Growth, BYOND, Game Design, Art, and Warhammer Online

I don’t know if it’s just a stroke of luck or if my content has improved somewhat as of late, but my readership has increased from 20 to over 100 viewers over the last few days.  It’s probably a great deal to do with both visits from the BYOND community and the recent Spore review which was linked in the GU Comics forum.  I’m not in it for the popularity, really – you can’t be, not if you’re really honestly interested in producing the content with integrity instead of just to get people to notice you – but a little recognition is nice!

BYOND

Tom, from the DanTom team behind BYOND, noticed my Digitally Staving Off Boredom work in the Learning Beyond series and – along with many of the outstanding BYOND community members – welcomed me with open arms and even a generous gift of trial membership so I can better host my own game when it is completed.

I was so impressed, I added a BYOND link to the right side of this page and even mentioned to my university professors that they should really consider having a class that uses BYOND.  (Alas, they’re not ready to commit to the advice of a student.)

Really, it’s a terrible shame that Wikipedia is considering cutting the BYOND article because there’s just not enough third party validation of BYOND.  Yet, there’s an active community, and here we have a tool that could potentially be used by aspiring game developers looking to get their feet wet.  Why has there not been a good scholarly or news article written on the outstanding endeavors of Dantom on BYOND?  This seems like something Wired magazine or some CNET or ZDNET affiliate news reporter should have picked up on by now.  Instead, it seems as though I’m the best they’ve got.  That’s downright wierd: BYOND is extremely newsworthy.

(In any case) I really hope not to disappoint the BYOND community with my own endeavors at creating a game.  Currently, my BYOND work has been somewhat interrupted after the start of the school semester and upgrading my computer.  However, that’s smoothed out a bit as of late, and I suspect that I can start working on my game again soon.  Only trouble is, I want to design a good game, and that means I need to understand what goes into a good design.

The Art of Game Design

The writer of The Art of Game Design, Jesse Schnell himself, found and commented on my last Blog entry.  Seems like a really nice guy and (I stand by what I said yesterday) this book is proving a worthy purchase in terms of granting new insights into game design.

To clarify, this is not a book about how to code – at least not the kind of book that you’d purchase if you don’t know the first thing about coding games and want to learn how to program.   This is a book about how to design games.  I’m already in debt to Jesse Schnell for clarifying, early in the book, that the difference between a game designer and a game developer is that the first designs games and the second is any manner of developer – art, sound, programming, design, ect.

It’s not a small feat to design games, and I think I can appreciate the 100 lens approach.  The only other real book on design I read was Raph Koster’s Theory of Fun.  In comparison,  Raph’s book contains but one lens, but a very broad and powerful one.

I do not feel comfortable assigning a comparative value to the books, and I suspect neither would the authors.  Neither author would say game design is an exact art.   Neither author would say their lenses are perfect or all-inclusive.  Neither author would say their lenses are the only lenses.  I know this because they wrote it in their books.

It’s this uncertainty that tells me that both books are as close to the core of the truth as I could find.  A person who is certain does not feel the need to think, and I was reminded of this to a greater degree in the TBA:08 performance I saw tonight.

TBA:08, Monday Night

At last, another day in the TBA:08 Festival, where I watched a performance that was where an Eastern Thailand traditional dancer meets a French contemporary artist.  (It was Pichet Klunchun and Jérôme Bel, respectively.)   Both dancer’s work seemed strange to one another, and the audience, and required interpretation to understand that what was actually being seen was genius — or, if you won’t accept that, at least something the artists put great deal of thought into.

I don’t want to get too far into this, for fear that my interpretation may jade the performance for those lucky enough to see it.  However, what I did want to bring up is that the question of value in art was piqued, once again.  It was mentioned that, for the western contemporary artist, there’s a rationale that they cannot judge ahead of time the value of their own work any more than the audience or their initial founders amongst the government and other grants.  This uncertainty is required to be a truly contemporary artist.

That makes sense to me, because what we’re talking about here is thinking on the cutting edge.  Thinking on the cutting edge means understanding that everything which you hold as certain and true in the world is very much an abstraction that needs to be reconsidered in order to critically assess reality.  I’m not saying you should try flapping our arms to allow flying, but mankind’s greatest advances come from realizing that – for example – this invisible stuff we breath actually has mass and a plane shaped appropriately can form an apparatus (a wing) that, if implemented properly, really allows flight.  Until we surpass the challenge of true critical thinking and realization of ideas, we cannot say if what we’ll be able to come up will produce anything, but there’s value in trying.

What I walked away from that show thinking to myself is that, whether or not the average person would find a performance good, what matters to me is if the artist is actually trying.   If the artist is doing that, I would not ask for my money back.  Indeed, if I can determine the artist is actually trying, they are pushing the envelope of humanity, and therefore no performance (no matter the entertainment value) is truly “wrong,” and no entrance fee in the world can truly justify my appreciation for what they’re doing.

Warhammer Online

My brother’s in the closed beta.  While I can respect an NDA is still in place, they really can’t stop me from poking my head over his shoulder, now can they?

My earlier impressions, before seeing what my brother was playing, was that Warhammer Online was going to be yet another World of Warcraft clone. Now, I have a slightly but significantly different impression.

You see, when Blizzard created World of Warcraft, they essentially took what great MMORPGs of the time were doing, and then streamlined it down to a very accessible game by applying what Blizzard knows about game design.  What Mythic appears to be doing is pulling a role reversal, taking World of Warcraft and updating it with what Mythic knows about game design.

There’s something you should realize here, and it’s that Mythic has been making MMORPGs for a lot longer than Blizzard has.  What I see in Warhammer Online is a bit of World of Warcraft, sure.  However, what I’m really seeing is a version of World of Warcraft that is made by people who actually know MMORPGs.

Thus, it seems Warhammer Online will be a genuinely superior product.  If this is true, it’s going to be prove interesting.  Mythic/EA is serving Blizzard a dose of their own medicine.  What will Blizzard do?  What will the fanboys do?   How will this shake out?

I always get in the trouble for forecasting the future of games, and I perhaps I should.  I have no ESP to know the future, and trying to predict what technology would do is a tough call indeed.

Yet, it’s fun to stake a bet.  My bet would be that Warhammer Online will not be a World of Warcraft killer because Mythic (and their current publisher EA) simply does not have that Blizzard reputation and that’s the main reason why WoW is as popular as it is.

Be that as it may, Warhammer Online seems it would fully deserve to dethrone WoW, were it possible.

3 Responses

  1. Warhammer beta seems to be “open” — more or less — Check out the WarCry site for details and you can get a key to play for 10 days. I’ll be giving it a shot.

  2. What I’m saying here is that Mythic has made a very impressive World of Warhammer. I’m not saying that I’m super interested in playing it.

    In fact, I’m so sick of mainstream MMORPGs right now that my very curiosity is mostly dead. Warcry is out of beta keys, and I refuse to pay somebody for a “free” open beta key to this game I’ll probably hate even if it’s a great game for people who still like mainstream MMORPGs.

    I’ve applied for the beta. That’s indicates I have some curiosity. However, in context, my brother sitting in the other room has offered to let me borrow his login name and password. My curosity is so very close to dead that risking borrowing the account information of a person sitting less than 20 feet from me seems like too much of a hassle.

    So it’s in Mythic’s hands now. They’ll either approve my beta application or they won’t. (The actual client, funny enough, is already installed – I just had to copy it over the network.) I might go so far as to get an open beta key from FilePlanet if they start offering to non-subscribers.

  3. Okay, I lied. $40 for a year’s account ($3.33 a month) through FilePlanet is affordable so I went for it. I figure chances are that there’ll be some other beta between now and a year from now I’d like having a FilePlanet account around for anyway – possibly even several.

    But, so help me, if it was more than $8/month I’d have been sooo out! 😛

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