WOW Expansion Pack

The Burning Crusade, World of Warcraft’s first expansion pack, is out, and presumably, 8 million subscribers will be buying it in the next few weeks. As far as numbers go, it should become the fastest selling videogame in history. Aside from a few bugs and the expected server overloads / crashes, the launch seems to have gone quite smoothly, and most people are loving it (me included!). It is more of the same polished and playable gameplay and content, don’t expect any radical changes.

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AAA Development Contracts

Gamasutra has posted a commented reproduction of the Call of Duty: Their Finest Hour development contract between Sparks Interactive and Activision. This document was made public as part of the legal battle between the two companies. It contains everything: clauses, obligations, warranties, assignment of rights, dates and payments, royalties, key team members – the whole shebang. Three lawyers comment the details of each section, and what problems they think could arise in the future.

If you are at all interested in learning about the workings of development contracts, this is one hell of a chance to do so for free. It won’t turn you into an expert, so certified and competent legal advice is still crucial for your own contracts.

The rough numbers: 21 months, $8.5 millon for a major game on PS2, XBox and Gamecube, in addition to the cost of the game engine, translation and other services that the Activision was to provide.

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Designostic, the Spanish game design site, has been recreated as Gameto. It includes a News section along with the Articles, and a lot of new features. The intent of the site creators is to extend its coverage to all aspects of videogame development. I went ahead and submitted a Review of what I consider to be one of the best games of 2006, Lego Star Wars II.

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Interactive Fiction

In the wake of the Slamdance fiasco (6 finalists have already dropped), I’m ending up checking the entries. I ran into Book & Volume, and thought it might give me new respect for the current state of Interactive Fiction.

After 5 minutes, it’s only given me despair. It works like a classic text adventure: a bunch of text and a prompt where you write what you want to do. So the game starts: I’m in a room, there’s a pager buzzing. Here’s the series of commands from my first session:

>pick pager
>get pager
>open pager
>use pager
>click pager
>look pager
>break pager
>turn off pager

GAME OVER. Apparently, I have a finite amount of actions before the pager kills me. Every command I tried was met with the equivalents of "you can’t do that" or "I don’t recognize that verb".

I have spare time so I’ll try it some more and post in the comments, but boy did I expect things to have improved a bit in the past 25 years.

Edit: It’s obvious this is not a game for me, and it’s somewhat unfair that I criticise it. I’d be interested if someone who appreciates it can explain why. All I’ve found are people who say "it’s great" but don’t really convey a reasoned explanation with comparisons to other games.

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Super Columbine Massacre RPG!

These past days I’ve been increasingly interested in the controversy raised by this game, its inclusion and later removal from the roster of finalists of the Slamdance Festival, and the debates the whole thing has created. I won’t bother linking every piece of the story, as other people have already done so. You can download the game from the Manifesto site, or (given how bad the actual gameplay is) watch a video run of it. If you want to form a complete opinion about the game by yourself, I recommend that you at least play a portion of it.

In Spain we had this kind of controversy back in 2002. A guy wrote a free Flash game where some classic spanish catholic celebrations were turned into a zombie fest massacre. That game was also used as a sort of marketing tool for a rock band CD, but conservative sectors of this country decided that it was offensive and way out of line. Among other things, the CDs including the free game were recalled, the game was forcefully removed from many sites, and the author was taken to court. He faced charges up to 1 year in jail and 8000 euros; three years later, he was absolved and the case dropped. You can read about it here (in Spanish).

It’s a shame that the Festival decided to pull this game against the opinion of the panel of judges and even some of the organisers. It does highlight the fact that the current climate of political correctness reaches very far. It’s great that someone can create and publish such a piece of work.

That said, I think the game is crap, both as a game and as a reflection of the events. What’s worse, it fully embraces the idea that meaningful content in a game should be conveyed through non-interactive means. It’s the gaming equivalent of a badly written, misspell-ridden article that includes some facts about the shooting but is mostly filled with philosophical leftovers and plain garbage. Just because it has created controversy doesn’t mean that it’s meaningful, in the same way that me punching you in the face wouldn’t be a worthy contribution to a debate about violence.

Before playing the game, I thought the author just wanted to make a debatable piece of work but somehow managed to hit some interesting strings. After experiencing it myself, I’m leaning more towards the opposite view: the author wanted to make an insightful piece on the events (and put a lot of work into it), and despite failing to achieve that goal, he’s jumped on the controversy and exposure bandwagon. Kudos to him for trying, and let’s pray that the controversy doesn’t end up with more people convinced that games are intellectually irrelevant after seeing this supposedly insightful game themselves.

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Juul on Goals, Freedom and Challenge

Excellent article here. Worthy alone for the differentiation between having goals and pushing the player in certain directions. It should be obvious that "giving you something to do", and "forcing you to do something" do not need to be present together, but I had never thought of that in the context of sandbox and linear games.

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Happy New Year!

Best wishes to everyone reading this! The rest can go f… nah, best wishes to them as well. 🙂

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