I forgot Zonk

Maybe you noticed that I blacked out the site yesterday, and it was going to be a definitive thing.

In the last few weeks I’ve written occasionally, then pulled those posts, back and forth… It’s not like I was trying to reply Lum’s drama with SND entirely on my own, or that I went crazy (well, a little bit), or that I’m a bluff (I hate you). It’s only that some things popped up along the way, I got some (very weak, but still very important for me) hopes up. I was oscillating between “can I continue then?” “Is it over?” then those hopes were crushed and it was again game over. I’ve given all I had to give. Goodbye.

Then Zonk wakes up today and reminds me that we still had to finish something. A little thing that I want to complete. I didn’t remember that and I thought that he just didn’t want to continue as he didn’t write me for more than a week. Like “Omg, this is an idiot. Lets ignore him and hope he goes away!” I thought we were done for good even in that case.

Instead he wakes up today.

So here we are again, He is a reason good enough as another to keep things up for a few more weeks. There isn’t any other goal or purpose or whatever. So, why not?

Since I’m also tired and annoyed by all this back and forth I MAY start to write again. For a month (2007 – it ends). As I did before the 12 September. Maybe.

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Quote of the year!

From J. on Lum’s blog:

Techheads think they can build a world with nuts and bolts, dreamer-designers think they can be built by Sheer Force Of Will And Imagination. Neither is true, both end in failure.

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Problems on the site

I can see as well that “Error 28 from storage engine” on top and it is obviously related to the categories.

Google told me that this is a common problem that I shouldn’t be responsible of, but something that messed up on the hosting end.

From what I understand the error 28 is a problem of “out of disk space” on the /tmp directory, so MySQL cannot perform some actions. It’s unlikely that this is my fault, as I’m currently using 0.4% of the total disk space that I should have available.

So what I can do is just tell Dreamhost of the problem and hope they figure it out.

EDIT: Problem solved in less than an hour (from what I can see from the logs). Not that there’s much to see :)

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Game design has no dignity

If you have a passion for game design you are out of luck, because everyone thinks that he can do a better work than you.

The truth is that game design has no dignity. It’s FALSE that evaluating “game design” is harder than evaluating good art or a good programmer. And it shows. There are out there plenty of games that have terrible engineering or terrible art. There is the exact same amount of arbitrariety. If game design hasn’t a value on its own it’s because it has no DIGNITY. And the reason why many games suffer is because of that. You CANNOT be a game designer because you have studied and researched it, because you have dedicated all yourself to it.

While you CAN AND HAVE to study to become a good programmer, you aren’t allowed to do the same if your discipline is game design. Because “game design” is only a “prize title”, a BADGE you win as reward if you are good at doing something else. Even if you are incompetent in your new role.

You become a game desiger only because you “happen” to be one, as a “drift” from another position that may have nothing to share with game design. It’s like a lottery. Since game design has no dignity and concrete presence on its own, people are told that they must be good at CS, or good programmers, or good artists, or whatever. People finish to work as game designers even if they LACK that competence. Because training and study are considered superfluous for this discipline. Maybe those same people will become good designers, with the time.

It’s acquired, not prerequired for the role. You are allowed to study and learn game design only *after* you received that title. So we have good designer who became *good* desigers AFTER they have been promoted to that role. Because game design is considered a SUBPRODUCT of other disciplines and a “reward” if you did well something completely unrelated. Because there’s no real training. In the meantime games suck because many game designers are promoted from programming and bringing with them a wrong, convoluted mentality that is pretty obvious on many, many titles.

Game design is *its own* discipline, not the reward for a career achieved through other competencies.

So the problem is that there isn’t a culture of game design, and because there isn’t one that game design falls behind, is considered something that EVERYONE can do. Something trivial, something superfluous. Often a reward or prize that has nothing to share with the competence that is being rewarded in the first place. It’s the model and the attitude to be wrong. This is a commonplace that should be fought, because it’s damaging this industry.

And finally, why this website cannot work as a portfolio? It shows how my brain works, it shows the way I approach problems, it shows how I analyze, it shows my critics, what I think of the genre, my approach, my ideas. It shows the way I communicate to people, the way I look for a dialogue and a confrontation, the way I answer to critics and MORE. I don’t see as this has less value than someone showing a portfolio with some drawings or a DVD with 3D works in Maya or 3D studio. I CAN see out there who has good, solid ideas that are possible that I would like expressed in a game, I can see who doesn’t. In a similar way as I can, arbitrarily, say if someone can make good or bad art.

And if I can ALSO make a great mod for UT2004, HL2, NWN2 then I’m showing a different kind of competence that may be irrelevant for a MMO. And this without even recognizing that game design is a so broad concept that has many other different disciplines within. Each of those requiring its own competence and expertise. Each of those requiring study and specialization. The game designer who does world building doesn’t have the same competencies of the game designer who writes and scripts quests, or the game designer who designs the UI, or the game designer who writes the backstory, or the game designer who directs PvP, or the game designer who creates and balances classes, or the game designer who takes care of the economic systems.

What is missing isn’t the concrete material or the possibility to prove a competence. What is missing is the recognition of a discipline that just hasn’t been granted DIGNITY on its own.

The REAL wrong message is that you can “eventually” become a game designer even if you never studied or dedicated yourself to it.

Logic would say that if you want to do something and be good at it you have to study it. No, not for game design. Do something else. Studying game design is superfluous and competence an optional.

That’s the truth that no one will tell you in all those “breaking in” pages.

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The original mission

Let me spend some words and connect some dots about this that I was thinking these last days. At what point are we with these game communities? If you read the quote that Lum has taken out (and the other) you can see that the scenario isn’t a very positive one. It’s not really what we would have portrayed, not what we would have wished.

Hey, that’s the same Lum behind the ltm.net community. The “golden age” that I almost completely missed (and lament). What we learnt? Where we are today? Is this what we really wanted? Is this all we got?

Today’s communities like F13 exist on completely different premises, I think. The “meaning” isn’t anymore into a “referent” outside, like MMOs. That’s just the expedient for something else that became the real subject of the community itself. That is now self-referential. The community is more about itself, its own habits, characters and so on. Games can be an excuse. Ubiq would define this the “corner bar”. Lum also described perfectly all this in an article he wrote on the occasion of one anniversary of F13 and that must be still there, somewhere.

I usually lose interest and participation in those communities as that happens because I hardly integrate myself in those processes, and also because it’s not part of my original goal. See, the point is that I seem to be the only one left who still remembers the original goal. The original “mission”.

So what’s this original mission and motivation?

To that question I usually quote GBob: “Lum the Mad was riding high with his web site, forcing game companies to engage the player base in a real dialog”. But from a broader point of view I’d say that the mission is to “do our part”. Become part of the process. Contribute. Participate. That’s why I found the courage and arrogance to “invade” the forums and communities with my broken english. I never lost the sight on that mission. A mission that was supposed to be what we ALL had in common, what we all shared. Sensitize, discuss, polemize. Follow, help and accompany the process that can bring to better games. To be part of it somehow.

I’m the only one who’s still waving that flag?

Those communities were and are important. They may degenerate into cesspits, but you can find a lot that is valuable in there. Even if I don’t think, contrarily to what Raph wrote (about me, even), that this is a growing trend. What I see is that game companies actively suffocate that kind of dialogue because they think it’s an attack to their own identity, a risk. So we get empty community support, PR and all the current “politically correct” and “professional” behaviours that are concretely just a determinate removal of that kind of direct relationship that we fought for. A few like Raph are left. But they are now just outsiders and unique cases instead of a growing trend that we contributed to build and develop. The point is: we are losing that battle, if not lost already.

Why I’m not satisfied by current MMO companies?

Not because games are “flawed” and the flaws unforgivable, but because of the general situation. The gap between developers and the community is GROWING, not shrinking as we all hoped. Instead of training new blood, new enthusiasm and passion for this genre, we have what Megyn defined twenty years of incest. We lack a positive, constructive culture. We lack that kind of “humus” from where the developers of tomorrow will come. I ranted a lot in the past when I saw always the same names jumping from company to company and, from my point of view, lacking the passion and commitment that are a necessity in this genre. But it is also true that the problem isn’t just of the dev who decided to leave a company for another, but also of the company that made that dev flee because he wasn’t put in the condition to do his work at best. So the problem runs deeper.

What I’d like to see?

I’d like to see a game company that is more responsive and aware. More alive and human. That isn’t ashamed or scared of a dialogue with the players, but that actually promotes and encourages it. A company that pushes the evolution of the genre instead of being VICTIM OF IT. Anticipate the trends instead of being caught off guard. A company that can produce a game that doesn’t start to sink just one year down the road. With the ambition to stay and leave a sign. A dev studios that doesn’t need a new brand or flag where to hide behind every couple of years because they have burnt the previous one. And this isn’t just about game design, but also about technology. The technology must be more flexible and powerful. This obviously needs work and time, it needs traning, study and research both inside and outside.

But if this is true then why EVERY MMO company has two, three, four MMOs in development when they can HARDLY support one?

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I promised myself I won’t comment, even if there would be still so much to say (ahh!).

But I had to post this:

I could ALMOST say that this expansion has some nice art and not so badly designed zones.

Client performance should be a bit better, but the presence of characters and the use of complex shaders is still a killer.

If you couldn’t swallow EQ2 I doubt this expansion will change things. But it is improved.

Moorgard and Blackguard working for GMG

Yep, speculations were right ;)

Taking hands down from SOE and few other well-known studios. They went for badge-collection.

Steve Danuser has been appointed Director of Community Development/Senior Designer. Danuser will oversee the construction of the company’s official website (www.greenmonstergames.net) and develop its fan community while reporting directly to GMG’s Founder, Curt Schilling. Danuser, known in the online world as “Moorgard,” was the co-founder of Mobhunter, one of the first websites focused on game design analysis and discussion. He joined Sony Online Entertainment in San Diego in 2003 as the Community Manager for EverQuest® II, founding one of the strongest and most vibrant communities in the MMO space. At SOE he later became a designer on EverQuest® II, working on many aspects of the game including significant contributions to the Echoes of Faydwer™ expansion. Danuser continues to discuss game design on the popular Moorgard.com website.

Ryan Shwayder has been named Community Relations Manager/Designer at GMG and will be working to establish the company’s presence through the web and other media alongside Danuser. Shwayder, commonly known to the gaming world as “Blackguard,” has been developing online communities for years, most recently as the Community Relations Manager for EverQuest® II where he also worked with Danuser. He volunteers his time for local IGDA chapters and is well-known for his game development blog at Nerfbat.com.

Erik Theisz has signed on as a Senior Producer for GMG. Theisz also contributed to the worldwide launch of EverQuest® II. He was Design Supervisor and Associate Producer for the original EverQuest® II game, as well as the expansions Desert of Flames™, Kingdom of Sky™, and Echoes of Faydwer™.

Michael Woods joins GMG as Assistant to Director of Customer Service Development/Designer. Woods has an extensive background in customer service, including three years at Sony Online Entertainment.

GMG’s design team will feature an impressive group of experienced MMO artists spearheaded by the creations of Senior Artists Brian Jones and Brian Labore. Jones, known throughout the online gaming community as “BoBo the Seal,” is an industry veteran who has contributed to over twenty-five projects, most notably Age of Empires® 3 for Ensemble Studios and Titan Quest™for Iron Lore Entertainment. Labore, also a veteran in the MMO community, worked at Turbine Entertainment and Blue Fang Games as a Lead Animator. Most recently, Labore was the Animation Director/Lead Animator at Iron Lore Entertainment for the title Titan Quest™.

J. Robin Bickhart has been hired as Director of Business Operations. Bickhart relocated to Concord, MA from Dallas, Texas where he had 18 years of IT, project management, and Business Operations experience.

Brandon Franks joins GMG as Director of Internet Technology. Franks previous employment was as an IT Manager at an industry-leading engineering firm in Arkansas.

Keith Moegle was appointed Assistant to the Founder. Moegle is a former Senior Program Developer for Microsoft when the company first opened it doors back in the 1970s and still consults with Microsoft and other major corporations on software development. Moegle is an associate of Curt Schilling through the ALS Association, a non-profit organization Schilling has supported since 1992. Moegle has been living with ALS for two years.

So… Where’s the new blood?

Veterancy isn’t fruitful if it doesn’t have anyone to train.

Both “Blackguard” and “Moorgard” commented the press release.


Nowadays I read gaming news mostly from forums, Evil Avatar and VoodooExtreme.

But if you were a reader of RPGDot/MMORPGDot you may be interested that they moved here.

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