February 21, 2012

Graeme Devine Talk Tomorrow at UCSC

Local Santa Cruz game developer and perennial guest speaker Graeme Devine is visiting UCSC tomorrow (Wednesday the 22nd) to give a talk titled “Social Games are DEAD!” In his own words:

Everyone on the planet is rushing to add a social element to their game, picture app, music app, whatever app. Our widely held view of acceptable application development has narrowed to freemium social games that have to monetize. Somewhere along the way we forgot that games should be fun experiences and we became analysts. Let’s talk about that.

September 4, 2010

Retrospective on the CIG 2010 Level Design Competition

At the recent 2010 Computational Intelligence in Games conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, there were competitions for making race car controllers, human-like FPS bots, and Ms. Pac Man players, among others. The competition that drew my interest, however, was the Mario level design competition, which challenged entrants to create procedural level generators that could generate fun and interesting levels based on information about a particular player’s style. The restrictions on entries (use only fixed numbers of gaps, coin blocks, and Koopas) meant that the winner would have to be cunning: it wouldn’t be easy to just estimate player skill and make the level more or less difficult by adding or removing obstacles; you would instead have to find ways to place obstacles that made the same obstacles more or less difficult. And because entries would be played by players at different skill levels, they would have to be flexible and adjust their output over a broad range of difficulties to get a high score. Finally, because score was based on the audience’s relative rating of enjoyment between level pairs, there would be no way to game the system and optimize some metric set without making truly enjoyable levels. Between these constraints, the winning entry should have been a demonstration of the power of procedural content generation to adapt to players of different skill levels, which is one of several reasons that PCG is useful in games. Unfortunately, the competition design may have been a bit too clever.

May 12, 2010

The Incoherence of Reincarnation: Story vs. Telling in Videogames

On page 141 of Noah Wardrip-Fruin’s (excellent) Expressive Processing, there’s discussion of a citation of from Jesper Juul:

Unlike most literary fictions, however, the worlds of many games are, in Juul’s terminology, “incoherent” (which is one of the things that limits Juul’s interest in discussing games in terms of narrative, as opposed to fiction). These are worlds in which significant events take place that cannot be explained without discussing the game rules, such as the many games that feature multiple and extra lives without any element of the game fiction that points towards reincarnation.

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