Welcome to 'Blogged Out', the news report that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week we look at impressions of a desirable Christmas present, G-Men, and festive content.
Ensemble's Rob "Xemu" Fermier has been having fun after the release of their latest 'Age Of' game, playing with the Christmas present a whole lot of his fans will be hoping to get from Santa, Microsoft's new baby. Fermier blogs about the meta-game provided by the new '360 online services, which have converted him from sceptic to Xbox believer:
"My favorite new feature of the X360 is the way it is always online with Xbox Live. While the original Xbox had a feature roughly kind of like that, the universal access to the dashboard via the guide button makes every game a live game. Seeing your friends log on, chatting, and comparing leader board scores is extremely addictive. When I first heard about the plans for Xbox Live in this regard, I chalked it up as marketing-speak for a sort of social interaction that was meaningless to most gamers -- but I've 100% changed my tune in that regard."
Fermier also mentions the 'achievements' concept, whereby developers for the X360 can add in-game goals to a player's online 'permanent record', allowing them to make public their personal badges of honour. It'll be interesting to see how the smaller ideas like this develop over time, and whether any game development decisions will genuinely be made around them.
Increasingly, it seems that feature lists of power and processing prowess are of little consequence, and instead it is the application of interface innovations and communal gaming experiences that really make the next-generation interesting. While the games for the Xbox 360 haven't yet managed to cause that much excitement, I suspect that what forthcoming games manage to accomplish with these supplemental systems might provide redemption; just as Nintendo's new ideas promise to do for the Revolution.
Terranova's Mike Sellars reports on the FBI's involvement in recent 'denial of service' attacks on Second Life, in a recent update to academic gaming thought-stream Terra Nova. Can the FBI really be expected to deal with online griefers? If so then maybe I need to talk to the G-Men, because there's this guy who keeps camping me in Battlefield 2... Sellars writes:
"The only thing that surprises me about this is that more of this level of griefing hasn't been more evident already early on in Second Life, Randy Farmer made an invisible repeating auto-cannon that fired a hundred rounds per minute and teleported people away, just to illustrate what could be done with the scripting tools available. He could have been much nastier with his creation, but chose to limit the gun's abilities. Since then there have been reports of other local griefing tactics using scripted objects, but nothing major. Perhaps this latest event is an example of a network effect in action: as SL's user numbers climb, the probability of such 'attacks' approaches certainty."
And here Sellar's invokes John Hanke's Law from Raph Koster's Laws Of Game Design, which reads, 'In every aggregation of people online, there is an irreducible proportion of ... jerks (he used a different word)'. That does seem to be true, but you have to wonder where the jerks find their motivation. Can we really blame the parents?
Finally it's clear that the gaming blogosphere has been buzzing wit end of year lists, as well as reports of the various Christmas decorations in the MMOs. Second Life has draped itself in player-derived decorations, filling half the game with Christmas trees and snowmen, while Eve Online's jittery servers are made all the more festive by the inclusion of a harmless snowball launcher. Meanwhile, City of Villains has delivered Operation: Scrooge, where the player bad-guys have to steal Children's presents to get themselves a Santa hat, while both Heroes and Villains have been enjoying the free jet-packs provided by Cryptic. Most impressive of all the Christmas decorations were those delivered to World Of Warcraft, which included lights and trees across the major cities, as well as a stack of festive quests. Quite how people got to ride red-nosed reindeer, I've yet to discover...
But whatever you're playing or developing, do enjoy Christmas, and make sure you buy someone a copy of something brilliant.
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