Hatchlings Games

Web Gaming 2.0 Revolution

Some Game Design Links

As a game designer (or wannabe), we have to read, think, write (mostly for definition and communication), draw (mostly sketches) and blink a lot. What do we really think about? Here are some questions and attempted answers by various authors. Also, it would be really great if you can leave a comment here to tell me who is reading. I want to know what other game designers are reading this blog.

What are games and what is fun?
a Theory of Fun for game design by Raph Koster (slides, book).

This is one of the favorite book of mine. I read the whole book in borders and to date bought three copies of the book. I find it extremely entertaining and fun and instantly won my heart and mind. It touched on the fundamentals of fun and games.

I knew was true but could not express in words (or pictures) like what Mr. Koster did. I knew it was destined to be a game industry (and education) classic. Some bloggers (Emily Short, Gameology) have written superb reviews about the book so I don’t have to write my own. As a company, we are truly inspired.

This is a compulsory reading for any intelligent, fun loving game developer.

Note: At his talk (design for everywhere) during the recent Austin Game Developers Conference, Raph mentioned a new book on game grammar, he tries to define what are the building blocks of a game from a reductionist point of view. Iris and I are really looking forward to that.

What are games and how do we make games for everyone?
Design for Everywhere, Raph Koster’s talk at AGDC 2007 (slides, mp3). Another brilliant lecture by Raph Koster! The MP3 is not free and I can’t distribute the file openly but we can listen to it together on Skype or Second Life.

Do games have to be difficult?
Game Design Essentials: 20 difficult games
by John Harris.

What are Open World games?
Game Design Essentials: 20 open world games by John Harris.

What do parents think about games?
The GamerDad blog.

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September 29, 2007 Posted by | Education, Game Design, Game Development | 5 Comments

Parents Just Tend to Blame It On Computer Games

“Computer games are addictive.”

This is where all fun ends and the horror begins. Computer games are said to be stealing away the fun of traditional toys like Lego. Parents also believe that this new toy promote individual isolation therefore reducing the participation in a child’s creativity growth.

Toy in general is fun and addictive. The computer game is on a different level of fun and additivity. In Raph Koster’s A Theory of Fun, fun is learning and learning is fun. The computer game is a very powerful learning medium for it is a platform of unconscious learning.

Most parents believe that they are excluded from the child’s creativity growth when the virtual world invades. I am going to turn the table around today.

This time I will just focus on the number of players in a game. Different modes of play serves different types of participations and experiences.

Single Player Games
Early computer games are majority single player games. This is where parents complain about individual but if there is audience, this could be a different story. Audience can give guidance and comments to help the player along the way. It is a good way to observe the process of learning, the best way to know how a mind works. If the player plays a game well and want to give the audience a great experience, cinematic games are perfect for this type of participation.

Two Players Only Games
There are 2 types, one that rival against each other and helping each other. This type of game only focus on the participation of 2 players. Best for building close bonds. Audience do not have much fun watching. Recommended for parents and siblings. (Drinking session maybe?)

Online Games
The best thing about online? Social convenience. It is not so hard to find a friend to play with you now. Players are having fun making new friends and most importantly, getting things done in a team. The level of competitiveness in game is a moist environment for team building. Weird thing is, parents treat real players in virtual worlds as fakes and their reason is standard, “You don’t even see them.” Well try playing MMORPGs with parents and let them know how real they are! Invite your family to play, I am sure that your family are going to make a great team!

Children love sharing the fun and I am sure that everyone had ask their parents to play a game with them before, but then again they would usually answer:

“I don’t know how to play.”

Dear gamers, parents are actually afraid of trying new things. So be patience on educating parents about games, I guarantee that the return is priceless.

Yes, I am back from China and hope you enjoyed my opening blog post.

inspired by How Killing People with My Dad Improves Our Relationship


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June 21, 2007 Posted by | Education, Games, Gaming, Sharing | 4 Comments

How to activate your creative state

We work in a creative industry so the more often you get into a creative state, the faster you produce good inspired work. In the commercial world, like the Games / Entertainment industry, you need to be creative to be competitive. Innovation, thinking-out-side-the-box, thinking-inside-and-outside-of-the-box, and other related buzz words means that you have to be in your creative state when you want it.

Many times we find it frustrated that we cannot get into that state. You want to start coding a game but you do not know where to start. You have to create a 100 pieces of detailed visual illustrations by a weekend but don’t even know to start on the first one. You have to find a new game idea but the only thing that come out of your head is how WOW will kick your game’s ass when it comes out. It had happened to me and you. It sucks. In this article, I will attempt to share my experience of entering a state of creative flow consciously, when you want it.

A Clear Intent

Know what you REALLY WANT and then WHY you want it. Repeat until you really know your intent. Remember not to limit yourself with negative thoughts.  Having a clear intent will help you get into a state of flow. To be in a state of flow, you need to link your conscious and subconscious mind together. They need to be in harmony.

Your clear intent can be anything you want to accomplish. It can be “How do I beat my opponent in WarCraft III?”, What do I want to do with my life?” and yes even “How do I get my small team to create 100 pieces of detailed visual illustration by a week?”.

Motivation

After having a clear intent you need motivation. You must have that burning desire.

It is natural for you to do what you like to do. In many cases, people in situations where they have “no choice” trick their mind to like what they have to do. People choose to work in jobs that they can have maximum creative output. Sometimes that means being your own boss. Besides the love of games, this is a primary motivation for Hatchlings Games co-founders, no.wing and Jarod and I to venture into game development.

How do you get that burning desire? Through your imagination. Imagine yourself to be in the position to do what you want to do. Imagine that you are the director of X movie, if you are the game designer / producer of X game.

Basically, imagine that you are truly responsible for that thing thing you intended. No one is your supervisor, boss or lead. You are the only person who is responsible for what you intent to do. It could be something big or small, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is you must have motivation.

Just Do It

After you have a clear intent and motivation, let it sink in for a while and then start doing whatever you want to do. Action begets motivation. Just doing it (Sorry Nike for using your decades-old motto) starts up your subconscious brain. Often you will get into the state of flow soon after doing it.

If you follow the first step (have a clear intent), your heart will be true. When your heart is true, you will do the true task that your heart desires. Doing that true task is fundamental to creativity. As someone or some civilization I can’t remember said, know thy self. That consciousness and self-awareness is truly important for creative work.

The more self-aware you are, the easier for you to enter the state of self-unawareness, the state of creative flow.

Play

You must not be afraid to play. To play with your ideas. Life is a game. Hmm, I just mentioned a life metaphor. How you look at life (your life metaphor) is very important for setting directions and having a life vision. For anybody who wants to be in a creative state frequently, the best metaphor you can have is: Life is a Game – you are its main character and its Director. The Director in you will want the main character to win. Winning is a strong motivation, only if you know how to Play.

Physical Discomfort

My experience tells me that physical discomfort prevents me from entering into a creative state often enough. You have to be in optimal physical condition for creativity. When you enter that state of creative flow, you often lose yourself. That is you do not remember how you are feeling. That makes you sit with a bad posture, smoke more ciggies, skip food, and do other health degenerating things.

All this will makes it harder for you to enter to the state of creative flow the next time you want it. You will find that it gets harder each time.

What I suggest is that every time you are not in the creative state and you do not need to accomplish anything creative urgently, just take a break – go for a meal, a jog, a gym session, a swim, or just sleep.

Keep Practicing

The act of consciously entering a state of creative flow is a skill. Like all skills it requires practice. Adapt the above guidelines to your situation. Constantly intent to be flow, practice it, you will realize that your conscious mind can switch your subconscious mind on and off, at your will.

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January 23, 2007 Posted by | Education | 4 Comments

Sharing Is Caring

Good morning fellow bloggers, it’s 4.12 a.m. in the morning and I am still awake as usual due to the fact that the process of making this new game Encephalon is too challenging and thrilling. My mind is floating in my wildest imagination and trying to snap a picture of that imagination and place it into a form that can enable others to feel and see what I see.

The concept of giving users or the “player” a total freedom to customize and direct the flow of the game is interesting. Users/Players would be able to share their thoughts, imagination, creative ideas, art & designs and many other stuff in a new world with special communities to accept the “changes” done to this game. Thus, it makes the community to be the owner to this world.

Over these years, some potential artist/creative designers have kept their talents to themselves without being able to display or voice out their artwork to the local public. Sometimes, the public or the society they live in doesn’t appreciate their work as much as the other societies. These scenarios makes the hidden talents to be shy, scared and restricted to proceed to develop their talents and sharing their work to the public, confining them to be doubtful of their capabilities. It would be a waste for the world to miss it.

Back to the title, by creating a platform for users/players to share and applying own art to the game would encourage and enable most of them to post it up for the communities to view and rate their work, which will be able to help them to improve and correct their flaws in their future artwork. Indirectly, this game can be considered as an education tool for those who are involved in the field of art. Education not only can be held in educational institutes like tuition centre, schools, universities or colleges. E-learning have been introduced a few years back to the public, where, people could study and get a basic education online but it’s didn’t really make much of an impact to our current world. Most people still resolve to traditional education system. Schools, colleges and universities as the main educating institute. Games can also be an educating tool to guide the players in a particular aspect.

Communication is very important since the birth of mankind on Earth. It’s a medium that creates a group of combined minds to analyse and solve a certain matter in life. Everyone needs each others in their lives in order to keep living in this world. Due to the importance of communication, Encephalon allows the users/players to be able to communicate in a positive way via in-game blogs and in-game chats to analyse a game or an artwork for the cards by giving our point of view towards the posted issue. Thus, gathering and nurturing great minds from all around the world since everyone with internet connection can play it. Making friends among the community formed would be one the exciting and interesting features of the Encephalon.

In the future, we really hope to get feedbacks from all the readers, users/players and bloggers. Feedbacks are greatly needed to produce and maintain a successful game. Keep sharing for the sake of perfection.

“Aight, it’s time to sleep………..Zie Aun (nowing)~!!! give me bec my pillow!!! by the way, it’s my sleeping spot!!!”,says Me ^0^

Laters.

January 5, 2007 Posted by | Education, Encephalon, Sharing | 1 Comment

Encephalon: High Level Goals

When developing a game, we must have a shared vision and common goals. This is especially true when venturing into unknown territory. The design goals are set from the point of view of the player.

The high level goals were determined over the past four months during group discussions, one-on-one discussions among different members, analyzing and prototyping. The following are these goals, read from the player’s perspective:

Goal 1: If I try hard enough I can win!

Goal 2: I want to create and share, so I belong to the world

Goal 3: Everything in Encephalon is real

Various concepts, described in more detail below, provide the framework for our game design. Each high level goal has corresponding concrete goals. These concrete goals are attempts to merge the high level concepts into the pre-existing design document (latest at time of writing, v1.81).

Ultimately these three goals lead back to the ultimate goal: FUN. A good game is always fun. That goes without saying. Read Raph Koster’s a Theory of Fun for Game Designers if you want a great read on fun. The book (and much of Raph’s writings) and deep conversations with Iris about games had influenced my view on games. The basic theme of a Theory of Fun is equation of fun and learning (Fun = Learning). So if fun is learning, then we first need to know what we are trying to teach.

Very briefly, goal #1 focuses on the gameplay, where we aim to teach strategic thinking and tempo control. Goal #2 focuses on the customization and community, which cultivates creativity, innovation, progress and spirit of sharing. Goal #3 brings in the immersion, where we hope that our players through their imagination can bridge their virtual and physical realities to learn more about our world, its themes, its message of peace and consciousness. So you can say that Hatchling’s goal for Encephalon is to promote peace by encouraging consciousness through mental and spiritual growth.

Note that Raph has started his own web 2.0 gaming startup, Areae.

Because we are using an experimental, player (or play) centric game and world design model, the development & production methodology employed for Encephalon would have to be equally experimental. After all it is the result of development and production that the players see. The development timeline of a game (and world) such as Encephalon ought to be long (maybe years), we are planning to release the game by parts. Our first release, the first planet should be at the end of February.

The reason for the early release date is related to our choice to develop a web game, or more specifically, as a web 2.0 service. Web 2.0 services are quick to deploy, so why should a web 2.0 game be an exception; following the open source mandate: release early, release often. We really want to see the player’s reactions to our concepts. More on production methodology, schedule and budget after these game design discussions. Do stay updated, or better still subscribe to the RSS feed.

January 2, 2007 Posted by | Education, Encephalon, Game Design, Web Gaming 2.0 | 1 Comment