Current Inspirations

Portal – for the non-violent nature of it and the neat teleportation physics puzzles. And removing half of the stupid ways to die. And for this.

Mirror’s Edge on iPad – for the simple swipe-based mechanics, showing us a new way to do a simple platformer. For showing us how to convert a FPS for touch. And for this.

Left4Dead – for uncompromising 4 player co-op on both sides. For re-inventing the entire zombie genre. For much fun and great instakills. And for this.

Myth – for showing us that you don’t need to spend two hours building an army for a 10 minute fight. And building a kick-ass story around it. And for this.

And two movies.

Primer – for providing an all-round mind-fuck of a movie. and it’s available for free (linked here) on low-resolution web video and of course, available as a DVD.

Inception – only just out and not long out of the cinemas so there’s not a lot that I can say without introducing spoilers. So go and look at the trailer here and then go watch the movie. All I can add is “BRRRRANNNNNGGGGGGG”. You’ll know what I mean after you watch it.

Games in Education

I believe that my playing of games has contributed positively to my development as an individual. Traditionally advocacy for gaming has included the development of teamwork and leadership skills, understanding of competition, resource management and also a greater appreciation of geography, politics, religion and ‘alien’ cultures. Games, especially tabletop role-playing games, have been used in education for years as they are comparatively light on resources, encourage participation and are good for personal development.

I read this from BrainyGamer

This year, for the first time, a video game will appear on the syllabus of a course required for all students at Wabash College, where I teach. For me – and for a traditional liberal arts college founded in 1832 – this is a big deal.

I pitched the idea to my colleagues on the committee (decidedly not a collection of gamers), and they agreed to try Portal and read selections from Goffman’s book. After plowing through some installation issues (“What does this Steam do? Will it expose me to viruses?”), we enjoyed the first meaningful discussion about a video game I’ve ever had with a group of colleagues across disciplines. They got it. They made the connections, and they enjoyed the game. Most importantly, they saw how Portal could provoke thoughtful reflection and vigorous conversation on questions germane to the course.

And so we’re playing Portal at Wabash College.

Portal is, for a single player game, utterly fascinating.

I yearn for a group of individuals who get together to not only play games but also to have meaningful discussion about games and play. To examine the meta-design of games and to discuss the reasons why they are fun.

Yellowcon 2010 (Warhammer 40K Tournament)

Warhammer 40K Tournament (Yellowcon 2010)
Sunday, August 29, 2010 from 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM (GMT)

Stormont Hotel
587 Upper Newtownards Road
BT4 3LP Belfast
United Kingdom


1750 point tournament. Prizes for winner & runner-up.

Access the rules pack which will be necessary for you to play in the tournament

The first game will start at 10.30, but it will be best for players to be there from 10am.

We hope everyone really enjoy the day!!

The Fun Theory

When designing games I tend to think about what will make the game more ‘sticky’. At the start, I can usually enthuse someone about a game by talking to them about it. You’re the consummate salesperson for your game and design and in theory no-one can sell the concept like you can. To get people to play (or better still, to pay), you have to describe the game in such terms that it seems fun. This was a challenge with The 23rd Letter because it doesn’t contain pictures and like it or not it’s the visuals which usually interest someone in a game.

In theory, with the concept of Playbor (work that seems like play), you can make anything seem like fun. Whether this is Tom Sawyer fooling others to whitewash the fence or the complicated patterns from the Folding@Home project, you can get results by adding simple things like achievements, leaderboards and a dollop of fun.

I’m very interested in the motivations of people especially with respect to getting them to change behaviours. Work I’ve done with the University of Ulster was describing scenarios for changed behaviours and how you can take advantage of those for good (or evil). Needless to say that lots of companies are looking at this area because it goes beyond advertising. In this world, advertising is already dead and we’re presenting people with things that would normally be described as ‘not fun’ and making them into ‘fun’. That’s actually a lot easier than getting someone to click through on a banner advert.

Can you get more people to take the stairs by making it more fun?

This is the essence of games.

Not everyone can appreciate the fun of a game like Left4Dead (one of the very best co-operative games on the market). And not everyone is going to appreciate games like Diner Dash or Farmville. But there is a feeling of enjoyment and achievement in all of these games which is what is common in games.

This is Jane McGonigal at TED talking about how games can be used to fix real-world problems.

My aim is to start a new company (working title: Alien Salvage) which will focus on the development of games which will have both learning and healthcare applications as well as being fun.

8 Bit Demakes

This article describes 8 bit de-makes – remaking some of todays popular games in 8 bit and 16 bit forms. Some of them still look amazing such as Little Big Planet and Mirrors Edge.

All of them are great but these two – you can see why I like them – they’d work really well on a 3.5 inch screen if you know what I mean 🙂 Mirrors Edge is almost already there but looking at LBP – that would, could be a lot of fun.

Runnin and Jumpin genre mash

Earlier this week, we had a meeting of local iOS developers and we segued into a conversation about the development of game ideas ahead of a ‘gamestorming’ event we have planned for next week.

We talked about the development of game ideas and there was a look at the Mirror’s Edge game in the context of being a game which essentially involves running and jumping. I decided to add a little pastiche here using the powers of Youtube. All of the games listed below bring different perspectives to the running and jumping genre.

The first running and jumping game was Donkey Kong (1981):

but possibly the most famous running and jumping game is Super Mario Bros.

A recent game by an Irish developer is Into the Twilight (iTunes link). It shows a different theme for running and jumping games.

and finally, I present Mirror’s Edge for iPad which I personally think is streets ahead of the FPS released on consoles and PC. But where it wins is in the interface. Touch interface is perfect in this game.

I would not have played if…

From Wired:

A federal judge is allowing a negligence lawsuit to proceed against the publisher of the online virtual-world game Lineage II, amid allegations that a Hawaii man became so addicted he is “unable to function independently in usual daily activities such as getting up, getting dressed, bathing or communicating with family and friends.”

Smallwood claims to have played Lineage II for 20,000 hours between 2004 and 2009. Among other things, he alleges he would not have begun playing if he was aware “that he would become addicted to the game.”

Take some personal responsibility, lard-ass.

Review of 20 non-video games at Gamasutra

Gamasutra has an interesting set of articles on real-world game design.

[Game Design Essentials returns with an extensive review of some of the most interesting non-electronic games, from traditional cultural games like Chess and Go through pen-and-paper role playing titles like Call of Cthulhu, European games like The Settlers of Catan, and much more — each with a unique design lesson.]

The only game I would add to the review would be Vampire: The Masquerade for it’s (at the time) unique emphasis on character and the loss of humanity which does compare to the sanity-blasting nature of Call of Cthulhu after a fashion. But the exclusion of the game is undoubtedly because of the afterbirth of the tortured souls who first loved the game: the trenchcoat samurai. These individuals (and their cohorts, the velvet wannabees) changed the tone of the game and put a lot of people off. When you had a good group, however, you had a game which focused on social interaction, on playing roles like duty, love, passion, perversion – and making it acceptable though challenging to play.

Vampire revitalised the hobby (again) and this role is now being repeated by indie games which have a reduced need for long preparations and rely more on social interaction and ‘storytelling’ than strict adherence to the result of a dice (if indeed they have any randomising element).