Sunday, October 30, 2005

Notes fr ACG: MMO Rant

MMO Rant

28 October 2005, Texas, Austin, Austin Game Conference

MMO Rant ACG 2005


I was late so i missed out on Jeff Hickman's and Brian Green's rants, but Brian posted his rant here: http://blog.psychochild.org/?p=92#post-92; an absolutely hilarous letter to Stephen King, on why he as a reader knew everything better than King since he has read so many scary books.

Jessica Mulligan ranted: Stop making the same mistakes all the time!

Gordon Walton ranted: Don't be such cowards: Dare to take risks!

The panel gave plenty of room for the audience to rant as well, and the session turned into fiest of pie-throwing; very entertaining.


gordon walton One of Gordon Walton's slides in MMO Rant James Acres' MMO Rant, ACG 2005 Pointing at CMU, possible risk takers


All pictures from the session:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/reality/tags/mmorant/


Some notes I threw down while the computer had power:

Jessica Mulligan:

Cannot ignore the player base!

WoW staff sucks: declare that they will be at party but not talk to the players!

MMO's are released before they are ready.

Billing programs... Thoguht we were over this but for the last 6 months i worked w a game that was written the 3 last days and tested w single credit card.

100k presales waiting!

Stop making the same mistakes all the time!

Gordon Walton: Risk taking.

We are herd animals in a creative buisness. We copy each other.


Here is a transcript from f13 netforums
http://forums.f13.net/index.php?topic=5015.0
wow that was some fast typing!


Desciption of session in program:

Friday, 3:00pm - 4:00pm

MMO Rant

Though our medium is becoming more significant yearly, we still have a long way to go to fully realize it's potential. The panelists are going to unleash their inner anguish on an issue they believe is holding back our industry. Our goal will be to challenge ourselves and the audience to look beyond the current industry results.

- Gordon Walton

- Brian Green, Near Death Studios, Inc.

- Jeff Hickman, Executive Producer & VP of PQ and CS, Mythic Entertainment

- Jessica Mulligan, Executive Consultant, Online Games


Saturday, October 29, 2005

Live blogging fr AGC: Fun Meters, Lazzaro and Mellon

28 October 2005, Texas, Austin, Austin Game Conference

Mellon & Lazzaro

"Friday, 4:30pm - 5:30pm
Fun Meters for Games: The Ins and Outs of Measuring the Player Experience
As development costs and risks go up, innovation in game design falls. Yet because the power of Next-Gen hardware creates possibilities for new forms of game play, we need innovation more than ever. How can we increase innovation in the design process without risking millions on a potential flop? A proven technique is to apply iterative innovate, play test, analyze, and design cycles early in development. If cheap, accurate measures of fun were made easily available to designers, what impact might that have on their ability to adjust the challenge ramp, change tuning parameters, develop more popular features, increase emotions, or experiment with a new game mechanic? This talk provides an overview of known techniques for measuring fun, such as direct observation of player actions and measurement of their emotive and verbal responses. We also discuss what types of questions such measures answer, their strengths and weaknesses, and how automation increases the use of metrics early in the design cycle. Come participate in this discussion of what kinds of fun can be measured, and what might be done with such data early in the design cycle when changes are easier to make.
- Nicole Lazzaro, President, XEODesign, Inc.
- Larry Mellon, Chief Architect, VP (Engineering), Emergent Game Technologies"

Nicole Lazzaro


How make a fun meeter.
Need to pull in data from various sources.
Need to be repeatable.
What is fun differs between different people and different games

Previous study: "why we play games"

Where is the innovative game play?

How will you get is funded.

How would a fun meeter for pac-man be?
Next generation: packing in more features
Pac-strike
Pac spore

Mobile off-Computer Play

Next gen gambling...
Blocking issue: big games hard to change at last minute.
Build incrementally.

Fun meeters today.
Sims online. Checking what behaviors were used the most.
Geographically: hot spots and dead spots?

Only way a funmeeter is going to work is if it is not too late, not too close to shipping.

Nicole: looking at facial expressons.

4 flavors of fun; from the white paper.
Hard fun - frustreation and fiero
Easy fun - surprise and curiosity
Altered states: change internal sensations (like therapy) excite and relax
The people factor: social mechanisms, shadenfreude + naches

Slide from  Fun Meters session at ACG 2005 by Lazzaro and Mellon

Sucessful games usually have 3 of these factors.

A nice variety of the flow diagram.

Testing leapfrogs fly pen top.
Created a mockup of it.
Sat down with useres. Roleplayed with users having a script.
Didnt wait for implementations, could do it early with the paper mockup.

Now a kind of game thing,

Writing things to measure for fun on big pieces of paper.

how measure fun?

Noice in the signal when testing.
Especially when players are interpeting the experience.
Professional testers: not the target group.

Risk of designing for a vocal minority.

Facial expression: one can see a player looking digusted, but he might not remember it afterwards.

Can also listen to reviewrs. Are they repersentative for your players? Also its way too late.

Online serveys. Look great in a speradsheet, but players are self-selected.

Slide from Fun Meters session at ACG 2005 by Lazzaro and Mellon

So what to do then.

Usability
Observe player experience.
Takes time to analyse the data.
Context. Imortant to look at those data too, like realtions and actions of others.

A real smile has wrinkles by the eye.

Paper fun meeters.

Tokens, yellow stickers, use simple methods to get to not have to analyse so much video.

Sims online, seeing that ppl spent in-game money on windows. No idea why, but next expansion will have more windows.

Best results when using several meeters in the same testsession.

Measuring factors in the game that has an impact.

Need to take advantage of that we can do.

Knowing when:
Player testing and reviews
Data probes
Observarion and prototying play.
= early!

We need more than better visuals in next-gen games.
Visual impact eventually tapers off

Breakout games; establishing new genres.
Popolous
Pac man
Doom
The sims
Habitat
Gta
Katamari

Measured innovation, early in the design.
Fun meeters of the future: unite.

www.maggotranch.com/mmp
www.exodesign.com/funmeter

Metrics addictive to designers.

all photos from this session: http://www.flickr.com/photos/reality/tags/funmeeters/

Friday, October 28, 2005

Live blogging fr AGC: East versus West: design differences in MMOs in Asia

28 October 2005, Texas, Austin, Austin Game Conference

East versus West: design differences in MMOs in Asia Jessica Mulligan; East versus West: design differences in MMOs in Asia
//i was late, missed beginning

Chinese players often dont want to be totally immersed: having a video on in the background, shrinking the screen. Likes leaning back looking at cheats that simulate game play

Q: What about the fantasy genre

A: will have expansions with different lores.
East marked, not so interested in the killing part, more about items... Also more into cuteness. Also extensions of the MMO to mobile phones.

Q: Cheating
A: (2) Big issue in china. Sophisitcated cheating programs that players pay for. Sp players both pay for the game, and for a program that plays the game for them, and then they look at it once in a while how the characters are going. Maybe play once a week. Even if you dont have a certain feature in your game, players will do it for you.
Chinese are less used to playing computer games than US players.
(3) if adding rel money trade into game, creates a strong insentive for asian players.

Moderator: the enormous sums spent on marketing. How is it in asia?
(3) 7-11 in corea... Putting codes on little food things that gives ceratin in-game items. Sales went up 60%. Companies _want_ to do the marketing for the games since their own sales go up!

(2) china, wow pics on cocacola cans. Sales up. Shendot tried to copy it w pepsi, but it didnt work. Has to be a killer app. Need <100 k players.

(4) ...indonesia... Marketing those areas, what languate to use, chinese or english?

(2) too many games right now, too many releases in asia. No efficient way of promotion. Players in a cafe will not pay for download time. Shenda once paid 300 k rmb to put up poster. Another company paid a lot to had them taken down. Seen marketing budgets of hundred k dollars get blown away in a week.

Q: how come the cafe culture is so successful in china

A (3) infrastructure. Went to cafes to get broadband. Started the cafe industry. Also a way to control piracy. Publishers selling "ip-blocks" dierectly to the pc cafe, not to the end costumers. Player doesnt pay a subscription, pays for the play time in the cafe instead.

Q so if 300 games come out each month in asia, how do ppl get to know about them, viral marketing?

(2) ppl dont have pen and paper to write down webadresses, so for marketing names must be very catchy, so one can google them up. Billboard on busses, parkbench, but depends on game, in some cases better o it via internet. Big guys are now loosing money because of the enormous marketing budgets.

A: how do ppl pay?

(4) subscription for bundle of both mobile (3g) client and PC client. Separate interface on mobile. Updates of stats. Still play,
2 models: unlimited. Or per month for the mobile component.
(2) micro payments.

(1) big licenses are not so popular in asia.
(2) not so into sci fi. Lots of japanese licenses that chinese like. Same problem in console life... When new console comes... Liscenses

(1) shorter playsessions...

Q: what about usercreated content

2: not so common. One game example where one can put in own face.
A wierd game by shenda... Pay to upload content...
It is very rare with user created content in china. Technology issue.

Q: differences when it comes to grinding?
(2) some very popular games in china are extremely boring. ... 60% of the players are unemplyed. Not teenagers. Wives sending letters being grateful... Got that the husband doesnt gamble or do more expensive things.

(4) big online crowd... 7 second games. Is that casual?

Live blogging fr AGC: Why are we here? Keynote by Richard Bartle

28 October 2005, Texas, Austin, Austin Game Conference

RIchard Bartle giving keynote at ACG 2005

Why are we in this converted ballroom?
We are gonna die!

ppt slide from Bartle's speech at ACG 2005

And why are we vw developers and not for example regaular gems devs?
Some possible answers... Ruling the world f ex
Lets say we are here willingly because we want to
Hacker culture
Steven levy's book hackers

bartle slide

2005_10_28 020

... 4 hours on the mainframe per week, not much dev time...
Premise; programming == fun

Hacking thing - chaotic good //hacking
Open source thing - lawful good //nxt gen puzzle solving
Today's commercial prgr - lawful neutral

Defence of suits. We need them to get us 30 M.
Terror: when they call the creative shots.

Where have all the hackers gone?
... They migrated.
To VW dev,
Mobile dev
Academia (dispiriting tho)

2005_10_28 025
2005_10_28 027

High concentration in vw dev of ppl who were hacers 20 years ago.

Gotten into it because of having played games.

WoW -> based on EQ -> based in DikuMUD -> based on AberMUD -> based MUD1

Levels in MUD1. Now we ask ourselves "how many levels" not IF to have levels.
/*what about the AD&D sys for creating gamedesign paradigms? */

Many MMO architecture build on MUD1. DAoC build on somewhat different stuff.

The ethymology of "mobs".
Cultural progression.

Behavior of players shaped by the code and its culture
/*pargman*/

MUD1 culture dreived from hacker culture.
Consious choice by Richard and Roy.

RB saw MUD1 as way to give ppl freedom to be who they want to be.
Not how they are tied by their social environemtn.
That was implemented in mud1, and it is still a part game design paradigm.
Polly's Story.

1978, computing science dept was mad. Being female was just as any other trait, like having red hair. At that time you had to go out of lab to meet a female, since females in lab was just like persons. But outside you got shot down! Had to learn some social skills. Sit down togheter and dring beer together... Finding excuses to not go out... Pretty nice guys, just if the girls got to know them, if they were given a chance. No females around. But ppl needed to practice. RB thought like hmmm playing D&D, role playing, that could be a way to practice. MUD1 only had male characters in it... Lets get people to talk instead of just ... Added gender, male and female (didnt have that from start). Created a character called Polly. Parrot like thing. Because of the name it got a female gender (being Richard, ... Who is male) So the others also created female characters. Played themselves as they might have been. Exploring different ways of how to be. The role playing thing. R would think it could have helped them but that was to late... Later on some female players.
So this how and why we put in gender in the first place. Polly story, and when started to roleplay a little.

RB wanted ppl to experience freedom through playing virtual worlds. With freedom comes understanding.
Ppl bring much realworld culture via language into vw:s.
But it doesnt go one way. Some things ppl bring with them

Player development tracks.
Hero's journey.

RB to audience:
YOU are grokked by the concept!
And want other's to get the benefit of playing them.
Basic ideals in vws get passed on.

RP: devs create vw:s for the same reasons as players play: to explore identity.

2005_10_28 042

Develo yourself through developing vws. Artist.

/* sparse notes here, since i got immersed in listening to RB. But i photographed many of the slides. Telling audience that we can change the world. Lovely. */

2005_10_28 049
2005_10_28 051



QA
...world have changed via TV, of what ppl making televistion have created... Not much more to say. We on the other hand have a lot left to say?
Q: An example of a societal change?
A: Yes, gender bending in VWs... When seeing a transsexual in RL, it is not such a wierd thing.
Also: as player base ages games become harder to ignore for society.
Q: influence on youg ppl?
A: mby that ppl learn to cooperate. Incitament to do that, xp etc.
Q: if you could change WoW in ONE aspect, which would it be?
A .. Put copyright richard bartle in the end :). No: At toplevel of the game: give ppl the opprotunity to quit at lvl 60. Get their names in the hall of fame. Would benefit the updraught. Over time the game thickens at top. That puts off the newbies. So allowing ppl to drop off is good for getting newbies. Also a feeling that its an end to this.
Q: You have presented a kind of relegion that you have created where we would be the high priest. Well we could do some good things...
A: (embarassed)... Lengthy explanationion... Seing things as they are... Trying to make ppl realise... You have actual power! Not a poor little programmer. This is of intense interest to you. Otherwise you wouldnt be here! ... The magic circle... Teaching ppl through their own experiences. How they behave. And this speeds up what would take maybe 20 or 30 years of life to learn.
Q: do ppl who create WVs have responsibility for how much time ppl spend in VW:s?
A: Yes! Since you create the world you have the reponsibility. On the other hand you dont force them to play your game. Guess Chinese gov have the heart in the right place, but maybe also think that ppl are getting ideas.
Q: lengthy q which i didnt get
A: well wouldnt it be nice if everyone could create their own virtual worlds just like ppl now can create webpages.
Q: certainly in film and tv there are suits making creative shots. Risk not when suits may have played WoW believe they are designers?
A: Some suits are decent people... Have a hope that the more ppl play the more they will also understand. But there is a risk of everyone, all players, believing they are designers. /* Backpudding lunatics in charge of the asylum - i must have misherard it */
Q: missed it
A: Station exchange... Risk that people dont get it play station exchange, while others go to other places. My feeling about this is relaxed. Players are developing their own defence mechanisms. PPl play with a limited number of ppl, 0 - 12. The magic circle should ideally encompass the whole server, but if one find a small group of ppl to trust you build own magic circle around the small group. Rating oneselfe accoring norms in the smaller groups instead of the whole worlds. This may protect from the process that seem so inevitable.
Q: isnt it ugly to measure one in level, objectity the soul?
A: lvling thing... Not all players regard it as the main thing. On the path ppl learn about themselves. Level is just a number. Some players never get it tho. Why they do it. Would be good with finitenss to the game. Seen ppl change dramatically when reaching a certain level. A player who wanted to become wizard, get administative power... To reach the level and get to kill everybody and get even. When he became wizard. A sudden change. He had won! He didnt want to kill everybody. Have the power, but didnt need to use it anymore. 20 seconds earlier he would have killed everyone. Later on he was made arch wizard, one of the best they had. This experience argument for that it is good to have a finit of sorts
/* leading to the eldersgame */
Q: griefers.
A: rather online than in real life. Hopefully ppl grow up. Hopefully VWs can help them. Hard to put broken players back on the rails again.

Live blogging fr AGC: What Vegas can teach MMO Designers, Damion Schubert

What Vegas can teach MMO Designers (and how to take a design lesson from almost anywhere)
What Vegas can teach MMO Designers, Damion Schubert, ACG 2005
Damion Schubert, Wolfpack, Ubisoft

Casinos interesting to look at since they are social spaces with a lot of people can play mini games.
They are service minded: mmos should be too.

There is grind in casinos! Still big buisness. Maybe there is a lesson here.
Different though: want all your money _now_.

Some observations.
How players walk through the space. Displays a map of a casino area.
No exits close to the theatres. Also, on they way to them there are poker rooms and slot mashines.

In most mmo's: they journey sucks! Boring!
Single player games are better at it.

Addressing cheaters. Have worked at many places where he had had to plead to bosses to get someone banned from the game. They have to be banned.
Vegas comes down on cheaters like the hammer of god!

Automated events.
Everyone loves events.
Problems. Expensive. Low reach. Mby 20 - 100 ppl at the time.
But people live them.

Casinos do automated events. Treasure island: pirate battle going on every hour. Big and silly enough. Cost efficient.

Metrics.
A casino on verge of death, Harrah, created a card, a kind of loyalty card. Put in slot mashine, after a time player gets some free things. This casino used this to track the player's behavior. Learned about the player base. They found that the revenues came form suburbian middle class. So these were the people they needed to give love in the form of a tshirt and some free drinks. And shaping areas that attracted different player types.

Mmo game devs could use the datamining which is already done could be used to guide design instead of only failiure detection.
Microsoft can proove that people who talk a lot like to group with each other.

For example see how fast ppl klick through conversation trees: do they really read the text presented by the npcs?

Freebies
Harrah's saw that 26% of costumers gave 82% of revenue.
Concentrated on those.

In mmogs we may not have the same criteria for who should get a lot of love. Guild leaders for example.

Maverick design.
Pictures of a potato peeler.
New potato peeler old potato peeler /*but hey the new one is ugly, yeck */

Now long story about Friedman realizing that ppl didnt want to gamble in big empty spaces, even if they are beautiful. Too grandiose. "barn effect" ppl dont like to be in barns, they want to be in small cosy places. PPl like looking at grand casinos, but just to look, not to gamble. Slot mashines are boring, being around other people makes them intersting.

Mmo players: likes being _around_ people, not _with_ people.
/* third place */

But vw:s are huge! Empty

Everquest zones: each zone a good little community with buzz. Cozy.

Then the seamless world. Radial chat. Problem if players move: might not hear answers to own calls.
Becomes silent. Have it shadowbane.
Blizzard brought back zones. More cozy factor. Breaks immersion a bit, but ppl can chat without problems.

Insanzing and coziness:

Conclusions:
Make the world cozy.
Understand that ppl are in the world because of the other people. Reward socializers.
Consider automated events.
Think about your players flow thorugh game space
Use metrics to giude design not just answer questions on failiurs
Ban cheaters.

QA
Q: Real world trading? A: depends on the game
Q: females gamble for 3 reasons: 1, secure environemt 2. they feel pretty no matter what they look like, treated like they are 3. they feel cared for in the casino /*OMG...*/
A: feeling of safety, the lack of it, is a reason for women not being in the games. Need thick skin. /*wot!? Do we? ... mby im pronoid*/
Q: how do you give players reliability but still keep it exciting?
A: areas where things are too easy and booring, areas where it is too difficult. Find space in between.
Q: how handle cheating? How identify who is cheating and what is cheating? Sometimes player reports are not reliable.
A: Log it for a couple of days, use metrics, only reliable way. Guild of association.
Q: color palettes? For cosyness. SWG cold, WoW warm.
A: Where the bank is... Tries to make homespace warmer. Like in movies where safe and happy sequences have other palette than scary and wierd sequences.
Q: Clocks in games?
A: Even more important now when in china a law where ppl can only play for 3 hours, fear of game addiction.
Q: how much did it cost you to do your research?
Q: too small and cosy?
A right social density.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Live blogging fr AGC: Building MMO worlds through Human NPCs

27 October 2005, Texas, Austin, Austin Game Conference

Panel:  Building MMO worlds through Human NPCs, ACG 2005

Panel starts out with a cooperative trashing of conversation trees.
Carly Staehlin, Michael Sellers, Patricia Pizer, Lee Sheldon, Sheri Graner Ray

Why do we need NPC:s. Why are they so boring.

Sellers: They are props. Explanation over their head... Why we need better NPCs
NPCs that you can have an emotional attachment to. That remember who you are. Not being talking furniture.

Moderator: continues trashing conversation trees, but in more detail. She would rather make an interface. ...conversation with senile grandmother...

Patricia: infocom games. Parser was a big part of the game. Gaming to make it clever in response. Help develop the parser, making it more intelligent. First days at infocom... Guy saying "so good you dont even know it is there. Holy grail of interface design: that players not even notice the interface since they are so caought up with playing the game. All sorts of vehicles for this... Running across a book, a stone with an inscription, opprotrunities for getting information accross. Use npcs effectively if we can find other ways of generating the story, to get the info across. But some pieces need to have a human attached to them. A reason for having a relationship to them.

Sheldon: for avoiding exposition, move npcs around a bit. Maybe an NPC is upset and cant talk to you at the moment, but it can sell you something. And bartenders never give good advice anyway last one said give this panel. Invest effort in the npcs, they need to be part of the fabric of the world.

Sellers: npcs are objects in the world. They are objects, could be vending mashines. If you look at them as objects but personify them. Key is caring about the person. Why are they upset. Want so find out something new. Get a persons sotry to unfold. Events in their lives. Objectified characters.

Graner: Playerbase uncomfortable if npcs are not there. Having npcs there that dont do much in swg, but they are there so that it doesnt feel that empty. Wending mashines and wallpaper.

Panel: butterfiels or wallpaper?

Staehlin asks audience about what would be good for npcs.
Woman in audience: more intelligent answers in combat situation
Man in audience: more meaningful quests
Man in audience: npcs need to have purpose. What separates them from furniture? Npcs grow and die.

Staehlin: purpose in life.

Sheldon: put in an npc, a village priest that was going to die. Made him likable, helpful with sence of humpr. Plan to kill him off in 9 monts (but game was stalled)

1st woman in audience clarifying her point.

Graner Ray: need to proof against griefing in the case when npcs have highly variable behavior responses.

Pizer: what about helping out in the street if someone is being beat up. Told a story with the point that the real world is seldom what we expect, so when designing games its only a belief of imitating the world when it comes to human behavior.

Sellers. Npcs doesnt care about my corpse. Having npcs understanding contexts would be good.

Pizer: AI. Lot of things that can and should be done.

Staehlin: reminding of the nuance of pathfinding

Sellers: what if npcs had badges showing what clans they are in...
/*but swg has that*/

Graner Ray: we do that a bit. Also changes from different planets. Likelyhood of being attacked by certain groups of npcs, npcs selling items to higher prices to certain players.
Imortant for players to know who is in charge of the planet, imperials or rebels.

Sellers: once npcs are talking to each other... See styles... Adopting clothing styles of npcs (?)

Staehling: where do we want to go? Is text the problem, would voice make it better.

Sheldon: shouldnt matter. A text crafted with skill and grace is just as good as voice

Sellers: for getting empathy... Not all how they are saying it... What they are sying is important...

Sheldon: wierd if players are so set apart, since they need to type the text.

Pizer: conversation trees... Expensive to do the voicing...

Graner: plus its difficult to change afterwards compared to text.

Sheldon: charles dickens... Cant have same granularity on everything. How fleshed out objects are depends on their importance.

Graner: voice can be used as a reward. Effective. (omg this guy is talking to me, he didnt do that before)
/*did darth vader speak in swg after i completed the quest? Cant remember*/

Staehling: storytelling and mmo???

Sheldon: problem: presentation. When players want to go on to the next quest they are given a whole page of text to read on the screen what the hell ppl dont want to do that.

Sellers: community is about relationships... Conversation must feel more real. Split up in relational chunks. This person done me wrong... A task involved... Bing, story!

Staehling: investement in doing the npcs... If its possible to create npcs that people feel amotional attachment to... Is it dangerous?

Graner: not more dangerous than in other media. We need to look at starting developing emotions... Reach audience that hasnt been tapped yet... We do that through real emotion.

Sheldon: be careful with love and sex... Already in trouble w Guns!

Sellers: simulation.... We had 2 characters early on, slight miscalulation: iiik a 3rd person! A character that is habitually sad, makes a player sad too. Open question: movie, dramatic sequence, character dies... Cathartic experience. Can it be the same in a game?

Staehling: What about hiring actors instead of programming AI:s? Example from ulima online, Lord British. Prblematic to deal with swince so many didnt get to see him.

Pizer
Scale of the lily.
Asherons Call... Working on little game appearances in the game. Incredibly stressful to do it live. Many ppl to deal with. Anything can happen. Beautiful idea, and terribly scare.

Sheldon: URU. No return on investment that will make this work. Great moment around kitchen table, but it doesnt scale, and the voice actors my god, so many better ways of doing it.

Man in audience diagreeing on last point: can be useful with having real actors such as in asheron. There is a game out there were one can get a real interaction like that.
/*what here is it that he is _not_ saying? */

Man in audience: reason for making the npcs so simple is also to make scalability possible.
Easier to make incremental solutions in that case.

Man in audience> referring to game where gameplay consits of talking to one npc and see changes in emotional state.
Asking/presenting idea about having persistent npcs that keep recurring for individual players.

Sheldon: it has been done! But not in mmos.

Graner: we are talking about thousands of players here. Whish one could have that.

Sheldon playing devils advokate: what if players just think it slows them down. Wants their items etc?

Live blogging fr AGC: Feature Postmortems, Matt Shaw, Mythic Entertainment

27 October 2005, Texas, Austin, Austin Game Conference

Matt Shaw, Mythic Entertainment

Subject: pitfalls Mythic has been through when making new system for character rendering to Dark Age of Camelot.

Was late again, missed beginning


60 artists now, started out with 6

"Catacombs"

Facial graphic/animation system modified.

Character system: new system, but required to have the old system optional for the players. Some players had grown attached to the old system, even if faces were flatter, and wanted to use it.
/* was it worth the cost of keeping both systems, was the pressure from the player base that strong? */

Card manufacturers can seldom give answers on how much the new cards really can handle.

Advice: dont change textures, meshes, shaders, render states. Pusch as many triangels you can in one call.

Draw calls in direct X.
Limited to 1000 - 1500 draw calls in a frame to keep a decent framerate.
Assume 200 figures on the screen... 8 piedes per character is one limit one could choose. Some games use 20 - 40 per figure...
Display of comparative figures in ppt.
They wanted a LOD system where it was actually possible to distinguish things. Not realistic with stickfigures.

Reducing Draw Calls.
One try was to use reusable textures etc, but tests w players showed that it was not such a good idea. Ppl want unique things. Also needed to put in new things later.

Player logs in - highly specified pieces. How get them in there fast enough?


They ended up using shaders.

Lessons:
Shader combining trick had short life
In nxt game, warhammer they will use another method to reduce figure draw calls.
Important to keep sharp eye on draw calls.
Its less of an issue if one uses OpenGL
Educate designers and art department of what's critical for performance.

Now when the new graphic cards have so big performance: not solving this problem.
Test early and often...
Good to have tools where team members can see how many polygons they use.

Questions.
- OpenGL not having so much issues w draw calls? O more light weight... Vista...
Talk about limited support for vista in openGL. If starting from scratch speaker would consider opengl.

Live blogging fr AGC: Alternate Reality Gaming, Jane McGonigal

Alternate Reality Gaming, Jane McGonigal

Jane McGonigal at Austin Game Conference 2005

27 October 2005, Texas, Austin, Austin Game Conference

Starting out with a definition of ARGs
Slide from McGonigals session on ARG, ACG 2005

Game examples:
"I love bees" associated to HALO 2.

Last Call Poker. Runs now.
(handing out flyers so one can play it.
Part of backsory to Activions title "Gun".

Rl events around america in weekends. Playing variety of texas holdem on cemetaries w tombstones.
Slide from McGonigals session on ARG, ACG 2005

"The Go Game"
Interacting w actor, doing crazy things in neigborhood
Slide from McGonigals session on ARG, ACG 2005

"The ministry of Reshelving"
Go into bookstores, moving books, putting notes behind them.
40 000 ppl doing it one night
Slide from McGonigals session on ARG, ACG 2005

Wikipedia entry.
Highly collaborative.

Player voices:
Communite *is* the game.
Social engineering
Spillover effects to people's real lives.
Players seeing themselves in community as _one_mind_

Quoting Jenkins.

... But what about the mechanics about it.
Right now this community idea is a black box.
...laeding up to McGonigals subject...

What is community design?
Player recombination as design framework.
Genetic recombination.
Emergent creation: the community.
/* still a black box this :) */

Restructuring society, new things, toys, can do it through games.

Juxtaposition of digital worlds/games using real world

Etymology of ARG. ...names have dreams... Names tell stories...names make claims...

Alternate, not alternative.

Gaming, not game. Something you do, active process, always on. /*not an artefact*/
Players have been part of creating the alternate realities.

...why MMOs?
1970ies... New Games movement: the more players the better, being part of a larger whole.

Andersons quote on emergence. Unexpected things when scaling up.
Super computing, event when ppl took many laptops to a gymnasium.

Recombination 1# benevolent conspiracies.
Pronoia, oposite of paranoia. Conspiracy on your behalf. /* lovely, i feel it often */
PRONOIA Slide from McGonigals session on ARG, ACG 2005

pronoia

What would a game be like where you have this, conspire together to help?
...understanding of that world is fundamentally friendly...
The players trust in the game designers.
ARGs could be a way to train oneself to see world as a nice place.

/*wot, wait a minute, a _socialist_ texas hold em??? */

Players in i love bees acting as if people wanted to help them. Amazing things achieved when being in that mindset.

/* lovely stories about players doing unlikely _nice_ things */

Recomibnation #2 - scientific literati
Players acting as a scientific community.
Explosion of interpretation on why they were given a coordinate.

Recombination #3 folksonomy mobs
Tagging and classifying media bottom up.
Collective classifications
Rheingold on smart mobs.

Design idea of this; ministry of reshelving, real world social bookmarking: putting it into the realworld.
Texas holdem cametaries. In history cemetaries have been a public social space, which it is not anymore in the us. Grave yard games: reclassifying graveyards back to their original use.

Recombination #4 - grooming networks
...to be groomed by a monkey...
Mutual understanding in small gestures.
-secret gestures of the go game
Zombie mombs: can flash signs to them. Entering into contract that ppl can zombiefie oneself. Green goo and fake blood, from outside it looks sponatneous
- Touch in tombstone hold em
- I take care of my crew, in i love bees

Alternate Reality Gaming Session ACG 2005

Thumbwrestling: we thumbwrested!
There will be a tomstone texas hold em in austin Saturday 11 am. Im still here then! Whee!

Thumb wrestling at Alternate Reality Gaming Session ACG 2005

All pictures from the session

Live blogging fr AGC: Keynote by Smedley SOE

Keynote by Smedley SOE
"The future of massively multiplayer gaming"
27 October 2005, Texas, Austin, Austin Game Conference

Smedley, SOE

30 M dollars now for each title.

Vision:
At starbucks, you are playing untold legends in your psp.
Your friends in tokyo are playing via their cellphones, crawling the same dungeons.

Go home. Firing up your nxt gen console.
Your character is exactly where you left him. Same name, same look, but more beautiful.
Your fiends are online, wants to go on a raid.

Wireless headset is on, you have done your raid, having a virtual beer. Decide to go to bed. Wondering how your friends can play 24 hours

At work you get an instant message, your guild need help.

The version you have on the pc is stramed to you, only 2 mb, realtime streaming.

"we want you to be able to log in to your vw on any device anywhere in the world. It will be the future. Playing you character anywhere in the world on any device."

Imortant thing: persitence of you character across all platforms.
ppt slide from Smedley's keynote at ACG 2005

/*omg, that is so along the lines w the mmro wp, except they dont incoroporate rl locations*/

Thechnical herdles will be major.

Procedural environments.
Datasize is key.

30 M dollars is the lowbar for the high end stuff.
Proceduralize textures, look good on any platforms.

Ppl will be communicating, voice.

EQ for ps2: can play without keyboard, without harddrive.
Thats optional on next version too, the harddrive.
So what to do: make games that doesnt require harddrives.

Communication number one goal of any online game.

New breed of ppl playing on consoles. Interesting examples. A kid playing on xboxlive
(video clip, actual recoring)
Kid screaming to his mum... Suspension of disbelief eh.

Toontown way of doing it, restrictions of who to talk to.

Datastorage: how do. Q. Challenge.
Ppl will need to have bb connections.

What about ppl who play on the same servers.
FF- solution where ppl can play across servers. (//did they? I had to get stuff from BalSog in order to play w my friends. Maybe that was it then.)

DC Comics Online, action oriented MMO. Perfect for console, but need to adress how PC players will play, and gameplay they want. Think through how autoatack would work on different platforms. Conloles mean psp too. Wireless.
Nxt year, focus on the online side.
The dream of playing in LA and in Tokyo is possble _now_.

Persistence.
The major factor in online games.
- Character name
- Overall look and consistent art style
- Level, item and skills

Speaker reference to self: different playstyles in different genres: FPS/RPG, usning same character name, but constrained to game type.

Buisness side.
Will make a free MMO.
Works if possible to get income from surrounding things. Added value services. "Station Exchange" RNTs. Sales of virtual items player to player. Real bisness running on 2 servers, revenue stream growing.
In future, might, depending on the game, put it in.
33% of player base wanted it, 30% was ok with it, rest negative.
They think it will work especially good on consoles. Not used to play for money on consoles. That would be a way to getting in console players slowly.

Runexxx, low tech javabased, viral,3.5 M ppl play it regularly (each week) They use a buisness model alike the one presented here.

/*ouch. The biggest will win this. On the other hand, there may be room for indie stuff too. Depending on how play communies develep, individual plans of community leaders combined w mass group behavior.*/

Digital item sales.
Huge in asia... Soe trying to build it into gamedesignframeworks.

70% of sales is done digitally.

Market in china, prediction it will be 3x us market in a few years.
Offer playstiles that fit different cultures.
Just localizing doesnt work anymore.
/* which in iteslf is extremely intersting. A lithmus paper for regional cultures. What about cultures that cut through globally, the layers we have in the population? */

Joint venture w company in tawain. Learn from them how to make games for asian market. Doing a game. Will launch it in US as well.

Think globally from day 1.

Thought to leave:
Think world wide
Think cross platform

Potentially this could be a larger market than single player games market, especially in asia.

Photos from the speech

Notes from AGC: Alternate Reality Games

Notes from AGC: Alternate Reality Games
26 October 2005, Texas, Austin, Austin Game Conference


3:00 - 4:00 pm
Alternate Reality Games
A look at the work behind ARG games like ilovebees and Beast.
- Maureen McHugh, 4orty 2wo Entertainment

(missed beginning of speech, spoke to woman that had made a terapeutic game for children whos parents have divorced)

...how to get to ppl to an add when they are part of a generation who doesnt look at tv (dont see commercials) doesnt listen to radio - download mp3's instead.
=make the ad something ppl want...

...a character in the beast...

Robinson cruose an moll flanders: marketed as if it was real.

The motto for the beast: "this is not a game"
Website is not saying that it is fiction.

Normally we frame fiction: a box, it beeing a book, etc.

And arg crosses the frame. It can call. It can be a popup.
"we would take over your reality anytime we possibly could"
"we are not a game. We are an alternate reality to which you have stepped"

Novel: "Clorissa"

Are arg's going to have a storyteller?

In films we dont question the camera (which is a storyteller), we just accept it.

Games do not often have narrators.

Is ARG a new artform?

Jane McGonigal says no: to few that have had sucess.

Speaker believes it will be a pervasive kind of game form in 50 years or so. Mobile phones... Coming generation maybe wont understand the concept of being off-line.

Game could get you up 3 in the morning... Drive you to work. It has already gotten people married, aldready gotten people fired.

Ilove bees doesnt have a game engine.
Structure them around the mediaform they will use.

The first, the beast, used internet.

Architecture: one website. One blog. Email communication. Payphones.
From that they constructed a story.
Game can touch players, and player can touch the game.
Two parallell narratives.
Day to day on website
Future narrative.

An AI from the future that is defragmented, some here and some in future. Spacial anomaly as in startrek...
Woul publish gps points for payphones for different places, longitud latitude.
Ppl would go there, expect something, but what happens is that a phone rings somewhere.

No alpha, no beta.

Geeks picking up phones; talking to a "damaged AI from future"
"cruman im so glad i found you. Identify yourself"
All used their online handle.
They got 30 - 90 seconds eavsdropping to a conversation from a future.
Then it would unlock somewhere on the webside which you could find.
Then listen to about 30-40 minutes of soap.
3 writers, all sciencefiction authors writing it.

In the middle of the game 2 thigs became evident.
- There where no puzzles, players pissed.
- Prerecorded stuff, cant change.

Personality: based on recording, slized brain. Sleeping princess. Melissa.

"Crumin, how do i know you are real?"
"I could sing a song"
"Sing to me Crumin"

So ppl sang, it was recorded, they put it on the website.

Reason for adding puzzles: the 6 year old melissa likes puzzles.

Questions:
- About the game groping into reallife: players need to sign a thing.
- Ads?
... Majestic...
- Ilovebees is set in the same universe as Halo 2.
Ilovebees got all their attention via halo2
Ads.. Problem? No.
20 people in the core development team of ilovebees.

People cried when character died in the game.
(ok this speaker is absolutely amazing)
Want everyone to have bluetooth.

(audi game? 300 million budget? 300 players?

***

Now representatives from Bioware
Recruiting writers now.
3 titles. Wants resumeƩs to their boot.

Tonight bar:
One spot: Cedar Door. On 2nd street.

Next generation story teller
Writer
Distrubuted storytelling room 4
Creating emotional connections room 5 with players. Upstairs. (mary)

//My comment
Best session of the day. Go Maureen, Go!

Notes from AGC: Team Building

Notes from AGC: Team Building
26 October 2005, Texas, Austin, Austin Game Conference


"Team Building: How diverse teams make a big impact"
Jeb Havens, Cyberlore, Linda Currie, Blue Fang, Nicole Willick, Activision, Tracy Rosenthal-Newson, Harmonix

About how to work in teams, be nice to each other.
Takes effort to create a good team, just like a relationship.

Nicole, Activision, senior producer.
A team in madagaskar.

Diversity of skill is a key to good teams.
Tempting to choose people that are alike oneself, but not good in long run.

Stereotypes:
"the ulitmate gamer" - who played everything on all platform. Good at refencing
"master of technology"
"the creative genious" - unstoppable in brainstormes. Help ingite the rest
"the uber organizer" colorcoded notes...

Risk to typecast oneself is too good at something, end up doing same thing all the time, unless you teach someone else to do the same thing.

Jeb Havens
Cyberlore, lead designer.
Trained in cognitive science... Seeing a chair.

***
Tracy Rosenthal-Newsom, Harmonix
Karaoke revolution Party.
Project lead and senior procuder.
Will speak about gender and ethnic diversity
Team in latest production (party) was larger than in previos production.
Game checks how well the player sings.
Wide demographics of players.
44 core team members.
70% male, 30% female. Had female representation in all discipline.
The more diversity the more communication
84% caucasian, 9% asian, 7% afroamerican
In the game; made sure players could choose representations of different ethnicities.
Also different body types; but try to make it possible to look good: even if pearshaped and curvy.

2005_10_26 026

2005_10_26 031

Notes from AGC: The Language of Games

Notes from AGC: The Language of Games
26 October 2005, Texas, Austin, Austin Game Conference

//********** session summary****************
The Language of Games
Somebody, somewhere, invented the closeup, the fade, the dissolve. These techniques have contributed to the language of film. We're inventing a new language now – the language of games. This session takes a look at examples of this emerging language - and what it means for game writers.
- Hal Barwood, Designer/Writer, Finite Arts
*******************************************

//MY NOTES:

Barwood giving a historical view, starting out with the history of movies.

Fireman movie: the use of cuts.
A space odessey
Wizard of Oz: screen direction.
Lord of the rings. Gullum gollumising, how he faces when he is different persons. Facing left and right. Two persons having a conversation by use of screen direction.

Narrative flow


Pictorial grammar of games.
3d cameras...

Agenda:
Plot
Shows traditinal story arc as ppt.
Shows picture from starwars ep IV. The fatal flaw of the death star.
Shows picture of narrative arc of a game, looks like a saw.
Repetition being a major feature of game play
Games lack pace, movies driven by story, games driven by players.
Referring to Flow (cszi.... Well the name)
ESM "experiende sampling method"
Ppl happiest when strained to limit
Now shoving the traditional flow arc.
Difficulty frustration ideal boredom.


Plot. Showed 4 blobs.
Full throttle: linear plot
Manhole: didnt work....
What works is uordered plots.
- Sandbox games
- Chonicles of events

Topiary plots...
Gates around story nodes...

Advice on plot: keep them simple

Have the story in 8 pieces.
The rod as a meeter

Progress meeters: game equivalent of foreshadowing

Basis for a story must be explained… plot unfold from premise

"Sly Cooper"
"Spider man" - intrusive interface
"God of War" - intrusive interface

In games we loose ourselves in playing not in the story

The peaks of the flow are often bossfights.

Bossmonsters define the acts of a game: climatic moments of stress and reward.

Infernal Machine, indiana jones, roboss 1999
Boss monsters characerisics
- Difficult
- Need new tactics to beat
- Require new insight to defeat
- Usually confer a special reward.
- Victory is a proof of success.

Writers need to find ways to fit in bossmonsters into the story.


The Hero Character
First person game hero
- Almost complete overlap: hero is you
- Loss of personality: no physical characteristis to identify with: you

Third person game hero
Partial overlap: hero is better than you
Avatar person fuels fiction imagination

Powerups
Character development == powerups

Character equals what you can do.

Showing screendump from pacman, to get a powerpill
Donkey kong, supermario 64, oscarina of time, zora tunic let you breath under water.
God of war.

Guidance.
Rerain player inolvement
How to align player with story?
- Obvios goal
- Pivotal hero
- Strong opposition

Oscarina of Time: not enough that everyone turns evil. General evilness not good enough.

Cutscenes or not?
Continous contol isnt absolutely sacred. Shows no sign of disappearing.
Medal of honor: used to set up sequence.
Good for rewarding sucess.

So lets do some QA...
FF - cluttered!

PLOT is not the major feature in a game as it is in film...

//my comment:
Speaker concerned w certain game genres where it certainly makes sence to see character like this.
I like that he stresses the point of character development actually being powerups in some games. And that the character in some cases are "what you can do". This keep it simple attitude, which seem to stem from expertise and long experience, is really necessary. To not make it more complex than it is, not cast down a mass of theore where in some cases it just be like that: a powerup.


2005_10_26 001

Friday, October 21, 2005

implementation note to self 051021:2

Oh, ok, no reason to panic. No wonder i had parallell tracks for the nodes since i must have a hybrid network. The mood nodes have to check the weightings they have to other nodes themselves i think, while the behavior nodes on the other hand should be recieving messages where a high enough level would trigger a behavior. Next week i probably need to think about whether i should have activation thresholds for varieties of behaviors of the same type in the same node or if i should differenciate between them. Back to the mood nodes.

implementation note to self 051021

So: in my executable network. Im am unsure of whether i should use message posting or attached proceduers for updating the mind.
As for now i have rushed away and made attached procedures, but im stopping now the see wheter i maybe should use triggers instead. Hmf.

I started stuffing around with the mood nodes yesterday, making them talk to the different emotion nodes that they are conserned with. (the intro mood and the extro mood will talk to different emotions, and have some in common. I tried to balance it so they both have same number of positive/negative/neutral emotions, but i will have to redo it anyway when its time for tweaking.) Anyway, it struck me just before i was going off to fly with Arne in that Cessna Skyhawk, that i really _should_ have message posting instead, in my mind i seem to have two system design working in parallell and thats just terrible. Cant have that, oh no.

Monday, October 10, 2005

methods in game research

Looking at game research as a research field, what methods are used?

What types of claims are made?
Conceptual/practical? Other types?

What types of reasons are provided to support the claims made?

What type of evidence is used to support the reasons and the claims?

I see that especially the types of evidences used differ between researchers as individuals depending on what field they come from when entering the field of game research.

To take myself as an example I'm trained in humanities. I tend to, if i don't reflect over my method, to go back to that one. I use quotations, anecdotes etc. Since i also have a training in behavior science i sometimes lean to statistics and to fine grained descriptions of behavior, and sometimes statistical summaries of behavior. Having spent some time in the field of computing science i also lean towards types of claims that are more practical, i.e. focused on finding methods for solving problems, while what I'm trained in is to make more conceptual types of claims. And I have this constant feeling of knowing too little.

I can see that my fellow researches do something similar. Craig Lindley for instance tends to use networks of principles, inferences and implications that sometimes are independent of factual data - as in philosophy. It is either that or the computing science type of claims, if there is time to base the results in evidence from practical implementations and tests of the results of the implementations.

I see that researchers like TL Taylor and Nick Yee basically adopts the methods from sociology and anthropology while researchers such as Nicholas Rajava lean on quantitative data gathered in laboratory experiments.

The DIGRA conference in Vancouver this summer was a terrific expose of different kinds of methods for supporting reasons with evidence.

It is not uncommon that researchers in the game research field make sure to publish in venues of other disciplines as well in order to get validations from other sources.

For my own sake i realize the importance of finding the "right" way of supporting my claims, depending on the current claim. Of course - this is so obvious that its almost ridiculous. But still. No matter how obvious it might seem i think i will revisit my research plan. What if i overlooked something? What if i took something for granted which is not?

This spring we will organize a PhD course at Gotland University where we look at research methods specifically from the point of view of the game research field. I guess we need to take one step at a time and try to be as brave as we can.