• "In the 14 months since [TeamFortress 2] shipped, the PC version of the game has seen 63 updates – “that’s the frequency you want to be providing updates to your customers,” [Newell] adds. “You want to say, ‘We’ll get back to you every week. The degree to which you can engage your customer base in creating value for your other players” is key, says Newell. “When people say interesting or intelligent things about your product, it will translate directly into incremental revenue for the content provider.”" Great write-up from Chris Remo of Gabe Newell's DICE talk.
  • "This is a sort of thorough, empirical, sociological study of art students at two British art schools at a very interesting moment, the late 1960s (a moment when, as the book says, anti-art became the approved art, bringing all sorts of paradoxes to the fore). I find it fascinating that such a subjective thing as developing an art practice can be studied so objectively, but then I find it amazing that art can be taught at all. The book shows the tutors and students circling each other with wariness, coolness, misunderstanding, despair, appreciation." Some great anecdotes and observation.
  • "Busker Du (dial-up) is a recording service for buskers through the telephone (preferably public payphones hidden in subway stations). Audio recorded will be posted to this audio-blog and made available to all who cherish lo-fi original music. Try it out at your favorite subway station or street corner." Dial-A-Song comes full circle.
  • "Poole – HAL 9000 is a fictional chess game in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the movie, the astronaut Frank Poole is seen playing chess with the HAL 9000 supercomputer… The director Stanley Kubrick was a passionate chess player, so unlike many chess scenes shown in other films, the position and analysis actually makes sense. The actual game seems to come from Roesch – Schlage, Hamburg 1910, a tournament game between two lesser-known masters."
  • Lovely demo – some interesting interfaces that feel quicker than current alternatives, as well as experimental ones that, whilst slower and clumsier, represent information a bit better. I mainly like the form-factor, though – but what's the unit cost? These things get a lot better the more you have.
  • "Something like: Trying to create a reading list that gives the best introduction to everything. This may change." Phil is trying to collect the Good Books in many fields. It's an interesting project, for sure; it'll also be interesting to see how it pans out.
  • I was a little excited from the ongoing Offworld love in, but Oli Welsh's review suddenly makes me insanely excited about Keita Takahashi's new plaything. Why is it that all the reasons for me wanting a £300 PS3 are £3 PSN titles?
  • "…the biggest consequence [of a universal micro-USB adaptor] will be the ease of transferring data/content from street service provider to consumer, and consumer to consumer… There is a place at the edges of the internet where the level of friction makes content and data grind to a halt. It's largely unregulated. And it just got seriously lubed."
  • "30 Second Hero is an action RPG which consists of really short battles that require no interaction, as players race against the clock to save the kingdom from an evil wizard's wrath. As indicated by the title, you only have thirty seconds to level up your character sufficiently for the final battle, although additional time can be bought from the castle at the cost of a hundred gold pieces per increment of ten seconds." Hectic; the entire early JRPG genre (FF1, et al) condensed into a minute-long rush. Grinding as poetry.
  • "I was convinced that it was a spoof. As if there’d be a genre called Donk. Everything is wrong about the video. The knowing subtitles over subtle Northern Accents. The presenter’s slight grin when he’s chatting to folk. The funnily named shops. Everything. There’s no way I’m falling for a prank like that. It reminds me heavily of the episode of Brass Eye where they whang on about Cake (the made up drug). And all the characters and the interviews look like they could be setups or clever edits." But no, it's real. Iain Tait discovers Donk.
  • "…with that sad note from Sarinee Achavanuntakul, one of the most enduring (if illegal) tributes to gaming history came to an end." Home of the Underdogs is no more; just gone, like that. It wasn't that it had the best games or the worst games, or that they were illegal, or free; it was history, and childhood, and the smell of cardboard and boot disks, all wrapped up in one giant cathedral to Good Old Games. Most things I played on my old DOS machine were there. A shame; I hope they're elsewhere. This is why we need proper game archives.
  • Tweaking a game five months after launch to make it both more playable, and also more realistic; understanding that realism is key to NHL09 fans, and delivering on that as an ongoing promise.
  • "Warcraft’s success has always been substantially due to the extraordinary physicality of Azeroth, to the real sense of land transversed, of caves discovered, and of secrets shared. Players old and new bemoan the endless trudging that low-level travel requires, but it’s crucial for binding you to the world." Yes. Despite QuestHelper, I'm always in awe of the new areas. I just wish more people were playing the game as slowly and badly as me. Another beautiful One More Go, and one that resonates a lot right now.

Playing Together – my talk from NLGD and Develop – now online

22 August 2008

It’s taken a long while to put together, mainly because I wanted to write up my very sketch notes into something approximating what I said, and also because I wanted to experiment with a more representative way of publishing presentations online.

Anyhow, I’m very pleased to share Playing Together: What Games Can Learn From Social Software with you.

It went down pretty well at both NLGD and Develop, and I really enjoyed some of the thinking that went into it. I’m working out what to do about that, obviously, but in the meantime, I thought it deserved a wider audience. Do enjoy, and I’d love to hear your feedback on it.

Back from Develop

01 August 2008

So that was Develop.

To put it in a nutshell – or at least, what I remember that can be bounded by a nutshell:

strong ideas, building bands, Kirks and Picards, theatre, cultural studies, mise en scène, horror through constraint, good individuals versus great teams, cultural studies, importing the wrong ideas about movies, rather good chocolate cakes, putting many names to faces, impromptu One Life Left appearance, listening to children, being a good teacher, nuArgs, still needing to play Chain Factor, developers’ main hatred of Flash being its lack of IDE (and static typing), all games are alternate realities, feelies, importance of good user-testing, importance of realistic user-testing, input-behaviour-control, cybernetics as model for AI, de-emphasising behaviour in favour of farming out to concepts, fish and chips in a Hove park, sea air, 2K Boston’s virgin-hiring practices, Kotaku-headline meme, lists of fantasy movies, The Final Countdown on four-player Band Brothers DX, raspberry coffee.

As for my talk, it seemed to go pretty well and people were positive. I’ll try to get it up within the week. I’ve also got some notes from a few sessions I’d like to write up, because my web and design readers might enjoy them. Doing that might make sense of some of those notes.

Thanks to everybody who made it so memorable: it was a pleasure to meet you all.

Upcoming Conference: NLGD

08 June 2008

Some exciting news: I’m going to be talking at NLGD, the Dutch Festival of Games in Utrecht, in two weeks time.

I’m going to be talking about “What games can learn from social software”. There’s lots of interesting stuff going in social software and Web 2.0 as a whole that really isn’t permeating far enough into the games industry – yet – so this talk is designed as an overview of some of the more interesting (and not immediately obvious) aspects of social software, and how they might apply to games. I think it should be both fun and informative, and despite the usual pressures, I’m looking forward to writing it a lot.

The talk itself is spun out of my session at Gamecamp, which turned out to be incredibly successful – lots of great discussion and enthusiastic feedback.

And so I’m going to Utrecht. Looking forward to it, if only because it’s always exciting to attend a conference outside your core interests. I’ve spoken about games before, but never to the games industry, so that’ll be quite exciting: lots of new people to meet, lots of new perspectives to hear.

Reboot 8: Telling Stories – talk now up

07 June 2006

A PDF transcript of my Reboot talk is now live. It’s essentially a tidied-up version of the wadge of paper I spoke from, so excuse the conversational tone. Hope you enjoy it.