Warhammer: Fantasy or 40k?

Related to this news.

The game’s license is for Warhammer fantasy, not 40K.

(and really, that’s *all* I know.)

And I’m betting not even Mark Jacobs or Matt Firor know more than that.

Posted in: Uncategorized |

The way they want to play

I followed a link on N3rfed to an interview with IGE President. Two points:

Let’s recognize that the secondary market was created by gamers themselves. Many gamers want the benefits it provides. That is why it has become so popular in so many games worldwide and why it can’t be banned.

See? There’s a complete lack of criticism in this point of view. What happens is justified and excused because… it happens, so it must be good. It’s brainless.

It’s completely eradicated from the context, the reasons, the history. And it’s a general trend not just at IGE or this specific industry. It’s simply everywhere. Everything is becoming completely relative, with no reason, contingent. Possible no matter of the context.

Our new faith is in the “relativism”. We are all loosing memory and criticism.

The second point is just about a position I’d take. In the case I’d make a game, I’d know that the presence and use of the secondary market is something directly related to my work and not alien to it. I touched this point just three days ago.

If a game I design has the players looking outside, it means I failed.

The secondary market is simply a tool that lets gamers play the way they WANT to play.

Posted in: Uncategorized |

More “TES4: Oblivion” hype (owned)

From the discussion going on at QT3 – Kathode and Ashileedo are from Bethesda:

Okay, maybe the NPCs will move around, eat and go to sleep. But what about the details? They’ll just sleep randomly everywhere? Or they will discern between their own bed, their own bread etc..? Do the commodities are in a finite number? Do they respawn at will or the game will reach a point where all the NPCs will finish the supplies and die of starving?

They’ll discern between their own possessions and other people’s possessions. We have a crime system and thus, ownership data on just about everything. No dying of starvation, NPCs dying offscreen at random = bad.

Okay, you have a physic engine but how it will be implemented? Are you modeling each candle, bone, plate, goblet, plate, fork, spoons etc..?

Every object on top of the table in the picture you linked has physics applied, save the candles (actually I’m not sure about the candles come to think of it). Every fork, plate, piece of armor, yada yada. Yes. Believe it. If you throw stuff around, people get annoyed, but it is not game breaking, because that would suck.

An unrelated curiosity if you can answer: which engine the game is using? It’s still Netimmerse/Gamebryo or you moved to something else?

Gamebryo is the renderer, most of the rest of it is our own stuff.

QT3 habitue:
I’m really curious as to whether Oblivion will be as moddable as Morrowind, and specifically whether the AI packages will be moddable. Because then — whoa.

Yeah, absolutely. PC users will get the same tools we have, just like in Morrowind. All the AI functionality is done through menus with normal drag and drop and list style interfaces. And unlike the tools we’re using now, the tools you get won’t be in a constant state of development :)

I fully expect lots of amazing AI mods to come out.

QT3 habitue:
When I read that, it sounded like the packages responded to attributes that could fluctuate, like hunger. However I can’t see how what you’re describing would have caused this situation to happen. Could you explain how the Radiant AI system caused these particular (and humorous) situations to develop? It would clarify matters for me

They have a single hunger state which amounts to “go get food.” Usually we tell them where they should go get food if none is immediately available. In that instance we didn’t, and the guard discerned that the most immediate source of food was a nearby deer. Now what should have happened is that he should have realized that killing the deer would be a crime, and done a check vs. his responsibility score, and gone to look for other sources. But that process failed at some point, and he went off and killed the deer.

The reason why I asked if they are going to model all the objects on that table is because I KNOW that they WON’T.

In every game with a physic engine till today only a few selected objects have been modeled. We have crates, cans, bottles, ammo clips and not much more. It’s not important to figure out why the physic engine has been only marginally used. The point is that only a few lesser environmental garbage will have a physic model. Even in Oblivion (traps, bones, arrows for all we know. For sure not much more).

This is why I’m sceptic when they give the illusion that all the world follows those rules, like the arrow in the bucket. That’s again a specifically scripted event to demonstrate a POTENTIAL, not the effective game.

I’m just saying that they put on display their “intention” and a nice graphic engine. But this doesn’t really give us any idea about how the actual gameplay of the game will work.

I’ll run in the street naked if the final game will really model all the objects on that screenshot.

Hi, just popping in here. I’m going to hold you to this. Remember the screenshot you posted. Everything on that table right?

I expect to see a picture of you running around naked in the street after we’ve finished the game and you’ve gone out, bought it, played it, and knocked every object off that table.

Tom nailed this right on. What is a demo but the potential of what a game could be?


Posted in: Uncategorized |

Rod Humble fled as well

It seems that Rod Humble left SOE, even if I don’t know exactly when. He was the producer for EverQuest Live.

He now works as Executive Pruducer at Maxis.

I archive here something that Rod wrote and that I quoted on a comment at Mobhunter about the mudflation and EverQuest that I also brought up recently on a thread on F13 (about EQ2) that I’ll save soon too (I was waiting Scott Hartsman reply, but it seems I won’t get it).

Loral writes:

A few older zones had their experience modifiers increased including Shadeweaver’s Thicket, Kurn’s Tower, Unrest, Crystal Caverns, Solusek’s Eye, Katta Castellum, Lower Guk, Nagafen’s Lair, and Umbral Plains. These new hot zones should help get newer players into zones they might otherwise skip for newer content. I like the idea behind hotzones. Without too much effort, older zones become much more desirable than they once were.

Rod Humble writes (answering to myself):

As for the hotspots, no, the original intent was not to change populations in underused zones. It was to assist a more casual playstyle (whatever “casual” means in this case it just meant how some folks including myself play.)

Many of us in at SoE are casual players, its been an ongoing joke that I play a character upto level 23 then restart, then I discovered another person who played that way, then another, then another. Obviously we were not doing something right for people like us. If there were 4 people in the studio who played that way there must surely be many others out there.

This combined with the refrain I kept hearing from experienced players that “anybody can get to level 50 in a week” started to grate on my neves after all I know I cant do that….. so we took a look around..

We did some data farming and sure enough there was a big dropoff around certain key levels in player activity as a percentage of their numbers which shot back up again at later levels (when for various reasons there is a ton of more stuff to do).

Well EQ is in a pretty rare position of having more content than most casual players can ever handle so why not hit the level ranges where casual players have the biggest barren patches and give them a boost?

This combined with Marks comments about “why are developers afraid of letting players get to the top?” struck a chord with me. After all “hardcore” players get to the “top” anyway and they can still enjoy playing so why not extend that to a wider audience?

After all we WANT people to succeed and experience all of the fun content, we have years of it just waiting for folks to experience we dont want to put roadblocks in their way we want to take barriers away and give them a boost.

My initial suggestion was to alter the experience tables but the design team prefered “hot spots” as it would also bring people together so they were more likely to meet friends on the way up.

And it was a reply to something I wrote (beginning of May) that was mirroring what you say here:

Weren’t hotspot introduced because of the basic problem of the umbalance of the PvE?

With the infinite and continuous addition of more zones and content it’s obvious that large parts of these games are left completely unused. This is a general design problem that every PvE game presents. FFXI, DAoC and EQ. In general the new zones provide better rewards, so they simply replace the old ones. But the true result is that large parts of these worlds become obsolete, and the content, even if expanded continuously, is simply lost in a zero-value zone.

I thought that hot-spots were being added to recycle the value of unused parts of the game. If this is true the purpose is good but the application poor.

In my opinion you need “substance” even below the PvE. World of Warcraft is addressing the problem right at the base. The world is balanced because you move through the PvE with quests. Quests are equal to a value of *use*. You move around to *do things*. Each thing you do is connected to a part of a zone. So each zone is kept “balanced” because it has a solid role and value in your story and gameplay. The quest system keeps the world alive and working and, if done right, it means that no part of it will turn obsolete.

This is how I “read” the “hotspot” implementation and the supposed problem behind it.


World of Warcraft’s forum moderator (Eyonix) takes the liberty to make fun of the easy target of the moment:

Information concerning classes was not provided by any of our staff at the E3, as our presence there was to meet with fans and discuss features related to the upcoming Battlegrounds. Perhaps you walked into the Lucas Art’s booth…

Speaking about unexcused and unneeded attacks. Fun that I’m the one to notice this.

Posted in: Uncategorized |

Some “TES4: Oblivion” hype

I’m cautious with this game because I was really hyped up at the release of Morrowind. The game was absolutely awesome, one of those experiences you’ll remember for a long time, but the actual gameplay sucked greatly on all the basic aspects.

I’m suspecting that this sequel will follow a similar path. The environment is outstanding and the E3 trailer is rather impressive. But after the past experiences I’m sceptical on a number of features. With each chapter of this serie Bethesda improved the most problematic parts but the game always felt missing something to be complete and enjoyable. The immersion has always been the best quality, along with the music, but the dialogues, the animations, the combat mechanics and the whole interactive layer in general has been weak and lacking.

By reading a few previews and watching the video carefully I got the impression that even this time there will be improvements but without really addressing the problems. It seems that the biggest difference, this time, is about focusing the development on reusable schemes. Instead of spending years to carefully place each pebble, bush, mushroom and tree, this time they are going on a semi-randomized world generator. The same about the interaction. The first feature that was cut in Morrowind was the daily schedule of the NPCs. Since each one of them required a dedicated script it would have taken too much time to code every single action, so they just ditched the feature and just let all the NPCs wander randomly and react to very basic, shared patterns (the guards attacking wildlife when close to a town, or pulling out torches at night).

This time they are developing a general AI that will react to a series of parameters like it happens with “The Sims”. So each NPC will have basic needs that he needs to satisfy. This probably means that this time we will see a town actually “living” by itself. The NPCs will walk around, go to eat, sleep in their own houses and so on. At least in the intention of the devs because it remains to be seen how well these ideas will work in the final game. The intention, as for the random world generator, is to automatize part of the content creation in order to shorten the development cycle and focus more on reusable tools that can be recursively improved to affect the whole gameplay. But it’s obvious that there will be also drawbacks since the reusability of the tools is always inversely proportional to the their flexibility. You cannot achieve detail and scope with a single approach.

The game continues to look impressive on the paper but the same happened with Morrowind. In particular there are a few “hyped up” parts on the four previews I’ve read (IGN, boomtown, Gamespot and W4O) that just make me even more sceptical instead of more confident:

“The game’s characters might not be highly scripted, but they will, instead, use the game’s “Radiant AI” system, which will give them a rough daily schedule, a few specific goals, and some personal needs (such as the need to eat and the need to sleep). Then it will basically turn them loose in the world. We watched an example in which we entered a bookstore and chatted up the storekeeper using the game’s diplomacy skill (which has been changed from Morrowind to a circle onscreen that lets you move your cursor between options like joke or threaten; the character you’re speaking to will react accordingly with facial animations). The bookkeeper seemed to prefer jokes and smiled when she heard them. She then invited us upstairs to keep her company. The bookkeeper then went about one of her general goals: training in archery by firing arrows at a hanging target in her room while her enthusiastic dog leaped about. The bookkeeper’s aim was off, so she voluntarily quaffed a marksmanship potion, which improved her aim considerably. She also tossed her hungry dog a cut of venison, which affected the excited quadruped in much the same way it would affect a player. The dog then got so excited that the short-tempered bookkeeper cast a paralysis spell on her pet, causing it to tumble to the floor. The bookkeeper then attempted to lie down and go to sleep, but her dog recovered and began yapping excitedly again. So the impatient bookkeeper then cast a fire spell on her poor pooch, setting the dog on fire and sending it yelping from the room. After the bookkeeper laid down for the evening and subsequently nodded off, we helped ourselves to the two-handed claymore sword on her table and departed for the besieged town.”

“The floor was littered with the bones of past prisoners that could be tossed through the air and reacted with believable physics. The main character brushed against some shackles hanging from the ceiling and swung through the air, bouncing off of each other.”

“Arrows bounce off of stone and stick into wooden objects and can be collected after being fired. In a demonstration of the game’s excellent physics engine, an arrow was fired into a bucket hanging from a rope. The bucket swung from the impact then hung at an angle due to the weight of the arrow.”

“Arrows will embed themselves into the flesh of enemies in a similar fashion, but will rebound off solid materials such as rock or metal.”

“As mentioned above, arrows will stay sticking out from your enemies, producing a rather macabre but realistic effect. The physics engine adds detail to the battles; for instance, a vanquished skeleton dropped its shield, which then rolled around a little before coming to rest on the floor.”

“Next we can see a goblin standing at the end of a tunnel going uphill, trying to push several logs down towards the player. Before he can do that, Todd’s character shoots him with an arrow. Todd then walks up to the logs and shoots an arrow into a log which then rolls down the tunnel.”

“Allies were seen fighting with the main character as well as riding on horses.”

“At one point the main character walked up to two townspeople and overheard a conversation about Daedra spawning just north of the town. Then, when speaking to one of these characters the previously mentioned topics appeared as a conversation options.”

And another piece from a less recent Gamespy preview:

In fact, one of the interesting problems that the team has had to face came about precisely because the AI is so good. According to Howard, the AI has caused guards to decide to eat and go hunting deer, only to get themselves arrested for attacking something. When they fight back against the arresting guard, the other guards see a fight and try to join in. In not too much time, every guard in the town was involved in the scuffle, which left the rest of the town open to thievery by other NPCs, resulting in empty stores. Much of the team’s current effort is going into putting sensible governors on the AI’s behavior to avoid situations like empty stores that would result in situations that wouldn’t be fun for the player.

I still wonder how much of what was shown at the E3 is actually what we will find in the games when they will be released.

After the demonstration, I asked whether this example was scripted or not, but it wasn’t.

Ain’t we a bit too much gullible?

EDIT – Bethesda Associate Producer (probably Matthew Wotring – Late edit: “Kathode” is Gavin Carter) wrote down a few precisations on QT3 about the doubts I expressed here as well:

Lots of bad information flying around, per usual :)

First of all, this was a demo area intended to show what the characters CAN do, not what they ALWAYS WILL DO. The dog is just intended to be a humorous situation to show how the NPCs can cast spells. Will they walk around the world setting dogs on fire at random? Obviously not. But they can cast spells at any target should we instruct them to.

The demo was not “scripted”. The whole point of our AI system is that we don’t have to write out tedious scripts for all our NPCs. The system takes functionality that is usually done through scripts and compartmentalizes it into data structures we call “packages.” So when the woman went and found something to eat, it was because she was on an “eat” package. In other words, we instructed her through our system to “find something to eat.” She located it in her house, sat down, and started to eat. We did not have to script her moving to the table, picking up the food, sitting down, or eating. All we did was fire off a package, and she performs the behavior. The AI system definitely IS capable of interfacing with our scripting system, and there was some use of scripts to trigger her from one package to another. But everything was systemized – she missed the target because her marksman skill was set to zero, not because we were scripting her to aim at certain places. She drinks the potion, and then she hits her mark.

I think the main problem is that people have a sense of a very strict dichotomy between something that is “scripted” and something that is random. Our system is a happy medium between the two. And it works great.

We can conditionalize them any way they want. For the most part they are based on time of day. But we can be crazy specific with them – how much health the NPC has, what the NPC is wearing, weather, how much they like the player or another NPC, what guild someone is in, distance to something, etc etc etc etc. Mix and match as much as you want. So it is not really “need-based” in that there is not a sense of desperation that causes them to act differently the more hungry they get, for instance, but we can implement that sort of fail-safe behavior if we chose, using conditions. In a world with 1000+ people we can’t have them acting quite as autonomously as they do in the Sims. In that game I can’t even manage a household of three without someone setting themselves on fire.

And another short quote about my scepticism on the physic engine:

Have you ever played a game that used Havok physics? All of that functionality is provided for by that physics package. We’ll even have a key that you can press in game to “grab” items and toss them around. Todd demonstrated physics in the first room by pressing and holding the “Z” key to toss the chains around and throw around the bones and other objects.

EDIT – Followup here.

Posted in: Uncategorized |

Jeff Freeman’s idea: taken

I just noticed this while reading an interview with Matt Firor about Imperator.

Just a few days ago Jeff proposed an idea about a centralized way to deliver quests and loot in order to make them more accessible and without recurring to 3rd party spoiler sites (WoW is a step forward but sites like thottbot.com demonstrate that the path isn’t complete):

When you want a magic sword, you go to a website and find out where there’s a sword for you to get. We could eliminate that sort of thing by putting it in game: A seer or soothsayer sort of NPC that you tell what you want, and they gaze into a crystal ball and tell you who you gotta kill.

I kind of like the idea of eliminating “Just do quests ’til you finally get something you want” and “Just look it up on a website” and even “Just do it over and over ’til you win.”

He also explained in a comment from where the idea is coming (which is the most interesting aspect to consider, imho):

It’s basically from the same school of thought: that design sprang from the idea of looking at how some people play the game (in spite of the way the game was “intended” to be played), and coming up with a game was intended to be played that way.

This is particularly important because too often the games are designed on a model that often the players do not respect or follow and without appropriately considering the context. The result is a “gap” between the original purpose and perception of the devs and the game that often is not even acknowledged.

It seems that Imperator will, at least, take advantage of these observations:

Matt Firor – We are making Imperator’s content mission-based, where players are actively engaged in some sort of short-term goal throughout gameplay. Missions can be obtained virtually at any time by simply bringing up a comm-link interface and getting a list of all missions – level appropriate, of course – in their geographic area. This is just one example of one of our key points: easy access to the game’s content.

A pity that the rest of the design appears rather weak.

“City of Villains” sell price and monthly fee

“City of Villains” is the upcoming expansion for “City of Heroes”. During the last day there has been an heated debate about the rumor that the explansion will be sold at full price as a separate pruduct and separate monthly fee, requiring the players who want to get both the “hero” and “villain” experience to pay monthly for both.

Now the second part of the rumor has been denied:

I’m pretty sure the additional fee for coh+cov is somewhere between ‘zero’ and ‘not much’ Our greed is more than outweighed by our fear of angry fans!

My guess is that they’ll offer the possibility to use the cd-key to upgrade an already existing account OR use it to start a brand new one. But I have more doubts about the client. Since it’s a standalone game, will it require to have both games installed separately in order to have access to them? Considering that the game will have PvP, it will require both clients to keep copies of the exact same assets in order to work. Each time a patch is pushed out you’ll have to download all the content twice and it sounds like a waste of space and time.

Well, what hasn’t been denied is the full price of the box. It’s the first time that the players will be asked to pay 49$ twice in order to play a complete version of the game. How will the players react to this? And, in particular, what about the PvP? How can they expect to make it work if here there won’t be just the standard population balance problems, but even a 49$ fee in the middle?

Not only they need to convince the players to leave their heroes to become “villains”, but they’ll even ask another real 49$ before giving access to the other part.

Posted in: Uncategorized |