Archive for the Dollhouse and gaming Category

Distributing Tore Loves Eliza

Posted in Dollhouse and gaming with tags , , , , on September 19, 2011 by toresimonsen

As some know, I made a video game based upon my experiences.

I am shifting gears to some real space distribution of my video game, Tore Loves Eliza.

Internet distribution appears to have its limitations. While youtube is great for storing a trailer for the game, many forums are not open to posts which link to third party sites. Many sites that are open are so flooded with information that your post is likely to be overlooked. I will not reiterate the many problems I have had on sites like Craigslist, Twitter, MySpace, and so many others.

Instead, I am moving forward with trying to get the information in the game out by trying to connect with people in real space. Of course, real space distribution costs more in materials. Still, I am hoping that I can make my distribution of the program affordable and effective.

As part of the campaign, I have created a new promotional poster for Tore Loves Eliza.

I am also creating some new cover art for the distribution of the DVDs.

Here is what the game looks like in a jewel case now:

It looks a lot more professional. Using simple Avery style 6180 labels, I simply print a small title for each disc. Office Max is charging me about 68 cents per page of color printing. Each poster takes a page, but the images for the DVD can be printed two per page.

As for distributions, I am simply looking for just about anywhere I can find to promote the game. Here is an example of creative distribution. A simple tack on a public message board with some discs tacked along in sandwich bags and DVD sleeves.

I am also trying to give a copy to the library so they will add it to their collection.

I also postered a coffee shop and will continue to look for places I can promote the game.

In any event, as I explained in readme file for the game, people are free to distribute the game. Feel free to download, burn the DVD, throw it in a jewel case with the aforementioned cover art or just print the afformentioned poster and hang it on a public message board- like at a coffee shop.

Exploring DDO

Posted in Dollhouse and gaming with tags , , , on October 10, 2010 by toresimonsen

I decided to download and install DDO. I am not going to touch on the microtransactions aspect yet, as I have not played the game long enough. Besides, I’ve already discussed my basic concerns about microtransactions in another post.

Why DDO? I’ve missed playing a lot of traditional MMO’s. While there are other MMO’s, Dungeon’s and Dragons is a game I played growing up. I played a lot of officially licensed AD&D games, so if I was going to take a look at an MMO, I figured I might as well start there.

First impressions are that the game seems polished. However, small things are annoying. Characters should start the dungeons at about the same time. I find myself trying to figure out where I am supposed to be and joining parties that are already questing in progress. This problem was resolved in Alien Swarm. Why not do something similar here?

It’s hard for new players (noobs) like myself to quickly fit in. This seems to frustrate more experienced players. I also sometimes feel like the party does not seem like much of a party but more like a collection of players.

Anyway, I am slowly picking up how the game works. My character is now level 2.

Update: So I’ve been playing DDO some more. In general, the MMO experience can depend a lot on your teammates. Those that “zerg” make the game very difficult for players who are new.

Here, a helpful teammate heals me.

I had a great time with a team that stayed together during a crypt run.

I also spent some time on solo adventures to get more comfortable with the controls.

I even spent a lot of time completing Misery’s Peak. The level is very slow. I am glad I did it solo, because if a team zerged it, I would have missed everything. I hired a cleric and loaded up on the healing potions. I took a lot of fall damage. In general, the level is full of hidden levers that you must find. It reminds one a bit of Tomb Raider actually. The worlds and dungeons are huge with scattered encounters.

Having completed the adventure, it is now sunny in Korthos.

I am constantly aware of the DDO store which makes its presence well known. There are huge differences between the features for the paying players and the free to play crowd. In any event, I will continue to explore DDO. I am level 3.

I’m starting to notice minor problems with the game. The NPC controls seem less than intuitive. A few dumb things have happened. For example, my NPC cleric sank to the bottom of a moat and was unable to use the ladder to climb up.

I like the world, but I’m stuck grinding for now.

Is it time to Return to Castle Wolfenstein?

Posted in Dollhouse and gaming with tags , , , , , on October 5, 2010 by toresimonsen

Is it time to return to Castle Wolfenstein?

I will speak frankly out of respect. At the outset, I want to say that gaming is a very important part of my life and that my time gaming has been a source of renewal, delight, and fun. I have enjoyed, and continue to enjoy playing games, including the games which present issues that I am about to critique.

There are two disturbing trends in gaming right now: a decline in video game sales and a move towards microtransaction based first person shooters.

What concerns me most is the possibility that players can pay for weapons (items) that provide them with a competitive in game advantage. I will make some personal observations about three games. I tried to pick games which are somewhat similar for focus, but obviously there are many games and models I haven’t explored. I want to look at Battlefield Heroes, Team Fortress 2, and RTCW:ET.

Battlefield Heroes.

“Yeah, but the beauty of it is you’ll have the opportunity to play the game; if you don’t like it, you don’t play it; if you do like it, you continue to play it. So, for the consumer, you’ve got all this choice, and all you need to do is just spend a few moments trying each one out.”- Ben Cousins

I could focus on a lot of the problems I encounter in BF:H such as the occasionally imbalanced rounds created by having a dedicated faction or the highly questionable matchmaking function, but I want to focus on the sale of weapons for advantage. There is something about this idea which I have not been able to get over. I think its because it goes to the core of gaming itself. I’m also not going to re-hash the community input thread, but you can check it out here.

I also like to point out when DICE or EA goes out of there way to do something great, which they may not have to do.

Let’s begin with a little BF:H history.

Battlefield Heroes began as a free to play game. It made headlines because it was not going to sell weapons for advantage.

In an interview, Ben Cousin’s outlined the areas that players were supposed to make microtransactions: 1. character customization of looks and 2. convienence items which offer xp boost. According to the article, Ben Cousins said, “We think the community will define what they want to buy, and what they don’t want to buy. So we’re really open to selling things, and also them telling us, “Look, we don’t want to buy this.”

BF:H was supposed to provide no real “weapons” advantage to players playing with Battlefunds over those playing with VP. Weapons were not supposed to be sold. Apparently, many players were angered by the changes. I for one, use VP exclusively (although I recently got 700 free battllefunds from the Gun Club), and would be disheartened if that puts me at a competitive disadvantage.

Video games have always had an inherent time for money equation going back to the quarter operated arcade games. However, this new idea of paying extra for a potentially competitive advantage in PvP goes beyond a grinding adjustment and could potentially tip the outcomes of matches and games.

People have said the difference is only marginal.

HelloAndy noted, “Also keep in mind that there is not a big difference between the so called “Super” weapons and regular weapons (slightly bigger clip size, slightly higher crit chance, minor things).”

Okay, but there wasn’t supposed to be a difference at all.

I keep thinking about a poker game in which everyone sits at a table but one player slips the dealer a few dollars to get to play with ace up their sleeves. It’s only 1 card in 52 right? Small difference. Or a game of Monopoly in which the house rule is the person who bought the game can land on free parking and collect money, but no one else can. (1 space in 40, not a big difference right?)

How about Dungeon’s and Dragons? If the Dungeon Master sold for cash magic items to some players and the others had to actually go through the Dungeon to earn them, would the game have been popular or had any meaning?

I want to be clear, that as a personal matter, I hope DICE and its team can be financially successful in making games- but not in a way that might corrupt the idea of gaming itself.

Is it fair, however, to blame DICE alone? Not entirely. After all, the players themselves do not have to purchase these items if they want to protect their gaming experience. Some gamers have left the game and that is their personal choice. I feel it would be much simpler if players simply did not purchase or use items like the uber knife unless and until the inequalities in gaming are resolved. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that all players will do so given the competitive pressures that exist.

Finally, we know that times are tough for everyone, including the video game market. I hear your fears DICE. Do not go bankrupt, and do not bankrupt the game.

Here is a short video of me having FUN playing Battlefield Heroes!

DICE- do something to restore your promise to sell cosmetic and time saving items and not weapons that provide advantages.

Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2 is not free to play, but it is very affordable. It was recently on sale for about $9.99. Valve does not want to go completely free to play because they want to punish people who cheat by closing their accounts. (I could go on about the prison industrial complex of gaming here, but I’m going to try to stay focused.)

Team Fortress 2 launched its most recent update in which players can now buy, sell, and trade items.

Someone posted a rather detailed account of how they think the TF2 system operates- I’m not entirely sure.

What I do know is this:

First of all, artists receive a portion of the sale of goods they contribute. This is probably a good thing. In general, however, I am skeptical of sales which might provide players with advantages in seeing what happened with BF:H. Although the differences are small, these factors are not consistent with basic gaming notions.

Laughably, the TF2 pricing system probably needs more than a little work. I found a hat selling for over $17. Is this a microtransaction?

It is too early to tell what the overall impact will be.

It was not that long ago that Robin Walker said this:

“To us, the incremental money we can make off lots of things is worth way less than a bunch of people really, really liking being our customers, and that has way more long term value to us than anything else. I think as companies become bigger, that becomes harder. The problem of being a company that people like becomes harder and harder the bigger you get, and so it’s something we need to be vigilant about. And I think caring about our customers is really the thing that’s going to make or break us at the end of the day.”

Currently, Robin Walker is saying the new system is about allowing for greater community contributions.

“We view the Mann-conomy as the next, crucial step in the evolution of how communities interact with products. Now they’ll not only be able to contribute to the product, they will be directly compensated for their work.”

For me, the question will be how does this impact the gaming environment. If a bunch of people end up buying items that provide them with an advantage which unbalances the game, then more will be lost than gained.

One easy rule for gamers is that gamers should not purchase items which provide a gaming advantage. Given the fact that some gamers are too young to exercise such judgment, it may not be possible to hope for that. On the other hand, given the costs, it may be that only older rich players actually have the kind of cash to buy these things. I mean how many fourteen year olds can sustain $17 digital hat purchases? Are teens simply going to be priced out of these games?

Some gamers have opted to leave games which utilize systems which have pay for advantage systems. Many BF:H players moved to TF2. It may be that gamers will have to retreat to older games or smaller independent games which are less well known. There are plenty of gaming alternatives- even in free to play markets.

Anyway, I have had fun playing TF2. Here is a video of me playing TF2.

Steam: sell cosmetic and time saving items and not weapons or items that provide in game advantages. Keep gaming affordable.

Return To Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory.

Like most people, I used to play this game a lot more in the past. The game is free! It has multiple classes. The game is a bit older so the graphics are not state of the art, but the game was good by my standards and is still good for several reasons. Like Battlefield Heroes, it is free. It can run on very old machines since most machines are way more powerful than machines from the era in which it served. It is a bit quirky at times to connect to servers and the game, like all games is not flawless.

The biggest single problem with the game are the presence of bots rather than live players. I hate bots. I have always hated bots. The AI is never that great. This could of course change if live players began playing the game again.

(Small detour: I am not a huge fan of the “reality” FPS genre mostly because I find that some players say things which are actually fascist, whereas in TF2 you get mostly annoying sex cross talk and BF:H it’s just predictable angry hackusations and noob-bating wars. I’m drifting here a bit, so let me focus.)

The more you play in the server, the more XP you accumulate and the better your character becomes. Some servers have xp save so your character keeps the ups more persistently.

There is obviously not the level of dress up you get in BF:H or the cartoony fun of TF2. However, the game also does not have microtransactions. It’s dated enough that if you can find a low ping server, a modern high speed connection will probably not have problems.

The game appears to suggest that a game can be sustained for years even without microtransactions. I found it had all the basic elements of gameplay which you would expect.

It’s certainly not my first choice of games to play, but in light of the wierd microtransaction disturbances, I feel it was worth downloading and installing again.

The gameplay may seem a bit simple, but as BF:H suggests, simple can be fun.

I played it mostly to examine the possibility of a online gaming without microtransactions, in-game ads, that had low hardware requirements and was free.

Here is a short video of me playing RTCW:ET.

Players: give RTCW a second look- if only to see that free to play games do not need to rely on microtransactions. (If you are running it under Vista, give yourself UAC priveleges BTW).

Summary

All the Punkbusters and VAC’s in the world will never make up for a basic lack of ethics.

Just thought I’d throw that in as another off-topic aside.

Getting back to it, I’ve spent a lot of great time playing games. I like the work that gaming companies do, even if I don’t always like what they do. I feel it is important to talk about these things in a respectful and responsible manner. Hopefully, game companies will not make such poor decisions that I can no longer play the games they make.

You may have noticed in all three videos, I attempted to use the “flamethrowing” style class. That was intentional to show that despite their differences, there are also a lot of similarities in opportunities for gamers. Gamers still have options and choices.

Now I should probably dust off some Roleplaying books, just, uh, in case a per pixel fee is imposed. After all, a good set of D20 dice are pretty cheap. I even got one D20 for free at Dave Arneson’s visitation in St. Paul in 2009. He wanted people to have fun playing games. A great idea then, and a great idea now. Let’s not forget that.

EA Gun Club offers free Battlefunds.

Posted in Dollhouse and gaming with tags , on September 29, 2010 by toresimonsen

Players can get 700 free battlefunds through the EA Gun club. 700 Battlefunds is not a lot but it is enough to get players some unlimited stock weapons. This in turn allows them to use the VP they build on buying the extra’s- such as cool EMO taunts more frequently. It was a very small step in the right direction on Dice’s part. I have not spent my 700 BF yet, but have decided to spend some VP to make the playing experience better for other players.

A rather bland hero...

DICE still needs to minimize the impact of its poor decisions and provide players with a good gaming experience. It has to try to eliminate the pay for advantage weapons gap if it wants to lure gamers back.

DICE also offered players free VP and XP boosts. They must be redeemed by tomorrow and there is a FACEBOOK like campaign to try to get another 7 day promotional.

I still feel that by rejecting its promise not to sell weapons that produce an advantage, EA/DICE made a huge mistake. It creates possible play imbalances that effect all players. I also wish there were a few more affordable VP options. I understand the need to make money, but I always felt BF:H was more of a promotional vehicle (like RTCW:ET) and should provide a fully featured and balanced play experience.

Update: The battlefunds offer appears to have expired now.

Second update: You might also be interested in posts about the Dr. Pepper codes.

RE: Afterlife

Posted in Dollhouse and gaming with tags , , , , , , , on September 18, 2010 by toresimonsen

I went to see the new Resident Evil: Afterlife movie. (Spoiler alert).

Since I am in Elko, Nevada, I could not see the film in 3d which is really too bad. I think the film was meant to be seen in 3d.

In general, I felt the film was pretty good. The film picks up where the last film ended. The emphasis in this film is on action and atmosphere. It has all the look and feel of an RE4 title, with a lot of action.

(As most people probably know, Mila Jovovich and Paul Anderson married.)

Character development seems a bit sparse and this film seems to focus on the action rather than any kind of emotional depth. I feel that there was more character development in Extinction and that Afterlife attempts to bypass its own character development by importing it’s characters which leaves a bit of emotional flatness.
What is not emotionally flat, is the relationship between Anderson and Jovovich which transcends the film. It is clear that Anderson has made this film for his lover and that she in turn takes her part very seriously. There are plenty of scenes in which you stare at nothing but Jovovich’s face on screen.

In general, I think the entire cast does a very good job in the film. Ali Larter, from Heroes, is rewarded with a fairly choice action sequence. The one weakness is with Wexler’s character. Wexler, unfortunately, is a rather one-dimensional character. Compared to Salazaar and the other nemesis from RE:4 (the game), Wexler has very few notable moments. Wexler appears to be a somewhat cardboard Camus’ Caligula.

I like the start of the film’s nod to the OP video game player. The film actually begins by ending the last movie. Alice (her clones) are OP and can basically kill people by using her extraordinary powers. This is similar to how the video games themselves play out. In RE:4 (a great title), I have unlocked all of the extras and my character is basically OP. Nevertheless, if I ever get a PS3, I can play RE:5, where presumably I would start with none of my extras. Video game sequels often follow the path of Sisyphus: you roll the rock up the hill, just to watch it roll down and start over. RE: Afterlife certainly has that feeling to it as Alice’s superpower are deprived of her at the beginning of her new adventure. (Being OP is only interesting for so long and Anderson seems to understand that.)
The adaptation of video games to films is not easy, but the Resident Evil franchise continues to do it in a way that understands both. Given the strength of the supporting cast, it appears that people are buying into Anderson’s vision.

If you are a fan of Resident Evil, then you should probably see this film. I enjoyed watching it even in 2d, but would have preferred to see it in 3d.

Gaming notes.

Posted in Dollhouse and gaming with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2010 by toresimonsen

It’s always interesting to see how different gaming environments operate. Let’s take a brief tour.

We begin with the issue of lag. As most people know, the ISP (Frontier Communications) is now front and center and requires some kind of proof of lag. I took a few Xfire videos. On the subject of lag, I highly recommend “Watch the clock”. Do I have lag? You decide.

I’ve decided to try to work on my bowhunting skills in TF2. Apparently, Eliza Dushku loves to bowhunt! She has gotten into a small amount of controvery over it. Despite the lag, and my noobishness at bowhunting, I’m supporting Eliza.

Over @Battlefield: Heroes, I was finally able to get BF:H to work again. The culprit was apparently a Symantec live updater which was blocking Heroes. In my absence, Heroes apparently added a new level. Consistent with their environmental design practices, the level places huge emphasis on a natural combat landscape. Not sure what to think about the level yet, as I have only played it twice. Here’s a screen shot:

The controversy regarding DICE’s decision to sell weapons advantages continues. I still do not believe that DICE should sell any kind of weapons advantage. As much as I like DICE, I doubt I would have volunteered for the Beta had that been the case. There are already games that sell advantages.

Nothing seems to suggest a vote on features in Battlefield Heroes anytime soon.

While hardly a binding vote, I started a poll over on the Elements forum asking if players would play more if the upgrades cost less. The debate is getting a bit off point, but it’s probably a healthy topic for discussion. I like the fact that they allow registered users the freedom to start polls on topics. It seems like a great way to get the conversation started. The request for player submitted cards is also a good feature. Still, I’m a bit concerned by the way the tournaments are run though.

Finally, regarding tournaments, I started a thread on the steam forums about an experience I had several years ago. I came across the file on an old hard drive and thought I would post it. In coming full circle on this post an even more controversial post regarding customer service is on the 2142 forums.

1541K

Posted in Dollhouse and gaming with tags on August 29, 2010 by toresimonsen

My Battlefield 2142 site is still up for those interested in learning about the game. Right now, the EA master server is having connection problems. This is not unusual.