Free, everlasting Age of Conan trial

Age of Conan Unlimited TrialOut of pure self-interest, I’m going to blatantly promote Age of Conan by mentioning the press release just released (duh, obviously) that announces the offer of a free, everlasting Age of Conan trial (aka “Unlimited Free Trial”).

Basically, if you sign up for a trial account, download and install the game and then log in at least once before January 1st 2010, the trial account will never end and you can keep on hanging around in Tortage (level 1-20 area) for as long as you want.

Some limitations apply to the trial accounts (out of necessity due to the potential abuse by spammers/gold sellers), though;  no trade with other players, no use of in-game mail, no public chat channels, no forum-posting access.

Anyway, that’s this year’s Age of Conan (Available in a retail store/webshop/Steam near you!) promotion (Buy now! Don’t hesitate!) from me (Buy your friends a copy too! And your mom!). Now going back to my regular schedule of updating this blog at random intervals.

Start to Crate-times in MMORPGs

Note #0: It’s been a while since I posted anything at all on this blog. Just to let you know, I haven’t completely given up on it just yet, I have just been busy(TM) with other stuff.

In April 2000 a revolutionary methodology for reviewing video-games saw the light of day at the Old Man Murray-website; the Crate Review System. The basis for this new reviewing-system was very simple; since virtually all games contain crates, all games could be judged empirically on those crates. The longer you could play a game without seeing any crates (wooden or otherwise), the better the game. Or to put it in completely different terms: The shorter the time (in seconds) from the start of the game until the first crate is found, the worse the game. This unit of measurement was dubbed “Start to Crate” (StC for short).

I had forgotten about the above until recently, when I came across (through another blog, but unfortunately I can’t remember which!) an old Gamasutra-article by Ernest W. Adams (also listed on his “No Twinkie Database“-page). The article was not only an interesting read (along with everything else in the No Twinkie Database), it also contained a link to the Crate Review System at Old Man Murray.

While I was reading the old crate reviews there, I started thinking about how well this system of reviewing games would apply to MMORPGs, which are a very special breed of games indeed. With only one way to find out, I put on my research hat and started downloading numerous free trials, as well as re-activating some of my old MMORPG-subscriptions, determined to check the StC-times in an ungodly amount (Thirty-one in total) of MMORPGs.

Note #1: The original system didn’t differentiate between crates and their cousins, the circular crates also known as “barrels”. I check for both separately, and thus ended up with StC and StB values for each game.

Note #2: Some of the games I tried had multiple starting locations. In those cases I visited all the available starting locations and timed the StCs and StBs for those one by one. Unless I didn’t like the game, or I was distracted by food/TV/all the walls that keep staring at me. In those cases I only did one starting location.

Read on for the results of my research.

Continue reading “Start to Crate-times in MMORPGs”

Not a good day at all

As days go, this one could definitely have been better. As reported here (the details of which have probably been spread all over by now), about 20% of Funcom’s work-force are being laid off or put on forced leave, and most of those being affected are situated in the Oslo-office, where I happen to work.

I was not, thankfully, among those 20%. Unfortunately, plenty of others were, and it’s going to be really hard to get used to not seeing the now familiar faces of those departed friends and colleagues in the hallways, during the morning meeting, in the cantina – or face to face as a part of the development process. Though not quite as hard as being without a job, obviously…

Best of luck to all those who were affected by the layoffs/forced leave; I really hope I get the chance to work alongside with some of you guys again one day, be that at Funcom or elsewhere. You guys all rock several different sorts of awesome.

One-button action-game: Canabalt

I haven’t posted in a while, but the following game has finally brought me out of my current post-drought: Canabalt (WideScreen version)

Found this on Raph Koster’s blog, and it has probably been posted elsewhere as well, but I really need to post about this game myself. It’s to blame for the most fun I’ve had in any game I’ve played in recent months, despite being a 2D sidescrolling platform-game made in only 5 days, with pixel-artwork, requiring only the occasional press of a single button to play.

My entire lunch-break at work went past in a Flash (hoho) while playing this game, where you take on the role of some random dude who starts running from within an office building or some such, jumping over a couple of chairs – and then out through a window and onto the rooftops, where he promptly takes off running again all by himself, leaving it up to you to bring him (with your one-button press) from rooftop to rooftop. Your character will gradually run faster and faster, and if you avoid the various crates (which will slow you down if you hit them, intentionally or not) scattered across the rooftops, eventually he’ll run so fast you’ll have a hard time reacting to what appears on your screen, whether it be a window you need to jump through (into a building and out another window on the other side), debris from a rocket(?) you need to jump over, or buildings collapsing under your feet.

Long story short, I’ll be playing this game all weekend to try to beat my co-worker’s record run of around 11370 m… my own record stands at a puny 6838 m :(

Games like these really bring me back to the good old days, when the gameplay mattered and graphics was something you did as an afterthought… nowadays it seems to be all about presentation, Presentation, PRESENTATION! As long as the graphics are good and the interface fancy enough, it doesn’t matter if the gameplay sucks hairy donkey-ass, as the screenshots will look still look good and sell many boxes.

Last bit of advice – do not under any circumstances play this while at work. It can be hazardous to your productivity. Or so I’ve been told.

About the Laws of Online World Design – Part III

This is the third installment in a series of posts I’ll be making about The Laws of Online World Design, as explained in this introductory post. I will start at the top of the list, and work my way down until I’ve poked and prodded every law in the list, not skipping any unless I really feel like it. In this, Part III of the series, I’ll concentrate on the following law:

  • Persistence means it never goes away

Continue reading “About the Laws of Online World Design – Part III”

About roleplay-servers in MMOs

Two articles that popped up on in recent days both touched on the same subject – roleplay servers in MMOs.

The first one, by Dana Massey, denounce roleplay servers as unenforceable, virtually identical to regular servers and generally a major pain in the ass for those who have to moderate them.

Sanya Weathers wrote a follow-up of sorts, a more interesting (IMO) article concerning the difficulties facing a developer when setting up (and maintaining) roleplay-servers in MMOs.

If you haven’t already, go read both articles, then come back here – I’ll wait.

*hums a tune to himself whilst waiting*

Done? Okay: First off, I’ll say straight out that I think the first article mentioned is too subjective, too extreme and too obviously meant to provoke – roleplayers in particular, I guess. This article doesn’t really give me anything, as I have quite the opposite view when it comes to the continued existence of roleplay-servers. I guess I’m part of the target audience for that specific article!

I find Sanya’s article much more interesting though, as she tries to lay out clearly the problems with roleplay servers from a developers point of view, and ways in which to make those problems less (of a problem). At the end of  Sanya’s article, she lists a number of things which she sees as the minimum required feature-list any MMO-developer should offer for roleplay-specific servers. Having been on multiple sides of that table already, both as a player and as a designer, I started thinking a bit myself, about what features a dedicated roleplay server ought to, well… feature.

Read on for my thoughts on the matter.
Continue reading “About roleplay-servers in MMOs”

Blog maintenance and restaurant criticism

After having just updated to the latest versions of WordPress plus all active plugins for it, I’m experiencing some… funkiness on the admin-side of things. Hopefully it won’t spill out into the actual blog, but with my luck where updates and upgrades are concerned, something bad is almost certain to happen.

Those who wait for pizza have to wait a bloody long time..

Also, I just have to mention this horrible experience a co-worker and I had at Dolly Dimple yesterday. We arrived there at around 8 pm, and the place was all but deserted when it came to other customers. We sat down, peered at the menus, then ordered a best-seller pizza and something to drink. The drinks came, and we drank them while waiting for the food to arrive. Meanwhile, other people had started to show up, though the place could at no point be considered “packed” or even slightly crowded while we were there.

Some amount of time passed. Then, as more time passed and no pizza showed up at our table, we started getting a bit suspicious. Especially considering that the other customers that had arrived after us were getting their food. And finishing it. But we remained calm, collected and patient. At one point we saw something resembling charcoal being taken out of an oven, so we assumed they were just having a hectic day and we’d get the food eventually.

However, sometime after the one-hour mark one of the waitresses comes over and asks whether we’d like something to drink before we go, or maybe some dessert. /facepalm. Actually getting us the main meal first would kinda be a good idea, wouldn’t you think? Turns out they’d forgotten about our order. So they threw some free nacho-chips our way before they went to work on our order. For real this time.

Then, finally, after some more waiting we at last got our pizza. It actually did taste pretty good, and that’s something coming from me who normally doesn’t like pizza all that well… but was it worth 337 NOK ($52,69, split on two people) and nearly 1 1/2 hours of waiting? Not really, no.

About the Laws of Online World Design – Part II

This is the second installment in a series of posts I’ll be making about The Laws of Online World Design, as explained in this introductory post. I will start at the top of the list, and work my way down until I’ve poked and prodded every law in the list, not skipping any unless I really feel like it. In this, Part II of the series, I’ll concentrate on the following law:
Modes of expression

This is the second installment in a series of posts I’ll be making about The Laws of Online World Design, as explained in this introductory post. I will start at the top of the list, and work my way down until I’ve poked and prodded every law in the list, not skipping any unless I really feel like it. In this, Part II of the series, I’ll concentrate on the following law:

  • Modes of expression

Continue reading “About the Laws of Online World Design – Part II”

Stop the press!

Holy crap, BatmanGuybrush! This is awesome news:

One of the best kept secrets in game development history has been revealed. Telltale Games and LucasArts have put out a joint press-release announcing two brand spanking new Monkey Island-projects. The first one is an episode-based, five-part series by Telltale – Tales of Monkey Island – and the first episode is due out as early as July 7th!! Even better:  Ron Gilbert is/has been involved on this project (snipped quote from Telltale forums: “some design and story brainstorming, consulting, etc.”).

The second project we’ve (the public) known about for awhile already, though more details are available now. It’s a re-make of the original MI-game for both X-Box360 and PC, titled The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition. It’ll be out later this summer, and features full voice-over with the original voice-actors from MI3. We’ll also be able to switch between classic & new style in-game at the press of a button. Awesome stuff.

Put on your eyepatches, polish those wooden legs and prepare for a fantastic summer!

Edit: Just realized this almost reads as an advertisement/”press release” in itself. I’m just excited, that’s all. =P

Edit 2: Ron Gilbert has some stuff to say about all of this, plus he’s got some interesting observations and anecdotes (and screenshots) about the original Monkey Island game. Check it out.


I haven’t really been giving this blog the attention I should lately, and I beg pardon for that – though I blame life, the universe and everything. I do have some more posts brewing, but not sure when I’ll have time/will to finish them up and hit the publish button. Anyways, enough excuses, have a small update about… stuff.


I was linked this awesome flash-based platform-game by a co-worker yesterday, and even though the game has been live since the middle of April and is probably old news to many, I just have to throw out a link for it here myself:  Scarygirl.

The main character in the game, i.e. Scarygirl, sorta looks like a mix between one of the characters from The Night Before Christmas and Lenore, the Cute Little Dead Girl. Which makes her damn cool. The actual game isn’t too shabby either – it’s as if the developer (Touch My Pixel) took bits and pieces of old classic platform, puzzle-and adventure-games (Treasure Island Dizzy came to mind. So did Mario AND Giana Sisters, and Commander Keen) and then combined them into this awesome, totally new Flash-based experience. From what I’ve seen so far, everything about this game is very well made – be it visuals (by artist Nathan Jurevicius), audio, story or gameplay – it’s all gorgeous. Granted, I’ve only reached level 3 so far (out of something like 14?) but I’m hoping the rest of the game keeps up the standard set in those early levels. Try it out yourself!

Any less real if it’s virtual? has an interesting article about a talk/presentation held by Jon Bing, a prominent Norwegian writer/law professor at the Norwegian Research Center for Computers and Law (NRCCL), at the Norwegian Game Conference on the 23rd of April this year.

He argued that there is no significant difference between virtual and real experiences, that looking into a monitor is no different than looking out a window and that a lot of people are already living in their own fantasy-worlds without the help of technology. He stated examples like an MMO developer being forced by courts to reinstate virtual items for a player who got his account hacked, and how a Chinese Legend of Mir 3-player – Qiu Chengwei – stabbed and killed a real-life friend of his (are virtual friends any less real?) after said friend sold a virtual sword of his on eBay. What happens in those games are already a part of real life, Bing said.

Other topics he discussed were virtual reality, and integrating technology with the human body, for instance through microchips, speakers, microphones, input devices like keyboards etc. which could for instance let us be the cell-phones ourselves and not have to carry around a separate device. Interesting, but a bit scary, especially when thinking about the potential for abuse by Big Brother (TM). You can leave your cellphone behind today (though few people do), but if the cellphone is a part of your body – what can you do?

Read the entire article on for a more detailed summary of his talk (Norwenglish version, courtesy of Google)

The Dresden Files

Forgive me, Rincewind, but you’re no longer my favourite wizard (though you are still my favourite wizzard, mind).

Some time last year, a friend of mine and I were discussing Fantasy authors/series, and he suggested Jim Butcher‘s The Dresden Files to me. It took me a while to actually pick up the first book, but after I started reading it I didn’t put it back down until I reached the last page, and I’ve since then reached book 9 in the series (with two more to go before I catch up to the author and have to start waiting for books… *grumble*).

In short, Harry Dresden is the most awesome wizard ever. And Jim Butcher, buddy; you’ve just climbed to position #2 on my list of favourite fantasy authors (position #1 is still securely held by Pratchett).