Unbelievable In-game Art

Looks, like one of my predictions is coming true: Heavenly Sword in-game art looks so beautiful, that people have trouble finding words to describe it – as you can see on that Ninja Theory Forums.

The above picture is not modified high-resolution image for promotional use. It’s actually an in-game shot with resize, lighting and depth of field then applied to the scene so that it can be used as a desktop wallpaper. See Kotaku and Ninja Theory Forums for the original story.

I remember when I saw player face textures in NHL ’97 and thought “this is unbelievable”. Well, I guess I have to find another meaning for word “unbelievable”. Because this Heavenly Sword image is unbelievable.

Another Approach on MMO 2.0 – Outback Online Challenges Second Life

It didn’t take long for things to change after I wrote about Acclaim’s newest MMO project: that project will let anyone to sign-up to develop the game (although I don’t know how much contributions will make it to the actual game). Well, today I read about Outback Online, and I think we’ve now found what MMO 2.0 could mean: players getting more control over content. These guys are really making the development public: they will let players define the rules, the things to be done.

The Sydney Morning Herald covered an article about this project. Basically the developers are producing a virtual world using peer-to-peer computing rather than having centralized servers. P2P in massive multiplayer games isn’t technlogically new, but it hasn’t been much used in a larger scale. I’ve heard about some smaller projects that take advantage of P2P, but not any big ones. In Outback Online they seem to be using the technology to really take the next step in MMO genre.

Some quotes from the SMH’s article:

Outback Online is a virtual world system that will be on your computer 24/7, and we don’t yet know what changes that’s going to bring, but we’ve got an inkling that will be pretty profound,” Mr Leeb-du Toit says.

In the new world, an ‘outback’ is equivalent to Second Life’s islands – a hub for users.

It’s an environment in which one can talk, build and play. Yoick’s Phil Morle calls it “a huge box of Lego”. You can develop private outbacks for friends or a concert for 5000 visitors.

To me this sounds like combination of Digg, MySpace, or similar social sites and gaming – in a MMO play field. If these guys really successfully manage to handle this project, I think they’ve found a winner.

And they seem to be aiming high. Read how they commented the system compared to Second Life:

Second Life has 3.8 million subscribers in its thriving economy. But Yoick chief executive Randal Leeb-du Toit says Second Life is a village – and he’s nearly finished building Rome.

Unlimited, open scalable worlds – I think that sounds exactly what MMO games be in the future. I believe there’s probably lots of hype and lots of issues they need to handle. For example, technical problems need to be solved. What happens when P2P participants suddenly disconnect (in a really large scale)? What about security? Storing information? Viruses? Cheats? Then the business model: it’s not clear to me how these folks are going to monetize the system: will they charge fees from players? Will they have ads in the system? Will they license the engine/network/code/system? Will they do consultation? Will they write books? Will they sell the whole system to some big company after a successful launch? There’s also strategic risks involved: what if some big corporation has already been developing a similar system (or clones their system) and brings competing product in the market using a heavy promotion.

Nevertheless, I’m quite sure Outback Online or some other similar system will make their mark on defining the next generation massively multiplayer games.

For people interested in beta testing Outback Online, check out: outbackonline.com. I already signed up out of curiosity.

MMO 2.0

Few days ago I wrote about the future of MMO games, and spoke about the need of innovation. Today I saw GameIndustry.biz reporting Perry to produce community built MMO. EDIT: Today I remembered that David Perry was the president of Shiny Entertainment and not the producer of Myst III: Exile as I first said in this post. Myst was produced by Dan Irish. Perry wrote a foreword for book The Game Producer’s handbook by Dan Irish, and my memory played a trick on me.)

Anyway, the key idea in that news is that Acclaim is offering community of developers – not just their “core team” – to contribute to the project. I don’t know if this project will be successful or not, but to me it sounds exactly something that could bring fresh new ideas to the whole massively multiplayer genre. With the increasing number of Web 2.0 applications and user generated content, it sounds like “MMO 2.0″ could mean “player/community made MMO gaming”.

Howard Marks, CEO of Acclaim, commented this project named “Top Secret”:

“Top Secret is like The Apprentice meets American Idol meets The Video Game Industry”

I don’t know how far they will go by letting the community create the game, but at least for producers wanting to get in the game industry this looks like a nice opportunity. And hopefully the project will evolve to something else than a MMO game where players start by killing lots of rats.

If you are interested in help them in design/ideas/art/animation/audio or other, feel free to check out Top Secret Project website.

Can Indie Developers Build a Successful MMOG

I just found out about the Indie MMO Game Development Conference that takes place April 14th – 15th, 2007 at Minneapolis, MN, USA. I must say that I was impressed since I didn’t realize there wouldn’t even be such events like this. One of the featured speakers is Brian Green (aka Psychochild), so I bet there will be some informative sessions there.

IMGDC describes the conference in the following way:

The IMGDC is a much needed conference that is geared towards the ever-growing world of Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG) and the Indie developers who dream to cut themselves a piece of the MMO market pie. Designers and developers alike will find useful tracks and discussion groups at the conference. This conference is here to prove that Indie developers can and should be successful in the MMOG market.

I wrote in the past about MMORPG production and even answered to couple of questions about MMORPGs. I believe that tools such as Multiverse will help indies make MMO games, but there still lots of work to do. Presumably the conference will shed light on how to succeed in MMO production. We’ll see how the event goes in April.

The registration fees seemed quite decent (especially for the next couple of days, since the fees go up after 15th February). Here are their rates:

* Early Bird special rate: $49.99 until December 15th, 2006.
* Normal rate: $99.99 until February 15th, 2007
* Late registration rate: $149.99 starting February 16th, 2007.

You may register here.

If you wish to find out more about the event, there’s speaker bios and other information available at their website.

Windows Vista Released – What Happens to Indie Games?

Rumors and opinions

I’ve heard so many rumors about Windows Vista that it starts to be quite hard to track what’s really going on. In one indiegamer discussion thread there was some debate regarding the DRM (digital rights management) and how it’s done in Vista. It looks like Microsoft people are enforcing the DRM (compared to older windows versions) and how this affects is left to see. I know that personally I hate being forced to do something when I’m a good customer – and I actually wrote about this in the past. There are good points (in theory it should help against piratism), but it might be just really annoying to user in the end.

Security rumors

In the BBC article there was talk about the improved security. Bill Gates was reported to say that “Vista is more secure than other operating systems”. As we look in the past “secure” operating systems – and the need for security patches one after one – I have my own concerns. Finnish security professional from F-secure “It’s dramatically more secure than, say, Windows 3.x, Windows 95, Windows NT, Windows 2000 or Windows XP. However, it’s fundamentally not more secure than operating systems like FreeBSD, QNX, AS/400 etc, I would claim it’s not even as secure as another operating system from Microsoft; namely the operating system inside the Xbox 360.”. That’s something I can believe, and I bet we will see security packs in the future.


Then there has been talk about Vista’s compatibility: will older games work with Vista? Some people have reported problems, while some have said their products have worked fine. I wrote earlier that Vista wouldn’t affect indie game development – and took the older technology perspective arguing that since many indie games are played 5 year old computers which cannot run Vista. That’s why Vista won’t affect development of games that are targeted to older machines. Naturally Vista affects newer game development, AAA title development and eventually (when more and more people are moving to using Vista) it will affect casual games more and more. I thought Vista’s problem would be technical but there might actually be bigger issues: Game Explorer’s malware protection and ESRB ratings.

Rumors about Vista’s Game Explorer and ESRB rating killing casual distribution

ESRB rating is – roughly speaking – a symbol that lets people know if the game is suitable for kids or not. Unfortunately ESRP rating is expensive for indies and meant for bigger titles. This means Vista’s Game Explorer will give hard time for casual games. Besides the ESRP rating, the problem is the notifications about “hazardous” products. There was an article about this problem in GamaSutra which goes into detail regarding this.


I really don’t know what kind of conclusions to draw from the discussions. I bet DRM will be annoying, but it’s eventually the consumers who decide what happens: we are the ones who buy stuff or not. What happens to casual distribution is left to see, but I would expect Vista getting a lot of lawsuits if big games portals couldn’t let people install their casual games without warnings.

I suppose time will tell.

Casual Games Are Beating the AAA Titles

Gamespress reported that Eidos – one of the world’s leading publishers and developers of entertainment software – announced a distribution deal with premium casual game developer and publisher MumboJumbo. They will release six top PC game franchises to European retail on 9th February 2007.

The six hit titles have all been featured prominently in the global download charts, with combined sales of over two million copies to-date. The titles to be released to European retail include: Jewel Quest, Luxor: Amun Rising, Super Collapse! 3, Cubis 2, Chainz 2: Relinked and 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.

If you look at for example the Luxor game, it has a darn simple idea, pretty graphics, different levels – all things that every game might have. But something made it a hit game and now it’s going to be published by one of the biggest game publishers in the world. Casual games are getting more and more coverage and deals like this will guarantee the increasing trend of casual gaming.

One Unit Purchased Every Second

Some days ago I mentioned about the Wii success and then I saw interesting figures from gamesindustry.biz. Nintendo UK has reported that 50,000 units of the console were sold in just 12 hours. That’s one unit purchased every second according to them.

BBC reported about the sales – but from different point-of-view: “Wii shortages frustrating gamers”. Wii has not been shipped in many places and not every customer has had a chance to get the console delivered to them. Some people have pre-ordered Wii months ago, and still cannot get their hands on the vehicle anytime soon.

That’s a real problem for Nintendo, and there’s another problem knocking on the door: there has been a lawsuit about the Wii-mote patent.

We’ll see how it will go in the future – whether Nintendo can get enough consoles for customers and whether the patent issue is going to interrupt their business.

Wii Success

When I first heard about new game console Wii I thought it would face the same end as “interactive movies” – bad. I thought the new Wii controller wouldn’t be user friendly. I thought it would be way too strange to use.

Today I think quite the opposite. I heard Finnish people – who had given a chance to test Wii – saying that the controller actually works, and is fun to use. I also read a story that says Wii selling millions: “We will sell everything we make, so now it’s a manufacturing thing”. Same time PlayStation 3 is in trouble: Because of logistic problems they couldn’t manage to get enough consoles to stores in Japan and many people are choosing Wii over PlayStation 3 because of the PS3 high price.

I really think Wii will be successful in the future – it already is. The games seem to be more about innovative ways to use the controller, so there might be room for indie game producers to start considering Wii as their target platform.