One question I’ve been pondering as I go about designing a strategy game is that of clarity in game mechanics, and in combat systems in particular. Committed players of strategy games (and many other genres, for that matter) have long taken joy in pulling apart the math behind the combat resolution systems that drive the games they play, in part to seek an advantage or upper hand and in part out of simple fascination. This description of the mass queen experiment from the StarCraft2 Hacks blog is a great example. It runs through a bunch of math, based on things like minerals, gas, queens, hatcheries, food, game time, energy, “transfuses,” injections and more, and comes to the colorful but perhaps surprising conclusion that “Queens are better cost effective healers than Medivacs.” Food for thought.
What’s interesting to me is the question of where a combat system might lie on the spectrum from transparency to obfuscation (through complexity or by other means), how that stacks up against the combat results you as a designer want to produce, and whether a game is any the better or worse for your equations and calculations being deeply buried, or riding on the surface of play. Continue reading
Mashable reports on an augmented reality iPhone app that lets you see the world as if no one in it were wearing any clothes. Catch the video from the “clever marketer” who created the app.
Of course, it isn’t real. But what’s interesting about it to me is that it’s the real-world version of a gamers’ mod that’s existed for years. Both World of Warcraft and The Sims (as well as other games) have seen their versions of the “nude skin patch,” alternately delighting players and disgusting critics, both in the press and on the internets. It’s a very durable kind of pre-teen humor, but it’s also an example of how technology is making the world more and more like a video game. Nude skin iPhone apps aside, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Just realized I have four t-shirts to give away for the film Second Skin (in which I appear very briefly, giving an interview to the filmmakers), a documentary about online game addiction. The film is actually very good. It’s a little slim on explaining in a positive light what’s so engaging about games like World of Warcraft, but it does a great job painting portraits of the film’s subjects, a handful of gamers who have truly got it bad.
If you want a shirt, email your address to me at themetaverse at gmail dot com and I’ll get one off to you. The design is essentially the same as the cover of the DVD, but in green instead of red.
I have a few copies of Second Skin to give away, the recent documentary that looks at the phenomenon of addiction to online games like World of Warcraft. (I appear briefly in the film, commenting on virtual worlds in general.) The movie doesn’t do much hyperbolizing; the players that are followed in the film really do have it bad. The portraits are well drawn, and the games themselves aren’t really demonized, though if the film has a shortcoming, it’s in not adequately portraying the positive aspects of online gaming. Definitely worth watching, if you can find a screening. (It’s in San Francisco at the end of September.) If you want to check it out in the comfort of your own home, send me your name and address at themetaverse at gmail dot com, and I’ll fire off DVDs while supplies last (which isn’t going to be very long). I may have some t-shirts to give away as well.