Low Flying Overheads

31 01 2007

The Guardian has a worthy read and a bit more coyness from Raph Koster on Areae, web 2.0 and games:

I think a lot of what the game world can learn harkens back to the old cathedral and bazaar thing. Games are clearly cathedrals, as built right now. Each one is a moon shoot.

So with things like YASNS, indie development, etc. are games heading toward becoming the same kind of searchable, taggable data soup as other media? I think the entry barriers are still a bit too high, but that will change.

Practically everyone is a gamer — it’s really a question of what games they feel comfortable playing, be it bridge or Battlefield 2142.

Likewise everyone can be a game designer, but it depends what resources a person is comfortable using. Video games have an extensive heirarchy about them right now, from AAA to casual, but through the (admittedly balkanised) mod and homebrew communities, the overheads are slowly falling.

David Hayward

Ebay bans sale of virtual goods

31 01 2007

eBay has announced that they’re proactively removing listings from their auction site which aim to sell virtual items for massively multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft, the EverQuest series and City of Heroes, according to Daniel Terdiman at cnet. The company has finally responded to calls from game publishers to remove the black market activity, a phenomenon which has caused a revolution in the virtual world thinking space.

Real-Money Trade for virtual properties, character accounts, currency, weaponry and other items rakes in phenomenal figures for individual and corporate sellers. If you need a run-down, check out Julian Dibbell‘s 2003 article from Wired Magazine, The Unreal Estate Boom, for a great overview. You can also check out the many articles profiling the phenomenon published in The Guardian here, (here, here, here, here, here, here and here)

It’s unlikely that eBay’s stance will affect the RMT economy; the trading will continue in other locations, and via other established sellers.

From cnet:

While there is no universally agreed-upon value for the RMT market, it is assumed to be worth somewhere between $250 million and $880 million a year, according to experts.

eBay’s move is “a boon for sites like IGE,” said Julian Dibbell, author of Play Money: Or How I Quit My Day Job and Struck it Rich in Virtual Loot Farming. “They’re going to have the field pretty much to themselves.” But, Dibbell said, such a circumstance is “sad” because it restricts individuals from being direct participants in the markets themselves.

But destroying a relatively free economy isn’t much of a deterrent to eBay and to the game publishers. As the article rightly notes, the auction house’s move is probably a result of wishing to eradicate the time consuming task of chasing virtual trade fraudsters. It’s a lesson learned a few years ago by Sony, publisher of the EverQuest series and Star Wars Galaxy, who started an in-house market called Station Exchange.

Not surprisingly, the eBay ban doesn’t affect the sales of goods from the virtual world Second Life, where trade, barter and asset accumulation are the name of the game.

More from cnet and, as ever, the brains at Terra Nova.

Softimage teams with EA Chicago for new 3D pipeline

31 01 2007

3D graphics company Softimage has partnered with Electronic Arts’ Chicago studio to build a game development pipeline built on its XSI animation software.

The pipeline has been built specifically with next-gen and HD games production in mind, and will be used for the development of a new title. The studio has recently completed work on Fight Night and is finishing up Def Jam: ICON

The two “expect this project to generate efficiencies in pipeline speed and iteration” explained Scott Cronce, vice president and chief technology officer of EA’s worldwide studios.

Our mutual goal is to create a workflow model that benefits the artist, added Marc Stevens, vice president and general manager for Softimage. We look forward to seeing the amazing content and, ultimately, the games that EA Chicago creates utilizing this newly developed workflow.

ELSPA’s new role in UK development

31 01 2007

Earlier this month ELSPA published its manifesto for 2007, revealing plans to modernise the organisation and work more closely with members.

The move comes less than six months after Paul Jackson took over from Roger Bennett as ELSPA director general. Jackson, who formerly worked at Electronic Arts and has been a member of the ELSPA board for more than 12 years, took on the role in August last year.

Following the recent announcement, GamesIndustry.biz sat down with Jackson to find out more about what needs to change at ELSPA and what challenges the organisation now faces – plus how it will attempt to tackle piracy following the closure of the Evesham office and several investigator redundancies.

full interview here.

When announcing the changes, you stated that ELSPA wants to engage more with the industry. What does this mean?

I think we need to engage more clearly and effectively with our members. The industry has grown rapidly and we need to make sure that we’re meeting and talking with everybody – so it’s not just the board and I who are deciding what ELSPA does.

We also need to engage much more fully in two areas. Firstly in the political arena – we’ve started this process but we need to develop it more aggressively, not just with Government ministers but with shadow spokespeople and Lib Dem spokespeople.

We need to understand where the political consensus is going and be able to affect the political consensus going forward.

Shaun Woodward, the minister for creative industries and tourism, has been in the news recently saying that we should have a “games academy” to train people up. However, some people in the industry have questioned whether there’s a need for such an institution. Where does ELSPA stand?.

At the moment we’re seeking opinion within the industry. There’s a need to make sure that we have a strong and effective pool of talent to keep our development studios fully staffed – that we have enough talent coming through.

We’re not sure what the best way might be of doing that or if there’s a consensus about it. So we’re trying to understand what the industry consensus is and we’re trying to work with Shaun to find out what the best course of action is.

To summarise, what are ELSPA’s key goals now? Where does the organisation need to go next?

There are two key things I want to achieve over the next three years. I want to ensure that the agency is fully engaged in all those areas that a mature entertainment industry is engaged. I want to make sure we’re engaged in the political debate, the public arena; I want to make sure that we’ve got strong industry cultural events ns that will enable us to show our full worth.

Secondly, I want to make sure that ELSPA itself is very professionally organised and ready to help support the industry in all of those things.


30 01 2007

Marek Bronstring, of Idle Thumbs, has made an interesting post about The Great Games Experiment: a social networking site for gamers. His take:

There needs to be a place where small games can virally market themselves the way small bands have rapidly emerged from MySpace and YouTube. I don’t know if this is going to be that place — it is still under major construction and has only 1200+ gamespaces and 2700+ profiles — but I will be keeping a close eye on it.

David Hayward

BBC to develop MMO for children

23 01 2007

The BBC is planning to launch a virtual world suitable for children between 7 and 12 years old to muck about it.

Called “CBBC World”, it will allow “digitally literate children” to create an online avatar and then create and share content, a bit like Second Life.

“It will give children a chance to move around a safe, secure world where they can not only interact with familiar characters but have an opportunity to make that world a more fascinating place with their own imaginations,” a spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, BBC children’s controller Richard Deverell said that CBBC World was “a good example of the way we need to go”.

“The thing that interests me is that children are at the vanguard. And that is where we are taking Children’s BBC,” he said.

Details of how the world will work and what it’s likely to cost were not immediately available. Much as with the life children face in general.

via Eurogammer

Miyamoto to keynote Game Developers Conference // GamesIndustry.biz

22 01 2007

Shigeru Miyamoto, the acclaimed game developer behind titles such as Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda, will keynote the Game Developers Conference 2007.

In his first keynote since 1999, the developer will reveal the creative process behind his work on highly-regarded software as well as his thoughts on new Nintendo hardware, in a session entitled, ‘A Creative Vision’.

‘The Game Developers Conference is a place for developers to learn from one another, and I think it is safe to say that every member of the community has at one time or another fantasised about having Shigeru Miyamoto as a mentor and teacher,’ said Jamil Moledina, executive director of the GDC.

‘By guiding us through his creative vision with a keynote at this year’s GDC, Miyamoto is allowing all attendees this incomparable privilege.’

The Game Developers Conference tales place March 5 – 9 in San Francisco. Discount for early registration for the event closes January 31.

Miyamoto’s keynote will take place at the GDC on Thursday March 8, in the Moscone Centre.”

Geometrics Demo’s new lighting effects at Game On

19 01 2007

Co-founder of Geomerics, Dr Chris Doran, will give the first public display of the company’s graphics software for home consoles, as part of his talk next week at the Game On exhibition.

The demonstration of the real-time, cinematic lighting technology will form part of Doran’s presentation, where he will also discuss the technical challenges facing game developers.

“I am excited to be unveiling a glimpse of what our technology is capable of at Game On,” commented Doran.

“Lighting is one of the biggest challenges for the next-generation of videogames, but real-time reflection and radiosity effects are seen by many as an unattainable goal, even on the newest consoles.”

“I’m here to prove that the bar can be raised. Realistic lighting is now within reach for games developers worldwide,” he said.

Dr Chris Doran will present ‘Video Games: Look at the Future’ as part of the Game On exhibition at London’s Science Museum on January 22.

Games industry hiding behind the figures

18 01 2007

Jon Jordan “What I found significant was the headline ELSPA chose for its press release of the wonderful news – “2006 interactive software sales thrash previous years”.

Now, this must count as a classic case of being economical with the truth. In term of their value, sales clearly didn’t thrash previous years. An extra £10 million is chickenfeed, considering software sales in the week prior to Christmas were worth £91.5 million ($180 million).

The total number of games sold – 65.1 million units – was up significantly, by 7 percent compared to 2005 however.

Whether this counts as ‘thrashing’ remains open to debate though. OK, so I’m being a bit fussy. I’m a columnist. That’s what I do. Nevertheless, I think this behaviour hides a wider issue; that the games industry lacks confidence when dealing with the non-gaming world.

Maybe because we’re constantly being hit over the head with complaints about violence and addiction, the powers that be only feel safe communicating from a position of strength, which in the lack of any cultural confidence, generally means pride in commercial success. Hence obvious commercial success needs to be manipulated, whether supported by evidence or not.

Of course, in this case, all that was needed was a bit of analysis. Both 2005 (where UK software sales by value rose 0.7 percent), and 2006 can be counted as transitional years in which everyone expected sales to be flat, at best. That sales are up, even slightly, is positive, but we can’t expect the wider media to understand that if we don’t provide the context for them.

And if we don’t, the result will be stories about games being “bigger than films” and 2006 “thrashing 2005″; both examples of how to lose a kernel of truth in a tissue of white lies.”

spot on as ever


17 01 2007

Music, on a crowded bus, coming from the speaker on a mobile phone. Sodcasters are terrified of not being noticed, so they spray their audio wee around the place like tom cats. But who wants to be associated with the sound of a pair of twigs having it off on a bed of rice?