Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Musicians: Lay Off, its just a toy!

Its been multiple years since I even read my own blog here, let alone post to it. But I need to rant.

I love Rock Band. I love Guitar Hero.

Do you know what I don't love right now? Musicians.

Articles like this one on Slate just dredge up all the issues that these games have created.

The condescension that real-life musicians seem to bring to every RB/GH conversation is really getting on my nerves. I just want them to relax and let the rest of us pretend for a while. Its a toy, you know? Their base line assumption is that by playing these toy instruments, somehow we think we are playing the real ones. I guess this puts us in the category of posers in their mind. Many of us can't play instruments or arent musically talented.

So please, musicians, let me have my pretend music. Let me enjoy a video game and my toy drum set. Let me be escapist. Stop complaining that Rock Band's songs aren't realistic. They are fun. Stop saying I should just learn to play on my own. I won't.

And if you can't relax and enjoy yourselves, then you wont be invited to my next Rock Band party.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Laundry Sessions Retired and Archived - UPDATED

UPDATE: I've decided that LS should just remain here. No point in archiving it at a different site... Plus OrangeDeca decided to continue posting here... so we ought to keep it active.

Original post:

Laundry Sessions has been retired and archived at LS could someday come out of retirement, but for now it will reside in stasis at

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


I've got some deeper ruminations on episodic development/content and digital distribution coming, but in the meantime, here's a link to an analyst's look at episodic development. It's an interesting read, and the author comes to some different conclusions.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

GDC 2006: Awards

The awards show this year gave me a lot of hope for the future. As usual, the Independent Game Festival provided much inspiration with diverse designs and fierce creativity.

However, it was the more "mainstream" Game Developers Choice Awards that illustrated an expansion of our perception of what games can be. Four games swept the awards: Guitar Hero, Shadow of the Colossus, Nintendogs, and Psychonauts. Not coincidentally, three of those games (Guitar Hero, Colossus, and Nintendogs) were also honored for innovation.

New designs, non-game play, beautiful atmosphere, (good) humorous writing, and so much more. Congratulations to the winners. As Chris Hecker said: "Games are f**king awesome!"

Thursday, March 23, 2006

GDC 2006: Best Quote of the Day (March 22)

"Some people excel at lunch."
-Harvey Smith in the Creative Director Roundtable

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

GDC 2006: Best Design Nuggets from the Serious Games Summit

The Serious Games Summit was reasonably interesting this year. I attended a mix of design, education, and business sessions. Here are a few of my favorite design nuggets from the past two days:
  • Fading between the surface depiction of the world and a representation (diagram?) of the underlying system dynamics. [John Black, Teachers College of Columbia University]
  • Leadership training and team building in MMOs. [Lisa Galarneau]
  • The concept of convexity mapped onto a flow graph. [Noah Falstein]
  • Clear goals = clear failure, which is not always good for a given player. [Jesper Juul]
  • Games as interfaces for real work (ie playing a game is your work). [?]
  • Overlaying grid lines on a world to teach coordinate plane concepts. [Tabula Digita]
  • Simple AI can be built to take advantage of human attribution. [Nigel Papworth]

There are more, but I'm wiped out now. I'll revisit this post another day and see what I missed.

GDC 2006

I am currently at GDC 2006. This year, instead of promising to write up every session (we all saw how well that went for me last year), I'm just going to post whatever I feel like whenever I feel like it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

HUD-less Horsemen

A couple of recent articles have debated the relative merits (and anti-merits) of heads-up displays (HUDs) in videogames.
Wilson contends that HUDs get in the way of immersion by distracting from the "realistic" elements of the game. On the other hand, Thompson claims that well-designed HUDs make information accessible to the player in such as way as to keep focus on the main experience. Both are interesting perspectives. From a design perspective though, I think the most useful thing about dropping the HUD is the creativity it forces. Without a HUD to fall back on, designers have come up with some really ingenious ways to convey information to the player.

On the other hand, arbitrarily dumping the HUD seems dangerous. Even Fumito Ueda, who famously went HUD-less with Ico, brought some elements back onto the screen with his equally atmospheric Shadow of the Collossus. His comments are illuminating:
"When we said ... Ico is not a conventional video game title, we set limitations on ourselves for the development of the game. We had to eliminate everything that made it look like a video game. But for our next game, we wanted to remove those artificial limitations that we placed on ourselves. We wanted to just make a game that was fun. If a limitation made the game less fun, we weren't going to restrict ourselves."
PS. People who write about games should agree to stop using bad HUD puns. I will if you will.