I wanted to print an old design doc I'd written a few years ago, but sadly I haven't heard back from the studio I wrote it for, so I can't do that. Instead, I suppose I'll just talk about an idea I worked on once. Using the parlance of junk patents, let's call this installment of French Design - "A technique for eliciting lifelike behavior using simple tools." Read more»




Seven Basic Tools
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 11 March 2009, 6:42 pm

When I was a kid, I used to watch MacGyver all the time. In a very real way, he was my hero - a guy who could make anything from anything and who did so for the betterment (and wonderment) of everyone. As a kid, I really wanted to be that guy. I mean, I didn't want to be an obviously Canadian would-be spy, but I wanted to be a builder - a guy who could make what was needed when it was needed using only the razor sharp talent of his mind. Read more»




Keith Vaz Moves in Parliament for UK Ban on Rape Game
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 25 February 2009, 3:59 pm

Keith Vaz Moves in Parliament for UK Ban on Rape Game -

Making good on a vow to bring up Japanese PC title RapeLay in Parliament, British Labour MP Keith Vaz has issued a call for the game to be banned in the U.K., reports the Evening Standard:

Mr Vaz, who campaigns against violent computer games, called on the Government to ban [RapeLay] from sale to UK players over the internet.In a Commons motion, he said he was "appalled that a video game that simulates rape has been readily available for sale on the internet".He welcomed the decision by Amazon to withdraw the game.

As GamePolitics reported earlier this month, Vaz was one the first to speak out against RapeLay.

[Game Politics]

The moral of the story being, apparently, that one should never attempt to resell one's pornography on Amazon's market. Look folks, it's not like this "game" is being put on shelves at Walmart or something -- it was, literally, one dude trying to sell a game he'd clearly imported directly from Japan. Why manufacture a crisis here? One guy has poor taste and there's a nation out there that made a video game that satisfies that taste. Is this less true in books? Or movies? Or plays? Seems to me we've had examples of the sort of thing this game covers in every medium but television and radio, so I don't get it -- what makes this one worse?

Seriously, what is the crisis here?

"Oh dear! There seems to be a tempest in my teapot!"

- Snipehunter




So many glass ceilings you can't see the sky
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 22 February 2009, 5:23 pm

I've been kind of bitchy lately. So much so that I really didn't want to post anything because I knew how negative it would sound, if I did. I'm not going to talk about why I'm bitchy, but instead I'm gonna talk about something that occurred to me, because of it:

There's a lot of general crankiness and other assorted poison in the industry, right now. It expresses itself as a sort of general ennui, as if there's nothing surprising out there anymore.

I'm not the only cranky game dev out there, right now. In fact, some folks proudly claim their cynicism on their own blogs; a shtick to attract readers. That makes me think that maybe their audience (gamers and other devs) are bitchy and cynical, too.

This industry, no scratch that, this scene has lost its soul. Read more»




In the conservatory...
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 February 2009, 12:10 am

Printing press from 1811, photographed in Muni...

Image via Wikipedia

A thought occured to me recently that I figured I'd share realtively quickly: Efforts to conserve games for posterity will, by the very nature of the technology behind them, ignore MMOs. Read more»




Of watches and chronometers...
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 1 January 2009, 6:02 pm

Watch movement

Image via Wikipedia

I love my job. I know it's something I say a lot which, considering that I can't talk a lot about what I do, might seem a little circumspect, but it's true -- I really do love my job. By trade, I'm a game designer. I design the systems, mechanics, lore, levels, enemies and worlds of the games I work on. This time around, however (much like my time on Auto Assault) my focus is primarily on content. I'm a lore master, at the coarsest end of the granularity scale, but that's not really what I do...

You see, all of that lore, all of those stories, they have to work for the game -- they have to enable or support the game play of the world I'm a part of making. Even little choices, like what each geographical area of a world will look like, is a game play choice -- the concerns of game play supersede any aesthetic concern one might have. In other words, I am not a writer or an artist. Nor am I just a "quest designer" or some sort of glorified implementer. No, the truth is, I'm actually more like a watch maker.

My tools range from the course -- the broad strokes of the words I use to weave a history to bring a world to the fictional point where our game play fits the context -- to the fine: To the tiny gears, springs and levers that make the smallest critter behave believable or the townsfolk of a world comment on their day as they go through it.

This all sounds like an ego trip, I'm sure, and I suppose in a way it is, but I'm mentioning all of this for a reason. Give me a chance to explain, and then you can tell me I'm vain. Smiling Read more»




To hell with writers, what you need is an editor!
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 9 November 2008, 12:43 am

I've been wondering for awhile now, how I was going to talk about this, but I think I'm just going to say it. The last time I talked about story and writing in games, I stirred up a bit of trouble, so I've been wondering if I should share the realization I've had recently... but it's too good not to share. Read more»




Quests in MMOs suck -- and it's your fault.
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 23 October 2008, 12:29 am

If you've paid any attention to my twitters recently, you probably saw a few comments about "to-do lists." These were parts of a conversation I was having with another developer about how the quests in modern MMOs don't feel like "quests" at all, but rather as errands or chores -- literally glorified to-do lists. I've done a lot of thinking about this lately, focusing on how to fix it. Read more»




Power to the People - a thought on "Authorial Control" in MMOs
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 5 October 2008, 9:16 pm

I've been struggling for awhile with an interesting problem. It's more like an observation that I have trouble reconciling, I guess. It's all based on the sense of dissatisfaction some folks have with the current generation of MMOs. I'm talking about a particular type of player; the type of player that gravitates more to say, EQ2 or Final Fantasy XI than say WoW or WAR. The type of player that, perhaps, laments the lack of things like "lore" or "story" -- Often they're the very same people complaining about the lack of the capability for players to change the world they play in, even in games that do try to offer players that very thing.

The problem is how to address what they really want, when it doesn't really match what they've asked for. There's a huge amount of "interpretation" in what MMO developers do, I think. We look at the complaints and comments of the players and we try to figure out what we can do to provide what they're looking for. The trick, and the trouble, comes from figuring out what they're really asking for, which brings me back to that observation... Read more»




The More Things Change...
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 29 September 2008, 12:36 am

I've been playing a lot of WAR, lately. I'm enjoying it, but I'm also struck by how familiar it all is. Now, before you snort knowingly and mutter "Warcraft did it," let me explain - I don't mean it feels like Warcraft. It's really more about how... old... it feels. Read more»




Death Penalties are stupid
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 25 May 2008, 4:28 pm

I've been playing some Age of Conan this weekend, as I'm sure many of you can imagine. You know, despite not having a machine that can play the game at any sort of frame-rate a normal human being would call playable, I've been enjoying it... Enjoying it, that is, until now.

The problem is, as it often is in MMOs, death penalties... Read more»




If you think Health care is crazy in America, try dental insurance...
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 July 2008, 1:43 pm

In the game industry we, typically, get really good benefits from our employers. I wish I could say this was always true, but in general it can be said the benefits we get (in the form of health coverage, etc.) are pretty good compared to similar benefits packages from other industries in our pay ranges. The one place this is never true, however, is dental care. This isn't a problem with the game industry, however, it's the sad and sorry state of affairs in the dental and dental insurance industries. Read more»




Parents Television Council Issues Video Alert on "Sick" GTA IV
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 11 July 2008, 5:34 pm

Parents Television Council Issues Video Alert on "Sick" GTA IV -

Watchdog group the Parents Television Council has issued a "entertainment alert" condemning Grand Theft Auto IV as well as the CBS TV series Swingtown.

PTC president Tim Winter narrates:

Unfortunately, sex and violence often go together in today's media environment. That's especially true for many of the violent video games that are now flooding the marketplace. Topping them all for worst content is Grand Theft Auto. 

 

In the latest edition of, the player is a thug who gets points for having sex with prostitutes, running over pedestrians and even shooting police officers. And our research shows that many chidlren are able to buy this adult-rated video game far too easily. That's because the retailers don't have any consequenced for abiding by their own rules. We're asking major retailers to not carry this sick game at all...

 

You can also write Congress to ask them to pass the Video Games Rating Enforcement Act which will give teeth to the current ratings system.

Via: GameArgus

GP: Thanks to Matt Paprocki for the heads-up!

[Game Politics]

*sigh*

At what point will honesty come into play in the video game violence debate? I'm tired of this witch hunt and of the PTC, in particular. They're the real menace and I shudder at the thought of the number of people in the world who - either willingly or inadvertently - allow themselves to be manipulated by people like this -- people who have an agenda and wish to pursue it with deliberate mischaracterizations and outright lies.

For the last time: there are no damned points in GTA, nor is there any active encouragement to run down pedestrians or sleep with prostitutes. Yes, people can choose to do both, but that's the key right there -- it's a choice. Why should the PTC, or anyone, be allowed to strip adults of their choices? Because children play GTA? If you accept that as true -- and honestly, I'm not willing to -- then the question becomes: How do children get to play GTA?

Could it be, perhaps, because their parents allow them to? And isn't that the parent's choice, informed or otherwise? Even if the store sells the game to a child, at the end of the day, that child is playing that game in someone's home, right? Someone who, I dunno, maybe ought to be watching and - god fordid - parenting those same children? When will we finally admit that the failing here isn't the system that allows these games to be made, or the people who make them, but the parents who allow children access to games clearly marked as inappropriate for them?

Of course, all of that supposes that kids can easily buy these games and I think that the characterization that children can easily buy GTA has no basis in fact, just like the outright lies the PTC pedals about the content within GTA. Don't buy the hype, and if you have it, take the time to tell both the PTC and your local government representatives how you feel about this issue. Just remember to be civil and polite. Just because the PTC feels the need to lie and mischaracterize does not mean we need to stoop to that level by being impolite, or insulting.

- Snipehunter




Watchdog Group Deletes Misinformation About GTA IV From Parental Alert
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 July 2008, 6:04 pm

Watchdog Group Deletes Misinformation About GTA IV From Parental Alert -

Here's something you don't see very often: a media watchdog group actually scaling back  the Grand Theft Auto IV fear factor in the interest of presenting more accurate information.

But it's true. The Parents Television Council recently issued a a video alert which warns parents about the violence and sexual content in GTA IV.

On July 11th GamePolitics reported on the alert, which is narrated by PTC president Tim Winters. Among his criticisms of the game, Winters repeats the oft-heard, "You get points for [insert nasty activity of your choice]..."

In the latest edition of, the player is a thug who gets points for having sex with prostitutes, running over pedestrians and even shooting police officers.

There are no such points in the GTA series, of course. Never have been, despite the frequent assertion of such by watchdogs. At least two GamePolitics readers, hayabusa 75 and NecroSen, wrote to the PTC to voice their objections. Lo and behold, a few days later the PTC edited the "You get points for..." line out of the video.

GamePolitics received this comment on the change from Gavin McKiernan, National Grassroots Director for the PTC:

[Winters] misspoke.  He knows there are no points in GTA and we of course want all of our productions to be completely factually accurate so we corrected it.

Catch the edited video alert here.

GP: While the viewpoint of the PTC is often at odds with that of gamers, credit is due for taking the trouble to correct this error. Kudos as well to the GP readers who contacted the PTC to point out the misinformation.

[Game Politics]

Huh. Maybe people are listening to gamers. Now, if only they'd believe us...

- Snipehunter




PTC Spanks Game Industry, Praises GameStop, Best Buy in Secret Shopper Report -

Game Politics]

Wow, seriously? How often are you folks at the PTC going to do this? Why "spank the industry" for what the retailers do? For that matter, why chastise the retailers when it's the parents that don't pay attention to what games are played by their children?

As the first commenter at Game Politics points out, Consoles have parental controls. It doesn't matter which games your kids buy if you use the functionality the game industry has already put into parents' hands.

Seriously, this is like what? Decade 3 of this claptrap? Parents, how many of your kids are at home, right now, watching the Saw movies? Or any slasher flick? How many of them are reading Stephen King, Clive Barker, Piers Anthony or any other author that is either graphically violent or pornographic in their narrative? Sure, I get it; Games are expensive for you buy and they're very popular and kids do sit in front of a display of some sort to play them... but isn't that also true of movies where they watch the screen or books where they sit and stare at printed pages?

New != Bad (!= means not equal, in case you didn't know).

Honestly, with the possible (And let me stress that word possible) exception of DVDs, no other form of media gives you parents as much control over what their children can and can't see or experience, as modern games do. It wouldn't matter if your kid got a hold of GTA IV, if you'd bother to turn on the console's content controls.

If you'd bother to parent your children, at all.

It's not our job to raise your kids, or protect them. That's your job. The games industry does A LOT to make sure that you can make informed choices and enforce your choices even when you're not there at the console with your children. Why do we also have to take the blame for you when you fail to avail yourself of all the help we've given you?

Do you think we feel good when you let your kids play GTA IV? I cringe inside at the thought, to be honest, but you know what? It's not my choice to make. I don't get to decide for anyone what games are good for them, or their children. I have to leave that choice up to the parents. Just like they need to leave the choice of what games we make up to us and we all have to leave the choice of what games are sold up to the retailers. That's what freedom is about, isn't it? Making choices for yourself and accepting the consequences?

I just wish parents would make a choice, instead of doing nothing and then blaming the industry when things go wrong for them.

- Snipehunter




From the Inside Looking Out: The Plight of the FNG
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 August 2008, 5:33 pm

In my time as a game designer, I've lead a few sub-teams and design teams (8 total). Each team has included at least one brand new, junior designer with no experience. I think this is kind of important - I think new designers bring something to the mix of designers in a team that you can't get any way else: Passion unmitigated and not yet beat down by experience.

We love to talk about how much experience matters in this industry, and it does, but what we fail to mention when we talk like that is that all the years of working in this industry, they wear you down. You start to censor your own ideas before you ever air them out for people to hear, because you think to yourself, "That didn't work on project X" or "No way engineering can pull that off" or "There's no way we'll get the art for that."

When you're the new guy, those concerns don't exist. It's a huge open world of "All it takes is a little effort and we can do anything!" and that can lead to the type of breakthroughs in your game that can be downright brilliant... Read more»




The Needs of the Many - Content for MMOs
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 4 August 2008, 3:20 am

Here's an interesting one for you:

How do you tell a personally meaningful story with rich detailed characters in an MMO?

I have to admit, it's a trick question... Read more»




Another Nail in the Coffin of the Space MMO?
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 5 August 2008, 5:06 pm

An animated GIF of a destroyer exploding.

Image via Wikipedia

Looks like another one is biting the dust, even as I type this. Blackstar developer Spacetime Studios has just announced that they have been unable to find a publishing deal for Blackstar and are now forced to lay off half of the Blackstar team... Read more»




Nothing kills a party like forcing everyone to mingle
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 15 August 2008, 3:31 am
EverQuest II box art.

Image via Wikipedia

I had an interesting conversation with a co-worker, recently. In it, we discussed a few of the MMOs we played and what we liked and disliked about them. As you can imagine, this is a common topic of conversation, but what made this conversation was that it made me realize what it is I hate about the "forced grouping" mentality in MMOs and why I think they're bad for games, in general.

Or to put it another way: MMOs are not about grouping, no matter how social they are... Read more»




News: Publishers target 25,000 file-sharers for illegal games downloads
Posted by Dopass.com [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 20 August 2008, 12:06 pm

The flag of 18th century pirate Calico Jack.

Image via Wikipedia

News: Publishers target 25,000 file-sharers for illegal games downloads - Codemasters, Atari and others demand £300 from each user or face court action, according to a new report [GamesIndustry.biz news]

So, we're just as evil as the RIAA, now? Look, I've had every single game I've ever worked on pirated (console, PC and Mac), so I'll be amongst the first to declare that piracy is rampant, but you know what? I'm not convinced that's entirely a bad thing. Read more»




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