Other sites about my books and games

Welcome to my Blog!
Most of my posts will be to do with the books I write, or the games I design. Feel free to stop by my personal web page, or the game company's web sites.

Philip Blood This is a link to my personal web site.

Citadel of Sorcery This is a link to our MMORPG website.

MMO Magic, Inc. This is a link to the game company where I work.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Citadel of Sorcery: Players are slow to believe.




The world is slow to accept change.  Of course, I knew that.  Ten years ago when I was kicking around the concept for an MMORPG that was twenty or so years ahead of its time, I knew I would face an uphill battle to get this game made.

When I gathered the core team of game industry professionals, all working at game companies at that time, I offered up three proposals.  Of the three, they all chose Citadel of Sorcery, even though I explained to them that this was, by far, the most difficult game to make.  They wanted to do something extraordinary, something new, and something that they could be proud they made for the rest of their lives.

I then explained that no one would believe us.  It was like saying, “Look, we’re going to build a spaceship that goes faster than light.”  Who would believe us, I mean,  not only hadn't it been done, but no one BELIEVED it could be done!  That was what it was like ten years ago when I penned the first design of CoS.  It was deemed… impossible.

After a couple of years of R&D, we finally started actual work on the game.  Now, about eight years later, we have managed to create our FTL engine, or in game terms, the T3D engine.  All the technology that was deemed… impossible now works.  That and other important elements now working include:

1)                         Generating an entire, unique, planet, 900,000,000 square kilometers in size, the full size of earth.
2)                          NPCs who live lives in our game world.  Currently we have run a test city that is fully populated with NPCs living their lives, they have jobs they go to during work hours, homes they sleep in at night, and they go out on the town during leisure hours. They can have friends, family, and are constantly making decisions on what they want to do next.
3)                         A live events system that is constantly changing what is happening in the world. Our world is alive, with new things taking place all the time. The system to keep these events running is already functional.
4)                         Proprietary in game tools that allow multiple game designers to work together simultaneously within the running game world, creating the living world and live testing it instantly so that more can be built faster and better by fewer people. It’s very efficient.
5)                          A Voxel/Polygon hybrid rendering system that allows us to render down to every blade of grass (not just a texture of grass), or a complete vista of forest all the way out into the distance, with every tree being unique. This brand new proprietary technology does not exist in any other game engine currently on the market.

So, back to my original statement, the world is slow to accept change.  Yes, we knew that, so we built all of this so that people would not have to accept the idea of us doing the impossible, we could show that it is possible.

But, recently we put the Pre-Alpha version of CoS up on Kickstarter only to find that people still don’t believe us.  Even after we have all that working, the majority of people still won’t back something this new and different.
 
We've actually had people posting telling us that the reason they won’t back our project is that is offers too much.   Too much?  Really, you want less?   I find it sad that people have become such cynics that they will not support something that attempts to give them everything they want, and instead only attack those that are trying to do something new and innovative.

Fortunately, not all humanity has succumbed to such lowly and base instincts, and still has it in their heart to believe in magic.  We named our company MMO Magic for a reason, because we are going to put some magic into a game genre that has become stale and lifeless.  Where if you are not a clone of what already exists, then you are not deemed valuable.

This brings me to another aspect of this, game looks.   We showed pre-alpha shots of the game, and were immediately attacked.   Of course, the first response we would have is, these are pre-alpha, not finished.  This is true, and our graphics will look much better before the game launches.   But even with that said, these reactions to the look of the game are unfair.  No, we don’t look like other games that players are playing right now, but looking different isn't looking bad. 

I look at recent games, like Guild Wars 2, and I find that their game does look a lot different than CoS.  Not better, different.  If I was to attack GW2 (which I don’t actually want to do, there is NOTHING wrong with the way they decided to make their game look) I could point out that a lot of what you are looking at is painted rather than real (shadows painted into the texture, not cast by the light source).  The whole look of their world is what I would call fuzzy painted.  That is the look they decided to go for, and within that goal they did a nice job.

The point is, this is just one possible look.  There can  be many styles of art.  Just because we decided to go with 'sharp reality' vs. 'fuzzy painting', doesn't mean our graphics look bad, they look like they are intended to look, different, and in our opinion, they look GREAT!

If you look at a building, and walk up close to it in CoS, you will find that it still looks sharp and real.  In most other games, if you walk up close, their ‘painting’ on the polygons turns into a blur.  As light sources change the world objects look kind of flat, but in CoS objects stay three dimensional with nice real time shadows and sharp images.  This also means that shadows and lighting change with the time of day, making our world (graphics) look real, not like a flat blurry painting
.  
The Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci looks nothing like a work from Picasso or Van Gogh, they are all radically different styles of art, none are ‘better’ than another.  Our style of art is our own, it isn't better or worse than others; it is the style we choose to make in our game.  We wanted sharp reality, so that’s what we’re making.  Here is a comparison between Guild Wars 2 and Citadel of Sorcery.  Please note that the differences we point out are a choice, not a good or bad.  We choose to make our graphics look the way we thought they looked good.  Someone else may have a different opinion, that is the way of art, it is subjective.  Still, we are not afraid of a side by side comparison of our Pre-Alpha art and the Finished art of Guild Wars 2.  Note the overall 'sharper' style of CoS over GW2, and then we listed some other things to note in each comparison.

Click on each image to get a larger view!





But, people are slow to change, in graphic looks, and in new kind of game play.  And so our Kickstarter campaign was slow to gather backers.  Many people want to wait and have us ‘prove’ it all before they give us their backing.  Sadly, this does only one thing, delay the day they get to play something new.

Still, there are a few who believe, and to them we say ‘Thank you’, for your optimism, for your understanding, and for your willingness to stand with us, and help us create a game that is new and different.

We will be opening up our own Crowd Funding on November 9th.  So come join us in making this game!  

However, regardless of any Crowd Funding, we will continue to work on this game, no matter how long it takes to finish.  And every dollar that IS donated through our own Crowd Funding will be put straight into finishing the game sooner.  

Here is a promise, we’ll make sure that the people who believed, the people that backed this project when others would not, ARE rewarded.  You will receive things that no other player will ever get, and you will be the first people into this new world.  Finally, you will also be the first to learn new things about the development in the game.  We want our backers to be part of the team, not just players.  So those that pledge on our web site crowd funding will be part of the Patron Team, with special access.

Come be a believer, join our Patron Team, and help get Citadel of Sorcery done even sooner!  Come to our web site on November 9th, 2012 and check out the new Crowd Funding rewards, or just talk to us and the other believers in our game in the forums.   

www.citadelofsorcery.com

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Table Top meets Computer game



As an avid fan of Table Top games, I always dreamed of what a computer could do to improve the game, but after years of waiting, it just never seemed to materialize.

Let’s talk about Table Top gaming first.  The social aspect of the game play is wonderful, but one of the things I always loved about Table Top games was the depth of story, and the seemingly unlimited choices you had as a player.  Yes, I said, ‘seemingly’, because Table Top players understand that the Game Master sort of nudges you in the direction you need to go, after all, they don’t have the entire world detailed.  But we forgive them, and the illusion of unlimited choices is there, since the GM can adapt to all the crazy ideas that the Players may come up with.  In truth, Table Top is a bit like Improve, from both the players, and the GM.  That’s the good stuff.

Now let’s talk about the bad parts.  As mentioned, what the GM has prepared is typically limited, so you have to go where they have things ready.  But, the worst part by far is the tediousness of calculating out probabilities.  You use charts and graphs, dice and calculations, data sheets and pages upon pages of rules.  You spend hours poring through these trying to get the odds and chance of something working or failing, correctly.  A short battle could take three hours, a shopping trip all night.  Then there is what things look like.  Sure, the GM may describe what you see and hear, and with a good imagination, you may picture wonderful things, but these are all in your head.

Computer games can fix these issues.  A massive team of people may prepare a world, so that you can go anywhere, and do what you want, because the entire thing is there.   When it comes to the tedious calculations… nothing does tedious faster than a computer.  It can do all those calculations in a heartbeat, freeing the players to stay in the story and fantasy, rather than dice and charts.  Finally, with the right team of artists and programmers, these days we can make a beautiful fantasy world, with excellent sound.
 
The problem is that, so far, we have been satisfied with the graphics and quick battle calculations.  However, the depth of the game play has been sorely ignored.  The grand adventures we played in Table Tops are reduced to simple tasks instead of epic quests.

However, we don’t believe that these two mediums are mutually exclusive.  So with that in mind, we are attempting to take the best of a Table Top game, the story, the game play, and the ability to do whatever you want, and meld that with the graphics, sound and ability of a computer game to calculate everything.  This would truly be a game worth playing, the best of both worlds, Table Top melded with Computer game.

The real question was only why hasn’t someone managed to do this?  It turned out to be very difficult.  Replacing what a GM can do for you in a Table Top game was a massive undertaking.  Creating a world that is alive, and can still handle millions of players, without breaking, is equally difficult, but not impossible.   Then we wanted each player to have a unique story, and have their choices change and affect their path, just as if there was a GM to adapt to the changes.   

Through years of design, by teams of game designers who were successful in both industries, we did manage to meld the two into a playable and fun game.  Then we brought in top engineers to code an engine that could achieve our designs.  What we are making is a game called Citadel of Sorcery, and we have not seen anything like it, though we have dreamed of it ever since we played Table Top games, and watched Computer Games come alive.   We have a saying at MMO Magic, Inc., “It’s time to expect more from a game”, and this is what we are building in Citadel of Sorcery.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Writing a screenplay


I’ve gone back to my roots!  In college I was a film major (English minor).  However, when I finished college I did a little foray into Hollywood, meeting with various people in the industry.  For reasons I’m not going to go into, life in Hollywood was not for me, at least at that time in my life.  Eventually I found my way into the computer game industry, as a Producer and Lead Designer, which suited me better at the time.  That is still where I spend most of my time working, currently making Citadel of Sorcery at MMO Magic, Inc.
 
However, a cousin of mine has started a production company, Blood Line Productions, and they are getting ready to make a feature length movie.  He already had a concept, which I found quite intriguing, and he knows I am a writer.  One thing led to another, and the Director asked me if I would like to write the screenplay, and so I agreed to give it a whirl.
 
The working title of my screenplay is Forgotten.  It is a crime drama, with some suspense roots.  It involves a serial killer from the past, and a copy cat killer from the future, as well as a father and son.  The father has Alzheimer’s disease, but was the Lead Detective on the original serial killer case.  Now his son, a new detective, must seek out his father for help with a copy cat killer who is duplicating the killings from his father’s old case, but Alzheimers throws a wrench into the whole thing.

This is a very deep story, with a lot of twists and turns, and some very interesting characters.  I’m finding it difficult to tell such a deep story in two hours, but am working through the limitations.  It is very different from working on my various novels, where I have almost unlimited time to develop my story and characters, and different from my game quests, where stories again have little to constrain them in time.  Still, I am enjoying the challenge, and I am attempting to get everything I can out of every minute of film.

Casting will begin in the near future, as I am only a week from finishing the first draft of Forgotten.  I’m looking forward to seeing some of these characters I’ve written come to life at the hands of the actors, cinematographer, editor and, most importantly, director.

If you would like to see the quality of production from the Blood Line Production team, watch the 10 minute, multiple award winning, short film that they created, called Lucy.   Here is the link:


I was only involved in the making of Lucy in a couple scenes, particularly the ocean scene where I was one of the safety divers taking care of the little girl staring in the movie.   She was out there in 55 degree ocean water, wearing a thin nightgown, what a trooper!  We had to shoot really fast to keep her from getting hypothermia, and it was my job to keep her safe.  Quite a bit different from writing a screenplay for their upcoming feature length movie, but I was happy to do even that small part.  Obviously, my role in Forgotten will be much larger since I am writing the screenplay.   Let’s hope I don’t screw it up!  ;)

So, many years after my college classes in film making and script writing, I’m finally making use of that time I spent studying and dreaming of making movies! 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

So when is a game not a game?

I have a problem (well, several, but we will just talk about this one).   This problem is the word ‘game’.  As soon as I start to tell people about the ‘game’ I am working on, Citadel of Sorcery, they get this image of kids sitting around their Xweestation console blowing up each other in a kill fest.  Most of the adults immediately file it away under, ‘kids stuff’.  The problem is… it isn’t.

If I instead told them I’m working on a movie or a book, they would start asking, “Oh, what genre?” or “What’s is about?”  They would want to find out if this movie (or book) was one they might like to watch/read, and only make their mind up after they had learned more about it, but not games.  The moment that word, ‘game’ comes out, BAM, filed under ‘kids stuff’.

This could not be farther from the truth.  In fact, I will go so far as to say that this ‘game’ is more ‘grown up’ than most movies or books.  (the word ‘adult’ brings the wrong connotation as well).  How you ask?  Well, simple, a movie or a book, no matter HOW good… is a spectator sport.  You are only an observer into another situation/world, not a participant.  In Citadel of Sorcery you are entering a full world, a place of momentous plots, where kingdoms will rise and fall, fortunes of entire races change,  where epic sagas will begin, murder mysteries abound, expeditions to strange and wondrous history take place, and… instead of being an observer, you make the decisions.  You solve the mystery, you save the kingdom, you destroy the ring of power in Mt. Doom, you find the Arc of the Covenant in the buried ruins, you make decisions that change the fate of your character, and the world.

This is not a game… not like anyone has seen before.  You will face choices, where you must evaluate your options, knowing that once you go down one path it will forever rule your destiny.  You live in an evolving world, where you make a difference.  This isn’t Mario Brothers, or some Shooter, or Dance game; this is true adventure, life as an Avatar in another world, escapism at its highest level.  This is multiple epic novels all wrapped up into one world, hundreds of movies all delivered, and none of it is set on one path, it all changes based on who you are, and what you choose to do.

This isn’t a game… this is life at its grandest moment, and you are the hero in a story the likes of which you could only dream of in our real society.  This isn’t just for kids… it is for everyone.

My problem is how to convince people of the fact that a game isn’t always a ‘game’.  Sometimes a new form of entertainment can come about, a melding of book, movie, table top game, computer game and… well, life.  This is what Citadel of Sorcery is about, making a new form of entertainment, one we hope we can convince people to try, you just might find out you like it.