Warcraft: Orcs & Humans

Warcraft: Orcs & Humans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the outside looking in, just getting a job in the games industry seems like an impossibility. I think the game developers who entered the industry in the late 80s and early 90s are part of the reason for that perception. It seems like all of us have a crazy story about how we got our first gig. Hell, we use words like "gig" instead of job; like we're old touring artists who have seen it all and know all your troubles, because we've been there. Well, I'm probably not going to buck the trend with my own story, but hey -- it is sort of a crazy story, so you might enjoy it.

Partly, our crazy stories are because of the age of the industry at the time. The games industry felt like a frontier and the folks making video games were the hardy pioneers brave enough to go there first and blaze new trails. Most studios were small; I remember Ron Millar commenting in a 1998 PC Gamer Article that he left Blizzard because, "it was getting too big and corporate." I was employee 35 at Blizzard; I believe we had 70 or so people at the company when I left it myself in 1997. Just to compare it to today: When I lead the design team on Rift, it was 35 or so people -- our design team was as large as Blizzard itself was when I joined it. A smaller industry means a smaller number of gatekeepers and so maybe it really did take crazy brashness to get into it back then. Everything really was fast and loose. Or at least, it felt that way to me...

Read more»




3rd World Opportunities
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 24 September 2012, 10:43 pm


You've heard me talk about Kickstarters before. From our friends, from our clients and from the folks we think are just badass and cool, but this one's a little different. Read more»




Is attempting to kill Piracy actually killing Internet Security?
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 16 August 2012, 2:50 pm


In the midst of a conversation with my fellow business partners at Skyward* Corp, the following thought occured to us:
Read more»




A Crisis of Faith
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 24 May 2011, 6:11 pm


Animal Rescue

Image via Wikipedia

My sister is a kennel manager for a local humane society. She has a tough job, they all do there. It's not just that they fight against community apathy to save the lives of animals every day; they also often have to fight each other. It's one of those startling parallels between her job and my job as a creative director in the games industry.

I should probably explain what I mean by "fight each other" before I go on much further: Everyone comes onto a project, or into a new workplace, with their own goals and agendas. Most of the time, these individualized ambitions are in accord, if not harmony; that is to say, they usually don't get in the way.

Usually... Read more»




A Promise, Unfulfilled
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 5 February 2011, 4:04 pm


Statue of Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, near t...

Image via Wikipedia

I hack away at side projects all the time. They're a way to indulge this absurd passion I have for creating interactive things, without having to think about my day job. You see, when you make games for a living, you're working under all sorts of constraints and restrictions. You can't choose to do things the way you want to, unless that's also the choice the stakeholders you answer to want to make. No choice is ever just made - every change to a game, every decision on a path forward, is a series of negotiations and compromises.

 Helmuth von Moltke's famous quote, translated roughly as "No plan survives contact with the enemy intact" pretty much sums up the problem and the reality. We're not enemies, obviously, but when it comes to getting done the things you want personally, it can feel that way. Ask any frustrated level designer that ended up on a mmo that wasn't nearly as much like WoW as he'd like. Short of a complete mutiny in which you oust the guy calling the shots (something that would get you fired at anywhere but at a ridiculously incompetent studio), what can you do? Nothing. You grit your teeth and you make the compromise because at the end of the day, that's your job when you're a professional game developer. Read more»


The Needs of the Few, or the One
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 December 2010, 2:54 pm


 


SciFi logo

Image via Wikipedia


I've been incredibly critical of the Syfy channel lately on twitter. Mostly, I'm pissed that they cancelled a show I watch; I'm the first to admit that. However, it's not the only reason for my ire. Hell, it's not even the reason that has me motivated most. You see, it's not really rage that makes me critical. It's disappointment.


 When the Sci-Fi channel became the Syfy channel many of the more diehard fans of the sci-fi genre predicted a spiral of decline and decay that would eventually lead to this "new hip brand" being the death of the channel. From their perspective, and maybe from mine now that I've seen it, that's exactly what has happened.


 The channel shows more cheesy horror and wrestling than sci-fi. They seem to care more about them than their flagship shows and the viewers they represent. The truth is that's exactly right, but the reasons should be obvious to anyone who's ever worked on a creative endeavor as their paying job: It's about the money. Their flagship shows aren't bringing in the viewers, but these movies and the wrestling, they do.


 How can you fix that? I mean, if you're a diehard sci-fi fan looking for some place to see new shows like Stargate and to see reruns of your old favorite shows like Firefly, where do you go? How can you create a demand big enough to take your sci-fi channel back from the "greedy clutches of Syfy"? Read more»




The Road Not Taken #7 - Things Left Unsaid
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 20 November 2010, 4:14 am


Auto Assault closed its doors in 2007. It's now been over 3 years since the last set of tires ground virtual dirt beneath their tread. 3 years since the last "LFG" and for me, an entire lifetime away. For a long while, I stopped thinking about Auto Assault. Completely. I don't mean that in a bad way. I wasn't angry. I just, I don't know, didn't want to open the box again. I mean, it'd been buried right? Read more»




I've gone a little strange, these days...
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 15 August 2010, 5:14 am

I was inspired recently, by something a friend was doing. It was an art project; one that really grabbed me because, well, in its way it was a piece of lore. I mean it seemed to tell a story and it seemed like a glimpse into at a larger, deeper world. I'm sure some art critic somewhere would tell me it's not really art, blah blah blah, but it inspired me to take on something I've never tried before and that's pretty rare.

So what did it inspire me to do?

It inspired me to learn how to build electronics projects -- to tinker out here, in the physical world instead of in the game worlds I sculpt for a living. Read more»




I've gone a little strange, these days...
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 15 August 2010, 5:14 am


I was inspired recently, by something a friend was doing. It was an art project; one that really grabbed me because, well, in its way it was a piece of lore. I mean it seemed to tell a story and it seemed like a glimpse into at a larger, deeper world. I'm sure some art critic somewhere would tell me it's not really art, blah blah blah, but it inspired me to take on something I've never tried before and that's pretty rare.

So what did it inspire me to do?

It inspired me to learn how to build electronics projects -- to tinker out here, in the physical world instead of in the game worlds I sculpt for a living. Read more»




Writing in the Game Industry
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 7 April 2009, 5:26 pm

I was asked today to speak at a conference on a panel discussing writing curriculum in game design schools. I couldn't make it due to a scheduling conflict, which is really too bad. As you are likely aware, I have a pretty well documented, if misunderstood, stance on writing in the industry: I don't think you should hire a writer, if a designer who can write is also available.

I can imagine that some people might interpret that to mean you shouldn't teach writing to new designers, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I think there are few more important skills you can teach a game designer. Learning how to write well enhances your ability to think critically and allows you to more easily convey your thoughts to others. Everything else a designer does hinges upon those skills. Really, why wouldn't you teach aspiring game designers to write? Read more»




News: City of Heroes user content surpasses dev's in 24 hours
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 18 April 2009, 1:13 am

News: City of Heroes user content surpasses dev's in 24 hours - 'Mission Architect' system generates 3,800 game scenarios in first day [GamesIndustry.biz news]

Wow. Great statistic. That's like saying, "It takes an hour of work to build a bicycle and 24 hours of work to build a car. Since we can produce more bicycles in a day than cars, bicycles are clearly better than cars."

Some bicycles are better than cars, in ways, but are bicycles better than cars? Not really. I would like to think that if they were, there would be a lot fewer cars on the highway, when I go to work. Read more»




Time Warner Shutting Off Austin Accounts For Heavy Usage
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 25 April 2009, 11:56 am

Road Runner's official logo and mascot

Image via Wikipedia

Time Warner Shutting Off Austin Accounts For Heavy Usage - mariushm writes "After deciding to shelve metered broadband plans, it looks like Time Warner is cutting off, with no warning, the accounts of customers whom they deem to have used too much bandwidth. 'Austin Stop The Cap reader reader Ryan Howard reports that his Road Runner service was cut off yesterday without warning. According to Ryan, it took four calls to technical support, two visits to the cable store to try two new cable modems (all to no avail), before someone at Time Warner finally told him to call the company's "Security and Abuse" center. "I called the number and had to leave a voice mail, and about an hour later a Time Warner technician called me back and lectured me for using 44 gigabytes in one week," Howard wrote. Howard was then "educated" about his usage. "According to her, that is more than most people use in a year," Howard said.'"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.
[Slashdot Updates]

Whew! Thank god Time Warner got the message and bowed to consumer desires like they swore they did. Am I the only one who sees this as a 3 year old's tantrum? "Fine then! I'll just turn it off completely! I'll show you who's boss!"

*sigh* Seriously, why don't they get that this is untenable? If you couldn't deliver unlimited transfers at the rate you promised, why did you sell it that way, Time Warner? It's because you couldn't have sold it any other way, right? Consider what that means before you decide to play "screw the consumer" again. Read more»




On Father's Day, Obama Urges Dads To Swap Video Games for Books
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 June 2009, 1:58 pm

On Father's Day, Obama Urges Dads To Swap Video Games for Books -

Repeating a theme that he frequently touched upon during his 2008 election campaign, President Barack Obama has once again referenced video games as a metaphor for academic underachievement.

In a Father's Day message published in Parade, Obama writes:

We need to set limits and expectations. We need to replace that video game with a book and make sure that homework gets done. We need to say to our daughters, Don’t ever let images on TV tell you what you are worth, because I expect you to dream without limit and reach for your goals. We need to tell our sons, Those songs on the radio may glorify violence, but in our house, we find glory in achievement, self-respect, and hard work.

Interestingly, the Parade feature is Obama's third mention of video games in the last 10 days. On June 11th he told an audience in Wisconsin:

Even with the good schools, we've got to pick up the pace, because the world has gotten competitive. The Chinese, the Indians, they're coming at us and they're coming at us hard, and they're hungry, and they're really buckling down.And they watch - their kids watch a lot less TV than our kids do, play a lot fewer video games, they're in the classroom a lot longer.

Last Monday the President mentioned games during a speech to the American Medical Association in Chicago:

[Preventive care] starts with each of us taking more responsibility for our health and the health of our children. It means quitting smoking... It means going for a run or hitting the gym, and raising our children to step away from the video games and spend more time playing outside.

[Game Politics]

I'm pretty big fan of Obama. I like what he's done so far and - generally speaking - I agree with his message, but his derogatory comments about video games are getting worse. On top of that, they're getting less accurate. Before it was "We gotta get kids to stop playing games and get outside" and you know -- that's not a bad thing. We could all benefit from more active lifestyles, right? But now he's saying replace video games with books.

Sounds noble right? I mean, surely a book will teach you more than a video game ever did? Video games are just distractions after all, there's nothing really intellectual or literary in them for you to see, is there?

Is there? Read more»




You've got to have faith
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 5 October 2009, 1:10 am

Games

Image by Ian D via Flickr

Sorry, I haven't made much an attempt to keep the site up lately. I could work up a lot of excuses, but honestly -- it's because I'm wrapped up in work. I really don't spend much time thinking about anything else, lately. I suppose that's because I'm finally working on one of the very few "dream projects." Heroes of Telara is one of those project that I've waited more than a decade to make and now that I'm working on it, that's pretty much my whole life. Getting a chance to work on your dream project is rare, so rare in fact that for most designers it never happens at all. I've often wondered why that is, and it's that question that motivated me to write, today. Read more»




So many glass ceilings you can't see the sky
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 22 February 2009, 5:23 pm


I've been kind of bitchy lately. So much so that I really didn't want to post anything because I knew how negative it would sound, if I did. I'm not going to talk about why I'm bitchy, but instead I'm gonna talk about something that occurred to me, because of it:

There's a lot of general crankiness and other assorted poison in the industry, right now. It expresses itself as a sort of general ennui, as if there's nothing surprising out there anymore.

I'm not the only cranky game dev out there, right now. In fact, some folks proudly claim their cynicism on their own blogs; a shtick to attract readers. That makes me think that maybe their audience (gamers and other devs) are bitchy and cynical, too.

This industry, no scratch that, this scene has lost its soul. Read more»




Keith Vaz Moves in Parliament for UK Ban on Rape Game
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 25 February 2009, 3:59 pm


Keith Vaz Moves in Parliament for UK Ban on Rape Game -

Making good on a vow to bring up Japanese PC title RapeLay in Parliament, British Labour MP Keith Vaz has issued a call for the game to be banned in the U.K., reports the Evening Standard:

Mr Vaz, who campaigns against violent computer games, called on the Government to ban [RapeLay] from sale to UK players over the internet.In a Commons motion, he said he was "appalled that a video game that simulates rape has been readily available for sale on the internet".He welcomed the decision by Amazon to withdraw the game.

As GamePolitics reported earlier this month, Vaz was one the first to speak out against RapeLay.

[Game Politics]

The moral of the story being, apparently, that one should never attempt to resell one's pornography on Amazon's market. Look folks, it's not like this "game" is being put on shelves at Walmart or something -- it was, literally, one dude trying to sell a game he'd clearly imported directly from Japan. Why manufacture a crisis here? One guy has poor taste and there's a nation out there that made a video game that satisfies that taste. Is this less true in books? Or movies? Or plays? Seems to me we've had examples of the sort of thing this game covers in every medium but television and radio, so I don't get it -- what makes this one worse?

Seriously, what is the crisis here?

"Oh dear! There seems to be a tempest in my teapot!"

- Snipehunter Read more»




Seven Basic Tools
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 11 March 2009, 6:42 pm


When I was a kid, I used to watch MacGyver all the time. In a very real way, he was my hero - a guy who could make anything from anything and who did so for the betterment (and wonderment) of everyone. As a kid, I really wanted to be that guy. I mean, I didn't want to be an obviously Canadian would-be spy, but I wanted to be a builder - a guy who could make what was needed when it was needed using only the razor sharp talent of his mind. Read more»





I wanted to print an old design doc I'd written a few years ago, but sadly I haven't heard back from the studio I wrote it for, so I can't do that. Instead, I suppose I'll just talk about an idea I worked on once. Using the parlance of junk patents, let's call this installment of French Design - "A technique for eliciting lifelike behavior using simple tools." Read more»




French Design - Interesting Questing Using Only Questing Structure
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 March 2009, 11:51 pm


Along the same lines as the concept of a limited set of basic tools is the often muttered MMO adage that there are less than a dozen quest objective types. I actually think it's a lot less than 12. In fact, most of the folks I know who are making MMOs think there are only 7, just like my basic tools:

  1. Kill Things
  2. Acquire objects
  3. Talk to NPCs
  4. Give objects to an NPC
  5. Interact with Objects in the World
  6. Travel to Locations/Waypoints
  7. Protect or Defend something

You could probably argue that some of those object types are really just embellishments of others as well, so maybe it's more like 5:

  1. Kill something/prevent something from dying
  2. Acquire Objects
  3. Talk to NPCs/Deliver objects to NPCs
  4. Interact with Objects in the World
  5. Travel to locations/waypoints

In either case, that's a pretty restrictive collection of things a player can do, right? There are only so many combinations of those objectives you can string together before a player has essentially done every quest you can imagine, mechanically. In other words, if you've played an MMO with questing, there's a good chance you've already played every type of quest you could possibly think of. Even on a small game, this is true: there were thousands of quests in Auto Assault across the three factions, but all of them used objective types listed above and pretty much nothing else. So how does a designer use these simple quest types to make interesting content?

The answer is context. Read more»




Writing in the Game Industry
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 7 April 2009, 5:26 pm


I was asked today to speak at a conference on a panel discussing writing curriculum in game design schools. I couldn't make it due to a scheduling conflict, which is really too bad. As you are likely aware, I have a pretty well documented, if misunderstood, stance on writing in the industry: I don't think you should hire a writer, if a designer who can write is also available.

I can imagine that some people might interpret that to mean you shouldn't teach writing to new designers, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I think there are few more important skills you can teach a game designer. Learning how to write well enhances your ability to think critically and allows you to more easily convey your thoughts to others. Everything else a designer does hinges upon those skills. Really, why wouldn't you teach aspiring game designers to write? Read more»




News: City of Heroes user content surpasses dev's in 24 hours
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 18 April 2009, 1:13 am


News: City of Heroes user content surpasses dev's in 24 hours - 'Mission Architect' system generates 3,800 game scenarios in first day [GamesIndustry.biz news]

Wow. Great statistic. That's like saying, "It takes an hour of work to build a bicycle and 24 hours of work to build a car. Since we can produce more bicycles in a day than cars, bicycles are clearly better than cars."

Some bicycles are better than cars, in ways, but are bicycles better than cars? Not really. I would like to think that if they were, there would be a lot fewer cars on the highway, when I go to work. Read more»




Time Warner Shutting Off Austin Accounts For Heavy Usage
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 25 April 2009, 11:56 am


Road Runner's official logo and mascot

Image via Wikipedia

Time Warner Shutting Off Austin Accounts For Heavy Usage - mariushm writes "After deciding to shelve metered broadband plans, it looks like Time Warner is cutting off, with no warning, the accounts of customers whom they deem to have used too much bandwidth. 'Austin Stop The Cap reader reader Ryan Howard reports that his Road Runner service was cut off yesterday without warning. According to Ryan, it took four calls to technical support, two visits to the cable store to try two new cable modems (all to no avail), before someone at Time Warner finally told him to call the company's "Security and Abuse" center. "I called the number and had to leave a voice mail, and about an hour later a Time Warner technician called me back and lectured me for using 44 gigabytes in one week," Howard wrote. Howard was then "educated" about his usage. "According to her, that is more than most people use in a year," Howard said.'"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.
[Slashdot Updates]

Whew! Thank god Time Warner got the message and bowed to consumer desires like they swore they did. Am I the only one who sees this as a 3 year old's tantrum? "Fine then! I'll just turn it off completely! I'll show you who's boss!"

*sigh* Seriously, why don't they get that this is untenable? If you couldn't deliver unlimited transfers at the rate you promised, why did you sell it that way, Time Warner? It's because you couldn't have sold it any other way, right? Consider what that means before you decide to play "screw the consumer" again. Read more»




On Father's Day, Obama Urges Dads To Swap Video Games for Books
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 June 2009, 1:58 pm


On Father's Day, Obama Urges Dads To Swap Video Games for Books -

Repeating a theme that he frequently touched upon during his 2008 election campaign, President Barack Obama has once again referenced video games as a metaphor for academic underachievement.

In a Father's Day message published in Parade, Obama writes:

We need to set limits and expectations. We need to replace that video game with a book and make sure that homework gets done. We need to say to our daughters, Don’t ever let images on TV tell you what you are worth, because I expect you to dream without limit and reach for your goals. We need to tell our sons, Those songs on the radio may glorify violence, but in our house, we find glory in achievement, self-respect, and hard work.

Interestingly, the Parade feature is Obama's third mention of video games in the last 10 days. On June 11th he told an audience in Wisconsin:

Even with the good schools, we've got to pick up the pace, because the world has gotten competitive. The Chinese, the Indians, they're coming at us and they're coming at us hard, and they're hungry, and they're really buckling down.And they watch - their kids watch a lot less TV than our kids do, play a lot fewer video games, they're in the classroom a lot longer.

Last Monday the President mentioned games during a speech to the American Medical Association in Chicago:

[Preventive care] starts with each of us taking more responsibility for our health and the health of our children. It means quitting smoking... It means going for a run or hitting the gym, and raising our children to step away from the video games and spend more time playing outside.

[Game Politics]

I'm pretty big fan of Obama. I like what he's done so far and - generally speaking - I agree with his message, but his derogatory comments about video games are getting worse. On top of that, they're getting less accurate. Before it was "We gotta get kids to stop playing games and get outside" and you know -- that's not a bad thing. We could all benefit from more active lifestyles, right? But now he's saying replace video games with books.

Sounds noble right? I mean, surely a book will teach you more than a video game ever did? Video games are just distractions after all, there's nothing really intellectual or literary in them for you to see, is there?

Is there? Read more»




You've got to have faith
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 5 October 2009, 1:10 am


Games

Image by Ian D via Flickr

Sorry, I haven't made much an attempt to keep the site up lately. I could work up a lot of excuses, but honestly -- it's because I'm wrapped up in work. I really don't spend much time thinking about anything else, lately. I suppose that's because I'm finally working on one of the very few "dream projects." Heroes of Telara is one of those project that I've waited more than a decade to make and now that I'm working on it, that's pretty much my whole life. Getting a chance to work on your dream project is rare, so rare in fact that for most designers it never happens at all. I've often wondered why that is, and it's that question that motivated me to write, today. Read more»




French Design - Interesting Questing Using Only Questing Structure
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 March 2009, 11:51 pm

Along the same lines as the concept of a limited set of basic tools is the often muttered MMO adage that there less than a dozen quest objective types. I actually think it's a lot less than 12. In fact, most of the folks I know who are making MMOs think there are only 7, just like my basic tools:

  1. Kill Things
  2. Acquire objects
  3. Talk to NPCs
  4. Give objects to an NPC
  5. Interact with Objects in the World
  6. Travel to Locations/Waypoints
  7. Protect or Defend something

You could probably argue that some of those object types are really just embellishments of others as well, so maybe it's more like 5:

  1. Kill something/prevent something from dying
  2. Acquire Objects
  3. Talk to NPCs/Deliver objects to NPCs
  4. Interact with Objects in the World
  5. Travel to locations/waypoints

In either case, that's a pretty restrictive collection of things a player can do, right? There are only so many combinations of those objectives you can string together before a player has essentially done every quest you can imagine, mechanically. In other words, if you've played an MMO with questing, there's a good chance you've already played every type of quest you could possibly think of. Even on a small game, this is true: there were thousands of quests in Auto Assault across the three factions, but all of them used objective types listed above and pretty much nothing else. So how does a designer use these simple quest types to make interesting content?

The answer is context. Read more»




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