Tuesday, December 30, 2008

check it out - i won a t-shirt from Loot Ninja for writing a caption to this picture


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Trying to get my family to play new board/card games

It's not easy. We tried slamwich - my dad hated the slapping part. We played "MMM...Brains" and that one went over a little better although we think the rules need a bit of elaboration about phase 2. At Thanksgiving we tried Apples to Apples and that didn't go over. Maybe with a bigger crowd.

Still to play - Monkeys on the Moon.

Games they do like - We did play Quiddler and 5 Crowns - those are long time favorites. And dominoes.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

This could be a good series of posts

Over on the Nerfbat blog, Ryan Shwader is attempting to break down the concept of being a hardcore gamer starting with this post. He's started by looking at time spent in teh game and he promises to look at other concepts such as skill. I've had this on my list of things to study for awhile - ok for like the last 4 years. I'm glad to see someone tackle it and I"m going to be reading.

Check out the comments - why do people seem to react so violently when folks try to define things like hardcore. Why do they feel threatened or feel the need to ridicule? Very strange.
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New Game Designer Makes Good - Inspirational Tale

Check out this post on the Lost Garden blog - about a game prototype called Little Girl Fishing that is being developed. The developer was paid $4000 and a performance bonus.

There is a good discussion of the process, the tools (he used flash). It's interesting background reading - and inspirational.

You also find out about the prototype experiments on the Lost Garden site. If you're ever at a loss for a game idea, check out these experiments.
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Saturday, December 20, 2008

What I did on my wnter break

I'm preparing 2 new classes - Fun & Games (a seminar discussion class for 18 senor undergrad students) and Critical Analysis of games (for 30 undergrads) - trying to find readings, think of assignments, and read a lot of extra stuff to add to the lectures to help make sense of all the new material (new to me and them)

I"m also determined to play a lot of videogames. I checked a lot out from our collection at school - i bought them but never had time to play them over the semester. I checked out a lot for hte DS - I like the 2 screens and the different input options. I also took a couple for the XBox360 and the Wii IGNImage via Wikipediaand one for the PSP. I have a couple PSP games at home already that I need to play. I figure I"ll blog some little summaries/reactions to the games and ideas I have about using them in assignments. We bought a lot of the games used and many don't have instructions which is a pain for me. I discovered tho that hte students don't read the videogame instructions (and were ticked that they had to read and understand the instructions for the board games we played. I have found good guides and instructions on the IGN site and have put links to them on our website


MeteosImage via WikipediaMeteos (for the DS) - a puzzle game. I bought it used and it didn't have the instructions. I think I need to read the guide I found on IGN - there are things going on on the screen that I had no understanding of even after playing for 2 hours and sometimes winning. As a puzzle game tho it's kind of typical - match the tiles up in groups of three to have them blast off. Things happen really fast tho - I'd concentrate on the right side of the screen and before I knew it I had lost because of something on teh left hand side. There's some kind of outer space theming - the falling tiles are takng place on different planets. I can see assigning students a group of puzzle games to compare or compare puzzle games on different platforms or different kinds of puzzles. And in the fun class we're going to talk about puzzles so it might be interesting to have them play puzzle games and see what the fun is. Someone I follow on Twitter recommended I check out the Disney verson of Meteos - I'm a big fan of all things Disney so I will look for it when I go shopping later.

LuminesImage via WikipediaLumines II (PSP) - another puzzle game - kind of like Tetris with the falling tiles but the tiles are made up of 4 smaller blocks and each block can be one of 2 colors. You have to maneuver the tile so that you get 4 smaller blocks of the same color in a 2 x 2 arrangement (not a 1 x 4 unfortunately - those I seem to be able to build with no problem). Themusic (in my opinion) is annoying. And some of the flashing skins are hard on my old eyes. The 2 x 2 squares don't disappear immediately - only when the timeline (that maybe is moving in time with the music, I can't tell because the music irritated me and I turned it off) crosses over it. The timeline is a neat feature they added to the tile matching puzzle. if you can work it right, you can stack up 2 x 3 or 3 x 3 (or bigger theoretically) and get more points. You can save at the end of each game. There are 22 levels as a beginner, another 22 for the A level and a third set of 22 levels for the S level. And then lot of other ways to play including competing against the cmoputer. Assignment possibiities: It might be interesting to try and lay out historically the feature development in the puzzle genre - any of the genres probably. Same with some of the euro games (like from carcassone to settlers to stone age). Another assignment - compare puzzle games on the different platforms - how do they take advantage of the strengths of each platform/how are they different from platform to platform.Another assignment - take the timeline feature and work it into another genre - and think how you'd have to change the win/lose conditions and the rules.

Boom BloxImage via WikipediaAnother puzzle game I have been playing is Boom Blox on the Wii. You knock down these stacks of blocks with baseballs and ray guns and bowling balls. Some of the blocks are bombs. Others are filed with explosive gas. It's good destructive fun. There's a big training set of lessons, then 3 areas of quests. As you finish the tutorials and quests you win stuff like castles and ray guns of your own to use in the third section - an area wher eyou can builid your own stack of blox for others to knock down - tho the backgrounds and decorations are limited to what you see in the regular game so no outer space blox. I like the destructive aspect. There are little creatures - cows and dogs and penquins - in the background. If ya toss the ball just right you can bean them in the head and make them disappear; you don't get any extra points (and you really should) but it's still fun. It seems less repetitive than the other puzzle games. And there are lots of ways thru the tutorials so you dont' get stuck having to do the same skill ove rand ovr and over till you accidentally do it correctly or in a timely fashion. And no mind-numbing droney music. Maybe that's one of the adantages of hte console - more space on teh dvd for content and better sound on the tv. I'd like to have the students make their own stack of blocks and decorate it for others to play and evaluate but not sure how to share it. Another assignment possibility migight be to look at how games incorporate avatars or characters representing hte palyer - in this game you pick your avatar out at the beginning but the only time you see that character again is when you restart the game. You don't see him throw the baseball or chase the cows. Kind of irritating that they made me pick him out and then I don't get to play as him.

CivilizationImage via WikipediaSid Meier's Civilization (DS) - ok - i really don't like this kind of game - build units, place units, move units - turn based strategy. You go from the stone age to space age. There are several ways to win - that I like. It had a consistent use of the keys but i couldn't always figure out what triggered the end of my turn and it wasn't always clear to which units I'd already given a destination. It's a good example of in game tutorial level tho. Comparing the content of the tutorials with the directions for the board games we play might be interesting. Or examining the tutorial to see how they teach a variety of skills - what order does the tutorial put things in and is that the optimum pattern. This is definintely one I want to compare across platforms - what did they have to sacrifice to get it on the DS for instance. This isn't a picture of the DS version - it's just the only one I can find at the moment; I'll replace it when I can.

Assassin's CreedImage via WikipediaAssassin's Creed for the DS - just started this one (I have to play it on the xbox360 too). It's a platformer - run,jump, climb walls, run along rails. I think there's fighting - i saw a tutorial with some wicked sword moves and stabby combinations. No massive blood spurts like Mortal Kombat, but that's ok. There are some mini-puzzles. You use the ABXY keys and the LR trigger instead of the stylus. That was kind of irritating. I want to point with the stylus and have the little guy move there. There are spots where you can't see very good - seemed like my little assassin was around the corner from the camera. And now my little assassin is caught in some kind of dumb loop - i keep following hte arrows but there's nothing to do and it just keeps sending me around. Time to check for a hint online I guess (man how lame is that - but hey, this is for educational purposes, not fun!)

N+ (on the PSP) - IT's a good intro the the button mashing type of videogame - one button with the left hand (directions) and one with the right (jump). Except even that is giving me fits. I'd like to blame it on the fact that I"m left handed so i keep trying to jump with the left hand, but mostly don't think that's it. I need more practice. I am going to play the game on the DS too. I think it would be a good first psp game for the students - use a few buttons. Not much story or character development, just action. You could build a story around it I think to give the little ninja some back story.

Text Twist - a casual game - I played it on Yahoo Games - URL: http://get.games.yahoo.com/proddesc?gamekey=texttwist. I'm a big fan of Book Worm - maybe it's clear I like puzzle games. I like casual games because you can play them for hours but if you only have a few minutes you can still get in a couple of rounds. This one is a little tougher because you only have 6 letters to work with at a time. I like the twist feature which rearranges the letters because it's hard to rearrange them mentally. There is a timer to compete against. If you ahve the right kind of browser it keeps track of high scores (I was on Firefox and it didn't track them). It's an example of a game with very few rules up front (or maybe very few rules overall). It's on a lot of sites - an example of portal distribution. I can't figure out how they're making money but I enjoyed the game.

Shape Inlay - another casual game on Yahoo Games - URL: http://games.yahoo.com/free-games/shape-inlay - a stream of tiles scrolls across the bottom. You have to drag the pieces up into the puzzle shape, trying to fill it in with the shapes. The drag and drop interface is pretty slick. There's time pressure because if the shape tile area fills up you lose. I can't imagine how you could use up all the tiles so I figure you play to get the most points - you're always going to run out of time/tile space - the trick is to play as long as possible. So you maybe can't win but can delay losing as long as possible. I just noticed - there is no credit for the game creator

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Board/Card Games - some we got, more I want

BoardGameGeekImage via WikipediaI bought 5 new card games for the games classes - different game play mechanisms, some interesting themes, some 2 player and some 3-5 player, some by well-known designers
We got
Pink Godzilla Dev Kit
Frog Juice
Monkeys on the Moon

And after reading some game play reports from the big board game geek conference in Texas here are a few more games I want to buy. Amazon doesn't carry them and funagain games doesn't have a persistent shopping cart so I'm going to put the info here till I"m ready to buy some more games

Eselsrennen - you race donkeys
Wasabi - a tile layiing game wher eyou're trying to build sushi
Cities - a tile laying game, can be played in about 20 minutes, builds on ideas (and meeples) in Carcasonne
Coloretto (tho the new game by the same designer Boss Kito is supposedly not good at all)
Code 777 - a dice game
Gulo Gulo - a kid's game about removing eggs froma bowl
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Child's Play Charity

This Child's Play charity effort organized by the folks at Penny Arcade would be a good thing for a videogame student group to work on once the major gets started. It's respected and well-known int he industry and it would just be fun.

Here's a story from Wired about the 2008 efforts

Saturday, December 13, 2008

SL Research Projects are In

Second LifeImage via WikipediaThe qualitative research class (2 sections) turned their final projects in on Friday. I"ll post some comments here about them as I grade and hopefully some good pictures that they took.

There were a wide variety of topics this semester - role play, sexual subcultures, drug culture live music, fashion, education, dating, how you learn appropriate social behavior, bar culture, religion, and sports. Each group did participant observations, content analysis, and interviews in SecondLife. They got some good interviews - store owners, people who work as DJs, preachers, people who build and invent things in SL...

I'm not sure we'll do again role play and sexual subcultures again because they are the hardest to get people to talk about. The role play people usually stay in character and don't want to be interviewed. The people actively having sex in SL are ... well .... occupied, and don't want to be disturbed by students (or anyone else for that matter) either. In each case, the students got good stuff, just not from the people actually heavily involved in the topic.

British pounds, Danish kroner, Euros, and Cana...Image via WikipediaSomeone suggested we add a topic about money for next semester and I like that idea - how people in SL think about hte in-world currency (do they actively try to earn money, what do they do with money, do they ever put in or take out real world money from the game...)
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The FCC talks about videogame addiction

Check out this blog post from Alley Insider - a board member of the FCC has pronounced that people are becoming addicted to WOW and that's making them drop out of college in droves. There's a link ot the FCC doc as a pdf file.

First - why in the world is the FCC involved with WOW? They don't have enough to do with melamine contaminated baby food? Talk about mission creep. Well - some kind of creep, that's for sure.

Second - bad research - there's never just one variable that explains anything involving human behavior. The comments point out that tuition increases are through the roof and that having a college education no longer guarantees a good career. Also very good explanations for why folks drop out of college. And my favorite explanation - a lot of people in college shouldn't be there in the first place so they get weeded out.
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