Mar 052017

I have put up a page containing both a slideshow and a PDF download of the talk I delivered on Friday at GDC 2017.

I think it came out a bit more somber than I had anticipated, certainly more somber than the sample slides I submitted. We shall see what the long-term reaction is, as I pulled no punches in describing the awesome responsibility people have in building online communities.

I was also losing my voice, so it was very much a deliberate and slow presentation compared to my usual “high speed brain blast” as one attendee once described my usual speaking style.

Not only was this in the afternoon of the last day, but I was opposite the Experimental Gameplay Workshop, which is one of the best-attended sessions at GDC usually. So the room was definitely sparser than usual. That said, there were several old virtual worlds hands present to confirm what I said, backing me up during the Q&A period, and there were also a number of current developers of both social VR worlds and even social AR games like PokemonGO. (In fact, I heard a few members of that team were in the audience, and I hope I didn’t offend by picking on their game so much).

The session was filmed, so hopefully video will be forthcoming; once it is, I will post a link to that as well.

Game talkMiscWritingSome updates

 Posted by (Visited 1001 times)  Game talk, Misc, Writing  Tagged with: , ,
Feb 252017

Wow, I have been slacking off on the blogging. Not since October? Yeesh.

What’s happened is that I have been posting updates to Twitter, instead. Which this blog does notify (as well as Facebook), of course, but it does mean the site itself gets neglect!

So, to catch you up!

  • I am speaking at GDC 2017 next Friday, 1:30-2:30pm, on the topic “Still Logged In: What VR and AR Can Learn From MMOs.” This talk will be going over lessons painfully learned going clear back to the text mud days, on issues like harassment, governance, importation of bias to the virtual world, and much more. It’s cross-listed on the Design and Advocacy tracks; I think this latter means that I am allowed to be grumpy on stage.
  • The 10th Anniversary Edition of A Theory of Fun for Game Design goes to press in Korean next week! It looks like the picture on the right, and I hope to get a copy soon. Meanwhile, despite the book’s advanced age, it continues to get featured regularly in various places, such as this podcast.
  • I improved my “history of all videogames” arcade cabinet with upgraded robotic parts so that the monitor now smoothly auto-rotates from horizontal (for landscape arcade games and most home consoles) to vertical (for stuff like Centipede, Raiden, and of course, Vectrex emulation). I did a lengthy write-up of the process and am incredibly tickled that it’s now stickied on the forum (the central hub for anyone building or restoring arcade cabinets) for reference for anyone else who wants to do the same. Video of the rotation is also at that link.
  • My 2014 talk on “Practical Creativity” also keeps getting attention, most recently as a GDC Video on YouTube (also on preceding link), which also has prompted folks to request a PDF of the slides, which was helpfully assembled by @B4ttleCat on Twitter. Grab it here.
  • You can also find an abridged version of my little piece on Games design and UX design in Portuguese now, thanks to Andressa Antunes. This is another one that seems to have legs, and gets cited a lot lately.
  • I managed to make it, despite a cold, to Doctor Cat’s amazing marathon “Gaming Legends” Twitch stream of interviews of developers. Video was posted up a while back. I encourage you to check out all the videos, if you have a full 13 hours of free time… there’s some amazing stuff in there. Scott Adams, Jordan Weisman, Steve Meretzky, Bruce Shelley, Lord British, John Romero, and lots more.

There’s been quite a lot more, but maybe I should just direct you to the Twitter feed (which is now working again in the sidebar).

Um, I’d promise to blog more often, and particularly, not just make it be random brags and updates about talks but back to meaty articles. But my track record hasn’t been great. Tell you what, once I get back from GDC, maybe people might throw me questions. 🙂

Sep 282016

I recently had the chance to sit down with Markee Dragon, during AGC. It was at the offices where they are making Crowfall, but we didn’t really talk about Crowfall. Instead, we talked about… fish tanks.

Or more exactly, about game design in general, and then about how there are systems in the world around us which provide inspiration, and how a lot of them, like gardening, just have really bad user interfaces. Which led us to fish tanks, and the rich and complex game system that exists in one. So we kind of started designing that game right there on the fly.

It was a highly entertaining conversation, for me at least — and now Markee has released the video, so maybe it’s entertaining for you too!


Sep 252016

slide1Here it is, in all its mathy glory: Gritty Systems Design for Retention.

I barely pulled off getting this one done in time. I knew what I wanted the shape of it to be, largely prompted by some of the design choices I saw in Pokemon Go. But I also knew it would involve an awful lot of spreadsheet work and an awful lot of graphs. And I wanted to make those graphs real, not just sketches, so that people could walk through the math and see how it worked.

So — I had notes, but then worked from 10pm to 3am the night before, and then from 9am to 2pm the day it was supposed to be delivered. I don’t recommend cutting it quite this close (the talk was at 4:45, so I finished with not quite three hours to spare).

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Aug 152016

agc2016logo-547x286I’ve mentioned it a fair amount of Twitter and Facebook, but I wanted to call attention to it here again, for those who still follow such antiquated things as blogs! I’ll be speaking at the newly revived Austin Game Conference, taking place in Austin of course, on Sept. 21 and 22.

For those of you who fondly remember the various incarnations of game conferences in Austin — this event is going to recapture that vibe, I think. The advisory board is pretty much the same crew of folks who curated all those excellent conferences for a decade, starting back in 2003.

My topic:

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May 232016

Slide2I spent last week up in the mountains around Banff, Canada, with a spectacular group of people, as we talked about “computational modeling of games.” This was a workshop held at the Banff International Research Station, or BIRS, and organized by Andy Nealen of NYU and Michael Mateas of UC Santa Cruz. As you may be able to tell from the title, it was moderately mathy, though I was assured by several of those there that it was dramatically less so than an actual mathematician would expect, and certainly less so than the other workshops in the series!

I was asked to give a “seed talk” on the question of “the limits of formalism.” The questions Michael and Andy asked me to answer were

What leverage does a formalist approach to game design give you? What might it leave out? What are the broad contours of the landscape of formalist game design theories? What intellectual commitments are formalist game designers making? What are the biggest holes in our current understanding of formalist approaches to game design?

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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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Mar 212016

flashbackwardstageI hear video will be up in a few weeks, but in the meantime, here are the slides and the text for the little five minute talk I gave at GDC as part of the FlashBackward keynote.

For some reason, I felt the pressure on this talk much more than usual. Five minutes is not a lot of time, and I had a lot I wanted to say. This resulted in fifty slides. There were, all told, four hours of rehearsals, although I only attended two of them. The animations on my slides were lost along the way, and when I did my runthroughs, I botched it both times. By the time I gave the talk, my hands were shaking and I had trouble pressing the button on the clicker to advance slides with my thumb. I had to set it down and press it with my index finger. But by all accounts I nailed it, so…

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Game talkGDC and Flash Backward

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Mar 032016

Officialspeaker_400x400GDC is fast approaching! I am only doing a five minute talk this year (much like last year!). But boy, I have a big stage for it. Instead of a regular keynote, GDC is doing a Flash Backward “keynote” where a bunch of veteran devs will share the stage giving a history of the last thirty years of game making… and I’m very honored to share the stage with a bunch of amazing people.

I’ve added it to the events calendar.

My portion, needless to say, will be on MMOs… the hard part will be squeezing all that history into only five minutes.