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9:10 AM on 07.28.2013

Mind Gamerz: Hardware expandability is a needed feature.

All long term computer hardware should have expandability built in. I would consider video game consoles to be such devices, as they are intended to be used and kept for an extended period of time. However, I wouldn't considered devices such as, smartphones to be long term devices because they are regularly superseded by newer versions in predictable intervals with a comparatively short shelf life. The three major consoles have been announced or launched and none of them have mentioned expandability, beyond storage space. The addition of an expansion bay would greatly benefit the consoles as it would allow for future proofing and direct hardware access for upgrading.

Wii U’s Predicament
The Wii U is the only console currently out and appears significantly weaker than its competitors, in specs, which could prevent third parties from releasing cross platform games onto it. This may not be an issue initially as games may not utilize all the processing power on the system. However, as time progresses the games will become more power hungry and potentially too much for the system. Suppose, the Wii U came with an expansion bay, the console could have been later upgraded to meet rising power needs. If the Wii U where to have been released with a similar hardware specs to the PS4 or Xbox One, it would have been prohibitively expensive. However, with an expansion bay, it could have been released at a similar price point and later upgraded to match or become closer to the competitors offerings.

Video game consoles of the past
Previous generations of consoles, have had expansion bays included in their design. This has allowed them to adapt to changes within their generation. For example, SNES enhancement chips were used for additional functions, most famous is the Super FX chip the heat behind the original Star Fox. Nintendo also introduced the rumble pack into the N64 post launch, it used an expansion bay on the controller. Rumble is now an inseparable part of controllers, if that expansion bay wasn't available, Nintendo wouldn't have been able to get the early start with rumble. Some of the PS2 models came with an expansion bay that allowed for a network card, for online play, or an internal hard drive, that helped speed up load times. If these expansions had been included it would have driven prices up for the PS2, and may have been useless as the future of network play was uncertain and hard drives were expensive to include.



(This expansion pack doubled the ram power of the N64)

Future proofing
Technology is progressing rapidly, and new technologies are quickly out pacing older ones. Consoles are becoming outdated soon after release, an expansion bay would allow for future proofing. As technology progresses, newer upgrades can be incorporated into the console later to meet the trends. For instance, Microsoft has stated that the original Kinect was limited by the Xbox 360 hardware. If the Xbox 360 had an expansion bay on it, an additional hardware part could have been manufactured to interact with the Kinect and possibly provide a special port to handle more data than available through usb. Expansion bays allow manufacturers to include new or unforeseen components onto machines that weren’t originally conceived.

Bundle with game
A common problem faced when releasing expansions midlife cycle of a console is market adoption. The most effective solution, I've seen, is to offer expansions as part of a bundle. Nintendo has been doing this for years, Donkey Kong 64 was released with the RAM upgrade and Star Fox 64 had the rumble pack. More recently, an extra Wii mote was offered in a bundle with Wii play. The bundled game should demonstrate the advantage of the new expansion and show the customer why they should want it. For example, higher graphics quality in donkey Kong with more ram, haptic feedback with the rumble pack in Star Fox 64 and motion controls for Wii.



(This was how most got their expansion pack and rumble pack)


Cloud computing vs. expansion bay
Cloud computing is being mention as a solution to games demanding more power than a system can deliver later in its life cycle. While cloud computing can offer some help in this area, it will also create certain problems that an expandable system wouldn't.  For instance, it would require that the Internet be connected and uninterrupted during your play session. Another issue would be server maintenance or shut down, once the servers for a game are shut down the game would become unplayable or feature limited. Hardware expansions could provide extra horse power and extend a console’s life cycle without the limitations of cloud computing.

Overkill
While expandability is good, it can be overdone, just look at the Sega Genesis. It is best to release the upgrade about mid-way between a consoles planned life span, otherwise people won’t buy it or see its worth, as next generation is around the corner. Also, it is best to be careful with pricing of the expansion, because consumers may feel they are being cheated by something that should have been available at launch, even if it wasn’t feasible.


(Think this is bad, the wiring was worse)

As always, thanks for reading and please leave a comment with your thoughts.   read


4:17 PM on 03.24.2013

Mind Gamerz: A look back at Menu based Level progression

Mind Gamerz: A look back at Menu based Level progression.


In the earlier days of gaming, many games used menu based level progression, in which each level is individually selected and completed. After completion, the player would be sent back to the menu and the next level would become available on the list, and this system continued until the game was completed. A classic example of this is In the Nintendo 64 game: 007 the world is not enough. This system probably came about due to the limitations of the he hardware of the time, as it allowed the developers to create limited areas per level, which reduced loading times, especially on the early disk based console that had longer loading times when compared to their cartridge based cousins. However, not all games were forced to use this level progression system and it fell out of use as better machines came along. Though by dropping this system, we have lost some of the main advantage it offered, such as strong replay ability, a pseudo party/competition option and more in depth/complex levels in linear games.
I am not saying this system is good for all game types, but it would be particularly suited towards games that are linear. Developers could break up the event sequence into levels. In traditional linear games, as the player progresses, there are points where something happens and the player can't backtrack anymore such as a rock slide or gate closing. That would be a good place to break levels up.



Replay ability is a major selling point for any game, it allows for the player to re-enjoy a game after the initial play through or beyond, if done well. The new game plus or multiple story arcs options are nice, but what if a person wanted to play a particular part again. Players are usually very fond of certain parts, but it would usually be impossible to play as there is no way to directly select a certain section to play on demand. Now compared to Half Life2, which uses chapter based progression, if I wanted to replay certain chapters over, I simply reload that chapter over and start playing, WITHOUT even worrying about overriding my existing progress. If the chapter/level system is mixed with variability systems, such as individual as scalable difficulty curves for each level, fun cheat codes (single player) or game plus options that game would have strong playability.
Building on the replay ability aspect of the menu system, it allows for the players to use this option in groups and pseudo competitive capacity. Before the internet was available to gaming, I would invite friends over to play. We were very competitive and not all games were multiplayer, thus game with the level menu system allowed for us to create competitive speed runs. We would select a level and see which of us could complete the level faster. This was a more enjoyable way to play single player games, as it was more competitive and more interactive, through the competition process. When compared to the hand off the controller when that player dies method of group single player game play.
When developing a level it is important to take into account the amount of time a player will spend in various parts of that level. Thus, if a player is expected to spend a small amount of time in an area, that area will be simpler with only a few divergent paths or extras. However, when a player will potentially be revisiting the same area multiple times, the developer has the ability to add extra and more complex content as the player can search for on subsequent visits. This also further improves replay ability. The best implementation of this is when developers add areas that can't be accessed until subsequent abilities are unlocked (e.g. high jump or grappling hook). This teases the player to come back and check it out later, varying the play style and slightly increasing play time. Best examples of this I can find are in Metroids (nes) and Banjo-Kazooie series (N64).
Finally, the level based system can be very damming to a game if done wrong and its usage comes with its own issues, related to breaking immersion and pacing. In the traditional level menu system, once a level is completed, the level is ended and the player is forced back to the menu to pick another level, breaking immersion and flow. The solution is to make the level transition seamless. The Half-life 2 system is the best example, it was broken down into chapters instead of shorter levels, which keep up the pacing. Secondly, when the player completes a chapter the game doesn't end and send the player back to the menu, it simply lets the player know that the next chapter has started. Also there is a save system built into the system that allows players to progress at their own pace.


  read


5:48 PM on 03.03.2013

Mind Gamers: Do’s and Don’ts of an open world game (non-mmo).

This post is built off the article: http://move.themaneater.com/blogs/move-games/2010/4/2/some-fundamental-dos-and-donts-open-world-games/

1.Do: Have a reasonable size open world.
Don’t: Make it excessively large.

In general open world games need to have larger and more developed worlds/levels due to the inherent demands of the genre. This allows the player to explore and experience the unrestricted nature of the game. For example, Skyrim is a massive game with plenty of things to do outside of the main storyline, such as exploring dungeons and crafting. However, massive voids are no fun either, a game is about interacting and doing, the open world games shouldn’t have areas devoid of content or activity besides walking to another area. In WarZ, the player spent his time moving between locations, doing little more than walking. There is no hard rule to measure this, but if a player can go about a few minutes without any interesting things to do; you probably either need to add something or shrink that area. A few ways to add content to an area without side quests or elaborate areas are by adding collectables, Easter eggs and quick missions (e.g. Rampages in Grand theft Auto).



(The Green and red Point represents indicate the loot drops, while houses show general stores, while other points of interest, such as player/monster spawn and player safe areas aren’t shown. Notice the amount of travel/ empty space there is. Game: WARZ)

2.Do: Have a good travel system.
Don’t: Waste player’s time by forcing them to re-walk everywhere.

Open world games are not life simulators were the player needs to experience every step of an activity. While side activities, such as smithing, are usually pace well, travel has sometimes been an issue in this genre. Two particularly excellent travel systems are the abundant transport method (such as GTA series), and the limited fast travel systems (such as Pokémon and Bethesda RPGS).
In the abundant travel method, the player usually can’t teleport to other areas of the world, but has an unlimited access to fast transport. In the GTA games cars are literally all around and if you destroy your vehicle another one is waiting to be taken. Unlike Skyrim, where getting a horse is a process and on the spot replacement is nearly impossible.
The fast travels system allows you to teleport to previously visited location or set areas. In Skyrim this is the primary way of getting around. The player usually fast travels to the closest previously visited locations and make their journey to new locations from there. In Pokémon, (I only played up to pre-leaf green and fire red generation) fast travel is limited in the beginning and more available once fly is gained. This is offset by the localized nature of the challenges and limited fast travel items and abilities such as escape rope and dig.


( A game all about travel that was meaning full and engaging. Game: Journey)

3.Do: Have side missions with a random element:
Don’t: Have cookie cutter areas/ extras

With the size and scope of open world games there will be a need to reuse existing content to fill space. By adding variable elements, a developer can change pacing or flow, for instance, let's say a particular dungeon is reused a few times, but instead of offering the same enemies puzzles or loot, have these elements vary randomly with each encounter. This will also add variety, if the player chooses to replays the game from scratch. So once the player enters a dungeon, make the game then generate variable elements randomly, such as which npc type to spawn, how to preset puzzles and what loot to offer. This will allow a player enter similar areas, while changing the method used to accomplished the same area and what benefits the player gets from completing an area. This works well in a story independent area, and were a certainty outcome isn't expected. In the borderlands game, most weapons are randomly generated, thus you can open the same loot container and get radically different results each time.


(Try to find 2 items the same. Game: Borderlands Series)

4.Do: Make a reason to explore.
Don’t: Front load the game.

Exploration is probably done best in open world games. This is due to the raw size of these games and large variety of rewards. However, I have seen in some open world games the exploring aspect of the game killed in one of three ways. First, by not providing enough variety or lack of a reward, second it's too difficult and third by front loading a game with especially strong beginning items. Games are very result driven, and gamers play to accomplish objectives, thus the effect required to accomplish a task is proportional to the expected reward or outcome, such as when players grind in order to power level. Exploring a large world is time consuming and players expect that the exploration will lead to somewhere or something. If the journey or reward is sub-par then players will be less likely to explore in the future.
If the game is over hard, players will be less likely to explore either due to frustration or the cost to benefit ratio, mentioned above, is not in their favor. Most modern games are not marketed on how hard they are and in some cases just the opposite. With the rise of social (Facebook)/ casual market, ease of play is preferred. Usually gaming adults have more responsibilities and less time to game then younger audiences. So we don't have the time to play extremely hard games that requires a time consuming raw trial and error approach. Plus, games are no longer burden by early limitations that forced them to be harder in order to pad out game length. Also, some players prefer, story over challenge and may be turned off by extremely hard games. (Not all fit players in this category, but I feel this is a safe generalization to make).
Lastly, we have the problem where the starting items are more powerful than items gained earlier in the game. This problem usually appears with pre-order dlc where the player is given a pre-order bonus in the form of special starting items that are better than the normal ones. Now if done correctly, this will allow the player to experience the game beginning at a quicker pace and get into the meat of the game faster. However, when done incorrectly this will accelerate the beginning faster than intended, leading to shorter game length or causes a stall when the player's special items are inadequate for further progression, forcing the player to backtrack to look for proper items.

5.Do: Have sandbox elements
Don’t: Make these elements redundant or repetitive

An open world game should allow its player to be a part of it’s world and interactive in a meaningful way. This is we're the edition of sandbox elements come in nicely. In Skyrim, even when not doing a mission there is still something to do, such as mining, smithing, and potion crafting. Also, there are real consequences to you actions, if you steal or murder in town the guards will attack, fine or imprison you. When compared to the Mass Effect series, the differences are noticeable. The most striking example is how non-combat npc’s behave, they are props that stand in one place or walk in ridiculously linear paths, with little or no interactive AI. Second, is the limited number, of activities in non combat times. On the Citadel, there are only a few things to do such as questing (fetch quests) or shopping.
When implementing these elements it is important to do so in a way that doesn't feel repetitive. This can be done by limiting the number of steps needed to complete a task. For instance, smelting in Skyrim is limited to the notable task; notice that the smelting process is an animation loop. Also, it is important to limit the number of repeated actions. Let's say, I want to make 20 iron daggers, the game at smithing time should allow me to make as many as I want at once provided I have enough supplies. There can be a small experience penalty per dagger made in this fashion, to discourage level grinding exploitation. This allows the game to strike a balance where the player can move between tasks faster, but not allow easy level grinding, that breaks pacing.


(Wax Museum, This is what walking through noncombat area of Mass effect was like)   read


10:30 PM on 09.15.2012

Mind Gamez: Understanding Villains.

Introductions
Villains take different forms in games, often they are against you, such as Bowser from the Mario series (M), and sometimes you are the villain, such as in Grand Thief Auto series (GTA) and Destroy All Humans (DOH). Here I will identify and characterize the main categories villains tend to falls into.

Identifying a Villain
I believe a person should be measured by their action and motivation, so this will be how I will determine who is really a villain. A villain is a character who deliberately does enough wrong to warrant a response base on the values the game is asking the player to adopt. The player’s morals are immaterial because they are not a true element in the game world, but a personification through their character. In games where two opposing forces with different morals are clashing, the side the player takes will determine the morals used to judge that game. Lastly a character must know they are doing wrong for them to be a villain, because a character may stop once they realize their actions. I wouldn’t consider zombies to be villains because their responses are more reflexive or instinctual, similar to a wild dog. However I would consider the Red Umbrella Corporation (Resident Evil (RE)) a villain because of their conscious actions in the series.

Categories: (Note: A Villain can change categories over the course of a story.)

Implied Villain
These are characters stated as villains by the story, but the character is not portrayed very villainy and fills only a quasi- villainous role for at least part of the story. They tend to be characters with limited evil and the story may be about something else where the evil is only the vehicle driving the plot.
Gru, from Despicable Me (DM), is an implied villain and very note worthy for this section. The theme of DM is how a bad guy turns into a good guy and the value of family. Gru use orphans as part of his evil scheme to steal the moon with a shrink ray. Notice the evil plan is steal the moon with a shrink ray, not rob a bank or take someone hostage, this plan is well chosen by the producers. The moon is very out of reach and unrelatable, can you think of any real life attempts to steal the moon as opposed to real bank robberies that got violent. Gru’s weapons are a freeze ray and shrink ray, neater of these guns kill, they just temporarily incapacitate the opponent.



(Gru character is depicted as a villain with the pointy noice characteristic, but the rest of him doesn’t follow that trend, (minions))

Noble or limited Villain
These are villains that work by a code, have a redeeming quality and stay away from extreme deplorable acts (i.e. rape and extreme torture). They are portrayed as more civilize villains that choose to use harm when needed to accomplish a goal, not just randomly. Their goals are more destructive than compared to the implied villain and this tends to make them more intimidating. Many of the comic book super villains are portrayed in this category; where they will be robbing something or trying to take over the world, but rape and graphic torture are sparse.
Lex Luthor a noble villain is rich, educated, charismatic and unsettlingly sneaky. He commands respect and, even without powers, he has the ability to decimate targets and cleverly manipulate the super hero. Even when defeated, he never really has completely lost as there is always something up his sleeve for next time.
Bottom line these villains, can be deadly and evil as long as they don’t cross the line that makes them appear undignified.



(Lex Luthor is similar much more menacing than Gru and there is a significant absence of the whimsical. Notice he is in a suit and pose that gives him a more business/ professional demeanor.)

Vile or extreme Villain
These characters are the lowest of the low and often the deadliest of all; similar to rabid dogs then a civilized person. There is nothing they won’t do whether it is brutally beat someone for the fun of it or blow up a hospital because hell it’s a Wednesday. These characters are usually meant to be hated, feared and unpredictable. They tend to be an extreme representation such as rage (Venom) and insanity (Joker).
These villains work well as the main aggressor against the protagonist. They commits atrocities throughout the story that make the player want to defeat them and have a satisfying victory. Also, they can be used as a plot device to divergent story, subplot, or major twist related to the villain’s preexisting actions. See the movie Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010) for a great example of this (this movie was awesome I am not spoiling it here).



(Joker is crazy. In this picture you can see it with his unsettling grin and notice he is wearing a suit, but he still looks like a mad man.)

The Mystery Villain
This villain is a mystery; their motives and agenda are not really known. They can be your enemy or ally based on the situation and their mood. The constant switching of allegiances will force a player to constantly rethink the character. These characters may initially be mysterious, but as the story is reveled they may fall into another category. It is primary the mystery of these players that keeps them interesting, though it is a good idea to have some other appealing feature to fall back on once the mystery has faded.
There are 2 well establish approaches for this type of character that seem to work best, for simplicity I will call them the G-man (HL) and Q (Star Trek: The Next Generation (ST: TNG)) approach. In the G-man approach the villain is rarely ever directly interacting with the player, but you know he is there in the background. In HL2 the player is dropped off by the G-man to accomplish a task and throughout the course of the game the G-man is always there off in the distance, just out of reach. He will intervene on occasion, to make some course adjustments, but not overtly intercede directly. (At the end ofHL2 were he saves them from the explosion and the player was meant to be silently extracted, notice Alyx didn’t know the G-man was there).



(The monitor g-man in Dr. Kliener's lab: In the game, the g-man is always around at key times, reinforcing his presence and acting as an Easter egg for the player to find.)

The Q approach is a very hands-on approach, where the villain will be personally directing the event occurring. The player will be talking or interacting with the villain in a close way, either responding to or with the events around them. These characters can often be found within reachable distance to reinforce their presence in an event. In ST: TNG Q is often causing something to happen or at an important event about to happen to the main characters, where he will manipulate them to follow a certain path or come to a certain realization.
These characters should have a sort of ambiguity to them; both visually and when interacted with. Look at a quote by the G-man
“Rise and shine, Mr. Freeman. Rise and shine. Not that I wish to imply you have been sleeping on the job. No-one is more deserving of a rest. And all the effort in the world would have gone to waste until... well, let's just say your hour has come again. The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world. So, wake up, Mr. Freeman. Wake up and smell the ashes.”
That quote is full of clues and hints, but it relay tells us nothing.

Parody
They are meant to be a joke and be laughed at. Their plots are generally of a humorous or ironic nature. In the Doh you are an alien invader, who needs dna from humans in order reverse the damage done your aliens dna due to cloning and find a new way to create new generations. Basically you need human dna to create a penis to have sex with. The villains themselves are very exaggerated and humorous in nature. (For examples, see Space balls movie1987 and Austin Powers Movies.) Finally it is always a plus to defeat these enemies in an equally humorous way. In Ratchet and Clank captain qwark is reduced to an infomercial salesman, though I prefer falling piano, you can’t beat the classics.

Simple Thug or Minion
These are you no name villains, your dispensable characters, that don’t receive enough information to really fit in another character. In a game you will dispatch many of them on your way to defeat the main aggressor. A good idea is to keep them consistent to the theme of the main villain, that way you can imprint some distinctiveness to them. It is a cheap way to add some variety and depth to them.


(Notice, that while you don't have an individual back story of each character, you can understand them, due to their common theme they follow with the game (Bioshock)

As always, thanks for reading and constructive feedback is always welcome.   read


7:06 PM on 08.21.2012

Mind Gamez: Aliens, the other white meat

Introduction

Science fiction and aliens are a great combination as it allows for stories that are not limited by the boundaries of earth and the known world. Aliens can have abilities, technology or beliefs that are absurd for humans without being strange because they are by nature different. For instance, in Star Trek, Farangi are aliens obsessed with profit and Betazoids are naturally born telepathic. Though, what makes a good alien and what is just plain ridiculous? Here I will examine some factors that I feel are important when designing an alien.

Factor 1: Purpose

When creating a character it is important to determine the role they will play and this will be the basis used to shape that character and related species. For instance, in Star Trek, the Klingons were originally design as the primary aggressors against the Federation. Thus they are aggressive, confrontational and were later adapted to have a rigid, armor like body. The Asari were designed to be sexy and formidable. Thus they are an all female species with a bi-sexual nature and sexual representation (you don’t see Salarian woman dancing in Chora’s den). They have natural biotic powers and commando forces which can make fighting them more difficult than conventional forces.
Secondly, can the purpose of the characters be covered by non-aliens? Creating an alien character or group is more “expensive” than using humans. For aliens to be believable you have to create a lot more story, they generally need to have culture, beliefs and values that distinguish them as aliens. With humans there are usually less gaps to fill, unless there is some needed fictional back story to that character. Garus (ME) is a good example of how a character uses their alien back story correctly. Turians are known for their discipline and justice attitudes, but Garus is at odds with this. In ME1 a subplot revolves around his inner struggle to find his place in Turian society and his own more individual personality.


(With the reboot of Star Trek in the” Star Trek: The Next Generation” many things were changed, including the Klingons in order to better fill their role.)

Factor 2: Believable Alien world

The role of characters, tendency of species and presence in story will determine the amount of back story required. For instance, a collaboration species that audience will interact with often, like the federation (group) (Star Trek), may require more information than an invading species, such as the Furon (Destroy all Humans Series (Dah)) or reapers (ME).
The quarian’s require a lot of information for the player to properly understand their place in the story and the reasoning behind their actions. Information on the beliefs (religion), environment and culture is provided to the player. The pilgrimage ritual explains Tali’s presence in the story and establishes a motive and back story for the character to originate from.
The furon and Cryptosporidium provide an alternative example of how to integrate a species into a story. In Doh, the aliens are the invaders and the narrative is centered on Crypto’s interaction with earth and less information is needed on the aliens. Only essentials are provided on the furon, such as motivation for the invasion and their view on humans. Also, as this game is more of a parody, the reason for certain events can expectantly be comical without endangering the flow on the story.
The Reapers and Combine (HL2) play a very different role then the one mentioned above. They play the vague aggressor role. Very little is known about these species, except they are very dangerous and powerful. This species employ fear (and anticipation) due to their unknown nature. What are their strengths, weakness, and objectives (so on)? Over the course of a story they are usually slowly revealed and the objective of the story changes from investigating them to the final climax of defeating them (see ME series story line).
Finally, once you have established certain expectations with in a species, a consistency about it is required. The Klingons are a warrior race with an emphasis on honor; one would not expect the empire to turn into a race full of spies suddenly. However you can change the core nature of a species through a key event. The krogan were originally similar to the Klingon however they suffered the genophage which force the krogan to change their life style and that is reflected in the story.


(In Doh Series extraneous information is left out, such as how the furons can to rely on cloning as opposed to more traditional methods and a true explanation of how their tech works. This series doesn’t need to concern itself with those things, as it does not affect the objective of the games.)

Factor3: Believable Character

Creating a believable character is hard work and would probably require a book to do the subject justice, but for an alien character, I believe it is most important to properly establish that character within the conditions defined by that species. The aliens will be different from humans, thus you want to have that character follow from their routes and behave as expected of that culture otherwise you just have a human in a costume. Tali is portrayed as a shy young female with engineering and combat experience. Her personality traits are enhanced by her alien circumstances. She is shy and closed off which is represented by the full body suit and inability to ever directly see her face. Her engineering experience is due to the needs of her species. Finally, her vulnerability is based on her inexperience with outside world and is represented by her immune deficiency and her people’s sterile environment.

Factor 4: Advantage of humanoid form

The humanoid form has evolved based on the unique needs and circumstances of this planet. The likelihood of finding another species in humanoid form is slim. However, most aliens in media are portrayed as humanoids because it has both a technical and authentic advantage to the story.
Before advance movie technology, live action movies were limited in design, non-humanoid aliens/ monsters were more difficult and expensive to make. Thus, many creatures were humanoid and that was accepted as the norm. In series such as Star Trek and Star Wars, you will notice that the main characters are humanoid and the non humanoids only play a more limited role. When creating a cg character, you are not limited by form; however it becomes more difficult as you produce more complex creatures. When you create a 3d character it needs to be rigged, (bones added), and this is where the animations for the characters derive from. Thus the more forms you have, the more rigging, animations and time is needed. In games, to save memory you can apply the same rigs and animations sets to multiple characters. In the ME series I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the humanoid species have the same or very similar rig.


(Rig of 3d character)

As mentioned above people anticipate aliens to carry a humanoid form. This form allows the audience to relate with the alien on a more personal level and recognize the situation better. I can tell how a humanoid alien feels based on facial expressions and body language I would expect in a human. It is easier to evaluate humanoid opponents based on physical attributes, for instance the ME series aliens.
Krogan- Bulky with a shot gun, thus high hit points and medium range
Turian- scaled hardened skin and rifles, thus higher than average hit points and long ranged.
While the rachni, the non-humanoid race, was more difficult to understand at first and required more adjusting to than other opponents.

Factor 5: Human touch

While you may be thinking of all the ways to make your alien stranger, it is still important to have humanity hidden in your characters. The best way I have seen this executed is by having human ideals or themes portrayed in alien terms. This allows them to be alien, but subconsciously recognizable to the audience. In Star Wars the Jedi are similar to a religious samurai order. They both wield swords (light sabers), have a strong honor code and still preferred the sword over the more popular gun. In Star Trek various issues are addressed, only with a Si fi coat of paint. In Star Trek: TGN “The Measure of a Man,” it tackles the issue of what is considered a sentient life and what rights it has (the right to exist).
Finally, to emphasize facial expression (or an equivalent mechanism for non-humanoids) are important because it allows the audience to connect with character and sometime sympathize with their situation.

Epilogue

The Mass Effect series and Star Trek shows are a great place to see good alien fiction in action. I apologize for missing the last couple of posts, as I have been busy with other matters. As always, thanks for reading and constructive feedback is always welcome.

More reading

http://www.fictionfactor.com/articles/aliens.html
http://science.howstuffworks.com/space/aliens-ufos/alien-physiology4.htm   read


3:07 PM on 07.24.2012

Mind Gamez: Twilight the video game: A missed opportunity.

Edited by Stephon
Preamble
A few years back, the Twilight franchise was a huge movie success, but there was never a release of a real video game based off the franchise. I think that if a good game was released it would have been good for the industry.
Explanations


(Obviously, gaming has always been guy centered, but for comparison here is layout of Destructoid's audience.)

First off this game is not for you, (the 18-34 male who make up most of this community (source: Alexa.com), it would be for the people who watched the twilight series (14-18 girls). This group also happens to not be very present in mainstream gaming culture. At one time, anything that was twilight related sold, big, and if video games could offer that audience the ability to interact with the cast and have a fantasy adventure with Jacob or Edward it would sell like hot cakes. As a consequence, it would attract massive amounts of new people to gaming and some might even stay. The old “I came for the Twilight, but stayed for the uncharted series” or something like that.
In particular, the PS3 and Xbox 360 would have benefited from this game immensely. As they would have the power to deliver a more authentic experience than the Wii can. Also, the Wii is dominating the casual consoles market right now and this game could have been the killer app (like halo was for Xbox) that brought all those people to Xbox 360 or PS3. Many gamers say they bought the Game Boy, DS or 3DS just for Pokémon and Mario games. During the height of the popularity for Twilight it may have been that kind of game.


(Best marketing ever, and in a game you could take advantage of the marketing strategy.)

Why Guys should care
Most guys hate the twilight series and want nothing to do with it, but it haves a benefit for us as well. Ever play video games with a girlfriend or female friend, and she either calls it boring or plays but you can tell she is only there to be with you? Yea, those times are not very fun; I know many women and most have no interest in or view non casual video games as immature. Personal, video games a big part of my life; I write a blog on them, play them and want to develop them. So if this game gets more girls interested in video games, then there are more woman gamers. Granted there would be the younger, but that would be great for the young male gamers.
Implementation
As we all know, most movie games suck. However, assuming that the developers make a good game out of this, here is how I could see the game working. The player would be Bella, and the game would take place somewhere after the introduction of Jacob. This would allow the game to take advantage of the team Edward and Jacob marketing. I envision this game working best similar to a game like Katherine. The game should be an under 12 hours, as you don’t want to exhaust first time gamers and it should be independent of the plot of the movies, allowing the player to set their own path and fantasy. The player would be able to romance the man of their choice and game play would be broken up between puzzle elements, exploration (Fallout 3 Style) and some light combat (there was fighting and killing in Twilight). Victoria can serve as the villain (main villains of franchise) and Bella and her chosen partner will need to defeat Victoria and her minions (vampire newborns in Eclipse). Finally throw some shots of the male characters topless, some minor sexual pandering for the player, end with a romantic kiss and done.
Hindsight
While the majority of the popularity for this franchise has faded, Twilight is not over and there is another movie expected soon and Lionsgate has stated that they will continue on the franchise for the foreseeable future. Also, other franchises that are becoming popular and may be the next twilight are The 50 Shades of Gray series, The diary of a Wimpy kid (or Dork Diaries) and The Fault in our Stars. However, none of these books have the fantasy element of Twilight that would translate so well into a video game.
Epilogue
In some ways Twilight is the female answer to the Mass Effect series. Both games allow you to romance and develop your relationships with other characters (romance may be optional, but an integral part of ME series). Twilight story would be considered “epic” by the audience, with the fate of both a werewolf and vampire clan hanging in the balance. Finally, both games could be decision based with your choices affecting the outcome on the opposing clans and the plot. (Also, there was enough sexual pandering in both franchises, such as the Asari and topless Jacob. As always, thanks for reading and constructive feedback is welcome.   read


8:19 PM on 07.17.2012

Mind Gamerz: Remake of Knight

Written by Stephon
Edited by Me



Introduction
There are many different ways to look at the video game genre, it has been abbreviated and twisted in many circumstances. It has mostly kept up with its art background; there have been instances where some of the core rules of game making have changed and this usually does one of three things: one, end poorly, such as in the story telling in Psychonauts, or two: turn the gaming community around like in God of War 3; and lastly, be understated similar to White Knight Chronicles.

Connected
Level 5’s White Knight Chronicles 2 is one of the few games that not only remade the artwork of the first White Knight Chronicles game, but also change the game play for the sequel. By making the enemies stronger in some respects and weaker in other respects, unlike the original version that just focused more on weapons and spell powers. Also the special transformation done in the game by two of the playable characters was revamped; in the original version all the player had to do was use transformation within the boss fights and it was an easy win. In the sequel, the player actually had to think before using that ability.

New online
There are some changes to online besides the leveling system. One change in particular is the adding of guilds. Online mmo’s are never really without some guild option for the masses to unite and fight other guilds, but White Knight Chronicles is different in the sense that it was not made to be an online game but to have online elements, to make the game play more interesting by adding things, for instance guilds would only strengthen the online play which in turn would help the game as a whole.

My dislike
In my opinion, there are some things that seem to upset the original ideas of the game, like the extra side quests within the game; the original idea of the side quest was to allow different people to come online together and now you can do a good deal of side quest off line, defeating the reason you when out of your way for them. Also, as far as online play is involved the new online statues for your town are just a waste; it might have started out to be a way to help beginners raise their town stat but in the end turn into another money scheme that shows up in many online games and seems to cheapen the game.

Conclusion
What stood out the most for me is that when someone finishes a piece of art the artist cannot go back and add to it, nor can a film director remake a movie after it has been released (a movie can be re-master or edited, but the movie is largely similar, ie Jar Jar Binks is still in Star Wars). However the game companies do have the ability to do so and if done right it can change the way good games are made. Since game design is an art that can never truly be finished, it gives us the consumer the ability to judge many types of games to help us decide which parts are good and which need improving.
(Please note, this particular post was written by Stephon (not me, Anthony), as I was fairly busy this week and I would like to thank him for the help. Also any opinion and insight provided is of his work and I take no credit for it.)   read


7:24 PM on 07.17.2012

Next- Gen: Two potential problems – developer confusion and accessibility

I believe that motion controls and dual screen systems will be integrated into the next 3 major consoles and traditional controllers will be returning to the Wii U, as seen in the Wii U remote. This is going to create at least two major issues, first is developer confusion, the 3 consoles are using vary different systems and a variety of add-ons that may be incompatible with each other. These official add-ons will make it harder for developers to decide what system or peripheral too make their game for and risk losing money if they use the wrong add-on or system for their game. Secondly, these new add-ons are becoming in accessible for people with certain disabilities.

Problem 1
In the not so distant past, all major consoles were relatively similar, the Xbox and Ps2 particularly. Both the Xbox and PS2 had comparable rendering power (close enough that games could be ported to each), supported DVD and CD formats, and sported a similar controller, featuring 2 analog sticks, triggers (4 triggers for PS2, 2 triggers on XBOX, but 2 extra buttons on face of the controller) d-pad and 4 primary buttons. However, the Game Cube featured a different controller scheme, rendering power and storage style that led to significantly less third party support and abandonment by many companies. With the release of the Wii, the radically different console suffered even more from a lack of major games with cross platform support. Instead of getting games that were released on all consoles (including pc), the Wii usually got nothing or exclusive versions such as Destroy all humans: Big Willy Unleashed. Luckily, the Wii was successful enough to survive and thrive on largely Nintendo’s internal IPs. This has created an arms race for innovations were each manufacturer is trying to outdo (or in some cases rip off) each other.

To date, the Wii U currently supports the following add-ons:
Wii U Gamepad
Wii U pro controller
Balance Board
Wii mote+ and Nunchuk
Classic Controller or pro version (potentially)

For Microsoft and the Xbox 8 it has been speculated that it will have the following add-ons
Xbox 8 remote
The new Kinect System
Smart Glass-(Microsoft also owns Windows which will have native Xbox support in the 8 version so there may be expanded play between the console, smart phone, tablet or pc itself. However the technology is aimed mostly at tablets and so far that market is largely dominated by IPad and Android platforms. It remains to be seen if windows 8 will make a lasting break into that market for smart screen to really be viable).

For Sony and PS4 there has been limited leaks, so this area is more of speculation on my part:
The PS4 controller- (probably, largely similar to its predecessor)
The move system or an enhanced one
PS Vita as a controller (also keep in mind that Sony said they wanted to make it possible to play console games on the go and recently purchased Gaikai so cloud gaming through Vita may be in the future.)

With all these new input devices, developers are going to be face with more choices on what to develop for. While more choice can be good, it also has downsides, as it fragments the user base and lowers the amount of potential customers. For instance, Steal battalion heavy armor requires users to have both a kinect and a controller in order to play. This problem can be largely prevented if the new kinect and similarly move add-ons are packaged in with their respective console, upon release. A more pressing concern will be in the touch screen and it is likely that tablets (smart screen) and vitas will not be included with the console. If the Wii U is the least bit as successful as the Wii, one can expect third party developers will take advantage of the touch functionality and potentially ported to the other major consoles. If the touch screens functionality is not a built in feature, of the PS4 and Xbox 8 you could see some games not being ported to them or features crippled by this. A good example is the Batman Arkham City Armored Edition, as previous versions of the game do not feature this, making the Wii U edition different and possibly better (may be released as DLC once Wii U comes out). However I believe smart glass and vita connectivity are more of a stop gap measure and we will probably see a more permanent touch system implemented on the next- gen consoles.


(Here is a graph I pulled from “thesixthaxis.com” and I cannot state definitively on its accuracy. Though it is a visual for the stated problem, what percentage of people owns both a PS3 and Vita in the PS3 population?)
I don’t see this problem drastically effecting indie developers as much, as their development costs are usually significantly lower and have the ability to cater to niche audiences and don’t require has high a number of sales in order to recue losses or turn a profit. This could be a huge problem for AAA publishers as their development costs are often astronomical and require significant sales to just break even. This could lead to less risk on new ventures and the ever prevalent clone problem in games (i.e. Wii sports, kinect sports, Sports Champion (PS3)).
Problem 2
First, I would like to separate what I mean by reasonable accommodations as opposed to unreasonable ones. Reasonable accommodations are when a developer puts subtitles in a game for the deaf; unreasonable ones would be for the developer to remove all sound from the game to keep it fair for the deaf player. So the issue a hand here is motion controls and how it has impacted the disabled. The easiest example would be how it affects the wheel chair bounded person, as they are unable to move certain parts of their body which may be required for the game. This is a particular problem for Kinect games as they are full body. Going back to the Steal Battalion example, in parts of the game you need to stand up and again these people can’t. Now some will say create a work around, an auxiliary action to accomplish that action. That creates two potential problems, extraneous moves and exploitability. The more moves you add to the game, the more chance you have for the game to miss read one move for another; just take a look at Steel battalion’s problems. Secondly, if there are extra moves intended for disabled people, than “normal” people may be able to exploit it in order to get an advantage as certain moves may be faster than others. A way to prevent this would be to implement move profiles that lock the moves for each need. A less looked at issue is people who have tic disorder. Tics can be both phonic and motor, imagine playing Mass effect 3, again with kinect, using the voice controlled system and you have a phonic tick were you say “boom” The game could interpret it as boom stick (shotgun) and constantly switch you to the shotgun. Or, are playing kill zone with the PS3’s sharp shooter attachment and are unable to precisely hold the controller due to motor tics.


(Dance Central is not wheel chair accessible)


(Often people with motor tics will use surfaces to help stabilize themselves when twitching and doing precise movements. The controller can be held on a table and many premium controllers come with a dead space feature where certain joystick motions are ignored. The move doesn’t offer any of this. )

I have seen some mention of this problem across the web, including by Jim Sterling, and statements by developers they are looking into it. However I haven’t seen many solutions to the problem. It is a difficult problem to tackle.   read


11:25 PM on 07.11.2012

Tools to help your blog


(NVDA logo- big to get your attention.)
When blogging on Destructoid, it is important to make your blog as inviting as possible, so grammar and proper work flow is important. To help others who are struggling with this, I listed, in no order, the tools I use to make my blog as good as possible.
1. Word processor- This one is a no brainer, however it still deserves a mention. I personally use Microsoft Office 2007 Home Edition because of school. However there are many other free options out there such as Open Office, AbiWord, and Google Doc (features online backup). Also, I have found the grammar checker to be useless, so don’t opt not to use one because it may or may not include that feature.
2. On the fly online backup solution- Drop box is my preferred method to store specific files on my pc. Though Google drive and Amazon cloud storage are good competitors as well.
3. Screen Reader – this is the big one, its called nvda, it is a program designed for the blind, (don’t waste your time with windows screen reader as the blind I know won’t even use it) but it helps loads when proof reading. It is easy to learn, and is portable. This program helps you find the simple mistakes such , such as reading car as cars.
4. Destructoid’s blog tools- That’s it, at first I used various blog add-ons that were suppose to help in the process and all they did was complicate things and the blog editor on the site has mostly everything a blogger would need.
5. A friend- ok this is not a piece of software, but having a person to help with editing is really important and can help find what you miss. For instance, my first blog was just under 3000 words and about 9 times more verbose and with the help of Stephon, I was able to simplify the post significantly. Though giving credit is important, that is why every blog he edits start with an “edited by Stephon” on it
6. Google and by extension Firefox- self explanatory
Final thought
Seriously, go check out NVDA at http://www.nvda-project.org/


(Screen shot of NVDA welcome screen)   read


11:25 AM on 07.10.2012

Mind Gamez: What separates Pokémon from most other RPGS?

Preamble

So as you know, in the land of handheld rpgs, Pokémon is King. It is the most well known rpg franchise around. It has a life span longer than many game companies, not to mention other games. However, why is this game so popular? Why has it endured? And finally, what factors make Pokémon the giant it is? I have made a list, in order, of these top five factors; excellent game play and nostalgia are granted.

Factor 1 The everyman (or woman)
The everyman is a character that can be any person in society and not some pre-ordained individual (i.e. the chosen one). In Pokémon, you are a trainer and the Pokémon universe is littered with trainers and does not make you special. Your skill is not based on luck of birth or circumstance, but by the effort you put into the game. This plays well with American popular culture, as it is our belief that a person can achieve greatness through determination and hard, work rather than luck. (This may be a popular Japanese belief as well; however, I am not versed enough in their culture to state this definitively.) In games like Skyrim and Final Fantasy, your character(s) are the “chosen one” or the “only one who can.” While fun, it distances us from the player, as people are not chosen ones (usually) and will likely never become a dragon born. In Pokémon, as stated, you are a trainer, who goes on an adventure, defeats Team Rocket (or variation) and becomes the best, through work and the choice to do so.


(There are a lot of trainers.)

Factor 2 The anime
The reason I started to play Pokémon was because of the anime. While the red and blue game didn’t allow you to play as Ash, it was fairly close (to me). In blue I named my character Ash and my rival Ass and I felt like I was in the anime. I would get gym badges, defeat team rocket (Jessie and James weren’t there) and become the best, just like Ash. As stated by the Extra Creditz team, the anime was used to promote and teach children how to play the game, particularly in America as the game and anime were release in the same year. When Yellow was released, many people got their wish to play Ash’s adventure and be closer to the anime. Finally, the original song for the anime explains the entire objectives of the Pokémon series and jingles have been shown as a great way for people to remember things. How many of you can remember that song, at least in part?

Factor 3 They’re Cute
When you look at any of the Pokémon (particularly generation I) it is fairly easy to see what they are base on. Pokémon are portrayed as pets that you can battle. You train your Pokémon (in later games), feed it, breed it, name it and even participate in pageants with it. This game is largely marketed to children and as such most, of the negativity of the world are either glossed over or left out entirely. Pokémon can never die in a battle or from the lack of food, the pokecenter is a simple procedure , regardless of your parties’ condition, the Pokémon cannot bread in your presence or while in your party, and Pokémon are never show hunting one another and by extension killing and feeding. Taking the breeding one step further, all Pokémon are born from eggs (reptile style eggs), no other method is implied such as live birth or budding (which jelly fish use). Finally, the lose condition is very lenient, when you lose a battle, you “white out”, lose some money (which is relatively easy to come by) and head to the nearest poke center. The lose condition does not feel like a real sense of loss, in RuneScape, when you lose, most your item are dropped and return to one are the game of the regardless location (respawn location can be changed by some quests). The lose condition here is much more grim.


(While young boys don’t go for the “cute” style, however, their concept of cool is still very cute verse other gritty games, notice there is no blood or bodily harm besides some superficial scratches.)

Factor 4 Familiar game mechanics
Role playing has existed before the dawn of both Pokémon and video games. Rpgs have fairly universal concepts that have allowed a wide variety of generic role playing systems to exist. For example, the GURPS system which has some similarity to Pokémon’s battle and stats system (I believe). When comparing Pokémon to the classic rpg style, such as Final Fantasy (pre-IX), certain elements are common. In both games, combat is turned based; “wild” enemy’s appear in random encounters, experience based level systems are used, and grinding is encouraged. I am not stating that all classic rpg are the same, however, you can load up multiple games and have a similar experience among them. This trend is similar to many modern FPS games, particularly the modern (or now near future) military shooter, like Call of duty, Battlefield and Home Front. These games are not identical but share a degree of similarity where a person familiar with one game can drop into another game without too much relearning. This is a good thing, as similar games help each other, where Pokémon player will seek out similar games like Final Fantasy and play them base on familiar elements in Pokémon and vice versa. I believe it was this familiarity factor that lead it the explosion of sales (of Pokémon) in the Japanese market and subsequent popularity in the American Markets. However, due to Pokémon’s classic style I don’t believe this factor still hold as much power, as children (primary market) did not grow up with the classic style.




(Here is a snapshot of the new 3v3 battle system from Pokémon and an old battle system from the Final Fantasy series notice anything similar?)

Factor 5 Forced connectivity
So which Pokémon did you buy red or blue? Personally, I got blue because I liked blue color at the time. Though, it is interesting, these two separate games are virtually identical, minus a few Pokémon differences and maybe some different characters. Game freak wanted people to trade Pokémon via the Game Boy’s link cable and by extension bring their friends into the game world. The only way to get all the Pokémon was to be able to trade with someone, note, some Pokémon could only evolve via trading and you were only able to acquire one of the starter Pokémon in the game. This is a similar concept to the Left 4 Dead series as friend would buy the game to play together in Co-op, as it was more fun.

Epilogue
For the record, if I still bought handhelds, I would definitely have a Pokémon game or Two. As always, thanks for reading and constructive feedback is always welcome.   read


6:19 PM on 07.03.2012

Mind Gamez: The Pyro (TF2) is a Pyromaniac no more.

Edited by Stephon
Preamble

Recently, Valve released the “Meet the Pyro” video and more pieces were added to the very incomplete puzzle of the pyro. So this time, I examined the Pyro, from the Team Fortress 2 game, and attempted to diagnose and treat him. For this I will be using the DSM-IV and the Axis diagnosing method. For simplicity, I am assuming the pyro is a man and that these symptoms have been consistent for an extended period of time.
(DSM-IV - Source http://allpsych.com/disorders/dsm.html)

Pretext

DSM-IV is the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th. Edition”, it is the current manual (US) used to diagnose and treat the mentally ill by psychologists and mental health workers. I am using this DSM version, as opposed to the one in the time frame of the game because current mental health issues are better understood and treated as opposed to 1968.

The Axis system:
Axis I: Clinical Syndromes (eg. bipolar or depression)
Axis II: Developmental Disorders and Personality Disorders, mental disorders (eg. paranoid or borderline personality disorder)
Axis III: Somatic Issues related to the mental illness (eg. brain injury)
Axis IV: Psychosocial Stressors (eg. job loss or dearth in family)
Axis V: Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) (100 to 0 Scale)
GAF is the score used to rate patient’s level of function, higher the number, the more functional a person is.

Diagnosis:

Short Version: The Pyro is f*cking crazy.
Long answer:
Axis I: Schizophrenia



(NC- normal control, SZ- Schizophrenia. These brain are measurably different, the pyro’s brain might look like the one on the right.)

The pyro is shown in the video as suffering from severe delusion and hallucinations. He believes that he is not causing any harm, and believes he is playing with or helping those around him. People with delusions tend to hold onto their beliefs strongly, regardless of the evidence to the contrary. His delusions are backed up by his hallucinations. He is suffering both auditory and visual hallucinations; however he may not be suffering from tactile hallucinations. In the video the Pyro is still wearing a flame retardant suit and gas mask while in pyrovison. Thus, he can feel the pain of the fire and the effects of the smoke. In game, the pyro makes sounds when in pain. Also, this disorder creates major social problems for the Pyro as most people fear and actively avoid him, making real social relations difficult. He may suffer alogia, however it could be the mask, though it is possible to talk clearly though a gas mask. I am assuming that these symptoms have been present for a long time, well over the minimum 6 month requirement.
Lastly, I don’t think the Pyro is suffering from pyromania. Pyromania is a disorder where a person is deliberately and compulsively setting fires. In the pyro’s delusional state I doubt that he even realized that there is fire around him. For example he views his flame thrower as a musical device of some kind that shoots rainbows and bubbles. In the pyro’s happy world, the presence of fire would be a bad thing, something to seek protection from, thus the suit. Pyromaniacs would, also, be obsessed with fire, almost worship it, however, the perceived items that the pyro (pyrovision) is holding are not related to fire. (I am not considering hats as evidence, as they no longer follow theme and accurately represent the characters.)



(This is a very happy world, with no fire to be seen anywhere)

Axis II: Schizoid personality disorder
As mentioned before, the pyro is often seen as isolated and feared by his peers. He rarely talks or interacts with other characters. His primary play style is ambush or hit and run, where the player is often hidden alone or with a few other players. Also, often people with this disorder will have extravagant external worlds, as seen in the video, which is made real by the delusions and hallucinations. This disorder is a Schizophrenia related social (personality) disorder.

Axis III: N/A
His suit is made of asbestos and the pyro may have respiratory illness, though this is not related to the mental health of the pyro and without more information on the pyro, it is hard to know if there are any other health issues.

Axis IV: Occupational hazards
His job is relatively dangerous and due to the lack of tactile hallucinations, the pyro can feel and perceive pain. Also, nothing is known about the pyro’s private life and other stressors may exist.
Axis V: 1 to 10
While the pyro seems to be able to care for himself, he is a substantial danger to other, prompting the extremely low score.



(GAF guidelines chart)

Treatment

Short version: Lots of bullets and explosives
Long version: Treatment using a combination of medicine, psychological therapy and immediate institutionalized, for everyone’s safety.
Step 1 Medication: There are a number of antipsychotic drugs that can be used for treatment, though traditional medicines usually have significant side effects. Luckily, there are new atypical medications, such as SSRI, that have been proven effective and have fewer side effects.
Step 2 Psychotherapy and Cognitive behavioral therapy (cbt): Psychotherapy can be used to overcome the pyro’s delusions, once the medication has helped reign in the hallucinations, and allow the pyro to identify what is reality and what is not. CBT can be used to help with symptoms and gradually change the pyro’s behavior, particularly social issues.
Step 3 Electroconvulsive therapy: Commonly known as electroshock therapy, is usually a last line of treatment and in is used in cases where medication is not effective. It has been shown to help patients on occasions, by providing a controlled shock to the brain that is thought to “reset” the brain and restore normal function. Though, extended use can lead to problems such as memory loss and motor control issues.

Prognosis: Poor
The pyro is severely impaired; it will take a very long time for the pyro to recover, if ever.

Epilogue

Admittedly I am happy the pyro is not getting better any time soon, as he is my favorite class. The pyro video is very well done, however I think it rewrote the pyro into a new light and may have ruined some of the pyro’s “cool” as this shifts him from being evil insane to just very clinically in need. As always, thanks for reading and constructive feedback is always appreciated.   read


9:40 AM on 06.26.2012

Mind Gamez: Avoiding Economic Collapse in your Video Game part 2

Edited my Stephon

Preamble

Following last week’s post, I will briefly analyze three in game economies that have suffered economic difficulty and explain why. I will also follow some comments in the previous post and examine the Single player in game economy. Please note this is a follow up of a previous post and as such not all topics are fully explained here.

Team Fortress 2 (TF2)

When TF2 has an update that adds new items, the economy suffers a mini inflation. The new items become extremely expensive, due to demand, and crafting metals becomes more valuable as there is a high trade demand. In addition, it is impossible to directly work for an item and with the random nature of the crafting system there is often not enough supply to meet demand. Though, the inflation problem has become more manageable with the implementation of the Mann Co. store, as players are given an alternative way to obtain an item, thus enhancing supply, though some of the pricing decisions on Valve’s part seem odd. Eventually, the inflation ends and the new item’s price normalize based on the type of item it is.

(This Item was particularly popular during initial release, now rarely cheap)

RuneScape (Rune)

Right after the addition of the Grand Exchange (GE), there was a severe price fluctuation. This was due to a large majority of player switching from selling to npc shops (artificial price system) and using the GE. The prices in the npc shops are relatively stable and mostly ignore supply and demand. Also unlike the GE, the npc shops are local to one store only, while the GE is central and spans multiple servers. Suddenly, with the advent of the GE, players had an open market where prices can rapidly fluctuate based on supply and demand. There was a knee jerk reaction by the player bases to mass sell on the GE. After the players got used to the GE and stop the ramped selling and farming for items to sell, the price has mostly stabilized (largely based the GE). Though, this system is largely vulnerable to groups of people, particularly rich players, who attempt to artificially change the value of certain items in the GE, thought methods that are largely banned by Jagex.

(The GE is always crowed)

Luminary

This game has a very complex economic system and it is suffering a large economic crisis. To be brief, the player base is dwindling in largely part to the economic problems. Also considering, IJJI’s business model it is hurting the game rather than helping it. First, IJJI tends to remove dying games and replace rather than fix them (transferred to another company). Second, IJJI tends to sells power and direct advantages to players though micro transactions (pre IJJI acquisition).

(IJJI has cut a lot of games over the years.)

Single player Economy

In a single player experience, there is no real economy, only the appearance of one. The developer does not need to worry about things such as inflations or supply and demand, as there aren’t multiple players to balance the game between. Also the money a player receives is far more controlled and it is possible to determine the amount of money an average player will have at given points in time. Thus pricing on commodities can be set as hidden goal or obstacles to overcome, as compare to acquire it by questing. Obtain X amount of money to get item A, through predetermined methods. For instance, in Psychonauts (Psycho) the cobweb duster is needed in order to complete the game; however it is requires a substantial amount of arrow heads to buy. In making the item particularly expensive, the player is force to explore the camp, collect items and interact with parts of the game outside the main story line (scavenger hunt).

(The Cobweb duster as seen in the store)

Money can also be used as a convenient way to distribute items to the player. Again in Psycho, there are candies called “dream fluff” that act as an emergency health restoration item. These candies are simply sold as opposed to using a more complex method of earning the item, thus allowing the player to get more at their leisure. The same can be said of the gun shops in the Grand Theft Auto series, the player could kill people to get their guns and deal with the work needed to retrieve it, or the player if they have the cash can simply buy what they need.
Epilogue
This concludes the examination of game economies for the forcible future. As always feedback is always appreciated and thanks for reading.   read


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