Monday, 31 January 2011


Co-operative D&D game, forthcoming from Bedlam Games. Interview at

Plays co-operatively online with up to four players, or single-player, or 'couch co-op' which is 2 co-located players.

Looks like playing online multi-player will work in one of two ways: you send invites to your desired playing companions, or you choose to host a public game that only starts once all four roles have been filled. Not disimilar to what we are proposing to do, which is something I've been worried about.

It's strongly based off the 4th edition rule book, but makes the move to live action rather than turn-based. I expect that's actually a marketing move as much as the 'passion of the developer team' - computer games support the live action and it makes sense to use that.

I'm not sure if each game is unique, or if you can keep your customised character between games. As it's not massively multiplayer and persistent as such (in much the same way as our game), would it make sense to transfer the levelled up players between game-runs? Also when you join a game, are you signed up for the duration, or could you play for 30 min and agree to meet up again later? Be interesting to see how successful this game is.  

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Citizen Science

A game that was mentioned in the program for Games for Change 2010, you play the part of a persuasive young person (you get to choose boy or girl) who has to collect evidence for why the lake keeps getting polluted and stop it.

Neat little flash game, very linear storyline. Really clear who you need to talk to, and there's a little tag that tells you what to do next. Ideally I think the information the characters give you ought to be so clear that you don't need that, but it does help. Also occasionally the direction you're supposed to go in isn't really made clear.

It is very prescriptive, and after a while I kind of stopped reading the full arguments. You could tell which chunks are supposed to go with which arguments by reading the short bit at the top, rather than the full description. That might negate the learning somewhat. I guess the plus side for children would be something like fairy stories: the kid saved the world from the big bad guys. Be interesting to see if that really worked that way for children.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Playing 'Evil'

Doing a quick search to try and follow up on some of the 'cheating' in the book I just reviewed, I happened across a couple of interesting blog posts on playing 'evil' characters in MMORPGs.
This post follows up on a comment that to play evil characters you have to be evil in real life. The decision in the post is that no, you don't actually. And actually, the most 'evil' you can be is to behave badly in the game because that affects the other players.

On this one it's the comments section that is almost more interesting than the post. There are several very interesting comments, including:
- "I do *not* agree with a ruleset that includes ganking and betrayal, neither tacitly nor otherwise." (ganking appears to be killing another player...) This would be the kind of ruleset that Graham Chapman was concerned we wouldn't be able to have in an online game, where players wouldn't be able to steal from each other or scam them.
- "I don't get it. I thought the only evil thing one can do in a *game*, is cheating. Anything within the game's rules is fine." Which is really interesting in the context I was actually looking for.
There's also a long comment on the importance of immersion.
This post says that roleplaying a character that is not the way you would normally play is hard. So he claims even when he knows a different outcome is possible if you play a different way, he can't bring himself to do it. He also discusses three ways to play games: what would you do, what would your character do, and what's the most 'lucrative'. I think by lucrative he actually means potentially in experience points rather than necessarily in-game cash or anything like that, but could feature.

Just making a note for future reference.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Review - Cheating, Mia Consalvo

1. Consalvo M (Ohio U. Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames. MIT Press; 2007:228.

The book looks at the history of the videogame culture, starting with the magazines in the early days that published things like walk throughs and cheat codes and moving on to online resources. This is done to define what might be called 'cheats', and show how they have been used to a certain degree by the industry to maintain interest in games.

The author then goes on to look at how the players themselves view and define cheating within a videogame, and when they would or would not use cheats. There doesn't seem to be any consistent level of behaviour that is universally recognised as cheating - some players are hardcore and believe even asking friends is cheating, others see hacking the gamecode as an indication of just how proficient a player they are. Also, many players had engaged in a behaviour they did consider to be cheating, for a variety of reasons. These included making the game more fun (e.g. using codes to give you unlimited lives) or get past a particular stumbling point, right through to getting even with other people who 'cheated' (possibly not in their perception of cheating), or just making other players miserable. There is a difference made between cheating in single player games where the only person you cheat is yourself, and multi-player games where you gain an advantage over other people.

There is a look at how the industry attempts to counter the cheating, from making the cheats less effective and therefore worthless, right through to naming and shaming and banning individuals from playing the game. The varying reactions reflect the underlying feelings about the cheaters, to a degree. Also the reaction of the community (in MMOGs - particularly Final Fantasy IX) is explored, which mainly consists of naming and shaming in community areas to prevent others having the same problems.

Interesting point about the way the rules of multi-player games tend to be defined at two levels: the actual rules of the game, and the 'gentleman's agreement' of how cheats/hacks/exploits will be used. This struck me as very similar to the difference between the rules of cricket and the spirit of cricket. It is also interesting that the online games evolve in response to the behaviour of the playing communities. (A point raised in the paper 'Why virtual worlds can matter'.) If communities start using behaviour that the developers do not want, the code is changed to preclude that behaviour. Alternatively, communities can cause the code to be changed in a way that improves the game play. This really stresses the symbiotic relationship between the game development and the players - neither exists without the other.

I think the lack of a clear-cut definition of what is a cheat is fascinating, and also that many players are happy to do things even if they have defined them as cheating, and can justify it to themselves. Also the difference in perception of cheating in a single-player game vs a multi-player game is intriguing, as the comparison between cheating in real life vs cheating in an online environment.