• Went in sceptical, but this is a very good/solid presentation: the emphasis on going beyond chucking around the adjective "playful" and actually considering what makes (different kinds of) games work, and what they may/may not be applicable to, is spot-on. And a reminder that I'm behind on my reading, as usual.
  • "Hooray! Someone has put John Smith’s short film, The Girl Chewing Gum (1976), on YouTube… The film consists almost entirely of a single continuous shot of Stamford Road in Dalston Junction, a downbeat area of east London… The conceit of the film is that everything that moves or appears within shot – pedestrians, cars, pigeons, even clocks – is following the instructions of an omnipotent director who appears to be behind the camera: ‘Now I want the man with white hair and glasses to cross the road … come on, quickly, look this way … now walk off to the left.’ Pedestrians put cigarettes in their mouths, talk to each other, eat chips, take their glasses off, cast a glance behind them or look at the camera, all at the apparent behest of this offscreen director."

eg2k9.png

I really liked last.fm’s end-of-year charts. I also really liked this analysis of Pitchfork’s scoring in 2009, just for the statistical fun. And then I thought about my favourite score-oriented website, and wondered why no-one’s done this for Eurogamer yet. I’d be the first to argue that scores in reviews aren’t that important – but everybody loves arguing about them in comments threads, and besides, they make for interesting statistics. What I’d really like would be something like the Pitchfork analysis, but looking a bit more like the last.fm site.

And then after two days I just decided to build it myself.

It’s relatively straightforward: a small app to explore a year’s worth of review scores, built around the pillars of reviews, writers, and scores. Most blue things are clickable; writers have pages that show their reviews, as well as their own averages, deviance from EG’s norm, and the scale of their contribution to the overall average. That latter figure is something I call influence; it took a long while to get to, and I write about it more here. Here’s Simon Parkin’s page as a good example of a writer’s page.

Reviews also have pages – here’s one for Modern Warfare 2, which show how the review compares to the site’s average, the writer’s average, and also to Metacritic. And, of course, you can see just how many games scored 7 – or any other score – if you want. Basically: have a click around.

I started two weeks ago, and guess I stopped committing in the middle of last week, but towards the endit was just front-end tweaks. It’s not been a big project at all – about an hour or two’s work a day on average, in evenings, and lunch-hours, over about ten days.

It’s not a very advanced project, and touches lots of bases I’m working with a lot right now – data analysis, visualisation, scraping. That said, it’s got some interesting stuff under the hood. I’m using Typekit for the attractive type, and it’s been a pleasure to work with. The graphs are a combination of the Google Charts API and gRaphaël, which I’ve had reasonable results from recently. gRaphaël’s strength are beautiful visualisations, rather than ultra-accurate charting, so the pair of tools are used for their strengths. Finally, it’s all deployed on Heroku, which has been a joy as ever; cloud deployment of databased apps, on dynamic hosting, as simple as pushing to a new git repo. And, for the scale of the Eurogamer tool, totally free.

So there you go. A little exploration of some numbers, which bring some interesting figures to light, and was also fun to build. It only felt right to share it. As the site says, scores aren’t everything – you should read reviews too, folks – but when you’ve got numerical data, it seems a shame not to do anything with it.

  • "As Hecker suggested, though, that crucial consideration of the "why" of game development — along with related questions like "What are you trying to say to people?" or "What influenced this?" or "Are you trying to say anything at all?" — seems to be less important in this medium than it is elsewhere. That's understandable, since "fun" can be pursued for its own benefit, and to great and impressive effect. Surely we've got that covered by this point, though, and there's bandwidth for more." Chris Remo thinks out loud for a bit.
  • "I'm sorry to say that Demiforce is canceling plans for Onyx." This is a real shame, because I was somewhat excited that Demiforce wasn't just ramping up for "another game", and was instead building something that might benefit the platform. As it is: oh well. Those Apple T&Cs are killer, it seems.
  • "I was reading about arcades and how you'd have to queue to play popular games as well as follow rules like no throwing in fighting game or the others wouldn't let you play. This seems rather strange. The money cost must have gotten expensive pretty quickly as well. I'm not old enough to have been to them when they were around so I'm curious about what they were like." And then, 18 pages of wonderful gaming oral history; you'll be smelling the aircon and the chewing gum by the time you're through with this thread.
  • "The aim, then, is to explore what makes a good children's game, to consider how this oft-maligned market can sometimes reveal bad game design habits that we've been conditioned to tolerate, and to offer a guide to the best games for kids available now by looking at the four design areas that I believe are key to making a successful game for children." Dan Whitehead's roundup of games for children is really very good: some strong thinking, good comparative analysis, and best of all, parental insight. More like this, please, EG.
  • Wonderful interview with Marty Stratton and John Carmack on Quake Live; there's some really smart insight on development and business in here, and also some tidbits of Carmack talking code. Definitely one to mull over.

Projects

01 December 2005

How projects really work. This provided a good few minutes of laughter in the office this morning