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Dark_LordSauron Blog

Deja-Vu

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Reading my last post was rather like dating myself.  And it also made me realize how portentious my words were.

Now BF2142 is there.  What changed from the happy little WWII we had five years ago?

The experience.

Directly compare the single-player experience of BF1942 to that of BF2142.  Radically different, huh?  2142 has about 5 maps and the AI is so poor...  it can knife you, but it can't do much else.  1942 wields a massive campaign with a very dynamic AI.

What about the multiplayer experience?  To me the shift in emphasis is easily evidenced by the location of the buttons.  In 1942 the multiplayer button was after the single player button.  In 2142 it's before the single player button (which has messed me up a few times, trust me!)

In 1942 all weapons and vehicles are yours from day one.  In 2142 you have to play against humans to get more guns and abilities.  The whole experience changed.  Gone are the days where playing against my PC was the developer-intended way.  Here are the days of sqad based combat with voice-chat.

It's not a network of computers, rather, now it's a network of players (cue Cisco "Welcome to the Human Network" commercials).  What do we see in other gaming spheres?  Lord of the Rings Online.  Look at the more Internet-oriented (thought sadly incompleted) multiplay experience in AOEIII.  The shift is obvious.

The most recent game I bought which does not have an explicit shift towards networked play is Heroes of Might and Magic V, which has always been balanced between single and multiplayer tilt.

Then behold Dark Messiah of Might and Magic.  The whole M&M lineage hasn't been networked at all (think: MMVIII, MM9.)  DM manifests and entirely new move for the MM series because it added networked play.

What should we be thinking?

1) Linux belongs in the datacenter.  Linux can run your gameserver.  It's fast.  It's stable.  It's secure.  I really can't say more.  The uptimes with Linux are so much greater that the advantages speak for themselves.

2) The game client can run Windows for all I care.  That can plug into Linux with no problems.  However, with the step that Windows Vista represents, I think that the days of Windows gaming are drawing to a close.  Vista hogs so much memory that developers are going to have a hard time getting their games to run on the platform.  The massive security changes in Vista (UAC, mainly) are going to create a massive problem as UAC dialogs interrupt gigabytes of game execution for a damn "Mac sends salutations; cancel or allow?" message.

The future of Windows looks like a baseball team went through it - all four panes of glass.

Suggestions from the Dark Lord: Stick with XP and buy a Mac.

Game Industry Going $12 bil.

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Video games are really beginning to loose their appeal for me. I just feel like I've been around the block, you know? Shot that guy a billion times, forged a multi-trillion dollar corporate empire more times than I care to remember... old hat. Nothing new.

That would explain how small the gaming industry is. There's no new material.

I haven't seen a single new innovation to strategy gaming since the original Command & Conquer. Maxis just kept on going through the motions with Sim City, and never ended up with the same revolution as they did with the first Sim City. The others were all crude patches and afterthoughts on a good idea.

Likewise the cherished FPS genre limps on like a three-legged dog. I wasn't there, I don't know who came first: Doom or Quake. All I know is that they're all the same. Quake, Doom, Battlefield, MOH, Red Faction. They're all the same thing: point and shoot and pray you're reflexes are faster than the other guy's - and that you PC and network is better, too.

They're just going through the motions, like some drug addict trying to get the same high he got with his first dose. It doesn't come back. What have they done?

They're charging you more for less. They're giving you less. Only slightly better graphics capabilities, physics that is only marginally more realistic. Stealth engines that include just a handful of new methods of detection and concealment. You'll pay $60 for what? Fifty, a hundred or so new features on the same old idea? I don't buy it. I stopped buying it. The last game I got was AOE III (because I never got AOE II or I). Played it a bit, thought it was rather nifty, and binned it. Not that interesting.

Granted those fresh to the video gaming world will think it's hot stuff and rightly so. The weren't there for its predecessor. I was. I had played Age of Mythology and AOE II at LAN parties. So what will save the video gaming industry?

I'll tell you. It's that which makes social networks like MySpace tick. It's user-generated content. Look at the trends.

Game Boy Colour had one funky wire to network you to another person. The wires weren't that long, so you were quite literally going head-to-head (I have a bump to prove it somewhere...) Time machine... Sony PSP. Full wireless networking. XBox Live. Network with other XBox players. Gamespy Arcade. Humans are social creatures. Benjamin Franklin once wrote on a long voyage on a small ship that hell is to be cut off from all other social contact with others.

My crowning case-in-point. World of Warcraft. I've done the math. It is NOT POSSIBLE to keep a video game of WoW's scale running with patches up to 1.12 for this long without at least six or seven million users. Period. I'm assuming that they're using ultra-cool ultra-high performance-per-watt Opteron 64s in their servers, Crays, and all kinds of smart tricks that me and my development team decided would be necessary to make something like that feasible. What could keep that many users there for that long? There isn't enough new people injected into the market each year too keep up with that kind of licensing demand, I don't think.

The answer is people. You can join a clan or a group or a team and go out and beat the crap out of others with your friends. The fun in it? Sharing the laughs and the loot. That's the human element that sells the game as a method of meeting and making new friends.

The other direction another part of the industry is taking (and that is a guaranteed dead-end) is to just come up with more new revolutionary ideas. There are a few obvious problems with this.

After Sim Ant, I deduced that the were running out of new ideas for totally new video game concepts. I'm not talking about EA's ingenious new combat mode for BF 2142. That's just a new patch onto the same old point-and-shoot pray my reflexes are hot game we got with Doom. I'm talking about the transition from DOS to Windows. From dictatorship to democracy. Not just an upgrade, something that is in every respect NEW.

What evidences this motion in the industry? Microsoft's XNA studio trys to make the black art of making video games less of a Hogwarts potion and into something more docile. Rubbish. The only way to effect that is to pitch DOS out the window (no pun intended) and use something more up-to-the-challenge, like bash. Everything your build process does has to be terminal-based otherwise your linker ends up commiting suicide due to a monster database of library functions! It's why we have tools like makefiles.

That's besides the point. The point is that XNA attempts to make it easier for (cough) idiots to get their new ideas into the industry. It doesn't matter that they're bad ideas, the industry needs new ideas. How many FPS games are there? If you have Quake IV, the only reason I can think that you might want to play Quake I or II is because you want to know more details about the plot. You're paying $60 or so for every new organism that evolves out of some gigantic studio's stagnating petri dish.

They're desperately trying to get more genes into that shallowing gene pool in that petri dish. They're not getting enough. The old power-houses are burned out. The new ones are getting burned out faster. It's not working.

What can you do? The scary thing: I don't know... beyond renewing your subscription to WoW.

DISCLAIMER: I don't own WoW. Never played it. I'm not an evangalist for it. I'm arguing logic and fact. I'm not being paid. I wish I were, but I'm not. If someone sees this and wants to pay me, please do!

What's Going On Here???

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After having been a gamer for many years (far longer than I've been at GameSpot) and I've been noticing a distinct decline in the quality of games.

Sure, I admit that the graphics have undergone many rebirths, and physics has been literally invented (strange as it sounds), and sound has taken quantum leaps since the days of NovaLogic's Comanche Maximum Overkill. However, what I'm talking about is the moral stagnatation that has gripped the whole industry.

Doom 3 is totally disgusting. I am horrified to see the gore that they have put in there. Don't get me wrong - realism is good, but I'm just not fond of demons and things popping out of the walls. I wish to be entertained, and, as a really good magazine put it (I think it was PC Gamer, but don't quote me on it) "[Doom3 was] unabashedly trying to scare the **** out of you."

I'm not sure what you all think, but I wish to be entertained. I suppose you could argue that for some people a horror film (the cinema equivalent of Doom3) is entertaining, but I'm seeing a trend of consistently violent, bloody, and gorey games. Doom isn't the only one - I was appalled at (what was it..) BloodRayne? I haven't bought any of these (or played them) but the screenshots tell me enough: those of gentler stomachs beware.

Do you approve of this decidedly morally lacking trend? I (evidently) don't.