Music Interlude

For me Gomez are better than The Beatles. No one nowadays has their versatility and absolutely fascinating swing. And Ben Ottewell has The Voice. God in music.

They now have a decent website and they released a while ago a 2 CDs compilation of B Sides and rarities that packs their VERY BEST stuff. I always said that their rare songs were their best.

It also has one pretty cover:

EDIT: Woot! The second CD starts with the acoustic version of “Rhythm and Blues Alibi”. That’s one hell of a song.
EDIT2: Okay, last edit. iTunes has an exclusive worldwide “Live Session EP” with six songs. Go there and shill $1 for “Whippin’ Piccadilly”, because that version is superlative. And if you like it get also “Get Miles”, that’s Ben Ottewel and this version is exceptional again. The guitar in the second half is amazing.

36 songs. If you have iTunes you can go a preview them to have a good taste of their versatility. Or download them from the internet, but just listen all of them in a way or another because they are wonderful. Tomorrow for the first time since years I’ll drive to a CD shop and come out with 2 CDs. The other being Momo’s about which I’ve talked a little bit a while ago.

Today she was again on TV, with one charming song. You can listen it through this site (La Madonna di Pompei), or directly from here.

Listen it till its very end, because it’s there the best part. One little gem. With a vague Yann Tiersen reminescence in the music (the one from Amelie Poulain, I hope you know who she is).

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Checkmate in two

Nostalgia (and referring to this, there’s a rule: you only have nostalgia to things you lost, or traits of them that you lost, not to things that are done better). Then I’m done.

Mythic released today a patch with a few good changes (archer classes excluded) and I was writing a bit on the forums. It summarizes well my idea on the game (DAoC will remain my very own crusade and inspiration) and goes back to a lot of fundamental principles that I discussed on this site about mmorpgs in general.

One idea I’d propose if I was the producer (wink to Walt): plan a mini-expansion to be released this Fall.

– Price: $5.
– Purpose: completely scrap and reprogram/redraw the UI, with the goal of making it scalable so that it looks the same no matter of the resolution, which is a feature that should be STANDARD for every game. And then make it more functional, organized and responsive, with a fixed, well designed layout that leaves behind the old-style dockable windows and then buy a readable/polished/aliased font.

Giving DAoC a better “impact” while simultaneously work on the structure (meaning the PvE treadmill and a reorganization of task dungeons) would help greatly to make the game once again presentable and a first step to start drawing new customers.

Since they are retooling with the Frontiers. Redoing the keeps in order to fix LOS problems and make the client perform better is something I STRONGLY support, but it isn’t all that the game needs.

The two most important things from my perspective are:

1- Make once again the keeps the protagonists of RvR.
2- Work to remove stalemates at those keeps so that it’s fun to play there.

The bias toward 8vs8 groups made the game unplayable for me and, I’m sure, for many other players. But in particular it killed completely the accessibility for new players. When 90%+ of the RvR is accessible only in specialized groups the consequence is that a majority of players are flat out excluded.

What is left in the average experience is to sit LFG at a keep for hours. Or walk around solo just to feed points to a roaming gank group.

THAT’s the FIRST problem in DAoC currently: the game needs new players, and the very few players are turned off by the UI and boring PvE first, and the complete inaccessibility of PvP next.

That kills the game. Checkmate in two.

So for me the only solution is to bring back that cooperative feeling and realm pride that we had back then. When people grouped together to fight for communal objective. And when ALL the realm joined up for some crazy battles. Everyone grouped everyone else. Everyone was doing its small part. And there were BOTH specialized groups and casual groups working together. It was fun, exciting and it built the community.

The point is to make the RvR easily accessible and fun once again for all the players, while trying to make the battles at the keeps a bit more dynamic instead of boring stalemates where you wait, wait, wait and wait.

Two of my ideas “featured” in Guild Wars 2

One is the server-travel:

Despite having several worlds, the game uses a global database so you can instantly transfer between worlds, Strain said.

Which brings me back to my concept of linked worlds.

Another is a way to carry over progress from the previous game to its “sequel”:

This hall will be located in a sort of base of operations you can establish in Eye of the North. The instanced base will allow you to store not only the Eye of the North achievements in the form of monuments but the achievements earned in all three campaigns.

Every monument earned will unlock something, from heroes and pets to weapons, clothes and miniatures, in Guild Wars 2.

Which brings me back to some thoughts about creating a sequel. In particular I was suggesting a currency system between the two games to carry over the progress:

Since the characters data is ported to the new game as the account is upgraded, all the progress made in the old world past that point will be likely lost. This will be compensated through a form of “currency” to which you can convert/recash your progress (loot, money and exp, for example) and that can be transfered to the new game. (recycle exp/money/loot gained in the old game by converting them into “currency” -> transfer currency between the two games -> convert currency into progression in the new game)

Sadly, the PvP in Guild Wars 2 will likely still suck:

“By achieving victories in these battles there will be benefits to your world,” Strain said. “Bonuses, advantages, maybe everyone gets increased energy regeneration or healing rate or enhanced loot drop rate.”

As I wrote on Q23: PvP to gain PvE bonuses? Yawn. Stop doing these gimmicks, they do not motivate anyone and never work as incentives.

Give back PvP to PvP. Not PvP tacked on PvE. Give us world conquest and territory control.

EDIT: And I was wrong. They are going to use even a third idea about adding a RTS layer on the world PvP, it seems. And with this, they basically made my “dream mmorpg”. Still assuming (and I dubt it’s likely) that they are in fact doing what I think:

I can’t give away too many details at this time but we are most assuredly NOT leaving the PvP alone. Persistence will carry over into PvP…go read the Kotaku stuff closely or find a copy of PC Gamer and you can pretty plainly see that. When Jeff Strain describes the world PvP as a “strategy game” in the Kotaku article he is talking about taking and holding territory in a persistent world. The Kotaku article is vague about this while the PC Gamer article is much more specific so if you really want to inform yourself I’d suggest grabbing a copy of PC Gamer.

Oh well

I knew I should have closed the site when I had decided to.

If this is another bluff then I’d be glad, but for sure it’s not planned nor deliberate. So here I stop again. In the last couple of months I wrote less, but I gave up to the urge in many cases. This time I doubt I’ll write, no matter how big the news or short the comment. We’ll see. Maybe just another bluff.

I’m sorry for the few readers I have and even more sorry to see my own efforts come down to nothing.

Well, going back I’d still make the same choices. Please no comments, because after the third time they would be inappropriate.

/emo off

EDIT: So it looks like this isn’t going to be a bluff (things are unsure even for me). I take the occasion of an e-mail to repeat in short the reasons of the “I quit”, so they can stay up here.

I’ve written during the “original stop intention” (September 12) the reasons why I decided to stop.

It’s not because I’m not having fun anymore writing, but because I want to do it even more. I want it to lead somewhere, to be fruitful. I want to continue to learn and dedicate myself to it. I want to be part of it.

So more than a desire to do something else, I have the desire to persist. The problem here is just in the unwanted conflict between what I’d like to do and what I have to do. My “real” life asks me to betray my desires, because they lead nowhere and are that kind of childish wishes that should die as soon as possible.

I am the dreamer, I’m the one who chases the impossible. That’s why I lasted more and did much more than what was intended. But I’m also on a point where I don’t seem to have that luxury of choice anymore. I’m not anymore a kid, need to find a job, find something to do that is in the realm of “realistic” and all that. Even if it doesn’t correspond to what I want for myself.

I also don’t accept compromises. I don’t accept to write about games as an hobby. I don’t accept to do it in my spare time. I won’t let the site slowly decline because I have to do something else.

So. Or I continue (and this path seems closed now), or I betray myself.

That’s all.

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Game Design challenge, for everyone

Inspired by Psychochild weekly design challenges. Here’s one everyone can do.

Read the idea below (the one about the David Perry game). I just figured out that the concept has one MAJOR flaw. Figure it out what is it.

Hint: it’s about the market the game will have and it’s not a detail of game mechanics (so don’t look for exploits or incongruence, the flaw is somewhere else). The “Green Monster slogan” about “not designing a game for yourself” can also offer an hint as this flaw is an application of that rule.

Enough hints, I’ll write here the answer on Wednesday. :)

Answer –

Not really in the mood to talk today but I’ll finish this. Ubiq in the comments was the one who went nearer to what I meant. I don’t exactly agree with him because I believe in the validity of a product outside the marketing rules. Marketing rules may make a product enter the market more easily or not, but I don’t see those as determinant.

Ubiq in the past has wrote about games and localizations (for example I remember that post with the western and eastern types of castles). I’ve always criticized that position because I believe we are moving outside cultural ghettos. A franchise like Final Fantasy couldn’t be more foreign in the appeal to the western market, but today it is popular and recognized worldwide. There are of course many other examples even outside games like typical anime and manga but not limited just to the japanese culture. However it’s still valid the observation that you may “miss” on the theme if it’s not part of your culture, even if this still hasn’t stopped games like the latest Battlefield or Supreme Commander. In this case I think than more than themes that rule works for genres. It would be hard making a good JRPG for a western studios (the few I’ve seen were quite awful).

Instead the flaw I identified was about a division within. Males and females. Robots, car, machines have always been extremely male-oriented. As a kid you play with trucks, cranes, robots, muscled figures, things like that. Girls play with dolls, or at least this is the common place. Either way I doubt the gamer girl would find appealing a game about robots and mech parts. I believe that a good chunk of the potential, now dormant market is represented by those female gamers that today are increasing in number and that pretend to not be seen as weird exceptions. Hopefully till the point that we don’t even need anymore to remember that distinction.

So my idea is “guilty” of favoring just one half of the market. And, while this happens regularly, I still think it’s a relevant flaw especially for a game that is supposed to work on the “free” model, so trying to capture the attention of the casual players. A category that I believe can be also well represented by women.

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Here is my “David Perry” MMO project

This is the result of twenty minutes of “logic” brainstorming.

Logic brainstorming because I didn’t start from an inspiration I got. I just started to think about the nature of the project, its restrictions and then figuring out a scheme that could fit that project well.

I’m referring to that Dave Perry’s Top Secret project that I’m still skeptical about but that still keeps teasing me for obvious reasons. On F13 I posted that it could be fun to participate as a group as we are somewhat that part of the MMO world who has always had gripes and knows EXACTLY what is wrong. So it could be interesting to have that solid foundation: even if the project sucks, we aren’t naive and we know the genre and the industry well enough to cut the superfluous and talk about what matters. So whatever we achieve would be still respectable.

Then I started to think on my own about the project itself and what kind of casual game could be appropriate for it. Finding a set of features that must be respected and that are common to all game concepts possible within those restrictions. From there I tried then to deduce a specific idea about a possible game.

Here the skeleton of the project:

1- This is supposed to be a smallish project as they said it must be completed in about a year and will be one of those “free” games. So nothing ambitious like a complex sandbox, a virtual living world or a massive-scale game.

2- It should work on current or easy-to-make technology. So you cannot focus on something innovative or not already proven from the technology side.

3- Low production value. You cannot expect large and immersive worlds, with impressive vistas and focus on the exploration. Nor the “epic campaign” or hundreds of hours of character development. It’s a good idea to build a thing that can work with a limited group of art assets, easily expandable, and where things can be reused. Mudflation or leveled content should be banished from this project.

Considering these points I guess the best choice is for a game easily accessible, with a shallow power curve, small download, that you can get, log in and have some cheap fun within a couple of minutes. Since the “scope” cannot be the goal I guess the focus to realize a decent, interesting game should be on a core gameplay that is easy to get and fun. Nothing with multiple systems stacked on top of each other. Something simple but that can be also be mixed and freeform to hook the attention of the player in the longer term, while on the other side not losing the accessibility and fun.

One idea I had was for a Macross/Battletech/Gundam hybrid with simplistic RTS elements. Something like Planetside, but more RPG-paced. The fact that art assets should be reused makes a good idea to lean toward PvP. It could work through a short PvE introduction, with simple missions to complete, either online with mates, or offline. Completely skippable.

Then you reach the “end” game. A set of “maps” that may be linked by goals and purposes. PvP/conquest maps as well PvE cooperative mission maps. Either path (PvP or PvE) viable without forcing players one way or the other. You get points more or less like DAoC or WoW PvP. Then use these points to buy new mech parts.

The “core feature” of the game could be the freedom on how you build your mechs, so that you can put together and rig all sort of crazy, custom mechs. You build for the game a basic infrastructure, like a “grammar”, then let the player recombine mech parts for a near-limitless number of combinations. Studying a system so that the final stats and capabilities of the mech fall within a directed “balance”… Maybe you can take inspiration from Magic, the card game, where each “map” has also set “requirements” (like Magic’s tournaments where some cards are banished), so that the mechs must meet those requirements in order to participate. Or like in Gran Turismo (the racing game) where you have to have the right type of car to access set competitions. For example through a system where your final mech is automatically “tiered” or “ranked”, defining the kinds of missions it can enter.

You can then have “practice” maps where you can go to test and fine-tune your mech, or just play for fun, on your own, without any restriction at all. Just being wild with your mech design. Think to something like X-men “Danger room”.

Gameplay-wise it shouldn’t be twitch (twitch games need EXCELLENT execution and it’s not a luxury you can aspire to have in such a project). I would use the same system I imagined for my Fallout concept: playable with a gamepad (and ready to port on consoles if you want), using a single key to automatically target what’s in front of you, or switching targets with buttons for automated weapons. Maybe different mech parts could be linked to different control methods. For example you could drive a mech with “legs” with the analog stick, while a mech on “tracks” could use acceleration and deceleration keys.

It would feel fresh enough to draw the attention of the players, while being at the same time “sticky” with the mech customization and unlocking of new parts, along with the variety of mission maps available.

Another main goal is that this game structure is also easily expandable. You can freely add new mech parts and even completely new missions and brand new gameplay. As each map has its requirements you can easily add all sort of stuff without worrying to keep everything balanced for all the rest of the game. It’s so open that you could easily build whole new games within.

+ The game concept makes it also easy exportable to the large eastern market.

EDIT: I got an idea for the first “expansion”: Super Robots!

I was thinking to that japanese RTS game, Super Robot Wars. Instead of toying around with anonymous mech parts, you could do what City of Heroes did to comics. Use mech parts inspired to Mazinger, Gundam, Daitarn and the like. Then have “invasion” mission types where you take your Super Robot and invade metropolis like Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York. Stomp over fleeing people, take building parts and toss them around, take down aircrafts with your lasers, blow things up, destroy everything on sight and even fight Godzilla, Gamera, King Kong -like creatures and all sort of cool, weird stuff. Like those wonderful classic Japanese movies. Okay, maybe this goes a bit beyond the reasonable scope, but it would be one hell of fun :)

EDIT2: To who thought “where is the multiplayer” about the idea above…

Super Robots Arenas! Think something inspired to WoW’s arenas. 1vs1, 2vs2, 3vs3 or 5vs5. Ranked or unranked. The metropolises of the idea above would be the “ring”. How cool it would be? And in ranked matches, as it happens in Magic, the winner loots one random mech part from the loser ;)

Considering that this MMO won’t run on a monthly subscription but will be “free”, I fear that it’s almost obligatory to support RMT, whether you want or not. Considering the structure of my idea (unblocking and modding mech parts) I believe it wouldn’t be all that hard to put RMT on top of it. Even if I’d despise it…

You purchase new mech parts, new missions, and you may even purchase more “mech slots” to store in your “garage”. So that you have more mechs ready and set up for all the different kinds of maps. Instead of having to dismantle and rebuild your current ones every time.

You can even add “durability” to the mech parts, so that you may have to repair or repurchase broken parts.

This project is “gated content” certified (all content always accessible, with no “endgame” separation or drifts from solo -> groups -> raids. All modes always available right away) and “permeable barriers” certified (mechs can be dismantled and rebuilt freely, no character locked into classes or one-way choices to make). So it respects all the principles I laid down in regards of MMO game design during the latest years. And it may be the proof that they are valid :)

Catchy song

This is SO off-topic.

In the last week here in Italy we got “Sanremo”, a yearly week-long popular music festival on TV. It’s for us like a smaller-scale Super Bowl, fading a bit in popularity and relevance in the last few years.

Anyway, there’s this song that was rejected from the official exhibition but that was presented in another context. And I love it :)

It’s catchy, simple and there’s a funny choreography to dance with it (that is half the fun) but that you cannot obviously see. Now it’s getting popular on the internet and here it is:

Momo – Fondanela

Sing with me! :D

EDIT: Now on YouTube!

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