This was a bit of a surprise for me! I hadn’t received very much HyperBound press after the deluge in 2007/2008, and I was never contacted about my inclusion in the book. In fact, I only found out a month or so ago, after it was brought up to a friend of my in passing conversation.
I’ve included an excerpt of the book below for your perusal:
A whole bunch of interesting things happened this year, and I’m going to tell you ALL ABOUT THEM.
Radiostorm and I collaborated on a new blog design, which actually looks pretty spiffy. Gone are the patchwork layouts of days past! We also re-organized some content and got rid of a couple projects that were either treading water or failing outright. Perhaps dMetric and the podcast will return one day, but not without major format changes.
Unearthed made some good progress this year, although most of it was behind the scenes stuff. I must’ve written 200 pages of game documentation. That’s more than I wrote during my entire undergrad! Throughout the winter and into 2013 I will be continuing game development work, and I hope to get a demo done in time for next summer.
Ah, player housing. Of all the wonderful trinkets promised to us during an MMO’s development cycle, player housing is the most often to be cast to the wayside. Even World of Warcraft, a game that found the time to include a fully functional replica of Plants vs Zombies in their past expansion, has never followed through on adding this feature. Newer games scoff at the premise, deeming housing a superficial and unwieldy waste of time. Me, I’ve always longed for a place to kick up my feet after a long day of adventuring.
It looks like WildStar is throwing their hat into the ring, and they mean business – literally. Carbine Studios released a trailer earlier this month advertising the Nexus Housing Initiative. Framed as an advertisement paid for by the dubious galaxy-spanning Protostar Corporation, the trailer plays out as an infomercial for real estate on the planet Nexus. The bulbous green host espouses the joys of clearing an acre of wilderness on the frontier planet, erecting a home there, and furnishing it. In the final quarter of the trailer, it is revealed that players will even be able to vault their dwelling into the heavens, turning it into a floating island.
This latter feature is probably one of the most intriguing game design choices Carbine Studios has revealed so far. The floating islands solve one of the cloying problems that player housing faces in MMOs: real estate. Unless your game is a massive procedurally generated sandbox like Minecraft, your world is eventually going to run out of usable and desirable plots of land. Servers in Ultima Online grappled with this issue for years. For this reason, recent theme park MMOs that have toyed with the notion of player housing have generally pitched it as an instanced area. Although this allows for a nigh-infinite number of dwellings to be placed, the prestige and utility of housing is diminished by segregating it from the true game world. WildStar’s solution hedges the line between these two models. By employing the z-axis, the game keeps player housing accessible and visible while preventing unmitigated urban sprawl from suffocating questing areas.
It’s a clever solution, but it raises a lot of questions. Do we have to raise anchor and lift our home off the ground, or is it only an option? Are we going to be able to pilot our islands freely across the horizon of Nexus, or are we stuck in a fixed position? Are we going to need flying mounts to get up there? Will my guild mates and I be able to merge our islands together into an ominous floating continent and rain down righteous fire from the heavens? Okay, so that last one is pretty unlikely, but I’m genuinely eager to see how this feature pans out.
Carbine Studios, you’ve once again capture my imagination.
I’ve never been a Diablo fan. The hack-and-slash combat has always felt boring and mechanical to me; even the shiny 3D veneer of the most recent installment wasn’t enough to coerce me to dive in and risk a repetitive strain injury. Truth be told, as much as I decried the heinous DRM Blizzard concocted for Diablo 3, it was really just another bullet point on a long list of reasons for me to avoid the game.
Regardless, I recognize a good idea when I see one.
Internet darling Jesse Cox – infamous for his Terraria videos and chocolatey baritone – is rallying support for a “hardcore arena” event for Diablo 3. He envisions a 64 man tournament that apes the hardcore difficulty setting of the single-player game. Upon defeat the player’s character remains permanently dead and all their equipment is rewarded to the winning player as a spoil of war. The tournament ends with a four way battle royale in an arena wreathed in fire and other hazards. The last man standing is rewarded with an epic item and is allowed to return the next season as a competitor.
There’s a lot of potential here. Although I find the action-per-minute hand gyrations of a career Starcraft player a fascinating oddity, I’ve never been compelled to watch a televised match of the game. The promise of prizes and heated rivalries have never been enough to pull me in. Why not just watch an amateur match on YouTube for free?
Adding loss into the mix changes everything. The challengers wouldn’t simply be fishing for prestige and cash, they would be protecting an investment. Losing a character would be losing the months of time poured into building that character – time that the player would never be able to get back. Each win would spur fans in the crowd into hysteria, and each loss would be embraced with the same schadenfreude delight that NASCAR fans engorge themselves on when a vehicle explodes. It’d be the first esport with real stakes and emotional investment.
Jesse Cox has penned a petition to Blizzard to implement this “hardcore arena” mode. If the prospect of seeing players fight to the death in an esports events tantalizes you, I suggest checking it out. He already has my signature.
So, I decided to apply a buttload of updates to the website over the last few days. I’ve been itching to make some changes for a while now; mostly because a lot of site’s sections were woefully out of date or have grown stagnant and boring over time.
For those of you who like to keep score at home, here are the “patch notes” for TWIS 2.0:
dMetric has been removed from the site for the time being. RS and I haven’t updated the game outline in months, so we decided to discontinue hosting the stagnated documents. We may revisit the game concept somewhere down the line.
Ancient Machinations has been canned. There was never anything in that section and I doubt there ever will be.
The Retro Arcade page has also been annihilated. It hasn’t been updated in quite some time, and we find ourselves more inclined to write full reviews (see below) rather than short game summaries.
All of you TWIS regulars out there may have noticed that things have been rather quiet around here lately. After returning from my vacation I found myself drained both physically and creatively, and I haven’t really been posting on the blog as often as I could/should. Radiostorm has been kind enough to keep posting during the last couple weeks (a period of time which I now refer to as “the lazening”), and his efforts have kept TWIS from becoming a static web page.
But as the saying goes, this period of inactivity is simply the calm before the storm. Starting next week TWIS will be kicking into high gear with a new update schedule and a couple big announcements. The announcements most certainly have to do with Unearthed, but for now I will not divulge any more details beyond that.
Well, perhaps just one tidbit: expect to see game progress updates on the blog very soon.
In a previous article, I made reference to a trio of qualities an MMORPG needs to possess in order to succeed: money, intellectual property, and circumstance. The Elder Scrolls Online might be able to pull off a hat trick in this regard. Zenimax Online Studios is well funded, and the company’s been handed one of the most lucrative roleplaying franchises of the past decade. The monolithic success of Skyrim and the waning popularity of World of Warcraft also leaves a comfortable niche for The Elder Scrolls Online to fill. There’s never a surefire success in the world of MMORPGs, but The Elder Scrolls Online is the safest bet I’ve seen in a while.
Well it may ultimately be a winner, I’m not particularly excited for the game. Despite my love of the roleplaying genre, I’ve never been able to sink my teeth into The Elder Scrolls series. Tamriel has always been a fundamentally flawed world to me, haunted by glass-eyed NPCs, recycled monsters, and uninteresting scenery. Although Bethesda has acquiesced the helm to a different studio this time around, I worry that these same flaws will taint the online iteration of the series.
At the very least, the developers need to reevaluate the combat system. The hallmark point-and-click fighting of the Elder Scroll series is a relic of an antiquated age. I’m frankly surprised it wasn’t completely retooled for Skyrim; slashing and spellcasting alike felt cumbersome contrasted with the sophistication of the remainder of the game.
Regardless of my nitpicking, The Elder Scrolls Online will doubtlessly be a crowd pleaser. Fans have been aching for a massively multiplayer installment of the series since Oblivion hit shelves in 2006. If nothing else, the game has me curious.
It’s time for another installment of Kickstart Your Week! Now featuring videos in state-of-the-art Technicolor! It’s a shame Mike is on vacation this week, since there’s a number of projects in this batch that’d tickle him just the right way. Board games, dice, and high fantasy are abound. Here goes!
Another week, another vintage game franchise resurrected from the dead. Grizzled game design veteran Jordan Weisman is bringing back Shadowrun, and I couldn’t be more pleased. Shadowrun is a classic roleplaying game franchise that merges high fantasy and cyberpunk. Asides from a lackluster first-person shooter installment in 2007, the series has remained dormant on the computer since 1995. The new game – aptly titled Shadowrun Returns – will be a 2D turn-based roleplaying game, a welcome return to form.
The game has already reached its $400 000 goal (and then some), so it’s already a sure thing. You can still drop a measly $15 for a full copy of the game on release to show your support.
Hello all! I just have a quick little update for you all before I engage in a two week leave of absence.
I have completed the first round of Full Game Outline editing for Unearthed, meaning that all 110 pages of the document are complete and now in Radiostorm’s hands. Over the next 2-4 weeks, he’s going to be using his mastery of the English language to polish and enhance the document. This will include adding new content, fixing any flagrant plotholes, and making sure everything is as good as it can possibly be.
Once I return from my leave, I will be giving the outline a final once-over before making a “needed asset list” and opening up the project to the community. I am projecting that this will happen at some point in May, and I will post about it here and on Starmen.net when the time arrives.
In the meantime, enjoy the usual 4-5 blog posts a week here at The World Is Square. Although I will be gone for a little while, the website will be in Radiostorm’s capable hands. He’ll be putting up a mix of his own ramblings and posts that I have queued up for the month.
Dungeons and Dragons had just about as awkward an adolescence as its legion of fans did. In the 1980s, the budding roleplaying game was tangentially linked to a handful of high profile teenage suicides. Fueled by spur-of-the-moment hysteria, pocketed movements arose across the country to ban Dungeons and Dragons, claiming that the game taught witchcraft, satanism, homosexuality, necromancy, barbarism, and dozens of other dour-sounding multisyllabic perversions.
Much of this controversy stemmed from one Patricia Pulling. In 1982 Pulling’s son, an avid Dungeons and Dragons player, committed suicide. Blaming the game exclusively for the tragedy, Pulling tried and failed to litigate against TSR, the game’s publisher. She later founded the advocacy group Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons and authored the passionate but somewhat incomprehensible book The Devil’s Web: Who Is Stalking Your Children For Satan?
A snapshot of this era is captured in this 60 Minutes piece from 1985. It includes interviews with Pulling, Dungeons and Dragons creator Gary Gygax, and the most awkward gaggle of nerds the producers could find. It’s impossible to imagine such a hard-boiled expose on Dungeons and Dragons occurring today, where World of Warcraft and The Big Bang Theory have thrust nerd culture into the mainstream. But the 1980s were a different time. Dice never had more than six sides, elves only showed up at Christmas, and Clue was the most risque game people could handle. Dungeons and Dragons was new, and new things scare people.