Game talkWritingA Theory of Fun is now an eBook

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Nov 302010

Cover of ATOfIt’s been a while since I had big news to post about the book! But here it is: A Theory of Fun is on Kindle finally. I am told that it took a while to do the Kindle conversion because of all of the images. It is also available in a variety of other formats at the O’Reilly online store.

I have seen a few odd glitches here and there in the Kindle version, things like the press quotes and reviews, but the book seems to have come through nicely, albeit with a few less penguins (the chapter header ones are gone). The cartoons are more like small illustrations inset into the text.

Amazon has it on sale for $9.99, so it’s definitely the cheapest way to get the book. Plus, you can send Kindle books as gifts now (nudge nudge). I probably earn more money if you get it from O’Reilly though. 🙂

Game talkHow UO rares were born

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Nov 242010

A no-draw tile

Amaranthar in the comment thread on the last post referred to “rares” in Ultima Online as a feature. They weren’t really, though. They were a bug.

First, a definition of rares. These were simply items that were incredibly uncommon. Often they were near unique. They couldn’t be found via loot  — they were only spawned once, really, when the server came up. As a result, they were immediately collectible. Most of them had no use whatsoever — they were simply uniquely colored objects, like a red vase that a crafter couldn’t replicate, or an object that was outright not craftable at all. A few were obvious bugs, like “water tiles” — a literal patch of water that you could pick up and stuff in your backpack, which because of how the simulation layer behind UO worked, actually functioned as water. You could fish in it, or pull a jug of water for cooking from it.

Needless to say, collectibility alone was sufficient to drive these to have immense value in UO’s economy, which was largely player-driven. Rares began to show up on eBay going for substantial dollar amounts, sometimes in the hundreds.

Continue reading »

Game talkNot an MMO anymore

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Nov 122010

Dusty Monk has a thought experiment up where he describes an MMO of the future. Core bullet points:

  • a single-player or co-op multiplayer campaign you can play through that is heavily narrative
  • a matchmaking lobby where you can select between types of games to play with other players
  • games include group PvP matches or co-op matches against the AI
  • A UI screen where you purchase upgraded gear and character attributes for real money

As he describes the game, it of course sounds like an FPS game with matchmaking, and that is exactly his point.

He’s not really advocating the evolution of the MMO in this direction; he’s merely saying it is inevitable.

But I think that it is also important to note that this isn’t a virtual world at all.

Continue reading »

MusicThe Halloween Song: Dead Cheerleaders

 Posted by (Visited 8789 times)  Music  Tagged with:
Oct 312010

– “Dead Cheerleaders” (mp3 download)

See below for guitar chords! No offense meant to any present, former, living, or dead cheerleaders.

Cheerleaders came to the door selling cookies
They were raising money for crazy acrobatics
But I told them I could not support their evil cause
So many cheerleaders fall and break their necks

Continue reading »

Game talkDan Cook on Triple Town

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Oct 162010

I occasionally think that Dan Cook and I share some brain. Fortunately, the parts we don’t share are wonderful and varied, and it means that there are new games he makes that I would not have thought of.

In this case, it isn’t so much the new game as it is the essay about the game that I want to point you towards. He’s got a new piece up that sounds like mostly an ad: Triple Town released for the Amazon Kindle. But what it is actually about is puzzles, methods of game invention and constraints.

His three core points are ones that resonate with me, albeit presented with his usual awesome diagrams and sheer clarity (unlike my own verbal wanderings and big wordage).

  • Algorithmic designs are better than static puzzle designs. I made this point very shallowly back in 40 Ways to be a better Game Designer.
  • Rethinking core assumptions leads to new virgin territories to explore. In this case, he’s talking about re-examining the match-3 game from basic premises. Echoes of Bartle’s recent cry for “why?” here.
  • Give yourself constraints, prototype with physical objects if need be; the dressing — and indeed even the fancy tech you can bring to bear such as AI and advanced code — are crutches that allow you to avoid elegance. And elegance is the place where you are going to get the best play.

I suspect that these are difficult lessons for budding designers, based on watching people who are newer to the field struggle with them. I likewise think that most veterans take them for granted, jumping straight to ways to alter simple three-rule-three-variable game atoms into something new with little more to prototype with than a pencil and a couple of items from their desks.

But either way, they are common underpinnings. Something that everyone in the field confronts and then has to master. And periodically be reminded of, for that matter, because they are awfully easy to forget.

The beautiful thing about these common elements being so fundamental is that then everything that is built upon them can blossom in so many unexpected and fascinating directions.

Which is why despite Dan’s post being more of an essay than an ad, this post is more of an ad than an essay… Triple Town sounds fascinating, and I want to play it.

But I don’t own a Kindle. Dan, did you do any prototypes on other devices?  *shameless begging* 😉

Game talkThe Fundamentals of Game Design

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Oct 122010

I got a request via Twitter for this old essay which had fallen off the Internet, so I am posting it here. This was originally written for Metaplace users… there is nothing here new to anyone who has followed the blog for a while, but since it was requested, here it is. 🙂

* * *
The fundamentals of game design

Starting out creating an interactive experience, of any sort really, can be rather daunting. In this tutorial, we’ll run through the basic components of a game, so we can get a handle on what the next steps are when you make the jump from the training tutorials to your own projects.

Often people have trouble when conceptualizing a game. The idea, after all, is often the easy part. It’s actually making it, and figuring out where to start, that is the hard part.

A friendly warning, though! Just like writers have different ways of working, and some composers write music in their head and others at an instrument, different game designers are going to have different ways of working. Some work better “in the code” and others like doing everything on paper beforehand. Some think in terms of story and narrative, and others are systems designers first and foremost. So this tutorial may actually run a bit against the grain for you, depending on your natural temperament.

In what follows, I am going to use the language of games, but really, every piece of advice in this article applies equally if you are designing any sort of interactive project whatsoever. So just because I say “game” in what follows doesn’t mean this article won’t be useful to you when you start making a classroom experience or a chat room or some other application. Continue reading »

Oct 082010

The intent of this talk was to do a “powers of ten” sort of look at multiplayer mechanics… not really to describe anything new, but instead to try to take the whole big spectrum of what we think of as multiplayer game design, and do a cross-disciplinary look at it. I covered a bit of game theory, a bit of psychology, a bit of evolutionary biology, a touch of history, a heavy dose of sociology, a dash of social networking theory, and of course, game design stuff.

My hope was that when done, it would both serve as a good context for thinking about multiplayer games of several sorts, and also as just a plain old reference, something to point at when discussing things like what the impact of gifts and wall posts are in social games, or why some MMOs have longer retention cycles.

So here it is as a PDF, for your perusal. I tried to make the slides stand on their own as much as I could, but of course, the actual voiceover would make many slides more comprehensible. For that, look for the actual session recording to appear on the GDC Vault.

Long-time readers will notice that there are bits here that reference and repeat elements of much older presentations. I recommend following up this one with the math-heavy but extremely related presentation on social network theory Small Worlds: Competitive and Cooperative Structures in Online Worlds (PDF), if you have not seen it before… I gave it back in 2003, a year before Facebook launched. 🙂 It digs a lot deeper specifically into many of the characteristics of large scale-free networks in games.

Oct 082010

Messrs Bartle and Trubshaw’s astonishing contrivance.

[edit: Follow along with Richard’s slides available here (PDF)]

Thank you all for getting up early or not having gone to bed yet. Feel free to keep cellphones on so if they ring they can wake people up.

I am going to tell you things that i have never told others before about the origins of MUD.

I am here because i cowrote the first virtual world MUD. Almost all today’s MMORPGs descend directly from them, but that isn’t actually relevant. What mattered isn’t that we were first, but that we were unaware of any others. We would have gotten virtual worlds anyway, the important thing is that when we did it we didn’t have anything to base it on, which meant we had to establish some principles and guidelines, and form views on what we were making and why. Continue reading »

Oct 062010

A few sites covered the talk I gave on John Donham’s behalf here at GDC Online.

I do think Gamespot commenters interpret my little dig at SWTOR a bit too negatively — it wasn’t a dis but rather a gentle dig, considering that most of the team leaders there are good friends, and one of them was in the front row. 🙂

The slides are actually John’s to post, so I won’t do so here unless he tells me to, but Tami’s liveblog actuall captures the specific slides rather well.