Game talkMiscOnline Game Legend

 Posted by (Visited 8553 times)  Game talk, Misc  Tagged with: , , ,
Aug 302012

Today the press release went out announcing that I was selected to receive the Online Game Legend Award at the GDC Online Choice Awards. This award is voted on by fellow developers, and it’s basically a lifetime achievement award.

The Online Game Legend Award recognizes the career and achievements of one particular creator who has made an indelible impact on the craft of online game development.

This rather leaves one thinking, “Well, now what?”

(Warning: introspection ahead…)

Continue reading »

Game talkGDCOnline reg is open

 Posted by (Visited 8914 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , , ,
Jun 142012


Game Developers Conference Online 10.09.12 – 10.11.12 | Austin, TX.

This will be the tenth anniversary of what was once known as just the “Austin Game Conference.” It has always been focused on online, from the first day, back when getting together enough people to talk about online games for multiple days was a challenge.

Now online is where it’s at — just as we were saying all those years ago. It’s shaping up to be a a great set of sessions (disclaimer: I am on the advisory board, so I am biased!).

Trivia: this means it will also be the tenth anniversary of “A Theory of Fun” — the original talk was a keynote at the very first conference.

Game talkSpeaking at GDCOnline 2011

 Posted by (Visited 5514 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , , , ,
Sep 202011

I’ll be doing two sessions at GDC Online this year. The first and smaller one, is a panel in the Game Career Seminar:

Breaking into the Game Biz – Ask the Pros!

Day / Time / Location: Wednesday 4:30- 5:30 Ballroom B
Track / Duration / Format: Game Career Seminar / 60-Minute / Panel

Description: This panel asks what it takes to break into the game companies, gathering advice from the people who actually decide whether you’re coming on-board: the creatives & hiring managers. We’ve chosen luminaries from different studios and company types to answer all your questions!

Eligible Passes:  All Access PassGame Career Seminar Pass

The second one is the meatier one, a session in the Customer Experience track, wherein I shall attempt to show just how much of social media practice comes out of games, and if not, where it came from; and then, extrapolate out to the problems social media should be running into any day now; and wonder whether games ever will retake the lead in connecting people online; and what that all means to you, the developer, if you now are running a single-player game inside an MMO-like construct called an achievements system inside a virtual worldish thing called a social network owned by someone else.

It’s All Games Now! How Games and Social Media are Converging

Speaker/s: Raph Koster (Playdom)
Day / Time / Location: Thursday 1:30- 2:30 Room 6
Track / Duration / Format: Customer Experience / 60-Minute / Lecture

Description:These days, social media is looking an awful lot like games — and we don’t mean in the gamification sense! Rather, lessons drawn from online games have driven much of the development of the social media platforms we use today, from Twitter acting like real-time chat, to “avatars” that are public profiles on social networks. The cross-pollination between Internet communication systems and games has always been there, but now we’re at the point where we are putting games inside of, well, what looks a lot like games! What does ths mean for our customer experience? In this talk we’ll look at the parts of customer experience that are under your control as a developer — and the parts that are not. We’ll talk about best practices that don’t work in the new environment. We’ll examine the trends that are pointing the way forward, and talk about the problems and pitfalls that games anticipated that Web 2.0 might need to fix in version 3. And finally, we’ll see if we can peer into the crystal ball a little bit, and see if we can predict the future of connected gaming experiences.


  • A bit of a history lesson: where have we come from, in terms of community experiences?
  • A large chunk of science: learn about the underlying structures behind community features: synchronous and asynchronous interactions, communications, profiles, etc
  • A dollop of business: a frank evaluation of how our connected experience platforms work (and don’t work) today
  • A dash of futurism: where do we see connected experiences going? What is the future of community management, forums, blogs, and games-as-a-service?

Eligible Passes:All Access PassMain Conference Pass

Should be fun! Guess I better start thinking about writing slides for it…

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

 Posted by (Visited 7393 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , , , , ,
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 submission deadline soon!

 Posted by (Visited 14847 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , , ,
May 122010

GDC Online, formerly GDC Austin, is coming up on the deadline for submissions. Send in your proposals by May 19th!

The deadline to submit to GDC Online (formerly known as GDC Austin) is approaching!
Send in your proposal by May 19th. Full details here:

The conference is still online-focused, and this year will encompass social gaming and other forms of online games as well as its usual deep focus on MMOs.

The Game Developers Conference Online focuses on development of connected games including social network titles, free-to-play web games, kid-friendly online titles, large-scale MMOs, and beyond.  Conference tracks focus on business and marketing, design, production, programming and how to achieve success going live.

I am really looking forward to it this year. There’s a new track on Live, which includes community relations, Live management, metrics and A/B testing, and that sort of thing. And there’s a stack of cool summits too: iPhone, iPad, the long-running Game Writers Summit renamed as Game Narrative and broadening in scope, and even a 3d stereoscopic summit.

Game talkRandom GDCA notes

 Posted by (Visited 3848 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Sep 162009

I got to my hotel and there was a cowboy boot made of chocolate, with bonbons inside, waiting on the table. Ah, Austin.

The speaker’s gift is an ice cube tray that makes Space Invaders.

Have not yet had Rudy’s. This is a crime.

Told a lot of UO stories! Sort of weird how much it came up today.

A few folks from Korea asked for my autograph. They say everyone there still reads A Theory of Fun. Hurray!

Learned that lots of scripts I wrote for UO are still used in their original form.

Watched a bunch of famous game designers whose names I shall not drop play Family Business. They affected terrible Joisey and Brooklyn accents as they played.

Was able to answer John Romero’s trivia questions about old Epyx games. Was able to stump him on the name of the third Apshai game. I told him I didn’t tweet that fact. I didn’t promise not to blog it!

Here’s one for the Twitter followers of #designshoefetish or whatever the tag is: a pic of me and Brenda Brathwaite.

My talk is not until Friday,and I still have slides to prep. But it is almost 1am here… sigh.