Jun 232017
 

Five years ago, I was asked to put together a list of the best articles on the website. I did, and it’s been linked as “recommended posts” up on the menu under the Blog section for a few years now.

Just the other day, I was asked by Jordan Amaro (@JordanAMAR0) whether I was ever going to update it. Probably at some point, but in the meantime here’s a list of the ones I think are best from the last five years.

Looking over the list, the things that jump out at me are: a lot more posts about the game business and trends, about general topics like creativity, and about the intersection of the virtual with the real — the way tropes from online worlds are impinging upon our daily lives. I also note quite a lot of looking backward in these: game histories, postmortems, etc. Of course, this was also the period that encompassed the Great Formalism Wars of 2012, which seem overblown given hindsight. And lastly… despite my feeling I am hardly posting anything, this is a pretty nice list for five years!

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Game talkRecent videos & interviews

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Apr 102017
 

I tweeted about these, but neglected to mention them here on the blog, so here’s a roundup!

First up is my favorite, this video by Zoyander Street of Critical Distance, for First Person Scholar. He was in town and came by my house to talk games; we ended up in my loft, where I keep the boardgame collection and do boardgame design, talking about abstract games and their rich history. You can just barely see the arcade machine off to the left there; it’s got a huge chunk of videogaming history emulated on it.

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May 022016
 

ChDzrYSW4AE9pVn.jpg largeI just got back from a week in Helsinki, Finland. I was there to run some game design workshops at Next Games, and do a lecture for them as part of an event they were hosting.

The request was for a talk of a similar shape to the one I gave at GDC: looking back over the history of games over the last couple of decades, identifying some cycles and trends, and discussing the ways in which those cycles were carrying us back again towards familiar territory. In particular, a huge topic of discussion all week, with many separate people from many different companies, was the way in which mobile gaming is discovering that the games need to be more social, more like games as a service; and more and more they find they must draw lessons from MMOs.

This isn’t that dissimilar to what I have been saying about social VR, either, and of course mobile is going to collide with AR given enough technological advances and time. So that was the skeleton of the talk.

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Jun 112015
 

The FTC imposes a fine on a board game creator who failed to deliver their Kickstarter.

Developers publicly wring their hands about the reports of high refund rates on Steam.

Everyone looks to VR, but there’s already people asking whether it is a bubble.

What’s going on?

There are two business models: sell something in advance using promises, and persuade a lot of people who might not like a product a lot; or give the product cheaply and charge after the fact.

Here are some basic facts of life regarding these two models.

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Game talkOnline Game Pioneers at Work

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Jun 042015
 

If you are interested in online game history, you probably want to check out Online Game Pioneers at Work. Morgan Ramsay managed to corner a whole bunch of people who were key figures in online game development over the last several decades, and interviewed all of us at great length. It’s a follow-up to his earlier book Gamers at Work: Stories Behind the Games People Play.

Among the people in the book:

  • Emily Greer telling the story of Kongregate
  • Victor Kislyi explaining how World of Tanks came to be
  • The entire incredible story of Richard Garriott
  • John Romero and the birth of the online FPS
  • Jason Kapalka explaining how PopCap was built
  • Ian Bogost being, well, Ian

And way more… Funcom, Supercell, CCP, King, ng:moco… with a foreword by Dr Richard Bartle.

My own chapter starts clear back with MUDs, and goes up through departing Disney, including the business saga of Metaplace. The book has an emphasis on the business side of things, more so than the design side, so it often gets into telling the nitty-gritty stories of how companies get built and manage to stay alive.

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Game talkAn Industry Lifecycle

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Jun 022015
 

002A new platform on which to play games is invented. It might be a new graphics technology (Vector graphics! Color! 3d! VR!). It might be a technical advancement of a different sort (Modems! Servers! Streaming! D-pads! Small screens! Big screens! Touch screens!). It might just be a new marketing channel (Games in bars! Games at home! Games in restaurants! Games in stadiums!).

Its distinguishing characteristic is that it is worse at the old sorts of games than the existing platforms, but better at something new.

It’s still cheap to make something for it, usually, and it’s risky. Big companies stay away, or they try porting over something that has worked before. It doesn’t do great because it’s a mismatch for the new capabilities — and restrictions — of the new platform.

Small companies make something that fits the new platform well. Maybe it has the right controls, because the new platform offers something new. Maybe it has the right interface, or the right play session length, because of the new platform demands on the player.

It’s almost inevitably something new in mechanics, with fresh game system design in some fashion. It has to be, you see, to take advantage of what the new platform offers.

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Apr 272015
 

 

This is the last post on SWG for, well, a while. I am sure there are plenty of other things to say and more questions that could be answered, but… it feels like a natural stopping point. I must say, the response to these essays has astonished me. Here’s hoping you’ll all care as deeply about the next game I make…

Why now?

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I’ve gotten a lot of questions as to why I am writing this series of posts about Star Wars Galaxies now. Do I have something to sell?

No, I don’t have anything to sell. This past week was the fifteenth anniversary of that small SWG team first forming in Austin, refugees from Origin. We were a bit over a half dozen. It’s also ten years since the NGE, and in the last few years, we have seen a lot of changes for a lot of parties involved. I was asked some questions by a former player, and for once, it just felt like the time to answer them.

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So, was it a failure?

Well yes, of course. And also, no. It depends how you ask the question. There are a lot of assumptions out there about how the game did, particularly in its original form. So, let’s start by tackling some of those:

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Nov 242014
 

At GDCnext I moderated a panel with Zach Gage, Rami Ismail, and Adam Saltsman on indie marketing. It was a fun session, made more so by the fact that they all walked into the room with one minute to spare before the session started (I was about to start pulling dev’s from the audience into the stage!).

It all worked out though, and now video is posted on the GDCVault! Enjoy!

Game talkGamasutra on the indie economics talk

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Oct 132014
 

Yesterday Greg Costikyan and I did an on-stage conversation at Indiecade about the economics of the indie market. It was pretty wide-ranging, with discussions of Rochdale cooperatives, performing rights organizations, designing games that can be hobbies rather than disposable content, and more.

As you might expect, there was no easy answer. Otherwise all the usual suggested tactics would have worked better for Costikyan, who deadpanned right away: “I have founded two failed companies. Follow my advice and you too can fail.” Koster, who despite having sold a successful company, noted “You can be successful business-wise, and still not achieve what you want in games.”

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Sep 242014
 

indiecade largeGreg Costikyan and I will be doing an on-stage conversation at Indiecade on the subject of the economics of the indie market. This is driven by the various discussions we started having around GDC time in the spring, including his rant at GDC, and my follow-on article on the directions game industry finances are likely to take, which was also reprinted at Gamasutra and had a great discussion thread over there.

Plenty has changed already — as if the power of YouTube as marketing channel weren’t already very evident, we also have the new Steam curation system coming into play. And the fact that the practice of paying for YouTuber videos is alive and well, with costs from $500 on up for a review, is sure to come up. I note that there are not one, not two, but three sessions on indie game economics at Indiecade, so this is clearly all on people’s minds.

It’ll be on Sunday the 12th at 1:30 in the Ivy Theater. Hope to see you there!