Monday, March 26, 2007

Game Chef games I'm keeping an eye on

Game Chef is an annual competition to design a game using a designated number of ingredients. There's one more week before the final drafts have to be submitted. Here are the games I'm most interested in, in the order I read about them. (I'm particularly fascinated by about how Fabled and Book of Threads will work):

Courtroom Clash, by Kaloth


Enter the world of Criminal Justice. As an elite lawyer, you must uncover the truth behind heinous crimes and enforce the law in the Court. Follow the threads of evidence while investigating the crime and use them to win your case against the opposing lawyer in a contest of skill and luck.

But what if the truth is against you?

Last in a Long Line, by Mike Sugarbaker

You are the last of the Rosicrucians, the sole survivor of a shadowy conspiracy's relentless quest to eliminate the sacred thread of your bloodline. If you are to die, you must produce an heir first - which means hitting the speed dating scene. Yet your enemies lurk everywhere, even amongst the ladies seeking mature, successful life partners!

Tabitha's Children, by Roger

You are brought back from the dead to exact revenge upon those who wronged you.

FABLED, by Mathias Jack

"You just woke up remembering nothing. Now you've got to go hunt your memories, which have become physical in a topsy-turvy Wonderland. As you adventure, you discover who you are, and just might find a way home."

Nothing Sacred, by Secret

you take on the role of a god! you got the looks, the powers, the life...but no worshippers. that was over hundreds of years ago. you live on the streets of gotham in the punk, end-of-the-world, goth god scene. immortal life goes on, eh?

but for some it doesn't. one of your peers has been killed, no mean feat considering that gods are immortal! and everyone thinks you did it. be the first one to pin it on another character before it's too late! play a cutthroat game of youdunnit as a god of the Egyptian, Celtic, Norse or Greek pantheons. bid out the scene of the crime, place macguffins, red herrings and incriminating evidence wherever you like. (but it'll cost ya!) it's like a typical roleplaying game with sacred, divine intervention, you actually play around with each other's fate. connect the thread between the murder and the killer avoiding inconsistencies before anyone else does and you win!

GROVER CLEVELAND, by Jason Morningstar

It's 1886, you and your two friends are Secret Service agents charged with protecting the dignity and grandeur of the Presidency. The thing is, Old Grover's a very bad man with some nasty secrets - and his sister Rose, the bachelor President's First Lady, is out to find them all. If she does, you're out of the best job you've ever had. What's the plan, sport

The Book of Threads, by Jeffr

There is a web-site that contains every true thing on Earth. What would you do for edit access?

The Book of Threads is a game of Occult Conspiracy, Modern Fantasy, and Plastic Reality. You play a new initiate to the most secret occult group in the world. Imagine Wikipedia, except that every time somebody changes a page, the world changes around it to make that true. And then imagine the stakes of the edit-wars...

Fade, by Mike Sands

The Palace fleet approaches a new star, something that hasn't happened in hundreds of years, the fragile alliances and agreements between the Palaces are increasingly coming under strain.

Conflicts between Palaces are fought by their elite secret agents, the spooks, trained to destroy and create memories.

In this society without violence, power comes from the ability to change your enemy's mind.

Go Mike!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Veronica Mars - current status

This is the most up-to-date summary about Veronica Mars' status that I know.

It looks like an official decision about whether to renew the show will be made on May 17.

The likely options are:
(1) spinning off into a new format (possibly four years in the future, when Veronica is a full-fledged FBI agent)

(2) continuing the story of Veronica at Hearst College
(3) axing the show.

At the moment, (1) and (3) appear equally likely.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Links - the future of media


Pop-ups in TV shows are being considered as a possible near-future form of advertising. For instance, viewers might see a commercial playing in a TV in the living room of the set. Then the commercial would pop full-screen.

Netvibes is a stie that gives its users to build a web page that gathers their favorite sites, blogs, etc, together. It does not accept paid advertisements. Instead, it makes advertisers create a Netvibes that provides a useful service to its community.

Online businesses

Over at GigaOm, there's an article about how the toughest part of a new venture is to get your users to pay you anything at all.

"The biggest gap in any venture is that between a service that is free and one that costs a penny."

As Anne Zelenka says,

"the reason there’s a huge gap between people paying you nothing and people paying you something is because that’s where you go from hobby to business. Between zero revenue and positive revenue lies your business model. Going from zero pay to a penny is where you’ve discovered how to make money–and that’s what businesses are about. The penny gap separates the winners from the losers, economically speaking.

Downloads, Music, & DRM

If every music listener in the world paid $50, they could have access to every song ever recorded while maintaining or increasing music sales. That's according to Cambridge-educated economist turned music-manager (Pink Floyd, The Clash, Ian Dury And The Blockheads, Billy Bragg) Peter Jenner.

Here's the story of how one man's terrible DRM experience trying to legally download a single piece of music has led to him giving up on online music altogether. Over-reaction or flawed business model? You can decide.

CD sales keep declining. The artificial demand for replacing all your old music with CDs has been over for a while. Now, sales in the first quarter of 2007 a 20% lower than the same quarter last year.

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.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Limit - Let's roll

All right. Let's finish this thing.

Hot Fuzz - a review from the pub

The first third was so-so, tending towards the fairly entertaining. Bartender, another pint please!

Second third. Well, that was rather good, actually. No, scratch that. It was very good. Bartender, a round for the table please.

Third third: fewking hell! That's bloody marvellous, that is. Is it the best finale to a film ever? ... Ah, ... no, not quite. But it's still bloody excellent. Bartender, two pubs of your finests why's that floor moving towards my face?

Ow! Pain is funny.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Links - Learning & Project Management Tip

I haven't gone through either of these articles thoroughly yet, but it seems like there could be some useful nuggets here:

77 Tips for learning.

101 Tips for project management.

The Limit - What's Important

The more important I think a scene is, the longer it seems to take me to write. Thinking of something as "important" makes me freak out, because I need to get it "right".

But at this stage of the script, every scene should be important. Every scene needs to contribute. Every moment, too.

That means I'm going to have to develop some way off de-freaking-out. Being a full-time writer would be good too (more dedicated time to solve problems and get into a groove). Unfortunately, I may have to let that ambition go for a while, and content myself writing on the bus.

(Example: It's taken me five days to work on a single line of the script. It's an important line -- it has to let us know what Peter's worst fear is, and hint at some of the oddness that is to come.)

Friday, March 02, 2007

More linkage

In lieu of original content, I give you:

A pretty cool SF story about a wiki-driven democracy.

20 tips for achieving goals. One that I particularly like is, "Make it a rule to never skip 2 days in a row." And in related news, Lifehacker presents the idea of beta-testing your goals.

Got questions about biology? Ask a biologist.

Holy crap! 5 steps to building your own backyard hydrogen-fuel cell generator. You'll need solar panels, electrolyzers, steel piping, a gas tank, an inverter, and a few other cool bits and bobs, including a hydrogen sniffer. Which makes sense.

I'm off to play my first game of poker in 15 years tonight. The useful has a nice rundown on the rules of poker (warning: contains a lame and outdated Ross Perot joke).

This weekend, The Limit. I'm 28 pages from the end of my rewrite. Then the typing in and proofing commences. Hopefully it'll all be done by 17 March, when this year's Iron Game Chef competition begins.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

RPG - Hardcore playtesting

This post is essential game designer reading. It links to a Q&A with Reiner Knizia, designer of Tigris & Euphrates, Ra, Blue Moon, and the Lord of the Rings cooperative boardgame.

But check out the effort a full-time, award-winning game designer puts in:

- He has playtest groups running every single night.
- Knizia says he knows a game is ready when the rules stop changing in between playtests. For him, that's generally nine months of full-time work.