Well I just had a late night...

With a spreadsheet. Yeah, I'm a nerd.

Anyways, this means I now have templates for the basic weapons that support my current vision for the crafting system. Also it's kind of interesting watching how each weapon works and what it would obviously be useful for.

A weight based pole arm, like a halberd or a warhammer will be good for burst and will improve in terms of burst the heavier it gets. The longer your own reach the better.

A dagger does goodish dps but very little burst, the shorter your reach the better. Heavier will increase your burst, but won't really effect your dps.

A pike does truly godawful dps but incredible burst. Weight helps to some extent, but you'll also want to keep an average reach, the sweet spot is definitely between 1 and 4 feet.

The sword is basically just really average. It doesn't really do great dps, nor great burst, but does 75% of what each category's best does. Weight helps your burst and doesn't really effect the dps at all. Definitely one that is going to need good character skills.



It was becoming painful to breath. Every ounce of air seemed to press against the broken ribs in her chest. painfully jolting her back to wakefulness. Only her pain had accompanied her the last thee hours, bringing each fracture, break and cut into painful focus.

The door nearby opened and a woman of about medium height walked in. She opened a folding chair, and threw a first aid kit at the broken girl before sitting down and lighting a smoke. With great care the woman pulled out a cell phone and laid it on the counter.

"Is that the detonator?" She asked between ragged coughs as she opened the kit and looked through it.

"Yes." The woman simply replied.

"Why?" The question left her hacking on the floor struggling for breath.

"Hmmm... Why indeed. I guess you could say I find this world to be broken. Beaten down by the whims of a petulant race, stretched beyond it's breaking point and left out to dry. You know, I found it a sobering day when I realized that after twenty years of hard work the world was no better off today than it was then. One city was repaired and five fell. For every hero there were thirty villains and even the heroes could never agree on what the hell they were trying to accomplish anyways."

"Betrayal?" It was a question, but in her hoarse whisper it could have been confused for accusation.

"I suppose you would think so." The woman answered simply.

"Won't fix..." She could barely get out.

The woman laughed for a few moments. "You really are a naive little bitch aren't you. I don't give a shit about fixing this horrid little world of ours. My only interest at this point is making it scream, scaring all the little ants with their deepest fear. They want to despise us, so be it. I'll be their angry god, their living nightmare and I will make them quake in fear at the thought of leaving their small little houses and stepping out into the real world."

The two women starred at each other for a few minutes. One searching the others eyes for some sign that this wasn't real, wasn't true. The other holding only steel in her gaze.

Finally the woman grabbed the cell phone, flipped it open and pressed a key. Then she left, letting the sound of the phone's ringer fill the room. A few seconds later the building shook with the impact of a far off explosion.

The girl wept for the world, for her mentor, and even herself, yet went through the motions of bandaging herself all the same. The era in which the world looked to Watchword for safety had just ended. How had their greatest hero become such a monster?

* * *

Watchword let the tears well out of her eyes as she drove away towards the outer edges of the city. She could almost feel the blood staining her hands now and she couldn't get the names of the people she knew would be dead now out of her mind. The tears fell for a few seconds and then she stopped, steeling herself.

They had become to dependant on her, on the very best of her kind. The protectors of the world had gotten lazy, complacent, bored even. It wasn't enough, there was a new wave coming, something worse than she had ever seen in her days, she could feel it. Two years maybe, and it would be on them.

Not much time, but maybe enough to get things in order. To shock them all, to route out chaff, to make them see.

She was out of time to feel. Now she could only act.


Trying To Be Happier

I've decided that I'm going to try and take on my depression kind of head on. Mainly, I'm just going to try and inject some optimism into my life, but also some reality. To do this, I'm going to write one thing I'm grateful for, one thing I'm afraid of, and one thing I hope for.

I'm grateful for:
The sound of dice clicking together as I shake them. Sometimes it's right before a moment of anticipation, other times I'm using them as a sort of percussion instrument. There are times when I just roll dice to help me think. It always makes me more comfortable for some reason, and I'm grateful for that.

I'm afraid of:
Being alone... especially dieing alone.

I hope for:
Someone to describe a game I've made as beautiful.



And bobs your uncle, we now have the ability to calculate the swing time of a weapon.

Yes, I did just use Photoshop as an over glorified white board.

A few more thoughts over on GAX.


Table for Two Parts

Maxine watched the girl out of the corner of her eye as they drove down the winding highway. For the entire drive the girl had remained silent, just looking out the window watching the vast expanse of emptiness roll by. The questions in Maxine's mind seemed to hang in the air, stifling the air in the car.

Finally the girl moved, pointing to a dilapidated billboard advertising a roadside dinner. She knew the place, a friend of hers from high school worked there. At least, that had been the case last time she had stopped there several months ago. Maxine nodded, almost afraid to break the silence that hung over the car and took the next exit up, over the overpass.

It wasn't a minute more when they stopped in front of the run down dinner.

Her friend turned out to be their waitress. Maxine let the woman draw her into an inane conversation, taking some temporary solace from the cloying silence of the young girl. For the girl's part, she ate as though she hadn't been fed in weeks, but retained her wall of silence. After a full breakfast they returned to their drive.

The silent car gliding ever onward through the empty landscape. The longest drive of Maxine's life.

* * *

Jen starred at the sample under the microscope while Black Sabbath blared in the background. Her eyes carefully examined the mysterious cells, looking for some secret to their inner workings. Behind her an entire wall was filled with projected slides of the substance at various magnifications.

Large quantities of Oxygen, Hydrogen, Silver, Tungsten, with lesser quantities of Gold and Iron, but also another element she couldn't identify. The glue that would hold it all together and give it more unique properties. The last couple of tests had been inconclusive. The mysterious element seemed to have completely deactivated contributing little more than color at this point.

She needed a live specimen. A sample of living 'tissue' as it were. With a sigh she leaned back and began composing her report and request. It wouldn't be popular, but so far, it was all she could really say.

* * *

The dinner seemed fairly calm from the outside. A few splashes of red on the inside of the windows, but otherwise nothing overtly different than an hour ago.

A sharp scream pierces the air and another splash of red appears.


Citizens, lend me thine cameras!

And possibly your hands!

Okay, so I come to you, my heavily limited readership, with a very specific request. I need footage of someone playing WoW, Tabula Rasa, EQ2, Lineage 2, or whatever it is you play. STOP, let me get a bit more specific.

I need footage of your hands while you play even more than I need the screen itself. If you use any macros, please write down what you use and what it does, the same goes for UI mods. If at any point over the course of filming you want to do something and realize you can't, write it down or say it out loud. As far as length goes, try and grab a typical game session, whatever you define as a typical game session.

Try and compress the footage if you can, divX is always playable, but pretty much anything will work. Veoh is generally considered a good hosting site for long or high res videos, so I highly recommend it for our purposes.

Once you have the footage somewhere it can be accessed, simply send me an email at sara.pickell at gmail dot com with the link or post it as a comment here. If it's two months out and you happen upon this post, please send it to me anyways.

Thanks in advance,
Sara Pickell.



I signed up for Twitter. Twitter is great for short encapsulated thoughts, like this one.

Progress is being made on my first AI Behavior for Multiverse. Still doesn't work yet, but it's better than it was a while ago.

Beyond that... I'm mostly just tired.


Tools vs. Rules - Virtual Worlds Discussion

Earlier today I was looking over the minutes for the first meeting of the CSM. While doing so I stumbled across this offshoot thread on system sovereignty. As I read through the various thoughts and suggestions posted I invariably found myself shaking my head in disappointment.

The posters in the thread certainly don't come across as unintelligent people, and even the concepts they put forth aren't bad in and of themselves. Still I can't shake this feeling that I'm watching a deeper issue at play here. This does provide an interesting working example though, so let me explain.

In EVE players can own their own bits of space down in 0.0 space. In an effort to allow people to not have to be on at all hours twenty four seven, and create a certain amount of stability in ownership, they created a system to shore up an alliances sovereignty of their own systems. The way it worked was that alliances would build and place their own POSs (Player Owned Stations) and those POSs would grant them a certain amount of sovereignty over the given system(s). Those POSs would need to be destroyed one at a time, and any system may have several, from the edge inward in order to be able to shift sovereignty and make those systems usable by your forces.

The problem that created though is that it forced the sheer number of ships required to even challenge an entrenched enemy up into the server breaking numbers. A problem that has seen active discussion for pretty good piece of time now and we can be fairly certain the devs are talking about it non stop as well.

So where do I come in with an argument? Well, I think we have run into a problem where everyone is discussing rules for a fundamentally tool related issue. There are two things I know that come into play here, the first is that when it comes to two equally advanced forces Nathaniel Bedford Forest* said it best, "the firstest with the mostest". It's the simple truth for any symmetrically advanced combat where MAD is not on the table. Second is that players will discover and (ab)use the most successful/efficient tactics almost without exception. Therefore, I believe the answer is not to change the rules governing the game, but to implement the tools necessary to change the most efficient set of tactics.

First we need to create something to break up the groups. A good suggestion here would be to create a capital ship module that would do extreme amounts of damage to large structures, but would also create a huge radius around it which would damage other ships without regard to alignment or standings, the damage being inverse to victim size of course. You could also add battle cruisers that are basically a ship-gun capable of doing reasonable damage to a cap ship out at ranges of 300-400k, but who take a penalty for every ship within 300k of them and are naturally shy of fitting slots.

The hope would be to simultaneously decrease the typical fleet size for dreadnoughts, increase the number of battle cruisers in fleet engagements and spread out the combatants to take advantage of 3d space and gang warfare. Obviously it's impossible to know from discussion how exactly all of these will effect the game, but the basic concept I'm trying to get across is that you can't rules your way out of a tools issue. Just as you can't use electronic controls to fix bad mechanical design, nor good maintenance to solve poor engineering or architecture.

Especially in sandbox environments, I feel that one should always focus on providing the players good tools. You may not always be right, but at the end of the day at least the player gets to keep their shiny new tool.


My Observations: The Massively Multiplayer Market

I've been doing quite a bit of reading lately, across various sites and through some major back and forth exchanges of history and ideas. From this I feel as though I'm starting to find a fairly decent grasp on some of the factors contributing to the current MMO market.

I'm going to be bringing quite a few games, and I can't promise I'll be particularly positive to your favorite. Still please bear with me and read the entire article before responding.

To begin with I want to cover a little bit about the who. Demographics I suppose it would be called, though I don't plan on tracking age, gender, or race so I'm not sure it counts (~.^). But I'll to try to examine who it is that I believe to be playing these games.

Consistent with most service industries I'm are not looking for what could be called a "normal" customer. Instead I would prefer to try and block out certain groups that we know to play these games.

Group A will consist of people who purchase two or more games a month and are probable to acquire any sufficiently marketed MMO within three months of launch. We'll call them the Nomads for my own ease.

Group B consists of persons under the age of 17 who are probable to play many different games a month but do not, on average, purchase the games themselves. We'll call them annoying little shi... Tweens, we'll call them Tweens.

Group C would be persons above the age of 17 who will purchase, on average, less than one game a month. While I'm loathe to open this can of worms, we'll call these people Casual Gamers.

Group D are self identified gamers who purchase fewer than one title per month. Gamers will do.

The first MMOs were created for our A and D groups. The current game industry as a whole is built by and for Gamers and Nomads, the concept of creating MMOs for them was a logical solution. UO and Everquest are the examples I'd use for that period. Neither game had great penetration in the B or C groups though both certainly attracted some amount of players from those groups.

I would theorize however that MMOs as a whole actually have only a small market share amongst Gamers and Nomads. Nomads especially are more often consumers than they are users, preferring the act of buying a product over paying for a service. Group C by comparison is much more likely to see the game as a service which naturally makes the business model more palatable.

Group B was soon discovered by games like Runescape, but group C remained an impossible market to gain a significant foothold in right up until 2005.

There are a few important things to note about World of Warcraft that allowed it to open that market while increase share in both markets B and D, Tweens and Gamers. WoW was a highly polished iterative evolution from a game play stand point, and while that was a major contributor to it's success it would also have been impossible for it to have affected such a paradigm shift alone. WoW's disruptive evolution in marketing campaigns has consistently pulled in the C and D markets allowing them to grow their target audience. WoW's western market consists of a little under five million. It has thus far been impossible for any other MMO to replicate those numbers, in fact Western subs rarely approach the one million mark.

The most important take away for business people is, however, that the B and C markets, Tweens and Casuals, are growing while the D market is fairly steady. Expect to see more games aimed at those two markets attempting to tangentially acquire members of the Gamer demographic.

Unfortunately we still have one loose end; the A market, Nomads. The Nomad demographic are high money spending players, but they have a generally lower amount of loyalty than the other groups, besides the Tweens. Nomads are also some of the most likely to frequent blogs and forums though. The industries sharp turn away from the Nomad's preferred type of game has left a segment of the market hurt and disillusioned. To a large extent, we are seeing the SWG CU and NGE style event happen on an industry wide level.

The companies are turning away from those who were there to support them early on to pursue the dream of these new markets. Since it's a more subtle, industry-wide, move it hasn't sparked off as many flames. On the other hand it has left a large segment of the population with a general feeling of negativity and betrayal that is hard to pin down and define.

At present moment, we have yet to see whether the markets WoW has penetrated are indeed open for the entire market. During the mean time we face the more immediate problem of the Nomads themselves. Having been burned by the market trends, they are highly likely to buy or subscribe to new MMOs but unlikely to give positive word of mouth or maintain long term attachments. This can lead to an even greater gap between early sales and actual long term subscription figures, and detract from overall sales.

Not to leave the industry out of the brow beating, we have seen a continuing problem with the business end of MMOs. It remains a common misconception that an MMO is a product when, in fact, it is a service. Despite their apparent success with EQ and EQ2, I actually consider SOE to be the greatest and most consistent offender on this count. Perhaps it is an error in my perception, but that is a failing I've felt every time I've begun a trial on one of their games. They are certainly not the only offender though, and it is a common problem throughout the industry. Luckily if it goes beyond certain limits it becomes a fatal flaw, so we should see very few examples of it's furthest extreme.

This is what I've pieced together through observation, feel free to pick it apart or shred it completely.


Jabberwocky Streets

Thought I should add - This is a thought expirement!

Basic Design Premise:
Create a massively multi-player persistent world based on artistic creation and socialization with competition but devoid of violence.

Setting (Underlying Simulation):
An urban environment with emphasis on the warehouse and downtown areas. NPCs wandering the streets taking note of any fliers, graffiti, or pamphlets they may be handed/come across. Loose instancing for personal apartments. There is a monthly ballot on which eight issues will be voted on by the NPCs, should be things that have some effect on PCs, for instance whether the city will add buildings in the warehouse district or improve roads in the warehouse district.

Art Direction:
Cold urban grit, stylized but should avoid looking childish.

Players begin in the game with a daily allowance and the shirts on their back inside of an instanced tutorial.
They may skip the tutorial or learn how to tag, create fliers and pamphlets, play instruments and even have the in-game social network explained to them. End it with them choosing positions on the current eight issues, these positions can be changed at any time, but changing does not have retroactive effects. (Players may choose to abstain.)
When players enter the world, they have a small amount of starting capital and some cans of spray paint. They can tag buildings in the warehouse district, or print and hand out fliers or pamphlets in any of the areas. These will get their side of issues before the NPCs. The NPCs will vote based on how much they see of the taggings, fliers, etc... by players with an opinion on the issue. When an issue you agree with passes, you get an increase in your allowance.
There is a tri-monthly community award contest. Players vote for other players, not themselves, for categories such as best tagging, best musician, most popular, most helpful, etc... Winners have their allowance raised proportional to their position, first place wins more than second place, so on and so forth.
Gamemasters should be actively arranging parties, "live" music performances, and so forth within the game to keep a vibrant community in the game.
Players can elect to have taggings and songs saved permanently in their profiles. To get all parts of a song from the band, simply play it while in a group and have one member save it. Members of a group may also tag collaboratively.

I'll leave it there for this post.