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Waxing Poetic on the Zen of Gaming

This blog intends to look at the gaming phenomenon as a whole, its effect on societal norms, its value in education, and its place in our own day to day lives.

Author: rabbidfly

The cake is a lie...

Posted by rabbidfly Friday December 14 2007 at 1:45PM
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Portal has to be considered a candidate for the game of the year. It's genius lies in it's utter simplicity and  uniqueness. Every developer in the world must be looking at that game and thinking... "i could have coded that over the weekend". In a world of bloated budgets, missed deadlines, and increasing complexity in game design, Portal stands out amidst the giants as a delicious morsel of sublime yumminess.

HAL from Space Odyssey 2001 has finally been reincarnated as GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System) - the maniacal and sinister AI with a soft and trusting voice.

"Dave.... I can't let you do that Dave..."

I also couldn't resist the urge to compare cake to soma in Huxley's Brave New World. How can a game so sparse on features evoke so many associations to other, larger works of art?

A new sub-genre may have actually been invented - FPSPG (First person shooter puzzle game).. You know a game is immortalized when it becomes ingrained within our own gaming culture. References to "cake" are appearing everywhere - in blogs, sigs and random postings. Outsiders to our little clique are just as amazed with the seemingly stupid reference to cake as they were with  teh intentional misspelling of words, or grammatically comical translations such as "All your base are belong to us..". My wife often looks over my shoulder and wonders how i can routinely find so much more substance and culture than i do in RL.

Portal isn't just a game. It is just another iconic Companion Cube in our expanding virtual world - a meme of cultural relevance that transcends mere gaming. An idea that travels faster than our collective ability to buy the Orange Box.

There is an inherent beauty in the type of simplicity that can rise above itself. As a powerful design principle itself, it seems to escape the majority of games out there, who instead, drown under their own weight of mediocrity.

 

Grumpy players are always crying foul - reasons why their opinions will soon be marginalized.

Posted by rabbidfly Wednesday December 12 2007 at 3:12PM
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Re: all the recent negative criticism around Pirates of the Burning Sea

 I normally don't mind listening to constructive criticism, even repeatedly if only to get a point across, but simply saying that a game isn't complete and berating the developer is both disrespectful and clearly demonstrates how little you know about this industry and how it has evolved.

Claims were made here about WoW's philosophy around game development, suggesting that they follow the perfect SDLC (software dev lifecycle) model prior to shipment. Nothing could be further from the truth. As a beta tester, and an early adopter of WoW, i saw first hand what happens when you ship an incomplete product that doesn't perform well. I still remember my horde alt char fondly - our guild would go over to a different server whenever our main was down. I got that Tauren warrior to level 43, and that was only on Warsong's downtime!

The general complaints uttered by so many players today are symptomatic of a widely adopted, yet false, perception that MMO software should ship in a perfect state. The same old expectations we had for single player games sold off a shelf in the 90s have persisted over time, and we, the unforgiving public, demand that games fulfill the entire spectrum of our beloved MMO fantasies on day 1.

What floors me each time i read this type of whiny diatribe is that in today's world of Google's spectacularly successful development philosophy, widely adopted betaware, facebook and other social software, 'change' is implicit in the process. Agile developers recognize that a product, or in this case, a game, is an evolution of ideas, and without significant feedback from users, you'll inevitably miss the mark. The challenge in this day and age is to deliver just enough content to foment interest and promise, and to build a layer of transparency between the developer and the user that establishes a contract of trust and partnership. The concept of 'let's work on this together' has the potential of bringing the collective innovation and creativity of the entire player community to the drawing board. Are we as developers so arrogant to think that we can drive that creativity alone? We certainly provide the vision, the structure, and the initial capital, but if we can't generate interest amongst the player community, what hope do we have?

People need to stop thinking of software in absolute terms. Developers no longer intend to drop Ultima III on your laps and walk away hoping it will sell. The MMO gaming world has added so much more complexity on top of earlier classic design models, and the player community has become far more savvy and knowledgeable of the genre. I earnestly believe that the cooperative model, involving significant feedback on content and direction from users, is what will carry the day. Developers merely facilitate this process and apply their own expertise to realize and package the product.

The is the web 2.0 core philosophy. Without the usual cliches, it is now genuinely about Group-think! The new generation of millenials prefers to interact more organically with their surroundings. They prefer networking over monolithic models of design and implementation. In a way, the modern developer of gaming software is building a product for the newer generation of millenials utlizing techniques and design principles that appeals to them as a whole. The hero-worship of the older generation-X made games like CounterStrike, Quake and Unreal popular. The Xers related heavily to the lone hero surrounded by enemies bent on his destruction. There was a distinct notion of self actualization that was unbearably appealing. Although Xers still comprise of a huge percentage of today's gamers, the balance is shifting towards the 2.0 model - the model of participation, cooperation, and networking. This is the model we need to employ in the games today.

Let's give Flying Lab Software a chance to embrace this game with us. I, like many others, find great appeal in a game that tries to differentiate itself from the pack. I applaud their efforts, and i will invest my time in helping to evolve this game into something we will all enjoy playing.

And.. I believe that my voice will be heard, because my Captain Silverbeard Stubble is as critical to the content of the game as any NPC waiting to send me to davey jones.

Silverbeard