Jan 132012

“I feel a sense of loss over mystery… I feel a loss over immersion. I loved… playing long, intricate, complex, narrative-driven games, and I’ve drifted away from playing them, and the whole market has drifted away from playing them too,” Koster says. “I think the trend lines are away from that kind of thing.”

— Gamasutra interview of me by Leigh Alexander



Games didn’t start out immersive. Nobody was getting sucked into the world of Mancala or the intricate world building of Go. Oh, people could be mesmerized, certainly, or in a state of flow whilst playing. But they were not immersed in the sense of being transported to another world. For that we had books.

Even most video games were not like worlds I was transported to. Oh, I wondered what else existed in the world of Joust and felt the paranoia in Berzerk, but I never felt like I was visiting.

Then something changed. For me it started with text adventures and with early Ultimas. I could explore what felt like a real place. I could interact with it. I could affect it. And with that came the first times where I felt like I was visiting another world. It came when I first played Jordan Mechner’s Karateka and for the first time ever, felt I was playing a game that felt like a movie.
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Notes on game feedback

 Posted by (Visited 11605 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Dec 082011

I was mentioned in a comment on Google+, and ended up writing a little bit about game feedback as a result. So here it is.

The discussion was on the absence of combat logs (scrolling text windows showing you exact numbers for combat actions) in the new SWTOR MMO. Some folks regret the absence, because they use the logs to optimize what they are doing, and use it as a learning tool. Other players find them a legacy of the text mud days, or a feature that hastens the deconstruction of the entire system and therefore damages the fun factor.

Both sides are right, really. Combat logs are just a form of feedback. The more feedback the system gives you, the more information you have for the process of figuring out how the system works. This then makes the process of optimizing play easier (read that as “getting the results you want from a given input”).

The first thing to realize here is that everything the game shows you, really, is a form of feedback. The locations of chess pieces on a board, the “game state,” is a type of feedback. Numbers floating off the enemy are feedback; the glowy effect trailing a swinging sword is also feedback.

Some forms of feedback are better suited for certain types of information than others.

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Gangs and Guilds in MMOs, again

 Posted by (Visited 7719 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
Sep 142011

A long while ago I posted about some research that showed that gangs and guilds seemed to have mathematical characteristics in common.  A few days ago, I got this sent to me by someone at the department of CS and Engineering at the University of Minnesota:


I saw a previous post on your blog about similarities between MMOs and street gangs. Me and my research group (VWO) recently published a paper which contradicts the previous results. We thought you may find it of interest.

Thanks, Muhammad

The blog post about the paper can be found here, with some conclusions, and you can also read the pre-print PDF of the paper. It looks like this is based on the the same set of Everquest II data that many researchers have been using for a while now — I am unsurprised to see Dmitri Williams credited.

New Bartle video interview

 Posted by (Visited 6804 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
Aug 152011

Got this in the mailbox:

Hello Mr. Koster,

I’m a big fan of your work and reader of your blog. You probably don’t remember me but I briefly met you at GDC Online last year. I was looking for Dr. Richard Bartle, who I did find and conducted an interview with.

A few months ago I released the interview on my Youtube Partner account but forgot to mention to you that I had done so. I thought you might be interested in it.


It’s divided into multiple parts because it was so long and I felt this would be a good way for people to keep track of each segment. Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoy!

I should be at GDC 2011 so perhaps I’ll see you there?


Interested indeed, and I am sure that others may be as well, so I’ve embedded them below the fold:

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Jul 212011

Title slideThis was my talk delivered yesterday at Casual Connect Seattle — somewhat shorter than my usual, as it was a 25 minute slot. The topic was designing for games-as-a-service; a lot of folks are migrating from casual games into social games right now, and need to know more about what the design best practices are.

I ended up reaching back to the Laws of Online World Design and many other older materials both mine and of others, on the grounds that it was likely to be new and perhaps educational for many who have been doing fire-and-forget software in the casual space.

I am fairly sure that the conference will be posting video of the presentation — they normally do — so keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, here’s the deck in a few formats:

I did try uploading it to Slideshare, but boy, did it mess up the fonts. I take a lot of care with the graphic design of my decks, and it was just too ugly to tolerate. 🙂 I am sure I could figure it out given time, but I don’t have said time. So if someone else wants to take the PPT and get it uploaded in a way that actually resembles the PDF, go for it.

The slides should be pretty self-explanatory, but the core message is not unlike the much more detailed version of things I put forth in my recent blog on on Marketing.