Let’s Talk About: MMOs – Part 1

So, I want to start off with two things. First, I apologize for not posting in forever. Apparently I’m forgetful with this blog stuff. Secondly, I want to admit that I am hopelessly in love with the MMO as a genre.

There is, however, a caveat. I’ve only been playing video games for roughly fourteen or fifteen years now and only in the last five or so have I actually approached video games as anything more than simple entertainment. So, while I have played a great many video games, my knowledge of them is certainly limited by my experiences, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

To the Article Proper!

Rather than discussing every MMO that exists or has existed, or even as a genre by itself, I want to establish more of a primer of thought and discussion by focusing in on three particular MMOs that have been on my mind lately. Namely, Star Wars The Old Republic, Final Fantasy 14 and Guild Wars 2. For the first half, I’m going to focus specifically on SWTOR and then FFXIV and GW2 in another post.

Currently, I’m playing SWTOR and have been since the pre-launch as well as during beta. Now, this is a game that I have come to greatly enjoy, despite having had absolutely zero plans to play it prior to launch. I got invited to the closed beta a couple weeks before the game was rolled out and was convinced that there was actually something to this game. On the other hand, I’ve played pretty much every role in FFXIV for a very short amount of time and have a brief, but fairly invested experience with it.

Despite enjoying myself greatly in SWTOR and only having a short running time with FFXIV by comparison, I intend to switch back to FFXIV after I’ve reached max level in SWTOR and I want to talk about why.

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Let’s Talk About: Why I Prefer Zero In MMX4 (PS1)

…PREPARE YOURSELF!

So what makes a game good or bad? I’m here to give details and examples to explain my personal opinions in this new mental exercise/regular segment. I picked an easy one this time (for me, anyway) and I hope to get into the nitty gritty with other, more complicated games.

Anyway, if you’re familiar with Mega Man but not so much with the X series, it’s essentially the same formula as the former but faster paced, has more character upgrades, and, oh yeah, more awesome music. According to his quotes in the Mega Man X Official Complete Works, Keiji Inafune and his team wanted to make a more “hardcore” Mega Man game, but make it separate from the original series they had already.

A short history of Zero:

Zero was originally the side character to Mega Man X and wasn’t playable at all in the first two games, and barely at all in X3. If you died playing as Zero he would be unplayable for a certain amount of time, basically until he decided to stop being a little crybaby and come back. It isn’t that important though,since he wasn’t that good anyway. Players mainly stuck with X.

Fast forward to X4, which now gave players the option to play the entire game as either Zero or X. Zero doesn’t necessarily get much in his campaign that’s different than X’s. The bosses are mostly the same, but the upgrades you receive from defeating bosses are unique thanks to his main (and pretty much only) weapon, the beam saber.

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Quick Thoughts on “Mobile First”

The mobile frontier is something that hasn’t really been explored until the emergence (and resulting popularity) of the smartphone. Since then there has been a lot of different ways to design for them, including responsive designs and app creation. While it has been around for a while, it has not been fully integrated and become a standard. As a student studying this for the first time, I am starting to pick up a lot of new information and it’s all genuinely exciting, from a design standpoint anyway.

I should mention first that I was introduced to this concept from my web teacher, as well as one person who popularized Mobile First, Luke Wroblewski. I haven’t gotten to read his book yet, unfortunately, but I will once I get my hands on A Book Apart. Happy Cog brought it up when I attended their presentation in Elizabethtown, PA a couple of months back.

So what are the gains of Mobile First? For some sites they can cut down on the visible information and allow on-the-go users to quickly access the parts they need, which as a result makes it a lot more focused and immediate. The sites provide instant access to the parts of the website that they think visitors will want the most and put it up front. It creates very effective hierarchy that should in turn be applied to the desktop versions of sites, in my opinion.

Does this mean that all websites should be designed for mobile? No. There are some that have an audience who browse primarily on the desktop, and since they are more likely to spend a longer amount of time on the site there really isn’t as much need to get to the necessary bits as quickly. However, I think that it is still important to design with it in mind, since that philosophy means that your users will get the information they need quicker, and in the end I believe that is one of the most important aspects of web design.

Reference & further (better) reading:

Mobile First by Luke Wroblewski, http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?933.

Design and Beauty: My experience.

JoeI’ve only considered myself a professional designer (that is, print/web design) for about two years, when I was deep in my major and could actually produce good work and defend my reasons as to why it was the right choice.

During that time I learned that for all the time I have spent worrying about how a design looks, I’d get past the point of having a purpose for my decisions which led to a design that wasn’t as exciting. Sure, you can craft a solid composition with decorative typography and color, but without any solid concept it’s just going to come across as superflous. Don’t get me wrong though, I think that plenty of designs can look good an convey a message well, but I’m saying that when a person hires you they’ll likely have a vision in mind already, and even if they don’t they’ll more than likely want to change a couple of things.

Ultimately every person in business doing creative work has to make compromises to be successful. This doesn’t mean that you canot be creative with your work, it just means that you’re thinking about other people (specifically the client and their target audience) over yourself, which is our biggest marketable trait. As a designer, I’ve learned to think outside of the box and really enjoy doing so. I don’t mind not being able to blow their minds with the best-looking design ever, I’m way more interested in pitching a concept that they would likely have not thought of. Otherwise they wouldn’t be coming to me.

To me, design isn’t about just giving you something nice to look at anymore, it’s more of a philosophy. A philosophy that extends way beyond your Adobe Creative Suite and across multiple careers. Whether it’s magazines, the web, games, home interiors, fashion, engineering etc, if you’re thinking about user experiences and the best way of conveying a function naturally, then you’re a designer. Congratulations! You’re one of the great thinkers of your time, here to make life more efficient and better-looking for the rest of us, but more as a byproduct than a catalyst.

-Joe

Winds of Change

So, I updated the blog a little cosmetically as well as fundamentally. It’s a very minor change, like a little added line to the mission statement. But now I’m going to describe this blog as something that encompasses not only video games, but the web. Two big things in my life at the moment, and they both deal with pixels and code on varying levels. But most importantly, it’s because I want to, dammit.

-Joe