Thursday, April 30, 2009

Can a board game make you cry


There were audible gasps in the audience when Brathwaite revealed Train's shocking conclusion; one attendee was so moved by the experience that she left the conference room in tears
Short read, well worth it.

Thanks Raph!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Could new Miro biz model work for games?

Cory at BoingBoing points us to Miro's new initiative to fund their next project.

Miro is an open & free Internet TV service, and the model their using for their next round of fund-raising is "adopt a line of code".

Similar, I guess, to the 'adopt a highway' model, Miro's letting people subscribe (remember, it's a service, not just an application) for $4/month. In exchange, they get the warm vibes that come from helping the project happen, and also a custom page and widget for displaying your love and your very own line of code. It's the NPR bumper sticker for the linux generation!

The question is, would this work for funding a game project? How about a sequel or a mod for a popular title? Hmm....

Casey's video lectures

A couple years back I'd pointed out that Casey Muratori had posted an interesting tech-talk video on his website, along the lines of a GDC programming lecture without the $1000 entry fee :-)

Anyhow, I just noted from his interview with Gamasutra that he's posted a number of others since that time. covering a good number of topics. 

Friday, April 24, 2009

New infectious Scrabble ads

The new series of Scrabble ads from Mattel are awesome. They are aiming to reinvigorate the brand, and are certainly enough to get a heads up from people that might not otherwise get it.

Ultimately though, it'll take more than ads to get people to play. Interesting variants to the rule might help (speed scrabble, or themed games might make for good party debates "spelunk is NOT a dirty word!")

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Commissioned games

Alice has a post up describing what she's been up to at Channel 4 in the UK. Well worth reading, but here's the short version cut and pasted:

I work for Channel 4commissioning educational stuff for teenagers (snip)
Most of what I commission is games, for the simple fact that teenagers love games. If that's what they love, then let's put the good stuff in there, goes the reasoning (snip)
Our mission: to get educational stuff to UK teens aged 14-19, stuff that'll help them get from puberty to adulthood, and to get on in life (snip)
Public service gaming is fantastic. There should be more of it. There will be more of it! (snip)
She goes on to list some samples of what they've been working on and I agree, it's great.

Developers should take note of a funding model that shouldn't be balked at. Television's shown us that publicly funded productions can be every bit as good and successful as commercial products. The BBC (Alice's former employer) has funded many significant works ranging from Planet Earth to Doctor Who to Monty Python. (this won't stop me from making Benny Hill references over drinks when I bump into Alice at conferences though).

There's a lot to think about here. For developers, it's another avenue of funding that may grow larger over time. For publishers and distributors, it's competition with their commercial products. And for gamers (or parents of wee gamers) it's potentially a source of games that aren't just trying to sell your kids something.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Della Rocca hangs up his shingle

Jason's new consulting venture is open for business. I can think of any number of people that could benefit from his expertise, but for starters, if you are a regional government looking to design a program to attract game industry businesses, or if you are a studio looking for the most incentive-rich location in which to set up shop, you'd do well to invest a little money in getting some help from Perimeter Partners.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Book Review: Business Stripped Bare

I made an impulse buy a while back, picking up Richard Branson's latest, Business Stripped Bare. I'd really enjoyed his first book, Losing My Virginity, and so thought I'd give the latest a shot.

While I highly recommend Losing My Virginity, I have mixed feelings about his latest.

On the plus side:
  • The wide variety of Virgin's businesses lets this be a business book that is both 1st hand from the CEO, and yet also looks a wide variety of business case examples. Other than Jack Welch, I've not run into too many of these.
  • It's plain to see that Branson is just plain passionate about the businesses he goes after, and it's infectious as a result. It's a basic formula too: Look for businesses ripe for disruption, put customer first, have fun doing it.
  • It's quite current, and so it's interesting to peek into the mind of a business leader writing in the middle of the financial meltdown (at least as of late last year).
On the down side: 
  • Far less of the head tales of early startup days for Virgin than the first book had
  • Less romping adventures ballooning around the world and such, which really made the first book a fun read.
  • He does come off as being a little out of touch with the common man, at least when compared to the first book. (e.g. there's a part where he laments about how important it is to find time to take care of ones self and exercise, then complains about how on a recent busy travel jaunt, it was all he could do to squeeze in a couple hours for surfing off the coast of Bali. Jeez, I'm supposed to feel bad for you Richard? :-)
Anyhow, recommended if the above points don't throw you, but start with the first book first.

PC Version of Braid gets a level editor

that popping sound you hear is aspiring developers brains the world round exploding in rapid succession.

Oh, and it got a trailer too:

Braid trailer from David Hellman on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Introversion giving a peek into the XLBA process

For those that haven't been pointed to this, and who might be considering doing an XLBA title, the folks at Introversion are really giving a decent peek inside the process, including the background on email threads from their initial contact with XBLA bizdev (back in 2006) through to the most recent bug reports and the like. The playtest & usability reports for example, are a really good insight into some of the services MS can provide when working with XBLA devs. Would be nice to see someone comment on whether Sony & Nintendo are comparable.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Brains are high in cholesterol

Joining the ranks of the Portal song and You Have To Burn The Rope...

The video from Popcap's new game, Plants vs Zombies:

Bunch'o'Game mini-reviews

I've played a bunch of stuff recently that I haven't posted on. Here goes:

  • Mirror's Edge (360): I picked it up on a whim, and am liking it much more than I expected. If Portal is a 1st person puzzle game, then ME is the 1st person platformer. Recommended.
  • Guitar Hero: Aerosmith (360): It's Guitar Hero, so you know what to expect, and can check the song list online. I do think the mixing in of video interviews with the band kind of breaks the fiction of the game, but the fiction was always only a thin glaze over top of the game itself, so not a big deal. Recommended only for die-hard GH fans. I do like the latest GH: Metallica ad though!

  • Tomb Raider: Legend (360): It's tomb raider. You know what to expect. It's fairly well done as far as TR goes. C'est tout. I wouldn't recommend unless you are a die-hard TR fan or have never played any of the TR games, in which case you should play at least one.
  • Shawn White Snowboarding (360): Controls a little finicky, but I rather enjoyed it once I got the hang of it. Multiplayer is fun as well but a bit non-intuitive as to how you initiate events and the like. Only recommended for fans of finicky extreme sports titles like SSX or Tony Hawk, etc.
  • Sway (iPhone): A fun little physics-driven touch-interface platformer. I've spent a surprising amount of time playing it. Recommended.
  • Half Life 2 (360): I went back and played through the game since I'd never played Episodes 1,2. Amazing how ground breaking a title it was at the time of it's launch. Highly recommended.
  • Wii Sports (Wii): Fun for the kids. Recommended
  • Wii Play (Wii): Pretty crappy. Got it for the extra controller, but the mini-games in it are really aweful with only a couple exceptions. Not Recommended.

[update: Forgot to add two titles]

  • Peggle (360 arcade): Every bit the fun of the PC original with two plusses and one minus: Multiplayer modes and achievements are great adds, but the controller is a step backward for those that have played it with a mouse before, making that decathalon challenge pretty tricky. Recommended.
  • Biology Battle (360 Community games): I spent some time playing some of the community games at GDC and afterward. I have to do a lengthier post about community games in general, but for now I'll just recommend the trial of this game to decide if it's for you. It's a great little shooter along the lines of Geowars but with differences enough to make it distinctive. Recommended.

Putting the toothpaste back in the tube

GamePolitics has this post about how EA sent reviewers a press kit for The Godfather II. The press kit included a set of brass knuckles.
Kind of a nifty piece of schwag, but also an illegal one. As GP points, out brass knuckles are illegal in a number of states, and so EA's trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube but mailing out return mailers to get the contraband weapons back.
If there's a lesson here, its that EA's delicately worded efforts to get the items back are generating more news than if they were straight-up about it. The comments to the press are along the lines of:
"I hope you're enjoying our Godfather II press kit, including the
novelty brass knuckles. To help you take proper care to dispose of the item,
we're sending you a pre-paid shipping package"
And then replying "no comment" to any further questions about it.
'Proper care to dispose of the item'? Please.
What they really should have said was "oops, we fucked up. We thought this would be a good novelty item in keeping with the game's theme, but didn't realize these were illegal in some states. We're making best efforts to make sure we get these all back, and would really appreciate it if our friends in the press could help us out here. We'll send you an even more awesome, but completely legal, piece of schwag afterward for your efforts."

Braid finally ships on PC

Braid has finally shipped on PC. Jon's shipping on a number of distribution services, so you get your pick. It's up on Steam (Valve), Impulse (Stardock), GreenHouse (Penny Arcade dudes), and GamersGate.

Bob's game update

I posted a while back about Bob's Game, the one-man project from Bob Pelloni who was staging a sort of shut-in/coding-binge to try and force Nintendo's hand into looking at the title.

Kotaku posted a response from Nintendo where they politely but firmly said 'we looked at it, we don't like it.' or something to that effect.

Guess Bob should have had a plan B.

I'm old!

Sorry for the lack of posting recently. Busy week at work and I haven't had time.

In other news, I turned 40 yesterday. Ugh. I'm old.

My darling wife arranged for us to go hot air ballooning (have wanted to go for some time) but Oregon weather predictability being what it is, we couldn't go and had to take a raincheck. Oh well.

She also got me a Wii, so I'll be catching up on a bunch of games on the to-play list (Boom Blox, Galaxies, World of Goo, etc) over the coming weeks.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

GDC '09: Creating Value for Video Game Companies

Good presentation on valuation fundamentals & trends in the video game space, from Mitch Lasky at Benchmark Capital.