Invader Interview

13 11 2008

http://flickr.com/photos/kurtxio/2280690723/

“My name is Invader, my mission is to invade the planet with videogame characters made from tiles”

Invader has been placing mosaic 8bit sprites in cities for a decade now, and has moved on to even having public commissions. Jetset Graffiti have posted a video interview with him, which is short but is at least an introduction to him and his most recent projects (unfortunately part 2 seems to have disappeared). The most interesting thing is that he’s now working with QR codes.

(Interview found via Auntie Pixelante, which is one of the smartest indie blogs around)

(CC image by kurtxio)

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Encroachment

12 11 2008

http://flickr.com/photos/stoic1/2741922393/

More news of non-games companies moving further into videogames this week. Tomy announced that they have a 50 year old catalogue of IP, and intend to take it into games publishing for current consoles and handhelds via a new Tomy publishing label. I’m sure I don’t need to remind anyone that toys and non-electronic games are exactly where Nintendo started and worked before going anywhere near videogames.

Meanwhile, a new patent by Apple reveals, potentially, that they may incorporate motion control into the Apple remote. As that VentureBeat piece points out, it’s wouldn’t necessarily be a huge technological step to start offering games though the app store and Apple TV, and it makes sense when the Wii has created a market.

This could go in all directions. Places like the App store can encourage indies to work via digital distribution, but a proliferation of more traditional businesses could also lead to an explosion in work for hire (and another cycle of publishers marketing departments thinking they can design games…) as well as exposure to new markets.

(CC Dingbot photo by Stoic)





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)





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.





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)





Packrat: Game Creates Ripples on Facebook

17 09 2008

Techcrunch highlighted Facebook app Packrat on Monday, which seems to be causing a bit of a disturbance there. In a piece titled “Facebook Isn’t A Social Network. And Stop Trying to Make New Friends There”, Michael Arrington writes:

A big part of the game is “stealing” cards from friends, and so a lot of users add other users as friends so that their cards can be obtained. The application’s popularity has also led some users to create Facebook accounts for the sole purpose of playing the game.

Some of those accounts are now being disabled by Facebook, according to this discussion forum on the application site.

What’s curious is the email sent from Facebook to one deleted user, which states that Facebook isn’t a social network (it’s a “social utility”) and isn’t meant to build large groups of new friends. Instead, Facebook is meant to reinforce “pre-existing” social connections

The game revolves around collecting, earning money and stealing inventory items. A continual stream of new and fairly slickly produced new content perpetually plugs into the old framework, while old content expires and becomes irrelevant, unless you can collect it fast enough.

I tried it out a few weeks ago, and it really does reach the heights of grind and tedium usually reserved for MMOs. As such, there’s something weirdly compelling about it, so much so that Facebook have evidently performed some contortions around their terms of service to nip a potential and unintended community in the bud.

Packrat had the potential to become a trojan MMO, embedded in Facebook and incurring loads on their servers. Games are a very strange behavioural tool, and I think Packrat shows we only have a very superficial understanding so far.

(CC image by SCO)





Big Boom

12 09 2008

A couple of stories this week highlighted the current boom in games. Not only were analyst forecasts for UK game sales doubled recently, but Chief Exec of HMV Simon Fox told The Sun:

“Within the next 12 to 18 months, it’s possible games will be bigger than music for us.

“Music is in our DNA and we are totally committed to it. But the fact is, the market is moving away from music — so we are giving more space in our stores to games.”

Mr Fox was speaking as HMV revealed sales from the end of April to last Sunday were up 4.1 per cent on the previous 12 months.

He said computer games enjoyed the fastest growth, thanks to products like Grand Theft Auto IV, Wii Fit, Mario Kart and Brain Training.

He added: “In games, we grew by just over 50 per cent, ahead of the market.”

Speculation has also been flying around that Google will start publishing games. Forbes write:

There’s no question the company wants a part of the $18 billion videogame industry. The real question is: What is it planning to do to get it?

It seems they have the resources and staff in place, including ex-head of SCEA Bernie Stolar.

As ever, it’s good to see games expanding so much. However, publishers remain a massive layer of insulation between developers and profits. This is their job to a certain extent, and not some kind of evil plot, but it means that good times for games as a product are not necessarily good times for game developers. It’ll slowly make it easier for experienced developers to find jobs, but it doesn’t grant much security for studios.

(CC image by Thomas Hawk)