Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Keeping Secrets

Well, we just finished a major planning session for Threshold RPG, and I'm thoroughly excited. One of the hardest things to do in a live game is to decide how much change a game can handle. We've found out several times that a live game can get devastated by design changes. Since then, we've been very careful about our planning and our implementation. Ultimately, the fact that Threshold is a live game is why we decided to create Primordiax, our second game. Primordiax has some of same qualities of Threshold, but the game mechanics are a bit more complex. In addition, the world is a bit more developed and planned.

Anyway, back to the main point: We've completed a major planning stage for Threshold. I'd love to blab it all over the place, but one of the hardest parts of my job is keeping development plans a secret until they're close to being done. Why do we do this? So that players do not bank their enjoyment on vapor-ware. Several games have promised all sorts of stuff, including Threshold, and then plans change. Unfortunately, players have already had their heart set on the promised item, and when that never comes around, it adds to their disappointment. Don't get me wrong. I know that when we've shared our hopeful plans with our players, we've always been really excited and ready to go to work. The problem usually comes in during some part of the coding phase or someone thinks up something that makes the feature a game breaker. We're much more careful now about what we post and what we announce. Unfortunately, that makes it look like things are not being done, which is almost always untrue.

So, the good news is that we're going into development for a major new system on Threshold. The bad news is that I can't post about it yet.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Blah Side of Games

The business of gaming is definitely not always what it's cracked up to be. There are tons of mundane chores to see to everyday to make sure that your game keeps running and your customers don't go crazy.

First, the financial side of things can be extremely time consuming when you're dealing with 10 different methods of paying. Honestly, I can sometimes see why MMOs just decide to go the monthly fee and that's it. Anything that isn't hard-coded just simply isn't offered by them. Two to three hours a day, easily, can be eaten up by dealing with player transactions. Then you have players who request to purchase something that you do not sell. Then you evaluate whether or not you can sell them what they want. It just mires a lot of things down.

I wish I could say that running a game is all about game development, creativity, and expansive plotlines. Unfortunately, tons of stuff have to be done in the day-to-day running of things before we can even start on all that fun stuff.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Getting Bigger

I often find that what eats up most of my time working is managing people and their projects. As the endeavors for both of our games get bigger and bigger, more and more people are added to the mix. This year we added Gesslar to our coding team for Threshold, and as with any change or addition to a game, things never transition smoothly. We increased the size of our workers on Threshold by 50%, so of course, that adds an even bigger impact. With change, obviously, you always get players who complain. Gesslar's come under a lot of fire, but it's depressing to witness players cut their own throats. MORE coders are always a good thing as long as they're hard workers, and Gesslar is an extremely hard worker. Even if they break a few things along the way, you always have more content in the end. It's amazing what players will complain about, but I honestly think that's a huge issue with ID ("I deserve") generation. Having said that, I often think a huge part of running a game is saving the players from themselves and protecting your gaming environment from people who will constantly try to nerf it.

Anyway, I digress. The hardest part about having more people is simply that I have to spend a lot of time getting our styles to match. Having a seamless world is very important to me. I don't want a place where someone can go into an area and say, "Well, Dalaena definitely coded this." We also don't want 7 weapons with similar names and descriptions but greatly varying powers. This used to be extremely common in many, many muds. It still is! You can go onto some of the older muds or stock muds and find 4 different long swords, all with the same descriptions, that differ in power based on where they drop. It's crazy, and that's definitely something I can't have on our games. That means, of course, that you basically have to have one person overseeing everything. That person just happens to be me, and honestly, I enjoy the creative side of game design a lot more than the managing side.

I'm sure this is simply part of growing pains and finding a team that fits well together. Sooner or later, someone will step up who is much better at managing than I am, and I'll go back to being a creative director and coding!


Saturday, February 09, 2008

I've been assimilated!

One of my buddies, a friend I made online years ago when I was just playing games and not developing them, convinced me that it would be smart to create a developer's blog even if no one ever reads this. It'll be good to look back and see the process in which our games come alive.

I'm, honestly, a little bit late. I've been working on Threshold RPG for approximately 8 years now, and Primordiax has been in development for over 4 years. Blogging was not really a big hit back then, and I'd given up on my diaries because it was simply too slow to have to write everything down manually. In addition, I had to keep up with a book. I have no idea where all my diaries are now. Blogging was so non-existent that we had a player named Blog before blogging ever existed! (On Threshold, we have have pretty strict name rules, and common words are not allowed to be used as names.)

Anyway, here's the first post. It's not that interesting, but it'll serve until I can write something more exciting. There won't be much this month. Primordiax is going into Phase II testing, and I'm scrambling to get everything done.