I2GD:5 – Analysing games, rules and narrative

The fifth lecture of the online course that I am taking has been released. I have not done any commentary on lectures 3 and 4, they contain little theory and are mostly enumerations of old video games and video game genres respectively.

This lecture has the form of an interview with Jesper Juul, done over Skype but with pretty decent audio quality.

0:00 – Introduction

2:20 – Presentation of Jesper Juul

5:58 – The book ‘Half real’
The relationship between game rules (system that the player is interacting with) and game fiction (fictional world). A theory war where people focused on one of either side, rules OR fiction. ‘Half real’ describes a system of rules AND fiction, from Jespers dual background in both literature and game development.

8:11 – The origin of ludology
Jesper speaks about his blog, linked below.

9:56 – The classic game model
Definitions of games. The history of boardgames, back to the ancient Egyptians. Games have had goals until recently, but modern games often lack a proper goal. Games must no longer have a goal. RPGs are one of the origins of the goal less games, since the rules are up to the GM (I find this very strange reasoning).

14:03 – What are rules?
Two schools:

  • Rules as limitations. The rules tell you what you can’t do. “Achieving a goal using less efficient means.” (I liked this definition.)
  • Rules both specify what you can’t and can do.

The rules are the game, esp for board games and card games.

In video games the computer upholds the rules. Therefore video games can have more complex worlds (Did he mean rules?) When playing real games you have to know the rules, video games include discovering what the rules are.

18.11 – Where does enjoyment come from in games?
From the interaction between the player and the game. Humans generally like goals with challenges, with direct feedback.

20:14 – The difference between single player and multiplayer games
Multiplayer games introduce social aspects.

The beauty of the rules in go.

21:47 – Emergence
Go has simple rules, but is complicated to play. Emergent games are asymetric as for rules contra complexity. The rules of go can be explained on a piece of paper, the strategy of the game fills bookshelves. Emergent games have more complex strategies than rules.

Tic-tac-toe is not an emergent game.

23:38 – The notion of fiction
Any kind of imagined world is the fiction.

The difference between the rules and the fiction. You have to follow the rules, but the fiction is more subjective. Example, some skip cut-scenes in video games.

26:27 – The creation of fictional worlds
“Space Invaders” tells a whole story in those two words. Just naming ink blots on a piece of paper creates fiction.

27:44 – Coherence
Mass Effect and Fallout try to create worlds that make sense, therefore they could be seen as coherent. Super Mario is less so, since Mario has three lives. Games don’t have to have coherent fictional world, depending on the game style. (I would link this to “immersion”, not discussed in the interview, especially Jespers discussion on KotOR.)

30:15 – The role of narrative in fiction
You can have fiction that is not narrative, for example a painting. Narrative describes a sequence of events. The Quests in WoW are narrative, but the game itself is fiction. Some claim that interactivity precludes narrative.

A discussion on why Tetris/Bejewled could be seen as having a fiction follows.

33:42 – More on ‘Half real’
Rules – Fiction.
You navigate games through both rules and fiction.

(Then a discussion on Tekken follows, but I can’t hear what they are talking about. At 34:52 he says a word that sounds like ‘penman’, but it makes no sense in the context.)

When playing you engage in both rules (real) and fiction (not real) at the same time, hence the title ‘Half real’.

36:24 – Jesper’s new book
It’s about casual games.

intro2gamedesign.wordpress.com/2009/02/25/5th-week’s-podcasts-and-assignment – Assignment five, the podcast can be found in the block on the right.

www.jesperjuul.net/ludologist – Jesper Juuls blog, mentioned during the interview.

C64 emulation

I wrote a blog comment regarding Commodore 64 emulation on my group’s blog, but WordPress ate it. So I will post the general information here instead (and mention the blog below so we get automatic pingback here).

To emulate the C64 use VICE if on Linux or one of the many other supported platforms (also supports Windows).

I used to use the CCS64 emulator when I still used Windows. That emulator worked great at the time, but it has been several years since I tested it.

There is lots of information and C64 software available on C64.COM.

If you go the emulation route to C64 gaming you should get a proper joystick, in the good old days we did not use joypads. I like the Competition PRO USB ones. They are copies of the old Competition PRO sticks, but have USB interface instead of the old interface used by the C64/Amiga.

www.viceteam.org – VICE

www.computerbrains.com/ccs64 – CCS64

www.c64.com/?type=1&id=138 – Direct link to the page about The Great Giana Sisters.

www.vesalia.de/e_competitionusb.htm – Competition PRO USB Joystick, here sold together with an Amiga software bundle for Windows.

intro2gamedesign3.wordpress.com/2009/02/11/classic-game-review-the-great-giana-sisters – The original blog post essay for my online course on game design

I2GD:2 – Game culture

The second lecture of the online course I am taking has been released. Below are the notes I took while watching the movie clip.

0:00 – Meaning

6:20 – Experience

10:30 – Dual structure
Even the simplest game has this dual structure hidden inside. (11:19 Does he say ‘sign systems’?)

The Core is the gameplay. The heart, rules or mechanics of the game.

The Shell is the symbolic representation. What the game looks and feels like, how you experience or sense the game. Affects the experience of the gameplay. Needed to access the gameplay, core.

Experienced gamers look through the shell and focus on the core.

20:25 – Internal meanings
Like music can be interpreted as ‘romantic’ or ‘aggressive’.

23:40 – Games & rules
Distinction between different dimensions of rules (Salen & Zimmerman, first reference to the course litterature).

  • Opreational rules – The written rules of the game, the stuff you explain to others when teaching the game.
  • Constituative rules – Implied rules. The dictionary in Scrabble. The physics engine in FPS games.
  • Implicit rules – Social rules, sportsmanship.

28:37 – Magic circle
First described by Johan Huizinga.
The magic circle marks a border between the real reality and the game reality. Like a football field, actions done there are perfectly reasonable there, but not outside the magic circle.

When in a state of play you are:

  • Free and voluntary
  • Separate from everyday reality
  • Created and maintained by communities of players

31:47 – Game dynamics
Important for complex digital games.

34:41 – Forms of game and play?
Roger Caillois defined:

Types of games:

  • agôn – Challenge, combat.
  • alea – Games of chance. Randomness, gambling
  • mimicry – Role playing that tries to mimic or create illusion of other people. Simulations.
  • ilinx – Feelings of speed. Rally games or amusement parks.

Style of play (attitude):

  • paidia – Free form, improvised.
  • ludus – Strict rules based, tournament style.

Most games are a mix of several different categories.

38:10 – Two senses of ‘culture’
Something that only humans have and humans do. Something that can be passed through generations.
(Did he actually say what those two senses were?)

40:20 – Cultural roles of games
There are old games and toys.

42:45 – Subcultures
Distinct groups within cultures. Shared rituals, languages.

44:48 – Identity
Only a small part of people that play games identify themselves as gamers. There are many casual gamers, that play without being part of the subculture.

46:54 – Hegemony
Unquestioned domination of certain consensus views and values in particular cultures of societies. Certain thoughts are accepted as normal. Implicit values.
Certain games get more attention than others.

49:26 – Conclusion
Games are diverse.

50:20 – End

Reflections on lecture 2
Too many subjects in too little time. Maybe if I had read some in the books before watching I could have gotten more out of the lecture. Just leafing through the books and checking the contents did not give me any idea of a specific chapter in any of the books that was tied to this lecture.

The section on Game Dynamics seemed most interesting, but I will have to check elsewhere for more information on that.

pod.gscept.com/intro2gd_02.mp4 – Lecture two

intro2gamedesign.com/read – Literature list for the course

Starting all over again

After two years of playing the violin and one year of cello I rushed on to my next instrument, the tapper.

It all started, as usual, with YouTube. It always starts with YouTube. Curse the YouTube.

I googled it and those Chapman Sticks are expensive. Way too expensive for just another toy. There are cheaper instruments available from Megatar, same principle, different implementation. But while I hesitated whether I could afford a toy at that price point the recession hit and the Swedish Krona dropped against the dollar. No Megatar either.

Then I ran into an personals ad about a cheap tapper from Krappy Guitars. It had already been sold, but Kevin offered to make me another one for the same price. After many e-mails and two months of waiting, I have my own tapper.

I managed the violin by myself, just picked it up, tuned it and after an hour the horrible noises formed into a horrible melody, no such luck with the tapper. After almost a week I still can’t play a single melody straight. I will learn this instrument from a proper book instead. I will be following Easy Touch-style Basics by DuPont and Topaz.

I have already completed the first exercise, gluing fret markers on the neck of the guitar so that I will find my way in later lessions.

Krappy guitars tapper.

Krappy guitars tapper.


www.stick.com – Chapman Stick

www.megatar.com – Mobius Megatar

www.krappyguitars.com – Krappy Guitars

Gaming until now

Gaming until now has contained the following, in no particular order, and with arbitrary resolution:

  • C64/C128D
  • Pen and paper RPGs (Swedish games from the 80’ies and 90’ies. Most of GDW’s catalog. RoleMaster. Indie games.)
  • Amiga (Still have it, safe in a box, HD and all.)
  • PC gaming (Enemy Territory clan wars. Go /la/!)
  • Card games (Magic and Munchkin)
  • Warhammer 40K 2nd Edition
  • GameCube
  • Xbox
  • Wii
  • Boardgames

The biggest splash I have made in the gaming pond this far is the release of my first game in 2008; Höstdimma, the 18th-century-post-apocalyptic-agent-action-fantasy-role playing-game, in Swedish. Buy loads of it, give to your friends and play awesome games with them.

Right now I am shepherding 20 game designers through an online workshop to create new games in 2009, writing my own game for that workshop and participating in an online course on games development.

www.ludd.ltu.se/~wilper/hostdimma – Höstdimma

Registered and choosing a game

Apparently I should have registered for the course online before starting it. But an email to the admins at the uni fixed that for me. So now I am really taking the course, not just thinking I am taking it.

First round of essays have gone through, one on a ‘dream’ game that sounded quite a lot like The Sims. The other two were reflections on World of Warcraft and Fallout.

I am still having trouble choosing a game to do my final paper on. I have considered DesktopTD, but I wonder if I could stand playing that game much more. An other alternative is one of the Brothers in Arms tactical FPS games on Xbox, I have been wanting to play those for a year now, and this could be a reason to make me free the time to do so. It would be nice to do work on a real game though, like Pandemic.

intro2gamedesign.wordpress.com – The course

intro2gamedesign3.wordpress.com – My workgroup for the course

handdrawngames.com – Desktop Tower Defence

www.zmangames.com/boardgames/pandemic.htm – Pandemic

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