Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Burning Man in SL

tho it's called Burning Life (get it - Second Life, Burning Life) -

We have to go to it in classes this semester - it's 9/27 to 10/5 - fun to go early maybe and watch them build and set up - people volunteer to help, they have building contests, there are music and art performances. Lots of culture exposure. Probably some fun avatars too.

Here's a SL wiki article on the history of Burning Life

Saturday, August 16, 2008

MdDonald's commercial

McDonald's has a videogame inspired/themed/created commercial. This one was done inside LineRider. The other one I know of for Coke seems based on GTA. Let me know if there are others.

Design Doc Example

Tron!?Image by noopzilla via Flickr Here's a website with scans of design docs from the original TRON game. And some internal memos. Every company has their own layout for design docs adn we'll try several types in class for your own projects.

But check these out - history, industry examples.

And notice - they're interested even back then in getting down on time.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Board/card games we own

German and English editions of Fluxx compared....Image via Wikipedia I looked for a mix of subjects and interesting game mechanics (tile laying, set bulding, bluffing, auctions, strategy vs luck). I tried to avoid the eurogames with 3000 little pieces that take so long to set up. I didn't avoid Eurogames, just the ones with lots of pieces. I looked for a variety of designers and publishers. We have games by Steve Jackson, Alan Moon, and Reiner Knizia. Several of the games have won Game of the Year awards, been on best games list, are best sellers. Some just struck me as fun to play.

CardGames (10)
  • I bought a card game that sounds perfect for the game design program. It's called We didn't playtest at all. The reviews were positive. And the company (Asmadi Games) is actually looking for people to playtest their games. which we might volunteer to do in the future.
  • We're getting Colossal: The Arena. (see BoardGameGeek)You pit monsters against each other. The cards are played in columns. The rules are a little complicated - a lot of strategy.
  • I ordered Munchkin (see BoardGameGeek) - a card game that lets you hack and slash and backstab your friends. Sounded like a fun big gropu game.
  • I ordered Queen's Necklace - set in Paris right before the Revolution (see BoardGameGeek).
  • Earlier I purchased Fluxx (see BoardGameGeek) - you play rule cards during the game and totally change the win conditions and mess up everyone's strategy; Set (see BoardGameGeek) - the rules say play it as a free for all, grabbing sets of cards off the table. Ouch!; and Flinch (see BoardGameGeek)
  • At the WBC I bought Stockcars: Racing Championships, Nuclear Escalation (see BoardGameGeek), Ticket to Ride (see BoardGameGeek), and Race for the Galaxy (see BoardGameGeek).

Board Games (11)
  • I bought Ticket to Ride (see BoardGameGeek), the board game, to go with the card game version I bought earlier.
  • I bought 2 that have auction themese - Nefertiti (see BoardGameGeek) and Hoity Toity (see BoardGameGeek). I played both at the WBC over the summer and liked the different game play.
  • 24/7 is an abstract strategy, tile laying game. Here's the info on it from BoardGame Geek.
  • Incan Gold (see BoardGameGeek) lets you play as a tomb explorer. You have to bluff the others, decide if you want to keep exploring or save your stuff.
  • I bought Sequence (see BoardGameGeek) at Target. You play cards to build sequences (duh) on the board. Kind of like Connect 4 - you have to have a strategy for blocking the other guys).
  • At the conference I bought Amazing Space Ventures (see BoardGameGeek), Carcassone (see BoardGameGeek), and Elk Fest (see BoardGameGeek)
  • We have one copy of Mancala and several checkers boards to use when we play with the treehouse pyramids.
  • I also bought Hey! That's my fish (see BoardGameGeek) and Blokus (see BoardGameGeek)
They're not all physically here right now, but hopefully by the 2nd or 3rd week of school. I haven't decided where they're going to live - we want to play them a lot in class on Friday's. You need to check them out for homework. So not sure if they'll go in PPECS or live in my office for now.
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Saturday, August 09, 2008

notes from the Education SIG at the Game Developer Conference 2008

Trip Report: Game Developer Conference 2008 Kim Gregson

I attended the Education SIG sessions during the first two days of the conference. We discussed the revised curriculum framework, which is online at http://igda.org/education/2008/02/new-curriculum-framework-posted.html. There were sessions on class projects that worked, keynotes by Ernest Adams and Ian Bogost, and postmortem presentations by student finalists in the Independent Game Festival.

During the final three days, there were panels in seven tracks from which to choose. I focused on panels in the Business & Management track and the Game Design track. I spent some time in the Expo Hall looking for tools that might fit into the classes I'm proposing. I visited the Career Expo where game studios had booths to discuss job openings and internship programs. I picked up information from both of these halls. Out of my notes and from the literature picked up in the expo halls I pulled together information about books that may be useful as text books, software tools to investigate, and companies who might be good to contact in the future for guest speakers or to be on our advisory board.

Observations from the Education SIG meetings

Below are some of the observations and project ideas that I pulled from my notes that I think are most relevant as we put together the new major and start to offer a few of the classes.

* undergraduate program have to be flexible – show lots of places to apply game skills (because not everyone is getting jobs in the field and not everyone stays in the industry
* when recruiting students – look for students with a broader view of what's a game and where they want to go in the industry, look for self starters, can't just be people who want to play videogames
* focus on creating portfolios, something to show for their 4 years of work, to show their teamwork experience, with finished games, have to have mixed team experience (like interdisciplinary classes with mix of majors
* great programs need advisory boards with industry experience to bounce ideas off of, to get advice, to assess program
* good to have a committed champions for game program to keep it going
* projects and classes have to be a reality check – you may be smart but if you can't deliver on time and work on a team & if they can't accept that someone else often decides the game topic (once employed you often have no control or choice) – then game industry isn't for them
* can start team work from the beginning by assigning intro to games students to be the testers for games made by other classes – testers get to see variety of designs and to practice quality assurance skills, good to have classes in multiple departments the first year to learn to work with different kinds of people, start team building
* take some of all the skills in the first 2 years to see what they like, don't like so they can specialize at the end – good to see that you will not be and don't need to be good at everything – that's why you have a team
* be aware of festivals that take student entries – they're good way to get the full production experience, the experience of “shipping the product”, get name out in front of the industry
* get ideas for games from lots of places (read widely, have interests outside of games, read magazines and books and tv shows outside your normal genres to get new ideas
* students need to play some of the really old games that are still around – Go, Mancala, Backgammon – why are they still fun to play? consider the fact that ancient music and literature has gone out of style
* need libraries of games and hardware to give access to games (platforms, genres) that students don't have already – wider experience, experience with older games, experience with different interfaces
* internships are important, good way to network – game designers not getting hired right out of undergraduate programs – there are starter jobs, need internships, need portfolio
* I noticed that there are more and more programs doing game related programs. Some are under-supported by the college, offering only one or two classes. Some are heavy on computer programming and software engineering. I didn't see any other programs that combined the creative areas that we can offer. here at IC I also heard that many schools were not open to cross-department programs which made it difficult for students to get a broad range of classes.

There was a panel for academics and people in the industry thinking about changing careers to be teachers. Below are several observations from that panel.

* Most industry people don't have terminal degrees – don't have time to get one while they're working in industry and probably won't have time to get one once they start teaching either. Most have never taught formally before either. Some positions (such as leads/managers) have mentored, taught skills to individuals. This means they are going to need more handholding in their first years. This is not unlike many freshly minted Ph.D holders though; they often have little experience teaching their own class. However, they have (more and more recent) experience with how college classes are set up. Some industry people expressed interest in teaching one or two classes a year to find out about teaching and to fit into their schedules.
* Schools need to convey the quality of life in academia – set some of your own hours, teach stuff you like, research what you like, still lots of hours but a little more control, point out they have a chance to change student attitudes about the industry and game design, there's a chance to do experimental design, design without the marketing pressure. They have to have something to promote themselves because the pay will almost always be less.
* Schools need to convey the realities of teaching, research expectations, service requirements, fundraising, the time it takes to prep new classes
* Industry people interested in keeping ties with industry
* Industry people don't read the same journals we do in academia so need to think of new ways to promote job openings (like at the GDC conferences and SXSW)
* GA Tech and USC have phd programs in game design (places to look for teachers with terminal degrees)

Observations from the general sessions that seem particularly relevant as we start up.

* create small games as way to test ideas instead of going for the big AAA game right out of the gate
* games that let you be creative are always huge success – cards, dice – they let people play around with the rules and make their own variations – even games like hide and go seek have different versions in different countries, player mods are important because it keeps players engaged and lets them be creative
* check out games Adventure Quest and Runescape – free mmos, there's an ad quest character in the game and if you do the quest they give you they'll give you in game money to spend – a way to monetize your game
* need to figure out the interdisciplinary team stuff and project management
* game designers not getting hired right out of undergrad – need internships, networking, other jobs in the industry before working up to designer
* big conference theme – democratization of content creation and distribution – anyone can make a game (tools where you don't have to program) and lots of places to put games and share them with friends), Raph Koster has the Metaplace product, EA has TheSimsCarnival, Sharendipity has their web & Facebook product – play, share, some share ad revenues with game makers
* There are a lot of game specific legal issues involved in making games – IP licensing, non-disclosures when you demo your game, employment contracts, and so on. There are a few lawyers who specialize in the game industry; some have experience in the industry as producers. They would make good speakers fespecially or the industry class and the senior workshop.
* Marc LeBlanc – does a great game tuning workshop
* There were well-attended 2 day sessions on casual games and mobile games and serious games – lots of different kinds of games being made, for different platforms and for different audiences. We need to expose students to that variety to give them broader sense of the kinds of companies they might want to work for

Possible Tools for Class

Below are descriptions of just a few of the tools I identified. These tools are free and can be downloaded immediately for evaluation. I have a list of other tools that involve some kind of charge to investigate for future implementation.

* GameBrix – tool for bulding games, sharing games, can play other peoples games, tools online – it's web based, has popular game themes that you can modify and work with, has an animator tool – http://www.gamebrix.com
* Multiverse – an MMOG platform – to rapidly prototype VW, retain full IP rights, can launch the game even without a publisher (they have a Multiverse Network), works with standard 3d tools like 3D Studio Max and Maya, assign behaviors to stuff in the world, prototype with Python and JavaScript, on the network there are lots of different revenue possibilities – free, flat fee, subscription, ads, microtransactions, pay nothing upfront, can download the whole SKD and assets, put on own servers, when you charge users Multiverse gets a cut, http://www.multiverse.net
* GameSpy also has ModCenter (http://modcenter.com) for users and teams to create and manage game development projects – has lots of tools built in – bug tracking, task management, wiki and private forums, source code repository
* EA's game making software on the web – Sims Carnival, have to register, in private beta at the end of february, http://www.simscarnival.com
* Torgue – has engine and game builder, works on PC and Mac, from http://GarageGames, strong community support, lots of sample games
* sharendipity – a game builder on the web, can send games into facebook, can make games in facebook, one of the company founders is from Ithaca, http://www.sharendipity.com
* Adrift software for writing interactive fiction – http://www.adrift.org.uk/cgi/new/adrift.cgi
* values at play cards – way to make games with consciously chosen and embedded values, http://valuesatplay.org
* Jim Charney – private lawyer specializing in videogame law, used to be a producer at Activision, now in Santa Monica (might be a good guest speaker over the tv hookup), ran the contract round table, writes an igda column – http://igda.org/columns/lastwords
* IGDA has a contract walk thru on the site at http://www.igda.org/biz/contract_walkthrough.php for members only with explanations written by different lawyers, and collection of game-related syllabi at http://igda.org/wiki/index.php/Curriculum_Knowledge_Base

Other Interesting Conferences (places to display games, to recruit faculty, to expose new faculty to the game industry, to present research to other academics)

* ScreenBurn – part of SXSW (South by Southwest) in Austin in March, 4 days of panels and discussions and trade show with games being exhibited and game tournaments) – http://screenburnfest.com
* Living Game Worlds, it's the 4th one, at GA Tech in Atlanta, 12/1-2/2008, looking at networked play this year, http://gameworlds.gatech.edu
* Meaningful Play 2008 – 10/9-11/2008 at MSU in MI, serious games, http://meaningfulplay.msu.edu
* Austin GDC – 9/15-17/08– supposedly has proceedings from 2007 conference, includes the Game Career Seminar, http://AustinGDC.net
* GDC 2009 3/23-27/09 (this year there were 20,000 people at the conference, a press release said GDC will be invite only in 2009 – not sure what that means yet – E3 did that last year and it meant it was not open to the public at all)

I will use much of the information learned in my classes. For instance, there were several panels on creativity and overcoming designers block. They suggested books and techniques for coming up with new and better game ideas that I will use in the Introduction to Games & Society class I am scheduled to teach in the fall. There were two panels on measurements being done by the game industry to improve games. Some can be done by students in the early classes with little additional resources needed. One involves timing events that happen in the first minutes of game play. The thinking is that a game must grab a player's interest from the outset or they will move to a new game. This is particularly true in online game. There were several panels on monetization that I went to. Topics from those panels will be appropriate for the game industry course as well as, at an introductory level, in the Intro to Games and Society Course.

my notes from the game education summit 2008

Report on the Game Education Summit, June, 2008, Southern Methodist University/The Guidhall, Dallas, Texas

Next year's conference 6/25-26 (Thursday and Friday), Dallas

I thought this was a good conference that other people involved with the game major should attend. It was small so you could talk to lots of people.. There were folks from lots of schools, not just big research-oriented universities. And there were a variety of folks from industry. Lots of those people are at the Game Developer Conference (GDC) of course but it's huge and there is less time or opportunity to just chat. Student work (from the GuildHall - SMU's graduate game design program) was demonstrated/playtested so you can see what other folks are up to, which is important as we ramp our program up. Everyone was positive about game majors in general. Hopefully we can take a more active role – be on panels, show some work – in the future.

Below are the summary notes from the conference. They're not organized based on day of the conference or panel, but more around big topics that seemed important to me.


* Game player base is changing – more women, older people, families playing together
* People want new experiences, emphasis on story telling
* People want shorter games that they can get in and out of and still have a good experience. Theyre are many more choices of games so quality becomes more important as way to stand out in the clutter (there are 10,000 games on yahoo).
* Industry is varied. It's not just consoles and AAA titles (block busters). It's games for mobile phones web games for casual players, free-to-play MMOs, Facebook games, serious games, simulations. Companies want interactive bits for web ads and they want advertising games. They want games for employee training. A few games can make money on yahoo games and beng distributed on the web (wiiware, xbox live arcade, ps home...). Students need to think about making games for all these different platforms and publishers to help them get their first job.
* Game development is as complex as movie making. It's also expensive – AAA titles have budget s of $40-55 million. Teams can be 100+ people. Lots of work is outsourced. And lots of games get cancelled along the way – industry afraid of risking their big investments on not-sure-things. So have to be prepared to put in a year or two of work on a game only to see it cancelled.
* Industry is changing. There are more layers of management. New development methods like agile and scrum are becoming widespread as a way to reduce project time and costs. Students need to know project management skills, project scheduling, how companies react to changing market data.
* Quality of life in the industry is getting better - slowly. More employees have families that they want to spend time with . There's still wicked crunch periods and some studios are better than others. But at least people are talking about it now. IGDA is focusing on it. EA was threatened with a suit so they've made changes and that trickled over to other publishers.
* Pre-production planning is more important now, again as a way of reducing costs. Everyone involved has to agree on the game concept and have shared expectations so work doesn't have to be redone. Team has to share the big picture. And everyone on the team has to have experience with making changes on the fly, communicating changes, managing the time line.
* Many game publishers have people who make contact with colleges – we're not on their radar yet and probably not for a few years – but they have speakers and sponsor contests – so we need to get on their mailing lists if nothing else. The university contact people also help get ideas from the colleges for development (there's money). Sony has a new program to get development kits and hardware (ps2s and psp's) into schools to train new programmers (not for research) because they need more specialized engineer type programmers


* Industry sending mixed messages – industry wants college graduates that they hire to be credible talented professional, smart people, driven, result oriented, experience with teamwork, passionate about games, customer focused want to learn, have the skills they need not expecting specific tech skills or industry experience for some of their entry level jobs, say school shouldn't teach just tools or vocational skills, want students to know the concepts behind the tools so they can be flexible and deal with changing tools in the future, they want big thinkers who are broadly educated,, that they want innovative thinkers (and they really do need them), want strong team players, want people who can push game design ideas to new limits, want people who can take crappy jobs and make them special, want people with a broad range of experience and skills, want people to be good communicators, but they're interviewing about tools and skills – they want it all but the thing to remember is that you have to have strong tech skills to even be considered (everybody needs to program or at least be able to use a computer scripting language). This means that our students need experience or at least exposure to game engines, content creation tools (3d modeling, audio editing, 2d graphics for texturing and 2d game art) and C++ is the language of choice right now. Students should be flexible high quality generalists. If you go out as a specialist you have to be the absolute best in the business.
* Interdisciplinary programs are good but someone has to be in charge (someone = some department) to make curriculum changes, make decisions about tenure, and to pay the bills
* To get credibility in industry you need to produce students who do good work (important to put student work up on the web for industry and potential students to see), to get credibility in the academy professors need to do research and get published
* Admit more students than you want because many will drop out after first year – programming is hard, design is hard, being creative is hard
* Have to be prepared to change the curriculum periodically (frequently) to keep up with changes in the industry. Not sure we have to change whole classes, just lots of new topics to include, examples to show.
* Programs could sponsor contests – give students regionally/nationally outlet to get their work reviewed and seen for their portfolios, could have a faculty category to give them an outlet for peer reviewed creative work
* Look for real world clients to sponsor class work, internship projects – these make better protfolio projects and give students more experience with real clients (some students might decide they don't want to do game design and better to do it early than after graduation)
* Game programs do more than just make you a game developer – make you a better consumer of games, better game journalist, better political leader because you realize you can't criticize all games because of violence of a few. You learn how to communicate with technical and non-technical people. You learn about 3d scene building, audio design, lighting design – all transferable skills
* Need to network with industry – send faculty to professional conferences, talk go local developers. More networking = more internships and jobs for graduates. That's just like every program at the Park School I have a feeling.
* Other schools have found that as their game students take classes in other departments and do game related project for those professors, then those professors and departments get more aware of and sometimes interested in participating in the game program.


* good classes - behavioral psychology (how to reward people in the game to keep them playing, get them to buy the game or the upgrade), broad liberal arts background so they can make games that will “change the world”, research skills so you can give some depth to the game content and make it look authentic (one speaker had to learn how WWI airplanes flew for a game), communication skills, be able to give and receive feedback, Speakers encouraged students to be passionate about something outside of games and learn how to do it/more about it – made you more interesting person, could be content for a game, could give you entree to a new industry that needs games. Need experience with excel, gantt charts, scheduling software, bug trackers, asset management software
* Need to be able to look at games analytically - what makes a game special, how games fit into the larger cultural picture,
* Be life-long learners because you never know what you're going to need to deal with in the future
* Teamwork - how to work in groups bigger than 2 people
* How to deal with ambiguity, self-reflection, know how to debug and refine, Schools need to give experience with crunch time – move the due date up or add a requirement near the end. Experience the stress now rather than fall apart once you get a job.
* If possible get experience with large code bases (mod existing games).
* Need to know what all the people involved in making a game do generally, know some of the tools they use so you can help out where needed (especially as a new hire – be flexible).
* Students need to be encouraged to take leadership roles – on class projects, in student groups, on mod projects – with all the groups and sub groups and teams in game development, going to need to be able to leadership. Students have to take initiative to enter their games in competitions.
* Things that get asked at interviews – companies want to see that you care about making games but also they you have a life and hobbies, they want to see that you have the skills they need so they'll give you tests, going to ask you what's your favorite game (some applicants – the ones who are not ever going to get hired) can't come up with any), going to ask what games you're playing now and what you like about them and what you'd change. To prepare for interview you should play games made by this studio and be ready to talk about them critically (not fan boy gushing)
* Have to have portfolios – portfolio has to help you stand out (because there are a lot of people applying for these jobs). Class projects aren't enough – need some independent projects as well, or internship projects (you could create a game for a group as an internship (they're a real client with demands and time limits so it's a good model of how you'll work in the future). Could work on mod projects – again shows you can work in a group on a real project and get something finished and out the door. Be specific about what part of the game/project you were responsible for – the industry is used to group projects – they want to know what you did. If you did scripts you could include a video of the scene where the script is used and then describe in text what's going on and what your script did. If you're an artist then be sure to include models of organic things because they're hard to do correctly – they'll show off your skills. Include design documents in the portfolio for games you worked on (say if you wrote the design doc or some part of it). Layout matters – highlight your strengths (be honest about your strengths and weaknesses). Be sure any code you include is documented. Talk about how your game was playtested and how you changed to use the results. Put pics of what you're most proud of – even if it's a well-lit corner of a room that you worked on. They all suggested making games – lots of games – board games, card games, video games, levels before you graduate
* Need to manage student expectations – most people not going to work on AAA titles, the industry is very broad and their experiences should be too, new hires should expect to be doing a lot of scut work the first couple of years – not going to be hired to be the lead of anything. Not many designers getting hired right out of undergrad programs either.


* Maybe we need to make up a list of recommended electives to take outside their outside minor
* The way i see the junior and senior classes they're to help the students create things that would go in their portfolios
* Some programs have 2d design in the freshman year – but I'd really like students to get their programming skills started, get an exposure to design basics in the freshman year and then jump into game making the other 3 years.
* I think we can build in the exposure to project management, excel, asset management software – CS uses asset management already; I've found an online gantt chart maker that we're going to start using in the freshman year. Our program website hoster has bug tracking software that I'm going to check out. Once the program is going the freshmen will be the quality assurance group for the sophomores, the sophomores for the juniors and the juniors for the seniors – they get experience game testing, bug report writing, and they see what kinds of games they will be expected to make (and to be better than) in the future.
* I like the idea of a game contest for students and faculty. We're kind of neutral ground right now since we're not competing with them or their students yet. But that kind of contest might be easier to get started once we have more students to help with it, once we have contacts with some game making companies and developers.
* I think we can give them experience with variety of games through assignments especially the first 2 years. Then we give them focused experience (genres, tools) in the last 2 years.
* Overall – we're in better shape then some programs – more buy in from more departments, more people agreeing on the general direction for the program. Other programs had folks fighting over tenure direction and hiring and pay. Maybe because we have a few resources to start with instead of taking resources from existing programs. Though that's not exactly completely true since the video folks think we're taking resources (faculty line) from them.

Ideas from conversations and stray thoughts I had

* I really want to research the idea of fun with people from across the campus. What's fun, how do we make something fun, how do people react when they're having fun, what's been fun historically or across cultures and what explains the differences/changes, how do you separate the concept of fun from the concept of play. Many games are supposed to be fun (even when they're being educational or trying to sell you something), so we need to look at hit. Industry doesn't have tine or the people. Fun is part of an even bigger topic – immersion and flow. I was thinking small group, get together, produce working papers, maybe a special journal issue or a conference presentation.
* Maybe we should invite grad students from Cornell (and maybe some of the other regional schools) to come do presentations, workshops about videogames

Friday, August 08, 2008

Here's what I bought in the vendor room at wbc 2008

Here's two photos from the vendor room at WBC 2008. Not as big as I expected but I overheard some folks saying a couple of companies didn't come - either some issue with the conference organizer or business difficulties or both. Some interesting vendors - war movies, lots of war games, some fantasy art, and a lot of dice.

I got a coy of Amazing Space Venture - created by a prof from Wilmington University in Delaware.

I got a copy of Race for the Galaxy - a card game where so much info is on the cards in symbols that they provide cheat sheets for each player.

And I got $21 worth of game making pieces - dice, markers, counters. Who knew there were so many kinds of dice, colors of dice. I got blank dice, dice with directions, dice with 10,20,30 instead of 1,2,3 and some poker dice (they have hands of cards on them.

I bought 2 copies (so 8 people can play) of the Championship Racing game - stockcars - - you battle with the cards in your hand from your deck that have stuff like pass inside, pull away, draft, challenge.

I bought Nuclear Proliferation and the expansion pack Weapons of Mass Destruction - up to 10 people can play it. This is a card game - you use your cards to blow up the other guys.

I bought Carcassone - one of the early eurogames. I think it was game of hte year in 2001. It has tiles you lay but none of thosepiles of little pieces.

I got Elkfest - because - duh - it's a game you play by flicking little sontes with your fingers. What a hoot!

I didn't see some of the other games I wanted - I"ll check on Amazon. I want Titan: The Arena or this similar game that has colossal in it. And I want that monster game. Insteresting game play - stomp cities, get mutated, launch armies...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Started breaking down my observations about games

Here's a series of questions and some related ideas - from the board game conference (WBC 2008)

How is first player determined
Are there different rules for different number of players?
is there any first player advantage? If not why? what does the game do to cancel it out? do the other players get some advantage/bonus?

What does each player do during their turn?
are there phases during hte turn? are they done in a set order?
does every player do the same thing? in the same order
if they have a choice of what to do, how do they indicate their choice and when?
do they determine how far to move?

are there points?
how are points scored and when (during turn, end of round, end of game?)
are there different kinds of points? do they convert to victory points?
how are the point totals indicated during the game?

is there cash? if not, is something else used instead of money? (race for the galaxy used cards to buy products)
is it money instead of or in addition to cash?
what do they do with cash?
is it a goal to hoard money

how does game end?
are there multiple ways?
if one player can consciously trigger the end, is there a strategic advantage?
can there be more than one winner?
can players see the game is ending - if surprise can tey finish the round or is it immediate

what info is visible to the player and what do they have to remember?
are the rules visible?
what info is on the playing cards the pieces? what info is on the central board? on the player boards
are cards face up/face down/both?
is there a discard pile?
do you know what other players have? can you figure out the other players' plans?

is there a board?
a central board? player boards?
are all areas on the board open at beginning?
can everyone go everywhere on the board all the time or do certain players control parts of the board?

actual pieces or pictures on cards
are they iconic or realistic?
are they distributed to everyone at the beginning of the game? do you earn them from actions? are they distributed at the beginning of the round?
set up time (how long)
do the pieces go with the theme (Cuba game has pesos)

how long to set up
how long is each turn
how long is the game overall (on average)
what problems can make the game end too soon or go too long?

strategy vs random?
all of one and none of the other or mix
is there an ideal strategy?
if random - is it random each turn or does someone with bad luck at the beginning of the game not be able to recover later on?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

World Boardgame Championships

Close of up game board.Image via Wikipedia
Yep - they have them - boardgame championships I mean. The games are international, and a few of the attendees are too. And I'm at them. I'll be posting my observations and some pictures from the conference here this week. They're expecting 1500 people; they have seminars and demos and tournaments; and it's intimidating since I am not a long time boardgame player. Thie picture is one of the train track laying games.

Summary - Board Games are becoming increasingly complex. They make the parts tiny to save money. A lot of games have the same game mechanic just in different settings.

this is a really well-organized conference - lots of rooms to keep track of, game managers, sign up sheets. There are so many things going on at once - demos, tournaments, seminars.

For each tournament, there are signs with a picture of the game, info about hte tournament, and a sign up sheet. As the week went on, they posted info about winners.

For each room the conference was using there was a sign showing all the games for that room for hte whole week organized chronologically. All the demo tables were labeled and those numbers were used in the program.

There were a lots of rooms, and an incredible number of things going on simultaneously, but they made it easy to find the desired activity.


Auctions, Game Demos, Tournaments - Here's a picture of the auction - ok - i can't take a good picture with this new camera. I'll try harder to brace myself. They had tons of games for sale in lots of categories. I went to what they were calling family games. Some games went for a couple of bucks some up to $90 and $100.

At the auction when i went, I figure about 50-75 people were present - mostly guys - i see 2 guys playing portable videogames
4 auctioneers, tons of games - I mean tons - many piles probably 4 feet tall on the sales table with the auctioneers and more games in the "store" area where buyers can check out the lots they want to bid on - start bids mostly 1, most expensive i heard was $50 for a game, cheapest $3 (wonder where money goes? maybe the people who put them up for sale get the money - would be an interesting fund raiser
they make a deal about shrink wrapped, punched/unpunched, complete or missing specific stuff (and they say what's missing), condition of the box. these aren't the collectibles either - I have to come back for that at 4

I played or watched depending on the size of the crowd: Cube, Stone Age, Merchant of Venus, Santa Fe Rails, Thurm & Taxis, Candidate, Elk Fest (what a hoot). I liked Thurm & Taxis the best so far and Santa Fe Rails 2nd best. Elk Fest would be good to play in class and to think about how we could recreate it in a videogame - not to mention adding stuff to it since it only has a couple of rules and one way to win.

Here's a picture of one of the game demos. Some folks sit and the rest of us stand around struggling to see and hear. Ok - us old folks who need more light and stronger bifocals struggle to see - ha ha.


Here's a car in the parking lot - these folks are serious. They play till all hours of the late night/early morning. They carry around games. They play pick up board games - "hey, what are you guys playing? Got an empty seat?" or "Anybody want to play Cuba?" These are not quick 10 minute games either - some games can go two and three hours. I'm not playing those - don't have the attention span

Here's the games I played or went to the demo of today - Titan: The Arena (a card game), Amazing Space Venture (created by the head of the marketing department at Wilmington University (Delaware), Power Grid, Ticket to Ride, and Can't Stop (a dice and marker game)

And I went to a bunch of seminars: Probability and Statistics (good one that they should make 2 hours), Buying/Selling Wargames, Ethics & Gaming. The seminars are a neat part of the conference - people talking about some of the logic behind the games, about some bigger issues around games.

Here's what I've played today: Hamburgum Nefertiti, Race for the Galaxy, Stock Car Racing,Monsters Ravage America,

I went to some seminars: - --- ok - I didn't go to any seminars - I went to a demo of a stock car game and a monster fight game called Monsters Menace America, then to a heat of the monster fight game. ANd I won! As a prize I won a Godzilla movie (get it - monster game - monster movie - oh of course you got it - you're smart enough to read this blog).

The stock car racing game was a hoot. You have a deck of cards and a race car. You stage battles with hte cards to move up in the pack on the race track. It was different from the other board games with all their little pieces and victory point counters. It's one that would be interesting to buy because i think it's one we could program. The battles would be interesting - ok - they'd be tough to handle for newbies. But it's a game concept we would work on at several levels. I hope to get to play a heat of this tomorrow.

The monster game was also good. There was a central board. Each player controls their monster and one branch of hte military. You move your monster and place troups. You can attack the other monsters. There are move limits, damage points, hit points. You roll dice to see who wins the battles. You ahve a card for each monster to keep track of your hit points. You stomp cities to get hit points. You can mutate. You can upgrade your military. Lots of interesting little side things to keep track of. I focused on getting mayhem points that counted in the final monster on monster battle. That's how I won - by one point - I had 18 mayhem points. For the first half of the game I had the most hit points too. My monster was down in a spot with out many military bases and with small hit point cities so it didn't attract the attention of the other players.

And I poked my head into this room - they have big boardgames set up here. I think they're all games based on wars and historic games. Huge boards, thousands of little pieces. Well it looks like thousands to me.

A light day for me. I'm getting kind of board gamed out. I'm looking for different games now. Here is a picture from the vendor room - the 1st day it was open. I wrote more details here

The Eurogame pattern is all over the place. Used in games with lots of different themes, lots of little tweaks and combinations of the pattern. Maybe that's one of the big take-aways - there are lots of pieces to the eurogame pattern that can be combined in different ways to make new games. And new parts can be introduced to start off a new round of similar games with new themes and new tweaks. There's a whole psychology to the balance of strategy and luck - people want more of one and less of the other in their games. Maybe I want games with a little more luck. There's a range of time frames too - I think i like shorter games. Maybe this is the boardgame equivalent of the casual-hardcore gamer. Don't know yet.

I'll have more pictures to add later. Went to a couple of seminars - one about producing game parts with die cutters that was much more interesting than I imagined. I found out there are small do it your self die cutting machines and companies that will make dies for you for a price of course - but still cheap enough that you could think about it if we got some games that really seemed good. I went to another seminar about election based games - got some info and commentary about 10 or 11 games - could save ya some money by letting ya know which games weren't worth buying or playing.

I bought a couple more games - bought 2 copies of the stock car racing game, Nuclear proliferation and the expansion pack called Weapons of mass destruction, Carcassone, the Ticket to Ride card game and Elk Fest.

So now we have some games to play in class, I have a bunch of notes about boardgames and some ideas about homework assignments. I heard people talking about Origins - another game con in Columbus Ohio. They get 14,000 or more. Yes, that's 3 zeros. About 10 times bigger than the PA conference. I think the Ohio conference has more than just boardgames.

The free play room was open - here are a couple of pictures. The crowd really seemed to pick up on Friday. I talked to a couple at lunch and they said some folks just come for the weekend. A lot of the big, popular heats and finals are scheduled for the weekend.

Demos: Tikal, Nuclear Warfare, a german game that starts with A and in the English re-issue is known as Hoity Toity, Wits & Wagers
Seminars - What we can learn from wargames

The german game had a nice simple but fun mechanic - you're collecting art so you either go to the auction house to buy more art or to the castle to display art. You can also be a thief or a detective.

The Nuclear Warfare is a card game. The final attack is cool - if you run out of population you get to unleash all your weapons on the other players. We had a chain reaction final attack and everybody died - everybody lost.

I think both these games would be good for school because they have different gameplay. I know the nuclear warefare one is in the vendor room so i'll get it tomorrow before i leave.

Zemanta Pixie

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Blog post worth reading


From the lost garden blog
talks about how people who play a lot of games approach a new game differently than do new users - part of the discussion of casual and hard core gamers but also part of the discussion on amateur and expert content creators - if experts approach games differently than new users - then it stands to reason that maybe expert users/developers will have a hard time building in support for new users