Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

28 September, 2006

Even more on balance
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 6:13 PM

So, the wielder of the Nerfbat and I got into an email discussion about balance. Ryan posted his side of the conversation, so now it’s my turn to post my side.

We’ve come to the agreement that “balance” is important to evaluate because that’s what players ask for. The question now becomes: what is a useful measurement for balance?

27 September, 2006

Meridian 59 turns 10, still not legally able to drink
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 5:09 PM

But that doesn’t stop the developers.

Mr. Schubert pointed it out before I did. Appropriate, since he broke, er, I mean, worked on the game before I did. ;) But, 10 years ago today Meridian 59 was launched on an unsuspecting public by an unsuspecting publisher, 3DO. Unfortunately, the public remained mostly unsuspecting due to some really terrible advertising.

Say what you will about the old girl, she has a place in history. She was the first online game for many people, she set the standard for the flat monthly fee (for which the original developers heartily apologize), and she has influenced many developers to get into online game development. Her developers have gone on to become influential in the industry. All this from a game developed from a group of relatively inexperienced game developers working out of the basement. Nothing short of amazing, really.

So, go ahead and give it a try. Try a piece of history.

26 September, 2006

Balance is possible
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 10:45 PM

The Grouchy Gnome was at it again, boldly stating that Balance is Impossible.

That’s what you get for letting a community manager play with design. Stay tuned for my community article, “Winning friends and influencing people with judicious use of the word ‘fuck’.”

Anyway, as someone with a published book chapter on balance, let me say this: balance is possible. Oh, but there are always caveats, aren’t there?

Losing touch
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 5:50 PM

Indulge me a bit on this post and allow me to post something a bit more personal than I usually do.

I recently found out that a friend of mine passed away. Unfortunately, he passed away about four years ago. I had lost touch with him over the years and always meant to get back in touch, but now it is too late. His passing has been on my mind recently as I consider a lot of things.

23 September, 2006

Weekend Design Challenge: Biggest challenge
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 2:49 AM

So, I’m gonna get a little meta this week. The design challenge is to consider some of the biggest challenges facing online games right now.

Bonus points for thinking of something that hasn’t already been discussed to death yet. Of course, that’s almost a fool’s challenge, isn’t it?

My thoughts after the break.

21 September, 2006

New Page: Indie developer resources
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 6:06 PM

You may notice a new link over to the side. I’m assembling a page of resources for independent developers to use for their games. Feel free to contribute! Post link suggestions in this thread. Or, drop me an email.

20 September, 2006

A novel idea
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 5:44 PM

I don’t post much about politics on here. I think the stupidity that some attention-whores exhibit when trying to demonize video games is likely self-evident to the crowd here. I’m not going to convince anyone differently even if anyone reading this does believe that video games are the source of all of our society’s ills.

But, I just read an article over at Ars Technica about New Zealand and how they are proposing to research video game violence. They are, get ready: going to ask someone who has previously done research on video games to do the research! Let him look into root causes and motivations for playing violent games instead of coming to a conclusion and throwing money at people with the hope they support your foregone conclusion. A novel idea, really. Of course, the chances are that he won’t come out with a scary report said attention-whoring politicians can use to score easy points with the “morals” voters. So, it would never fly in the U.S.

Your daily dose of bitterness in one convenient package!

Practical business advice: Money
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 4:29 PM

In my last entry, I talked about practical business advice dealing with business partners. Some people started to bring up issues of money, so I figured I should talk a bit about that.

Keep in mind that a lot of business planning is pretty grim by nature. You want to keep your business running, but it will almost always be teetering on the edge. You don’t go into game development for the money; if you do, you’re a fool. Therefore, you need to be extra careful and extra considerate about money.

So, here’s some practical bits of advice about money, after the break.

18 September, 2006

Practical business advice: Partners
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 7:45 PM

One of the biggest problems in game development is that everyone thinks they’re special. Yes, other companies have done something and failed, but obviously this new team is smart enough to avoid those problems. Not that they have a solid plan, of course, but the gods will descend from the heavens and bless their company/project and they will avoid all those dumb things other people did before them. So you get all these small-scale online game development studios that fall into the same traps the experienced people warned them about years ago. Yes, launch is the real beginning of the hard work. No, you can’t build a hard-core PvP game that leaves people crying and expect to have mass-market success. No, the publisher isn’t going to cut you a better deal because you’re so innovative and doing something that no one has done before. Yes, someone actually has done it before and failed so quickly you never heard about it.

This affects also affects basic issues like company formation and your business partners. You and a bunch of your friends are all eager to make the ultimate game. You have a grand idea, a bunch of programming expertise, and big dreams. Unfortunately, your company could get smothered in the cradle (or gunned down when slightly older) if you aren’t careful about forming your company. So, here’s a bit of practical advice I’ve gleaned over the years after the break.

15 September, 2006

Weekend Design Challenge: MMORTS
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 7:02 PM

Something a bit different this week. I want the brilliant people here to put a bit of effort toward thinking about different online games.

The RPG currently reigns supreme. For a good designer, it is easy to see why: it is a popular genre in single-player games, these games provide a lot of replay value, the cumulative character structure is excellent for taking advantage of persistence, and there are many opportunities to interact with other players to accomplish goals. In short, RPGs were made for the online medium.

But, there are more than just RPG type games in the industry. Other popular genres include the FPS, RTS, and sims. Yet, these genres haven’t been translated to the online medium very well, if at all. Planetside shows that you can do an online FPS, but it won’t necessarily be a runaway hit. The Sims, a phenomenal hit offline, didn’t make the transition to online very well at all.

So, this weekend’s challenge is to consider the RTS game. What could you do in order to make an “MMORTS” game?

Some issues to consider after the break.

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