Zen Of Design

The design and business of gaming from the perspective of an experienced developer

Month: February 2005 (page 1 of 3)

GDC 2005

I’ll be doing a roundtable at GDC this year (a roundtable, for those who aren’t GDC veterans, is an excuse for blowhards to gather in one room and yell at each other for an hour, then pat each other on the back and call each other smart). The roundtable is a design roundtable on competitive systems. The organizers were kind enough to schedule each one in the afternoon, which will dramatically improve the moderator’s mood.

Anyway, there are three roundtables, one on each day, and all three will center on ‘Competitive and PVP Systems in Games’. I heartily encourage anyone whose interested in the subjects to come.

Cows are Gamers Too

Cows also enjoy playing to crush. Or at least get the pellet.

In one study, researchers challenged the animals with a task where they had to find how to open a door to get some food. An electroencephalograph was used to measure their brainwaves. “Their brainwaves showed their excitement; their heartbeat went up and some even jumped into the air. We called it their Eureka moment,” said Broom.

How long until higher ups in the cow heirarchy start blaming these food games for the younger cows going on stampedes?

(Article found via the Ludologist)

Thottbot: Ambrosia for the Impatient

The most remarkable and innovative part of the World of Warcraft experience wasn’t coded by someone at Blizzard – it’s Thottbot, as in “Dammit, which god damn tower does this quest say I’m looking for? I’m paging out to Thottbot.” Now, of course, quest info sites are nothing new, but the twist for Thottbot is that instead of being built by a dedicated staff of people with no lives, it’s built by anyone who happens to run a popular UI mod for the game (and yes, it’s optional) – the data is collected from that player’s play experience, and forwarded to the Thottbot service, which then compiles it for all to see. Continue reading

Fun Stuff

Wyatt Cheng’s Blog

Thought I’d give a quick shout-out to Wyatt Cheng’s blog over at Planet Cerulean. Lots of good design thought there, with charts! He even has an analysis of the game mechanics behind the horrible Fox reality show ‘The Will’, which he claims are far superior to standard ‘voting off the island’ mechanics that most reality shows have. His best article that I saw at a glance says that the best games focus on five seconds of gameplay (contrast with experience-driven design). Thought-provoking stuff.

I’d also point out that Dave “Mahrin Skel” Rickey claims to be active again, after his fruitless attempts to get a life. I kid!


EQ2 Asia Content Localization

Speaking of EQ2, Evil Avatar pointed out an example of content localization. The Asian version of EQ2 has substantially different character models than the American version (as seen here).

That Pizza Story

On Terranova, Matt Mihaly has, in a sentence, summed up my opinion on EQ2’s new /pizza command.

This is such a non-story. “Game lets you bring up external web browser.” Exciting stuff.

Indeed. The most shocking part of the story is that some people think it’s a shocking story, that a /pizza command will somehow disrupt the feel of the game (despite the fact that, if you never type it, you’ll never even notice the functionality exists).

What this feature does is acknowledge what many players already know, and that is that they don’t tend to stay locked inside the ‘magic circle’ of the game. They tend to do other things: talk on ICQ, surf the web, check their mail, buy stuff on Amazon by paging out. The more grindalicious your game is, the more they HAVE to in order to have any semblance of a life.

Will Reading BBC Cause You To Kill Yourself?

The usually respectable BBC has joined the ‘Do MMOs make you want to kill yourself debate’ (just 8 years late — good scoop, guys!) with the amount of balance and perspective we’ve grown to expect from the press on the subject — namely none. In this article, BBC purports to have a point-counterpoint between the two sides of the debate.

On this side, we have Liz Woolley, a ‘gaming counselor’ who now devotes her life to ending the scourge of online gaming in the wake of her son’s supposedly Everquest-caused suicide, who baldly asserts that we hire psychologists in order to lure people into unhealthy play patterns (we don’t). Continue reading

Outcome Variance

Jamie Fristrom adds a new word to our game design lexicon: variance.

Variance is the amount of randomness in the outcome of your game. Poker is extremely high-variance: even the best player in the world will lose regularly. Chess and Go are very low-variance: Kasparov will beat me in chess 99,999 times out of 100,000…maybe even more…The SSX series is high variance, whereas the Tony Hawk series is low variance. When I play Tony Hawk, with most of their challenges, if I can beat a challenge once, I can go back and repeat my performance almost every time. This is because of the Tony Hawk rail system is really tight: you can use rails in Tony Hawk to line up shots and create repeat performances. With SSX, on the other hand, slight differences in timing and pressure on the analog stick can cause you to miss the rail completely and end up doing a totally different run than you might have originally planned.

Be sure to read both parts of his article, they’re thought-provoking stuff. MMOs, for the most part, are pretty low variance, which is one of the reasons they feel ‘grindy’. Are high variance games in our future? That’s hard to say.
Continue reading

$50 U Get Epic Mount!

Tonight on Gold Farmers Of The Hinterlands

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