Archive for August 2013

More F2P Fisking

There sure is a whole lot of wrong going on over in this debate.

We both know that someone, somewhere has to pay for the game’s development, and for that idea to work out, you either need to hook some ‘whales’ who pay out a fortune and subsidise everyone else, or you have to constantly nag all of the players to pay for in-game items.

If I can give the gift of great gameplay to three times the number of customers because a handful of heavy users love my game so much they beg me for more opportunities to spend – is that really a bad thing?  And how is this really different from Golf shops that are subsidized by high rollers buying $10000 clubs, magic players buying Black Lotuses, or knitting stores who sell balls of yarn from rare endangered alpacas for $1000 per ball?  Why is this the one industry where people actually feel pity for the hardcore fan who wants to spend?

And is he really that different from other gamers?  Other gamers likely spent $1000 a year on their hobby as well, once you factor in the cost of their console, the cost of the console games they’ve bought, the money they dropped in the Steam summer sale, expansions, DLC, licensed action figures, etc, etc.  The difference is that guy probably used whatever he bought in his F2P whale experience, whereas a Steam Summer Sale leaves me with a backlog of games that I’m never gonna get to.

We wouldn’t tolerate free-plus-microtransactions in other media, why should we tolerate it in gaming?

Um, other media have already been moving heavily to a microtransactions world.  See iTunes, and compare how people now buy one track for .99 cents instead of buying a CD with one hit and 14 terrible songs for $15 bucks.  Or, you can listen to it for free, and even watch the video, if you’re willing to go to Youtube, Spotify, or any number of other services.  If you want concert tickets, T-shirts, posters and the other stuff that denote true music fandom, you’re going to pay more.  This is literally no different.

The other problem is that the game is no longer a shared experience or level playing field. I can now be shot by someone with a gun I didn’t buy, or outrun by a car with engines I haven’t bought.

You’re not complaining about Free 2 Play, you’re complaining about Pay 2 Win.  These are two different concepts, and in North America, for the most part, Pay 2 Win is rejected in many (most?) titles.  A game can be free 2 play without being pay 2 win – see League of Legends, Candy Crush and SWTOR, for example.

The F2P model seems to rely on interrupting the player mid-game to constantly pester them for a few pennies.

Television and Spotify seem to rely on interrupting the viewer/listener occasionally to constantly pester them to buy some shit.  In the case of Spotify, you can pay a subscription to bypass this hassling – this option is also available in many free-to-play titles.

I could just about get by with a thousand true fans by selling them $30 games, and many people do exactly this, like spiderweb software and the guys making hex-based WW2 strategy games. There are many people out there happy to pay $20-40 for a game that they really like. It’s a myth that gamers will only pay $0.99 for a game, it’s just that those gamers are a very loud, shouty minority.

Having seen the numbers, I can tell you that the loud, shouty minority are those who knee-jerkedly reject the notion that any game with a free to play model can have a free to play model that is inviting, non-imposing, fair and fun.  These people are wrong, and its not at all hard to point to examples in this day and age.

Just because some games are doing it poorly doesn’t mean it can’t be done.  And competitive pressures means that the games that do it poorly are going to fail.  And should.

Candy Crush Not As Unbeatable As You Might Suppose

Candy Crush Saga is used frequently as an example of Free 2 Play gone awry.  Critics argue that Candy Crush Saga is insidiously designed to force monetization, which can be the only reason why the game has 15 million players, and why King Games is now estimated to be worth $500 million dollars.  As Ramin Shokrizade points out on Gamasutra:

Another novel way to use a progress gate is to make it look transparent, but to use it as the partition between the skill game and the money game. Candy Crush Saga employs this technique artfully. In that game there is a “river” that costs a very small amount of money to cross. The skill game comes before the river. A player may spend to cross the river, believing that the previous skill game was enjoyable (it was for me) and looking to pay to extend the skill game. No such guarantee is given of course, King just presents a river and does not tell you what is on the other side. The money game is on the other side, and as the first payment is always the hardest, those that cross the river are already prequalified as spenders. Thus the difficulty ramps up to punishing levels on the far side of the river, necessitating boosts for all but the most pain tolerant players.

All but the most pain tolerant players.  Only crazy people can possibly hope to beat Candy Crush without shelling out some serious coin!  Longtime readers of mine will know where I’m going with this.  If you were to make a guess, as to how many of the players who actually beat the game paid money to do so, what would you guess?

Would you guess only 30%?

That’s right, a vast majority of the gamers who actually manage to beat Candy Crush do so without dropping a dime.  Which is one of the reasons the game is successful – it can be beaten for free.  There are a handful of conclusions to draw from this, though.

  1. It sounds like Candy Crush still monetizes at a pretty good rate.  Comparing Endgame users to all users isn’t exactly a clean comparison, but for many facebook games, only 2% pay, and World of Tanks boast that 25-30% of their number pays.  Still, clearly we’re talking the most hardcore of hardcore Candy Crush players (those who get all the way to the end) – so that 30% number is still impressively low.
  2. Gamers who can’t see this number are going to assume that its impossible, and therefore assume that games like Candy Crush require money to win, when in fact the game has just ramped up in difficulty.  In a non-free to play game, players would assume that they simply haven’t found the right answer to a puzzle, or that they got unlucky with a board state.  In a game with microtransactions, players (and analysts, apparently) immediately jump to the conclusion that a purchase is required, even when its not.  This is an interesting design problem, and addressing it might be an opportunity to make some criticisms of CC’s free to play market go away.
  3. Some analysts need a dose of Candy Crush Learn 2 Play.

“The Loss of an Online Home”

Remember yesterday, when I suggested that the person who thought that WoW should be shut down anytime soon was smoking a big ol’ bag of crack?  It turns out that it could also result in front-page CNN news (well, it was front page before Miley Cyrus taught the world what ‘twerk’ means).

After 10 years and a significant drop in user numbers, Disney has decided to instead focus its resources on the more popular “Club Penguin” virtual world, which has about 200 million registered users. “Toontown” will be shuttered September 19….and many long-time player…are dealing with the loss of an online home.

MMOs, it turns out, are incredibly hard to shut down, largely because of the emotional resonance that the game has with players.  Even former players who no longer play can get upset at the disappearance of what was once a central part of their lives, and this can result in distrust for the publisher of said game on future endeavors.

“I think ‘Toontown’ is unique in that its long-time users literally grew up with the game,” said Yee. “It’s a little like me telling someone that they’re tearing down ‘Sesame Street.’ Or that they’re tearing down the neighborhood playground where you used to play.”

It’s hard to tell if this makes things easier or not.  The other point of view is that you are less likely to miss things you’ve outgrown.  Also, kids are much more likely to easily jump to a new shiny thing, and less likely to start outraged petitions that call attention to it.

WoW Hints at Potential Free-to-Play Future, Supposed Industry Insiders Get Silly

So Blizzard has confirmed what everyone who has actually seen the numbers behind a free to play game have actually suspected – they are in the process of debating whether this is the right time to take the game to be Free-to-Play. Not really a surprise when they’ve already confirmed that, whatever their next game is, it won’t be a subscription-based MMO (and if they are thinking of anything even remotely novel, using WoW to test their technology and design ideas isn’t a terrible idea). I’m so happy to hear a developer actually come to this from the basis of, I don’t know, information, that I’m going to choose not to quibble with Tom Chilton about a couple of places they claim to be uncertain where they really don’t need to. Instead, I’m going to train my ire at, of course, the anti-monetization community that has congealed on Gamasutra, much the way that old milk congeals if left unchallenged too long.  So let’s fisk!

I know this maybe to much to ask, but what if it made a graceful exit instead of “whoring” itself out?

I know this may be too much to ask, but what if we reserved the term ‘whoring’ for when a company actually, I don’t know, ASKS FOR MORE MONEY FOR THEIR PRODUCT?  If WoW were to go Free-to-play, they’d probably have something like 4-6M people show up, and even if they offer a premium option like SWTOR and LOTRO, the majority of those players will pay nothing to play, and the grand majority of those players will pay either as much as they do now, or less. Blizzard would also likely abandon the upfront cost to play (i.e. the box), which would push the price down for casual gamers even more.  But that would be ‘whoring’ because they might be asked to pay five bucks for a character slot that most MMO players don’t even need or use?

What if they just find away to gracefully shut itself down and find a way to honor long term players instead of this.

What if, in order to ‘honor’ your favorite bar and your circle of friends, I burnt down the bar and put all of your friends in the witness protection program?  Look, the game still has 7M subscribers, and likely still has huge concurrency numbers every night.  Taking away something that those gamers find fun to aspire to what you feel is a nobler time is, well, really freakin’ stupid, as well as a great way to get sued by your shareholders.

Maybe only in my fantasy world. But maybe even in a business sense if they played it any other route they could have a magnificent opportunity to boost their brand and reputation, besides doing what we would expect from a industry that only speaks in dollars and cents.

Or maybe they can prove they aren’t all about dollars and cents by giving away a game that at this point has about fifteen years of development behind it FOR FREAKIN FREE.  Again, because this appears to not be clear to anyone, but: MOST GAMERS WHO PLAY FREE GAMES WITH MICROTRANSACTIONS ACTUALLY CHOOSE TO PLAY FOR FREE.  As mentioned previously, World of Tanks boasts that they monetize at an unusually high rate — that high rate being 25%.

I’m curious if wow would have catered to its original player base, instead of reaching for a wider audience every step of the way, if it would still be going strong (see EVE online)

If WoW raids still played like they did in Vanilla WoW, the game would have utterly fallen apart by now.  Back then, a tiny fraction of players were doing their endgame content, and a truly tiny portion was actually finishing it all (I think I saw an analysis that less than 0.5% completed Naxxramus when it first came out).  Going more casual friendly with their endgame content is, ironically, the only way they could have continually fiscally justified making it.

As for overall, well, the game is approaching 10 years old now, and I hate to break it to  you, but 10 years is a long time to play a game.  Most people find other hobbies and interests over the course of an MMO’s lifespan and wander off.  Finding new blood is essential, and an MMO left to its own devices actually becomes more impenetrable as it ages.  Now, some games have very strong bounceback patterns (i.e. people come back because their heart is still there, or they want to check out an update).  It turns out one of the things that is the strongest deterrent to that behavior is… having to type in a credit card number.

I think they should take more responsibility for turning the game into something that was not sustainable.

If one wanted to start the discussion that a content-oriented raidgame is not sustainable, that’s a good discussion to have.  But that’s not what’s being argued here.  What’s being argued is that WoW, by going more casual-friendly, made the game LESS sustainable.  But virtually every major shift they’ve made has actually focused on making the game MORE sustainable.  Broadening the reach of raids, implementing the token system for gear, working hard to get entry level players within reach of top-end players, and replacing skill trees with their current system are all changes that were designed to make their content easier to create, reach more players, and make it easier for guilds to backfill new players into important roles.

Look, I’m not saying that WoW made no mistakes – there are certainly things I would have differently.  But MMOs are best when they have a full, bustling population and communities are vibrant, and you are constantly fighting against inherent churn that is natural to the genre (because players find other games, other hobbies, or discover girls, for example).  Sustainability STARTS with getting more people into the front door.

Those Unwilling To Learn From History Are Doomed To Repeat It

At least Wildstar is willing to try something different.  While I’ve been on the plane to GamesCom, both Final Fantasy XIV and Elder Scrolls Online were kind enough to elaborate on their billing model — which is the classic subscription model.

Elder Scrolls Online has this to say:

“Charging a flat monthly fee means that we will offer players the game we set out to make, and the one that fans want to play,” Firor told the website. ESO will also include 30 days of play with the purchase of the game. “Going with any other model meant that we would have to make sacrifices and changes we weren’t willing to make.”

Here’s what charging a flat monthly fee actually means:

  1. Fewer players will try your game.
  2. The majority of those players will pay more money than they otherwise would have.
  3. Perversely, you’ll still end up making significantly less revenue.
  4. Also, the subscription model will put pressure on players to leave the game as soon as they feel like they are ‘done’ with the game.

The last is perhaps the sneakiest problem with the subscription model.  First off, it sets off a desperate need to maintain subscriptions at all costs, which means doing sneaky things that hurt the game experience to keep players logging in one more day (remember housing maintenance in UO?)  Secondly, there’s a very real and tangible problem around the launch windows of MMOs.  As different players stagger to the endgame content at different rates, they’ll discover there’s not enough other people there to do the content.  At that point, they have to make a choice – wait for guildmates to become raid-capable, or go back to their old home.  Since at this point, they have no idea if your endgame content is even any good, the gravity right now is to go back to the old MMO they already know and love.

In a free-to-play game, there’s a lot of bounce back.  We don’t care if a free-to-play player wanders off because he’s finished all of the content that’s available for him to do.  We don’t have to act like a jealous girlfriend because he’s wandered off to play other games.  We just have to put out content that’s good enough for him to actually want to ‘bounce back’.  Which is to say, its a much kinder business model for a games universe where players have a million low-cost gaming alternatives.  Including, I note, a whole bunch of other F2P MMOs.

The Final Fantasy Director is even more pointed in his criticism:

With free-to-play, because you’re selling these items, you’ll have months where you sell a bunch of stuff and you make a lot of money in that one month. But it’s all about what happens during that month. Next month, the person who maybe bought $100 worth of items in the last month could purchase nothing at all. You don’t know what you’re going to be getting, and because you don’t know what you’re going to be getting, you can’t plan ahead. You don’t know how much money is coming in. If you can’t plan ahead, then you can’t keep staff, because you don’t know if you’ll have enough money to pay the staff next month.

I don’t know.  Somehow, League of Legends has managed to solve that problem.  I suspect it’s because free-to-play has earned them a swimming pool full of money.

Look, is F2P more difficult to predict?  Sure.  On SWTOR, for example, we’ve missed our predictions significantly every month — we keep guessing too low!  This isn’t a case of us being bad at it, it’s a case of us being ultra-conservative on these guesses.  It turns out that once you actually have data on buying behavior, its not that hard to figure out what people will spend for next month, based on what you’re releasing.  Some months will be lighter – and then some months we sell Ewoks.

We hear a lot of people saying, “Star Wars is free-to-play now, it’s great!” But then you ask them if they’re playing free-to-play Star Wars and they say, “No, not really playing it.” Everyone talks about how great it is that it went free-to-play, but then you ask around and really, there aren’t that many people who are playing it since it’s gone free-to-play

Anecdotal evidence, as it turns out, is not the best way to make multimillion dollar business decisions.  We’re doing fine.  F2P has opened up SWTOR to millions of new players, and given us the revenue to do some truly audacious things. (Note: PAX Cantina Events visitors, look forward for audaciousness!)

Look, I’m not saying that SWTOR’s F2P plan is perfect, or that there isn’t another billing model out there that’s even BETTER for the consumer.  I will say, though, that when Blizzard, the industry leaders of the subscription-based genre are unwilling to release any other information about their next game other than there’s no way it will be a subscription-based MMO, maybe it bears some thought as to whether they know something you don’t.

Yer Killin’ Me, Wildstar

It probably comes as no surprise that I have discovered religion about Free 2 Play in a big way.  It’s very clearly the way that the future of the genre is going, and any new competitor that enters the space is going to face immense competition from the rest of us that now provide a pretty substantial amount of gameplay for free.  Right now, WoW is the only successful subscription-only MMO in the west, and even they seem to be sticking their toe in the pool.

So I’ve been interested in what new MMOs will do.  Neverwinter Nights and Marvel Heroes both shipped or are shipping with free-to-play business models, which is good.  It means the game design will work much more seamlessly with the billing model, rather than being shoehorned in at the last second.  It also means they get to avoid the stigma of ‘failure’ that comes from a hasty conversion.  Perhaps the most painful part of transitioning SWTOR from subscription to Free-to-play was reading all of the commentary describing us as a failed game, when all of the internal numbers we had showed that F2P completely reinvigorated the game.

So I’ve been waiting with baited breath to see what the two big ones, Wildstar and Elder Scrolls Online, are going to do.  ESO is still being coy, but Wildstar announced their plans yesterday… and there’s an option to play for free!  This is awesome, because Wildstar happens to be the game I’m most looking forward to right now.  Rejoice, right?  Not so fast…

Do I have to buy the game?
Yes, WildStar must be purchased in order for you to play the game.

Ergh.  Free-to-play is all about making the game accessible – getting more people into the front door.  SWTOR’s success here is no fluke – DDO reported that their concurrent players increased 5x.  For LOTRO, the number was 3x.  If anyone wants to see the effects of Free to Play on logins, check this chart. Not having maximum game accessibility at launch, when NCSoft will most likely be unloading their best marketing effort for the game, is a missed opportunity for WildStar, especially considering they are attempting to get an all-new IP off of the ground.

But there’s more…

Maybe they just want to play for free, maybe they’ve been burned by a subscription game before and dislike the model.  OK, we hear you – for you guys we have C.R.E.D.D.  This is an item that can be purchased online at the WildStar website, and can then be bought and sold with other players in-game.  This trading happens via the Commodities Exchange – basically a stock market that lets you trade C.R.E.D.D. to other players for earned in-game gold.

So for those of you who don’t want to pay a subscription fee: you can use your first month of gameplay to earn gold while playing WildStar. When the next month comes around, instead of paying the monthly subscription fee, you can use gold earned in-game to purchase C.R.E.D.D. from other players on the CX. Boom, you cash in a C.R.E.D.D for a month of game time. You can continue this cycle over & over again, enabling you to “play to pay” for WildStar.

If you think this sounds familiar, you’re not wrong (with one core difference – you can play EVE for 14 days for free, and the upfront cost for one month’s subscription is equal to… one month’s subscription).  Whether or not the billing model of Eve’s economic-spreadsheet driven libertarian paradise is right for a fledgling mass market MMO remains to be seen.  But I doubt it.

The secret of most free-to-play games is that, for the most part, they actually are played as free games for the majority of the playerbase.  World of Tanks actually boasts that a very high number of people pay to play that game – at 20-30%.  They aren’t wrong.  The dynamics in play in Free 2 Play are that a lot of casual players aren’t willing to invest their time or credit card number, but devotees of your game will.  But the only way to be able to afford CREDD is going to be a heavy player, then figure out what CREDD is, then figure out where it is on the auction house, then figure out whether or not I’m getting ripped off.  This is not a casual friendly experience.  Instead, the people most able to play for free are going to be the people most willing to spend money for your game!  If this sounds backwards to you, you’re not alone.

All of this is before you get to the uncertainty that is tying your free play option to the health and success of your gold economy.  A major inflationary event, such as a dupe bug, can result in CREDD being priced on the internal market at prices far above what a latecoming new player can ever hope to acquire.  Again, game devotees should have no problems.

One of my mantras about being a free-to-play game is that, in order to call yourself that, your evangelists have to feel good about telling their casual friends, “Yeah, you can totally play for free!”  For the game to go viral, the game needs to be substantially free.  You do need to put in price points in the gameplay – I hear paying rent is nice, and it can be argued that many free-to-play games have missed that mark on certain points in their pricing model.  That being said, WildStar doesn’t describe themselves as a free-to-play game, which is good, because neither will their customers.  Which in my mind, is a real shame.


XBox One Announces Self-Publishing Program

Color me cautiously optimistic:

Microsoft said there are no application fees, no certification fees and no title update fees…. Registered developers will receive two Xbox One development kits at no cost, and access to the console’s full features, including the “full power of the console,” cloud, Kinect and Xbox Live toolsets and more…. Revenue splits will be “industry standard” Charla told us. (Digital deals often give the platform holder 30 percent, and the developer 70 percent.)

Oh, wait, are Microsoft still evil because they want developers to make money?  I lose track.

Design Review: Last of Us

I just finished “Last of Us”, or as my wife likes to refer to it, the “Dumpster Moving Simulator”.  It is good — very good — but I found it short of the accolades that I had heard about it so far, which were all along the lines of ‘we should stop making video games, because it’s been done now.”  There, I would beg to differ.

Don’t get me wrong, there are aspects of the game which are very well designed.  The characterizations of the two driving characters are both excellent, especially Ellie the girl.  There’s a grim horror going on, and yet the writing still does the good job of reminding you that she’s a teen, struggling with teen problems and feelings, while all of this horrible shit is going on around her.  Naughty Dog did a marvelous job here, and there are definitely lessons that Bioware could learn.  That being said, I have some quibbles.

First off, my overall happiness with the game can be directly linked to how much I’m forced to wield a gun.  Now, I’m from the previous generation that believes that God intended for man to control his pixel-rendered shotgun with mouselook, so I always have trouble on the console. Despite that, my aim’s not THAT bad.  The end result was as if the game was trying to demonstrate a world where everyone is armed but gunpowder was ineffectual.  Maybe its just me, but it should take fewer than 3 shotgun blasts at close range to kill a normal guy.  Fortunately, molotov cocktails have the explosive effect of a portable nuke.

Stealthing was a far happier experience, and for the most part, much better done.  There were some obvious problems.  For example, as Ellie followed me, she seemed wholly unaware that the point of stealthing was to hide FROM the monsters, which meant that there were several panic-inducing situations where I’d turn around to find her standing at the feet of the enemy I was attempting to avoid.  Also, if you’re trying to sell me on ‘be so quiet you can’t even move quickly’, the illusion is quickly broken when your companions break the silence every 10 seconds with an ‘over here!’ or a ‘to your left!’ or even a ‘FUUUUUCK’ when I kill something.  Yo, girl, we’re still stealthing here!

The technical part of the audio design of the game leaves a lot to be desired.  A lot of the best color and characterization of the game happens in barks as you traverse the world, but the designers chose to make those barks happen in real 3D — which means that if Ellie’s AI starts to lag behind you, you’ll only hear about a third of whatever witty quip she voices.  At some point, I turned on voiceover captions, just so I could be sure I didn’t miss anything important.

The level design has a fair number of problems.  Lots of stealth levels with guys camped around blind corners, for example, so you have no choice but to fail once.  Lots of inconsistency with walls that you can climb and walls you can’t.  Also, I’m gonna take this girl out for a year, and never teach her to friggin’ swim?   All to manufacture some contrived environmental puzzles.

And then there’s the overall “Elysium Problem”, which is a new term I just coined.  In the movie Elysium, they did such a good job portraying human life on Earth as deplorable and cruel that I didn’t WANT these people up in my shiny clean space station — and when I come home feeling like I want to flip on Fox News, perhaps you’ve missed the mark.  Similarly in this game, you meet so few decent human beings throughout the game that after a while, you don’t WANT them to acquire redemption.  Ultimately, this includes the main characters, as you realize that you’re really no better than anyone else – bloodthirsty savages.  And hey, wouldn’t that ending have been much better with a Bioware-style choice?

Don’t get me wrong — it’s still a very good game.  Good story, good character, very natural inventory controls.  They even have a pretty good little crafting system in there.  I do think I prefer Uncharted, though.  I suspect it’s because I like solving Indiana Jones puzzles more than moving dumpsters.

Design Review: Don’t Starve

Don’t Starve is a fascinating little game available on Steam.  The best way to describe it is that it’s a crafting game with the soul of a Rogue-like.  Your character is dropped on an island (for no discernable reason) and given a simple mission: survive as long as you can.  This is harder than it looks – it took me several tries to get past the 3 day mark.

The island you’re dropped on is randomly generated, with nothing but raw materials you can use to craft tools, shelters, and other things to help you survive.  And much like a Rogue-like, your fate is often in the hands of the random number generator.  Start in a world without much flint, for example, and you’re in for a  very short game, since you won’t be able to create an axe you need to chop down trees which you need to craft a fire, which you need to keep away the evil… something or other.  When it’s dark, it’s real dark, so who knows who ends up munching on your little hiney.

The art style and music are both fun and whimsical, which is nice when juxtaposed with the subject matter of the game – survive or die.  This creates a humor that is wonderfully silly and black at the same time.  But the real joy in the game is exploring the world, and discovering what new encounters and items you find, and what new interactions you discover.  Traps are more effective if you bait them, for example.  Pine cones are lousy for starting fires, but nice fuel once its going.  And not every mushroom is edible without… side effects.

Each game is more different than you would expect, largely based on the world around you.  Gold is required to unlock new science advances, and in one game I spent two weeks helplessly scouring the world for gold.  The next game, I ended up joining the pig people in a war against the nearby spiders.  The game after that, I set up a sprawling rabbit farming enterprise, due largely to a fortuitously placed carrot field that was helpfully near a field sprawling with the little critters.  Your goal is survival.  How you get there depends on how well you adapt to the world around you.

I can’t say that I’ve gotten very far yet – so far, I’ve only managed to survive 12 days max – and there are things not to like.  The science machine, in particular, seems somewhat jarring and out of place, in a game otherwise pushing so hard to live on the lamb.  Night time successfully captures the feel of being tedious and long, largely by being tedious and long.  And while I may not yet be well-versed in the mechanics enough to declare some scenarios as unbeatable, its sure true that some of them seem that way.

Still, this game was a lot of fun, and merits more eyeballs, especially if you happen to like Raphian crafting games.

Realism in Games

Gamasutra reposted one of my better columns about game design.