Thursday, May 31, 2012

NBI: Victory, And Possibly Defeat

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Admin: Post Six Hundred

  • As we saw with the prior milestone, it took nine months to add another one hundred posts to the blog. I suspect that this is the new pace of the blog. And I don't think that's going to change any time soon, as the responsibilities of fatherhood will not be passing any time soon.

  • My top five posts for this period are a mix of old and new. Fifth place is perennial favorite By Request: Champions Online Q&A for no good reason that I can think off. I guess that there are so few Champions bloggers out there that they have to keep coming here for info. Sad, really. Also an oldie, but the by far the biggest draw is Top Five: EVE Online Stories. Everything something big happens in the game, I get a bunch of new hits. So in a completely mercenary fashion, I wrote Top Five: More EVE Online Stories in March. It obviously worked since it's on the list.

  • Other new posts in the top five include Random Shots: Are Pandas The Apples Or Oranges In This Metaphor?, which got the Tobold bump and completely threw off my page view graph, and Random Shots: Agreement By Degrees. Funny enough, I took it out of the list, but nestled between the posts were a bunch of links to a side page of mine, WoW Expansion Zone Planning List. It's an old hoax that I wanted to save, but people keep finding their way here. It was linked from the EU French language forum a while back after Mists of Panderia was announced. I hope that they could read my warning about the list property.

  • I would have sworn that there were no big games over the last several months, but I see in my old posts that four games have dominated my time: Dark Souls, Saints Row the Third, Mass Effect 3, and Project Copernicus. No, I haven't been playing that last one, but the crash of 38 Studios grabbed my attention for some reason.

  • Thanks to the Newbie Blogger Inititive, there has been a fair amount more traffic. So thank you to every one of my readers and commentors, both new and old. You all make it much harder for me to slack off around here.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Random Shots: New Screens From Project Copernicus

Images from the most magical, breathtaking and awe inspiring world ever created. Images I was "allowed" to peek at along the way, when the team wanted us all to see the magical world we were building.
  • Blogger is pissing me off by not uploading the full size versions of these images. You can see them on Facebook and I'll update them here when I have the chance. All better now.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Random Shots: The Lemons Of MMO Failures Make Bitter Lemonade

  • As always, when you need insight into the MMO business, there is no better source than the original ranter. Scott Jennings has a post discussing the collapse of 38 Studios and massive layoffs at Bioware.

  • Back in January, I wrote a post saying that AAA MMO development was not only untenable, but actually detrimental to the growth of the genre. My argument was that games like SWTOR are not growing the MMO space, they are just making it more crowded with carbon copy games.

  • No one wants to see people put out of a job. I'm sure that everyone at Bioware and 38 Studios was working as hard as possible to make a great game. It has been said many times before that no one sets out to make a bad game. However a constant churn of mediocre games is not helping anyone. The floor is going out from under Triple-A MMOs and I'm not so sure that is a bad thing.

  • The way MMOs are developed now, that amount of money required, means that only the safest of designs will ever be okayed. Innovation is a luxury that they can't afford, even if innovation is the only thing that will get people to play. What I want is for MMOs to go indie. I want people like Eric Heimburg and his Project Gorgon to show us a new way. Sure, it's not going to be polished like a Blizzard game. But there will be character and inspiration that you can't get from a bog-standard WoW-alike. There will always be a future for MMOs. I'd rather they were guided by visionaries instead of businessmen.

  • Of course, Keen has already beaten me to the punch, but that's fine. We need more voices shouting that it doesn't have to be this way.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

News Filter: 38 Studios Gutted

  • Just when it looked like there was a little hope, there is crushing news. Brian Crescente of Polygon is reporting that the entirety of 38 Studios has been laid off.

  • This post will be updated as details appear.

  • Update 1 - Here is the text of the company-wide memo that went out to all employees today, from Ted Nesi of WPRI:
    The Company is experiencing an economic downturn. To avoid further losses and possibility of retrenchment, the Company has decided that a companywide lay off is absolutely necessary.

    These layoffs are non-voluntary and non-disciplinary.

    This is your official notice of lay off, effective today, Thursday, May 24th, 2012.

  • Update 2 - Ryan Shwayder and Steve Danuser have posts about the shutdown on their respective blogs.

  • Update 3 - The IGDA has a list of resources for the recently unemployed here.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

News Filter: Project Copernicus Leaked Images

  • Stealth info releases continue from 38 Studios, this time three images posted to the 38 Watch Forums. Posted by a new member, AlynShir (evidently a character from KoAR), under the title "You guys deserve this.", it includes reveal images for three races, the Almain, Dverga, and Jottun.




  • Yep, those are total staged photos. Nonetheless, they look quite beautiful. The art style has an advance Blizzard influence. The characters are appropriately cartoony and the world slightly overblown so that is feels real without having to look realistic. They have a lot of character, which is very appealing.

  • Between these and the fly-through video, it looks like 38 Studios is going on the offensive. These screenshots show a greater fidelity than the video did, but we're still a long way off from knowing anything about the game part of the game.

  • Now that we have two leaks, are you more interested in Kingdoms of Amalur? What do you think of these images?

  • Hat tip to Polygon and Kotaku for the pick up.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

NBI: I Refuse To Call It A Blogosphere

  • Before you read this post, you need to answer this question: who are you blogging for? If you are blogging solely for yourself, go ahead and stop reading now. You're doing a great job and the rest of this post is irrelevant to you. However, if you are blogging because you want to be read, my last advice post is for you.

  • I really don't like the word blogosphere. It makes me think that there is an atmospheric layer between 52,000 and 57,000 feet composed of pure self-indulgence. Instead, I prefer the term "blogging community". Because for me, the best part of blogging is the communities that form (much like in MMOs). So to get the most out of your blog, you need to participate in the community.

  • One of the most important parts of community building is commenting on other blogs. You can't expect people to show up and read your blog if you don't let people know you exist. Comments are like advertising. If you leave a thoughtful, well worded comment on a blog, people will be curious to read what else you have to say. Your comments will create a network of bloggers which will lead back to you. This, I will admit, can be work. But people tend to respond to comments by commenting in kind. My wife and I can both track the number of comments we receive based on who active we've been in commenting in turn.

  • Sometimes, though, commenting is not enough. I will get halfway through a comment before I realize that I need to make it a blog post instead. I usually leave a little note indicating I'm doing so, then I go write real quick while I'm still in the mood. React to what other people are writing. Put links in your posts to their posts and attribute them when you are inspired. Those links help build the network between blogs. I know that I'm always draw to blogs that have linked to me. I'm a little vain that way.

  • And now that you're reached the end, now that you're read all of my advice about blogging, I'm going to let you in on a dirty little secret. Blogging about MMOs is a trap. There are only a fixed number of things that you can write about before you run out of topics. For the MMO blogging community to continue, it needs fresh blood like yours. Don't freak out! Blogs change over time, there is no way they can't. But make sure you have something else to write about when the well runs dry.

  • And that's it. I've read a crazy number of blog posts this month. I've even limited my gaming to keep up. I've subscribed to several, already culled a few, and I'm ready to graduate some from my NBI folder to my general Blogger folder. Thanks to everyone for all the great work you've done this month. Keep it up!

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

News Filter: Layoffs At Bioware Austin

  • There are not a lot of details yet, but news has come out that some number of employees have been let go from Bioware Austin, the studio behind Star Wars: The Old Republic.

  • There is no way to tell if this is the normal draw down that occurs after a game has shipped, or if it's a sign of some larger problem. My money is on the former, but I fear it might be the later.

  • What do you think? Is it a sign that SWTOR is in trouble or business as usual? Winners get to say "I told you so," as soon as the details come out.

  • P.S. Why is Syncaine the only one who is talking about this? I mean I know why it's Syncaine, but why not anyone else?

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Random Shots: As If It Couldn't Get Worse

  • Tiny rant here. It will be over soon.

  • I'm so glad to see that my single player game can be stolen if someone takes over my account. It's a good thing that I have an authenticator to make it harder for people to hack their way into my single player game. Good job, Blizzard.

  • That is all. Carry on.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Random Shots: The Single Player Aberration

  • A few years ago, Raph Koster famously asserted that single player games are an abberation. His contention is that games are naturally a multiplayer activity and that they are destined to be so again, through the ambiant connectivity of the internet. Most console games are an alone together experience now due to achievements, leaderboards, and the like. But though his intention is not as dramatic as his words imply, there are those who believe that single player is fundamentally counter to the definition of gaming.

  • One need look no further than the launch of Diablo III to see how deep the incursions are into that style of game. D3 is a de facto multiplayer game that allows you to join with just one player. You couldn't play it offline no matter how hard you tried. Yes, they have their reasons. But it primarily comes down to Blizzard protecting their revenue stream. If you're not online, you don't have the opportunity to pay the auction fees.

  • Even when games are single player, most companies feel the need to bolt on multiplayer components. Not necessarily to make money from the players, though Bioware has done just fine with Mass Effect 3. No, they want to keep these discs out of the used game channel so that people are forced to purchase new longer after the game launches.

  • I don't play single player games just because I can't find a multiplayer game to get into. Sometimes, I just want to experience a world on my own. Sometimes, I want to solve a puzzle without any help. Sometimes, I want to lead an army and conquer a world without worrying about how balanced that is against other players. Sometimes, I want to be the hero, and I don't need anyone around me to make that any more real. Sometimes, I want to play alone. Having the world watching over my shoulder doesn't add to my experience. And as with Diablo III, sometimes it makes it much, much worse.

  • If you want a much better takedown on the topic, you should read Ian Bogost's article from Gamasutra. When you have designers like him on our side, it is easier to hope that all is not lost.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

News Filter: Project Copernicus Teaser Released

  • In what has to be a desperate attempt to change the coversation about the game, 38 Studios has released a fly-through trailer of their upcoming MMO, Project Copernicus.

  • And if that wasn't enough, the projected release date of June 2013 was announced by the governor of Rhode Island. I'm sure there are some 38 Studios PR reps who are tearing their hair out right about now.

  • As for the trailer, I quite liked what I saw. It reminds me of a much prettier cross between Vanguard and World of Warcraft. And I hope that music is from the game because it had a nice theme without the bombast that some game music unuses. If anything, seeing that would make never getting the play the game that much more bitter.

  • If I was 38 Studios, I would not wait. It's time to start talking about the game in earnest. Otherwise, people will write it off entirely.

  • What do you think? Did you like what you saw?

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

News Filter: 38 Studios Facing Difficulties

  • This one goes out to Dan Stapleton. Suck it, old man.

  • This is never a fun topic. I usually like writing about how great games are (and sometime how bad they are). But here we are, standing in a field of crushed dreams, like shards of glass, spread all around us.

  • 38 Studios had a meeting yesterday with the governor of Rhode Island regarding their inability to make a payment on their loan. Today, they were forced to layoff a some employees and skip their payroll to make the required payment.

  • There is no room for schadenfreude here. We might not know how progressive or regressive they intended the game. All we know is that Project Copernicus is in jeopardy and I'm bummed out about that.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Played Lately: Diablo III

  • Let me describe last night for you.

  • Surprise - Randomly remember that I could preinstall the game. Let the installer run while I eat dinner with my family and play outside with my baby girl.

  • Anticipation - After watching an episode of Smash and eating ice cream with my beautiful wife, settle in front of my computer to watch Arthur Gies from Polygon prepare his livestream. Watch the opening cinematic. The log in screen floats in the background, taunting.

  • It Doesn't Effing Work - Error 27 (x 100), actually authenticate and get to the character creator, character creator fails to actually create a character, accidently log out, Error 27 (x 500) mixed with the occasional Error 300008, log in again, accidentally log off again, swear quiet enough not to wake the wife and baby.

  • Catharsis - Finally log in for real. The character I tried to make before I was logged out before is there even though the game told me it failed. Try to delete character and start over, but fail again. Play anyway.

  • Twist Ending - Computer crashes.

  • So, Diablo III is okay, I guess.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 14, 2012

NBI: You Are Your Blog

  • When my wife started her book blog, she wasn't exactly sure how she should talk about books. She wrote several reviews, trying different styles to find the one that fit her. Time and again, I thought that her best reviews were the ones that discussed her journey with the book. Purely authoritative reviews were fine, but I wasn't nearly as interested in them as I was with her personal reviews.

  • Above all, as a blogger, you need to be yourself. I can go to any site, probably more professional sites, for general information about a game. What I can't get is your opinion or your personality. The more of yourself that is in your blog, the more it will stand out. Don't hide your voice behind some objective facade. That's not why I read blogs.

  • When I say put yourself into the blog, there is the implication of authenticity. Maybe you are hilarious in real life and you can express your humor through your blog. Maybe you're super smart and your analyses are cogent and interesting to read. Good luck with that because that is super hard to get right. Most people can't pull off that level of craft. Be yourself. Don't be a gimmick. Trust that you are interesting enough to voice an opinion in your own way.

  • Remember what it says above: you are your blog. If you're not putting yourself into your posts, I might as well be reading Wikipedia.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Random Shots: Burn It To The Ground

  • Before I get into this, how come no one told me that Syl of Raging Monkey's was such a great blogger? I feel like you were hording her all for yourselves. Shame on you.

  • So you've all heard of Tera, right? If not, let me sum up the game in three pictures.
Action Based Combat

Big-Ass Monsters


  • Do you understand the problem here? No, of course the game is not about pedophilia. But what am I supposed to think when the game world is populated with half dressed prepubescent girls? What am I supposed to tell my wife and daughter? That it really is a great game as long as you disregard the sexualized children? I mean, I already have to get around the hypersexualized women in every other game (which Tera in spades as well). How am I supposed to play this with a clear conscience about the message that it is giving?

  • This is what the gaming industry thinks of us. This is what we get for being so complacent about sexual imagery in gaming. Good job, everyone.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Random Shots: Learning To Drive

  • I was never in a rush to learn how to drive. All through high school, I could get anywhere that I wanted on my bike. Everything in the midsized Central Valley town was easily within reach with no need for a car. The closest I ever came was driving the customized pesticide sprayer through my grandfather's plum orchard. So when the time finally came for me to learn how to drive, I had a lot of questions. And of course, I didn't even know which questions were important or not. I remember asking him how the accelerator worked. Did the amount depressed set you to a certain speed or did it work some other way? Eventually I figured it out. Driving is second nature to me now. But it took time and patience to learn the skill.

  • Every so often, I pop SSX back in the 360 to give it another try. Unfortunately, SSX is not a drop in, drop out experience. The developers' goal was to make the game much more skill based. They certainly did that. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remember SSX 3 as a game I could drop in and enjoy, though I'm questioning that now. Was it drop in fun because I was over the learning curve? I don't think I've even approached the curve on SSX. I start the game, flail around wildly, finish last, then give up.

  • I had a similar problem with Skullgirls. I had trouble pulling off the moves in the tutorial. There was no way I could take on the single player mode. Not that I didn't try. The very first opponent, the one you can usually button mash past in other games, cleaned the floor with me. On a difficulty that they labeled "Sleepwalk." Maybe an EVO competitor could sleepwalk through it, but I had little idea what to do against the AI.

  • Games like these are absolutely intimidating to me. After trying them out, I can see the long climb I have to achieve any proficiency with them. And until I feel proficient, I won't actually be having any fun with the game. I'm sure that mastering them will be quite an achievement. But when faced with that deep of a time sink, I'm not sure that the return on my investment will be any greater than any of the games that I could jump into and enjoy now.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 7, 2012

NBI: The Worst Advice You'll Ever Receive About Blogging

  • I may be a blogger. I may even be a seasoned blogger, if only through bloody minded determination. So though I may be nominally qualified to offer advice on blogging, I can't say that any of this will do you any good. Also, some of this advice may sound contradictory. Take heart in the fact that I am as confused as you are. Forward!

  • One of the first things that anyone will tell you about blogging is to be consistant with your posting schedule. The internet is a fickle thing. If you aren't posting regularly, people will forget about you. Go too long between posts and suddenly you're deleted from a half dozen RSS readers and your hits drop. Your readers will only support you for as long as you support them. Unless you have a baby. People tend to hang in a little longer in that case.

  • It is absolutely necessary to be passionate about what you are writing. Your passion will fuel your creatively. Your excitement about something will make me excited as a reader. If you're pooping out posts just to fill your schedule, people will know. They might not tell you, but they will quietly unsubscribe. That's why I continue to read Keen and Graev and Syncaine. When they are down on games, their blogs are unreadable. But when they are excited about something, they are some of the best.

  • This might sound silly, but if you find a topic that interests you, lean into it. I almost never say everything that I have to say about a topic in one post. One time, I ended up writing an entire post without ever stating the point that I wanted to write about in the first place. No one will mind more posts about a topic if you have more to say.

  • Now, you also have to disregard all of that to avoid burnout. Blogging is not a sprint; it is a marathon. When you write a blog post, you are participating in a conversation with your readers and other bloggers. Sure, you probably have a lot of passion at this point in your blogging career. Don't over do it! If you push yourself too hard, blogging becomes a chore instead of a pleasure. I'd rather you take a break and come back once you are ready rather than disappear altogether. There have been a number of promising bloggers who I've linked in the past who I sorely missed because they gave up far too early.

  • Finally (at least for this post, be careful about hyperfocusing your blog. I ran an in-character Guild Wars blog for a year. That was great right up until I burned out on the game. Give yourself the flexibility to write about what you want. If that is a specific MMO, MMOs or all of gaming in general, or whatever, your blog is your place to share with the community. If you feel to constricted, you will eventually run out of things to say.

  • I think that's enough advice for one post. I have two more on the way as NBI Month continues. For now, I'm linking three blogs that are already off to a great start: World's End Tavern, Vagabond goes for a Walk, and My Staff is Bigger than Yours. These three are just the tip of the iceburg. There are several more to be found at NBI HQ. If you are interested in starting a blog, check out my earlier post. It's never too late to join, no matter what Tobold says. Jerk.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Read Lately: Free Radical vs. the Monsters

  • I know this link is running around the internet already, but I wanted by throw my imprimatur behind it as well. Head over to Eurogamer and read this article about Free Radical, the developer behind TimeSplitters and Haze, and how it all fell apart.

  • I'm not in game development, so I have no special insights. But I think it's important to be aware of this business that we are all tied to in one way or another. Of course, this article only produces one side of the story, but anyone who has followed video games for a while can intuit what the other sides would say.

  • Anyway, it's a fascinating read.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

News Filter: The Elder Scrolls Online Announced

  • As has become a common occurance, a new game was announced by way of the cover reveal for the next issue of Game Informer. Today, Bethesda Softworks announced The Elder Scrolls Online.

  • MMOGC echoes my thoughts:

  • I really don't feel the world of Skyrim needs an MMO...but that's just me.

  • I know that the Elder Scrolls games have their fans, but Tamriel has never been a place that I want to explore with thousands of other people. I can't imagine what an MMO would deliver to a solo player like myself that the single player games can't.

  • Bronte of Are We New At This? points out that this is the least surprising announcement in the history of gaming. Instead of amazement that the game is in the work, we are instead letting out a collective sigh now that finally got around to confirming what everyone already knew.

  • Also, a PR rep emailed him about the announcement. What the hell, folks? Am I chopped kobold liver over here?

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Random Shots: Kickstarter Fatigue

  • It didn't take very long, but I'm finally done with Kickstarter as a thing that I follow. I don't have anything personal against the site. It's just that the system doesn't work for me any more.

  • To date, and much to my wife's chagrin, I have backed six projects. Two of them, Double Fine Adventure and Wasteland 2, I backed because they were projects I believed in and I wanted to see happen. I backed Idle Thumbs Podcast because I missed that podcast something crazy and I've always wanted to repay them for all of the joy I got out of it. I backed The Order Of The Stick Reprint Drive because the $25 dollar pledge level came with an obscene amount of perks. And I backed the Mobile Frame Zero: Rapid Attack and Spirit of the Century Presents: The Dinocalypse Trilogy out of a combination of cheap rewards and naked curiosity.

  • That won't be happening anymore. Especially with video games. I've been following The Banner Saga, Leisure Suit Larry, Shadowrun Returns, Grim Dawn, and Storybricks as each of them scrambles for their goal. However knowing that I'm putting out money from some eventual payoff on a game that I'm not sure I would even like is a huge gamble. I backed Double Fine because I believe in that team and I love the documentary idea. And I backed Wasteland 2 because I want to see how they interpret an old school RPG the right way. For the rest of those, I rather wait until they are released and decide then. As for the various board and card games I'm following, I already own too many that I never play. I shouldn't be spending some outrageous amount on a product that I won't even get for months.

  • I'm sure that something will come up that gets me excited again, something that I want to insure gets made. But until that time, I'm out.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

NBI: Welcome To The Initiative, Newbie Blogger Edition

  • I don't start a new post catagory on a whim. So when you see that "NBI" in the title, you'd better believe this is important.

  • The time has come. Thanks to the leadership of Syp from Bio Break, a number of bloggers have come together to form the Newbie Blogger Initiative. Way back when Warhammer Online came out, there was a huge influx of new bloggers who built a community, several of which are still blogging today. The time has come to foster the community again and we are looking for new bloggers like you.

  • Are you already a blogger? Awesome! Thanks for everything you contribute to the community. Not yet a blogger? Well, I have a proposal for you. Here is what I need you to do:

    • Start A Blog! - It's not as difficult as you might think. Both Blogger and Wordpress are popular free blogging sites. Evidently Tumblr is pretty popular as well. Your mileage may vary, but the important part is just to get started!

    • Introduce Yourself - Now that you have a blog, you need to write your first post. By tradition, that post is usually an introduction. Tell us a little about yourself and why you decided to start blogging.

    • Visit the Newbie Blogger Initiative HQ Forum - There are a bunch of bloggers hanging out to answer questions, network, and encourage you. I love discovering new blogs, so make sure you tell everyone that yours exists.

    • Sit Back and Lap Up All The Praise - Maybe it's not that simple, but it's not very hard either. Post, read other blogs, leave comments, and participate with the community. A community that you are helping to build.

  • Several bloggers will be providing advice throughout the month. I, because I don't know when to shut up, have three posts lined up. I swear, blogging is not hard. I'm just really excited about this. And you should be too. So sign up now. And tell them Anjin sent you.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.