Thursday, March 22, 2007

Links - games and virtual worlds

Free games

Wogger: It's either irritating or fun - I haven't figured it out yet, so I say 'irritating'.
The Marriage: The designer calls it a game that's supposed to be a work of art. I haven't played it yet, but present it for your perusal. Raph Koster talks about the seminar it was presented at, here, and there's a few more cool game ideas in that link, too.
Understanding Games: Holy crap. A series on understanding computer games in the form of a series of computer games?

MMO News

“What policies should real world governments have with regards to synthetic worlds?” Ludium II is a game conference to answer that, but it's structured like a live-action game where conference attendees adopt the role of delegates to a political party convention whose objective is to hammer out a common platform. By the end of it, the group comes up with 10 policy recommendations believed by most participants to be important, sensible, and feasible. (Hat tip: Raph)

A Star Trek MMO? Seems filled with more potential for conflicts and interesting situations that The Verse.

And NASA is calling for proposals to develop an MMO to let people? Americans? share in the experience of NASA science and exploration virtually.

This article in The Escapist argues that massively multiplayer gaming will have to attract
casual, not hardcore, players. People who aren't willing to devote hours of their day on a regular basis to the game. Sounds like one of the aims of some of the indie RPG movement - except in the case of tabletop RPGs, the designers aim to give players value for time by frontloading conflict and story potential into the game rather than let it develop over multiple weekly sessions. Some choice quotes:

In his opinion, "the fierce competition in MMOG development has created a plethora of niche themes, but far less differentiation in the experience itself."
Goslin thinks "the big difference between casual and hardcore gamers is the amount of time they are willing to invest. To attract the former, you have to get them engaged faster, because their time is limited. Once they're playing, however, the game needs to be challenging, deep and fun, if you want them to continue. If you succeed in creating a game that's challenging, deep and fun for a casual player, it will likely also be fun for a hardcore gamer."
A little op-ed piece in Wired about the obsession over race in MMORPGs, and Bruce Damer's doing a timeline of virtual worlds over at Terra Nova.


Game Designers Talk

The developer of Buzz: The Music Quiz, talks about the process of designing the game. His characteristics for games that appeal to the mass market? Familiarity, simplicity and approachability.

Will Wright, creator of the Sims, gives the keynote speech at South by Southwest Interactive. There's so much good stuff here, I present it in an undifferentiated mass of quotes:
Games inherently are this branching tree. Linear sequence is the basis of story. There’s a topology difference,

Stories are really based on lot of properties. Language, imagination, but most important for me is empathy, the ability to put ourselves in the shoes of someone else on screen. Actors are emotional avatars. We can inhabit that person and feel what they’re feeling. Film deals with this rich emotional palate because they have actors. Games tend to appeal more to the reptilian brain, the basic instincts of fear and aggression.

But games have a different emotional palate, not that they don’t have an emotional palate. Pride and accomplishment, guilt, these things are felt in games, but are not felt in watching a movie. I once beat the hell out of my creatures in Black & White, I felt terribly guilty. I’ve never felt guilty watching film

Memento, at some point each future point in chain caused you reevaluate what you’d seen before, you had to go back and rebuild large regions of the causal chain in your head. Like a puzzle game.

Groundhog Day is one of my all time favorites. Interesting, felt most like a game. Linear sequence, but all of a sudden it’s 6:00am again, he does it again, then again, again. What’s interesting about Groundhog Day, it was a game, he had to restart. This is a really interesting example of where the audience knew the past, so every day the director could skip more and more of the sequence. In our imaginations we cover almost an eternity of experience in this succinct way.

There’s this concept from games called magic circle, when people play a game together they’re sitting down and respect rules of game. People outside are not expected to respect the rules: we don’t cheat, or talk with partner during bridge game. I think story has a lot of the same thing, shared experience, story circles are like campfires 10s of 1,000s of years ago, which then evolved more structure. At the same time, our idea of story has evolved more structure, and we now have large formal things, things like the three-act structure, then it’s been shrinking back again, television, shorter shows in living room all way down to video iPods.

There are lot of opportunities, it’s almost fractal, we now have 3 minute things pulled off YouTube, so in some sense the story circle has been diversifying in time and space, we don’t have to go to movie theater or living room. Games are doing same thing, diversifying in time and space, you can have epic 40 hour game experience, or 2 minutes on cell phone.

If you look at how much time the average person spends consuming linear entertainment, it’s fairly flat. Interactive entertainment is still riding a generational wave. Younger people spend more time with interactive entertainment than with linear entertainment. There’s this cultural overtake process, where there’s an uncomfortable mixture of people who have spent a lot more time with linear, but a whole generation coming up where interactive is more compelling. So what this is driving, rather than games being about sports, they’re more about hobby. They’re a tool of self-expression much like a hobbyist builds elaborate train sets.

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