Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Who is independent? What developers are really independent?

Some people think of it as a sign of strenght, others as a sign of weakness, a third person think of it as a sort of creative but immature pool of wannabes. How is it, what is independence, who is independent?

In my little quest I begin with a visit to the dictionary.com


1. not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc.; thinking or acting for oneself

2. not subject to another's authority or jurisdiction

The word itself suggests that you cannot be controlled by other in matter of opinion nor can you be subject to another’s authority or jurisdiction.

By this definition the easiest way to be independent would be to go hobby and have no obligations, unfortunately this also brings rather small prospects of delivering a competitive game.

Another attempt on independence would be to have your own game idea but seek financing elsewhere, at which point you fall victim for the second item, “not subject to another’s authority”.

If neither approach is truly independent, then what is left?
Money is, money is the source of independence. When you have your own money you can choose not to be influenced or controlled by others and you are not subject to another’s authority.

Further more you fulfil an additional definition of the word independent:
6. rejecting others' aid or support; refusing to be under obligation to others.

You can afford to reject offers, you are free to choose your partners and you can choose to ignore them.

A great example of independence in my book is BioWare. A privately financed company that have over the years earned its own money. No one can tell a company like BioWare what to do because they don’t need your opinion. That to me, is independence.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


My adventures in DS-land are over for now. I played Advance Wars aswell but was left without impressions.

No doubt I'll come back to the DS but I'll give it a rest for now.

Lately I have been thinking about rewards in games. Some games are generous and others aren't. The latest edition of Sid Meier's Pirates! is.

The game is so easy in a satisfying way. My favourite example of this is the Tavern, it is basically an interface with four buttons.
1. Give me free crew (the crew)
2. Tell me where to go (The bartender)
3. Buy cool item (the shady pirate)
4. Give me profitable tip (the bar maid)

As I play Pirates! and other games with lots of rewards I begin to align myself with this philosophy more and more. Games should really be about making the player feel things, positive things. The danger with this approach is depth...

Then again, this only applies for single player games, multiplayer is a hard school of formulas, fairness and anti-cheat.

Play Pirates! if you haven't.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


After playing the Brain Training Game for a while I began to notice some key elements holding it together.

The brain training game features no conventional gameplay and it does not set to entertain the player per say. Still it is very popular and selling like mad, simply, people love it.

Obviously there is something else then gameplay at work here.

The game isn't "actually" entertaining (besides perhaps the soduku).

No, the gameplay is not fun. Instead the overall greatness of the game is held together by several key features in unison.

I works like this:

The game is presented to be a serious product based on research of a famous brain researcher.
The game is designed, based on his reseach, to improve your brain.

After the introduction where the evidence is presented you are asked to take a brain age test which you do and to your horror your brain age is 40 some years older then your real age. The horror!

The motivation is now established that you, since this is for real, are in some trouble and this software can help you. It does help that the Dr. Kawashima avatar is very charismatic and friendly.

Lastly, all data is presented in graph form, along with your "level" (brain age). So now, when your stats are determined who could stop you from levelling up?

Introduction -> Evidence is presented, eliminate doubdt -> Perform poorly in test -> Present the solution, brain training -> Present data as "levels", visualize progress (numerical rating of the self).

This is just an observation, I like the game and I do believe it does have positive effect on the brain.

Key findings today:
"calculating" the skill/stat of the physical player and presenting it in the game.

Adventures in a strange land: Mario Cart

My expedition continues and today I had the oppurtunity to play Mario Cart via the Wi-Fi download and play functionality. I must mention that I think the non-permanent friend to friend distribution is a great leap forward for the game industry. PC next perhaps?

Anyhow; I was playing Mario Cart and stumbled on yet another distinguished DS feature, the microphone and in particular: blowing!

The Balloon fight in Mario Cart require you to fill your ballons with air by blowing in the microphone. The scary thing was that blowing firmly worked much better then making loud noises... I actually felt like I was blowing air into the balloon.

Key findings for today:
"blowing" as a method for interaction

I am well aware that the DS isn't the first device to use a microphone or for that matter blowing but it IS the first time that I am discovering it first hand.

I have ordered Trauma Centre: Under the knife, because I think it will complemet my other two games on highlighting different aspects of the DS.

My game list:
Catslevania: Dawn of Sorrow
Dr. Kawashima´s Brain Training
(coming soon) Trauma Centre: Under the Knife

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Adventures in a brave new land (Nintendo DS)

So I have been playing for a couple of days and I am really pleased with my purchase.

The DS really is a completely untouched resource for me, it feels like finding a little place in your favourite MMORPG where you can gain xp 5 times as fast as normally. I almost get the feeling a GM will come running telling me that I wasn't suppose to have the DS untill level 58.

After playing Castlevania: Dawn of sorrow I made the following observations
  • As anticipated the touch screen functionality is working OK but doesn't really
    add loads to the game.
  • As anticipated the dual screen is somewhat handy but does not really make or brake the game.
  • As my own experience tells me blending animations in 2D is very difficult. Try jump + crouch + attack...
  • Air Control is a science! Dare say otherwise...
  • Getting the stylus out in time for the rarely occuring touch screen gameplay is harder then performing the actual touch screen gameplay.

    Regarding the soul game play...
    At first glance I really like it and it does perform well, no doubt...
    However I categorize as a player type that can get overwhelmed by decisions and even pushed to ignoring them. I feel this is on the verge of happening with the souls. Besides there beeing a lot of very similar souls (bullet mostly) I feel the system with the soul levels (1 - 9) is perhaps not so great. I think that players are bound to use a soul that have a high level rather then the soul they need, which I feel interfere with the goal creating process... "I think I need an area effect soul.. hmm... PLING cool! my blue laser single shot soul reached lvl 8! "

    Regarding free roam...
  • Free roam force developers to implement teleports or equivalent.
  • The initial "levels" fail to provide meaning other then "this is one seamless place" when you become more powerful. (I personally do value that seamlessness though)
  • Particurlarly difficult areas can become a problem if located in between points of interest since the player must play through this area several times when travelling back and forth (and since all enemies re-spaw when you leave the area
  • Thursday, June 29, 2006

    So I finally bought a Nintendo DS (Lite)...

    About one year ago I was almost upset with the stupidity of the DS. I felt that two screens wouldn't be a strong tool for developers and neither would the touchscreen. I felt that the dual screens wasn't the best thing to to, it wasn't the bang for the buck.

    To some extent I do still think I was right. Many games have to squeeze a feature or display mode in that isn't really important or vital to the game just to occupy the second screen or the touchscreen functionality.

    What do I care if Nintendo put another screen in there? What do I care if some developers can't make use of it?

    I don't care at all! From a game design perspective the DS is king.

    The DS simply demand skills, mad skills, from those who wish to develop for it and that is not my problem at all, on the contrary that is rather exciting.
    So this is how I and the DS will live in symbiosis from now on.