Monday, September 28, 2009

G.I.R.L. blog: My First Multiplayer Game

A little bit of "good old days" remininscence for my birthday on the G.I.R.L. blog:

Also for my birthday BBQ, I made a (rather lazy) version of the cake from Portal:

Not quite as good as the version I made a year or two ago for a friend at work (below), but I didn't have a lot of time this weekend.

This weekend's cake was just a regular white cake, with orange chocolate buttercream icing and covered in mini chocolate chips. The cake tasted ok but was a little dry, it was just a random recipe I pulled up which I hadn't tried before. Might need to look around for a better vanilla cake recipe if I make one again. Oh well, still tasted ok and the BBQ part was delicious too!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Home-made Macaroni & Cheese


8 oz macaroni (usually elbow macaroni, but you can use anything really)
1 cup breadcrumbs (can use up stale bread this way)
3 oz salted butter
2 oz flour
4 oz cheese (cheddar or whatever you prefer)
2 cups milk
(optional) 2 sausages/hot dogs
1 tsp mustard powder
salt and pepper


Boil 8 oz. macaroni (about 10 minutes) till almost cooked, but still on the firm side. Drain these well, and place in a medium size oven-safe serving dish.

While the macaroni is boiling, prepare breadcrumbs by grating or tearing apart bread. Melt about 1 oz salted butter to 1 cup of breadcrumbs and mix together. Set aside in a bowl. (You can make extra breadcrumbs and freeze them for future use.)

Grate 4oz of cheese and set aside.
Measure 2 cups milk and set aside.

Optional: fry or grill sausages and cut into slices when cooked. Sprinkle these over the pasta in the serving dish.

Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 2oz butter and stir in 2 oz. flour. Mix well until the mixture looks mealy, but is not yet turning brown. This is called a "roux".

Add the milk you set aside previously, and stir vigorously with a whisk until the sauce thickens - it will suddenly turn from liquid, to thick sauce. Allow the sauce to simmer gently for about 5 minutes to thicken. If you notice any lumps, whisk the sauce again vigorously until they are gone.

Add a teaspoon of mustard powder and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. You can also add any other flavorings at this point if you wish, such as spices or beer (if you add liquid, you may need to simmer for a bit longer to thicken again). Add the cheese that you set aside previously, and stir only long enough to melt it.

When the sauce tastes good, pour it over the pasta in the serving dish. Smooth the top with a spatula or spoon, and sprinkle the breadcrumbs over top. Put the dish in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are starting to brown slightly.

Serve hot!

The cheese sauce is also delicious over vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) instead of pasta.

View predicates

If you're not actually working in game design the term "view predicates" might not necessarily mean anything to you without explanation, but the concept is pretty simple. The word "predicate" is from the Latin praedicatum, from praedicare ‘make known beforehand, declare’. In game design it refers to something that's required (a condition that has to be met) before you can do something else. For example, I must have my car key in my possession before I can drive the car. A "view predicate" specifically would be something that's required before you can see something else.

It's a fairly simple idea and one that we mostly take for granted, but older games didn't have this functionality and it meant that quests either had to be designed to not need this kind of functionality, or the players would have to suspend disbelief when what they saw didn't always sync with the stage of the quest they were on. As an example, I'm trying out Aion this week and have come across a number of instances where it seems they either don't have view predicates, or didn't bother to use them. I just finished a quest this afternoon, called "Where's Rae This Time?" which has exactly this problem.

It seems Rae's father has a problem with his daughter, who's always running off and getting into trouble. I'd already found her once before in an earlier quest, and now she's gone missing again. The problem with this quest is that another quest that someone else gave me earlier on happened to send me into the same caves where Rae is hiding for this quest, and of course, since I've already had to rescue the girl once before, I recognized her. When I saw her in the cave while on the other quest, I hailed her expecting to be offered a quest to get her home again, but I wasn't. She wouldn't say anything to me, and I didn't have the option of telling her to go home again.

Instead, I had to make my way back to her father and get the quest from him to go and find her, and unfortunately her father was about a 5 minute run away from her location. And then my own knowledge got in the way of me. Once I accepted the quest called "Where's Rae This Time?" I immediately ran back to the cave, since I already knew where she was. And when I got back to the cave, Rae still wouldn't talk to me and I still couldn't tell her to go home. When I actually read the details of my quest journal, I realized the quest wanted me to go and talk to Nobekk first, a fellow in the same village as Rae's father. So I had to go all the way back again and ask Nobekk if he knew where Rae was, and the Nobekk sent me to ask Derot if he knew where Rae was, and Derot showed me a little cut-scene vision of the caves and finally told me Rae had headed that way. So back I ran to Rae yet again thinking I could finally get her out, but she still wouldn't talk to me, because apparently I had failed to also stop and talk to Naito just before the entrance of the caves. Back yet again to talk to Naito, and then, FINALLY, I could go back to talk to Rae and she finally let me progress with the quest.

Needless to say this was a somewhat frustrating quest experience, and very immersion-breaking. And while, admittedly, a lot of the back-tracking was due to me being lazy about reading the exact details of my quest journal, it was the fact that I already recognized Rae and already knew where she was that caused me to be so hasty, and that is a design flaw. It's just frustrating to a player who already knows where Rae is to force them to jump through hoops that assume they do not know where she is and can't be bypassed. Two better quest designs spring immediately to mind, though there are undoubtedly others.

First, obviously, and probably easiest, the quest designer could have used view predicates. A view predicate on Rae saying that I have to be on the "talk to Rae" step of the quest would have prevented me from ever seeing her before I needed to find her. I'd never have known she was there, and therefore wouldn't have gone running off to talk to her too early -- I would really have needed to talk to all the people the quest required in order to gather the clues as to her whereabouts. This would have made their steps of the quest relevant and useful, instead of irritating and immersion-breaking.

Second, if for some reason technical limitations of the game make view predicates impossible or impractical, then change the quest so that you can get it from either the father or the daughter. If you find Rae first and hail her, she explains what she's up to and you can accept a quest to help her and get her home. If you go to the father first, you can follow the quest steps as they are currently laid out. This could either be done as two different quests, either of which permit you to proceed to the next quest in the line, or the quest could be rewritten so only the finding of Rae actually updates the quest, and the clues from the other people are available if needed but not required as quest updates. Of course, planning the other quests so that you're less likely to bump into Rae earlier would also be helpful.

View predicates are a great tool for a quest designer telling a story and I'm actually really surprised that Aion seems to be lacking them. I use them frequently when designing quests for EQII, as they allow different players to see the world slightly differently depending on what they've done in the past. For example, one quest that I created in Lavastorm asks players to help repair a forge chimney for a goblin there. The forge is visible at all times. The broken chimney is visible if you have not completed the repair quest, and invisible once you have. The fixed chimney is invisible until you finish the repair quest, and remains visible to everybody who has completed that quest. Therefore, anybody who has not done the repair quest sees a forge with a broken chimney, and anybody who has helped the goblin repair the forge sees a fixed chimney, which is completely consistent with their in-game experience.

Of course, you don't want to go too far overboard using view predicates, as it would lead to confusion if they were used so extensively that different players see completely different worlds. (Player 1: I'll meet you over by the red house under the tree. Player 2: where? I only see a blue wagon under a mushroom?) For small details like a chimney appearance however, it's definitely an easy and effective way to give players the feeling they're making a permanent impression on the world, and help give them a more immersive experience within your game.

Apart from a bit of view predicate irritation though, I'm enjoying Aion so far. It doesn't seem to be doing anything very original -- lots of parts are highly reminiscent of the original EverQuest (my fire pet even looks similar to my EQ1 magician's), the crafting looks suspiciously like EverQuest II's, and many UI elements like the map and quest screens are extremely similar to World of Warcraft. However, it is an extremely pretty game, which always wins points in my books; it's relatively well polished; and it does an outstanding job of making the player feel important early on, particularly through the use of little cut scene storytelling segments. I don't know if I'll end up playing it long-term, but I'm having lots of fun looking around for now.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tradeskill quests

I try to log into Test server one night a week to chat with the players there. I find it very useful, as it's a rare night that I don't come away with at least a couple things to fix or confirm. Although we designers and then QA do our best to avoid bugs, it can sometimes be a handicap already knowing how something is supposed to work. There's really no substitute for seeing how large numbers of players will react to something -- sometimes they'll try and do things that never even crossed the designer's mind (as I have described before, in a guest post on the EQII official blog).

Bugs aside, sometimes it's helpful just to hear people talking to gather feedback and get some general impressions about what people enjoy and what they don't enjoy. When I logged in this evening, one of the folks online told me they were in the middle of discussing what they wanted to see in crafting quests. Obviously this is a topic of interest to me, since I'm the one who creates those quests! And I know what I think is fun, but I always try to get feedback on what other people think is fun also, because my views aren't necessarily always going to be shared by everybody.

When I asked to hear what they were discussing they wanted to see in future crafting quests, there was initially a long list of rewards, not actual quests. While that's useful in a different way, if I were trying to figure out what to give out as rewards, it's an entirely different question from what people want to actually do during the process of a quest. As it happens, I have a number of cool rewards already ready and waiting to be awarded somewhere so I was more interested in hearing how they might like to earn such things, than what they would like to be rewarded.

However, eventually the discussion worked around to answering the actual question of what folks find fun in crafting quests. I've put in quite a few crafting quests since I joined the SOE team (all of which should be included on EQ2Traders' crafting quest list) and they've been fairly varied in nature. Many involve actually crafting items, but not all; after all, many adventure quests don't actually involve killing things, so I reckon that tasks like deliveries, exploration, and other non-combat errands are fair game for either playstyle.

The evening was unfortunately cut a bit short by an unscheduled Test server update, but before the servers went down, the general consensus on what folks would like to see more of is:
  • quests that don't necessarily involve crafting items, or at least, not crafting large numbers of items that feel like a grind;
  • quests that encourage crafters to get out and around the world a bit to see the sights;
  • quests that have a bit of history or lore about the world, helping crafters to feel they are part of the story of the world;
  • quests that actually change the environment, such as moving items around, building items, etc.;
  • quests that are funny, such as accidentally torturing a poor tradeskill liaison (as in the Advanced Journeyman Tasks quest, which I wrote while in a rather peculiar mood and which people seem to be very fond of).
This is pretty much in line with what I generally consider fun myself and try to put into quests when possible, though not necessarily every point into every quest. It's good to confirm now and then that they really do enjoy this type of thing and I'm not deeply irritating them by mistake. In fact, I've recently added some new questlines into the continent of Kunark (intended for Game Update 54) which include a number of these points in simple fashion, but I'd like to do more of the same and in deeper scope for the upcoming expansion too. I got a number of ideas listening to people discussing what they like tonight, and another good idea has come to me while typing this post, so tomorrow I will start thinking about the details and see if a fun quest line can come out of this all. If so, no doubt Test server will be the first to see it, and well deserved that preview will be, too.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

What do players want?

More selected feedbacks that amused, confused, or interested me, from our players! <3


Text: I've only been playing EQ2 about 5 months but it is my very favorite game. I only have one complaint.

I think it should be sexier. An actual underwear or bikini naked look. Sexy appearance items and gear that shows leg, stomach, and cleavage (more than just the monk gi's). Sexy race specific dances. More flirtatious emotes.

These are the only things keeping EQ2 from being the greatest game on the planet. Thank you.


Text: I love my rhino mount but I HATE the "thump thump" sound when it gallops!
Can I get a muffler for it?


Text: Can you make the quest npc that starts the berserker epic weapon timeline not so stubborn please!!! Its driving me crazy!


Text: Why do the citizens in Qeynos appear to cheer when I walk by? I have done nothing to feel proud of :/


Text: Please for the love of all that is holy, give us some new dances!


Text: Adding in an in game calculator would be really great, then my kids couldnt steal it like the one they do off my desk for homework!


Text: Bartender and general merchant npcs should have surprise items to buy now and then. for example, a bartender in greystone yard may have a special brew that he sells only one week of the month. perhaps this brew gives players the ablity to gain more xp for a short duration or turn into something, or just plain knock the player off their feet because they couldn't handle the drink. The merchants can also sell random items that players may find useful such as quick tickets that allow players to zone to another city of the same alignment. its like bus fair. I personally like the animation of avatars holding a drink and taking a sip. A drink that shows this animation would be a wonderful social gesture at holiday events such as sipping egg nog or hot chocolate or even just taking a swig of a mug of ale.


Text: A good interactive gesture would be a handshake. players can target a friend and type /shakehand. this will send the second player a message that wishes to shake your hand. second player clicks accept and the animation kicks in putting both players in in the correct position facing each other and shaking hands. Later on perhaps an animation of some sort of victory gesture can be made such as a punch to the shoulder for the tank types, a high five for mages or even a headbutt would be cool. This would bring players more together in their adventures and allow more social options. thanks.


Text: It would be nice to be able to skip the cut scenes in the Hollow Hedge. I, for one, have had more than enough of Altius and the results of his stomach disorders 8^P.


Text: hai im playing pvp sever .

i think trb bud

why trb charm plyer contrl? crc charm not control :(

charm ha crc no dayo

why trb charm good .crc cham bad :(

trb cast 2sec crc cast 6sec


trb pvp mov speed mo hayasugiruyo

mez mo crc yori good dayo~?


Text: dear SOE

i heard Cure Mez and immunite bimd pot...

we are pure CCers. now all CCers spell add long pvp immunite.

and add a new immunite pot ...? are you hate CCer..?

Not CCers TRBs use runnning charm. control,player,pvp..

but cor 6sec long casting charm, not cast running...

illy finally get peace of mind...but TRB maestro,too...

Not enchanters = TRB. its a scout. their melle cluss. already powerfull.

if get everyone cure Pot, remove enchanters spell immunite.

and recognize, melle > caster ,under pvp...


Text: night of the daad so cool :D

so illusion wolf but ignore my change form.

or shapesift bear already...its mottainai , i think.

so first change sift wolf ?


Text: now that would be interestingsss, shinies that hop!


Text: Bring back the dark elf thong! =P


Text: Make it easier for people to get out of the lava in lavastorm easier hehe


Text: We should be able to, as illusionists, to cast our illusions on people outside of our group. Kind of like a prank of sorts.


Text: I would like it if one of the available character races was the "Mudfin" , the fish people :)


Text: Feature request: training dummies that talk back!

"Ow, quit it!"

"Is that the best you can do?"

"My grandma can hit better than that!"

etc. :)


Saturday, September 05, 2009

What do players want?

A selection from nightly /feedback reports.


Text: I would like to suggest if you would, a wardrobe for the house that we can put say.. 60+ items into that we wear for appearance armor. Some friends and I were discussing this, our banks are so full of appearance armor that we have no room for other important things. Having the ability to store them inside our home would be wonderful. Please consider this suggestion. Thank you.


Text: Defilers Need A Root Badly !

(Domino note: after living in Australia for 7 years I probably read a meaning into this that the player did not intend ... but it did make me snicker.)


Text: my necromancer's entire RP and lifestory evolves around the entertainment skill Nylph's Misty Image. it's fully animated, so it's very useful, and my rp is very fun and great.

BUT why the hell doesnt it work on mounts?? that ruins my entire RP, and my enjoyment of the game! it's so unfair!!! first i spend months planning the rp, getting everything i need for it, spending money, and BOOM you guys are like "oh sorry, we forgot to tell you, it doesnt work on mounts, so your character isnt worth anything." WHY?? you created an entire game, for crying out loud!! was it THAT hard just to make a small mount animation???? oh sure, the illusion can wear clothes, and dance, and curse, and do /moon, and everything. but ride mounts? no. WHY?

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE make some free time in your super secrret super busy life to make a mount riding animation for Nylph's Misty Image (i believe the illusion is that of a shadowed man) it's so unfair, in one simple moment my entire rp collapsed, and my gaming experience is ruined! you should have thought of that before you made this entertainment skill!


thank you, have a nice day. ALOT of people are about to start sending in feedbacks about this if it wont get fixed, trust me.


Text: I'd like to suggest the addition of a few new pillar styles to the Carpenter recipies (yes, I know, it's totally a surprise suggestion coming from me =D). Currently there are three pillars: the large and small sandworn pillars and the adamantine pillar. The sandworn are rough white stone and the adamantine is a dark wood wrapped in webbing.

I'd like to suggest adding the following at various skill levels where appropriate:

1 -- Outside the Danak Shipyards in Jarsath Wastes, lining the entryway to the harbor itself, are some very nice square pillars. They have a simple design, with a light brown stone color.

2 -- In the Estate of Unrest, inside the house, there are some elegant golden pillars with an ivy wreath style design etched into the base.

3 -- In Castle Mistmore there is a golden trimmed round column somewhat similar to the sandworn ones, but much more detailed.

Each of these pillars would make excellent additions to the recipie books and would help players trim their homes and guild halls with a nice bit of flair :) (You have to have 37 pieces of flair you know =P)


Text: i was hoping u might reinspect the illusionist character-i think his pet is pathetically weak when it comes to pvp and i was hoping u would concider making him much stronger in pvp as it is -playerS COMPLETELY iGnore pet attacks I REALLY THINK hes the weakest character-but i really like him so i hope you will concider this-ALSO COULD U MAKE PROVISIONING MORE FUn BY MAKING Rare FISH AND FOODS WHICH WOULD GIVE SPECIAL POWERS LIKE JUMPING AND SPEEED AND OTHER UNUSUAL POWERS BECAUS EBEING A Provisioner is kinda boring-thankyou i think this is a terrific game


Text: More hairstyles please =D


Text: """"""""""""""HOOOOOOOOOORAY"""""""" A FREAKIN COPPER CHEST!!!!!!! Thx SONY!!!!!!!!! WOWO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! after a Billion Kills!!! Nice work!!! Get the Sarcasm YET!????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? JAPAN WILL HEAR OF IT !!! GUAR- ANT- EEEDDDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Text: A suggestion for a future nights of the dead event. Using an episode of dr who as inspiration, (the one with the weeping angels) have a group instanced quest where the mobs must be kept in line of sight/frozen somehow while completeing a task. If the mobs engage they will banish the group member that they touch out of zone (perhaps with a short lockout timer to make it not possible to just zerg the quest) Watching the dr who episode would really explain the idea well (and it was really creepy besides! hehe)


Text: I really really really really really want there to be a Destroyer of Burynai title !!! Please!!!


Text: Make Titles Do Something

(Domino note: this was the entirety of the feedback, no hint WHAT we should make titles do. Maybe summon pink unicorns?)


Text: New idea for a cloak:

Dead Fish Cloak

Has a large boned fish on the back as a design.

Has an AoE deaggro, with the effect of dead fish smell, maybe with the dead barracuda fumes emmenating from it when wearing.

Note: May attrack the interest of Kerrans - should be added to it.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Beware of Flying Halflings

Not really tradeskill related, but I was on EQ2's Test Server tonight while another developer, Gninja, was asking for volunteers to test out a new fight that's going into the game soon. So I joined the raid as they were short some people. Unfortunately I was a little overzealous about equipping myself well enough, put on some of the best items in the game, stole aggro from the tank, and discovered that halflings can in fact fly. Way, way up in the air.

Here's me rapidly gaining distance from the long-suffering tank (Oggiee) and about to come into close contact with a treetop.

The handy little hate-meter on the right shows that yes, I do in fact have 100% of the target's hate focused on me at the moment, thank you very much. =)

(And if you're wondering why there's a huge heal going off on me as I fly, it's because this was the last try at the fight and Gninja was trying to stop me from dying.)

Happily, the fight is still in the process of being tuned up before it will see the light of live servers, and I also proved that halflings are still quite aerodynamic despite what certain unenlightened people may say about our fondness for pies!