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March 17, 2005

Board games vs Computer Games

Earlier this week we held one of our regular LAN parties - which we've been doing for 10 years or so now. Problem is, there just wasn't anything compelling to play for 8-16 players in a LAN. So I suggested we go back to our roots and have a Board Game party, a technology-free LAN if you like :-)

The day was great, we played Space Hulk, Titan, Settlers of Catan, Cosmic Encounter, Titan - the Arena
- I think thats the full list of what we played, but there were just as many sitting there that we didn't have time to play.

Apart from having a great time we were reminded about a few things...

Cooperation: Boardgames are played for mutual fun, there's a sense of friendship while playing (perhaps excluding tournaments) - to the point of letting people take their turn again if they made a mistake or helping them out with suggestions during their turn. Even though it's player-v-player there is very much a Co-op feel about playing boardgames. I find that both World of Warcraft and City of Heroes generate this same feeling (at times) where some players will go out of their way to help you, not looking for anything in return except for enjoying themselves. The same cannot be said for many other games!

Well balanced games: These boardgames seem to be well balanced, even with players of differing skill levels (possibly also due to the friendliness of the players involved). To be fair, there are many many boardgames that do not have lasting appeal, often due to this very issue (being unbalanced). Cue the CS newbs to yell "TEAMS!!1"

Simplicity: For the most part, a new player can be coached in a fairly short time so that they know how to play the game - the finer details can be explained as the game progresses. Some of my favourite computer games are simple, yet engrossing. It's one of the reasons I often prefer Dungeon Siege to NeverWinter Nights (except when in the company of rules-lawyers who can help me in NWN)
The complexity should generally not be in the rules/controls but in the mastering of the game.

Originality? : One thing that was interesting was the lack of 'new' board games - the newest was Catan which is 10 years old, the others were 15-25 years old. Now to be fair this is mostly because we are all old farts who haven't been playing many boardgames in the last 10 years, but I suspect the peak period of originality/innovation in boardgames has long past. Greg Costikyan said some interesting stuff about innovation in boardgames/computergames in his rant at GDC this year, I don't agree with it all but it is worth a read (also at boingboing)

War Stories: One thing that I noticed seems to be true of many games that are engrossing is the war stories that they create. Players like to tell other players about what happened in the game (e.g. Rimmers Risk Story). This is no different to sports stories, highlight reels, etc. Not all great games do this (Tetris stories anyone?) but many do and it's a telling sign that a game has found a permanent home in your head. What was your last gaming war-story ?

Space Hulk War Story from this weeks gaming, by Zaph: "Jon flamed the tile, I rolled a 1 and survived, then he flamed again, and I rolled another 1. Jon then flamed a third time, using command points, and my asbestos bug rolled a 1 for the third consequtive roll! one-in-216!. Bart then stepped in, dropping a flame to kill his own teammate (Jon) to hold back the bug, but this was the turning point in the game and the bugs went on to win on the final turn"

Posted by Zaph at 11:08 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 12, 2005

Something in the water ?

Game developers have long had the reputation of being geeks/nerds that never leave their computer (except to get a caffeine fix). It's a pretty good generalisation - or at least it used to be... but obviously the guys at my office have found some spare time.
Several of our development staff are expectant fathers. Not just one, not two, not even three... 5 different guys are all becoming fathers at the moment. 2 have already dropped, 3 are due within two weeks of each other in the middle of the year (including myself). There's definately something in the water over at Melbourne House - thats about 10% of our development staff.

How does this change us as game developers ?
Apart from the obvious lack of sleep, and spending more time with our families and less at LAN parties - not much.
Most game developers are pretty smart people. Those who already have kids (many of them do) already know the types of games that are suitable for children, and those which are not. In fact, game developers probably have a better idea about what is suitable than most parents, simply because we play enough games to understand they are not all suitable for all ages.
There is hope for our society as gamers of the last 10 years start to have kids, and actually understand this. I've seen parents in EB buying games for kids that are obviously not suited to young children (just from reading the box) - but these parents have the attitude that these are "just games", so must be safe for kids. On the other hand, gamers that I know who have kids are usually much more sensible about this.
Still, as the development community matures it does rub off on the games we make to some degree, and the males in the industry are probably even beginning to think of new games and genres that appeal to our wives/daughters. Thats not to say everything will change overnight, nor will current game genres disappear, but much like film/tv grew over the years I think that game development will grow as well.

Posted by Zaph at 05:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 07, 2005

A great loss

The Australian Game Development community has suffered a tragic loss.

Adam Lancman, one of the pioneers of the games industry in Australia, passed away on Saturday night. Adam was a true believer in what the Aussie industry could do and he fearlessly went out there to drive our industry forwards.
Adam was my boss, and friend, for 10 years at Melbourne House. One of the first times I ever met Adam was at the 1994 company Xmas party just before I joined the company, where if memory serves correct he was dressed as Carmen Miranda. I knew right then and there that this was going to be a great place to work.
I've drunk many a rusty-nail over the years with Adam, on three different continents, and I'm going to miss him greatly. He was much too young to be taken from us, I wish he'd been given a continue option in his game of life.

Some photos of Adam in my gallery:

Update, I've moved the photos to this location - feel free to send me photos of Adam to add to the gallery

Posted by Zaph at 10:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack