Friday, May 16, 2003


The best moment of E3 for me, easily, was meeting Ian Klimon and Adel Chaveleh of Timegate Studios and giving them props. It's good to know that they're part of the Kohan online community; it's good to know that what they're trying to prove with their new game is that they can have the strategic richness of Kohan with the beauty of a WarCraft or Battle Realms; it's good to know that the game is entirely data driven so the mod community can go nuts; it's good to know that they're striving to make the actual Kohans themselves less of an unbalancing, random factor in the game. (My biggest complaint with Kohan is that we actually enjoy it more when we turn that namesake feature off, although the guys online seem to love it.)

The rest of E3 was a drag. No Splinter Cell or Wind Waker to get excited about. If you just look at the stuff on the show floor, it seems that Greg Costikyan is right: innovation is dead. There are supposedly innovative titles out there, such as Half-Life 2 and Fable and The Movies (how can Peter Molyneux work on two games at the same time?), but they weren't on the show floor, and I wasn't about to stand in line to see a movie about a game. And to be honest, after Warren Spector's speech about sequel teams carving out their own space to innovate within, I was expecting more from Thief 3 and Deus Ex 2. Maybe I didn't play them long enough, but I was hoping for at least a Mask of Majora or Wind Waker level of innovation, some kind of Take It To The Next Level sort of thing, or some kind of orthogonal feature that would add a new dimension to the game space. Don't get me wrong; the guys at Ion Storm are still my heroes, and I'll still buy these games and play them and enjoy them. I'll probably get Deus Ex for the PC since you really want that mouse + keyboard action when you screw up and need to blast your way out, and I'll get Thief for the Xbox since it's got that lockpicking mode and doesn't really require those FPS skills.

Speaking of disappointing sequels, saw the Matrix: Load at a crappy theater with blown out speakers near the convention center. I wasn't expecting much, but they somehow got in under my expectations anyway. It wasn't as big a letdown as Phantom Menace, but that's not saying a whole lot. What helped fuck it up (and to keep this blog on topic) were the hooks they added for the videogame to fill in: you have these tangential characters and an epidemic lack of clarity (to quote Jay McInerney) as to how they fit in with the whole picture. To increase my depression the reviews for the game seem to all be saying "Although the gameplay is totally mediocre you should buy this game anyway for the movie footage." If that footage was so important why wasn't it in the movie? Let the game be a game, for Christ's sake.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Orthogonal Elements Redux

The bitch about orthogonal elements--to push the metaphor--is one of your elements may be aligned with Winning The Game, whereas the other are orthogonal to it. For example, your fight game has attacks and defenses, but only attacks win the game. Or you've got a medic unit in your RTS, but it's your soldier that wins the game. I bring this up because I was asking myself "How come the game I'm working on has so few orthogonal elements?" and the answer was we couldn't think of a way to make those orthogonal features actually useful to the player. I'm not sure this is something Harvey Smith went into in his article, and I don't seem to have PowerPoint on this machine so I can't check. I still think orthogonal elements are key, but getting them in is hard work.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Another reason why we play: to learn an actual skill that might have a hint of application in the real world. I've been playing Amplitude during compiles, and telling myself that I've been improving my rhythm. I wonder if regular Amplitude playing could make one a tighter musician during actual jam sessions?