Naturalistic Astrology?

Spikes & Trolls

The Top 10 Videogame Emotions post seemed to be popular; I got a trackback from both Kotaku and Gaming News (thanks for the exposure, mysterious benefactors!) and the SiteMeter visits went up from the usual mean of 300 a day to a more vertiginous 1,600 a day. Meanwhile, we have a weird troll visiting... I always try and get the people who come here to engage in discussion, no matter what their perspective, so I'm really not sure what to do in the cases of people who aren't willing to have an informed debate, but don't leave either. Is ignoring trolls the only option?

A few thoughts about games I'm playing.

  • My friend and co-worker Neil gave me a link to David Scott's latest tower defence game, Vector TD. It's a strategic-efficiency game, with a logistical structure - and thus like gaming crack to an game player such as myself. Fortunately, now I've completed the easier maps, the game has become too repetitive to continue - at least, I hope this is the case!
  • Vector TD is actually not a million miles from my old Art of War game concept (a wholly strategic game about military defence) - wish I had a means to put that into production. How much does a flash programmer cost for a small game project, I wonder...
  • My wife and I have nearly completed Super Mario Galaxy. In fact, we could go and fight the final battle whenever we like now, but we're going through and pulling in a few more stars. I always felt the game was riding close to the edge of frustration, but it hasn't tipped over into it much so far, thankfully.
  • Is there a reason to get a PS3 yet? I feel the need to get a power console at some point, but the 360 turns me off for a number of reasons (Ring of Death, Achievements...) I could still go either way on this decision.
  • I have exciting news about a certain RPG project that has been in pre-dev for many years now, but I can't share it just yet...

Have a great week everyone!


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I'm not sure it's worth it if you don't REALLY love the game as I did, but there IS a bonus of getting all 120 stars...

Reasons to get PS3?

First reason, all important Xbox 360 exclusive games will get ported to PC anyway - Mass Effect for example.

Second reason - Heavy Rain. I don't know if you have heard of Quantic Dreams and their games - Fahrenheit and Omikron, but Heavy Rain is bound to get some important attention by the media which makes it sort of a must-play for a developer.

The reason? Because the graphics are so awesome and humans have never looked this realistic before. Real-time tears! Hopefully good writing too.

Third reason - L.A Noir. A simulated world kind of game that recreates the 1940's Los Angeles and gives you noir. A lot of noir. Noir is good stuff. I mean, those crappy Discworld games were saved from mediocrity when they went noir.

However, these two games are still in the making and might come out in 2009-2010, so there's no rush.

After being strung on the line with several publishers over several projects for varying periods of time, I'm really glad to hear Reluctant Hero is getting funding/distribution!

I've not found an alternative to ignoring trolls - keep at it!

William: As it happens, I don't think my wife and I will have the option to fully complete the game (even assuming we were able!) for reasons I won't go into just yet. I am curious: are you a fan of the Mario franchise in general, or just a fan of Super Mario Galaxy?

Drunken Irishman: thanks for the sales pitch! :) I wouldn't play games like Mass Effect on PC (I work on PC all day; when I go home, I like to play on consoles) so this argument doesn't necessarily hold water for me but it's interesting to hear what's grabbed your attention in the PS3 launch schedule.

I hadn't heard that Rockstar were making a Film Noir playground world - that does appeal to me! Oh, and thanks for the oblique praise. ;)

Patrick: I never said a thing. :)

Peter: I'm just not good at ignoring is my problem... those obsessive-compulsive leanings aren't enormously compatible with doing nothing. ;)

Hit the troll with your gnurly-wooden-stick magic wand, he turns in a small lump of sizzling gristle and if you kick him into some water, further turns into a giant multi-headed serpent creature.

Reference-check - anybody? No?

The correct response to a troll, for a responsible editor, is not to ignore him but to delete his entries as soon as they appear. I realize this flies in the face of the popular "blog" culture in which every commenter's remarks are supposedly equally worthy and all must have their say -- least common democracy. Such an approach is egregious; it permits extremists to proliferate and to drive out reasonable people who grow tired of reading their tripe. The correct approach is not "come one, come all, trolls included," but "my house, my rules."

Oh goodness Chris... I'm rather intrigued (and potentially addicted) by that Vector TD game now. I hope I manage to keep my day job despite clicking this link! ;)

I'm really interested as to what you don't like about Achievements. Is there somewhere you've already expanding on this perhaps? I find them a very interesting topic to discuss actually.

Achievements are ace. But also, to the right (or wrong) personality type, "dangerously" addictive.

I find them a useful tool for making me come back to a game I am less interested in. I worry slightly about slaving myself to them, but as they mean very little in the grand scheme of things it's not like I lose sleep over them.

As for console choice, I would add that seeing which of your game-playing friends have which console should be an element in the decision-making process. :-D

Remember that the red ring now gets a 3-year warranty... I'm not saying that something else won't go wrong - but then you're a glass half-full guy - so why fret on it so? :-)


VectorTD - does no-one else find the towers slightly broken in regard to strength vs cost or what-have-you? I only seem to end up using the cheapest blue tower (to slow stuff down for...) my missile towers (strongest red tower).

Add to that damage increasing bonuses (after maybe a few money increasing ones) and I almost never buy anything else.

Ernest: I can understand the logic behind the closed house, I just don't like to expressly exclude anyone. It's making this 'leap of distrust' that I am reluctant to do, even though it does seem that most trolls are beyond "rehabilitation". :)

Rik: games keep players interested (and get them addicted) by having reward structures. But at least when you finish the game, the addiction (in principle) ends. So what have we got in Microsoft's Achievements scheme? A meta-reward scheme for the very console itself! It's taking away (or at least eroding) the freedom from compulsive play inherent in finishing a game. I like the idea that you can see things you can do within a game (this is a most welcome aspect of Achievements!) but I want to be able to opt out of scoring points for it. It offends my sensibilities to be manipulated in this particular manner.

Neil: yes, the towers *are* broken. Blue-1 is the only useful blue tower, but there are two other cost effective towers - Purple-2 and Red-3. You will also have to use Red-1 and Green-1 to some extent on the harder maps, since the money supply can be very tight. On the harder maps, you will struggle to complete the game using only Red-3's as at the very least the green waves will hurt you badly.

The thing is for this kind of game, finding a strategy that works for you is most of the play of the game - discovering that many of the towers are "broken" is part of the play from this perspective. Plus, reading about other players experiences it seems that some people have been able to get the red-1 and green-1 towers to work efficiently by upgrading them. (I only ever upgrade the purple-2's, and occasionally the red-3's).

Plus, the positions of the towers is more important in many respects than the fact that there are only five (say) out of eleven useful towers.

Oh, and now I've discovered that the score is based on the interest earned the game has become even more evil, as now there is even greater reward (i.e. score) for greater efficiency - now the challenge is to complete a map with the lowest conceivable expenditure. Even with a tower palette reduced by ineffective or over-expensive towers, this is still quite a challenge! It's one I hope I don't get too sucked into. :)

Oh, and just so you know, there is now a Vector TD2 with some new towers. I'm afraid to try it, but brave souls can find it here.


Interesting stuff re: Achievements. Thanks Neil & Chris! I'm closer to Neil's view on this; I just find them a fun little diversion to play about with on a game I really like.

But I still feel completely free to choose to enter "compulsive play" or not, and don't feel in the slightest bit manipulated. But then I do have a huge bank of willpower vs reward scheme addiction, and so this kind of thing tends not to addict me at all, it's only gameplay that usually really addicts me. eg: WoW I got bored of in a few months as the gameplay didn't ever get interesting. I felt very little compulsion to continue no matter what 'level' I was. In fact I can't even remember what level I got to. I've started and quit a few MMORPGs without remorse like this. The only thing I miss sometimes are the people I met/gamed with.

Back to Achievements though, I tend to play a game at first with total ignorance of the Achievements in place, and then if I am enjoying a game, I look at the Achievements and decide whether I think it will be fun to try to get them or not. If it doesn't sound fun I simply won't try, or maybe I'll try once; just to see.

I do agree though that most Achievements are very poorly implemented, and the fact that the scope of what you could do with them is barely touched by most games, or by Microsoft themselves. Maybe for the XBox 720 then. ;)

Rik: I'm curious to see a study into the effect Achievements have on play. My friends insist it doesn't affect them - yet they often plan their play around hitting achievements! :)

But then, it's not this aspect - having meta-goals - that troubles me, it's the feeling of being manipulated into playing more than I personally would like... I wonder if anyone else feels this way?

Right, no more time for blogging this week - hope to see everyone next week for more nonsense!


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