Tuesday, November 28, 2006

OpenGL Book Pushed Back to 2007

I've come to the conclusion there is no way I'm going to be able to finish the OpenGL book by the end of the year, as I had hoped. I would like to have the book finished in the first quarter of 2007.

Writing has progressed slower than I thought. I have my facts correct, but I'm having a hard time making the material interesting to read and making clear explanations. I'm frustrated by the slow progress I'm making, but I prefer taking the time to write a good book that helps people instead of rushing a crappy book that doesn't help anyone.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Game Design Tip: Don't Make the Player Play the Same Stuff Repeatedly

By play the same stuff I mean play the same part of a level repeatedly. This problem occurs more with console games than computer games because console games have less flexibility in game saving.

Example: Metroid Prime

I'm going to use the game Metroid Prime to describe the problem of playing the same part of a level repeatedly for two reasons. One, it's the game I'm currently playing so it is fresh in my mind. Two, it's a really good game. I want to show that even good games can have minor problems.

If you're wondering why I'm playing a 4 year old game, I'll explain it now. I got Metroid Prime about 3 years ago and I got stuck early and quit playing it. I started playing it recently because my brother needed my Playstation 2 to play DVDs because his DVD player broke and I finished my other GameCube games.

Repetition Can Turn Something Fun Into a Chore

Metroid Prime features a lot of boss enemies to fight, and they can be very difficult to defeat. To reach a boss involves fighting lesser enemies, running, jumping, maneuvering the morph ball through tight areas, and problem solving. Sometimes it can take 5-10 minutes of gameplay to reach the boss, and when you die, you have to go back to the last save point and play those 5-10 minutes again.

Because some of the boss enemies are tough to defeat, you can die dozens of times, and replaying the same 5-10 minutes of gameplay to reach the boss gets old fast. Playing those 5-10 minutes to reach the boss is fun the first time. You're making progress in the game and exploring new areas. Playing to reach the boss a few more times lets you perfect your technique. But after dying 25-50 times, playing the same sequence to reach the boss becomes a chore instead of being fun.


One solution to the problem of having to play the same area of a level repeatedly is to provide more save points. In the case of Metroid Prime, having a save point before reaching a boss would prevent the player from having to play the same sequence over and over again. But more save points could make the game too easy. Metroid Prime replenishes your energy (health) to 100% when you save the game.

Another solution would be to continue the game where you died. In the case of Metroid Prime, being able to fight the boss right away after dying would eliminate a lot of frustration. The time spent getting to the boss could be spent on the real challenge, defeating the boss.

The good news for most of the game developers reading this is you're developing computer games, not console games. Computer games can let the player save the game whenever they want so you can keep the player from playing the same sequence over and over again.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Sometimes it Takes a While to Respond

I got an email last night from a customer. He tried to download the updated version of Xcode Tools Sensei and got an error message saying the file was not found on the server. The error message is not surprising because I pulled the file from the server two months ago.

I wanted people who had bought the electronic version of the book to be able to download the new version. For obvious business reasons I didn't want the new version to be on the site permanently. My solution was to post the updated version on my site for a week and send an email to every customer who wanted to be contacted about updates. I figured a week was enough time for the customers I emailed to download the new version. I apparently was wrong.

I did send the customer the new version. If any of you bought an old electronic version (before September 2006) and want the new version, send me an email and I'll send you the new version.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Switched to Blogger

I switched the blog from Lulu to Blogger. The old blog did not handle large posts (over a page) well, eliminating text in the middle of the post. I did a test post of a 7 page article, and there were no problems so I decided to switch. Blogger's spell checking is an added bonus. I included a link to the old blog entries to ease the transition.