Hollow Earth

The Only Game: Perceptions and DotA2

I like to think that I have a diverse taste in games. True, when I started, I focused primarily on the Myst franchise. However, after getting introduced to the Orange Box I opened my gaming life into things like FPS games and the like. Now I have a large backlog of games and several games that I play consistently and routinely. They span everything from Kerbal Space Program to Skyrim to Toki Tori and onwards.

But one game that hasn’t featured in my games up until lately was a little game named “DotA2”. I played the game some years back. I played a few games and hated my whole experience. Every game I’d get stomped and my team would votekick me out. That event was particularly clear, in all the games my team would be crushed or, more often, I would be kicked at the start of the match The game was horrible, and I couldn’t handle that toxic of a community. So I left it sit, and even uninstalled it recently to free up space.

Except none of that was true.

I recently got interested in DotA2 again, thanks in part to the video Free to Play, which follows the teams of the 2011 International DotA2 tournament, and of course the International, a professional DotA2 competition, that was held this year. So I reinstalled it. Upon launching it again, I was greeted with my total games played: 1. My total playtime was 54 minutes, enough for one, maybe two quick games. My memories of those dozens of horrible experiences were the result of my perception of a single, horrible experience. Playing more, the game has been very fun. I think about this in regards to expectations and perceptions. While a company or group can manage perceptions to a point, isolated events can ruin a game for the player. No real point to this post, just something that struck me.

Filed under: Learning from Others, , ,


This past month has been pretty productive for me. I’m always surprised at how quickly I pick this stuff back up. I imagined it would be very hard to get back into Age-making but I remember the hotkeys. Like riding a bicycle. Currently, I have several Age concepts moving along.

Tosholek is in the last phase of getting stuff together. It’s ready for release for Uru:CC, but I’m waiting for now on having a version converted to go up on the Gehn shard before releasing. I’ve fixed a lot of the issues in the previous version. Most importantly, everything is converted into lightmaps or vertex painting, meaning that I have a lot more control over the Age’s lighting now than I did before. Basically, Uru can only handle 8 lights on an object. In the past, I would use a maximum of 8 lights to light an area using the engine’s dynamic lighting. All my Ages do this. Any more than this, and one of the lights stops working. Usually, it’s a big one like the Sun or something. The new system I have uses three sets of lights. The first is a set of lights in a lightgroup that can effect everything. If I have something that’s animated, like the birds in Fens or the kickable in Tosholek, it is told to use JUST that lightgroup to light itself. The second set of lights is my other lights. Things that won’t light other objects in the Age, but can still be used to light the avatar. Finally, the third set of lights are the lightmap lights. I need this because the lights I use to light the avatar or kickables are often too strong to use in making lightmaps– the light it just too bright. So I have a set of lights I use only for lightmapping. I may have more sets of these lightmap lights as I need them. Often, this is used for interiors where I need to have light inside without the object being affected by lights outside.

In other areas, I’ve found an old notebook with a lot of my Age concepts. Its helped me get Tharel’s concept nailed down better as well as given me a number of texts to release as well. I’m planning on reworking the texts at some point as well. A lot of my old stories are like my old Ages: nice, but kind of cringe-worthy. I tried to base them on the King stories, and they sometimes got a little too out there. New stories are going to focus primarily on philosophical texts and historical documents rather than dramatic stories.

In addition, I’ve gotten more historical work done on Ages like Vasrahn as well as preliminary maps. Eder Jonim is the farthest along, ready for more detailed maps. If anyone reading this is able to help, I’d be very interested in hearing from you. I’ve also done… other things. More on that “soon”.

Filed under: Ages, Development, Uru Community, , , , ,

Story Update

So when I started doing stories and Ages for Uru, I set up a tiddlywiki, an offline personal wiki with all my lore information. Since then, tiddlywiki seems to no longer work on any browser, so I spent these last few days working on porting my lore to Zim to manage it. In doing so, I came up with some interesting statistics:

  • Over 25 Age concepts.
  • 50 Character profiles
  • 2 D’ni Areas
  • 1 Major historical event
  • 2 Groups
  • Over 20 Stories

While I’d love to release all that stuff, it’s clear to me that a lot of this needs pruning. Most of the Ages and characters particularly were one-off characters used in one short story with nothing else really planned for them. Others vaguely tied into a story arc, but just in kind of a wink-wink reference that people might get. So, to keep myself sane and focus my stories on the still-massive amount of content I would like to produce, I’ve established four main story arcs that I’ll be focusing on:

  • The Ishveer War Arc
  • The Tharel Arc
  • The Shomat Arc
  • The Devil Arc

Of those, the Devil Arc is the one I’m most excited about. It feels to me like a lot of good modern stories where every little thing is connected. That arc currently spans 11 Ages and 15 characters, although that is liable to change in time.

Next would be the Sholek Arc. I considered ret-conning and merging this into the Devil Arc, given that hey both touch on similar concepts, but Sholek is such an interesting character that he needs to stay in his own timeline.

Ishveer and Tharel are less “Arcs” and more centered around their respective Ages, but require more story work than other one-off Ages like Eder Jonim.

The rest of the stories and Ages and Characters etc. not in those arcs are sadly going to either go away or be repurposed. A lot of the Ages were, if I’m honest with myself, just an excuse to use a D’ni-sounding name.

The hard part, and my future work, will be on building and strengthening the Age concepts I already have. Chiefly, I want to define things to *do* in each Age. I love making scenic Ages like Fens and Bimevi, but I also want to get into working with more technical Writers to make minigames for my Ages. Uru needs more Ages where there are things to do, not things to see, and that’s what I plan on providing.

Filed under: Ages, Development, Uru Community, , , , , , ,

Coming Back

It’s strange, being dragged back into the Uru community after such a long time. I had heard that friends like Tweek and Kae were back, but I never thought I would get swept back up into the community. I was ready to move on. I am still kind of on edge, worried about whether this is the right step.

Still, the strength with which I have come back is shocking to me. Only a few days back and I already have my exporting setup humming again. Blender hotkeys and modeling tricks come back to me while I feel like my skills have improved. My IC chops are back up to speed and Cavern Link is back up and running.

At the moment, Fens is going through a drastic reshaping and upgrade. Packing more and better content in the space I made is the goal. I’m starting fairly small, my projects have been collapsed both because I don’t feel they are very interesting and they are too expansive for my capabilities. Until I know better what I will be dealing with, I can’t spend the time on a 7-tier mental hospital Age that ties into 4 other expansive Ages all part of a coherent plot. I went down that path before, didn’t make much progress, and ended up burning out. So, the dream of a personal Uru expansion pack is going to wait.

Filed under: Ages, Uru Community, , , ,

The Impact of Let’s Plays

This topic has been on my mind for a long time now. Dinnerbone wrote about it and reddit’s been discussing it. So I’m finally finishing the post I started nearly a year ago. Mother of God. Anyhow, what is the role of a fan’s Let’s Play (LP) series and what makes a series beneficial to a game? Let’s start with the results of the poll I did all-too-long-ago:

  • 40% said their interest in a game increased by watching LPs.
  • 40% said they didn’t watch LPs.
  • 15% said LPs did not increase their interest and they already knew what game they wanted.
  • 5% said they did watch and LPs showed best practices for the game
  • No one said a LP decreased their interest in a game.

I would argue that all the responses are, in practice, true. LPs have a value in showcasing the game for both new and existing players. Depending on the player’s exposure to the game, they may or may not watch a LP (for example, if you already know what game you’re buying, you may not be curious in a LP about that game).

Before we get into the responses, it’s important to discuss what a good LP involves. Here are the core traits all good LPs seem to share:

  • Engaging presenter
  • Interest in game
  • Humor
  • Dedication to game

The presenter is key. In fact, you’ll notice the traits listed are purely presenter traits. I would argue that most people watch LPs for the presenter, not the game. While viewers may watch for information on the game, they can get that information anywhere. What people look for in LPs is watching someone else playing the game. To that end, an engaging presenter is important. LP presenters like Kurtjmac and Etho keep people interested because of their engaging personality. Often, the person can be totally disconnected from the series they are known for and still garner attention because the game is not what people come for.

Notice that seriousness is not on that list. That’s important because often LPs that do not take the game so seriously are often more enjoyable to watch (compare a LP where the presenter yells and vents about his in-game death versus a LP where the presenter falls to his death laughing because he was pushed off a cliff by a chicken). Chinchilla Dave, and Star are examples of entertaining LP presenters that do not take themselves or the games they play too seriously.

Now let’s look at the effects a LP can have:

  • Increase Interest
  • Show Best Practices
  • Decrease Interest

Let’s Plays increase interest: Overall, this is how my experience has gone with Let’s Plays. Watching Coe’s Quest was a big factor in my purchase of Minecraft. The fact that it was cheap was also important, but seeing another person go through the game’s world made it a lot easier to see myself in that world too and thus become more engaged and more willing to purchase the game. Similarly, I’ve recently started watching Chinchilla Dave’s Skyrim videos. While these are not full “start to finish” Let’s Plays and more “funny videos of gameplay” it shows the game world, some of its quirks, and general mechanics (combat, puzzles, inventory space… and how cheese can fill said inventory space…). Skyrim is an interesting game when it comes to the impact of Let’s Plays and I’ll come back to it later.

Let’s Plays show best practices: Most Let’s Plays will have spoilers of some kind since a “start to finish” Let’s Play will go from the beginning to the end linearly, the viewer is expected to keep up with the story or be watching after they have completed that section of the game. Again, Coe’s Let’s Plays are a good example of this. Early videos (and later videos after important updates) served as a way to educate new players on Minecraft’s game elements, crafting recipes, and combat. Similarly, Let’s Plays of RPGs may help showcase alternate quest lines, hidden easter eggs, or tactics in combat that are useful for newer players.

Let’s Plays decrease interest: No one responded that they were actually put off from a game thanks to a Let’s Play and I wouldn’t have spent much time on this response but for one Let’s Play in particular. When Skyrim first came out, I was interested in looking up some Let’s Plays to check out the game and see if it lived up to the hype. I found a Let’s Play (whose name has been blessedly lost to me, else I’d be ranting about it all day) which seemed good enough. After several episodes, however, it devolved into this whiny kid complaining about dying to enemies clearly too strong to take on. A few more and the main quest is done and he’s complaining about how short the game is (Skyrim. Short. Mother of God.). Had I continued with that Let’s Play, there’s a good chance it would have put me off the game.

Let’s Plays are interesting things and they come in many flavors. I believe more creative games such as Minecraft are more conducive to Lets Plays because there is more than just the storyline to spend time on (when you’ve seen someone complete Skyrim’s main quest once you’ve pretty much seen them all). Still, it would be a mistake to say that Let’s Plays have to follow the same pattern. Far Lands or Bust is what I would consider a Let’s Play, but it’s not the traditional style like Etho’s Lab or Coe’s Quest. Let’s Plays are an evolving creative medium and people are always coming up with new ways to entertain.

But those are just my thoughts. What do you think of Let’s Plays?

Filed under: Gaming, , , , , ,

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