Lionheart

Okay, the Lionheart demo. Lionheart is a fantasy RPG with some historical elements that looks pretty good. The problem is that Lionheart was pitched to the community as “Fantasy Fallout” and that just isn’t the case – combat is much more like Baldur’s Gate or Diablo than Fallout.

Which has ticked some people off.

While I’m not ticked (what, do they owe me a game or something?), I am disappointed. I haven’t played a good tactical turn-based RPG since Jagged Alliance 2. Or Grandia II on the Dreamcast…either way, it’s been years. I was hoping Lionheart would scratch that itch. Looks like it might be The Temple of Elemental Evil instead…though I’ve never really cared for D&D’s mechanics (compared to other, more elegant systems, they are quite clunky).

While Lionheart isn’t going to scratch my turn-based itch, the story elements presented in the demo were far more compelling and coherent than anything I saw in the first five hours of Baldur’s Gate II, so I may still give it a shot.

Here, Bloggy! Nice Bloggy!

I hate the word “blog”. I just hate it. It’s ugly-looking and hard to pronounce in the way that only odd contractions of larger words can be. It also conjures up images of people talking about one subject and one subject only.

So guess what I’m doing to the site?

Yep, that’s right, it’s going to become more bloggy. (God, and if there’s a word I hate more than blog, it’s bloggy). I wanted to keep this site strictly about game design, but the interconnectedness of all things won’t let me. There are simply too many times when I’ve wanted to talk about something here and stopped myself, saying, “Hey, that’s not really about game design.” I’m tired of having to do that.

So while I will still throw down with the frequent beefy post about how to make your games not suck, I’ll also be posting about cool stuff, games in general and life as a game developer here in Austin. I’m not going to mention where I work specifically (and standard boilerplate applies – my opinions are mine, not my employers), but I do want to talk about what life in the “industry” is really like. And hey, I’ve got the “Site Owner and Operator’s Perogative”.

What does this mean? Well for one thing, it means the site will get updated more often! Also, I’m going to be putting together a sort of “Intro to Game History” link bonanza for people who really want to learn about how computer and video gaming started and progressed, as well as links to other blogs that talk about game design (and guess what – there are some!)

Two Men Enter, One Man Leaves. Then The Other Man Leaves After Being Declared The Winner.

I’ve been watching some G4 recently. I’m thoroughly aware that it’s crap, but it’s hard to stop, since I get all the references. And besides, it’s not all crap – shows like Filter and Icon can be pretty interesting.

But I’m not here to talk about them. I’m here to talk about Arena. Yes, the rigged show Wil Wheaton used to host.

Arena bugs me in the worst way – the same way that Privateer II bugged me. It’s an idea that has potential, but because the people behind it were insufficiently motivated to see it through to its proper conclusion, it is therefore a shadow of what it could have been.

I think gaming as a spectator sport could be huge – you’ve got a level of frenetic action that you simply can’t get with any “real” sport, and casual viewers can appreciate and understand brilliant play without having to be brilliant themselves, which is absolutely crucial and is the reason far more people watch football than chess matches.

So if I were going to fix Arena, here’s how I’d do it:

* For God’s sake, populate both teams with players who can actually play! Every ep of Arena I’ve watched has been a complete blowout, with one competent team totally dominating a “team” made of strangers who are unfamiliar with the game. Good players aren’t hard to find, even if you need them to be in your local geographical area to cut down on air travel fees. Your server browser should be all you need to find decent players – look for clans especially.

* Show us the whole game, not just highlights! Since you can save the game data in most games used on Arena, do so and recam it afterwards to get dramatic camera angles and whatnot. An overlay map in the lower-right showing where every player is at all times wouldn’t be hard to do and would help viewers understand what’s going more easily.

* No “celebrities”, no “television personalities”. The commentators should be hardcore gamers themselves capable of putting together an English sentence (*cough*, we’re not that rare). They should know the games they are commenting on cold and should be able to quickly point out interesting circumstances and good play. It’s obvious that the two guys hosting Arena now know just enough about games to be able to tell when someone gets fragged, and that’s it.

* “Lagger’s Choice” (the team lagging after round 2 getting to pick the game for round 3) is a good idea, but in order for it to really mean anything the final prize can’t be awarded on a simple “best two out of three” scheme. But since you can’t really add up the points and award based on that (since the point schemes are vastly different between games – and some games don’t even have them), I propose an “Iron Chef”-style judging panel that judges both teams on each game on an out-of-ten basis and the highest judged point total wins. This means that a team that comes in and loses closely in the first rounds can still win the game overall if they blow out their opponents in the third.

* The entire crew should exhibit a heightened sense of professionalism. They should act like they’re working on the next Monday Night Football – because hey, they might be.

I’d watch such a show. Hell, I’d never miss it.

Update: I caught an ep that did feature a host who knew what he was talking about. That host was Kevin Pereira. He can stay. The rest need to either be replaced with either new hosts who are as knowledgable as Kevin, or a passle of Kevin clones if said hosts are not available.