Saturday, July 15, 2006

Many things indeed.

Boy, do I have a lot to write about. My cousin got an Xbox 360, I've caught wind of a bunch of gaming news, and to boot I've been doing lots of thinkin'.

Well, to start, I should say that the supergroup didn't work out. No one else of the dozens that joined the group knew quite how to handle it, so they did the opposite of what I do: they stayed out of it. they just kept playing like the SG didn't exist. Like a language that only I speak, no one else was in on it, so no one did anything with it. This much confirms my hypothesis that if I made up a language in Endless Forest, no one would bother figuring it out. Artsy types that might like the program don't see a synthetic language as artistic most of the time, the hypocrites.

I've been playing some Civilization 4, since I just noticed the big patch. It got me thinking about tech trees that don't have bottlenecks and are very open-ended: how do you provide a very accessible interface for such a tree? Civ IV did it by limiting all techs into a simple data structure: a AND (b OR c OR d), or something such like that. Thus, no tech requires more than 2 other techs, and one tech is alone on one side of the AND, meaning it can be displayed differently in a reliable fashion. Diablo II on the other hand, just did away with telling players anything most of the time, hoping it sufficed to say that a "recieves bonuses from" b. That sort of a solution works for an RPG I guess, but for a strategy game I need more concrete numbers. I have more on strategy games, but I'll save those for later.

The 360 is a very nice machine, but as I said before, the business plan suffers, and it shows. Marketing a "core system" box was a big mistake on their part, I think. Yeah, they'll sell more units, but it hurts the brand by confusing the market as to what they're building their games for. That's for the PC world; consoles are supposed to be simple.

Something is amiss in the gamerzone/reporting systems. Gamerzone is an awkward system since I play with all 3 mindsets at one time or another (the excluded one being "family", which is a generic zone for non-swearing and kids). Do I change my gamerzone every time I turn the system on? They don't make it particularly easy (you have to manually go into your profile settings and hunt it down in a menu), so I doubt it. Maybe MicroSoft knows something I don't; if I ever understand why so many people can play just one or two games obsessively (as opposed to games in general like myself), I will probably know all there is to know about game design... and maybe that is reflected in the gamerzones which cordon off my many moods into different "zones".

As for reporting, our favorite thing for me and my cousin to do is to introduce an unexpected element in the game, i.e. a totally unexpected form of mic spam. Yes, this annoys people. Occasionally, some people love it, and we still have a great time exploring the concept, so it's not just about pissing people off and ruining their fun; it's about challenging what the players of a given game can do in the game-space to have fun, and as it happens, that usually pisses those people off. Anyway, we were playing call of Duty 2, and one game we managed to get everyone to fight only with pistols, which was cool, but in one night we got reported 7 times, which is probably a record for us (maybe CoD players are more uptight than HALO players). The reason I bother mentioning this at all is the content of the reports:

We are always polite and nice, if annoying, when we do these things we do. Sometimes to rile people up, when they swear at us, we will be overtly verbose about how rude they are. Very high-society you see. We don't insult people and we don't get mad. Yet somehow, of the 7 reports only 2 were for being disruptive. 1 was for trash-talking (ironic since we were in the trash-talker gamerzone), 1 was for swearing, and 3 were for being "agressive". How report-worthy aggressive play in a FPS differs from trash-talking and swearing, I'll leave to you the reader to figure out.

My point is, if people don't understand how to use the reporting system properly, but do know how to report people, what sort of community can we expect when all the open-minded - if eccentric - people have been banned, in favor of people who persistently and explicitly describe the fellatio that others perform routinely? (And no, those people won't be banned, because it was the majority - we were trash-talked and sworn at by more than 50% of the people with microphones.)

We owe it all to Mr. Gabriel's GIF Theory.

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