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Games. Tech. Musings.

Games offline and online. Technology. Random stuff.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Game Design: Making Games More Fun

Alright, it's plug time. Go read this post on how to make games more fun in the design stage. Sadly, right now the Gleemax site is pretty horrific, as you might expect from Wizards' rather lacking IT expertise. Hopefully they'll make it better in due course.

Full disclosure: Brian Tinsman is a good friend of mine. He's worked on a ton of games in the hobby space at this point - oh, and his book on game design is pretty good too.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Guild Wars: Costume Brawl

This Halloween, we got a new mini-game - Costume Brawl. In a nutshell, it's a 5v5 PvP format with random team selection and fixed skill bars per class on Hero Battles maps. The actual costume flavour seems very weak. You get the skin of a Hero of the appropriate sex and class. Given that it's Halloween, monster skins would have been a much better choice. I'm guessing that was what they wanted but presumably it would cause animation issues since players have a much wider selection of animations than monsters. Alright, I'm not a big flavour person so let's get down to the important stuff - game mechanics.

Personally, I think that the format itself seems pretty good although I didn't get to play it enough to be sure. The skill bars could use some tweaking but that's pretty par for the course at this point - ArenaNet's track record on preset skill bars is not good. Tactical splitting and play skill are definitely important in this format, and the lack of skill bar building makes it slightly (but only slightly) more friendly to casual players than the usual PvP formats with their near-vertical learning curves.

For average to experienced players, the Ranger is head and shoulders above the other builds. This is a capping and splitting format, so survivability and mobility are the order of the day - and just as in GvG, the Ranger has the best average 1v1 matchups of all the choices available. The other bars are generally at least playable with the exception of the Paragon, which I wouldn't recommend.

Note that this is a very violent format, with relatively weak healing options, so all the characters pack self-heals. The nice thing about this is that it fixes the good-monk-equals-win problem of Random Arenas - mixes of most character types are at least semi-viable, and player skill is generally more important than the class selection. That said, player skill is important enough that generally the key to winning or losing is who you get on your team, which can be frustrating at times.

One more tip:


In a splitting format, picking and choosing your fights is very important. If it's 3v1 against you, head for the hills and just try to stay alive. If you can escape without being snared, you'll either be taking up a bunch of their team, giving your team numbers elsewhere, or you'll live to collapse on that 1 other guy somewhere else on the map. I see bad players fighting helpless odds virtually every single match. Keep an eye on your radar and start running before all the guys in the area have you in spell range.

If I was a betting man, I'd say that this format is a testbed for some similar stuff in Guild Wars 2.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Always Check the Fans

I had a bunch of graphical artifact issues since I started playing Bioshock - black textures and the like - and instability too. I upgraded the graphics drivers to the latest beta with the result that stability was a bit better but now other games (like Guild Wars) started crashing and showing artifacts too.

Of course, I guessed it was the game and/or the new drivers that were doing it, especially since a lot of other people were reporting crash bugs. But I eventually figured out that the GPU was overheating. I have a XFX Geforce 7900 - and one of the ones that's pre-overclocked a bit on purchase - so I theorized that maybe it was just overclocked too far and spent too much time fiddling around with the clock settings. Still no luck.

In the end, I cracked the case and saw that the rear case fan wasn't actually turning. Well, that'd do it. I had checked previously and it was blowing air but I guess the fan was full of gunk and the rpm was down enough that the GPU was overheating. Weirdly enough, in a land of Microsoft tech junkies, I couldn't get a replacement 120mm fan in Redmond and ended up getting it via the magical power of the Internet.

So, the moral of the story - if you're having heat issues, always check the fans.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Still Not Dead

Contrary to some media reports, I am not actually dead. Just resting.

Or anyway, I wish I was.

Since my last check in with the online world, some personal drama happened that I won't bore you with and one other minor thing - I had a daughter. Turns out that babies don't have a pause button, especially when they have colic. This means that I'm watching a lot of TV and not playing much game-wise, which is all rather sad since I'd much rather play games than watch TV.

In a few stolen moments of gametime, I've squeezed in a bit of GW PvE in the new Eye of the North expansion, which is nice although rather grindy. I guess enough PvE people liked all the previous title stuff that they figured they may as well answer the call for more grind, but this time reward it with in-game significance instead of just visual differences. I haven't got to play any PvP at all since the baby was born, which is a great shame.

In other news, I've also been playing the ubiquitous Bioshock, about which plenty has been written. My verdict is that there's a reason "shock" is in the name, but nonetheless a wonderfully atmospheric game you have to buy simply to know what everyone is talking about if nothing else. I should caution you that it's a bit demanding on the machine, though.

One last thing for now - there's a new king of online game reviews. Highly recommended, if NSFW.

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