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  EA Grabs Your ‘Spore Creature Creator’ IP  
 
 
Posted 2008-06-28 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Talk about harshing my buzz. Electronic Arts is going to let us design creatures with its long-awaited Spore game and stand-alone Creature Creator, but in using the game and creator, we agree to hand over all rights in our creations to the megalithic publisher, including the right to "further modify" the creations. So much for using Spore as a sketchpad for creature concepts.

In my legally-ignorant view, EA should have no IP rights in how I assemble the building blocks it supplies. That's like LEGO claiming ownership over everything we build, or Adobe claiming ownership over images run through Photoshop. The way I see it, creature designers are creating new IP with a tool set they paid for--why should we give EA our work, except for the exclusive purpose of sharing with other creature creators in the way the game was designed?

Continue reading: EA Grabs Your ‘Spore Creature Creator’ IP
 
     
 
   
 
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  Jumping Through Hoops  
 
 
Posted 2008-06-05 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Had a fun chat with Erik Loyer this morning while breakfasting in a hotel restaurant. We were discussing how Portal forces the player to jump through the designers' hoops--it occurred to us that in Portal's case, the expression "jumping through hoops" becomes quite literal. Insert collegial chuckling here.

Also had the chance to meet up with security expert and game-guy Steven Davis last night over dinner. Much discussion of tabletop gaming's relevance to digital games and other frothy matters ensued. And then I had to run back to help out at BAVC's Producers Institute. Insert whip-cracking sound-effect here.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Policing Role-Play In ‘Age of Conan’  
 
 
Posted 2008-05-03 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
The operator of the upcoming adult-oriented Age of Conan MMO intends to establish strict rules about role-playing on designated servers, according to an official community bulletin. This might be great news for role-play enthusiasts, but I have to wonder if AoC's operator has a plan to police and enforce its own proposed rules. Any such plan must involve human moderators at some point along the chain (software isn't smart enough for the job), which is an awfully costly investment in role-playing, if you ask me.

Names from outside the 'Conan' universe (as in, from another fantasy universe, such as Pokemon) are not allowed. Names from inside the 'Conan' universe (such as Conan) are also not allowed. Neither are derivatives or sound-alike names. Out of character chat is to be "avoided." Making fun of role-players is not allowed. Using role-play to justify immersion-breaking actions and exploits is not allowed. Interfering with in-progress community-driven role-playing events (such as a wedding) is not allowed.

These rules are setting the game operators up for major headaches. A good rule is one which doesn't need to be discussed--it's simply incontrovertible. These are bad rules. Not only do they require human supervision, they are open to interpretation. Who's going to moderate player names, and when will that moderation occur? How much out of character chat is acceptable, and when is it acceptable to speak OOC. What if the sight of weddings drives my character into a berserker rage--isn't it about my immersion, too? What if my entire clan of players has an in-character grudge against that wedding?

Unless the rules are tightened up, enforced transparently, frequently and consistently, the whole system's going to spiral out of control. Transparent enforcement (i.e. we see who was busted for what, and how the policing or punishment was carried out) and frequent enforcement are expensive. Consistent enforcement is sure to be a joke--I can't even go to a bank and get the same answer about the same question from 5 different tellers.
 
     
 
   
 
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  A Smart Way to Handle In-Game Ads, For Once  
 
 
Posted 2008-04-17 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Long-time readers of this blog will know how I loathe in-game advertising and how it is often rammed into games with ham-fisted clumsiness. This being said, I'm pleased to discover that in-game ads are coming to massively-multiplayer superhero games City of Heroes / City of Villiains (known as CoX in combination). Why am I pleased? Because those responsible for the move have obviously learned from past advertisers' mistakes and are being considerate of the players and the world they inhabit:
  • CoX world is a contemporary, urban setting. Perfectly suitable for contemporary, urban advertising (unlike far-future sci-fi settings, for example)
  • Ads will only be displayed in areas that had already featured fictional ads--not a major impact on the aesthetic of the game, and, arguably a method of increasing the world's "realism"
  • Most importantly, players can turn the ads off.
  • Players have been invited to submit their own advertisements for inclusion in the world. Great move, getting the players involved and feeling ownership over their environment--players are probably less likely to turn off ads this way
  • Ad revenue will bankroll further development of the subscription-based game rather than simply make the publisher richer.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Imminent Toronto Gaming Action  
 
 
Posted 2008-04-08 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Indie warlord Jim Munroe informed his mailing list today that his Artsy Games Incubator is holding an open house in Toronto at the Mobile Experience Lab on Wed. April 23rd at 7pm. Writes Jim, "there'll be short presentations of the games we made using accessible tools... we're also inviting people in the indie games community at large to bring their games-in-progress to demo -- and no, you don't have to identify as an artist." Yes, but how do we define "indie?" And what if I'm not indie but I'm making an artsy game?

The third installment of the Toronto Game Jam was announced to mailing list members today. Registration is now open for the frantic game-making event, which runs May 9 - 11, 2008. From the call-out: "It's FREE and open to anyone in the world with a modicum of game making ability. Coders! Artists! Designers! Musicians! All are welcome." Sounds like fun, if you can stay up for 72 hours straight.

Lastly, the Second Skin virtual world documentary will make its Toronto debut on April 21 and 23. I make a 15-second appearance in the film, so I'm totally biased when I insist that you go see it--more importantly, help the filmmakers get the word out to local media so that the uninitiated flock to the film in droves.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Game Narrative Quick Links for 2008-03-19  
 
 
Posted 2008-03-19 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
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  SXSW 2008 Notes:  Jane McGonigal’s Keynote  
 
 
Posted 2008-03-11 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Rough notes liveblogged from Jane McGonigal's keynote presentation at SXSW...

The Lost Ring has been in pay for a week, there are already over 100 screen grabs from the game trailer posted to flickr.

We need more alternate realities... the real world needs to be redesigned as a game...

Slide: "A game designer's perspective on the future of happiness"

Research around the subject of happiness... the science of happiness... we've started to see a backlash after a period of happiness study... one area of study looks specifically at what makes us happy and function well... it's been all over the popular press...

There's an amazing parallel between what makes us happy and the core tenets of game design...


Continue reading: SXSW 2008 Notes:  Jane McGonigal’s Keynote
 
     
 
   
 
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  SXSWi 2008 Notes:  ‘Casual Multi-Player Online Games: Serious Revenues’  
 
 
Posted 2008-03-11 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Following are my rough notes from the SXSW panel "Casual Multi-Player Online Games: Serious Revenues," featuring Michael Smith (Mind Candy), Adrian Crook (FreeToPlay.biz), Joe Hyrkin (Gaia Online), Jeremy Liew (Lightspeed Venture Partners), and Nabeel Hyatt (Conduit Labs)...

Moderator: What constitutes immersiveness for a virtual world? 3D? 2D? HTML?

Crook- A casual MMO is like Puzzle Pirates, in terms of delivery platform, java, etc. Facebook and Travian are other examples. For me, a Casual MMO is a place where people gather online with some kind of game structure, like Club Penguin with a loose game structure. A casual MMO is an online world with reduced barrier to entry in terms of price or platform.

Hyrkin- A range of categories apply. Casual MMO success depends on the community and engagement between users.

Smith- Presentation matters, we've stayed from avatar-based virtual worlds. At the last SXSW, I heard a lot about avatar-based worlds, but that space is getting very crowded now. Room for other types of games, such as PMOG.

Hyrkin- Not being 3D has a lot of benefits; nothing to download, easy access, reduces barrier to entry. MTV has 4 virtual worlds, built around their shows, they came top us and asked for a Gaia-like experience. We had huge success with Virtual Hills in Gaia.


Continue reading: SXSWi 2008 Notes:  ‘Casual Multi-Player Online Games: Serious Revenues’
 
     
 
   
 
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  SXSWi Reminder: ‘What Can the Video Games Industry Learn From ARGs?’  
 
 
Posted 2008-03-10 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
As previously threatened, I'll be kicking off a conversation today at SXSW about how the video games industry might pick up a few useful tips from Alternate Reality Games. The conversation takes place between 3:30pm and 4:30pm in Ballroom E. I'll be joined by Steve Peters of 42 Entertainment, probably Dan Hon of Six to Start, and whoever else wishes to drop in.

The idea for this so-called "Core Conversation" was pitched months ago, so I hope to freshen and expand the topic by identifying some areas in which video games have already adopted ideas and mechanics made popular by ARGs. Looking forward to the chat, hope you can make it.
 
     
 
   
 
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  SXSWi 2008 Notes:  Stories, Games and Your Brand  
 
 
Posted 2008-03-09 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Liveblogged from SXSWi in Austin, my rough notes from the panel "SXSW 2008 Notes: Stories, Games, and Your Brand."

Dan Hon case study: Cloverfield.
-- More people heard of the marketing than saw the movie (based on informal audience survey)

Rachel Clarke case study: Honda.
-- Puzzles built into posters, web site, game play engages viewers, every time you play the game it takes you closer to the brand

Roo Reynolds case study: Perplex City.
-- PC had a nice collecting element, but a great backstory, bits of everything in it... in my work in virtual worlds, I've been disappointed to not experience this level of depth (although VWs are good at turning people into participants)...

Continue reading: SXSWi 2008 Notes:  Stories, Games and Your Brand
 
     
 
   
 
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Clickable Conversation
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Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... http://www.dino.co.uk/labs/2008/45-tips-when-designing-online-content-for-kids/ Hope it helps someone... Dino...
in Dino Burbidge's '10 Things To Remember When Designing For Kids Online'


yes, many of the free little games are crappy. but as an artist who has recently published free content on the itunes app store,…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


I vote for popup radial menus. Highlight a bit of text, the push and hold, Sims-style radial menu pops up with Copy, Paste, etc....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


Hey Tony! A client of mine is looking to hire an internal Flash game dev team to build at a really cool Flash CCG…
in Dipping Into Toronto's Flash Pool


Yeah, there's a lot of weird common sense things I've noticed they've just omitted from the design. No idea why though....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


It also bears noting there's no mechanism right now for a developer to offer a free trial for the iPhone; the App Store isn't…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


@GeorgeR: It's on my shopping list :) I've heard good things about it as well. And Cro Mag Rally. @andrhia: meh, I don't know…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


...you get what you pay for, you know? I actually bought Trism based on early buzz, and it's truly a novel mechanic. I've been…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


The only one I've heard good things about is Super Monkey Ball. Have you given that a whirl yet?...
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


Advance warning: this frivolent comment is NOT RELATED or even worth your time ... But whenever i hear "Collada", i think of that SCTV…
in Electric Sheep Builds Its Own Flock


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