July 2012 Miscellany

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There Will Be Games

Thoughts about some game-related topics that are not long enough for separate blog posts.

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If you're into twitter, and game design, Reiner Knizia is worth following.  https://twitter.com/ReinerKnizia.  Many of his tweets are attempts to encapsulate his experience.

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I've just learned that I do have two talks at GenCon, Sunday at 9AM and noon, ICC201.  (That's the only day a room was available, Sunday.)
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I see that GenCon now charges a base price of $2 per event--but not for seminars

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"Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public."   Sir Winston Churchill

I quite agreed with him last October when I submitted the book.  But I agree even more after taking many, many hours to proof it and make the index.   One of the most tedious things I've ever done is manually create an index for a book.  I'll automate much of the process next time.

Due to be printed 28 July.
 
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I've been reading the hoorah over Diablo III.  It can only be played via an Internet connection (to prevent cheating on virtual goods, so that Blizzard can make money through their auction house for virtual goods).  And Blizzard failed to adequately provide connections when the game was released.  So people sometimes couldn't play.

Intelligent consumers recognize the following:

1) Internet connections don't always work, so any game requiring such connection won't always work.

2) Anytime you buy a game just as it's released, the game is going to have lots of bugs, as with any other software.  You can hope there won't be big ones.  If you want to avoid bugs, wait a while before buying.

So, many people haven't encountered the problems, either because they won't buy an Internet DRM game, or because they'll wait until it's "fixed".

Simple enough.  But in the Age of Instant Gratification, "I want it now" sometimes replaces intelligence.

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Britannia new edition is proceeding.  The FFG edition is officially out of print, though still available from many sources.

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For Amazon's author pages, I cannot include Britannia (which is sold two ways through Amazon), even though it has an ISBN (international book number).  Only books are recognized, and only those books where you are principal author, not contributor.

Then again, Boardgamegeek does not allow book entries, because they're not games.  Except that sometimes in the past they did.

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At 8PM Thursday night at WBC - August 2 - I'll be talking about game design in Hopewell.  I did *not* choose the name for the event, by the way.

I decided too late to go to GenCon, speaking rooms were full.  As far as I can tell, I tried to get something on Sunday morning but I don't know the result.

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Frugal Dad (http://frugaldad.com/top-board-game-sites/) lists 33 boardgame blogs, a useful list.  (They call them "top board game sites" but don't include BGG--though they include Purple Pawn which is not a blog.  *Shrug*)

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Contrary to rumor, GenCon is not moving to a different time-frame, though sometimes mid-August as this year, sometimes early August.

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Tim Sweeney (founder of Epic Games) on focus groups: "Well, there are really two ways to get feedback from customers. One is to ask them what they want, and you never really get a useful answer from there. They'll tell you they want the current thing they have plus some fixes to it that are fairly obvious. What is really useful is building the game you want to build and building it the way you want to build it, then sitting down a bunch of people in front of it. Then watching them play, seeing where they get stuck, what they think of it and just getting their feedback that way. Customer feedback is extraordinarily useful in fine tuning something that exists. So if you use it to that extent, it's a very healthy and important part of a development cycle.

Too many companies will go and say 'So, we're considering building a phone. What do you want in a phone?' So they are like 'Gee, I want this iPhone problem to go away.' You don't get the wide, forward looking perspective that industry visionaries like Cliff himself can come up with."


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"Social network" games are designed to be easily playable by people who would struggle to understand and play most any hobby tabletop game (e.g. Settlers of Catan).  Monopoly and Sorry are OK, but anything more demanding, good luck.  In other words, social network games are mass market games.  Surprise.

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The most difficult thing to test, in playtesting, is the longevity of a game, how it holds up over many, many plays.  That's because most game players aren't interested in playing the same game again and again, except perhaps over many years, or unless the game is very short.  Playtesting a game for years is often impractical.

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Rabid video game  fans are rarely sports fans.  Two often-exclusive ways of killing time?  Though sports has a lot more persistence (then again, so do MMOs).

Jakob Nielsen  says "killing time is the killer app" for mobile.  You don't need "an experience" to kill time.  Convenience is a big part of killing time.  This is why phones will predominate and dedicated handhelds will become a much smaller market.  Those who want "an experience" will use something more capable and much larger (especially in the screen) than a handheld.

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 I understand that Diablo III has abandoned choice-based skill trees in favor of the ability to choose any six of the skills available to you, at any time, changing as you wish.

From the competitive game aspect, this reduces the depth of the game because there are no long-term choices that matter.  It also sounds quite homogeneous, rather the opposite of the trend to customizing characters/avatars so that each one is different.   But looked at another way, it allows near-infinite customization because you can change whenever you like.

From an entertainment aspect, it lets players avoid big mistakes, and gives them an enormous field to experiment in.  Diablo is not intended to be a deep game, it seems to be more the ultimate hack and slash, so an orientation to entertainment makes sense.

"Diablo III is built for people who want to tinker rather than people who want to just cop out and decide. Tinkering can be every bit as effective a hook as deciding."  Tom Chick

Yes, it's very much trial-and-error (guess and check), which is the "new way" to do things.  But there's lots of variety in trial and error . . .

There Will Be Games
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