Category: ‘Game Philosophy’

Gaming in the Future with Set Top Boxes

August 30, 2011 Posted by zachary

Previously, I had written about how the defining feature of gaming’s next generation will be a greater focus on accessibility. Today I would like to focus on one specific aspect of this: Bringing games to where the people are.

In the short history of gaming it has been an almost universal truth that people had to go to where the games were to play them. We had arcades which we had to drive to in order to play games. We had dedicated games consoles that people had to buy, set up and switch out games. We had PCs but were still limited in that people had to actively go to the game/computer store to buy games to play. In all these instances, the games did not come to the people. The people had to go to them.

In the future, games will be everywhere there are people a screen and an input device. You can already see this in mobile phones. Since the rise of the mobile phone with a screen, we have had gaming. It was limited in its scope to tetris clones, snake, card games and other limited graphic games. Now we have two prominent smart phone developers that have brought high resolution gaming to the public. People are used to carrying phones and now have the ability to use them as micro PCs including playing games on them. (more…)

Copying Mechanics is Not Theft, Nor is it Infringement

August 17, 2011 Posted by zachary

I recently wrote this article on Gamasutra in response to a pair of articles which talked about the practice of copying game mechanics. The discussion has been interesting. So here it is for my own records.

I had never heard of Vlambeer or Gamenauts before yesterday. I had never heard of Radical Fishing or Ninja Fishing either. Yet in a single day, both companies and both games came crashing through my browser. Why?

To make a long story short, Vlambeer made a simple little flash game called Radical Fishing. They have a following of supportive and caring fans. They released this and made some money off of it.They decided they wanted to port the game to the iPhone but with improved graphics and gameplay. However they needed money now and made a couple more games browser.

While all this happened, Another game company, Gamenauts, saw a fun game that did not have an iPhone equivalent and decided to bring a game to that market that had those mechanics. This caused an uproar among fans of Vlambeer and their games.

That is the story in a nutshell. (more…)

Don’t Hate Your Fans

August 6, 2011 Posted by zachary

It has come to my attention, in a rather unsettling way, that content producers are more and more often turning to an adversarial relationship with their fans. I have seen this over the last year in the games industry as more and more game companies are turning to always on DRM (Ubisoft, Blizzard) or are turning to forcing fans to pay extra for online play if they get the game second hand (EA, THQ among others). This type of adversarial behavior is not even confined to games. It happens in film, music and television. Just recently, I had an encounter with SyFy over the policy of punishing fans of their shows who choose to watch online.

In everyone of these cases, the content producers are somehow “surprised” that their decisions are met with backlash from their fans. I don’t really understand why anyone can be surprised by that reaction. When you treat someone well for many years and then, for seemingly no reason, decide to slap them across their face, it should be no surprise that your fans will react poorly. (more…)

The Sky Is Falling!

April 20, 2011 Posted by zachary

Every time the entertainment market shifts into new directions, the controlling powers scream about the death of their industry. Each time, they end up as nothing more than a Chicken Little.

You all know the story. A little chicken is sitting under an oak tree and an acorn falls and hits him on the head. He assumes he was hit with a piece of the sky and starts screaming “The sky is Falling!” to everyone he meets.

Eventually, he is found to be an idiot and everyone goes on their merry little way.

Today, we have two such Chicken Little stories posted on Gamasutra. In one you have Colleen Delzer claiming that $1 games are going to kill off their developers. In the other, you have Mike Capps claiming $1 games are going to kill the AAA developers. Both are nothing more than Chicken Little warnings.

When the TV came to the market, the movie industry claimed that it would be the death of movie theatres. Movie theatres are bigger now than ever. When Netflix started offering streaming video, they made they same claim and are still making it. The movie industry are setting box office records since then.

When the DVR came out, television studios claimed that it would end the serialized television show. We have more long running series now than ever. They are now complaining about Hulu and other streaming services claiming they will destroy the industry.

When iTunes was released the major labels screamed that they would die if songs were sold for a $1. They now sell more music than ever before. (more…)

N-Gage: Ahead of the Game

April 12, 2011 Posted by zachary

n-gage phone and game systemI worked in an EB Games back in 2003 during the time the N-Gage was reaching its (very small) peak in the gamer consciousness.

We had one small end cap with the 10 or so games that we had in stock and a demo system available.

I only ever knew of one person who owned one and actually bought games for it. He would come in every few weeks and ask if we had any new games for it. We never did.

Despite its failings in the market, it was a novel innovation in portable gaming. It was a phone as well as a portable gaming systems. Its major flaws and the reason it was so panned by the gaming community as well as the phone buying community were the convoluted way you had to change out games and the way you held the phone to your ear. (more…)

Accessibility: The Defining Feature of the Next Generation

April 12, 2011 Posted by zachary

The accessibility wave has begun, it is just a matter of the console companies continuing to ride it. The Wave started with Nintendo it will be driven by Nintendo and the other companies will ride in their shadow to the finish.

When most people talk about accessibility, they seem to conjure up images of simplified, or dumbed down, gameplay. What they don’t really understand is that accessibility is about making something approachable by someone not familiar with it while still leaving the ability for aficionados can master it.

Take the game of Chess. The rules are pretty simple. Every type of piece moves in its own way and the goal is to position the opposing player’s king in so much that they cannot make a move without leaving their king vulnerable. Simple enough that a kid can learn to play it. Yet at the same time entire clubs of aficionados have risen up and we have world wide Chess championships.

This is an example of accessibility in game design that we can currently fulfill but is not the focus of my arguments. I am talking about accessibility of technology. (more…)

Are Social Games Evil? No, with a Few Provisos.

March 4, 2011 Posted by zachary

While I was not able to attend this year’s GDC, I have been following it through the many games industry news outlets. One of the issues that has been introduced is the idea that social gaming, such as Facebook games, is evil. Many major players in the games industry have made this claim. This year at GDC, they gave the rant pulpit to the makers of social games so they could defend their trade.

I am currently in the process of developing one of these social games and I feel the need to toss my hat in the ring and come out in support of the trade. I will be using examples of what can conceivably be called evil in social games and what is not evil which are found in some games I currently play. (more…)

Unity Exporting to Flash? Wait. What? Why?

February 28, 2011 Posted by zachary

Yesterday, Unity announced that their engine will gain the ability to export to Flash. This seems to be an odd move considering they already have a web player built into the engine. What reason could they possibly have for such a seemingly contridictory move?

The first thing I can think of is the problem of plugin penetration. Untiy is far far from Flashes nearly 100% penetration rate. They need to do something to expand the possiblities for the users of Unity. This will provide game developers the ability to expand the market for their games while at the same time providing Unity the opportunity to splash a few “Created using Unity 3d” messages on games to gain some more market recognition.

This seems to be a good opportunity for game developers to limit functionality in Flash games and provide a message saying that the better moreĀ  full experience can be had using the Unity plugin. I am not sure just how big a deal this will be, since details about what features will support Flash as of yet. I think this would be something that Unity would be more interested in than the game developer since this would provide an incentive for gamers to install the Unity plugin. Thus, increasing the Unity penetration rate.

This could also be a stop gap in bringing Unity support to the Linux operating system. Since Flash is already supported on Linux, Linux users would finally be able to play browser games built using the Unity engine. I don’t really see why they would go this route instead of making full native Unity support for Linux. This is also more speculation since there is little information available.

So what does this all mean? Does this mean that Unity is on a death spiral? Probably not. While I still think this is an odd move, I doubt, and hope, this is not a sign of doom and gloom. Based on the comment to their announcement above, this is a welcome feature by Unity developers, most likely because it expands the potential player base.

Is this something that will get me to choose Unity for game development in the future? Not likely. My previous stance on the issue still stands. Until Unity gains full Linux support for both browser and client games, I will not support it.

I am aware of Unities efforts to expand their engine to support Google’s Native Client, but it seems to be a far off prospect. This support would bring Linux support, but only for users of Google’s Chrome Browser and only for browser games. For now there is no speculation on what if any effect Native Client will have on the browser market or if any other browsers will pick it up for integration. This could be just as limiting in the end as not supporting Linux at all.

So for now, I will just sit back, watch and wait.

BA in Game Design? Not as BS as You Might Think

February 14, 2011 Posted by zachary

There is a lot of talk about whether a game centric degree is worth the effort and money needed to get one. As a recipient of a Game Design degree, I take these conversations to heart every time I read them.

Since I was a kid, I wanted to get into game development and design. Never since I started playing games has there really been a time when I didn’t want to do this for a living. I liked to write out game stories, character designs, gameplay mechanics and everything else to do with design itself. I even dabbled in programming a bit while in high school. While I never made any full fledged video game, I still liked to create them on paper. I even designed my very own board game.

When I finally started college, I wanted to learn more about the nitty gritty of game development. For me, this was studying programming. After all, I knew that was the heart of a game. So I started on a computer science degree at the local community college. This was fun for what it was. I learned the basics behind programming, but I never got that game design feel I wanted. (more…)

PS3 Troubles Abound

February 4, 2011 Posted by zachary

Dead PS3

Not my PS3

Well, I have been enjoying my PS3 since Christmas, at least when it works.

I can’t play all PS3 games for it. I have no idea why. I borrowed Folklore from my brother and the game locks up right at the beginning. I have been able to play it for maybe 5 minutes. But after that initial 5 minutes the game completely locks up and I have to hard shut down the PS3. So I gave up on that. I gave it back to him and borrowed White Knight Chronicles. Fun game if you ignore the graphics glitches.

Next I bought three games for it (all brand new), Valkyria Chronicles, Disgaea 3 and Resonance of Fate. Valkyria Chronicles and Disgaea 3 play just fine and are really fun. Resonance of Fate, however, is a different story.

Resonance of Fate gives me an infinite loading problem. The first transition between levels locks up on the loading screen. Sega has been of little help. According to this forum thread, this is a fairly widespread issue, but Sega refuses to acknowledge the problem. When I contacted support, this is all they said:


After thorough testing our QA team have been unable to replicate the issue.

This indicates the problem is hardware related (as opposed to software)

In order to fix the issue, please follow the solutions below:

1. You can try to create a new user account on your PS3.
2. As stated previously ensure you possess the latest firmware.
3. Ensure the disc lens is clean
4. If you bought a second hand disc ensure there is no scratch or dust on the surface of the disc

Best regards,

SEGA Customer Support

Yeah, big help.

So I tried replacing my PS3 with the same model (CECHA01) and the game disk with the same result. So thanks Sega for the great game I can’t play.

Now my PS3’s disk drive died on me. I went to play a game and ejected the music cd that was in it and the gears gave out. Now it won’t take in any disk. I plan on taking it to the store I got it from and they said they will see if they can fix it. If they can’t I may just return it and use the money to fix my computer. Maybe.

Maybe this is all for the better. Sony is doing some really annoying things in regards to their “security” issues. Capcom has decided that you have to be logged in to PSN to play single player games and it seems more of this is coming. Is it really worth it to own a console that the manufacturer doesn’t think you own? Is it worth it to invest in games that the developer doesn’t think you own? I am really beginning to wonder about the direction of the mainstream games industry.