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Monday, April 13, 2009

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Diablo III: The New Look For Skill Trees
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Diablo III Community Manager Bashiok has once again favored Blizzard Entertainment forum readers with a few bits of information about Diablo III, the upcoming continuation of the popular action RPG series. This time the discussion focused on the new look for skill trees in DIII, specifically addressing the concerns of fans who worry the trees are too similar to talent trees seen in World of Warcraft.

People are comparing the trees for a few reasons and using these reasons as negatives. I’ll try to cover them all.

1. “They look similar.“ Yes, they do. They’re both downward expanding trees, they both have icons that you can spend points in, they both have arrows that determine expansion into other skills. These were all features also in the Diablo II trees.

2. “It’s unoriginal.“ I agree. It’s only after 10 (?) or so working concepts of various other skill tree designs that we were able to arrive at the conclusion that this is a system that works and achieves the goals that we want to achieve (we showed those failed designs at BlizzCon btw). There’s no point in trying to put in something new and complex just for the sake of originality. When people play the game will they remember that it’s not new, or that it’s not fun?
I want to heavily stress again on this point that the skill trees are not finished, we’re still in the process of heavy iteration and experimentation.

3. “Point requirements to advance down the tree is lame.“ One of the main problems with the Diablo II trees was point hoarding, which was the act of holding on to all of your points until you are able to reach a skill you want to put points into. This may not be an issue to some players just because it’s so easily dismissed as ‘part of the game’, but from a designer perspective it’s a huge failure. You are giving the player a reward and they are hoarding those rewards because they have nothing enticing to spend them on. This was attempted to be remedied through a patch by introducing synergies, unfortunately they caused their own issues. World of Warcraft looking at the Diablo II trees for inspiration saw this flaw but took a different approach in solving it, instead implementing a point requirement to advance down the tree. The player now has to spend points to advance, and with that comes the ability to provide more impacting and meaningful places to spend them.

4. “Cookie cutter builds!“ Again these are skill trees, not talent trees. Every single ability you can cast/use is learned through spending points in the tree. This allows, in comparison, for a huge amount of customization. Now, that doesn’t escape the truth that there will always be builds considered to be the best, but that’s more an issue of balance, not skill tree layout design.
Also on that point, and I’ve said it before, character customization is a core design goal of the game. It’s one of a few, and that means that we’re not going to release the game unless we’re happy with the amount of customization available.
Click over to the Blizzplanet page below to read more.

Diablo III: Bashiok Comments
Blizzard Entertainment
Diablo III
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Tom Chilton Discusses Upcoming WoW Changes
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Games On Net recently posted a new interview with Tom Chilton, lead game designer for World of Warcraft, Blizzard Entertainment's ever popular fantasy MMO. In the interview Chilton discussed changes in the upcoming 3.1 content patch, including the addition of harder battles for veteran players and changes to the arena system.

Another game element that started off small and has grown to be a major part of 3.1 is the addition of hard mode, which Chilton was pleased to describe as being an extension of an experimentation started in Wrath of the Lich King. Taking inspiration from the Sartharion encounter, where you can fight Sartharion directly or take on the three drakes that protect him. Chilton continues:

You could choose to kill any of those drakes before you fight Sartharion, but if you don't kill the drakes and you fight him, you get additional rewards. So - we used that as a kind of template, we'd also experimented with it a little bit in the past with the Zul'Aman raid instance before Lich King came out, in Burning Crusade. Players cleared it more quickly essentially rescued different prisoners that were being held captive in the instance, so that you would get bonus rewards, bonus items, all the way up to the special bear mount. We used those as our template for Ulduar.
One of the reasons why we're doing this so heavily now is that one of our philosophies for Lich King was that we wanted to make the content more accessible, we didn't want raiding to be a hardcore-only activity, and a lot of that was in the tuning. Not only is it harder to get 10-25 people together than it is for a 5-person dungeon, but the encounters and all the tuning and level complexity for raids went up a lot, over the Burning Crusade and also the original World of Warcraft. We wanted to make sure that the tuning didn't make it impossible for pickup groups to be able to go through raiding, because we figured that's how a lot of our more casual players would approach it, but at the same time, we wanted to have the hard-to-master element without having to suddenly just say we're going to triple the amount of content!

There's some big changes coming to the arena system with 3.1, which Chilton is pretty excited about:

The change that we're making where teams will start with zero rating, and then progress upward from that should be a much better play experience for those that are new to the arena system. One thing that we found over time was that players would create teams, and they would start off with a 1500 rating... 1500 is the median skill, which means that half the people who experience the arena system are actually going to -mathematically- be below 1500, by some amount. They might be close, they might be way below 1500. Their experience always felt very negative: you started at the highest rating you were almost ever going to achieve, and it just went down from there. That's not very fun psychologically - you don't feel like you're working towards something, it's like you're working your way away from something.
I think that the general experience for players that are new to the arena system, and who come in for the first time now and start at zero rating, say they lose a bunch of games, they're not losing any rating at that point, but when they gain rating, they're going to go up a whole bunch. I think they'll have a much more positive experience.
Head over to the site below for the rest of the Q&A.

Games On Net: Tom Chilton Interview
Blizzard Entertainment
World of Warcraft
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Spore Galactic Adventures Previewed
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

IGN has published a hands-on preview of Spore Galactic Adventures. The expansion for Will Wright's evolution sim will offer the ability to beam down to planets, an equipment editor, and an Adventure Creator that will allow players to create their own missions and share them with others.

The first mission, created by Maxis for this demo, is called Mothership Down. It's designed to be played by your Space Captain, which is basically a heroic creature that you build up, sort of like Spore's version of Captain Kirk. The mission begins with you being shot down over by hostile aliens. One of your crewmates nearby tells you (yes, you can input dialogue bubbles so you can have conversation cutscenes) that the enemy mothership has to be destroyed in order for you to get extracted. To do that, you have to get across or around a battle raging nearby between your troops and those of the enemy. Then you have to battle up to the gate of a fortress and destroy the gate to gain access inside.

To show off some of the tools available to you, the courtyard of the fortress is littered with the kind of red barrels that tend to explode. You also have to kill one of the aliens who's holding the red key that you need to get past the red energy field to the transporter that "beams" you aboard the mothership. Then you'll have to battle through the corridors to the reactor, blast the reactor till it explodes, and race to escape the mothership before it detonates.

That's a pretty complex chain of events, and far beyond anything seen in the original Spore, where many missions revolved around the idea of killing X number of creatures, or finding-and-retrieving some object for somebody.

It's not all about combat, though. You can create plenty of non-combat adventures. For instance, the second adventure that we checked out dealt with a foot race between creatures. In this one, you have to get from the start line to the finish line, but how you get there is up to you.
Check out the full preview at the link below.

IGN: Spore Galactic Adventures Preview
Electronic Arts
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Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 Reviewed
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Macworld has published a new review of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3. The popular real time strategy title follows the action as the Allies face off against the Soviet war machine and the Empire of the Rising Sun in a fictional futuristic setting. Macworld gave the game a score of 4 out of 5 mice.

From the review:

Tim Curry hams it up as the Soviet Premier, Jenny McCarthy plays special agent Tanya, and George Takei is the Emperor of Japan. There are also strong supporting roles from J.K. Simmons (of Juno fame), Jonathan Pryce ( Brazil ), and David Hasselhoff ( Baywatch ).

You know a game doesn’t take itself too seriously when one of the actors remarks that the enemy’s armies are “thrusting deeply into motherland’s nether regions” or casts David Hasselhoff as the Vice President. And for some reason, every female on screen is wearing a mini-skirt as part of her military uniform.

This level of camp extends to the units as well. The series phases out standard units like tanks in favor of helicopters that transform into walkers, amphibious naval destroyers, and armored trained attack bears. Old favorites return, like spies (voiced with a Roger Moore-like Bond impersonation), Kirov airships, and Tesla troopers. A new feature to the series is the ability to build almost all of your structures on the water. Sea bases can be protected from most land-based attack units and provide a new dimension to strategic base building.
Visit the page below to read the rest of the review.

Macworld: C&C Red Alert 3 Review
Electronic Arts
Command & Conquer Red Alert 3
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Mac Games News for Friday, April 10, 2009

Ambrosia Updates WireTap, WireTap Anywhere, Snapz Pro X6:00 AM
Feral Releases LEGO Batman And Adds New Game Demos To Site6:00 AM
Freeverse Announces BumperCar 2.2 Kid's Internet Browser6:00 AM
Issue 14: Architect Now Available For City Of Heroes6:00 AM
Second Flyghty Beta Available6:00 AM
UDevGames 2008: Reclaimed Postmortem Available6:00 AM
VP Announces Hearts Of Iron 3 And The Elven Legacy6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Friday, April 10, 2009 on one page

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