Author Archive

About Suzie Grand Theft Auto: The MMO? No thanks!
February 11th, 2009 by Suzie
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Sex, Lies and Video GamesA couple of weeks ago, Jon, from The Clockwork Manual, sent me an email. What, he asked, do you think about a Grand Theft Auto MMO? In fact, he did more than just ask what I thought. He wrote a post on why it would rock.

If there’s one thing Rockstar can do better than any other developer in the world it’s create a bustling metropolis that feels lived in by the thousands of characters seen roaming the streets. How easy then, would it be to see other players filling the shoes of the people you pass by in the street without a second glance. That taxi driver that dropped you off at your mission marker could be someone on the other side of the world, saving up a little more in-game cash to hire some protection. That hotdog vendor you just paid could be someone else playing a minigame in between missions.

You can read the entire email here, and he’s definitely persuasive. But somehow - I wasn’t convinced. It took me a while to figure out why, but in the end I sent him an email back. Here it is:
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About Suzie Letís Talk About Sims, Baby: Part IV - MySims PC and Non-Violent Gaming
October 23rd, 2008 by Suzie
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My Sims PCNote: This is part III of my write-up of EA Sims Bloggers Day. You can read Part I, Part II and Part III here.

MySims. You play as a wide-eyed chibi, thrust into a run down town and given a goal: attract citizens. You do this by building furniture, houses, and unlocking super-computers and pin-ball machines. Once you’ve got what people want, you’ve convined them to return home.

When we saw this game demoed, it was hard not to notice the gap between this and MySims Kingdom. In MySims Kingdom, the producers talked about how they’d elimiated the annoying loading screens. Moving from that into MySims PC, you see the loading screens first hand. Everytime you switch between building mode and town mode, in fact. Where the PC port does come into its own though, is the online arena.

Each player gets given a little social zone to invite their friends to. You can build there, so you can each get your own ‘hangout’, there are the usual chat-programs and minigames - tag being the version we saw - and the whole thing is like a slicker, cuter, smaller, faster-loading Second Life.
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About Suzie Let’s Talk About Sims, Baby: Part III - SimAnimals
October 16th, 2008 by Suzie
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simanimals.jpgNote: This is part III of my write-up of EA Sims Bloggers Day. You can read Part I and Part II here.

We all love animals, right? Sure we do. Witness the success of all the various animal games out there. Neopets. Catz and Dogz. Nintendogs. Tamagotchis. Pokemon. If it’s cute and furry, then we want it. End of story.

So, the Sim franchise is the best selling franchise that EA have. It’s not that surprising. In the Sim world, you’re God. You can build - and you can destroy. That’s something that appears in every Sim game, from Sim City (unleash Godzilla, anyone?) to The Sims (I know you set one of your Sims on fire. Don’t lie to me.)

So what happens when you mix the Sims and animals together? You get SimAnimals, an upcoming EA game for the wii and DS that enables you to explore “the backyard and beyond”. Basically, you get given a plot of land and you’re supposed to get animals to move in and make friends with you. You manage to befriend the wildlife by treating them nicely - giving them food, shelter, water and all the rest of it, until they trust you. You can then use this trust to make them become friends with each other, leading to the unlikely scenerio of wolf cubs buddying up with squirrels. Eventually you get given more plots of land, each yours to look after.
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About Suzie Character Control
October 9th, 2008 by Suzie
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Fl0wA couple of weeks back, Jon and I went to logger-heads over the issue of cutscenes. Of course, a topic like this needs to be returned to - and Jon did exactly that in his return email to me. Since I always need to have the last word, naturally I replied.

Jon,

I think, perhaps, we want video games to do different things. You want video games to tell a story. A cohesive story, that follows the rules of characterization and plot. When we read a book, we don’t expect silent and masked protagonists. When we watch a movie, we don’t expect to influence the dialogue on screen.

Video games are - I believe - currently evolving. They balance two different demands, and many times these two demands are completely opposed to each other. The first demand is that of interactive entertainment. Whether that’s racing a timer whilst organising oddly shaped building blocks to stop them building up to the top of the screen - or pitting your spiky-haired warrior against an array of peculiar monsters.

The second demand is narrative. This is the why, the where, the when. I can build stats for the sake of winning, or I can build stats so that I can be better able to take down the evil psychopath threatening to destroy the world. Either way I’m building stats, but with a story wrapped around it I can at least be motivated, or moved.
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About Suzie Letís Talk About Sims, Baby: Part II - MySims Kingdom
October 7th, 2008 by Suzie
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MySims KingdomNote: This is part II of my write-up of EA Sims Bloggers Day. You can read Part I here.

If you’ve played the original MySims, you will know the characters already. Family-friendly, cute voiced, and stylised - the MySims took the super popular Sims franchise and gave it a Nintendo spin.

MySims Kingdom takes the core gameplay from MySims - that of building things - and uses it within an RPG-styled storyline. Unlike the original game, you follow a series of quests, meeting up with many recognisable faces and unlocking various new lands as you go. These lands are themed - one is a wild west frontier, another is a mystical fantasy land. Tim LeTourneau, the Executive Producer, compared the design to that of Disneyland.
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About Suzie Let’s Talk About Sims, Baby: Part I - SimCity Creator
September 23rd, 2008 by Suzie
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SimCity CreatorEA is the ‘big guy’ when it comes to game development. They have a string of successful franchises across a range of platforms and genres, and I don’t just mean success in terms of dollar bills - though they have plenty of that. Many of their franchises are routinely held up as ‘great games’ - most notably for me is SimCity and Command & Conquer. I’ve played most incarnations of these two series, and I love them.

So I was delighted to receive an invitation to EA Redwood Shores, CA to attend a Sims Bloggers Day. I would get to see several upcoming Sims game, talk with some designers, meet some other bloggers, and see just what’s it like at the HQ for the biggest name in gaming. I’d also get to spend 22 hours sitting in a plane, but such is the lot of the dedicated blogger.

First impressions count for a lot, and EA makes a good one. The building is huge, modern, and the lobby decorated with arcade machines, and a giant TV screen. There are gardens, a labyrinth, a nearby lagoon, an on site gym, a creche complete with playground, big lounges, and (of course) game rooms. No expense has been spared, which is perhaps not surprising given the furor that arose in 2004 over the work-life balance of EA employees. The developers may still have to work long hours, but at least they can see their children and get some exercise. Certainly none of the people we spoke to seemed to be unhappy, and the passion for the games they were creating came through in their presentations.

Ah yes. The games. As a Sims day, all the games were shown were part of the Sims franchise, but there was quite a wide variety in what we saw. One developer compared the MySims characters to the muppets - able to be plunged into any storyline or genre, whilst still retaining their muppetness (or Simness).

I’ll start at the beginning, with the soon-to-be-released SimCity Creator. In my next few posts I’ll move on to MySims Kingdom, SimAnimals and finish up with MySims PC. Finally I’m going to talk a bit about what the Sims franchise represents for gamers, and explore EA’s corporate culture a bit further. So stay tuned - we’ve got a lot to talk about.
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