Browsable Games

16 01 2009

zork

I read on Gamasutra today that the classic, harsh text adventure Zork is returning as a browser based MMO. Similar things have already bee attempted, such as the bot running classic text adventures at the Idle Thumbs Forums, and they’re a good place to go if you want a quick look at just how obtuse and punitive these games could be.

Not only does this seem utterly bizarre, but they’ll probably have to dumb it down to make it acceptable to a modern audience.

Everything seems to be heading to the browser right now. I was shown a demo of the hugely impressive Unity engine at an academic conference last summer, developers like FlashBang have been consistently knocking out interesting games with it, and the company is attracting talent.

iD currently have Quake Live in beta, and it’s basically Quake 3 running in a browser. There have been similar demos out for a while, for instance an only occasionally up demo of a simple Unreal Tournament level running in shockwave was doing the rounds a few years ago.

Some of the first FPS games to lead into professional gaming leagues, that required a pretty hefty gaming rig a decade ago, are now simple enough to pipe through a browser. This is going to be an incredible new thread by which to acclimatise people to gaming, as well as encourage invention. How long before games like Katamari Damacy and De Blob appear online first?

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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)





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)





Infovore: Playing Together

28 08 2008

Tom Armitage has given a talk on games and social software entitled “Playing Together” at NLGD and also at Develop. We unfortunately missed it at the latter because we were running Games:EDU a couple of rooms away, but Tom has now posted text and images.

It’s a really broad ranging talk with some great thinking on what humans are and how we use games. It moves through the kind of social circles we engage in, how social software has drawn on playful experiences to cater to those, how people in turn find new ways of playing with things and each other, and what videogame designers might be able to learn from all of this. The large structure makes it difficult to quote from, so I suggest you go and read the whole thing.

And what do you discover about Nike+? You discover there’s a metagame to it. People start syncing late – filling up their run data and then only syncing at the last minute – to disguise how much they’re doing. They mess around!

Nike+ is ticking so many of our boxes: it’s asynchronous; it’s designed perhaps best for small groups; it turns running into a social object, putting it online. It’s a really great example of future for social play.

And it goes where I am: it’s a game that I don’t have to learn how to play. I already know how to run.

(CC image of volleyball by flyzipper)





WebWars: EVE

19 08 2008

Late last year was a season of highly polished AAA game releases, and the run out of summer this year seems to belong to interesting indie games. We’ve already had Braid and Echochrome, and upcoming is Flower.

Upcoming is also Webwars: EVE, which seems to be a casual take on CCP’s MMO, in which players compete to control websites. As Alice says, “It’s PMOG meets EVE!”

Which are both interesting projects in their own right.

I played EVE Online for a two week trial, and it was not only beautiful, but surprisingly deep and huge. I felt truly lost in a massive galaxy, rarely seeing the same players twice. It was a surprising mix of casual and complex, with an Alt+Tab friendliness that most games don’t have coupled with long travel times, leading to attention being on several things on the computer at once. However, the markets and character leveling were really very involved, calling for much advance planning and scheduling of play time. It was one of the first games to impress on me the quote Eyjolfur Gudmondsson gave to gi.biz recently:

alternate universes such as Eve’s are “real, but not reality.”

It is extremely interesting yet of course logical that CCP would turn EVE into a brand and spread it down into more casual territory.





Orange / Poke – Web Game

6 06 2008

My Raccoon

We saw this amazing new web game from Poke London today.

Visit: playballoonacy.com

Basically they are going to set off loads of balloons across the Internet. The one that goes the furthest in 7 days wins – and the prize is a £20,000 VIP trip to Ibiza including everything that you and 7 friends could hope for, ever. That’s it in a nutshell.

Oh and there’s all kinds of stars and bonus doo-dahs along the way – collect 5 stars and win stuff. Hit rainbows and get warped into the future and all that kind of thing.

Sign up for the race

Visit the site now and get a balloon. Then when the race starts in 3 weeks you’ll be right up the front. Well you’ll be in the race anyway.

Be part of the race course

The course is made up of sites that have agreed to be part of the racecourse, or are about to agree to be part of the racecourse. That’s right folks. If you’ve got a blog or a website you can add it to the race by simply adding a small snippet of widgety code to your site. You can visit the site to sign up, but if you’re impatient and really want to add your site you can bust straight there using this URL: http://www.playballoonacy.com/account/sites

What’s in it for sites that take part?

Well in hard terms it’ll drive traffic to your site. There’s going to be people visiting your site to see their balloons pass over it. And if the race passes over an interesting page people might just stop by to have a look. In softer terms it might just be a bit of fun.

Let Balloonacy commence.

My lovely Raccoon Balloon is here – Ballonacy.