Pokemon Emerald-Z dev diary

Hi Pokémon Fans! This will be a dev diary and feature guide for the Emerald-Z rom hack.

Pokemon-Emerald-Z

I had been enjoying many rom hacks for their increased variety, utility and challenge. So I decided to try to make my own hack, lifting the mythical and unique “Battle Frontier” quest before the ORAS Hoenn hype dies out. What would make Poké Fans play such a game?

downloads-emerald-z

    1. One thing that always got me hooked on the Pokémon games was the learning experience, fighting unknown monsters & finding secrets after days of training. This led me to revamp the type chart and most dual typings in the game.

 

    1. The next thing I liked was the ability to capture or raise many monsters of the same kind to compare their strengths better. So I cheapened EV-vitamins!

 

    1. I placed more Pokémon in the wild, so you can farm competitive legendaries & starters. I also changed up the priority(!) movepools and abilities to aid you.

 

  1. This is obviously a good way of preparing for the endgame: The Battle Frontier  🙂 But with the new type chart & moveset edits, this also became more of a challenge

Emerald-Z-Map

My inspiration comes from hacks like Storm Silver, Blaze Black and Yet Another Fire Red. These versions gave the player more useful items and strategies to try early in the game. That way you didn’t have to scrap anything you invested time in, and fights were harder!

The problem with competitive Pokémon training today is that it takes time to get started. With the cheaper EV-vitamins, anyone can nieche their monster stats for a small price and improve several of their team members at once. Enemy trainers also play smarter!

Pokemon Emerald-Z_009 Pokemon Emerald-Z_005

When changing Pokémon types and stats, I wanted players to be able to use more of the overlooked monsters for competitive roles. Mareep now resists ground and water attacks better and can regain health. Players who liked sets like Elemental Punch Alakazam are also able to relive that nostalgia. Monsters like Sneasel were weak in this old system, but I compensated for this by adjusting its special attack. “Mega” Pokémon also got new tricks. Instead of using stones the final evolution just becomes improved and can use hold items.

fcuzwgr

Charizard was a hard “Mega” to implement. Mostly because it has two versions, each with their own role, typing and stats. I decided to go with the middle ground, where the player chooses weakness through the ability. You get the Charizard X stats and typing, but can choose between the Drought and Levitate abilities. Either you will be weak to ground, or you will be weaker against water. There’s also “legendary” dragons of each dual type now!

  • Normal Dragon – Dragonite (thick fat or levitate)
  • Fire Dragon – Charizard (levitate or drought)
  • Water Dragon – Feraligatr (swift swim or rough skin)
  • Grass Dragon – Sceptile (lightningrod or hyper cutter)
  • Ice Dragon – Lapras (water absorb or shell armor)
  • Electric Dragon – Ampharos (volt absorb or static)
  • Fighting Dragon – Hariyama (thick fat or guts)
  • Poison Dragon – Kingdra (swift swim or natural cure)
  • Ground Dragon – Onix (huge power or lightningrod)
  • Flying Dragon – Rayquaza (air lock)
  • Psychic Dragon – Lugia (levitate)
  • Bug Dragon – Scyther (limber or hyper cutter)
  • Rock Dragon – Flygon (levitate or sand stream)
  • Ghost Dragon – Altaria (levitate or own tempo)
  • Dark Dragon – Salamence (intimidate)
  • Steel Dragon – Steelix (rock head or lightningrod)

01-Pokemon Emerald-Z

Many players find beginner route encounters boring, sometimes not even worth catching. In Pokémon Emerald-Z you will face more interesting and diverse monsters in your early adventures. A Pokémon like Nidoqueen will provide you with the unique Ice/Poison typing once you find your first Moon Stone. Or you can try your luck with the impressive Fearow who gets the Flying/Fighting typing! There’s usually a defensive or offensive ability choice. You rivals will also choose different starters in this hack, which can get pretty interesting!

New video from a player who tried Pokémon Emerald-Z and recorded the first 10 minutes:

You can download the game for Android: GameBoid app with Pokémon Emerald-Z

Or visit the Reddit thread: Reddit presentation thread and feature list for Emerald-Z

review

Did the Internet spoil the Metagame?

What happens when individual exploration and analytic skills are replaced by data mining, cookie cutter game styles and viral low-risk strategies in a 21th century gaming industry?Today we’ll be looking at the concept of over-centralization and how it affects consumer patterns and empowerment of individual ways to appreciate gaming as an art, or medium. It’ll touch on AAA pop culture, the indie revolution, gamer diversity and actual metagames. We can approach these ideas through the process behind the words: As above, so below. You may call it an amateur gaming fractal pattern analysis about the macro and the micro. How are our individual choices affecting the games we produce, and how we enjoy them? Is the magic of a new game taken away when metagames are formed from data mining on release day and streamers broascast the most effective build to skew game economies?

We might just start with the basic concept of what a metagame is, and how it develops. Metagames are, for the purpose of this discussion, overall behavior trends that sprout from strategic exploration and interactions in an ocean of unique gameplay opportunities. Some environments and games are built in a ways that make metagames stabilize and become solid over time, because certain strategies are universally effective and “viable”. Other environments and games do not have universally strong strategies, because there are counters that can be just as easily aquired and mobilized when the opportunity arises. In games that put focus on resources and narrowing build management, it is usually good to have an end goal in mind when planning your character, instead of an adaptive focus.

The economic nature of these decisions are usually appealing to many people in gaming. In order to beat opponents and become as strong as possible, you must evolve quicker. This is why efficiency planning is so popular in RPGs, because you outsmart the game. “Unranked server abundance” or sandbox games open up for other kinds of metagames. You have the world at your fingertips and can create anything you want the moment you need it. This shifts focus towards social initiatives and how fast we can adapt to peoples’ choices and outmaneuver or trumph each other with creative designs, within certain limits.
Imagine the difference between a standard Scrabble game where you have limited letters, and a different Scrabble game where you had access to an infinite amount of letter pieces.

scrabble2

Building games with limited mechanics and structured narratives and gamestyles is easy. Building expansive games with endless opportunities requires huge creative intelligence and sustainable ways of funding the development process through incremental new sales. Having a clear start and finish for a project is often paramount in order to actually finish it. But planning for a designed transfer of responsibility for a project’s future is also possible. This is why we see so many games with fixed investments and permanent release dates. Making your game sustainable is almost like saying “We are taking the MMO dev route”.  There is almost only one recognized successful example of it. Imitators had no success.

The more widespread success of less sustainable games also meant more hiring flexibility for the developers and more flexible layoff strategies to boost the publishers’ fiscal reports. Developer mobility increased and their experience could diversify and spread to their new studios, an intellectual cross-pollination if you will. This leads to increases in genre fusion projects where new and larger recipes are designed from smaller successful mechanics. Today we see this in games such as Block N Load, Cube World, MOBAs and Planetside where previously separate concepts fuse together in large multiplayer online experiences. Right now we are fed with interconnected chimeras, looking for the next blockbuster mix.

The revolt against all this genre mixing and almost wasteful fidelity aspirations has given voice to the indie community where they often take a step back to the roots of gaming and try to engineer new gaming concepts from scratch through some kind of needs analysis. We see a lot of reimagined retro concepts that were not able to be realized properly back then and we see a lot of novel narrative designs and expressions of video game art forms. Many indie games might also cater to niche audiences that feel marginalized by flattened and “accessible” AAA designs that might actually just attract those who don’t really care. Hardcore communities of highly invested players are small, but can’t compare financially to the huge amount of casual consumers who pay just to kill a weekend with a new game.

This has become a heated conflict between “casuals” and “hardcore gamers” on the web, which has even infested local neighborhoods and caused harassment and death threats. Traditional heavily game invested groups are often looking down upon groups they believe to be entry level enthusiasts with immature and individualistic reasons for their hobbyism. And it most certainly causes friction when it comes to gender labeled games and sports. The refusal of publishers to take educational and diversity responsibility within our games cause a stabilizing casualization in publishers’ favor and an alienation of their biggest fans. The lack of allowed ways for hardcore fans to make themselves more valuable to game makers is rapidly fueling this conflict, and the biggest players in the industry stand idly by. In other sectors, commited customers are embraced and offered sustainable engagement.

This is what the larger picture has become, the spirit of a solidifying infested metagame. How are these universally viable strategies still spreading when their titans are plagued? For me, the catalyst of these issues is globalization and the interconnected viral Internet. We are constantly placed in an environment where the global top dog is visible, where the investors are skipping needs analytics in favor of copying cookie cutter success recipes. PR machines feed on fashion consumers who don’t ask questions when kept in the dark. Unfulfilled promises are swept under the rug by strategically leaking PR of their sequels. This oppressive environment is an intellectual hamster wheel prison, where we’re chasing ghosts and spending more and more, just to see these publishers continue to pay-gate us.

On an individual level, this even boils down to a feverish chase of the perfect game and a parenting developer who finally makes a game where all our needs are heard and fulfilled. In the absense of these, we turn to the top dog streamers who can teach us how to waste as little time as possible with the current fashion game and beat our friends until the next one comes out, just as unfinished as the one before it. The most searched videos seem to be guides that highlight the best weapons and builds, in 3 minutes or less. It boils down to the search of metacritic reviews; arbitrary point scales without comparable quality criteria. Almost none of these outlets actually empower the user to find their own genuine source of appreciation for the gaming medium. Instead, communities form to condemn “inferior”  ways to create, enjoy or discuss games, just as economists condem too innovative IPs.

Do you know why we seem so unable to enjoy games like we used to when we were kids or when we got our first gaming system? “Oh, it’s these casual, time consuming games!” some might say. “I’m getting too old for this and the hype train is getting rediculous now”. Would it be strange if someone straight up asked you if you remember what true love is? Maybe it had to do with an open mind, a new world where nobody told you what was fun, or a child who didn’t need to be socially relevant to enjoy an individual gaming experience. Maybe it was okay to play and explore these games since there were no internet strategy guides, no ELO Hell stigma, no accocount sharing bot and no internet idols to be inferior to the moment you wake up in the morning. Maybe it was okay to be a happy learning noob. Maybe it was the journey towards mastering and enjoying the experience that mattered to us, more that reaching a certain point where games become our shield from harassment.

Did the Internet kill the magic thrill of metagames and individual entertainment exploration? Maybe it did, and maybe it didn’t. Some users are now proudly abstaining from the release hype and their toxic competitive supporters and corrupt lobbyist, just as some realize the serenity in enjoying their personal favorite sports & music alone, without the peer pressure of hooligans or genre nazis who defend their illusionary ego fortresses and entry barriers.   You don’t have to be one of their minions in the conflicts and infested places they occupy. You are free to be anyone, and explore games for your own individual development and entertainment. You are free to learn how to make your own games, to kickstart the game of your dreams and to open the creative doors that might someday heal the lost gamers who now wander the Internet, screaming and kicking, just cause they see no other option. Read this article one more time, and become the parent of the experience you want in life.
Grab a game that no one else requires you to play, and write your own story in its pages.

Written by @absol_89

The future of gaming: Social progression retainment and monetized modding designs

Today I will be adding some new flavor to the topic “Where is Gaming headed in 2014”. The goal will be to arrive at new solutions to capture player’s interest and also have a retained and profitable way of monetizing post-launch player creativity and attachment.

Quick summary: Next gen consoles are gaining a foothold and PCs are becoming more capable with the advents of low-level API technologies now included in Mantle and DX12. Big free-to-play franchises are expanding from PC to consoles, Steam is hitting the living room with Big Picture mode and Single Player experiences are merging with Multiplayer. Early Access platforms and Virtual Reality is gaining popularity, but what about the Cloud?

My additions: The recent years had some of the most troubled launches we’ve seen, notably from Battlefield 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Watch_Dogs, Sim City 4 and ESO. Even conflicts between releasing a working product, and pirates making them playable. We still have conflicts between cinematic linear experiences, and dynamic endgames, and we are unsure whether people will pick up a new game if they still play the old ones. Publishers are resisting to let players drive bottom-up attachment processes in gaming.

Death by design: Cutting certain corners is extremely important when dealing with large scale productions if you expect to deliver a game 1 year before it is likely polished enough. You are also expected to make each new game address the flaws of the previous, even to the point where you put in 2-3 sources of frustration just to have something to “fix” later on. All this backed up by research that points to players becoming emotional and vulnerable, more likely to play or take new risks when they’re frustrated and rewards are occasional. Games and movies are designed like cliffhangers to open up doors to the next experience and they leave us with unfulfillment, as the purchases become more like renting the game. We can no longer have great experiences unless the playerbase or our internet is active.

Early access models: Steam is using Greenlight as an official way to test and rank early access games in a controlled environment, with some additional layers of Steam Curators. Meanwhile, larger publishers are using “Betas” as quick stress tests for finalized designs. If the main purpose of your “Beta” is to stress your infrastructure rather than your design, you are losing out on customer consent incentives that otherwise fuel a free PR machine. If you are using a finalized design model, you will have to rely on paying for your own PR machine, as well as being liable when people call you out on misguided trailers and hype. Other early access models incorporate both design and stress tests, such as Battlefield 4 CTE (Community Test Environment). This is a way for premium members to access development builds and forums for organized discussion and immediate design feedback. It also drives sales of the Premium Season Pass and lets you level up an alternate soldier. It is also a collaborative effort to improve / optimize the Frostbite 3 engine for other games.

Always on DRM: CD Project RED is now taking the lead in how consumer friendly new AAA open world games can be. They are offering a huge game without any additional DRM that might prevent you from playing your game during internet outages. They are also offering a wide variety of 16 free DLC content drops for all player who buy the game, you don’t even have to pre-order or get the deluxe edition to get this DLC content. Other publishers insist on making buggy, unstable and overhyped AAA games with a myriad of frustration solving microtransactions, brand looping service signups and companion apps. And yes, I am looking at you Assassin’s Creed Unity, maybe you should have put more effort into the storyline, snappier controls and a way to promote your third China DLC with a stunning co-op multiplayer skin for Shao Jun. You had female animations for that trailer! On top of this, Uplay and its DRM seem unable to cope with any new AAA game release. At least Steam is connecting you with friends and deals, and EA Origin has digital refunds.

Next gen experiences: What happens to games that are taking advantage of the new console systems and services in 2014? Not that much, because of multiplatform parity. Destiny went for a dull last-gen-compatible design that quickly incentivised game exploits. Watch_Dogs got accused for limiting on-disc PC features to make consoles look equal. Free-to-play games such as Blacklight: Retribution seem to have gone quite unnoticed, even as Warframe and Planetside 2 try to advance towards the couch shooter fanbase. What happened to cloud computing for Xbox One, what is it used for? It can, in theory, pre-calculate physics events in shared environments using a local server, but is it used? What happened to the share function of Playstation 4, are friends helping one another? We’ve also seen the commander implementation in Battlefield 4, but the experience is severely limited and does not scale well with player size, or when a commander leaves. The CPU flaws of the PS4 might bottleneck it later on, just as the Xbox One GPU does. Kinect reserved resources are being claimed for other things, and barely sells anymore. And at the same time, Battlefield 4 and its CTE has problems evolving onto the next gen consoles due to embarrassingly slow certification processes with dated bandwidth limits.

Social progression design: Even though games quickly run out of replayability or ways to find novelty in actual game mechanics, social progression is always something that can keep players exploring, once gameplay options have become limited. We see this online as different forms of speed running, competition, leaderboards, role playing and fan fiction. Our attachment to games late in their life cycle are often based on social progression and immersion, something that is built by bottom-up meaning making in creative communities. Publishers would rather have us squirm towards a more recent game at a higher price tag, and don’t really plan out ways to make profits out of creative processes built on nostalgia. Enabling players to exchange and realize their social progression ideas in-game is really helpful and enables publishers to reach more customers with adverts for similar products. One of the worst cases of social progression design was Crysis 3, which used very old progression models from COD4 without social features. The game died before DLC one. Games that lived past their expectation thrive however, such as Minecraft and Diablo 2.

Creative retainment: As I explained in my earlier post about Co-Creation in Gaming, people get more attached to experiences they can influence, and draw their friends to it. We become proud of the things we create or aquire, and defend it as a part of ourselves. One way to make gamers more invested in their games is to let them add or modify things in the game. It could be anything from custom textures, to gameplay tweaks or new maps. Publishers have a tendency to keep their engine tools “safe” from exploitation by keeping them in-house, where they can profit from selling DLC, or selling their engine technologies to others. Why go through so much work, just to limit your profits to what you can create? Why not sit on your ass, while thousands of players generate passive profit, within limits? Sure, Battlefield 4 servers are quite tweakable, but once you meddle with any predefined standard, your server traffic will vanish and your server fee loses all of its previous value. Instead players have to buy and mimic the publisher’s official servers to reclaim the traffic. Games such as Little Big Planet 3 instead offer a Netflix-like novel experience platform, where players can browse genres of player created content and rate or modify it at will.

Monetizing modding: Do I have your attention now? There are actually ways of making a profit out of this co-creation phenomenon, something even Valve or Skyrim hasn’t been able to realize yet, despite having some of the most played and modded games out there. As we’ve seen with the rise of platforms such as Kickstarter, Humble Bundle, Bandcamp and others, some people are willing to pay more for something, if they can pay less than they expected and still be able to donate a percentage directly to original content creators. People are happy when they can try novel experiences for free and donate through quality of life purchases. One perfect example of this is Path of Exile, by Grinding Gear Games. Their game is free, has depth, social progression and replayability, while having humane ways for people to fund to the developers and compete in new and exciting league races. Their content is made slowly by the developers however, and they are quite a small team. Imagine if Skyrim had a system where good modders could be funded directly through the distribution platforms of their work, and customers could rate content and donate both to developers and modders at a price point they are comfortable with. More $: More content. The developers and publishers would only have to manage the engine mod infrastructure and possibly ways to rent dedicated servers with decent traffic, or “officialize” good mods. That is what happened to Counter-Strike, Insurgency, DayZ, Team Fortress and DOTA.

Then how can we jump on this win-win money train: Consider hiring me @absol_89
and remember that these new concepts can also co-exist with developer published DLC!

Rock Paper Scissors in Games

This will be a resource article for the podcast with Addison396, discussing BF4 balance!

Example 1: The win/loss/skill win distribution of the standard rock papers scissors game.
As you can see, it is balanced well and the draw component makes winloss 50/50 mostly.
There is no clear choice which has a higher win rate, and one element will not be in play.

Later we apply this to Battlefield’s core vehicle balance consisting of Air, Inf/AA and Land.
What happens is that Land usually wins over Infantry/AA, using terrain elevation & cover.
Air units can see Land vehicles regardless of most terrain, balancing out Land advantage.
Infantry and MAA can carry anti-air missiles and will thereby keep air surveillance at bay.

If we move on to Battlefield 3 Balance, we see more air and anti-air components in it.
The new added air units take advantage of 3D spotting and there is usually only 1 MAA.
This leads to a situation where jet management alternates between saving your Atk Heli
from enemy jets and then double up & focus fire on an enemy MAA to keep air superiority.

In Battlefield 4 however… There are some huge nerfs to air control and splits to anti-land.
What this means is that stealth jets no longer have the ability to double up on enemy MAA.
The Attack Jet takes the role jets had in BF3, usually dominating BF3 skill win matchups.

The Attack Boat works as a water tank with a repair seat, having less cover to play with.
On the other hand it can avoid RPGs easier due to the constant variations in wave height.
The recently added Active Radar Missiles allow the MAA to disable enemy air controls,
this also lets it abuse crash triggers and disturb incoming return fire from the Helis & Jets.
Only having 1 flare or ECM to spend severely limits a Heli’s ability to survive a strafe run.

This leads to a situation where people will focus on countering the most common threats
with certain vehicle unlocks and tactics such as having dedicated repairmen in vehicles.
This shifts the Metagame towards a balance where a vehicle’s individual risk is minimized rather than having a Metagame where offence and team coordination are the core values.

Conclusion: The emphasis of having too many vehicle types on the field at one time will exclude many of the assets created to enrich the game. It would be better to split up the whole roster of vehicles and their balance triads on different maps and game modes. This would create subsystems where different Metagames can thrive, utilizing all of the assets.
You mostly see this on Rush maps, even though Rush vehicle balance has been skewed to allow progression through the map itself at various stages. Conquest plays differently where you’ll have more focus on overall vehicle respawn balance across the entire map.

We saw some of these vehicle splitups in the BF3 DLC Aftermath, where some maps and modes had Attack Helis and Tanks, while others mainly had IFV & Scout/Transport Helis.
Splitting the heavier vehicles and their balance system from the Lighter vehicles creates a situation where the ligher vehicles can play more freely without the opression from Heavy.
The heavy can also utilize different role setups once their cannon fodder is no longer there

Sometimes you could pick some of the Heavy to go against some of the Light vehicles and create unique systems where jets don’t have helis to shoot, or where MBTs are gone.
This allows jets to equip stuff like guided missiles, or IFVs to go on the anti-MAA offensive.
These subsystems step away from the mega Battlefield experience & towards diversity!
On Naval Strike we saw the Attack Heli shine once the MAA was gone, and Attack Boats had to make a choice between having AA missiles & being able to do more DPS to boats.

Taking the basic rock paper scissors mechanics into account, one would assume that choosing a vehicle ingame would net you equal chance of tac win, tac loss and skill win.
As we can see from these pictures, universally effective vehicle unlocks & strategies will make the Metagame more rigid & defensive, which hampers overall replayability / variety.

Hope you enjoyed this article despite the difficulties in mapping all of the balance triads
and numbers! If you want to ask something or add corrections, tweet to @absol_89

Pokemon Shiny Value in 2014

This will be a small written guide on how to check your egg’s shiny values through saved Battle Videos. You will only need a friend/passerby to battle and a program called KeyBV!
Your computer needs windows or wine wrapper (mac) and be able to read big SD cards.
Link and set-up instruction: http://projectpokemon.org/forums/showthread.php?37568

This “break” key is the decryption key for that specific video ID. ALWAYS CUT+PASTE.
If you don’t remove the battlevideo from your SD card, you’ll have to get a new key again.

Now… The instructions for producing good eggs and actually checking their SVs…
Remember to turn off forced saving in your game’s options (hammer/wrench icon)

Step 1: You can only check 6 pokemon at a time, make sure those are 5-6 IV perfects!
– Get 5 eggs with desired eggmoves and nature from a couple of 5-6iv parents or ditto.

Step 2: Save your game. Because we need a way to undo the hatching after checking!
– Hatch your 5 eggs and IV check them. Remember which egg slots you want to keep!
– Reset your game, deposit the best eggs in PC. Hatch and release the others, repeat 1-2

Step 3: When you have 5-6 good IV eggs in the PC, Save your game. (The final save)
– Now hatch your 5-6 eggs and make sure you keep track of their order in your party.

Step 4: Battle with a friend, don’t save. Forfeit directly after sending out your Pokemon.

Step 5: Save the battle video. When you get to the yellow screen, remove the SD card.
The 3DS will say something about it being removed and you can reset to Home screen.

Step 6: Put the SD card in your computer’s SD reader and search for 0000055d or e.
You can send a shortcut to the 00000000 folder to desktop. Ctrl+X the latest modified file

Step 7: Paste the file in the same folder as KeyBV and scan it with your key. You’ll see their IVs, natures and shiny values, paste the list into an Excel sheet or notepad and be sure to deposit the eggs into your PC in the same order when you start the game again!

Step 8: Find players with a matching TSV through one of the following SV lists:
https://www.facebook.com/notes/pokemon-xy-perfect-shiny-gift-circle/list-of-trainer-shiny-id-values/1426435347574204
http://www.reddit.com/r/pokemontrades/wiki/shinyids
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ak2hDRJIzJHbdFItaVJidTRTZTJxZnY1dThxNzRxbHc#gid=1

Thank you for reading, I hope this helps you breed non-cloned kalos shinies again!
Tweet @absol_89 if you want more pictures or clarifications in the guide!
Source: http://www.reddit.com/r/SVExchange/wiki/checkingeggs edited for 5IV+

Positive Feedback Infrastructures

One of the most basic ways to let people discuss and leave feedback is through a forum or message board with different topic categories. While it is a standard way to do this, it has many drawbacks. These flaws are the bumping factor along with the drama factor,
as well as the lack of quality ratings and also the indirect nature of reporting game events.

Drama threads are susceptible to drama bumps, where turmoil often make people voice their opinion more, which adds fuel to any flame. This in turn affects the entire mood of the forum. Since the nature of a badly written post is more likely to get both creative and destructive input, they flourish and influence the forum to a larget extent than good posts. The nature of a well written post will either become saturated with complements, making each following complement more likely to be reduced to a copy bump than a genuine contribution. This discourages contribution and puts an expiration date on such posts.

When it comes to things like reddit, the bumps and contributions are separate, meaning that it is easier to bury drama posts in “dislikes”, and to bump a good thread without saturating it. If a game developer wants to control and moderate the discussions of their game heavily on their own sites, people will still take the “superior” discussion elsewhere (on reddit). If a good discussion climate is preferred, game forums must step up and improve their functionality. One very good example of this is http://ideascale.com/

Next up is other external feedback systems, like surveys

What are surveys good for? They provide statistics and easier ways to compile opinions into structured graphs that can aid future development. But there are a few rules that game companies trip on when they are collecting feedback for their games. The most recent examples are the Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, The Elder Scrolls Online and Battlefield 4 balance surveys. I will not go into detail on each and every survey, but instead describe some of the faults in how questions and answer options are presented.

1. Discarding whole submissions due to certain answers, very bad (FFXIV)
Apparently some submissions were discarded without warning, due to not matching certain criteria in the answers. It might have been (won’t buy the game yet), (haven’t played certain competitor) or whatever, but the people who tried to contribute to the success of their game were not informed when their effort as a whole, up to 30 min, would be discarded and unread. This is poor survey handling, that lost data was important data.

 2. The answers must to a large degree cover most opinions about the question.
I’ve seen many yes/no voting polls and “pick only one” questions about the Battlefield series where multiple changes or features are described in the poll and the complexity of them are not reflected in the answers. I have heard that some of them are not really used as influence, but the more recent ones with balance changes are. Let’s take a look at this.

Here are some guidelines for such future polls, explaining how they improve data quality:

– If you ask “which of these features do you like”, the poll must allow picking serveral of them to get the best and most accurate results of their popularity. Asking “which do you like the most” is really a bad choice, because everyone’s second favorite might actually get considered as bad as their least favorite one. Putting in some effort will pay off here.

– If you ask “Do you want the changes described above”, with a yes/no answer, it is better to actually ask “Which of these changes do you support” with multiple checkbox choices.

– If you describe both nerfs and buffs to a feature, you can’t just ask about one of them.
In that case you must provide answers that say something like Buff it / Leave it / Nerf it.

3. Mixing positive and negative question types with same/different scales
If you ask a series of questions like The Elder Scrolls Online did, people will be very confused. Overall they had good scales and questions, but the answer options were poortly named. Here are some examples to consider when using the Likert scales:

– If you have a 5 position scale, many people will get right in the middle of it, or on 2 or 3. They are less likely to stand at the extreme edges of it and you’ll get a boring average spread. It might be better to have 6 or 7 scale positions rather than 4 or 5, because there is no safe middle and the mostly disagree/agree options will be forced to spread out more. When naming them, the best system is really the “disagree-agree” scale, because you can mix positive and negative questions without confusion. Imagine these questions:

“Do you think your character is unique and feels good”
“Do you think that combat lag is bad?”

If you had earlier answer scales with “disagree-agree” and you were instructed that going to the right on the scale meant agreeing more with that statement, you’ll have confusion when these mixed questions suddely have the answer options “Very bad-Very good”. If you feel that the combat lag is “bad” you would go to the left of the scale due to wording, but if you’d agree more with that statement, you’d go right… And if you use the “very bad-very good) scale in such a way… an answer scale of mostly bad (2) must be converted to match other negative questions where the answer option for (2) was “mostly disagree”.

Therefore, it is best to stick with the (strongly disagree – strongly agree) Likert scale, where “don’t know” means that you leave no answer on that particular question. The most important questions can be ranked with the “reply rate”, which highlights questions where users were convinced of their opinion. Giving it 6 scale positions means you cut out the safe answer, so that you are forced to strongly disagree, mostly disagree, slightly disagree, slightly agree, mostly agree or strongly agree. This works with both our positive and negative questions without confusion and you can categorize positive questions in one group and negative in another when compiling the answers. That way you can get the average positive ratings of your game in one batch, and the average negative ratings in another. From there you can identify which questions added most weight to the spread and you can categorize them depending on impact and reply percentages/importance.

Putting positive and negative questions together in the actual survey prevents the likelyness to put “overall 4s” across the entire page,which is a good thing. But the important lesson here is that you can analyze negative and positive questions separatly. The other lesson is to not let the answer options confuse people. To prevent this confusion, use the same scale, but keep the statements varied instead. This is better than asking the same type of questions, while using loads of different scales & conversions.

Which game has had the best feedback option then?

I’d say that an ingame feedback / report system is a very good way to handle feedback. The Elder Scrolls Online had the ability to leave ingame feedback by typing /feedback or /bug in the game chat. This sent the player to a screen where they could categorize the feedback or bug into different game areas that sent the report to appropriate devs to be handled by the right people. Imagine the following additions to such an ingame system:

– At the moment the player says /feedback or /bug, a screenshot is taken of the game state. They player is then allowed to crop and highlight certain areas of this picture.

– At the same moment, the computer has also gathered a DxDiag file, your computer setup and tempereatures, as well as a copy of the gamestate inside your RAM memory. The player then has the option to submit a selection of these with their feedback/bug.

– These feedback and bug reports can be directly received by appropriate devs, and they can see the cropped screenshots and watch and compare certain memory states while they are sitting with their game or dev client open, by using a feedback overlay toggle.

– Another option is to allow 15 second videos to be recorded and sent with this system. Keeping bugs and glitches away from places like Youtube and open forums may be a good idea if you do not want unneccessarily viral & unintended events seen by the public.

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Combining this ingame system with survey analytics is possibly the best system!
Forums are best for discussing overall design choices and not for measuring specifics.
Next time I’ll probably spotlight a specific patch, game or a nice feature I’ve discovered.

Defining Co-Creation through Gaming


Part 1: Introduction to this blog

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Today I felt like starting a minor outlet and portfolio for my thoughts on the Video Game Industry and its future. There is only so much one can say or do in a world where forums and drama bumping are the most influencial yet counterproductive ways to influence games. If we take a step back and look at the driving forces in gaming culture, we might also stumble upon ways to improve its flow.

What is Co-Creation, you ask? Well… for the purpose of this article, it is an experience that is “alive”, where the consumers and providers are both contributing to the outcome in an interactive way. One could describe it as a growing process, or even evolution. It is a defining feature of all life on earth. When something is alive it is a process in motion and the beauty of motion lies in that it prevents the object from a final verdict or label regarding its position in the universe. Until it stops moving it is a marvel to watch, ponder and predict. As long as there are significantly unpredictable elements involved in this growing process, it is entertaining and rewarding to partake in. The fans are all hungry for the opportunity to contribute to their own enjoyment of this experience.

But what happens to co-creation when post-launch support focuses on “fixing” a game towards a final or acceptable state, instead of “fixing” its ability to stay moving on its own? What happens when the resources and tools for this are placed far away from the hands that are supposed to enjoy this experience? It stagnates, it becomes predictable, it loses its magic and creative appeal. We know where this ends… It loses social appeal. Less people play, less people talk about it, less people dream, less people create. Death. Does this really inspire you to repeat that process? Not really.

It seems like there is a fear from publishers that they cannot effectivly sell a new game unless the old one dies or becomes stagnant. But the true way to building a successive IP, or any family for that matter, must be to allow their different generations to interact and live side by side and evolve together. Every player is different, every player will mature together with the experiences they encounter and every player will try to customize their experience in a way that is unique and worth telling. Why limit a game’s growth potential by finite casualization, when you can build the casualization as a starting point with deeper growth potential. There are so many options that are used by developers in the production phase that are blacked out  when it reaches the consumer.

This leads to alienation, where an experience is no longer feeling “yours” anymore, You have participated in the experience for some time and suddely your input becomes less and less perceivable to both yourself and to others… You become normalized and jaded towards the world that won’t grow with you, and you find this in almost every interactive gaming experience you try. It doesn’t matter if you play them or not, because they are no longer made to last. The once transcendant features are reduced to shooting stars. Next we will talk about some basic customizable features and their role in improving user immersion and the feeling of individuality.

Part 2: What is FOV, and why should we care?

Field of View is the most immersive window a user can experience a game through. Depending on the aspect ratio and the distance to your screen, a specific view angle is the key to making the player’s perspective as natural and immersive as possible. Why limit this? And why calibrate it towards something that is several meters away, when you are trying to communicate details and text information at the same time? As of this generation, we are no longer as bound to the systematic hiding tricks that are used to mask texture quality and image resolution. Scalable Quality+FOV = ❤

1. The rendering performance will become more varied
(actually a good opportunity to find out what game elements can be scaled and tweaked)
2. Animations and models have to be calibrated for this
(just another way to improve  top tier presentations of your game on enthusiast screens)
3. People don’t want to fiddle in menus, they want to play
(another opportunity to invent intelligent FOV identifying solutions, be proactive about it)

I belive the future of gaming has a lot of room for scalabe solutions and more intelligent feature balancing. If the level of detail of each graphics element can vary intelligently compared to other elements, the management of video memory and load will even out.

UI customization, custom plugins and retextures and skins, we can’t allow that?

This actually brings a whole new level of co-creation to your game, where independent artists can work for free and create different display setups of the info that they feel is relevant to the interaction with the gameplay. Several representatives of many different target audiences can get together and provide different UI solutions to your game for free, you can even sell community approved UIs.

When it comes to skins, people are willing to create these for free, and use them for client side entertainment without affecting others. You could even sell community approved ones and focus your dev teams on the actual environments and the gameplay content instead.

When it comes to mods as a whole, there is a misconception that these prevent DLC sales, when in reality, people could actually be more willing to buy DLCs if the mod capability was DLC-gated, and you could get mod ability included in pre-orders or season passes. This ability does not neccessarily mean that you give them access to the entire game engine, but you can make UI or skin editors and other minor creation kits that would also aid your own developers when importing community content or creating optimized version of those. Mods are also a major intelligence resource when it comes to community popularity indicators and future development directions. Just browsing the most popular Skyrim mods will quickly tell you what parts of the gameplay that needed improvement, which story elements were forgotten, and what kind of characters their players would like in the future. Many of these mods require specific dlc assets and this also helps selling the Legendary Edition.

TLDR: Why create a game for a blunt target audience, and sell a small portion of DLCs because of dwindling consumer interest when you can create a blunt but customizable base experience, to sell mod access and more DLCs due to access gating? Awesome!

Part 3: Other evolution examples in gaming

So what should we discuss next? Crowdsourced balance tweaking perhaps? There are private servers for a reason. People buy them for a reason. People would be even more willing to buy them if they could domore things with them, without even impacting the base game negatively. Have you heard of the Promod phenomenon? It is a crowdsourced balancing effort for competitive play that was allowed through modding, which has made optional improvements that are still defining competitive standards today. If players are allowed to change some characteristics, a whole new game style can be derived from these small tweaks. The game is moving again, as the evolving new metagames come to life in the hands of the most skilled players in the world and their applauding fans. This can bloom into new markets, IPs or creative content types previously unseen. This opens up for more content creators and their free advertising, expanding your IP monetization etc.

What we’ve talked about so far is an example of various Co-Creation options that improve the customer’s attachment to a product, especially since the defining feature of games is the interactive element. With this growth process in mind, we can create IPs that mature with their audience, maybe even grow old with them, without feeling dated, stagnant or uninspiring. This can strengthen a wide variety of new IPs and game types for many generations to come. Gaming is not supposed to be a bunch of hollywood reimaginations that stomp down the genuine ideas and evolving concepts they kill and use to dress themselves in. Gaming could be about scaling these genuine ideas towards every consumer, by letting them parent these creations on their own and with their friends.

That is what co-creation is all about, and it is something that will live on and build stronger legacies that any other experience can. Creativity is connecting ideas in new ways, the more ways we can connect these ideas together, the more creative they can become. 

Until next time!
(where we can discuss ideas for community interaction and structured feedback support)