Jun 162011

GDC Vault – Social Mechanics for Social Games [SOGS Design] is a link that takes you to the GDC Vault where you can watch a full video of the presentation, with the slides side by side, for free.

Of course, you didn’t need that, right? Because you already paid to get access to the utterly awesome GDC Vault. 🙂

There are a couple more free talks released today as well, including the AI rant and an inside look at the Humble Indie Bundle. You can check out all the free talks here.



Game talkPress from Social Mechanics talk

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Feb 282011

Funny how all the commentary has moved to Twitter and is no longer found on blogs these days! 🙂  But here’s a few anyway [Edit: I keep adding them as I find them..]:




Feb 252011

I am doing a revised, streamlined version of my Austin GDC talk on Social Mechanics, this time sprinkled through with more references specifically to social games. It’ll be at the Social and Online Gaming Summit, Monday at 3pm.  Here is the event listing:

Social Mechanics for Social Games [SOGS Design]Speaker/s: Raph Koster (Playdom)
Day / Time / Location: Monday 3:00- 4:00 Room 134, North Hall
Track / Format: Social & Online Games Summit / Lecture
Description: Many have accused social games of not really being social. But they are underpinned by many classic social mechanics that drive interaction and community-building. Some of these have been proven to work in other genres such as MMOs and are beginning to filter into the social games market; others are easily visible and quite familiar in real life, but have yet to be seen in the design of social games. In this talk we will draw from both proven game design and from anthropology and sociology and explore the social potential of social games.
Takeaway: Learn about core human psychology driving social games, and walk away with a clear list of game mechanics that encourage social structures and human relationships, thereby driving retention.
Eligible Passes:Summits and Tutorials Pass, All Access Pass

I will endeavor not to take an hour and 15 minutes this time. 🙂

Jan 252011

This afternoon I was on a panel on mergers and acquisitions in the social games market alongside a bunch of great folks. It was the last session of the day, and they asked me to go “all designery” so I did. 🙂

You can find a liveblog here:

ISA 2011: Live-Blogging the Mergers and Acquisitions Landscape for Small and Mid-Size Developers.

And a news article here:

ISA 2011: Small Developers Don’t Need to Sell Out Yet

You can also get the highlights of the entire conference by simply reading the search results for the #isa2011 hashtag on Twitter.

Game talkSpeaking at Inside Social Apps

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Jan 182011

I seem to have neglected to mention that I will be on a panel at Inside Social Apps InFocus. The event is on the 25th — next week! As I understand it, they expect the event to be full, with no registrations available at the door, so if you’re in the area, you may want to register now on the website.

The panel I am on:

M&A Landscape for Small & Midsize Developers

Paul Bettner, GM, Zynga with Friends (former Founder & CEO, Newtoy)
Sean Ryan, Director Games Partnerships, Facebook (former EVP and GM Games, News Corp)
Atul Bagga, VP Equity Research – Games, ThinkEquity
Raph Koster, VP Creative Design, Playdom (former President, Metaplace)

Some of the world’s largest media companies and game publishers have made major acquisitions of social game developers in the last 18 months. We’ve also seen consolidation in the space through several acquisitions of small-to-midsize developers. As we begin 2011, what do the shifting landscapes in the media and games industries mean for M&A activity, and potential acquisition targets, in the year ahead? We will investigate from every angle.

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 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. 🙂