Game talk

Game talk

This is the catch-all category for stuff about games and game design. It easily makes up the vast majority of the site’s content. If you are looking for something specific, I highly recommend looking into the tags used on the site instead. They can narrow down the hunt immensely.

Game talkRIP, Ralph Baer

 Posted by (Visited 373 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Dec 072014
 

During a business trip for Sanders to New York City in 1966 I found myself waiting for another Sanders engineer at a bus terminal; he was going to join me for a meeting with a client. I took advantage of my free time and jotted down some notes on the subject of using ordinary home TV sets for the purpose of playing games. I have a distinct image in my mind of sitting on a cement step outside the bus terminal, enjoying a nice warm, sunny summer day, occasionally looking out at the passing traffic, waiting for my associate to show up and scribbling notes on a small pad. It was “Eureka” time — but of course I didn’t know that then. The concept of playing games on an ordinary TV set had bubbled up once again from my subconscious and I got that exciting feeling of “being on to something,” a feeling that is so familiar to me.

September 6, 1966 – Genesis!

When I got back to my office in New Hampshire on September 1, 1966, I transcribed those notes into a four-page disclosure document and tossed the New York notes into the wastebasket. In those four new pages I outlined the idea of playing interactive television games on a home TV set. That was the genesis of the industry.

–Videogames: In the Beginning

That’s an excerpt from Ralph’s book, which he sent to a mailing list we were both on years ago. We traded a few emails after that, where he showed himself to be a wise and thoughtful fellow, and generous with his time. Unfortunately, none of those emails seem to have survived the many transitions between computers that I have made over the last decade.

It had been years since I had talked with him, but today was a sad day.

ArtGame talkMusicPracticing the creativity habit

 Posted by (Visited 807 times)  Art, Game talk, Music, Writing  Tagged with: ,
Dec 032014
 

In the wake of posting up the video of my talk on “Practical Creativity,” I got this:

What a great question.

First, I have to admit I slack off a lot. :) But, here are some ways in which I practice, or have practiced it. You might notice some commonalities across media.

Hope you’ll bear with me, because I will get to games last.

Continue reading »

Dec 012014
 

Slide20I know it seems like most all I post on this blog lately is stuff about speaking one place or another, and you always get three posts in a row: I will speak here, I spoke and here’s the slides… and a little while later, here’s the video.

Well, not to be redundant, but here’s the video! Gamasutra – Video: Practical Creativity – A way to invent new kinds of video games.

This was the session I did at GDCNext about treating (game design) creativity as a skill that can be practiced, offering up tips and tricks on how to be creative.

Nov 242014
 

At GDCnext I moderated a panel with Zach Gage, Rami Ismail, and Adam Saltsman on indie marketing. It was a fun session, made more so by the fact that they all walked into the room with one minute to spare before the session started (I was about to start pulling dev’s from the audience into the stage!).

It all worked out though, and now video is posted on the GDCVault! Enjoy!

Nov 212014
 

500px-WOW_logoTen years of World of Warcraft. Well. So many thoughts.

WoW has always been a contradiction of sorts: not the pioneer, but the one that solidified the pattern. Not the experimenter, but the one that reaped the rewards. Not the innovator, but the one that was well-designed, built solidly, and made appealing. It was the MMO that took what has always been there, and delivered it in a package that was truly broadly appealing, enough so to capture the larger gamer audience for the first time.

Don’t get me wrong; that’s not a knock on it. If anything, it’s possibly the biggest game design achievement in all of virtual world history. After all, we’re talking about taking a game skeleton that was at that point already almost a decade and a half old, one which had literally had hundreds of iterations, hundreds of games launched. None of them ever reached that sort of audience, that sort of milestone, that sort of polish level.

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Nov 032014
 

Slide1Today I delivered a lecture at GDCNext that was my tips for “practical creativity.” Basically, it’s a collection of techniques, habits, and ways of thinking drawn not only from lots of reading and research into creativity in general, but also my experience in visual, writerly, musical, and ludic arts. It touches on breaking down craft elements in games, on choosing ambitious and unusual themes, on simple lifestyle habits, on the power of “scenius” and collaborators, and much more.

I wanted this to be deeply practical. I myself have been using these methods a lot in the last year — maybe slacking a lot on the “get regular exercise” one. And it’s been very fruitful for me, almost too fruitful, pushing my prototype hit rate over 90%.

I really wanted to emphasize the fact that in all this, the craft is inseparable from the art, too. Creativity in craft drives creativity in art, and vice versa. Continue reading »

Game talkGamasutra on the indie economics talk

 Posted by (Visited 2297 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Oct 132014
 

Yesterday Greg Costikyan and I did an on-stage conversation at Indiecade about the economics of the indie market. It was pretty wide-ranging, with discussions of Rochdale cooperatives, performing rights organizations, designing games that can be hobbies rather than disposable content, and more.

As you might expect, there was no easy answer. Otherwise all the usual suggested tactics would have worked better for Costikyan, who deadpanned right away: “I have founded two failed companies. Follow my advice and you too can fail.” Koster, who despite having sold a successful company, noted “You can be successful business-wise, and still not achieve what you want in games.”

Continue reading »

Sep 242014
 

indiecade largeGreg Costikyan and I will be doing an on-stage conversation at Indiecade on the subject of the economics of the indie market. This is driven by the various discussions we started having around GDC time in the spring, including his rant at GDC, and my follow-on article on the directions game industry finances are likely to take, which was also reprinted at Gamasutra and had a great discussion thread over there.

Plenty has changed already — as if the power of YouTube as marketing channel weren’t already very evident, we also have the new Steam curation system coming into play. And the fact that the practice of paying for YouTuber videos is alive and well, with costs from $500 on up for a review, is sure to come up. I note that there are not one, not two, but three sessions on indie game economics at Indiecade, so this is clearly all on people’s minds.

It’ll be on Sunday the 12th at 1:30 in the Ivy Theater. Hope to see you there!

Game talkSpeaking on “Practical Creativity”

 Posted by (Visited 2602 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
Sep 232014
 

I’ll be talking at GDCNext in LA in early November about “practical creativity.”

Over the last couple of years, I have had no commercial masters over my creativity. Oh, I’ve done some consulting and whatnot, but the vast majority of my time has been on projects that I am pursuing out of pure passion, a desire to make them. And I’ve had an incredibly prolific period; the most prolific of my life, actually.

One of the things that has been really striking about it for me is the high hit rate on prototypes. Some strange alchemy between the indie strivings towards art and the accumulated lessons from game grammar and “formalist” thinking, between reading up on human psychology and mathematics, has created for me a toolset that is in some ways very practical, even dull. Very straightforward and easy to share. So, I’m going to!

Practical Creativity

Raph Koster  |  Designer, Independent
Format: Lecture
Track: Design
Pass Type: All Access Pass, GDC Next Pass

It’s a world of clones, of derivative ideas, of repackaging games in genres. It can be hard to be creative. And all too often, creativity is treated as a magical talent that few have, when it’s actually a skill that anyone can learn and that improves with practice! Come learn what science tells us about creativity, and practical straightforward steps that any game designer or developer can make use of in order to get more creative. We’ll actually try these things out in the talk, and I promise every attendee will leave with a brand-new game idea, never before seen.

Takeaway

Attendees will learn what “creativity” is currently thought to be, and specific tools and tricks for making their games more creative. We’ll even try to be creative during the actual talk!

Game talkWhat makes a game last a generation?

 Posted by (Visited 3245 times)  Game talk
Sep 022014
 

047425-rounded-glossy-black-icon-sports-hobbies-chess-pawn2-sc51Problems that aren’t actually solvable. Instead, players can only approach optimality. This means there’s always another hill to climb in terms of increasing skill, so people keep devoting the time.

These tend to be problems that fall into high complexity classes. In general, NP-HARD problems that we solve using heuristics make for long-lasting games. Mind you, these problems need to be intrinsic to the core game loop. I refer you to my presentation on that here: Games Are Math slides.

No end in sight for problem variations. New problems using the same ruleset is also a way to give hills to climb. (Yeah, this means that “authored” games with fixed levels are almost certainly not going to endure in quite the same way. A narrative game is very unlikely to last a generation.)

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