Raph Koster

Raph Koster is a multi-award winning game designer, virtual communities expert, writer and speaker. Check out his full bio to learn more.

Favorite game designs from 2017

 Posted by (Visited 71 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Feb 102018

I already posted about my favorite game of last year — What Remains of Edith Finch — but I liked a lot of other games last year too, so here are some recommendations and why I liked them.

I play well over a hundred games a year, for varying lengths of time, usually mostly right at the end of the year when I have time off and can devote it to sitting in front of a screen and playing for eight hours a day. Even the games I really enjoy, I often never get to go back to. My completion rate is terrible. Though this year, I did finish Gorogoa, Edith Finch, and Old Man’s Journey, mostly because they are short. So bear in mind that for me, “favorite” usually means “intrigued me from a design perspective” and not necessarily “had the most fun playing.” Think of this list as “games designers should play,” in my opinion.

These are just in alphabetical order, by the way, not ranked in any way. Continue reading »

Feb 062018

I was chatting on Twitter with someone about narrative games, and What Remains of Edith Finch came up. It was my favorite game of last year, and I had written this little bit on it for a forum discussion elsewhere… but never posted it here. So here it is, slightly expanded.

I’ll try to do this without spoilers. TLDR: Basically, an amazing gamut of emotional stuff gets evoked by linking mini-games (mostly about control, which is crucial to the underlying themes of the story) to the stories really tightly.

Long form:

Edith Finch is a major structural evolution of what people have termed “walking simulators,” first person narrative storytelling, a hybridization of filmic story with narrative drips from static object interactions. Continue reading »

Feb 022018

Today, at the kind invitation of Joe Osborn, I gave a talk for one of the workshops at AAAI-18, one on Knowledge Extraction from Games. I was pretty intimidated about talking at all; any time I stand up in front of people who really know algorithms, systems, or math, I feel like an utter dilettante who is bound to say foolish things. I had been noodling around with some notes around the broad topics of depth and indeterminacy, centered around the idea of games as ternary output machines, so I sent them to him, and he talked me into getting in front of an audience with them.

Along the way, I stumbled into formalizing many of the “game grammar” ideas into an actual Backus-Naur Form grammar. This is something that was mentioned to me casually on Facebook, and which I was aware of from long ago classes on programming, in the context of parsers… but which I hadn’t ever seriously considered as an approach to the more humanities-driven process i was going through with game grammar work. Grammar was just a metaphor! Continue reading »

The cost of games

 Posted by (Visited 1496 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
Jan 172018

Yesterday I was in Anaheim giving a talk called “Industry Lifecycles.” It was intended to be a brief summary of the blog post of the same title, with a dash of material from my recent post on game economics.

Now, that latter post resonated quite a lot. There was lengthy discussion on more Internet forums than I can count, but it came accompanied by skepticism regarding the data and conclusions. If you recall, the post was originally replies to various comment threads on different sites, glued together into a sort of Q&A format. It wasn’t based on solid research.

As many pointed out, getting hard data on game costs is difficult. When I did my talk “Moore’s Wall” in 2005, I did some basic research using mostly publicly available data on costs, and extrapolated out an exponential curve for game costs, and warned that the trendlines looked somewhat inescapable to me. But much has changed, not least of which is the advent of at least two whole new business models in the intervening time.

So the Casual Connect talk ended up being an updated Moore’s Wall. Using industry contacts and a bunch of web research, I assembled a data set of over 250 games covering the last several decades. This post is going to show you what I found, and in rather more detail than the talk since the talk was only 25 minutes. (You can follow this link to see the full slides, but this post is really a deeper dive on the same data.)

Continue reading »

2017 Year in Review

 Posted by (Visited 141 times)  Misc, Open thread
Dec 312017

As usual, I’ve promised to post more on here, and as usual, what used to become

Tiny Castle

blog-length posts instead become a bunch of individual and usually shallow Tweets instead. Twitter, what hast thou wrought?

But here’s a little bit of contemplation of the year anyway.

Almost everything I have worked on this year has been other people’s projects that I cannot tell you about. Which has been a bit concerning to me, honestly — it’s been quite a while since something of my own went out there for people to play. That’s something I plan to fix in the new year. Doing consulting, in particular, has taken up a lot of the creative bandwidth and space to think and work on things.

Board games

A lot of my project time has gone towards tabletop games. This year I only worked on four and finished one, which is a slowing pace for me. Over the last few years I have been making new abstract strategy games at a pretty steady clip. The new one that is actually reasonably finished this year is currently nicknamed Tiny Castle. It was originally a “tiny game” using only 16 tokens, but I took it in a bit of a sculptural direction; two players build a castle together, trying to satisfy one of several victory conditions. It’s a small game, with a decent sized possibility space, and it’s very bite-sized. I got to show it to Tim Fowers and he suggested skinning it with the Town Musicians of Bremens. I kind of like the castle though, as I suspect four stacks of animals may not really look as appealing as it seems on first blush. Continue reading »