Archive for Videogames

To Death Do Us Part…

Image from Stanchieri Family Law


Once upon a time, you shipped a game and you were done.  Your team was in development on the next title before your game even hit the shelves and if you made any serious mistakes, well, you were pretty much f*cked.  You could (and sometimes did) release a patch or two, but those were regarded as bad-form and best practices dictated that you polished your particular gem until it shone before you let the Gold copy out the door.

Since the advent of reliable broadband, however, this is no longer the case.  Small studios race to release an MVP (minimum viable product) and then keep polishing it with updates once it’s in the hands of their users.  This offers a unique opportunity, it turns what was once a monologue (much like a novel or a film) into a dialogue between the developer and the consumers.

But how do you gracefully close that dialog?  Do you ever want to?  It depends on the size of your team and the resources you have available.  If you’re a small indie team, with everybody working on the game in their odd hours, then an open and shut product may be what you need to focus on developing.  If you have the resources (say, you game starts getting the downloads needed to let everyone quit their day-jobs, or bring in additional personnel) then opening an maintaining a dialog with your games fans is going to help keep your game alive and viable for a much longer period of time.

But until you hit critical mass, you’re tied to that game.


Too d*amn early.


I’m rather an early bird.  Even when I was a full-time employee in the games industry, I was usually in the office by 7-8am when it was quiet and I could get sh*t done.  It means I get to see nifty things like this, where the colors are all different because it’s morning light rather than evening light (there is a noticeable difference).



Serendipitous Mistakes


In art there is something called the serendipitous mistake.

One of the reasons traditional artists hesitate about working in a digital format is that you have the ability to undo anything you don’t like.  You’re not forced to work around it.  You don’t have to think outside of the box to come up with something clever.  In a traditional piece of artwork, you have to work with what you got, warts and all.  That constraint can push a piece of art or illustration or animation to new levels.  When I first started in the industry, I worked with artists who deliberately introduced serendipitous mistakes.  They restricted the undo stack to 1 action, they did all of their under-painting on top of an upside down photograph or a text created from paint splotches on the floor.

That serendipitous mistake effect carries over into game design as well.  Whenever you work with a team there are going to be design issues.  Sometimes they stem from mis-communications between team members, sometimes they are constraints with the hardware or the software.  Design inherently forces the serendipitous mistake, so keep your eyes peeled and be ready to embrace it when it happens.

I ran across this interesting paper tearing down this type of effect here:



Retasking biology



It’s one of the great misconceptions, that nanotech will be “machines” as we know them now.  Most likely they will be assembled by clever tricks of chemistry and conscripted biological processes.  That’s not to say that individually assembled mechanical machines are out entirely, but when you are working at a near-molecular level, it will be much more efficient to co-opt existing processes rather than reinventing them.

Don’t be evil…



Image courtesy:


Why don’t we trust Facebook to “not be evil” the way we trust (or seem to trust) Google?  Is it an outreach thing?  Is the faceless wall of Google less intimidating than the faceless wall of Facebook?

And now, we have the breaking (or broken) news emerging that Facebook has been experimenting on it’s users by hilighting posts in a specific stripe (depressing or uplifting, shall we generously say) to see how the readers will react.  But this kind of data collection is not new.  Not really.  Advertising agencies have spent decades testing out how their ads make people feel, they test  to see if the picture with the guy in the blue short sells more cookies than the picture of the guy in the red short (if you get deep into ad-psych you’ll find they’ve tested race, hairstyle, clothing style, background, should the person own a dog or a cat, etc. etc).

We do this kind of A/B testing in mobile apps all the time.  Know why so many icons on your phone have smiley, happy bobbleheads on them, even if they’re not in the game?  Yep.  We tested for that.  You like faces.  Go figure.

So I am given to wonder how deep this kerfluffle with Facebook goes.  Is this just a spin tactic layered over some garden-variety testing to see how users react to ad placements?  Or is it genuinely the kind of emotional manipulation that the headlines are touting?