Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Classic WOW Design


I've never been a serious WOW player. I've never even taken a character to max level. If there is such a thing as a filthy casual, that's me (except I take showers).

So when WOW classic came out, I figured I'd get it a fresh go. As a game designer, these are my thoughts so far:

Traveling to places requires a lot of walking
Some quests require you to walk for minutes to reach your destination. It forces you to learn the landscape. It increases immersion. As far as I'm concerned, flying mounts should have never been added to the game. It detaches you from the environment.

Energy/Mana management is important
As a mage, it usually takes half my mana to kill a single enemy. If another enemy attacks me, I could run out of mana and die ... so after every kill I stop to refill my mana.

Attacking 2 enemies/mobs at once, usually means you will die
I'm used to Destiny and Diablo where you can steam roll over stuff. No can do in wow. If I see two enemies grouped together, I pass on attacking them solo. That adds a tactical component to the game. I hate that Destiny does not have this. Destiny's design approach is just to flood an area with mobs are rely on your twitch skills or constant re-spawning to get thru an area. It didn't used to be like that. In the original Destiny 1, you could slowly work your way through nightfall solo and get a halo achievement for that. Not any more. You play fast, accurate and furious or you suck.

The world feels vast
It may look primitive but the environment goes on without pause. Modern games like Division, Destiny or Anthem put too much emphasis on fantastic visuals. These visuals require significant load times that they hide with maps or flying ships or in Anthem's case ... not well at all. I think there is a case for simpler graphics that allow the landscape to stretch on forever.

People are friendly
Very rarely do I encounter anyone that is not friendly.This is due to several factors:
1. People playing classic wow are probably a majority of veteran players who are good mannered.
2. Buffs matter. Putting a buff on someone as you pass by is a way of saying hi in a meaningful way.
3. You need to cooperate to beat stuff and being caustic isn't doing you any favors.

Respawning is something you need to pay attention to
If you need to penetrate into an enemy camp and kill high level mobs to get there, you need to watch your back. Enemies are going to respawn behind you and could trap you. And... if you die in an enemy camp, you may not find a safe spot to revive.

Some non-dungeon areas require grouping with others
I played a were-wolf area last night that required groups of people working together. I really want to complete every quest and there was no way I was completing those quests without the help of others. There was one quest (ambush) where I got what I needed and I just stuck around for another 15 minutes until everyone had a chance to complete it.

Money is tight
Gold... OMG... It is hard to get this stuff. Having to earn money makes you appreciate it. You don't have enough to spend it on everything you want (training, profession, items) so you need to carefully choose what you want.

Leveling is slow
It takes hours to go up one level. When you do level up, you stop to put a point in your talent tree... because those upgrades matter.

Quests are important and take time to complete
In modern wow, I didn't pay much attention to quest text. In classic, I read it all because I know I'm not going to level out of an area before I complete the quests. Last night I was struggling to find anything to do in an area that I was not done with. That forced me to go into harder areas to complete lingering quests.

The death penalty is rough
If you die, you may walk minutes to get back to your body. After dying a few times, you think really hard about that. I'd say it isn't quite as punishing as Dark Souls where you have to fight your way back to your body to get the resources you lost, but it is punishing.

Closing thoughts
Wow classic is a solid old school game. Modern games try to hook you with quick leveling, no death penalties and fremium addictive RNG/Gambling aspects. Wow classic has none of that and it is refreshing.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The State of VR

The State of VR



Oculus Rift is clearly experiencing trouble selling their headset. In May they had to shut down their Film Studio and they've slashed the price of their headset several times.

Is this a clear sign that VR is a failure?
I don't think so.

I am bullish on VR. It is not an if but a when. It is the when that is the issue.

Processing Power Limitations
I think the problem is we don't have the processing power or appropriate pricing of that hardware for VR to become mainstream. To render each eye at 90 frames per second and deliver a AAA game experience is impossible with today's hardware. I have struggled with this a lot in my game design. I have taken the route of allowing the game to automatically adjust scene complexity based on frame rate. The result is little to no stutter but the visuals can't come close to approaching Destiny.

Similarities to Tablets
When Tablets first hit the scene, the size of the screen was small, the interface was clunky and the processing power was not up to the task. Now everyone has a tablet. Technology and Software have arrived to allow us to have a powerful touch computer in our hands. VR is in a similar state. The hardware just isn't there and it is probably 10 years down the road before cheap fast hardware is available.

Saturated Market
VR at this point is pretty saturated for what it can deliver. Because of hardware limitations it feels less like a gaming platform and more like a gimmick like the wii. Once you become accustomed to it, you find most experiences shallow and don't stack up to AAA titles.

In the next few years we are likely going to see VR stagnate. This will continue until hardware becomes powerful enough

Standing vs Sitting
One of the other problems with VR you need to stand for an immersive experience. This has already been done 3 times: wii, xbox and playstation. I think people are tired of setting up sensor bars and getting off the couch. You need to have a very compelling reason to get people off the couch and current VR hardware and software are not cutting it.

Summary
All of this sounds pretty dire but I think this is good for VR developers who are in it for the long term. I do this as a hobby and don't have to worry about making money from VR. I can build the type of experience I want and know it will be unique because there is little competition in this space.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Game Design Observations

Game Design Observations

My game is going to be large and open for the player to go in whatever direction they want. I've been playing Destiny 2 pretty heavily the last week and thought I'd look at some popular games and make some observations.

Here are 5 games that I think are worth evaluating:

Destiny:


Diablo:

Zelda:

Pokemon Go:

Skyrim:


What drives you to explore?
Destiny: Search for better loot.
Diablo: Search for better loot.
Zelda: Search for better loot & Story
Pokemon Go: Find rare Pokemon
Skyrim: Quests. Loot is mostly irrelevant.

How does your character level up?
Destiny: Items (Light Level)
Diablo: Experience & items
Zelda: Experience
Pokemon Go: Not relevant
Skyrim: Using the ability you want to level up

What keeps you playing?
Destiny: loot and friends playing together
Diablo: trying to reach highest greater rift
Zelda: end of story
Pokemon Go: Find rare pokemon and level up existing ones
Skyrim: Completing quests, finding new areas, raising character level

What sucks?
Destiny: Once you hit 260 light, it becomes a grind. You are often forced to use weapons you hate.
Diablo: Once you reach Torment 10 or so, it becomes a grind. Power level has gotten out of control.
Zelda: Weapons break.
Pokemon Go: It is hard to find rare Pokemon
Skyrim: Everything starts to look the same

What 1 improvement would I add?
Destiny: A wider range of improvements on the high end. Light level should keep going to 400+ with high level content available to dedicated players.
Diablo: Fix legendary gems. They are a storage nightmare.
Zelda: I didn't finish it. It really didn't like constantly breaking weapons. This felt like Halo.
Pokemon Go: Make the Pokemon locator work again... idiots.
Skyrim: Make loot more valuable

Reflections on how to design my game:
1. There needs to be something happening around you constantly.
2. Enemies need to be frequent, varied
3. Events should occur that you can find and complete
4. You can find items/enemies via a locator
5. Character level should be unlimited and driven off gear.
6. Gear can be upgraded without a great hassle.
7. There needs to be quests to complete with rewards.
8. Areas of the game get harder as you go further driving you to improve your gear.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Destiny 2 Graphics

Destiny 2 Graphics



I've played a lot of Destiny over the last few years. Yesterday I got the itch to play again so I picked up Destiny 2 ... and ... played it for most of the day.


Man... that game's graphics are amazing. I am officially intimidated by it.
But again... they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on it so I expect it but still...



I think what they do is build the scene with a multi-texture material. When they are all done, anything that is static is converted into a single landscape mesh using that material. The result is stunning.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Working on Urban Layout

Working on Urban Layout


I've been working on an urban layout now that I know the scale I need to construct the world.

Here is a sample I put together yesterday:

You can teleport in all directions forever and it will continue to build a random city with no stutter. This is obviously very primitive but I was more concerned with performance and how things looked at this scale and whether it would continue to look vast (it does).

Next I am going add elevations for the urban layout and see what that looks like.

Just for a bit of fun, I adjusted the layout to not have a road :)


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Augmented vs Virtual Reality

Augmented vs Virtual Reality


I think there is a recent misconception that being able to walk around your house via inside-out tracking is the next big thing.

In my mind, augmented and pure virtual experiences are different beasts. I think both are valid applications but a pure virtual experience is not going to have you walking around your house. You are going to need to be in a space that allows some freedom of movement but you are going to need to teleport around the virtual world for it to be immense.

I am tired of virtual experiences that confine me to a space. I feel like I am on a stage and it breaks the immersion. The next generation of virtual reality experiences need to allow you to go in all directions indefinitely and not have crappy/low-res graphics.

Having a world that unfolds infinitely in all directions allowing unlimited freedom of movement is the primary design decision for my upcoming game. That is what I want from virtual reality and so that is what I am going to deliver.

It isn't easy. No it is not... but... my latest experiments show it is possible if you build a reality creation frameworks specifically for the needs of VR.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Distance Resolved

I have basic elevation working and have resolved the distance rendering issue so that the world looks immense.