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Tuesday Smorgasboard

It really doesnt.
It really doesn’t.

Lots of little gaming going on. Will touch upon them.

1) LOTRO revisted: While I am trying to organize friends to go through the trial, nothing concrete is set up although a little interest and a couply people hopping on Brandywine. I said this before and I will say it again – the fact that LOTRO doesn’t allow you to play their two new classes WITHOUT buying MoM is a terrible design decision and puts me in a bad mood immediately at the character creation screen. I wanted to test drive the Warden for the trial again – it made my list of favorite fantasy classes although I only got to level 10. My beef with this is that the characters start at the exact same spot as the previous character classes so not having them available upon start is just a silly money grab. I am trialling the game to see if I am going to resubscribe – let me choose the character I want to play. The high end zones included in MoM have no impact on the class selection – it will be months before I even get to MoM – so let me play them dammit! To be fair, they do  have a 10 day trial for MoM – but on the welcome back weekend I can use my old box (that I paid for). Maybe I do want to resub, and maybe the game is fun enough to buy the expansion (when I get there) – but it will be awhile before I get there, and I want to do it as one of the new classes. We are off to a poor start, me and LOTRO. So I rolled a Champion, and if all goes well I am going to have to drop $40 bucks on an expansion and reroll to a character class I want to play. Shame on you, Turbine.

More random stuff after the break.

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Why Can’t We Be Friends?

I have been away for a week for work – and the inevitable happened. I ran into an old friend, conversation ensues, and WoW comes up. He plays it too. We chat about raiding, levelling, guilds, etc and the topic shifts to gaming together on the ultimate cruise ship.

Things are starting to sound fun, when he pulls ultra geek on me and proudly shows me his WoW tshirt underneath his sweatshirt.

For the Horde!

Damn, I play Alliance. Dreams are shattered. Mood turns negative. I secretly envy the shirt.

Then I think – why not?

In the facebookesque MMO, which discourages meaningful choice, insists on bringing the player and not the class , encourages most classes to have two role options, allows name, sex, appearance and server customizatiom, AND trounces it’s own lore in the name of fun and convenience (all the while producing a pretty fun game) – are we really that far away from bringing the player and not the race?

Horde and Alliance notables already work together in cutscenes. Main cities can still be off limits as there is an “uneasy” truce – battlegrounds are explained as efforts for the most ardent of same side supporters and opposite race haters.

The sympathizers from each faction can form guilds and defeat enemies side by side, while political figures and notable npc’s can choose to support the merge or rally against it.

A little programming to ensure cross faction chat doesn’t work in Arenas and Battlegrounds will do the trick.

Really, why not?

Talent > Experience > Education > . . . Ego?

A little snippet about game design from Blizzards almightly Lead Game Designer, Ghostcrawler.

“Do you know how many professional game designers I know who were trained as game designers? Zero. I imagine that will change over time though. This is, happily, one of the few industries where talent > experience > education. “

 One of his atypical responses to angry forum posters making fun of design decisions because he was trained as an oceanographer. The entire thread, if you dare so brave the WoW forums, can be found here.

I am not writing this to pick on Ghostcrawler. I don’t care where he came from, or what degree he has, or how he got to where he is right now. I am going to analyze that statement of his to have a closer look – only because I want to know if that is true. It is a pretty bold statement from the man at the helm of the ultimate cruise ship experience. He may even be right – but i’m not so sure. Truth searching after the break.

Let’s discuss each of the traits, before working out the ranking of them.

Talent: How do you define talent? Is it a natural affinity for an action, set of actions, skillset, natural attributes, – a combination of the aforementioned, or simply all of them? Is Talent something inherent or learned?  I don’t work for, or have insight into the industry. Is the industry really full of talent-full, experience-less, uneducated go getters? Perhaps that would explain the quality of patch releases (hello, Blizzard 3.1) and game launches (hello, WAR, AOC, et al.)

Experience: If history has tought us anything it is that people rarely make the same mistakes twice. This is what makes experience a beautiful thing! Mark Jacobs is a great middle MMO manager who had a great title under his belt (DAOC) and proceeded to make DAOC 2 (WAR) in the same fashion. That wasn’t a mistake at all – but things have changed in MMO expectations and uh, experiences. Creating the same game using his experience wasn’t a failure – it has a healthy population base, perhaps even growing. He used his experiences with DAOC and built the same kind of game with additional experiences with design decisions from a  2004 title (WoW) to try and produce a 2008 title. The importance of this point is that experiences change with progression – a good way to do things 4 years ago may not be a good way to do things now. However, if you absolutley did it wrong 4 years ago you would be apt to not make the same mistakes now.

Education: While GC specifically states game design education we definitely need to delve further. Education, especially University, doesn’t just teach a specific skillset – more importantly it teaches the ability and capability to problem solve, analyze, and communicate in a coherent and academic manner. That is why employers in many industries tend to care less what your degree is in, and simply look for a degree to begin with.

I would argue that Talent is the sum of natural expertise, learned experience and studied education. The absence of any of those pillars produces a far weaker sum – therefore, Talent = Experience + Education (with a dash of natural skillset). If the industry is indeed looking at it from a Talent > Experience > Education – without quantifying where that Talent comes from – would help explain the state of the gaming industry as it stands currently. True talent can’t exist without the experience or education.

Gloating I Will Soon Regret

I just received an email invite to a closed, alpha stage MMO beta test. I love beta testing. I love seeing a game grow from crap to less-crap-yet-not-ready-for-release-but-released-anyhow. I love interacting with devs on their life’s work (pre crunch time, of course. Once they hit the crunch they all become crabby). I love going into a new world and trying to contribute to the development process (usually, only to be ignored). Well, chalk another one up on my list of beta tests, and soon as the NDA lifts (ugh, could be a long one) I’ll be sure to be nice.

Breaking News, here, FIRST!

Okay, that’s a lie. I always prefer to be fashionably late.

I know the Jeff Kaplan interview at GDC is very old news. While I had a lot of thought about it at the time, it was mostly the rehash of the same old stuff already out there, and not until I made it into WOTLK with my Shaman re-roll did I really start to re think – and re think about writing about it. I am doing the same quests he designed. Now that we have settled that I am not FOX or CNN with breaking news, let’s discuss.

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Cwofee Twolk

I feel so verklempt.

“Let’s go for a coffee” is part of our society. Typically you pick either a greasy spoon, or some fancy overpriced brand variety, and go, sit, drink coffee, and chit chat with a friend (or friends) for a few hours. It could be a date, or just a catch up session with an old pal. Most people do this, most people enjoy this, and the details are in the simplicity of the activity. Hot drinks, good people, and an open ended conversation. It is as American as apple pie, and as Canadian as hockey. It is probably also as French as smoking. More Coffee Talk after the break.

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A New Favorite Data Blog

While navigating the great interwebs of blogs and fansites I came accross this little gem. Simply put, it is a data mining site for WoW. I love data, and in our grand world of MMO secrecy, more data is always good. Since it is straight from the Armory you would have to believe it carries with it some statistical accuracy, and the author typically points out on his various posts where shortcomings may be.

Data makes me drool. More drooling after the break.

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Why WAR, Why?

I have an assignment and had to resub to Warhammer. I do a little freelance writing on the side for MMO magazines, and have done some prior levelling guides for the game. Another one came accross my desk, and with the desire to check out what has changed in the game here was the perfect excuse to resubscribe. Getting “paid” to play games is always good. (“Paid” in quotations – freelance 1200-2400 word single article writers don’t really get paid much. Thankfully for me, it’s more of a hobby than putting food on the table for my family! It does, however, cover my gaming costs, and it’s fun to do to boot). With my prior post being upset about having to put in a CC to get access to the 10 day trial, now I don’t have that excuse anymore. So back to WAR I go.

I have a slew of WAR characters, and thankfully I had a character just in the perfect levelling range for this project. I patched, booted up, reorganized my UI, and began my journey back into Warhammer Online.

1) Lands are still dead: The T2 levelling area is sadly devoid of company for PVE – although chat seems to be a lot more active. I can’t do any PQ’s, because in prime time I am lucky to SEE 3-4 other people, let alone get them altogether in one spot. It is a shame because I love PQ. The PQ and I are tight. Oh PQ, why have you forsaken me?

2) The UI feels less responsive than before: I thought this was supposed to be fixed. To be fair, I am running on High Quality (needed for fancy screenshots) – but I am also running on a rig that can play Crysis on high settings. I also have a beefed up internet connection as I work from home (and hotels) but send large data files all over the world. So, with my PC in good shape, and my internet connection all beefed up, it was sad to see delays when I pressed buttons, and bad timings on attack animations. It broke my heart. Especially because there was usually just me – and one mob – on the screen at a time.

3) WAR has, quite possible, the worst spawning system I can remember. Many quests push you into PQ areas. You can kill a mob, and sometimes it instantly respawns (and aggros)  you. Nothing worse than fighting through two mobs, one “named”, and survive by the skin of your teeth – only to have the named mob instantly respawn on top of you and finish you off. Very frustrating. I understand they up spawn times around PQ areas in case there are a lot of people mowing through the mobs, but really, can’t you check somehow to see if there are people there? If you can’t through code, then at least don’t push quest chains into the PQ’s that will (most likely) be done solo, in a barren environment. Sometimes you will have 3-4 quests all in the middle of a fast spawning, mob pathing area (which is impossible to “clear” to get to your objectives due to the spawn rate.)

I am looking forward to getting back into the oRvR and ran a fun scenario last night, but first impressions were a bit of a let down. I had (have) high hopes to see what other things they have fixed.

I hate you(r) Blog(ger)

When I signed up for blogging, I signed up for drama. I was tired of trolling the WoW General boards for days on end to stick it to those imbeciles, so now I am looking for another outlet. Tesh, my good friend made a post of awards in the newest blog-induced tag scheme that has been going around recently. I dance to my own rhythm, so to speak, so am going to take that nice premise and turn it all black and evil – as it should have began as in the first place. Hopefully he doesn’t take away my Golden Tesh for this post, but not even Darkfall has aroused the blogosphere enough lately.

Awards after the break.

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10 Day Trials – What not to do!

Besides topics covered in this semi-rant post previously, I will give one, absolutely cardinal rule on how you will GUARANTEE I will not trial your game.

Do not ask me for my Credit Card information.

A 10 day trial is for me to see if I like your game, not tether me to a possible error and scoop up a free sub month if I get busy and forget to cancel in time.

Give me 10 days free, and then if I want to continue playing, I will give you my CC information. Simple enough.

You would think, anyway.

Happy Birthday, EQ

EQ was my first MMO girlfriend. She was a bit cranky, and demanding on my time, but looking back I wouldn’t change a thing (looking forward is another matter). Those sweet, sweet evenings spent together shaped my gaming expectations and experiences. It is true that you never forget your first.

EQ Nostalgia after the break.

I beta tested EQ, and it set me off on a flurry of beta tests since, nearing the 20 mark. Inspired by Oz’s memory post at KTR I thought I’d share a bunch of stuff from that wonderful long forgotten world. A world where I experienced my first online friendships, guild drama, out of game connected to in game drama, sense of gaming accomplishment, responsibility, and of course, bittersweet dissapointment at the end of it all.

EQ had a lot of leeway when it launched. They were doing something completely different, a 3D “mainstream” Fantasy MMO. The challenges in the game were tough – the rewards few and far between. Levelling for hours could result in a 2% XP increase – or worse, a 5% decrease, depending on how you fared. I, like Oz, played on the test server. I started with a troll shaman named Zraka, and got to 30ish before moving to a troll warrior, Braack. It was with Braack where I experienced most of my trials and tribulations. I still remember how I met my first guild.

I stumbled upon a small group of adventurers pulling alligators in Sol Ro (I believe that was the name of the zone). The name that stands out to me the most is Engrid – a dark elf. They were looking for a tank. We started as a few, and turned into a full blown group in no time. Somehow my tanking wasn’t important – I had SoW on and was responsible for pulling. I would run out, grab a bunch of crocs (or alligators, seriously, they all look the same), and bring the bunch back to the group. After we started getting them down I would run back out, and grab a bunch more. We chain pulled them for hours, and we got into a great flow where I would bring back a whole mess of bad guys just as they were finishing up the first pull. It ended up getting a bit silly, we killed multiple hundreds and hundreds of the beasts with swift and reckless enthusiasm. The xp flowed like cheap wine at Olive Garden. Everyone commented how it was one of the best times they had had in EQ up to that point. Engrid, an “alt” of Velm, esteemed Cleric of “The Grove” guild, noticed I was untagged and suggested I go to their message boards and introduce myself. I did. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Grove wasn’t what I expected. All adults, playing a kids game and having a great time. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from a Guild in a game such as EQ, but quickly I found I was at home. Oz from KTR was also in that guild. I believe he was an officer or other important type person. In the Grove I finally had a plan – I could log in and do events, or at bare minimum have people to spend time with – which made the game that much more incredible. I was starting to understand this whole MMO thing and how great it was – and could be.

To keep things shorter and sweeter, from there we levelled, grew, did some raids (on the testserver it was always a multi-guild events), experienced Guild drama in a few forms – from bringing in the “wrong” people into the Guild (quotation marks – wrong isn’t quite the right word, just people who were different in temperment and attitude than the core crew – some of which I recommended to join with us), Loot drama in a Giants raid (stemmed from me as well – I asked a question about loot to a raidmaster who was running a raid – a faux pas for sure, but new territory for me that I didn’t understand. Quick and important lesson learned!) to Guild fracturing – some old time members who were at the top of the level and loot chart started realizing they wouldn’t “advance” anymore under current circumstances, so ended up leaving to a bigger and more hardcore guild (believe it was Primal Brood at the time – again, been a long time!). None of this “drama” will be new to any of you folks – it still happens on much grander scales in current MMO’s. It was still many of my MMO-life lessons though, and something I learned from way back then, and have tried to avoid/improve upon in current times.

While enjoying life as a guildmate in an incredible group of people, I also became part of EQ’s Volunteer Guide program as Stalbik, on the Rathe server. It was interesting and fun – the GM hall and equipment available was sweet, as were the commands and capabilities. After a year in the guide program I was promoted to the Lieutenant Guide in charge of Training and Testing – mostly other, new guides. We had tests and scenarios that had to be passed and a whole program that had to be navigated to be successful.  Those Guides you dealt with that you hated because they wouldn’t help you, or couldn’t give you a clear answer? I probably trained them. Don’t throw tomatoes, our scope and mandate was so limited there really wasn’t much we could do. This was a great learning experience as well, dealing with developers and Sr. GM’s as we navigated issues from small (stuck, lost items) to big (harassment, racism) all under such strict and unworkable parameters. I will admit that personally I was able to help about 70% of the people who petitioned, and usually received hearty thank you’s and cheers. That other 30% was impossible to deal with – many with legitimate complaints or issues that just didn’t fall under our scope of responsibility. I dealt with the major jackass to the most polite and kind people. Around this time we were trying out live events – and while limited in scope and size it was a fun twist to bring to the world. The program was volunteer but still took up about 20 hours a week for me, and eventually I had the choice to either enjoy the game as a player, or as a Guide – there wasn’t room for both. Having as much fun as I did I chose being a player and just ensured that I was super polite and understanding when I had to petition myself.

There were not gigantic guides on the internet for EQ – at least, none that I could find or use. You would literally have to explore and find things on your own. Of course, all that has changed, but I fondly remember things such as the Tower of Frozen Shadow (which I talk about here a bit at the end). We were levelling and came accross the structure. There were no instances in EQ, so you could guage the size of an area or building by just looking at it. We entered and spent hours exploring, killing, and dying, and finally getting enough of a hold of the place to go get reinforcements to come back and clear the place. That sense of exploration was wonderful in EQ, you could literally stumble accross things you had no clue about, and because there was no Quest-only structure to level (it was all mob grinding) you would explore to see if you found a sweet spot. Many days and nights were showing friends great little tucked away areas we had discovered and spending the night levelling, waiting for that one piece of elusive loot that had a .5% drop rate of some rare, named mob.

I don’t remember exactly when, or exactly why, I ended up leaving. I do remember a lot of the people who brought me into the Guild, such as Velm, moving on to other guilds, and other people not being able to maintain the time commitment in EQ to enjoy playing. The levelling curve was devastating. As people left, and my own work commitments became busier, and searching for a change, with the release of DAOC and many of things keeping me in EQ moving on or changing, I left the wonderful world of EQ. If EQ would launch today it would no doubt be an utter failure – but I will not and am not interested in talking about what that game did wrong – the past is the past, after all. I will simply remember the first night we held hands, and later kissed – all the while living in an imperfect world avoiding what the future would no doubt bring. Your first will always bring up an emotional side, and many of us spend the rest of our lives trying to recapture the moments of our childhood – the real childhood, or the MMO version.

 

UI Add-ons are bad?

Vacation was nice, thank you for asking. Coming home from vacation is always a bad experience. The plane feels a bit more cramped and the voicemail and email inboxes are a lot more full. I actually tried working through my vacation, dilligently keeping up on my inbox every morning. IHASLAW #1 – for every email you send you get five back. Lesson learned.

Blizzard recently announced a big change to their UI/Addon policy, banning people from making money off off of their hard work created upon Blizzard’s hard work. While hardly a surprise, WoW has a gigantic Mod community. That community, for all intensive purposes, has made and shaped the game – usually for the better. “Must have” community mods become part of the vanilla UI over time. I have long been of the thought that mods shouldn’t exist in an MMO space – players shouldn’t have the ability or the right to change the basic UI (apart from cosmetic). It creates extra work for the typical player who “needs” those mods to be competitive (hello, Arena mods) or even beat unbalanced and rediculous encounters (hello, Decursive pre-Burning Crusade). Simply put – if your game requires players to provide changes to your code to make the game playable – or more enjoyable – then it is a failure of code. More after the break.

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I’m on Vacation

Forgot to pop this up last week – I am away on vacation so won’t be checking here for the week. You know, just in case you missed me and stuff.

Have a great one, and we will get back to our regularly scheduled program once I return!

Thanks,

Chris F.

Gmail is messed up

Lately I have had a ton of weird stuff going on with my loveable Gmail account. It all started with me getting weird emails about a “new” account I set up (although I didn’t). These messages started arriving with services I had signed up to (which I didn’t) from an email address I don’t own which is eerily similar to my real gmail address.

For example, if my gmail address is Ihaspc@gmail.com, the new address is ihasp.c@gmail.com.

The strangeness is this: I had a password reset email come to me for the address with the extra decimal in it. I did it (through google directly) and it changes the one WITHOuT the decimal in it. Indeed, when I email the mystery second account it goes to my non-decimalled account. When I try to log into the account with the decimal in it, it takes me to my non-decimal account.

I got an email saying I added the decimal account to my yahoo account (which I didn’t) and when I linked it (verified link to yahoo first) the starting account wasn’t mine – it started with a V – and I was able to unattach the decimal account to that email address.

It’s thoroughly confusing. I did virus checks et al with nothing.

It would be my guess some phisinh service signed up the email address for confusion but somehow it has become integrated with my non-decimal email address.

I am curious if this has anything to so with google’s recent gmail collapse end of February but can’t be sure.

Any ideas?

What’s With the BoP?

I hope that image didn’t burn your eyes out. I am wearing sunglasses.

As mentioned I am back playing WoW. My year long hiatus from the game (despite a brief respite to check out the DK starting area) while mucking around in various other MMO’s and SP games wasn’t ended because I missed the game all that much – but because I missed the people. We had (have, as I am quickly re-learning) such a great group of adult folk dedicated to each other and the game in WoW – and that was seriously missing from other ventures I tried. I decided to relevel a shaman (so starting fresh) despite having a mini arsenal of existing level 70’s. The Shaman was the class I ended with, and loved the mechanics, but as mentioned the account wasn’t mine. With my Shaman friend still playing it was time for a fresh start. After being away for so long, I noticed a lot of things. After the break.

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Six Shooter Screenshots are Serious Business

Tagged by good friend Tesh over at Tish Tosh Tesh, us periphery folks are now part of the fun. Like Tesh, I’m not going to follow the format as directly. Unlike Tesh, I don’t keep a lot of my screenshots so finding any was quite the effort. I have two problems with screenshots – I uninstall a lot of games when I am done (despite having enough storage capacity) to keep things tidy and organized on my PC (something I am sure my wife would appreciate me doing in real life org skills, you should see my desk) and usually when I take a screenshot it is quite by accident. This would have made for some great screenshots if only I had saved them. So, after digging through old files, here is what I managed to find.

Pics after the break.

 

This was my old WoW Raid UI as a shaman. I *think* it is clean compared to many I have seen out there, but of course I haven’t seen any new ones in a long, long time. Healing is serious business in raids, as we all know.

Ah, DAOC! Waiting for some stinking Albs to leave the comfort of their little Emain Macha fort to taste my giant 2 hander. Of course, I could just be “scouting” for my team, relaying enemy troop movements and such, because of course that is serious business.

I must have taken this out to flex my almighty serious business ePeen – yes, I’, #1! I’m #1! I may blow that up and frame it and hang it above my desk.

Ah, Eve. I have never subbed to it but have done many trials. It is such a sweet looking game! Pity I never had the chance to screw anybody over in it. I guess that’s where the real fun is in that one. Conversely, I have never been screwed either. In Eve.

This is what happens when you try to Revive an enemy in BF2142. Notice the lifeless body, limbs limp to the sides. That isn’t just from poor animation or graphics techniques either. Tip: use a gun. Much easier than a first aid device.

My first real raiding main in WoW, the resto druid. This was taken recently after I did a nostalgic tour of WoW on my old favorite character. This is the entrance to UBRS (no longer locked) which was the first “guild run” I did while looking to join the guild I ended up being a GM of for BC (we were Grey Rangers in Vanilla WoW). I am amazed at how WoW, for all of it’s simplicity and low requirements, still has such great environments.

Sadly, that’s IT. That is basically all of the screenshots I have on my new PC after 10 years of hardcore MMO gaming. I have thousands of pictures of family and friends (due to my wife) – I have never been a big picture person to begin with. In keeping with the spirit of screenshots I am going to tag Pope and GTB since both haven’t updated their blogs in a while, and I am especially curious what Pope’s Law School friends will say if he follows through and makes a gaming post. Besides, everyone else I read has already no doubtedly been tagged.

Thanks for the push Tesh!

 

Canada is Finally #1 at something besides Hockey..

I hate apologizing for lack of writing the past couple of weeks, truth be told I am so swamped with work. Which is a good thing in today’s economic climate I suppose.

Also, while reading a lot of other blogs I just haven’t had anything to add to the conversations (besides “yup, I agree”) and I haven’t been inspired by design or game changes to write anything about that either.

So instead, I am going to recopy a little interesting economic piece about Canada. The best part is that this was written in a USA mag. I wrote a little bit about Canada here and the current climate but loved reading the following article (which I will post in full after the break). We Canadians are typically the quieter nation about our accomplishments and this was a happy read.

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iBlog part 3

I apologize for not updating last week. It was partly because I was swamped while away on business, but also because I didn’t have anything of note to write about. One thing for certain is how incredible the drop in views and reads are when you don’t post. Justifiably so.

This is the third post I have written entirely in my iPhone (hence the title) so please excuse any justification and minor typos!

I have been playing a ton of Lego batman lately (wii). I have a 3 year old and we have played through the entire good side if the campaign and are just finishing up the 3rd Arkham Asylum campaign. I am not as much surprised about how much fun he us having (and how capable he is at playing and problem solving) as I am with my own joy with the game.

Truth be told, after he goes to bed I replay levels in free play mode and go for the extra unlocks – some of which can’t be done until certain costume sets and prior levels are completed.

The gameplay is pretty simple and geared towards fun and therein lies the beauty. Smash lots of Lego structures, beat up Lego bad guys, take broken pieces and build new structures to overcome environmental and puzzle roadblocks, and collect new suits for Batman and Robin to overcome other challenges. There us a Lego-bit-money collection scheme along the way that allows you to buy new suits, characters, and vehicles in between levels when back in the Batcave. There is also a metagame of collecting oft difficult special Lego pieces to build even more exclusive items (as mentioned previously, some are impossible to get on the first playthrough)

The simplicity in the graphics negates the slapstick violence (it looks exactly like you are playing with real Lego people) and Telltale games did a brilliant job with using expressions and grunts and groans to convey the storyline without using voice.

I’m not sure if my highly favorable review stems from the game itself or the interaction with my child and the game – it is the most complex of a title we have been able to play together. The nature of the game makes it highly interactive between ourselves (not just both staring at the screen) as a lot of titles require verbal coordination. “dad, you keep the bad guys off of me while I build this” and “dad, put on robin’s magnet suit so you can climb up that wall and build that ladder for me” to my favorite “dad, I’m scared of spiders – um going to hide behind this tree while you beat them up” (as if Batman would ever say that!!) we talk, laugh, solve problems together and work towards the collection and completion aspects of the game. We are having so much fun and play a little everyday together.

I spent 3 hours yesterday building a 600 Lego piece Indiana Jones set in the play room only to learn from my boy that Indy decided to blow up the cave instead of rescuing the idol. I went back into the room, saw the set in shambles and decided it’s time to buy the Indiana Jones Lego game fir the Wii, instead of rebuilding it.

Introduce a New Phase in the Development Cycle

Zubon over at Kill Ten Rats made a generic post that is an ultimate truth with MMOs. We all accept and are resigned to the fact that when an MMO launches it will be incomplete and buggy, and we will have to fight through the launch of a game with Rose Coloured Glasses until such time those things can be fixed. As evident in the responses to his article we as gamers just know it to be the case. While I agree with Zubon completely what way can we get around it besides outright denying it or plain accepting it? Developers already know their product won’t be up to snuff and often use questionable PR and Marketing techniques to avoid calling a spade a spade. Let’s start calling that spade the “Commercial Beta”.

Many MMO’ers plan on waiting for 6 months after a launch to start playing a game. That is the generic benchmark of how much time it will take a game to plow through launch issues, fix major bugs established at launch, and get a few good patches in to make a game. As gamers we are paying for the final beta stage. Developers should acknowledge that, embrace it, give it a title to meter expectations, and reward players who stick through it. The Commercial Beta phase should incentify early adopters to a game with a lower box cost, and lower monthly subscription fee until such time the game is more complete that it warrants full payment.

This could be a big win/win. Developers win because they can acknowledge their product is still in beta phase (albeit Commercial Beta) and it will give a little more lax room for player expectations as it is properly termed. They also will start getting a revenue stream to continue making changes. Players win because they receive a fairer value for their dollar for buying an incomplete product and pay less while changes are done, and also give a hand in shaping a game (that they obviously like, paying to beta and all) to be better positioned in the market to attract and retain a good player base after official launch. It also benefits the players because developers will have to make noteworthy changes and fixes to keep the player base after they go to “Official Launch”.

Once the game “Officially” Launches, box price goes to normal and so do sub fees. Commercial beta players get the benefit of the cheaper initial box, and in a nice world would keep the lower sub fee as well. People who stuck with it get rewarded, and people who want to try something new will finally know when the product is ready.

Of course we do this already, without the price breaks. Using some fun terminology and stretching out the development cycle with player incentives just seems like a smarter way to do it.