Trawling My Projects Folder

Just exploring my projects folder, and came across some images from long dead projects or settings. Thought I might as well share.

And I never did finish this presentation, let alone move on to more in the series.


Survival Horror, the Boardgame

Reading Ian Schrieber's course in game design although I didn't sign up, couldn't afford the books. And it just wanted you to bang out a game in a few minutes, so here it is.

Survival Horror - Cthulu Tropes Edition

This a game for 2-5 players, though I'm sure you can find a way to finagle more in if you really want to. One player takes the role of Monster and begins at the end of the board, the rest take the role of various tropes, the woobie, badass normal, the dog, and of course Martin, because there's always room for Martin, and start at the beginning.

At the beginning of every turn, you roll a six sided dice to determine movement, which may be backwards or forwards. If you roll a six, every survivor moves one space towards the monster. If you roll a 1, every survivor moves 1 space away from the monster. The spaces that connect to the shortcut have trap doors, if you land on them, you automatically take the shortcut path next turn. If the monster lands on a survivors space, or crosses over their space as they move, their token is removed from the board and they lose the game.

You can have one of three win states. Free for all, everyone is on their own and the first survivor to reach the exit wins, or the monster in the case it kills them all. Team, if a survivor reaches the exit, all remaining survivors win, and the monster if it eats them all. Team strict, if all survivors reach the exit the survivors win, if the monster eats even one survivor, all survivors loose.


Another Year is Coming

Jumpgate Evolution
Black Prophecy
Fallen Earth
The Agency

I know I'm probably missing some or wrong about some, but those are the MMOs that I can pick off the top of my head that are looking at release dates roughly within the next year or so. It's an interesting list really.

JG:E and Black Prophecy are space ships, now with joysticks, Fallen Earth and Aion are more traditional MMOs, one post apoc, the other fantasy post apoc. Crimecraft, APB, and the Agency are all going for a third person shooter feel, and are to some extent pressing against the bounds of how we define MMO. Champions is the next installment in online superhero gaming, which remains to be seen whether it'll redefine it's niche or enter on more or less even footing with it's aged competitor. Metaplace is already in open beta which means release is right around the corner now, and to say it's somewhat different than the current crop of MMOs would be a hell of an understatement.

In other words, this next year will be a completely different year for MMOs than the last one. Change, evolution, revolution, and old guard all coming out right next to each other. Somewhat surprisingly, we're going to be seeing a lot more of the third person shooter of which TR is the most famous MMO predecessor. To great extent, the future of the entire will likely be shaped on where Aion fits in the pack, if it comes out on top, it could be the groundhog heralding six more years of diku, if it's near the bottom it could finally kill off future funding for diku MMOs all together as we move forward.

In large part, this is the year I've been waiting for. I've noticed that my posts about design have been trailing off over the last six months. In large part it was that I mostly felt I'd said just about everything that I personally needed to say about MMOs, though perhaps not always in detail. Once I'd caught up to a certain point, criticism of design really didn't matter that much, since the current "state of the art" was still in the hands of the designers working on projects that are only now getting ready for release.

Something that faces the blogosphere, in particular, is that I doubt anyone is going to wind up giving all the games a "fair" shake. Lets face it, if you think it takes three months of play to be allowed to form an opinion on an MMO, you're not going to have the time or money to form an opinion about every game on the list. So by and large, going forward, you're going to get a whole lot of opinions formed from trial periods or first months even from people you wouldn't have expected it from. The fact that most people aren't just going to abandon whatever MMO they are playing now, also means all of this reviewing and opinion forming is going to have to take place alongside their typical gaming, leaving even less time to devote to each new game.

And again this is just brand new games, I'm not even addressing all the expansion packs and content patches that are going to be released over the next 12 months.


Going out on a limb here.

Short, sweet, to the point, if a publisher cancels your favorite MMO, I say you have the right to be mad. Forever.

This isn't because I think all of the companies should be forced to support their old products indefinitely, or because I think they should keep running unprofitable games. It's because if you aren't going to get worked up about whether the entertainment you love is available to you, who is? Unfortunately, or fortunately, you are your own consumer advocate, and if you stop advocating, why should they give a shit?

Not that your voice, pissing in the wind, is going to make tons of difference. Still, it's your voice, and if it ain't speaking for you, who is it speaking for?

Breathe in. Half Breath Out.

Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. All of them together. The short one to the far right was the leader. The overweight one just left of center was the second in command. One of the others had to be her main target. Didn't matter, they'd all be dead in the end.

Breathe in. Half breath out. Pull the trigger. It was more than an action, it was her prayer. It would be a second before the bullet hit. Time always seemed to hang, and it was the only time she ever second guessed a shot. Not the trajectory, it would hit just fine, but the target. Should she have just shot the leader, destroyed the head of the dragon to begin with? Not with this leader, the quiet sort, never talks directly to the men. He could lead in a pinch, but the men won't be used to it, they'll get conservative in fear.

The bullet easily cuts through the layers of fat, tearing through his rib cage like butter. You want to cut off the head, you aim for the neck. They scatter like rabbits, confused and scared while she chambers another round. Briefly she looks up from the scope, watching them mill about, firing randomly into the surrounding brush. She'd have time to think now, all alone on the side of the hill with the steady rhythmic beating of her heart.

Motivations, always a sticky subject. It used to be easy, they said shoot, she'd pull the trigger. They said shoot, and the whole world blew up, real easy. This? Revenge maybe, justice, perhaps simple catharsis, hard to tell. All the thinking ate on itself, turning certainties into suggestions and delusions into facts. The insanity of taking life, something the world just never did get tired of. Maybe she was doing it for the face of a daughter, finally seeing her mother after so many years, so happy to see her she didn't even ask why they were suddenly driving across half the country.

She'd been a good girl, and never asked, just trusted her. And now that trusting face taunted her, asking why she hadn't been there. Some part of her still thought this would make it right, like it wouldn't be a betrayal if she just did this. It never worked that way, it couldn't, the look in those trusting eyes was gone now. Then again, she couldn't really question this current course of action, it wasn't a choice. When they'd crossed the line, when they'd hurt her daughter, they were already dead. This was just a formality.

The milling calmed, people started talking in ones and twos. The next couple guys in line for promotion were trying to look useful, getting people out checking further afield. A couple people were getting the bikes ready, thinking they'd be moving on. Shouting from the leader at the guys on the bikes, third rate commander making a third rate decision apparently. Staying in a compromised position, bad decision all around. One of the up and comers starts arguing, first to be heard, now accusing. It's tempting to take the young buck out, remove the voice of reason from the picture. Better to wait until tomorrow, with any luck someone will put two and two together and come up aces with conspiracy theories about their boss.

Ever so slowly she finally starts to move. Ten hours to invisibly traverse the hundred yards or so to her next position. It was going to be a long night.



Twitter Question

A blog post for longer form thoughts and answers.

@SaraPickell: Q to the listening audience: Would you play an MMO with no character advancement

@NT_: @SaraPickell In what ways would it be different from the FPS online games that don't have character advancement (like COD2, not COD4)?

@SaraPickell: @NT_ it would be massive, and wouldn't necessarily be an FPS. Better question, it what ways would it be similar, and are those bad things?

@NT_: I think this would make a good blog post & discussion thread, if you like. Topic's a bit deep for twittering at work, lol.

@hallower1980: I would, but it would have to have better combat, exploration, and more dynamics than typical MMOs

@copperbird: @SaraPickell Yes, it doesn't need to get more powerful. But it would need some other goals.

@Ardua: @SaraPickell Depends I suppose on what I can do. If there was a good hook, yes.

@xbevisx: Now THAT is a killer question. I'd like to be adventurous and say yes, although for season reason it scares me. Like clowns.

@JadeTalon: @SaraPickell How would rewards work? How different or customizable will each player's "character" be?

@SaraPickell: @JadeTalon Dunno, didn't really have any specifics in mind when I asked. I suppose then what would you need to be the answers to say yes?

@pasmith: @SaraPickell Probably not. I play most games, MMO or not, for the character advancement. Maybe if it had a killer storyline

@Ysharros: @sarapickell yes, if you define advancement purely as getting levels

@pasmith: @Ysharros @sarapickell Wouldn't getting new skills, fame, gear, etc all fall under character advancement, though?

@SaraPickell: @Ysharros but what if it wasn't? I'm kind of asking myself that now, what if you never even changed from what you first look like?

@Ysharros: proooobably -- but I imagine you'd find folks would figure out ways to make their own goals. Else it would be IM-with-avatars?

@Ardua: @SaraPickell @Ysharros Indiana Jones. Have whip, will make the rest up as the situation requires. Who needs to change themselves?

@copperbird: @SaraPickell If you start out looking amazingly cool, you might not want to change (like CoH)




Tooling around SL

I've had a Second Life account for a while now, but haven't really felt any need to post about it. I'm not an SL builder by any stretch of the imagination, in fact I'm there mostly to forget all the complex building of shit TM. But lately it's actually become worth mentioning as I've managed to acquire a worth while wardrobe and look like something worth looking at. Most of the time in SL, I feel like anything I succeed at happens in spite of the overall design, but that manages to be balanced by the fact that there really isn't much drive to actually do any particular thing besides look good.

I recommend you click on the picture if you want to actually see any detail of what I'm wearing. And yes, I'm wearing a gas mask. In fact, I love wearing the gas mask and sincerely doubt I'm ever taking it off again. Part of that is because although I like Victorian and Gothic styles, I'm not a big fan of the "vampire" rp that goes with it. Especially when it's good vampires that sit around gossiping and occasionally fucking each other. The Gas Mask adds this slight post apoc punk flavor to it though, and just makes it all come together that much better in my mind.

There's also a bunch of high level psychological crap about identity and my willingness to make connections probably, but I try not to dwell on it here. =)


September 23rd, 1958

My name is Arland Wright, Ph.D., and I am writing this in Savannah, Georgia, twelve miles into the quarantine zone. Despite having ample opportunity to journal the progress of my experiments elsewhere, I have, of late, felt the need to keep a journal of my more personal thoughts. Being confronted on a daily basis with the whimsy of my own mortality, it has also occurred to me that I should leave a more complete recordings of not only my work, but also my life and motivations for posterity.

Since I was a young boy, I must admit some morbid fascination with the Georgia Quarantine zone. One of my guilty pleasures in my youth were the tawdry dime novels that espoused tales of great adventure within the confines of this location. Despite the thousands killed every year by the red plague, the disease's ability to persist at all, let alone spread, after a hundred years of quarantine has made it a point of some interest in the mind of your average American. Therefore it is of little surprise that I, after attaining my credentials in biology, would jump upon the first chance offered to study the zone.

When the Biohazard Research Unit approached me with the opportunity of actually entering the zone, I had some apprehension, but no hesitation. I straightaway prepared what meager belongings I could not bring into the zone with me for storage near my home in Arizona, and flew to the BRU headquarters in Atlanta. To say that I was immediately disenchanted with the general clime would be an understatement, but a certain determination set in, a stubborn refusal to be defeated on my journey by something so small as an inclement environment.

While there I received training in the use of their particular style of hazard suit, which seemed to me to be somewhat heavier than I had ever used before. Perhaps it is an additional precaution due to how little is yet known about the plague. After being trained, and given a brief radio introduction to the team already within the zone, I was off to the edge of the quarantine zone. Along the way, I rode with an equally enthused Lieutenant Rocweiler, and discovered that he, as well, had read all those terrible dime store novels that had so colored my youth.

The final portion of our journey, the Lieutenant and I undertook alone in full hazard gear, driving an ancient military truck full of supplies to the facility in Savannah. Along the way I caught my first sighting of the so called vampires. I was quite taken aback by the sight of it, despite the distance having obscured it somewhat, for I had been given no prior warning as to their existence. In fact I was not given a full briefing on the poor creatures until I arrived at the facility.

I am still somewhat struck that such a polemic name as vampire was given to a race that has so little in common with the myth. From our observations, despite their looking like nothing so much as a pale human, that is where the similarities end. These creatures are carnivores, not liquivors, as well as being diurnal, and if anything seem to have a shorter lifespan than a human, not longer. They do appear to have established some sort of social order within the zone, producing their own clothing even, but it is in some doubt as to how they communicate or if they maintain the spark of human intelligence as opposed to having brains more of a size with our Neanderthal ancestors.

While I have been assigned to other important tasks of environmental study, the vampires have become a growing personal interest of mine. Doctor Shelby, who is in charge of their study, and I have spent many long nights discussing and theorizing as to their great potential. We are still in some debate as to what relation they have to the virus, as Shelby persists in the notion that the virus has somehow changed normal humans into these supposed vampires. To my mind however, it appears to me that it is more likely that the first "vampire" may have, in fact, existed before the plague. Various crude paintings I have seen while gathering show some sort of conscious knowledge of a time when they were not the unquestioned rulers of this small area. Perhaps, they were by luck immune to the effects of the disease, or of a hardier immune system than humans. In this case the disease would have not been the catalyst for their existence, but rather for their proliferation as the resources that had been previously taken by the humans around them were opened up to easy consumption.

As to more recent events, the Lieutenant has been assisting me in my constant forays into the zone for specimens. For now I am wrapped up in the exploration of various fungi. Spore borne transmission has not been ruled out yet, and while I do have my doubts in the hypothesis, it's solid enough to warrant a more thorough investigation. Nothing has resulted as yet from any of my cultures, except a slight differential in growth pattern of a single culture. That culture however shows no signs of the virus itself, making any meaningful deduction from it's behavior almost impossible.

Something to fill the gap while I try to put more recent thoughts into words.

Programming is getting me down, though some actually is getting done. To cheer myself up I'm going to revisit the original feature list for Shattered World. I've learned quite a bit over the last year, and some of my opinions have changed, while others wound up never being clearly defined. Without further ado, here we go:

A game without skills or classes, but still maintaining character progression built around mostly open ended PvP, player built cities, powerful guild management and communication tools. Shattered world also attacks the problems of PvE and end game raiding head on, allowing players to observe real change in their environment that they initiate. Crafting will also be meaningful and challenging.

Characters begin in Shattered World, not looking much different from a typical humanoid. However, when you collect Biomass, the basis of all in-game crafting and creation, you can absorb it and devote it to a mutation. These can be anything from denser muscles to growing two percent larger. What mutations you select will change the appropriate character statistics, your level is the average of all your statistics.

I decided to keep those two together since while the purpose statement covers a wide range of topics it opens with perhaps the strongest statement I've ever made about the design. No classes, and no skills. Saying no classes is easy enough, hardly a leap there, but no skills needs a certain amount of definition as to what I consider a skill. To put it most simply, a skill is a proportional measure, between 0 and maximum, tracking a player's ability and bonuses to performing an action successfully. Or in other words, I think of a skill system as following the model from UO, or as you see in EVE.

My thought was that when these two are used in practice, they are layers on top of your base statistics. In other words, from a design perspective, the fundamental point of a class would be to control the growth rate of say strength as compared to stamina, or speed as compared to endurance. From there you would grow that into the creation of abilities that function along synergies of the basic statistics, mages have higher mana pools and mana regen so they get spells for instance. Skills approach statistics from a secondary angle of competency, for instance if our skills are a range of 1-5, then at 1 you can leverage 20% of the underlying statistic, and at 5 you leverage 100% of the underlying statistic. It wasn't a hard leap from there to say, "why not just play around with the statistics directly."

From there I later decided that the best approach for abilities was to simply have them 'unlock' at certain statistical gates. In this way, the player is responsible for building their own character's abilities and style. However, not everyone is a class designer, and not everyone can run around min-maxing at all times. While not the entire reason, that played a large part in my decision to work off the morphing system rather than a straight point buy. The great hopes were that it would simplify the decision making process for players, ease balancing somewhat by creating decisions between things rather, and that players would go with things that they preferred the look of over whatever the strict min/max is.

The brief mention of levels at the end is actually a very important distinction. The way levels are handled in every MMO that has them, that comes to mind, is that you are progressing towards the next statistics gate. In other words, any particular level is more or less a plateau of base statistical progression until you fill the XP bar. In ShW on the other hand, a level is more similar to a weight class. Two people with a level of 5 in the same gear are not likely to be perfectly equal, one could be towards the high end, the other towards the low end. Which leads to...

PvP is allowed for anyone within five levels of you, without setting any flags or doing anything at all other than walking up and attacking them. You may select from two factions to begin with, Purist and Carnalist. While aligned with the Purists, you will be fined both scrip(currency) and biomass when you kill a player without a bounty. When aligned with Carnalist, you will not be fined for killing a player, however the bounty placed on your head for pking will be doubled. While in the starting city, guards will defend players without bounties when they come under attack.

The first part has to do with this new concept of levels. Basically, by limiting people to fighting relatively speaking within their weight class you almost entirely disassociate the level carrot from the stick in terms of PvP. And in retrospect, I think I would make that just "cannot initiate combat with players over five levels below you." I know from Neveron that there were plenty of people who held their empires at the point at which logistics became nightmarish, simply because they preferred to stick to more tactical combat. In WoW I held myself at level 39 for a long time, just because I had more fun with BGs and the occasional instance run than I was having leveling. By designing PvP bottom up with this weight-class style of mentality, you leave openings for those who don't want to become "all powerful" to still be useful.

The segment on bounties though has been pretty much completely removed. Between the obvious abuses of simply having carnalists kill each other all day, I've also realigned my views of the main island being more or less 0.0 space. On the other hand, the area right outside Ventrair's gate is one of my biggest concerns. Much like low security space in EVE, it's simply the most fertile zone for pirates and griefers to occupy. That area where you're still close enough to the safe zone to abuse it to your own advantage if needed. I don't have a solid answer yet, but it is constantly on my mind.

Players may build their own cities in the wild. Though any building may be placed anywhere, if you find a wide enough space of open ground you can build a Town Hall which will give your guild the ability act as planning and zoning within the effected area. You may set certain areas to be marked as road, residential, or commercial only, and/or require the appropriate guild officers signatures on any potential building sites. Buildings are destructible, and will need to be guarded, as such the Town Hall also creates an area in which members of your guild may PK any non-guildmate player without acquiring a bounty. Towns also leverage taxes, taking a percentage of all sales and trades involving scrip or biomass in the area.

My mental image of cities changed forever after playing SWG and wandering into a player built city. I took one look at the sea of shanties, the total lack of direction and terrible planning and said, "ye... no." From then on I kind of came to the conclusion that player built buildings should always be within the confines of a city. I'm certainly greatly in favor of giving people all the tools they need for easy and efficient city planning, and certainly in favor of setting aside space in and around Ventrair specifically for players without guilds. At the end of the day though, I'd rather that housing be to some extent a social decision, something to build a community up. My problem with the shanty town is that for those not "initiated" to the communities, the lack of order and organization acts as a barrier to interaction with a cities respective community.

The rest of it is still pretty spot on except for the complete removal of bounties.

The Chat System in Shattered World is actually a separate client that is automatically started anytime you run Shattered World, if it is not already running. After exiting the game, the chat will minimize to your quickbar, but can be opened to chat with guild mates, friends or any other player just as you would were the game running. The hope is this will free you from feeling the need to be at all times, since you can easily find out if you are really needed. It's powerful guild/player relations tools, should also allow you to contact your in game friends without needing the game running and manage guild functions, friends, and ignore lists without having to enter the game world.

This honestly hasn't changed hardly at all. In large part, I just don't see any reason to make people open a hugely graphically intensive game with insane load times just so they can ask if anything's going on. On top of that, a lot of the time guild management and officers will have plenty to do just shuffling around text without really needing to be in-game at all. And finally it all comes back to keeping friends connected even if they may not always have time to play with each other.

An additional advantage though, is that it allows me to purposefully blur the line between game and meta-game.

The player versus environment dynamic is turned on it's head by giving the enemies strategically located spawn in points, and a real time strategy level AI. This means that the AI will intelligently attack player owned towns as well as the starting town. The friendly AI will give quests that work towards it's goals of defeating the enemy nations. You may see an increase in fetch style quests as they prepare to repel an attack or launch one of their own. During the actual attacks and defenses you will be given kill quests and raid targets based on what will actually help your side's agenda most.

Making the PvE game play fundamentally dynamic is actually a key point in the entire design. The point of PvE is that it should be, to my mind, a fundamentally cooperative endeavor. With the large dynamic shifts, you can get players across the level spectrum to work together both in direct grouping, as well as in a more indirect fashion of smaller objectives that contribute to larger successes.

The environment on Shattered World is, well shattered. You can take on the roles of farming, gardening, foresting, breeding, and a host of others to attempt to repair to the broken landscape and turn the barren desert into a flourishing paradise. Farming and Herding can greatly increase the aggregate Biomass in the world as well, making your guild more powerful and allowing your craftspeople to build heavier arms and equipment.

This also hasn't changed at all. I want the game to be, in many ways, a teaching tool. A sort of primer in ecology and resource management, along with a chance for a society to use that primer effectively or otherwise. Of course, I also don't have any one set vision of how it "should" turn out, I'm just far more interested in watching what actually does come out of it.

Crafting is not a matter of merely gathering components, you must also combine them in the correct proportions. Beyond a few simple recipes all others are found through trial and error. The properties of the various metals in the world will have a direct effect on the final product depending on how they are combined. For instance, when creating a sword, you will need to balance the blade and pommel to increase damage dealt, but using too dense of a material for the blade and to light of a material for the hilt will still result in a product that is overly heavy for the amount of damage it deals.

For this I've been thinking of the machining equipment that my dad maintains for his work. Their really isn't a way to prevent the "most bestest" items from having their production secrets leaked out over the internet. What I can do is make it so that making those items, and in fact even determining what really is the "most bestest" a difficult task. For instance, if we were to take a plasma rifle for instance, getting it about 85% of the way would be fairly easy. Get the metal and the biomass, find the right measurements, and start machining the pieces on some lathes or CNC machines. But then comes the hard part, those machines all have a small amount of built in inaccuracy, differing based on how they themselves were built, and also take wear increasing their inaccuracy. So now you need to decide if it's worth it to replace nearly brand new parts because of a very small loss of accuracy. Of course, the inaccuracies in individual pieces accumulate into the final assembly. Even then, there are going to be differences based on the metals you picked, harder metals being undercut, especially if you have one of the weaker metals trying to cut them. On the other hand you have softer metals which can be cut to much greater accuracy, but are naturally going to wear out faster.

A sword will be an order of magnitude simpler, of course you'll want some nice hard metals and a good weight ratio. However, I suspect there will be a market for custom swords. Those who prefer a particular fighting style and want something more specialized for their needs.

Going beyond weapons you always have furniture, clothing, and tools. All of which have their own process and their own specialties.


Space Game Update

Most of what I'm doing is centered on code and structure so there isn't much to show really. That being the case, I'll leave you with some concept artwork and see what strange implications people walk away with.

War Stories

I was slightly battle value heavy when my faction leader declared our war. That wasn't a bad thing for a level 3, it meant I had a Hunchback ready to go, a hot dropping Locust, I think it was, on standby and a small fleet of tanks with some artillery support and jump short-range-missle infantry. But I was definitely BV heavy, my level was over 50% accounted for by the strength of my military, and at least half of that was the hunchback.

It was a hell of way for a war to start, my faction leader was level ten and their faction leader was level eleven. Sheer BV and population dictated an unfair fight, but that didn't matter as much in reality, you could only bring to bear the forces you had actual pilots able to command, and the big guns were your aces in the hole, nobody brought their assault battalions out on opening day. But then the sub-leader, a level 10, declared war without accepting the faction level war. One more crappy loophole in the faction-war system, neither of those empires was open to mercenary attack now, meaning the leader's empire was more or less on it's own. Good thing he was one of the best tactical commanders I'd ever met.

So our job, as the faction members, becomes simpler. Beat as many of the member empires as possible, force a loss by the weight of the smaller empires before the higher level empires broke from the initial battles of attrition that begins all upper level wars. So I opened on my two targets, the first one had a few minor battles but we end with a system enforced ceasefire when a lance of his heavy tanks go down. The second I move in and take a few cities but not much fighting before the ceasefire falls. One of my faction mates loses to the last guy I could have attacked, pushing him out of my attack range.

Now I'm on battle command and repair duty for my leader, managing some of the battles where battalions of cheaper vehicles are fighting to prevent the system from using the automatic battle resolution. The ABR was notoriously bad at weighting the actual effects of unit size and type, stories of rifle infantry battalions taking down heavy mechs that most players are quite aware would eat infantry alive were pretty common. I also managed a single lance of heavy mechs in a more serious battle, not my forte but three of the mechs came home from that one. And when battles weren't demanding my attention, I'd be managing the long lists of units needing repairs. Making sure they wound up at the places most capable of fixing them was a priority, but also getting them to nearby places to keep travel times down was another major concern.

Back on the actual battlefront my first ceasefire was winding down, while one of our mercenaries was reporting back from his losses against the one that got away. Three donation order Wyvern medium mechs. I knew then, he wasn't in my league, he was way above it. More interspersed battle with my target and he entered the second ceasefire, only one left for him. Second target came up, and I scoured across his land like a plague until there was none left... but the war wasn't up. A bug, I'd seen before, if a persons BV is tied up and inaccessible, but their holdings are gone the war can't continue nor the system recognize their defeat. But with the population gains of my recent conquest, I leveled bringing my other target back in sight.

I'd pretty much completely defeated my last opponents, and my higher level faction mates were doing good amongst themselves. Even my leader was pushing back both of his opponents, but we needed more time, and that terrible force that already burned through two players was situated at exactly the right level to attack the majority of our faction. We needed time, one way or another, so I attacked.

It was a good opening, took some land with pretty good population values. But soon enough he had pushed back, and before I knew it I was in the first ceasefire. The second ceasefire with the person I had been fighting before ended and I quickly added the final nail in their coffin, anxious to reposition those troops for the next fight. A few hours later... the enforced ceasefire with my main enemy ended. We were both back at it.

He'd take a zone, I'd take it back. Our lightest forces kept playing cat and mouse with each other, using the mechanics of hot drop and retreat to take zones without major battles, or to remain in captured zones and start battles seemingly at random across the board. But we were mostly fighting in my zones, and when the computer calculated automatic collateral at the beginning of battles it was my cities that found themselves decimated. Time was being bought though, precious time and attention... and then my sister came and got me since they'd just bought Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and wanted me to watch it with them.

A few moments of asking around on IRC and I'd found my erstwhile opponent. They were quite amenable to a short cease-fire while I took some family time. To this day I still think of my opponent as being a pretty nice guy. So I was off, for a short break. When I got back we picked up where we left off and the cat and mouse began again, with one minor change. Our mechs met on the field of battle this time.

One crippled hunchback and one crippled wyvern limped away from each other while my locust ran interference and faced it's fate as scrap metal at the hands of the other two wyverns. I commissioned a few more tanks into service to balance out my BV and our game of tiddlywinks with my city began again. A few hours later and I was brought face to face with a simple reality, my cities were gone. All of them had been devastated. My pop was at zero, and my landmass was empty, but my units were largely caught retreated into zones I didn't own. My surrender had never kicked in, since I'd never lost 50% combined BV and Pop. Most of my army was alive, but without anywhere to stage from it might as well have been scrap.

I continued a few sad battles, just buying a few more minutes for my faction mates, my brothers in arms, who I had chatted with so often and battled beside all this time. And when finally my last options to battle were gone, all I could do was close the browser and lean back. Three months of hard work had gone into building that empire, it had been not just my largest, but my favorite. I'd inherited it from a friend after it had been left to run itself into ruin. I'd shrunk it down to a manageable size, balanced the expenses to stop the torrential outward flow of money, and brought the military to some semblance of strength and order. The fight from a bloated and wasting level 5 to a strong and efficient level 3 had been hard, but so rewarding. Later I would find out that my enemy in this war had originally been a level 7, but for somewhat different reasons had also been shrunk down to about a level 4.

Now that empire, and all the work I'd put into it, was gone. I hadn't fought for pride, or because my enemy had been deserving of destruction, but because my faction mates had needed me. And as much as I tried to hold on for the next couple days, that was probably the last time I'd make a serious go of playing Neveron. To this day I'm still not sure what to make of that. I cherish the memory, but still stopped playing the game. To this day I've never felt anything like it in an MMO, and everyday I wish I could feel that just one more time...


Product vs. Service - Revisited

I mentioned recently on a post by Syncaine that I felt the people who create Wow-a-likes and the people who could resolve the issues of wasted content in the lower level areas were simply not the same people. I think it's important for me to get to the root of that distinction. Hopefully, by the end, the flaw I'm pointing out will seem obvious enough to stand out as a good measure for future MMOs and VWs.

I've been in the center of the debate between worldly worlds, and game worlds, between virtual worlds and MMOs many times over and what I'm consistently impressed with is that we're having slightly the wrong discussion. What it comes down to most specifically is that of a competition between two fundamental business concepts, that of the creation of a product, and the running of a service. What dominates the AAA North American MMO space right now is the sort of unholy union, so to speak, that publishers have reached between their concept of a product driven business and that of actually having to run a service. Since they are primarily product it isn't entirely surprising that, by and large, the service end is treated as the red headed step child.

This creates a secondary battle between placeness and gameness. You see, the goal of a product driven business is to release the initial game with a certain amount of stickiness, hopefully full on addiction, to pay the intervening time frame until you can release another product. The goal of a service driven business is to create a 'place' that people want to be, and then to use that place to sell products, advertise, and/or charge admission. While a service may benefit from a more addictive style as well, it's single most valuable asset is positive word of mouth, and putting that in danger for a little more stickiness could cost you everything.

Another difference is that a product should always end leaving you wanting more. This is how you make money on sequels and expansion packs after all. The goal of a place is to be all inclusive, to fill as many wants as possible so that people are more likely to remain loyal to you. In order to create these environments you also have to focus on very different players. For this we'll use the Bartle types, despite their flaws, just to simplify the taxonomy somewhat.

The primary audience of any product will always be the achievers, those who want it for it's own use and to excel within it's use. The secondary target would be explorers, those who are interested in seeing it in it's entirety. You may still want some socialites to build buzz for you, but they are more likely to strain your system without seeing very much content so their presence is more a marketing investment than anything. Killers are last place, to one extent catering to another audience is always a good thing, on the other, killers are more likely to drive away other players or cause harassment issues. Killers are probably only given serious representation now because they simply make up one of the largest minorities in MMOs.

For a service your audience priorities are somewhat different and the primary target will always be the socialites. Not only do they create good marketing, but they also drive retail sales and will work to improve the experience for other users. From here you have a fair amount of freedom and it depends significantly more on your team's specialization. A focus on killers can give your socialites and achievers purpose, see EVE online for an example. If you have a team capable of constant content output or immense amounts of user created content, explorers are a very viable option for secondary focus, ala Second Life.

The simple fact of the matter is that everything in the MMO genre is a service, but are being given the treatment of products. Those who make WoW-a-likes are banking on people wanting more of the same product, which is a complete fallacy, since they are trying to create a competing service. It's hard to blame them too much though, since it was WoW that was continuing on the mistake in the first place. I tend to believe part of the reason for WoW's success was primarily because they improved on the fundamental experience they were giving to their players compared to most games released before it.

This dichotomy also comes up over and over again in RMT debates. When RMT is discussed surrounding a product, the great fear is that it will be used as a means of assisting people to "win the game". I can't entirely blame them since given a product driven design, most designers will attempt to design micro products as tools for playing the game. However, it's important for both designers and players to understand that within a service, your most effective line of sales are things that increase the player's enjoyment of the place, and are best targeted towards socialites. New looks, more 'comfortable' areas, bigger houses and better decorations are probably your best bet. These will add to the enjoyment of your service without, assuming you had even a general plan for this while designing the game, disrupting other portions of your service.

While this will automatically trend you towards "worldliness" there isn't any reason to limit these lessons to sandbox games. Free Realms for instance is one of the best examples of this thought process when dedicated to a more gamey experience. Likewise, it also doesn't mean that mini-games are the wave of the future, just that they are something which shouldn't be dismissed or underestimated.

As great a divide as there seems to be between the two, our games do not need to go through incredible changes to come more in line with the reality of services. In some senses, the more difficult battle is simply in forcing both industry vets and players to unlearn certain reactions that have been conditioned in over decades of community segregation. For starters among players, it has to at least be understood that social players are as much a valid part of the game as the achievers/killers. As for designers there are more lessons than I can count, the importance of UI, world design needs to go back to the drawing board entirely, horizontal design focus, project scale being proportional to demographics, point of contact needs to be improved tremendously, and perhaps controversially I think senior community management needs to be a part of the design team. But the final play experience could change only subtly from what it is now at the end of all that, it's just that those changes would be in the places that really mattered.


Enemy Camp

Fear not friend, my friends and I will release you from your chains! Now let us off to find the key it should be around here somewhere.

Sir, I know where the key is! The large alpha with the black mane ate it!

So we shall need to defeat this alpha and take it from his stomache!?

No sir, he ate it quite some time past, I'm quite certain it is in his-

Then we shall return with a lock smith!

But the key-



Isobel's Page from the Source Book

Taking a page of what I have so far, this is Isobel's page from the current Source Book. I'm certainly open to any criticism that may improve this piece.


Isobel The Defender (later The Conqueror)
Role: Isobel was a duchess in the South of the Al-Hau mountain range. She had already served as captain of the Holy Guard and was well known as not only the best fighter, but the best commander in the Ecclesia. After retiring from the Holy Guard after two terms as captain, she had barely gotten resettled in the management of her fief in the foothills when the reach of the One Empire's third crusade reached their borders. As the Ecclesia in Al-Hau lost their mountain range to the west, Tsenara arrives on Isobel's door step. After careful negotiation with the high priestess, Tsenara devotes her greatly improved powers, aged twenty-two at this point, to the defense of Isobel's lands which are now the front-lines of the battle, in exchange for an arranged marriage with Isobel.

After breaking the waves of the third crusade in a close battle, a distant invasion by the Tsuta Empire of the One Empire gave them a more permanent reprieve. Isobel sets out with a detachment of her most experienced troops to retake Nor for her new consort, and to keep the attention of the One Empire divided. Almost three weeks into the campaign, the couple had their first and last tryst for the next thirty years. Four months after liberating the majority of the kingdom of Nor, including the new capital city of Eory which is the coastal city in which Tsenara was born, their daughter Moia is born. Moia has the wings of an Angreal but her wings are colored blue with white tips. A mere two days after birth, Moia is kidnapped by members of the One Church clergy that had remained behind under the pretenses of tending to their congregation.

The kidnapping of Moia began a new chapter in Isobel's life, and is the tipping point at which she changed from being known as The Defender, and became The Conqueror. In a few short months she had mobilized not only her own remaining forces, but dissidents from across the region to prepare an all out assault on the One Empire.

After almost a decade of hard campaigning, the capital of the One Empire falls. The next five years are spent routing the remainder of the imperial loyalists into Tsuta where they are accepted as refugees. Her military career ends with herself as Empress of the newly formed Nor Empire, centuries later renamed the Isobel Empire to legitimize a tenuous succession, with Tsenara as her consort.

Age at Death: 68
Reign: 35 years
Description: Isobel is a strong woman, both mind and body, heavily muscled and intense. Her hair is raven black and usually kept in either a single ponytail while prepared for battle, or in carefully arranged dreads for formal events. Her usual dress is a rather plain halter top with loose breaches, for formal matters she usually wears a burgundy version of the Angreal officer's uniform, an open backed shirt with elaborate, but usable, sleeves and loose straight breaches gathered into leather boots. In battle, her armor is the standard Angreal heavy armor with strong forward facing plates, and leg armor mostly provided by plates hanging from the belt.

Isobel and Tsenara have a famously tempestuous relationship. Isobel is not a lesbian, however she agreed to the arranged marriage for political expediency. Tsenara on the other hand holds a very strong unrequited love for Isobel which rules her love life for the entirety of their reign. Immortalized in poetry, stage and song for the rest of their history is a famed event where Isobel supposedly slashes her own eyes, blinding herself, in penitence for her philandering with men about court. Her bastard sons inherit the empire from her, but over the coming centuries, the lost blue winged bloodline is a constant fear of those seeking unquestioned rule.


Some more music

More youtube videos... code for "feeling kind of overwhelmed".
All embeds courtesy of Parlophone. (http://www.youtube.com/user/parlophone)


Gaming Provincials

I had a really good history teacher. Awesome lecturer, always made the past interesting. At one point in a particular lecture, he brought up the term TPs, Temporal Provincials. To any good historian, that is their f-word, worst thing a person can possibly be. You see, a Temporal Provincial doesn't just live for the moment, they are completely unaware that other moments in time even exist, and completely dismissive of what could be learned from knowing they do, let alone what happened in them.

Which brings me to what's on my mind today, Gaming Provincials. In a neophilia fueled industry like gaming it's almost impossible to find someone who has only ever played only one game, but still provincials continue to exist. In this case it isn't so much that they only play one game, it's that they don't have any awareness at all of where the games they played come from, or where they could go. Obviously there are levels to this, but what I want to focus on are the ones where GP could be the f-word, since those people give me a fucking headache.

This would be the FPS player who can't imagine anyone enjoying any game besides counterstrike, or thinks that all games must have kill boards... since all games must have teams trying to kill each other. Or people whose first online game was EQ, and simply cannot fathom that anyone would want to play an MMO sans elves, xp, and loot. More lately, people who feel that anybody that doesn't rip 99% of their game play and interface from WoW are just terrible developers who could never understand their pain at not having thirty clones with mildly different paint to choose from.

I'm not naming any names in this post, but I think I'll start using the terms in comments when I think someone applies.


Sleeping with Sleepers.

Welcome to the first ever edition of the EVE Blog Challenge! The monthly EVE blogging extravaganza inspired by the “Blog Banter” and created by AnMiTh.  The EVE Blog Challenge is about story telling, and relaying our experiences in EVE in new and exciting ways. The stories/posts that are created are both, long and short, detailed and not so detailed, but it is always fun to see everyone’s interpretation of the source materials. Questions or comments should be directed here, and if you are interested in signing up to participate go here.  Anyone can submit source materials, to do so email them to us here.


And don’t forget to read the other EVE Blog Challenge posts that will be listed at the bottom of this post.


This months source materials were submitted up by AnMiTh from EVE Guru.


The sun glistens off the side of the H.N.S. Dutiful as she slowly glides through space towards the station orbiting Amarr. This has been the end of a long journey, you had to go through the fire and brimstone of hell, but yet you made it in one piece. Those bastards were right when they said it would be tough, they were also right when they said you would be rich.



The ship glides to a stop as the station’s docking computer takes over control of the massive Bestower. Before you are even ready to exit your pod the request is sent to your computer… “They” are ready for you in the meeting hall, they are anxious to hear about the journey and the status of the mission that you are on.

Unfortunately, "They" will have to wait, Sara Cognita thinks to herself as the artificial amniotic fluid of the pod's metal womb drains out. It was several interminably long seconds before the pod had opened enough for her to slide out into the cold air of the docking port. A few members of the dock's hospitality staff hurried out and began toweling her off, while one found the pod's personal effects chamber and removed her uniform.

As she was dressing a member of her management staff approached to discuss the sales figures for their shuttle production. Mere moments later and they were walking down the stark, yet elegant corridors of the Amarr station towards the suite that she had rented for the evening. A pretty, young assistant hired from one of the local temp agencies greeted her at the door, showing her in and giving a quick overview of the main rooms extensive computer and communications system. "Be a dear and pass on a message to the Ishukone delegation that the package is on it's way. Also that their to meet me in this suite in an hour."

Some part of the Khanid woman's mind delighted in making the stuffy Caldari businessmen rearrange what were probably very carefully laid out plans. Unfortunately a more honest part was sizing up the luxurious couch for it's napping potential. Even after being a pod pilot for over a year, it still wore her to the bone to make long journeys. Especially ones with cargo that were something of a mystery in themselves. There wasn't any mystery why Ishukone would be interested in Sleeper parts, but these had been laid out very specifically. None of the parts made particular sense either, no targeting computers, weapons, advanced tech. Instead it was a couple of coolant regulators and an acceleration overlord.

While advantages in those parts may open a market for them, it was hardly worth the price they'd placed on them. A cursory scan or two taken for her own personal blueprint collection hadn't shown significant improvement either, and entire sections that didn't seem to have any correlation to the workings of the rest of their respective units at all. Taking a mental note to recover more Sleeper parts for themselves later, she switched on one of the communications terminals. With practiced ease she dropped a few encoded mails to corporate headquarters to be processed to their proper recipients.

Half an hour left, she mused, enough time for a short nap. In a few moments she had drifted into a light sleep, hovering on the edge of some unfathomable dream.


Other Great "EVE Blog Challenge" Posts -

1. A Mule In EvE, Been a long way back home
2. Declarations of War, Internal Unrest
3. Into the unknown with a gun and camera, Evie
4. EVE Druid, An Emancipated Return
5. Symptom of a greater cure, Sleeping with Sleepers
6. Into the Unknown - Sisters of EVE
7. Kyle Langdons Journey in EVE - EVE Blog Challenge
8. Melted Capacitor - Welcome Back
9. Thats it for this EBC, Check us out next month for another round of fun!

Want to join in the fun? Sign up for the next EBC here.

Scripted Level, Fantasy Game Covert Ops Raid

The player is briefed on an assassination mission their band of Elvish mercenaries will be carrying out. Your target is a duke of one of the major human kingdoms. The city is a laid out as a spiral with four major roads acting as arms to protect against invaders, and four walls that extend between the four arms are to prevent cutting through the back roads to avoid the spiral.

Th op is laid out in two teams, your team will be infiltrating from the East, while the other team is infiltrating from the West. The Western team will be setting fire to a major store house to draw as many guards as possible away from the keep at the center of the town. Your team is to carry out the actual assassination.

The level begins with the player and their team, all dressed in dark clothes with hoods on top of a cliff face overlooking the walls which are some thirty yards away. The player has a bow, and dual long knives as their starting equipment. The player is tasked with sniping one of the guards, who is holding a torch against the coming dark of twilight. Once the guard is dead, another team member shoots an arrow with rope attached over the wall. The team begins to shimmy across the rope, leaving one behind to keep watch. As the players are most of the way across a patrol of three guards walks into the dead guard's post. They notice the dead guard and spread out. The player can try and watch all three guards and notice the guards at the back getting picked off, or can just watch the one directly approaching the rope's attachment point who takes an arrow in the throat just as he's about to raise the alarm.

Once across, the team waits for it's final member before dropping a rope to repel down into an alley below. This time two are left behind to secure their position on the wall. The other six proceed down the alleyways, assassinating guards from the shadows and avoiding busy taverns until they reach the main road. There the player looses control as they move to the edge of the alleyway and wait a few seconds. Off to the west, the sky lights up as a major fire is obviously underway, a loud cry is off down the other end of the street and the majority of the guards run off towards the keep. Someone mentions that from now on, the guards can no longer call for back up, making it safe to take the road. The player regains control with the main road in front of them, the wrong direction is blocked by wagons, and the side streets on the other side of the road provide an area where the player can continue stealth game play while working in the correct direction.

When the players exit in front of the keep, the portcullis is down, and a few troops are exiting the doors on either side. Once the player has handled the troops, they will be tasked with going up through one of the doors, both lead to the same place, and finding a way into the gate room. Once at the top, the player finds an area where the ceiling has caved in somewhat, allowing them to climb up, and out, then drop onto the guard walk and enter the gate house. Once the guards in the gate house are dead, the player will turn the wheel in the center to raise the portcullis and allow their team in. The team infiltrates from the servants entrance, giving the player the moral choice of killing the civilian help or not. No civilians will raise an alarm unless actively attacked, instead they'll cower and hide, making it purely a player choice.

The player can approach the halls as a stealth segment, and will get an XP bonus for not raising the alarm and an additional bonus for not killing over half the guards. Once in front of the feast hall, the Duke will burst out of the door in front of the player, giving a small group of soldiers messages to take to his commanders. The team has a small skirmish, killing the Duke and his aids and the objective is changed to safely exiting the mission. The players can hear guards calling that the town is under attack as they head for the gate. Once outside the keep, in the main square of the city, chaos has broken out down the three major roads they can see down, as the humans are fighting an unknown second faction. A large boulder strikes the keep, causing one of the towers to fall blocking off the two main streets. Players proceed down the third street until it dead ends in flaming debris, one of your team recommends taking to the rooftops. You do so, and back track to the keep, where you cross using the debris from the tower to the next set of rooftops and take those back to where your team is holding the walls. When you arrive at the wall, you can see your team members outnumbered with two groups of six approaching them from either side.

You're team members begin supporting them with arrows from the street. Once it's safe on the wall, your team climbs back up. The two that were left behind quickly update you on what they've been seeing while someone lowers a rope down the other side of the wall. You are the second to take the rope, and as soon as you begin repelling the level ends.


Hmm, I'm not entirely sure what toolset I could even do this in.


Strange thought...

Living as a trans person, it's always in the back of my mind that there are certain organized groups within my country who feel that they not only have the right to, but frankly the desire to kill me. Now it's not the most widespread problem in the world, and I know I 'probably' won't closely encounter one of those groups in my usual life. But the possibility is always there.

I know that this case is exactly the same for gay people, and black people as well as a large number of other minorities. But I've heard all of these minorities accused of being "too loud" or "too in your face" about the difficulties they face living with racism and that constant knowledge of being in danger.

Recently, a group managed to target white, straight, Americans in exactly the same manner. The result was the invasion of two countries...

So why do I still have to hear crap about the minorities being too "in your face" with their issues?


Party PvP

I mean that as literally PvP you can play at a party.

All right, character sheet is 3 stats and 3 derivative numbers.
Strength - 1 point in strength 1 point of damage and 1/2 rounded down point hp.
Speed - 1 point speed is 1 point of mobility and 1/2 rounded down point damage.
Health - 1 point health is 1 point hp and 1/2 point rounded down point mobility.
You have seven points to distribute to begin with. You must have at least 1 point in every stat.

- Dice Rules -
For every round of combat, each player is reset to full mobility.
Each player writes down the number of mobility points they devote to attack, and the number they devote to defense. The players then reveal those numbers.
Every point of attack is +1 to your to hit roll, 2d6 going for 8 or higher, and every point of defense is -1 to your enemies to hit roll. Both players roll at the same time, if they hit subtract their damage from their enemies hp.

- Non-Dice Rules -
For every round of combat, each player is reset to full mobility.
Each player writes down the number of mobility points they devote to attack and defense.
Your first attack automatically hits, you gain additional hits equal to remaining attack points/damage. Defense points nullify attack points, with any additional defense nullifying the damage from the first hit.

Every time you defeat an enemy you get another point to add to your stats. Every time you loose you get 1/3 of a point to add to your stats once you have a full point.


3 guesses

What my favorite ship is in EVE.


Q and A

I've decided to run another open Q and A. This is partially just so I can get feed back on how many people are actively reading, and any concerns that people may have. So please, ask me anything at all, on topic or off. Anything you want to know, just ask.