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The B-Log

Not as good as the A-Log, admittedly, but it's Blaise's weekly thoughts on MMOs, and why he is or isn't playing one at the moment. A General Thought blog by someone who is studying at Uni, awaiting his moment to start working... in quality assurance.

Author: Blazz

P.S. Sorry for the late reply

Posted by Blazz Saturday May 29 2010 at 9:39PM
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Yes, that's Ringo Star's voice actor from the Simpsons going through my head.

Hey there, now before, I was merely a guy doodling with XNA for the fun of it. For the last four or five months, however, I've been the main programmer for my team making a 2D side-scrolling platformer and oh god I don't know what I'm doing and nobody else does either.

That was how we all felt like at the beginning, but as I worked on the game my ego was stroked and stroked until it became a massive thing, overshadowing the project itself, climbing sky scrapers and destroying the planes coming in to bring it down.

Recently, say, two to three weeks ago, I realised that the game had many bugs, and that the object oriented programming I had been doing "We need enemies? ENEMY CLASS! We need moving platforms instead of regular platforms? MOVINGPLATFORM CLASS!" was fairly dodgey, and that I really should have done some preparation before starting to code anything. But it wasn't my fault, I swear!

 

If you're going to make a game, and you need to have it done in, oh, 14 weeks or so, make sure you all decide on the following things FAST:

- Will we have to 'refresh' the level? Respawn enemies, put the player back in place, etc.

- Does the player have lives? Will he have to respawn when he loses one?

- Do you have multiple levels?

- Do you have menus?

 

For bigger projects, the obvious answer to all of the above is "Yes", but we were told to make a small, fully functional, and hopefully fun game. We were expected to be able to make one solid level. I am coding in the five levels I still have left to do now.

It's been a ridiculous ride this semester, with me changing from Design to Software Technology (programming) as my major, and also learning as much about XNA as I have has been fun, really rekindling my passion for the specialty.

 

Heroes of Newerth (HoN) was finally released, and sucked some time out of me, even when it was still in open beta. It's been developed by S2 Games, and is a fantastic remake of Defense of the Ancients (DotA), one of the biggest maps for Warcraft 3, ever. It's probably an unfortunate thing that the community from DotA has remained with HoN, but it's just to be expected, when remaking a game but updating the engine considerably, that fans of the first game will move to the newer, shinier, and more flexible game. S2 Games also made the Savage games, which I believe were the first well-recieved first/third person shooter + role playing + real time strategy games released. Making it a FaTPSRPRTSG. I won't continue rambling on about it, but it was a pretty rad game, and the 2nd one is still pretty rad as well (and follows a Free2Play system which I believe isn't overly inbalanced!)

 

Perpetuum finally sent me an email confirming me for the closed beta, so I started that game up... it's alright, but I find the starting 'tutorial' is lacking somewhat. It tells you how to fight, how to mine effectively, and then how to 'enter' the giant building that is nearby. It leads to a lot of assumptions, and a reasonably experienced gamer like myself can see what they mean, but I just wonder about 'the average Joe', and how they would handle the experience. Would they notice the little green ring around the tiny interface buttons at the top right of the screen? That's already odd enough for any windows user or WoW player, which are the majority of people that might notice that Perpetuum is also an 'MMORPG' and try it out. I don't know... once I found that menu, I clicked on the tabs, looked at things, and it's very similar to EVE's interface in a lot of ways, which is alright, because I love EVE's interface. All of this said, I've barely scratched my itch for knowing what's in this game Perpetuum, which seems to be EVE, but... not in space, yet.

 

And that brings me back to EVE online, that game which has managed  to keep my subscription even through University, simply because I can progress without having to play it much. I spend most of my training skill time these days investing into the learning skills. I have about 18 attribute points across the board, which is better than a friend of mine who has been playing for maybe two years now, which really brings to mind the idea that a new player can specialise in "something" and be better at that "something" in a few months than someone who has been playing for a few years, and specialised in "something else" themselves.

I recently trained Battlecruisers II, and Cruisers III, which means I can now pilot a Hurricane, and maybe get a piece of the Wormhole action, where my friends have been raking in hundreds of millions of ISK from salvaging the sleepers inside the wormholes. One of them just up and gave me 60 million ISK so I could afford the Hurricane and the needed skills to pilot one... I love my tiny Corporation.

 

Back to uni work for now, though... the game is due on Wednesday, along with a 2500 word Game Concept document - which no one will tell me what they want. So yes, fun times ahead. CRUNCH TIMES.

Little Spaceship Game Tutorial ++;

Posted by Blazz Tuesday February 9 2010 at 10:18PM
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I am enjoying learning little things about how the XNA engine works.

Here's a list of features that the 2D tutorial gives you in your step by step created game:

-A Static Background
-A rotatable cannon
-The GameObject class

(contains it's own variables, things like it's position, whether it's "alive" or not, what texture it uses, etc.)

-The ability to fire cannonballs from the cannon
-The ability to kill enemies with those cannonballs
-A score

 

And that's about it... it's a nice tutorial, and I highly recommend it to game designers who have little skill in the programming department, and want to expand on what little skill they have to make, say, a little platformer or something (although the spaceship game is much more simple than a platformer)

 

Now, as of my last blog post, I had just finished the 2D tutorial. That was what, two days ago? Three? Well, I think I've improved upon the game pretty heavily, if I do say so myself. Behold, a FEATURE LIST!

-Sound (when cannonballs are fired, and when cannonballs hit spaceships)
-The AnimatedGameObject class

(contains NEW variables, like "currentframe", "currentkeyframe", "keyframetimer", and "totalframes"!)

-A pause menu, with buttons controlled by the UP/DOWN keys on your keyboard, or the DPad UP/DOWN keys on your XBox 360!
-AnimatedGameObject Explosions when a spaceship dies! (with a different alive condition, based on it's currentframe!)
-New and improved AnimatedGameObject enemy spaceships that animate to the speed of their velocity.X!

 

I think I've done pretty well, and while I may pat myself on the back (ahhh, that's the spot, right there... yeaaaaaahhhh...) I still have many things I want to do, before I consider this "tutorial" game finished!

See, I have a checklist that I wrote down a few days ago.

  1. Add a pause button (done!)
  2. Add a full starting menu
  3. Add an in-game menu (resume, exit) (done!)
  4. Find out how to play sounds (done!)
  5. Find out how to animate objects (done! And using a single file, too!)
  6. Create explosions for spaceships (done!)
  7. Make ships fall to the ground
  8. Add in a lose condition
  9. Add a lose/play again/exit menu
  10. Add weapons
  11. Add enemies
  12. Add levels
  13. Add bosses
  14. Find out how to save to file
  15. Highscores
  16. Save/load

So yeah, I still have some work to do. I'm currently working on a super-secret ComplexAnimatedGameObject class, but shhhh, I'm saving it for when I make a platformer in the not-too-distant future.

 

So yeah, erm, put your mind to something, and, if you don't have full-time work or university studies yet, you can do it!

Cheers,

-Blaise Guy

So, XNA studio, eh?

Posted by Blazz Sunday February 7 2010 at 9:43AM
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Some friends and myself are underway starting the process of creating a game, using XNA studio.

We'll be likely making a simpler version of Castle Crashers, with a different style/theme etc., for XBOX, and perhaps PC downloadable too.

I'm like, the secondary coder, and I'm checking out the XNA studio capabilities, and it seems pretty good at what it does. Perhaps I'll do a little stress test or two to see what it's capable of, but so far I've done the little 2D tutorial (that any retard could do, due to the step by step video guide) and it's sort of interesting, and it's reminding me that not every game is made the same way that I screw around in Flash with Actionscript 2.0.

In fact, Actionscript 3.0 sort of threw me for a loop way back when, since I couldn't do the same little bad code practices that I used to do with AS 2.0. But I'm losing track of the point, here.

 

I highly recommend that anyone who might wish to make some sort of indie game on the XBOX 360 or PC, try using XNA studio.

My main problem is: How do I continue to learn without the use of the tutorial videos for the next two weeks, while my internet cap slowly ambles towards me with a measly 2.5GB of internet left? That includes uploads and downloads! Damn Australia's internet... it's like... 15 MBit, at best. You Americans have 120 MBit internets... sadface. : (

 

Anyway, while it's not an MMO we're creating, I'll give you some updates on what we've done as time goes on. For now, what I've done is in the end of the 2D tutorials video over at creators.xna.com. Cheers.

-Blaise Guy

Because hey, it's been a while.

Posted by Blazz Thursday February 4 2010 at 4:16AM
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With nothing else to talk about, as nothing's really going off in my head as interesting enough to write a full blog about, I'll just talk about something that was odd about, you guessed it, World of Warcraft.

 

The gameplay is pretty well done, which is probably what has kept so many people in the game over the last five years. Now, I'm leveling a Protection Specced Orc Warrior. For those of you not in the know (very few, I imagine), there are talent trees in the game. Once level ten, you can start putting "talent points" into various parts of one of three talent trees for each class. Warriors have Arms, Fury, and Protection specialisations, or specs.

 

A move was introduced in The Burning Crusade, and until I ReSpecced and got some points out of arms and fury (5% parry from Arms, and 5% critical hit from Fury) and put them all into Protection again (I am currently level 60, with 51 talent points) - I was playing a very dull version of what I could have been playing.

 

Let me explain a little of what I was generally doing in any given combat with a monster.

 

1. Run up to monster
(no use of the move charge - I fight in defensive stance, it's just too much of a hassle to switch stances over and over)

2. Fight until either 20 rage is reached or I dodge, block, or parry
   a) Use Revenge
   b) Use Shield Bash

 

And that's a dull way to fight. I can't even really mash anything and make the fight a little more button-pressing intensive. If I'm in a multiple-person fight, it is usually the same but using Thunder Clap, Demoralising shout, and Cleave, in moments where other moves are on cooldown.

 

With Burning Crusade, Blizzard was thinking to themselves "huh, defensive warriors don't like not doing any damage to a monster, especially in solo PvE grinding - I know, let's let them do damage on their Sunder Armor move!" - and Devastate was born.

Devastate, a 41 point talent move, allows a player to do damage that increases with the number of Sunder Armor effects are on one target - a player may sunder armor 5 times on one monster.

So cool, Protection Specialised warriors can now do pretty nice damage with a move that generates a lot of threat and reduces armour. Now a normal battle consists of spamming Devastate wherever possible, and it is fantastic. Good on you, Blizzard.

 

But did they stop there? Of course not, they released another expansion - and gave us more talent points (to use on the way to level 80). Another talent added was Warbringer - making Charge and Intercept, two very, very useful moves for PvP (and PvE rage generation), able to be used inside of combat, in any stance. The latter of the two means I can happily run around in defensive stance, grinding onwards, with the use of charge at my disposal.

 

While this is all rantastic, I just want to say this:

Changing ten points from one place to another place dramatically changed my gameplay experience.

 

While people will argue about cookie cutter builds and optimum raid tanking/dps/healing vs. pvp tanking/dps/heaing builds, you can't deny that some talent points make a huge difference.

Or maybe you can - a friend of mine's druid only needs to change two talent points in order to change from a Bear tank to a Cat form dps - so he hasn't bothered forking out the thousand gold for dual specialisation.

 

Anyway, I'm off to have some dinner. And check on my internet cap - because I live in Australia, where the internet is shit.

Cheers,

-Blaise Guy

Room for Expansion, the Money Tree

Posted by Blazz Sunday November 15 2009 at 6:34AM
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With Blizzard's announcement of Cataclysm, and various crazy new things that are going to happen to Azeroth, and now introducing faction change, which I think is huge, I think it's safe to say that Blizzard has made a pretty damn good product with World of Warcraft - especially so in the sense of expansion.

We all expand, in our own little ways. Gamers become better gamers, play more games. Civilisations filled with people, grow more people, grow more crops to feed more people - we grow our supplies, consume our growth and multiply, following in this pattern, and Expansion packs, or just additional content for games, are much the same.

EvE online has managed to make a game where it almost needs expansion in order to make your current time investment worth it - otherwise you're just gaining status on the forums. With sovereignty allowing for system control implemented (although from what I hear, implemented somewhat clunkily at the moment) the game has a rich world based on the players, which can only die if the players die.

A game that doesn't really have much room for expansion, or at least useful, intriguing expansion, is WAR. Warhammer Online is based around their RvR combat - you can level up to the maximum level just by doing Scnerios - instanced team based pvp. Alternatively, you can capture keeps and kill players in open world based pvp. Well, that's all good... doing all of this, however, eventually builds up to the ultimate clash between the Order and Destruction sides in city seiges. These battles are huge zergs of players fighting against other players, with NPCs too involved in the carnage.

These battles could be very cool, in fact, they could be the best thing ever... but where does WAR go from here? There isn't anywhere to go from capturing the enemy's city, is there? I certainly can't think of what could be more tremendous than capturing and destroying your sworn enemy's main city - I suppose they could add in the Dwarf/Orc cities, and the High Elf/Dark Elf cities, but those were things meant to be included in the release. Players probably won't take too kindly to paying money for things they were suppised to get a year ago.

Seriously, where would WAR go? I think they have caved themselves in, trapped in their awesome City Seiges for as long as the game remains profitable.

 

Now, I hate to play favourites or promote Blizzard's World of Warcraft, but there are so many areas in which Blizzard could keep on improving and adding to WoW, in such that they seriously could be around in five to ten years, still.

New player races, for example. Harpies, Centaurs, Knolls, Pandaren, Furbolgs, Ogres, Naga, Dragonkin, Troggs, Kobolds - if you really wanted to get into it, they could make player-based elementals, silithids, daemons (imps, felguards, void walkers).

New instances - the ever increasing lore that gets dug up from time to time that creates new raid content. New places to explore - they're still only just about to enter the maelstrom area.

New factions - Dark age of Camelot was hailed as a fantastic game with its 3-way PvP - adding in a third or even a fourth faction in WoW could add to their content considerably, perhaps making as vast a world as Star Wars Galaxies apparently was back in the day. The Cenarion Circle could be a faction of its own - there are already furbolgs that work with them. The Steamwheedle Cartel and various other profiteering groups could be an opposing faction.

There are simply heaps of possibilities, room for expansion, for World of Warcraft, and is shows us how versatile Blizzard has made their game - especially from a business perspective, as it could still be around for a while.

I mean, hell, they have the money and manpower to completely makeover the graphics, were they so inclined, and I think that alone would pull whatever players left to Aion.

 

In closing here on this pro-WoW-anti-WAR blog post, which was entirely incidental by the way, should anyone be planning an MMO, think about the next five years. Plan for success, and don't waste too much of your resources into your backup.

A man riding a motorbike over a large jump doesn't spend his run-up with a parachute strapped to their back - it will slow down their initial jump, and it's almost planning for failure.

Think about it.

Bah, Uni, new games, and a return to the Matrix

Posted by Blazz Thursday November 12 2009 at 1:53AM
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Hello all... 200 of you, perhaps!

I'm back!

I am going to try to be a little more consistent, in an effort to apply myself over the next few months (University Holidays).

So I finished a year of University, and I find it lacking... I suppose, they've shown us some skills, but there are far too many exams and not enough assignments. In the real world, people don't sit you down, give you a sheet of paper, and test you on it. They get you to do things - and generally, they don't care how you do things.

Were I to learn C++ quite well, and started work with a team that used the Unreal engine and I hadn't researched the Unreal engine much, then I would bloody research the thing, and get things programmed (and well documented) somehow. I doodle with actionscript when I can, and there are scripts and whole chunks of code that do various wierd and wonderful things out there with very little editing required - that's not mentioning the help documentation on the Adobe website.

Bah...

I recently got Borderlands, which is, I like to call it, Diablo II (loot/progression) meets Fallout 3 ("post-apocalyptic" cleverly disguised as "future, on another planet") meets Halo (FPS shooter style, V to "melee" very similarly, and a shield that regenerates after a short while... oh, and very high jumps with low gravity)

As fun as the game has been, I am sort of neglecting it due to... *sigh*... my reinsertion to the World of Warcraft Matrix that controls us, and uses us to charge Blizzard's money-powered mobile Gold mountain fortress. They've added experience in PvP, and I am really looking forwards to the Maelstrom finally being a playable area, along with the new races and the ability to change from Horde to Alliance etc. etc.

So, I want to kill Arthas and play with some of my level 80 friends - which means grinding up a new character on their server (damn ~$20 server-changing money-grabbin...) - Cosbybebop, the Orc Warrior of the Horde on Dath'Remar server.

(For those of you who don't know about Cowboy Bebop, first, watch www.youtube.com/watch, that is the Cowboy Bebop opening, no, I am not rick-rolling you. Second, watch cosbybebop.ytmnd.com. It is a fantastic tribute to Cowboy Bebop, using Bill Cosby's various lines from various cartoons.)

I'm level 26, and only just added QuestHelper again... I gotta say, I feel like I'm running on a treadmill. I wish I could attach my account to a friend's just mid-game, or, perhaps, if I added this friend 3 years ago (which I did) I could attach my account to his now... oh well, just the normal, accelerated amount of experience for me, I suppose.

 

As far as Slashyell.com's coming along, jeez, I haven't heard from the graphic design artist chick in a while... I should probably chase that up.

Oh, and I'm probably going to start some development (whether it be small, stupid flash games, good flash games, or flash animations.... or hell, I might just play around in Maya again)

Stay tuned on that one!

Coming Next time I remember I have a Blog, the B-log: Room for Expansion, the Money Tree

Zynga, the Blizzard of Facebook

Posted by Blazz Saturday September 5 2009 at 12:05AM
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A thoguht occured to me when I saw that maybe half of my friends on facebook are playing some sort of game made by Zynga.

"Damn, a lot of people are playing Zynga games!"

Let's look at virtually any game made by Zynga that is on Facebook - they are simply F2P browser based games, every last one of them. In Mafia Wars you can purchase "Godfather points" that allow you to play the game at a more rapid pace, or be stronger, or just "hire" henchmen instead of insisting that your friends play by annoying them with spam invites. I myself tried this game without spending any money whatsoever until about level 115, but it was basically a process of logging in every day, pressing a mission a few times, repairing properties, and logging out. But if I'd paid the extra $5, I could keep playing for another round of what I just did!

And you can see where that leads - some devoted players spending heaps of money to get to the top. Woo!

The same things goes for Pirates or Dragon Wars or Vampires, they are all basically the same browser based game with various "missions" which use some form of "energy", along with the ability to "attack" other players using "strength" or something.

The activities are simple, basically the same, and don't even look visually impressive (being a browser game, the least they could do is put in some decent art)

 

Why, if I had hours and hours free to play browser games like this, I could sign up to ten of them! I could do everything I could with my "energy" in each individual game, and by the time I finished the last game, I could go back to the first game and start it all over again! Genious!

And of course, by having these games on Facebook as Applications, Zynga has put itself into a sort of viral advertising, simply by saying "Blaise is playing Mafia Wars", my friends could click the Mafia Wars link, and BAM! Another player!

Each person would play, their friends would see, some of those friends would click the link and play, some of their friends would see, etc. etc.

It is an incredible idea for any marketing expert out there, and obviously, as Zynga's status among the F2P world grows, it seems to work pretty well. Apparently, as of 21st of April, Zynga's applications have 40,335,309 active monthly users. Suck on that one, Blizzard.

 

I had originally planned for this particlar B-log to go along some other path, but I am content with giving people a heads up for when they see a Zynga game on some social networking site.

An unprofessional cheers for now!

-Blaise