Game designers are undervalued

“We need to talk in terms that oscillate between code, design, opinion, bringing together the fractured, disparate roles of game creation to reach a language and conversation that goes beyond technical frigidity.”
— David Surman

Game design as a scholarly activity has been continually undermined by forces both within and without of the games industry. This was the controversial message from academic David Surman, speaking at the alternative British video game conference, Nottingham GameCity, earlier today.

Surman, a senior lecturer in game design at Newport Art School and one of the event’s organizers was quick to point out that designers are some of the most poorly paid people in the games industry.

“Because we don’t value the game designer’s role, their vision is often subsumed within the views of the higher-ups, when really their contributions should be the most highly-prized in the development process,” he argued.

Simon Parkin @ Gamasutra

Keita Takahashi: playground designer

Game designer Keita Takahashi, creator of Katamari Damacy, is consulting on the design of a children’s playground in England:
Katamari

The iconoclastic and much-loved game designer is spending a month in Nottingham where he will consult school children, local communities and the NCC Landscape Architect to discuss and develop ideas for the playground.

Councillor Dave Trimble, Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Culture & Customers at Nottingham City Council said, “We’re delighted to have Takahashi-san on board and very much looking forward to working with him on this unique collaboration.”

After considering several sites NCC has selected Woodthorpe Grange Park for the Takahashi-created playground. The site’s natural rolling hills may add to the design and enable some interesting and playful landscapes.

Takahasi has often made comparisons between game design and architecture, and certainly there are parallels to be drawn between play areas and games – they’re both constructed environments designed to enclose, direct and facilitate enjoyment. But could he be starting a new trend? What would happen if more designers took his lead?

Via Keith Stuart @ The Guardian, who adds:
Katamari Quake

I think Id could knock up a cool, if rather dangerous, Quake-themed adventure playground – all multi-levelled enclosures and trampoline jump points. And how about a Super Monkey Ball one, in which kids are bundled into huge hamster balls and allowed to explore at will?

I’m down with it — Quake that playground!

(Digression: I remember Half-Life Two, there’s an abandoned playground in City-17 … you can spin the spinning-alphabet toys and the merry-go-round … now that was some fine game design, very poignant scene, childhood memories transported into a desolate future.)

In other British playground news:

Council bans parents from play areas

Score one for Britain in its contest with the United States to create the stupidest fear-based society. The Watford Borough Council took the lead by banning parents from supervising their own kids in public playgrounds, “because they have not undergone criminal record checks.”

The only adults allowed to monitor the kids are idiocracy-vetted “play rangers.” The children’s parents must “watch from outside a perimeter fence.”

Mark Frauenfelder @ BoingBoing

Game violence as positive reinforcer

Over at Gamasutra (“Kill Polygon, Kill”), game designer Noah Falstein offers some interesting comments about the usefulness of violent videogames:Re-Mission

I contributed to the ReMission game from Hopelab — fairly violent 3rd person shooter. But the violence is directed against cancer cells and bacteria, and the game is proven to help kids with cancer stick to their treatment regiments — so it makes for a good example when people tell me they wish they could ban violent videogames. And for the record, I think the violence in ReMission is part of what makes the “take your chemo drugs” message stick with them.

Noah Falstein @ Gamasutra

Re-Mission

Vegas uses computers to nab card counters

Counting cards (without outside help) is legal. But casinos obviously don’t like it, because it costs them money. And — surprise! — casinos don’t like to lose money: casinos are in the business of helping gamblers Blackjack Tablelose money. Now casinos are using computers and video cameras to automate the process of detecting card counters:

The anti-card-counter system uses cameras to watch players and keep track of the actual “count” of the cards, the same way a player would. It also measures how much each player is betting on each hand, and it syncs up the two data points to look for patterns in the action. If a player is betting big when the count is indeed favorable, and keeping his chips to himself when it’s not, he’s fingered by the computer… and, in the real world, he’d probably receive a visit from a burly dude in a bad suit, too.

The system reportedly works even if the gambler intentionally attempts to mislead it with high bets at unfavorable times.

Yahoo! Tech, via BoingBoing

Card counting @ Wikipedia

Linux Games For Non-Gamers

Linux GamesSlashdot recently posted a request for linux games that don’t require a gamer box, just a simple video card. I’ve compiled some of the links:

  • BattleMaster
  • xmoto
  • PlayOnLinux
  • http://www.openttd.org/
  • http://www.wesnoth.org/
  • Warzone 2100
  • Scorched 3D
  • http://www.bzflag.org/
  • http://chromium-bsu.sourceforge.net/
  • FreeCiv (warning, highly addictive! ~HV)
  • http://www.ufoot.org/liquidwar/v5
  • https://sourceforge.net/projects/koules/
  • http://neverball.org/
  • Doom II
  • Quake Live
  • Gemcraft
  • Linux games @ Wikipedia
  • “Cube, OpenArena, Nexuiz are all fair FPS games. Not amazing, but fun diversions. Aside from that BZFlag, Battle for Wesnoth, and FreeCiv. A word of advice: Never play Frozen Bubble. I’ve lost days thanks to that bastard.”
  • Battle for Wesnoth
  • “OpenArena, Warzone 2100, Urquan Masters, and Frozen Bubble should top your list of Linux games. Also check out Urban Terror, it is a close analog of CounterStrike.”
  • “Tremulous has been my favorite linux FPS for a long time.”
  • “Homeworld is available for Linux. Great stuff, strategic space combat, real time.”
  • XJewel
  • Happy Penguin
  • PlaneShift – “excellent open source mmorpg”
  • Sauerbraten, Nexuiz, Tremulous, Warsow (first-person shooters)
  • Altitude is my favorite game ever. It’s a multiplayer airplane/dogfighting game with really satisfying combat.”
  • OpenTTD (which is based on Transport Tycoon Deluxe) is a great game and you can quickly loose track of the time building intricate train networks. You do need the original game files but this is pretty easy to do with the help of Google.”
  • Vendetta – “a space shooter with role playing elements”
  • World of Goo
  • Nethack
  • “In order of my personal preferences, I’d suggest NetHack, Angband, NetHack, SLASH’EM, NetHack, ADOM, NetHack, and, oh yeah, NetHack.”
  • “If it exists, you can find it at playdeb.net
  • “It’s definitely not new, but Unreal Tournament 2004 is available for Linux. Unreal Tournament 3 is still under development — very slowly.”
  • Kingdom of Loathing
  • Call of Combat – “r/t squad-level infantry combat, pure tactics”
  • Xbill
  • Glest – “Try it. It’s a strategy game, and FOSS. Unusual combination.”
  • Aleph One – “If you like the Halo-like FPS games, there’s always Marathon through the AlephOne project”
  • Linux Games
  • VegaStrike – “This one is a pretty good space flight simulator, with trade and combat missions to earn money to upgrade your ship and weapons.”
  • Ur Quan Masters – “(was: Star Control 2) is a masterpiece of a game
  • Conquer Club – “If you like Risk, this is kind of similar but way better. Play online with others, on a wide variety of maps and variety of rules.”
  • OOlite – “I stopped because that was all I was doing.”
  • Mille Bourne – (I played the card game version in high school French class; great fun. ~HV)
  • DROD (Deadly Rooms of Death) – “puzzle games with story lines and lots of humour.”
  • OGame – “classic 4X sci-fi/space game with a brand new pimped-out Ajax interface and fresh GFX”
  • Ikariam
    “Settlers/Civilisation type Browsergame.”
  • Wild Guns – “BG with a Wild West setting”
  • KingsAge – “old-school BG, Defender of the Crow / Middle Ages Camelot style”
  • Chromium B.S.U.
  • 20,000 Light Years Into Space
  • Globulation2 – “a RTS but without focus on individual units”
  • “Get an atari 2600 emulator (stella for example) and play space invaders or pac man”

Source: Slashdot

Not all of the above are strictly linux games (some are web-based), nor are they strictly for non-gamers.

Ganakagok

This sounds interesting: a role-playing game inspired by Inuit mythology:
Ganakagok

When people ask me what my game Ganakagok is about, I say, “It’s a fantasy.” I tell them that it’s about a people called the Nitu, who live on a starlit island of ice in a world where the sun has never risen. They live in darkness, revering the Stars, honoring their Ancestors, and marveling at the handiwork of the Forgotten Ones, who long ago wrought Ganakagok into its current form.

I had been thinking for a long time about how to use a tarot-style “oracle” in a role-playing game, because I was fascinated with the way that divination methods like tarot and the I Ching provided powerfully suggestive grist for the interpretive mill. In other words, divination methods seem to work by providing an ambiguous image of which one makes sense in the context of the current situation or problem. Because our minds are designed to see patterns, make connections, and find order, the appropriateness of the divination seems uncanny.

To make the Ganakagok tarot, I essentially “reskinned” a normal 52-card playing card deck, changing the names of the suits and the court cards to make them seem more icily primitive—Tears rather than Spades, Stars rather than Diamonds, and Ancient, Man, Woman, and Child in place of Ace, King, Queen, and Jack. Then I went back to the divinatory meanings associated with the corresponding card in a tarot deck, coming up with two “motifs” for each one, a noun phrase that I called the card’s “image” and a verb phrase that was its “meaning.” So, for example, the Ace of Spades became the Ancient of Tears, or “Polar Bear,” with the meaning “to master or overcome.” And the Two of Clubs became the Two of Storms, or “Depths of the Sea,” with the meaning, “to be troubled by the unknowable.”

Bill White @ Flames Rising

Ganakagok @ Indie Press Revolution

Max Skibinsky on social network gaming

“In our case market promotion is simply non existent. Our games spread by word of mouth only. If players like your games they will go to great lengths to engage their friends.”
— Max Skibinsky

Hive7 LogoFrom a recent interview with Max Skibinsky of Hive7:

MS: I started Hive7 in 2005. Back then web gaming was in its infancy, and the web 2.0 juggernaut was just getting started. We believed that we could harness the emerging rich web technologies to deliver gaming experiences without the shackles of a traditional game company model (publishers, retail sales etc). We started experimenting with AJAX gaming technologies and it worked out terrifically in long term.

VGN: What are some of the games you’ve created? What are you working on right now?

MS: We found our biggest success on Facebook after trying about five different games. Our top game is the social MMO Knighthood, which has grown to six million players. Now we are introducing new games to cover as many diverse genres as we can. Recently we introduced another hit with the soccer (football to non-Americans) MMO “Kick-Off” and are just about to launch a zombie apocalypse game. We have a couple more secret projects in development.

VGN: How do you promote your games? I would imagine the marketing campaign – and targeted advertising – is significantly different from a standard video game campaign.

MS: In our case market promotion is simply non existent. Our games spread by word of mouth only. If players like your games they will go to great lengths to engage their friends.

Max Skibinsky @ Video Game News

Hive7

Miami Shark

What could be more fun that a game where you play a shark that eats people and dolphins and other animals? and crashes into boats, causing them to explode?

A game where you play a shark that leaps into the air, seizes planes and helicopters, and drags them their watery (and explosive) deaths!

It’s Flash! It’s fun! It’s free!

Miami Shark (via Rock, Paper, Shotgun).

Miami Shark

Sims Reputation Mafia

How griefers use the Sims reputation system to extort in-game money from new players:
The Sims

It didn’t take long for a group calling itself the Sims Mafia to figure out how to use this mechanic to shake down new users when they arrived in the game. The dialog would go something like this:

“Hi! I see from your hub that you’re new to the area. Give me all your Simoleans or my friends and I will make it impossible to rent a house.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m a member of the Sims Mafia, and we will all mark you as untrustworthy, turning your hub solid red (with no more room for green), and no one will play with you. You have five minutes to comply. If you think I’m kidding, look at your hub-three of us have already marked you red. Don’t worry, we’ll turn it green when you pay…”

Randy Farmer @ Building Web Reputation Systems blog

Via Boing Boing.

Is this the inevitable way of things? Does the competitive nature of games (and gamers) necessarily invite blackmail and other abuse?