Bioshock Infinite: the video game we deserve

Rating: one out of five


At least it looks pretty

Bioshock Infinite is a video game about shooting guys in the face. It’s a video game about sweet gibs, rad decapitations, and about having all the guns ever. It is a game about magic shields and eating canned goods off of corpses of policemen to restore health. It is a game about drinking potions and having holes appear on your hands and racist vampires who carry coffins and shoot crows at you. It is about having a pet who picks locks but who asks you to pick up lock picks from trash cans. It is about a girl who will periodically interrupt important plot points to throw you a jar of salt. It is a game about robotic George Washingtons chaingunning you.

It is also a game about god rays through windows. About some really pretty flying buildings that explode around you as you shoot black people and Irish people. It is a game about pressing A to throw an apple to an orphan and play a guitar. It is a game about pressing X to hook policemen in the face.

It is a game about shooting a rocket launcher at ghosts.

It is a game about how every person is fundamentally an asshole. About how racists and their oppressed are really the same thing if circumstances are only slightly altered.

It is a game about saving a damsel in distress.

But most of all, Bioshock Infinite is a game about how nothing matters, because there are infinite worlds and you can just move around between them and whatever. Stuff happens for no reason and the rules are arbitrary.  And I guess there are gods.

The only constant is that it is so much a video game.

Cute little mice?

Most of my time running RPGs has been of the variety that has the game master driving the players through scenes and settings. Many of the adventures I have run that were pre-made tended to be giant scripted set pieces that the players would be pushed and pulled through. Not unlike meat through a meat grinder. And, there is nothing inherently wrong with this method of playing and running games. A good game master can make that roller coaster feel like a wild ride. But, many times I feel like my roller coaster is more like the tea cup ride at Disney World. Not that I’ve had to wake up players for their turns to act (yet).

I read about Mouse Guard and I was gifted a copy by some friends. It’s a very different sort of RPG than anything I have played or run before. It places an emphasis on players taking ownership of their characters and what they will do in the world in a way that is very different than other games. It’s not that I think other RPGs are incapable of having these qualities, but they aren’t emphasized like they are in Mouse Guard.  The concepts of turning a team mission into personal goals, and being rewarded for completing them is a nice way to hand over the reigns of what’s going to get done to the players. I also really enjoyed the methods of conflict resolution that elegantly tiptoe around failure with more obstacles and success at a cost. All things I enjoy enough to try and fold back into my 4e games.

Things I’ll try to remember when I am making an MMORPG.

This is a list of things I want to see an existing or new MMORPG address. Some of these are totally pie-in-the-sky ideas and I know they aren’t easy to do. That’s ok, because having an idea and trying to do something creative is very valuable. More valuable than just rehashing the same old stuff.

No server shards. This might well be up there in fantasy land, but I don’t want to have to re-roll, or pay to transfer a character in order to play with my friends. I don’t want to have to coordinate friends playing on my server. My character data can’t be more than a couple kilobytes in size, so there’s no reason it can’t really exist on every shard at one time.

No crafting. Don’t even bother. Unless you are making Barbie Dress Maker, being a seamstress should not be how I spend time in the game. Sewing, farming, fishing, and making armor are all things boring people in town do. Don’t make me do it.

Levels aren’t mandatory. I know, I know, everyone is doing it. But don’t limit yourself. Think about other games out there and how they handle character growth. Levels aren’t inherently evil, but you don’t have to just make me grind out eighty of them to let me grow my character. Honestly, I have other things to do.

Have a vision and don’t lose it as you grow. Think about combat and how you want it to flow. Is it fast and brutal? Is it slow and methodical? Is it somewhere in between? If you can visualize how you want the game to feel and play, you can keep true to that vision. This, in turn, means the people who like that vision will want to play your game, and they’ll keep playing as long as you don’t suddenly get amnesia and forget what made people fall in love with your game.

Be better at theory-crafting than your players. Do I need to elaborate on that?

Don’t hide your game from me. That is, let me in on the secrets so I can play the game as well as I want to. Don’t make me have to reverse engineer your game to be good at it. I don’t want to “discover” your game. I want to play it.

Don’t make me run places. Seriously. I understand that you want your world to seem HUGE and EPIC. But holding down the “w” key or using auto-run is not fun times. You should also be sure that no one ever has to run back to a previous town for five minutes to just finish a quest. That’s really frustrating.

Graphics should be good and consistent, but they don’t need to be amazing. I know the flash makes good screen shots and makes people go “ooohh” and “aahhhh”. But after three months, when people have turned everything down so they can deal with twenty five people on their screen casting crazy stuff, it won’t matter so much. Better to spend that time adding depth and color to the world, instead of shadows and bump-mapped surfaces.

Do you want player opinions? Make your game client gather the data. I would rather answer questionnaires in the game every month than know that your number one source of player input is a bunch of jerks posting in all caps in the forums. I think I die a little bit inside every time I visit forums these days.

Gear isn’t character growth. It can be important, but it should always be secondary to skill and character ability.

If your game is about grouping up with people, I want to see options and features. If your concept of a guild is a banner over a character’s head and a chat channel, you’re doing it wrong.

I think that’s it for now. Sometimes a good list is a good venting.

Does it even matter?

Recently, many blogs I read have been making some comments about Warhammer Online subscription rates.

And, I have to ask why this matters. EVE Online, which I consider to be a great MMO with a vibrant and active community doesn’t even have 250,000 subscribers according to MMOGCHART. Those charts also say Planetside never had more than 60,000 subscribers, and I sure had a lot of fun playing Planetside for a couple years. If you subscribe to the monkeysphere theory, anything over maybe 500 people is just not going to matter to you as an MMO player.

There are, really, only two ways the numbers can influence the game. One is psychological, and the other is an indirect quality of the game. People might abandon the game under the concept that the game is not reaching it’s intended 500,000 subscribers. Or that the game isn’t as succesful as World of Warcraft. The more realistic impact is that the game is that the drop in subscribers based on estimates means a cut in services and support from Mythic.

In the end, though, I don’t think that the difference between 300,000 and 500,000 will matter when it comes to the game. If it’s fun, play it. If it’s not, don’t.

Stupid guild, be more funny!

A few weeks ago, when I rolled a new character on the Dark Crag server, I joined a guild. The guild seems active, but I never see anyone online. I just think my play times don’t overlap with anyone else in the guild. Bummer. I will probably leave that guild and keep looking.

I tried to focus on questing again, when I realized how crappy it is to not know if a quest is too high level to complete. I also see how dumb it is that scenario quest givers are only at war camps. So, while you are questing, if you do scenarios, get used to running back to a war camp every time you complete a scenario quest. I shouldn’t let it surprise me so much that the most basic concepts of game-play seem to escape the developer of the game. As if there was almost no play testing, or the play testing was conducted by developers themselves.

Those little things become a big problem. Bigger than something like keep defense. I understand how important keep defense is. I know it’s important that the keep game in T4 be really solid and fun from either side of the castle wall. But, before people can get there, they need to not be faced with a small problem 10 or 12 times each time they play. If I have to run around more than I spend time having fun, it’s going to break my will to ever see the T4 keep game.

Runhammer Online

Run. Run is everywhere.

When you start a new character in Warhammer Online, you do quests and maybe some scenarios. The quests move you along in the world and you level up. The scenarios never disrupt your location in the world. But, then, at some point you will find yourself at a war-camp, and you will find the first flight point. If you decide to press on with questing, you will not enter the dry desert of limited travel. After your first war-camp area, it’s going to be about ten levels or more worth of travel and questing to reach the next war-camp/flight point. During this questing desert, you’re going to do a lot of running.

This is my breaking point. And my current goal in the game. I have never gotten a character past this drought. I can’t seem to get through T2 without losing interest, starting an alt, or just giving up. Many times I feel scenario’d out, there’s nothing really hopping in Open RvR, and I look at my quests and the 10 minute run and it just breaks my spirit. I can’t hop on a bird to the place where I left off. Why not?

The 3.0.8 WoW Patch

I played more WAR than anything this week. Mostly because WoW had been patched and it made the game unplayable for the past few nights. On top of that, I had to figure out if my spec was going to be different and re-spend my talent points.

I’m enjoying the Chosen class I am playing in WAR recently. Being a tank has some real advantages. Especially if you can find a good healer and keep the baddies off them. Some real synergy there for sure.

I still have not found a good guild. The Dark Crag server has a real active community on it, and I have not yet had a night where something wasn’t going on. But, the guilds I have tried out so far seem kinda meh. Maybe it’s just because I am not max level yet.

Why does this bother me so?

I was really hopeful that the new expansion for World of Warcraft would clear up the problems I had with equipment. But, like most things, those hopes have slowly faded as I see more and more of the end game.

One of the fundamental basics of game design is to help players not gimp themselves. If a melee player doesn’t know his hit cap (which is very very hard to find out based on the game alone), he can easily get too much and gimp himself. The “fix” is to have lots of third party forums, articles, spreadsheets, and simulators to help people try to even understand their gear choices.

Though, if you think about it, the game also doesn’t show you how well you do outside of living or dying. Mix in random effects that can kill players for “challenge” and you have a perfectly obscured system that has no measurable method of knowing how well you are doing or how to become better.

I challenge any raiding group in WoW to raid under these conditions.

  • No mods. That means no threat meters, no decursive, no DPS meters, nothing.
  • Each piece of gear that drops has to be worn by someone as you make progress through the content. Obviously, harder content means better gear.

I put forth these rules because I think that without the fabrications and discoveries of players, the content in the game would be too hard and too confusing. People would be poorly geared and unable to know how well they are doing. Prove me wrong.


I need the good community. Not so much for WoW, but for WAR. Warhammer Online is all about the PvP and you need a good sized, active community to really enjoy it. So far, I have not found a great guild. They all seem to have ten or more inactive players and maybe three or four active players. Even if they are in an alliance, the alliance is a graveyard channel.

I suppose WAR doesn’t need much community. Open groups and scenarios take care of finding a group. And that’s half the effort. Granted, those people can suck and make life frustrating. It means every group is only as good as it’s average player. Guilds can practice, establish better communications and build expectations on performance. Guilds can offer consistancy to the RvR in WAR. And that’s what I want.

Dark Crag

I rolled up a new Warhammer class on the Dark Crag server. I had read that the server was popping and I knew of a guild on the server. So, why not give it a shot? The 500 person queue on my WoW server was a subtle hint.

I can’t comment on the guild much yet, but the server it totally crammed with crazy action. I did “join all” for tier one scenarios and I got into all three scenarios and they had plenty of people in them on both sides. I even did quite a bit of tier one open RvR. That’s pretty impressive for WAR.