Good Thing You Formed An LLC

I’m pretty sure the NFL, NCAA, Collegiate Licensing Company, NFLPA, EA, Sony & Microsoft should all want a piece of this guy’s company considering this and other legal action. I found his site through a targeted Gmail ad above my inbox, so he isn’t being too discreet. Actually verbatim from the site:

Last year we broke into mainstream media with a bang. Our president, Brian Kaldenberg, was featured on several prominant[sic] websites including ESPN, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune and MSNBC.com just to name a few. We were also written about by the Assocaited[sic] Press and the story posted in over 100 newspapers across the nation.

So yeah, not discreet at all. Good for him though, providing a valuable service regarding a problem that the Powers That Be refuse to solve.

Here’s the Door

Looks like EA threw out Mark Jacobs in the recent Mythic/Bioware rejiggering.

Early in May, Electronic Arts let me know that they wanted to make some changes within the Games Label and as a result of those changes I have been out of the office (and out of touch with the team, game, etc.) since that day.

He’s a classy guy, so what he is saying seems to be that EA fired him without notice and forbid him any time to wrap things up or say goodbyes. It happened to me, but I didn’t found the goddamn studio. At least he probably has a pile of money from the sale of Mythic to comfort him. Here’s hoping him the best.

In Defense of the Plebian Joystick Users

My name is Zack and I play PC games with an Xbox 360 controller.

I know, I know. I can hear the scoffing already. Clearly, it is inferior. Clearly, I must be a 14-year old Halo kiddie. Clearly, everyone in a multiplayer match playing the “right way” will murder me (actually, I do quite fine for myself in TF2 thanks). Clearly, I am wrong. And PC developers must think I am wrong. But I don’t want to be right.

My left hand doesn’t like the “claw” position I have to contort to to use the W-A-S-D keys for movement. I’m always hitting F or E by accident anyway. I have to look down to find R or T while the buttons on a gamepad are nicely spaced. And keyboards are digital. I can’t “kind of” hit A where I could nudge on an analog joystick.

I have a preference. I’m not alone.

But I tried to play Battlefield Heroes yesterday and after fighting with the installer, I could find no joystick support. I am spoiled. In Team Fortress 2 or Left 4 Dead or Fallout 3, one simple command enables support with the 360 controller. So I quit. Not worth my time.

I downloaded Morrowind off of Steam last night. The game was ported to Xbox, so clearly it can support a joystick. Sure, it “supports” a joystick, but not well. I had to download a third party app to get it working, (Joy2Key solutions are stop gap) but I still have to switch often between mouse and keyboard control, where on the Xbox version I could control everything by the joystick.

PC developers can piss and moan that they are being run out of business by the monolithic habits of the console hardware providers, but they provide something that PC devs are unwilling to provide: simplicity.

Committee

Here’s something interesting: there’s a studio trying to have their audience design their next game. The studio is called Roundhouse Interactive and for some reason or another has former professional wrestler Trish Stratus on its board. The idea is that customers pay for the game up front which finances the development and then the studio receives user-submitted ideas which are voted on day-to-day.

While the process itself is an interesting experiment (can they really get 100k subscribers without giving them anything right away?), I have serious doubts about whether they can make a compelling game with this model. Every memorable game in history comes from a clear design direction, usually with one lead designer steering decisions to comply with that vision. Can a committee achieve the same focus? My experience with design-by-committee says no. So either the studio is signed on to make a mediocre game in order to have an innovative process or they plan on manipulating the votes or massaging the questions in order to get the game they want to do.

Naturally, designing a poll and putting it out there for votes and discussion takes time and often important design decisions need to be made at the drop of a hat once the game is actually in production. So my thoughts are that they will only ask for input on time-insensitive and low-risk items: what should the character look like? What kind of gun should he have? What is the world’s name? Which box art do you like? &c.,

The linked article doesn’t have comments, and the developer’s site is behind a regwall, so I’m interested in what people think. Can this work or is it just an exercise in process?

Under the Radar – BCFX

I remember seeing a promo video for Black College Football Xperience a few years ago. Working in a studio whose bread and butter was football games, I was always excited to see other takes on the game even when they were significantly less than stellar or vaporware (plz bi our companee thx). But I remember it being a PC only product (and rightfully so for something that was pretty niche), but now I see that it is getting a full Xbox 360 release. Metacritic has no clue that it is coming out since they list no entry, so I hope there is at least a demo. It is coming out bargain-priced which is… never a good sign, but still my curiosity is piqued. And how this gets around NCAA exclusivity is anybody’s guess. If it wasn’t a football game, I’d probably sarcastically scream OH BOY MINIGAMES and delete it from my memory.

Oh, and guys, referees wear white hats. ::rolleyes::

Mafia Wars Cuba Field Strategy Guide

As you can see from the timestamp below, I stopped updating this in June 09. From my server logs, I see that many people are still coming to this page. You should know that since Zynga is constantly changing the game, many (most) of this information is out of date. Take that as you will – z.

Last Updated on 13 June 2009.

As promised, here is the companion to my Mafia Wars Field Strategy Guide. The format has changed slightly since there is only one consumable item in the entire expansion.

The focus in Cuba is on cash and so I have added a column for approximate cash and one for approximate cash per energy point. Since the amount of cash is rolled randomly, I can only supply a midpoint for the range given. Results may vary. Also, as with the previous guide, these numbers may differ from yours due to the bonuses given by your Masterminds, Wheelmen, etc. Regardless, since these apply across the board, it shouldn’t affect the rank order of any of your choices.

Since the focus of advancement is on cash, you will want to outfit your businesses as quickly as possible and boost their output and quality.

A potential area that may be missed is that instead of a per-hour upkeep cost as items had in the NY Mafia Wars, items here have a percentage grift cost. What this means is that having excess weapons, armor or vehicles will greatly hinder your progress. My advice for this is to tackle one job tier at a time and get rid of the items that you will not need in subsequent tiers as quickly as possible. For instance, the machete and hatchet are not needed past the Soldado tier, so get rid of them when you master that tier and you will get an extra 0.5% cash for each job per item you dump.

As you will see in the chart, there is little variation in XP/EN or ~CASH/EN. Both seem to increase incrementally as you progress through the job tiers. The one exception is in the final tier where “Set Up A High Volume Smuggling Operation” yields quite a bit more cash per energy point. At this point though you will have pretty much conquered the entire expansion, so there is little benefit to grinding that job.

Address any questions you have in the comments and I will do my best to answer.

El Soldado XP EN XP/EN ~CASH ~CASH/EN
Rob Your Cab Driver 16 11 1.455 250 $22.73
Secure A Safehouse 51 33 1.545 750 $22.73
Intimidate The Locals 74 48 1.542 1100 $22.92
Silence A Noisy Neighbor 46 30 1.533 750 $25.00
Smuggle In Some Supplies 47 31 1.516 800 $25.81
Set Up A Numbers Racket 63 41 1.537 1250 $30.49
Establish Contact With The FRG 53 35 1.514 1050 $30.00
Take Out The Local Police Chief 58 38 1.526 1175 $30.92
“Persuade” A Local To Talk 73 47 1.553 1750 $37.23
Assault A Snitch’s Hideout 79 52 1.519 1800 $34.62
El Capitan XP EN XP/EN ~CASH ~CASH/EN
Transport A Shipment Of US Arms 62 39 1.590 1375 $35.26
Meet With the FRG Leadership 57 35 1.629 1325 $37.86
Hold Up A Tour Bus 68 42 1.619 1800 $42.86
Ambush A Military Patrol 76 47 1.617 1950 $41.49
Capture An Army Outpost 83 52 1.596 2300 $44.23
Sneak A Friend Of The Family Into The Country 53 32 1.656 1600 $50.00
Ransack a Local Plantation 64 40 1.600 1950 $48.75
Burn Down A Hacienda 86 54 1.593 2650 $49.07
El Jefe XP EN XP/EN ~CASH ~CASH/EN
Offer “Protection” To A Nightclub 59 35 1.686 1900 $54.29
Rob The Banco Nacional Branch 81 48 1.688 2800 $58.33
Shake Down A Hotel Owner 61 37 1.649 2050 $55.41
Bring The Local Teamsters Under Your Control 72 43 1.674 2700 $62.79
Help The FRG Steal A Truckload Of Weapons 78 47 1.660 2800 $59.57
Hijack A Booze Shipment 71 42 1.690 2850 $67.86
Pillage A Shipyard 80 48 1.667 3050 $63.54
Take Over The Docks 93 56 1.661 3600 $64.29
El Patron XP EN XP/EN ~CASH ~CASH/EN
Muscle In On A Local Casino 71 41 1.732 2950 $71.95
Establish A Loansharking Business 78 46 1.696 3350 $72.83
Eliminate A Rival Family’s Agent 67 39 1.718 3000 $76.92
Pass On Some Intel To The FRG 71 42 1.690 2950 $70.24
Execute A Regional Arms Dealer 80 47 1.702 3700 $78.72
Sink A Competing Smuggler’s Ship 82 48 1.708 3550 $73.96
Gun Down An Enemy Crew At The Airport 90 52 1.731 4300 $82.69
Assassinate An Opposing Consigliere 98 58 1.690 4400 $75.86
El Padrino XP EN XP/EN ~CASH ~CASH/EN
Raid The Arms Depot 85 49 1.735 3800 $77.55
Supply The FRG With Some Extra Muscle 74 43 1.721 3350 $77.91
Capture The Airport 90 52 1.731 4200 $80.77
Knock Off A Visiting Head Of State 83 48 1.729 4400 $91.67
Set Up A High Volume Smuggling Operation 90 51 1.765 6000 $117.65
Blow Up A Rail Line 81 47 1.723 4400 $93.62
Attack The Army Command Post 93 54 1.722 4150 $76.85
Storm The Presidential Palace 112 65 1.723 5750 $88.46

How Dare You Charge Money?

I’m back from a vacation, hence the radio silence and I wanted to wait until I had more content to post, but i am just so disgusted by this that I had to post. I don’t think you should ever talk down to or insult your customers. You shouldn’t take a “if you don’t like it, don’t buy it” attitude because you are just burning bridges. So Valve is being nice. I hope that being a disinterested third party will allow me to say what I believe Valve would love to say.

You signors and complainers are a bunch of spoiled kids.

Do you know how much it takes to run a game studio? The payroll costs alone are mind-boggling. Let’s say they spend a million dollars a month on development. Those costs alone mean that selling a sequel for $40 plus any blood money they have to pay to publishers, retailers and MS/Sony requires 300,000 copies to be moved to break even. This is a low estimate. Should they drain the eight figures just to avoid some kids complaining about how much they are getting?

The fact that Valve updates Team Fortress 2 for nothing makes no sense. They hope that the increased publicity will move copies and that the accumulated good will is worth something. I won’t tell if you don’t.

I bought L4D on Steam for $40. I played it for fifteen-twenty hours or so. That’s a pretty good value. I imagine most of the complainers put in even more hours. That value is independent of when the sequel comes out. It doesn’t affect my enjoyment of playing the original.

So what is the lesson here? Give away something for free and you will receive scorn when you want to charge for something? I wonder how many new companies will take the freebie approach that Valve has taken in the past now? You spoiled brats are ruining it for everyone.

Posts coming in the next few days: more iPhone game reviews, updated Mafia Wars tables to include the Cuba expansion.