Category Archives: Games

Revisiting Role-Playing

Scott posts about a friend who is starting to play Dungeons & Dragons again. This is geeky, yes, but less geeky than video games, I’d say. I can trace a lot of things I use in my personal and professional life every day to the D&D games I ran from fifth through eighth grade — writing and public speaking, certainly, but also organization and team-leading.

A new edition of D&D is due out this summer. For you science-fiction gamers, a new edition of Traveller is due out in a few weeks. (I’ve already ordered my copy and got a nice email back from Traveller’s author, Marc Miller.)

Discovering the GameCube on Wii

One interesting and unheralded feature of the Wii is the fact that it plays Nintendo GameCube titles. (It also plays older games that you can buy online from the Nintendo 64, NES and other Nintendo systems through the "virtual console" feature, but I haven’t played around with those yet.)

We are getting a ton of mileage out of the old GameCube titles, many of which have been around a while so you can pick them up used or at a discount. Mario Kart Double Dash is totally ridiculous. Lego Star Wars has eaten up a ton of our time in the past few weeks, and we picked it up for just $19.95. The part at the end of Episode III where Queen Amidala gives birth had us in stitches but I won’t give the gag away. Every minute I play Lego Star Wars I think to myself "this is more fun than the actual movies were".

Both games are a pretty good entrée into the world of console gaming for little ones (my main motivation for getting the Wii was to have something to play with my five-year-old girl).

Game and Toy Licensing Sucks

Link: Older Toys Seek New Fans With Makeovers – New York Times.

”Our challenge is to continue to make Etch a Sketch exciting for the next generation of kids,” said Martin Killgallon, marketing director for Bryan-based Ohio Art. ”One way to do that is with licensing.”

It seems to me like yet another way would be to invest in, you know, new games and toys, but I suppose it’s less "risky" to bank on established franchises. (Although it sure seems to me like it’d be cheaper to pay six smart college kids $20,000 each to spend three months designing a game or toy than to spend $1M to mindlessly slap Spongebob Squarepants on everything. Isn’t this the kind of thinking that has Toys R Us on the ropes?)

Microsoft to Offer Software To Make Game Creation Easier

Link (paid reg required): WSJ.com – Microsoft to Offer Software To Make Game Creation Easier.

SEATTLE — Making console videogames has long been the turf of sophisticated professional game developers. Now Microsoft Corp., in a nod to YouTube, MySpace and other popular sources of user-generated content, says it wants to turn ordinary players into console game makers.

Later this month, Microsoft plans to introduce a test version of software that it says will dramatically simplify the creation of basic games for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 game console. The novice game makers that are the intended audience for the software, called XNA Game Studio Express, aren’t likely to create games of the caliber of Halo and Madden football, both blockbuster game franchises that took millions of dollars to make. But there’s also a growing following among Xbox 360 users for simpler games that can be downloaded from Microsoft’s Xbox Live online-gaming service, including a hit space shooting game called Geometry Wars.

Peter Moore, the Microsoft corporate vice president who leads the company’s game efforts, said Microsoft’s goal is to make creation of Xbox 360 game as easy as "drag and drop," using simple mouse and menu commands familiar to average users of a Windows PC. Mr. Moore said his objective is to engage Xbox 360 users in the creation of games the way sites like YouTube have given rise to countless amateur movie makers. "We’re seeing a desire for rawer content, where you can put your hand up and say, ‘I made this,’" Mr. Moore said in an interview.

I’ve been thinking for a while that one possible remedy for the lack of creativity and tedious sequel-itis in game design has been to figure out a way to make it easier for people to create games and bring them to market. Wonder if this will change the game?

Update: Here’s a link to the NY Times version of this story, which only requires a registration, not a fee.

Peter Molyneux tells Apple to “Get Behind Games”

Interesting coinkydink this morning, I was poking around looking for a game to buy for my new MacBook Pro and not finding much of anything that grabbed my attention when this quote from Peter Molyneaux in MacWorld popped up. It sounds like he’s asking for two things from Apple: 1) better integrated tools for game developers (something analogous to DirectX on the Windows platform), and 2) a strategic statement from Apple that games on the Mac matter, and the company is willing to devote resources to making sure that more games make their way onto OS X.

The overarching problem for Mac users is that there aren’t enough game developers because there aren’t enough game customers, and there aren’t enough game customers because there aren’t enough game developers. To me, this seems like the kind of chicken/egg problem that a visionary developer product initiative combined with a strong evangelism team could resolve.

Update: The NY Times makes this a three-way coinkydink by running a piece today on how Microsoft is going to start pushing Windows more as a gaming platform. I can see how they might have held off doing this over the past 4-5 years as they were trying to establish the XBox; maybe with the Playstation 3 meltdown and consumer acceptance of the XBox 360, Microsoft figures they can afford a little internal cannibalism. (Good for them.)

Nelson on City of Heroes

Nelson posts some interesting thoughts on the multiplayer online game City of Heroes. He thinks it’s boring. And I have to agree with him, but I also think that’s sort of the point.

I think it’s important to evaluate MMORPGS not as a repetitive game, but instead as an amusing context for online chat. If you hook up with an interesting band of homies in game, then that’s the point — sort of like the way your crazy Uncle Joe attended his Thursday night bowling league in generations past. (Bowling, golf, baseball, you know: repetitive and boring as a game when evaluated in a vacuum, but a good context for social interaction because they’re aren’t that challenging.) I don’t even know I’d even be interested in something like Doom or Half-Life in an MMORPG context; the plot would get in the way of hanging out.