Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Middle of Week 20

So I cancelled my SWTOR account about a month or two ago.  There was so much I liked and didn't like about that game.  For one, I'm a completionist.  So I might be doing a story quest chain, but by the time I did the next quest in the chain after doing all the other side quests along the way, it could be two-three hours later.  I think BioWare did a great job on the story lines, but the game play is so tedious, boring, and long, that by the time I got to the next quest, I didn't even remember what was going on.

I'm very happy for Blizzard that they found in WoW, a successful game play model.  But if I wanted to play a game that had the same combat as WoW, I'd play WoW.  I really do enjoy the story lines in SWTOR, and I normally just skip that in MMOs.  I actually want to play just to find out if my low level Smuggler character ever gets her ship back, if my Trooper meets up with the former Havok Squad, if my Bounty Hunter finally wins the Great Hunt, and if my Agent... does whatever thing she was doing.  I don't know.  I got the Darth title on my Inquisitor, and found that quest line pretty enjoyable.

Oh, and I got Diablo III, played it for about 4 hours and pretty much had my fill.  Pretty much every game I joined ended up being me running around killing everything while the one other person stayed AFK in town.  In Beta, everyone was teaming up and knocking stuff out.  Once the game launched, it was like all the good players got replaced by semi conscious people wandering around aimlessly.  And for some reason, if you left that game to try and join another, it would keep putting you back with the same losers.  There's something seriously wrong with that.

So, I played the Secret World beta this weekend.  I can't say I found it all that fun.  It's certainly a very, very cool game with an original "X-Files" theme that I really enjoyed.  Funcom is a European game company.  And I know many Europeans seem to think poorly of us Americans.  So I was a little disappointed when the first quest area in the game was Kingsmouth, an American town where all the voice actors talk like over the top rejects from Deliverance.  Maybe I'm taking that too seriously though.  It's only a tiny part of the game so far.

The quests were either way too easy if other people were doing them too in the same area, or too hard, like when about a billion zombies jump out of the police car and kill that dog you're escorting and you're the only one around.  Combat is the same boring WoW model.  The animations aren't very good and you only start off with two attacks.  There are no levels in the game, which I didn't like.  I didn't know if I was supposed to be in one area or another, if the monsters were too tough or not, or if I missed something.  I think the story line was probably good, but I didn't really understand what it was.  I was sent there for some forgettable reason that made no sense, then told once I got there that fog came and turned the town into zombies... ok... alright... and then I had to escort a dog around without being told why.  After getting killed twice trying to escort a dog with the only instructions being "follow Tango," I just gave up.

Aside from that, I'm not counting this game out.  The graphics were a little inconsistent, but in many areas in the game, they were so good, I was stunned.  Kingsmouth looks fantastic in most areas.  It's very possible with some polish, the Secret World could end up being a great game.

I've been pretty busy on Dawnshine.  We're recruited about five or six new modelers.  I started this thing that I'll do each week where I write descriptions about unique characters and locations in the game to pass off to the concept team to run with.  Something else I decided to do--not rely on characters from my novels.  I think their stories might be interesting and complicated, but they don't lend themselves well to quest givers, villains, allies, or general NPCs.  They have their own stories.  Many might make brief cameos or be referenced, but otherwise, they won't be central characters in the game.

One of the mistakes that I think Lord of the Rings Online made is that they wrapped the game too much around the main characters from the novels.  I really didn't care to escort Strider around or to learn about where they were taking the Hobbits.  I cared about *my* character.  What was my character doing?  What was my character's story?  So I'm going to be creating a brand new, and incredibly numerous, cast of characters that will revolve around what the players are doing.  The whole point of an MMO is the story revolves around the player.

What else?  I'm going to be heading to E3 in a week or two with Loki's Planet.  I'm not entirely sure what I'll be doing.  Last year, I just kind of wandered around aimlessly.  This year, I'm press, so I'll be trying to get into press events and to cover as much stuff and meet as many people as I possibly can.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Middle of Week 18

You know those Facebook reminders when your friend has a birthday?  I must be getting old.  One of my friends wished me a happy birthday and I thought, "Huh, I'm pretty sure my birthday is next week," but he was right.  That's the first time I forgot my own birthday.  Anyway...

So now that we have some concepts ready to model, I'm finding it more and more difficult to communicate with each person on the team to make sure they're where they need to be.  We have 20 people on the team, and we're about to massively increase that as we add a 3D team: modelers, texture artists, and animators.  Imagine if the team doubled in size.  Trying to make sure 40 people have what they need, have clear tasks catered to their strengths, and are collaborating to make a cohesive effort rather than a jumbled mess--it's a lot harder than you would think.  It's not like I had an idea for a game and got together a bunch of people and said, "Behold the plan I have constructed!  Now carry forth!" and it just comes together.  Yeah, not even close.  And really, I wouldn't want it to work that way anyways.  I like that everyone adds their little twist and that we work as a team.  Still, having all decisions run through me is going to slow the project down a lot.

There's one programmer on the team that long passed me up in learning the engine code wise.  I'm always asking him which tasks I think who can handle, how long things should take, his advice on how we should tackle certain systems.  It just made more sense for him to coordinate all that and keep me in the loop.

Our two technical artists have been doing really well.  One of them is more focused on environments and the other on characters, so I split them up and made them in charge of ensuring a smooth pipeline for their area.  Technical artists are a good fit for this since they understand a little bit of every part of the pipeline.

I think this will work out well.  I know one of our technical artists wants to open up his own animation studio, so this is a good opportunity for him to organize an art team.