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  Raiding for Fun and Profit  
 
 
Posted 2007-06-26 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Somewhere between herding angry cats and precision military operations lies the MMO raid, a player-organized group assault on a specific game target. Witness a classic Onyxia raid executed in World of Warcraft, or the recently-perpetrated raid on a player-controlled Titan-class warship staged in EVE Online. Both incidents illustrate how there's more going on here than "just a game," and explain why most of us will never have the time, skill, and coordination to pull something like this off.
 
     
 
   
 
  2 comments  
  ‘Spectrobes’ Gets Collectible Cards, Community  
 
 
Posted 2007-01-25 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
‘Spectrobes’ Gets Collectible Cards, Community
The greatest thing since Pogs!
Buena Vista Games has announced that its upcoming game Spectrobes for the Nintendo DS will be augmented by an online community, downloadable content, and a collectible trading card system tied to bonus game material. These additional features indicate that the game will not only have plenty of replay value, but increase the chances that a distinct player culture will emerge. The sci-fi game involves waking up, training, and collecting prehistoric creatures (the phrase "gotta catch `em all!" comes to mind). The digital critters can then be battled one on one over local wireless, or in tournament play over WiFi with up to 16 players.

The Spectrobes community will offer members a leaderboard and personal profile page, including information about one's status and accomplishments in the game. Downloadables include videos, game items and characters. But what's really going to hook gamers is the addition of collectible cards, which will be "available" (presumably "sold") following the game's release. Each game ships with four translucent cards, which are placed over the DS touch screen to reveal a series of numerical holes--when tapped in sequence, bonus items are unlocked.

With a community based around in-game accomplishments, the fastest way for players to succeed will be to buy packs of the cards in the hopes of unlocking an advantage over others. This model has worked well for pretty much every collectible card game out there, such as Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic: The Gathering.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Zombies vs. Humans in ‘Left 4 Dead’  
 
 
Posted 2007-01-15 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Hot damn, I'm looking forward to eating brains for breakfast as one of four playable zombie characters in the upcoming PC/Xbox 360 game Left 4 Dead. Gamespot's published a Q&A with the developer--the game's your basic pandemic-based survival horror, and pits four human survivors against four virus-infected victims. By the sounds of it, players can drop in or out of the co-operative game at any time. Humans seem to be forced to run and gun, while the infected are more sneaky. And mutated.

I enjoyed the PC game Aliens vs. Predator II for the same reasons I think I'll enjoy playing a bad guy in Left 4 Dead: I find stealth play more challenging and more rewarding than Rambo-style assaults. Here's hoping there are ample one-off multi-player maps and scenarios to round out the story-based campaign.
 
     
 
   
 
  0 comments  
  An ‘Alien’ Transmedia Experience  
 
 
Posted 2006-10-09 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
While recovering from a head cold this weekend, I had the opportunity to watch Alien3 (1992), a movie I'd never seen even a clip from before, despite loving the first and second installment in the series. If I recall correctly, most viewers weren't keen on the third film, but I really enjoyed it. In particular, I was delighted to be able to connect the movie and a specific multiplayer map in the video game Aliens vs. Predator 2 (2001).

The final third of the movie depicts frenzied activity inside a lead smelting facility--I watched with a sense of deja vu and then realized that the video game had recreated the look and feel of this location in a multiplayer map. Basically, I felt like I'd already "been" to the location shown in the movie, having played the map in the game so many times--and mostly from the point of view of the Alien, crawling all over the floors, walls and ceiling (as depicted in the movie). Specific camera shots and actions from the movie were echoed extremely appropriately in the game, by virtue of the game's (and level's) design.

Probably a bigger deal would have been made about this harmonization 5 years ago when the game came out, except I don't think transmedia / cross-media entertainment was much of a discussion point at the time. The cinematic Doom's awkward "first person shooter" camera angles look even worse compared to the Alien3 / AvP2 synergy.
 
     
 
   
 
  0 comments  
  ‘Disturbing’ Zombie Dancers Arrested  
 
 
Posted 2006-07-25 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Members of a "zombie dance party" were jailed in Minneapolis last Saturday, according to the Associated Press (via kstp.com). While not actually undead, the zombie dancers were reportedly arrested on suspicion of carrying deadly weapons of mass destruction. The cops apparently saw bags with wires sticking out, but a zombie representative moaned that the group's "weapons" were merely stereos carried in backpacks. The Associated Press quotes a police spokesperson as saying those arrested were exhibiting "suspicious and disturbing" behaviour. In my book, any zombie not acting suspicious and disturbing is just not doing a proper job, but American law-enforcement obviously doesn't read it that way. This doesn't bode well for Zombie Walks in the U.S.A. but maybe there's still hope for Canadian flesh-eaters.
 
     
 
   
 
  0 comments  
  Harvard Business Review On ‘Avatar-Based Marketing’  
 
 
Posted 2006-05-30 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Harvard Business Review's Senior Editor Paul Hemp tipped me off to his latest article "Avatar-Based Marketing," running in the publication's June issue. He's interested in feedback on the article, so feel free to add your comments to the end of this post.

The extensive article is detailed but easy to digest, leading readers new to virtual worlds (specifically, Second Life) through the basics and nuances of avatars, covering some of their current and potential relationships with marketing efforts. What most impresses me is the degree of research Hemp's apparently done, and the fact that he covers the potential for avatar-marketing failures. It has been a near-constant complaint of mine that the media--business media in particular--often bungle reports on virtual worlds. Hemp's latest article demonstrates that he's done his homework (similar to the research done for his earlier HBR piece on this subject), and is peppered with supporting quotes, including a brief mention of "advertar," a word I coined to describe avatars used as autonomous or user-controlled marketing vehicles.

Continue reading: Harvard Business Review On ‘Avatar-Based Marketing’
 
     
 
   
 
  7 comments  
  Horrifying the ‘PCD Lounge’  
 
 
Posted 2006-05-19 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Horrifying the ‘PCD Lounge’
A modified 'PCD Lounge' bears horrific fruit.
I've turned the virtual Pussy Cat Dolls Lounge into Silent Hill. The online nightclub, intended to market music and other products to teens, can easily be altered on the client (user) side. Currently in beta testing, the PCD Lounge runs on the Torque game engine, licensed from Garage Games to San Francisco-based new media company Doppleganger (formerly Evil Twin Studios).

The small virtual environment created for the PCD Lounge has limited appeal. Only 300 users can fit into the area at once, and I haven't spotted more than 61 members logged in at any given time (over 400 users are registered on Doppleganger's PCD Forums). Faced with a stale, virtual space laden with billboard ads and zombie-like teens, I decided to poke around the source files for the client software.

In a nutshell, the client-side files are extremely simple to modify. Modders can easily access and completely alter the graphic images that comprise the material surfaces in the world, including the sky, walls, billboards, and even the skin of user-created avatars. Additionally, sound effects can be re-written in Ogg Vorbis format. Other aspects, such as environment parameters and NPC names can be changed by putting some files through a text editor. Given this level of freedom, I decided to mod the PCD Lounge into the sort of environment seen in the Silent Hill series of games, turning the Lounge's attendees--even the Pussy Cat Dolls themselves--into disfigured monsters. And, just for fun, I replaced all the billboards with images from Frank Fairey's Obey Giant campaign.

Continue reading: Horrifying the ‘PCD Lounge’
 
     
 
   
 
  4 comments  
  ‘Dark World Online’ Begging For a Lawsuit?  
 
 
Posted 2006-05-17 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Vampires and werewolves are nothing new, but in 1991 tabletop games studio White Wolf launched its World of Darkness campaign-setting, bringing the two dominant creatures of the night together in a bloody rivalry that captured the attention of role-playing gamers and goths around the world, spinning off a TV miniseries and video game series.

Just after World of Darkness peaked in popularity, the movie Underworld was released by Sony Pictures. Underworld featured ideas that were remarkably similar to those popularized by White Wolf, and in 2003, the game company and Nancy A. Collins--an author whose character Sonja Blue, invented prior to Underworld's release, seemed to be the inspiration for the movie's main character--filed a copyright-infringement suit against Sony Pictures, Screen Gems and Lakeshore Entertainment. While it's not supposed to be possible to copyright an idea, it's still possible to bring the issue to court (even I thought the similarities were too close for comfort). I'm not sure how the suit turned out, but I'm sure it was at least an inconvenience for the parties involved.

Fast-forward to 2006: What is Tulga Games thinking? The company is developing a massively-multiplayer game called Dark World Online. Like World of Darkness, the game takes place in a modern-day setting, where "players can take on the personas of Humans, Vampires or Werewolves, each replete with special skills and abilities, and biases towards the other factions." I can only guess that the White Wolf lawsuit failed, and that Tulga is immune to being bitten by lawyers.
 
     
 
   
 
  7 comments  
  Press the Geek Buttons  
 
 
Posted 2005-12-29 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Sick on Sin, a mail-order weirdwear shop (operated by a couple of friends of mine) are hawking wares aimed squarely at dorks. Their "Geek Speak" button packs [1,2] feature 3- and 4-letter internet colloquialisms useful in a variety of social situations. You know, like if somebody kicks sand in your face, you can just show them your "WTF?" button while they "LOL."

Also of note: Zombie-wear.
 
     
 
   
 
  0 comments  
  ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ (The Movie)  
 
 
Posted 2005-12-12 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I was hoping The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe would be a gripping and inspiring movie adaptation of the book, but it was no Lord of the Rings. Instead, it was the filmic equivalent of bad sex, going through all the motions without passion, soul, or real satisfaction. Granted there are some great little moments in the movie, but I blame the director and screenwriter for this lacklustre effort. The actors didn't have much to work with, although they certainly tried hard enough.

And, always with the video games angle, I noticed that at a key point during the movie, a monstrous leader of the "bad-guy" army bellowed two of the main sound-effects used for all of World of Warcraft's bears. Made me wish I was playing WoW instead of seeing a bland movie.
 
     
 
   
 
  4 comments  
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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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