Thursday, April 29, 2010

I hate the iPad, but this is pretty cool

For the record: I hate the iPad.  It is the epitome of everything that is WRONG with Apple.  With that said, Small World has been converted from boardgame and has been released as an iPad app by Days of Wonder.  This is the same boardgame developer known for Ticket to Ride, Battlelore, etc.
Small World for iPad is the first digital adaptation of this award-winning fantasy board game. It enables two players to face off against each other and vie for conquest and control of a world that is simply too small to accommodate all of the zany fantasy characters that inhabit Small World. Sitting across from each other around the iPad, players use their troops to occupy territory and conquer adjacent lands in order to push the other players' races off the face of the earth.
While this isn't the first boardgame to make it to iPad, it's the first one that caught my attention. Small World is a great game and the graphical styling is perfect for a touch tablet.


While I don't want to give up my real board games for virtual ones, I realize my shrinking group of board game friends can not keep the fire alive. Virtualization of board games allows me to enjoy them across the Internet in an official capacity (yes, I realize the above app is not Internet based, but other board games are). I am excited about the future of touch tablets filling a niche in the board gaming market.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Guild Wars 2: Elementalist


The Guild Wars 2 news keeps on rolling.  Today we get our first look at the Elementalist class.
The Elementalist channels natural forces of destruction, making fire, air, earth, and water do her bidding. What the Elementalist lacks in physical toughness, she makes up for in her ability to inflict massive damage in a single attack, dropping foes from a distance before they can become a threat. Yet, despite her incredible offensive potential, versatility is what makes the Elementalist truly formidable.
This game sounds better with each post.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Guild Wars 2 Manifesto

Just a quick post to note that Arena Net has a MASSIVE blog post up about Guild Wars 2.  You literally need 30 minutes to read over and savor this thing.  Here's a sneak peak:
It’s time to make MMORPGs more social

Guild Wars 2MMOs are social games. So why do they sometimes seem to work so hard to punish you for playing with other players? If I’m out hunting and another player walks by, shouldn’t I welcome his help, rather than worrying that he’s going to steal my kills or consume all the mobs I wanted to kill? Or if I want to play with someone, shouldn’t we naturally have the same goals and objectives, rather than discovering that we’re in the same area but working on a different set of quests?
Go. Read. Now!

UPDATE: Arena.net has offered up another screenshot for getting the word out about the GW2 blog!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Old is New Again: Nolan Bushnell rejoins Atari

Apparently we've entered a timewarp: Nolan Bushnell rejoins Atari.
A little more than two years after Phil Harrison left Sony to join Atari in a surprising move, it has been announced that he has left the company. His replacement: Atari cofounder Nolan Bushnell.

"I am very excited to be reacquainted with Atari at a time when it is poised to make interesting strides in key growth areas of the games industry," Bushnell said in a statement. The company and its iconic brands have always been important to me, and I look forward to further guiding them at the board level."

Bushnell was one of two cofounders of Atari back in 1972, but was forced out in 1978 after a management dispute. He went on to architect what parents have come to know as one of Dante's nine circles of hell, the Chuck E. Cheese chain of restaurants. Joining Bushnell on the board of directors is Tom Virden, who Atari describes as "a seasoned executive in the online leisure, technology and travel businesses."
I'm not really sure how to take this news as it comes with no other announcements about any games or upcoming projects. It will be interesting to see if Bushnell has any measurable effect on the once proud company he helped build that has been down on it's luck as of late.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Battlefield Updates: Bad Company 2, Heroes

 Free 2 play Battlefield Heroes has announced a new map, new game mode, and new jet pack widgets.  Rock, Paper, Shotgun even has a post about it:
In this fast paced game mode you and your allies must capture and hold the rocket and keep it from enemy hands. Jump in with gusto or rocket fuel and make sure your enemies do not get the upper hand and claim the rocket for themselves.
For the non-readers, here is a video:



Meanwhile Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is gearing up for a patch tomorrow. The PCGamer Blog has posted the entire set of patch notes here and I've coped it below for posterity.
* MP - New Server browser
* MP - Added 15 second spawn timer for Conquest/Rush gamemodes at the start of round to prevent high end machines getting the upper hand before other machines load in.
* MP - Crash fixes relating to ALT+TAB at different times throughout the game
* MP - Hang fix when trying to connect to a full server multiple times
* MP - Deletion of soldiers now possible through the account pages in game
* MP - Removed screen flash during loading
* MP - Added support for colour blind players
* MP - Fixed crashes relating to faulty server banners
* MP - Servers closing during connection no longer cause the client to hang
* MP - Auto team swap reflects correctly in the scoreboard
* MP - Fixed scoreboards when switching teams before spawning
* MP - Rush scoreboards fixed
* MP - Veteran ranks no longer display as "12"
* MP - Isla Innocentes MCOM building fixed where knifing the fence would destroy the building
* MP - Logout/Login button correctly reflects the player status
* MP - Added minimum number of players needed to start a round (you can play and take objectives but you will get no score until 4 or more players join the server)
* MP - Isla Inocentes welcome message on the loading screen now fits the text box area
* MP - Reduced the brightness in Russian vehicles
* MP - Medic gadgets now display correctly if the defib is not unlocked
* MP - Server filter options are remembered
* MP - Punkbuster filter now works as intended
* MP - Scroll bar no longer overlays the Join Server button in the friends list panel
* MP - CANCEL server refresh is implemented
* MP - Zooming in on a friendly using the SAIGA no longer causes the crosshair to disappear
* MP - The chat no longer displays the incorrect player name when appearing
* MP - FoV switches to the default value of 55 when entering vehicles to prevent graphical glitches caused by wider FoV settings. The custom FoV returns when exiting vehicles.
* MP - FoV no longer causes the UAV station to rotate
* MP - Fix to correctly display the unlock progression at the end of round
* MP - Chat functionality will no longer freeze after writing a partial message at the end of round
* MP - One account can no longer connect to the same server multiple times
* MP - Squad Death Match is correctly named during loading
* MP - Server browser no longer gets a bad FPS when filtering Conquest
* MP - Server info banners correctly clear between displays
* MP - Setting display settings which the system hardware can not handle no longer makes the game unusable
* MP - Correct camera collision for vehicles' heavy machine gun
* MP - Game no longer crashes if the player sends a message in the loading screen
* MP - Trying to join a full server no longer causes the game to hang on Please Wait message
* MP - Most server filter options are remembered it doesn't remember the setting in dropdowns
* MP - Kit/gadget loadout saved between sessions
* SP - Fixed crashes when patching and trying to resume a campaign (there is now a message that you need to re-play the latest mission from the beginning)
* SP - Fixed a crash after the "Upriver" mission end cinematic
* SP - Supply create at "Resupply at Flynn's create" objective now supplies weapon ammo
* SP - Hang fix when reaching the objective "Destroy Enemy Zu23"
* SP - Fixed hang after "Storm Cockpit" objective
* SP - Changed melee attack raycast to be detailed
* SP - Game no longer crashes when transitioning between SP_03B to SP_04A when installed in Polish
* SP - Game no longer crashes when killed by the first two enemies in the trenches on SP_01 when installed in Italian
* SP - Updating to R7 will invalidate your single player save game. If you update you will need to play your last mission from the start. If you do not update you will not be able to play multiplayer.

Server changelist

o Punkbuster is required ON for ranked servers
o Ranked servers cannot be started with a password
o Autobalance message goes to text-chat instead of in the middle of the screen
o Added weapon balance tweaks to a number of weapons - we are eagerly awaiting feedback!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Diablo III Development To Start Over From Scratch?

Disregard this entire post, it was based off a posting from 2005, back when Blizzard originally scrapped Diablo 3's development to reboot it the first time. Nothing new to see here.

Yes, I made a mistake.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Exodus of Infinity Ward

Infinity Ward creates blockbuster game. Activision fires IW executives to avoid paying them. The ex-IW executives formed Respawn Entertainment and then signed with EA. Now, more of IW's staff leaves, likely heading to Respawn. Caught up? Good, because now its time for a history lesson with Uncle Heartless_.

Blizzard North was originally an independent company. It was established in 1993 under the name Condor, founded by Max Schaefer, Erich Schaefer, and David Brevik. The company was purchased and renamed by Blizzard about six months before the release of their hit PC game, Diablo, in 1996. Diablo proved to be incredibly successful, and their 2000 sequel, Diablo II, was even more successful.

On June 30, 2003, several key employees left Blizzard North to form the new companies Flagship Studios (8 moved here) and Castaway Entertainment (9 moved here). The Blizzard North exodus continued on with around 30 employees leaving the company in total.

Flagship Studios was founded by Bill Roper along with Max Schaefer, Erich Schaefer, and David Brevik, the original developers of Diablo and former high level Blizzard North executives.

Castaway Entertainment is based in Redwood City, California. The company signed a publishing agreement with Electronic Arts in March 2004, but has yet to produce any products.

For everyone thinking Infinity Ward is doomed and Respawn Ent. is the next coming of game development Jesus, I ask what company you would put money into today: Blizzard or Flagship Studios or Castaway Entertainment?  It takes more than a few developers to make a game and good corporate culture doesn't disappear over night.  We're not talking about Shigeru Miyamoto or Will Wright here.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Warhammer's Billing Debacle

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR) recently had a little 'oops' moment with their billing system that caused many players to be billed several times for their monthly subscription.  Some players were charged for over $500 dollars.  Normally this is an isolated issue, but the most recent update on the Warhammer Herald confirms it was widespread:
As you may be aware, recently some customer accounts were billed multiple times unintentionally. We regret any difficulty this event may have caused you, and we remain dedicated to resolving the issue with our vendors and customers.
This is about as bad as it could get for WAR, a game still considered down and out in the MMO industry.  WAR has enjoyed some success thanks to their endless free trial and I suspect that is where the majority of their new players come from.  This faux pas won't inspire anyone interested in subscribing to trust Mythic with their credit cards and not everyone is willing to enter game time cards every month to keep on playing.

However, I really don't want to talk about WAR right now.  More interesting to me is how rarely we see such a problem as this.  Off the top of my head I thought about the things I have on "set and forget" payment methods online:

1. eBay fees
2. Phone bill
3. Cable and Internet bill
4. Netflix
5. Donations to favorite websites

None of these has ever had a billing issue with multiple charges.  And if one did, I doubt it'd be to the magnitude that was seen with the WAR charges.

Also, I wonder how long it would take me to notice.  I certainly wouldn't see it right away as I use credit cards mainly and my credit limit is high.  At the end of the month, I would notice on my credit card statements, but if it wasn't several identical charges I may glance over it.

This is a wake up call I guess to online payment methods and keeping an eye on charges.  It's easy to say "its your own fault for not paying attention", but how many of these services make it an inconvenience to customers who do NOT use automated online payments?  To me, its half customer ignorance and half trends towards automated systems in favor of human powered systems.

With automation comes consistency and speed, which reduces some errors.  With reduction in error, comes reduction in support requirements.   This really puts everyone in a bad place, because when it comes to money its not acceptable to hear "it'll take 3 days to fix" which leads to lost customers.  Yet, the costs to have better support isn't justified for the 99% of error-free time.

I'm wandering now.  I'll forget all of this once the WAR billing fiasco is over and done with.  But just maybe I will pay more attention to the next credit card bill or when my wife is reviewing it, I won't just go "sounds right to me honey!" before staring back at the computer screen.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

@Massively Math Fail

197,000,000 million users have signed up for Dungeon Fighter Online according to this article over at Massively.
No -- that's not a typo in the title. We didn't get attacked by a swarm of ninjas who knocked us out on the "0" button or anything like that. Nexon has announced that Dungeon Fighter Online has hit a worldwide total of 197 million registered players since launching in South Korea in 2005.
Too bad the rest of the stats provided don't pass the common sense check:
Nexon had a few other impressive numbers to sling about as well. Up to this point, players have killed more than 1.6 billion monsters, invaded over 25 million dungeons and engaged in PvP arena combat over 28 million times.
For those of you breaking out your calculator watches, let me do the math for you.

With 197 million players and 1.6 billion monsters killed, that means each player has killed an average of only 8 monsters, over almost 4.5 years.

Every time a player logs in, they spawn their own unique dungeon, meaning that 173 million players are registered that have never played the game.

Lastly, every person that registers for a Nexon account is registered for all of Nexon's games, inlcuding Dungeon Figher Online, whether they actually play or not.

It is horribly apparent the numbers don't match up and Nexon either

a) screwed up the numbers
b) stooped to a new low of public relations misinformation in the MMO numbers game

I'll let my educated readers figure out which.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

March 2010: What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying

My March gaming was a battle.

I have embedded the new What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying spreadsheet for March below.  The overall spreadsheet (includes previous months) can be found here.



Game of the Month

Battlefield: Bad Company 2Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Cost: $49.99 (Limited Edition)
Played: 30 hrs
3-words: Full of destruction!






My game of the month was Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

I am a fan of the entire Battlefield series, more so than any other shooter series, and Bad Company 2 fits right into my playstyle. It's a first person shooter first and foremost, but it offers class-based team play that allows weaker FPS players to enjoy success.

I spent the majority of my time on hardcore servers where bullet damage is increased and some of the UI elements (map, target marking, ammo count, weapon info) is hidden. The "normal mode" works fine, but it can be frustrating sometimes when it takes a dozen bullets to take down a target. Also, normal mode encourages the use of only the high damage weapons and abilities; making a lot of the weapons completely worthless. In hardcore, all weapon types play a role as speed and accuracy, but lower powered weapons are still lethal.

As with Battlefield 2, I find myself playing medic in BFBC2 a lot.  I am not a horrible FPS gamer, but I'm not that great either.  The medic class in the Battlefield games has always been a balanced option between killing and support.  This hold true in BFBC2 and with a focus on squad play, I am able to rack up the points keeping my squad going.

I've really enjoyed my 30 hours in the release version of BFBC2.  Sure there has been some server and punkbuster issues, but most of them existed for less than a week.  It has been smooth sailing for the latter half of the month.

Game of the Month for April: Bioshock 


/Played

My /Played  section is a bit short this month.  I put most of my time into BFBC2 and had a mid-month lull when I took over a week off from gaming.  I hadn't intended to take the week off, but between watching Lost (in the middle of Season 2 via Netflix) and a non-sleeping 6 month old, it just happened.

For the record, I did play some LEGO Universe, but I am not allowed to talk about it due to the NDA on the closed beta.  Also, I am still engaged with Allods Online, but just didn't find any time to log in this month, which is fine as I do not have to pay a monthly subscription to keep my Allods account active.

Civilization 4

I put another hour into Civ4 this month. I was sort of inspired by reading up on Elemental, a 4x game that will be launching later this year.
 

/Paid

Total spent this Month: $0.00
My Value Rating: n/a

I made no gaming purchases this month.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Elemental: 4X

A 4X game is described by Wikipedia as:
The four Xs were an abbreviation for explore, expand, exploit, exterminate.
  • Explore means players send scouts across a map to reveal surrounding territories.
  • Expand means players claim new territory by creating new settlements, or sometimes by extending the influence of existing settlements.
  • Exploit means players gather and use resources in areas they control, and improve the efficiency of that usage.
  • Exterminate means attacking and eliminating rival players. Since all territory is eventually claimed, eliminating a rival's presence can be the only way to achieve further expansion.
Elemental, from Stardock, will be a 4X game as well.  Lets break down each X for Elemental.

Explore

Elemental is planning to take exploration farther than other 4X games.   The traditional "fog of war" will exist and players will have to scout the map to reveal far away lands.  However, a lot of that exploration will be accomplished with the player's "sovereign" instead of scouting units.  Sovereigns are ageless heroes controlled by the player that are used to move around the map and do everything from build to fight.  In MMO terms, a sovereign is a player's avatar.

Along the way, player's will be encouraged to explore the corners of the map in search of quests and dungeons along with traditional 4X activities such as resource procurement and settlement placement.  Walking past an out of the way cave may lead the player's sovereign on a journey into the dark to save a damsel in distress.  As described by Stardock; "Yes, it’s a 4X strategy game with a little Baldur’s Gate in it."  Explorer's should expect plenty to do outside of building their empire.

Expand

The main concept of the game is that the player is rebuilding the world after a cataclysmic event.  Players will build cities and expand their empires.  Along with Exterminate, this will be the most familiar X  to players when starting Elemental. 

Exploit

Standard resource management will be part of Elemental.  Player empire's will need to track down and control mines, forests, etc.  On top of that, a couple of unique resources will be included.  At first glance, these items may not be viewed as resources by players.  First is magic and the second is family (or dynasty in the long term).

The magic system of Elemental evolves over the course of a game.  As players choose their path of either life or death magic, they will unlock and learn new spells.  These magical traits can then be passed down the family tree to children and great grand children.  Powerful magical children will become key pawns in a player's resource arsenal.  By the end of a game, players will be using the fantasy-equivalent of nuclear weapons on their enemies.

Family will also play a huge part in Elemental as player's build their dynasties.  While the player's sovereign lives "forever", their children are mere mortals.  It will take careful management to ensure children are exploited to their full potential.  Sons are future kings and need to be properly groomed for the job. Daughters are key bargaining chips across family ties and can be a foothold into an enemy's family tree.

Exterminate

Elemental will allow players to raise fantasy armies and destroy their enemies.  Along with that, players can use their units to complete quests and dungeons.  Remember, Elemental is trying to blend in some RPG with this 4X game.  Battles can be played out in real time or set to automatically resolve.
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