Display the Options

Make things visible on the execution side of an action so that people know what is possible and how actions should be done; make things visible on the evaluation side so that people can tell the effects of their actions.
— The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman

Decoration and interaction appear in non-user-friendly forms, frequently and sometimes intentionally. If done well, the “intentionally” can add to a game; other times, the developers are demanding that you ignore things on one hand and use them with the other.

Games abstract. They include many realistic details to create verisimilitude, but then you are required to treat them as purely decorative. Continue reading Display the Options


I played a bunch of Guild Wars this weekend as I am slowly working on my titles.  17 more Nightfall explorable areas to completely vanquish of mobs, and I will hit “I’m Very Important” from the maxed titles achievement track.  This might come as a surprise to many of you who might think that I should be a “God Walking Amongst Mere Mortals” considering how big a fan of Guild Wars I am.  But, I play Guild Wars for fun, and it is fun.  When it’s not fun (and vanquishing is coming close to not), I stop playing the game or gameplay type within the game.

Although, like many of the casual hardcore club, I have kept my eyes on the prize of having a super-Saiyan Hall of Monuments simply because of the link between Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2.  This goal has conflicted with more fun Guild Wars gameplay like the recent War in Kryta mini-campaign or the inefficient Fort Aspenwood PvP map.  Other things like Eye of the North reputations have slowly been built up, my Sweet Tooth and Party Animal titles are about to break 2,000, and I’ve been hoarding diamonds for the hopeful market jump.  With upcoming Hall of Monuments news, this might all change.

Continue reading HoM-rizon

Class Wars

Commenters elsewhere respond to Ravious’s post on the GW2 Necromancer. Within 24 hours of first Necromancer information, the comments note that Necromancers are overpowered and that Warriors will devastate Necromancers. It is not just that people are commenting on balance for a game they have never played, for which they have no stats, where the game does not even exist yet. It is that people have already chosen their classes and preemptively started calling for nerfs and buffs.

As scissors says, “Rock is imba. Paper’s fine.”

: Zubon

Guild Wars 2 Necromancer Interview

Following up from the official announcement of the Guild Wars 2 necromancer, Eric Flannum, the lead developer for Guild Wars 2 was able to answer a few questions about this dark profession.

The role of the necromancer in Guild Wars was not easily defined, as it straddled the line between hexer, minion master, and even melee.  The necromancer profession in Guild Wars 2 seems to be a streamlined version of the necromancer of old.  In re-defining the necromancer profession, what role do you intend for the necromancer to play in groups?

Continue reading Guild Wars 2 Necromancer Interview

On the treadmill

or: how I learned to stop worrying and love the grind.

(Our sponsors would like to apologise in advance for the slightly more personal and self-indulgent nature of this post. Thank you for your custom.)

To achieve competence in sport necessitates training. Training involves doing the same thing over and over and over and over again: to build up strength, endurance and capability; to learn about your team-mates in co-operative games; to learn the rules; to perfect your technique.

If you want to run a marathon, you don’t just turn up on the day and do it. You train for it. You go out running. You start small; 5km, then 10, 15, up to half-marathon, work your way up to 20 miles and then you’re probably ready. You go out, 3 to 5 times a week, trudging around the same routes that were stunning and interesting at first but soon lost their charm after the 18th time, or, when the weathers bad and you’re a fair-weather runner, in the gym, pounding away mindlessly on the treadmill, getting the miles into your feet, conditioning your body and your mind ready for the challenge. There will be times when it will hurt, times when you don’t enjoy it and times when it goes badly and all these times will make you question why you’re doing it to yourself. And you won’t have a good answer.
Continue reading On the treadmill

I, Necromancer – Guild Wars 2

Yesterday, ArenaNet officially announced the necromancer profession. Of course, the fourth profession for Guild Wars 2 has been known since the gamescom demos started going public. I am happy because in Guild Wars, my main is a necromancer. I can’t say the profession is my favorite because ritualist makes the decision too close to call, but my necromancer character is my favorite.

Out of the four professions announced, the necromancer seems to have gotten more re-definition than the elementalist, warrior, or ranger. There are still supposedly two more professions based on Guild Wars professions (current belief is mesmer and assasin) and two professions that are entirely new (current belief is “paladin” and “alchemist/gadgeteer/gunslinger”), so the Guild Wars 2 necromancer might not be the furthest away from its original. However, the changes are significant enough to note.

Continue reading I, Necromancer – Guild Wars 2

A Local Peak

Improvements can take place through natural evolution as long as each previous design is studied and the craftsperson is willing to be flexible. The bad features have to be identified. The [designers] change the bad features and keep the good ones unchanged. If a change makes matters worse, well, it just gets changed again on the next go-around. Eventually the bad features get modified into good ones, while the good ones are kept. The technical term for this process is “hill-climbing,” analogous to climbing a hill in the dark. Move your foot in one direction. If it is downhill, try another direction. If the direction is uphill, take one step. Keep doing this until you have reached a point where all steps would be downhill; then you are at the top of the hill–or at least a local peak.

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman

Local peaks are not bad things. They are, within a certain range, as good as it gets. But if you want to go higher, you need to go down to go up. Many have seen the local peak and noted only that all paths away lead down, so we can do naught but muddle about at this height.

Ideally, you are not hill-climbing in the dark and your vision is leading you in the right direction. Some people will head in the right direction but not go far enough to get higher. Some will not even make it to the next hill, backtracking towards the familiar local peak, perhaps getting tired and falling short. You could break your legs trying to straddle the divide. People atop the local peak will point to the failures below.

And then someone proves that the next hill over is higher. They climb and keep climbing. It often seems to be the next guy who makes it to the top first, while the trailblazer was tired from trying all those false paths along the way. And, of course, there is a rush from the last local peak to this one, which is now proclaimed to be the greatest summit ever, the greatest summit possible.

: Zubon