Gamer Hate

Belligerently lacking in remorse.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

No Man’s Sky – What Could Have Been

Potential
We always think about what the potential of a game was whenever there’s a hype train that inevitably comes crashing down. Below I’ll present some fixes that would have made the game meet or beat some of the hype train expectations that people had for it. Note these are things that I think would have dramatically improved the game, but would likely have added a year or more to the development time of the game, unlike my previous post where the majority of fixes are relatively simple.

Come with me on a magical journey!

Come with me on a magical journey!

Persistent Influence
This is the critical thing that I think would have made everyone happy overall. We all want to leave our mark on the world, and in NMS, you literally can’t. You can name it, and you can name the system, but it doesn’t remember what you name animals or anything else. Just fixing that would have made people a lot more tolerant of the game, especially when they ran into a world with named creatures that someone spent some time with. But one step further would have made the game an instant classic in everyone’s book: The persistence of your marks on the world. If you mined out a resource, leave it mined out, if you wiped out a species, note that the species was slain and who killed it. As new players enter the game, and over the course of time, you’d see the devastation that people can cause across a variety of planets. Especially as you get close to the galactic core and find worlds completely ravaged by multiple players desperate to scrap out more resources to finish the journey. THAT, would have been amazing to see.

Just don't kill off my Radioactive Ewoks.

Just don’t kill off my Radioactive Ewoks.

Alien Factions
Clearly there were some early plans for the 3 alien races to be at war in some fashion. The Vykeen have no love for the Gek, while the Korvax seem to have been gutted by the Gek early on in history, and only the Korvax seem to be at peace with the Sentinels. Since these aliens are basically on every damn planet from the outer rim to the galactic core, they really should have done some sort of factional alignment system. Side with the Gek, lose out with the Vykeen. Attack too many sentinels and the Korvax get upset. They literally did nothing with them. Heck, aliens can’t even remember that you just talked to them 2 seconds ago. There are a number of faction quests where you can turn them in to the authorities for stealing or desertion, and then talk to them again as though nothing had happened. Persistence here, along with daily routines for some of these aliens could have gone a long way towards creating interesting interactions. Imagine that the space station is run by 2 aliens, 1 of them goes down to the planet where he has a shack and mines minerals periodically. Perhaps he gives you a quest to act as his bodyguard? Perhaps you did something nice for him at the space station and then you get attacked by pirates on your way out and he comes out in his ship to help you fight them. Anything that gave these guys some life would have been immensely helpful towards rounding out the game, and would have made their language learning so much more critical to the game (though I did enjoy the novel aspect of it despite it not going far enough). Just the fact that traders seem to spawn out of thin air, complete with new sets of things to buy/sell pulls you right out of any hope of immersion with the aliens. Make them all persistent, and responsive to threats and other things, and you could have a pretty impressive war going on all the time. Maybe they put bounties on players that attack their ships? Who knows, the possibilities are endless, sadly none of the most obvious possibilities were used.

Or how about a galaxy-wide stock trading market?

Or how about a galaxy-wide stock trading market?

Moving Things Around/Affecting Biodomes
In my previous fixes I mentioned a subspace home where you could store creatures and plants you found to put them on display for your friends. Let’s take that one step further though, and allow players to move plants and animals from one system to the next. You could be like Noah taking 2 each of your favorite animals and then trying to find a habitable planet where you can breed them all. Effectively a Pokemon farmer simulation at this point, add in the ability to cross breed (if there’s genetic compatibility) and thus breed more animals with crazier traits and… well I know a few people who would spend the rest of their lives in the game at that point.

No planet is complete without a population of Hufflepuffs.

No planet is complete without a population of Hufflepuffs.

Plants/Food/Chemicals/Feeding Animals
The last part, and the one that felt like it was missing, was the ability to simply cook and eat foods or create chemical mixes using the plants and wildlife. When parallels were drawn between this game and Minecraft, this was the first thing that came to mind. I totally could see myself planting seeds on a planet and creating cornfields or whatever crazy alien version of it I could find in order to make fuel, or even drugs that lets me survive longer in certain environments. Such a horribly missed opportunity here, and one that effectively made almost every plant in the game utterly boring. Other than Zinc and Platinum flowers (haha, we get it, stop and smell the flowers, so clever), there isn’t a single plant in the game that anyone cares about. Except that damn whip plant they put in every infested building… Annoying because you can’t shoot it in there… That’s just bad design.

You will be whipped twice for reading this.

You will be whipped twice for reading this.

Future Updates?
I think all of these things could be addressed in future updates. It’s literally a few weeks of design work and spreadsheet creation. I just wonder if it can work with how they’ve created their overall system. Because there’s no persistence, and because even the naming of plants and animals seemed to be too much for them to track, I think it’s entirely possible that any sort of changes that affect persistence are beyond the scope of this game. Which makes me a very sad panda.

Because I want everyone to meet Roger.

Because I want everyone to meet Roger.

posted by CommanderHate at 3:47 pm  

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

More Shanghai Notes

I have yet to see a single “squat pot,” anywhere in Shanghai. I was told that all bathrooms would be squat pots here, but that’s not even close to the reality.

None of the apartments have carpet. Everything I’ve seen has been hardwood or tile floors. I miss my carpet. =P

The fastest cable modem speed in Shanghai is 2M. I miss my 8M connection in California. =(

posted by CommanderHate at 5:29 am  

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote

If you are an American citizen, you better be voting today. Time is running out. Remember that regardless of whether they say you’re supposed to vote wherever, you can always get a provisional ballot. So if you haven’t voted yet because you think there’s some technicality that is stopping you from doing so, there isn’t. Go to your polling place and ask for a PROVISIONAL ballot.

NOW!

posted by CommanderHate at 2:45 pm  

Friday, October 24, 2008

Why Politics and Religion Must Be Separate
Why Voting for Religious Reasons is Wrong

This is a really simple argument for the evangelicals and other religious types who are choosing to vote for a candidate because they want their bible’s rules to be put into American laws.

When you take away the ability for people to choose (such as abortion rights), you remove from people the right to choose what path they want to take. A person who is forced to make the right choice is not really being tested. As civil liberties (that is, our rights to do what we want) are taken away, and we are forced to do certain things by the laws, we lose our ability to choose to do the right thing. That is the number one thing that God wanted us all to have. Free will.

If you deny us the right to do what we want with our lives, you are going against God.

More importantly (to me anyways), is the idea that the laws of society should be separate from the laws of any religious text. This is primarily because there are many religious texts out there and the few areas where they agree are already in our law system (don’t kill each other, don’t steal from each other, don’t sleep with each other’s wife/wives, etc). Everything else should be up to an individual to decide based on their own religious beliefs. As soon as you start slipping bible (or Koran) verse into the law system, you end up with the possibility of destroying other religions.

There is one thing that America is supposed to be about, and that is freedom. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to make your own choices. Why would you ever want to lose those freedoms? God would not approve of anyone being FORCED down a righteous path, because it would be utterly meaningless in God’s eyes.

So stop trying to impose your religious beliefs on our system of laws. You are only hurting God when you do that.

posted by CommanderHate at 4:12 pm  

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Question: “What, if anything, can kill WOW?”
From Technohazard

Well I never thought the first question would be THIS easy. 😉

If you’re looking for something to kill WoW, there’s a very easy and obvious answer to what will finally topple this giant of the MMO games. If you’re thinking it’s a better MMO, you’re wrong. Let me give you a little background on where MMOs came from.

Back in “the day” (TM), if you wanted to hang out with the on-line community, you had to use a modem. A modem used your phone line to connect to another computer that allowed for multiple incoming calls to be maintained at once. These were called BBS, or Bulletin Board Systems. When they started, they were just for having forum discussions, but eventually they started using them for games. One of the most popular types of games was called a MUD.

MUD stands for Multi-User Dungeon. When MUDs started they were entirely text based. In fact, they were a lot like the old classic adventure games where you would walk North by typing N and hitting enter. My personal favorite was called Crossroads, where you could multi-class in different elemental power types.

Anyways, the MUDs were wildly popular among people who knew anything about BBS systems. Of course, most people didn’t. Then the internet became more and more popular and graphical interfaces for games became required. It wasn’t until about 5 years later that a MUD would meet a GUI and really click with the public though.

That game was called Everquest. Everquest was my first foray into a graphical MUD, or as they became known, a MMORPG or Massively Multiplayer On-line Role Playing Game. Everquest became an obsession for many at Blizzard, and we all played it to the detriment of our jobs. I was definitely not a hardcore player by any means, but I devoted nearly 4-6 months of ACTUAL PLAY TIME over the course of the 3 years I played it. When I did quit, I had to remove it from all my computers, smash the discs, and swear an oath to never touch the damnable thing again.

A couple years later I picked up the game again and played a Shaman to the upper 60s, but the game soon became frustrating enough to never even want to play it again. You could not solo in that game. You had to be in a group, and it was very difficult to find a good group because anyone decent was already at the level cap. The game became so frustrating that I quit without even really caring. I never returned to Everquest after that.

But at Blizzard, the passion for MMOs was only beginning, and since the team played that game so frequently, it became an obsession for them to create a better MMO that would rival and even defeat Everquest. Sadly a game I was much more interested in was cancelled as a result. Nomad, you will be missed.

When WoW started development, I had little interest in playing. Having just gotten over an Everquest addiction, I found the very idea of playing another MMO repulsive. The grind to reach the higher levels was ridiculous, and the penalties for death in EQ were extremely harsh. You could cycle die all the way back to level 1 if you bound yourself over lava. Everquest made a lot of poor game design decisions, but the fact was, there wasn’t another game in town that even came close to its immersion. Which is why making World of Warcraft made sense for Blizzard.

What World of Warcraft had was a good design sense. Sure, there were mistakes made (like slow typing the text out on the quests to force players to read them) but they fixed them in relatively short order. WoW had all the immersion of Everquest without the super hardcore under theme that Everquest had. This was an MMO that everyone could sink their teeth into and enjoy.

Indeed, it has been quite the success story. Millions are playing WoW and shelling out 15 dollars a month for that privilege. No other MMO has ever come close to their success and I doubt there will be many afterwards that will unless they’re not fantasy based (Starcraft MMO anyone?). However, something is brewing within the lands of Azeroth that will topple the mighty WoW empire within the next couple years.

As you may have noticed, WoW has had 1 expansion and 90% of the content for the expansion was content for the additional levels they added. In fact, no new classes have been developed for WoW as of yet (though the Burning Crusade promises one, it is a “hero class” meaning that it starts at level 55 (seeing as how there’s going to be no content for it 1-55, that makes sense).

In addition, the majority of the content when you reach the end level for the game is Raid content, which requires multiple competent people to get together to defeat a large enemy. This is one of WoW’s major flaws, because the people who enjoy raids are probably about 10% of their customer base. Raids are a major source of frustration for most people as they don’t want to play the way that is necessary to accomplish things in a raid (meaning being extremely attentive for 2-6 hours at a time).

The other way to spend your end time in the game is to fight in the arena or battlegrounds. Both of which are hardcore situations due to the competitive nature of being placed against opponents. Either way, you lose anyone who isn’t a fairly hardcore gamer in your end content. A lot of what the casual gamers enjoy is the easy and fun questing system that WoW has. But that content dries up quickly or often becomes a series of collection quests instead of individualized and super interesting quests. For example, the first 10-20 quests in the Burning Crusade expansion were totally awesome. Who doesn’t remember sifting through poop or dropping bombs while flying?

The problem is, that content dries up and you can only play through the game so many times before there’s really nothing you haven’t seen. Will the next expansion hit before you’ve reached the max level for the current game? Most of us have been at the level cap for many months. Let’s face it, WoW is an easy game to level through which is a good thing because leveling up is the thing that keeps people playing. Some people will make multiple characters to keep their addiction going, others will get into the hardcore raid content (though if they turn out to be slackers, they’ll fail repeatedly or be booted by their guild). A few more will take to ganking n00bs for hours… Assholes…

At the end of the day though, the lands of Azeroth will begin to become stale. The players have seen it all and done it all, and the thought of grinding through the old levels as a new character will no longer appeal to them. The thought of grinding experience at all in fact will not appeal to them. You see, the major flaw of all MMORPGs (to date) is that the actual gameplay is not all that appealing. When you really think about it, what are you doing? You’re standing in front of a computer generated object and hitting buttons to kill it. Yes, there’s more strategy to it than that, but how many times do you have do it before it becomes annoying? 100? 1000? 1,000,000?

What I learned from my MUDs was true for Everquest and is also true for World of Warcraft. Once you realize what you’re doing and how much time you’re spending doing it, the game ceases to be fun. Expansions can’t keep up with the need for new content once you reach the level cap, and those who are super casual may never reach the previous level cap at all, instead choosing to make a new character whenever the game becomes too difficult. What you develop is a rift.

The hardcore players will crank straight to the max level in a few days (with no sleep). The super casuals will never quite catch up because just as they get close (if they ever do) there are more levels stacked on top or the game becomes too difficult for them so they restart. The regular casual players aren’t good enough to raid and their equipment pales in comparison to the hardcore battleground and arena junkies, thus making them unable to have fun in any of the end game content.

So to answer the question (finally), what will ultimately end up killing WoW is time. When you finally do quit an MMO, the act of quitting is typically so final and decisive that you will never choose to play again (those who had extreme addictions will never play another MMORPG again). Some might periodically return for each expansion, but that’s typically the hardcore types who will burn through the content in a month and then realize they’re back where they started. The super casuals were already frustrated by the original jump in levels so they won’t bother. The regular casuals might give it a try, but the end content of WoW is still super competitive arena/battlegrounds OR Raids, neither of which appeal to the regular casual players.

There doesn’t need to be a bigger and better MMO to crush WoW. WoW will eventually crush itself under the heel of the design flaws of MMORPGs. Once you realize that you’re grinding, the game ceases to be fun. Once the new content is absorbed, the game ceases to be fun. If you can’t raid and you can’t compete with the hardcore in PVP, the game ceases to be fun. Eventually, everyone realizes this despite all the addictive elements of character building. Eventually, everyone realizes that if they’re going to play a game, they may as well play something that’s actually fun to play…

posted by CommanderHate at 1:15 pm  

Monday, July 7, 2008

Opening Up To The Public
Or
I’m Tired of Coming Up With All The Topics

So, I felt it. I’m pretty sure anyone who reads here regularly felt it, but I’m starting to slow down on the topics. One of the most difficult tasks for a writer starting from almost nothing is finding a topic you’re passionate about and starting to write. Thus, I’ve come up with a better way for me to regularly get on-point and interesting articles about the game industry written for all of you.

I’m opening up Gamer Hate to reader questions. If you have a question about game development, games, or specific industry related stuff (like how to get a job, what’s Chris Metzen like in person, or how long did Warcraft III really take to make and how many iterations did it go through), send that question to commanderhate@gmail.com.

I can’t promise I’ll answer every question, but I will do a minimum of one a week. This is going to be a lot easier for me as I find it much easier to answer a question in depth than to write a topic from scratch. I may or may not post information about the question asker, but if you ask to remain anonymous, I will respect your wishes.

So, there you go, a 10 year game industry veteran has opened the doors to any and all questions about the game industry and its related fields (as well as any topics of knowledge specific to my experiences). I will likely still have my own topical posts, but hopefully this will allow me to post a lot more frequently without feeling frustrated that the topic I’ve chosen is a little… uhh… lackluster. Like this one for instance. 😉

posted by CommanderHate at 8:49 am  

Friday, May 2, 2008

Things Are Changing!
Why Bad Game Companies Survive For So Long

Sometimes you have to wonder. How can an incredibly shitty business continue to survive when everyone in the world knows that they are destined to continually crank out failure after failure? Is it their business savvy that allows them to survive? Their huge stockpiling of cash from old successes? Their amazing ability to keep talented individuals that can move a project forward?

No, it is none of those things because they do not have any of them. They’re typically financially crippled, incompetent when it comes to business and have no ability to recognize a talented individual, let alone keep them interested enough to stay for the entirety of one of their miserable projects. No, indeed, the one thing they do have is an ability to promise more than they can deliver and then work their employees to death trying to get close to that promise.

Yes, these companies are fueled by dreams (or really nightmares) of being able to produce a quality title with an extremely limited budget and in a ridiculously short amount of time. They constantly and consistently work their employees until they’re red in the face angry and most who have any sense of what is right and wrong in the world will up and quit. Many don’t, and they end up perpetuating the cycle continuously until they are burned out and quit the industry altogether.

You see, the reason that these companies that absolutely suck at making games are able to continually survive is because of us. By us I mean developers. The game designers, the artists, the programmers that make up the life’s blood of a game company have been propping up and operating these monumental shit golems for many years. And for what? A paycheck… Is any amount of money worth staying at work 12 hours a day for weeks on end just to release a product that’s crappy because the company that is slave driving you can’t understand the difference between a good and bad game and only cares about meeting some stupid milestone requirement so they get their money? If you answered yes to that, then you shouldn’t be in the game industry. There are many other fields of work that will reward you much better for putting in that kind of effort into something you don’t really believe in.

So how do these shitty companies keep getting deals to make new games? They should be long dead given their track record so far, right? Yet somehow, they score new deals with slack jawed publishers at least once a year.

Well they’ve got quite the assortment of tricks and tactics to fool these poor unsuspecting publishers into giving them another deal. Let me go over them one at a time for you.

1. A fancy slogan for no longer sucking!

That is to say, they adopt some new program that they say they’re going to follow and they trick everyone into believing this will somehow miraculously solve all of their past problems and allow them to release an awesome game as opposed to the crap they just shat into a box a few months ago. The best example of this is Foundation 9’s TQI, or Total Quality Initiative. You might be surprised to know that TQI is something they came up with in the 70s. The primary principle behind the TQI is that the quality of the product is inherently linked to the motivation of the employees making the product. If they are motivated and allowed to make a good product, it will have quality (yes, this is a slight oversimplification).

The problem is that absolutely nothing has changed at any of the Foundation 9 companies that involves TQI. It was merely a publicity stunt to make publishers THINK that things are changing for the better. In fact, things have never been worse for the employees as raises have been stunted across the board and the general impression is that the company wants to bleed out people so they can hire cheaper alternatives. Yet somehow they continue to land publishers. Are these publishers so stupid that they were tricked by the Total Qualitive Initiative bullshit spewed by Richard Hare? Perhaps they were, but they won’t be for long, so these crappy companies reach back into their bag of tricks and pull out…

2. The Name Change!

Recently Shiny and The Collective merged to form one company. Realizing that both companies now have a long sordid history of crapping into boxes and putting it onto store shelves (see Golden Compass, Da Vinci Code, Mark Ecko’s Getting Up, etc) they decided to pretend to make it a whole new company. Now it’s called Double Helix, but guess what. NOTHING HAS CHANGED! It’s the same people, the same bad direction, the same poor business choices… Literally the only thing that has changed is the name. They’ve pulled the toothless stinky crack whore (who has aborted more than her fair share of fetuses) off the street, named her Lexus and are now attempting to pimp her as some sort of virginal Goddess that has done no wrong.

Sorry folks, but you can name your shitty company whatever you want. It’s still a shitty company.

3. The Large Employee Pool!

Misrepresentation is a common tactic as we can see from their other tricks, but this one is probably the most devious. When a publisher brings their game to the table, they want to know that they’re going to have a large amount of talented people working on it. So when the publisher asks how many people will be working on a project these shitty companies bring out their whole roster of developers and make it seem like every single person at the company will be making their game. The sad truth is, they’ve probably (through more trickery) already got 1 to 3 other projects already in the works. That pool of developers is going to be divided amongst those titles.

Does the shitty game company tell this to the publisher? HELLLLLLLS TO THE NO!! They let them think that everyone will be on their project, so when the publisher asks for something ridiculous for the 3 month milestone, what is the game company going to do? They HAVE to deliver it or they have to admit that they lied about how many people were on the project. So the publisher is expecting a pool of 100 people on their game when in fact it’s more like 30 and the frustration builds as the shitty game company now works those poor 30 people straight into early graves because they won’t admit they lied to the publisher. Fucking evil…

4. Make promises they can’t keep to employees!

This is probably the most insidious part of these shitty companies. After a long and grueling project you finally decide that you’re going to get the hell out of dodge and go to a company that actually gives a crap about its employees. Yet all of a sudden you start hearing things about the next project. They’re totally going to do something awesome and make a real quality product (of course they’ve used the three methods above to score this project so it’s destined to fail). But you stay and listen, and they promise you other things. They’re not going to make you work overtime. Everyone is going to get a raise and comp time equal to the actual hours they’ve put in. They’re getting a water fountain that dispenses Mountain Dew!!!

Well they somehow manage to snag the project, but guess what. They promised something they couldn’t deliver so you’re going to spend the next grueling 12 weeks cranking on a milestone that will be nowhere near what it needs to be to live up to what they told the publisher. You’re not getting a raise because they’re worried about this milestone and possibly having to lay people off, and hell, if you quit they can just hire a junior out of a design college to replace you for 1/3rd of the price (of course they need you to quit so they don’t have to pay severance). They also need to get this project out ASAP, so you can’t even use the paltry 5 minutes on the hour comp time they did give you. You have no choice but to grit your teeth, bare down and try to forget about the Mountain Dew Fountain that never seemed to materialize.

I liken creating a game to the birthing process. Squirting out a baby is a mind numbingly horrible experience for everyone involved. The first year of taking care of that little monster is filled with shit (literally), 2 hour sleep cycles, and an endless amount of screeching. Yet somehow, after the first year and a half, people start talking about having another baby… So developing a game at a shitty company is a lot like that, except that you attempt to disown the poor turd baby you just crapped out and run from the mother publisher as fast as you can while you hide your face in shame.

But I digress…

I realize of course that these companies are just trying to survive. I just wish they’d go about it in a more honest way. You can change your name every week but that won’t improve your games. You can spout off about Quality until you’re blue in the face, but if you don’t actually change your business model or the way you treat your employees, your products can only get worse. You can lie to publishers as much as you like, but… Well, actually you’ll get money for it so I guess that works, but EVENTUALLY you will run out of publishers and because your top business management guys never change, they will recognize your stupid face the next time you try to sell them on a product.

As to the people who work at those companies. You’re kind of like the battered women we see on tv. “But he loves me!” Wake the fuck up people. You CAN do better. Just because you’ve worked there for some amount of years doesn’t mean you owe them anything. They are a corporate entity, and if it suits their business interests, they will put you over a barrel and ass fuck you until you bleed out.

Don’t let them ass rape you anymore, get a job at a good game company. You deserve it after what they’ve put you through. 😉

posted by CommanderHate at 2:05 pm  

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

No Post Today

Too busy to rant.

Here’s something to ponder though.

If everyone waited until they could afford to have kids, how many would have them?

posted by CommanderHate at 12:16 am  

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