UK Games Archive

30 09 2008

I’m pleased to see this being set up by one of my local universities; I was present for the launch of GameCity and the announcement of this:

An archive to preserve the history of videogames is being set up by university experts.

Nottingham Trent University says the global videogames industry is worth about £22bn and steps are needed in order to record its development.

The archive will be housed at the National Media Museum in Bradford and put together by researchers from Nottingham Trent University.

The collection will include consoles, cartridges and advertising campaigns.

The archive will chart the history of videogames from Pong in 1972 to present-day blockbusters.

A lot of people won’t appreciate just how necessary this is, yet as Dr. James Newman points out countless works from other media have been lost over time due to a lack of these kind of efforts. A minority of people in the comics community have been agitated for years over the lack of a similar archive for comics, while important indie work piles up and gets forgotten.

Despite similar efforts for film, plenty of celluloid film has simply rotted away, and that’s somewhat due to it languishing under copyright law for decades at a time. That games are a retail product will no doubt make that less of a barrier to collecting and archiving important games and the media surrounding them.

(CC image by Brainless Angel)





Recession Proof Earner?

26 09 2008

NPR ran a piece the other day headlined with the abominably delicious pun “In Tough Economic Times, Video Games Console

It’s a rather fluffy piece, but is a non-specialist press pointer to an important trend: Entertainment does well during times of recession, and games are growing much faster than any other form at the moment.

Boing Boing pointed to this with the headline “Games are recession proof earners?“, but I’d really like to see more comprehensive figures comparing them to other media over the next few years.

(CC image by crowolf)





Emote Launch First Game

24 09 2008

We’ve only had a vague idea of what UK based Emote are up to until now, as they’ve been keeping their technology close to their chest, only demoing it behind closed doors at GDC this year.

Some details on their first project are now coming to light though, with Develop reporting on a collaboration with Avalanche on a hunting title:

Online social games start-up Emote has announced that it is collaborating with Swedish studio Avalanche on a new free-to-play online title.

The title was first unveiled by Develop via interviews with the Emote team in April 2008.

Called The Hunter, the game seeks to build an online community of game hunters, able to use the social interface to post blogs and images of recent kills as well as collaborate in tournaments, challenges and competitions. The online nature of the title will see Avalanche regularly adding new content, and plans to actively encourage its community to share ideas and suggestions for new features.

We’d so far heard that Emote’s platform would enable players to interact with the same server from a lot of different platforms. The project above reads as social networking for hunters, kind of like Facebook crossed with Nike+ in terms of functionality.

How long before they can feed the interface back to hunters in the field, turning it into augmented reality?

(CC image of easter-egg hunters by Lyle58)





Monumental Games Funded with £300K

24 09 2008

East Midlnads based Monumental Games have won £300,000 of funding from the Technology Strategy Board, they announced yesterday.

It makes a lot of sense, as networked technology is looking like one of the safest bets in games at the moment.

I do wonder if Rocco wrote this or it was written for him, as press release quotes often are:

Project Chairman Rocco Loscalzo (CTO of Monumental) praised the approach of the Technology Strategy Board. “This is the first year that the Technology Strategy Board has invited applications from the Creative Industries, and it is encouraging to see recognition for the contribution made by such industries to the UK economy. This award for Collaborative Research and Development has enabled us to kick-start a commercially viable but inherently high-risk project, and we can’t wait to get going with our partners.”

Either way, it’s fairly progressive for a games company to class themselves under “creative industries”; most stay pretty aloof from the label because they see it as only applying to small, local artisanal businesses.

(CC image of monumental forehead by Salemek)





MMO Behaviours, Bruce Sterling at AGDC

19 09 2008

Bruce Sterling gave a keynote at the Austin Game Developer’s Conference, and Rudy Rucker quickly posted a transcript of the talk. He manages to use a set of nonsense words to illustrate how the present regards the past, presenting his talk as someone from the future talking about our present. The entire thing is entertaining and worth reading, but one part in particular stuck out to me:

The other question they ask—if they’re smart—is, what is that I did not see? What was I NOT thinking about? What is that blindsided me? What is that I couldn’t see in my industry? The future development I just didn’t understand. The wild card, the black swan.

Well, I can tell you about that problem.

[…]

Entertainment is fun. Am I correct? I’ve gotta be. If it’s no fun, obviously it’s not entertainment. It’s one of those phony game educational applications that kids have to be tortured to use. You definitely want the users to have fun. That’s the definition of your industry. That’s what it is all about.

Except for three kinds of people. They’re not fun people. They’re not even users. They’re abusers, you might say, because they don’t obey your rules.

First, gold farmers. Rip-off artists. The excluded. The black market. The pirates. […]

Second, griefers. […]

Third—and these are the weird ones—the convergence culture people. They will play your game all right, but they play it while using six or seven other kinds of media. They don’t make any distinction between the media they use. They use the networks as a meta-medium. They don’t play the roles in your role-playing games.

People play roles in Dungeons and Dragons because that is a paper game, it’s like little theater for the home. People play roles. You don’t see D&D people passing each other text messages and looking for cheats on wikis. Convergence people are metamedia people who are looking for meta-fun. Not your fun.

New and emergent forms of game are dependent on new and emergent forms of play. Not enough of us are looking at these trends, least of all developers who mainly have their heads down in the trenches producing AAA code and art assets.

The picture at the top of this post is a mount in Age of Conan, inspired by this video of a griefer with a horse. Cut down, shown without context as in that video, we tend to find griefing hilarious, yet if it’s done to us in game we tend to be outraged.

As a behaviour, it’s probably only been on the radar regularly for less than a decade. We’re not even close to understanding it, though along with others it is being studied. Videogames are a fascinating lens to look at ourselves through, and doing so may give us some clues about the future.





Aerosmith: GH Worth More Than Any Album

18 09 2008

Interesting and rather provocative quote on MTV Multiplayer, from CEO of Activision Bobby Kotick:

“[Their] version of ‘Guitar Hero’ generated far more in revenues than any Aerosmith album ever has,” said Kotick. “Merchandising, concert sales, their ability to sign a new contract [have] all been unbelievably influenced by their participation in ‘Guitar Hero.’”

An Aerosmith rep was not able to confirm Kotick’s statement by press time.

Obviously, this needs a pinch of salt.

Nonetheless, games are syncretic media, and ascending. As such, we can expect them not only to adopt practices from other media industries, but to start eating up parts of the industries themselves.

(CC image by justj0000lie)





Google to Buy Valve? (UPDATED)

17 09 2008

(EDIT: Apparently, Google are not buying Valve, but I’m suspicious. Both companies seem to have been fairly evasive, with Valve’s “This is 100% rumour” not being a flat out denial, and Google refusing to nix the speculation. Nicholas Lovell reinforces the quote from Kim Pallister below: Content doesn’t make much sense for Google, but Steam really does. It’s possible that early talks for the acquisition of Steam have mutated into an uncontrolled rumour about buying Valve. This would explain just why the rumour has bitten so hard, with at least one news editor I know stating their sources are certain something is, or was, going on).

It seems Google might be entering videogames in a bolder way than anyone expected.

I’d been meaning to post a follow up to the part of this post on Google getting into Games. Kim Pallister blogged some thoughts on it a few days ago, saying:

I don’t think believe the content publishing business – where specifically I mean publishing to mean “the business of funding and otherwise aiding the production and bringing to market of content” – is something that fits within Google’s DNA.

Kim often has pretty good analysis on his blog, and I found this convincing, but the Inquirer reports that Google is set to acquire Valve. Within hours it’s been linked to by MCV, Develop, EDGE, Rock Paper Shotgun, and C&VG among others. This rumour is biting hard because it’s surprising yet makes sense. The official line from Google is a highly suspicious, or improbably mischievous, “no comment“.

Of all the buys Google could make, as one of the few developers big enough and forward looking enough, Valve are a good fit for them. In the long run, Google ownership of Valve, and more specifically Steam, could be a massive factor in prying PC gaming dominance away from Windows, and integrating AdSense with more than just casual or web games.

(CC image by Don Solo)