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Member Since 12 Oct 2009
Offline Last Active Yesterday, 08:10 PM

Topics I've Started

Why do game designers incorporate addicting reward systems into their games?

18 May 2010 - 12:12 AM

What is the rationale for including achievements, experience points, leveling systems, emblems, and other such "reward systems" into games? I've been seeing this happen more and more in FPS games (most recently Modern Warfare 2) which don't have "monthly subscription fees" like many online RPGs. With monthly subscription games, the benefit of reward systems is relatively obvious: if you get your players addicted, they'll continue playing -- and paying -- and the game company will profit. But with FPS games, the benefit (if any) is much less obvious, and I'm trying to figure out what it is. Is it as simple as games designers just wanting to add some more spice into their games? Make an otherwise bland and repetitive shoot-em-up more interesting and varied? Or is there a more nefarious reason? For example, Modern Warfare 2 recently came up with an expansion pack -- basically, they recycled some old maps from the previous version of the game and charged $15 for it. Since the game has been out for some time, you'd think everybody had forgotten about it by now and moved on to something else. But alas, people bought into the so-called "stimulus pack" with record-breaking numbers [1] which is possible, I think, only because of how addicting that game is. And the addicting element is, of course, the numerous reward systems that are present in that game. What are some other possible reasons why we see reward systems in virtually every game out there today? Is it the game industry's "copy machine" doing its thing -- game designers are including it simply because everyone else is? Do you view reward systems as being exploitative of their players? What do you think of the following quote by Jonathan Blow about the reward systems present in World of Warcraft?
That kind of reward system is very easily turned into a Pavlovian or Skinnerian scheme. It's considered best practice: schedule rewards for your player so that they don't get bored and give up on your game. That's actually exploitation. . . . Developers should provide activities that interest players rather than stringing them along with little pieces of candy so that they'll suffer through terrible game play, but keep playing because they gain levels or new items. [2]
Should game designers stop including these addicting reward systems into their games and focus more on other ways of making their games fun and innovative? Or do you think that the blame rests more with the players -- after all, they're the ones who buy these games, and as long as they continue doing that, there's no reason for game designers to abandon something that works? Please share any other thoughts you have on reward systems in video games! I'm currently in the process of writing a paper on the topic and your input would help. Alternative viewpoints welcome -- you can probably tell what mine is (I didn't put much effort into hiding it). Thanks!

How to make a train turn correctly

19 January 2010 - 11:55 PM

Hello, I have what is probably a very simple conceptual question, but I'm having some trouble thinking it through. I'm learning OpenGL (using C++) and I'm working on a simple application where the user gets to control a train. (At this point, I don't have tracks for the train, so it's really more like a bus with several jointed segments). Suppose you have a train with 4 cars: And suppose it's moving forward at some speed and the user wants to turn it to the left. I'm a little confused how to go about making the last three cars follow the first one correctly -- in other words, the train shouldn't "fall apart", and also, each car should always face the right direction. At the moment, I have a class for the whole train (Train), and a class for each car (Car). For each Car, I'm keeping track of the current position, the previous position in the last frame, the current direction, the previous direction, and I'm also keeping pointers to the car ahead and the car behind:
float pos_x, pos_y;              // Current position
float prev_pos_x, prev_pos_y;    // Position during last frame
float dir_x, dir_y;              // Current direction
float prev_dir_x, prev_dir_y;    // Direction during last frame
Car *ahead, *behind;             // Pointers to the car ahead and the car behind
For the Train, I'm keeping track of the first car, the speed, and I also have booleans for whether the train is currently accelerating, decelerating, turning left, and turning right:
Car *first;         // The leading car in the train
float speed;        // Speed of the whole train
bool is_accelerating, is_decelerating;  // Whether the user is pressing up or down
bool is_turning_left, is_turning_right; // Whether the user is pressing left or right
I'm probably going to have to have something for how fast the train is allowed to turn depending on its speed. Not yet sure what else. Suppose we also have the following constants:
const float length = 3.2f;
const float joint_offset = 1.5f;
And just for clarity, the "joint" is what I call the part where two adjacent cars are attached. The cars should pivot about these points. Anyways, here's what I'm wondering about: 1. How do I correctly update each car's direction per frame? Am I supposed to interpolate between the direction of the current car and the direction of the car ahead? Should I subtract the car ahead's position from its previous position to obtain a delta_pos vector and add that vector to the current car's direction vector to obtain the new direction? 2. How do I correctly update each car's position per frame? Obviously, this should (eventually) depend on the speed of the train. Should I just use pos and prev_pos from the car ahead? I apologize if this is a simple question -- it certainly doesn't seem that way to me, but then again, I am kind of a beginner and I've never really coded something like this before. (I'm also kind of sleep deprived.) I hope someone can help me understand the intuition behind this problem. Thanks in advance.

Building a computer - first time, need some help

12 October 2009 - 06:06 PM

Hello, I'm currently researching parts to build a PC. I've never built one before, so I could use some help and would welcome suggestions. My budget is about $1,300 and my purpose is to build a relatively high-end gaming PC. Some things I already decided on:
  • CPU: I will be buying the Core i7 920 CPU ($280) and I plan to overclock it to a moderate degree. Based on my research, the 920 is the best CPU for overclocking and is fairly cost effective.
  • Video card I've spent a lot of time looking at these and I think I should go with EVGA GTX 260 Core 216 "superclocked" edition (Cost: $200, or $170 after MIR). At this point, I will only be purchasing one (I will not be doing SLI), but I want to keep the possibility of adding another one in the future (so I need to pick a compatible motherboard and power supply).
The other components I'm still deciding on. I'm listing some of the options I found and would definitely appreciate any recommendations in these areas.
  • Case
  • Motherboard
    • I could use some help here!
    • Some basic requirements: it must have an LGA 1366 CPU socket type and should probably be full ATX. Other than that, I like easy settings for overclockers, support for 2 video cards in an SLI config (and perhaps an extra PCI-e slot to spare), and something that will last me a good time allowing for the possibility of upgrades in the future. Also, I value good audio quality (in fact, I might decide to get a sound card at some point). Good reviews and your recommendations will probably be the deciding factor, as I'm not too sure what else to look for.
    • List of all compatible motherboards on NewEgg
    • My default choice is the EVGA E758-A1 for $280 ($260 after MIR), simply because it has the most ratings and it sounds like a middle of the road kind of choice. It has utilities for overclocking easier, which is also a plus.
      • Also, there's a -$20 combo discount for this board with the GTX 260 video card.
  • Power supply
    • Based on the rest of my config, as well as my intention to overclock, and my desire for upgradeability in the future, I decided to aim for an 850 W power supply. Is that too much, or too little?
    • Also, the GTX 260 video card specs recommend 36 amps on the +12V rail. However, I've read many reviews on NewEgg where people post their entire builds, and I've seen that many people successfully run the GTX 260 (even 2 in SLI) on power supplies that only provide 30 amps.
    • A modular power supply would be a plus, but they tend to be way more expensive.
    • My current choice: CORSAIR CMPSU-850TX 850W ATX12V 2.2 / EPS12V 2.91 SLI Ready CrossFire Ready Active PFC Power Supply
      • Price: $140 ($110 after MIR)
      • It has a single 12 V rail, and the output is rated at: +3.3V@30A, +5V30A, +12V@70A, -12V@0.8A, +5VSB@3A
  • RAM
    • Would prefer about 6 GB, and the faster the better. Many manufacturers advertise they're "compatible with Intel's X58 boards and Core i7" - I've been going for these, although I'm not sure how much this matters.
    • Current choice: OCZ XMP Ready Series 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Low Voltage Desktop Memory Model OCZ3X1600LV6GK
      • Price: $130 ($110 after MIR)
      • XMP means it should be relatively easy to overclock, which is a plus for me (and for the i7-920, memory needs to be overclocked because the memory clock in the CPU runs at a slower 1066MHz). There's a slightly cheaper version of essentially the same RAM here ($110 after MIR), but many reviewers had difficulties getting it to run with the rated timings.
      • Also, there's a -$12 combo discount for this memory with the CPU.
  • CPU Cooler
  • Hard Drive
  • CD/DVD burner
The total for this system comes out to be $1,239 before all the rebates, and $1,139 after, so I'm well under the budget and there's still room to step up a couple of the components. (Or I could buy myself a nice gaming keyboard and mouse, like the Logitech G5 and the G11). Now I have some questions. 1. First and foremost, did I miss anything!? (I think I got everything covered, but keep in mind it's my first time.) Will I need to buy all the cables, or do those generally ship with the parts? Are there any other accessories I might need? I bought thermal paste, which I think is necessary to install the CPU cooler. Anything else? 2. Can someone briefly glance through the list to verify if these components are actually compatible? Again, I tried my best to make sure all the connectors and sockets match, but I wouldn't be surprised if I overlooked anything. I'm especially worried about the power supply because that is the component that I understand the least. 3. I would highly appreciate any suggestions you may have about this build.
  • Are any of these parts perhaps a bit excessive? I'm going for performance, but at the same time, I don't want to pay $100 extra for an increase or benefit that I won't even notice.
  • I'm not feeling too sure about the motherboard because I didn't understand a lot of the tech specs - I chose it more or less randomly. Is my choice ok?
  • Any other suggestions.
I also have a couple more general questions: 4. I plan to overclock the CPU and the RAM (and the video card is factory overclocked). Is it a bad idea to run overclocked 24/7, or do people generally do it without problems? I'm also wondering if it's a setting I can change while I'm running, or if I have to reboot the computer and go into the BIOS each time I want to enable/disable overclocking. 5. For people who build computers regularly: I'm just curious about how the nature of "upgrading" for you is different from the mainstream. For people who buy pre-built systems, doing an "upgrade" is something that is done perhaps yearly, and all at once. For people who buy components and do the building themselves, does upgrading tend to be a more "progressive" process where you might buy a component here or there when you see a good deal, swap components from one system to another, or perhaps even build an entire system from a stash of spare parts you've accumulated over the years? I'm not sure if this is a weird question or not, but I really am wondering... 6. I noticed there's a high variation in price for RAM as well as power supplies and many other components with nearly identical features. Do "brand names" play a role here? 7. I couldn't find the answer to this: if you want, say, 8 GB of RAM, is it better to buy 2 x 4 GB or 4 x 2 GB? Judging by price, I'm guessing 2 x 4 GB - is it just faster? 8. Many components come with optional $20-$30 warranties. Do you recommend buying some of these warranties, or are they pointless? If a component gets shipped to me "Dead on Arrival", I can return it without a warranty, right? And if a part stops working a month in through no doing of my own, I can expect to be able to return it also without a warranty, right? I would appreciate any amount of feedback you guys could give! This took weeks of research , and I feel like I'm almost ready to take the plunge. I just need some confirmation before I go and spend over a thousand dollars on this. Thanks in advance.