Friday, June 29, 2007

Open Worlds

I realized something this morning as I played a bit of Neverwinter Nights 2's single player campaign. I do not like open world designs, like that of The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, in my single player RPGs. I need guidance, clearly defined boundaries, and a path to follow. Linearity has a certain appeal to me. It doesn't force me to think too hard. Not that I don't want a game to challenge me, but who honestly enjoys being completely lost? Who actually enjoys exploring a single player world? Well, not me.

Neverwinter Night 2 (NWN2) has been both praised and smited for having a somewhat linear single player campaign. Unlike other classic D&D computer RPGs, for example Baldur's Gate II, NWN2 is a pretty straight forward game. Most of my time in NWN2 is spent going from point A to point B while completing tasks on the way. Games such as Baldur's Gate II tend to build "hubs" where you spend eons completing side quests and generally losing grasp of the main storyline for some time.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved Baldur's Gate II. However, I played it when I was single, had tons of spare time, and for the most part was still birthing myself into the PC gaming scene. I consider myself lucky to have enjoyed Baldur's Gate II inside and out. Funny thing is though, I had to buy a strategy guide for the game. I was just getting endlessly lost without one.

Back to the main point, I prefer my single player RPGs to be on some sort of rails. I want my choices to effect outcomes, but not so much that I have to change gears midway through the story. Give me a path to follow, and make it kick ass the whole way through. So far, NWN2 has delivered in this regard.

There is one genre in which I demand open worlds though; MMORPGs. Playing MMORPGs is one of the main reasons I don't want overly open single player RPGs. If I am going adventuring into a world, I truly want the chance to encounter another living being at some point. MMORPGs have spoiled my explorer appetite by just simply putting me into a world with other players.

Still, in MMORPGs, I want guidance. That was a main attraction of World of Warcraft. I spent literally no time outside of WoW searching for the next area to level. I spent my time inside WoW, learning the world, quests, and progression first hand. It is the only MMORPG in which that is possible.

This is getting long. Open worlds belong in multi-player games. Single player games need linearity.

Perfect... Again

The fall semester ended a while ago, but I never posted my results. Well, receiving a letter congratulating me on making the President's List, spurred me to post. After a tough fall semester I achieved yet another 4.0. For the sports fans keeping track at home, that is a cumulative 4.0 GPA.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Pirates of the Burning Seas will be Published by SOE

Pirates of the Burning Seas will now be published by SOE.
Here is the breakdown:

Flying Lab Software

• Game Development
• Community
• Customer Support
• Server Operations

Sony Online Entertainment
• Billing
• Launcher
• Retail Distribution
• Localization
• Marketing
Here is my problem. I have spoken strongly towards voting with my wallet for the games I choose to play and subscribe to. I have stated that I refuse to "vote" for any SOE sponsored game; from Vanguard to Star Wars: Galaxies.

Sadly, I was 100% set on playing Pirates of the Burning Seas. The game design looks solid. The graphics look great. The developers, Flying Lab Software, have been stellar through the entire process; ensuring the community is always up to date.

I don't know where I stand. I understand the need for a publisher and SOE is a valid choice. I will have to monitor this situation closely and hopefully I can be convinced that SOE will not try to dictate development; regardless of what the contract states.

I'm really pissed that I didn't see this coming. Flying Lab Software has been looking for a distribution solution for some time. SOE, in a mad push to gobble up as many MMOG projects as they can, was a perfect fit. While SOE is just the publishers at this time, it still worries me that they have their hand in the cookie jar.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Violent Crimes in the US have Fallen by 60% since Doom was Released

Since Doom was released in 1993, violent crimes in the United States have dropped to 40% of what they used to be. Coincidence? Possibly, yes. However, the year Quake and Duke Nukem 3D were released, violent crimes fell by 4%, and a further 2% when Grand Theft Auto was released.

read more | digg story

Monday, June 18, 2007

Neverwinter Nights 2

I picked up a copy of Neverwinter Nights 2 and have started playing it. I was in the NWN2 multi-player beta test, but the game didn't seem ready to launch. Unfortunately, it launched to a myriad of mixed reviews. There were obvious bugs and technical issues at launch.

Still, as a huge fan of the original NWN, I decided to keep NWN 2 on my radar. Well, the game has gone through a series of patches and for the most part seems to have turned around. I decided it was time for me to jump in and give it a fair shake. So far, I have not been disappointed. Graphics are good, gameplay is better, and most technical issues have been resolved.

The one weak area is with multi-player play. According to the developers this is the next issue they are going to tackle in patch 1.07. That should give me enough time to finish the single-player campaign and play around with the toolset.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Alien Puppy!

It's attack of the ALIEN PUPPY! Actually this is a picture of our wonderful new Doberman puppy, Sadie (say dee), holding her favorite frisbee. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

What Happened to eBay?

I was a big fan of eBay six years ago. I enjoyed selling and buying used items, from skateboards to video games. Rarely did a search return with dozens of "NEW" results. There were very few items with a buyout of $0.99 and a shipping total of $19.99. Back in the day, eBay was actually a virtual Auction House.

Currently, eBay is nothing more than a glorified and unfriendly It amazes me that eBay is still actually in business. Most items are sold for dirt cheap buyouts with an insanely high shipping cost. And if I understand it correctly, eBay makes nothing from the shipping cost. A while ago, eBay posted saying they were going to remove auctions with over-inflated shipping costs, but any search on eBay will tell you a different story.

Another annoying trend is the auction listings themselves. Once upon a time, the listings actually described the item that was up for auction. Now a days, the listings are templated, automated, and filled with garbage. There is two lines mirroring the auctions title, a stolen image from Google, and then two pages of nonsensical legalese stating that God himself has jurisdiction over Canada. Is it too much to ask for eBay to police listings so they actually LIST something about the item being sold?

Honestly, I wish eBay would split the auctions into two categories:

Category 1: Hey, I am too lazy to get a real job, so here is a bunch of garbage I bought on clearance you can bid on. Oh, and I get great deals from my distributer, so I will sell this crap well below retail while fucking the brick and mortar stores of the world. BTW, shipping starts at $19.99.

Category 2: Hey, I have this great item that I have no use for any longer. If it something useful to you, then please feel free to bid and pay a reasonable shipping cost based on it's weight.

In the bid to become the best auction site on the Internet, they have simply become the most bloated.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

At Least the Review is Good

Slashdot has a review of Lord of the Rings Online up. Just take a moment and read through a few of the comments. There are gems like this hiding within:
Frankly, I was really disappointed. The combat system sucks - it actually has a window that says things like "You hit the wolf for two points of damage". It felt like going back in time to the 80's.
While the poster does make some valid points about video games vs. realism, I don't really think he bought the game for the right reason. But that comment isn't what really frustrates me about the comments.

Everyone defending MMORPGs is using World of Warcraft. WoW has this. WoW has that. WoW, the most fucking awesome thing to hit planet earth, does it that way too! WoW has somehow become the definition of MMORPG.

WoW has done a lot of things very well and has finally put everything into a polished, complete, and fun game. But for the love of MMORPGs, it is not the only way to do things. I made the mistake once of trying to define MMORPGs. I failed. Raph Koster beat me over the head with a big stick for it. I learned.

My suggestion to everyone. Get out and play a wider variety of games!

Anyways, at least the actual review is worth a read.