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Merry and blessed Christmas and Happy New Year

December 23, 2011
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Thanks for following my blog this year.

I wish you all a Merry and Blessed Christmas. Let us remember what great gift was given to us on this very day, when the son of God was born in Betlehem. He came to die for us, to pay the prize for our ransom, to be the way to God, our father. He was risen on the third day and sit to the right of God. Let us embrace this gift and never forget why we celebrate this day.

And so I finish with God’s words, written down through the apostel John and the prophet Isaia, and again wish you a blessed time.

John 3:16-17 “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him.”

Isaiah 9:6-7 “For a child has been born to us, a son has been given to us. He shoulders responsibility and is called: Extraordinary Strategist, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His dominion will be vast  and he will bring immeasurable prosperity. He will rule on David’s throne and over David’s kingdom, establishing it and strengthening it by promoting justice and fairness, from this time forward and forevermore. The Lord’s intense devotion to his people will accomplish this.”

God bless you.

P.S.: All bibletexts have been taken from the NetBible.

Re-Roll

June 25, 2011

… or redefining game systems and mechanics in a sequel.

Recently I finished Dragon Age 2, which is in my mind a great game, but maybe not a “true” sequel to Dragon Age: Origins. Dragon Age 2 got a lot of different reviews, professional ones say it’s a great game with only a few flaws whereas a large group of users wrote reviews which show a complete different point of view. Also I had several interesting discussions with friends according to expectations when someone tries to develop a sequel. All this let me to the question for this post:

What is a “true” sequel?

Let’s start with briefly talking about the mechanics and which can easily be changed and which not.

Core mechanics are all the mechanics which define the actual game and are rooted in the high concept of the game itself. The core mechanics highly affect the core dynamics and thus the things a player will do while playing a game. For a lot of games a core system is for example the combat system. Changing core mechanics in a sequel always is a bit risky, because it may change the way the game is played and thus may create some conflict with the expectations from your fan base. Personally I recommend to every game designer, that he should study his audience and fan base, before changing a core mechanic. An important part of this study is to directly ask your fans, because looking only in your game’s forum is not enough. It is not enough, because in average only 5 – 10% of your fans post in the forum, so you can’t be sure if all the fans have the same opinion by just looking into some posts. For example during the development of Drakensang, and besides reading the forums, we invited players to our studio for focus tests, so that they can share with us what they think. Besides asking your fan base and keep in contact with your community, I also encourage you to stick with your core ideas for a sequel, because even if you have to make some improvements, in the end these core ideas defined the original  dynamics and feel of your game and that’s most likely what your fans expect.

Auxiliary mechanics are extensions of the existing systems, are only loosely connected to the core concept or help to strengthen and transport the core ideas. A typical auxiliary system is for example the UI system. Yes it is needed, but normally only in such a way that the core mechanics can be used by the player. I think it doesn’t hurt to change this kind of mechanics as long as you keep the original feel in your game. Personally, I think auxiliary mechanics are the best place to introduce new concepts and mechanics with your sequel, because they less likely mess up the whole feel of the game and also I believe that fans are more willing to accept changes in the less important systems than in the core ones. Auxiliary mechanics can be a great place for innovation and also a great tool to enrich the gaming experience in your sequel compared to the original one.

 

Before I now try to answer the question, why Dragon Age 2 is a great game for me, but not a “true” sequel, let me share with you 4 definitions for sequel which I think maybe helpful when talking about sequels:

True-sequel: This kind of sequel shares almost the same core mechanics and the same lore with its predecessors. It only has a new game story, new challenges and may makes some adjustments or slight improvements to the core mechanics. Also some auxiliary mechanics may have been changed, added  or improved to create a better gaming experience. Typical examples are Add-ons, DLCs and annual sport games.

Semi-sequel: This kind of sequel either shares almost the same core mechanics or the same lore with its predecessors. It also features a new game story. In this kind of sequel some core mechanics have been changed and it also delivers a slightly different gaming experience. Auxiliary mechanics may have gotten a complete overhaul and the game can almost look like a completely new one. Typically this kind of sequel causes the biggest problems with your fan base, because it may doesn’t feel like the predecessors and doesn’t fulfill the expectations, even if in general the game is better than its prequels.

Usually most sequels can be found in the upper two categories or are something like half a true and half a semi-sequel, depending on how much was changed.

Namesake-sequel: This kind of sequel doesn’t share anything with its predecessors except the name or IP. Personally I think we should avoid such sequels, because they don’t deliver a piece of what our fans expect and I see them usually only as a marketing tool. But do we really need such marketing tools? Can’t we simply convince our players to move with us to a new IP just by the level of quality we deliver with a new game? Again it is not completely wrong using namesake-sequels but personally I like to challenge us, game designers, to create a new high-quality IP, if we want to create a new game which has new core mechanics and a new lore, instead of just branding it with an old name in the hope of getting more customers. Also namesake-sequels should not be mixed up with spiritual successors, which also can have the same name, but try to restart/revive a formerly successful IP and to keep its core ideas.

Spiritual successors: This kind is pretty similar to the namesake-sequel kind, but instead of just using the name, it tries to reinvent the game while trying to keep the original core idea. Also most of the core mechanics can (but don’t have) be equal to the ones in the original game, except that they have been updated to the current state of the art for such mechanics. Usually this kind of sequel is used to restart a formerly successful IP or to create a new IP based on formerly successful game mechanics. Examples are the upcoming Tomb Raider from Crystal Dynamics (spiritual successors of the original "Tomb Raider (1996)") or Dragon Age: Origins (spiritual successors of "Baldurs Gate (1998)").

 

Finally let me end with my opinion according to Dragon Age 2.

Dragon Age 2 made some changes to the core mechanics according to Dragon Age: Origins. The most obvious once are the combat mechanics and the dialogue mechanics. For me both systems made huge steps into the right direction and I think that they are better now than they have been before. I also understand that a lot of fans are a bit disappointed and feel like as if Dragon Age 2 isn’t a Dragon Age any longer, because the game feels different than Dragon Age: Origins, due to the changes within the core mechanics. These changes also result in slightly different dynamics, which again can cause some confusion.

But does this really transform Dragon Age 2 into a bad game?

I think “No”, because the new systems perfectly support the story that is told in Dragon Age 2 and to tell great stories in Thedas was one of the core ideas of Dragon Age. Yes, Dragon Age 2 is different and that’s why I would call it a semi-sequel, but it’s still a great game. I encourage everyone who loves great storylines to play it and to play it longer than the first 5 hours, because the story needs some time to get going. After the first 5 hours, you really start interacting with your party members, you try to find out what’s going on in Kirkwall and why the seeker wants to hear your story from Varric.

I hope this post shows a bit why I think Dragon Age 2 is a great game, but not a true sequel to Dragon Age: Origins. Again not being a true sequel doesn’t mean that a game can’t be great, but it may result in bad reviews from the users, because it doesn’t fulfill their expectations.

It is always hard to produce a good sequel (or game at all) and as a developer myself I can only encourage everyone to let us know, in a friendly and reasonable way, what you liked and what not. We will listen to your feedback and if possible we’re willing to make adjustments so that you have more fun playing our games. Giving you a great time, tell you a great story and ultimately create a game that is just fun is (and always will be) our main objective.

Thanks for reading my blog and I hope you’ve a great day.

God bless you

Why I am against nuclear energy?

April 19, 2011

For a while now I have thought about this topic and wondered if I should write something or not. Finally I decided that I have to write something, because I think this is a way too important of a topic and also because of the terrible things that are  just happening in Japan. Surely a short blog like this would never be enough to cover all arguments or all the science that is involved in this topic, so I’ll skip the scientific part, but I encourage you to read about to form your own opinion. Ask, if you need some literature to start with. Also I have to say, just to avoid misunderstandings that I’m not just against nuclear power (or nuclear weapons) just because of the things that happened in Fukushima, but I hope that after this terrible accident and also in condolence to the many victims, more people will understand how dangerous this technology is and that we have to look for alternatives before it is too late.

So here are the reasons, why I think nuclear energy is not a safe technology:

1. As a Christian I believe that God created the world and gave us humans the responsibility to take care of it. Undoubtedly the most important thing it a life of a Christian is to live it Christ-centered, but for me this also implies that we as Christians should be very careful in how we treat our environment and thus the creation of God. Also for me loving your neighbor as yourself includes all coming generations. By using nuclear power I see a clear conflict with these two points. First nuclear power produces nuclear waste which will contaminate the environment for thousands of years. Until today we haven’t found a way to deal with it nor a safe storage solution. Ultimately I think it is not responsible to leave this waste to the coming generations with the hope that they will find a solution, because we can’t be sure that they ever will find one. The second point is that nuclear power is a technology which is so complex that we haven’t fully understood every small piece of it nor is there a chance to try out safety procedures (more to this point under 2.)   I think it is pure pride which makes us believe that we can control nuclear fission and greed to make as much money as possible with it. We shouldn’t deny that if something goes wrong (and the more we use this technology the more likely it will be that something will go wrong) the results of a Super-GAU (and of nuclear weapons) will cause a lot of suffering, pain and death. Also it will leave huge areas inhabitable for thousands of years and will cause radiation effects, which will effect following generations even when we’re long gone.

These 2 points are the two main ones among several others which led me to the conclusion that as a Christian I can’t speak for the use of nuclear energy as long as there are other ways to produce enough energy for all of us. We’re not there yet, but in only a few years from now we will have the technology to turn off all nuclear power plants worldwide and I believe this should be our goal.

2. As a Game Designer I’m usually involved in the development of complex rule systems and simulation. Surely none of them are as complex as the ones involved in creating nuclear energy or fission, but my daily work taught me some facts which also led to my conclusion to speak against the use of nuclear energy. The most important fact that I learned was that a simulation can only be as good as I understood the system and that it is rarely possible to fully understand a problem and its solution before a first try-out. There always something we haven’t thought about. Unfortunately nuclear energy is not a technology which can be easily tested, because if something goes wrong, we’ve a major problem. So we have to rely on some small scale experiments and theory, which in my mind both doesn’t cover well the complex mechanics and physics involved in nuclear fission. Also a nuclear power plant can’t be shut down easily within minutes. It takes months, even years before the fission fuel is in a relative safe condition after it has been used in a reactor. Almost all major accidents so far happened because something went wrong with the safety procedures or measurements. So as long as we do not have a technology which can completely contain nuclear fission products (and shield all radiation from the environment) even in a situation of a core meltdown, we shouldn’t use this technology, because we can’t control it. Doesn’t it sound stupid to sit on an armed nuclear bomb and hope that nothing will happen?

There are many more facts and arguments which can be discussed, but as I said a blog post isn’t enough to cover all the details and to avoid misunderstandings. Still I hope that this post gave you a little insight why I’m against nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. I also hope that you’ll start to support the movements around the globe, which fight for a nuclear free world and that it helps you to understand why so many people in Germany demonstrate against nuclear power. Please feel free to comment or to ask if you have any questions. I’ll try to answer them as best I can.

I also wrote a story according this topic and you can download either an English version or a German version. Just click on the appropriate link to watch it on issu or click on download to download it.

(First Draft Warning: The following texts have not been edited and are only rough first draft versions)

Midnightsun – English Version

Mitternachtssonne – German Version

Archetypes in World Building

January 31, 2011

Todays post is more a kind of brainstorming, because recently I though a lot about archetypes and was wondering if there are any archetypes/basic types that could be used for world building. With archetypes I mean types that are pretty general, just like the 7 plot archetypes defined by Aristotle or the character archetypes from the Heroes Journey.

One thing that stood out to me while thinking about this topic was, that most of the time when we create a new world we will mix the different types. But in general even then we tend to have always one dominant type which is just enriched by blending in some elements from other types. Always the worlds we built need at least some potential for conflict, because otherwise it will be impossible to tell interesting and enthralling stories within these worlds.

Here are the archetypes I could come up with so far:

War-torn World

This describes a world that is formed by an almost constant conflict between two or more factions, who are formed by creatures of this particular world.

Besieged World

This describes a world that is attacked by an outside force or beings from another world, dimension and so on.

Fallen (Dystopia) World

This describes a world, where all hope is lost. Everything has turned out to its worst. Suffering and war are more or less usual in such worlds.

Perfect (Utopia) World

This is the opposite of the fallen world and in a perfect world everything has turned out to its best. Everyone is happy and everything is perfect. For good storytelling something in these perfect worlds must create a conflict, cause otherwise there won’t be any story.

Awakening (New Born) World

This is a world, which has just seen its creation. It is young and has almost no history. It still has to show what kind of world it will become. Everything is possible.

Changing World

This is a world awaiting a major change. Forces within or from outside the world had created a conflict so strong that the world will never be the same again. Right in this moment where it is decided which way it’ll go we enter the scene.

Ending (Dying) World

This may sound similar to the fallen world, but it isn’t. A dying world is simply a world which is very old, has a lot of history and will cease to exist in the near future. No matter what a hero is doing, he may not be able to delay the end or to even rescue the world, but maybe its inhabitants.

To be continued…

Please let me know what you think and if you found more types, that could be considered as archetypes for world building.

Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year

December 28, 2010

I hope you all had a chance to celebrate a nice christmas with your families and friends. It is always great to remember what was given to us on this day and to share the love with those close to us.

“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.”
Luke 2, 9-14

 

I also took some time to update my pages and you can now read all samples and my portfolio also on Issuu, so you don’t have to download them any longer (but you still can, if you want).

Last but not least, if you haven’t seen it already here is the first official trailer from “Drakensang Online

Daerenal – Creation as told among the Highborne (Part 4)

November 23, 2010

(First Draft Warning: The following text has not been edited and is only a rough first draft version)

Finally I found the time to post the first part of the second chapter. Here we go:

The Mystic Age
It was the day of the great marriage, of a marriage never been seen among the Dael’kardokai ever before or after. It was the day when Ijanar stood in front of the altar, built for his father, and Aminalatar, more beautiful than the sunlight in spring or the crystal clear water of the Qui’latakar, walked down the aisle to meet with him, to see him, to become one with him in front of the father of all, that the Mystic Age and the glory of the Dael’kardokai took its beginning.
It was a glorious day and for ages the people would echo the beauty and the songs of this day. The loneliness of our queen was broken, has ended forever and a new age had dawn. It was the age where the people of the Dael’kardokai rose to rule over whole Daerenal. We built temples and city throughout the woods and conquered the Great Plains. We grew every plant that the almighty father had given us and peace was everywhere. It was the time where whole Daerenal was flourishing and no pain or suffering existed. Every one helped his neighbor and no darkness, chaos was on Daerenal. Our people created wonders far beyond imagination and thus the great city, the city of Taltangotar, became home of the palace from Ijanar and Aminalatar. Everything was shining; everything was in harmony, just awaiting an even greater light that had yet to come to this world.

Daerenal – Creation as told among the Highborne (Part 3)

October 25, 2010

(First Draft Warning: The following text has not been edited and is only a rough first draft version)

Here is the third and last part of the first chapter:

“It was this very day, when she walked through the woods, as she saw a being shining as bright as the sun. It was Ijanar as he took care of the plants. Again did she felt her loneliness and an attraction to this being. Ijanar saw her, saw her beauty as a new unknown feeling invaded his heart. He wanted to be with her, but afraid of his unknown feelings, he raced into the woods, disappeared. Sadly Aminalatar looked at the place where she saw him; a tear ran down her face, before she slowly walked back to her people. This very night the heart of Ijanar couldn’t come to rest, couldn’t find peace and so he looked for her and secretly watched her and her people. So he saw that they marry, that they live as husband and wife and thus the strange feeling in his heart grew. He wanted to do everything just to see her again, but he didn’t dare.   It was one of these nights that his brother Kaltar saw Aminalatar too and in his heart grew the desire to posses her, to have her, to rule with her. He started to make gifts to her and her people by leading them unseen to the best places, just as he did with all the animals. And so the time went on as both brothers watched Aminalatar and her people. It was one of these days, which many would call destiny, but maybe it was the will of Ilumvatar, that Aminalatar and Ijanar met again. They met again in the Twilight at the falls of Qui’laran as Aminalatar gathered water for her people. She stood still as petrified as she saw Ijanar, who walked to her, to help her. It is not written nor told what drove their hearts, but as they came close, their arms opened wide and they embraced each other for an endless moment of time. As they looked in each other’s eyes, it’s been just like eternity and endless been the kiss that followed. So deep, so long have been this moment, that they forgot the time and the night had already defeated the day. Like a beacon was their love and bright became the place of their first kiss. Kaltar saw this unusual light as he was on this way to the camp. As he saw Ijanar and Aminalatar embracing and kissing each other, his heart was torn apart and filled with anger, with darkness, with chaos. Unseen he ran into the night, hid and promised revenge. Cold became his heart and merciless his deeds. Ijanar and Aminalatar met every day from this day on and 14 cycles of the moons after their first kiss, they married and became the king and queen of the Dael’kardokai. Wise ruled Ijanar and Arminalatar and let their people in to the Mystic Age of our Forefathers.”

If you like you can download the first chapter of the “Creation as told among the Highborne” here.