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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.
  Quick Gaming Links for 2008-01-06  
Posted 2008-01-06 by Tony Walsh
  Quick Links for 2007-11-11  
Posted 2007-11-11 by Tony Walsh
  links for 2007-10-30  
Posted 2007-10-30 by Tony Walsh
  ‘Eye of Judgment’ Blind to Cheating?  
Posted 2007-10-15 by Tony Walsh
When I first read about PS3 augmented reality game Eye of Judgment, it didn't even occur to me that cheating would be an issue. Surely Sony had planned ahead and would be able to prevent players from pulling the wool over their Eye cameras.

Security expert Steven Davis brought my attention to the cheating issue in his analysis of Eye of Judgment as revealed in a Wired blog post:Wired article explaining Sony's anti-cheating strategy:
"Sony, as a thoughtful designer, had to consider how to handle cheating with their card game... after all, if players manipulate the deck, they can gain a substantial advantage. The solution, as described by Susan Arendt of Wired, is to have the console shuffle the cards and then tell the player which one comes out."
Eons ago, I used to work as a clerk in an all-night copy shop, and having seen everything from counterfeit currency to bootlegged public-transit tickets, I wondered if Sony had considered what comes naturally when you put a flat object of value, people and a color copier (or scanner and ink-jet printer) together in private. Apparently not--the cards don't appear to come with copy-protection measures, such as a unique serial number.

Eye of Judgment: Broken.
  links for 2007-10-11  
Posted 2007-10-11 by Tony Walsh
  Sony PS3 to Embrace User-Generated Content  
Posted 2007-08-14 by Tony Walsh
Reporting from the Edinburgh Interactive Entertainment Festival, Gamasutra brings word that Sony's microworld Home will eventually be opened to user-generated content. Beyond avatar and residence customization, Home users "will be able to share other content that they have created -- photos and videos of themselves, and user-generated content tools such as their own t-shirt designs," project director Peter Edward reportedly said, adding "We'll also be giving out tools to allow scripting, java minigames and so on." Sounds like Sony's willing to get its hands dirty with managing user creativity--opening the doors to user-generated content has major benefits in terms of customer retention, but raises a swath of critical administrative, legal, social and security issues. [Update: such as Flying Cigarettes, Talking Condoms and Virtual Homelessness]

On a related note, I was flipping through this month's issue of Game Developer Magazine and noted that Epic's Mark Rein says that the upcoming Unreal Tournament 3 for the Sony PS3 console will facilitate user-created game levels ("mods") created on a PC. This should extend the shelf-life of the game for quite some time. I'm not entirely clear as to whether the mods will be able to be distributed through the PlayStation Network, but that would be ideal.
  links for 2007-08-10  
Posted 2007-08-10 by Tony Walsh
  Flat Is Where It’s At  
Posted 2007-08-06 by Tony Walsh
Development team Metanet discusses level-building issues for N+, an upgrade of its original Flash-based platform game N, revealing that over 1,000 N+ levels have been designed for the Xbox Live / Nintendo DS / Sony PSP versions. The team says:
"’s amazing how much room for creativity and invention there is in the level design for a simple tile-based 2D game. After 4 years we’re still finding new tricks and concepts to play with. Crazy! Why anyone would jump to 3D when there’s still so much to figure out in 2D is beyond us ;)"
Even though this last sentiment wasn't entirely serious, the Metanet team is barking up the right tree, in my opinion. Platform games (such as Lode Runner or Super Mario World) are particularly suited to 2D, and not necessarily improved by adding another D.

I suppose I have to mention some exceptions to my own little rule here, such as 2.5D (which can offer improved platform-game play), and specific platform-style games that break the dimensional mold, such as the optically-insane Echochrome and 2D/3D hybrid Super Paper Mario. Feel free to add your own exceptions in the comments section.
  Sony Expands ‘PlayStation Home’ Microworld [Updated]  
Posted 2007-07-12 by Tony Walsh
Sony spokespeople presented in person and in avatar form during an E3 press-conference yesterday. Among their announcements were expansions to PlayStation Home, an online microworld serving as a lobby from which games and other media are experienced.

According to an emailed press-release, a newly-designed "Home Square" will replace the lobby concept starting this fall, described as an "open air space" intended to give Sony developers more freedom to build upon the Home service (not sure how an open air space accomplishes this--more virtual real estate, maybe?). Four new virtual apartments were introduced, including a Beach House, Norwegian Cabin, Manhattan Penthouse and a traditional Japanese House, places where avatars can gather and share content. I still haven't seen Home in person, but it seems terribly dull.

[Update: Joystiq live-blogged from E3 that Home is coming to mobile phones; users can send mobile pics directly to Home; a social networking service links Home into the web. I'm surprised this wasn't mentioned in Sony's original press release.]
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