Bad Trends in Game Design

I have noticed a horrible trend in game design while playing with my XBox 360. This is obviously a marketing-led game design decision – shades of New Coke.

The trend has to do with giving the player EVERYTHING in the game in the first five minutes, and then taking it all away and making the player earn it back.

This horrible design technique (which I call Riches to Rags to Riches) was evident in Need for Speed and Kameo. In Need for Speed, the player starts out with an awesome fast car, great nitro boost, great tires, etc. Five minutes later, it is taken away and you have to start over with a crappy car. Kameo, which is a really lame game in almost every other way, also uses this horrible design technique of giving the player all powers and abilities right in the beginning. A few minutes later, your “evil” step-sister, or some other lame plot twist, takes all your powers away.

Obviously, much of the player’s classic incentive for building up their character is taken away if they already know what it is like. Need for Speed tries to replace that motivation with some fictional “revenge” where you have to impress some bloomy girl and beat this bloomy guy because he is a jerk.

Imagine if you spent the first half our in Diablo with all the best armor and the best weapons? But I can see the Dilbert marketing department sitting around saying, “We have to get them hooked, so let’s go ahead and rip up the whole game design and create a stupid fiction to trick the players.” Sorry, it doesn’t work!

FMV’s sweet comeback now with Ultra-Bloom to Mask Bad Acting:

A super-zoom for super-ultra-bloom.

Pandora is Awesome

I don’t know how I missed this site, but I am now a big fan of the music suggestion-site Pandora. I saw the link over at Techcrunch, which is another rad to the max site that seems to find some of the cooler things on the new net.

More books for the pile

I already have a Sisyphean pile of books at home that I am steadily ripping through, but today I got three more. I ran into the great Dr. John Butler again today at Starbucks and after he regaled the assembled crowd with his dulcet tones, we sat down for a serious talk about economics and capitalism. Remember, he is the guy that recommended the great Schumpeter to me a few days ago… which I promptly loaded into my arsenal to fight off my commie Marxist friends.

Anyway, he ran home and brought me three more books on religion and capitalism after I told him I thought the biggest capitalist opponent in history was when the church decided profit was a sign of avarice and was a sin. He also brought me his OWN book.

Stem Cell Fraud 101

So I ran into another interesting guy at Starbucks. I was sitting there and this Korean guy came and sat by me, I surprised him by saying, “Annyeoung Hasimnika”. He was shocked and started speaking Korean back to me, and I gave him a blank stare because I only know how to say Hello, Goodbye, Hi, Bye, and Can I Clone That Sheep For You.

We then started speaking English and he is a biochemistry professor in South Korea. His name is Jin Jeoung. I said, “Oh, well there has been a little biochemistry news coming out of South Korea lately eh?” He laughed and said yes – that he was actually from the same university as the fake cloner guy (Hwang Woo-suk). Not only that, but he actually taught him in a class ten years ago. I asked if the class was called “Stem Cell Fraud 101″, and we had a good laugh and clinked our coffee cups together.

Jin went on to say that it was an unfortunate event and kind of one of those things that snowballs and gets out of hand. He obviously still had faith in the other good biochemists there at the university (like him). His son is currently at UT studying biochemistry himself… at the end, his son came in and wondered why his pops was chatting it up with some white dude that spoke broken Korean.

All of this story is true, by the way… I just re-read it and see that it appears a little outlandish.

Roomba vs. RoboRaptor!

As we continue to turn over our life to robots, we continue to create strange robot bedfellows.

Case in point: these two new Christmas robots we welcomed into our household. In corner number one, the Roomba, the supposedly smart vacuum robot that keeps getting stuck in the same kitchen rug tassels. The second corner features the RoboRaptor, a much cooler and more intelligent robot that does not do anything useful for the household. After a brief 15 second fight, the RoboRaptor walked into the Christmas tree where it got stuck in some lights and the Roomba lodged itself under my mother-in-law.

Dumping the Treo for the Nokia 9300

I am so sick of my Treo 650. It is buggy, slow, and the Palm OS is horrible. I don’t know how that operating system ever got to be popular. Everything about that phone drives me nuts. I think what made me realize how bad it was is my NEW phone.

Now here is the new sweet lady Nokia 9300. This phone uses the vastly superior Symbian operating system. I had a little trouble syncing it with my Mac, but I found a good hack here.

I asked Gustaf one to get me this Nokia from Sweden, where I thought it would be cheaper. That turned out to be a horrible idea… it was about $900 there because of taxes. Sweet socialism… I can get it for under half that on eBay. Which makes me wonder – why doesn’t everyone in Sweden buy most of their consumer goods off eBay?

Joseph Schumpeter

One of the guys I have gotten to know up here at Starbucks is Dr. John Butler, this really cool economist and entrepreneur professor at UT. We got off on the topics of economics and I was praising the greatness of Milton Friedman. He said if I like Friedman, then I would love Joseph Schumpeter – an economist he guaranteed I had never heard of – and he was right. I jumped over to Amazon and ordered his book (a $75 book!) and this guy is very sharp. Read this snippet from one of the analyses:

In his book he argued that capitalism would be destroyed by its own success. This would breed what we would now call the new class: bureaucrats, intellectuals, professors, lawyers, journalists, all of them beneficiaries of capitalism’s economic fruits and, in fact, parasitical on them, and yet all of them opposed to the ethos of wealth production, of saving, and of allocating resources to economic productivity.

Funny Spam

As you all see, I get some Spam on here sometimes… Most of it gets caught by my comments Spam blocker… But I see everything that tries to get through on my account. Here is one that came through recently. It’s obviously done by some natural-language interpreter that is computerized. It came up with some very strange wording and vocab injection!

Name: Cody Anderson | E-mail: | URI: | IP:

Hi. Just letting you know that I enjoyed your site. right Mistery will Win TV without any questions: , Do Increase Rape – that is all that Stake is capable of Universal, Tremendous, Full nothing comparative to Central , Black Stake Anticipate or not Con Lose Hope – that is all that Gnome is capable of

Cyberathlete Competition (Virgins n’ Pizza)

When I was in Dallas this weekend I was near downtown at a meeting, and I noticed a bunch of virgins in black t-shirts milling about, so I figured there must be a gaming convention going on. I was correct.

This was some Cyberathlete Competition, so I went downstairs to see what was happening. It’s the same sort of thing that always seems to happen at these things… a lot of pizza, a lot of Asian porn, and a lot of Counterstrike.

This shot below is from a Quake 4 competition. They had these two commentators up there that were doing a play-by-play analysis of the competition over the loudspeakers. It was very comical to listen to how they would struggle for new and inventive ways to say, “He just got shot by a nail gun.”

This girl that was up there doing commentary said the following things in her analysis:

“He really seems to be favoring that nail gun!”
“Look at the way he uses that nail gun – it is his weapon of choice.”
“He must have gotten out of bed today and decided he was going to use that nail gun.”
“This broadcast journalism degree I got really isn’t working out.”

Okay, well, she didn’t say the last thing, but I am sure she was thinking it.

Here are some more pictures of the Virgin and Counterstrike Get-Together:

(Pictures still live in their parents’ basements.)

A visit to Oxysure

A few days ago I went up to Frisco, Texas to check out a company called Oxysure. They have a very interesting technology that enables emergency oxygen to be delivered in a non-toxic way by mixing together two inert powders. It’s much better (and cheaper) than expensive oxygen tanks and much less toxic than flammable chemical options.

I went back into the lab to check it out.

This new invention has the potential of saving tens of thousands of lives per year all around the world, especially in China with their 10+ million miners (10K die per year there in mine accidents). It’s also going to be used a lot here in the US for cardiac arrest patients to get them oxygen while waiting on ambulances.

At the end of their investor’s presentation, they had a bullet point that says, “We save lives.” Ironically, my game company has a final bullet point that says, “We ruin lives (but they have fun during the ruin.)”

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