simoniker writes: "In a new interview, BioShock creator Ken Levine has been talking about his studio's philosophy and teasing, at least abstractly, his next project, of which he says "we had a scope and ambition in mind which is more ambitious than anything we've ever done. Even more, substantially more ambitious than BioShock." He also commented on 2K Marin, currently working on BioShock 2, wishing them luck but making it clear that he is not majorly involved in the game: "I'm not working on BioShock 2. I make no claim to anything on BioShock 2,and I think it's important that that's their product, and their culture. Because you can't just clone a studio.""
simoniker writes: "In the latest in his Game Design Essentials series for Gamasutra, which has previously spanned subjects from 'mysterious games', through 'open world games', 'unusual control schemes' and 'difficult games', writer John Harris examines 10 games from the Western computer RPG (CRPG) tradition and 10 from the Japanese console RPG (JRPG) tradition, to figure out what exactly makes them tick. From the entry on Pokemon: "The front-line Pokémon do all the fighting. They are traded back and forth between trainers, even into, effectively, other universes through either a strange link-cable portal or, these days, converted into photons and broadcast through the ether. Do they question the motives of the god-beings who command them? Do they treat their lot philosophically? Do they pine for the pixel-grass in which they spent their childhoods?""
simoniker writes: "Over at Gamasutra, a new feature article discusses how much money free-to-play MMO games make, with specific real-world stats from game developers willing to discuss how they make money with PC microtransaction-based games. In particular, Puzzle Pirates co-creator Daniel James reveals that "the average revenue per user (ARPU) is between one and two dollars a month, but only about 10% of his player base has ever paid him anything. As a result, he says, approximately 5,000 gamers are generating the $230,000 in revenue he sees each month." It's obviously quite a different model from the regular $15/month for World Of Warcraft, but it evidently works for some companies."
simoniker writes: "Over at Gamasutra, there's a massive new interview with Epic (Mega)Games founder Tim Sweeney, with the guy who's still a key technical figure at the Unreal Engine/Gears Of War developer discussing his early programming days, the story behind classic shareware game/tool ZZT, the origins of Epic, the '90s shareware business, and even a bit about the future as well. Particularly neat is his revelation that you can still order ZZT via mail, with orders fulfilled by his dad: "My father still lives at the address where Potomac Computer Systems started up, so he still gets an order every few weeks... he's retired now, so he doesn't have much to do. Every week, he'll just take a stack of a few orders, put disks in them, and mail them out. So you can still buy ZZT.""
simoniker writes: "The 'ambitious and unusual' vector-based Vectrex console was one of the most intriguing game console failures of all time, and Bill Loguidice and Matt Barton continue their 'History Of Gaming Platforms' series over at Gamasutra by analyzing the rise, fall, and legacy of the cult '80s console. From the intro: "GCE's vector-based Vectrex failed to win massive audiences, like the Atari 2600 Video Computer System (VCS) or the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) did. Nevertheless, the distinctive platform gained a cult following after being pulled from the market in 1984, two years after its debut, and now enjoys one of the finest homebrew development scenes of any vintage system.""
simoniker writes: "Ian Bogost's latest 'Persuasive Games' column provides a new definition for casual games and their prospects, citing the Zidane Head-Butt game and suggesting: "If Casual Friday is the metaphor that drives casual games as we know them now, then Casual Sex might offer a metaphor to summarize the field's unexplored territory. If casual games (as in Friday) focus on simplicity and short individual play sessions that contribute to long-term mastery and repetition, then casual games (as in sex) focus on simplicity and short play that might not ever be repeated — or even remembered.""
simoniker writes: "The second in Gamasutra's 'Game Design Essentials' series looks at the roots and design lessons of 'open world games' — titles in which the player "is left to his own devices to explore a large world" — from Adventure through Metroid to Grand Theft Auto. From the piece: "When we discuss "open world games" in this article, or sometimes "exploration games," we mean those games where generally the player is left to his own devices to explore a large world. What all of these games share is the seeking of new, interesting regions at whatever time the player deems fit. No force forces the player's motion into new areas. There's no auto-scroll, and there are no artificial level barriers.""
simoniker writes: "Continuing Gamasutra's histories of the games voted into the Digital Game Canon, following pieces on Spacewar, on Zork, and on Civilization, the site explores Doug Neubauer's Atari title Star Raiders, a somewhat obscure but vital precursor of the Wing Commander-esque digital space opera. The introduction explains: "Doug Neubauer's Star Raiders was a game that made a vivid first impression. Released in 1979 for the Atari 400 and 800 computers, the game was a surprisingly complex space combat simulation. However, what left players entranced was its smooth, three-dimensional graphics. Star Raiders achieved a level of realism that few people had seen in a video game before.""
simoniker writes: "Are MMO populations 'tribal', and if so, what's the next tribal shift after World of Warcraft? At Gamasutra, academics including MIT's Henry Jenkins and Ludium's Edward Castronova discuss what's next for the MMO market, based on their research and play patterns. In there, Jenkins says WoW is getting _too_ much analysis from researchers right now: "WoW deserves attention because it has so captured the imagination of gamers over the past few years. That said, I don't think it is healthy for the field of games studies, which is still emerging, to be so fixated on a single game franchise — no matter what the franchise. A few years ago, it might have been The Sims or GTA, now it's WoW.""
simoniker writes: "Veteran game designer Ernest Adams has posted the 8th yearly edition of his 'Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie' column, running down things game designers absolutely should not do. The first (of many) is 'wildly atypical game levels', described by a submitter as: "Optional mini-games are fun, and can be a refreshing change of pace, but optional is the key word here. Levels where a player must complete a game that uses a completely different skill set in order to continue back to a point that uses the original skill set can be irritating as hell." Adams adds: "Bullfrog was often guilty of this — I remember some wildly atypical levels in Dungeon Keeper, Magic Carpet, and Populous: The Beginning. They padded out the game, but because they made just about everything you had learned useless, they were very annoying." There's also now a No Twinkie Database on Adams' site, collecting all of the submissions so far."
simoniker writes: "A new 'Analyze This' feature on Gamasutra examines analysts' views on the rise of Nintendo's Wii and DS, and how well game publishers have reacted to it, with Wedbush Morgan's Michael Pachter commenting: "It's hard to criticize anyone for putting too much faith in the PS3, as most [publishers] haven't created "cutting edge" titles yet for that platform. Most of the PS3 titles so far have been perennial titles, like Madden, Tony Hawk, etc.. And I don't think that the publishers have "put too much faith" in the 360, as that platform and [its] games are performing well... Rather, I'd say that most failed to capitalize on the DS and Wii opportunity. The exception on the DS side is THQ, which has made every game it can for the platform. On the Wii side, Ubisoft took a big chance by making ten games for the [Wii] launch window, and it has performed very well, so far. I think that the others will catch up no later than early next year.""
simoniker writes: "How much is there to learn about Breakout-style brick-bustin' games? A heck of a lot, according to LEGO Bricktopia level designer Nelson, who has written possibly the definitive genre overview over at Gamasutra, complete with design specifics, interviews, and much more. He starts with history, noting that after Pong: "Nolan Bushnell and Steve Bristow, along with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (of Apple fame) took paddle & ball game play a step further when they designed and developed Breakout (Atari, 1976). This was the first game to include the "paddle & ball vs. blocks" game mechanic integral to subsequent games in the Breakout genre.""
simoniker writes: Discussing PR and the media, former Rockstar Games PR rep Todd Zuniga discusses how the company tried to manipulate the game press as part of an in-depth article on how the two forces interact: "In part, it's a numbers game... Otherwise, it's history. Who wrote negatively about the games, and who hasn't? We never worked with [gaming website] GameSpot while I was there because 'they just didn't get it.'... Hilariously, we even had a list of journalist preferences: 'Likes cake, married, went to school at Indiana U'."
simoniker writes: "BioWare's QA director Phillip DeRosa has written a piece called 'Tracking Player Feedback To Improve Game Design' over at Gamasutra, which deals with how game developers can use statistics, even before a game is released, to improve gameplay. DeRosa "...explains how the Mass Effect creator has set up and executed code-based monitoring of key metrics to test, analyze, and refine its projects through playtesting." Is this approach sensible, or could it be more like movie producers 'pandering' to test audiences?"
simoniker writes: Nowadays, Activision is a massive worldwide publisher, responsible for the Tony Hawk and Guitar Hero franchises, among many others. But it all started with just four game developers leaving Atari in 1979, and there's a new history of the first ever third-party publisher, with insight from company co-founder David Crane, up on Gamasutra. From the piece: ""A memo was circulated from the marketing department showing the prior year's cartridge sales, broken down by game as a percentage of sales. The intent of the memo was to alert the game development staff to what types of games were selling well," Crane recalled. "This memo backfired however, as it demonstrated the value of the game designer individually. Video game design in those days was a one-man process with one person doing the creative design, the storyboards, the graphics, the music, the sound effects, every line of programming, and final play testing. So when I saw a memo that the games for which I was 100 percent responsible had generated over $20 million in revenues, I was one of the people wondering why I was working in complete anonymity for a $20,000 salary.""