And all good things must come to an end, but it doesn’t make saying good-bye any easier.

Posted in Video Games with tags , , , on June 25, 2011 by halbard100

http://forums.station.sony.com/swg/posts/list.m?topic_id=1220299

I honestly never thought this day would come. I have been a loyal Star Wars Galaxies subscriber since 2004 about 8 months after launch and, despite the ups and downs, I have loved every minute of it. I’m even a little surprised at how this is effect me, not quite like losing a friend or pet but like realizing a toy you grew up with and would always look for when you’re feeling down was gone for good. I’m tearing up a little. It goes beyond the game, I’m a huge Star Wars fan, but its really more than that. Galaxies has had an oddly profound effect on my life, it was one of the defining games that made me say “I want to learn to program. I want to make games.” and principles in its design are some that have influenced me, and I will keep for the rest of my life in whatever I work on. For me, Galaxies represents much more than a simple game in a lot of aspects, it was an experience. I made real friends in that virtual world, some I kept up with outside of the game but have ultimately lost touch with, and I have never had that experience replicated in any other MMO or game community I have encountered. The support and comradery of the individuals within was something that really made Galaxies what it was.

Experiments with design that came into play with SWG created a special experience with the way people interacted with each other in the game sense that expanded the traditional thoughts of games at the time or even since. Systems that SWG had are even now coming out in other games being heralded as these innovative features and ones that differentiate the game from its competitors.

SWG encouraged a cooperation and interaction between players. Today that looks like a dying principle in MMO: cooperation and reliance. I think that’s what made it so much fun for me. It was social in a way nothing else really was. Everyone could work together in such a beautiful harmony. The interactions were so deep, someone actually wrote a thesis paper on them — for a Sociology class:

http://swg.mrap.info/star_wars_galaxies_and_the_division_of_labor.pdf

That’s one thing that made the game rewarding and made me feel like I was important, I could influence other people through my actions and aid them in a real way. A simple example was crafting, anything good was made by a player. I remember a player initiated PvP event, the rebels were trying to protect a base in a player made town. I got a message from a friend to show up and help the push, when I arrived I was gifted with a new set of armor from the resident armorsmith, who was probably one of if not the most well known crafter on the server. He happened to be a rebel. I don’t know if that armor helped out or not, but it couldn’t had hurt. The tools presented in the game made the community stronger because of the depth of interaction it offered.

Freedom of play by design is something I harp on all the time. Constrictions that keep a player from playing how they want to play are something I want the industry to steer away from. Its something that made SWG such a beautiful thing to behold. The tag line “Now begins the greatest story in the galaxy… yours” that something that I think has been lost in RPGs, especially MMORPGs. They want to force you into a set allotment with no way of breaking a mold. SWG let you march to the beat of your own drum. Craft, be social, be combat oriented, just do what makes you happy.

Star Wars The Old Republic is right around the corner. It does looks interesting, I will probably be playing it the minute it comes out. It wants to offer you your own deep story and role in the world. But narrative is only one part of the puzzle; that principle of individuality and personal experience has to be expanded outward not just in your character but your effect on the world that everyone shares. SWG offered depth in all aspects from combat to crafting, something most other games take for granted or something throw away. You defined yourself the way you wanted to and from that the way you played the game and how other players would interact with you changed and it wasn’t a simple artificial change but something you could cultivate into a large effect. Placing a house, building a city, taking part in an actual society within the game; you defined yourself in a way that other people could see. I doubt there will ever be a game that can offer the same sort of depth of play that expands into a community driven spirit.

I could talk for hours and write for miles about SWG. I truly love the game. I hope that its spirit lives on and that it has inspired others to push boundaries, especially as games mature. I’ll close this with an excerp from Raph Koster’s blog about SWG closing that illustrates what I’ve found profound about the design: “an imprint on all the games since: a brief moment where you can stop saving the world or killing rats and realize the real scope and potential of the medium.” Realize the real scope and potential of the medium, if nothing else, that has succeeded with me. There is so much to offer in this space and Galaxies really taught me that.

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E3 2011: Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo

Posted in E3, E3 2011, Video Games with tags , , , , , , on June 7, 2011 by halbard100

Unlike the massive recap of last years E3, conference by conference, this year I’m going to be going a more opinionated route. Basically reactions and observations as a whole, instead of doing a glorified list of everything that was said. So:

Microsoft:

Kinect, kinect, kinect. Geeze, they’re cramming this thing onto EVERYTHING. I haven’t been very secretive about my opinion of motion gaming. I like to sit on my ass and press buttons, jumping around and waving my fat frame around the room just makes me feel like an idiot. That said, if the implementation of the use of the hardware is practical, makes sense, and does something that can’t be done other wise, it might not be my style, but more power to the developer for doing something forward thinking and interesting. Dance Central, while making me feel and look like a fool, is just such an example of that, seamless, ingenious, and impossible to achieve in any other form, so it isn’t surprising there’s a sequel coming. On the flip side, we have trying to shoehorn the tech into the Xbox genre of choice FPSs. I’m sorry, but opening and closing your hand to fire your weapon makes it seem more difficult to play, not lowering the barrier of entry which is part of the whole motion gaming idea: accessibility and immersion. At least, that’s what the idea should be about. There are some places where you NEED a tactile response: the vibration of a controller or the click of a trigger. And to me, pulling a trigger to fire a weapon just seems more realistic than flailing about midair, even if we’ll soon be able to only have to pull an imaginary trigger, there is still a loss of the physical response. The tech demos for Kinect are always so impressive. I drool and ogle at the possibilities the device can do, but more often than not, those capabilities just don’t seem to translate into a practical gaming sense or to that goal of immersion and accessibility. There was also deja-vu from last year as Microsoft paraded their interpretation of a female using Kinect. While not as cringe worthy, it was still sad. That said, my personal highlight of the night was Tim Schafer coming on with Double Fine’s Once Upon a Monster. There was just something honest and endearing about the presentation and the look of the game. It didn’t seem rehearsed or artificial, just fun. Sesame Street has always had an element of getting up and playing with the characters on screen as far as I can remember (its been a few years), and I’ll put my trust in Double Fine in using Kinect to make it feel like you’re truly playing with the crew from Sesame Street. Just make sure the YEP aliens are in there Tim.

To me, at least lately, Microsoft seems to keep having the weakest E3 presentations, and I think it mainly due to them being watered down with Kinect. There was a Gears 3 demo with Ice-T, a Halo HD remake trailer, and the Halo 4 announcement, but all that sticks out in my mind is the constant push of Kinect surrounded by this air of disappointment and lost potential.

PlayStation:

Jack Trenton probably said it best, “This is the second year I’ve come to E3 with an elephant in the room.” I’m impressed with Sony for tackling it head on, I mean, they really couldn’t have been taken seriously if that wasn’t their first point to bring up. The apology even came across as sincere, not simply a PR bit. Sony also pressing the point that they view consumers as their everything. I know that should be obvious, but there is something I like about Sony always mentioning how much they think about the consumers and how much the players mean to them. As a whole, the presentation went pretty standard for Sony: game play and live demos plus a few music videos. The big bit of the night was probably the Vita announcement (Vita is starting to be more catchy with me than PSV). The fidelity and power of the device coupled with cross platform connectivity with the PS3 should pose some very interesting game design down the line. The $250 price point is also a nice bit. Not sure if I’ll be an early acceptor of the thing, but they’re throwing the gauntlet down to compete with the 3DS on the same price point I think. Still, these days, I don’t think any hand held should exceed $200. Hell, I really think that the $170 tag on the PSP is where a hand held launch should be targeted. When you have to start weighing your options between a hand held and a home console, there is a huge issue in my mind. Then again, I guess if all home console are launching at $450 or $500+, $250 is reasonable. Regardless of the cost arguments, I do like the device and look forward to what developers can leverage from it in the coming months. Besides that, there was the typical Sony 3D push. The big thing that I really, really love the idea of is their dorm room size, PS branded, 3D TV, not because of it being a (some what?) affordable 3D TV, but instead of split screen for co-op or competitive games, you can set it so that each pair of glasses sees the respective player’s view as the whole screen. No more shared TV space, no more screen watching either if that’s your thing. That simply blows my, sure its a expensive set for just that, but its cool as hell none the less. For me anyway.

All and all, Sony didn’t hit any extremes for me. I wasn’t bored to tears or on the verge of shouting, but it didn’t give me the urge to call up friends to tell them “Guess what Sony just did!!!” There’s some nice HD collections in the pipe line and some new games (Sly anyone) but what happened to more information on games like The Last Guardian?

Nintendo:

God where to begin. Nintendo more than anyone probably had me go through the biggest range of reactions, from “meh” to “HOLY MOTHER OF-”. The obvious big bit of the show was the new console’s controller, yes just the controller. Picture an iPad with Wii Classic Controller buttons and you’re in the ball park. This thing had my friends and I confused for the most presentation as to whether it was a controller or the actually new console. We finally figured out it was just the controller, but that all Wii peripherals were backwards compatible (something that made the initial confusion of device all the worse during the usage trailers). On top of that, we had the name: Wii-U. … Yep that’s the name. The best reaction I heard was on twitter: “the name wii u makes me giggle. It’s like you’re cursing but not really. Then again that’s just me…#weird” I really couldn’t agree more. The Wii name has become enduring over the years as well as leading itself to a number of phallic related jokes in many a dorm room, but many, including myself, were expecting a new name; not to distance the console from it’s predecessor but to show Nintendo’s increasing move towards innovation. On that note as well, the use of the controller with a screen gives me flash backs to the Gamecube-GBA connector cable, something that I think was only taken advantage of with Zelda Four Swords. With the 3DS, Nintendo seemed to be taking the failed concept of the Virtual Boy and perfecting it, so I can only wonder if the Wii-U is being designed with a similar mentality. If nothing else, there are some nice basic ideas you can do with it. The funny bit is though, it makes me think of the Vita and it’s PS3 interaction. Either way, nearly everything seemed like a big tease leading up to showing just a controller for the system, though if you look around online, you can see some pictures of the full Wii-U.

Nintendo, more than anyone else, caused the most rage and frustration coupled with excitement and happiness between friends and I, mostly spurred by whether or not we were being shown a console or just a controller and at how underwhelming and silly the name came across as. That said, a new Luigi’s Mansion was announced, which is a personal favorite game of mine that I don’t think got enough love and almost sold me a GC, probably would have if I had had the money. Not sure if the Wii-U controller with end up being innovative and amazing or just clunky and cumbersome; the thing is BIG.

Keep an eye here for more reactions, random trailer drops, or general emotional filled rants about games and E3 this week. Maybe even a personal video or two, WHO KNOWS???

Too quiet…

Posted in A Philosophy of Design, Video Games with tags , , on April 8, 2011 by halbard100

Well New Year’s resolution to put something up every week kind of fell through pretty hard. Working minimum wage nearly forty hours a week nights kills your drive somewhat. Besides youtube, I’ve kept to my respective cave on the net and haven’t even been using twitter until lately.

But anyway, in other news:

I’m working on a fighting game with a friend and honestly I’ve never been more excited about something in my life. Design is quite honestly the love of my life right now and actually seeing progress on ideas and working with someone else to the same goal is a really gratifying experience albeit a little slow. Also though, working on something has reinvigorated me. I had fallen into a bit of a pit of cynicism about game design (not as a whole, just for me personally) but being to actually see some fruits of labor has brightened my outlook. Go out there and create, to hell with expectations of others or self doubt, just go and make something. Program a small square being able to jump one day, then add a platform the next, and just keep plugging away. I think my biggest issue in the past has been too strong a desire to make exactly what I want in my head spill out into existence in a matter of hours and being held back by the rational that it just wouldn’t happen the way I wanted it. So, I’m taking strides to be a little better at one step at a time and just chip away at it. Its really not something I’m good at, I’m better at just throwing myself at work indiscriminately for MASS amounts of time without a care. Its a tough change of pace. A skype chat about character design here, a text message during work about mechanics there. And if my playing Minecraft (got I love that game waaay too much) has taught me much, I guess you’ve got to lay a foundation before building anything. Or something like that.

In other obscene perkiness, looks like my old class is getting some crazy activity. If you’re in the game industry in any respect check out the whole story here. That’s kinda AWESOME. I doubt its possible to get #ims211 trending, and honestly I think thats besides the point, but for a class that has only been going for a year, I can only imagine the world domination in five years. Guess it shows the power of the internet. (Though I’m kinda jealous the new kids get to have all the fun)

The future looks pretty damn good from this point and I’m looking forward, that or the alcohol has put me in a good mood. Either-or.

I shall now return to the darkness of my cave.

Meant to post this a while ago

Posted in Video Games on April 8, 2011 by halbard100

Wow, this has been sitting as a draft since the 10th of February, but it still seems like a legitimate rant, if a little overly angered. More to come….

______________________________________________________________________________
This just in: Fox News is retarded and the additional chromosome in the DNA that is humanity.

One of the things that really, really irritates me is willful ignorance and the use of it to deceive. It pisses me off to no end when groups and people like this choose to show games in a negative light or with a negative opinion with absolutely no knowledge and understanding of the subject what so ever. But its not just that, its the choosing to do so. This isn’t some accident because of a misunderstanding, its Fox News forming a completely uneducated opinion and not only not bother to research and learn the contrary but to actively move forward with the ignorance and spread it like some beacon of truth.

We need more truthiness.

http://kotaku.com/#!5756624/how-fox-news-gets-video-games-so-wrong
______________________________________________________________________________

Some music for you

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on February 11, 2011 by halbard100

One of my many loves is music, and that spans quite a few genres. Its been metal for years, but over the last few I’ve gotten more and more into electronic music; especially trance. Recently I’ve gotten into raving and have gotten to be exposed to a truck load more music than I ever expect. Fast forward to now and I’ve started to find and stumble across stuff during random music benders. One such fruit of my labor was this gem:

http://soundcloud.com/feintdnb/

I love drum and bass music, especially the trancier stuff with more melodics. Great music to relax to with just a little bit of kick. Enjoy.

OhayoCon 2011

Posted in Anime with tags , on February 1, 2011 by halbard100

Well the title of this blog is “A Geek’s Tour” not “A Gamer’s Tour”, so its time to add another geek flavor: Anime.

Despite some ups and downs and some serious rough patches over the last two-ish months, I took the time to go to OhayoCon up in Columbus, OH with some friends to get a chance to unwind and escape lack of sanity over the last few weeks. I’m a big otaku (both in fanaticism and stature lol) so the con circuit is kinda my Mecca. I’ve been doing the con thing since 2007, and this was my third OhayoCon. I’ve built up a bit of a con family I only get to see at these things, so this is just what the doctor ordered to get my spirit up and some much needed fun time.

Friday:

Leaving later than I liked due to my passengers and room problems at the over booked hotel lead up to partying a little to hard, resulting in me missing around 4 hours from my Friday night.
The lesson: Apparently I function pretty good while that plastered. I’m my normal, hyper-nerdy, plucky, talkative self, without an off-switch. According to my ‘handler’, despite a problem with standing and walking in a straight line I just talked about video games, PnP RPGs, and Warhammer (of all things and I don’t even play WH… well, some WAR).
Good news: Once is enough, I like remember the con experience. Though apparently I have such a routine at these things auto-pilot is all I need. Went to the rave, secured my water cup (which took me till the next night’s rave to figure out wtf it was) as I always do and stayed well hydrated without any one telling me to, resulting in no hangover. That sounds like a real life trophy (I have PS3) if there ever was one.
Bad news: I didn’t remember a number of sexy nerd-girls, o the shame. Also I broke man code, which is just a no-no.

Saturday:

After being informed of the previous nights escapades, I throttled it back a ways. It turned out to be a decently relaxing day all and all. I started the day in cosplay as the Dark Knight Joker and got a few pictures taken. Oddly enough half of them were cheerleaders from the competition happening over the weekend (I accidentally scared one though). Wasn’t feeling well and the make up made it hard to eat so I changed after a few hours. The biggest highlight though was getting to meet Chris Sabat and get my Speed Grapher and Samurai 7 signed. So his autograph session started at 5 till 6, I got in the line at 5:50, then they extended it, twice, cause he wanted to make sure everyone got a chance to talk to him. So I was near the end of the line and it was 8:40 by the time I got done. That man was a trooper. The night ended with the rave. Still was feeling iffy but figure chilling to the music would be relaxing and it was, and at around 1am I finally feel good and found my step all the way into 4:15 in the morning went security got called on us and ended the party lol. Good music, good times.

Sunday:

The two craziest times of a con weekend is when you’re leaving. Leaving to or leaving from. I wanted to grab an autograph session with Monica Rial and Brina Palencia and meet a friend there early. Only got Monica’s signature before I had to run and deal with check out, but she was super nice and was great to talk to her. Getting checked out turned into a nearly 3 hour process of waiting in line, getting stuff to my car, find the battery dead and jumping it, then dealing with my friend’s car trying to get the hood to lock down. After all the fiascos finally calmed down, the rest of the day was catching up with friends and hanging out. A nice way to end the weekend. There really wasn’t a lot of time left to visit so one of these years I’m gonna have to stay after the closing ceremonies, but alls-well-that-ends-well I guess.

Now to save up for the next one.

Edge of Twilight

Posted in Video Games with tags on January 21, 2011 by halbard100

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5SateAymKo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TshLCovKbOE

Edge of Twilight. Quite honestly the “Someone Special” trailer, the first one, is probably one of my favorite, if not the favorite, of all video game trailers I’ve seen. There’s a weight and mood to it that just captured me and drew me in.

I saw the Somebody Special trailer I guess a year and a half ago when Kotaku first put it up and was immediately hooked. Even after watching some behind the scenes stuff about the trailer and accepting that the score and narration probably are no where in the game, I’m still invested in wanting to get the chance to play the game. Frankly, I have a bit of a weakness for steampunk and the cello, especially when its a little moodier and heavy, and I rarely find them in games these days. That aside, even the gameplay itself looks interesting. I love the idea of duality within a game’s narrative that is truly manifested in the gameplay itself and done in such a stark way that is really not seen much right now. There is potential here. Its not just the music, but visuals and presentation make the sense of desperation palpable. I really, really want this game. I want to play it; badly.

The trailers came out a while ago. I had seen somewhere that the developing studio Fuzzyeyes had closed their doors, but that they were only taking a break until October 2010. At this point, any information on the game has all but dried up. If it exists in some form still, it is deeply under wraps. I’ve never officially heard a cancellation or that the studio is actually closed, so I don’t know what the current situation is. Fuzzyeye’s website merely has a message of the “New Fuzzyeyes coming soon” so I don’t know what has become of the title despite the suggestion of the intertubes that the game is gone.

This was spurred by a recent Kotaku article about Midway’s canceled game ‘Hero’ coming back from the dead as two new games. So, despite what might happen, there is always the possibility of a game rising from the ashes. On the hopeful end, should the game just be in quiet development, I am spreading the word on this little known game from a new studio. Give it some love.

Additional tracks and trailer music for the game can be found at http://www.gameaudioaustralia.com/portfolio.html under ‘Edge of Twilight’