Madden isn't very big over here at all; it's hard to underestimate its cultural standing in the US. This article goes a long way to both explaining that and looking at the history of a juggernaut franchise that once started out very small. I really liked it as a piece of journalism.
"The premise was this: Division 9 would have put players (and their friends) in the middle of an ever-encroaching zombie menace. Co-op gameplay, scarce resources, base-building, and strategic rescues were a part of the conceptual blueprint." Big interview with Ken Levine – including some video footage – of Irrational's cancelled take on the zombie genre. In a nutshell: slower, more strategic, more long-term survival than L4D's short campaigns, and had it been released, would have come out around 2006/2007.
"This suggestion was derided by EA execs at the time — they literally couldn't imagine going to Wall Street with a message of increased profitability rather than top-line revenue growth. They wanted to make the transition to digital while continuing to grow the packaged goods business." Great Mitch Lasky post on the problems facing EA – and, indeed, almost every big games company out there. Though it stems from their announcement that they missed their targets last year (again), really, it's about the changing shape of the games industry.
Hmn. Visualisation of tweets about the word "FIFA" (do the maths there) and all games played of FIFA 10 – so you can see both which teams are doing well, and which countries have good FIFA gamers in them. There's little bits of stats-fluff, but it doesn't go nearly deep enough. It's lovely EA are doing this… but it could be, you know, useful, rather than just shiny? Bungie's statistics crown is still a long way off.
"In this piece, each of the departments involved in making a videogame are examined and accused of one particular vice. In making these assessments, the assumption behind each is that the purpose of the videogames industry is to make games that players want to play, and not to make the games that developers want to play." It is good, and I'm looking forward to the second part.
"…as developers, we need to deal more honestly with the disparity between our reach and our grasp – which is to say, what we tell ourselves our games are about, versus what they are actually about. History will see this decade as the period when games struggled with their destiny in this way." 2K Marin's JP LeBreton with a smart, insightful take on the road ahead for games design, and the many positive steps being taken along it (and: a decent commentary on the "shooting people" issue).
"With limited influence, unlimited hands in the pie, a low barrier to critique, and the perception of triviality, frontend engineers are the janitors of software development. Rather than cleaning up trash, the boulder they toil beneath is skew: the distance between team member's conceptions of a project." This really feels very familiar: it's the most under-appreciated art in the stack of software development, and the one that takes the brunt of the crap.
"Best of all, for impatient gamers the developer plans to conceal load screens with a mini-game where players can connect a USB keyboard and write an undergraduate thesis on the illustrations of Gustave Dore." Seriously, this already sounds much better than the Redwood Shores version…
I find Skate exciting because it’s a prime example of a game that understands Generation C; it allows players to share game-information outside the game – and in a manner that is so much more easily referenced, due to it having a permanent link – just as they share movies, photos, and blogposts.
The original Skate had an impressive community website, for sharing screengrabs and videos. It wasn’t without faults, though – it was very difficult to permalink to, as every request to Reel (the video-sharing community) first asked you what country you were in, and then redirected you to a homepage, rendering the permalink useless.
How refreshing, then, to see the improvements made to the new Reel site for Skate 2, released at the beginning of this year. Now, permalinks are encouraged – here’s an example – but the concessions to creative end-users go several steps further.
Once you’ve uploaded a video, Reel not only lets you view it and share it with friends, but also now provides proper good embed code, making it trivially easy to re-contextualise the video on your own site. Even more remarkably, though, Reel allows you to download the FLV (flash video format) file for the video, so you can upload it somewhere else – Youtube, Flickr, Revver, wherever you store your video. Here’s a video of me skating a short session – just click on it to watch:
They let you download the FLV! That’s brilliant. Because, you see, even though Reel is good, it’s not where my friends are; my friends are on Youtube and Flickr. When the first game was out, smart Skate-rs wanting to upload their videos to Youtube had to rip the FLV file by peeking into the source of the page; now, EA are enabling them to do that licitly. The file is, after all, still watermarked with the Skate 2 logo, still understood as a fragment of that product – so what if somebody wants to tweak it in iMovie or Windows Movie Maker, or cut it into a best-of compilation, or re-upload it to Youtube? They created the content, and so they should be free to do what they want with it.
The web facilitates and encourages this – the FLV file was always present, it was just obfuscated. By adding an explicit download link, EA demonstrate that they understand not only the fact that you want to share your footage, but also the reasons why you might want to share it, and also that they understand their place in the ecology of the web. They’ve provided the hard part: exporting video from a 360 or PS3 to the web. Now, you should be free to do what you want with it.
EA have even released a downloadable pack with more advanced cameras for filming replays – cameras that can track and follow motion-controlled patterns, for instance. Whilst you could argue that this functionality should have been free, it’s interesting to note an add-on for a game that’s about creativity and sharing, rather than gameplay – and more interesting to note that as well as providing more tools, the “filmer pack” also bumps the amount of video you can store online nearly four-fold.
The Reel site for Skate 2 is a great example of the enabling of permanence, and ‘going where people are”, that I discussed in my talks at NLGD and Develop last year. It’s also an interesting example of the kind of social play that’s much more common than simultaneous, co-operative play – namely, the sharing of play experiences around or after the fact; the objects that emerge out of play. That’s something I talked about at Playful last year (and which, I discover, shamelessly isn’t online yet. Will rectify that soon!) As ever, it’s always exciting to see real-world, big-money, examples of good practice in action. And, as a bonus: here’s my profile on Reel.
(I’ve been meaning to write this post for ages, and it’s been sitting in my draft folder for way too long. If in doubt: just release it into the world)
"The first Godfather game had a stealth mission in which you sneaked into the Hollywood producer's house and put the horse's head under his covers. You might expect that in The Godfather II, you have to sneak out onto Lake Tahoe to assassinate Fredo. Close. Instead, you have to sneak into Cuba to garrote a bunch of soldiers whose backs are conveniently turned and then you assassinate Fidel Castro. I did not make that up." Oh jesus.
"…the 1996 target date for Project Atlantis and the GBA's 2001 release is quite a gap. Why the delay? My guess is: Pokémon. Game Freak's socially-driven cockfighting RPG was an unexpected end-of-life hit for the Game Boy, and its out-of-left-field success added years to the fading system's life. The popularity of Pokémon might actually have been the first time Nintendo realized that technology and profitability don't go hand-in-hand." That's an interesting way of looking at it. (Also: an interesting piece on the Nintendo super-portable that never was).
This is not good. And the worst part: "Hundreds of public bodies and quangos, including local councils, will also be able to access the data to investigate flytipping and other less serious crimes." It's not the police having this that's the big worry; it's the incompetent lower echelons of civil service. who shouldn't need this.
"The first viewings of Dante's Inferno suggest the action adventure will be very similar to God of War… enemies can be smashed into the air and juggled around using simple combos that mix light and heavy attacks. Magical abilities will also feature, and fallen enemies will spill health and magic orbs that replenish respective status bars." Oh Jesus, please make it stop.
The reason CakePHP has issues connecting to MySQL database on OSX 10.5 is because its database adaptor is explicitly looking for the default mysql socket defined in your php.ini. If you fix that, everything works. The critical adjective, if you ever search for this again, is the "OSX" part.
"Now I get that the sports genre is the Rodney Dangerfield of games when the awards are handed out. But c'mon, one of the best sports games of recent times not even in the Top 50? This title will sell in excess of 10 million units when all is done and dusted, but doesn't even rank a mention?" Peter Moore didn't read the editor's explanation of how the EG top 50 was worked out. Then again, neither did half the internet.
"Not what I had in mind at all." George Oates on how her firing from Flickr played out, which was pretty horrific as it turned out – she was on the other side of the world, presenting on behalf of the firm. I am really not sure what Yahoo! hope to gain from many of their recent redundancies, and least of all this one.