Got a problem? Fix it.

That’s what engineers do!

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Published in: on March 5, 2009 at 9:33 am  Comments (1)  

Game Console Photo Spread

Think you know game consoles?  Then take a walk down memory lane with Sande’s presentation at the IGDA NYC’s Pecha Kucha night!

For Pecha Kucha night, each slide lasts 20 seconds.  There are 20 slides in all.  Are you ready? Here we go!

Did you manage to guess any names or dates?

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Published in: on February 19, 2009 at 4:39 pm  Comments (2)  

This just in — zombies!

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog for some important news!

Be safe out there!

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Published in: on February 5, 2009 at 1:53 pm  Comments (2)  
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Shoe the president: when games write themselves

Time for a little fun.  The latest flash game web sensation, Sock and Awe, gives you the opportunity to throw shoes at the president.  It’s supposed to be fun and funny, not a big political statement.  Go look at it now real quick.  We’ll wait…

Finished?  You may play it and agree that there’s no dialog or story in it, but I’m here to tell you just the opposite.  It’s fun and funny because of the story.  It’s just not written into the game itself; it’s been written by journalists and politicians for nearly five years.

Far too often, developers and gamers alike assume that because there’s no dialog or Star Wars-like scroll at the beginning that there is no story.  Part of the job of narrative in games is to provide context and meaning to players’ actions.  However, players often already have knowledge that can help your game and narrative, like in licensed games.  If you play a Batman game, chances are you don’t need to learn his origin story or what Gotham City is all about.  You have been exposed to his exposition perhaps through reading comics, watching movies or TV, or going to certain Halloween parties over the course of your life.  When you plug in the Batman game, you pretty much know what story you’re in for.

In Sock and Awe, just like with many licensed games, the player comes to the table with the story and context in mind.  You’re aware, for example, that Bush is president, that he was visiting Iraq years after the “Shock and Awe” campaign put US troops there, and that a man threw shoes at him.  The developers chose the right design and the right art to tell the story that has been buzzing on the internet this week.  Now imagine how you would react to playing this game if you had just woken up today from a nap that had lasted:

Two weeks
You would play this game and find the game funny, but you wouldn’t be sure why you’re throwing shoes.

Six years
You think it’s a little odd that you are throwing anything.

Nine years
You are wondering why you’re throwing things at this random man (or, if you’re knowledgeable, at the Texas governor).

Let’s face it.  The game is basically a low-rent re-skin of Duck Hunt.  I’m even playing Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass right now and there are several mini-games of the same type in it.  It’s what you know about the story and background that makes Sock and Awe fun.  And adding in which countries have thrown the most shoes… well, that’s the icing!

Which games have you played that assumed you knew a lot about the world or backstory?

Posted by Anne for Writers Cabal, a game writing and design partnership.
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Published in: on December 18, 2008 at 2:42 pm  Comments (4)  

Top 10 best and 5 worst titles for games

Looking for a list of the top ten games? Keep looking! Today we’re judging games on a different criteria: their title. Following up on last week’s post on how to title your game, here’s a list of the top 10 titles for games followed by the 5 worst titles.

TOP 10 TITLES FOR GAMES

10. Dead Space & Left 4 Dead (tie)
Regarding Left 4 Dead, “A perfect concise description of the game and the experience of playing it. I love their B-movie in-game posters too.” – Michael Abbott, the Brainy Gamer

9. Rocky’s Boots
A serious game with a sneakily entertaining title

8. Resident Evil
It sounds serious, important, and menacing all at once.

7. Peggle
“Peggle is adorable so I wanted to play it.” – Tamir Nadav, Vigil

6. Day of the Tentacle
“It sounds funny while evoking an old-fashioned, kind of 50s horror movie feel.” – Tracy Seamster, The Agency (SOE)

5. Master of Magic (aka MoM)
“When you win the game you see a little cutscene with your wizard saying ‘Having conquered the worlds of both Arcanus and Myrror I am truly the one and only Master of Magic!’ So that’s neat. ;)” – John Evans

4. Fallout
Evocative and a favorite title of Zeb Cook, Stray Bullet Studio

3. Civilization
“It is a simple title that very much sums up what the game is all about. If they had gone more complex, it would have sounded weaker.” – Bruce Harlick, NCSoft NC

2. Psychonauts
“Because it’s frikkin’ cool (psychic nauts!). Say it though… /phyyycchoooonnaauuutttsss/! What other name lets you have so much fun saying it?” – Andrew Armstrong

1. A Mind Forever Voyaging
“A Mind Forever Voyaging just has a wonderful wistful quality to it. In a way, it captures the essence of the gamer — a mind forever voyaging. It’s also a Wordsworth reference.” – Tess Snider

5 WORST TITLES FOR GAMES

5. Tabula Rasa
Literally means “blank slate,” so not inspiring. That said, it is also a favorite title for some.

4. American McGee’s Alice
No one likes a show off 😉

3. Irritating Stick

2. Infinite Undiscovery

1. Dominion: Storm Over Gift 3
“Bloody stupid name!” – Jake Simpson, Linden Labs alum

Honorable Mention:
Dead Unity, which never shipped

What’s your take on the list?  Did your favorite make it or not?

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Published in: on December 9, 2008 at 2:23 pm  Comments (7)  
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Election Day turns into MMO/ARG

littlejpegLittle J: Hi!  My sister says there’s no way 80% of the people who can vote today will, so I bet her one week of dishes that she was wrong.

I so don’t want to do the dishes!  Will you please go vote and then come back to me with the “I voted” sticker?  I’ll have something special for ya!

If accept goal: Go vote, retrieve “I voted” sticker

If decline:

littlejpegLittle J: You’re mean and I didn’t like you anyway.  Hope you get the worst president ever!

Incomplete:
littlejpegLittle J: Did you vote yet?  If you don’t come back before 8pm, I’ll be doing the dishes for sure!

On completion:
littlejpegLittle J: You did it!  I can’t wait to rub my sister’s nose in it!

So I promised you something special.  Take your “I voted” sticker to any of these places to get your reward.  Why don’t you see who can get the most?

<You receive a carefully handprinted list:

Starbucks offers a free cup of joe November 4th

Ben & Jerrys offers a free scoop of ice cream from 5-8pm

I saw on TV that Daily Grill offers free and discounted appetizers

My hand is tired, so look for the other election freebies here.  Oh, and one of them is NSFW.  That’s what my mom says, anyway.  🙂

-Little J>

So who wants to play?  Come back to post if you voted and where you got swag, and we’ll see who got the most!

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Published in: on November 4, 2008 at 10:06 am  Comments (2)  
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Zombies!! And other Halloween in-game events

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a bit nerdy when it comes to in-game events in MMOs.  Halloween and Christmas happen to be my favorite, but we saw some fun April Fools jokes earlier this year.   raises the question — does content make a good game event, or does execution?

Zombies!!

It’s been clinically proven that zombies are good fun.*  As such, zombies have made their presence known in both WoW and COX.  In WoW, the zombies herald the coming Lich King expansion.  I give kudos to any event that ties in to telling a larger story, except the execution leaves something to be desired.  Zombies at the auction house?  PvP on every server?  Check out Scott Jennings take on the WoW zombies, which have caused consternation to players and developers alike.  A for story, C for execution

In CoX, the zombies are coming out as a true Halloween event.  I don’t know if there’s a story reason for these zombies, but it almost doesn’t matter.  Players can also run around and get costumes, which presumably they can wear.  If you’re really gung ho, apparently two NPCs will tell you about old enemies returning… but somehow, if they’re not selling the story behind it in your promotion, chances are it’s not too integral to your game story.  A for execution, C for story (or lower!)

Keep up to date on Halloween events in MMOs here.  Have you played any Halloween events?  Which ones were good?  Which ones told a story?

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* not really

Published in: on October 30, 2008 at 12:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A limited time Halloween treat and question

It’s almost the 31st — that wonderful day when I enjoy the largest Halloween gathering in the US right in my backyard.  In honor of Halloween, AK Peters is offering 31% off all its books until the 31st.  AK Peters published Professional Techniques for Video Game Writing, with our chapter “Writing in a Team,” as well as Game Design: From Blue Sky to Green Light by Deborah Todd, who was on the WGA panel with me last weekend.  Now’s your chance to own them at a nice discount if you order before the end of the month.

Discount code: “newbooks”

And now for a more serious matter.  We’ve been a bit announce-y lately, so I thought we could use some levity.  I am considering my Halloween costume.  It’s a toss-up between zombie Sarah Palin and steampunk pirate.  Which do you think would be better, and how should I put the look together?  Who will you be for Halloween?

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Published in: on October 23, 2008 at 11:34 am  Comments (4)