Apr 202015
 

Corellia0023This post is dedicated to the memory of John Roy, lead environment artist on Star Wars Galaxies. Help out his family here.

Let’s do some math. Let’s say that you need to have a pretty big world: sixteen kilometers on a side, and made out of tiles.

A tile needs to know what texture it is. That’s one byte. Not much, right? You only get 256 tiles on a planet, though, which isn’t a lot.

But wait, we can add some variety there, by putting in some colors. We’re in 3d, right, so we can tint the tiles slightly and get variation. It’s normally three bytes to apply a color, but let’s instead just say that each planet has a fixed list of colors, and you can have 256 of them, and that way each tile can look up into a list of colors and we only need one byte.

Oh, and it’s a 3d game heightfield, so we need to know what the elevation of the tile is! We’ll just say that there are only 256 levels of height, and that way we can keep it at a nice conservative three bytes per tile.

Corellia0004That’s good, because we need a lot of tiles. They’re one meter on a side. So that means that for a planet we need 16,384 just to make one edge. We need 16,384×16,384 to lay down the whole world.

That’s 268,435,456 bytes for this world. Of course, we need ten planets, not one. So, that’s more like 2,684,354,560 bytes. Nobody uses bytes, so that’s 2,621,440k. 2,048mb. 2.56 gigabytes, uncompressed.

That’s… not going to fit on a CD. I mean, that doesn’t include any art yet.

DVD drives weren’t yet widespread in 2003. In fact, taking up 2.5 gigs of space just for maps was unheard of.

Endor0040

The solution to that problem didn’t just let us ship Star Wars Galaxies, it also unlocked everything from player housing to crafting to giant Imperial vs Rebel battles.

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Patent disclaimer

Before you read any farther, you should know that Sony Online actually patented some of the technology that I am going to describe. If you are someone who should not be reading technology patents, you should stop now.

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Game talkGamemakingA Jedi Saga

 Posted by (Visited 4521 times)  Game talk, Gamemaking  Tagged with: , , , ,
Apr 162015
 

Yoda_TPM_RotSContinuing here with the questions that were sent in by Jason Yates! Yesterday it was the TEF system… today it’s Jedi! Some of this stuff has been told before, but it’s actually kind of hard to find it all in one continuous tale. I have to preface this with a huge huge disclaimer, though: it’s been fifteen years since this particular story started, and a dozen since it ended. My memory may well be faulty on many details.

#2 What were the thoughts on Jedi and why were such drastic changes made in patch 9 to the entire system?

-Jason Yates

Well, my opinion is Jedi are evil. Heh.

You see, Jedi are an immense attractant to players, readers, viewers. As a kid, I too waved around plastic lightsabers (we kept bending them as we struck one another, I am pretty sure my mom got really sick of buying new ones). Who can resist the fantasy of having this awesome sword, effectively magical powers — mind control, telekinesis, telepathy, and more — and of course, the classic Hero’s Journey? I mean, it’s basically an ideal play scenario.

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Apr 152015
 

swgfactionbattleI was sent this list of Star Wars: Galaxies questions by Jason Yates; he had seen this video interview, and didn’t know enough Spanish to be able to follow the answers. I posted up an English translation of the transcript here, but really, the interview didn’t much overlap with the questions he had.

Is there the possibility of you ever giving a question/answer session in relation to SWG, your views on the game development and direction, aspects of the game you felt worked, worked well, didn’t work at all? Like many, I have so many questions about your involvement with SWG and will likely never get all the answers I would enjoy hearing, but it never hurts to ask. ^_^

Well, honestly, for me it has been fifteen years since I started work on SWG, and twelve since I stopped. So a lot of these questions have either been answered before, or I outright don’t know or remember the answers! So I will give it a try. But the first answer turned out to be so damn long that it’s all I have time for today.

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Mar 312015
 

The GDC Vault has posted up one hundred and forty free videos from GDC 2015. Holy Cow, almost as good as being there. :)

Among them is the talk that Rich Vogel, Gordon Walton and I presented on “Community Management in the Culture Wars.” I’ve embedded it below, and I’ve also added it to the already existing page for the presentation, which also has the slides.

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Game talkGamemakingJackpot Trivia

 Posted by (Visited 1465 times)  Game talk, Gamemaking  Tagged with: ,
Mar 102015
 

A while back I mentioned a few game announcements coming soon. One was, of course, Crowfall, about which I hope everyone knows at this point. This post is about another one!

A year ago or so I started working with NTN Buzztime as a consultant– these are the folks who provide bar trivia to venues all over the country. You might have seen their stuff if you ever go to a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant, for example. They have been doing networked bar trivia for decades now.

I worked with them to revise the core trivia experience. The press release about the resultant game, Jackpot Trivia, went out today. The chief goal was to make playing trivia more of a local multiplayer game, and to get more people to feel good about playing when they’re in a world with terrifying trivia experts. And yet, you still want expertise to come out ahead… so it was a fun design problem. Read on for how we tackled it…

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Mar 032015
 

Slide15This morning, Gordon Walton, Rich Vogel and I presented our talk on “Community Management in the Culture Wars.” I realized as we started that the last time the three of us were on stage together at GDC to talk about community was 14 years ago (!). A lot has changed… and a lot hasn’t.

The slides are pretty self-explanatory, and can be found here.

There has been a surprising amount of coverage on it.

 

Game talkThe Game Design section

 Posted by (Visited 1473 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Feb 122015
 

Slide1It has taken me almost a year, but the Game Design section of the site has seen truly massive revisions.

Among other things, I have managed to find several presentations which were never on the site:

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Game talkGamemakingA Career: GameDay Peru talk

 Posted by (Visited 1324 times)  Game talk, Gamemaking  Tagged with: , ,
Feb 042015
 

IMG_3663Long-time blog readers know that I spent a large chunk of my childhood in Peru. It was there, in fact, that I first started to make games. I lived in Lima, in San Isidro, a relatively well-off neighborhood. It was the height of the Shining Path terrorism period: gringo things were blown up with great regularity. The KFC. The Pizza Hut. The local arcade.

The art institute Instituto Toulouse Lautrec is launching the first ever game design program in Peru this year. There are programs for 3d modelers, animators, and programmers there and elsewhere already. There’s a small but thriving work-for-hire community that also does original game development. The time seemed right. When they asked me to come give a talk, it was an emotional moment — and the first time in almost thirty years that I had set foot in Lima.

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GamemakingWorking on Crowfall!

 Posted by (Visited 1787 times)  Gamemaking  Tagged with: ,
Jan 222015
 

Crowfall_CaravanBanner

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have seen me mention that after a couple of years of being fairly quiet, a lot of game announcements would be hitting soon. Well, one of them hit today! I am very happy to be able to tell the world (finally!) that I have been working with Todd Coleman and my other friends at ArtCraft on Crowfall!

I’ve been hopping on Skype every couple of weeks to go over game designs with Todd & crew for almost a year now. It started out as general brainstorming stuff, and as the team grew, we’ve been able to move on to working directly on designs and even picking apart UIs. I’ve helped out on everything from economics and materials design to yeah, dipping my toes into Todd’s bloodthirstiness and the warfare design that is embodied in “play to crush.” :) (If there was any doubt this is Todd’s game, that should be a hefty clue!)

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Game talkHigh Windows

 Posted by (Visited 1541 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , , ,
Jan 172015
 

Almost exactly seven years ago, I gave a keynote at the virtual worlds-themed Worlds in Motion Summit at GDC. I was supposed to talk about why games people should care about virtual worlds. But I just couldn’t warm to the topic.

I was in the midst of wrestling with Metaplace, which was the culmination of ten years of dreaming about the potential of virtual spaces. We were trying to put into practice the ideals embodied in things like the Declaration of the Rights of Avatars, the loftiness of hopes for general empowerment thanks to the newly interactive Web. But at the same time, I was watching tens of millions of venture capital dollars flow into kids’ worlds, virtual worlds about McDonalds and by teddy bear companies and tied in to bad reality TV shows and more.

So I took my qualms to the stage.

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