Friday, July 25, 2008

Eve Online

Okay so I haven't died or given up on video games all together, I've just been enthralled by an MMORPG besides WOW (I'll be honest, I only went back for about 20 days and was bored again with WOW). My new game is Eve Online. Why Eve? Well, it has a both a skill based system and a free-form end-game. Do you like PVP? You can do it all you want. Like raiding PVE instances? Blow up some pirate outposts. Like crafting? Test out the invention and research options of EVE.

I'll go more in depth with Eve Online in future posts, but for the moment I'm going to go back in and blow up some stuff with my missile boat.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Player Content

As I think more about it, I wonder if companies using player content is a good thing. Now, it can be assumed that eventually every game will have some form of player content, as players tend to modify games, make maps, etc. However, relying on player content for a majority of gameplay is a huge mistake that I feel looming on the horizon.

Let's look at a possible scenario. Big Game Company Inc. decides that instead of spending a lot of money developing content and unique characters, they will just make copies of player's characters and use models very similar to them in skills and appearance as NPCs. This saves countless hours of NPC design and customization. The downside to this? Well, that's quit simple.

You see, if you rely on players to make the content, you will either have to filter content to the point that it would be cheaper just to make it in the first place or allow the crap to pour in. Development teams have some standards to which they are help (or they are fired) whereas players playing for fun only report to themselves. I have intentionally created weird or stupid things when playing games and being exceptionally bored. Is it fair to have these boredom-inspired creations ruin someone else's gameplay?

The bottom line is that player based content should be an addition to games, not a central aspect. I question how well SPORE will do, and how effective the player content system will be with that game.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Warning: Explicit Content Issues

It occurred to me that, with the advent of MMORPGs, and games where content is automatically shared, like Spore, censorship will be even more evident in our gaming experience. Now, games are currently rated and controlled though the ESRB, which is fine and dandy, and most MMORPGs on the market now have the added tag-line that experience may change during online play. However, Spore will be actively pulling new monsters for your worlds from other player's databases, and let's face it, there are some sick and twisted people out there.

For example, within hours of the creature creator for Spore's release, the web was flooded with various penis-shaped creatures and other vulgarities. Which for an initial release of a creature editor is fine (if not childish), but what about the real game? I am not paying $50-60 for a game that downloads penis monsters onto all my unoccupied worlds. Frankly, I expect some quality control.

Which brings me to my point: where is the balance between content control and enjoyability. City of Heroes regularly "genericizes" (transforms the player's costume into a generic one and changes their name to generic####) any player whose superhero resembles a copyrighted hero. World of Warcraft, on the other hand, doesn't seem to care that much (given the number of Chuck Norris's out there). The makers of Grand Theft Auto got sued for the Hot Coffee incident, when in fact the content wasn't even playable in the shipped game (players had to hack the game to find it). It seems that no gaming company really knows what is good and what is bad in terms of censorship.

If every little act that could be deemed censorable was censored, then the games themselves would fall apart. There would be no cursing, blood splatter, mention of anything that could be mistaken for vulgarities. Largely, the community aspects of these games would disappear, as well as the fun of solo activities. If there was no censorship, these games would not be suited for children and would all receive a mature rating. There is a balance point in the middle, but it requires a constant level of surveillance and quality assurance that no gaming company is willing to pay for. I doubt Spore will have a quality assurance system, and will more likely just approve any monster that comes through the server.