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High stakes

The Miami Herald has an article about placing bets on the outcome of games. Id Software is involved. It's a logical consequence of the games-as-sport idea.

Online gaming for real money (not just this scheme - online gambling in general) carries some risk for the rest of the industry. A sufficiently bad incident of fraud could provoke legislation that affects all online games, whether they involve winning money or not.

Showbiz has an article on what IT can learn from the serious business of online gaming. It's a brief overview of how the games industry makes money, but in my opinion it contains little insight into the plights of the IT industry.

The orc vs deer wars

Gamasutra has an article up called "Neverwinter Nights Client/Server Postmortem: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Magic Missile", by Mike Brockington and Scott Greig, and based on this year's GDC lecture. Going far beyond mere client/server problems: it discusses various problems that can occur on a very big, very long project with 25 programmers.

The problems with NWN's reputation system, like most bugs that affect creature behaviour, make for hilarious reading:

The orcs were placed in the Aurora Toolset, the module designer then starts the chapter, and plays through the chapter, testing for balance. By the time the designer reaches the area containing the orcs, there is only treasure lying on the ground; the orcs are long gone. The AI was accused of forcing the creatures to drop their treasure and run away. Upon further investigation, the orcs had been told to "wander" near the area that they were standing in. Nearby, there was a large encounter area that spawned deer. However, orcs are hostile to deer. So, the orc would "wander" into the area, and a deer would appear. The orc then proceeds to make short work of the deer. All is fine in the world, but the deer don't like orcs any more. The encounter area resets, and says "there's a hostile creature nearby", and the deer runs headlong at the orc. The orc says "Fine! Deer Stew #2 coming up!". Repeat ad nauseum. Unfortunately, the orc doesn't have an unlimited capacity to heal himself. After about 25 deer are spawned in, they finally get enough lucky attacks on the orc to kill the orc outright. To tie things off, the encounter area would reacquire and destroy the deer, since keeping extra encounter creatures that weren't actively fighting or watched by a PC was just a waste of CPU time. Hence, the orc's treasure would be left on the ground, and no sign of the victorious deer was to be found!

Making sense

Gamasutra has an article up written by Tom Leonard, accompanying his talk at this year's GDC. It's called "Building an AI Sensory System: Examining The Design of Thief: The Dark Project". I recommend it, it's good. It goes into some of the software / game design aspects of AI sensory systems.

Lord of the rings

( in phone rings... get it?... oh never mind)

Gamasutra has an interview with Jon LaBrie, formerly of WETA Digital.

One thing he says makes me think that if I were a developer of 3D RTS games, I'd be trying to make a game that looks like some of the combat scenes in Lord of the Rings. There has to be an interesting opportunity there. If I were really smart, I'd have started in mid to late 2001, when the first scenes from The Fellowship of the Ring came out, so that I could spend some time on the technology, and release somewhere between, what, August 2003 (release of The Two Towers on DVD) and Christmas 2003 (theatrical release of The Return of the King and climax of the whole Lord of the Rings saga).

But I'm not, so I didn't. (The Spellforce trailer looked a bit like Lord of the Rings at times, though.)

Mr. LaBrie also has something to say on mobile games, and his view that converting old arcade games to the mobile platform is not a good idea, is something I've heard more than once at the GDC from people who's opinion I respect.

(Update: EA is working on an LOTR RTS that looks like the combat scenes from the movie.)

Ion Storm update

I came across a bunch of Ion Storm Austin / Deus Ex 2 items, so I've decided to group them.

Gamespy has a short interview with Harvey Smith. Excerpts:

GameSpy: When you are developing a game, what aspect drives the process -- programming, AI, level design? Smith: High-level conceptualization is what drives the process. What is the game going to be -- game play, setting, fiction. That drives everything else.
He also says he thinks console games "seem to be a few years behind PC games". I disagree. Time to whip up that blog entry about innovative console games...

Gamespy also has an article on Deus Ex 2's new sound system, which they heard about (ah ah) at the GDC. It sounds like an extrapolation of what Dreamworks Interactive did in Trespasser.

And apparently Ion Storm Austin has added rag-doll physics to Deus Ex 2 - so far the only thing people seem to be using physics for, outside of racing games. DX2 is supposed to do more with physics than just that, so let's wait and see.

Apparently I never mentioned this older preview of DX2, again on Gamespy. While they were in Austin, Gamespot was there too.

In this Austin Chronicle article about the entertainment industry in Austin, Texas, Warren Spector adds a few words about the games industry.

Dani has an article about Dani Bunten Berry, designer of classic games such as M.U.L.E. (You may need to click through a short ad to be able to read all of it.)