00:00:30:00 and counting

I have 30 minutes left to go home.

It’s not often that I find myself chomping at the bit to get out of the office. No, wait, that’s TOTALLY a lie. I’m ALWAYS chomping at the bit to leave this God-forsaken hell-hole that passes for an office. HOWEVER – it’s not often that I’m also a total space cadet toward the end of the day, and edge my door to near fully closed, leaving but a sliver of hallway light into my room, granting me virtual complete privacy. Said privacy is even more complete thanks to the holidays and me being one of two people in my wing of the office.

I now have 27 minutes left to go home.

I’m partially jazzed to get out of here because the Rifts third beta started today, and I’m wanting to give it a try. I’ve read it this elsewhere, but as a game, this things didn’t really seem to be heavily on my radar. I was mostly disinterested with it, as at first glom it appeared to be little more than a petrified WoW rehash. Yet, I have to admit, the level of reported polish has me intrigued, and beta test numbre trois being focused on the PvP aspects of the game, well, it seemed like a good chance for me to give it a go.

I don’t have any real expectations, or knowledge even, going into this testing phase. I’ve been mostly ambivalent to this games production, so there’s no strength of motivation for me in terms of comparison. I’m hoping that makes me a relatively good candidate for testing. The cynic in me says, “Ha! Testing? Hog-wash! This is just another developers pre-release, selective hype distribution, you silly naiveté!”. The cynic in me is oddly mild with his language. And while my inner cynic may be right, others have also said that Trion Worlds has actually made considerable improvements between testing phases, and seems to be related to feedback from the events.

There are now 20 minutes on the clock till my freedom.

So, I’m left wondering, what is this development studio like? I know it has industry people from a slew of games from Lord of the Rings Online to Warhammer (including Adam Gershowitz, whom I and a large host of the SW community was less than gentle about calling out for blunders). So, with a diverse pool of talent like that, what do those different waters bring together? Also, their site claims ingenuity and innovation in the standard location that calls for commercial buzzwords, but players have said that many systems feel “just” iterative, and not ground breaking.

Iteration isn’t a bad thing though. Iteration can mean refinement, polish, and completion. Building up from an already laid foundation is easier than laying one yourself. More than just using the ideas from elsewhere, the concepts used to implement them can be seen in action and evolved from, so there is less process in making it, and more time spent making it right. That’s the heart of iteration and design. You might say design IS iteration.

Fifteen (15) minutes are all that remain, slowly ticking out the seconds till I put on my coat, and leave.

So, with a development studio that is hopefully focusing on iteration, and have the experience working on all those various systems from different projects, will the genre finally see an incredibly polished game at launch? Despite what many say now, Warhammer was a fairly well polished game upon release. Servers stayed up almost the whole time, the dreaded word “rollbacks” were never uttered since the game started, and the client itself was mostly stable at first. But even then, the game had bugs that were frustratingly huge to some players, and many look back now, and declare anathema on the game for what they perceived as unforgivable broken-ness. So will Trion be the game to break that mold? A year from now, will people look back and say – “RIFT was incredible at launch. I’m not playing it now because it just wasn’t a good fit for me”, or something similar?

The genre as a whole has needed something like that for a long time. I think that we as players have been conditioned to accept substandard products and releases from development studios for a long time. I just don’t know if that’s because we’re too demanding for release schedules, or because it’s just impossible to TRULY do all the ironing necessary with a limited test population and play hours. Having 250 people play the game for 5 hours a day, for five days 6,250 play hours. Compare that to 50,000 people playing a game for 3 hours a day, for 5 days straight (750,000 play hours). The difference is monumental, and bound to find more problems. Perhaps the testing cycle needs to be opened up for pre-release betas. I think it was Mark Jacobs that said (paraphrased), “The more time spent in beta testing the better a game will be…”, and I think it may be as simple as having gamers rampage through your world for a while and break shit left and right.

In any matter, I now have four minutes left to post this, close down my computer and get out of here. Have a good night one and all!

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About Shadow
Making serious business out of internet spaceships.

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