Devving for the 1%

(Edit: I’ve put 1%. Of course, I don’t know the exact %s except I’m 100% sure each niche of the gaming market is a small %)

I just had to stop my Big Catchup series (Part 3 nearly done) because I spotted this on Massively:

Anyone whose been reading in this blog knows it’s been an ongoing source of wonder to me that people who ostensibly are trying to make money use up so much development on a small group of players, but there it’s been for years and years! At time of posting the Massively post has 273 very interesting comments as the niches fight a rearguard battle and a good few people also say, “well, duh!”.

So what’s going to happen now? Now that the taboo has been broken and a mainstream studio actually said, “well heckit why are we doing this?” (not in those exact words).

For sure, it’s nutso marketing when the people with lives are also likely to be the people with money (a lot of people have to spend their lives earning it), and aren’t going to be all that hardcore (apart from that legendary person with 7 children and two full-time jobs who still raids 3 times a week at the top tier)(apart from that person, of course.)

On the other hand you could regard the raids/pvps/guilds/whatever as sort of like the clothes in a fashion show or the prototype cars that look all futuristic and shiny – both of which also cost a lot to produce, but garner good press.  Fashion Shows, Car Shows, Video Gamer Shows.

On the third hand (Im a Nalien), there is suuuuch a demand for each niche. Surely someone will be able to garner a profit going the full hog for each niche (thus creating a lovely diverse gaming ecosystem). Doing a playstyle wholeheartedly requires some courage though. Imagine a game which is only for raiders. Just raiders. No levelling, no frills, no crumbs for the solo or casual. It could be done! The press would be fantastic since you could really show your stuff in a catwalk way – and top price might even apply. Actually, top price might have to apply given the cost and the small player base. But what a chance to make a splash with the release of each new raid without having to worry about all the other players. I think someone should try it – any takers?

On the fourth hand (oh go on you’re used to me by now, surely) – imagine a big AAA title for the masses, no preferred playstyle, no sneering, no reserved shinies. Content focussed on real, normal people – the many. I can see it! No I can’t. I think elitism is very hard to give up. On the other hand (this will be the fifth) if anyone could de-sneer casual/solo play and make a really fantastic game for people-with-lives, I can see big, big, big shinies in many, many, many quantities. (Just don’t tack an elite on and give them the best stuff because that would be the same as what we have just now.)

Oh yes, forgot to put. People-with-lives might still be a vast untapped market for MMOs but it’s not a naive market. The opposite. People who handle their own affairs tend to be shrewd, so if anyone intends going for this particularly large, bigger-than-anelephant whalefish, they had better offer value.

Categories: Game Design and Creation | 5 Comments

Big Catchup Post (Part 2) (Fun, fun, fun!)(+ wall of economy warning)

Before that person pops up and says “define fun”, I’ll answer. “No. Here is a definition of ‘arguing definitions’ instead: Arguing definitions will approach a point in the same way that repeating decimals do, they approach closure in increasingly smaller steps without reaching it. Forever.”

This isn’t an essay on fun, but it plays a large part and I don’t want to be stuck poking about trying to figure out what fun is before mentioning it. I will write on the understanding that if you know whether you like marmite sandwiches (or anything else) your fun-o-meter is working perfectly well and you should have no trouble knowing when you are enjoying anything, and should also be able to detect whether you are enjoying something so much that it hits the “fun” calibration.  There war not a definition in sight. And with that out of the way I launch!

Fun is pretty much the thing video games exchange for money and if the studios and publishers kept that firmly in mind, along with the not too difficult concepts “many people” and “fewer people”, they would make a lot more money with a lot less effort.

Illustration no 1 : Pvp is intense fun  for many people. Hardly anyone enjoys being ganked. Gank games can only make money by providing fodder, an expensive business involving (for example) making zones which are for PvE players who must then be lured to their doom. Good (not too ganky)  pvp games live forever though. I’m back visiting WoW. Not for the (post cataclysm) dismal levelling, but to indulge in some pvp. Guild wars 1 is still going because people go and pvp in it. Good pvp is going to bring in money, long term and without extra outlay because an awful lot of people get to enjoy it, compared to only the number of people who like to gank having fun.

Illustration no 2: Many people enjoyed Wrath of the Lich King, fewer people enjoyed Cataclysm. It’s safe to guess that zerging things in WotLK was fun for more people, I should think, and performing perfectly in Cataclysm was fun for fewer. But the costs to the company of creating raids would have still been there, whether they chose to please the few (and made less money) or the many (and made more money).

So it’s a fairly simple correlation to figure out, and I’m pretty sure people making games do recognise it at first. And then. Do  they get frightened by the sneering?  “Dumbed-down”, “casual”, “care-bear”, ring any bells? (Hey I got news for all you so-called hard-nosed business people. If ya can’t stare down a sneer because you can see past it to a fat bottom line, you’re not very good at business.)

There is also the argument that a branded name of hamburger is very popular but not good quality. True. Does fun come in graded qualities? You can force some system of measurement to the quality of fun, I daresay. I think I’ll leave that for the few people who think imposing a qualitative measure on “fun” is a worthwhile thing to do with their lives. Meanwhile, here in real, popularity is a pretty useful measure in video-games of how much money they will earn, just as it is in the hamburger business.

And finally there are the infinite obstacles, small and large, inserted into gaming in the name of monetisation. Fun, pretty much, gets lost in that mix. All too often the players and the game are competing for the same resource, a competition the game will always win – zero fun in that. This is structural and I’ll do a post later on it. Essentially: all the subtle variations of buy to win. The game sellers are always going to prefer that you pay them money for something over you play for something, and are in a position to nerf gameplay in favour of a sale.

Which brings me raither neatly to the fact that we’ve been having more fun in older games than in newer ones, something I’m sure a few readers will have noticed at the end of my last post. The newer games, the 2014-ish launches are absolutely not lacking in production quality. They are fabulous from that standpoint. And fun is not lacking either, but it’s gated. And that means fewer people, and that means less sales. Which is fine. A nice “interesting choice” for the companies involved. Bottom line though we’d rather fire up Terraria  here in this house than struggle with a thin economy in ESO. We’d rather romp about in EQ2 than battle to get FABkits in Wildstar, new and shiny though it is. It’s a pretty consistent thread of preference. We’re gaming, there to enjoy, and we play what delivers.

So here’s our current “Fun List” with all the fun parts attached and some things I found interesting bolded. You never know a strolling dev might come by and find an angle!

Skyrim: No surprise I’m sure. I love this game. I log in, I lose myself completely. I’ve got things to do and NPC’s to meet. It looks fantastic! I can kill dragons. I’m not simulating me. It has weather, I own a house (or three), Lydia is quite the most interesting pet I’ve ever come across, My wealth increases as I play, plus I get to loot treasure, or steal it. It has tales of epic adventure and intrigue. I get to use all the best weapons, the best enchantments and read all the books. There is no preferred playstyle.  Anyone who logs in gets to play the full game and play for all the best shinies.

Terraria: I already bolded this for Skyrim: There is no preferred playstyle in Terraria either. That’s probably a feature of single-player games really, where basically if you don’t deliver Fun (capital F) you plotz because there aren’t any other things to distract from the “client pays money, client receives fun” transaction. Terraria is also loved because: It’s deep, deep, deep. And because it’s quirky and funny. There is much discovery and exploration. I love that I can sit in a mud hut with a campfire while zombies batter the walls futilely to get at me – such a cosy feeling (!). It has atmosphere (and achieves this with pixel graphics). Crafting is completely relevant. I’m going to do a post on crafting rather than detail here but the essential is preffered-playstyles kill it. (Because if your raiders/pvpers/guilds/whatnot are getting all the good stuff, it leaves crafted items with no value.)

I’m still playing Wildstar but pretty much on the strength of the combat now, and unsub isn’t too far off. The addon that adjusts FOV helped my headaches enough to reach level 14 and I do have a house. It’s quite nice, all presets but cute enough, but there’ll be a struggle to do anything with it. I’ll be unsubbing for almost the same reason I unsubbed from ESO – stingy economy. In this case I can trade openly which is a relief, but thar’s a big problem Huge. I think I now know where all the austerity economists are hanging out. They’ve attached themselves to video gaming. It’s the exact same thing. Inadequate earnings, unavoidable and rising expenses. Unlike in real life though “austerity” in a game can be avoided by walking. I probably will. I do enjoy the combat in Wildstar – same thing as ESO in combat I don’t move like a slug while the mobs whizz around and that’s lovely. I think this game is pretty solid really and no reason it shouldn’t do well unless it… forgets to make sure that plenty of  fun is there for the many in it’s quest to captivate raiders.

I am not sure that describing Uemeu as a game does it justice. It is more like a toolset. It has, in fact, become a tool for me. In (yet another) post already written in my head, I’ll detail where we’re at with …Thingie (our long long long-term project). Briefly: there are apps and programs we use to explore ideas and prototype. Uemeu is the fastest way I know to for example, lay out a city, or check what the physics will look like when something happens. It’s pretty amazing and I’m totally enjoying watching it develop. But the fun part: it’s so open-ended. I have fun by sitting down for an hour or two and just playing with the infinite customisation. I can literally spend a week just fooling about with one composite shape (it’s been known) or a simple shape for that matter, or a lot of both. Or a world. Or portals. Or traps. Or miniquests. Or springs. Or all of them.  Or the new things. There are always new things. In as much as it’s a game, it’s a game where you build things. Worlds can be linked, multiplayer if not already fully implemented is possible. Sometimes the team run player-sessions where you can see this in action. There’s a lot to write about on this one, and I’ll be using that new patch as an excuse :)

And I’m leaving Neverwinter for the next post because this one’s pretty long, and I’d like to do some detail with Neverwinter, since it is the only game I know that actually gets the time/money relationship, amongst other things. It jolly well deserves a good look and a thorough pick-aparting.

Last words: Fun is subjective. This makes people who like things in boxes, and in measured quantities run for miles and miles, screaming and waving their arms! That alone makes fun a valuable thing.

Here endeth the second wall of text.




Categories: Fruit Salad, Game Design and Creation, Things In General, Vague Rambly Stuff | Leave a comment

Big Catchup Post (what I played, where I’m at) (+ a lot of rambling) (Part 1)

Some extra news: Uemeu is due to release a new patch later this week – and it’s quite a special one,  judging by this video Woh.

I have 8 blog posts, I counted them, circling in my head like aeroplanes waiting to land. But before I embark on those, which are in fact all written with only the writing missing, I am going to gather all the small, disparate bits and bobs that are also sitting in my head marked (wistfully) “blog?” and do a Blah. Here it is then :

It has been an astonishingly busy year, but not much has happened. The busy is mostly people treadmilling harder and harder to stay afloat. Much activity, hardly any movement. People want to see you more often, more forms need filling in, whatever it people do, they’ve been doing it *more* for all they’re worth. Bless. Roughly every two weeks, something has fallen apart too. Cuts in staff do that. (It has taken over a year for some totally routine passport stuff to make it’s way through a backlogged system). Having to field the problems all this causes is death to productivity but wahey everyone’s very very busy so that’s ok then. Wee grumble there. Predictably everyone is also very very tired – punchdrunk I call it. So the summer hols are rolling in not a second too late. And with the make-busies all off their treadmills or winding down, space and time have expanded, and I can blog. Yay!

As always my sanity has been preserved and protected and safely girded in the Legendary Armour of Armourness by being able to log into a game when the day’s work is done. Gaming keeps my wits in and my countenance serene in a way that passive media just cannot.  Actually the passive stuff just induces impotent fury. One thing I won’t be blogging in detail about is the Independence Referendum here in Scotland. It’s little known, but the rules regarding blogging/tweeting about it in the run up to the day are very catch-all. So far nobody has cited them, but its Power with a capital p that this referendum is about, big wheels gnashing, not everything totally fair or square. On the other hand I can’t exactly ignore something so huge, so there will be general comments.

I’m pretty sure I AM allowed to say that the debate has been amazing. The debate really has been amazing. If you give people a whiff of democracy, they perk up no end! The main media has been using the tired Tribal model to report our referendum like some sporting event, (gnnnnh ! (err that was impotent fury)). I stay away. I can tell you faithfully from here, in the middle of it, on the ground, that what I’m seeing is nothing so infantile. I see people finding stuff out, thinking stuff through, and having lively interesting discussions about just about every aspect of our governance. It’s a privilege to be here at this time, and I get more accurate news from Twitter by now anyway.

My how I used to hate Twitter. But now it’s something I don’t think I could do without. Interactive peer-reviewed news suits me perfectly well. It’s fine. And it’s weird. I did used to sit in a chair for hours, idle, passive, watching like… it’s strange to think of watching TV now. What a peculiar thing to do. I haven’t unpacked mine yet. I haven’t watched it for think 3 years or so. It isn’t missed. The set itself is ancient too (pre-switchover whatever that was) and won’t be replaced.

No, Chickens, when I want relax I go computer! And the gaming’s been great. Added to that our long-saved for computer has opened some new doors. So between Twitter and video-gaming my sanity has been perfectly safe. And now I get to write about it too – truly life is wonderful! There’s a lot of ground to cover. I have been playing new games and old games and games that are still being made. I have discovered Skyrim! And I am totally besotted with it! And as a result I’m gradually reaching a grudging state of not minding too much about Steam. Which is now having a sale, so even more games there. I’ve discovered Android gaming. It’s been wild, I tell you, wild! And relaxing :)

I’ll start with the new games that I don’t intend to do whole blogposts about, but “I was there at the beginning so here’s what I thought” is what I’d like to write. Those would be Landmark, Elder Scrolls Online and Wildstar.

I played a little of the alpha on Landmark, and I’ll visit again when it’s properly launched. It’s very pretty, and looks to become a nice game, but I stopped playing quite fast – two reasons. One, having to hold the left mouse button for ages to chop wood – it made my fingers hurt.  I know there was a workaround (I could have adjusted my hardware) but I wasn’t gripped enough to do that. And Two, (this is silly) my avatar’s legs reminded me of milk bottles (thin thighs, big whitish sausagey calves). The mouse problem is maybe solved by now, at least I hope so. I’m not sure I’m ever going to get over the sausagey calves but I’ll try.  (I know it’s silly, but it was that thing. Where once you’ve noticed something it keeps attracting your attention.) When I was playing all the building tools and interfaces weren’t working properly yet, though some were there. I think mainly for this game I’ll try it when it’s done. It was ok. It is a pleasant-looking world and building is right up my street. I’m not sure about the procedural generation. I have a feeling the human brain needs a lot of elements to feel interested. I climbed hills to find more of the same, but then player-made structures will presumably change that, and give places a more unique feel. We’ll see. It’s on the “try a few months later” list.

I very much liked the Elder Scrolls Online. It does not have the visceral grip of Skyrim which literally reached out of the screen and pulled me into that world the first time I played, but ESO is a fine game and there were many things I really loved about it. Yet, I hit the unsub button. The economy is thin. Players earn little ingame coin and spend much. Inventory, mounts and repairs. As in real life, if people can’t thrive and survive on what they can earn legitimately they find other ways – I’ve never seen so many bots!

Usually one would manage to garner extra ingame currency via an Auction House, trading with other players, but in this game there’s a wall. At the time I was playing I would have had to belong to a guild which could then trade with some other guilds. I read that this is some notion about localising markets. Well, they are localised right enough. To the extent that non-guilded players are barred.

Well, I am a busy woman. I do not have time to join and maintain relationships in one  guild let alone five. Which meant (at time of playing) I couldn’t do AH trade.  And that last point was the Unsub.

My self-esteem just isn’t low enough to pay full price (and a sub at that) for a gimp. I am delighted that guildy people have a guildy game, but I won’t be humbly subsidising the preferred-playstyle anytime soon. At least not on a regular basis. ESO is on the “visit sometime” list.

I do want to play this. That’s because the weather is fantastic, the lore is huge and satisfying, there are critters! and I for one liked the combat. In particular I liked this about the combat: my avatar did not move like slug while the mobs moved like quickfish. Well, it did, but the differential wasn’t as big as is usual in other games. I found, that if I had been playing ESO then played another game, it was very very noticeable that the enemy got to move normally or fast, and I was moving. in. slow. motion. The ESO balance feels far more natural and enjoyable. I like this game. Pity I’m not the kind of player they want. About that “visit sometime” list. WoW is on that list. It’s been 4 years since I played it. I’m back now having a visit. As more games appear the turnaround takes longer. The “visit sometime” list is a bit of a dusty attic.

The third new and big game I played was Wildstar. I think Wildstar is going to be a winner. I’m still subbed but I do have a problem. I’m one of the unfortunates that gets a bad headache from the display. I like the game enough to have tweaked my graphics card settings every which way and later today I’ll try the addon that adjusts FOV but I truly cannot play it for more than 15 minutes without inducing a pounding, horrid 7 hour headache. Quite bad. The plan is to limp along until I manage to get a house (at level 14 I think it is) and then make a decision about whether to keep subbed. Mostly, and all importantly, the game is FUN. It’s engaging, there is plenty to do, and the combat pulls me in. It’s like “one more chocolate”, the combat. I’m playing a medic. My progress is slow due to having to stop after 10/15 minutes, but I’m definitely enjoying this journey and if I do unsub, it will be with huge regret.

I want to add that I’m not keen on the Wildstar graphics as they are right now (on personal taste grounds). But I’m also not sure how much (or if) they contribute to the headache issue. Cartoony is fine. I am absolutely loving how I feel as if I’m playing a Pixar type movie, but the palette is very strident indeed.  A house is always an attraction for me but got to say living in a 3d-but-flatter, neon world detracts. I’m not one for going home to a road-workers’-jacket coloured garden, or acid pink anything :) Well, maybe I’ll surprise myself. I’ll let you know when I get that house. My tweaked graphics save my sensibilities from luridness, for now. But it is clear that some tolerances perhaps shouldn’t be exceeded when it comes to displays – something I was only dimly aware of before. I did know that flickering in some displays can cause epileptic fits, but never realised there might be other things that could be harmful. Live and learn.

Quick note: most enjoyed and regularly played PC games right now: Skyrim, Uemeu, Terraria, Skyrim, Wildstar, Neverwinter, and more Skyrim. Yes, besotted is the word.

Here’s some of the what I call the ‘Referendum Effect’. Instead of just writing this blog I ended up having a solid think about health and safety, since two of the games are currently uncomfortable to play and would cause me harm if I continue, albeit probably minor harm.  I think Health and Safety Regulations get bad press for foolishness, but I don’t trust any company to keep me healthy and safe. I want those regulations. If they are silly, let’s change them! Meanwhile I hope both Landmark and Wildstar get more comfortable to play. (Landmark may have already sorted the hold-down-left-mousebutton-for-far-too-long thing, I have not been checking).

Going to leave it there for now because this is already a wall o’text.

(and Saor Alba)





Categories: Fruit Salad, Oddments, Things In General | 4 Comments

Send in the Inventory !! (grr)

Puh – leeeeessss !!


I’ve been playing video games for over ten years now and still, still! games ship and attempt to run their course without enough inventory. It’s irritating. It’s immersion breaking. It’s why I’m not playing x,y,z game. It’s a total pain in the ass!

See there I was on a rainy Saturday, time to play for once, and I started in The Elder Scrolls Online. Then after three inventory shuffles, which involve tediously logging into alts (alts which I don’t want to play yet, incidentally), I had enough. So off to Secret World where after half an hour I had to stop in the middle of something to deal with  – inventory. I like both games by the way. Would be nice to play them instead of inventory management. I heard GW2 is doing things with inventory and by then I’d figured out inventory was messing up gameplay, so off there. At least they are addressing the issue. Being new to Guild Wars 2, and having not even got a grip on the old inventory, the new one induced a sinking feeling – would have to watch a video to try and work out what on earth it was about. Watching videos isn’t playing either. But still, at least they’ve figured out that inventory issues cause people to go do something else. Another day I’ll watch the video.

I still had some Saturday left.

Of all the many games on my hard drive, only 2 could I think of where I wouldn’t end up playing inventory instead of the game. Where I wouldn’t have to stop in the middle of a dungeon to find a bank, vendor, crafting station. Where the stupid inventory wasn’t a constant obstacle. I went and played Skyrim. When my bags are full I can drop everything and come back another day to retrieve it at the end of a flower-picking odyssey. Not perfect but good enough.

EQ2 has the best solution. I have so much inventory there, that I can go and adventure as long as I like, right until I myself yearn for one of my homes, then to go and craft, sell, move furniture – hang stuff on the walls, until again the desire to adventure is upon me. They just give you loads of inventory and storage, problem solved. I have more capacity than I need, no interruptions to immersion. It is a pleasure to go and craft, sell, move furniture when I’ve had enough content, adventure and mayhem. It fits and feels natural.

So. There you have it.

Now, if only the rest of the industry would catch up.

Oh. And don’t think you can sell me bags. Why would I buy an inventory accessory for a game which I cannot play properly due to incessant inventory management? You think I’m going to reward that? By buying a BAG?


Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Perfect Balance (new food blog)

You’ll have noticed my blogging is still sporadic – the best I can say for myself is that I’m more settled than I was. Going to try doing snippets now, to get back into the habit. And my first snippet is a real pleasure.

Balance is a tricky thing indeed, and when I see it perfectly executed I tend to sit up and take notice!

A good friend of mine from North Inde days on Wurm, I found to my delight, has started a food blog. I know full well I would have posted a link,  and placed the blog on my blogroll anyway, but when I looked at the blog which is about balanced eating and cooking, I thought, “hmm something special here – this is balanced in more ways than one”.

It’s the graphics, layout, photos (all meticulous and considered) true, but mostly it’s the food.  My first response was to salivate, my next to look at the ingredients, my third? Relief that even I could probably cook these. My stomach responded first! It recognizes a balanced meal when it sees one :) And it told me very firmly that I desire this kind of food. The rest of the balance I’ll allow my friend to convey to you via the beautiful blog she has made,

every careful, delicious-looking, detail of it. Good luck Diesy!

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is an MMO blurring occurring?

Recently we heard of game studio layoffs again. Did you ever wonder where all those skills go? I’m sure some find like work in big studios, but I wouldn’t be surprised if many end up as Indies or in small teams – or even more likely (judging from the crowded space) as mobile and cross-platform developers.

Personally I’ve never been a purist. I won’t blog just one game, I’m unmoved by open worlds until the day when instances don’t make a game run better. Raiding is for when I have the time, pvp I prefer consensual. Hardcore makes me worry about people’s health. I don’t want to “work” in a game, it’s a leisure activity and finally I can socialize without a quasi-military structure or do-it-yourself rentagang. And all of this is perfectly valid because in the end, I am the customer. This particular customer isn’t into “pure”,  just a good product I can enjoy in my own way will do fine. Other customers feel differently, and that’s life, and it also leads to possibilities.

The amorphous blob I mentally label “Massively Mulitplayer Online” reminds me of that wibbly bit in a film before it goes to a cut scene, or the fade before another viewpoint.

Right now, I’m in a position to try out a ton of games and I have been. Some things do strike me. I (like many others) see huge potential for those games with purist attributes – if they set up shop as niche products. Unbelievably hard games with great big learning curves and ocean-like time-sinks for the hardcore anyone? People feel passionately about their gaming, maybe enough for a healthy market.

That would give us all a more varied and interesting landscape to play in – and there are signs of it happening. Niche interests abound on Kickstarter nowadays. I don’t think any of these should be judged on whether they become huge or make tons of money. If enough people want to play them to support them and keep the devs alive, that’s success already.  If you’re making something you love, the chances are you’ll put heart and soul into it, and that always comes across – so a  big playerbase and riches are possible to0, but I think the basic thing of providing something enough people want and will pay for, *that* is the bar.

So we have a lot of talent sloshing about, and the beginnings of niche gaming. A third factor seems to be something to do with size. I do see attempts at the MMO format on my android, but they only have a few of the dimensions. Ravensword, The Bards Tale etc don’t compare with the giant that used to be WoW before all the content was stripped out. These mobile attempts keep getting a little richer as the technology improves though, and oddly enough, the big games keep heading more towards rails, simplification, fewer dimensions, generic classes, blandness. Both sides are heading toward the middle from opposite ends! This makes sense – there is a lot more money wafting around the mobile scene than there is to be had for a big MMO. The larger endeavors cut costs by simplifying, the smaller ones aim for an even bigger market by adding more systems.

It’s fascinating. Will they all end up mid-sized and varied, or will they all end up big and on rails? Could MMOs end up bunkering in PCs where more is possible and become like frilly octopi, catering to all styles of gameplay? Will mobile MMOs explode into fragmented MMO aspects that one can fit together at home where a cavernous desktop dominates the living room?

Whatever happens, I don’t want boring. I understand that big MMOs are seeing advantages in niching themselves and trimming development costs by not catering to everyone, and cutting systems like crafting to cosmetic. I also get that the technology is never going to allow me to play full-blown WoW even in its stripped form on my tablet. (Mind you shouldn’t say never). But I think depth is always possible, from the simplest gameplay (e.g. Flutter) right through to the sparest MMO world (like GW1) – and any game that achieves that stands a good chance.

Big teams are required for a fully fledged MMO… no not really. The tools nowadays are such that a one-man-band can make plenty of noise, and a small team can create a universe. Server costs are reasonable too. I don’t think team size matters as much as it once did. Borrowing matters. If you need to borrow to set up your MMO you’re in a tight spot and there’s huge pressure to stick with the tried and tested. That’s true for large or small studios and large or small games and is probably the single thing that keeps us all cloned and bland.

Of course, the more variety we have, the less easy it becomes to play “definitions”. That’s fine by me. Defining stuff is for high-school debates and high courts of law. In creative endeavours insisting on strict universal categorisation is counter-productive. Any definition anyone has of “MMO” is fine by me.  A rough grasp of the concept will do for exploring the thought :)

As small and large move closer and no MMO bastion cannot be emulated by all and sundry, I love to think that  some of the straightjackets to fall off so that the MMO genre gets more worth exploring, like in the early days. At the moment all the places you go are not like that strange little unique cafe in downtown Ancient Mesopotamia, more like McDonalds in various settings. We could be having a lot more fun. Why don’t we have Social Molo games?  Will someone ever do the crafting game of my dreams? What about a lore-driven game with emergent elements. Oh yes there’s a lot more out there and possible than downing the UberRat yet again for a piece of gear that’s obsolete in a month. – Can we have a pvp game that’s  more ‘knights in shining armour’ or ‘adrenaline of battle’ and less ‘inadequates on the loose?’

I’m always hopeful, me :)

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Flutter: Butterfly Sanctuary (aphrodite event & Happy Birthday)

I’m feeling my blog-skills got quite rusty while last year had it’s way with me, but things are loosening up now – same with the rest of life. Systems are generally go, but puffing dust out of all vents and even backfiring a time or two. This little game has kept me company.

Yesterday, was Flutter’s birthday – it’s one year old! And not going anywhere near a sunset, I don’t think. The Flutter News adds, with glee, that the game is also celebrating 1 000 000 players. Yep, a million. Well Happy Birthday Flutter – and I’m delighted to see Runaway’s game doing so well! Delighted but not surprised. It’s a cool game.

The ‘Aprodite’ Event is now also complete, which is what I wanted to write about to give an idea how these things go. Mercifully I’ve more or less mastered the screenshot on the Nexus 7 (2013). No. Mastered isn’t the right word. It is so awkward that it’s not possible to time your screenshot, or follow the action – or anything really. Just hold the opposite edge against a hard surface, press the sound-down and shut-down buttons, hold – and hope you haven’t merely succeeded in turning your Nexus off (again). Frightful. Anyway here is a dodgy pic of one of the Event butterfly’s special ability, (complete with the Nexus sound control. Which also happens a lot of the time. grr.)


Aww? Aw !!

And I normally dislike “cute”, so there you go (I enjoy the art in this game!).

This next bit is quite involved. You probably need to be interested in how the money works out to actually bother reading it – but here goes:

At the end of the event I had all the event butterflies, earning me a rose decoration, but the last two butterflies were not complete, needing two and three upgrades respectively. (completing set and all upgrades = a second decoration;  set and all upgrades within the time = three decorations.) The final animated rose decoration was quite nice and I wouldn’t have minded, so I did the sums. The flowers for the 5 upgrades I needed would have set me back 800 (100 x 2, 200 x 3) Flutterbucks. (As you can see in the screenshot, I had 82.)

You buy Flutterbucks with Mobacoins which come in packaged amounts, closest being 1500Flutterbucks @ 4999Mobacoins (700Fb @2499, the package below it won’t do.) And so the attempt to squeeze up the amount you spend goes on through the currency trail. 5210 Mobacoins (the nearest package) = £39.99.

It’s not a trivial amount and needless to say it didn’t happen. Better pull out that calculator before doing any impulse spend because it’s an “all or nothing” amount for that third decoration. Which means not only didn’t I spend £40 (yes, I know, bar one p), but I didn’t spend a lesser amount either, since no point. (The second decoration is attainable through just wait for Flutterbucks to accumulate – you do earn these very slowly – and buy eggs so all butterflies are upgraded).

But before you fall off your chair or puff a “forget it”, as I usually do – there is more to the story. £40 aint going to happen, sure enough. However, one can acquire extra flowers in other ways than buying, so I’m still happy. It is possible to feed your frog treats to gain event flowers and these treats spawn from tasks, or just mysteriously appear at non-event times as well as during events. One can hoard up frog treats. I’m doing this for the next event, and already have a little hoard since I didn’t use them this time. (Will report back). As a quick indicator I blew 10 frog treats I’ve collected so far. 5 returned event flowers, and 3 were the bottlenecked flowers needed for the last two butterflies.

Gosh this is getting technical. Frog-treat flowers aren’t 100% ones, like the ones you buy, you need to fuse them up to that 100% to guarantee the butterfly you want. So 3/10 isn’t hugely helpful, but might just save the day if one has enough frog treats and only needs an upgrade or so.

Another way of completing, and more crucially, the event butterflies have special abilities. My screenshot shows a Tibetan Cupid which puffs out little hearts when you activate it’s ability. But not all the abilities are cosmetic. My Harmonia Mantle from the Christmas set allows me a free egg (long cooldown) – that represents a whole butterfly upgrade though (like an 100% flower). Another butterfly I have speeds incubation – very handy if an event is about to finish.

Heh. Well you already know I have an interest in those legacy sets. (I still miss my Snowflake I sold by mistake :( ) So that’s my interest duly declared, but, and it’s quite a big thing, the older butterflies have a big impact on gameplay. Which does put new players at a disadvantage. New players haven’t collected these older butterflies with wonderful abilities that help you complete a set without spending £40. And the legacy sets are not available in any way, shape or form. New players just have to hope for good abilities in the current and future events and scrabble to complete the relevant butterflies, so they can join in this advantage. I really hope that changes. It’s a wibbly bit sticking out.

Joining Facebook and adding friends who also play Flutter can gain you event flowers too, I think there’s a limit of 5 gifts friends can send. Yes. Just as UemeU got me to log into Steam after 10 years of not, so Flutter has persuaded me to finally and with trepidation make a Facebook account (that’s pretty good going for a game to do that right there). Not particularly impressed with Facebook so far, but have hardly explored, so no comment.

Lastly there is the route of earning Mobacoins by trying out games, which as already noted, I’m finding more fun than a chore. Still haven’t uninstalled any. Must also be said you’d need to try out many many many games to earn that 4999 coins.

So with all four of those extra things helping, it may be possible to fully complete an upgraded event set without spending money – or is it? Well I’m hoarding my frog-treats & earned Mobacoins for the the next razzle – we’ll see! It’s interesting to find out. We gave Mobage some of our Christmas money & are quite up for trivial purchases, but I want to know if the events are doable without a spend but by investing time and effort – we aren’t always rich! And even if we were rich, we would have got that way by not spending £40 on a digital rose :)

(If you’re intending to try Flutter anyway, the weekend birthday giveaways still have some hours to run at time of posting this, by the way.) And now it’s time for my lunch, I’m hungry.

Long post for a game I like :)

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Uemeu tutorial link

A series is planned! I’ve been enjoying the Uemeu livestreams (mostly in awe) as Landrunner does quite amazing things there, and this is welcome, the first in a planned tutorial series: (- personally, I need it.)

Part 2:

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This is me not knowing how to reblog

so from the hip:

Voluntine’s week !!:) I’m out of time, but I wanted to say this is a fantastic idea.

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… and that’s enough loafing about. I managed a few minutes looking out of the window twitching periodically when I remembered something I could be doing. Would have looked most disturbing to a passer-by. My head is too full! Not surprising, I’ve not been taking time out to contemplate or concentrate, so that’s back on the daily schedule. And meanwhile writing things down clears the decks too, so here I am.


Walk like An Egyptian! (sorry Jeremy couldn’t resist)

I think I found Uemeu on Twitter. It is in alpha but runs really well on pc  (including on all our older machines) and has a ui you can actually access and an impressive way of including tutorial advice in with the ui. You can choose how much you need to know. Both ui and tutorials fold out from the side – just need a tool? – then don’t fold out any further than the first column. Need some extra help or a more detailed tool? – fold out a layer further. Ingenious and very user-friendly indeed.

I hope it’s fair to call this a “build” game – I don’t know if we’ve evolved more subclasses to the genre of games where you build things. This one uses geometric and iterated-geometric shapes, which you rotate, scale, move. As you can see I’m not much further than plonking monumental objects in the landscape, which like a child I find terrifically satisfying. Actually that’s not fair on me. I owe a debt of gratitude to Uemeu. It has quite a lot to play with, including physics. So my first attempt at a rustic cottage went flying off into space hahahaha! – fact is I have a gap in my knowledge when it comes to how physical properties work in games. Uemeu, (along with a lot of other impressive features), allows me to experiment with my monumental shapes to my heart’s content without the encumbrance of scripting – invaluable. Messing about with mass – who can beat it!

Because I’m a girlie I’d like more colours and textures and terrains I guess, but apart from that I’m spoiled for options, shapes, and things to try out. Spent a whole afternoon just playing with the sky once :)

There are two modes – “build” mode I’ve just described, though I’ve not really done it justice – and also a “play” mode. I spend most time in build mode fooling around with all the new stuff (and physics) rather than attempting anything grand, but it’s immensely satisfying to switch to “play” and have an avatar running around over, around and in your structure now and again too. (There’s a huge temptation to make jumping puzzles – I won’t deny it.) I think nowadays our person can wall-climb too. As with the other games and applications I particularly like, there’s a totally “alive” feel to this. It seems like something new has been added every time I log in. I would love to know which features Omnigon are most proud of – there’s a lot to be proud of.

I owe this game a better screenshot and I’m putting an iou here. It’s a shame that my pics don’t properly reflect the hours of fun,  just because – well I spend most of them throwing a few basic shapes about. There is seriously no need to stick to basic – I’ve seen some extraordinary things in the livestream that goes out regularly on Twitch. I even revived a Steam account which I hadn’t used for nigh on 10 years to give it a vote for greenlight. It’s a great game and it’s been a fun alpha!

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