Tag Archive for 'Gaming'

theorycast.50 :: Jesper Juul and The Casual Revolution [video game theory]


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In this 50th episode of theorycast, I caught up with Jesper Juul, a video game theorist at the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab. He just spoke at the University at Buffalo as part of the Visual Studies Speakers Series. In this videocast, I chat with him to learn more about video game as media, theory, as well as its pragmatic applications.

As a ludologist, Jasper published Half-Real (MIT Press, Dec 2005), which Eric Zimmerman reviewed as how it “tackles key issues in games, from rules and structure to aesthetics and fiction to the complexities of player experience”.

Jesper recently announced that he will be releasing a new book entitled “The Casual Revolution” in Summer 2009. It’ll be all about the recently popularity of casual games, which Jesper defines through our interview as “easy and quick to play, easy and quick to produce”.

If First Person Shooters (FPS) and Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games are considered complex gaming because of their high learning curves, largely free online games such as Zuma and Desktop Tower Defense would be considered casual gaming.

While video games have always been diverse as cultural media, casual games show us that simple games that cost less can be as satisfying as high-end Hollywood-equivalent games such as Gears of War 2.

This makes me wonder if casual games, especially the ones that we download on our iPhones or play on our web browsers, are like the long tail of video gaming, where small markets are enough to sustain unique niches. I could be wrong since casual game can be played in more places by more people, due to their relative accessibility in terms of vicinity, time and cost.

I’d love it if someone knows of any statistics comparing the adoption of casual games (tons here) versus high-end video games. For all we know, the numbers might be fairly similar.

CIT 2008 // Day One // Video: Thoughts of the day…

GRID: How I drove like an a$$ and still got third…

Truth be told I drive a P.O.S. Dodge Neon that’s good enough to take me from home to campus, and back in one piece. That’s why like most poor souls, my idea of an expensive tuned ride exists only in the virtual world.

As seen above, I’m driving a Concept Mustang GT in the streets of San Francisco.

It’s the first time I’m trying out Race Driver: GRID, a glorious new visceral racing game for the Xbox 360. Check out the heart-thumping replay video, where the soundtrack and composition almost gives you the vibes equal to that of the Fast and the Furious (2001). This game also features realistic collision damage which persists through your race.

A truly unique feature gives you the ability to reverse time from a deadly crash (like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time), allowing you to admire the crash in extreme slow-motion, so you can revert to a point where you could safely take off again.

I’m usually not a fan of racing games (other than the Burnout series), but this is one adrenaline-filled racer I might get after all!

If you can’t get enough, there are more GRID racing videos on Youtube, and a ton of review media on TeamXbox.

Why porn video games don’t work: The Uncanny Valley

I always get a kick when mainstream media (read: television shows) try their hand at talking theory. This time, Fleshbot (NSFW) pulls through with this golden nugget:

As readers of this site know all too well, there have been many, many, many attempts to meld interactive video games with hardcore porn, and despite the occasional interesting result it’s been pretty much a total failure. Why is this such an impossible task?

Writer Dashiell Bennett points out the above 30 Rock clip which tries to explain why porn video games don’t work using the Uncanny Valley theory. It’s funny, and quite succinct. If you’d like to know more, here’s a comprehensive video lecture by Karl F. MacDorman from the Indiana University School of Informatics.

BTW Trey, actually there is a “video game” that lets you get weird with each other for gold and points. It’s not realistic enough to face the problem of the uncanny valley, but it’s good enough for most.

GTA IV + Euphoria engine = Mimicking Life on Screen

In honor of tonight’s release of Rockstar North’s Grand Theft Auto IV, here’s something that when executed right, would fit right into the Uncanny Valley.

Mimicking life on screen, particularly in terms of human body physics, has always been tough. While most video games (especially First Person Shooters) have typically relied on ragdoll physics, characters just don’t behave in a realistic fashion. i.e. they just crumple.

As a technical feature of GTA IV, what NaturalMotion’s “Euphoria” Dynamic Motion Synthesis (DMS) does is to essentially add biomechanics and self-preservation AI into the mix, thus you’d end up with different results when putting bodies through similar physical situations, e.g. characters try to balance when hit. The above video does a great job explaining this.

The Euphoria engine reminds me of Boston Dynamics’ Big Dog walking robot, especially when it gets kicked and how it tries to balance itself. Speaking of which, have you ever seen the beta version of the Big Dog? *chuckles*

Cloverfield… beyond the monster (warning: potential spoiler)

Yes, this has spoiler potential, so read more only if you’ve watched already…
Continue reading ‘Cloverfield… beyond the monster (warning: potential spoiler)’

China struggles with growing Internet population

Test your website on the "Great Firewall of China"
I’m personally tracking China’s Internet development as part of my dissertation work on the regulatory forces of online space.

It’s only a matter of time… Wall Street Journal highlights a China Internet Network Information Center report that China’s total number of Internet users rose 53% to 210 million at the end of 2007 up from 137 million at the end of 2006 and 162 million in June 2007. More importantly, this means that China is now just five million users shy of surpassing the United States as the world’s largest Internet market (via TechCrunch).

Meanwhile, supporting this growth, Reuters reports that China’s online game market grew by 23% to 40.17 million in terms of users last year. As Raph Koster counterpoints, the numbers may fall as China goes on a crack down.

“Although China’s online-gaming industry had been hot in recent years, online games are regarded by many as a sort of spiritual opium, and the whole industry is marginalized by mainstream society,” Thursday’s China Daily quoted Kou Xiaowei, a senior official with the General Administration of Press and Publication, as saying.

Despite the Chinese government’s stance, the lack of a proper rating system in China and easy access to pirated games makes such regulation difficult.

Macworld 2008: Now Playing Freeverse’s Neon Tango (Geometry Wars?)

It’s quite rare to find good original Mac games nowadays, and while original might not be the right word for Freeverse’s soon to be released Neon Tango, it does remix elements from games we love, such as Asteroids, Geometry Wars, and Time Pilot. There seems to be this trend of remaking vintage games with new spiffy graphics, especially from game consoles developers for Xbox Live, Sony PSP, and so on. Just add multiplayer and I’d be sold.

Here’s what we know about it:
– Psychedelic retro arcade shoot-em-up genre.
– 50 stages of glowing enemies and pulsating bosses.
– Ability to bounce your shots off of walls and enemies
– Ability to charge up your cannon to deliver massive energy blasts
– Ability to stop time.
– Ability to use hyper thrusters.
– Uses OpenGL graphics.
– Killer soundtrack from Digital Droo.
– Three game modes: Campaign, Survival and Fast Score.
– Comes out on 5th February for $24.95

As you can see in what’s possibly the first video of Neon Tango’s gameplay, it looks quite fun. :)

This was how we rawked Thanksgiving…

Thanksgiving @ Peter's Place
Click to see entire photo slideshow…

Thanksgiving is the time of the year when American families get together to feast, a tradition started by the early English settlers (in Dec 1619) to give thanks for their harvest.

Since my family isn’t here, Thanksgiving is a time for me to be with friends, makan and play mad games. Almost every year, I go to Peter’s home for Thanksgiving, doing it potluck style.

Thanksgiving @ Peter's home
First time making my fav dish: Sweet Potato Casserole

I made my favorite Sweet Potato Casserole, and topped mine with both Glazed Pecans and mini marshmallows. Most people make either versions, but I wanted to have contrasting textures by having an all-in-one dish (crunchy & soft). It turned out so delicious I wanted to make more! This is one of those traditional American dishes I love to eat, partly because it’s a relatively easy to make side-dish which seems more like a warm dessert.

Thanksgiving @ Peter's home
Argh, seeing this makes me hungry again!

Of course we couldn’t just eat Sweet Potato Casserole for Thanksgiving, so others contributed as well. My housemate Hai Lee made Italian pasta salad to bring along, which was quick to make and great as an appetizer. When we arrived at Peter’s place, he had already prepared his delicious stuffed Turkey, his tasty stuffing, sweet carrots, and garlic mashed potatoes. To top it off, we finished off with his home made Creme Brulee for dessert.

In between the glorious food, we got to try out Peter’s new $160 Rock Band Xbox 360 game (the one with two guitars, a drum set and a mic for the singer). With Peter and my housemates, Kenny and Hai Lee, already Guitar Hero veterans, we formed a band with me frontin’ as singer. Florence, who celebrated her birthday recently, helped with the camera work.

I belted my grungy heart out to the likes of Nirvana’s In Bloom, Weezer’s Say It Ain’t So, Hole’s Celebrity Skin and Radiohead’s Creep. My favorite tune of the night had to be Beastie Boy’s Sabotage, of course.

There’s something quite artard about the game though; Rock Band made us replay these song over again and again just to unlock new ones. It’s not exactly fun singing the same thing a gazillion times, so we gave up and enter the cheat code just to unlock everything.

How was your Thanksgiving?
I bet it’s nothing as violent as this though…

FriendFarming: Harvesting Social Networking Friends for Sale

MySpace t-shirts

Previously…
GoldFarming: The act of playing a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) solely for the purpose of harvesting and selling loot, accumulating gold and then selling that virtual gold for real money in online marketplaces such as eBay or IGE.com. (See Wikipedia entry)

And Now…
Friendfarming: The act of playing a Social Networking Site (SNS) solely for the purpose of harvesting and selling relationships, accumulating friends and then selling that user account for real money in online marketplaces such as eBay or Craigslist. (See relevant eBay auctions)

On eBay, MySpace accounts with 8500+ friends are being sold for around US$75, 7000+ friends for US$65, 4000+ for US$35, and the list goes on. Given this trend, I wonder if it makes sense to sell Facebook accounts as well.

In a recent study, IT security firm Sophos created a fake Facebook user account under the name ‘Freddi Staur‘, and randomly requested 200 members to be friends with ‘Freddi.’ Out of those 200, 87 accepted the friend request and 82 of those gave ‘Freddi’ access to “personal information” such as e-mail addresses, dates of birth, addresses and phone numbers, and school or work data (Thanks Derek!).

Both cases break the magic circle. Both also involve some form of labor, although it is often partly automated through the use of bot programs.

While this might not be ethical, it remains to be seen if the harvesting of user profiles might still be cheaper than Facebook’s new targeted advertising system. After all, being “cheaper” is what drives email spam till today.