Friday, March 18, 2011

Distorted Travesty

Just wanted to give a shout out to the Distorted Travesty blog and it's creator. I worked with Joe at GGJ 2011 and he's an excellent artist. Great job on the game man! The blog also has some of Joe's aesthetic sense and is a good read.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

MMOs I've played

So I spoke to a Design Lead at Kingsisle and he suggested putting together a portfolio. I decided to put the list of the MMOs I remember playing as that was another thing he mentioned. That is an understanding of how MMOs work and some experience playing them.

Here's a list of (I think) most of the MMOs I've played. There are also some MUDs I played briefly and some cancelled games like SEED, Auto Assault and Tabula Rasa not on the list. Most of these I've played at least two weeks. I've played less than 20 to end game. I want to say I started sometime around 1999 but it might have been earlier if you count MUDs. MUDs are basically a text based version of an MMO. No graphics, just reading and typing.

Vindictus, Wizard1012Moons, 9Dragons, Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, Aion, Anarchy Online, ArchLord, Atlantica Online, CABAL Online, Champions Online, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Dark Age of Camelot, Dream of Mirror Online, Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited, Eudemons Online, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Evony, Face of Mankind, Fallen Earth, Fiesta Online, Final Fantasy XI, Florensia, Flyff, Global Agenda, Guild Wars, Guild Wars Factions, Guild Wars Nightfall, Hero Online, Lineage 2, Lord of the Rings Online, Mabinogi, MapleStory, Metin 2, Perfect World International, Phantasy Star Universe, Rakion, Rappelz, Requiem: Bloodymare, ROSE Online, Rubies of Eventide, Runes of Magic, Runescape, Ryzom, Scions of Fate (Yulgang), Second Life, Shaiya, Silkroad Online, Star Trek Online, Star Wars Galaxies, Sword of the New World: Granada Espada, The Chronicles of Spellborn, The Legend of Mir 2, Ultima Online, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, World of Warcraft, Zu Online
and Fantasy Online

Ugh that's a lot, some of them were not much fun either. But I think they all had value in helping me become a better designer. I'm putting together a good (I think anyway) MMO design. I might do an analysis on these some day.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Gamification

There's been a lot of buzz over the past year about gamification. That is to say putting games in everyday objects. Jesse Schell gave a speech last year at DICE where he talks about putting a game in a toothbrush, so you get points every time you brush your teeth.

On a personal level I don't want games everywhere. I look at it in terms of game design as what comic books are to oil paintings. Don't get me wrong comic books are great, but I don't know if they will ever reach the point where there is a comic book displayed in the Louvre. It's a different art form, valid in its own right but at a different cultural tier, if you will. They serve different purposes.

While I think that people naturally want the most of a good thing that they can get, I'm not sure putting a game in a toothbrush would give them that. It really becomes then more about marketing than fun. Ultimately this sort of takes away from the the reason for game design in the first place. Also I don't use my frequent flier card because it's fun in and of itself. I use it because it saves me money.

That's not to say that gamification isn't going to be something we see a lot of in the future. If it improves profits it will probably get used a lot. I just don't know that its the new frontier in game design. I think the new frontier is probably taking the real world and putting it into games. That's how games evolve in the first place, I think. They emerge from the world around us. Some games capture the world around us more realistically than others.

This emergence factor makes games much like art in my opinion. Art captures a lot of different emotions in a lot of different people and communicates it to them. One particular piece of artwork might mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, that's what makes it art. Games emerge at another layer though. They can come from the same places that a piece of art comes from but also from art itself. Add to that an interactive layer and games become much more complex. Add to that a social layer and games become even more complex. This is why MMOs interest me so much. I think its the pinnacle of expressiveness in a society.

Because of this heavy level of emergence, games are naturally embedded parts of societies. Take the localization of Asian MMOs to US markets for example. People in the US complain about the grind in many Asian games because our society has more of an instant gratification mentality. I'm not arguing whether that's good or bad or even where that difference comes from. What it produces though is games from Asia that require a lot of doing the same thing over and over to progress. An interesting problem is making a game that allows for both of what we call grinding and instant gratification. There are also other areas like language and losing nuances in meaning in translation that point to the heavy level of emergence in games.

I covered a lot of topics in this post but I'll probably come back to them more in depth later on.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

My first games

I actually created my first game a few years ago (around 2006) while I was attending UAT for a Masters. It was a flash game where I used a lot of the design from CutieQuake. I wasn't a design student at the time but I think it came out well.  Unfortunately I lost the playable game and I only have bits and pieces of the art lying around.

It was basically a shooter from the first-person perspective where the player was stationary. It was called Desert Critters. Little desert animals would run across the screen horizontally, like a lizard and a road runner, and you would have to shoot them for points. There where also cacti in the scene, which if you shot would deduct points. It was fun, people liked it and a monster was born. It was for a project management class where we did a website on Phoenix, AZ using a project plan we designed. I did the coding, some animation and the design for the game.

While I was at UAT (still working at IBM) I audited a game design course and really liked what I learned about the field. It wasn't till a few years later that I found the Full Sail University Online Game Design degree. I had divorced my wife and left UAT at this point but still wanted to enter the field.

I signed up and have been working my butt off ever since. 3.96 GPA atm, screwed up on a Statistics quiz, blah.

So, since my degree was online I decided to move to a market with more video game companies, Austin, TX. I signed up to get resourced at IBM and got let go a year later. Getting resourced versus quitting at IBM means a package with $. I was unemployed for six months and got my current job at Kingsisle Entertainment, Inc. Really have to thank the people there for taking a chance on me. I don't know the numbers but I doubt there are many people that leave a well paying job to pursue a dream. I was always a good employee but not very good at selling myself.

I'm skipping around but my next game was right after I moved to Austin. It was done as part of The Global Game Jam 2010 held by the IGDA. It's a worldwide event where many different people come together in many different teams to create a game in 48 hours. The trick is to make a design simple enough to finish in the time frame and with the resources you have.

The game was called Panda Commando. It can probably be described as an action puzzle game but it was hardly finished. The goal is to knock blocks into water. There are a lot of things I would change about the design in it's "finished" state. The interesting thing about Panda Commando is the space in the middle where the player runs around. The player uses oranges to knock the blocks into water but the oranges bounce back when you throw them, so it ends up making this dynamic maze the the player has to navigate to progress. I won't list the things I would change but give it a try, its on the verge of being a great game. I had a tough time that year. I was learning XNA during the event and had to deal with an overbearing team lead that took every opportunity to slam me. I'm no shrinking violet though so we fought on design points a lot. We ended up barely finishing in time, mostly because of design changes that kept coming in last minute. The rest of the guys on the team where great though.

There have been a lot of designs since then from the Full Sail degree but my latest working game is Aliens vs Bunnies from Global Game Jam 2011. Had a completely different experience for this one. We used Unity 3D. I tried to guide the guys but I have to say much of the work was shared. I focused on the design aspect and made sure we where on schedule. I did some coding but honestly I'm not too interested in that these days. The goal is to stop a population of bunnies from infesting this little island by throwing asteroids on them. Came out really solid and well polished. Incidentally the team lead from the previous year was there again and he didn't finish his game this time. No one to argue him down I guess.

And those are the playable video games I have so far...more to come.

The reason for this Blog

So I have another blog @ http://cdiazphx.livejournal.com/ that I post to that is more Game Design degree related. I wanted to create a more professional one, recording my journey as a game designer. Plus, I really need another presence on the interwebs >.< Could everyone use the same tool please like Plaxo? Thanks.