Friday, December 7, 2007

Play your favorite multiplayer game on a plane?

Like most people, I hate long flights and with my frequent commute between Boston and Seattle, it's been a pain to while away those 5 hours. Sure, I can read a book or try to sleep but it only dulls the boredom and sleep isn't always easy on a plane. For years I've dreamed of the day airlines will offer full fledged internet services on a domestic flight and it looks like the first step towards that is finally here. An article on the New York Times talks about how JetBlue will be offering limited internet services for free starting next Tuesday and other airlines will charge $10. I'd gladly pay this. While the services offered are minimal (email and IM), I figure it's just a matter of a year or two before we see full internet services on board. Ah, 5 hours of interrupted WoW time, I may just choose to fly more frequently :)
I just hope they keep the current ban on phone calls, though enforcing restrictions on VOIP calls will be tough and if some jackass decided to use voice chat while he's playing, it may just ruin it for the rest of us.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Why I play games

I read another interesting article the other day on GameHelp on "Why We Play Games" and it had some interesting points, but the majority of which seems a tad superficial. For me, the reason why *I* play games are pretty straighforward, at least to my insane little mind, and are analogous to other real world activities:

1. Immersion : Ever read a really good book that keeps you up until 3 am, and then you look up and wonder why your kitchen is on fire from the dinner you started heating a while ago? Well, neither have I, but it's been close :) Whether it's a good book, good movie or a good game, you become the character you play. You can be master chief, the all powerful warlock or even just a humble little ninja, but the point here is that for a few hours, you leave the little stresses and worries of a regular life behind and live a much simpler/richer/different one. Good books do this the best IMHO.

2. Being part of a team : I'm a big fan of multiplayer, so much that rarely do I play a single player game more than a week or so before it joins the leaning tower of games in the living room. It's the same reason I like sports and will play on a freezing field with my team in the rain and have a blast, but giant sharks with lasers attached to their heads and crowbars to their tails can't pry my behind off the couch to go to the gym. The sense of camaraderie and teamwork that a good group gives you is priceless and good games capitalize on this.

There are other reasons too, (a sense of achievement - just like finishing a big project at work, and sometimes just good gameplay that is like watching a fun movie), but these IMHO are the big ones.

Friday, October 26, 2007

New Halo MMOFPS in the works?

There's a rumor out that bungie is working on an MMO Halo game. While I would take this with a pinch of salt (what?? the internets can't lie!), the rumor comes at a timely point for me as I was chewing over the idea of my next blog post to be about MMOFPSes.

I enjoy playing FPS, it's more about pure skill (minus the various cheats of course) than about how long you played the game and what level you are and what armor you were fortunate/persistent enough to get. Every game is pretty much on a level playing field, and if you lose it's pretty much because the other player was better than you.

I also enjoy MMOs, because I do like the idea of a persistent world, one where you build your character and your reputation and you can easily switch between PvE and PvP depending on your mood (and sometimes depending on the mood of the opponents riding past!)

So the logical following is to mash up the two and get twice the enjoyment, right? Unfortunately, I think this formula doesn't always work. As my old boss used to say, "It's not just a floor polish, it's also a desert topping". I just can't see a good formula for mixing FPS and MMO.

Have you heard of any games that worked, even a little, that were FPSMMOs? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

World of Warcraft new levelling rates for patch 2.3

edit: I updated the numbers below, I actually got 6300xp from turning in Ghaz'Ridian, not 6000 like the original post said, so I updated the %s too.

I played around a little on the PTR (public test realm) for the upcoming patch 2.3 to WoW to try to figure out how much faster the levelling is going to be once the patch is out. My rough calculations point to a 35% decrease in time to level. For those of you interested in my calculations, read on...
First the caveat: According to the blue Blizzard post, the increase in xp gains as you reach closer to 60. My calculations are based on my alt that is at 47.

The amount of XP required to level from 47-48 has been decreased from 129100 to 105800.
Turning in the Ghaz'Ridian quest got me 6300 xp as compared to the current 4400 xp.

What this means is an 18% decrease in xp needed to level and a 43% increase in xp for turning in quests. This means that it takes you 82% of the time it used to take you to level just because of the decrease in xp needed to level. As for the increase of 43% in turning in quests, I would say half my xp comes from turning in quests and the other half from grinding mobs. So assuming a 21% increase in xp from turning in quests it will take you (82*(1-0.21))=65% which is a 35% reduction in time to level.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Final Halo3 Believe Video (Spoiler alert)

Just saw the latest Halo3 believe video, if you haven't seen the series check it out, it's the best marketing video for any game I've ever seen. This video linked below is the last one in the series, however it does have an indication of how the game ends and so if you haven't played the single player all the way through to the end, hold off on viewing it. Also, keep in mind that there is the final piece of the story that is revealed only if you sit through the credits at the end of the Halo3 single player and makes this not so much of a spoiler. The other believe videos can be viewed at the xbox site, my recommendation is see Diorama, Making of, Museum, Hunted, Enemy Weapon and then finally the one below

Monday, October 15, 2007

The secret sauce of game replayability

I was reading an interesting article on destructoid the other day about the endgame syndrome, or why we abandon games (either half played, or not) and I disagree slightly with the author on the main issue. The article points to two reasons why: that either games aren't as compelling as they used to be, or gamer attention spans are decreasing due to a variety of factors (different age group? many more games than 10 years ago to pick up and choose from...). While these are true, it still doesn't explain why some games still have the "magic sauce" that make me want to complete them and keep me coming back to that game over and over again.
I'm more of a one game person, I rarely cheat on the game I'm currently dating. I may drop that game to check out another, and play that completely before coming back to my favorite one but playing two games at the same time feels like I don't do justice to either of them. I don't spend the workday thinking up strategies to try out when I get back to my games after work, or read up on the gaming forums on that game since I'm not fully absorbed in one.
But what is this magic sauce? Some people say that games are either too easy or too hard, but I found Ninja Gaiden (which as classified as too hard) enthralling and I played it all the way through and then repeated half again to get stuff I had missed the first time around (including the hidden original Ninja Gaiden games that were in an arcade machine in the game - nice touch :) ), and I found Obi Wan, which was an easy game, very (re)playable, I finished it and then went back and ran through again a couple of times. And then there are games like Halo2 and WoW which I played endlessly, they became my core games that I occasionally left to go check out new games, but always came back to (the multiplayer, not the Halo2 single player which I did finish, but only once).
So what is the secret sauce that made these games so playable? I have some theories about what makes these games good for me, but I'd love to hear what you think and what keeps you hooked on a game:

  • Character progression: By this I mean the timeline that allows you to build up your character to become more and more powerful, by discovering new talents, new spells, new weapons and in some cases new personas. The game never gets old as I start using the new abilities of my character as I level up, and gives a feeling of achievement as my character swats down mobs with ease that were at one time a threat. Warcraft is a great example of this, but so are so many other games like Fable where not only does your character get more power the more you play, but even the reactions of the townspeople change as you gain reputation.
  • Multiplayer: This is usually online, but whether co-op or adversarial, this is a big part of game re-playability for me. I played Rainbow 6 to death, playing the co-op missions online with both my friends as well as PUGs online. The fun of coordinating a room entrance with 3 other people and finishing a mission despite 3/4 of the team dead was an achievement for the whole team that didn't pale for a long time. The Halo series was so popular due to it's fantastic online multiplayer support and the countless hours online with friends was well spent, despite the hordes of 12 year olds who had just discovered profanity and tried their best to grief you out of enjoying the game. The saving factor here was that as long as you didn't get into a PUG and played with like minded players on your team, the online experience was fun.
  • Good strategy requirements: This refers to both classical strategy games such as Age of Empires or Command and Conquer, as well as strategy in games like Halo, WoW or Rainbow 6. Having to coordinate with other players, or even just laying out a strategy for yourself against the computer is a lot of fun and then trying to either tweak the strategy or find new ones, as in the case of AOE, or just getting your core strategy down pat, as in the case of Warcraft, was always a lot of fun.
I'd love to hear other thoughts on this, please feel free to use the comments section below.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

World of Warcraft 2.3 patch notes out

The 2.3 patch notes are out on the forums, my fav "fix"is the following:

Experience: The amount of experience needed to gain a level has been decreased between levels 20 and 60. In addition, the amount of experience granted by quests has been increased between levels 30 and 60.

I've been wondering about this for a while, I love levelling from 1-40 but I always hit a dead end there, with the exception of my mage which is a 70. I have a rogue, lock, druid and shaman at around 40, and recently started levelling my lock up as I wanted to go through the Outlands 60-70 quests again. IMHO these are the best areas and the best quests in the game.

I wonder many players never got to experience the Outlands and continue their Warcraft addiction due to the interminable grind from 40-60. I'm certainly looking forward to this patch, but meanwhile I'll keep levelling my lock the old fashioned way - grind, grind and more grind for each level, the outlands beckon!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Microsoft and Halo maker Bungie splitting up

Microsoft announced today that their premier property Bungie (aka the company that made the best selling game in history - Halo) are splitting up. Bungie will be spun out as an independant company and Microsoft will retain a minority equity interest in Bungie. Microsoft however, will maintain all rights to the Halo series so I don't think we'll see a Halo3 for the Playstation or the Wii anytime soon.
More details on the Microsoft presspass site

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The future of gaming

There's a well written article on the future of gaming at Cracked about the future of gaming, and the authors take both examples from upcoming games such as Spore to ongoing research to Jetsons/Matrix like predictions.

Spore is a fascinating concept. You play in "God" mode, where you control the actions of the protagonist, in this case your toon starts as a single celled organism that you guide through the evolutionary cycle, to amphibian, then mammal, then to tribe making and then city building and finally interplanetary travel. At each stage of evolution you get to design the next step by spending DNA points, so for example you can make your toon have a third tentacle that fights off a particular predator, or not give it legs so it's a crawling, slug like entity.
I wish the game was a MMORPG but it's billed as a massively single player online game, where your creature is uploaded to the server and added to other player's universes where they interact with the creatures on the other inhabitants on those other worlds. You don't get to interact with other players directly, they don't exist on your universe, but their creations do so the gameplay variations will be interesting.

The article also talks about Sony's PS3 Home, but I felt the authors had swallowed the marketing hype, there are many virtual worlds out there but I have yet to find one that immerses me - the controls are clunky, the graphics are slooooooow and degraded to a point where it looks like my first school drawing project.

Another cool device that the article talks about is the Virtual Retinal Display, a device from the University of Washington that projects images directly into your retina. I'd love to get my hands on one of these, but maybe I'll wait a few years and make sure the side effects aren't going to be horrendous!

Check out the article, it's not only interesting, I love the wacky humor the authors have injected (NSFW in some cases btw)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

How to get the Hayabusa armor in Halo3 ( IWHBYD Skull found)

The Hayabusa armor in Halo3 is a nice visual change you can unlock to change the default Mark IV armor that your Spartan wears. See the picture on the right for a screenshot of RedDeath in the Hayabusa armor. Unlocking it requires a few hours of work, you need to locate the all the hidden silver and gold skulls that are spread throughout the campaign. I spent quite a bit of time online figuring out how to get this unlocked and I've aggregated this information in this post, I hope you find it useful!

All the skull locations are detailed well at Halo3Planet. There are some gotchas that you need to be aware of:

1. You need to run the game in Normal or higher difficulty, you cannot do this in easy mode.

2. You need to start at the beginning of every level. If you've already played the campaign, then it's easier so you can skip to the appropriate levels to pick up the skulls.

3. You can exit the level once you pick up the skull, you do not need to play it all the way through.

4. You do not always unlock an achievement for picking up a skull. For example, the first skull does not give you any indication that you have unlocked it when you pick it up, other than the fact that you are now holding a skull. If you want to see the skulls you've unlocked, go to the settings panel just before you start a campaign.

5. The IWHBYD (aka I Would Have Been Your Daddy) skull, which is the last skull you need to get, requires you to jump through the halo rings in the following order 1 3 4 6 7 5 4 6 5 4 5 3 4. You do not have to do the extended version of this permutation that some websites have posted. Also, if you screw up in between and accidentally jump through a wrong sequence, just start again at the beginning.

6. If you don't understand where the skulls are located after reading the directions at Halo3Planet, I found it useful to watch a video of how to get at the skulls on YouTube. All the skulls have a video of how to get to them. There is also a larger video clip at that has the location of all the skulls.

If you face any issues when trying to get the skulls that this post didn't address, please post your question (or your solution) in the comments and I'll update the post. If this post helped you, please do let me know by posting a comment.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

welcome to the LiquidBits gamer!

As the title says, welcome to the LiquidBits gamer blog. This blog will feature "all the gaming news that's fit to print" (with apologies to the NY Times :) ).

About me - I'm a gamer, my favorite games are Halo (1,2 and 3) and World of Warcraft, but I do play most games. I'm a co-founder at LiquidBits, a company in Boston that's working on a cutting edge man-machine interface, if you're in a gaming company in Boston, give me a shout and I'd love to trade stories over a coffee.

Currently, I'm working my way through Halo 3 for the second time, look me up on Xbox live - my gamertag is RedDeath, or on WoW, my main is Factura on the Spirestone server.