Thursday, December 29, 2005

You got your MMO in my platformer!

No, actually, Raph Koster's wondering why we don't have more platformer in our MMOs. While playing some other games Raph has gotten curious if people paid attention to more than leveling in MMOs. One example being:
Our environments could learn a lot from games like Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones — at one point my daughter shouted out, “Now that’s a Jackie Chan moment!” when I ran off a wall, jumped off a springy shutter, caught onto a overhanging plank, clambered on, then dove into the gap between two buildings, lodged myself within, flipped around, and dropped down onto an unsuspecting soldier.
He's got the right idea, but it's not environments that we need to learn from this, but the gameplay itself.

Just adding the relatively simple action set [grab, hang, climb, push, pull] to typical small set of MMO actions [run/walk, jump, attack, evoke via spell, use/equip item] would, I think, introduce such a larger variety on the already existing styles of missions/instances that I don't get why it hasn't been done. And that's not to mention entirely new quest/skill options. Sure most MMO gameplay happens on a 2d grid, but I'd say it's true that few games use the vertical dimension to really add to gameplay. (Some examples would be FPS' that use high sniper spots, low trenches to dig in, and let you hide behind objects by ducking or climbing, and some action games like Prince of Persia and Spidey.) But I think creating an interesting world may possibly be easier to do with an MMO than a game like Prince of Persia.

You don't really have to design every nook and cranny of a world by hand. With the simple action set I mentioned above players and NPCs could do a lot of the work in shaping their world for you. I think it's easy to see different types of fun emerging here on it's own for people to get a good grasp of their abilities. (Ever play Halo with friends or online? You'll eventually run into fifteen other people who just want to pile on top of each other and move level objects around to try new feats and gain access to new heights. It's in our nature to be inquisitive.) At most a player just needs a few easy training missions like climbing up a tree and out on a limb to rescue a cat, or swinging across a small stream. So let players/NPCs worry about placement of tables, chairs, fruit carts with springing awnings, barrels, planks/boards, ropes, and all the derivatives they could create with those tools.

By letting players actually place objects that can be physically interacted with (even if players still can't collide, like in WoW), you can free your designers up to worry about larger and more spectacular mission-related interactive environment items like strategic ledge placement, vines, columns, and chandeliers to swing from.

Sure you'll get someone who'll try to make a hundred-barrel pyramid, or fill a tree with chairs, but that's all in good fun and if one wanted could be curbed with NPC 'street sweepers'.

Of course, the problem as always is latency. Though, anyone want to do a broadband-only MMO on the premise of new gameplay that will lampooned as "you can move your own crates!"? Nah, didn't think so.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

But I don't want to be a murderer!

On the internet there's few places that I 'make' time for, even when I don't really have time to be on the internet. One of those places has become, for some reason I can't quite place, While on a visit there earlier tonight I saw someone post about Shadow of the Colossus. That someone said "It could have definetely used enemies. But I love the game for what it is. But I consider it more of a filler game then anything else,". I shit you not. My reply?

I absolutely loved Shadow, but to want more colossi? I actually made it all the way to the last colossus. The killing has to stop somewhere, people. If the price of love is my soul, I would gladly pay it. But was it love I was fighting for, or my own selfish desires I was commiting murder for? It took far too long, but I came to realize it was the latter. And that's not something I was willing to do any longer. Once I laid eyes on the final colossus, I just sat the controller down. And I turned the game off. I still haven't beaten that colossus and I don't plan to.

That seemed to surprise a few people, who insisted I had to finish it, to see the ending. Now, instantly I could draw the parallel to books or a movie. If you stop reading a book, that doesn't change what happens in the story. The ending to a movie still 'takes place', even if you don't see it and don't know it. But what about games? Particularly one in which the entire game does not progress if the player doesn't initiate it? (As opposed to Mario, if you stop playing, the time runs out and you die.) Is the game truly 'unifinished' just because the player stop playing it before an assumed 'end'?

Most games would have us believe yes, and reinforce that by giving us 'completion rates', but those aren't true gauges that we've exhausted a game's fun or emotional range so much as they are a measure of the amount of content we've plodded through. I propose that this comparison to books and movies does not hold water. Claiming a game is 'unifinished' is just silly. You may not finish the 'story', but you certainly finish the 'game'. When I turn off Tetris, the game is over. When the spoiled kid takes his football and goes home, the game is over. When file Shadow of the Colossus away into my gaming library, it is over. One day, I may just finish the story... But not today. And no time soon. Because I've finished 'my' story. And I didn't have to slaughter every Colossus to do it. Right? Right?


Y'know what? Nevermind. I'm already a murderer fifteen times over. My soul is as damned as can be. At this point, if the sacrificing of one life can bring my love back hers, then it's something I've got to do. I'm going right now to kill that fucker.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Anyone up for a game of Civ 4?

I haven't blogged in a while.  But aside from life annoying me, and me getting tiny bits and pieces of programming done, there's one thing that's holding me back.  Civilization IV.  So now I'm curious if anyone else out there's up for a huge email game.  I'd like to set a specific time for everyone to ideally have their turn over with so that we all get at least one turn a day, unless folks are up for more turns.  I'm talking a long-term game, though with the development on 'quick', just to help us along.

If you are, go ahead and comment or email me (jeffool at with the, let's say, hour, that you'd like to take for your turn.  I'm cool for any time midnight-7am Eastern, so I'm sure that won't be slighting anyone else.