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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

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The Role Of Physics In Horror Adventure Games
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 1 comment

A recent post to the Frictional Games developer blog focused on the use of physics in adventure games like the company's Penumbra horror series. The third in a series of articles focusing on puzzle design in games, this post analyzes the uses of physics models and why physics introduce a variety of unique problems for game developers.

The Chaos effect
Even though physics are controlled by a very limited set of rules, because of its complexity, even the smallest varition can cause major differences in outcome. The most striking example of this is the mining cart puzzle in Penumbra Overture. Here the player is supposed to push a cart down a slope to hit a wall, but for some reason, every now and then it would derail and miss the intended target. To fix this, extra forces where added keeping the cart in place and numerous hours was spent at getting it stable. After all this work, the cart can still derail though! In hindsight it would have been a lot easier to just use an animation. This shows how such a simple event can cause tons of problem when physics is involved.

Physics breakdown
Not only does a physical simulation suffer from undeterministic behaviour (chaos) , it can also fail. As hinted in the word "simulation", game physics is not a perfect replica of the real world and can break down at certain points. In the Penumbra games, the best example is that the player can bang objects through the floor if using enough force. Some objects are easier to bang through (because of shape, size, etc) and in Requiem we had make an important object magically appear if it went through.

Sequence breaking
In adventure games, the designer can usually set exactly the kinds of interactions possible with an object and have full control of all possible outcomes. For physics, it is impossible to anticipate all that can happen and one can only test as much as possible, hoping all gaps have been closed. For example: a pit that should not be possible to cross at certain point in the game, might be possible to cross with some ingenius use of objects. In order make sure certain things does not happen we had to add alot of extra checks and hacks in the Penumbra games, sometimes even excluding the player from doing certain actions. This can easily break the sense of immersion, but might be a must in order to have a stable game.

Another type of sequence breaking is doing something "stupid". An example from Penumbra Black Plauge is in a machine room where the player needs a steel pipe as leverage to break open a door. However, there is also a hole in this level and it is possible for the player to throw the pipe down in it. To remedy this, we added several pipes in the level and if the player where to throw them all down the hole, a pipe would magically appear inserted into the door that needed to be opened. It is not very immersive, but at least the game did not break. Luckily, most player seem to not trow imporant objects down in holes..
Check out the full article, and the previous entries in the series, at the links below.

Frictional Blog: Puzzles In Horror Games 3
Frictional Blog: Puzzles In Horror Games 1
Frictional Blog: Puzzles In Horror Games 2
Frictional Games

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Diablo III: D2 Cameos, Monk Class, Modding, No LAN Play
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 2 comments

Joystiq has posted a new interview with Blizzard Entertainment's Leo Boyarsky and Kevin Martens about Diablo III, the upcoming return to the company's popular action RPG franchise. The topics discussed included the possibility of Diablo II locations and NPCs appearing in the new game, more details about the Monk class, the possibility of fan made mods, and confirmation that Diablo III will not offer players a LAN play option.

Okay, great. Well, going back a little bit, are we going to see anything from Diablo II, like any of the towns like Lut Gholein or Kurast or anything? Are we going back to those areas?
Leo: Kurast was pretty much destroyed and some of the history is that it was abandoned and everybody there moved to this place called Caldeum, which is now the center of pretty much the world, especially on that continent, which is kind of down the street from where Kurast was. You do start off in Tristram, New Tristram as it's also called. So technically that was in Diablo II. And there's going to be some NPCs and some other stuff that we're not quite talking about. There should be some surprises for you.

Kevin: There's a lot of nods to D2.

And the same goes for the enemies, like Mephisto, Baal, etc. I'm assuming we're going to at least see them or hear from them at some point.
Kevin: I think we're saying nothing about that.

Leo: Yes. We'll say that we've got an interesting story cooked up that will satisfy fans of the first two games and they'll understand a lot more about the lore and how it fits together with what was going on with all that.

Diablo has never officially supported modding although they haven't really banned it. Is there any thought towards modding going into this or even map editing? Have you guys thought about including a map editor?
Leo: We talked about it early on and we considered it but the way we put together our maps and the fact that it's random ... it's very artistic-centric. And, on top of that, the fact that it's so random it's like, would people just change the random number generator? You know what I mean? [laughs]
We don't hand-build our dungeons anyways, but the way we build our maps kind of makes that prohibitive. But we're always looking at what the end users might want so we did look at including a map editor and we just said that it's never been a big part of Diablo. So we didn't feel it was necessary.

Kevin: We're certainly not opposed to modding it.

Leo: Yeah, we're not going to put in things that, "Oh my God, you can never mod this!" If somebody comes along and makes this great editor and makes this great mod...

Kevin: At this point, we're knee-deep in just making the game. That's sort of at the periphery of our discussions at this point.

The LAN was never that big of a part of the old Diablo but you could play Diablo on LAN, couldn't you?
Leo: Yes.

And I'm guessing that won't be the case anymore with the new Battle.Net?
Leo: That's right.

Joystiq: Diablo III Q&A
Blizzard Entertainment
Diablo III
Buy Diablo III

New Blizzard MMO To Be 'Significantly Different' From WoW
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 4 comments

In a lengthy interview recently posted by Wired, Blizzard Entertainment COO Paul Sams discussed the company's current and future projects. The Q&A included discussion of Blizzard's unannounced new MMO, monetizing 2.0, the longevity of World of Warcraft, and the company's response to fan petitions. To address your point about as long as other people are interested in WoW — are you concerned Blizzard’s other MMO will cannabalize WoW’s players? Because if there the interest is still there, it would seem counter-intuitive to launch something…
Sams: That’s assuming that it’s the exact same type of thing. Then what about financially, to ask people to pay for two subscriptions, if you go that route?
Sams: Yeah, I can’t comment against the game, the level of detail, the business model or any of that stuff. But what I could tell you is that we’re intending to create a game experience that is unlike anything that has ever been done before. Something that I think takes things far beyond what anyone has imagined and certainly anything anyone has executed. I think a lot of people love this product, WoW, and anticipate that they’ll continue to love it and continue to want to play it. When you think about another MMO, if you look at it and say, “Well, you have this game and it’s this amount of money, and you have this game and it’s this amount of money and you have this amount of time, how do those co-exist?” My feeling is, on the business side, there’s always a way to make things co-exist because you know you start looking at, “I want you to be in the Blizzard universe of games.” So you can look at it from the perspective of, “Oh maybe there are different programs where you can have access to all of the things or a certain amount of things.” You just don’t know, and we don’t either.

These are brainstorming types of conversations because we anticipate the question, and we’re concerned about it. Is it going to cannibalize or not? And the good news is, I think the game is going to be significantly differentiated enough. Such that, you’re not going to feel like they’re one in the same resulting in that you have to pick or choose. My feeling is that they’re distinct enough to where you’re going to say, “Okay, I have all my friends over here. I dig this, I have a lot of time and energy in this, I’ve got these characters and my guild, and this that and the other.” So I have connectivity there, and I want to continue that connectivity. But man, I think, “Well, this is awesome, and I want to go check this out too.”

And so maybe they’ll split a little over time, or maybe they’ll decide they don’t want to play WoW anymore, and they’ll go and play this other thing. That’s a high-class problem to have. As long as those folks are hanging out with us, which I believe they will be because we’re going to keep providing the best experience you can have. So, while there could be other games out there, if the bad thing that happens to us is that they leave WoW and go to this other thing of Blizzard’s, then we’ll work through that pain. (smiles)

Read the full article at the site linked below.

Wired: Blizzard Q&A
Blizzard Entertainment

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J. Allen Brack Discusses WoW: Cataclysm
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 3 comments

Ten Ton Hammer has published a new interview with Blizzard Entertainment's J. Allen Brack. The Lead Developer on the company's MMO, World of Warcraft, discussed some of the features and content planned for the Cataclysm expansion. The Q&A covers the decision to raise the level cap to 85, the company's response to information about the expansion leaking out early, and whether or not the developers want to beef up PvP content.

Do you have it storyboarded out or planned out a final level cap for the game? An ending point?
Not in any way, at all. We’re very much a team that does something and learns from it. We did some stuff with Ulduar that helped inform some of the decisions we made for 3.2. I’m sure that’s going to happen with 3.3 as well, and that’s going to happen for Cataclysm. Someone asked me earlier if the reason why we did 5 levels because level 100 is the final cap; did we want to slow that down. We’ve never had a discussion like that.

So in the future, if the game goes to 100, 100 is a very large number, it’s double what the game was when it started. Are there any plans to start at level 55 or 60, so that when you’re starting out, you don’t have 100 levels to go.
That is something that we’ve talked about. One thing to mention is that although 100 is a very high number, we don’t really want the amount of time it takes for you to get to max level to change dramatically. We are on record as saying that the amount of time it took you to get to level 60, that’s the amount of time it takes you to get to level 70, same amount of time it takes you to get to level 80 and then some future level cap. The amount of leveling time we don’t want to change, so we’ll make it faster as we go along.

The announcement of Cataclysm wasn’t exactly a surprise for anyone who follows sites such as ours. How did the studio react to the leak? How did it go over internally, and what if anything is going to change in reaction to the leak?
I think we went through the five stages of grief. We had white-hot rage where fire shot from our eyes and we were just like, so angry, and then as time went on and the day went on and the weekend came then Monday rolled around, we sort-of transitioned into, you know, people are just really excited about it. It shows excitement for the game, and that’s just awesome. It’s a high-class problem, it’s something that we like to have. But it’s hard not to have that initial irritation about it.

Maybe fire shooting from our eyes was an exaggeration. Okay, fire shot from our eyes, there was a lot of cursing and swearing and ‘I’m gonna get...’ type things.
Visit the site below to read more.

Ten Ton Hammer: WoW Cataclysm Interview
Blizzard Entertainment
World Of Warcraft: Cataclysm

Mac Games News for Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Diablo III: Barbarian & Witch Doctor Skill Trees6:00 AM
EVE Online: Dominion Coming This Winter6:00 AM
Going Postal For A Third Time6:00 AM
Paul Sams Discusses, StarCraft II, WoW Cataclysm6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Tuesday, September 1, 2009 on one page

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