Scott Miller’s review

 Posted by (Visited 6856 times)  Game talk, Writing
Jul 212005

I don’t know how I missed it, but Scott Miller of 3DRealms just posted a review on his blog, and it’s a good one. I’ve added it to the Press page.

In the thread, I tossed in some notes to clarify the discussion:

Wow, thanks for the kind words, Scott!

A few notes on the discussion:

David Freeman didn’t write the foreword to my book, Will Wright did (for the US edition–Masaya Matsuura of Parappa the Rapper is doing the Japanese foreword). I did blurb David’s book, however.

Discussing novelty versus patterns versus puzzles versus learning is tricky without delving into the cognitive science that I spend the first couple of chapters on in the book (trust me, it’s not very dry despite being science!). A lot of people get hung up on the concept of “puzzle” thinking that I mean a literal puzzle such as a crossword, what you find in an adventure game, or even Tetris. From a cognitive point of view, humans tend to be pattern-matching machines. EVERYTHING around us is a “puzzle” in that sense–we’re attempting to match patterns to it and arrive at “chunks” or abstracted understandings of the sensory input we receive.

Novelty matters because if something isn’t novel, we already have a chunk for it. We will, in fact, STOP SEEING the object, in a very literal sense–our eyes will literally feed our brain the assumption rather than the actual sensory input.

Yes, rollercoasters can count, because they are providing a sensory experience that we must learn to interpret. Riding the same rollercoaster will eventually grow boring too, because we will have absorbed and chunked together the experience. This is why I tend to separate out visceral reactions, such as your stomach dropping out on the coaster, from “fun.” You can get a visceral reaction in circumstances where there is no fun, and vice versa. They are often paired, because managing our own body’s reactions is a tough cognitive puzzle indeed (which is why doing sports can often be fun).

Pacing is tough, because everyone has their own chunk libraries, their own life experiences. It’s basically a given that there is no one correct pacing.

Delight is my term for aesthetic appreciation. It seems to be more related to that moment when you successfully apply an existing chunk you have learned, rather than to learning. It’s still immensely valuable and important to design for (for one, it provides a sensation of mastery) but it really does get tiresome pretty quick.

Lastly, a few folks have mentioned that it seems the book applies beyond games. It is in fact being used in educational fields, e-learning and professional training in particular, and has also attracted attention in areas such as graphic design. Since it is rooted in cognitive theory, a lot of it really is generically applicable. It may actually be more useful for showing to non-gamers to help them understand why you dig games, than it is to gamers. I leave it up to you, but please buy lots of copies. 😉

Hey, I gotta work it, right? 😉 Come to think of it, Scott’s mention probably explains the spike in Amazon ranking and hits the website got over the last few days.

 Comments Off on Scott Miller’s review
Jul 202005

The book will be available in China tomorrow, on sale at ChinaJoy, which is the Chinese
equivalent of E3.

Yesterday, I found that it was briefly the #1 selling game programming book on Amazon. Neat. Boy, it bounces up and down the charts a lot there. (It’s #7 today). I have proof though!

The IGDA is holding some sort of raffle for a copy of the book; if you’re using a freebie account on the IGDA website, and you’re registered as a designer, and you upgrade to a full IGDA membership, you will be entered to win a copy of the book. You should join the IGDA anyway, so what are you waiting for?

 Comments Off on #1 bestseller! Sorta. Plus, China, IGDA

Chinese edition is in press

 Posted by (Visited 6092 times)  Game talk, Writing
Jul 122005

The Chinese edition is in press as we speak, and is supposed to hit the street in time for ChinaJoy next week. Alas, I won’t be there. I was supposed to be, but I’m not going this year after all–just too much traveling.

However, I’m adding the introductions to the Chinese and Korean editions to the excerpt page so that readers in the rest of the world can read them. Also, you may have noticed that the cover to the Chinese edition now graces the front page of the AToF site. You can look at a giant version here if you like. Anyone who knows what my Chinese name translates to, let me know!

I’ve started seeing some press coverage in China as well.

Editions still to come: Japanese, Korean, and Italian. Once I know more about those, I will post about them as well.

Some press hits

 Posted by (Visited 5916 times)  Game talk, Writing
Jul 072005

A couple of press hits today.

First up, there’s this interview at NextGen which is mostly about the theory of fun and how it can be applied towards opening up new audiences for games.

The current games can be daunting to new players. “Look at what’s happened to the RTS market,” Koster says. “You have 300 buildables and 500 vehicles and your tech tree is enormous. To a novice, that’s just overwhelming. It’s like teaching a kindergartener to read with the Encyclopedia Britannica.

“New genres are exciting because that implies that they open new markets. It’s based on how games and brains work. Focusing only on the kinds of games that already exist really only caters to your existing base.”

Secondly, and less related to the book, is the streaming videocast of the IBM MMOG conference I took part in about a month ago. You’ll need to register for free here, and then go here to watch it. This talk is mostly about what I call “Moore’s Wall,” which is the notion that the advance of technology has in some ways been a barrier for us in game design, rather than an enabler, because of increasing costs. This has also been
Slashdotted and blogged about. It may seem less related, but taken in tandem with the above interview, might form a more coherent picture of some of the issues facing the industry today.

I can’t end this post without offering condolences to any Londoners who might be reading. 🙁

How do Amazon charts work anyway?

 Posted by (Visited 5245 times)  Game talk, Writing
Jul 062005

I’ll never understand the vagaries of Amazon sales. esterday and for the last few weeks, ATOF had been slowly slipping down the charts–the doldrums of summer, I thought, with no orders from universities for their classes, no press attention, and so on.

Today, it’s in the 3500’s on the charts, and the #12 bestseller in the computer and video games section.

I am told that Tim O’Reilly has a mystical formula that he can use to determine sales figures with exactitude based on Amazon sales rank data. From where I sit, it’s gotta be a heck of a formula, and probably involves eye of newt.