Lolz. I love this kind of story : “Old folk are sharper with WoW”.

Its a bit of sensationalism since the improvement was only minimal at best, but it is encouraging for those of us already beyond 30 who play a lot of games I guess… For me, a more important application of such games might be in opening new social avenues for the elderly. Joining a guild might be a good way to replace all those folks who have passed away. I hope I’mm still MMO’ing (or full body 3d equivalent) in my 90’s.

User Metrics

Here is an awesome summary of some of the discussions at GDC about the uses and pit falls of user analytics.

To me one of the most interesting issues is trying to understand user engagement via analytics. I can see there is huge scope for important UX work here but in terms of emotional engagement I think the data is near useless. This data is collected primarily for UX and commercial considerations and its a terrible fit trying to measure narrative or emotional engagement and immersion; the figures are skewed heavily by different kinds of play and even in data from a single player, by different moods and situations. It is very possible that when concentrating fully on the gameplay the player may find themselves deeply immersed in the story. Many mitigating factors that cannot be identified easily by analytics can interfere with the player’s concentration which may not paint a useful picture of overall engagement. I can see that some kind of averaging of player behaviour over time might give a vague indication of player engagement but aggregate data from a large number of players is useless in this respect.

Perhaps the wrong data is being collected, but I am not sure which would be the right for this specific purpose…

Immersion and Engagement

Here is the text of an essay I wrote recently on the interplay between immersion and engagement in video games. The intention was to examine how they can be promoted by each other, and by additional factors not found in non-interactive environments. I can’t deny; its a little dry… but I think uncovers some important points, particularly for RPG development.

Full article here.

Immersion and engagement are terms used loosely and often in the video game industry. From studios to reviewers these terms are quoted as features rather than variables to such a degree that they no longer have a qualitative meaning. The fluidity of definition and usage has resulted in a serious shortfall in investigation of how these factors are in fact distinct and how they relate to one another. While both seek the same goal; to draw the player into the game, merging the terms could suggest that in achieving one you will achieve the other, but while each can be used to improve the other, one does not automatically guarantee the other. When properly understood and balanced these two elements of gameplay can create a gaming experience that is exceptional. The goal is to treat each as a separate variable, and design a game where immersion encourages engagement while simultaneously, engagement results in immersion. Balanced correctly the two should complement each other creating a self-fulfilling loop.

The end of of virtual gold?

Diablo 3 players will use real money to make purchases in game, and I think this is pretty interesting. While in the Americas I can’t see this being too much of a big deal in Europe where servers are likely to be region wide it could be more complex. Obviously the Euro covers most of mainland Europe but there are still countries where individual currencies survive. Beyond this, since the economies of individual countries are variable the value of goods will rise and fall in different regions in a way that is impossible with, for example, WoW gold

In WoW an item costs X number of gold, a market value set within the game world. It takes into account only the economics of the game world itself – the balance of classes, factions, skills sets, and optimisation of characters in that world. It is true to say that there is a certain standardisation between servers (thanks to cross server forums and guides) but the free market of each server will always determine the price. Introducing REAL currency circumnavigates the in-game economy by involving real world market forces; local economy, currency values, even complex player demographics. A player in Greece right at the moment may have a much harder time making purchases, for example, than a player in Germany. Likewise, players in the UK would find it much more affordable than those in Portugal.

It is hard to say whether this has a positive or negative impact on the game but it does clearly allow our own capitalist economics to filter into the game worlds IN PRACTICE in a way that before was much less common. Instead, market economies were built on the same THEORY in game worlds as in the western world but the playing field was levelled by the creation of a new currency that was independent from your own real world wealth. I can see the advantages, but I wonder if introducing real world economies will serve to further blur the boundaries between ‘character’ and ‘player’ in favour of the player.


This is probably nowhere near as exciting to normal people as it is to me, but this morning I received my first paycheque from Paizo for freelance work! I now ant wait till October to see it in print. It looks like there is a possibility that my group may end up playing the ‘Jade Regent’ series anyway after Kingmaker so we might actually have to work our way through my own content when it comes to it. Talk about meta-knowledge, ha!

Eating news with the Sky News iPad app

This post has been a looong time coming but I was very lucky to be given an early beta release of the Sky news iPad app to have a play. Like most of the reviewers out there I have to agree – it’s pretty slick. It allows you to consume news in a linear manner, something that exists nowhere else on the Internet. News is fed to the app as it breaks but lingers on the timeline so one always has access to ‘old news’. It’s a weirdly better version of any one of the Rolling news channels because unlike watching the TV the app doesn’t have to pretend that news happens ALL the time. Instead it is 100% up to date when their is news but instead of bombarding you with dramatic shots of an empty police car or bananas time filling graphics it supplies you with just the sorties, in order, when they actually are stories.

On top of this it allows you to really interact with that news – a story you choose to focus on will be accompanied by historic pieces about the same issue, charts, tables, and graphs that catch you up on the background and elaborate on the content itself. I love this and weirdl it’s almost exactly the way I consume news : when something interesting is happening I piker hit up the news points, digest the stories and then fire up Wikipedia to know why all this is happening in the first place! The Sky News app has already done this for me! My only criticism of that aspect, and I understand it can’t be helped, but the supporting information has a HEAVY editorial feel so there is a sense of getting the broader Sky picture, not the actual broader picture.

The interface Itself is a piece of genius. News actually happens along a timeline which you swipe and swoosh to navigate. This tactile, minority report-esque control mechanism gives you wonderfully tangible sense of the sequence of the day. It presents then ewes exactly as it should be presented – according to the way it happened. Of course the order is edited and controlled toobutin the interface the editorial fist is much less obvious somehow. Politics aside it’s a really neat use of touch technology and a real triumph.

My only big beef with the app is that behaves much like time really does in that you are always looking at ALL the news. It is not yet intelligent enough to remember which stories you have read and ‘minimize’ them in the timeline until areal update occurs. Similarly it doesn’t learn anything about your news consuming habits so that it can tend to be a bit overwhelming looking at everything that has happened ever, at once. To be fair, these are complaints about features thati think are missing and that is not really fair : the features it does include are implemented With style and originality. Overall I think it’s a winner and an extremely strong first go at presenting rolling news in a new way on a new device with a new interface.

Sony PSP Minis

Well! This is all a bit ace : Lume, the game designed for the LiveProject and PSP Minis competition has been selected for development! With a bit of luck we should have this up on the Sony Store in a few months, in the mean time, you can enjoy this!

Freemium and all it’s glory

Here is an investigation into the moving parts of a ‘freemium’ model for tech companies. Conclusions are, to be honest, thin on the ground but it does give a nice outline of some of the levers you need to pull to make it work…

Understanding successful utilisation of the ‘freemium’ model in digital media and games

Intro :
For a number of tech companies, particularly in gaming, the ‘Freemium model’ has proven profitable and risen in prominence in the last few years. For some, adopting this model supplements existing practices while for others it provides almost an entire revenue stream. With the number of independent game and application studios increasing thanks to significant changes in distribution success is more and more dictated by a sound understanding, and response to, sensitive economic factors. With limited academic data available on this developing methodology I hope to better understand the freemium model by examining successful freemium-centric organisations and determining the key features of implementation. Success is spread across a number of very disparate organisastions, however, and because of the differences in their strategies, markets, and products it is difficult to compare their success directly. Instead I will assess these case studies individually, demonstrating how they have achieved success in their field before highlighting features they share and thereby determining some key rules for successful freemium development.