Archive for March, 2012

Emerging Technology Update 30th March 2012

March 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Emerging gaming technologies:-

Holographic Versatile Discs – a future of storage medium for high volumes of data. A related technology is holographic memory. How might this affect games in the future?

How Near Field Communication could be used in the Wii U and in gaming.

Overwolf allows game players to communicate via social media from within their games.

New Flash Player 11.2 makes Flash the ‘games console for the web’ according to Adobe’s Digital media Blog.

And finally, amusing technology of the week…

Hands-free gaming in the gent’s urinal! Games come to a toilet near you, but will they catch on? A new ‘controller’ for games emerges.


Resources Update 27th March 2012

March 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Image courtesy of Dekuwa on Flickr

New resources this week on TeachGames:-

Game Design Course – an online course at the Game Design Concept site.

Kickstarter – a new way to finance creative projects. There are several video game examples including Double Fine Adventure and ARG Zombies.

New Nvidia GPU’s – new graphics architecture from Nvidia promises console quality graphics even on ultrabooks, as well as surround 3D capabilities.

Audio Micro Stock Audio Library – free sound effects.

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Gamers Have A Say as Mass Effect 3 Disappoints

March 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Salarian image from Bioware's Fan Kit

There are several well known video game series that have been around for many years, Mario, Zelda, Call of Duty, Resident Evil, etc, and it is their familiarity that makes the endless sequels a success. If you played one of the games and like it, then you’re more likely to buy the new one, right? It’s a kind of brand-loyalty.

Sometimes the game developers can get it wrong and upset the milk-cow by daring to mess with a popular franchise. This happened with the Tombraider series. It had been merrily plodding along for years, making decent sales, then suddenly Angel of Darkness happened. The sixth game in the series initially sold well due to aggressive publicity, however it did not receive a warm welcome from gamers or reviewers. The game was panned for a number of different reasons including awkward controls, bugs, high system requirements, etc.

More recently there has been a furore about Mass Effect 3 (BBC), the action role-playing game from Bioware/Electronic Arts. The first two games were well received and critically acclaimed, however the latest installment has suffered from a backlash about the games poor plotlines. Gamers have been complaining that the game endings (of which there are several) are particularly underwhelming and have not given sufficient closure to the game. It seems the game has suffered as many movies have in the past “great film, great effects, but the ending was a bit crap”.

It’s heartening to know that some gamers actually care about the storylines, as many gamers will disregard the carefully scripted cut-scenes to get to the action. Indeed I’ve had game design students criticise a game because  it wasn’t possible to skip  the cutscenes!

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that Bioware have bowed to pressure and have promised to release additional content for the game to make up for the disappointment. That couldn’t happen with a movie, could it?

What Makes A Good Video Game?

March 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Games are a matter of personal taste, so says Wolfgang Kramer in his essay about boardgames. The same can be said for video games. Often at the start of a games design course I’ll ask my students what games they are currently playing, what their favourite games are and what types of game they like. They usually express a liking for a particular genre, such as RPG, strategy, sports or shooter. Personally I like action-adventure games like Tombraider or Resident Evil, but I also play shooters, adventure games and strategy games. I don’t have a strong preference, but there are certainly some games that I never play, such as sports games (except for a bit of Wii 10 pin bowling every now and then).

So, we can’t always say that a particular game will have mass appeal, as people tend to have fairly strong preferences for genres of game. This should come as no surprise because the same is true of other forms of entertainment such as movies, books and sport.

On his website Mark LeBlanc identifies ‘8 kinds of fun‘ which can be seen as ‘reasons’ for playing games. It’s not really adequate to say that we play games for ‘fun’ and a much deeper analysis is required. What is ‘fun’ for some is ‘pain’ for others.

Whatever the reasons for liking video games, some games become popular while others sink into obscurity; some hold the players attention and others send them running to the game store for a trade-in.

The idea of ‘Flow’ in games was first proposed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi over 20 years ago. This simple idea suggests that players of a game gain most enjoyment when their abilities are matched by the challenges in the game and they reach a state of ‘energized focus’. The principle is explained in the diagram below.

Achieving ‘flow’ would likely be the aim of most game designers, however this simple principle probably misses many more factors that affect the enjoyment of a game. An article on the Pentaduct website suggests there are 6 elements that could make a game ‘good’, challenge, feel, freedom, place, promise and fantasy.

So, ‘What Makes A Good Game?’ is a difficult question to answer, but something that a game designer must try to reconcile. Perhaps enjoying your own game would be a good start, and it’s certainly a good discussion point for a games design class.

Further reading

Designing Good Games (zipped pdf) is a document from YoYo games, publisher of GameMaker.


Freemium – the new way to pay

March 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Freemium is a business model whereby a product (typically a video game or app) is given away freely, but the user must pay for premium content or add-ons within the product. The term comes from a mixture of the words free and premium.

This is a growing trend in the mobile app business, where end-users are more inclined to download an app or game for free than to pay outright for something they’re uncertain about.

Sometimes the app will be limited in some way and extra features may be unlocked by paying for them. In games, it may be possible to gain additional features such as new characters, levels or abilities by paying for them.

An example of a Freemium app is Skype, which allows you to make internet-based phone calls, however additional features such as voicemail or calling to landlines must be paid for.  An example of a game that is Freemium is Farmville, that allows you to play for free, but also to pay for premium content.

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High Street Games

March 17, 2012 1 comment

In the NPA Computer Games Development at level 6 students study the Games Industry Value Chain, a business management concept that describe the chain of activities in a particular industry.

With high street game retailer GAME reporting massive shareprice losses and possible collapse (BBC News), there’s a good opportunity for discussing the changing industry with your game development students. The Game Group blames competition from online retailers for their drop in profits. This signifies a change in the Games Industry Value Chain model from a traditional supply-chain model to one which has been disrupted by digital technology.

The traditional value chain and the evolutionary value chain are represented in diagrams on The Video Games Industry website, clearly showing the move towards digital distribution in the industry. Questions have to be asked why the Game Group failed to take notice of changes that have affected many other areas of retail, and also failed to react accordingly.

Ben Sawyer of Digital Mill defines the chain as follows:

  1. Capital and publishing layer: involved in paying for development of new titles and seeking returns through licensing of the titles.
  2. Product and talent layer: includes developers, designers and artists, who may be working under individual contracts or as part of in-house development teams.
  3. Production and tools layer: generates content production tools, game development middleware, customizable game engines, and production management tools.
  4. Distribution layer: or the “publishing” industry, involved in generating and marketing catalogs of games for retail and online distribution.
  5. Hardware (or Virtual Machine or Software Platform) layer: or the providers of the underlying platform, which may be console-based, accessed through online media, or accessed through mobile devices such as the iPhone. This layer now includes non-hardware platforms such as virtual machines (e.g. Java or Flash), or software platforms such as browsers or even further Facebook, etc.
  6. End-users layer: or the users/players of the games.

Wikipedia [accessed 17th March 2012]

Game Art

March 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Today (March 16) the Smithsonian American Art Museum begins its new exhibition The Art of Video GamesA discussion about video game art can also be found on the BBC News website.


One of the earliest stages of designing a game involves the creation of concept art that helps the development team visualise the game.

The job of the artist or concept artist is described on this page of the Skillset website. Working with both traditional artist’s media and digital technology, the concept artist visualises the components of a game.

In this video, Matt Rhodes of Bioware explains his work on the game Mass Effect 2. The video is one in a series of five about the making of Mass Effect 2.

This first video in a series about the making of Silent Hill 2 describes the visual style of the game and the role played by artists. It includes an interview with Art Director Masahi Tsuboyama and shows the process of starting with photographs and drawings through to the end stage of creating 3D models.

On the Star Wars: Old Republic site, Ryan Dening and Christopher Reeves explain their work designing spacecraft and environments for the game.

Finally, the Creative Uncut website contains numerous galleries of video game artwork and could be used as a source of inspiration for game design students or artists.

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