Paul Czege

“The works of Paul Czege stand apart from the collected works of other Small Press game designers” — writes Chris Perrin — “because Paul himself defies any sort of easy classification.”
My Life With Master

Depending on your viewpoint, Paul is either one of the most prolific of the Gaming Outpost/Forge designers or one of the least. Also, depending on you how look at it, his best contribution lies in a single game (the still popular My Life With Master) or in the thought and effort he has put into the hobby of role playing and the practice of game design.

… Paul is deeply analytical and quite concerned with what makes the entire role playing experience a good one. This ranges from understanding why people play the way they do to why certain games lead to role playing (as opposed to roll playing) to why certain behavior is emergent in play (bring aspirin to that chat, trust me.)

With Paul, you get a man who has a design principle named after him (the Czege Principle which is best summarized on Gnomestew as “When one person is the author of both the Character’s adversity and its resolution, play isn’t fun.”) His principle has guided the design of numerous player-author games.

– Chris Perrin: Small Press, Big Game #6: Paul Czege

See also:

Half Meme Press: the independent RPG publishing and experimental play labworks of Paul Czege

The Full-Text Abduction of Paul Czege

Have You Talked With Your Game Lately?

Game Developers Push Limits Of Linguistic Interactivity

Gaming engineers are tinkering with a new technology known as “Chatbot” in an effort to tackle one of “the last uncracked problems” in video-game design: How to let gamers verbally communicate with their in-game characters.

The new Sherlock Holmes video game “221b” will attempt to utilize the new software to allow players to verbally interrogate witnesses in the game, where victory is incumbent on cajoling the right answers out of suspicious digital characters.

“It’s our role to predict what you might know at that point in the game and the questions you might ask,” explained Rollo Carpenter of the digital developing company Existor to BBC News.

… Carpenter is an award-winning program designer who specializes in creating software that mimics real-life human conversation.

Instead of traditional approaches to digital interactivity which involve the game making lists of possible questions and answers, his technology allows game characters to make a “fuzzy interpretation” of what the player says to them in order to come up with an appropriate answer.

… Another expert in gaming technology, Dr. Mike Reddy of the University of Wales, has long been interested in the use of human language with artificial intelligence.

Dr. Reddy, who teaches game development and artificial intelligence, points to a novel technique used by creators of the Nintendo DS game “Scribblenauts.”

“In this game, the player evokes objects and characters by typing or writing their name,” he told BBC News.

The player can simply type in a word like “tractor” or “airplane” to cue the game to send out the object of choice. Things get interesting when the various objects have to be linked together to solve problems.

RedOrbit – 27 December 2009

See also:
ELIZA
Chatterbots
Natural language processing
Turing test

Random Dungeon Generator

Death Raiders Random Dungeon GeneratorRandom generators have interested me for a long time, so naturally this random dungeon generator for Death Raiders caught my eye:

We’ll need to know how dungeon generators usually work. Basically, they split the whole map into rectangles of different sizes, filled with rooms. Then, the paths between them are built. Usually, there are a couple of rooms that must be there, or that at least, could be there. These rooms are commonly very specific, as in basically being pre-made.

Our system, is, in fact, more similar to this approach. All the rooms are “tilesets”; this is, squares of 20×20 tiles. What our software does is basically use these tilesets as if they were Tetris blocks. It turns them and puts them in a way they fit with their surroundings. It’s the same system we were using before, but previously the tilesets were much smaller (6×6).

Does this mean dungeons will be basically the same 4 or 5 pieces put together again and again? Well, by looking at the image above, it could look like that, but that was one of the first attempts and features just a couple of tilesets (you can probably discover them yourself). Currently we have more than 50 basic tilesets, and creating more is a really fast process. This tilesets can be from big rooms to long corridors, from mazes to simple dead ends. Maybe it’s not the most random system around, but I can tell you, it’s going to be good.

Volsung @ Death Raiders

I remember running a maze generator program sometime around 1976 … why, that was thirty-some years ago … I didn’t actually study the source code for that maze generator, but I’ll bet it was similar, in its primitive way, to the Death Raiders generator.

Building Left 4 Dead Maps With Google Sketchup

Left 4 DeadI like it — using Google Sketchup to make game maps:

If you’re a fan of Left 4 Dead and you’ve ever wanted to build a zombie-filled map of your hometown, office or grocery store, Maximum PC just posted a how-to that shows you how to convert photos of real-world locations into ready-to-play L4D 1 or 2 maps. It’s everything you need to know in order to kill zombies with your friends — in the comfort of your own backyard.

Slashdot.

See also Left 4 Dead @ Wikipedia.

Online Mindmap Game Design – open invitation to participate

Marte at Random Tower of Games has initiated a collaborative game design project, and announced an open call for participants.

Online Mindmap, by Marte @ Random Tower of Games

Main idea is to open a collaborative-platformer-design to everyone wants to partecipate. After some toughts (and great comments by Giovanni, thanks a lot!), i’ll start this collaborative effort.

Using Mind42, a powerful mindmap editor (i’ll open editing to everyone wants to partecipate) i’ll try to design a platformer.. with YOUR help 😀

Marte @ Random Tower of Games

Update: Online Mindmap – 3.

To participate, follow the above links to Random Tower of Games and leave a comment.

I admire collaborative projects, and wish Marte the best of luck.

Games and Religion

Brahman D20Games are about rules — codes of conduct — governing the behavior of individual players and relationships between players.

Religions are about rules — codes of conduct — governing the behavior of individual people and relationships between people.

So why are there so few games involving religion? Michael Thompson of Ars Technica explores the paradox:

Mark Twain once observed that, “Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion— several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight.” Twain was right: religion, no matter what religion, is something that multitudes of people believe in, but no two people seem to believe in exactly the same thing. As a result, any religious content included in games is going to be interpreted on a very personal level by anyone who considers themselves devout.

… Maybe that’s why making religious games is so tough: by including anything that’s that goes even remotely beyond basic concepts or happens to be even a bit controversial, developers risk the ire a lot of people who could easily be offended enough to boycott the title. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll be seeing any religious content in the near future, though the possibility of storylines with serious spiritual themes remains.

Michael Thompson @ Ars Technica

Vias Slashdot.

Long Term Incentive in Game Design

Over at The Game Prodigy, Brice has posted a thoughtful, extensive essay on long term incentive in game design.

Game Prodigy: The Game Design Canvas: Long Term IncentiveExcerpt:

Striving for a Goal

In well-designed games, the reason that players continue to play is because the player is seeking something. They are striving after a goal. The goal doesn’t need to be as explicit as you would think; it doesn’t even need to be very important to the player. In fact, the player may not even be consciously aware of the goal that is driving them. But there is a goal, an Incentive, for them to keep going after.

… If there is no Long Term Incentive, then the game is not really a full game. These types of experiences are more like toys. The player explores the actions they can do (Base Mechanics), they investigate the relationships between the actions and feedback (P&R Systems), and they enjoy the content (Aesthetic Layout), but then they are…finished. There is nothing more to learn, nothing more to do. Everything has already been done.

The Game Design Canvas by Brice @ The Game Prodigy

The idea that games without long-term incentive are “more like toys” strikes me as a particularly keen insight.

And timely! Thanks for the Christmas gift, Brice!

Game Theory: The Art Of Acting Rational

Here’s an interesting exercise in game theory:

MoneyYou are in a game show with nineteen other players. You don’t know the other players, you can’t see them, and you can’t communicate with them. The game you are in is called ‘Greed!’, and is straightforward to explain. You are asked to write down a whole dollar amount in the range $1 – $1,000,000 on a piece of paper. You will be paid the amount you asked for if it is deemed to be ‘non-greedy’. Whether your request is indeed ‘non-greedy’ will be decided once all twenty request have been received by the host of the show. Your requested amount will be labeled ‘non-greedy’ if no other player has asked for less, and at least one player has asked for more.

How do you play?

Johannes Koelman @ scientificblogging.com

Via Boing Boing.

See also Game theory.

Game (Life): Video Games in Contemporary Art

I have been saying for years that games are — or ought to be — Art with a capital A.

For a long time, I seemed to be the only one; but happily that’s changing ….

Game (Life): Video Games in Contemporary Art

Game (Life): Video Games in Contemporary Art
December 18, 2009 – February 13, 2010
Firehouse Center for the Visual Arts
Burlington, Vermont

Featured Artists:
JASON ROHRER, JONATHAN BLOW, RANDY SMITH, PAOLO PEDERCINI, JENOVA CHEN, PETRI PURHO, JAKUB DVORSKY, HEATHER KELLEY, AURIEA HARVEY, MARK ESSEN AND MICHAEL SAMYN

Video games have emerged as our culture’s dominant form of popular entertainment, eclipsing both music and cinema. Lacking structured narratives, morally ambiguous, and oblivious to geo-political boundaries, the rise of video game culture is set to transform our notions of identity and location, blurring boundaries between the real and the un-real. Game(Life) transforms the gallery into a functioning video arcade. More than a dozen provocative and reflective works by contemporary artists and independent game designers from around the world engage visitors in play, exploration and confront questions of political activism, pacifism, violence, emotional resonance and beauty in gaming environments.

In collaboration with Champlain College’s Game Design program.

Firehouse Gallery @ Burlington City Arts

Via Burlington Free Press.

See also Game Design @ Champlain College

The Great Game Designer

Paul Spinrad has posted some interesting thoughts about game design and real-world applications:
God reaches out to role playing gamers

I’m fascinated at how complexity emerges from certain initial conditions, and independent actors competing within those conditions — i.e. from a game’s rules and its players. It’s a magic meta-formula that underlies a zillion things.

Some day we may discover a formal test for playability– whether a setup will go nowhere or explode into interestingness. (Which is probably also a function of mental capacity– a greater intelligence might find chess as boring as we find Tic-Tac-Toe.) If and when these meta-rules are understood, and we can do things like simulate evolution to levels of real-life complexity, it should convince at least a few more evolution deniers. In Darwin’s day, when timekeeping was a leading geek-magnet, theologists described God as the Great Watchmaker. If there is a God, I think “The Great Game Designer” would be more accurate.

I’m mainly talking about paper games here. In the same way that mathematical formulas distill and express universal laws of nature, simple board/card games capture essential social phenomena — this is a major avenue of research in Economics right? Is there a game like “Monopoly” that distills the phenomenon of an investment bubble growing and bursting? Or a game in which competition between players creates an ever-expanding complex that grows to require all available resources, and constantly presses to extract more? If so, the rules of this game should inform legislation that might increase the efficiency of medical insurers, military contractors, and the like (which is what competition is supposed to do, but in these cases, there seems to be a rule or two missing that takes the systems into another direction).

There are many phenomena I would love to see or come up with essentializing games for, and most of them seem to fall under the categories of consensus, hierarchy, group affiliation, and mating. For different aspects of these, I have numerous half-baked notions about what a group of players in a room could do. For example, draw a new Tarot card every round, and then have to agree on a single narrative that includes all of them in order. Or build the most accurate model of what other teams know and don’t know about a selectively concealed array of random numbers, communicating only through severely limited bandwidth.

Paul Spinrad @ Boing Boing