Category Archives: Gamespace

A Tech Ecosystem for the Rest of Us

The choice buzzword since the February 11 Nokia-Microsoft deal (satirically tagged on twitter as #NoWin) is ecosystem.  Stephen Elop’s vision apparently stops short of a Linux-powered mobile solution.  Either the newly-minted Nokia CEO can’t see how to monetize it or thinks it hasn’t happened fast enough for him– pick your choice of pundit assessments here.

The strategy that Nokia had originally described when migrating their Maemo efforts to the joint MeeGo venture with Intel was that the added value for their corporate bottom line would come from a combination of lower internal OS development costs along with a customized user experience on top of the MeeGo core… one that was promised at one point to “knock our socks off”.  Who could reasonably argue with such a concept?

Obviously, Nokia’s board of directors and their recent replacement for Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo. Continue reading

Play-by-Air Gaming

A long time ago in a DOS-based world far, far away, there were Play-by-Mail games.

I was involved in one called Galactic Anarchy, run by a friend and  business colleague, as a tester and (of all things) cartoonist.  The concept was simple: a turn-based space conquest game played over snail mail (and later also email) populated by several character types (“races”), filled with interesting artifacts and of course founded on certain rules.  Players examined the status of their fleets and owned worlds, and then issued commands to move, attack, defend and anything else the command set supported. Continue reading

Input on a feedback ecosystem

I am about to plunge this often-erratic blog over a sharply-defined edge and into a sea of clear certainty.

Now that I have your attention, let’s talk feedback.

How many times have you been presented with a survey in which you were highly interested but failed to complete?

How often do you play a song you enjoy yet neglect to rate it?

How many software bugs have plagued your mobile device of choice and were not followed by reports sent to the developer(s)?

I think it’s safe to say that the one aspect of feedback that keeps our complaining (or praising) confined to unproductive quarters is the frequent disconnect between the usage and the feedback opportunity.  At least in my experience, far too often the feedback mechanisms are separated from the origin of their need, especially when that starts with a mobile device.  The greater the gap, the less likely we may be to take the step that can actually serve to prevent future aggravation.

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Apples and applets

Just as Nokia does some perplexing housecleaning by shuttering Flagship stores (more on that later perhaps), Apple engages in a bit of store flushing of its own.

Turns out a Chinese software publisher was gaming the iTunes App Store with a little insider trading of sorts.  “Give me 5 stars for my app, I give you promotional codes”.

The payoff of course was a meteoric rise in rankings for what turned out to be crudely-constructed code fluffed up by equally low-grade user reviews.

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TV out: the REAL game-changer

The Maemo Guru demonstrates gaming over the N900 TV-out cable and asks if this will impact the iPhone.  Forget other handhelds– what might this do to larger gaming platforms?

Imagine as these devices get a little more powerful how they could play games on television screens that are now restricted to Xboxes, Playstations and Wiis.  Then imagine how they could leverage that power along with high connectivity to internet cloud and home computing ecosystems to gain access to players and content.  Expand that vision to propose a small video multiplexing device that allows 2 or more mobile computer users in the same room to partition the playing screen just as conventional game machines do now.

Suddenly the N900 portends a greater potential, and greater threat, for gaming.  This platform may well be the first to truly bridge the world of Gameboys and immobile gaming devices.

Nokia took a beating for its N-Gage hardware, especially for not getting version 2 quite right.  Maybe the company wizards did learn from that experience, and thanks to legendary corporate conservatism we are just now seeing the benefit of that lesson learned.

The N900 and its descendents may well show the world that Nokia does indeed get gaming, after all… I’m cautiously excited by the prospect and cannot wait to see where this goes.  Arguments welcome.  ;)

First Person Teaming: Grand Theft Warthog

As promised in the last segment of this series I’m going to get into vehicle usage today.  This article will be mostly oriented toward games I’ve recently played such as Halo PC and Unreal Tournament 3.  I will have to save weapons for a future article, however, as this became longer than I had intended.

The title refers to one of the most popular and well-designed game vehicles to my knowledge, the Warthog of Halo.  The jeep-like utility vehicle is very basic, a simple construction with limited options, but it is highly drivable especially in the PC version.  Players (like myself) of driving age find to their delight that the physics of this offroad automobile are so close to real-life that their physical driving skills apply to the Warthog piloting experience.  Starting and steering, particularly when using a mouse, are a driver’s delight.  But this responsiveness is a double-edged sword, because it makes the ‘hog highly vulnerable to terrain and other game conditions.  This makes skilled drivers a necessity, and they are highly valued.

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First Person Teaming: The Best Defense

Last time I covered mobilization strategies and explained how flexibility and cooperation will enable the success of a team.  Now we’ll get into the old argument of Offense vs Defense and demonstrate the superior importance of the former.

Distilling gaming principles into simple terms can often be disingenuous, but this one tenet always holds true: offense wins games.  Defense, on the other hand, can only secure an already sure win.

The typical multiplayer game has one or more goal types, among them capturing objectives, amassing resources or slaying opponents.  The one element in common is that aggression is required to achieve these and similar goals.  Passivley sniping from remote locations is a strategy that resides in the middle of offensive and defensive postures but as long as the target accomplishment of racking up virtual kills is being met, players are obviously aggressively pursuing enemies through their scope.

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First Person Teaming: Mobilization Strategies

In the last segment of this series I stressed the importance of observation and communication for effective teaming in multiplayer games.  In summary, paying attention to game events and making sure teammates are aware of them is crucial to robust defenses and offenses.  Now we will get into some more practical applications.

One area where these actions are critical is in ensuring that team members fall into specific roles with little or no overlap.  The successful team employs a variety of skills and aptitudes so that every aspect of play is covered.  Aggregating into a small number of similar roles significantly reduces the ability of a team to address novelties introduced by the opposition.

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First Person Teaming: Observation and Communication

This is Part 2 in the First Person Teaming series.

In the Introduction to this series I outlined the general purpose and goals I have in mind and indicated I would begin with this subject: Observation and Communication (I reversed the order from the Intro for logical purposes).

The reason to start here is simple: without effective employment of those skills, you don’t and can’t have teaming in multiplayer games… especially in a virtual environment where real-world physical contextual cues are completely missing.  Oddly enough, implementing these skills is simple too, but for reasons that escape me their proper use is rare in my experience.  I’d hazard to guess that in the First-Person Shooter (FPS) games I play no more than twenty percent of the players truly get the concepts we’re going to cover today.  So let’s improve that, shall we?

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First Person Teaming: Introduction

No, this isn’t a new oxymoronic phrase for your buzzword bingo cards– as noted on the Play page here I’m beginning a series of tutorials on effective team play in First Person Shooter (FPS)  games.  I will reference certain ones to illustrate examples (especially Halo CE for the PC) but for the most part I will generalize.  The vast majority of the tactics I cite are applicable to any FPS game, regardless of its unique aspects.

Background

First Person Shooters go way back, but Doom can be considered the seminal origin for what we play today.  It was such an advent and so solidly designed that many of its elements persist, decades later.

Modes

There are many modes but the core ones go by names such as Slayer, Capture the Flag (CTF), Assault, Invasion, etc.  Most of my focus in this series will be on CTF and related objective-based modes.

Goal

My goal is to share the value of my experience in effective teamplay strategies.  I will be the first to admit I am not a very good pistoleer or sniper.  In fact I have little respect for the latter, sorry (I’m a mix-it-up-in-the-middle kinda player, not a squatter).  But what I am decent at is melding with a group of mediocre-to-good players and leading them to victory using a variety of time-proven techniques.

Above and Beyond

Some may trivialize this series, but I counter that people who master what I will present will develop a teaming mindset applicable to every aspect of their lives.  They will learn to make leadership, interaction and team support a natural part of their default beahaviors.

Caveat

Let it be noted I am not against individualism.  On the contrary, I believe a well-functioning team is a collection of individuals using their unique skills toward a common goal.  Personal victories, such as flag captures and enemy kills, are to be celebrated as long as they support the team objectives.

Going Forward

The first article in the series will cover the basics: communication and observation.  Stay tuned!