Thursday, May 31, 2007

Pick of the day: GameTheory Pod & coffee table gaming

While Finnish Nyt Pelittää blog is dying away there are other excellent sources for games related information. I just came across GameTheoryShow which is yet another nice podcast on games.

Another "pick of the day" is Microsoft Surface -- coffee table gaming. Retro is cool, social gaming is the thing to do and... most probably the device is also easily approachable -- designed for all in a sense. If looking from "sure she can!" (gender) viewpoint it is also relevant that the device is not only for gaming, you can actually do a lot with it. You don't have to be a geek to sit at the Surface table. I am not discussing about the potential patent issues (I believe Nintendo has patented some sort of touch screen type of interaction if I remember correctly). Anyhow: cross media, multi device, social interaction -- that's the way to go!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Photo + template = game

Pictogame is another quite funny service enabling users to create their own content (in a way). Pictogame offers super simple solution for amateur game creators. One just needs to choose a photo, pick a template and add some instructions and/or a title and that's about it. I made a simple brick game. It might not be that cool but I "did" it within one minute!

At this point there are just four templates (two of them have F and M versions) to choose from -- therefore Pictogame is quickly experimented. I would quess it would be more interesting if one could create interactive animations, cards, games, quiz... as easily. It would be nice to send a unique birthday card to a friend instead of just picking one animated greeting card from Blue Mountain or to get funny mini game in the middle of a hectic workday.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Nordic Game 07 focused on creativity and social networking

Music/rhythm games - a bit neglected game genre - was nicely brought up at the Nordic Game 07 conference. Japanese designers Masaya Matsuura (e.g. Parappa the Rapper) and Keiichi Yano (e.g. Gitaroo Man) gave very inspiring talks about their motivation, inspiration and challenges when creating music games. I am not going through all the points here but perhaps one way to summarize their thoughts is to quote Matias Myllyrinne from Remedy: "Good games just don't sell well" ;) [yes I know, out of the context and probably not even a direct quote]

Last summer Gitaroo Man Lives! for PSP was one of my favourites and I am a big fan of Mr. Matsuura so I was really excited! Yano's Inis Corp. just published their sequal to Osu! Takakae! Ouendan male groupie rhythm game in Japan. They have also released Elite Beat Agents for the US market around the same theme if you are interested to check it out.

It was no surprise that social media (user generated content, modding etc.) was well on view this year. I actually did not get that much from the presentations but it does not lessen the relevance of the trend. Social aspects in games will most likely generate new revenue models as well as ways to extend the life span of a game or enrich it another ways. I would warmly urge game developers to consider different forms of engagement when thinking about social aspects in games. One simple model of it can be found from an article by Mark Ghuneim: Terms of Engagement: Measuring the Active Consumer (2006). His paper reviews the topic well. The "Type of Engagement" image is from the same source.
It was also nice to get an addition to my collection of "x.0 tag clouds". Tommy Palm from Jadestone kindly shared his vision of mobile games 2.0. Such collection of terms is a nice way to open up the discussion (do i agree, what is missing...) and it should be food for thought for those pondering the future of mobile gaming.

Naturally social is much more than MMOGs, social interaction or collaboration in games. EveOnline is an excellent example of another kind of "social gaming". Keynote by their CEO Hilmar Pétursson (what a cute little hobbit he was with his Icelandic accent) was a good one. He talked about the challenges of controlling such a large online world but also gave interesting examples of gamers' creativity at EveOnline. Another approach to online gaming was presented by Austrian Avaloop. Perhaps they did not have that informative presentation but it surely was fun! The Beta-tests of PaperMint are over and the "art-hang around-game" type of online community is just about to be released (in German). PaperMint is a fresh approach to the discussions of "what's game" and "what is online gaming". I wish all the best to the bright minds of Avaloop!

Housemarque's Super Stardust HD (a PS3 network title) brough yet another type of social gaming into view. Many small Nordic game companies and startups had joined the conference this year. The value of discussion either around SuperStardust HD or around games in general is very valuable and essential part of "social gaming". I am sure such cosy events as Nordic Game (800 participants this year) give excellent possibilities to developers and researchers to get in touch with their idols and colleagues in a casual atmosphere. Maybe next year we'll see successful MOBILE social networking games (PocketPal from IronStar) at the conference?

Friday, May 11, 2007

From version numbers to user-centered approach

People talk about user-centered design and "users as innovators" in a same sentence with technical terms and version numbers. Is the future of digital media still technology driven? Are we still lacking alternative perspective of the future of digital media?

Last October Stephen Baker (BusinessWeek) was leading a panel which task was to define web 3.0 at the Monaco Media Conference. They came up with key points such as:

"1) Easier, cheaper, and more pervasive. Only a fraction of humanity has anything to do with Web 2.0. Others stay to the sidelines because they find the technology too confusing or expensive, or they don't see the relevance. Bring another billion or so people into Web 2.0, and Metcalfe's Law alone will make it a radically different phenomenon.

2) Always on, everywhere. We've heard (and written) this one for a while, but it's true: As Web 2.0 follows us every step of our lives--in some cases whether we want it to or not--and the dynamics change.

3) Controlling our data. In the next gen, we'll have developed all kinds of systems to wrap our personal data with various types of protection. Some will be shared widely, some narrowly, some not at all. And new systems of reputation and ranking should help us figure out which data sources to take seriously and which to shun."

Another opinion of web 3.0:

Image: Leiki Ltd's vision of Web 3.0.

Is the automation of networking or tagging the next step? Are we after automatic tagging or empowering the consumers? Maybe consumers would like to do something unforeseeable? Something beyond computer AI?

By and large, should we discuss about interoperability and cross media (multiplatform) services instead of the future of the web (as pc internet)? Many mobile phones already provide an access to the web, game consoles and handheld devices are wired... And the major trends related to the future of mobile, digital television or console are somewhat parallel with the future of web.

Monday, May 07, 2007

TV Licence -- Worth of every cent!

May 7th 2007, 6.30 pm. An ordinary lazy Monday in Finland. Eurovision song contest is just five days away. It will be held in Helsinki and hosted by Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE).

The same YLE opens up a "window of the world" to the Finns. We get to see all the exiting wonders, news and stories from different parts of the world. Just for 208,15 € a year! Today YLE channel 1 offered EXITING "technical failure" and YLE channel 2 SHOWSTOPPING "Just a moment, please". Worth of every cent! This is Living! ;)

Friday, May 04, 2007

Facts and Figures of game industry

I have spent the last few days surfing at the Internet and looking for facts & figures about the digital games industry. am not even after some super specific data. I just look for a) free (because many $$$$$ market analysis are just nicely packaged free data) , b) somewhat realiable and c) (globally) comprehensive data of to market sizes, differences, trends etc. The ESA (US), Elspa (EU), CESA (Japan) and KoGia [ex-GameInfinity] (Korea) are an ok sources for information though...

I am a bit suspicious about the data given by the ESA as they do not state too clearly where they get the data. CESA does annual quantitative study (~1000 people) and Kogia & Elspa graphs and figures are based on the market data. Besides these industry associations, I was able to find one report which is actually quite ok. It is OECD The Online Computer and Video Game Industry report. It was done already in 2005 so it does not contain the most up-to-date information. For example...

Nowadays there surely are more than two (notable) game studios in Finland. It is true that in the beginning of 2000 only Remedy (Max Payne) and Housemarque (Supreme Snowboarding) had sold 1M+ (++). Now Bugbear (FlatOut, FlatOut2) has gained respect by crossing the 1M (sold games) milestone as well. And companies like Sulake, RedLynx and Sumea are all doing fairly well. One signal of the growth of the industry is a directory compiled by Finnish Game Business, R&D Center Neogames (yes, another signal) of Finnish Game Companies (2006). We have also our national "Elspa" titled Figma prodiving sales figures (data gathered from importers).

From Koninginnedag to Nordic Game 2007

While many other countries celebrate May Day (Vappu in Finland), Dutch have their own Queen's Day celebrations. These two parties have many similarities (Funny clothers, huge crowds wandering around, heavy drinking, parties) but due to the weather conditions Finns party indoors where as Queen's Day is a huge street party spreading around Amsterdam. We were fortunate to have our own "local guide" to make our stay even nicer -- so many thanks Tanja :)

Next party will take place in Malmö Sweden on 15-16 May. Sweden's gift to the international gaming community Erik Robertson is one of the masterminds behind the great event. My top 3 picks from Nordic Game 2007 event:

1) Housemarque will release their SuperStardust HD

2) After GDC07 CCP Games' mighty dizzying party is definitely a thing to wait for ;)

3) Masaya Matsuura (VibRibbon, Mojib Ribbon, Parappa lallaaa! I love this company!).

Oh yes, and lovely Babsi is there again and hopefully also Super girls from SuperMarit! Hope to see you all in Malmö within a few weeks!