Game Design and Creation

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

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

Irritation Fatigue (gaming in general)

It just struck me like a bolt out of the blue that  right now I’m only feeling inclined to play the games that irritate me the least. I think some kind of fatigue has set in, or lack of resilience when it comes to the immersion-breaking, tawdry, manipulative, verminous, tricksy, swindling, coercive ripoffery that is passing for the norm (… more fun than swearing). I mean … really!

In order I am avoiding:

bad performance, prefered playstyle, not enough bags, nag screens, forced anything, gimpware, paywalls, being game-punished for not logging in, toxic and unmoderated playerbase, hookerware-and-poses with no other options, lockboxes, pvp nerfs for pve, pve nerfs for pvp.

All the above are still so depressingly common, along with companies wondering why they don’t make money. Sheesh.

None of the games I’m playing now is perfect but I do play Neverwinter (no hidden sub, cash shop not too in face), Path of Exile (no doubt according to marketing people everywhere this should not exist at all), Guild Wars 1 (alas bag crisis but nothing else too annoying). None of my other normal, usual games do I feel like playing right now and I think they have too many items from my avoidance list is why. Irritation breaks immersion like nothing else.

Take me to another world! Drench me in diamonds, tell me strange tales and show me strange sights – fill my eyes with desire for digital goods that I wish to see often and own when I am in game – make the merchants preside over vast emporia of visual delight!  Let me adventure, conquer, fight, care, move with ease through layers of grandeur and mystery and own and accrue to something or create.  Allow me to feel Epic (you can tell I’m not feeling drawn to “gritty” just now).  Let me log out and know I was in a good place, and return because  I want to.

I will pay for that and the merchants will prosper and grow fat.

Update: and do you know what? Jeromai wrote it all far more eloquently and made better points too, here:

very worth a read.

More update: having played some today, added some more stuff to the annoying list! (and I have a feeling it is going to get longer still before I’m done with it.)

Categories: Game Design and Creation

More useful to game design than Bartle

To me anyway.  I wonder if I could insist players take this anonymously, but hmm, it would be intrusive so best not really. The rush to collect and capitalise on userdata is now out of hand. Still, interesting.  The link to this quiz has been knocking about on the Wurm forums for a while (told you they’re an interesting bunch). Even I was tempted enough to try it. In case you’d like to do it here’s the link.

URL of the test:

And my results :

Disorder | Rating
Paranoid: Low
Schizoid: Moderate
Schizotypal: Moderate
Antisocial: Low
Borderline: Low
Histrionic: Low
Narcissistic: Moderate
Avoidant: Low
Dependent: Low
Obsessive-Compulsive: Low

I got no comment. I need to look up my moderates sometime 🙂

Categories: Game Design and Creation

Using Subs to hunt Whales

It makes sense – whales are big and spend a lot of time underwater – should work just fine, isn’t that so? Look for them in their habitat.

Sigh. I’m seeing more and more of this. Studios, bless them, still believe that whales will save their bacon. There are whales, spending whales – I do think though that whale-spending is more related to unpleasant social habits like ganking than to uncontrolled passions for hats. Mind you, I suppose showing off and bragging qualify as unpleasant social habits, so maybe hat-passion still fits my theory.

But from SWTOR’s cash shop right through Wurms price rise I do see a tendency to further monetise the already committed. I can see the barely joined up, ploddy thinking “Well, our subscribers pay the most so that is where we will find whales.” (you need to mentally stretch subscribing to being a payment “habitat”)

“Will it work?” I ask sweetly. I mean, I can’t think of a better way to alienate a playerbase than double-dipping but on you go folks – “f2p + sub” your way to wherever you’re going in peace.

It’s like all those new sandboxes – hehehe – oh come on  “craft-based sandbox f2p”  who do you think doesn’t know this is going to be a sub-based pvp game with added p2win cash shop?  The whales don’t know?  Well…better hope so.

More to the point is that an unpopular game won’t attract whales  (according to my theory). You see… unpleasant social habits require a society in which to operate. Gankers need fodder, hat-passionistas need admirers, and so on. Twould be better to forget the whales and cultivate the society, but you can’t tell bean-counters anything sensible. All they see is beans. And whales. And save the bacon slogans.

Categories: Game Design and Creation

The Eternal Problem

sometimes only a diagram will do:



You know it’s been 20+ years since I tried this coding lark, things have improved but not a lot. Too many moving parts that all do their own thing. Parts get all picky about what they’ll work with and barely remember that if  their stuff doesn’t join up with other stuff,  it isn’t worth using. Wonder how many incompatible dodos “cornering the market” has bred during those years. Clearly I didn’t miss anything much. Appalling lack of progress – just like dentistry which remains painful and barbaric and hasn’t moved an inch forwards on that rather huge issue in thirty years either.


Here’s someone else’s take on it; his is much more interesting than mine, I may add:

Categories: Comparisons, Game Design and Creation, Oddments

I’m not having a day off (Wurm)

just so you don’t know. I never tell people if I have days off. It’s fatal. People immediately find ways to keep me busy. I intend to not spend this day I’m not having off mostly on Wurm recharging batteries and returning to my happy self!

Wurm and not another game because it’s still the best virtual world and the real one outside is below zero as well as bonkers (   –   I rest my case).

If anything interesting happens I’ll write about it. And as a caveat I might get diverted – it happens oo a butterfly. I better use headings.

This person is not very popular (and weekends are trrrrrrrolltime) but he has gone straight to the point. It’s a poll. Should crafting be allowed in a crafting game?

Well you tell me. The databases being unable to cope unless everything deteriorates rapidly (except deeded walls, keys and locks) has resulted in me logging in this year only to repair and improve stuff. I log in for the virtual world, the fact that development is live and ongoing, that the playerbase is interesting, that I can get real paperwork done while I chop virtual trees. Due to limited playtime (like what most people have) I’m on Wurm for a ton of reasons none of which is (currently) gameplay. Go figure.

Still fooling about with it. Once you get rid of the obvious bots – (PR for musicians, tv chefs, football), you get people doing activism – also partly botted judging by the repeats. Activism via Twitter is ok by me,  but I do think an acceptable format has to evolve so it’s not witch hunts. So far the art of using Twitter appears to be finding anyone with anything interesting to say. The Blender community is nice to follow. And I also like the Dalai Lama’s gentle reminders err …to remember to be gentle.

Bound to happen. Well in Wurm my brain was idling and then it spotted a string of thought that was half hidden under a piece of cheese in headspace from earlier on today. So I fired a few things up in the background and  managed to get a working android emulator on the laptop (quite cool).  After that I started doing xml things to play with the emulator ….. you know Eclipse is the buggiest thing I ever did see. I almost went nuts before I looked at all the complaints in stackoverflow.

I can’t pretend Wurmtime is nonproductive. Emulator will come in very handy – maybe for that spinoff. If I can find a way around Eclipse. Now my brain hurts and I’m tired, (but very pleased with myself for remembering to explore that emulator and getting it to work). Also I forgot to eat lunch! I should use it.

Categories: Game Design and Creation, Life On Wurm, Things In General

Why aren’t you all making your own games?!!! (for me to play…)

I come across people all the time with such good ideas…. if only they all made games out of em I’d be in heaven!

Here’s yet another great tool (in development but very far along). No need to fear LOD no more. I don’t know quite what to say. It’s magificent.!!-huge-open-world-for-all-(glsl-custom-shader)

0nly 260 or so lines of script… wow

Categories: Blender Game Engine, Game Design and Creation, Oddments

Spin-off game

Belting through these while I have time. (Might not hear from me next week, it’s going to be a busy one.)

Anyway. Yes. We have the idea for our first spin-off project solid. We’ll be working up one of the game systems we need and extending it to be itself whatever that turns out to be. Jolly exciting!

Using that as a farshore, we know what we’ll need to know to make our first stab at a coherent Thing that we can even (possibly) market if we like it. But that’s not the actual aim in this case, it’s a sort of fake aim.  Really we want more to develope some kind of work ahm, don’t know what you call it – sequence that we can build on and use in future – the steps from idea to finished thing. (Is that a “pipeline” then?)

(Related – I keep losing all the links/names for all the little games I come across and like and it’s a pain to trawl through here looking for them so I’ve taken advantage of WordPress and set up an extra blog for Indie, Unusual and Older games. Mainly Indie, and mainly small. I won’t be selling our stuff there either by the way – it’s more just keeping fave games together and saying why I like them. Still setting up, will post the name here when it’s got something on it. It’s a quickfix because I know this blog needs a Graet Tidy Up and part of that is that there’s too much going on in one place…)

I diverge! Back to our spinoff. It will be single-player and we can spit it out in Unity 3 Free if necessary (Flex? HTML5?), will not require dedicated home-grown source, or very complex graphics. But an easy-to-implement ui would be nice. Might use Blender but this is a little project and probably not worth all the workarounds. Might even use it to try out various languages, hmmm not sure about that …maybe.

Time is an issue. 2013 is not the kind of year for us where there is a lot of extra time and learning the “real” stuff (coding and graphics) takes total priority. I think best to regard our spinoff as a sort of practice run and learn what we can from it. It’s a side-issue but a nice one and it’s exciting!

Right now, we’re into diagrams about the gameplay 🙂 hehehe – fun…and no, not saying what it is here and today. If it goes anywhere there’s time enough for a reveal. We’ll think up some unreasonable codename probably.

Categories: Blender Game Engine, Forge of...Dooo, no... The Forge of... aaaahmmm...The Forge of Aaaahm., Game Design and Creation, Oddments

How necessary are backups?


Yes well the frankenstein wiring in this place did for my external hard drive, as I wrote earlier this week. There was a little spark and it died, aw! I do have a plug-effort to even out spikes in the power supply but it’s already packed. Them’s the breaks. I’m sure worse things will happen.

I still need to extract old work from the usb I put it on (actually several of them). Hoping to pick at that today, maybe, if there’s time.

I’d even forgotten I’d done that but I’m glad I’m me. I put my housekeys in the fridge now and again. I should be more… err… less relaxed about all this. Thing is mostly we’re running through tutorials just now and then taking what we’ve learned and fooling around. Nothing we did before cannot be reproduced quite fast, that’s why I’m relaxed. But yes… backups. I think having things in more than one form is a good idea, and intend, though not often (6 monthly or so), to do hard copy of any code. Paper might not be durable over centuries but it beats digital storage hands down for being the way to store “that copy you can use if you really have to”, specially given we currently have frankenstein wiring. In general I don’t like putting things only in one form  and in one place when they are this ephemeral (hence the usbs). Some irrelevant stuff needs to go on dropbox too.

It’s nice to realise how far we’ve progressed even in a month, and (yay) there is scope for a redo here and there. I shall call it “revision” and be content.

Categories: Forge of...Dooo, no... The Forge of... aaaahmmm...The Forge of Aaaahm., Game Design and Creation, Things In General

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