Kickstarter: An education in reality

So I wrote this but a good long while ago. Back in late 2013, but at the time elected not to publish it for various reasons (some work related). I didn’t want this to mis-interpreted by readers either in the community or at my former employer Microsoft Studios. As I no longer work there and I’ve had a bit of time to edit this and come back to it, I feel confident putting it out there. 

I have recently gained a new appreciation for Kickstarter. I was always a fan of the system. I am as excited as the next person. The idea of directly donating funds to products or projects which hold your interest is a novel one. Kickstarter delivers the instant gratification of voting with your wallet. Participants and users can elect to put their money forward and immediately feel invested, or they can pass on a project and fancy themselves the discerning investor. I personally backed several projects through Kickstarter at its outset. A handful of which were video game projects, so I have some skin in the game here.

However, my new appreciation of the service has come from a recent realization. It was prompted by a few events, but the clarifying moment came with the announcement by Chris Robert’s Cloud Imperium Games that the dogfighting module of their crowd-funded Star Citizen was going to be delayed. Cloud Imperium were simply adjusting their development schedule based on changing situations. As a developer I understand this completely. But there was significant backlash from those who backed the project. They felt as though they were investors and therefore entitled to answers. What I realized is that Kickstarter is so interesting because it is the standardized introduction of Micro-publishing. Kickstarter projects create a financial situation and an overall atmosphere where the gaming community and anyone who backs a project has adopted the role akin to a singular amalgamated publisher.

What the introduction of said micro-publishing / crowd funding achieves is three very important things; it manifests and amplifies the struggle of publishing a game, it educates the community about game developments budgeting and scheduling, and finally it underscores the degree to which the games market is driven by supply and demand.

Publishers take a pretty serious beating in the games press. They are called unethical, greedy, and incompetent on a very regular basis. Kickstarter brings a small bit of schadenfruede to industry folk by making every backer painfully aware of what it feels like to be a publisher.

Are you a backer on RSi’s Star Citizen or Double Fine’s Broken Age?

When it was announced that said project would be delayed due to unforeseen development issues, were you mad?

Did you feel angry or cheated?

Yes? Good, you have now experienced on a micro-scale exactly what most publishers experience multiple times every day. Professional game development is a fickle and transient process; projects are in a perpetual state of flux. Some things happen in due time, sometimes projects are behind schedule, but what is constant is some unforeseen and immutable problems. This very public and messy exploration is why I am such a huge proponent of the crowd-funding and transparent development process. It succeeds in educating many of the community members on just exactly what it is like to build games. When a project misses the mark or screeches past a deadline, backers get nothing. What’s worse is they hold no leverage or ability to make demands in that situation, they are left to sit and stew.

When the same thing happens with a publisher there a few more options. The publisher, if they are funding have the ability to push the project back potentially disrupting their portfolio timelines (which can cause large scale problems) or they can kill the project. Either way their investment has been lost and there is not much that can be done, its simply mitigation at that point. A third option is possible, that is to launch on unfinished game, which happens far more often then people may think. Often these games are called ‘bad’ or the developers are called ‘incompetent’; the truth is something more complex, chances are the game is at its core good, but is rotten in terms of coherence or polish. The primary reasoning behind this is because most games, being the sum of about a billion moving parts, do not always function perfectly the first time you turn them on. As a result most developers and publishers attempt to build in ‘polish time’. Essentially this is a surplus of time at the of the development schedule (usually more then 3 weeks and no more than 3 months) to allow the team (programmers, designers, and all) to work on those kinks in the machine. But when a project falls behind schedule, often the call is made to eat that surplus time to finish putting the machine together enough so it can turn on, but no time to smooth out the issues. What users get is a game that hardly functions in an optimal way.

Secondly, Kickstarter is effective at illustrating just how large gaming budgets have become. Community members will complain and rant about the cost of games increasing, the superimposing of subscriptions or Microtransactions on existing games. The reality of the situation is that many games have such large budgets and operating costs, that enabling some motivated users to pay more money is one of the most effective ways to ensure a product just achieves its return on investment. This is not to say that the large budgets of most games are appropriate, but they are the current reality. Understanding just how much these games cost can explain why consumers are seeing a rise in pricing and other monetization schemes. So when they shake their head a smaller scale game with a  decent feature set asking for $1milllion dollars, what they don’t realize is that amount of money is actually quite LOW by industry standards and that most games are well above and beyond that. Tim Schafer recently responded on twitter to criticism about the Broken Age budget which was nearly $3.5 million, but failed to deliver a whole game at that amount. Check it out here: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BxL2D4lCUAAv0qx.png:large

Finally, the surge and growth of crowd-funding is a blatant reminder that fans and enthusiasts will pay for anything, truly anything. Kickstarter is a quick education in extrinsic value propositions and monetization. Please, take a moment and peruse some of the ‘reward tiers’ for any game Kickstarter out there. Note that these promotions, are not an inherently bad thing, in fact it’s quite liberating. Gamers in the community are getting very upset recently because of the introduction of different monetization schemes. While some of them are poorly implemented and truly exploitative, there are many examples of fair and valuable monetization done right. Downloadable Content, Microtransactions, Collectors Editions, and Merchandise can all provide great value to players who are looking for it. Funny enough though, these same vocal players seem to be willing to pay for these more material based Microtransactions up front, before the game is even completed, because of how it is framed. In many cases it seems like an altruistic act of charity, helping out the struggling developer to make their game, as opposed to the filthy patronage of someone who has already paid for their game. They will put up money to get their name in the credits or to get a cool signed poster, but the collectors edition of the game is seen as money grabbing. In all it takes a certain cognitive dissonance to place the two purchases in totally different categories. It also requires a certain level of ignorance to continue believing this is the way of things. That developer who you refuse to patronize because they already got their money and made their game, is in so many cases on borrowed time. They have funded said project through private investors or publishers, both of which fully expect to be repaid, or said developer will suffer greatly.

This is one of the great things about Kickstarter, it allows developers to fund their projects upfront, keeping themselves in the black, so that they can remain solvent as they build. Instead of over extending themselves only to fail when they don’t hit the sales requirements / recoup number in their contract.

But hey, as long as games keep getting made, and more people understand how they are made, that’s just fine with me.

Reference on the Star Citizen Delay: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/12/18/warpdrive-disengage-star-citizen-dogfighting-delayed/

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Alien: Isolation – now this is how to reveal a game.

So if you were watching the games presses Monday (1/7), or my twitter feed. You saw that Sega & Creative Assembly announced a new Alien game. Alien: Isolation is the latest game installment of the film franchise started by Ridley Scott in 1979.

I have to say I am just really impressed and pleasantly surprised by this announcement. The game itself has me excited to be sure, but that’s not really what has caught my eye.

Truthfully I think the manner in which they announced the title hits just about every key point of a clean game reveal. I’ll break down what I mean.

Firstly Sega/CA did a competent job of keeping this project quiet by minimizing leaks. It probably helped that Aliens: Colonial Marines burst into flames so publicly; effectively blinding the community to any other mentions of the word ‘Alien’. However, when it comes to confidentiality they executed wonderfully on the plan of “If you have to keep things quiet. Keep quiet.”

This game pretty much slid in under the radar until it was just upon us; a well orchestrated maneuver for building hype with surprise.

Perhaps one of the most important parts of this announcements is that, by all press accounts, they let the game speak for itself. They sat members of the press in a darkened room with surround sound and put a controller in the hands of journalists, unleashing them into the demo.  There was no faffing about. No sophistry.  Simply put the game in the hands of reporters and answer questions when asked. This method of ‘show and quietly tell’ does well to dispel much of the speculation and misplaced hype that can torpedo game at launch (ie Aliens: Colonial Marines). Creative Assembly has demonstrated that the value of saying little is more valuable than saying a great deal.

The reason I feel comfortable saying that this ‘demo’ is more legitimate than other vertical slices is driven by the fact that all indications point to this being a Alien: Isolation is near being finalized. Showing the games final engine with a stable and playable build speaks volumes about Sega/CA’s desire to assuage consumer fears of another debacle of misrepresentation (ie Aliens: Colonial Marines).

Arguably the best part about the entire reveal is the perfectly precise nature of the showcased gameplay and selected conversations. Creative Assembly clearly understands what experience they are trying to deliver in Alien: Isolation. Their reliance and insistence on the fear-inspiring, suspenseful, and dreadful atmosphere of the original 1979 film is apparent. In the game segments shown there is a focus on moments of slow and weary exploration of an eerie space station. The attention to detail in these moments is an incredible. As CA mentions, they faithfully recreated the art style of the film by ruling out in-game assets that couldn’t have been reasonably manufactured in 1979 for the original films production. These tense times of wandering are punctuated by moments of startling noises and terrifying glimpses of the Xenomorph. Every dark corner becomes a danger, every time you turn your back an overwhelming sense of vulnerability takes hold of you. The ominous reports of the motion tacker stop you heart with every beep. The team at Creative Assembly made damned sure that players were aware of how these moments of gameplay drive the overall experience. There was no need to stand on ceremony, buzzwords, or mention of graphical fidelity.

By sharing a complete press package of trailers, in-engine footage, hands-on demos, hi-res screenshots, and straight talk the CA/SEGA team have introduced a skiddish community to a promising game that respects its origins. They have laid the groundwork for a game that focuses on a compelling experience which is not trying to be anything other than what it needs to be: a horrifying, suspenseful, and engaging survival tale without the distraction of needless features or content.

Bravo to the teams at Creative Assembly & SEGA. I’m not one to place pre-orders, but rest assured you have my attention. My undivided attention.

A million times: Yes.

I watched Adam Sessler as a kid on G4. I always liked his quirky ways and insight on games. His coverage on G4 was one of those things that got me more into gaming.

But he has truly come into his own after joining Rev3Games. He seems happier, more vocal, and seriously on point with his editorials and reviews. It has been a pleasure to watch.

So when I heard he and another jurno-guy I respect Jim Sterling had done a panel chat at SGC I wanted to watch. I found the stream and what I saw made me stand up and applaud while sitting at my own desk in my own home.

Adam Sessler with fiery indignation rips into the trash talking, exclusionary, rape-y/misogynistic culture of games and dismantles it in under a minute and a half. It is glorious. Please watch the whole stream, but if not. Take 1:30 (starting at 32:59) to listen to Sessler’s response.

STREAM HERE: http://www.twitch.tv/screwattack/b/420530718

Below is a quick transcription:

“I am assuming no one would attest to be one of those guys who are in this room right now. But there seem to be a lot of them. Maybe a lot of them are in junior high school. If you know some one who does this, could you stop playing with them? Could you call them a douche?

I mean it really does ruin the experience. I mean when I hear, ya know, clearly a young person using racial epithets and derogatory terms for homosexuals it just makes my stomach churn.

The idea that we are supposed to be a culture of people who at one point if not now, felt already on the margins of a greater society, then you just see this behavior that replicates the same thing with a different target. It really makes the whole affair seem deflated and defeated. It really does. And don’t even give me that ‘First Amendment’ nonsense; you have every right to say it, and I have every right to call you a fucking asshole and try to find your address to put it out there. [Sterling nods vigorously in agreement]  

And one more thing: Are any of you people part of this absolutely ridiculous ‘mens right’ reddit/subreddit thing? This-this word misandry which is thrown around with the frequency of Rip Taylor’s glitter its just got to be – you don’t get to flip the argument back to you, okay? You are the problem. Acknowledge it. Go home and think about how shitty you are. End of story. “

Thanks for saying what all of us sane people were thinking.

Stop Trying To Use ‘Companies Are Greedy’ As An Argument. Just Stop.

Recently I was on Kotaku, a place which I often try to avoid due to the content of their comment boards and editorials. Nonetheless I came across an editorial that just miffed me. This particular article was entitled “Stop Trying To Use ‘Companies Exist To Make Money’ As An Argument. Just Stop.”

This article was essentially a concurring editorial posted in response to an editorial penned by Jim Sterling, someone for whom I have much respect. The Kotaku op-ed itself was authored by Patricia Hernandez. Aside from the fact that 40% of the piece is quoted from Jim Sterling’s piece, what it succeeds wonderfully in doing is illustrating the most profound lack of understanding of the games industry by a ‘journalist’.

What do you mean by that, Connor? Well allow me to explain. The main thrust of Hernandez’s article, which is ripped directly from Sterling’s, is that game publishers are greedy robber barons. That these companies are leveraging their control over the market to charge an exorbitant price for content that should be free.

Alright, I suppose I understand your point. I mean I understand the point Jim Sterling made (and made it better), but I still get it.

Do I disagree? Not entirely, no. I admit I see products being pushed that are inferior quality and priced up to a premium. However I think the intent of this article is entirely misdirected and comes from a place of ignorance. It assumes that there exists no Downloadable Content (DLC), Digital Rights Management (DRM), or Microtransactions (MTX) that actually provide value. It goes on to imply that any person who says otherwise in defense of such systems is “stupid”, “spineless”, and “a fanboy”. Interesting. I’ll move past the insults and directly answer the first part by saying: there are surely some pieces of DLC, DRM, and MTX that have value. To suggest anything to the contrary is to discredit things like Steam’s DRM, MTX for games like Blacklight Retribution, LoL, or World of Tanks, and the DLC on games like Borderlands 2. I believe such a quality speaks for itself.

Continuing on that train of thought, if you are so offended by the implementation of such services, you could simply not involve yourself with them. Sterling’s article was much more clear about this, there is nothing wrong with being a happy consumer, and there is nothing wrong with being a disgruntled customer. I agree, you have every right to speak your mind about what you see as unethical or exploitative behavior. In fact I encourage you to do so! As a game designer, I see a baseline for quality. Your product must be of _this_ quality. I think that a company who falls short of that is not doing their job, and should be reminded of that. But I do not believe it is fair for consumers to rant and rave at companies who happen to make a product that users simply don’t like. I believe you have the right to expect a certain level of quality, information, and respect. I do not however believe consumers have the right to be entertained by every product. Often when I see people who attack companies for being greedy, it is totally misdirected at a publisher based solely off a personal dislike and not any real objective lack of quality.  So I would ask Jim Sterling the same he asked of me. “I’m not telling you that you definitely have to support a company/product — but don’t tell others they can’t.” I would as for one more thing, if you are going to call a company greedy and exploitative, do it from a position of certainty and reason. Not just a the default reaction when your personal fancies are satisfied.

Moving on from that immediate context, I think this rant gets to a larger issue about game companies. The implication is that the products being released serve no end, other than the financial exploitation of consumers. Let me just squelch that fucking thought there. Are there companies that put out products so that they can profit from them hand over fist? You-fuckin-bet. Is that every company and every product? By no means.

I’m going to let you in on a secret. That game you love, the one that you’ve spent hours playing, the one that you love to chat about with people, and the one for which you recoil in disgust when people don’t recognize the name; yeah that one. That game lost money. I mean, that game cost X dollars to make, it made Y dollars, and Y is less than X. Long story short, the only reason that game is ever getting a sequel is because some behemoth of a blockbuster game was published. Between the retail and DLC the blockbuster raked in 400% of its investment. After that money was used: to recoup the enormous costs from development,  pay employees, cut bonus checks, and saved away for the next iteration of that blockbuster; the remaining dollars were set aside to fund other projects. Projects like the game you love so much. What am I saying? I am saying that the success of other products and their monetization that you find so distasteful paid for the financial failure that is your favorite game.

What does this mean? How could this be possible? If these greedy capitalists only do things for money, how could they possibly make a sequel to a game that made no money? Because they give a shit. As much as it may strain the fabric of you tenuous argument, developers and publishers actually care. They create products not just to line their own coffers, they do it to provide entertainment.

And frankly, as someone who has in the past and will in the future worked at a publisher in the games industry: it not only offends me that you think so little of my motivations, but it just makes you sound ‘stupid’ when you characterize an entire organization off of your flawed understandings.

Financial viability means an awful lot in games production. If something can’t get its money back, its very difficult to get it made, regardless of its quality. That is just how things work. If every developer made every game they wanted, they would quite frankly go broke. Its very difficult to sustain titles that do not have broad appeal.

So what am I saying? The games industry is not black and white, no matter how much so called ‘journalists’ try to pigeonhole it. There are bad or derivative games that have a positive result. There are companies who disrespect their consumers. There exists quality DLC and MTX. Finally, there do exist limits to your entitlement as a consumer, you are in fact not always right. Especially for those who haven’t the slightest idea about the cost and commitment required to develop video game.

Disclaimer: I have worked for, and accepted a job offer from, Microsoft Game Studios. My views expressed here are my own and no one else’s. I represent myself. 

FTL: Faster-Than-Light

FTL game is one the best games I have played in a very long time.

FTL is a space combat survival game. Its made in the style of many indie games of late, 16-bit graphics and sprites. For those fans of pixel art, FTL is a prime example of pixel art done right. There are a few scaling issues with text, but unless you are looking for such problems they are unnoticed. Visually it looks great. The 2d overhead view of your ships and its crew lets you see everything you need to. The game’s survival element comes into effect in a few different ways. The core mechanic will resonate with fans of the Battlestar Galactica series, the player takes control of starship that hails from a civilization who has just suffered a catastrophic attack. The player’s vessel is tasked with  traversing the galaxy to reach a rendezvous point where the remnants of their Federation will rally. Your ship is carrying information vital to the war effort. However the evil aggressors are hot on your tail, so the player must push through the galaxy will continually FTL jumping away as the enemies just enter the sector (see BSG  Season 1 Episode 1 “33”). The player must also micromanage the systems and subsystems of the ship. They can diverting and forward power to the different systems (which can be upgraded over time from resources gathered in-game). These systems include: Engines, Shields, Weapons, Life Support (Oxygen), Flight Control, even Door Controls and Sensor arrays. The micromanagement of systems provides intense gameplay where you can reroute power away from oxygen just to squeeze a few more seconds out of your shields to prevent total destruction; or divert all power from thrusters, leaving you dead in the water, to the guns to pummel the enemy before they can hit you. The leveling up of different systems and crew (who man the systems and gain skills for the systems they use the most) is an engaging progression that keeps you hooked. It also attaches you to the crew.

If you want more background on the game feel free to check out the numerous review floating around the web.

The main elements survival here are crew management, ship integrity, and travel. You need fuel to keep doing FTL jumps (1 fuel per jump). You need crew to operate your ship. You need hull integrity  because you can’t damn well play the game without a ship. These survival keys come into play a few different ways that are really intriguing and it is actually why I became so enthralled with the game.

FTL surreptitiously teaches you about what kind of person you are. At first you start the game out. Everything is peachy, relatively safe and stable. You have a clear mission, and a direction. You are the valiant commander of a Federation ship who is tasked with saving an entire civilization. You can do no wrong. You jump through a few systems and come across survivors, you lend them aid as you are flush with supplies and resistance in minimal. You encounter a few rebel pickets, they put up a fight but soon surrender as your superior firepower withers their shields. Being an upstanding captain, whose primary directive is to save lives, you grant the rebels their lives and allow them to surrender. As the game progresses though, it changes pace and forces you to make choices that you never expected to make. Soon you are facing down enemy vessels with technology you don’t know how to combat. After surmounting these obstacles, you go further into uncharted space. You encounter deceitful pirates, slavers and rebels. It becomes unclear which distress beacon is trap and which is not. You grow more suspicious of every vessel hailing you with peaceful intentions. Eventually you lose one of your crew to a stray missile, or a hull breach. You mourn and move on. Then your supplies begin to dwindle, you have enough fuel for a jump or two, but the rebels are closing in. Finally you expend your last bit of fuel to keep yourself just one jump ahead of the Rebels. You drop out of FTL and see a civilian trader floating harmlessly in space. Desperately you ask for them to give you some fuel, but they have none to spare. You now have only one option, you have to get your data to the fleet. Surely the lives of the entire Federation outweigh one crew. You fire on the ship and strip it for fuel and parts. You heave a sigh of relief as you jump through the next few systems with the gather fuel. Looking back in horror you realize that you have done the unspeakable, you have taken an innocent life to further your own. It was with good reason, you assure yourself, but it doesn’t make you any less of a murderer. The next system drops you into heated combat with the insect-like Mantis. You send one of your crew to fight off the boarding party, but a fire is spreading through your ship and he is losing fight. You need to keep the ship afloat, you’re forced to vent the ship killing the fire, the attackers, and your crewman. You’ve save the ship, but at what cost? The lines between right and survival get blurrier every jump you make. The slow degradation of your morality and the vicious survivor FTL turns you into is a great way to show the player just how deluded they are.

FTL loves fucking with you. The randomly generated galaxy throws twists and traps at you with joyful abandon. However, it delights at the fact that: When you die, it’s usually your fault. You will die in a number of ways: ship fires, hull breaches suffocating your crew, boarding parties tearing through your ship, enemy vessels blowing you up, asteroids destroying your hull, and the Rebel fleet descending upon you. However, at almost every loss, you can find an error in your ways. If you had jumped to a different system, you wouldn’t have encounter this ship. If you had built up your shields a bit more, that laser wouldn’t have shredded the hull. If you had just paid more attention when you vented the ship, you would have noticed the boarding party attacking the door control and depriving you of your only way to close the airlocks. Every time, the blame for failure rests on your shoulders.

To be fair there’s a decent amount of chance to the procedural generation of events, this makes for some difficult game setups. But the ultimate player control and finality of the game is consistent. The experience is something to be appreciated.

I recommend this game to any and everyone one who enjoys strategy games, or rogue-likes, or space games, or RPGs, or just about anything Sci-Fi related.

I kept a ship log of one of my playthroughs. Take a peek to see the type of shit you run into in the game. And the type of crazed internal monologue of someone who really loves space sci-fi. The entire account is what happened in my game, with a bit of embellishment for dramatic effect.

PlanetSide 2 Beta Experience

I will say this about Planetside 2 (PS2). It is fun.

Overview & Positives

It possesses an unparalleled sense of scale in an modern action shooter. Being able to move from one end of a the continent traveling over 10km to the other end, flying over geodesic dome labs, gigantic star forts, space warp gates  mountains, canyons, rolling planes, and watching epic battles unfold beneath is at its best in PlanetSide 2. Battlefield 3 eat your heart out with your 64 player cap and limited vehicle spawns. PlanetSide 2 boasts 2000 possible concurrent players per server. I have yet to see so many, but I have hopped into a full Galaxy dropship which carries 20% of a BF3 server in one  load.

Fuck me does PS2 look good and sound great. When cranked up to High settings this game impresses with it fidelity and sheer volume of effects.

Watching 3-4 Galaxies (each filled with 12 troops) escorted by 4-5 gunships moving towards an enemy fortress is wicked cool. Watching that formation start to take Anti-Aircraft fire from below and strafing runs from enemy aircraft is spectacular. Watching that happen during the night to see the tracers tear through the starry night and rip apart the Galaxies as they begin to burn and spin out of control dropping their payload of anxious fighters, that is truly surreal.

This game will eye fuck you with visual showcases of legitimate gameplay that most engines would weep at the thought of pre-rendering. Well done SOE.

Vehicles are another great part of PS2. They are versatile and effective. Both ground and air vehicles have ‘roles’ and a vehicle that fits that role. The generalized roles are: Transport (Galaxies & Sunderers), Fire Mission (Main Battle Tank & Liberators), Fire Support/Recon (Lightnings &  Mosquitoes). These have different costs based on your faction resources and personal progress. Generally speaking, if you play you will be able to afford vehicles if you want them.

Base Layouts are pretty awesome. They have about 6-7 ‘types’ of bases throughout the continent. These range from small outposts with a handful of buildings to military compounds and industrial complexes. The different bases allow for some different tactics when approaching them, however battle ultimate boils down to corridor fights inside the base buildings. Each base has a capture procedure; some bases are a single capture point that needs to be taken, some have multiple points. The massive forts have 5 capture points spread out across the compound, these points are sometimes a 1000m from the farthest other point. Larger compounds also have defenses, namely forcefield barriers. These barriers protect the interior player and vehicle spawns, as well as the final capture point. The only way to circumvent these barriers is through either some tricky jetpack work as the Light Assault class, or destroying the shield generators which will drop the barriers granting the attackers access to the main structure of the fortress. A single fortress can be vied for by hundreds of fighters and battles over control can last for hours.

Character classes are a thing. There are 6 basic classes: Light Assault (Jet Pack!), Heavy Assault (Machine gun & Rocket Launcher), Medic (Heal & Revive), Engineer (Repair & Mines), Infiltrator (Sniper & Cloak), MAX (Mech Suit w/ Chain Guns). The classes variation is nice, each class ability is balanced and effective for that player role. The weapons are fairly ubiquitous so support classes are totally underpowered with pea-shooters.

Flaws

  • Shooting – I am sorry, thus far shooting fails to impress. For a game whose main mechanic is shooting, this is not really acceptable. Controls are a bit splashy, getting the sensitivity right for accurate shooting is tough. Default aiming is too slow. Most guns kick too much to keep steady with no solid means for compensation. Reacquiring targets is difficult because the gun model takes up nearly the entire screen when aiming down sights and recoil ensures that your target is totally concealed by muzzle flare and the weapon itself after the second round out of the barrel. Opponents take a bit of damage, so lighter caliber weapons (Carbines) need to land multiple shots at center mass to take foes down. Doing so is too difficult at this time. Serious adjustment needed.
  • Concurrency – This is not a flaw, so much as a limitation of the beta set up. This game is built around large scale combat, unfortunately there are not enough players in game at any one point to get frequent epicness. At peak hours in your server (around 7pm for my server US West 01) you can get some pretty kick ass battles. Outside that, its tough to even fill a galaxy or 2. Obviously when the game releases this will be less of an issue, but SOE will really need to push the game to as many players as possible and keep them invested for longevity.
  • Lack of Player Control – Right now all servers are run through SOE, which is good and necessary. I mean dedicated servers supporting 2000 players may not even be possible. However, players can’t control the settings they play on: Friendly Fire, Team Settings, Comm Settings, and the like. Currently players can’t remove other players either, and there is rampant team killing right now. I recently saw a player in a Sunderer (basically a semi truck with guns) in front of my factions Warpgate (the un-capturable faction spawn) driving back and forth running over every teammate who exited the spawn point. Players could do nothing to stop him but eventually kill him. There needs to be some recourse there.
  • Aerial shooting / bombarding – Not sure if this is poor controls or something SOE is striving for, but right now firing from the aerial platform is pretty tough. Specifically bombarding from high altitudes. My initial understanding is that they want to make accurate bombardment a difficult skill to master, especially at high altitudes. Unfortunately airships move fast, and the projectiles move slow. After an hour or two of dedicated gunning in the Liberator gunship, I still can barely hit shit. Maybe something to consider tweaking.

Bugs

  • Geometry hitches – I cannot list the number of times I got stuck on a boulder, a crevice, even building geometry. I have stood on roofs and walked towards sloped portions of the roof that a normal person could step over with a 1-2inch adjustment in their stride; my conditioned super soldier however had some difficulty with it. Obviously this is expected at beta, but not to the extent I saw.
  • Entering Vehicles – This pissed me off to no fucking end. Some vehicles I could simply not enter. Running along side them and hitting ‘E’ furiously on every side was futile. I also spotted a ‘feature’ in the PS2 engine. It seems that when a pilot leaves a vehicle, the pilot seat is reserved for him so no one can grab it and drive off. I am not sure how long or in what manner that seat is reserved. I recognize this is to prevent BF3 style team hijacks and I am appreciative. Though right now, some guy will role a Sunderer or a tank up to a base, hop out, run off leaving the vehicle, and we as teammates can only sit in the gun ports and hope for salvation. That needs some readjustment.

All that being said I am on US West 01 Beta server going by Zappor (Account is CaptKerberos)

Fun Theory

According to the New Media Consortium Horizon Report: 2011, many modern museums face the following problem with advancing technology: 

Greater understanding is needed of the relationships, differences, and synergies between technology intended to be used within the museum and public-facing technology such as websites, social media, and mobile apps. Too few in museum administration see the opportunities that virtual museum visitors might be bringing for fundraising, philanthropy, and specialized marketing. The dichotomy between the physical and virtual museum visitor is blurring rapidly, and both audiences have high expectations with regard to online access to services and information. Still, the notion that museums must provide comprehensive information and services online is a genuine challenge, especially for smaller museums. For larger institutions, however, providing such services has risen to an expectation from the visiting public.

When looking at how address the different connections and perspectives of museum pieces, I think of how I reflect on what museum pieces enthrall me most. Usually when examining an exhibit I find myself mentally evaluating it against other pieces I have encountered, either in the same museum or in past experiences.  I also usually get feedback or recommendations from people about museums or exhibits that they believe would interest me. Often times I get great recommendations, and other times I find it difficult to follow up on a recommendation either because I have forgotten or had trouble finding the suggested exhibit.

All of these seemingly connected components of my museum experience could be enhanced by a technological ability to expound my museum findings (and look at others’). This led me to imagine a technology platform that could provide the public museum visitor with a very interactive and customized experience. I began to imagine a system that integrated across multiple media platforms, specifically: websites, mobile applications, and social media.

This system would be similar to a Yelp! or Google Maps system; where users could provide feedback on their experience with a particular exhibit (or piece in an exhibit), the feedback would be available to the public, and it could be used to make connections to other exhibits/pieces (or even other museums!). Each user could at any point during an exhibit find a placard associated with the item in question, on it would be a digitally readable identifier (possibly a QR Code) which would access a digital indexing of that item on their mobile device. There others will have posted opinions or related recommendations. The user could add their own feedback on the spot, or they could use the mobile application to find other exhibits in that very museum that are similar or in some way related to what they are examining. The application would give concise directions to the other exhibit so the user could find it. Each step of the way the visitor would be able to leave their own advice and promote advice others had given that helped them. The system can also interface with social media by affording users the ability to ‘share’, ‘tweet’, or ‘check-in’ at an exhibit or piece. This would be visible to their social media connections and could possibly draw outside attention through free social marketing.

For the ‘virtual’ visitor they would see the result of ‘physical’ visitor’s actions. They would be able to look at a specific museum on a webpage and read up on different pieces before visiting the museum. They could plan out a travel path through the museum to make sure they see only the pieces they are interested in. They could plan ahead and purchase tickets in advance (ease of purchase means more visits for museums). Users would also be able to sift through other visitor’s opinions, and follow connections made by visitors to find other pieces of interest. The possibility exists that they may end up visiting a different museum than originally intended based on the recommended connections of a past visitor. And in the typical social media fashion, users could promote other peoples recommendations they found helpful or insightful; further reinforcing high-quality feedback.

There are obvious concerns, as always, with internet interactions and marketing. It needs to be moderated to ensure that users are putting up appropriate and germane information. This is an obvious obstacle that the respective museums would have to evaluate before opting to use this interactive museum system.

This system is an interactive way to voice your opinion of museum content, but also to help others find what they are seeking in a museum. The hope is that you help yourself in the long run by bringing more visitors/friends to museums who can provides solid recommendations that improve your experience. By posting our great experiences on social media we bring attention to a part of society that is being left behind by advancing technology and we refocus a waning interest. This will bring more donations, revenue, visitors, discussion, and (hopefully) progress to the entire museum/gallery community.