Great Dane Games

Great Dane Games

Great Dane Games - all things gamerelated

This weblog is the digital playground for Anders Højsted. I'm a philosopher, indie gamedeveloper, writer & all-round renaissance man.

Nordic Game

Game IndustryPosted by Anders Højsted Thu, April 29, 2010 09:07
I'm currently at the Nordic Game conference at Malmø and quite enjoying myself.

Large parts of the copenhagen games industry is here, so it's like a family reunion.

However I have some complaints:

I'm really tired of hearing about social games (aka Facebook-games). There's a ton of money there, but the market is already dominated by some very large players (Zynga, Playfish). However the gameindustry (aka the developers) are always pressed for money, so they constantly looking for the Next Big Thing(tm).

Kristian Segerstråle, VP of Playfish did the keynote yesterday and brought out some very interesting perspectives (BTW: I'm not slagging Kristian here, he made a great presentation and seems like a nice guy).

He said if you make a succesfull game on Facebook, be prepared to be copied almost instantly. He said this as the most natural thing and this really shocked me. I care about the games that I make, I invest myself in them and try to make them unique experiences for the players. I do not like the thought that other people can copy them (aka the concepts) with impunity.

It's very costly to protect an IP-rights-wise. So the alternative would be that FB accepted their role in this and started to "police" FB. It wouldn't be hard, - just a email where you could complain if your game-concept is blatantly copied. FB could examine the case and remove the ripoff from FB (if the complaint was substantial).

Right now the lack of policing scares people away from FB because they know that if they make a succesfull game, they'll be overrun by a copy-cat-game and a massive marketing-budget a week after their release. This is - in the long run - a loss for FB; they'll be missing out on innovative titles because the developers won't be able to capitalize on their products.

The instant direct access to the players on FB means that the developers can test changes in their design very rapidly and very quickly measure if it makes a difference in userbehaviour. This is nice if you're a CFO, - make it, test it, see if it's profitable, if not, discard, if yes, keep. Rinse, repeat. Eventually you'll have the perfect challenge-reward-cycle down for maximum addiction-value, - which means a lot of money in the bank.

However, they're not measuring whether the player's experience is better, only if more people are playing their games/using more money in it. So it helps them give people exactly what they want, but doesn't really challenge people or advance the art of gamedesign.

(Unless you equate very succesfull in the marketplace (=quantitative) with good (=qualitative). You can't equate quantitative with qualitative, - in that case McDonalds would be the best restaurant in the world).

So in conclusion: FB is an oversatuated marketplace, where you can't protect your product and where metrics decide what's acceptable in design. Don't go there.


A.

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First graphics

Try/FailPosted by Anders Højsted Mon, April 19, 2010 15:45
This is the first graphics for Try/Fail: the skull

There is a very special (and odd) story to the colors of the skull.

I'll reveal it when I release the game.


A.

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Rapid Prototyping & Try/Fail screenshot

Game DesignPosted by Anders Højsted Fri, April 16, 2010 14:27

I'm working on a small game in GameMaker called "Try/Fail".

It's a small non-commercial art game about a philosophical/existential issue. I won't reveal to much about the content of the game; you'll have ample opportunity to play it yourself when it's released.

(...and art shouldn't be explained; - it should be experienced and interpreted. Interpretation is an important part of this game).

Instead I want to talk about game development.

From all I've learned that best way to make games is to do rapid prototyping. Most games have some sort of essential experimental feature - usually an rules-mechanic or a game-mechanic - and it's important to test ASAP it you can make it work and if it's fun.

So step one is to define that feature, build it and test it. To do so rapidly, you can make a bare bones prototype with placeholder content and one the minimal amount of interaction implemented.

The essential feature in Try/Fail is that the avatar changes as you progress in the game. This is really, really simple and should be easy to make.

I'm tried to make a prototype a while back, but soon hit a wall of incompetence. No matter how I did it, the avatar wouldn't change. I posted on the GameMaker forums and got a reply. Except it didn't work. So I started doing something else instead (<- this is in some way that story of my life). Not being able to make it work made me mad and made me feel incompetent.

A while back I got annoyed by the lack of progress that I looked at it again. As you can see at the gamemaker-thread, Sythus writes "if value = 2 instance_change(object2,1) ". I then write "if score = 2 instance_change(object_avatar_1,object_avatar_2 )". This <b>isn't</b> the same; the order of the object is reversed, so the initial object is second and the second object is first.

Anybody who have done programming knows how important to do it absolutely correctly. The advantage of computers is that they do exactly what we tell them to do; the disadvantage of computers is that they do exactly what we tell them to do.

So I fixed the code and made it work. The prototype is now functional, except for some minor adjustments.

Here's a screenshot of the first (and only) level in the game:

Riveting, ain't it?

The turquise block in the center is the avatar; the "1" is a to show that it's the first avatar in a succession of avatars (1->2->3). The black blocks are solid; the burgundy blocks can be dug away. It will (hopefully) makes sense to you when you play it.

All of the art is placeholder art and all the audio in the game is audio clips that I gotten from the web. I have an work-ethos of doing everything myself, so I'll have to re-record all the sounds (except the recording of classical music; can't do that). Audio is a very important part of this game.

And I'll have to do the graphics.

But the next step is to test the game on unsuspecting victims; girlfriend, friends, family, other gamedevelopers....can they make sense of the interaction?

The picture probably goes to prove one of my points in my earlier post: if you "release" your game too early to the public, people will feel disappointed about it. In this case because of the graphics. I wanted to post it for people to see an prototype and later to be able to compare with a screenshot of the game with the full graphics to see the progress.

More to come....

A.

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Peter Molyneux @ NGJ

Nordic Game JamPosted by Anders Højsted Thu, March 11, 2010 12:34

It's been a gazillion years (almost) since I've updated this blog. Life's been hectic and I've been enjoying it.

First of, Nordic Game Jam 2010. I've been one of the organizers of it for the last couple of years. For those of you who don't know what a gamejam is, it's basically a bunch of people coming together for a weekend and making games. It's been happening at the IT-University in Copenhagen for the last 5 years and is arranged by the danish chapter of International Game Developer's Association (IGDA) of which I am a board member (the danish board, not the international one).

Nordic Game Jam is completely organized by dedicated & professional volunteers from the game industry and have organically grown to around 300 participants this year. In 2009, Susan Gold from IGDA Educations Special Interest Group pionered the proliferation of gamejams globally with the creation of Global Game Jam-network, which - essentially - helps people around the world with all the practicalities of making gamejams in the Nordic Game Jam-style. Global Game Jam is an amazing initiative and it is going to bigger then anyone can imagine; it's already massive.

Nordic Game Jam has always been a very hectic event to organize; we gather people, feed them for a weekend, supply them with gamedevelopment ressources and set up a full day of presentations as well. Last year we grew 100% and wasn't ready for it, so it was stressfull, but this year we were ready for it (going from 160 to 300 participants) and managed to make the event without anybody getting too stressed. The IT-University In Copenhagen is a great partner & venue for the event & I actually think we have the event-coordination nailed 110% now, so next year is going to be a walk in the park (North Central Park at night, that is).

My primary responsiblity this year was to take care of our keynote-speaker Peter Molyneux & his assistant Dimitri Mavrikakis, since I had invited them earlier.

After NGJ'09 the whole crew went to Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco. Peter Molyneux was doing a presentation and - being a huge fan - I went to it. I had decided to ask him if he wanted to do the NGJ'10 keynote. He was talking to people from the audience afterwards and I tried to gather the courage to ask him, but failed. So I left. Almost. I told the ushers at the door - GDC student helpers - about my ambition and failing courage and they just started pounding me. Do It! Go ask him! Now! Come on! So I did.

(Thanks for the push, it was exactly what I needed. If we ever meet again, beers is on me).

Peter was surrounded by a group af people; I went up and got his attention. I barely managed to stutter out the invitation and to my big surprise he said yes and handed me his business-card. "I'll bring a surprise for the event", he said. I just looked at his business card, muttered "Cool, thanks, I'll mail you" and walked away! I didn't even ask about the surprise; - I was that perplexed.

After returning from GDC I mailed him and he confirmed that he would keynote NGJ'10.

The surprise was that he brought Project Natal with him and presented it. It was very, very interesting. Microsoft is really trying to integrate a lot of different technologies in Natal and if they pull it of, they'll literally revolutionize they way we interact with computers - not just games, but in anything. The computer will not only be able understand your movement; it'll be able to understand your voice and respond verbally to your commands and it will also be able to interpret your mood based on it (imagine what this will do for disabled people or for gathering metrics on media-products).

There's a recording here of his keynote (w/o the Project Natal-presentation); we'll upload a video of it at the NGJ-website later (All the NGJ-organizers are in SF for GDC right now; I'm the only one in DK).

Peter (& Dimitri) was very pleasent guests and I was very impressed by Peter's enthusiams for games, even after 30 years in the games industry. So I got my motivation for working with games back, - more about this in a later post.

Big things are (hopefully) afoot and I'll use this blog to talk about them.

Best regards,

Anders

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Holiday greetings :)

PersonalPosted by Anders Højsted Wed, December 23, 2009 13:31
Hi y'all,

I just wanted to wish you all a very merry christmas/jul/chanukkah/whatever.

Take some time off with your family, relax, enjoy some good food and come back refreshed and stronger for the new year.

Christmas is going to be great and the new year - 2010 - is going to be magnificent.

Love y'all,
Anders

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Gameplay Verbs

Game DesignPosted by Anders Højsted Mon, December 14, 2009 11:02
It's been a bit quiet in here; I've been busy with the Nordic Game Jam 2010, looking for jobs and making games.

On top of all of this, there's the COP15 meeting in Copenhagen, so there's demonstrations and events all over town and some of the public transportation is not working (I couldn't get a bus saturday, - they were full of people going to the big demonstration, - 100.000 people). And my leftwing friends are getting arrested for participating in peacefull demonstrations. Life is a bit crazy in Copenhagen these days; there's people from all over the world here which is amazing and wonderfull, - all we need to do is to keep the demonstrations peacefull.

Now about the games:
Evolution: Fitness has been a bit on hold. Chris Hecker's talk about the "why in games" (as in "why do I want to make this game") made me think about a lot of stuff. So I got an idea for a different game (called Try/Fail), that I just wanted to make. Unfortunally I underestimated the effort required to make it, so I've been working on it for a while now. It's a really small game but some of the gameplay seems to go against what GameMaker can do, so I'm struggling with it.

However, I've had a dream. I've had this vague idea about a game about reality for a while. It's partly inspired by the concept of consensus reality. Consensus reality is the idea that the reality(:what is real) is based on what we can agree on. This is epistemologically & ontologically false; reality doesn't care about what we think about it. Well, physical reality doesn't. In social sciences you have the concept of socially constructed reality; - that our perception of the world (and according actions) are based on a socially constructed language that shapes or perception. Right?

(Ok, here's a funny exercise: find 3 words that describes the same behaviour, but with different values attached. Examples could be terrorist, rebel, freedomfighter or stingy, parsimonious, thrifty (you can find a lot of inspiration in thesaurusses). Each word changes your perception of how the person is).

Now, the idea for the consensus reality game is that you handle the challenges in the game by changing your perception of reality in the game.

I wrote the idea into X and realized that I used the verb "shifting" (as in "shifting reality") for the basic gameplay-mechanism in the game. Somebody (either Chris Crawford or Greg Costikyan) pionered that concept of gameplay-verbs; verbs that describe the gameplay. I haven't seen any other games that uses the verb "shifting" to describe the gameplay.

Which leeds me to the interesting: can we reverse engineer this process and come up with new forms of gameplay by using new verbs? (After all: there's plenty to take from; go now, - innovate!)

Love all,
A.

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Why?

Game DesignPosted by Anders Højsted Wed, November 18, 2009 15:45
There's a Gamasutra-article on Chris Hecker's presentation at the Montreal Independent Games Festival about art, games & the industry (read it for yourself):

Most importantly "..he spends a lot more time considering and discussing the "why," as in "Why do you make games?" It's a question he believes is crucial not just to individual developers, but to the cultural impact of the entire medium for decades to come.

Why Ask Why?

Those who work in certain popular forms like music, film, and literature often reflect on how a particular work was born out of a specific event. "I had to write this book when my girlfriend dumped me," a novelist might say."


This is very important; art is many things, but it usually relates to and communicates something about (aspects of) the human condition. It usually relates to the perceiver and forces him/her to reflect over their own condition.

So if people have an ambition about their games being more then just entertainment, they should ask themselves "why do I want to make this game, what is my personal existentialist reason for doing this? what do I want to communicate about my own current condition?".

It made me ask that question about Evolution:Fitness: "why do I want to make it?".

The answers is that I want to make Evolution: Fitness because of the whole debate about evolution and creationism. The purpose of the game is to teach people about one of the fundamental mechanism in evolution: the biological adaptation to an enviroment through mutation.There's a lot of misconceptions about evolution and Evolution:Fitness might help people understand things right.

It seems to me that when people debate these things, they don't understand each others positions, so everybody is attacking strawmen. If the creatists understood evolution, they might also understand that religion isn't 100% incompatible with science, even though a 100% literal interpretation of the old testament is.

So I hope to increase understanding for evolution.

Evolution is a very important theory and the understanding & application of it has benefitted mankind immensely. Science is important to understand the world around us and manipulate it so we can diminish human suffering and increase the general quality of life for people (yeah, I'm getting a bit utilitarian here).

A.

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Evolution: Fitness 0.1

Game DesignPosted by Anders Højsted Fri, November 06, 2009 10:23
Here's the first version of the Evolution: Fitness design document.

The design paradigm for the game is that it has very few rules that creates a complexity that is interesting. A sub-set of the design paradigm is that the rules of Moving, Mutating affords for direct interaction with the gamestate (:moving a piece directly) while the rule of Breeding affect the conditions for automatic interaction where the game will act, the player controls the interaction indirectly by setting up conditions for it. It could be interesting to create a game where the player only could indirectly act with the game, - where he only could affect the conditions for interaction and the game would do the actual interaction.

I had a hard time figuring out what kind of format I should document it, but eventually decided to do it as a game-manual without flavour text or gameplay-examples. I've written it and read it through once (maybe twice) and corrected it. It's very raw. Remember: the purpose of this exercise isn't to present you with a finished product, but to document the process.

(It raised the issue of iterations: when is an iteration done? when is each phase of the iteration (design -> test -> evaluation) done? Right now all phases takes place in my head; I decribe a design, visualize a playthrough and evaluate the playthrough, so the only way I can define iterations as discreet entities is by being meta-reflective about my mental activity).

(Note to self: parts, whole, level of zoom).

Some things are readily apparent with the document. This is not a satisfying way to describe the game, - it's very abstract and it takes a trained designer to actually understand what is happening. I'm thinking about writing some playthrough-examples to example the game and will also add graphics as I move along (a picture seriously is worth a thousand words).

Feel free to download the design document, comment on it, test it and elaborate on it.

If you want to send me a commented version, send it to andersh@greatdanegames.com.

All feedback is appreciated.

Love,
Anders

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