Thursday, December 18, 2008

Drawn to life (online)

Interesting but would it work irl?

Shidonni currently on beta.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

HOTTEST trends in games 2009

The year 2008 is coming to its end and it is time to look ahead. I have been evaluating bunch of game concepts this year, visited GDC and other industry events, chatted at IGDA, reviewed several games and of course followed what’s going on at the game scene. It is always nice to guess what might be coming up. Thus here are my top 5 trends for 2009 which I believe will have an effect to the games development and/or culture.

1. Tinkering in games
Game editors and users’ tools for altering the game world will become even more common on web and in games. In 2008 I got to review several ideas focusing on coloring or drawing and games utilizing the camera. PS EyePet will most probably be one of the most visible embodiments of this but there are also lots of other concepts utilizing the same idea. Would this be (finally) the time when camera interface takes off? We have had EyeToy and projects like KukaKumma Muumaassa but would EyePet and similar ideas push pattern recognition and/or camera interaction into mainstream? Coloring is another "coming up stong" thing. Drawn to Life and Grayon Physics Deluxe are already out there and I have seen many – especially children’s games’ – ideas focusing on drawing and coloring. When talking about tinkering, Little Big Planet and XNA could be added to this list as well. These are few steps closer to mainstream UGC in games than mod’s, hacks or Game Editor type of tools for creating games.

2. Networked experiences (game communities) for nichés
MMO scene is relatively occupied but not yet saturated. Niché products and online game communities targeted to specific target groups (based on demographics, interests etc.) are been put together. When talking about niché users, keep in mind that in an online environment niché can easily be a lot of people. There are 400M broadband users in the world (Source: Broadband Forum) and according to Strategic Analyst there are ~137M active online community accounts out there. When looking at the total number of registered users e.g. in Shanda games (700M), Habbo (100M) or SL (16M) it seems that the users are starting to find their place in the online worlds. The search and try-once period is over and people start to know what to look for. This means that the stickiness of an online community will become more central. This leads us to the next point.

3. Revenue models and payment methods diversify
Online (game) communities are no longer about the number of registered users but about [this is] living :) Where as earlier the number of registered users was highlighted, now the focus is on stickiness, value for the users, uniqueness and interactivity. Online communities are introducing dual (, or triple currencies ( Time spent and activity in increasingly relevant.

4. Massive competitive co-op FPSs (and potentially other genres)
There seem to be a need for scalable co-op games -- something in between of "playing with friends" and MMOs. Resistance 2 (perhaps also CoD) is one example of a shared experience and collaborative gaming in a scalable and/or flexible game environment.

5. Network mini games adding value
So far gamers have been able to download additions to games via Live Arcade, PSN or Wii store. For example Fable 2 connects with Xbox Live Arcade pub games. One can play the games and win virtual money in pub games and use them at Fable 2. I don’t mean this idea would be one of the next big trends but the idea of creating a link between network games and console games sounds interesting. The link could be in a form of a comment or response in the vein of Youtube or just additions, extensions and (UG) reactions.

You might ask why I don’t have any mobile trends on the list and where are all VR, AR, pervasive games etc. related trends. Well, mobile is a part of the networked experience. Also I think we are in between of JavaBrewFlash and locative / pervasive games. Pervasive games are not there yet. Stand alones on the other hand are here already. I do believe iPhone will enable novel types of gaming but would it evolve some new trends? At the moment iPhone is providing and will provide some small and funny stuff but nothing groundbreaking.

Then again the nice thing about trends is that I am just guessing. Prove me wrong, argue against my ponderings or suggest your own.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

(A bit silly view of) Future entertainment

The vision is a bit silly (IMHO) and some future ideas on this pic are already outdated or implemented but anyhow... 2017 orgasm by e-mail? Why e-mail if we can use video, IM or cybersex gear? I remember experiencing a weird CU-SeeMe striptease act when I tried the CU-SeeMe system some 10 years ago. And I believe we do not have to wait until 2017 to experience first divorce due to virtual affair either.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Chatting with myself after work

At the moment I am pondering how to create value in a casual game community service and how to reach a certain niché. Content is the usual suspect when talking about certain gender or age group but it seems to be more and more important how communities involve, enchant and involve the users. The “right” ways vary from community to community.

I met a group of deco (Decorative Friendship Book) swappers some years ago. Putting deco books together was really charming and girly hobby for me. The idea of “decoing” is to start a book (with empty pages), decorate first page and send it to a friend. A friend will then add her decoration and send it forward and so on. When the book is done it will return to the one who started that book. Deco is more art and design heavy but still somewhat related to other types of hobby crafts. Etsy must be the mainstream of the trend focusing on handmade items in general where as Smilebox is an interesting niché site focusing on scrapbooks. All of the mentioned hobbies are rather girly ones. Correct me if I am wrong but I would suppose most likely the majority of deco, Etsy or Smilebox user are women. It is interesting to see that in online games and/or communities guys are often the most active ones putting up fan web sites, hacking and altering the world if possible and doing different caricatures of the characters or other fan art.

Despite the different target groups it is also interesting how similar the motivational factors are. Social is usually at the core of the experience – doing things together, sharing, collaborating or communicating but also issues related to appearance, relaxation, entertainment (of course) and competence are often mentioned. Even if there are similar motivational factors, girls and boys seem to value different type of involvement and creativity in games or in relation to games. Perhaps LBP type of creativity is too design heavy even though creating levels is sort of tinkering – the same way as Smilebox and deco activities -- and rather easy as well. But maybe it is not the creation but more about the value what one gets from creating things? Maybe the expectations and/or needs are different?