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Monday, May 29, 2006


I'm not finished!

The problem with new games is that the ones you've been waiting for tend to come out before you've finished the previous batch. What's worse, they usually go on sale the next week, making you wonder if you should go ahead and buy the game now or possibly wait 6-12 months for it to be permanently marked down (usually when the next update/sequel is released). I faced such a dilemma with the latest Zoo Tycoon 2 update, African Adventure. My only complaint with the series thus far is that there is a serious lack of scenarios for the player to do. The original game had less than 20 and the first expansion pack (Endangered Species) added less than a dozen to that. So I created this "challenge zoo" that I've been using to unlock all of the other bonuses/awards/etc. that are embedded in the game. These usually involve things like having a certain number of visitors or a certain number of animals from specific regions, etc. There are also photographic challenges where you have to take pictures of animals doing certain behaviors, which is a fun way to see how much work went into making the animals behave as naturally as possible (yesterday I took a picture of a mountain gorilla chuckling). Completing these challenges often earns you certificates, but sometimes you get something nice to put in your zoo, like a statue or a new kiosk for your guests.

So when the price dropped, I knew I was going to have to get ZT2: African Adventure. And it's a good thing I waited until the price dropped. While the new expansion has 20 new animals from Africa (including my favorite, the pygmy hippo), it is very light on other content. It only offers a handful of new objects for the zoo, challenge awards and exactly three new scenarios! For this, Microsoft expects consumers to hand over $29.99 - a price one would expect to pay for a complete game, not an expansion.

Gamecreature Arcade Update: This weekend we took the control panel off and removed the buttons and hardware in preparation for adding the new controls. The wood is in great shape. This week we'll be layering on the wood putty to fill up the old holes. THe next step will be to sand everything down to prepare it for the new control panel artwork. I hope this works!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Arcade Update - hidden treasure

Yesterday I peeled away the side decals from the cabinet and guess what I found?

This used to be a classic Williams Robotron game. For folks who didn't grow up on these things like I did, this is similar to buying a cheap painting at a garage sale and finding a masterpiece underneath. Sadly, all of the internal components are gone - all I have is this shell. Still, it's pretty neat to own a piece of history.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Flame Wars

Well, E3 is over and one of the casualties was civility on the gaming message boards. It should come as no surprise that any group that is dominated by young males taht there's going to be a certain amount of "my (person, place or thing) is suprior to your (person place or thing)." Usually in the greater gaming circles, someone will see a new game and they'll say, "that looks like fun. Can I give it a try?" But when it comes to video games, there's invariably a possessiveness that makes a user feel not only that a particular brand is better than others, but that brand needs defending against all comers. As these folks rabidly fight it out in forums across the internet, they never see the futility of their actions. Because the likelihood that they will convince someone else that their prefered brand is not so hot is about as likely that the will make the same admission themselves. At least, that's the way I see it. So what are you going to do, fight about it?

New project: Gamecreature Arcade. I've always wanted a video game machine to go next to my Star Trek pinball machine. The question was, which game? There are so many to choose from. And acquiring a restored classic game is an expensive proposition to say the least. So I finally decided to get an empty cabinet and put a computer inside it that has all of my favorite games on it. Here's the lucky cabinet in my basement:

Needless to say, I've got a lot of work to do, particularly with the control panel which I need to add some extra controls to. Sadly, I'm not so good with power tools. If nothing else, this should be an interesting adventure.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


That Was Easy

Sometimes I like to imagine what it was like when folks were first developing Uno. I think it might've gone something like the scene in this week's cartoon. Making a game is full of surprises, which frequently revolve around players interpreting the rules in ways completely unimagined by the developer. The next step is to further define the rules - in some cases by coming up with an exception that covers the player's unorthodox response or rexamining the original rules and determining if the rule was really all that important to begin with. And so goes the process of game design. You design, test and apply the results of testing to your design. Lather, rinse, and repeat. Needless to say, this could go on forever (and sometimes does) but sooner or later you're going to have to say this is good enough to share with the rest of the world. When is that? If an overwhelming majority of your testers (say 80%) can get through it without any help (beyond that which ships with the product) then it's safe to say most of your users will as well.

BTW, I've changed the restrictions on posting in this blog. Anonymous posting is once more allowed. You still need to type in the verification code, I'm sick of spammers. But otherwise, feel free to share your thoughts, beg for advice, etc. I'm all ears!

Monday, May 08, 2006


A Very Exclusive Party

This week is E3, the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. Needless to say, folks are very excitited about this show, because this is where all of the big names in the business do their best to get everyone just jaw-droppingly pumped about their latest product. In some cases, all it takes is to say "we're [name of company] and we've got a new product. Thanks for your support." Of course, with all of the hype being thrown around like beads at Mardi Gras, a lot of consumers would dearly love to be in the thick of things, just absorbing all of the pronouncements as they come out. But E3 is a tradeshow and they won't let just anybody come in to see the lavish multi-media displays, displays costing large amounts of money, displays that were (let's be honest) meant to be seen. Oh no. Only folks in the industry can attend. Everyone from the CEO at Nintendo to the lowliest cleark at EBgames get the honor of a free ticket to the exhibit hall. Oh, and the media of course. But no minors. Okay, maybe a few, but no pets. Oh, who are we kidding...

By the way, I will not be attending the E3 show this year as I'm too busy finishing my current game. Fortunately, we've arranged to get the actor who shares the name of the Mayor of Quahog, Adam West, to spread the word at E3. It should be (dare I say it) freakin' sweet.

Monday, May 01, 2006


Just Another Day at the Office

When you work at a game company, there's always a risk of a Nerf ambush. That's why I always carry one of these:

I've been playing a few new games for the DS lately - Age of Empires, Brain Age and Lost Magic. I'll be posting some impressions, reviews, etc. in the coming days. Let me just say this - I'm really digging the stylus. Well, that's all for now. Until I see you again, watch your back.

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