Gamemaking

Wherein I talk about games I am making

May 312018
 

POSTMORTEMS book coverMy new book Postmortems is now available at various booksellers. The print edition ships on the 26th. Various sites may have the ebook already, some may not just yet.

This is the first volume of a projected three that gather together many of the essays and writings that I have been sharing on this blog over the last several decades. This book focuses specifically on games I have worked on, from LegendMUD up through social games, and is a book of design history, lessons learned, and anecdotes. Richard Garriott was kind enough to write a foreword for the book.

It’s not a memoir or tell-all; the focus is on game design and game history. There’s still nowhere near enough material out there in print covering things like the history and evolution of online worlds (MUDs especially), in-depth dives into decisions made in games by the people who made them, and detailed breakdowns of how they worked. So I hope that this will be useful to scholars and designers, and that players might find it a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes. Just don’t expect salacious stories and secrets.

Those of you who have been reading the blog for a while will find much in there that is familiar; if you have ever wanted the SWG postmortem series in book form, here it is in expanded form. If you have ever wished that the various articles on the UO design were gathered together, here they are, along with new chapters covering things like all the things we tried doing to curb excessive playerkilling. If you ever wondered what happened with Metaplace, this is how you find out, as there’s a new and extensive postmortem. Many blog commenters make cameos in footnotes.

The contents: Continue reading »

Apr 212015
 

Once upon a time you could drop things on the ground. It’s one of the first things a baby does, one of the most human things to do. You pick something up, drop it somewhere else. You build piles. Piles turn into houses. They turn into furniture. They turn into gathering places, into churches, into seats of civilizations. Dropping stuff on the ground is pretty important to who we are.

swg player city Solace

In the last post, I talked about the technical underpinnings that allowed us to provide a dynamic environment in SWG. But really, all that was in service of something bigger: having a living society. One of the challenges in creating online worlds is that societies are powerfully shaped by the environment they are in. A static, unchanging world will inevitably give rise to certain sorts of behaviors: spawn camping, for example. Players flow like water around gameplay obstacles; if a game doesn’t offer them the ability to run a shop, they’ll set up their character as a bot and sit online for hours to replace the system — or rather, the standard human social structure — that is commerce.

A lot of MMO design, especially in the last decade, has been about preventing behaviors, rather than enabling them.

Continue reading »

Apr 202015
 

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

 

Corellia0023Let’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.

Continue reading »

A Jedi Saga

 Posted by (Visited 22281 times)  Game talk, Gamemaking  Tagged with: , , , ,
Apr 162015
 

Continuing 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

Yoda_TPM_RotS

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.

Continue reading »

Apr 152015
 

swgfactionbattle

I 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.

Continue reading »