Mar 092012

Here’s the PDF: Koster_Raph_GDC2012.pdf

Here’s the PPTX, which includes the speaker notes, which this time are extensive: Koster_Raph_GDC2012.pptx

And the closest I can get to the speech itself is this page here, which has an image of each slide, followed by the notes… so you can just read it like an article.

I imagine video will be up on the GDCVault eventually…


Game talkFAQ on the immersion post

 Posted by (Visited 15165 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Jan 142012

Yesterday’s post on immersion has occasioned a fair amount of commentary and questions. More importantly, different people seem to have read the post in very different ways. Given its nature, and who I was speaking to with it, that doesn’t really surprise me.

Rather than answer them in comment threads scattered all over the place, I thought I would do it all right here. So here is a FAQ!

Are you trolling? Please tell me you are trolling?

No,  I wasn’t trolling. It was heartfelt. It was also dashed off in the middle of a sleepless night. I did not expect quite the level of passion in reply, I have to admit. :)

Immersion is a slippery word. What did you actually mean?

Continue reading »

Jan 132012

“I feel a sense of loss over mystery… I feel a loss over immersion. I loved… playing long, intricate, complex, narrative-driven games, and I’ve drifted away from playing them, and the whole market has drifted away from playing them too,” Koster says. “I think the trend lines are away from that kind of thing.”

— Gamasutra interview of me by Leigh Alexander



Games didn’t start out immersive. Nobody was getting sucked into the world of Mancala or the intricate world building of Go. Oh, people could be mesmerized, certainly, or in a state of flow whilst playing. But they were not immersed in the sense of being transported to another world. For that we had books.

Even most video games were not like worlds I was transported to. Oh, I wondered what else existed in the world of Joust and felt the paranoia in Berzerk, but I never felt like I was visiting.

Then something changed. For me it started with text adventures and with early Ultimas. I could explore what felt like a real place. I could interact with it. I could affect it. And with that came the first times where I felt like I was visiting another world. It came when I first played Jordan Mechner’s Karateka and for the first time ever, felt I was playing a game that felt like a movie.
Continue reading »

Game talkF2P vs subs

 Posted by (Visited 17588 times)  Game talk  Tagged with:
Jan 112012

One of the comments on my recent posts accused me of being naive about marketing. That was a first for me. :)

A lot of commenters believe that free to play business models are fundamentally less ethical than other business models, that they are by nature predatory. So I thought I would offer up some simple facts.

The typical F2P player does indeed play for 100% free. It is not a nickel-and-dime model, as some commenters think. The vast majority of players in an F2P model never pay anything at all.

Continue reading »

Game talkProduct versus art

 Posted by (Visited 16691 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
Jan 102012

Yesterday, I posted about ways to improve free-to-play games, which got one commentator to say that I was comparing traditional designers to creationists, and free-to-play designers as evolutionists. A science versus religion debate, in other words.

Well, that was not really my intent. Let’s say instead empiricists versus intuitionists.

That said, I think an important takeaway, which echoes my earlier post about dogma in programming approaches, is that taken to an extreme both approaches can be dangerous. After all, religion misapplied led to holy wars, and science misapplied led to eugenics.

The spectrum in the case of games might perhaps be seen as intuition leads to art, and empiricism leads to treating games as product.

Are either wrong?

Continue reading »

Game talkImproving F2P

 Posted by (Visited 26498 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
Jan 092012

Are you one of those game developers who think that free-to-play games suck? You think they’re soulless, or that their builders do not understand how to treat a customer? Or why games are sacred and special?

After all, f2P developers are often looked down upon by traditional game developers, particularly indie ones, as not being artistic.

Well, in the spirit of greater understanding on all fronts, I’m here to tell you how to understand these developers.

The thing to understand about the free-to-play market, and its best developers, is that F2P developers treat everything as science. Everything is subject to analysis, and everything is subject to proof, and the business process is about seeking what works. If what works happens to also be an original, innovative, interesting design that meets a checklist set of criteria for being art, well, all the better. But really, it’s about what works.

We have to be honest with ourselves. There is an awful lot of stuff that we have cherished for a long time in the games business which turns out not to work. Sometimes it takes us years to shed the scales from our eyes about the fact that hoary conventions of yore are just that — conventions, mutable and open to change.

A screenshot from the Atari version of Panzer-Jagd.

A screenshot from the Atari version of Panzer-Jagd.

After all, was not the great innovation of World of Warcraft that it “removed the tedious bits”? Many of those tedious bits were “proven mechanisms.” And regardless of whether we feel that some babies went out with the bathwater, there’s a certain part of you that has to go with what worked — and if a few babies going out with the scummy water is the price, then, well, it can be hard to argue against.

There is also the plain fact that it takes a player to play a game. What worked for grognards  who were willing to fix the BASIC errors in Panzer-Jagd on the Atari 8-bit (*sheepishly raises hand*) does not necessarily work for the player who delighted in Doom, which in turn fails the player tossing angry red birds at hapless pigs.

The field moves on because the audience does, and what works moves with it. Having some science in the mix to track, assess, and predict those movements is only common sense.

And the more the audience divorces itself from we who make their entertainment, the more important it is that we be clear-eyed about what their tastes and behaviors actually are. And that, in turn, greatly undermines the value of “experts,” — because we are in many ways, the most likely to be hidebound and unable to see past the blinkered assumptions precisely because we built them up with hard-won experience.

But! And it’s a big but.

Continue reading »

Game talkInterview for a high-school junior

 Posted by (Visited 5174 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Dec 062011

Hi this is N—–.

I am a jr in high school right now, we are doing something called a jr research paper, and the career that I chose and have been looking into is game design and I need to get an interview with a game designer, I was wondering if you could email me back and you may help me. If you have the time that would be really nice.

Thank you

Sure. Here’s my answers to your questions:
Continue reading »

Oct 282011

The normally vivacious Leigh Alexander was an a contemplative mood as she posed questions to me in an hourlong interview right after GDC Online. We talked about how games are changing with mobile and social coming along and making sessions shorter and arguably less classically immersive; and how we ourselves are drifting away from the big games, as players.

I wish more of the interview fit in the format of a Gamasutra article, because it was a great, quiet little discussion.

“Another way to think of it is, we always said games would be the art form of the 21st century: Gamers will all grow up and take over the world, and we’re at that moment now,” he continues. “It’s all come true — but the dragons and the robots didn’t come with us, they stayed behind.”

Yet in plenty of ways this loss isn’t even about social games, Koster believes. “We’re losing some of our most cherished things — and honestly, we already had. The more big business we got, the more that got replaced by women in too-little clothes, or guys that all look the same and have bullet-heads and everybody’s dressed in green and brown.”

In light of the increasingly risk-averse and market-researched nature of traditional games, the increasing size of the mainstream audience has been something of a boon. “If you’d asked someone in 1998 whether there could be hit games about cooking, fashion design… a guy running over roofs, [as in Canabalt], still there’s an element of a broader frame of reference, a broader aesthetic there.”

And while he himself is a big science fiction fan, Koster says that a wider frame of reference is “incredibly exciting” for games that can be about all kinds of things now, beyond the expected. “We lose something, but we gain something that is potentially bigger,” he reflects.

Gamasutra – News – Raph Koster Talks Loss, Opportunity For Games In The Social Media Age.

Oct 172011

Yup, a tiny bit more.

Side note, I am struck how little long-form coverage there is of talks anymore, now that so much blogging has moved to Twitter…