Game talkGame Developers Choice Online Awards noms open!

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Jun 022011

Step one: be a professional game developer and member.

Step two: think long and hard about the best online game experiences you have seen since last June.

Step three: visit the Game Developers Choice Online Awards website and nominate them!

The categories include best online innovation, for pushing boundaries in how we play; best online visual arts; best online tech; best online game design; best online audio; best social network game; best live game; best community relations; best new online game; online games legend (for an individual’s career); and Hall of Fame, which Ultima Online got last year, for a game that, well, changed the game.

Go, submit!

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.

Game talkThoughts on Cow Clicker

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Oct 062010

Earlier today, after watching Ian Bogost’s GDCO talk about Cow Clicker, I tweeted “I don’t think Ian learned the right things from Cow Clicker.” I got a lot of questions about that, so here goes:

Let me start with the fact that Ian is a friend, and we have had plenty of volatile and engaging debates on any number of game-related subjects. Let that fact color everything I proceed to say.

So  I mentioned to him after his talk that he made an artifact that was a subtle and complex critique of a genre, using the genre itself, and got it to 50,000 people plus a bunch of press, who engaged with it on its own terms, and built upon it in creative directions as well as using it as a springboard for their own debate and commentary, even if only via ironic play of the same.

Ian reads this as a failure to some large degree, whereas to me, failure would have been if no one cared.

I read it as tremendous success, and also as validation of the notion that the limitations we see in the games today are not inherent to the social game paradigm (since his game managed to subvert and extend those paradigms through sheer intent). His game is proof positive, to my mind, that the games are not only cow clicking!

I say this even as I agree with elements of his critique. But I think he doesn’t give himself enough credit here. But Ian is a “glass half empty” kind of guy by his own admission, and the project did start out as satire…

I also think that there is a danger in saying, as he did, that he is concerned that people actually play Cow Clicker for entertainment. It is a mistake for a creator, IMHO, to believe that they “own” the “proper” uses/interpretations of their creation once it leaves their hands, and it has a whiff of worrisome elitism. This may perhaps be implicit in its origins as a satire. When I mentioned this point to him, he agreed, but said “But I don’t need to like it.” And that is also equally true.

The talk also had a bunch of stuff in it about audience, and I think that one of the elements there that set me off on that front was the notion that say, the creators of The Suite Life on Disney Channel don’t feel proud of what they do, and I think that is also a pretty dangerous avenue to go down.

That said — All props to Ian for seriously engaging with the topic enough to go as far as he did — it shows a level of intellectual honesty and rigor that few would venture to. I was one of those who said to him “you really should make one of these or seriously engage with them before you level this magnitude of accusation against them” and he took me up on it in spades. So my comment is in no way an attack on him, but rather a continuation of the debate. 🙂 In many ways, what he did was a brave act of game design. Most are content to carp from the sidelines. I just wish he gave his resulting work, and his audience, a bit more credit. 🙂

Game talkGDC Online track keynote

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Aug 312010

Gamasutra has an article up about more GDC Online talks, and mentions in there that I am giving the design track keynote.

Classic Social Mechanics: The Engines Behind Everything Multiplayer Speaker/s: Raph Koster (Playdom)
Day / Time / Location: TBD
Track / Summit: Design
Description: Games have been multiplayer throughout history and have always been fundamentally social. Today were seeing an explosion in games driven by new ways of interacting with people online. Many lessons are available to us from both anthropology and the history of games that demonstrate that sometimes, social mechanics are just old wine in new bottles. In this lecture well cut through the terminology and look at the underlying mechanics and principles that drive sociable gameplay in everything from Facebook games to sports.

I’m looking forward to this one. 🙂 Different but similar to the math one from last year, I hope. It’s been (gasp) seven years since I did my talk on social networking theory, and a lot has evolved since then.

I should also mention that John Donham, who I’ve been working with for years now at Metaplace and now Playdom, is giving a talk on moving from AAA game development to social games — a sort of “top ten bad assumptions” overview, that is looking really good (I get to peek over his shoulder as he preps…)

Early reg discounts end tomorrow! So go sign up for 40% off if you haven’t already!

Game talkGame Developers Choice Online Awards

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May 272010

GDC Online is getting its own awards, specific to online games! This builds on the Game Developers Choice Awards that have been given for the last ten years at the main GDC.

The award ceremony will honor the accomplishments of the sometimes overlooked creators and operators of online video games – from large-scale MMOs through free-to-play titles to social network games. Awards span excellence in live services, technology, game updates, online game design, and more.

via Game Developers Choice Online Awards official site

Game development professionals with a account can submit nominations in a bunch of categories. A big thing in the awards is that they recognize live operations as well as launches, so the categories include:

  • Best Online Game Design Award
  • Audience Award
  • Best Online Visual Arts Award
  • Best Community Relations Award
  • Best Online Technical Award
  • Best Social Network Game Award
  • Best Audio for an Online Game Award
  • Best New Online Game Award
  • Best Live Game Award

There are also a couple of special awards: an Online Game Legend award recognizing an individual and their career; and a Hall of Fame Award for a game.

Game talkGDC Online reg open!

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May 262010

Time to go register! This is the same conference as GDC Austin, just renamed to “Online” and now covering all sorts of online games including social games and MMOs.

Ticket prices are at a 40% early registration discount until September 1st, with a 55% alumni discount for those who attended last year. Five different pass options and prices are available on the GDC site.

via Austin’s GDC opens 2010 registration under new name – Massively.

Game talkGDCA: Schubert on The Loner

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Sep 232009

Gamespot has a writeup, and Damion has posted his slides. I missed the talk, but it sounds like it was a good one!

“The irony of being alone in an MMO is inescapable. Being a loner is OK, but feeling lonely is not.”–Schubert, on why even solo players care about a well-populated world.

via Old Republic dev discusses massively multiplayer loners – News at GameSpot.

Slides are here (in PPTX format).