Jan 272014
 

Slide1Periodically I have gotten requests for either audio or video of the talk I gave at Living Game Worlds IV back in 2008. I have the slides, but they aren’t even posted up here, and honestly, without the actual talk, they don’t make much sense.

My talk was complex. I just watched it, and honestly did not remember it all; how it came together linking railroad yards, the first major copyright case, Kenyan mobile phone companies, Wagnerian opera, text muds, shipping containers, molecular biology, microtransactions, and of course, the future of games. But yeah, it hit on all that and more.

Videos from LGW IV (mine is “evening keynote”).

It still feels rather relevant today, even if my ending on Metaplace doesn’t. In many ways, what I was talking about has come true via indie games, Unity, Twine, Gamemaker, and countless other “banjos.” In fact, I am particularly hopeful that it will be watched by those who see me as a ludological fundamentalist or representative of “the old guard” or whatever, as there is a moment in there where I jeer at Game Informer magazine for the ludicrous term “impostor games” they used for games that were not challenge-based. FWIW, I also bluntly call MMOs colonialist and racist at one point.

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Jan 162014
 

floatingeyeballkiddear Mr.Koster,

I’m a design student studying at __________, of ____. I’ve read a lot of your blog entries and they’ve helped me a lot through my design project especially your article on “good design, bad design and great design.

I would just like to ask you as a designer, what is a bad design decision? What are the points we often forget to incorporate in our designs .

Thanking you in advance,

R___ J_____

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Game talkGamemakingA vision exercise

 Posted by (Visited 4868 times)  Game talk, Gamemaking  Tagged with:
Jan 152014
 
…the real work is the film, and the tasks that go into the completed film are all parts of the process. To put it bluntly, as long as the film is made, it doesn’t matter what method was used…
– Hayao Miyazaki

A lot of times, we don’t quite know what the game we are actually making is. It doesn’t matter whether we’re working by ourselves or with a team… the problem can still arise. Maybe we have a collection of features we think we want. Or we have requirements from managers or money people. We perhaps have an IP license in the mix. We have a target market. We have a deep burning desire to express something, something personal or something aesthetic or something lofty.

For me, formalizing tools like this is like tying string around a finger. It’s to help me remember.

A lot of time is often lost to working madly on pieces of all this, without knowing what the core points of what we are making actually are. If you have all the time in the world, this can be just fine — after a while, you start cutting back things you put in originally, as the heart of what you are making becomes clearer.

In my experience, teams that can articulate the soul of the game are more likely to be successful than those who aren’t; and teams that have not yet jelled or that are new to gamemaking are the ones least likely to know their game’s soul.

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MusicThe Sunday Song: The Ballad of Chris and Chris

 Posted by (Visited 3531 times)  Music  Tagged with:
Jan 122014
 

I first got the storyline of this song stuck in my head maybe eight yearimages ago. But I didn’t have music for it, and that meant I also couldn’t write it down fitting a melody.

I finally shaped it into a lyric right around the end of 2012, when the guitar part came to me in a noodling session. It was thanks to a chord progression that is somewhat unusual for me (I rarely go from the I to the V, I find), though set in my go-to key of D. I pulled out the bass line that made the progression work, and doubled it on the mandolin, and shaped the melody around it. Add a dash of strings, and recorded a vocal (if I recall, I had a cold at the time… but ended up liking the tentative quality it gave) and here it is. I figured, it’s been a year, I should let it out into the world.

download mp3

Lyrics, chords, and similar details after the break. Continue reading »

Game talkReadingGuardian picks Six Gaming Books

 Posted by (Visited 4476 times)  Game talk, Reading  Tagged with: ,
Jan 122014
 

At #2:

Penned by veteran games designer Raph Koster, A Theory of Fun was written 10 years ago, a long time considering the rapid pace of advance for its subject matter. And yet the book remains a key games design text that is still in print and highly relevant. While it was conceived to help games designers, it will be fascinating and informative for anybody involved in any field of design, or those curious about, well, harnessing the power of fun …

— Six of the best gaming books | Life and style | The Observer

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Game talkHow I analyze a game

 Posted by (Visited 12994 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
Jan 062014
 

The first thing I do is set aside my experience. It is only mildly useful, a single data point, when everyone’s experience is subjective. Oh, I’d like to think it is in some ways more valuable than that of a typical player. After all, I have a very specific set of experiences to bring to bear. But in practice, it probably makes my subjective experience well-informed, but therefore less than helpful.

Looking at the experience is like seeing the top of a mountain without knowing about tectonic plates.

Looking at the experience is like seeing the top of a mountain without knowing about tectonic plates. I use that analogy because the typical analogy is that of seeing only the tip of an iceberg. But an iceberg is substantially similar above and below the ground. Sure, there is a lot hidden under the waterline, but it’s not different in nature. When we look around the world, Continental-continental_convergence_Fig21contcontwhat we see, what we experience, is powerfully shaped by things that we do not see. Without understanding fault lines, volcanic activity, and all the rest, we won’t come to understand why a chain of mountains is where it is, and why it takes one form versus another.

That’s why I start with the stuff “under” the experience. Mechanics, inputs and processes, rules and tokens and actions. I strip away the surface until Gone Home is a game about flipping over cards on a desk to see what is underneath them. Papers, Please is a Spot-The-Difference game. The Stanley Parable is a choose-your-own-adventure where some of the options are written in invisible ink. Continue reading »

Game talkSelf-promotion for game developers

 Posted by (Visited 7632 times)  Game talk
Jan 022014
 

I’m writing this for Mattie Brice, who was just listed as one of Polygon’s 50 game newsmakers of the year.

Sometimes the universe does drop your dreams and heartfelt desires in your lap. But usually you have to at least say please, and most of the time you have to fight for them.

We had a brief Twitter exchange after I offered congratulations, in which she mentioned that she didn’t know she could put this on a CV, and that she “know[s] nothing of self-promotion.” I have certainly never been accused of that, so this is a rehash of stuff I have written elsewhere and elsewhen.

To be clear, this post is not about marketing your games. It is about marketing yourself, and not even that, but about finding your professional place within the industry.

Why self-promote?

The fact is that the world is a) crowded and full of distractions b) competitive and full of other people who do what you do. Getting noticed is hard. Staying noticed is also hard. You can be utterly amazing and people can simply not know. You can be utterly amazing and people can simply forget. The result, simply put, is that without self-promotion you won’t get to do all the things you want to do. Yes, sometimes the universe does drop your dreams and heartfelt desires in your lap. But usually you have to at least say please, and most of the time you have to fight for them. Continue reading »