Archive for category: Gaming

Human Resources, A Post-Apocalyptic RTS.

06 Oct
October 6, 2014

Such a cool concept.

Invisible, Inc Looks Fantastic

14 Aug
August 14, 2014

Duskers Looks Great

06 Jun
June 6, 2014

A lovely game idea, this, from Misfits Attic. I really want to see this one get made.

Besides the cool idea and mechanic, I always find it really inspirational, seeing the creative ways that indies find to convey an evocative style without having huge art budgets. I’m taking notes!

Hotline Fortress 2: Wrong Number

05 Jun
June 5, 2014

A violent (for a cartoon) but awesomely stylish mashup of Hotline Miami and Team Fortress 2. Pretty rad.

Howling at the Moon

04 Jun
June 4, 2014

The townsfolk are starting to panic. Each night this week, someone in their small, sleepy town has been brutally murdered. The victims’ bodies are found the next morning, savaged as if by a wild animal. One word is on everyone’s lips – Werewolf!

Tuckbox-nomarks

This is the setup for a fantastic little tabletop game my friends and I played recently while we were on holiday – Ultimate Werewolf. One person takes the role of the game master, the rest are all townsfolk. Except…one of them is hiding a monstrous secret! Each night, while everyone is sleeping, they transform into the beast and murder another villager! In the morning, the townsfolk awake with dread, to find out which of their number has become the next victim!

The game uses a simple but clever mechanic. The game master is the one who assigns the roles (at random) to the other players, so they know who everyone is. At “night”, all the players shut their eyes, then the game master asks the werewolf to open theirs and silently point to one of the other players that they want to murder. The game master notes that down. Then, the werewolf shuts his or her eyes and everyone “wakes up”, to the news of who has become the next victim.

During the “day”, players get a chance to hold a town meeting and nominate another player for lynching, on the suspicion of being the werewolf. The players hold a vote, with a simple majority passing. The living players win if they manage to lynch the werewolf before it eats the last of them, and the werewolf wins if there are no one but werewolves left at the end of the game.

Did I say “werewolves”? Yes! You see, the game is made more interesting by there being a whole range of special character cards, other than the werewolf, all with their own rules. The Seer, the Witch, the Bodyguard, the Troublemaker, the Prince, those are just a few of the special characters. Many of which have abilities that come into play during the night, before or after the werewolf attack. The Seer, for example, is one of the most important characters, and is in every game. During the night, the seer can point to one other character and the game master will nod if that is the werewolf or shake their head if it isn’t.

werewolf

What really makes it fun is the discussion during the day, when the townsfolk try to decide who to lynch. It’s part detective work, part roleplaying, especially if players get into their roles. Everyone comes up with a public persona on top of their character type at the start of the game. For example, I was the town mayor, others were blacksmiths, taxidermists, the stranger who had just arrived in town. So, with your public personas in mind, you debate on who is the most likely to grow fangs each night.

You can’t reveal your character card to other players, but you can just come out and tell people who you are. The problem is…they don’t have to believe you. You could just be lying to save your skin. Remember, there’s a werewolf in your midst, and they’re obviously working against the other players, trying to hide their identity. More than that, revealing your character type could draw the wolf into attacking you the next night. The Seer, as i said, is an especially valuable class, able as they are to verify the innocence of one player per night. Which means that if they come right out and reveal themselves from the start, they’ll be an early victim, unless they are lucky enough to finger the werewolf in the first round AND convince the other villagers to lynch him or her.

It’s an incredibly fun game, especially if, as I said, people get into their roles. And it has something I love in board/card games, the ability to vary the dynamics of the game by altering which cards come into play. There are 34 characters, so if you’re playing with a group of 8 you can only use a subset per game. Depending on which characters are in play, you can have a very different game. One of the later games I played, I was the Lycan, a character who, for all intents and purposes, is a normal human villager. Except that, when the Seer pings you, the game master nods that you are a werewolf. And in that game, I got pinged in the first round! :/

uw1

I managed to stave off my lynching for a few rounds by lying through my teeth, claiming to be the Witch, another valuable character, but my lies didn’t save me for long, especially since the real Witch (whose identity was still secret) knew I was lying, making me look doubly suspicious. I met an untimely end, that game, but at least they eventually found the werewolf. My own girlfriend! :|

If you can get a copy of Ultimate Werewolf, I highly recommend it. It’s small and portable, scales well (you need a minimum of 5 people, maximum 34), is really simple to run and teach, and it’s amazing fun. Get it, lynch your friends! ;)

Spiffy Space Shennanigans

21 May
May 21, 2014

I have no idea whether it will actually be enjoyable to play a space RTS from the bridge, in first person, rather than as a free-floating omniscient camera. It may end up being a gimmick that frustrates, rather than enriches, the experience.

But man, some of those shots really capture the drama of your favourite sci-fi TV shows, don’t they? Personally, even if I’m cautious about whether the control model will end up being frustrating or not, I’m still keen for someone to try make it work.

A Sign Of The Times

08 May
May 8, 2014

So. Wow.

This is a pretty huge deal.

To summarize – Epic are going to broadcast development of Unreal Tournament 4 from day 1, they plan to work in close collaboration with fans to build the game, which will itself be completely free, and Epic plan to make money by opening a mod marketplace and taking a cut of mod sales.

Hell’s bells. This is surely a sign of the brave new world we’re living in, of early access and the trend toward open development. Kudos to Epic for taking this brave step. Sure, when you’re earning licensing income from probably the most popular engine in the market, there is a nice financial cushion to fall back on, you’re not risking the farm. But still, it’s bold, it’s innovative, it’s experimental. I like it. Kudos to you, Epic.

The open community development is interesting, but so is the monetization model. We’re all well-aware that the various types of Free To Play models are big in the mobile space. But to have one of the AAA studios embrace that model in the development of a flagship product is quite the statement. Clearly, the industry is moving, and this is probably just the beginning.

And before someone says anything, this is F2P. I know, there aren’t any microtransactions. But F2P just means using the base game as a platform to sell other products to players of the game, in some manner. The game isn’t the thing you’re selling, it’s a platform that creates the desire for the things you’re actually selling.

All that said, this is, in my mind, probably the least exploitative type of F2P imaginable. In fact, like Unity’s Asset Store, it’s a great example of a mutually beneficial relationship. The ability to sell their product encourages modders, they benefit financially for their creative work. And the developers benefit, not just from the cut of sales they earn, but from the fact that these mods increase the value of the game platform for other players. Modders benefit from making mods, the developers benefit from giving modders a platform to make their mods. Win-win.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this turned out to be an incredibly successful experiment for them. And if we didn’t see many other developers follow suite in the coming years. The Elder Scrolls, for example, is ripe for this. Forget the MMO, build this, Bethesda!

Anyway, I’ll be watching this play out with interest. It certainly is a brave, exciting new world out there! Gaming is such an exciting space to be in!

The Inevitable End Point for Free To Play

16 Apr
April 16, 2014

As one twitter user commented – “Finally, the last semblance of fun is removed from F2P”.

Lego robot plays F2P games while its owner sleeps

CCP halts World of Darkness dev

14 Apr
April 14, 2014

Awww :(

WoD could have been something really interesting. Even in MMO form. CCP’s design sensibilities run more to social sandbox than WoW-like theme park, so I was more than happy to at least see what they could come up with. Guess we’ll never know.

Let’s take a moment to consider what could have been with this ubercool trailer.

(Thanks to Rampant Coyote for the heads up)

Free to Play Revenue and Player Spending

09 Apr
April 9, 2014

Seen a bit of a buzz around this Gamasutra article about F2P Revenue on my feeds lately.

The gist of the article is that the revenue from F2P games comes from a very small fraction of players (~2.2%). And a small fraction(10%) of those who do pay, make up about half of all revenue made.

Which is interesting, if unsurprising. Now, much of the commentary involves some version of saying “look, see here, here’s evidence of how unhealthy and exploitative F2P is!”

Well…

Let me preface this by saying that I’m not the biggest fan of the F2P in the world. My views have softened a bit since I saw it implemented well (I thought), in Dungeons and Dragons Online, and further since I got my Android and started downloading apps, some of which do F2P reasonably, some of which don’t. But I still overall prefer the buy-once, unlock-everything experience.

And I won’t defend the games that are basically gambling, or aimed at exploiting children.

That being said, I’m not sure that those stats are really very much worse than the pay-once market. Everything I’ve read pegs piracy rates, indie or mainstream, at 95-99%. Which means that effectively, only a small core of the people playing your game are paying you, regardless of your monetization strategy.

So is F2P really that much worse (excluding the ones that are a thin layer of paint over a gambling engine) than pay-once?

Of course, we can talk about the other number, how certain paying players are the “whales”, the ones who contribute a disproportionate amount of the income. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though.

Take, for example, Kickstarter. Clearly, some people are jumping on Kickstarter projects at the top tiers, which amounts to investing more than any ten other backers. Sure, part of that is the urge to support, but some of it is surely that some people want more of the reward knick-knacks. The extras. The collector’s stuff.

Which is fine. In fact, I think it’s a great idea, offering extra value for people who are more into an artistic product or output. It’s like a band selling t-shirts, cds, signed posters, personal performances. It’s really, really hard to make a living creating art, so I really think artists should exploit these potentially untapped sources of income as much as possible. And I don’t mean exploit in the mustache-twirling villain way, I mean in the sense that “we need to power our cities, and oh look there’s all this wind blowing about, why not build some wind turbines to exploit that?”

So why do we feel that it’s not exploitative with Kickstarter, where people are investing before ever seeing a product, but it is exploitative in F2P, where at least people are playing the game and making a decision on how much to invest based on tangible experience?

It’s likely down to the fear that F2P games are using psychological tricks to extract that extra money. Which, no doubt, is a valid fear, one based on first-hand experience with some of the tricks F2P games often pull.

But I’d argue that, even without playing mind-games, you’re going to see exponential drop-off in engagement (and willingness to spend) with any product or fan-group. In other words, the really deeply obsessed fans will be a tiny fraction of the whole, but will spend a disproportionate (relative to their numbers) amount of money on their obsession. The number of people for whom Elvis’ sweaty used jumpsuit is a piece of collectable memorabilia worth months of salary to own are always going to be much fewer than the number of people who would plonk down cash for an Elvis CD.

It would be extremely unusual, I think, if mapping the number-of-fans to the degree-of-fandom-and-corresponding-willingness-to-spend on a graph didn’t result in an exponential curve.

So, really, to conclude, while I think the fear of F2P mechanical-exploitation is valid, the fact that only 1 in a hundred or so F2P players pay for the games doesn’t seem unusual overall, and the fact that the largest share of revenue comes from a minority isn’t, in itself, that concerning.