A Theory of Fun is now an eBook

 Posted by (Visited 11662 times)  Game talk, Writing  Tagged with:
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. 🙂

How UO rares were born

 Posted by (Visited 40983 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
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.

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Not an MMO anymore

 Posted by (Visited 23299 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
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.

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The Halloween Song: Dead Cheerleaders

 Posted by (Visited 8975 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

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Dan Cook on Triple Town

 Posted by (Visited 9042 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
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* 😉