Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

7 January, 2013

A look back, a look forward
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 2:13 PM

Well, 2012 is done, and the world didn’t end. (Personally, I think it was Dr. Who’s heroic actions that averted the apocalypse.) So, back to business as usual, I guess.

So, since we’re finally in 2013, let’s take a look back and a look forward.

What I did in 2012

Professionally, the focus was still on Storybricks. A disheartening failure of our Kickstarter campaign set us back considerably. We managed to land an agreement working with a larger company. Not quite as thrilling as working on our own project, but perhaps that will still be in the cards for the future.

Gaming-wise, my favorite game was Legend of Grimrock, a great RPG made in a style I really enjoyed. I played through it twice in quick succession, but haven’t touched it much since. Haven’t tried out the editor yet. More recently, I got Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes for my Nintendo DS as a Christmas gift. Been enjoying that a lot as I’ve been on the road visiting family.

No other games have made quite the impression that one did, although I did pick up quite a few new games from the holiday Steam sales. So, something might really stick with me yet. FTL seems to be an early contender.

On the MMO side, I played a lot of DDO this year. This is where most of my available gaming time went. I’ve had two regular groups going, and played a number of solo characters. I got Guild Wars 2 around my birthday, so a lot of my solo time went into playing that. In GW2, I got a level 80 character and am working toward a 100% map completion. I’ve posted enough articles about GW2 to give you an idea of what I think. Not sure how much I’ll stick with the game going forward; I might set it aside for a bit after the 100% completion.

Personally, it’s been a year of ups and downs. Looking back at my post from last year, I didn’t follow up much on my goals. My writing has been delayed as I’ve been working on Storybricks and dealing with life in general. I think I really need to prioritie a personal outlet for my excess creativity, though.

What else happened in 2013

The blog has been chugging along. I still get about 6-7 thousand unique visitors per month. This probably doesn’t include people who read via RSS feeds and don’t come for the comments. Not bad for how inconsistent my posting has been.

Since it’s often amusing, let’s take a look at the top search terms for the year for all my sites:

  1. cyberpunk mmo
  2. animatrix
  3. decker game
  4. psychochild
  5. blood elf porn
  6. design a mmorts

Okay, those first few entries are probably terms that lead to The Internet Crashed, my collaborative cyberpunk blog that fizzled out in 2010. But, interesting to see “cyberpunk MMO” score so highly. Of course, “blood elf porn” is still hanging in there. And, I guess there’s an untapped desire to know about designing an MMORTS; I’m a very casual RTS player, but perhaps I could put some thoughts down.

General trends in MMOs have been interesting. I think we might call 2012 the year subscriptions truly lost the lead for MMOs. SW:tOR showed that you can’t just spend your way to the top spot anymore. That and TSW showed that relying on subscriptions just isn’t worth it, even for a game with large aspirations. The last game we’ll possibly see launch with a subscription may be Elder Scrolls Online and possibly Blizzard’s Titan, and I would lay good odds they actually won’t subscription-based long after launch, if at all. I think we’ll see a continuation of the trend of existing games going free-to-play, or at least integrating cash shop type options more prominently.

I think we’ve also seen the acceleration of people just not sticking with a game for as long as they used to. When I ran M59, I talked to people who had been playing it for several years. Playing GW2, I found what was said to be a once vibrant guild appear to be a ghost town just a two months after launch. I think part of this is the general trend toward single-player focused game experience (particularly with heavy “personal story” elements that play more like a single-player RPG than an MMO) seems to be accelerating this trend as there are less social bonds formed after people feel they have “finished’ that part of the game.

It’s also obvious that the shine has worn off of social games. Despite being the hot thing back in the day, it’s become obvious that tossing a stripped-down casual game on Facebook isn’t the road to riches anymre. Even the king of the hill, Zynga, has had some pretty high profile problems this year. Now the question is if the decline of social games allows more development interest on MMOs, or if MMOs feel a bit of pain by association.

What’s coming in 2013

What’s my prognostication for what’s coming up? I think we’ll see the general trend of less MMOs announced, in development, and being launched. There are only a few games being discussed for launch this year, and as social games stole a lot of the attention, you don’t see every random group of developers talking about making an MMO. Okay, there’s the slightly depressing part.

However, I’d like to think this is the year that MMOs start to make a comeback. A few things I’ve seen indicate that companies are wary of trying to do the same old things and hoping for success. The high profile stumble of SW:tOR has made developers hesitate. But, I don’t think that the established industry developers are quite ready to declare MMOs dead. But, we’re on the knife’s edge here: I think another year of disappointment could spell longer-term problems. We’re not quite to the point where indie MMOs can be made easily and are guaranteed to stay online, so we don’t have the indies here to save us once MMOs go out of favor.

What I’d like to do in 2013

As much as I love Storybricks and absolutely have faith that we’re going to do great things, I think I’ve stagnated a bit personally. I haven’t had the passion for learning I did in the past. I think I’m still catching my breath after the issue surrounding the closing of M59 and life in general

One thing I’ve started is teaching myself Japanese using online resources. I don’t expect to master the language, but I’m using this as an excuse to re-capture the wonder of just being online. When I first started learning Spanish in school, it was in a short (10 minute) class held because lunch interrupted our regular class. I got mere glimpses of it from a teacher who was teaching us the language through his own prerogative. My whole experience was in that classroom, as we didn’t even have books. Later when I studied Spanish in high school, I mostly had the classroom and textbook with a bit from audio tapes; nothing at home gave me the opportunity to practice Spanish, as I didn’t have cable and access to the Spanish-language stations there. Even during university, where I got a degree in Spanish, I only added a bit of practice with some classmates I was friends with. So, the fact that I can learn a new language on my own through online resources is pretty neat; it reminds me of when I was that kid in university that was excited to be chatting with someone from England on a text MUD.

I’d also like to sharpen my skills as a developer. I think I might start slowly working on a personal game project. What I currently have in mind can be summed up as “turn-based shmup”. It could be awesome or it could suck terribly; we’ll see, I guess. :)

I’d also like to start something more regularly this year: collaborative blogging. A few years ago I did a collaborative blog with Ferrel. He wrote from the player side while I wrote from the developer side. I’d love to do that again this year, perhaps once a month. If you’re a blogger (or would like to start!), drop me a line or leave a comment here. Send me a link to your blog, and pick a topic you think would be interesting.

The usual question

So, time for the usual question: what would you like to see more of here? Besides simply more posts, of course. :) Leave a comment with your thoughts.

Anyway, here’s to a great new year! May it be better than the last no matter how 2012 treated you.

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  1. More of the same, really. I love your posts, and while I don’t always comment (and thus almost never visit directly, I’m an RSS/Google Reader person) your blog is one of my favourites.

    Your posts are always interesting, and even when they’re “current news/gaming blogosphere” related they’re never just regurgitated content from everywhere else. Always an interesting, relevant, and well thought out opinions on things – something that sadly rare today.

    *shrugs* So, yeah, more of the same and I’m a happy reader :)

    Comment by Derrick Whittet — 7 January, 2013 @ 2:40 PM

  2. It’s always good to see discussions on game design. Good Storybricks news is always appreciated, too. ;)

    Best wishes for 2013!

    Comment by Tesh — 8 January, 2013 @ 10:33 AM

  3. Glad you’re still blogging, Brian. It’s not always easy to come up with worthwhile things to say, but you do so consistently.

    Like Tesh, I always enjoy your design thoughts. Actually, I especially enjoyed your collaborative design posts. Even if I didn’t stick my oar in, it’s always fun (and often instructive) to see people improving each other’s ideas. So more of that would be great.

    Oh, and blood elf porn, obviously.


    Comment by Bart Stewart — 8 January, 2013 @ 3:32 PM

  4. I enjoy reading through your blog, and seeing what you have to say about design. Frankly, you appear to care about discussing it and getting other people to think about design decisions. There are a few other people who do this enough that I have begun to play games thinking about “why is the game designed this way” and “is this fun, and if not why so” over “I like this game”.

    This has in turn led to me being more actively critical on things I play and wonder how I could do it differently to make it more entertaining or engaging. I’m not sure if this is a bad thing, because it’s trickled down to when I try to run a D&D campaign.

    So if I want to see more of anything? It’d be those kind of things. Because they’d keep me thinking, and having a reason to come here and look up. I might just learn things (such as why o why I would ever sanely consider making a game).

    Comment by Kereminde — 16 January, 2013 @ 3:08 PM

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