Thursday, June 26, 2008

In-game PPT: Raising the bar on presentations

Just back from Paris GDC, and while there was a number of cool things there, my favorite was the keynote given by the guys at Media Molecule, makers of Little Big Planet.

You can find plenty of summaries of their talk online. No need to rehash here.

What I did want to note though, is that they seriously raised the bar for those of us looking to given good, unique, presentations.

Rather than using Powerpoint, their entire presentation was done as an in-game level, which they "played through" as they gave their talk. Different videos and pix were brought up by leaping onto trigger switches, levers and buttons were used to trigger animated actions supporting the talk, etc.

It was just beautiful.

Maybe I'll give my next talk in Line Rider!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Kindle(ing) for Games Industry?

Seth Godin has an interesting post up about the Amazon's e-book device, the Kindle.

I must first fault his post for one thing. For all the pros and cons he discusses, there's not one mention of the device's use of DRM. While he's correct in citing some of it's limitations, he fails to note what is by far the most significant one. Surprising, given that he talks about his own affection for 'buying books to give to someone else', something you can't do with DRM'ed e-books.

This one complaint aside, he offers some intriguing ideas about how the Kindle could be improved, and many of which I beleive apply equally to games. Most of them fall under the umbrella of viewing the 'connected device' as a social platform, and not just a distribution platform.

Much of the talk about Kindle has centered around the convenience of having all your books on one device and purchasing them over the internet, and also around digital distribution, and what this *could* mean in terms of savings to consumers and/or increased royalties to authors. (In fact, much of complaint-camp posting has been about how this has not yet translated into such savings, but that may just be a matter of time as existing books are still paper - and thus publisher - dependant).

Seth instead talks about how the device falls short of it's opportunity to capitalize on it's connected nature. How books should ship with/connect to the readership's commentary. How I should be able to see what books my friends are reading and what htey thought of them. How I should be able to see (if desired) notes in margins, highlighted paragraphs, stickies, disputed facts, links to corroborating or conflicting points of view. How I should be able to link to any word in the text to get a dictionary definition, wikipedia entry, etc. All fantastic points.

I think there's a parallel here with digital distribution as it pertains to games.

Much of the discussion around digital distribution has been about how it might (or might not) translate to increased savings to consumers and/or increased revenue share to developers. Also discussed is how it's allowing for feasibility of certain formats/genres/etc that might not otherwise be feasible, as they wouldn't acheive the revenue needed to justify retail shelf space allocation.

While all of that's true, Seth's comments bring to mind some ideas about how the connectivity of game platforms could enhance the social aspect of games. We are seeing the beginnings of this with Wii's service allowing user rating of game titles, Xbox Live letting you see what your friends are playing, and Steam letting you see what your friends have purchased and commented on.

However, I beleive these things might only be the beginning.

Connecting user ratings & recommendations with a social network allows for networks of trust, as well as 'networks of taste' (not the 'people who liked this also liked' amazon thing, but letting you develop networks of people who've enjoyed games similarly). Connecting the online distribution with the social network potentially could allow for gifting of games, friend discounts, etc.

The idea of annotation is also intriguing. Note how the video I linked to in this post, uses Viddler and someone's commented on a particular point in the stream. We've also seen how games like Portal have shipped with 'Director Commentary' features in the game where they've annotated the game with facts about it's design and development. I find the idea of user-contributed commentary intriguing. Players could opt to play through with commentary on, and could do so with comments from a given person or group. This could be their friends, from a group like the reviewers at JayIsGames, or a favorite blogger/designer/luminary, etc.

In any case, there's a lot of room for innovation as these platforms connect. It will be interesting to see where it takes place. In general, the PC is the place that has the most rapid churn and innovation, but it's often a closed vertical model that allows for consistency of experience (e.g. annotation of games would need some kind of API to allow for linking to a particular object or event, and usage of that API would need to exist across all games on that platform). My bet is that we'll see the first instance of this on somehting like Raph's Metaplace system, though someone like Sony or Microsoft could chose to drive it across theirs (not likely, as Sony's been hands off with theirs, and Microsoft's been letting others catch up as of late, it seems). Other potentials could be Flash or Silverlight, or perhaps whatever secret-sauce gaming thing Google's working on.

The cake is a meme

From UK's Times Online article about a group targeting the Church of Scientology's tactics of targeting individuals that critique their religion. The group does so anonymously, wearing masks and borrowing heavily from web memes:

One of their placards reads: “We have cake, they have lies.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Game Design and Architecture

Everyone is going to link to this. It's just too awesome not to.

Wealthy guy in NY has his apartment remodeled, and wants to have puzzle elements built in, that his kids have to solve to get to the end prize, a poem he's written for them. The architect (game designer?) outdid himself, to say the least.


"In any case, the finale involved, in part, removing decorative door knockers from two hallway panels, which fit together to make a crank, which in turn opened hidden panels in a credenza in the dining room, which displayed multiple keys and keyholes, which, when the correct ones were used, yielded drawers containing acrylic letters and a table-size cloth imprinted with the beginnings of a crossword puzzle, the answers to which led to one of the rectangular panels lining the tiny den, which concealed a chamfered magnetic cube, which could be used to open the 24 remaining panels, revealing, in large type, the poem written by Mr. Klinsky."
Be sure to look at the slideshow as well. The craftsmanship looks awesome.

via Raph.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Go Go Break Steady trailer

The latest trailer for upcoming XBLA title Go Go Break Steady is looking awesome.

A peer of mine signed this title while I worked there, and it has been under development for a LONG time. I haven't seen many XBLA titles go through this much iteration (except maybe Braid, the game I'm most looking forward to), and change so much during that process. Last I played it, it was a beatmatch game with a kind of match-3 twist to it, and was cool then. I can only assume it's gotten even better. Really looking forward to it.

Almost makes up for stuff like Frogger 2, doesn't it? ;-)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Portmanteaux du jour

Two recently heard portmanteau(x? - never sure how to pluralize), one good, one bad:

  • Clowd: (via Seth Godin). Meant to refer to the idea of combining crowd-sourcing with cloud-computing. i.e. send execution out there to the 'cloud', but maybe it's crowdsourced and it's actually this amorphous human engine that executes it. I like the idea, but as a portmanteau, it's almost impossible to audibly differentiate 'clowd' from 'cloud', not to mention the confusion when it's someone with a Canadian accent pronouncing it. Visually, looks too much like 'clown'. Is it a portmanteau form of a snide jeer? If so, then it's a little too clever!
This next one I love so much more.
  • Psychogylcimic: A clever combination that clearly indicates the behavior exhibited by some when their blood sugar gets low. My wife started using this one immediately upon hearing it.