which received a $8 billion federal bailout. Please don’t tell me tax money is being forcibly removed from our pockets to subsidize a car themed for a video game.

Ha.

Deferred Success

This title stems from educators wanting to remove kids from an ‘F’, or ‘Failing’ grade. No more failing – just deferred success! Clearly the change in terminology will make kids all become hugely successful.

This Epic Defer is part of a longer list of deferrments by public offcials who manage powerful unionized employees (the same unions that say it’s unfair to periodically test teachers to ensure they are, you know, smart enough to teach kids). So in essence the teacher’s union has accepted their own deferred success and want to pass that onto the kids. That part makes complete sense.

Sorry for the mini rant, its funny stuff.  The gaming slant comes next.

Gauging success in all forms of gaming has me in a proverbial pickle. Is wiping on a boss mechanic, only to come back and conquer it, any more or less satisfying than restoring from a save game point in a single player game? Single player games do have ‘difficulty’ levels, while MMO’s have been adopting that same sort of mechanic with Hard Modes. Developers have to take into account all sorts of play styles and ability levels to range the expected outcomes of success. Players want to win, developers want players to win too – for the satisfaction of the purchase. So in a sense, developers are just setting their own levels of deferred success for their player bases.

Make it too hard – players revolt. Make it too easy – players don’t feel challenged and have a superficial experience. Where, and how, is that line drawn?

This thought process has lead me to a pillar that should be of more importance – the story. Regardless of difficulty level story is a trump card. If the story is amazing, I’m more likely to bang my head against that wall in a tough level to learn what happens next. I’m also left with a feeling of satisfaction after completing an easy level as my waltz through it is still rewarded with a narrative. Call of Duty, Black Ops did this particularly well in their interactive movie experience single player campaign.

World of Warcraft, and most of the other MMO’s I’ve payed have not done the story aspect  particularly well.

Then we have the outliers, the games that don’t present directed experiences as the challenge but where the players create the stories. Minecraft is a good example of this. Sports games where players play against other humans also has a much stronger skill aspect.

All games are created for you to have success in them – they are just designed in a length of time format that players expect a return on based on the monetization scheme.

I don’t have a conclusion here and just throwing this up for discussion. It just all feels very shallow to me right now -the deferred success in our games – like the Wizard of Oz is just some dude behind a curtain was just revealed to me.

Inventory Full

A friend and old guildmate of mine has jumped into blognation over at Inventory Full.  I suppose technically he is a current guildmate from WoW (I am unsubbed, but details, details) and we always enjoyed parlaying in and out of game about games and other fun and relevant stuff. He only has a couple posts up about starting his blog, but stop by and say hi. I’m looking forward to seeing what Liam writes over there as he develops it all.

Enjoy the journey, Liam!

I’ve Created a [zombie] Monster [survivor]

There’s a lot of coverage and interest with The Terminator vs. Video Games trudging through the Supreme Courts right now. I’m sure blognation will cover it much better than I but I’ll share a story about games and parenting as a gamer and a parent of a 5 year old. While I do not claim to be the world’s best parent (my son would disagree with that statement – as I am sure every parent’s kid feels their parents are ‘the bestest’) I do try to answer his questions honestly. When he started asking for a brother or sister, and the inevitable questions began about how do babies get in bellies, I did explain about eggs, and how the mommy needs a daddy to help make the egg a baby, etc. Of course I did it in a non graphic way of trying to explain to a child how things work without really letting the cat out of the bag.

So, at breakfast yesterday when we were having eggs and toast for breakfast, he exclaimed:

“Daddy! Mommy is eating eggs! So now you go kiss her belly and then the egg will crack and a baby will grow! Can I watch?”

Next time I am using diagrams. Erm. Maybe not.

I have been a late adopter for games as of late and just picked up L4D2 as a huge fan of the first title. My 5 year old has his own laptop and plays his own uber MMO (Club Penguin) and after physical play time, or just winding down, we’ll sit on the couch and take an hour playing our games together. He caught me playing L4D2 and became completely enthralled in the game. I’ll share some fun/interesting observations after the break –  just don’t call Child Services on me.

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Spinning Politics

I try not to write much when it comes to American Politics – it’s very polarizing and I’m Canadian. My University education was a joint honors in Poli-Sci/Economics so I do watch with much interest, and since what happens to my favorite neighbors to the south has an impact to us Canucks, it’s an important observation.

The media aspect of American politics is fascinating to me. I find the negative campaign pieces humorous (apologies if my American friends take offense – we just don’t see that level of backhandness and blatant fact massaging up here – although each year we are moving closer to that ‘system’) and they seem to better belong as a SNL skit more than a decision making/changing mechanism.

For those American friends who haven’t enjoyed Canadian TV a brief explanation – we get all of your TV and news stations. We have some of our own, but for the most part we watch the same TV and the same commercials.

When I saw this while watching the CNN election updates last night, well, I was both shocked and mildly amused.

I’m going to point out here that my blog has a conversational style to it – I don’t write researched articles here. It’s more like we are sitting around a pub having a beer and the idea comes up in ‘conversation’. So, we are having that beer and this comes up as a topic – does it really work? Do people actually watch that and think they better vote Republican before The USA flag gets a new yellow star added to the flag?

Besides the possible racial effect it could have on Asian Americans which is a much deeper topic of discussion, I can’t help but feel that ad is an insult to the intelligence of the American people.

I’ll get back to the regularly scheduled gaming stuff as normal. Just something I was exposed to while watching the House switch hands last night.

Straws, Backs, and Camels

Ok. I’m going to see how long I can NOT buy an EA product. I’m disconnecting my cash from the company.

I’ve never had a major issue with the company, either. Their support (for me) has been just awesome. I’ve been buying their titles for as long as I have been gaming.

Sometimes, you just have to take a stand. I know that sounds like I’m making some huge gesture over a major event, but it’s not. It’s actually a bit silly.

I was first disappointed with EA when they struck PC development with their sports titles. I was a perennial purchaser. Madden and Hockey every year. Baseball when they had the rights. We are going back a decade or
more here on those titles alone.

The layoff notices are well documented at brokentoys.org each time they happen. I’m not even ‘taking a stand’ because of this, although their announcements are always framed as a good thing – and that annoys me. It’s the attitude moreso then the job losses. I don’t say that unsympathetically either – but losses happen in every industry, every day. Normally they just aren’t celebrated as a championed initiative to stock holders.

The proverbial straw here is the promotional email received from them this morning for a game I don’t even play.

I did say it was silly.

For a mere $10 you can buy their first multiplayer map pack for Medal of Honor. It also includes all the multiplayer unlocks (which are normally earned in game).

MoH has been out for all of two weeks. So, new smart business design is release your blockbuster with limited maps for full price, then hit your players with a charge 2 weeks later.

You know the maps were done, and could have been released for free with the game.

Heck, if they waited a year, I’d understand a dlc pack.

This blatant f*** you just put me over the edge. A lot of respect is gone for EA, and in the blogosphere I was one of the few that still had it.

(1. I’m posting this on my iPhone stuck in a waiting room, so I haven’t linked anything. Will update that over the weekend

2. I beta tested MoH and it was average at best

3. I say ‘trying’ not to buy as they have a bunch of upcoming titles I am really interested in. I will need help resisting the temptation. I need a support group!

4. Anyone else with me?)

Minecraft Zen (for you, Tesh)

Tesh often waxes poetic about forms of Zen grinding, and I found it recently in Minecraft. I realized in game I am not a fancy builder – but hey, can I strip mine with the best of them! When a much needed work break opportunity appears, I make 12 stone pickaxes (saving the iron ore for the future) and clear out my already very deep mine.

This evening while doing so I discovered a horriffic discovery.

Not-so-inside-yet-not-obvious-chuckles sure makes for good blogging.

And oh, that picture doesn’t capture the magnitude of how much I have strip mined (it’s well over half way down, and in one of the thinner areas), but I had to catch super chicken in the act. It’s the first animal I have seen this deep… coincidence?

Nodding Wistfully : Diku

A thankful nod to this article over at Qblog from Mr. Dr. Bartle. While I started my MMO adventures in EQ beta, I still didn’t understand where the holy trinity actually came from.  I’ve always disliked it, writing my own musings on how silly it all is, and the challenges of getting people to adopt something that may be different. Even if it is better.

I found the link through Zubon’s ‘Most Typical Member’ post over at killtenrats (which I’m not going to link directly, as this post doesn’t really add to his thoughts on the matter).

Read, enjoy, dream of change.

What I Don’t Get About the Gaming Industry

“As you know, seasonal roll-offs that follow game launches are common and vital to maintaining a healthy business” – EA Spokesperson Jeff Brown

Why is it that this statement seems only true for the gaming industry? I’m probably missing a few other industries that do this so nonchalantly in tone. It seems impossible to maintain a stable, motivated workforce in the gaming industry.

“We had a solid first quarter, exceeding expectations both top and bottom line,” said John Riccitiello, CEO (from Q1 2011 earnings report at investor.ea.com, dated August 3)

“EA is well-positioned for the year ahead and reaffirms its FY11 non-GAAP guidance,” said Eric Brown, Chief Financial Officer. “Digital revenue is expected to grow approximately 30% year over year, to $750 million in the fiscal year.”

Good thing EA doesn’t need staff to hit that growth. I suppose we have a better understanding of who straddles that ‘bottom line’. As a guy in business, I value my staff, their families, and their contribution as paramount to my personal and professional success. Talk to the Guru business leaders and you get the same story – it is all about motivating, empowering, and giving ownership to your team.

Not going to wax poetically here I do not know the way the gaming industry ticks – only that it sounds like a time bomb.

Oh, for giggles, the ending quote of Mr. Brown in the same article over at Gamasutra.com

“Because so many of our games ship in the holiday quarter, the team size adjustments tend to follow in the same timeframe. However, EA is growing and several of our studios are looking to hire talented people.”

Maybe you should move those talented, experienced people you just fired over to the new studios? Just a thought.

Steam Sale Stings! (also – my Baseball Game is now a RPG)

I picked up MLB 2k10 from 2k sports over the weekend. I enjoyed 2k9, and the $20 price tag is a nice entry level. Today I check out steam, and that same title is now on sale for $1.99. 90% off! While that is indeed impressive, now my valued purchase makes me feel like I was bent over the virtual counter. I emailed them to see if I can get credit (which I’ll promptly turn around and buy a different title with anyway).

I’ve always been a proponent of the Steam sales strategy and this is the first time it has bitten me in the bottom. I’ll update you if they do the right thing. If not, of course, then I suppose I’ll never buy anything off Steam again that ISN’T on sale. Should be a no brainer that due to the proximity of the sale I should get credit. We’ll see.

MLB 2k10 has ‘My Player’ mode, and it is a nice marriage of sports and rpg. You make a player, customize looks, etc and then go into the MLB draft. You can choose the team you want to play for or randomize it. I was drafted by the Giants.

What happens next is hella fun. You only play your role. I picked a starting pitcher, so I just pitch. That’s it. The games go by quickly (well, except for that nasty game where I earned a 7.45 ERA) and the pitcher/hitter interface is really well done.

The interesting part is how you improve your player. There are mini goals in real time (ie: do not allow baserunner to advance into scoring position, do not walk batter, strike out the side, etc) and successfully achieving them gives you points, which you can then spend to upgrade your abilities. You also get points for baseball worthy things (strikeouts, flyouts, groundouts, inning with no runs, innings with no hits, etc). Pitching, fielding, and batting all have separate point pools you earn for achieving things in game. Bonus idea is that you get 2x the points if it’s a key matchup – either a division/geographical rival (this happened when I got the start against the Oakland A’s) or if it’s a key positional matchup (this happened when I pitched against a star pitcher as a rookie). It’s pretty well thought out.

I’m playing above Pro level and getting a feel for how the game plays – spent the whole first season in the minors, midway year two called up to the bigs. Added a pitch type (Screwball) and working on my stats along the way. Winning and losing, but having fun. Supposedly you can also get traded to other teams if the GM deems it necessary.

Nice to see the RPG elements introduced into the PC sports game genre, although I suppose there aren’t a ton of players who swap their playtime between Fallout : NV and Sports.

(PS – I still hate you EA sports for stopping game development for the PC! I miss you football!!)

Welcome To Our Preferred Customer Program

My son decided he wanted to be a Skeleton this year for Hallowe’en – a far cry from his normal big budget movie choices (Batman, Spiderman, Bumblebee) and wow, is it ever hard to find a basic skeleton costume these days.

I ordered on online and had it priority shipped. It arrived in a day, and is a great costume. He and his exposed 3d glowing bones are also excited. I can’t wait to comb through his piles of loot and take out what I like next week. I have a sweet tooth.

The day after the costume arrived, I received an email from the company I had purchased the costume with, welcoming me to their ‘Preferred Customer Program’. While I am never one to shy away from future savings (how many Hallowe’en costumes am I supposed to buy in a year anyway?) my first thought was ‘seriously?’

I have been an off and on Customer of World of Warcraft for 6 years, and I still haven’t become a preferred customer there. What simple retail lessons can we learn after the break?

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On Relationships

Not interpersonal human relationships, as that is better served by the professionals.

Not MMO player relationships (guilds, etc) as that is still managed between human beings.

In Fallout: New Vegas, I am asked to manage relationships in game via two formats – Karma, and Reputation with various groups.

Karma is interesting – if you do something inherently bad, even out of sight, you ‘lose’ it. Down the road your Karma rating is a benchmark on whether certain groups or characters will work with you. It is an unforseen force, yet exists. Many argue that to be true in our real lives. Karma, is apparently, a bitch.

Example in game: I am tired. I see a bed. I mouse over the bed to have the option to sleep in it. The choice is in red – if I choose to sleep in it I will lose Karma. It is red only because it ‘belongs’ to a character in game. I can’t ask that character for permission to sleep in his bed. I only have the choice to sleep in it, lose Karma, or not sleep in it and find another place to sleep. For some reason you can’t sleep on couches. (One of my favorite pasttimes).

Oddly enough, if I kill the owner of the bed I don’t lose Karma. Now that he/she is dead, the game flags the bed as ‘unowned’ and I can choose to sleep in that bed and not lose Karma. Sad post-apolyptic survival social commentary that you get penalized for sleeping in a bed without asking, unless you kill the owner of the bed first. I should probably just end this article here, but there is more.

The second managed reputation is with faction. If that same owner of the bed is a member of a group, say the NCR, then if I kill him I lose reputation with the NCR (even without a witness). In my play through in F:NV the NCR and I don’t get along. Apparently I was more concerned with my Karma score than my Rep scrore, and heck, you need to sleep a lot in the game.

I get a mission to go speak to an NCR Leader at an Embassy. He teases me with the premise that if I go speak to him he has the power to offer me amnesty for my past crimes against NCR bed owners. I decide to go have a chat with him. Unfortunately for me he is located deep in a NCR Military Police Base. Unfortunately for the NCR MP’s the Leader didn’t inform them that he asked to speak with me.

I kill 40 NCR MP’s on my way to the NCR Leader ( I have to kill them, they won’t let me walk by) to get my amnesty. In fact, I even killed 2 in his room while he sat at his desk and watched. I believe a head exploded on his paperwork. There is a severed limb of one of his NCR guards in his lap.  He watched, waited for me to finish, then offered me my desired amnesty if I would take the time to go convert a neutral faction to the NCR cause.

I go do so, and the NCR and I are pals once again.