Game talkDynamic POIs

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Apr 302010

Way back in Pre-CU [Star Wars Galaxies] while ‘walking’ from Eisley to AnchorHead a Twi’lek (I think) stated my avatar by name (could be wrong) and gave me a disk then some stormies spawned and killed her then came after me.

Anyone ever finish this quest? What was it like?

This was a rather complex quest. Does anyone know how this was coded? Why would my avatar be chosen over others?

Daylen, posting over at

The Twi’lek slave girl quest was part of what we called “dynamic POI’s.”

A normal POI is a “point of interest” — something to break up generic wilderness. it was a term we used back in the UO days that we got from Richard Garriott, and was probably older still. POI’s are normally placed by hand, of course; you sculpt a location for them, add a little bit of something unique or flavorful, maybe some interaction, and there you go. They can be as small as a little faerie mushroom ring, or as large as a bandit camp or something. In other words, they are the static content of a world… usually not the main quest lines, but just “interesting stuff.”

Of course, adding these in by hand is excruciatingly slow and requires an army of developers. That’s the cost of content. In a game as large as SWG, we had a real issue here. At one point, there was a large roomful of junior developers who did nothing but put down little interesting locations on the maps… and it was nowhere near enough, particularly since they had no interactivity with them.

Part of the solution that we wanted to try, then was dynamic POIs.

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Game talkCub Scouts gaming belt loop & pin

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Apr 282010

Yup, and the jokes about Couch Scouts are already flying on some news sites.

There is something oddly appropriate about this, though, given how much games have been inspired by the “achievements system” that Scouts have used for a century.

The requirements have a lot more to do with education than anything else, though. Only one of the five requirements for the academics pin involves actually playing. The others have to do with things like comparison shopping, hardware setup, evaluating the game rating system, and teaching people. The actual descriptions:

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Game talkGame censorship going to Supreme Court

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Apr 262010

California’s law prohibiting sales of violent video games to minors is going before the U.S. Supreme Court. This law was previously struck down by the appeals court on the grounds that the state didn’t produce enough evidence that games cause physical or psychological harm.

The same sort of law has been struck down in eight states based on free speech concerns from the courts. Were such a law to be upheld, videogames would be the only medium treated in this fashion — other censorship laws are based on sexual content, not violence.

Edit: SCOTUSBlog has more detail.

Game talkFacebook rebrands the Internet

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Apr 232010

You may have noticed that each post here now has a Facebook “like” button on it. This is part of Facebook’s latest set of “social plug-ins” that were announced at F8. Rather than re-hash what they have done, though, I want to tell you what it means.

Step one: Facebook is going to make the whole Internet a community space. Everywhere you go, you will see what your friends liked on sites. You will know what movies they watched, what CNN articles they read, what YouTube videos they thought were funny. You will see their streams and comments annotating the Internet everywhere you go. And they will be able to reach out and chat to you on the chat bar at the bottom of your browser.

Step two: Facebook is going to be your identity card for the Internet. Facebook has always aimed at being the only login you will need. With this, they have made a strong play to have you just always be logged into Facebook, everywhere on the internet. All the top sites you use will simply expect you to be logged in, and over time we will see that functionality on the site will start to require this identity information. And soon after that, you will have to be on Facebook even if you don’t want to be.

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Game talkGames for Health 2010

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Apr 152010

The Games for Health conference has announced its keynotes!

Day 1: Wednesday May 26
THE MIND-BODY EXPERIENCE OF SONY MOVE: Relationships between Gaming, Play, Exercise, and More!
Dr. Richard Marks
Senior Researcher Sony US R&D group

Dr. Marks also known as the “father of the EyeToy” will discuss the relationship between gaming, play and exercise, referencing his work in the development of Sony’s new motion controller system, PlayStation Move, as well as his previous work with Sony’s EyeToy, PlayStation Eye and other interfaces.

Day 2: Thursday May 27
Chaim Gingold
Chaim Gingold, a longtime independent game developer and original designer of Spore’s creature creator will discuss how existing game genres map onto the human brain and body and how design decisions affect who will be attracted to the game and how they will play.

You can register here; and here is the nearly full schedule.

There are a couple of events happening the day before too, a Mobile Serious Games event and a Games Accessibility Day.

Game talkCollateral damage: Apple yanks Scratch

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Apr 152010

MIT’s Scratch is a tool developed at the MIT Media Lab to allow young people to learn the basics of computing and programming.

That means it’s also a development environment wherein you can run interpreted code.

Which means that it can’t be on the iPad or the iPod Touch or iPhone. So Apple has yanked it from the App Store.

As the Computing Education blog points out, these restrictions are ending up by saying that you literally cannot create procedural content on these devices.

Discussion on the Scratch forums suggests that it’s because Apple wants to focus on consuming media using these devices, not producing media.  Want to be truly computing literate, where you write as well as read?  There’s no app for that.

“Apple removes Scratch from iPad/iPhone/iTouch”

Apr 132010

Spotted this via an article at CNet; the Korea Herald reports on new measures instituted by the government there for underage gamers. The measures are aimed at fighting game addiction.

According to the ministry, underaged users will be forced out of gaming sessions when online access automatically shuts down as soon as the clock strikes midnight.

The policy also includes a “slowdown” system in which internet connection speeds will be stifled dramatically if underaged users are logged on for a lengthy period of time.

“Midnight ban imposed on online games”, Korea Herald

The rules are going to apply to 19 games accounting for 79% of the Korean online game market. But interestingly, Lineage is excluded, though Maple Story isn’t… apparently the issue of which games are on the list is the source of some controversy.

Game talkGame dev books for 10 year olds?

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Apr 122010

Got this question via Twitter from @eugaet, and realized that I was drawing a blank!

@raphkoster I’m sure you’re busy, but was hoping you could give me some book recommendations. My 10yo son is interested in making games.

@raphkoster Obviously, your Theory of Fun book is on my list. 🙂

Actually, you should vet the book first — because it does include the phrase “blowjob from a hooker” — used in discussing Grand Theft Auto.

When I was ten, I was learning about computers with Creative Computing. I was typing in listings, hacking in MS-BASIC and CP/M, that sort of thing. Books like the Atari computer-based ANTIC ones were something I could dig my teeth into. These days, of course, your computer may not have a programming language on it, and the barrier is higher.

I haven’t had any luck getting my kids to get into programming yet — despite my son’s expressed interest in making games, and the fact that he merrily messes about with ROM hacks and emulators.

So I am unsure what to recommend, particularly in that age bracket. Readers, what say you?

Game talkThe flip side: Apple vs Flash

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Apr 082010

I actually knew about this while writing the other post, but it hadn’t seemed to break publicly on the Net yet. Well, now it has. There’s language in the new SDK agreement for iPhone OS 4.0 that appears to ban using any development environment or toolchain that Apple doesn’t like. Most especially, it seems aimed at preventing Adobe from marketing the flagship feature in CS5: compiling for iPhone standalone apps.

3.3.1 — Applications may only use Documented APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any private APIs. Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs (e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited).

CS5 launches on Monday, by the way, so this is a huge blow to Adobe.

There is already plenty of speculation as to whether this catches stuff like Unity, MonoTouch, Appcelerator (they had a blog post up about it, but it’s gone now!), and who knows what else. Basically, all cross-compilation tools, which is a large amount of the middleware out there.

This is the dark side of the last post I wrote. Epically closed means, well, epically closed. And in this case, it means creating barriers to content creation that effectively mean it costs more dollars to engage in the market. That’s what happens when you have closed-off production-and-distribution chains: smaller developers lose out.

Game talkNintendo vs Apple and social gaming

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Apr 082010

Reggie Fils-Aime of Nintendo thinks that Apple isn’t a viable profit platform for games. The picture for game developers on iPhone certainly isn’t all rosy — the App Store has effectively recreated all the bad elements of retail, without the profit margins.

On the other hand, there are literally 50,000 games and entertainment apps for the iPhone and iPad. Fifty. Thousand. Number for the DS? More like 2500.

And now, Apple’s taking a big big hint from the networked, connected world, and introducing a gaming social network to the iPhone OS.

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