The Grouchy Gamer

Yeah, I'm cranky. That's kinda the point...

Month: September 2009

Champions: See you down the line…

This week I decided to go ahead and cancel my Champions Online account.  I think there is a general malaise at my house when it comes to MMOs. So I guess I have to tell Champions; “It’s not you, it’s me.”  I need to see other MMO’s.

Champions is a fun game and I think that there will be a time in the future that I resub. For now though, there are a few things about the game that make me want to put it down.  First, there is the lack of polish and finish to the game.  Depending on the encounter, a mob near your level might be an appropriate challenge or it may not.  This is especially true in boss encounters.  Some of them are major undercons.  This betrays a lack of balance that permeates the game.  Second, there is the quest driven nature of the game.  Now before you think I’m going to bash quest-driven games, know that I like that style of game just fine.  You (game designers) just can’t let me run out.  As my main character reached his mid-twenties he started falling farther and farther behind the quest curve.  For example, when he was 21 he only had quests that were 2 levels higher than him available.  He was still able to do them, if not able to use the rewards immediately.  As he leveled through his twenties this problem became worse.  I could probably grind though it but mob experience is weak, and I’m not inclined to do so.

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Blizzard: Game Development-Just Slow Down

All of us love our games (I assume you do too, and that is why you are here) and most of us want exciting new games to come along.  We want them fun, we want them nuanced, we want them polised.  Oh, and we want them right damn now.  Why does it take so long to develop a game anyway?  While I suspect that most of us have ideas why games take so long, I think that most of us don’t really think about some realities that govern whether a game is polished (seemingly a large yardstick for measuring the success of a game), fun, and attractive to us.  I don’t think most of us have any idea of the scope of these games or the resources required to develop or operate and manage them.

During AGDC this week during 2 separate events Blizzard Entertainment shared what they think makes them unique in this regard.

The first, a Gamasutra interview with Blizzard lead content designer Kevin Martens is relatively simple: Iteration.  Taking something and playing and testing it over and over.  Tweaking it and playing and testing it over and over again.  I suspect that many of us would expect that this is the essence of “polish”.  How can something be polished without lots of testing and lots of adjustments from what you found while testing?  Of course all of this iteration costs money, so that excludes some studios who may be operating on a shoestring or are under time-pressure to release a game.  It’s also clear that this is why Blizzard takes so bloodly long to get anything out.

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GameBreakR Goes Live at AGDC

game-breaker-logoI’ve been a fan of Gary and Ryan from MMOG nation for a while.  I used to listen to their podcast back when theirs was just about the only podcast out there about MMO’s.  Gary Gannon, the Gary from the aforementioned team has been semi-retired from podcasting and community in general for about a year or so.

He’s returned in a big new way with his new site GameBreakr.  The new site is a combination of news, ultra-brief reviews, and something a little more experimental, Gary’s live video podcasts.  At AGDC, he’s launching the site with the help from the folks over at Vivox.   He’s also peppering in a lot of social networking components with his presence on Facebook and Twitter as well.  It’s a little more of a 360 degree approach to an online presence than is being done elsewhere.

The tag line on the blog is “Video Game Talk You Can Trust – with Gary Gannon”  The scope of the podcasts will be everything gaming from Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo, and PC gaming.   I’d encourage you guys to go over to the site and check it out and click the “Game Breakr Live” tab at the top to see the live podcasts during AGDC with people from the industry, and check back each day to see what he’s got going.  I’ll be following this new experiment and see how it develops.  It’s cool to see someone take a little more complete approach to the community.

Amazing Accomplishments of the Daft

Among the great things that are accomplished by people every day, I have always pointed out that doing so is easy when you are smart.

Accomplishing things when you are an idiot requires some effort and determination.  Many of the things I have accomplished in my life are heroic in nature because at the very core of my being, I’m an idiot.  I pointed this out to some of my fellow bloggers and guild members in our Champions Ventrilo channel the other night.  To my dismay, they tacitly agreed.  As a matter of fact, they tactfully tacitly agreed.

Here’s the latest example of my bumblehood;

Now, in reality, I’m a relatively smart guy.  I get it, more often than not.  But lately when it comes to gaming, I’ve noticed a trend.  For example, I’ve been playing Champions online since late beta.  Admittedly, not a terribly long time.  During this time, I have experimented with many of the pre-made power sets if not nearly all of them.  During that time, I managed to completely avoid slotting a single defensive ability.  I think it’s fair to say that I died.  A lot.  I knew something was wrong, but I was having fun and the death penalty is so small in CO.  So I kept dieing.  And dieing.  Sometimes it was so often that I felt a need to apologize to my teammates.  I’ve often used the saying that “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.”  Or the southern version; “If all you do is all you’ve done, then all you’ll get is what you got.”

Clearly, I’d lost my effing mind.

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Remembering Ferdinand “Fred” Morrone – 9/11/2001

F. Morrone

F. Morrone

I never met Ferdinand Morrone.  This is his story…

Before he ever became the Superintendent of the New York Port Authority Police, Ferdinand Morrone had a law enforcement career that most cops would envy.  Born in Brooklyn, he started his career with the New Jersey State Police in 1963, and continued his education and got his PoliSci degree from Stockton State College in 1974.  He followed that up with a masters in Public Administration from Rider University in 1977.

In 1981, Justin Dintino was running the Intelligence Unit of the State Police.  He recalls;

I was running the Intelligence Unit… and he was assigned to me as an investigator.  He was a tremendous investigator.  He was like a bulldog.  I would give him the toughest cases – organized crime, solid waste, and he would always deliver the goods.  …  If he got on your tail, you might as well cry uncle, because he was going to get you.

One of the last cases he worked as a State Policeman was the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.  He was one of a few dozen cops the NJSP lent to the feds to work the investigation.  Morrone finished up his 30 years with the NJ State Police in 1993 and took his retirement as a Lieutenant Colonel.  Cops like Fred didn’t just lay about the house though.  By 1996, he had taken the job as the Superintendent of the Port Authority Police, a force that is in charge of all the transportation and shipping jurisdictions in NY and NJ.  Still living in New Jersey, Fred would sometimes work at his office on the first floor of the World Trade Center, or sometimes from his office in Jersey City, depending on the day.Port Authority

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I’ve always liked close up magic, and slight of hand.  This guy is really good though.  Pay special attention to how the song lyric matches the trick…

It’s Magic!

Champions Makes a Good 2nd Impression

So when the PileFlanet (Yes, I did that on purpose) beta came out for Champions online, I took advantage of the membership I’ve inexplicably maintained for the last few years and downloaded and installed the game.  I got my key, activated my account, patched (I won’t bitch too much except to say that didn’t go well) and tried it out.  I made a few characters, cool, and tried to play.  Meh.

Pete over at Dragonchasers and I exchanged tweets about it, and we agreed that the main problem with Champions is that it’s got a first-impression problem.  Now, the game might not be for everyone but everyone I have spoken to has agreed that the game is better than the first impression it gives.  And that’s a problem for Cryptic.  I almost didn’t come back to the game.  In fact, I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for the fact that Brent over at A Wall of Text commented that he was really digging it.  Given that he and I seem to like some of the same stuff, and when we play together we often have the same likes and dislikes, I decided to give it another run.  I’m glad I did.

I’m not saying that I’m going to cancel my WoW accounts (I’m not) or that it’s going to be a game that I’m going to be playing 5 years from now (it almost certainly isn’t) but it’s a lot of fun.  Tarkheena and I are enjoying it.

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