Gamers Bill of Rights…

September 01st, 2008 | Category: Games

Stardock (the marvelous people that have brought us softwarer such as Windowblinds and the game Sins of a Solar Empire), and games developer Gas Powered Games (Dungeon Siege, Supreme Commander) have come up with a Bill Of Rights for gamers.

  1. Gamers shall have the right to return games that don’t work with their computers for a full refund.
  2. Gamers shall have the right to demand that games be released in a finished state.
  3. Gamers shall have the right to expect meaningful updates after a game’s release.
  4. Gamers shall have the right to demand that download managers and updaters not force themselves to run or be forced to load in order to play a game.
  5. Gamers shall have the right to expect that the minimum requirements for a game will mean that the game will adequately play on that computer.
  6. Gamers shall have the right to expect that games won’t install hidden drivers or other potentially harmful software without their express consent.
  7. Gamers shall have the right to re-download the latest versions of the games they own at any time.
  8. Gamers shall have the right to not be treated as potential criminals by developers or publishers.
  9. Gamers shall have the right to demand that a single-player game not force them to be connected to the Internet every time they wish to play.
  10. Gamers shall have the right that games which are installed to the hard drive shall not require a CD/DVD to remain in the drive to play.

Now lets go through these step by step (my own opinions of course, yours might differ)

1. Gamers shall have the right to return games that don’t work with their computers for a full refund.
Cant fault this one. Having worked in computer game retail, i have had to refuse refunds for people who said that it didnt work on their machine, and i didnt know if they were lieing or not. More often than not, these games ALSO had a serial key attatched to it, so that made it harder to work out if it had been installed or not. Retailers should be able to request replacement keys with minimal issues from the publisher to make this easier as well. Of course, then you are hoping that the person hasn’t copied the game and stolen the registration key

2. Gamers shall have the right to demand that games be released in a finished state.
Indeed they should be. Games released shouldnt require patching at release to be in a playable state. This includes MMORPG’s as well. The game should be playable and “complete” at launch. MMO’s are typically more guilty of this than other games, but even so they still crop up (Championship Manager 2004 springs to mind, where you could win a game 3-0 and the computer would still mark that down as a lose in the league tables o.O)

3. Gamers shall have the right to expect meaningful updates after a game’s release.
Harder one to comment here, because if a game is released “complete” then there might not be any extra content available to be released for it. Some genres are naturally harder to “add to” than others. This could be the start of episodic content (maybe for a fee), along similar lines to Sam And Max currently. MMORPG’s are typically excluded from this list, as they do require new content to be created on a (semi) regular basis to keep the subscribers happy (City of Hero’s, Tabula Rasa, World of Warcraft). Guild Wars is strange as Nightfall and Factions are “standalone expansions” ie they work by themselve BUT also add to the original game

4. Gamers shall have the right to demand that download managers and updaters not force themselves to run or be forced to load in order to play a game.
Hmm this is a hard one…. for OFFLINE games, i totally agree with it, but for online gaming though, it is part and parcel of the experience as patches are released that might smooth things out for the general gamer (and correct imbalances). Having the download manager present though (but not compulsary to use) would be better than having to search for your own source of the patch (have hated doing that in the past). The publisher should host their OWN patches, and deliver them (or notifications of updates) themselve or make it known as to WHO is hosting the patches, and make them accesible without having to sign up to 30million different website (fileplanet i look at you due to how easy it is to get lost over there :D)

5. Gamers shall have the right to expect that the minimum requirements for a game will mean that the game will adequately play on that computer.
The minimum specifications of the game should be to run the game at “Average” settings, with Recommended being able to run it at “High” settings. Does this mean that games should currently be aimed at “lower” end PC’s currently? Maybe… but at least make it easier for the consumer to know if the game will run on their PC. They arent all techno wizkids. Now saying that, the Games for Windows specification could be a way forward for this, but even so, I know people who run Vista and DONT know what their PC scores are (it could be printed on the hardware box, or have an easy to find way to compare it. Games for Windows ALSO shouldnt be Vista only, but for XP (and older). Granted saying that, i do know how hard it can be, as sometimes a hardware manufacturer “tweaks” the hardware a little bit, and it breaks on one game and one game only (or so says my Games Programmer friend).

6. Gamers shall have the right to expect that games won’t install hidden drivers or other potentially harmful software without their express consent.
STUPID STUPID Starforce protection (and SecureROM)…. why dont you uninstall when i uninstall the ONLY game that has that copy protection on it? Hell, why on earth is copy protection present in the first place? Are you afraid that I will copy the game and sell it on? And whats worse, depending on the VERSION of copy protection on the game, it might not even run if you have more upto date programs installed (Process Explorer for example from Sysinternals/Microsoft). I can see WHY there are checks in place maybe, but for christs sake… if people are going to pirate the game, then they will also get the crack as well so that they DONT have the [censored] protection in place.

7. Gamers shall have the right to re-download the latest versions of the games they own at any time.
Once you have bought the game, you should be able to play it as and when you want. If there are patches/expansions for the game that i have bought, i would like to be able to download those as well at the same time with minimal issues.

8. Gamers shall have the right to not be treated as potential criminals by developers or publishers.
Please please please let me install the game on multiple PC’s that i have. Dont let me be limited to a stupidly low number of activations. Dont tie it down to the hardware that i have on the computer, for I, as a gamer can and will upgrade my PC (and maybe even have multiple PC’s) and i dont want to waste activations on a reinstall/hardware upgrade. All your copy protections do is harm the NORMAL computer user. Someone who playes the pirated games will more than likely have the protection/limitation removed (and therefore more than likely enjoy the game more)

9. Gamers shall have the right to demand that a single-player game not force them to be connected to the Internet every time they wish to play.
Why do i need the internet if i am playing by myself? Another limitation that affects more people than you think. Especially seeing as gaming laptops are getting more common (or at least powerful enough to run games). Or are the publishers forgetting that not everyone HAS the internet in the 1st place.

10. Gamers shall have the right that games which are installed to the hard drive shall not require a CD/DVD to remain in the drive to play.
I buy a game, i install it, i store the disc safely away. If i have to keep on putting the disc into the drive, it WILL eventually get scratched/damaged (its happened to me). And if you have MULTIPLE drives on the PC (suprisingly common) PLEASE let the game work no matter which drive i put the disc in (and NOT just the one you isntalled from). Also the drives can change letters when you install a new hard drive/card reader… so again, another issue (i seem to sometimes spend more time swapping drive letters around to make sure everything works correctly than i do playing the game).

Bleah long post, adn just a few thoughts…. your opinions please.

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Sad day

August 14th, 2008 | Category: Games, MMO

Well as you may (or may not know), NCsoft released their figures for Q2 of 2008.

Now whilst it looks like NCsoft are in a bit of a downer (looking at their bottom line), you have to also remember that this year, there has been NO Guild Wars expansion this year.

On the plus side though, Tabula Rasa (yes it IS still going, and looking better than it was a few months ago i have to admit) and City of Heroes both had their earnings increase in the past Quarter (ie more subscribers are coming into the game)

Unfortunately on the flip side of the increase in subscribers, the drop in earnings though has meant that some belt strings have had to be tightened.

So whilst Tabula Rasa is (so far) unaffected in terms of development, and City of Heroes has taken on more coders, Dungeon Runners though has suffered a HUGE cut in the number of people working on it (from 18 down to 5).

One of the most well known people for Dungeon Runners (who had also been in the NCsoft family for many a year, going from City of Heroes, to Tabula Rasa and then to Dungeon Runners) was April “CuppaJo” Burba.

But other losses are also Crickette (Dungeon Runners Community person) and Scott “Lum The Mad” Jennings

So for all those that find themselves with a path laying ahead of them, and they dont know where it goes; follow your heart and your dreams will come true. And you will be missed by the community and players of your games greatly.

Gangrel

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Forums, Forums, Forums… and trials as well

May 28th, 2008 | Category: Games, MMO, Rant

Ahhh, dont you just love the sweet smell of flamewar in the morning?

Well depending on the forums that you frequent this might be a regular occurance.

I shall copy what was directly said on a forum that I frequent (note, this is the 3rd post in a thread which started off saying how nice and peaceful the general section was after it was decided to move all “Rants and Flames” into their own section)

ep. All 15 people that are still playing are enjoying their short-bus game w/ no interuptions from non-fanbois. While 90% of the people that held on for TR to get good have washed their hands and moved on.
Most of them to AoC. Since they catch so much flak for pointing out TR’s short comings, whether in an informative post or bashing, they’ve left the site dwellers and mods here to bask in their pithy soloable game. GRATZ!!!

See you in AoC, 2 months after you hit 50! (or after the next patch that’s “deployed” and nerfs more unbroken game aspecs).

Now whilst I have my own opinions of said forum (which i have made known on a couple of occasions, and recieved warnings over) the above quote made me think a little bit.

If you are running an MMO, and you have “Official” Forums, I would assume that you would at least make them visible to non-subscribed members of the community. Hell even portal websites (MMORPG.com, Gamespot, IGN, TenTonHammer et al) allow you to view their forums without being a subscriber to the game.

Why make the forums visible to non subscribers of the game? Well if they are official forums, then they will have the finger on the pulse of the game. You will be able to, and very fast as well, be able to gauge the “state of play” for the game. City of Heroes/Villains, World Of Warcraft, Eve Online, hell even everyones favourite “company you just love to hate” SOE allow non-subscribers to view the forums (even if you cant post on the game).

Funcom seemed to have done the reverse of what Destination Games (Developers of Tabula Rasa) have done. At least with DG they let the Devs post on “unofficial” forums… seeing as there a NO official forums for Tabula Rasa.

In this situation Funcom have “locked” themselves into a black box right now… Whoever is inside it (ie subscribed) can hear everything fine, whilst those on the outside can only hear mumblings of what is happening (via portal websites/forums). And normally as well, they are of a higher “signal to noise” ratio than official sources.

So how are we (the common, maybe slighty interested punter) going to get info on the game?

Right now its hard to say. Official forums are a No-No (see above), there are no major reviews for the game (just yet), and also on top of that portal sites seem to be split on “if the game is good/ the game is bad” (take your pick of any site, and chances are you will see “this game sucks, and this is why” posts, OR its more “tech support/asking about what class can i pwn newbs with)

So that leaves us with three (yes 3!) avenues.

1) Wait for a review

2) Get your hands on a trial code and give it a shot yourself

3) Take the plunge and buy the game yourself.

Ah-ha, but each of these has a catch though (for point 3 it should be pretty obvious)

1) Wait for a review
Yes you can wait for a review of the game, but for MMO’s these normally come a couple of months after the game has been released, although they might do a “quick hands on” feature for it. MMO’s (at release) can be a bug filled mess. I say can be, as there have been games released that have had pretty smooth launches (Lord Of The Rings Online being one example that springs to mind).

Reviews are going to be skewed slightly as they generally avoid “the community” by and large and just focus on the game itself (which is not a bad thing especially early on in the games life). But hangon, even if the game DOES have it short fallings (or is even “Teh best game in the world eva!!!11!!elevnty!”), the community itself is what makes or breaks a game.

2) Get your hands on a trial code and give it a shot yourself
Again, Funcom seem to have shot themselves in the foot (either deliberately or accidentally) on this one. You see, they have done the sensible thing and given a “buddy code” to each copy of the game that you buy (5 buddy codes in collectors editions)…. BUT have chosen not to make them usable until they get the game/servers stable enough (granted this is where I might give them the benefit of the doubt).

So what does this say to me… well it can be one of 2 ways. On one hand, the game could be soooo over subscribed that the servers cannot cope, and Funcom got caught unawares with it; and on the other hand it could also mean that the game isnt ready yet (hang on though, wasnt it originally meant to have been released October of last year, and then again over Easter, and then they pushed it back again? Makes you wonder doesnt it?)

So why on earth did they say that you could use the buddy codes at release? Why did they even announce it? To get punters in fast and early (marketing for the win)… although in this case it does seem like there is some spin on it.

And when/IF there are ever going to be official trials for AoC, they had better do a dual DVD version that you can buy in a shop as well…. not everyone can/has the bandwidth available to download 13GB in the space of a few days (yay! more time taken up downloading the game!)

Now at least when City of Heroes did their Trial Codes, there wasnt a delay as to when you could apply them to your account. Even WoW had the option to use it immediately (although WoW at launch had it owns issues)

and then there is

3) Take the plunge and buy the game yourself.
Would suck though if you didnt like the game in the 1st place though wouldnt it… especially as you have to take a risk on “can my PC run it”

Ok enough ranting (as it were) about Age of Conan (as i know i have done a large enough derailment as my mind wanders along a certain paths)

So why was I ranting about this? Well it appears that unhappy member(s) of said forum are looking at a place to vent their anger towards the old(er) game that disappointed them (although saying that, just make the one post explaining your reason in a clear concise and NON-ranting way would be accepted) and then move on… Check back every now and then but don’t keep on chewing the same old issues (they might not necessarily still be valid, or infact they might never be changed fullstop).

For me Forums are the place to go and see what the community is like. With official forums, you can get that feeling pretty fast; with unofficial forums though, you might have to scour 2 or 3 of them to get a general feeling (especially if they are in a “slow” period)

I will do the whole “We haz forums” Vs “We haz no forums” discussion later on in more depth….

3 comments

Grouping in MMO’s

May 24th, 2008 | Category: MMO

Well, lets get the cat out of the bag, note that i WILL be honest in my thoughts here, so i am sorry if i offend people (and their favourite MMO).

As you may well know, i play Tabula Rasa (link provided to the right of the page), and every week there is a “Feedback Friday” (oooh i might as well write up my own thoughts and opinions here about it each week come to think of it) and this week they spoke about what was upcoming… something that although seems quite obvious i have yet to see implemented in an MMO (forgive me though IF it has been done before)…

Squad merging

Now having played several MMO’s in the past, i have grouped up with other players on a regular basis. Now one of the major problems that has ALWAYS cropped up, no matter the game, is when 2 half-full groups try to join up… and this is a “partly” true quote (only partly as its taken from the Feedback Friday, but i can relate to what follows though)

”Hey, you guys are in a group, you need to leave. I’ll invite you.”
”No, you leave. We have more people.”
”brb - bio”
”Oh fine, we’ll disband, but we’ll need an invite.”
”Um.. I think someone’s afk, so you guys really should leave your group.”
”Fine, I’ll disband. Everyone disband now.”
”Wait, did you guys disband too! OMG!!!! Epic fail.”
”That’s it…. I’m coming over so we can work this out. Get a soda and leave your computers unlocked.”

Now raise your hands if this has ever happened to you?

Good, so you know how annoying this is when 2 or more groups try to join up into a larger group. So what the designers have designed to do is tweak their “invite” system… you can invite a player/group to join your own OR you can offer to join another squad/player with your character/squad.

Now that is something that I would personally like to see happen more in other MMO’s. What I would also like to see as well is a better LFG (Looking For Group) system for Tabula Rasa as well (I still feel that City Of Heroes has THE best LFG tool that i have experianced so far), actually lets take that one step further… a Looking For Group tool for TR would please me as well.

*insert slight diversion*

In response to this weeks feedback though, someone pointed out that actually having a reason to group up would be nice as well…. They are semi accurate on that point.

To an extent.

(so yes, sorry if this is a long post)

Yes, you can solo most of the game, but you also have remember that the instances are designed for more than 1 player (well if you wanted to it at the recommended level I would definately bring friends), OR you can wait till later and then play them by yourself (and be boring)

I am not the best example of this as i have indeed “waited my time” so that i could do the missions in the instances by myself, as sometimes getting a group together was just tooo much hassle.

*back on track*

So what does this mean for Tabula Rasa?

Well I see it as MORE people grouping up, as it will be easier to join up. I see this as well becoming an almost integral part of the LFG system (which would show you how many people the player is grouped up with, and IF they are taking invites etc), maybe even so far as to the list of players in the group and what class they are (as well as their level as well)… THAT would be something that i would like to see in that system….

Oh and dont forget the individual player comments as well (such as “NO BLIND INVITES” *grumble grumble*). That would make it a nice LFG tool in my eyes….

And also makes me look forward to the content where I HAVE to group up (granted the last 2 zones make it pretty much essential to group up to even think about attempting them instance wise, and Descent is still pretty much a death zone, unless you are 50 and have a death wish). Hell even for Control Point assaults and defence, grouping is always nice to have…. cant get enough of that grouping XP and watching the levels fly by…

Gangrel, in hunt of more coffee

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