Mar 162018

Today I want to share with you a design framework that I’ve been working on for a couple of years now with a team at Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group, led by Aaron Cammarata. We call it “The Trust Spectrum,” and it’s a practical design lens for designing multiplayer games, particularly ones involving co-operative play.


Aaron led the charge on this project; he formed a group devoted to games that could enhance social connection, and asked me to help out on the game design mechanics side of things. He spent several months reading deeply into psychology and sociology to learn what the latest science said about human connections and social behavior.

In Aaron’s research on social structures, a few things popped out rather quickly.

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Jun 272017

Some days I wonder if we are completely screwed. So today’s post is a perhaps slightly hysterical outburst.

The news is not paying enough attention to the Petya/NotPetya ransomware, and the effects it is having on the Ukraine and on a bunch of businesses worldwide. I think it may be a harbinger of how the Internet could kill us all.

Based on what little I have read so far… A piece of widely used tax software — one used by the Ukrainian government — did its usual “phone home” to check for updates. Instead of getting back a few hundred bytes of acknowledgement, it got a viral payload. Basically, this tax software served as a means of auto-updating the virus to thousands of targets. The result is not just accounting systems down, though. It’s gas stations and point of sale systems in grocery stores.

This kind of thing basically makes me wonder how long we’ll have the Internet.

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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 PassAll Access Pass

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

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.

Feb 262010

Dan Terdiman at CNet engages in some handwringing over the fact that kids worlds and social games are taking over the hype that used to belong to virtual worlds.

But to someone who cut his virtual world teeth on more immersive, 3D environments like There and Second Life, these never-ending announcements of new companies trying to jump on the social gaming bandwagon have left me with one nagging question: Where is the innovation?

The innovation lies in making something that matters to ordinary people.

Now, I am a virtual world person, obviously. I don’t see much distinction between the game worlds and the non-game ones like Second Life. I have been working with them since the text muds, for over 15 years, which doesn’t exactly put me in the true old dino category where Richard Bartle and Randy Farmer reside, but I think it is fair to say that I have been closely identified with the space for a long long time now.

And I think that they aren’t over, but the form that they have taken is.

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