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  SXSWi: ‘Cross-Media Cross-Pollination: Mashing Up Video Games and ARGs’  
 
 
Posted 2008-03-09 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Thanks to Dee Cook and Dan Hon of Six to Start for joining me yesterday on a last-minute SXSWi panel entitled "Cross-Media Cross-Pollination: Mashing Up Video Games and ARGs."

We chatted about how ARGs and video games relate, and how these two game-forms might learn from each other. There were at least 60 people in attendance, many of whom were probably expecting the original panel "ARGs: The Future of Entertainment." Given that we only lost a few people during our panel, and given the number of eyeballs focused on the panelists, I think it was a success. Attendees joined in the discussion during and after the panel--I'm hosting a follow-up conversation on Monday at 3:30pm if anyone at the conference is interested in further conversation about ARGs and video games.
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Second Skin’ Documentary Debuts Friday  
 
 
Posted 2008-03-04 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Those of you in Austin, Texas this week for South by Southwest may be fortunate enough to take in the debut of Second Skin on Friday. I've been following the documentary about virtual worlds and the real people who inhabit them for some time, and can't wait to see the final film (having weaseled my way into its trailer). The makers of the film will be vlogging their Texan misadventures for your enjoyment, and have been keeping a production blog for millions of internet-years.

Here's when and where you can catch this potentially generation-defining documentary:

Friday March 7 - 9:00pm - Austin Convention Center Theater

Tuesday March 11 - 7:45pm - Austin Convention Center Theater

Thursday March 13 - 1:45pm - Austin Convention Center Theater

See you at the Convention Center!
 
     
 
   
 
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  The Retro Roots of ‘Champions Online’  
 
 
Posted 2008-02-22 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I can't wait to try Champions Online, the MMO adaptation of Champions, my favorite superhero role-playing game (the kind you play sitting around a table). It looks like Cryptic, the developers behind the excellent superhero MMO City of Heroes, is using everything learned from developing good heroic character-creation and game play and fusing this with a time-tested, highly-flexible rules system--City of Heroes Evolved, if you will.

Continue reading: The Retro Roots of ‘Champions Online’
 
     
 
   
 
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  Game Design Quick Links for 2008-02-09  
 
 
Posted 2008-02-09 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
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  Harmless Espionage You Can Carry Out At Home  
 
 
Posted 2008-01-10 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
A couple of projects I was involved with late last year are now fully operational. Although each project was for a separate broadcaster, each puts the player in the role of a secret agent. Must have been something in the air in 2007.

The Border: Interactive, which supports the new CBC TV series The Border, was produced by White Pine Pictures in association with Stitch Media, and is comprised of a series of narrative-driven mini-games. I'm pretty sure this is the first major project launch for Stitch Media, founded by Evan Jones, former Creative Director of Xenophile Media. As Game Designer on The Border: Interactive, I worked closely with Evan and his team during the pre-production phase, developing high-concept game ideas into executable design documents. Jam3Media worked with Stitch to develop the games in Flash.

M.I. High, a CBBC TV series, is now supported by an episodic web-game. I helped out as a game design consultant on the project, but I can't say more than that until I hear back from my client.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Case Study:  Bringing ‘Warcraft’ To The Tabletop  
 
 
Posted 2008-01-08 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Gamasutra features a fascinating rundown of what was involved in bringing World of Warcraft to the tabletop as a role-playing game. Written by Luke Johnson of White Wolf, the article identifies "content" as being the biggest challenge in extending Warcraft's world--apparently, Blizzard wasn't comfortable giving White Wolf freedom to invent their own Warcraft lore. Johnson explains the process:
  1. We would write the books [...] making stuff up when necessary.
  2. The good folks at Blizzard would check the manuscript to make sure that a) everything in it was consistent with both their vision of the Warcraft setting and the information that had already been presented in some other format (the video games, the novels, and the like); and b) that we didn't add anything that they didn't like.
  3. The writers would then alter the manuscript as per Blizzard's requests, and we'd return to step 2.
Sounds painful, doesn't it? It's a shame a reputable game maker like White Wolf wasn't given more freedom to expand the Warcraft universe. Blizzard might own Azeroth, but that doesn't mean it has a grasp of what works for tabletop role-playing.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Quick Gaming Links for 2008-01-06  
 
 
Posted 2008-01-06 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
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  Are MMOs Killing The Planet?  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-04 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Are massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) killing the planet? A report released by environmental group Global Action Plan suggests that computer servers, such as those which are used for online games, have a hefty carbon footprint. In a summary of its report, the group says
  • A medium-sized server has a similar carbon footprint to an SUV achieving 15 miles to the gallon. Servers also require as much energy to cool them as they directly consume.
  • 1,000 PCs left on 24/7 without any power save settings activated will consume up to £70,000 of electricity per year...
Massive online games require massive server facilities--imagine, for example, how many always-on servers World of Warcraft must be running with over 9 million players around the world.

Given that MMOs are growing in popularity, it seems likely that an increasing number of servers will be needed to run the games. One can only hope that the efficiency (quality) of servers will somehow increase more quickly than the quantity of servers required. Because even if quality servers maintain today's levels, we're not doing the planet any favors by playing MMOs. We need to reduce gaming's ecological footprint.

Continue reading: Are MMOs Killing The Planet?
 
     
 
   
 
  9 comments  
  Not Playing The ‘Warcraft’ Blizzard Designed  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-03 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Not Playing The ‘Warcraft’ Blizzard Designed
A glimpse of a Poker-variant dubbed "Zwergenpoker."
Is World of Warcraft's unending grind causing players to seek alternate forms of in-game entertainment? Seems so. Mini-games created with Warcraft's extensible "add-on" system have been in play since at least 2006, but a game update earlier this year made it even easier for players to create their own fun.

The Guild Bank, introduced with patch 2.3, presents a 14 by 7 grid intended to be used for item-storage. One imaginative player got the idea to use the grid for a variant of Checkers (aka Draughts). Playing pieces can be any item in one's inventory. The "board" layout might not be suitable for Chess, but probably a Go- or Reversi-variant. It might be easier to play these games on the tabletop (as was the original intent), but that would defeat the whole cool-factor of bastardizing Warcraft.

 
     
 
   
 
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  Humungo-Megalithic Games Company Formed  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-03 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
All the cool nerds are talking about it: Vivendi (publisher, World of Warcraft) and Activision (Pitfall!, Guitar Hero) spent a steamy weekend entwining their glistening tentacles together so elaborately that neither megacorporation could be distinguished from the other. The unholy spawn of this union is to be named Activision Blizzard, a rampaging humungo-megalith The Guardian says will be "the world's largest computer games company" with an annual income of $3.8 billion and an insatiable appetite for fresh babies.

I'm not sure how the merger will produce better games, lower retail prices, or more choice for gamers--but then, there's a lot about the games industry I can't even begin to understand. All I know is that if I was formerly an employee of Vivendi or Activision, I might be concerned for the safety of my job (or even my entire department) next year. Time to trim some excess tentacles.
 
     
 
   
 
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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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