Feb 172011

The trick is to leave it open enough so that there is the possibility of surprise. This is not that difficult, because my students often do things I do not expect nor dream.

I teach three different studio courses: emphasis on creativity, story telling, character and metaphor. I find the trick is to not to let them do anything they want, but rather give them definite constraints – then they fling themselves against the limits because then the students know the limits’ location and also it is their nature to test them.

The constraints are objective: size, scope and necessary inclusions, for example: create a 30 second animation that incorporates a minimally bipedal walk cycle, an additional loop, and has a narrative arc – no death allowed. I include the last bit because it’s too easy to make a fight-the-bad-guy-end-in-epic-blood scenario. You know they test that. “What if he melts? or implodes? or is grievously injured?” “Does the character have to walk necessarily? Could they roll? What about a peg leg?”

That said. They consistently produce work that makes me happy. Not all: but many. Some will do the bare minimum and do a literal interpretation of the constraints put forth. Still, some have the capacity to make me go home at night pleased that I have this job.

Exhibit B: The shirt woot derby. Every week, the folks at woot have a “derby” where people submit Tee-shirt designs based on a specific them with specific constraints. The community votes on their preferred designs. Discussion in the comments ensues. The best (as judged by a combination of woot staff and community) rise, and the worst are rejected.

 Posted by at 11:53 am
Feb 152011

A post by Greg McClanahan on gamasutra.

I have a confession — I used to hate achievements. It started with Xbox Live, and I was pretty sure that I was the only one. It was hard for me to articulate why exactly I disliked them so much — so many of them were just, well, bad.

Let’s toss our nostalgia aside for a moment and recognize that game design has come a long way over the past couple of decades. I loved the original Zelda, but no one is going to convince me that the process of uncovering secrets by methodically burning every single bush across dozens of screens was good game design. We’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. We’ve refined and polished concepts and gameplay mechanics.

Why, then, did we throw everything we’d learned out the window when it came time to design achievements? I think that’s what bothered me about early Xbox Live achievements more than anything — as goals, they violated too many game design guidelines. Too many of them wouldn’t make any sense as in-game goals for progressing through content….MORE

 Posted by at 3:55 pm
Feb 152011

Please welcome to the blog The Players. These are the people on team Just Press Play; the IGM faculty, students, external advisors and Darkwind Media who are giving us a technical assist.

*P.S. Matt said I should not be allowed to give myself my own achievements. I admit to giving everyone else theirs. If you have better ideas for any of us, feel free to let us know.

 Posted by at 4:43 am
Feb 142011

Scenario: The regulars (Anton, Marshall, Amy and Kyle) head down to the Cantina for lunch and there is a sign in the stairwell, “So Long and Thanks for all the FIsh.” along with a graphic. These cryptic signs have been popping up around campus for weeks. Without breaking stride Marshall talks into his phone “JUST PRESS PLAY SO LONG AND THANKS FOR ALL THE FISH.”

“What is it this time?”
Amy and Kyle say simultaneously. Amy adds, “Dunno how you can surf and walk down stairs at the same time.”

Marshall reports, “It’s a scavenger hunt. Things seniors should do before they leave town. We got this.”

We need to signal it’s going on. At any time there will be a variety of puzzles to solve; achievements to attain. Not all of these will be interesting nor attainable. Regardless, the information at the site has to be fresh and relevant.

  • Achievement of the day/week/some other discreet unit – some achievements may be ephemeral, or will last only as long as there is interest in it. Perhaps it is seasonal. For whatever reason, one will have to hit while it’s hot.
  • Achievements that your friends have recently gotten – because we know you’re not competitive.
  • Achievements targeted toward you – because you are a freshman, taking a particular class
  • Achievements that many people have “liked”

Additionally, there will be site specific achievements which should be signaled at their location. We can utilize smart phones or rfid bracelets to broadcast our location, and the location can talk back to us. And then there are those cryptic signs. I still like paper.

 Posted by at 2:44 am
Feb 132011

During a meeting awhile ago, the phrase “user generated quests” was brought up. I think it was just a passing notion; something some just said on a whim.This idea has actually been around a while thanks to Kevin and Weez, but not fleshed out to the extent that it could be. I, on the other hand, haven’t stopped thinking about it. I believe quests, let alone user generated ones, could be a powerful mechanic for the system. The basic idea is this:

A “quest” contains a series of goals that a player must complete within a certain timeframe in order for the quest to be successful. After a quest has been successfully completed, a reward is given. If the quest was unsuccessful, it is deemed “failed” and may be restarted started at the next timeframe interval. In some cases, a failed quest cannot be repeated.

The goals of the quest are made up of badges and/or achievements from the system. Attaining or unlocking all the badges or achievements within the timeframe completes the quest. The reward for the quest is either a badge or an achievement. Having rewards be the same type as goals for a quest leads to the idea of quest trees; where the successful completion of one quest is a goal in another quest, and so on.

The timeframe for quests can be set down to the daily level and up to a yearly, or academic yearly, level. Some common presets will be daily, weekly, monthly/academic quarterly, yearly/academic yearly. The player has 24 hours, or multiples of 24 hours for weekly, monthly, etc., from the accepting of the quest to complete the quest successfully.

The difficulty of the quests will take timeframe, number of badges or achievements to complete, the difficulty of the individual badges or achievements, and if the quest can be repeated into account.

Once a player chooses a quest they have created or created by someone else, they can “accept” the quest. Players may cancel a quest at any point, having the ability to retry the quest at the next timeframe period, if permitted. Players will not be able to create onetime playable quests.

This is all well and good, but… we can go deeper:

Once a player creates a quest, a privacy setting can be set. Private quests can only be accepted by the player that created them. Friends Only quests can only be accepted by friends of the creator. Public quests can be accepted by all players.

What if a quest is too hard for a single player to complete? Why not join your friends in their quests to help them? A quest has to be marked as a co-op able and all players need to complete the quest in order for the quest to actually be complete; no jumping in at the end and getting credit for something. Quests can also be marked as co-op only, where a certain number of players are needed to even start a quest.

These are just some of my initial thoughts on quests. More to come.

 Posted by at 2:17 am
Feb 122011


Scripts begin with the scene. It provides context, locates you in space and time and sometimes, with addition of a few details…mood. This is important. If one doesn’t know where they are, how do they know where to go?

There are many ways to define our place in the world:

  • by our progression in time
  • by geographic location
  • by where we are in a process
  • by our relative position among the people that matter to us
  • by our relations in general

Each of these suggest different continuum, categories and possible interrelations.

Nailing the visual is a juicy problem. To visualize something with two components – say time and location is easy enough to plot. X,Y ain’t but a thang. We throw in a third dimension and that sexy Z, and it still is comprehensible though a bit of a challenge to show in this flat land of the two dimensional screen. We add to this metaphor, mood, more axis of meaning and a narrative arc to boot.

No answers. Just considerations.

 Posted by at 2:55 pm