Saturday, February 28, 2009

Playing more games

Sony EyeToyImage via Wikipedia

Over the winter break month I tried to play a variety of new to me games. I got side tracked when I pulled out my DDR for the PS2. I'm bad at it but it is fun to play. Today I hooked up the EyeToy (a USB camera that hooks up to the PS2 and is recognized by the DDR). Turns out I am even more uncoordinated than I imagined. You have to use your feet and hands. You have to put your hands so they cover specific parts of the screen and move your feet with the arrows. I was doing ok in the setting labeled "hands OR feet". Then I moved to what is my normal level in DDR (easy peasey) and it became "hands AND feet" and I fell over - not literally but my own lack of aptitude made be laugh out loud. I'll keep trying tho.

Special Edition box artImage via Wikipedia

And then I played Viva Pinata on the DS. I don't get it. I can grow carrots and daisies. But seemed weird to lure pinatas onto your land, breed them and then sell them. Ok - truthfully, maybe it wouldn't have seemed so weird if I could have successfully gotten them to breed. What do ya do with the building? Why build it and then knock it down? My sister and her husband play Viva Pinata on the 360 and they both love it. So - I think I"m just missing something. I'll watch them play and see what the big deal is.
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Building Prototypes for Analog Games

American, Chinese, and casino diceImage via Wikipedia

Boardgame News has a good post this week about bhilding prototypes of boardgames. It doesn't go into game mechanics or creating ideas. Instead it looks at the importance of having lots of bits and pieces around to work with - cards, money, markers, dice. The author talks about using existing cards (playing cards, Magic the Gathering cards) and pasting new game stuff on the card front - the cards all have uniform card backs. He keeps around old games that he doesn't want to play anymore and uses the money, cards, small wooden pieces. I guess you could even use the board - just cover it with a new graphic. He even has a home laminator.

It's a timely article because the students in my critical analysis of games class (2nd semester of the freshman year of our game design major) are finishing up creating games with the Icehouyse game system pyramids. After spring break they start work on creating a board game. This article suggests stuff I need to collect for this semester and the future. I saw tons of gorgeous paper at AC Moore. They even have die cutters with premade dies that I need to look at - we could make cool specialty/themed shapes with it.


See an earlier post about our playtesting the pyramid games. I will post about playtesting the board games at the end of the semester and have some more ideas about what we should be colecting.
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Monday, February 23, 2009

Game Testing

playtest_cardsImage by kgregson via Flickr

I have 10 groups in my Critical Analysis of Games class (26 students). Each group had to create a game using the Icehouse pyramid game system. They could add anything else they wanted - boards, cards, dice, spinners. The games had to be playable within 10-40 minutes. I didn't want any 1 minute throw the pyramid (like 56 card pick up) games.

We tested the games today with other students from class, volunteers from my Qualitative Research class, the chair of the TV-Radio department, and several of the administrative staff from the 3rd floor. It was kind of organized chaos - 10 tables with games spread out, people milling around - some playing, some taking notes and observing.

The goal of the play testing was to get feedback from people who hadn't seen the games before. We needed to know if the rules made sense and, maybe more importantly, was the game fun to play. A secondary goal was to let people in the class see other people's games - kind of set up a little competition to improve the games.

A full set of pictures is on flickr - I am not a photographer but you get the idea - lots of people, lots of tables, lots of games, small room - ha ha. - click here to see the set

playtest7Image by kgregson via Flickr

I think we met the goals. Most groups had notes. A couple of groups discovered problems with their rules or winning conditions; they made some changes on the fly and adjusted their documentation.

We may test again on Monday if I can find some other people to come in, depending on the feedback I get Wednesday in class. They will turn the game in on the Friday before spring break. I also want them to put the rules and game documentation online and encourage others to play.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Students in Critical Analysis of Games Blog About Games

The logo for the first Ace Attorney game's Eng...Image via Wikipedia

The students in my Critical Analysis of Games class this semester are blogging (I teach at Ithaca College and we're just starting up a new major in Game Design and Immersive Media). They have to apply the game design topics we're discussing in class to one or two games all semester. The goal is to get a really deep understanding of their game and show that they can apply the concepts in class to real world games.

They got to pick the game they wanted to analyze. Here are some of the games being studied this semester - Portal, Star Oceans 2, Psychonauts, Turok, Okami, Conkers Bad Fur Day, and Ace Attorney: Apollo Justice.

Here's a link to a list of their blogs -

A second reason for the blogs is to help them establish a professional presence. I hopt that they will keep blogging as they go through the program. They'd love some comments on their blogs if you have time to take a look.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

This would be cool to get involved with

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase

The iPhone Developer program for universities -

I can see the game design students making games for the iphone and since we're an all mac shop (our students have to buy macs) it would be another way for them to use their hardware. And I like it because mobile gaming is a huge new market. Would be good for our junior level special topics class maybe - combo with topic like casual games.

Of course everybody is making iphone games - this is a photo of a iphone dev camp! so the chance of getting any market share is slim - but there are competitive games to study and maybe we could interview other developers/get them to talk to the students. The business angle of the app store would be good to investigate.

You can develop on your mac and test. But we'd need some iphones or iTouches to test on. Wouldn't that be a hardship? - ha ha. Tho imagine asking the dean for money for iphones "just for testing, really, nooooo - no phone calls". Wonder if you can play games with out service Just kidding about the dean - she'd spring for the money for a couple I think.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Trying to Interest People in New BoardGames

BoardGameGeekImage via Wikipedia

Just read a post on BoardGameNews from a guy who tried to get a couple of his friends to play modern board games and they refused regularly. -

I've noticed some of these same qualities in my college students. Specifically - they don't want to read rules to learn new games. They see games like Colossal Arena and Race for the Galaxy are too complex, have too many pieces, take too long to set up. And some of them do take a while to learn or to set up - but the games seem worth the effort with good game play and different ways to win.

Not sure what to do about it - any suggestions?

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Great News

Ithaca logoImage via Wikipedia

The game design major at Ithaca College was officially approved. It will be a BFA in the Television-Radio department of the Roy H. Park School of Communication. It's multi-discipline and multi-school. Students take classes in screenwriting, programming, art history, as well as game design. They play and make analog games as well as videogames. They study analysis of games, the videogame industry, and legal issues. It will be in the catalog probably in 2010. Unfortunately students didn't know about it when they applied for admittance for the Fall 2009 school year. I need to get to work promoting it for Fall 2010. However, students already admitted can switch to the game major.

We have a website for the major - and a blog - the blog might become the site's homepage, still playing with that.

Homepage (for the moment) -
Blog -

On the website, you can play games and other projects made by students in the program, see some photos, read descriptions of the classes.

If you know anyone interested in studying game design, have them drop me an email at or give me a call at 607-274-7348 and I"ll try to answer their questions.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Visit from Firaxis Executive Producer

Firaxis GamesImage via Wikipedia

Firaxis makes the Sid Meier's Civilization games. Friday February 6, 2009, Barry Caudill and screenwriting alumni Liam ??? visited with students at Ithaca College. They gave some good advice for students interested in working in the videogame industry.

  • The big message - it's tough to break into the industry. Don't give up. There are steps you can take to be more attractive to game companies.
  • Be willing to start small and work up. Be adaptable and versatile.
  • Communication is key - written, oral, with team members and managers, with publishers and consumers.
  • Sometimes there are designer/writers, designer/scripter; at Firaxis they have designer/programmers.
  • If you want to get into the industry as a designer you need some programming so you can create your own prototypes. You're better able to get across your own ideas if you can create your own prototypes.
  • Quality Assurance is a good starting point especially if you want to move into a position as a producer.

  • Companies are looking for experience which makes it tough for new grads. You can make your own game and take to the interview. It's not enough to have ideas - you have to make stuff. You can make videogames, game mods, even analog games (board/card games). Show you can implement ideas and finish stuff. There are lots of tools to use to make games - XNA Unreal engine, NeverEnding Knights engine, flash... You need to let people play your game and get feedback. So playtest early and often.
    Go to game jams - you work with a team to create a playable game.
  • The more you know the easier it is to talk to other people on the team. They use a variety of software - Visual Studio, MS Office suite, visualization tools like Visio and PowerPoint, lots of project management tools, graphic tools like Photoshop and 3D StudioMax, Python and other scripting languages, XML for game text, and software for source control.

    And - to my students who wonder why I assign strange projects and make them play with boardgames about bean farming and zombie brains - - - see I don't make this stuff up. The pros give the same advice. And they'd both played Bohanza, the bean farming game - ha ha!

    Here's alum Liam Collins:

    Here is a photos of Barry Caudill:

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Global Game Jam

Two students from the game design major here at Ithaca College went to SUNY Albany to participate in the Global Game Jam at the beginning of February 2009. They met people interested in making games from other colleges. Sounds like there was a ton of food and enough participants to have 6 groups making games

Here is a link to the game that their group created. They put the game up on YoYo Games since they made their game with Game Maker, software distributed by YoYo. They'd really appreciate any comments and feedback. You can leave it on the YoYo site or here on the blog and I'll make sure the students get the message.


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We kicked off our time in SecondLife today in Qualitative Research class

They all made it off orientation island - that's a great way to start the semester.

Today we went to the New Resident Q&A hosted by Bob Bonderfeld, who has been in SecondLife since 2003 when it was in beta. I sent him an IM asking if it was ok for us all to come; sometimes a space isn't set up to handle more than 20 people.

We met in an outdoor plaza. Bob had a lot of chairs set out that we just needed to left click on to sit. He was using voice chat - we didn't have any mics but we had speakers so we could hear his commentary and the students typed their questions. They asked questions related to their research project topics and got some good advice.

Some had trouble seeing the chairs (or maybe they just had trouble sitting still) The students were laughing and talking and helping each other out which is exactly what I want to see develop over the semester.

Here's a photo one of the students took during the session - Thanks Sly Deezul

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In the next couple of weeks we will observe other types of classes locations and cultures in SecondLife.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Twitter Info

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase

I mention twitter in my classes and try to get students interested in social media.

Here are a couple of resources for new twitter users

A History of Twitter - neat insider background story about the creation of a new tool

TweetNet - info for beginning twitterers

A look at how the interface has changed over time - good use of hte Wayback Machine to get old screenshots

Here's my twitter stream -

I've added links to some stories about Twitter (actually Zemanta added the links - I love the zemanta blog add-oh.

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