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  CCP and White Wolf Join Forces for Cross-Media Projects  
 
 
Posted 2006-11-11 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
CCP, maker of popular sci-fi online game EVE Online has announced a merger with White Wolf, maker of the famous Vampire: The Masquerade tabletop role-playing game and other series. Each arm of the new company will continue to operate under its own name. According to CCP, "The combined company will introduce new online and offline gaming products across the science-fiction, horror and fantasy genres... [CCP] will be creating a multi-player game based on White Wolf's popular World of Darkness setting, along with other projects already in the pipeline. The merger will accelerate CCP's brand development of EVE Online as White Wolf will bring their expertise to the creation of EVE Online strategy guides, collectible card games, role-playing games, novels, and miniatures." Seems like a chocolate and peanut-butter combination to me.

I'm sure the official World of Darkness online game will be as big a hit in the massively-multiplayer scene as it was on tabletops around the world. The original series spawned lots of spin-offs and imitators--in fact, there's an upcoming MMOG called Dark World Online that looks like its ripped directly from World of Darkness--given White Wolf's protective stance, I smell a lawsuit in the future.
 
     
 
   
 
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  The Passing of the Dice  
 
 
Posted 2006-09-06 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
The Passing of the Dice
This week kicks off the first semester of George Brown College's Game Design Program for the 2006/07 academic year. For the remainder of this year, I'll be teaching semester 1 for the new students, and semester 3 for the students who started last January. I'm particularly excited about the new batch of students, each of whom I interviewed personally, each of whom bring something unique and special to this evolving post-diploma program.

In the first class of the new academic year, I presented each student with a gift--a tube containing the classic assortment of polyhedral random-number generators, known to old-school gamers as "D&D dice." I explained how the dice aren't mere game tokens, but cultural artifacts, and the keys to entering the magic circle of a game. In the first two semesters of my newly-revised course, we'll be exploring game design fundamentals and creating numerous tabletop game prototypes. As most veteran gamers know, good game design skills have nothing to do with computers or consoles. The other courses in the program all involve digital tools and platforms, giving the students a well-rounded learning experience and preparing them for jobs in the game and New Media industries.

The program has recently been revised to focus more on Serious Games--the description follows...

Continue reading: The Passing of the Dice
 
     
 
   
 
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  Over 15.8 Billion ‘Yu-Gi-Oh’ Cards Sold  
 
 
Posted 2006-07-25 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Insanely-popular card game Yu-Gi-Oh has sold more than 15.8 billion playing cards since 2001, according to a press release issued last week by the game's American producer, The Upper Deck Company. The impressive sales figure apparently qualifies the Yu-Gi-Oh card game for a Guinness Book of World Records nomination.

Yu-Gi-Oh was originally brought to the U.S. from Japan by 4Kids Entertainment, the firm that also brought Pokemon overseas, according to CNN Money. From 1995 to 2000, Pokemon reportedly ate $15B of the world's disposable income. A Pokemon collectible card game was produced by Wizards of the Coast, the company with a background in card-game hits, having brought Magic: The Gathering to market in 1993. Over 1 billion Magic cards were sold by 1995, according to MetroActive.com.

I think it's worth considering that as lucrative as MMOGs, real-money trading, and game-based microtransactions might seem, offline collectible card games (with their own communities, forms of currency, and microtransactions) seem to be a historical and present-day juggernaut. What would happen if an MMOG were to offer a virtual, collectible card game as part of its standard play options?
 
     
 
   
 
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  Leeroy Jenkins Immortalized on WoW Playing Card  
 
 
Posted 2006-05-29 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Gabe of Penny Arcade stardom revealed artwork last week for a Leeroy Jenkins addition to the official World of Warcraft card game in production by Upper Deck.

Leeroy Jenkins, a player-character in World of Warcraft, rose to infamy thanks to a humorous video clip of his berserker fighting tactics, resulting in the demise of his raiding party. His battlecry "Leeeeeeroy Jenkins!" resounded across the internet, in cybercafes, and even in a downtown Toronto movie theatre. Such was his impact on gaming culture that Leeroy's name was used in a Jeopardy clue in 2005. It's pretty wild that he made it onto his own playing card.
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘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.
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Dungeons & Dragons Online’ Impressions  
 
 
Posted 2006-04-28 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I've spent about six hours playing a free, 7-day trial version of the massively-multiplayer game Dungeons & Dragons Online. I would like to play more of the game, but it crashes frequently, thus greatly diminishing any enjoyment I might have been able to get out of it (and, in fact, I've uninstalled it). If I'd paid for the game, I would be furious. The bugginess seems to be only a symptom of the larger problem--that the game was released too early. It doesn't seem like a highly-polished product, and that includes small gaffes like improper grammar in the "help" text, the fact that characters don't utter a sound after falling from a height and suffering damage, or tutorials that don't acknowledge that the player has remapped the control settings. While the characters and evironments are nice enough to look at, the feel of the game is best described as "clunky."

Dungeons & Dragons Online wasn't translated well from the tabletop landscape that inspired it. The D&D rules seem to be a burden to the online game more than a feature, but I'm the kind of video game player that doesn't want to be burdened with rules. There is a 20-sided die depicted in the interface in order to show "rolls" used to determine the outcome of actions. In tabletop play, the 20-sided die is essential. In a video game, I don't need to see it. There are a number of D&D rules that the player is made aware of in the online game version that are just not critical to online game play. I suspect this was a deliberate decision, intended to encourage online gamers to try the tabletop game, but this was executed as to make me dislike playing online so much that I'd rather play tabletop D&D.

Continue reading: ‘Dungeons & Dragons Online’ Impressions
 
     
 
   
 
  2 comments  
  What’s Green and White and Red All Over?  
 
 
Posted 2005-12-15 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
This Christmas may be the bloodiest yet if Santa's crazed elves have their way. Luckily, eight mighty reindeer are on hand to stomp the crap out of the wee folk. In the tabletop game Elves Under Hoof, ultra-violent video games have turned Santa's workers into mindless zombies (although if you believe Henry Jenkins, this would never happen in real life).

One can only assume the game demonstrates how Rudolph's red nose glowed bright with burning rage during scenarios such as "Saving Private Reindeer," or "E-Day." Elves Under Hoof involves a hex-based map grid and tiny paper counters representing such essential holiday items as cookies and grenades. It is available as low-cost PDF download through the web site of its maker, Dan Verssen Games.
 
     
 
   
 
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  On the Legality of In-Game Portraits [Updated]  
 
 
Posted 2005-11-07 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Much like there was a bit of a business in portraits for tabletop game characters during the 1980s, it appears that players of today's online games are interested in immortalizing their digital avatars. Alice of Wonderland points out that a World of Warcraft player is offering professional-quality digital paintings of in-game characters in exchange for virtual gold. Elsewhere [I can't find the link right now], real comic book artists are offering to sketch your City of Heroes or City of Villains characters*.

While the idea for in-game portraits had struck me in the past, what stopped me from pursuing the idea was the fact that the imagery being created and sold belongs solely neither to the player nor the artist. Even though players customize their own characters, they don't own their creations. These are instead owned by the game developer or publisher (depending on the terms of service). When an artist paints an in-game character, they are painting a copy of a corporately-owned character. In-game portraits are, in my limited legal understanding, a black market commodity. Does "fair use" apply? Any lawyers or copyright experts care to comment?

Continue reading: On the Legality of In-Game Portraits [Updated]
 
     
 
   
 
  5 comments  
  Pencils, Paper, Dice  
 
 
Posted 2005-09-06 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Veteran writer and game designer Allen Varney is responsible for a recent article on EscapistMagazine.com about the relevance of tabletop gaming to computer and video games. Varney's article shows how design princples of pen-and-paper games influenced video games, something I appreciate coming from a tabletop background myself.

I started playing Dungeons & Dragons 25 years ago, and learned alot about world-building, interaction design and interactive storytelling through creating tabletop game content over the years. I learned even more about interactive design, particularly from a multiplayer angle, through live-action roleplaying, which (as I've mentioned publicly in the past) is scraping the bottom of the nerd barrel. But still invaluable experience that I've been able to apply professionally towards and beyond game-related projects.

As an aside, am I the only one who feels the Escapist's art director should be shot and pissed on? Preferrably pissed on first. Worst photo-illustrations ever.
 
     
 
   
 
  2 comments  
  Grand Theft Toronto  
 
 
Posted 2005-08-29 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
On the heels of the urbanized live-action Scotland Yard game comes another Toronto-based street game dubbed "Grand Theft Toronto." Participants will don the duds of underworld thugs, travel by foot and public transit, and are armed with digital cameras to take photos of locations discovered by solving clues. Unlike Toronto's Scotland Yard variant, Grand Theft Toronto is less comparable to a tabletop game, and more like a scavenger hunt (although there is a minor amount of role-playing involved). "Fun, fame, glory & cleaning up your city" is at stake. And for you cynical bastards, there are also tangible prizes. Sign up now--the mayhem begins September 18, 2005.

[tip via jos]
 
     
 
   
 
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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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