• "Eons ago, in 1996, Next Generation magazine asked me for a list of game design tips for narrative games. Here’s what I gave them. Reading it today, some of it feels dated (like the way I refer to the player throughout as “he”), but a lot is as relevant as ever. I especially like #8 and #9." Jordan Mechner is a smart chap; nice to know he was on the right lines so long ago.
  • "A rain-proof planetarium machine could be installed in public, anchored to the plinth indefinitely. Lurking over the square with its strange insectile geometries, the high-tech projector would rotate, dip, light up, and turn its bowed head to shine the lights of stars onto overcast skies above. Tourists in Covent Garden see Orion's Belt on the all-enveloping stratus clouds—even a family out in Surrey spies a veil of illuminated nebulae in the sky." This is lovely, though no idea if it'd, you know, work.
  • "Noticings is possibly one of the first services to integrate the Yahoo Geoplanet Data deeply". Tom explains how we're using Geoplanet inside Rails. Really good stuff if you're interested in that geo malarkey
  • "if the Choose Your Own Adventure books are just another Finite State Machine, it should be possible to use some of the same techniques to examine their structure." And so begins a lovely, lovely post on data visualisation, and what visualisation can tell us about the changing editorial strategy of CYOA books. Be sure to check out the "animations" at the top of the page. It's all very beautiful.
  • "The camera itself will trap Harry, leaving him all the more vulnerable because he is alone." But of course. A wonderful opening to a wonderful, wonderful film; still, perhaps, my favourite film, and one so rooted in editing and film-making. The camera, constantly trapping Caul, boxing him in, is worth paying attention to, and this short description of the opening captures its predatory nature.
  • "…even if they make the rules explicit, it’s not going to help the “power-leveling problem” which is ostensibly the reason for all of this grief. Unless they remove all difficulty options from the system, there will always be easier and harder ways to level. And remember what I said above: users tend to prefer easier content with better rewards. This isn’t limited to user-created content — it’s true for designer-made content, also. But designer-made quests don’t get graded by the players. Player-voted content like this will always gravitate towards easy. And pick-up groups will always be picking the most rewarding content with the least annoyance. And the game devs will keep being unhappy about it." Smart analysis of the problems with City of Heroes' user-generated missions.
  • "Games don't separate learning from assessment. They don't say "Learn some stuff, and then later we'll take a test." They're giving you feedback all the time about the learning curve that you're on. So, they're not the only solution to this problem by any means, but they're a part of the solution of getting kids in school to learn not just knowledge as facts, but knowledge as something you produce; and in the modern world you produce it collaboratively." Jim Gee is a smart guy. I need to read more on him.
  • "I suggested that, when it comes to the design of embodied interactive stuff, we are struggling with the same issues as game designers. We’re both positioning ourselves (in the words of Eric Zimmerman) as meta-creators of meaning; as designers of spaces in which people discover new things about themselves, the world around them and the people in it."
  • "Statisticians’ sex appeal has little to do with their lascivious leanings … and more with the scarcity of their skills. I believe that the folks to whom Hal Varian is referring are not statisticians in the narrow sense, but rather people who possess skills in three key, yet independent areas: statistics, data munging, and data visualization. (In parentheses next to each, I’ve put the salient character trait needed to acquire it)."
  • Ron Gilbert plays The Secret Of Monkey Island again, and takes notes. Nicely measured – neither grumpy nor jubilant, it reads like an interesting director's commentary. Good stuff.
  • "This week I've killed Steven Spielberg three dozen times. I'm feeling better about the whole thing now, so I'm not going to vent any more steam about his increasingly asinine – and frankly pretty arrogant – repetition of the 'games won't be important until they can make you cry, which up until now they haven't been able to, but don't worry I've come to fix things' line." Which, you know, is good, because it means Margaret can talk about the joy of cubes instead. Or Cube, to give him his proper name. A wonderful One More Go, this week.
  • "Valve subtly guides the player’s attention toward significant events and objects by using elements naturally found in the game world. This allows the player to retain control of their perspective without getting lost or confused, and contributes to an overall immersive experience." Matthew Gallant puts together a nice selection of screengrabs to illustrate Valve's craft.
  • "There was an implicit value judgement in Greenfield's talk between the "purely sensory experiences" of raves or today's computer games, and the cognitive activities of reading a book or listening to a symphony, which, because they make us "see one thing in terms of another thing", involve a more mature mental engagement. For Greenfield, the Beethoven was a higher experience because it offered an "escape from the moment", where a rave was about losing yourself to the "thrill of the moment". I think that's a flimsy distinction, since both are about submitting to the sensory power of music. I'd like to see the difference in brain activity between somebody "escaping" life's mundanities and another person "thrilling" to the implacable now of the beat."
  • "I thoroughly enjoy the more real time nature of these diary fragments popping up among my friends’ updates. It’s easy to picture @samuelpepys conducting his business and pleasure, travelling around London — from his home near the Tower of London to Deptford to Westminster — when he’s updating you on his progress during the day." Phil on the joy of small updates from things that aren't (quite) people.
  • "Sony acts like a character in a Charlotte Brontë novel–they seem to think they have an entire lifetime to seize the moment."