Since my last post about finding a job as a knowledge manager in a game company, I've been asked many times how that's coming along and why I'm not working as a gaming librarian yet. The thing is, my goal to work as a gaming librarian is a long-term goal. As in ten years long-term. A number of other important goals must be met first.
The most obvious short-term goal is getting some solid work experience in my professional field. Five to ten years working at a company with an established Knowledge Management office, or at a company seriously interested in establishing one, is my current career focus. Not only does this help meet short-term financial goals, but it also helps me establish a solid experience base to compliment my education. Working with experienced professionals who can share tips of the trade will be very different from listening to lectures. And I'm more of a hands-on learner anyways.
Once that career is in motion, I can seriously look at joining professional organizations and participate in career-related conferences. My ultimate goal here is to establish a forward-thinking reputation and eventually be able to present my ideas to my peers. I very much enjoyed presenting at the Canadian Games Conference, so I look forward to taking a role as an active participant and advocate within my professional circles.
The final step--and this is that 10-year-away one--is returning to the game development circuit with a plan based on solid education and solid experience. Of course, even this is mutable. The future has a strange way to reshape you, after all. While I think it's valuable to set long-term goals to work towards, I don't like to be restricted from other opportunities either. I don't know exactly what I'm working towards or when I'll reach it, but I'm sure it'll be grand when I find it.
When people ask me "why did you become a librarian" the easy answer is that I worked with librarians, enjoyed the work, enjoyed the people I worked with, and waned to join their ranks. But the deep underlying motivation is that, after working at a few game development studios, I saw a major need for improvement in the way games are made; and I saw how librarians are just the kind of person to fix those problems.
So I've begun my quest for a job as a game studio librarian. It's a bit of a ridiculous quest: I want a job that doesn't exist. But I think it should exist, and the hardest part of the quest is getting the job created.
The basic argument for why the job should exist is summed up in this Gamasutra article I wrote earlier this week. But basically, game studios are heavily reliant on knowledge and information and their knowledge is largely mismanaged. Hiring a librarian as a Knowledge Manager would go miles to improving workflow, saving money, and - crucially - improving the quality of the games being made.
This last part of the argument is the most important to me, because, as a game critic, I've often found myself in awe of the poor design choices made in games. I realize now that many of those poor decisions are made due to poor communication and a lack of information.
Happy New Year everyone! And to kick off the new year, a very special podcast with Bernd Lehahn of Egosoft, the company behind the X games. Our main topics are the recently released X3: Albion Prelude and the upcoming X: Rebirth. I'm a big fan of open-ended sandbox games and X scratches an itch that plagued me since the days of Elite and First Encounter. A bit of a learning curve, but, as we discuss, the upcoming X: Rebirth aims to reintroduce the series for new users. But why wait?
Stream this week's episode:
You can also download the whole episode in MP3 format.
If you haven't tried any X game yet, check out the Official Site to find out more about their games. You can also buy X3: Albion Prelude on Steam or get the X Superbox to get every X game in one sweet package!
Champions Online has just revealed a new promotion: for a limited time, the current premium archetypes are going on free rotation. This means players can play the premium archetypes for a week each, with a free respec offered at the end of each week so you can keep on playing with the same character in a new archetype. Pretty nifty, as it harnesses the respec potential of the game to give players a continuous tour of game content through a series of different premium perspectives.
Champions Online is somewhat of an odd-ball in the Freemium MMO scheme because they actually have three levels of character creation: free archetypes, premium archetypes (one-time unlock microtransaction), and free-form characters (which require gold subscription). What bugs me the most about CO is that if you cancel your subscription, your free-form champions are locked away until you subscribe again; you cannot purchase a one-time unlock for those characters. That means that anyone who played CO during its subscription days cannot come back and pick up the game and play for free, certainly not in the same way that returners could dabble in DDO or LOTRO or AoC or any other Freemium title.
That basically killed CO for me. I installed the F2P client, tried one of the locked archetypes, but the whole point of the game for me was the character customization. Playing CO without a custom character was like playing D&D with a pre-built character; the point of playing was largely defeated. So I don't know how much better a "premium" archetype is over a free one, since neither lets me use the two characters I already have on my account and wish I could log back in on and play.
This is the moment you may or may not have been waiting far too long for. Following the publishing of part 3 of The F-Words of MMORPGs: Free to Play, I've also published my full interview with Richard Garriott of Ultima fame. The topic is, of course, more about MMORPG economies. Enjoy!
Richard Garriott: I actually find MMO economies, still to this day, to be one of the most fascinating aspects of MMOs. It continues to cause upheaval, even the economics about how people try to charge for these things. It's a fascinating subject.
Soulrift: Yeah! I've been talking to a lot of people and they're all like "Oh, yeah, how come no one's ever written about this before? It's fascinating?" And others are like "why would anyone do an interview about my game's auction house?"
The next interview in my MMO Chat series is with Cardell Kerr, Creative Director at Turbine, who has been at the company for 11 years. He started as a content designer for Asheron's Call, was systems lead on AC2, worked on setting up DDO and is now Creative Director for LOTRO.
Starting with Asheron's Call, how did Turbine come up with the very unique systems for AC?
It's funny because AC is how I fell in love with the space. That was it. I got hired to work on AC and I played the heck out of it initially. I can say that I feel like, looking back on it, knowing where the company is and knowing what we've been doing all this time, AC is one of the first truly world-centric attempts at what it is to make a systemic game. So like you were talking about the bank notes and the economy and then there's the whole spell economy and what it meant to discover spells and utilizing those spells because you have them and if you were the only one who had them they would be more powerful for you. It was very much a game built on "we're going to use the systems of the world around us – and recognize that secrets are, to a certain extent, power – the more information you have the more powerful you're going to be in this game. You can see it in AC: a lot of that was information: how you travelled around in the portal rings and these other aspects. Therefore the economy was kind of a multi-headed beast. There were so many hidden things in the way AC was done: there was the economy of bank notes and pyreals and where you can buy certain components.
Even down to identifying what magical items actually did.
On Feb 7th, 2011, I interviewed Scott Hartsman of Trion Entertainment in order to write a more in-depth article for Gamasutra about MMO Economies. Well, the one interview turned into seven and the one article ballooned into three and, unfortunately, a lot of the interviews got cut from the final articles. So, for your reading pleasure, I'm posting the full un-cut interview transcripts here on Soulrift! Starting, of course, with Scott's.
Huge apologies for the late posting though, keep in mind that this interview was conducted while Rift was still in beta... Still, there's a lot that's interesting here so enjoy! :)
Welcome Scott, take a moment to introduce yourself.
My name is Scott Hartmsan, I am the Executive Producer of Rift and I work at Trion Worlds and we make an amazing amazing game that is in beta right now.
So today's post doesn't really fit into one game category; more of a collection of small updates I wanted to share.
RIFT: I've been playing less and less Rift lately. I've basically reached a point in Rift similar to that I reached in WoW: I log in to raid and that's about it. I rarely do any dungeons anymore and I'm not even leveling up any alts. I think the problem I have in these sorts of MMOs is the heavy emphasis on gear-based progression. Whatever rewards I get from dungeons and world events are meaningless once I start picking up random raid loot. And the randomness of that raid loot does particular damage to my desire to try and stay up to date, gear-wise. Even if I work hard for a week to get a new dagger, it could be a matter of minutes before I get another upgrade and toss all my hard work away. So why work at all? Just sit back, coast through the content, and let the upgrades make their way to me at their own pace. Bad design, IMO, but I'm not sure how to fix it.
Age of Conan: I messed around some more with my Necromancer and got to level 13... I think. The game quickly degenerated from a rather onerous single-player quest to a mish-mash of single-player quests. I think I picked up 20 in the same area before I gave up looking for floating quest indicators. Even worse is that the core game mechanics themselves are not getting any more interesting. After I gained access to the game's talent trees I browsed through in the hopes of finding anything that piqued my interest but I was woefully disappointed with the options presented there. Haven't really logged in again since. Sorry Craig :(
Final Fantasy XIV: Haven't logged in to this for a long while either. Even though I still like the basic concept of it, the lack of content is bewildering. I don't really know how the game made it out in the state its in. I'm also not sure it can make a come-back. Even after Squeenix overhauls the sorry mess that is the current core game systems, they still have oodles and oodles of content they need to catch up on. It'd be nice if they made it work, but I stopped holding my breath for it.