Game talkReadingGuardian picks Six Gaming Books

 Posted by (Visited 2656 times)  Game talk, Reading  Tagged with: ,
Jan 122014
 

At #2:

Penned by veteran games designer Raph Koster, A Theory of Fun was written 10 years ago, a long time considering the rapid pace of advance for its subject matter. And yet the book remains a key games design text that is still in print and highly relevant. While it was conceived to help games designers, it will be fascinating and informative for anybody involved in any field of design, or those curious about, well, harnessing the power of fun …

– Six of the best gaming books | Life and style | The Observer

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Game talkWritingTouring the print edition of Theory of Fun

 Posted by (Visited 5219 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.

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Game talkWritingTheory of Fun reviews and press

 Posted by (Visited 3405 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 4891 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.

Sep 202013
 


Yup, it’s up on Amazon for pre-order!

For those who don’t know, here’s what is different:

  • Full color throughout.
  • Revisions on virtually every page.
  • Revised punchlines for a lot of the cartoons.
  • Substantial revisions to the chapter on cognitive styles.
  • Expansion of the sections on non-fun reasons to play games.
  • Some additional discussion of narrative.
  • All the science brought up to date.
  • A huge amount of new endnotes, including expanding on many of the existing ones.
  • A new afterword.
  • A new vertical layout so it fits on your shelf better!

Looks like they currently have it set to come out on November 22nd. The book is still in layout as we try to get everything to fit perfectly, and we have to fill in my current bio. But all in all, it looks awfully close!

Pre-order Theory of Fun 2nd Edition here.

 

Game talkWritingTheory of Fun status

 Posted by (Visited 5104 times)  Game talk, Writing  Tagged with:
May 292013
 

penguin-14-transI have finished revising all of the text in the book, and sent off the manuscript to O’Reilly, a few days ahead of deadline.

How much has changed? Well, I would guess that half the pages in the book saw some sort of edit. That said, the shape of the book is largely unchanged. I got a lot of feedback saying “don’t break it,” from people sending in revision suggestions.

Big differences would include:

  • A big update to Chapter Six, “Different Fun for Different Folks.” There has been a lot of new science on brain differences between the sexes, and it points to both the fact that male and female brains are overall more similar than different — and yet there’s concrete evidence for some very real differences that could affect how we look at different games.
  • A lot of new science and references throughout. Some of the new material touches on Bernard Suits, deliberate practice, ludonarrative dissonance, etc. A lot of this material was not in existence at the time of the original book.
  • Clarification and updating on things like “what is a game,” “what about engaging with games in ways that aren’t fun?” and so on. A lot of this material was drawn from the Ten Years Later presentation.
  • 4000 new words in the endnotes (!). That is around an additional 50%, I think.
  • A new afterword.

In the end, there will only be two new pages in the main text. I still have one new cartoon to draw — the other one is a diagram, I’m afraid.image3Because of the new afterword, I did need a new penguin as a chapter header, though. I sketched one out, an old penguin (he’s ten years older, after all), and then tried to get my Rapidograph pens to work. No dice, as you can see from the mess I made of my sheet of test paper. I am going to have to visit an art supply store for some cleaning solution.

So I resorted to size-matching the Rapidograph nibs with Micron pens and inked him that way. It was supposed to just be a test inking, but he came out with some charm, so I decided to just scan the image and crop out all the spatter.

There is still quite a lot of layout work to do, plus I am sure the editors will come back with suggested revisions. One thing we are still contemplating is how exactly the cartoons will change given that the book is moving to a new trim size, taller than it is wide. We may actually change the layout of many of the cartoon pages. The trim size change is because it will allow us to do color print-on-demand, which should help with the book’s availability. It currently still has to have manual print runs, which is getting to be more and more obsolete these days.

We’re also still discussing how to handle the endnotes. One suggestion is to mark them out in the margins of the book somehow, perhaps with a little icon, rather than drowning the book in superscript footnotes everywhere.

Apr 162013
 

020780-rounded-glossy-black-icon-symbols-shapes-spinner4-sc36The world is full of systems. Often they exist below the threshold of what we perceive. It’s all a whirling clockwork of near-infinite complexity, from the tiny mysteries of quantum physics to the wonder of a single tree spanning miles, to the vastness of neurons that sit inside our relatively small skulls.

These systems are dynamic. They move, they change. Had we only the right vantage point, we might be able to see how every gear, every electrical impulse, every vibrating superstring, all can be seen as a filigreed marvel of machinery, the insides of a grandfather clock.

Is everything only this? That’s a question for philosophers and the religious. Many of these systems are of an order of complexity that we may be simply unable to comprehend. Our mental capacity is not so great, after all.

So we arrive at heuristics, our good enough rules of thumb, for addressing these complexities. We can understand physics well enough to plant a robot on a distant planet, but we don’t understand physics. We can understand another person well enough to interact with them, but no one ever really knows anyone fully. We can read a novel — a vast profusion and entanglement of signs, story-worlds, mirror neurons, syllabic scansion, mythmaking, and metaphor — and take away some part of understanding, but likely never all.


033465-rounded-glossy-black-icon-culture-holiday-valentines033460-rounded-glossy-black-icon-culture-holiday-tree11-sc44047441-rounded-glossy-black-icon-sports-hobbies-fishing-sc46
Our means of coping with these systems is to simplify. We reduce great complexity down to signs. We classify and categorize and collate. We iconify, cartoon, sketch. When we stop to think about it, we know that all these simplifications are lies. But they are lies we use to live our daily lives, and so we carry on.

 

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Game talkWhy are QTE’s so popular?

 Posted by (Visited 6112 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Mar 132013
 

Ah, the dread quick-time event. We may have to blame Shenmue for its wide adoption, though of course something like Dragon’s Lair used the same mechanic. They’re everywhere. They are one of the simplest game mechanics there is. And I have done my share of bashing on them too.

What is a QTE and why do big AAA tentpole titles love them? Well, the mechanic itself is “press a button within a very short time frame.” An incorrect press or failing to do it within the time limit results in a negative outcome. In other words, it’s basically whack a mole, or that game where you pull your hands away before they get slapped.

This makes it a mechanic almost entirely based on reaction time, naturally timeboxed to a minimal duration. As such, it’s incredibly accessible (one button!) and minimally disruptive to whatever else is going on.

  • Tentpole titles need to be as mass market as they can get, so by having an extremely simple mechanic, they minimize barrier to entry to the game.
  • Heavily narrative games want mechanics that do not break the story flow, and provide as cinematic an experience as possible. The QTE is about as small as a mechanic gets, and requires next to zero conscious thought.

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Game talkMailbagWhy do we like a given game?

 Posted by (Visited 6005 times)  Game talk, Mailbag  Tagged with:
Feb 152013
 

I was just asked this on Quora, and thought I would crosspost my answer here.

What makes people like specific genres of gaming (FPS, strategy, sports, racing etc)?

What can you tell about people who like only a certain genre of gaming like Fps rather than strategy?

Everyone starts out with different natural predispositions. For example, some people are born with more fast-twitch fibers in their muscles, which gives them the ability to move more explosively than others [Skeletal striated muscle]. Other folks have greater color sensitivity, faster reaction times, better ability to see things that are moving or that are standing still.

Some of these things are spread across a gradient where a person may fall anywhere on the gradient, but there are biases based on the sex of the individual in question. [Men and Women Really Do See Things Differently] We should be cautious about treating this as “biology is destiny” and instead think in terms of statistical distribution; recent metastudies show that overall, sex differences in cognition are weak correlations [Science Confirms The Obvious:  Men And Women Aren't That Different] but there are nonetheless some large and obvious differences between sexes and of course between people.

These predispositions mean that some things are easier or harder for a given individual. Not necessarily hugely so — maybe only marginally, say 1% easier than the norm. But it doesn’t matter, because of how the brain’s reward system works. Continue reading »

ArtWritingColor Theory of Fun images

 Posted by (Visited 4202 times)  Art, Writing  Tagged with:
Feb 132013
 

penguin-06So, I have been working on the process to color all the cartoons in the revised Theory of Fun edition. I thought I might share some samples of the way it is looking so far.

The original cartoons were done very quickly, which is why they were in such a rough, naif sort of style. They were also done with ink on paper, rather than digitally. I am trying to have the coloring be in keeping with that… I want something that feels fairly organic, even though I am doing all the coloring on the computer.

So I tried out doing plain flat shading, and gradients, and that sort of thing… but ended up using a custom brush to get a bit more of a painted look with more color variation.

In the process, I am also replacing the Comic Sans with my own handwriting font, like I used in the 10 Years Later presentation.

There are well over a hundred of these to do, of course. I am on pace to do multiple a day right now, although the flu has gotten in the way a bit.

In other news, though, the contract still isn’t finalized, so I am a bit ahead of myself anyway. :) But that’s OK.

See a before and after comparison:

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