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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spiderweb: Fear Of Change, Facebook Page
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Spiderweb Software's Jeff Vogel has updated his Bottom Feeder blog with a new discussion of change, specifically negative fan reaction to changes he has made to his games over the years. Spiderweb has also encouraged fans to visit the company's Facebook page, which will offer news about current and upcoming titles as well as updates to Vogel's blog.

Here are some hugely beneficial (and profitable) changes I made which earned me fury and lost customers.

Switch From A Flat View to a 3-D Isometric View - My first games were completely flat, as seen in the first illustration. I switched to a far, far nicer pseudo 3-D isometric view in 1998. It looks better, and it enables me to do more things with the game. (Like elevations.) But, over a decade later, I STILL get complaints about it. Lost souls, out in the wilderness, wanting me to return to a design I got completely fed up with in a previous century.
Switch From Hand-Drawn To Rendered Graphics - Oh, wow. There are a lot of people still angry about this change, made in Avernum 4 in 2005. My old graphics were hand-drawn instead of rendered, which made any sort of animation extremely painstaking and expensive. Using 3-D models to render creatures and terrain enables me to have a wider variety of much nicer icons without crushing my budget. But it changed the look of the games that people were used to, and a lot of customers never forgave me for it.
Removing the Need to Identify Magic Items - A smaller but highly instructive example. Once, when you got a magic item in one of my RPGs, you had to take it to a sage to get it identified. This was busy work, confused new players, diluted the excitement of collecting lewtz, and just wasn't fun. Dropping it was a total no-brainer. And yet people complained. Why? Oh, why?
Removed the Need to Carry Around Ammunition For Bows - This is a recent change, part of my desire to eliminate busywork. When you shoot a bow, you just shoot it. You don't need to shop for arrows. I can see why this would break immersion for people, but it seems a neutral change at worst. Not worth the angry complaints I've gotten.
Visit the links below to read the rest of the blog post and check out the Facebook page.

The Bottom Feeder: Why Nobody Should Ever Change Anything, Ever.
Facebook: Spiderweb Software
Spiderweb Software

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World Of Goo Reviewed
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story recently published a new review of 2D Boy's World of Goo. The unique puzzle game challenges players to guide balls of goo through the game's levels by constructing items like ladders and bridges to circumvent obstacles. GamersInfo recommended the game, stating "is no excuse not to pick up a copy."

The joy of the game comes from the wonderfully intuitive interface and the fun in creating things using cute little goo. It’s like building with Legos: Almost anything is possible. Just point and click and drag. Really, it’s that simple. Sometimes you have to be aware of your creation’s weight — sometimes more often than naught. But it’s never something like, “place 30 goos here, and it’ll be balanced.” Oh, no; it’s about learning how to create a balanced path for the goo so that it becomes a natural part of the puzzle solving process. This can be done by reinforcing the goo structure or using balloons to help keep things floating. Thus, the puzzles are challenging. Sometimes they can be frustrating, but it never stops being fun. Each new level builds on the previous level, making it so that the solution is truly never out of your grasp. It may not be quickly apparent, but it is there waiting to be discovered. No matter how you discover it, it‘s completely and utterly rewarding. I tried explaining this to a few friends (they’re girls), and they couldn’t see it. However, when I told a co-worker about this game, her eyes lit up. So it might be a crazed learner thing. Or a teacher thing. Or a person who’s truly a kid at heart thing. I’m going with the latter.

Graphically, the game is exceedingly easy on the eyes. The goos are insanely cute. Wait. Can goo be considered cute? The backgrounds are well-detailed, and the various structures in the game exude personality. They are quirky, interesting and add depth to the world. The same could be said of each area that you work through. Each is completely unique, even though they are based on the different seasons. Summer is the most innocent with idyllic pastures and flowing water. Occasionally, the wind can be seen in front of everything. Eventually, you get to winter, and the innocence is gone as the world is either asleep with snow or has dramatically changed since the last time you saw it. Heck, the goos even go inside a computer, and that’s by far the coolest chapter theme. It actually feels like you’re working inside a virtual world (within a virtual world ... nope, the irony is not completely lost on me).

The sound is stickily solid. There’s the upbeat game theme with its emphasis on percussion, the windy days with the sound of the wind blistering by and wind instruments that gently fly high. There are the sounds of fire and the burning of goo. There are the happy sounds as the goos connect to one another. Other than the sounds of the goos, it may not stick with you. But like any good soundtrack, when you do not hear, something feels amiss. It creates a disconnect, and it makes the game somewhat less enjoyable. Thankfully, if you enjoy the soundtrack enough, you can download and add it to your music collection (for free, I might add).
Read the full review at the link below. World Of Goo Review
2D Boy
World of Goo

Heal The Land In Prince Of Persia
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Macworld has posted a new review of Prince of Persia, the latest version of the popular franchise. In the game players take the role a new prince who must use his special gifts to assist the Princess Elika in her efforts to heal the lands. Macworld gave the game a score of 4 out of 5 mice.

From the review:

One of the hopes I had for this new Prince of Persia is that it would have better writing. It doesn’t, but you’d only notice it if you allow the characters to talk. If you press T on your keyboard to talk, Elika will recount plot points or the blatantly obvious tips throughout the game. For a more enjoyable experience, never press T.

Anachronistically, the dialogue is written for a hip twenty-something audience and performed by voice actors with American accents. The dialogue has moments of genuine humor but the gravity of the world’s plight is lost when your two leads seem to be channeling Ashton Kutcher and Jessica Alba, respectively.

Elika is a worthy sidekick because she can unlock powers that are quite useful (though the odd flight sequences are strange and unnecessary) and she’s not your typical oversexed damsel in distress (except for her ecstatic moments when she’s healing the land).

There are rarely moments in gaming as purely fun and liberating as jumping around the well-constructed world of Prince of Persia, full of obstacles, rooftops, and open areas. This alone makes Prince of Persia worth playing. The visuals are stunning and the environments, though repetitive, are vast and fun to explore. Thank the Assassin’s Creed Schimtar engine for finally opening up the world of Prince of Persia. The camera system is also much improved over the previous game.
Click over to the link below to read the rest.

Macworld: Prince Of Persia
Prince Of Persia

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City Of Heroes Five Year Anniversary Discussed
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Ten Ton Hammer has posted a new interview with City of Heroes Lead Designer, Matt Miller. The game designer discussed this week's celebration of the super hero themed MMO's fifth anniversary. Topics addressed include successes and failures, the positive response to the Mission Architect feature, and Miller's most memorable City of Heroes moments.

Ten Ton Hammer: The release of the Mission Architect has certainly been hailed as one of the more ambitious projects to ever be constructed and completed by a post-launch MMO development team. Why did you decide to undertake such a massive project and how long – really – did it take your team to complete?
MM: The “why” really was a “why not?” We answered the “why not” about halfway through development and realized that this was going to be a BIG system, bigger than just another feature for our game, but something that had the potential to influence the MMO genre as a whole and being so far down the rabbit hole at that point there was no turning back.
As for the “how long”, pinpointing the actual start date is trickier. Joe “Hero 1” Morrissey came up with the genesis of the idea a couple months after he was hired, but that barely resembles the final system we ended up with. All told there was about eight months of devoted production time to the system, with roughly 10 months of pre-production design work to get us to a point where we thought we could implement it and it would be fun. This feature was the most massive undertaking since the Launch of City of Heroes in 2004.

Ten Ton Hammer: What's next for the team and the game? Are there any larger, overarching plans going on in the background that players don't know about yet? When are you going to be revealing those plans?
MM: All I can really comment on at this time is that NCsoft is providing us with more resources than ever before and we have some great stuff planned for our players over the coming months and years. I’m sure you’ll be one of the first to hear what we’ve got up our sleeves, so stay tuned!

Ten Ton Hammer: A five year anniversary seems like the perfect time to try to attract some retired players back into the game. Besides the Mission Architect, do you have any major initiatives that you're working on? Should current players expect a major influx of faces soon?
MM: We’ve released the Architect Edition, a new boxed version including both City of Heroes and City of Villains, and it’s on the shelves right now. We’re also doing a free re-activation period from Tuesday April 28th, through Sunday, May 3rd, so retired players will be able to log in using their old accounts and try out all the cool new stuff we have to offer, including Mission Architect.
Head over to the link below to read the full Q&A.

Ten Ton Hammer: CoH 5th Anniversary Q&A
City of Heroes
Buy City of Heroes

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IMG Reviews Tribal Trouble 2
6:00 AM | Marcus Albers | Comment on this story

Inside Mac Games has posted a review of the new RTS title from Odd Labs, Tribal Trouble 2. A sequel to their original Java-based RTS from a couple of years ago, this new title takes on an online-multiplayer makeover while keeping many of the original aspects of the game the same. Here's an excerpt from the review:

Tribal Trouble 2 is a game type you rarely ever see, a real-time-strategy game with browser interface. All missions, multiplayer battles, and upgrades are handled through your browser, but the battles are all played with an automatically downloaded application. All of these are relatively good-looking and work without a hitch, although the bank, one of the most-important areas, isn't fully working right now.
Follow the link below to read the full review.

IMG Review: Tribal Trouble 2
Tribal Trouble 2

Mac Games News for Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Diablo III: Dismemberment, Party Bonuses, Mana Regeneration6:00 AM
Flick NBA Basketball Released For iPhone & iPod Touch6:00 AM
The Sims 3: New Screenshots Available6:00 AM
Vendetta Online: Multiplayer Ships On The Horizon6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Wednesday, April 29, 2009 on one page

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