Tuesday, 7 January 2014


So after having a bit of a rubbish day today, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email on my way home from work regarding the Elder Scrolls Online beta. I'm in! It's been half a year or so now since I applied to get in and finally my chance has come... Or at least nearly.

See the problem is its a limited Beta window which starts Friday evening. Thats still 3 days away and so now I have to again experience the mix of emotions that is Gaming Anticipation. It's not the first time I've been through it and I'm sure it won't be the last but every time it ends up the same way...

Step 1: Confirmation
As with today it all starts when you know you're actually going to get to play. Sometimes it's when you know you're getting the game for Christmas, or other times its when the release date is finally announced. However it happens that's the point it all starts from. I've promised myself I won't let game anticipation take over but somehow it always does. 

Step 2: Obsession
I have something of an addictive personality and when I get into something I really dive into it. So when something I'm exited about it coming up I begin to obsess about it. I look for any scraps of pre-released information so I can start immersing myself in the game ahead of time. I remember in particular with the Maxis game "Spore" that they released a creature creator ahead of time. Although you couldn't do much with it I spent hours on it before the game came out.

Although not as popular as they used to be Demos are a great pre-game way to sink into a game. I'm sure I spent hours repeating the same 20-30 minute demos of the games I was really looking forward to. These days there's YouTube and streaming sites like Twitch.tv that allow you to see others playing a game before you get your copy. 

Step 3: About to break
So it's almost time. You're installing the game, downloading the update or waiting to for the servers to come up. You try and distract yourself, check your emails, make a drink but every other second you're checking to see if its go time. It gets even more excruciating if something goes wrong at this point. It's out of your control and the game you though you'd be playing at 7 can't be played til almost 10.

Step 4: Lose yourself
After you finally get on you give your full attention to the game. Every little feature is amazing, every scrap of new gameplay is great. You get a little frustrated at the same tutorial you've played in a million other games but at the same time you're glad when it tells you something you'd hav never worked out otherwise. 

Step 5: The come down
Usually this goes one of two ways. You either have to stop for some external "real life" issue, where you don't really want to come off but you have to. Alternatively you slowly lose interest. Maybe he game hasn't to quite as much depth as you thought, or you notice the control system isn't quite what you wanted. For me it's often the latter and so I'm wary about any game I get psyched about.

For me anticipation is equal parts good and bad. It's part of my gaming experience and its something that I think a lot of other gamers will be able to relate to. If there's anyone reading this that has a good gaming anticipation story they'd like to tell then leave it in the comments. 

Til next time...

Friday, 3 January 2014

Blog Patch Notes - 03/01/2014

I've decided to put a little more effort into my blog this year and maybe actually do something with. As such I'm releasing a patch to update my blog. The changes to the blog are listed below.

Patch 1.01a - 3rd Jan 2014

 - Frequency of updates increased from "rare" to "twice weekly"
 - Content will now conform to a category schedule as below:
     Week 1 Post 1 - General Game Design thoughts
     Week 1 Post 2 - Video Game/App Review
     Week 2 Post 1 - In Depth Game Mechanic discussion
     Week 2 Post 2 - Best of.... - A series listing my favourite games/apps/etc in a category
     Week 3 Post 1 - Tabletop Discussion
     Week 3 Post 2 - Board/Card game review
 - Bonus Content will be available when time is available.
 - Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation should all now function as intended

UI Changes
 - A new layout is under development and will be released Soon(TM)

 - New followers are now actively encouraged.
 - Reciprocal linking is now available for testing.
 - Follower interaction increased from 0 to 100%

Other Changes
 - Author laziness decreased by 200%
 - Humour level increased by 2.5%

I hope the new changes will be able to be added in with little to no downtime. I'd also like to hear from any readers as to which posts they've enjoyed (and which ones they haven't). 

Til next time...

Friday, 19 July 2013

Beta is Beta

Beta testing, another word for early access and monetization?

Perhaps that's a little bit harsh but it seems that every new big computer game that comes out these days starts off as an extended open beta. I've beta tested games now for over 10 years including titles like Star Wars Galaxies, City of Villains, a few Magic Online set releases, and literally 100s of other games. I love beta testing, that feeling of getting to see what others can't and even have the opportunity to shape the future of a game before the opening curtain rises. 

But beta isn't really what it used to be or at least not what most people expect. I know a few people now who expect Beta to be a polished game that's pretty much ready to roll. This has come from a lot of online games having beta as a load testing exercise. (For those who don't know this is where a company lets more and more people on to the game over time to make sure he servers can handle things).

A lot of people use Betas to try a game out and see if they like it. Not a bad idea you might think? But the problem with this is that a bad early beta experience can cloud your view of what could otherwise be a very good game. For example, I'm currently in the Firefall beta, a open world "shooter" mmo. The game is buggy as all hell and some things flat out don't work. A few people won't see past this and will probably never come back even after release. However, those who persisted through the bugs into the wider game (post-tutorial) got to see a very fun and refreshingly original game. 

I love Beta testing and I love giving feedback. It's also a good way to see if the game developer is willing to listen to constructive advice and make the sometimes hard decisions to change parts of their game based on player feedback during Beta. I feel like giving this feedback is essentially what beta should really be about. 

To finish off a couple of games in the beta I'm excited to see what happens with:
Dawngate - a new action RTS (or MOBA)
Firefall - a cross between a classic MMORPG and an arena shooter. 

I'm also waiting to get onto the betas for Elder Scrolls Online, Firefly Online and Wildstar. All of which are exciting games coming in the next year or so. Hopefully I'll get a chance to try em out soon. 

Til next time...

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Mobile Gaming

So recently I acquired an iPad and obviously with me being an avid gamer I've already downloaded a ton of apps. I've had an iPhone for quite a long time now and so mobile gaming is something I'm already familiar with. But upon getting an iPad I realised that the differences between the two devices are more pronounced than you might imagine. 

Some of my favourite iPhone games include candy crush and tiny wings. These are very simple games that have very basic controls. Tiny wings for example is literally a single touch control but also very addictive. The small screen makes fine controls a little difficult but the portability of the device means repetitive games with high replay ability are definitely a good choice. 

However the iPad has a much larger display and therefore scope for a more precise control scheme. The game I've played the most so far is Magic 2013 (the first mobile addition of the long lived ccg). The  ability to simply slide cards around like you would physical cards is very natural. I've played Magic The Gathering online on my computer for a long time but the iPad version is much more intuitive to use (even if the rule set is a little dumbed down). 

I then extended my iPad app selection to look at other board and card games and have since downloaded Fluxx, Small World and Settlers of Catan (amongst others). As a big board game fan, this "virtual" board game is a very interesting concept which offers a huge amount of possibilities to future board game development. I can see a point in the future where games are developed with classic social gaming in mind using iPads or other tablet devices to enhance the gaming experience. This is definitely something I'm in full support of. While I'm also a big advocate of having physical pieces to move I can see interesting fusions of the real world with the virtual.

'Til next time...

My Son - A proud dad story

I didn't get a chance to write this yesterday, but I had a very proud moment of fatherhood yesterday when my 6 year old son showed me a game he designed.

At school they had been designing board games and I was very impressed at what Morgan came up with. At its heart it was just a simple start to finish board game but how you got there was the interesting part. Each turn the players would choose one of 8 coloured lollipop sticks with numbers on them as follows:-

Red - 1 & 8
Orange - 2 & 7
Green - 3 & 6
Blue - 4 & 5

So by picking the red stick you had a chance of getting either 1 or 8. High risk but potentially high reward. If you picked blue you knew you were hitting average. This gave the game some element of risk management (similar in some ways to games like Elder Sign or zombie dice).

He'd also added some other interesting elements such as the inaccurately named "long square" (a short cut) and the "happening square" (which allowed you to rapidly move forward). Either way I'm impressed at the amount of thought that a 6 year old had put into a simple board game.

I love that my love of games has passed to my kids and I hope they get as much enjoyment as I do from as they grow up. 

'Til next time...

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Political Gaming

So I've just finished watching the latest Episode of Geek & Sundry's Tabletop - The Resistance. This is definitely a game that I'm going to be looking to pick up soon as its something that I know I'll enjoy. Now that I've started this blog, I'm always looking for subjects to write about so I thought I'd write a post about Social or Political Gaming.

So when it comes to tabletop gaming, there are those games which are purely strategical (such as Ticket to Ride, Flux and Pandemic) and then there are those games where the winner of the game isn't decided by your skill at the game, but your skill with your fellow players.

I'm a big fan of political games, even though I'm not the best of them. My number one reference for this is an old favourite for a lot people... Munchkin. Now I've played way too many games to count when it comes to Munchkin and I've lost most of them. This isn't because I'm bad at Munchkin, in fact I'm actually pretty smart at working out how to win. No, the reason I lose most of my munchkin games is because of the group I play with. Bel is almost always there along with an assortment from our group of friends (Tom, Nat, Chris B, Hollie, Jon, Chris L and occasionals Adam, Ian and Amy).

The group dynamics don't ever play in my favour with my friends Bel rarely gets picked on because people either "like" or "fear" her (with the exception of Jon who claims to be immune to the Bel-factor). Nat is Bel's best friend and so people worry about picking on her for fear of reprisal. However I am the acceptable punching bag of the group. Its almost cool to pick on me, and honestly I can usually take the flak pretty well. In fact the only way I ever win in political games is to divert the heat on Chris L (who makes himself a target by... just being him).

Every group is different and that's what makes the games so interesting. The dynamic of any of these games depends on how well you know the people around you. Little alliances form, friendly rivalries are born and each gaming night is different from the last.

So when we get The Resistance I'm sure we'll be in for a great night of double guessing, accusations and most importantly fun...

Till next time...

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

League of Legends

When thinking about what I'd like to talk about on here, one thing I was sure I would talk about along the way was League of Legends. Now for anyone who's not a gamer, or who doesn't know what League of Legends is, I'll start with a quick run down.

League of Legends is a free-to-play online multiplayer PC Game. The term given to the genre in which the game fits is MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) or DOTA-Style (Named after Defense of the Ancients, the first game in the genre). In the game, you play the role of a "Champion", a hero picked from a roster of over 100 different characters. Each character has their own set of 4 unique abilities as well as a basic attack.

In its most common gameplay mode, you join a team of 4 other players in a match against an opposing set of 5 players. The goal of the game is to help an ever spawning group of computer controlled "minion" make their way from your base (or Nexus) to the opposing team's Nexus. There are three routes the minions take (known as the lanes - top, middle and bottom). Along these lanes are powerful Towers that attempt to destroy the oncoming horde (and any players stupid enough to dive past them). Once you've destroyed the towers in a particular lane you can push into their base for victory.

The game is strategically rich with huge variations in how the games plays depending on things like champion composition and overall team cohesiveness. On top of this, there are regular content updates, with a new champion being released every 2-3 weeks.

I've been playing League of Legends on a fairly regular basis now for over 3 years. That's much longer than I've ever played any other game before. So why do I keep coming back to it? Well, part of it because as I said, there is a huge amount of variety in the game, and always something fresh. Each game you play is different from every other game you've played.

Another factor in my enjoyment of this game is its existence as an eSport (electronic sport). League of Legends is one of the major titles that are making a big impression on the world of eSports, with thousands of viewers for even small scale events. The season two world championships last year had over half a million people watching it at its peak. There are matches streamed live multiple times each week so there's always new exciting content to watch. Seeing what professional players do only helps to spur on your own game experience, trying to replicate what you've seen you're favourite pro do this week.

But on top of this, League of Legends is most fun to me because you don't have to be good at the game to enjoy it. I'm not a bad player by any means, and I understand the concepts and strategies behind the game better than a lot of people do. However, my mechanical skill lets me down and is probably the reason why I'd never look to pursue a career as a Pro player. What I really enjoy about League is that I can jump into a game, spend 20-40 minutes of enjoyable game player that's different to each game that's come before it, and not worry about having to achieve "the most optimal" or "the best" play.

I'll have much more to say on League over the course of this blog as I start to look more in depth into topics (especially the one on Random Number Generators). Stay tuned.

Till next time...