Video Game Players Are Brilliant Scientists

When I first started playing video games, back when joysticks were made of the femurs of certain small dinosaurs, you just sort of played the game. Things came down the screen, you shot them, they blew up, you got points. Lather, rinse, and yes, repeat.

Sometime during my history of gaming, games got more complicated. Games routinely shipped with these giant manuals. To play some flight simulators, you had to read books that were a million times thicker than the ones real pilots read. There was a kind of joy to that for me — not only had I just gotten a new game, I cracked open the box and drank in the fresh scent of a brand new book. Here was my reading material for the next week. Just like the paper and pencil version of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, if you played an RPG you had to read through the book to figure out what spells you wanted to memorize. Ah, good times!
Sometime after that, big changes happened in the gaming industry. Gone were the giant manuals. Here to stay was the philosophy that gamers could learn to play a game much more effectively and fun-ly by playing through a tutorial in the game. Can’t argue. Gives me more time for novels and I can jump right into a game without having to fall asleep at night for a week reading the manual.

I’m still annoyed by one thing, which is that most RPGs (like World of Warcraft, f’rinstance) teach you the basics of how to play, but don’t really ever document their full rule-set anywhere. WoW has a web site with the rules on them, but it doesn’t really cover all the details of how the game works. For that kind of Player’s Handbook information, you either need to buy the strategy guide (which is outdated in a month) or go to a site like WoWWiki, where the community has detailed all that information. All hail the community.

How does the community get the information? They play the game. Over and over and over, and run spreadsheets to figure out what, exactly is going on in the world. Sound familiar? Yes, it’s the scientific method. (I know, you had to think back to before Bush…) Proving once again that video games make people smart, as it says in this Wired article.

So, I used to think it sucked that game developers kind of hid the way the world worked from players. Now I realize, they were just trying to teach us something. For us slow learners, strategy guides are the textbooks and Cliff notes. There are even various services for learning video games, tutors, if you will.

Bless the community. I barely have time to figure out how to play the game, but now, I can fall asleep at my laptop while soaking up the knowledge gained from their hours of experience.

World of Warcraft News: Death Knights and Achievements

Detailed info on the Death Knight class has gone live on the World of Warcraft site.

Interesting to me is that in the lore section (I’m a story nerd…so I actually skip the stats and go straight to the story), they actually mention the Death Knights from the newest WoW novels, which are orc spirits which have been given a comfy home inside raised human bodies. Odd thought, that I could create a gnome Death Knight (and I will, just to annoy people), and then role play the character as an angst-ridden orc spirit who was trapped in this tiny, puny body. GRRRRR!

And yes, they’re adding achievements to the game. Really, it’s just to give you a pretty screen to stare at and go, “Yep, I really DID kill Hogger!” Or, “I really did visit all those areas on the map.” Um, woo hoo.

Still, ther are supposed to be some fun achievements that will get you some kind of minor rewards like pets and such, so, yeah, I will probably be doing them.

If I sound a little sarcastic about them, it’s because I still remember in Star Wars Galaxies, visiting all the Points on Interest I could find, in the hopes of being able to unlock a Jedi character. That whole system was soooo stupid! That said, I think I was soooo close to unlocking a Jedi.

No, really… ;P

Wii Music – Yet Again Something New From Nintendo

So, via Rock Band I’ve gotten a much better understanding of how to play the drums, but I always sort of want a practice mode where I could just use my drum set as a midi drum set, and get the feel for playing drums without following along with the game.

Nintendo’s new Wii Music sounds like it will be that kind of game. Use the Wii-Mote and Balance Board to improvise and play your own music. Very interesting concept.

I’ve actually been wondering about this title since I saw reports of it at an E3 before the Wii was released. It sounds unique enough that I’m glad they took their time getting around to releasing it.

XBox 360 and Netflix

Well, I’ve been awaiting this announcement for a while, about Netflix on-demand movies being available via the XBox 360. Thing is, you have to be an XBox Live Gold subscriber to do it.

What a rip-off! I have to pay Microsoft money to watch movies from Netflix on their console? You would think they’d want to sell consoles by offering this, instead of trying to squeeze more money out of console owners. They already nickel and dime people for almost everything you can download from Live, including silly things like skins (which change the way your basic interface looks) and gamer pics (which you can use as your avatar on XBox Live). This is just another stupid grab for money.

If I actually played games on XBox Live, it might be different, but the only game I really play regularly on the XBox is “Rock Band”. Looks like I’ll have to start thinking about setting up that living room beige box PC again.

Diablo 3?

So with BlizzCon fast approaching, I recommend anyone fascinated with the games made by Blizzard Entertainment check out the Blizzard jobs section right now. They have quite a few “top secret” jobs listed starting with:

Blizzard Entertainment, the developer of Diablo and Diablo II, is looking for a senior 3D environment artist

So does this mean Diablo 3 is in the works? And is it a next-gen MMO? Or is that “Galaxy of StarCraft”? There are some other postings for a next-gen MMO.

Blizzard Entertainment is looking for an exceptionally skilled 3D technical artist to work on its next-generation massively multiplayer online game.

Hmmmm…..

Why I Like Warren Spector

Well, for one thing, he designed Deus Ex, which was one of the first really immersive 3D shooters that wasn’t really a shooter and was really more of an experience inside a truly interactive world.

But I really liked what he had to say about the future of gaming in a recent speech:

  • “I love working with Disney because I’m so tired of making games about guys in black leather carrying guns.”
  • “One-hundred hour games are on the way out… How many of you have finished GTA? Two percent, probably. If we’re spending $100 million on a game, we want you to see the last level!”
  • The game industry needs, and is seeing, more interest in storytelling.
  • “…we need – people who are going to make the boring parts special.”

Kewl stuff. I’m really happy Warren is working for Disney, the same company I work for.