Changing Focus (The Submission Grinder)

My last post talked about how my role with Diabolical Plots, the brainchild of David Steffen that I have had the pleasure of being involved with since 2009. As my personal goals and aspirations have shifted away from writing prose it has made less and less sense that my name was associated with Diabolical Plots as an editor. Along with that shift away from writing comes a shift toward game development. A shift that has now become a fervent push.

This has meant less and less time for my technical duties over at Diabolical Plots. Duties that I’ve failed to give the attention they deserve. So it is with both sadness and relief that I am passing the torch of developer of The Submission Grinder over to David Steffen. David certainly has the technical chops for the job and the contacts to pull in additional resources if need be. During the interim and for the foreseeable future I will continue to handle hosting related issues as well as offer guidance to David as he carries The Submission Grinder into the future.

This transition frees me up to focus my efforts on my game development projects in 2015 without feeling like I’m letting something important languish. It also means that The Submission Grinder will likely begin to progress again. The rewrite has been in development for over a year now and while it is close, it wasn’t getting any closer under my very distracted shepherding. David will take some time over the next few weeks to familiarize himself with the new Submission Grinder code base before diving in to wrap up the rewrite and begin working on new features.

Zombie Possum Games and my game development efforts will become my top priority for 2015 so watch this space for updates and announcements!

Also, if you’re bored, go play the Asteroids Clone I did last month.

Diabolical Plots

scientistI still write a lot these days. I’m always outlining some game idea story or mechanic. There is never a shortage of sparks flying around in this drafty old shack I call my brain. That said I haven’t written a line of prose in over a year. Certainly nothing that I would ever intend for publication. Between the real life commitments of being a husband and a father and software developer, the not-so real life commitments of being a video game enthusiast and relentless urge to create video games and art, I just don’t have the time to craft prose that’s worth reading.

One relic from my writing days that still looms large in my life, however, is Diabolical Plots. The SF/F/H online zine that David Steffen and I founded in March of 2009 is still going strong (almost entirely on the effort of David I might add) and The Submission Grinder, a tool for writers to track their submission and find markets for their work, has never been more popular.

Diabolical Plots (and The Submission Grinder) has been doing so well in fact that David and I have been looking for ways to give back even more. On December 1st 2014, we began taking submissions for our first purchase and publication of fiction on the Diabolical Plots zine where David will act as Editor.

I had the luxury of reading all the submissions for this period and I have to say it was an interesting experience. It’s fun to read stories that almost no one else has read. Most of the stories were actually not bad. Not bad isn’t the goal though and it wasn’t hard to pick out the choice offerings. Whittling those down to the dozen stories we plan to purchase was much more difficult. But David has come up with a dozen stories that I thoroughly enjoyed and I can’t wait to see them in print later this year.

This year should bring about some interesting changes to Diabolical Plots and The Submission Grinder. Starting today with our migration to a new hosting platform that should increase the overall up-time of both sites. Later this year we plan to add poetry and non-fiction markets support to The Submission Grinder as well as some exciting (to writers anyway) new features.

Welcome to 2015

I was told there would be hover boards.

Technological letdowns aside, we’ve come a long way in the twenty-six years since Back to the Future II was released. I still don’t really get hand-held gaming but apparently that has come a long way since the original Game Boy made it’s debut and the blockbuster games of 2015 will likely have very little in common with the titles Sega Genesis sported in the same year.

If you follow me on social media or watch the Zombie Possum Games website, you probably already know my singular resolution this year is to complete one video game per month for all of 2015. Considering I’d never completed a game before, that is kind of a tall order. But what are goals if they don’t challenge us to exceed ourselves by at least a small measure?

With that resolution come a new focus for this blog (there being no focus at all before) on software development and video games. I hope you’ll take the time to check out and follow the Zombie Possum Games blog as that is where most of my posts relating to my game development efforts will live. I might re-blog them here when I deem it important. What I won’t be doing is posting here about politics or (unless it crosses one of the aforementioned topics) local issues.

I’m looking forward to what new things I will learn this year. I’m looking forward to accomplishing new personal goals in fitness. I’m looking forward to a year where I am best me that I can be.

Twenty Fourteen was a great year and I have much to be proud of but this is the time of year to be thinking about what I will do, not what I’ve done.

I’m looking forward.

Why is Archeage failing at being EVE Online?

With the recent launch of Archeage in western markets, my friends and I have been discussing it’s merits and more importantly it’s failings. Archeage is what one friend calls a sand-park game. Meaning that, while it purports to be a sandbox game, it also tries to offer something to the World of Warcraft players of the world in terms of PVE (theme park) content.

archeage

This is one reason I think Archeage is struggling. Trying to be everything to everyone will only lead to a game with an identity crisis and no one wants to play a neurotic video game.

Archeage has been called EVE with Elves which is about right. EVE Online is certainly the best comparison in terms of game play mechanics, even if the settings couldn’t be further apart. EVE’s setting has an inherent design advantage that a game like Archeage simply cannot attain: Space. This design hurdle is one of the primary reasons for the recent missteps as well as the downright disastrous Archeage launch.

I had heard my father say that he never knew a piece of land run away or break. – John Adams

eve_online_screen2
Archeage, intentional or not, is a game about land and it’s finite existence. Trion being completely unprepared for even the number of players that had pre-ordered the game notwithstanding, many of the launch problems can be attributed to players rushing to claim premium land plots either for personal use or to resell later.

Within a day of launch, pretty much all land on the handful of servers was claimed. By then the queues were so long that patron players couldn’t get into the game for hours and those no-good free-to-play players might as well not try. One free-to-play player told me that, at the height of the queues, he logged in to the queue in the morning after breakfast and still wasn’t in the game when he went to bed that night.

archeage2

We’re now about 45 days removed from that nightmare. More servers have been added and the player base has stabilized. As far as I know there aren’t any queues worth mentioning, even for free-to-play players. Trion offered up free patron time to those who paid for patron status but couldn’t even log in to actually enjoy it. Everyone seems happy.

Time for a new wrench…

This week, Trion opened up the Northern continent (think nullsec for you EVE lovers) for settlement. I’m not sure it could have gone worse. For starters, a bug in the patch that released the northern continent prevented a large portion of the player base from being able to connect to the game at all. Not everyone mind you, just an unfortunate majority. However, even though half the population couldn’t actually log in, all of the new land was claimed within seconds of a castle being claimed. Imagine if everyone would have been online. Disastrous.

Now, before you start calling me a casual or a -shudder- socialist for thinking that everyone deserves a fair shake, take this in to account. It’s one thing to get beat out by another player who a) gets lucky or b) wants it more or c) has more resources. It’s an entirely different thing to get culled by a completely avoidable technical glitch.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I don’t play Archeage. I bought a founders pack and patron status but I have better things to do with my time than sit in a queue so I moved on. And since Archeage is a game about land and all the land is taken, there isn’t much reason to come back. I do have friends who play, however, and just about all of them were affected by the glitch this past week and as a result have no land in the north. Some of them are now walking away from Archeage and that brings me to the question of this post.

Why is Archeage failing where EVE Online has been so successful?

The first reason as I’ve mentioned above is that EVE doesn’t suffer from the land scarcity issue. If the player base grows beyond the current confines of the game, CCP can fairly easily add new systems. They’ve done so several times over the years and there is no reason they can’t continue to do so.

But I believe there is more to this question that simple land availability. Both Archeage and EVE are very complex games with myriad intricacies ranging from social structures, political intrigue and resource competition. But each game arrived at that complexity in very different ways.

eve

EVE Online was launched in 2003 and looked nothing like it does today. Certainly the game is prettier now, but EVE Online is very different in terms of game mechanics as well. The game we know today has grown, step by step, over the past eleven years. Each feature carefully crafted and tweaked to fit nicely into the game while causing as little disruption as possible.

Archeage, on the other hand, while leaning heavily on the lessons learned by CCP, came out of the gate with much of the complexity that EVE possesses today but without any of the historical data to anticipate how all of these features might behave together.

EVE has weathered it’s own storms over the years and ultimately came out the other side. Archeage may do the same, or it may suffer the same fate as so many other MMO games in recent years; a slow painful decline until Trion decides to shut it down.

Regardless of the future of Archeage, I hope the lesson that game developers take away is to start with simple mechanics and perfect each feature before moving on to new functionality. Even the most complex systems are merely an amalgam of many individually simple mechanics.

 

Ronald Reagan on Freedom

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

“You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.”

– Ronald Reagan