Harold parle français

 Posted by (Visited 5001 times)  Game talk, Writing
Mar 292005

And more… some belated coverage of GDC has popped up on Harold’s Corner, a French-language blog. Among the highlights he cites are:

  • La conférence passionnante de Raph Koster, lead game designer sur Star Wars Galaxies et Ultima Online.

    Raph a écrit une “théorie du fun”, disponible sur Amazon. Son discours intitulé “une grammaire du gameplay” est disponible online en totalité içi. Raph propose de se poser véritablement la question de ce qui est véritablement fun, et pourquoi le jeu est-il si important (voir les travaux de Huizinga et sa théorie sur l’Homo Ludens).

    “What’s fun is exercising your brain.” A méditer…

  • Today I received in the mail from Tim Edwards a couple of copies of the April 2005 issue of the UK PC Gamer magazine, with a wonderful 4 page interview based on Theory of Fun, including lots of cartoons. I think the DVD on the mag cover even has a copy of the presentation.

    A highlight of GDC

     Posted by (Visited 5295 times)  Game talk, Writing
    Mar 292005

    The crud is amazing, because it will not go away. 🙁

    Today brings a brief mention on Gamasutra of the Grammar of Gameplay talk as one of the highlights of GDC–well below Will’s Spore talk and the “Burning Down the House” session, of course. 🙂 There’s also a mention on Slashdot that says “probably my most amused moments during the conference” (along with Daniel James’ talk on Puzzle Pirates).

    There’s a tiny, tiny bit of discussion there as well:

    I find this stuff incredibly interesting. The presentation there tries to reverse-engineer the concept of fun. In one of Terry Pratchett’s recent books, the Auditors reverse-engineer everything to atomic level to attempt to gauge appeal, and it gets lost. Although Raph’s talk is trying to break things down into atoms, there is also an insight from realising there’s certainly more there than just atoms and associated verbs – the atoms in themselves are pointless. You can press a button, you can move a mouse, you can get the timing right. But it only begins to matter when you make atom-agglomerates – molecules – that it begins. His timing sequence for a quake gib is a molecule. It’s a sequence of events where each atom is connected in a particular order and in a particular way. These molecules can all add up in his parallel – multiple occurences of sequences, some work, some don’t; the target there is to get as many viable molecules as possible, and from that ‘win’. Or they can go in series – a polymer molecule, where the win comes from how long you can make your molecule; the argument there is then whether a beautiful molecule is a pure chain, or a branched chain, or sheet, or however. We’re going a little deep into this analogy, but it still makes sense. He says in the presentation that he hasn’t got a clue what to do with it. I wonder if I could get hired by the first crew who do, because I bet it’d be an incredibly interesting way to make a game.

    and the reply:

    I’ve been an admirer of Raph Koster for a long time, because he’s one of a very few people (like Will Wright, Dr. Cat, and JC Lawrence) who are actively thinking about our assumptions related to games and gaming. Raph’s particular angle at the moment is to examine what exactly we mean when we say a game is “fun”, so the idea of breaking a game into its component atoms isn’t so much an end in itself as a mechanism to identify the larger patterns of the game.

    Up to the present point in time, when we’ve examined games, we’ve done so in macro-fashion: the field of play, the player, the enemy, the avenue of advancement. However, when you start breaking things down to their atomic natures, Raph seems to think (and I tend to agree) that these macro-elements of the game will resolve themselves to a few repeating patterns. Once you have those patterns, you can then examine how combinations of those patterns make a game fun, and how much fun they produce.

    I also think Raph is after this for the right reason — to make games more fun, as opposed to the industry’s goal to make more money by determining the “formula” for a hit game. There are some people I *won’t* name who are geared in that direction, and while I appreciate the need to look at this angle (the game industry advances by trial-and-error, with each successful game paying the bills for several failures)… I think the question of “what will make more money” is much less interesting than “what will be more fun”. I also think “more fun” is more often attached to “more money” than the other way around.

    As it happens, I know of at least one effort to try to run with the game design atoms idea with a small designers’ gathering to try to take a whack at expanding on it. We’ll see if anything comes of it–I’m invited, but might have to be out of the country that day… 🙁

    GDC round-up

     Posted by (Visited 10910 times)  Game talk, Writing
    Mar 162005

    I am back from GDC. And I bear with me THE CRUD. THE CRUD has also infected multiple members of
    my family. THE CRUD is to be feared. I heartily recommend running in the opposite direction should
    it seek to make your acquaintance.

    Because of THE CRUD I have had to turn down a lovely opportunity to speak at ETECH this year on
    serious games, A Theory of Fun, and whatever else might have fit into the 45 minutes. This
    sort of sucks, as ever year I see ETECH happen in San Diego and I never get to go.

    I have many many stories from GDC. Alas, THE CRUD prevents me from actually relating any of them. The
    talks related to the book seemed to go well, though I think there are significantly more mixed reactions
    to A Grammar of Gameplay than there were to the keynote for Serious Games, which was basically the familiar old AToF presentation again.

    Nonetheless, there was a lot of coverage. Witness:

    Theory of Fun keynote:

    Instanced vs Persistent panel:

    Grammar of Gameplay:

    Enough for now, this pesky fever won’t let me stare at a screen for very long…

    Oh, before I forget: I did a signing at the bookstore, and we sold out there. 🙂 And I am supposed to speak at SUPERNOVA (but I need to dig up the link). And I have posted the slides for A Grammar of Gameplay.