Game talkYear in Review

 Posted by (Visited 3499 times)  Game talk
Dec 312013
 

CASlide6I didn’t write that much on the blog this year. It has had the lowest traffic in years, as a result. I only know this because I actually bothered to go look at the stats, for the first time in ages. I used to track this stuff every month, adding it into a big spreadsheet, so I could keep track of what people wanted to read about. Of course, I was also spending an hour a day or more writing stuff here, back then.

With the big blog revamp, it occurred to me to do an oldschool “this is what happened on the blog this year” post like I used to. So… here we go:

The most popular posts I wrote this year:

  1. On getting criticism:
    A post I wrote about how to deal with inbound criticism of your work. This was the most read thing on the site all year, and has popped up in all sorts of incongruous places; I’ve found it reprinted in Reddits about fitness or about stand-up comedy, in countless game forums, and on websites for self-published writers, artists, and so on. Continue reading »

ArtArt section updated

 Posted by (Visited 1912 times)  Art  Tagged with:
Dec 292013
 

The gradual conversion of the old site into the new format continues. Old links out there still point to old pages, since I haven’t put any redirects in. But the new pages are appearing, and if you are mostly hitting the front page of the site, the menu choices will start pointing to the new pages rather than the old. Don’t worry, I won’t switch over the top pages until all the lower pages are in place!

Continue reading »

Open threadMajor blog overhaul

 Posted by (Visited 2040 times)  Open thread  Tagged with:
Dec 182013
 

biglogoYou may have noticed that the site looks a little different today! It has seen a major overhaul — years of hacks in files have been overwritten by a modern customizable theme (Suffusion).

The goals were

  • Get it looking nicer, because, damn, it was dated. I usually overhaul it every few years, and it’s been overdue.
  • Get it faster and more responsive, thanks to streamlining all the cruft away. We’ll see. The database for the blog is, by the way, around 5GB of data. Yeesh. So it may be that getting it faster will require major DB surgery.
  • Cut away some of the stuff that was outright obsolete, like the links list (I’ll have to create a new one, sorry for anyone I wiped out!)
  • Give better and faster access to frequently desired material. This is being done with the nav bar up at the top. You’ll notice that this still takes you to the old site’s static pages (static pages that now date back to 1998 in some cases). Over time I expect to migrate all this into WordPress proper and redirect all the old links.
  • I also plan to add new stuff now. Like, some gallery pages for the games I have worked on. Seems silly to be a game designer with a game design site and not have a portfolio page… There’s also all the books that I have had chapters in, I ought to have those up here too. Maybe Slideshare widgets for all the presentations.

Among other things, the site is now fully responsive, so it shouldn’t take pinching and zooming to read it on a smartphone anymore. I swapped out the tag cloud widget, and the translator widget too. The old translator actually cached all the pages; this one just sends you off to Google Translate to do it yourself, so that should save a lot of space.

There are still many things that I have to sort out: whether to keep the frames on images, the weird bottom edge of the nav bar, what to do about comments (I like having the Twitter comments show up seamlessly, but I don’t think I like the reverse chronological order they show up in!), how to handle the older parts of the site, the bits of stuff left over like the blue highlighting of my comments that no longer matches the theme, the way drop caps are messing up when there’s an image in the top left, the bad headers on the right side…

Of course, feedback is welcome! Let me know what you think of stuff like the color scheme, the layout, and so on.

Game talkImaginary Realities is back!

 Posted by (Visited 2282 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
Dec 172013
 

And here’s the link to Imaginary Realities vol 5 issue 1!

image00

For those who don’t know, Imaginary Realities is the mud-related journal originally published by David Bennett. It disappeared way back in 2001, but Richard Tew has resurrected it. I’ve already glanced through the first new set of articles, and there’s some interesting stuff there for both MUD devs and non-mudders, I think.

All the original issues are mirrored, so if you want to look at the stuff that ran from ’98 to ’01, it’s there too!

 

Game talkWritingTouring the print edition of Theory of Fun

 Posted by (Visited 5155 times)  Game talk, Writing  Tagged with:
Dec 052013
 

The print edition is out! Yay! Hopefully I get author’s copies tomorrow.

In celebration, I thought I’d share some images of what it looks like now. I really couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. All glossy and hefty, it feels very substantial and classy. And I have trouble going back to look at the black and white now, having grown used to color everywhere. Read on for some before-and-afters on the imagery, some looks at the text additions, and how I tackled the issue of revising away some of the sexism in the cartoons!

IMG_2581

The first thing, of course, is the layout. Yes, it’s in a portrait layout now, instead of the horizontal format. Not only will it fit better on shelves, but it also means that the book shouldn’t fall out of stock as much, because we selected this layout because we can  use Print On Demand to constantly keep hard copies available. Before, copies had to be manually ordered.

Ironically, the actual size of the book is almost exactly the same. The new edition is actually just slightly larger.

Continue reading »

Game talkWritingTheory of Fun reviews and press

 Posted by (Visited 3355 times)  Game talk, Writing  Tagged with:
Dec 022013
 

printpictureThere have been a couple of pieces of coverage of the new edition of Theory of Fun.

The first real review of the updated edition is here, in Finnish: Katsauksessa A Theory of Fun for Game Design. (You can read a Google Translated version: page one, page two). They kindly sent me a a translation of the final paragraph:

Even though A Theory of Fun for Game Design goes deep into the underlining mechanics of the gameplay and opens up the question of what makes a great game tick, it is written in a way that makes the book comprehensible and easy to read. There’s also a great reference section for further study on the subject, but even without this added value, A Theory of Fun for Game Design is easy to recommend to anyone interested to know a bit about games or game design – or why you especially like or dislike a game.

Wired Game|Life did a preview piece on the book that was pretty widely reprinted.

Another, funnier change: In the original edition of the book, there was a throwaway line about how nobody plays farming games anymore. “That,” Koster says, has now “turned into a page-long riff about farming games and about how modern farming games teach business rather than farming.”

This piece was also picked up by BoingBoing, which noted

Hard to believe it’s been ten years since the initial release of Raph Koster’s indispensable A Theory of Fun for Game Design, a book that does for game-design what Understanding Comics did for sequential art.

There may be more reviews on the way… I should also mention that the ebook edition is in O’Reilly’s CyberMonday sale today, at 50% off (along with all their ebooks).

The print edition hits this week, and as you can see from the picture, came out very nicely… all glossy and everything. :)

Game talkWritingTheory of Fun ebook NOW OUT! 50% off!

 Posted by (Visited 4757 times)  Game talk, Writing  Tagged with:
Nov 262013
 

theoryoffunnewcoverIt’s out! And O’Reilly has a special deal:

Save 50% on Game Design Ebooks & Videos – Deals – O’Reilly Media.

For just this week, game design ebooks are half off, including the full-color 10th anniversary edition of A Theory of Fun for Game Design. Oh, and they’re DRM-free too.

Use discount code WKGMDES. It’s only good until December 4, 2013 at 5:00am PT. And even though it’s only good for the ebook version, as it happens, the print version is supposed to hit Dec 5th, so there’s a nice symmetry there. :)

I got a sample copy of the paperback in hand too… glossy throughout, it’s really nice! I have trouble picturing the book in black and white now. You can pre-order it at the above links.

Nov 222013
 

Here is the full video of my talk at EVA13, entitled “El mundo de sistemas” (the world of systems). It’s in Spanish, and it’s an hour and a half long!

Sorry, no translated subtitles or anything. The talk starts out talking about systems and games, how there are many sorts of games but that a large proportion of them have what I call ludic systems underlying them. I talked a little bit about what some of the implications of systems are, how we learn from them and what sort of lessons they teach. And, of course, also how flaws in systems (or even emergent properties) can cause systems to really run amok, or enable players to really break everything.

That then leads to some anecdotes and postmortem thoughts from Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies. Most of these are probably ones that many of you have heard about before:

Continue reading »

Nov 062013
 

Slide20Here are the slides for the talk I gave yesterday, entitled “Playing with ‘Game.'”

The talk starts out with some basic semiotic theory — basically, the difference between a thing, the name we give a thing, and what the thing actually means. This serves as an entry point into talking about not only the way the word “game” is incredibly overloaded with different people’s interpretations, but also as a way to start discussing the way games themselves can mean things.

Slide14This leads to exploring the notion of “play” as space — free movement within a system, which is not a new idea at all, ranging from Derrida to Salen & Zimmerman. And then to looking at the two big sorts of play I see: the play of the possibility space of a set of rules, and the possibility space of a set of symbols or signs, which we might be more used to calling the thematic depth of a literary work. Along the way I break down writing techniques, game design techniques, and more, trying to find the ways in which these tools can be applied to games of different intents — which tools work best for a given craftsperson’s purpose?

I was really stuck on this talk. I had it conceptually all worked out, and could ot figure out a good way to convey it at all. My first several drafts were dry and jargony and a mess. And then I saw Daniel Benmergui give a talk at EVA in Argentina about the difference between “sense” and “meaning,” using David Lynch and Braid as examples, and it unlocked everything for me.

So if you want to know why I think a six-word story is like Journey and how Howling Dogs is like Super Mario Brothers, this is the talk for you. And if the above sounds incredibly intimidating and way too much like grad school in literary theory, the good news is that the talk is full of waffles.

Slide107

Nov 052013
 

Here are the slides for my talk at EVA ’13 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, last week. They are in Spanish, of course.

If I had to summarize the talk, I would say that it covered a lot of the same sort of ground I have touched on before in terms of the ways in which games teach systems thinking. I open with some discussion of the wide range of stuff that we call “games” — something that is also discussed in the GDCNext talk I am posting shortly. I talk about what a ludic structure looks like (something that folks who read the blog will probably find familiar), and the way in which ludic structures arise naturally in the world, and thereby are playable even though they are not designed games.

And then I move into anecdotes on exploits and loopholes and other ways in which we didn’t grasp everything about the systems we ourselves had designed, in games such as Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies. The talk ends on speculation on what we’re doing to the world, as we create systems that break outside of games. Are we the most qualified to do this? We might be.

It likely loses a lot without the actual speech, compared to most of my slideshows, but hopefully the video will go up at some point. In the meantime, the PDF is here.