Quick Look at the Hero Engine 2

The Repopulation on Hero Engine 2
The Repopulation on Hero Engine 2

So here we see The Repopulation on the Hero Engine 2. The big deal about the Hero Engine 2 is a large update to the graphics engine.

The Repopulation looked good under Hero Engine 1 as far as I was concerned. The pre-alpha videos displayed graphics that were similar to those found in Fallen Earth, a game I played and enjoyed for some long time.

Other additions to the Hero Engine with Hero Engine 2 include a new middleware called Awesomium® which is a web UI browser framework.

From a player perspective it’s an interesting addition since it allows players to see web hosted content in game. Developers could post in game news, or post upcoming in game events to a web host such as the game website. Then the content would be visible to players both in and out of the game (without using the alt+tab option). I’m not 100% sure about how it’s implemented, but it still sounds like a fun addition. I know I wanted to use something like this when working with the OpenSim project for web driven story lines.

From a developer perspective though Hero Engine states that the integration assists with micro transactions and subscriptions. Hey, games have to make money or they don’t stay live.

Another middleware addition is SpeedTree® for Games 6. This middlware addition makes it quicker and easier for developers to add animated trees and foliage to a game. From a player standpoint, it’s not a huge deal, though it is nice seeing wavy grass in game. From a Developer standpoint though, something like SpeedTree® would cut down the back end work of adding custom animations to trees and foliage. Kind of a bonus in my book.

Despite some random MMO forum rumblings, it looks like the Hero Engine 2 is solid. It offers some very interesting features for building games, monetizing games, and giving games the ‘polished’ look that MMO gamers demand. It will be interesting to see what happens with games created on the Hero Engine platform.

Personally, I’m just looking forward to playing The Repopulation.

Resources used for this Post:

Category: Game Biz, Game Building, Gaming, MMO, MMORPG | Comments Off on Quick Look at the Hero Engine 2

Sims 3 Create A World Part 2 WorldCache Issue

The District take two.

So what I put in my last post both did and did not work. It worked until I saved my world and exited out of the In Game Editor. Then my In Game Editor froze again when I tried to get back into the world.

Since I don’t want to have to uninstall Create-A-World before each session I figured I’d do a little more work on it.

Currently I can get the In Game Editor to work reliably for me. It turns out that the issue has something to do with the WorldCache files. At least it does on my system.

When I want to work on a world I’ve already saved changes to via the In Game Editor and closed that world, I have to go in and delete the WorldCache files for that world, before trying to start up the In Game Editor. I think I did this about 10 times and managed to reproduce it enough times to figure out what the problem is.

File Locations:

  • C:Users{UserName}DocumentsElectronic ArtsThe Sims 3 Create A World ToolWorldbuilderCacheWorldCaches
  • C:Users{UserName}DocumentsElectronic ArtsThe Sims 3WorldCaches

I’m still afraid of adding any new lots or making any lot based changes. It looks like if I work with the lots the Create-A-World tool either has a chance of locking the GlobalLayer or locks up the world file. Now I’m not sure that having which locked up will do this, but once I noticed the locking I wasn’t able to see changes made to the world in the In Game Editor.

I would see changes made to the world in Create-A-World, but not via the In Game Editor. Talk about bizzare.

I could do more destruction testing to see what other issues I can ferret out of the Create A World tool, but honestly right now I’m not sure I want to.

I’ve played with a lot of buggy games and tools in the past, and I’m willing to do work arounds. This however takes the cake. Now I have to have shorcuts on my desktop to the worldCache file folders just to delete the worldCache files before I can even start up the In game Editor.

Every time.

At least now I can edit the lots on my world. I’ve really only started setting place holders as I’m not even positive if I’m going to keep things where they are at. I also know that if I want to make any drastic changes, I’m more than likely going to have to start from scratch OR create a whole new iteration of the world to start working on. Not that big of a deal but it starts to take up space you know.

I really should just learn how to play games instead of playing with them.

Category: Game Building, Gaming | Comments Off on Sims 3 Create A World Part 2 WorldCache Issue

Sandbox Game or Emergent Gameplay

The Repopulation Gallery Screenshot

If you look at the MMORPG forums, SANDBOX is all the buzz.

Whether you love them or loath them, Developers are turning their eyes toward Sandbox game development.

Why? Because it’s much more cost effective than trying to cycle through content that players will plow through in a matter of hours.

Instead of looking to World of Warcraft and trying to emulate that design, it looks like more and more Developers/Producers are looking at EVE online and yes, even Mine Craft.

Mine Craft is no MMORPG, but in multi-player mode it is an MMO. Massively Multiplayer and Online. It sucks people in and doesn’t let them go.

Now why do people go back to playing Mine Craft instead of enjoying the shiny gems that are the current Themepark MMO’s?

Mine Craft gives you the ability to build your own structures. It even lets you build your own dungeons. I mean come on, how cool is that?

Even if you don’t have the patience to build you can explore, mine, then find other people and trade for anything else. There is even an economy in Mine Craft with respect to Emeralds. They’re only useful as currency (and very American, it’s green).

There are no levels in Mine Craft (there is experience, but that is only used for enchanting goods). You don’t find armor or weapons lying around. If you want to equip yourself, you’re going to have to build it yourself.

The thing is that even Developers/Producers are catching onto the fact that while players do love the super fancy roller coasters in Theme park games, you can only ride that so many times before you get sick of it, or from it.

In a Sandbox, you build yourself a castle. Yeah that by it’s self can be boring.

  • What if a creeper walks up, freaks out, and blows it away. Now you have to repair your castle.
  • Say some guy comes up and starts hacking away at it. You have to kill him, and repair your castle.
  • Now your gear is worn down, you have to make new tools and armor. TO THE MINES!!!

There’s just SO MUCH to do, and it doesn’t end unless you walk away.

Game companies have listened to the folks who play single player games for some time now. These people expect that every game they walk into will be like Diablo, Dragon Age, Skyrm.

You start out as the wandering hero to be, you gain strength and fight monsters for the best gear you can get your hands on. Then you get to the level cap and you go off to defeat the evil masters.

This is great and all, don’t get me wrong. I’ve played through Torchlight II and Diablo 3. It’s fun building the character and getting the loot. Thing is though, after the first couple play throughs  random dungeons or not, it starts to get a little old.

When you are producing new single player games, say one project at a time. It’s cost effective. You produce the game, you sell the title. You offer DLC for the previous title while working on the next.

MMO’s don’t work that way. If you want a steady revenue stream, you need a game that will get people interested and KEEP people interested.

In a recent Wired.com article it looks like even SOE is getting into the act by building a new  MMO with more sandbox elements. Thing is though, I’m going to keep an eye on the independent developers. I have a strong feeling that the success of the independent developer projects will set the tone for how many of the big names pick up the idea and run with it.

The Repopulation is my main focus. It looks a lot more like the kind of game I’ve been waiting for. And yes, still no more elves.

Now fun reads for the day :

Wired (Thanks to Trixie in The Repopulation forums) – The Future of MMO Games

MMORPG Forums – We want worlds not games

Category: Game Biz, Game Building, Gaming, MMO, The Repopulation | Comments Off on Sandbox Game or Emergent Gameplay

MMO on the Go

Over at Scarybooster.com Ferrel (of Epic Slant) had submitted a sweet post on Mobile MMO’s. Personally I love the idea. OK well really I love expanding on the idea. I’m sure I’ve seen folks comment on this before, but as mobile technology becomes more advanced, it’s really only a good idea to well, spread the seeds of desire.

MMO’s take a LOT of time. They really do when you lump in getting items into and out of an auction house, gathering materials, crafting, traveling, waiting for groups, waiting for quest items to drop, you end up with endless little time sucks. I mean really that is part of the entertainment value of MMO’s, they’re a great way to spend some dark winter evenings when you’re stuck indoors and the time just blows right by.

One of the biggest complaint that both casuals and non-casuals have with well, casual folks, is lack of in game experience, knowledge, and sometimes just plain time. We have less time to spend on the fun stuff because we’re plowing through all of the ‘chore’ type tasks. Thing is, what if you do these little things remotely here and there through out the day, then get right into the game when you log in.

What if you could get crafting done via a mini game on your smart phone? What if that same phone just showed you what’s in the auction house right now so you could assess what you want to post or sell when you hop online? Hell what if you were able to put those things up for auction while you were at lunch or on break?

What if you could get a lot of these little things done without having to wait for the game to boot up or better yet, while you’re away from your computer running errands, on break from the daily grind, or even in commute from work or school (ON THE BUS I MEAN by the way, not if you’re driving).

What if you were able to jump right into questing, leveling, raiding, even fishing, without having to get the little stuff done for the day? How much time would that save each time you log in? Probably not much, but over time, it’d probably add up. Little things have a way of doing that.

Smart phones, for the most part, have access to the net is included in the plan. You can surf the web, read e-mail, manage appointments, etc etc etc. A lot of really powerful applications are developed and used by folks all over the world every day that work right in the palm of their hand.

Now if you think about the back end of an MMO, it’s really a big database. Sure it may or may not be a database, but it’s still a bunch of stored values or variables that tell you how much mana you have and reduce it based on how much mana that last spell required.

Since the game needs the data to work, which means the data’s already there, what if you could make that data either visible in a sort of static form on a mobile device, or better yet build in a way that people could interact with their favorite game in a whole new way.

OK well I know it’s not remotely that simple (no pun intended). Technology wise you’re looking at in securing the data, making changes to or even just letting people see the data, even making sure the data is right there when the user wants it, well these aren’t easy tasks. Worse is, that’s just the beginning when looking at it from the tech side.

On the money side, you’re probably going to want to look at a database solution that would be able to store data, give users access to the data, then write back the changes the user made. Well hopefully you are, otherwise you’re spending time and money writing the whole mess from scratch. Not to mention the fact that traditionally games don’t use a database system to store game based information because it can take too long for database programs to sift through the information stored in it, give a response, and then write that response back to the database. Not to mention when you have hundreds or thousands of people doing things in the game that need that information and they need it now.

You’ll also have to spend time and money on folks who can set up the database, or whatever you end up with. That’s all before you start looking into how you’re going to put a face on it that your existing and future users will be able to work with. Then you have to get into deciding on a platform, getting buttons and other interface elements designed, etc etc etc.

Yeah it would not be a walk in the park to set up mobile access, even to just view the back end data systems of any game. For the most part just keeping it secure would be hell enough for most game companies to want to run away screaming. Honestly I can’t say I’d blame them.

Thing is though, we know there’s already precedence when you think about the fact that a lot of games already display in game data on web pages. WoW lets you see what’s in your guild bank. For security reasons they probably don’t want to let people see what’s in folks personal banks. Lord of the Rings Online implemented an API that lets developers access game data that they can display on their own web pages or use in web based application that would use that data.

Thing is that it would take quite a bit of time, effort and cash just to get the back end game systems talking to mobile devices or web applications. Probably the best way to add mobile elements to a game would mean building them into the game right from the start. The cost of adding something functional into a existing game is probably a barrier that many MMO’s just don’t want to breech. Forward looking though, adding some kind of mobile access to MMO’s would really make a game stand out.

This could also be a boon for independent studios. By building up a web or mobile interface for their 3D game environment, they’d already have a win for folks who want to get some stuff done without having to log in. Web development, while not cheap, is still a lot less time consuming that working up 3D assets and adding zones, quests, levels, you name it, to the base game. Saving a little dough on the outset may well make it easier for these games to get off the ground by reducing the amount of starting capital required. It’d also allow them to focus on a smaller starting game and hopefully getting down that spit shine polish that’s so popular these days.

Once again though, all ideas, ideas, ideas. Now if I could only use them for myself.

Mobile MMO’s – Scarybooster.com

Ferrel – Epic Slant

Category: Game Building, Gaming | Comments Off on MMO on the Go

You’re MMO is Tanking, How are you Surprised?

So Tobolod asked “Is the Honeymoon Over”(1) for the new MMO contenders, Champions, Aion, and the like?

Hahahaha, well DUH!

The publishers of these new titles have been trolling the blog sphere and forums listening to every golden drop of wisdom the gaming elite has to offer. Somewhere in sifting through the STFU and the “teh cazuls suxxors” they built up the notion that if they create a game with a narrow focus on play style and demographics would somehow beat out games with varied play styles and a broad player audience.

Then just can’t seem to comprehend why they never see the numbers they wanted to see. They just don’t get why their game wasn’t the success that WoW is.

“But we built it like WoW!” they say. No, you used WoW like technology and a WoW like interface, but you DID NOT build your game to be the success WoW is. You did not build your game with a wide demographic focus to draw the attention of a growing gaming audience and demographic. You Fail.

If you want to know why I’m really snarky, it’s because these developers keep building games to narrow audiences, with narrow play styles because they’re positively convinced that they have to build their game to a set of mythical specifications.

When however, you’re building an MMO, you’ve got a huge hungry market out there. But by building to the mythical specifications, you pigeon hole yourself into a niche market that won’t pump out the numbers you’re looking to nab. Why? Because you’re selling to the stereo typical gamer.

The stereo typical gamer type is male between the ages of 18 and 30, maybe 35. He’s single so he doesn’t have to spend time dealing with kids and sometimes even a girlfriend. He might work, but he doesn’t work at a job that infringes on his play time so he’s got more than enough time to spend grinding for experience or reputation. He is a tireless fan that spends hours upon hours in game.

Yeah wow, that must be some kind of life there. Aside from the clever jabs and put downs, this WAS the face of gaming back in 1999. You know back in the EQ and EQII days. Back when grind was king and women didn’t know how to turn on a computer (supposedly).

Ladies and Gentleman, may I present to you the year 2009. In THIS year we have people playing games that DO NOT fit the stereo typical gamer profile. In THIS year we have people of both genders that game, we have working professionals that game, and we have families that game.

Two games that step outside of the standard model, Free Realms and Runes of Magic, have had some staggering numbers. Sure they’re both Free to Play over pay to play, but they also focus on some little things that a LOT of the triple A games seem to have been ignoring as of late.

These games are freely available, they include ginchy stuff like holidays and pets, and they allow the players to play more than one class at a time.

Free Realms however is far more successful, and has a Pay to Play option which Runes of Magic does not have. Runes of Magic, a more “WoW” clone like game, only recently hit the 2 Million user mark. This is actually very, very good for a new MMO (2). Free Realms however, hit the 5 Million user mark back in August, but officially announced the count in September.(3) Within 5 months of it’s release, Free Realms already had almost half the user base of the infamous World of Warcraft. But how? Well instead of trying to pull players from games they already know and love (by offering chintzy substitutes) the team at SOE offered a game for family play. This opened their game up to a whole new market untouched by the big boys.

World of Warcraft and now even Free Realms have tasted the kind of success that developers are craving but just can’t seem to attain. Why aren’t they hitting these numbers? Well because they’re limiting themelves by building games that appeal to the stereotypical gamer. They bring in stereotypical gamers into their betas. They only get the stereotypical gamer viewpoint on what’s wrong with thier games.

Even if they make a game that meets or exceeds the demands of these stereotypical gamers, how long do they think they’re going to maintain the interest of a group that jumps on the ‘new game’ bandwagon every time a game is released to beta?

You want bigger numbers, stop listening to the elitist gamers. Stop building dungeons and start building games. If however you just want to build the next ball buster, then don’t get uppity when you don’t get 11 million subscribers. Otherwise, start learning what it takes to sell a game to a family audience and to a female audience. Start building games that will sell to pve players, pvp players, and crafting players.

1 Tobold’s MMORPG Blog: Honeymoon is over (Link)

2 Massively : Runes of Magic hits 2 million users (Link)

3 Massively : Free Realms officially hits 5m users (Link)

The Ladys Necklace an Example of an Excellent Quest

I have to say that my favorite WoW quest is “The Lady’s Necklace”. It’s a very low level drop quest in the Ghostlands (post Burning Crusade).

What grips me about this quest is really the story of the destruction that occurred to the Blood Elf lands and the tragic story of the Dark Lady of the Forsaken, Sylvanas Windrunner. (Link)

Upon turning in the quest, Sylvanas spawns ghostly singers to accompany her in a beautiful and sad song.

It’s not a cut scene, it’s something that even those running in to turn in something else can stop and watch.

This quest is one of the elements of WoW that really makes the kill x of y worth it. Unfortunately it does take time and planning to add it into the game. Also for folks powerleveling, stopping to listen to the haunting song or paying attention to the backstory really isn’t as important as rushing on to the end game.

For me though elements like this in games adds to the suspension of disbelief. It adds to the illusion that you are a part of this magical, fantasy world. Quests like this where you actually report directly to the leader of a powerful political faction makes the player feel a little more important in the game, and a little less well, of a mercinary or gofer.

I’m really hoping that more quests like this will be part of the development plan for the Cataclysm. This one quest line ties in why the Blood Elves have allied themselves with the Forsaken and the Horde. It’s a nice bit of lore that adds the illusion of a personal side to what is otherwise a scripted entity.

It’s tricky and I like it.

While creating a game with only quests like this would remove it’s magic and force players to travel way too much, but it does tend to add a bit more to the game.

I think that in nothing else, the work that Star Wars the Old Republic is doing to add voice overs to quest lines helps quite a bit in adding immersion to the game. I really don’t mind reading the quest text. I actually kind of like watching it scroll across the page in  WoW. BUT, if you try out Everquest II where voice overs have been implimented for some quest lines, having the second form of communication does make it easier, at least for me, to get the gist of what’s going on a lot more swiftly. I also found that I retained the information that the quest giver doled out much better when I read the quest text as the quest giver was speaking.

Since using two methods of communicating the quest uses two different neural systems, when you think about it, it’s more likly that you’ll retain a path back to the spot where your mind stored the info. Otherwise you’ll be hitting the quest log every five minutes.

I’m sure this kind of thing is really only striking for folks that may have something like oh, a learning disabilty (*cough* ADHD *cough*). But it is something that I’ve noticed over my gaming experience.

When planning on making a game of my own using the Open Simulator, I toyed with the idea of having videos act as npc’s over building them. This way folks would be able to see an animation as well as hear a voice associated with the quest.

There might be something to that, so I should probably hold on to that idea.

Really NPC’s make it easier for folks to play at any time they want to play. You don’t have to pay them, just script them. Also players logging in at 1am would still be able to participate in the same content as players loggin in at peak server times. While it would be cool to have actual players doling this stuff out, who really wants some asshat to be at the reigns of Orgrimmar? Nah NPC’s are the way to go. They can be human enough to get us attached to them, with out being so human that we feel threatened by them. While yeah we do get annoyed by some of them, we don’t have to feel like we’re bowing to a basement virgin that does nothing but play a game in order to be the ‘king’ of a faction, or having to deliver a quest to someone who’s afk while watching TV.

All of these kind of fit into my idea of why people play games. I’d like to blog on that, especially after Tobold’s series. I really think there are some fundamental aspects of why gamers play that Tobold didn’t hit, or sort of hit but didn’t highlight. I’m just not quite brave enough heh.

BYOG: More Research

I’m still really interested in the concept of a dynamic gaming platform that would allow you to build your own game. After spending some time in Second Life I’ve seen some pretty interesting examples of how folks are using the Second Life platforms to create what are basically 3D live action role-play scenarios.

Granted these range from the good to the bad and to the just plain ugly, but each kind of add to the picture of just what can be done using something like the Second Life platform.

In one RP Island I was able to see multi player pvp combat including arial combat between players. It was pretty cool to see. It also lagged the area horribly as the player’s viewers where trying to keep up with one another. I’d love to see something like this repeated in a zone where folks took off the flappy wings, twitchy tails, and thier animation overrides to see if that was part of what lagged out the combat, but that’s for another day.

On Erie Island (Second Life’s role play Island of the year for 2009) Game Master Van Reinard answered some questions for me about their home brewed combat system the RCPS (now called Osiris) and even let me try out some melee combat. I could see damage received on my heads up display and I could see damage given drop health points on my oppenent. Thanks again to the Erie folks for letting me lurk around and get a feel for how things work.

Non spell/ability based combat in Second Life, at least for the RCPS (Osiris) and DCS2 systems rely on zooming in to mouse look and kind of puts you in a first person shooter mode. Then you just use the mouse and arrow keys to shoot or slash depending on your weapon choice. Oh and there’s an infinite number to choose from too, hehe.

But combat doesn’t end with physical combat (melee/ranged/etc), nope there are also spells/abilities that the players can use to buff, debuff, or attack other players. One thing I did like about the DCS2 system coming from an MMORPG back ground is that it includes a spell bar much like you’d find in a standard mmo. So if a player didn’t bind an a bility to an F key, they’d be able to click away happily with thier mouse. The RCPS (Osiris) system didn’t have a graphical spell bar, but it does let players bind abilities to their keyboard. It also has a smaller screen footprint which is pretty nice.

As in all things there are trade offs.

The concept of creating a game using the Second Life platform is totally possible. Folks are actually doing it all of the time. Granted these games aren’t the same as walking into WoW or LotRO. The combat movements are a bit choppy (sometimes better or worse depending on the developer). There’s also some pretty severe lag issues. Sometimes though this has just as much to do with the players lumping as much useless goodies on themselves as possible, but I won’t go there.

For the most part, the biggest problem with building in Second Life, is well, Second Life. Technology wise the platform is little behind and it’s really expensive to cobble together enough land to build on. In fact the prices now are high enough that only folks looking to build businesses or ‘rent out’ land can really afford Islands in Second Life.

A lot of developers, educational institutions, and the curious are starting to work with OpenSim. The OpenSim project started in 2007 when Linden Labs released an open source copy of the Second Life engine. While missing some of the bells and whistles of the current Second Life engine, some of the current OpenSim based distributions include integration with gaming engines, include server side scripting for more dynamic resources, and even the inclusion of Skype for voice communication.

Not too shabby for a two year old project. I downloaded and worked with the realXtend distribution last night. Once I stopped facepalming over the Vista permissions systems, I had a stand alone virtual world. I added a region, played built a couple of things and really liked some of the stuff that realXtend has added to the OpenSim platform.

I’ve also visited OSGrid which is a live grid running the OpenSim platform. I really didn’t see a lot of diffrence between the OpenSim client interface and the Second Life client interface (yes I was using the OpenSim viewer, not the Second Life viewer). One of the first things I noticed (that bugs me to no end in Second Life) is a tab that displays what’s currently equipped on my avatar. I can’t tell you how much time it takes to sift through my inventory to find what I’m wearing. That or I end up bald because I yanked my hair off on accident…. hehe, that’s just funny to watch really.

While my adventures in Second Life have been a lot of fun, I don’t think I’ll invest a lot of time and energy building on thier platform. For testing purposes it’s not remotely cost effective, even for a crazy person like myself. I don’t think I’ll stop logging on to the grid for a bit though, there’s still folks I want to see there.

I do think however I’m going to get started on my own little experiments in open source via creating a personal mini grid and seeing just what I can do with it.