Nic Nova's "5 lessons about tangible user interfaces" presentation given at European GDC in December. Excerpt: "The starting point of designing TUI is to look at real-life counterparts… so let’s design guns for shooting games, a flute for musical ga
"Feel" is one of the most overlooked areas in studying (and teaching) game (and interaction) design, I think because it's a difficult concept to articulate. Thankfully, this Gamasutra article does a fine job.
Michaël Samyn relates Arthur Schopenhauer quote to game design: "Happiness does not exist. There is only suffering. Sometimes the suffering is reduced a little. When this happens, we call it happiness."
"I’ve found myself straddling the line between [game design and interaction design] more and more often. [...]" Can game design be considered a specialised sub-discipline of interaction design, or are the two equals with some overlap?"
Press Release: "This collection of rules for using toy replicas of war - soldiers, weapons, modes of transport - in tabletop games of strategy and tactics provides rules for nearly every conceivable conflict from the ancient past to the fanciful future." I think H.G. Wells got the scoop on this one almost a hundred years ago.
Since 2006, I've been following the adventures of the team at Pure West--filmmakers researching and journaling MMO game culture for a documentary which would come to be called Second Skin. The team's blog gave a behind-the-scenes look at the trials of the documentarians and their evolving subject-matter, but I was fortunate enough to meet the filmmakers first-hand during one of their many journeys across the U.S., Canada, and overseas. These guys weren't just trying to cash in on the swelling interest in MMOs, or exploit players as objects of curiosity or ridicule--it was clear their mission was to seek out and reveal some compelling human stories at the intersection of real and virtual worlds.
The Second Skin trailer makes its debut today, and I'm not excited about it simply because of my brief on-camera appearance :) I feel like this will be a topical, socially-relevant documentary that will make a lasting mark. Something that may end up as course-material some day (certainly I'll be buying the DVD). The filmmakers clearly poured their blood and sweat into Second Skin, and at first glance, it really shows. Congratulations to the Pure West team and everyone (it seems like dozens) they interviewed. I think you have a hit on your hands.
Gamasutrafeatures 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:
We would write the books [...] making stuff up when necessary.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I see Blizzard's new ads as a confirmation of the mainstreaming of World of Warcraft specifically, and of MMOs in general: If pop culture icons are living in virtual worlds, anyone can. Granted, Shatner and Mr. T might not carry the cool-factor-style endorsement younger stars provide, but as more celebrity gamers come out of the closet (regardless of whether they're for real or paid poseurs), MMO lifestyles are going to gain increasing social acceptance.
Neither Grid World News, which aimed to be "the premier media outlet for Second Life," and Azeroth World News, which boasted it would "exclusively report all the news within the [Warcraft] universe," have been updated since the beginning of October, after having been announced a few months earlier. Judging by the site archives, activity was most frequent in the summer of 2007, when the projects were announced. Contributions seem to have dwindled significantly since then, with next to no obvious input (in the form of blog comments) from either Second Life users or Warcraft players.
Damion Schubert responds to Brian Green's rationale for WoW's success: "I’m always surprised when people are unwilling to acknowledge that World of Warcraft is fundamentally an extremely good and exceptionally well-designed game."
"Ian Bogost uses the classic board game Monopoly to illustrate how game designers can use established brands to their advantage for in-game advertising, in this in-depth Gamasutra feature." Interesting bits of 'Monopoly' history here.
Quick 'Habbo' stats: 80 million registered users in 7 years (most aged 13-16); 7.5 million unique visitors / month; $50 million in virtual goods sales in 2006; userbase comprised of "rebels," "achievers," "loners," "creatives," and "traditionals."
University of Wisconsin-Madison research team lead by Constance Steinkuehler investigating collaborative problem solving, literacies, leadership, apprenticeship, and "pop cosmopolitanism" in MMOs and VWs.
Low-cost, fan-less PC. Uses less than 10 watts of power. Purportedly saves "a tonne of carbon emissions per year when compared to a PC." Does the average PC generate over a tonne of carbon emissions annually?
Musings on how we're tricked into executing repetitive, boring tasks through game-play. I think casual games are better at this than MMOs, which is why I find 'Puzzle Pirates' so appealing (it's the best of both worlds).
Brian 'Psychochild' Green gives us his lessons learned from WoW: Outspend your rivals; Have a known name; Have an existing, committed fanbase; Enjoy total freedom (release game when it's ready); Know how to lie with statistics.