Jul 182012
 

I haven’t felt the need to write a proper Guild Wars 2 article for a while (I presume because of the amount of work those server community surveys take to do) but there’s been a few bits lately that have registered enough interest to be worth writing about.

A few days ago, ArenaNet released this behind the scenes video which briefly interviews a number of faces in the Seattle office.

The most notable thing for me out of this wasn’t the double health bar for Necromancers, but that ArenaNet have hired an economist, John (Jon?) Smith, to look after what goes on in game and in the gem store. It’s a growing trend in gaming, and recently Valve hired an economist who is analysing the market in TF2 and looking at joining game economies together. It’s a reassuring trend for those of us who enjoy the trading thing, knowing that someone is looking out for inflation and either taking direct steps to combat it or working with developers to do so. And with the gem model ArenaNet have carved out for themselves (as demonstrated over at Distilled Willpower), I’m glad they’ve got someone trained in economics to look after it.

I’ve been spending a lot of my free time lately working on a guild roster mod for my guild (see here and here), which has expanded my knowledge of web development immensely. 5 days ago I’d done little in the way of javascript and now I’ve written and expanded several scripts to expand and collapse lists and sort tables. The whole thing has been designed to be completely expandable to cover any game, for members to create profiles for new games and enter accounts and characters into the list. It goes some way to solving a huge problem for MYST – who is this person I’m playing with? We’re not a big guild, around 40 members, but when people have different forum, steam, account and character names, and you ask people to call you by your real name it will cause a problem eventually. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m so pleased with how it’s going and proud of the work I’ve done. I’m aiming to get everything done in 2 weeks, before we get all befuddled with trying to get ready for Guild Wars 2 launch.

Speaking of guilds, I also started my column over at Dragon Season last week. It’s called Guild Matters and it’s about anything and everything related to running a guild. It’s my hope that it becomes a central resource for all guild leaders who are struggling with an aspect of guild leadership, and while I’m writing a load of articles now, that’s just the start. I sincerely want to hear from other guild leaders to learn from them and understand what they’ve found tough so I’m armed for as and when that problem faces me. I’ll be looking for guild leaders to interview soon, but in the meantime I’m writing a series of articles that cover the basics of leading a guild in my mind.

Finally, it’s a Guild Wars 2 beta weekend this weekend and while I’m looking forward to it, it feels a bit less exciting than the other weekends. I think it’s because the characters have been wiped and I know that trying to WvW from level 1 will be painful economically. I’ve done a lot of the human, charr and norn starter areas and want to leave asura and sylvari for release so I have something completely fresh, so you’ll likely find me in WvW and sPvP this weekend. I’m loving the game so far, and moreso seeing the progression and speed at which ArenaNet improves and stabilises their game.

Oh and for anyone who’s having a discussion about which server to pick this weekend, you might find this useful

Have fun!

Feb 152012
 

If this one hasn’t passed you by on your favourite source of video game news, may I introduce the latest in legal wrangling that is Blizzard and Valve having a spat over Dota 2? I’m not really going to delve too deep into the history of Defence of the Ancients (or DotA), so feel free to familiarise yourself with what has happened in the saga so far.

The basis of the lawsuit comes down to trademarking. Whereas copyright protects the game code as a whole (as opposed to lines of code), trademarking is more about the brand around the game, protecting it such as not to confuse customers. Valve have applied for a trademark for Dota 2 to protect their logo and similar. (By the way,  Valve have acknowledged the names are similar but have decided to call their game “Dota 2” to distinguish it from “Defence of the Ancients” but acknowledge the continuation of the genre’s development.) Blizzard are attempting to block it by claiming ownership of the tools made to create the original mod from a game that was released a decade ago, amongst other things. They’re bothering to do this to “defend seven years of goodwill that Blizzard has developed”.

Excuse me while I choke on PR speak from both parties.

I think this entire scenario is unique in gaming history. I certainly can’t remember another example of where an entirely new genre has sprung from the world editor of another. It’s made extra complex by IceFrog, generally seen as the main caretaker for DotA for the last few years, not only being hired by Valve to work on Dota 2 but also having a hand in Heroes of Newerth and League of Legends. Yes, there were and are other people working on creating, developing and maintaining this incredibly popular competitive game, but IceFrog is seen as the incredibly lucky head honcho.

The bottom line is that Valve knew exactly what they were doing when they called their game Dota 2 and not “Mega Pwnies of Doom” or something. After that, all they did wrong was hiring lawyers to do the what that lawyers do to protect games (see Bethesda vs Mojang for more information). And the only reason Blizzard hasn’t packaged up DotA itself is probably due to the contract that was shipped with the World Editor, not for some reason of goodwill. We’re talking about the same company that has decided to make World of Warcraft Monopoly and Starcraft Risk. Oh and sold sparkly ponies for $25 a pop. Forgive me for being sceptical of their motives.

Rants aside, I see the success of Blizzard’s objections resting on the EULA and similar documents around the Warcraft 3 World Editor. I think for modders, it would be better if Blizzard were not successful. After all, if you happen to have a great idea that an entire community gets around, I would rather see you get rewarded than see a company which already has enough money swoop in and deny you the recognition that is deserved cos they happened to have the tools you needed to make it. It’d be like Microsoft swooping in to plant a flag in your awesome game made with XNA. Not cool.

Worst case scenario in all of this is that Valve have to change the name of their game. But seeing as how a beta version of Dota 2 was already the second highest paying eSport in 2011 I don’t see it being a big problem. The game has already won and Blizzard will be left trying to defend and monetise DotA without a significant member of the community, while competing with 3 successful and similar games in the market.

Should be an interesting legal battle to watch being smashed out.

Jan 232012
 

So I’m guessing you’ve heard the news, wooped some, pinched yourself and wanted to hug Mike O’Brien until his eyes pop. I’m right there with you. Although I had to hold in the excitement for 8 hours or so as I had demo’s of my own to give.

I could do what many commentators will do and speculate on what this means on where they are in the development schedule & what’s left, but really, there’s no point. Other than knowing we’re on the home straight and that Guild Wars 2 will be in our hands in 99 days at a minimum or 342 days at a maximum, there’s nothing else I wish to try to infer from this news.

I’m excited. I’m also looking at the checklist of stuff I wanted to do before launch and wincing. GW Templates is still in development, and I’m hoping to get it out of test in the next month. All the features are in, its a question of entering the masses of information about Guild Wars skills. Then there’s the additional features I want for the guild’s website. And then seeing what stuff can be offered for Guild Wars 2.

99 days is enough right?

 

Busy Bee

 Posted by on January 5, 2012  Guild Wars, Personal, Software development  Comments Off on Busy Bee
Jan 052012
 

I’ve been a bit quiet the last few weeks, not just because of the holiday season. I’ve been a bit of a busy bee.

After the work I did on the Mystic Spiral [MYST] website, I realised that all of our old articles documenting various farming builds would be better in WordPress than in phpbb3. But I couldn’t find something that would display the various templates, and seeing as I’m anxious to learn and improve my web dev skills, I decided to dive right in.

It’s a little ways off being ready for release to the general populous, but I couldn’t resist giving a sneak peek to the new GW Template plugin. 😉

Skyrim: 12 Hours In

 Posted by on November 14, 2011  Skyrim, Software development  2 Responses »
Nov 142011
 

It’s raining and I’m waist deep in a river catching salmon while wearing heavy steel armor. I’m sure this is the kind of thing my mother told me would kill me. But there weren’t dragons about then. A muttering on the wind draws my attention and high above the river behind me there’s wooden bridge held in place by two stone towers. Bandits. 

Signalling to Lydia, we draw our bows and make our way onto the river bank. Sneaking through the bushes up the hill to the nearest tower, I take aim at the unsuspecting sentry tending to a cooking pot and let the arrow fly…

 

Aaah Skyrim. It’s been a long time since an RPG has made my heart race while sneaking through some deep catacomb, and this game is worth the price just for that feeling alone.

So where to start. The combat is excellent. Archery especially, as you have to correct for wind and the flight of the arrow. My only complaint is that switching between weapons leaves your character out of the action for too long, but this may well have been a design decision to stop people switching every blow.

Levelling happens at a nice steady pace and it’s a nice touch that reading certain books gives a boost in a variety of skills. You’re guided through smithing, enchantment and alchemy, but cooking (not levellable but still very useful) is left for players to discover. Which meant my husband completely missed cooking until he was level 19. Ooops.

The highlight of the game so far is the dungeons. Not only are they suitably creepy, with weird noises and claustrophibia inducing tunnels, but the puzzles in them are excellent. The rewards for doing them are worth it too, although my packrat nature does mean I keep having to pass stuff off to Lydia to hold.

In fact I have only 2 complaints about the game. Firstly, did the path up to High Hrothgar have to be quite so long? Secondly, and most importantly, the UI navigation on the PC is horrible and does negatively impact on my enjoyment of the game. And it’s inconsistant (try cooking, pressing E to make a recipe and Enter to confirm. Enter doesn’t work). It’s very very clear that the game was designed for consoles and then made to work on PC, but the bare minimum was done to make the UI work. The result is you unintuitavely find yourself pressing the same 4 or 5 buttons repeatedly as the mouse doesn’t always do what you expect it to, and when there are around 100 keys on your keyboard it’s all just a bit silly. The entire experience could have been made a lot better by having the option to create weapon/skill sets. I also wonder how spellcasters on the console keep their sanity. I haven’t had any stability issues as yet, and aside from the occasional minor pathing problem with my NPC companion everything’s been remarkably smooth so far.

Overall, the game is great and a classic of the decade. If Guild Wars 2 ends up being half the RPG this one is (and I hope it will be more than that) then I’ll be a very happy lady.

8/10 (and the -2 is for the UI)

Edit: Found this comment while reading what some of the professional reviewers had written about Skyrim and the comments to their articles. It’s apt.

Imagine we build the best car in the world with lots of power, wide sticky tires, smoothest most responsive suspension, and a sweet smashing paint job, but then we fuck it all up by giving it the worst motherfucking steering and pedal controls ever invented. That’s Skyrim for you.