Video from Ignite Wellington, and playful design

The Ignite Welly folks have started posting speaker videos from the inaugural night at their on their Youtube channel. This is mine:

In 5 minutes I tried to cover 3 things that I think games often do well that could be of use to the (mostly) web and application focused audience:

  • Teach gradually and playfully – using friendly language and tutorial systems which allow users to experiment and learn as they go.
  • Provide feedback – everything from juicy interactions to long term rewards (like Achievements or Badges) for ongoing activity.
  • Allow exploration and discovery – give users a chance to explore and guide them from point to point without sticking them on rails.

This was 2 things too many. With such a short time frame I think the audience would have been much better served by focus on a single point in some depth. Hopefully this crash course overview at least got people thinking about some new areas they could research and apply to their own work.

A couple of weeks after I did this presentation I saw a few posts floating around and had others forwarded to me regarding applying “game design” to application and web design. The first one that really grabbed my attention was Why Is Every App A Game? The Badgeification Of The Internet and highlighted a problem that I don’t think I talked about enough during the presentation. The useful techniques that designers can look at from games are approaches to users, not applying game mechanics just because you can. Slapping a scoring system in the middle of your userbase is not going to make for a better experience or cause them to stick around longer!

This post, Top 5 Ways to Make Your Site More Fun, is a great example of looking past the intent of game design that I think is most relevant to other designers and instead reaching right for the raw tools we employ. We tend to consider games that have single use or isolated play mechanics that don’t fit into a larger context to be poor games, and that’s what you’d get if you just grabbed one of these ways to make your site more fun and applied it.

I think game design has a lot to share with other fields (and even more to learn!) but as with all things look very closely at how to apply the practices for the benefit of your users, not just the end results that we see in our own field.

Speaking at first Ignite Wellington

Wellington is having its first Ignite event next week, March 2nd. http://www.ignitewellington.co.nz/ The Ignite folks have asked if I’d speak so I’m going to try and say something useful about designing for playful interaction in 5 minutes. Coming off the Webstock high (some notes on that to come) I have a few ideas about what to say.

links for 2010-02-14

links for 2009-11-27

links for 2009-10-20

Bouncing around Japan

Sitting in the J-Hoppers hostel in Osaka right now, hoping for the rain to go away . Started the journey over two weeks ago with a few days in Singapore for DICE Asia and Game Connect Asia. Saw some great presentations and well moderated panels, participated in a panel on Breaking into the Game Industry for students (I hope we didn’t crush too many dreams, but the truth doesn’t change!) and made a bunch of new friends. Game devs the world over are great people to hang out with. The crew from the Philippines need to watch out, with all of those invites I might just show up on someone’s door.

If my notes are legible when I dig them up I’ll post some, but I recall Scott Foe’s presentation being a hit and Nelson Wong and Takahiro Murakami had a great term for cultural differences that make games succeed/fail in different markets: The Oddness. My bossman Mario Wynands apparently rocked the house, but because I listen to him all the time I went to a different session 🙂

Flew up to Tokyo right into the waiting arms of a pre-TGS game dev party, caught up with some old acquaintances and managed to leave a refill of biz cards back at the hotel. Clever. From there the week rolled on between wandering with my camera, chatting with developers and random folk, and being blissfully lost in Tokyo.

Tokyo Game Show was smaller than I remember it from 3 years ago, I actually found chunks of the hall unoccupied by booths. Going on a business day was absolutely the way to do it though, 24,000 people vs. 70,000. Actually got hands on time with a few games.

  • Uncharted 2 is fantastic, I need a PS3.
  • Bayonetta is a natural evolution of Devil May Cry, in the short demo I played the combat system was crazy fast and completely over the top. Wanted to try out the easy mode automatic system to see just how it works, but with just one session I stuck to the core game and had some fun.
  • Lost Planet 2 multiplayer was equal parts excellent and frustrating. Fighting the giant beast with 3 other people is great, instant death water pit that you can’t see coming not so much.
  • Red Steel 2 looks nice, plays quite well when you’re pointed at the screen, and the Motion Plus for the sword is solid. Swinging the sword can make it difficult to reorient your cursor on the screen though, will want to see if players can adapt to that.
  • Nier was a big WTH? Muddy textures, very limited combat moveset, and the demo was all of 5 minutes trapped in a single rectangular hallway beating on two giant armoured guys. Some of the combat impact was satisfying but I played this right after Bayonetta and the comparison was not at all favourable for Nier.
  • Best of TGS for me: PixelJunk Shooter. Beautiful fluid dynamics, lots of character to the worlds and the scientists you have to rescue, and devious puzzles + action. Many twin stick games that put rotation on the right stick are a pain to aim and shoot accurately. Q Games has got it so well tuned that after a couple of minutes you don’t even think about it. Execution is everything.

September 30th was Pecha Kucha Tokyo vol 65 which was full of fun presentations and interesting people. Mathematical models of crazy architectural shapes, a cross stitching champion, dolls constructed from leather, beautiful lighting installations, and me bringing up the rear. I talked about Shatter, how we made it and how wonderful it was for us as creators to make our own thing instead of always working for hire on someone else’s property. Everyone loved the art, and the pictures of the guys with beards (James, Jos, I’m looking at you) elicited positive noises from the female members of the audience. 20 seconds of video at the end, just 20 seconds, and lots of people got hooked on the music! Module you need to tour Japan my friend.

Also, there has been music, lots and lots of music. After despairing that Singapore was completely hopeless musically (one place I heard a cover band go from It’s Raining Men to Bryan Adams to Black Eyed Peas as if it was the most normal thing in he world) we stumbled into a Tittsworth set at Zirca. Zouk is one of the other major clubs out there, and I had no idea who was playing until I looked at the ticket after I was in the door. To my delight: Steve Aoki and Diplo. Oh yes. Japan has been brilliant, with Ken Ishii and Dr. Shingo at Womb capping my first week nicely. So far though the best set to rock my feet off was Baiyon playing at Metro in Kyoto last night. Absolutely sublime from start to finish and he even threw some Eden tracks in there. My hat goes off to Dylan from Q-Games who told me about the gig, would never have known otherwise.

No photos yet, this little netbook Josh kindly lent me is lovely for small stuff, but processing RAW images kills the poor thing.

After months of slammed work to get games out the door I can feel my batteries recharging and my brain starting to spin back up in new directions. Back to New Zealand next week, but now it’s time to go walk some of Osaka.