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A Theory of Fun for Game Design

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the with-superfluous-penguins! dept.

Games 187

Despite a growing interest in the field, books on game design can be jargon-filled textbooks too intimidating for the average game player. Raph Koster's A Theory of Fun for Game Design takes an entertaining look at a subject that has, in some ways, been taken too seriously by other authors. The book is thoughtful as well, providing a groundwork for a discussion of games as learning tools, art, and societal shapers. Read on for my thoughts, and some commentary from the author, on this distillation of a designer's viewpoint.Raph Koster speaks often on the subjects of game design and interactive narratives. A Theory of Fun for Game Design is an approachable version of the larger body of writing and speaking Koster has produced in his years of design work. Its unusual accessibility is clear as soon as you open the book: while the left-hand page page contains text and observations, the right hand page makes (sometimes snide) commentary on design via comics drawn by the author.

Mr. Koster kindly agreed to answer questions when I was preparing this review. When asked about the audience of the book, he said "The book was intended in large part as something I could give to my parents, or to other relatives, or to non-industry friends, as a way to explain what it is that my profession is all about." As such, the comics and plain-spoken writing bring design concepts into focus for readers who may not want to spend the rest of their lives on these topics.

The chapters of Theory of Fun are not organized formally, but the book seems to fall into three sections. The first section sets the stage by discussing what exactly a game is. "Games are puzzles to solve, just like everything else we encounter in life." Koster's thesis is, essentially, that games are learning puzzles. In his experience, simple games are created by children to teach themselves useful skills. More formal games have similar goals, but modern games exist almost entirely to provide the elusive substance of fun to the player. This assertion resulted in a brisk discussion on the site Terra Nova. Exactly what people want when they pick up a joystick is very much in debate even by industry professionals.

The central portion of Koster's theory ruminates on the roles games play, why games are designed the way they are, and what matters in a game. The meat of the book is here, in discussions about why gamers cast aside the ethical quandaries brought up by games like Grand Theft Auto (they're playing the game mechanics, not the fiction surrounding the mechanics) and in the observation that the destiny of all games is to become boring. An amusingly astute statement about cheaters caps off a discussion of the tendencies players have to finding the optimal solution to a game: "When a player cheats in a game, they are choosing a battlefield that is broader in context than the game itself.&quot

At the end of the midsection, the eternal discussion of games as art makes an appearance. Instead of equivocating, Mr. Koster makes his opinion very clear. "Art, to me, is just taking craft seriously. It's about communication (as I have said many times, in the book and elsewhere). Taking what we do seriously, *even if for frivolous ends,* just leads to better work. Considering what you are doing to be art tends to emphasize high standards, experimentation, expression, thoughtfulness, and discipline -- even if your goal is to make a gag-a-day newspaper strip or macrame hangings for your window."

To close his discussion on games and to provide a larger context against which to examine them, Mr. Koster steps outside the bounds of game design and makes some fairly dramatic statements about what games should be. While other media portrays the human condition almost as a matter of course, he argues, games rarely connect with the most basic aspects of our lives. To his mind, in order to truly achieve respect alongside the novel or the musical composition, games should "illuminate aspects of ourselves that we did not fully understand."

In his epilogue, Koster goes even further, arguing that -- as authors of art -- game designers should take responsibility for their creations. "I have little patience for those who hide behind the statement that 'it's just entertainment.' To deny our influence while simultaneously crowing about our financial success is at best naïve, and at worst irresponsible."

The book itself is well laid out, with the thoughtfully edited and often humorous text set amid plenty of whitespace on the right and the usually well-drawn comics on the left. The comics set the tone for the whole book, which in format resembles more of a collection of Far Side strips than it does a technical guide. The back of the book contains an extensive commentary section where offhand references and asides are explained in depth.

If you're planning on entering the field of game design, A Theory of Fun won't help you to storyboard a plot, model a texture, or develop a code base: if you're looking for the technical aspects of game design or deep academic consideration of the field, other titles will hold more for you. The intended audience of this book is quite wide, and Koster does an excellent job of making everyone feel included in the conversation that occurs between the pages. While game players and professionals new to the field alike can get a lot from what he discusses, the reader who may benefit the most from Theory of Fun is the seasoned game industry worker.

With the endless rehashing of game and design concepts currently in circulation and parent groups growing ever more shrill at the release of morally ambiguous titles, Raph Koster's book is a refreshing read. The book is an unpretentious examination of what it is that makes a game a game. He steps beyond the dehumanizing aspects of game mechanics to look at games and their designers in a broader societal context. If for no other reason that that, Theory of Fun is worth a look to read the opinion of someone who gives a damn.


You can purchase A Theory of Fun for Game Design from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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First Gost? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11577226)

Huh?

FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11577233)

Fuck all y'all. I have a lightning bolt shaved in my pubes.

How is this offtopic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11578673)

It sounds like he's having fun with his pubes, fun being the very topic of this article.

Yeah, but it's Raph 'SWG' Koster (4, Funny)

Bonker (243350) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577246)

If Raph Koster is an expert on anything, as many Star Wars Galaxies players can attest to, it's making a game NOT fun.

Re:Yeah, but it's Raph 'SWG' Koster (2, Interesting)

john_anderson_ii (786633) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577287)

I thought SWG was a lot of fun untill it gave way to marketing demand and became Jedi Wars Galaxies.

Re:Yeah, but it's Raph 'SWG' Koster (4, Interesting)

servognome (738846) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577738)

No it wasn't fun from the beginning. Aside from the game's bugginess, there were several core design problems. I would call SWG more of an experiment than a game.
- HAM system - an experimental alternative to the typical HP/Mana systems of most RPGs. Both the penalties of specials (using specials injured you) and the arbitrary nature of damage (rifle damage injured "Mind" not health) just made it overly complicated and unintuitive.
- Player run economy - interesting system, which I think worked well in some respects (gave the "feel" of a real economy). Unfortunately the breakdown occurred because risk/reward system was not in place for adventuring types. If the best stuff was made by players what was the use of taking risks adventuring.
- Housing/building system was nice, though not completely new, it was I think one of the best implementations, though the downside was extreme lag in certain locations
- Skill Structure - bland, and not particularly valuable. Getting higher skills in some respects would give you access to technology that you wouldn't use because there were better lower level alternatives
- Mentorship - interesting, but not particularly valuable, and later became more of an annoyance.
- Entertainers - once again interesting, but not engaging in terms of gameplay.
I think I could have lived with the bugs, in the end I did not like the game due to intentional failures of design decisions. Overall it is something that could be learned from for future game designs. (ie. Discovering that many people wanted to be entertainers, so now how can you make an entertainer class engaging)

Re:Yeah, but it's Raph 'SWG' Koster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11577346)

If Raph Koster is an expert on anything, as many Star Wars Galaxies players can attest to, it's making a game NOT fun.

Amen! does the book contain anything about how to make excuses for an empty, lifeless game like "player driven content"? 'cause that was pretty smoothe

Re:Yeah, but it's Raph 'SWG' Koster (3, Insightful)

grumpygrodyguy (603716) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577635)

If Raph Koster is an expert on anything, as many Star Wars Galaxies players can attest to, it's making a game NOT fun.

Mmmm....yes!!

"Games are puzzles to solve, just like everything else we encounter in life.'"

Umm....no.

In fact most MMORPGs reflect the compulsive narcessistic attitude of most young americans today accumulating hand-over-fist anything they can get their mitts onto. At least this is why I play MMORPGs. The atmosphere, music, humor and scenery help to disuade me from needing to possess all the power in the realm, and thus provide a kind of light fantasy backdrop to my compulsive and irrepressible greed.

It's always nice to have light humor mixed in with obsessive grinding/hoarding. These two things, and the play between them make for a successful and playable MMORPG.

Re:Yeah, but it's Raph 'SWG' Koster (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577807)

"Games are puzzles to solve, just like everything else we encounter in life.'"

Umm....no.

In fact most MMORPGs reflect the compulsive narcessistic attitude of most young americans today accumulating hand-over-fist anything they can get their mitts onto. At least this is why I play MMORPGs. The atmosphere, music, humor and scenery help to disuade me from needing to possess all the power in the realm, and thus provide a kind of light fantasy backdrop to my compulsive and irrepressible greed.


Uh, you just contradicted your statement right there. The "Puzzle to Solve" in this case is "How do I acquire as much in-game wealth and property to satisfy my insatiable greed without mindlessly acquiring it?" (The humor and fantasy make your imagination and other thought parts of the brain work - maybe not a lot, but at least better than running a bot).

The "Puzzle to Solve" in a game isn't necessarily the obvious goal of the game (kill the bad guy). In fact, it's likely different for every person. One person it might be "I'm frustrated, and I want to kill people" ("How do I kill people legally?"). Another might be "I want some mindless violence to take my mind off the real world". Or maybe, "I feel like saving the world today." (FPS type of goals)

Sometimes the puzzle is "I want a nice fantasy world where I can fully immerse myself attempting to do [good|evil|etc]" (e.g., an RPG).

Re:Yeah, but it's Raph 'SWG' Koster (0)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577655)

He fixed a lot of the problems UO had in the early days, and until the UO team for some reason decided to dumb itself down for newbies it was a lot of fun. I would bet the reason SWG sucked was more because of EA aiming it towards newbs who have never played a MUD or MMORPG before and less because of Koster.


The real problem with MMORPG's though is you can only play one. After having played UO I can never imagine investing that much time in any other game again, since they are all pretty much the same. Well maybe if someone maybe a really good MMORPG in ASCII graphics I'd play it, but that doesn't seem too likely to happen soon.

Re:Yeah, but it's Raph 'SWG' Koster (1)

kin_korn_karn (466864) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577693)

Well maybe if someone maybe a really good MMORPG in ASCII graphics I'd play it

You just set yourself up for a horde of unwashed MUD geeks to come along and tell you all about their sadly irrelevant pastimes.

Re:Yeah, but it's Raph 'SWG' Koster (1)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577861)

MUDs are text based except for a few that have ASCII graphics for outdoor maps. What I am talking about is something with ASCII graphics a la Nethack. And don't say nethack is only for old people because I'm only twenty.

Re:Yeah, but it's Raph 'SWG' Koster (1)

takitus (733922) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577676)

yeah ive quit every game he got his hands on. UO was great until they hired that fool. then the whole company went under. then for some unknown reason they hired him to make star wars as big a flop as possible. hopefully blizzard stays away from him.

long live richard garriot!

Re:Yeah, but it's Raph 'SWG' Koster (2, Informative)

RaphKoster (603840) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578862)

I was on UO from the beginning, so if you liked UO early on, that was me. I left before UO: Renaissance though.

Re:Yeah, but it's Raph 'SWG' Koster (1)

jefmes (747974) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578640)

Say what you will, but a large part of Galaxies' continued existance and continuing improvements (there's a ton of good that's just come into the game and is coming in the over the next several months) are due to the open-ended sandbox view that Raph tried to maintain in creating Galaxies. It's not to everyone's tastes due the some of the complexities in the game, but it's evolving into what I still think will be the best MMOG out there.

And yes, I'm a SWG fanboy, I have been from the beginning - only because I believe in the vision for the game and the potential of its systems.

Re:Yeah, but it's Raph 'SWG' Koster (1)

GROOFY (855580) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578722)

Yeh I was singing the same tune five months ago, even when I had all my stuff disappear via bugs, had aspects of the game change regularly, rendering previous work completely useless, and generally not having the "live-like-fucking-han-solo" experience I was expecting. Not to mention the horrible "grind", the lack of content in places where it should be most, boring randomly generated missions, and the imfamous economy, which looks good on paper but in actuality it's a turd sandwich because all of your stuff is completely fucking worthless. Long story short - SWG is the worst MMO ever made. EVER. But SOE has said before they might make another SWG with a different subtitle. If that's done by people who actually know what's fun, then I'll look into it.

Re:Yeah, but it's Raph 'SWG' Koster (1)

Alkaiser (114022) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578736)

Wow. He's got all this time to write books. Probably because he's relying on all this "player driven content" to do all his work for him.

This guy fast climbing up the chart of people in the game industry I loathe most. Already made my top 5.

Thank you for that lovely review..... (4, Funny)

WordODD (706788) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577257)

But now let us rejoin the gaming world reality with your host EA!!!

An introduction! (4, Insightful)

reformist (773086) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577264)

All staff working on a game product should have training like this book gives; a designer's perspective should pervade the entire project, and the concept and goal of "fun" needs to be in every part of the product. Often, the goal of 1/2 the team is making the interface or some part of the game compatible with how the game engine does rendering to ensure we get an extra 5 fps here and there.

Re:An introduction! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11577466)

Nothing like getting advice from the talentless, hangerons in the game development biz.

Re:An introduction! (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577759)

They should, but not this book. Koster is a game design disaster.

And for the most part, game designers do plenty of reading and thinking about what is fun, at least at some of the better game design houses. Theory of game design discussions and reading are very popular.

heh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11577265)

"When a player cheats in a game, they are choosing a battlefield that is broader in context than the game itself."

I believe the proper terms are 'hacker' or 'n0ob'.

Hejh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11577269)

Plug your game into this equation:

#(complex game equation) game.c
Your game sucks, please try again.
#(complex game equation) game2.c
Your game sucks, please try again ...
#(complex game equation) game4465.c
This game might sell 10,000 copies. Might.

Guaranteed fun! (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577756)


> Plug your game into this equation:

f=ck

Re:Guaranteed fun! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11578161)

Correction: game must exist in set F (union) CK

What about game playing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11577270)

I know game playing is surely fun. You don't need a book to tell you so.

Re:What about game playing (1)

plover (150551) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577331)

I know game playing is surely fun. You don't need a book to tell you so.

-1, Wrong.

Proof? Daikatana.

Just because someone writes and/or sells a game doesn't mean it's going to be fun. Books like this need to exist, and will hopefully help alleged "games" like Daikatana from getting as far as they do.

Re:What about game playing (5, Insightful)

cirby (2599) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577512)

The problem is that too many people who try to design games get really, really serious about "doing it right" while ignoring playability. Having an "accurate" game or a fast-playing one isn't nearly as important as the replay urge. Look at the recent re-release of classic games (fer chrissake, they're putting out Atari 2600 systems again!).

Playtesting is deeply important, and if your testers aren't finishing their sessions with a lot of "that's a lot of fun," you need to start again.

Every game-design disaster I've seen has been easy to predict well in advance.

Re:What about game playing (1)

bonch (38532) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577885)

Exactly. I don't need my games to be realistic, I just want them to be representative. Doom 1 wasn't actually realistic; it just felt like it.

Nice, but not necessary. (2, Interesting)

NashCarey (765512) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577283)

As a novice game creator I must say that I have yet to read a book and feel I am doing fine thus far. I created http://ruaware.org/ [ruaware.org] AWARE and even had an article published in the NY Times (nothing on /. I am afraid) as a review in theory. The game I created was successful enough to even warrant a sequel.

I specialize in Alternate Reality Gaming and the games are much more cerebral than most, so when Dave Szulborski wrote "This Is Not A Game" (seen at http://www.immersivegaming.com/ [immersivegaming.com] ) not many had anything to complain about. Our players tend to like an intellectual challenge.

Yet, I can imagine that many 13-15 year old DOOM players may have their head spin when discussing game theory.

Re:Nice, but not necessary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11577607)

Wow, that's great. I don't think I've ever seen that much masturbatory self-promoting in the one comment for quite some time. The FPS player flame was also a nice touch.

How about you do the gene pool a favour and go fuck yourself?

Re:Nice, but not necessary. (1)

RootsLINUX (854452) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578248)

I was trying to provide credibility, not self-promote. What I said sounds a lot better from a guy who has (at least to a limited degree) "been there, done that", rather than just some random opinion from someone who has never even attempted game design. So I'm sorry you misinterpreted my intentions. I can't speak for him, but I imagine the poster above me used his project to justify what he said as well.

Now if I really wanted to self-promote, I would have said something like "heY guyz check out teh my nu game!!111one". Maybe next time you should think of the context of the dialogue before you jump to a rash conclusion.

Re:Nice, but not necessary. (1)

Kiryat Malachi (177258) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578311)

Provide credibility for what?

Your pointless statement that "I don't think I need to read a book about it!"?

While your games may or may not be fun (I may or may not check them out), don't try to claim you weren't self-promoting. The only kind of prostitution anyone should have a problem with is the kind that isn't honest about it.

Re:Nice, but not necessary. (2, Informative)

RootsLINUX (854452) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577631)

I have my own game project Hero of Allacrost [allacrost.org] and I also feel I'm also in no need of a text. Although I would lie if I said I haven't read one. When I was much younger (late teens) I bought a game programming book but it was just a bunch of quotes from game dev gurus, and made for very little of a learning experience. I also bought Programming Linux Games thinking there might be some cool tricks in there, but it covered little else of what I already knew and the SDL code given in there is hardly better than the SDL documentation/wiki already available.

I feel that the reason the majority of game projects out there fail is because you have your over-excited teenagers who just played Doom 3/Half-Life 2/World of Warcraft and somehow get the idea that it's easy to make a FPS that pushes the technology envelope, or that MMORPGs are simple games to create. I believe the secondary factors are: lack of motivation, poor leadership, and unrealisitic goals/expectations.

Re:Nice, but not necessary. (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577938)

You really need to provide a link past the flash intro for those of us who don't use flash. I got past with google, and I couldn't find anything on the system requirements or screenshots or anything that indicated that I might want to, or even could play this game. Not to flame, just trying to offer constructive criticism.

Re:Nice, but not necessary. (1)

NashCarey (765512) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578112)

Hatti, thanks! I think you are right about that. I need to do something which will give the same effect outside of flash, but it is just MUCH more difficult to get an alternative. I will have to force myself out of my creative slump for that. /me gets ready.

Re:Nice, but not necessary. (3, Informative)

Rinzai (694786) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578101)

Well, you really need to fix that scripting bug in your startup page. I just spent two minutes doing nothing but saying to the debugger than I didn't want to debug line 35 where menuitem1.thediv isn't an object in the what.php page. Also that "object required" in line 20 thing is kind of annoying. I think the ability to fully debug a website before targeting thousands of potential visitors to it might delineate the difference between a novice and a pro. But that's just me--your mileage may vary.

Re:Nice, but not necessary. (1)

DJCF (805487) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578277)

That looks seriously sweet. I don't have any experiance with ... umm.. ARGs, but is it US-only?

Daniel

Re:Nice, but not necessary. (1)

Kiryat Malachi (177258) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578347)

Game theory has a very, very specific meaning which only rarely has anything to do with game design. Please use "game design" to refer to what you do, so Borel, von Neumann, Morgenstern, and the other game theory types can stop rolling over in their graves and/or beds.

easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11577304)

Fun is when I win!

game design books (3, Insightful)

duckpoopy (585203) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577313)

aren't written for gamers. They are for gamne designers. Just because you like driving, that doesn't mean you can design a car, does it?

SWG? (5, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577327)

> Raph Koster's A Theory of Fun for Game Desi

--Bwaaaahaha*cough, splutter*, oh, God. No more. *wheeze* Make it stop. You're killin' me. Can't read another line.

Raph Koster, the man most directly associated with shitting out Star Wars Galaxies from between his Goatse-like buttcheeks, is lecturing us on what makes a fun game.

And for our next articles, an interview with the guy who invented the Edsel on his new book about his theory of automotive design, to be followed up by the guy who invented the :Cue:Cat about his theory of digital convergence, Jack Valenti's Theory of Digital Rights, George W. Bush's theory of fiscal conservatism, and a book on portfolio management theory co-authored by FDR and Charles Ponzi.

Sheesh.

Re:SWG? (1)

Bonker (243350) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577457)

Mod this guy up. He's not trolling. Most of the people who left Star Wars Galaxies before the last expansion did so because of Koster's decisions to try to preserve 'fun'.

This guy is associated with fun like Dick Cheyney is associated with gay and lesbian tolerance... only by indirect association and then as a bad example.

Re:SWG? (1)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577508)

> [Raph Koster] is associated with fun like Dick Cheyney is associated with gay and lesbian tolerance... only by indirect association and then as a bad example.

More to the point -- Raph Koster has a pretty good theory of fun. But SWG (from beta to present day) bears no resemblance to that theory in any way, shape, or form. It's sorta the MMORPG proof by example that the difference between theory and practice is always bigger in practice than in theory.

Where's the fun in SWG? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11577388)

Maybe Raph is a little overrated.

Who is this guy? (2, Informative)

hexi (716384) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577391)

Well the answer is here: http://mobygames.com/developer/sheet/view/develope rId=19434/

Re:Who is this guy? (2, Informative)

Verrou (609915) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577424)

perhaps you mean: http://mobygames.com/developer/sheet/view/develope rId=19434/

It takes patience... (2, Insightful)

AsmCoder8088 (745645) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577407)

No one, regardless of their enthusiam for games, can just sit down and start writing games after reading a single book. While this one may enlighten readers about general game design, it certainly will not provide them with all the knowledge they'll need to create the kind of games that Average Joe will want. To be a successful game programmer, to have to feel passionate about what you are doing. If you can read some books on C/C++, and then work your way up to becoming familiar with the Windows API set and then eventually on to DirectDraw or OpenGL, then perhaps you will be able to write a mediocre game. But it takes patience, and certainly a great deal of interest in the field itself.

Wow (0)

Laser Lou (230648) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577453)

The review is nearly as long as the book.

Yet another useless article on slashdot (0, Troll)

MattWu (855778) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577464)

Zzzzz..Totally useless. Come on guys, we can do better than this.

Ralph Koster? No thanks. (4, Informative)

psoriac (81188) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577491)

This is the man who many would argue ruined Ultima Online and then went on to helm the disaster that is Star Wars Galaxies. The same man who, on his personal website, proclaimed that when it comes to design, the player (customer) is wrong and should be ignored. Now he's releasing a book? I'll pass.

Re:Ralph Koster? No thanks. (4, Insightful)

Omestes (471991) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577964)

Yeah, I'll agree with your former points, that this man blows in practice as a designer. But as for the second point it may have some modicum (or more, I dare say) of validity.

For the most part the public doesn't actually know what is good for them. Most people want what their familiar with, and cannot think of that which is novel. If I create a novel interface, I should disreguard it because it's not what people want, without exposure? How many of the unwashed do you know of who have any knowledge of game or interface design, ergonomics? Not many. Good, then leave it up to the experts.

Ahem. Plato was right.

It's simple, really... (0)

Tancred (3904) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577493)

If a game's pop culture importance is graphed on the horizontal axis and the artfulness of its execution is plotted on the vertical axis, then the total area shows how fun the game is.

For instance, a Star Wars MMORPG may score average on the horizontal but poorly on the vertical due to lack of combat. A Family Guy game on the other hand, may score very high on the horizontal as well as high on the vertical due to a collector's edition version that comes with some of the same stuff the show's writers are on while writing, thereby revealing the game to be truly fun.

Re:It's simple, really... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577741)

If a game's pop culture importance is graphed on the horizontal axis and the artfulness of its execution is plotted on the vertical axis, then the total area shows how fun the game is.

Gosh that sounds really cool. It even makes sense, in a way. There's only one problem - how to determine "pop culture importance" and "artfulness of execution" in an objective manner?

Not everyone likes the same thing. So fun for you is not the same as fun for me - it's subjective. Therefore you will never be able to "measure" fun.

Oh - let's equate fun to the number of sales. Who says the game is fun because a lot of people buy it? How do you know they still play it, etc?

For me, fun is an open ended infinately replayable game - like chess, or like some of the OLD PC games that we used to have (thank god some are coming back). Other people like linear twitch games. Heck my definition of fun can even change depending on what mood I am in. I've played a few FPS games too, and had "fun".

You will never be able to measure THAT though.

For explanation of parent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11578156)

See the Dead Poet's Society [imdb.com] .

Re:It's simple, really... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11577826)

Koster's theory may in fact be completely stupid, as you are suggesting, but that does not mean we should not try to understand games. Where would we be if we continued to think, "art is thinking in images," and ignore Shklovsky or Wallace Martin?

The only problem would be to take Koster's book as Dei Verbum and ignore your own thoughts, which it seems to be the opposite as this book has spawned more discussion than just accepting what he says, as Zonk's review seems to imply we should.

Re:It's simple, really... (1)

Viking Coder (102287) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577966)

*spits soda*

Hilarious.

Raph Koster (1)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577516)

Back when Raph Koster was the lead of the UO live team he published an infamous list of rules for all MMORPG's. Koster is probably the smartest guy in the MMORPG world, so it's great that he finally wrote a book. My only gripe is that I feel like everyone has a book these days, and that you have to read their book first before you talk to them. Does anyone else feel this way?

Re:Raph Koster (3, Interesting)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577595)

Koster was also the first to realize the value of "elder games", i.e. the things that keep players into a game after they have already hit the max levels. These include things like collecting rare items (stamp collecting), player housing, guild warfare, becoming a counselor or seer (in UO a counselor is like a minor GM and a seer facilitated role playing, basically player GMs with some limited powers). Anyway I have heard claims from others that he ruined UO in the later years, but in the first couple years at least he was doing a great job. He also communicated very well with players and started the trend of fortnightly player chats with game devs in IRC which no other game to my knowledge has done before

Re:Raph Koster (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577698)

There were lots of game devs with all of these ideas long before koster. Koster's implementations of them weren't even very good.
Koster does not know good game design.

Re:Raph Koster (1)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577828)

Well others had the ideas before koster, but koster was the first that I know of to collect them all into a single list. Also, I disagree with you on kosters implementations. UO was the best MMORPG when it came out and nothing to my knowledge has surpassed it since for hardcore gamers. There were no non-PK zones, player housing, boats, and you could pick up and move every item without any slotted inventory type system. Now all of the MMORPGs that come out like WoW are dumbed down for the masses, and it is unlikely that any more games as 'real' and unforgiving as UO will be coming out any time soon.

Re:Raph Koster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11578445)

>Koster was also the first to realize the value of "elder games", i.e. the things that keep players into a game after they have already hit the max levels. These include things like collecting rare items (stamp collecting), player housing, guild warfare, becoming a counselor or seer [...snip...] I don't know who Koster is but I find it hard to attribute these game qualities to a single person (i.e., the first to realize). I recall the first "Super Mario Bros." having a LOT of secrets in the game. The same could be said of "Adventure Island". I was a total fan of Nintendo because many of the games for its platform had this qualities: secret levels, collecting, etc.

Re:Raph Koster (1)

hyphz (179185) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578654)

Yes.

And this is also the guy who argued that levelling treadmills are beneficial to MMORPGs because any other method of distributing player power would lead to 10% of the players having 90% of the power.

Thing is, a look at World of Warcraft proves that wrong. You don't have to get rid of the leveling. You just have to get rid of the treadmill.

Re:Raph Koster (2, Informative)

RaphKoster (603840) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578831)

Er, no, that's not what I said. I'm always amazed at how reductionist paraphrasing can make me look bad. ;) I said (in simplest form) that in a zero sum game dependent on skill, the better players end up with most of the wins (duh). I said that in a a non-zero-sum game, if extremely high skill is required to advance, then only the best will reach the top (duh). And I said that treadmills (defined as "game systems that reward perseverance rather than skill") allow players who aren't experts at something to reach the high end content. This latter one led me to conclude that treadmills aren't a bad thing in a multiplayer game, since they are effectively handicapping players who are not as expert. FWIW, in the book, I say "not requiring player skill in a game is a cardinal sin in game design." I'm not at all a fan of grinds or repetitive treadmills.

As a gamer (1)

Dj Stingray (178766) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577521)

I have come up with plenty of fun game ideas based on existing engines. What do I do with these ideas? Will they be impossible to sell?

Bueller?

Re:As a gamer (2, Insightful)

FriedTurkey (761642) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578359)

I have come up with plenty of fun game ideas based on existing engines. What do I do with these ideas? Will they be impossible to sell?

Ideas are cheap. Execution is expensive.

I can assure you 1000 people already has the same ideas you do. 999 of them won't do a single thing with the idea but think their ideas is unique and would really make a cool game. Sorry to poop on your parade.

Cheating == No Context (4, Insightful)

adam31 (817930) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577540)

"When a player cheats in a game, they are choosing a battlefield that is broader in context than the game itself."

This is totally false. The context of the game is the restrictions that make the game challenging. How hard you have to work to acquire a certain weapon, how careful you have to be to conserve ammo... how many enemies you have to kill to get to level 20.

Those challenges are really the only things separating 'playing a video game' from 'pressing buttons on a controller'. That's probably why whenever I've cheated in a game in the past, it's gotten really boring really fast. The value of the goal becomes diminished along with the challenge.

I don't think is necessarily limited to gaming, either. I think it's built into human nature.

Re:Cheating == No Context (2, Interesting)

Jace of Fuse! (72042) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577790)

One of the best things about medium to difficult games is the satisfaction of defeating them in the end.

In most "Eventuwin" games that are out now days, the average (read, Unskilled) gamer will beat them with sufficient devoted time.

Granted, there are different TYPES of player skills. Logical reasoning, navigation, resource management, memory, hand eye coordination, reflex speed, attention to detail, the ability to multitask, and any combination of the above all are different skills that might be important in different types of games.

On the most basic external levels, all games will have to have some kind of initial sensory appeal, either artistically or contextual.

But after that they must start challenging a person's skills. Some games aren't fun because while they may (or may not) be well presented they just don't play worth a shit.

Having played literally thousands of games in my life (starting with the Atari 2600, and now owning all of the current systems (and only missing a few obscure mid-90's systems), I have played everything from the insanely difficult to the boringly easy.

I can honestly say there is a great satisfaction in accomplishing something exceptionally difficult in a game knowing fwe other people would be able to.

Also, I want to say, while I admit cheat codes built into games can add a new layer of amusement after the game has been defeated, I think it's a horrible shame that some of the greatest games of today are so horribly tainted with built in cheat codes that are widespread before the game even hits store shelves. Very, very, sad.

Re:Cheating == No Context (1)

OverflowingBitBucket (464177) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578912)

One of the best things about medium to difficult games is the satisfaction of defeating them in the end.

In most "Eventuwin" games that are out now days, the average (read, Unskilled) gamer will beat them with sufficient devoted time.


Warning/Disclaimer: Shameless self-promotion but on-topic post ahead.

If you're frustrated by games that don't provide much of a challenge, you could try one of the games I've been working on this year. It's called Arena, and is part of E.V.E. Paradox, a game suite. I'd seriously recommend some sort of gamepad to play it. Check it out here [eveparadox.com] .

Basically it's a Robotron-inspired top-down retro-ish 3D shooter. The site has a free version with less levels which should serve as a sample. In theory you can then get the full version, although it's still in beta so you can't actually buy it yet. Having said that, I might be able to organise the beta of the full version for you if you like what you see- contact me if you try it out and like it.

I mention Arena because it gets difficult very fast. Beating some levels will take you dozens of tries and the sense of satisfaction on doing so is quite immense. Despite being the author of the game I still get my rear handed to me on a regular basis in the harder levels. Fighting against such ridiculous odds can be quite exciting. I keep coming back for more.

Re:Cheating == No Context (2, Interesting)

syukton (256348) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577878)

I guess it depends upon the fundamental outlook of the player.

The best example I can think of right off the top of my head is Trickjumping in any FPS that uses the quake3 engine. Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory is my preferred Q3-using game, so I'll use it for my example. Here's a little background so I don't lose anyone: W:ET is an axis-versus-allies team-based online multiplayer first-person shooter. It is largely objective-based and there are 5 character classes available: soldier (heavy weapons), field ops (hands out ammo / calls in airstrikes), medic (can give out health packs / revive fallen teammates), engineer (can build/destroy things), and covert ops (can take enemy uniforms and throw smoke grenades). The game also has one-way doors that only members of a specific team (or a covert ops in that team's uniform) can open.

There's this map entitled "Siwa Oasis" or just "oasis" for short. On this map, you need to repair the water pump at the oasis and/or run through the tunnels to the old city, capture the old city, and then by either blowing up the old city wall or repairing the old city water pump and draining the tunnel, make your way to the two anti-tank guns and destroy them.

Seems pretty straightforward, right? Well, it's actually possible to JUMP over the wall (without blowing it up and drawing attention to yourself), by exploiting what I guess you could call "nuances" in the physics engine. You see, it's possible to convert downward momentum into forward momentum by "bouncing" off of a curved or slanted surface, much the same way that a ray of light changes direction when hitting a mirror at an angle. Utilizing this method, it is possible to generate enough forward momentum from a position at about the same height as the wall, that you can propel yourself over the wall and be well on your way to blowing up the anti-tank guns before anybody knows what hit them.

It requires a great deal of timing and skill to pull off this jump. I have personally spent hours getting it just right. Is totally circumventing the old city wall cheating? I could have gone through one of those one-way doors I mentioned earlier if I had the assistance of a covert ops and an enemy uniform, and that is certainly within the realm of gameplay mechanics. So, the circumvention of the wall is something that seems to be acceptable (given the door options presented to me), so does the method of wall-circumvention matter? Is jumping over the wall actually cheating?

I totally agree with the statement made, "When a player cheats in a game, they are choosing a battlefield that is broader in context than the game itself." I like this statement because it speaks to my nature. I am the sort of person that likes to approach things from outside the box, and sometimes that means choosing a battlefield that is broader in context than the box itself.

Re:Cheating == No Context (1)

Viking Coder (102287) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578052)

"When a player cheats in a game, they are choosing a battlefield that is broader in context than the game itself."

This is totally false.


Uh, no - it's totally true.

When someone creates a hack for Quake 3 that allows them to perfectly see where every other player is - they've just entered the predator / prey relationship of security in gaming.

The problem is that you're forgetting that a "system" can be defined at multiple levels. Most chose to play the system of a game within the rules as the designers intended them. Some chose to play the system as it actually behaves, and chose to exploit the differences between design and implementation. Some chose to exploit security flaws in the system to enhance their experience beyond what is even possible within the implementation. Some chose to pay someone else to play the game for them, making the system the larger world of the economy of people willing to trade in-game items for real-world cash. Some chose to walk away from a specific game after ten minutes of play, and tell themselves they could have beaten it, if they had the time (playing the system of "all games are the same"). Some design and release a competing product (playing the system of profit from gamers).

All of these people potentially had fun - and they all have a different view of what the system is. Some have a huge sense of accomplishment, and all but the first group have left the context of the game as designed.

Idiot Testing (4, Interesting)

cirby (2599) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578475)

There's a bad habit among some game designers. They use friends and "nice" people to playtest their games.

You have to include idiots and assholes in your test sequence. You need to have That Guy - the rules lawyer, the "I didn't mean to do that" fellow, the "I don't understand this" twit. And you need to build your system to shut them out when it's done. For MMORPGs, you need the sort who will get a medium-powered character and hunt down the newbies. You need a complete lunatic for driving games ("why can't I drive across the river here?"). You need a tactical asshole, who will camp on a resurrection point in a shootemup.

(The idea of "idiot testing" was laid out quite nicely by Steve Jackson about 25 years ago, in "Game Design: Theory and Practice"). It was about board games, but the concept holds even more for online games.

What makes a game fun (5, Interesting)

Radres (776901) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577550)

I've done much thinking on the subject, and I contend that there are 4 main elements that lead to a game being fun:

#1) Storyline. This is the most basic element; a computer game can be looked at as a form of interactive movie. However, storyline is not essential since games have elements that movies cannot provide. An example of a game the excels at storyline without the other elements is Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. It basically immerses the player in the Star Wars universe without requiring too much in the way of critical thought or reflexes.

#2) Hand-eye coordination. At it's most basic level, a game requires the player to learn how to interact with the environment via some input device, whether it's a mouse, keyboard, joystick, or what have you. An example of a game that does this without the other elements is the original Space Invaders. Not much thought is needed to perform in that game, but learning how to press the fire button and move quickly is important.

#3) Tactics. Forcing the player to make a decision that has both benefits and weaknesses. Forcing players to make real-time decisions in a fantasy world leads to a sense of immersion. It's hard to think of a game that is purely tactical-based, but for an example of what I'm talking about, let's look at Contra. The game takes the basic shooter hand-eye coordination premise that a game like Space Invaders has, and adds the requirement that the user be smart enough to figure out what weapon to use for a given scenario. There are of course better examples, but this particular example gives you the basics of how tactics can be used to enhance a game.

#4) Strategy. Forcing the user to come up with an overall plan for how to do things. An example of a game that excels in this area is Civilization. Provoking critical thought from the user in order to solve a detailed problem (albeit a fictional one) involves the user on a higher level that can be appreciated. I find that the games with the most longevity tend to feature a lot of strategy.

The most successful of games will combine all 4 of these elements. My favorite game is Starcraft, and it is clear to see how all of these elements are used. The storyline is okay, the hand-eye coordination required is immense, the tactics involved are complex, and the strategy level is great. Other games can be broken down similarly. For example, Counter-Strike has no storyline, but there's hand-eye coordination required for aiming the weapon, tactics for deciding what equipment to use, and strategy for deciding how to approach the level with your team.

Think about it, and I bet you'll be hard-pressed to find another way to evaluate gameplay. I only wish there was a game review magazine that took these factors into account!

Re:What makes a game fun (2, Insightful)

ZorbaTHut (126196) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578105)

I think it's also very clear that these elements are neither necessary nor sufficient. There are plenty of fantastic games that don't include all of these, or even most of these, and plenty of horrible games that do.

Yes, these are all important to think about. But so are many other aspects, such as immersion (which is quite different from storyline), difficulty, a sense of accomplishment, replayability, etc etc etc.

Re:What makes a game fun (1)

Radres (776901) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578494)

3 of the examples I gave (Space Invaders, Knights of the Old Republic, and Civilization) are games that only excel in one category, but you'll note that I don't say that detracts from them in any way. All 3 of those games are fun and I enjoy them. A game can do any or all of these things and still be enjoyable. Combining the elements does lead to more depth and replayability. Of course a poor implementation will be bad, and there is no guarantee of fun just like a piece of music that follows all the rules of the theory of music will not necessarily be good.

I think the other categories you mention stem from my 4 ideas. Difficulty stems from requiring more from the user in terms of hand-eye coordination as well as tactical and strategic knowledge. Sense of accomplishment is directly related to overcoming difficulty. Immersion comes from the fact that you are using real-life problem-solving skills to solve problems in a virtual world. Replayability requires from requiring deep thought in tactical and strategic terms as well as many tactical and strategic options.

Re:What makes a game fun (1)

deinol (210478) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578735)

Player rewards are very important in a game. I imagine a popular game would be one that, when you accomplish a task, rewards the player with direct stimulation of the pleasure centers of the brain.

When we reach that level, we won't need to have complex story-lines or any of that, just moving a little disk into a funnel would be sufficient.

And I'd have taken over that starship if it weren't for those darn kids.

Re:What makes a game fun (0, Flamebait)

quoofstatus (856514) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578113)

I find your system useless. How can you rate a game based upon it when you can excel, very basically, in only one element, as Space Invaders does for "hand-eye coordination," and yet still be considered a good game? Your system may classify games, but it brings us no closer to understanding why certain games are fun and others are not.

It is also an extremely limited classification. Playing with legos fits none of those categories, unless you count "hand-eye coordination" or "strategy," but both of those are very contrived. Off of the top of my head I would say the joy comes from creation, which would, without much thought, place it with sculpture or drawing; but those are not really "games," are they? So legos are not a game but an art form! What a profound conclusion.

Such is your method, it is fairly arbitrary and lacks a solidity which may or may not have come after more thought.

Re:What makes a game fun (2, Insightful)

Radres (776901) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578525)

A game has to do at least one of these things well. I find that games that don't do any of these, such as Everquest, are the worst. Last time I checked, Legos are not considered a game! Perhaps Legos are a puzzle or a work of art. I'm not sure what you are trying to say in that paragraph, but it makes no sense as you contradict yourself. I was limiting myself to the field of video games so Legos are irrelevant anyway. I'm guessing you think that Photoshop is one of the best games ever!

Re:What makes a game fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11578301)

Using your 4 main elements, I guess anything less of video games (board games for example) aren't good games or does stacking chips or flipping cards count as hand-eye coordination? Story line, reading the instructions?

I'm just wondering, because I do agree those are what makes a good video game, but all game design, maybe not.

Re:What makes a game fun (1)

Radres (776901) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578747)

I meant to constrain my system to the field of video games.

In 10 words or less... (3, Interesting)

astebbin (836820) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577622)

Disregard the subject header, I'm letting my inner news columnist get the better of me.

Many people play violent video games so that they can have fun and do things outside their normal realm of controlled behavior. This is fun for us because it is new and diferent than what we are used to doing as we go about our daily lives as citizens. For example, many respectable, middle aged men play GTA3 and love it, yet those same nice guys would never run over innocent bystanders like that in real life. Granted, the men in question probably wouldn't ever get the chance to drive something like the Rhyno tank anyway, but still...

Besides, people are always easily entertained by novel and exciting games/inventions/concepts/OS's/pieces of hardware that are easily mistaken for a stick of gum (USB memory sticks and the iPod shuffle). Obvious excpetions include the Dreamcast, N-Gage, NeoGeo, and Virtual Boy.

Games and Violence (1)

Jack Taylor (829836) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577647)

The meat of the book is here, in discussions about why gamers cast aside the ethical quandaries brought up by games like Grand Theft Auto (they're playing the game mechanics, not the fiction surrounding the mechanics)
...
With parent groups growing ever more shrill at the release of morally ambiguous titles, Raph Koster's book is a refreshing read.


Good. The more that respected people emphasise this, the better. There has been a frenzy going on in the last few years in the American media (and other countries, to an extent) about violence incited by games, films, and gangsta rap. If we make an effort to find out what really happens when we play games, we have a much better argument to show them they are wrong.

So how's this different... (1)

Telastyn (206146) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577668)

From the overly serious cruft the reviewer describes in the intro? The review makes this book sound just like every other piece of junk about game design I've ever seen.

Nothing about game design, too many stories without morals, and far far too many gimmicks rather than providing actual information/instruction.

A tribute to Little Johnny (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11577771)

A tribute to Little Johnny

Little Johnny woke up early to get ready for school. Johnny was a nice boy, loved by his parents, respected by his friends, and likened by his teachers. Like all other good boys, he hated Microsoft(R) [microsoft.com] and all it's products including Microsoft Windows (TM) [microsoft.com] and Microsoft Office (TM) [microsoft.com] . He ran Gentoo [gentoo.org] on his home computer, and used StarOffice [staroffice.org] for all his homework.

Johnny walked off to the bus stop after kissing his mom goodbye, whistling a little tune to himself. His bus was late again, the third time this month. Johnny didn't like being late for school. It made him feel guilty. So he decided to walk to school, as it was no more than a 15 minute walk away. The bus would take longer anyway, after picking up all the other stupid little kids. Annoying little twitches...they wouldn't know the difference between Gentoo [gentoo.org] and Knoppix [knoppix.org] if it stared them in their pimply little faces.

Little Johnny made good time. Before long, he reached the Wal-mart [walmart.com] across which his elementary school was. It was just 8:36. It was still 24 minutes before school, and it would take just 45 more seconds to cross the road and enter the school grounds. He liked being early. It gave him time to catch up on the latest geeky news on Slashdot [slashdot.org] and get a First Post or two before classes began.

Johnny was halfway across the street when a Chevy Avalanche [chevrolet.com] zoomed up and squashed him on the pavement. Little Johnny was no more.

What is the moral, that we, as self respecting geeks, can learn from Little Johnny's short but noble life?

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Always look right and left before crossing the road.

Theory of Fun is a Theory of Learning (1)

mfeldstein (119843) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577988)

I recently blogged a short review [mfeldstein.com] of this book from the perspective of somebody in the online learning business. What's interesting to me is that Koster believes "fun" is an evolutionary adaptation to reward learning. Fun comes with mastery of skills, he suggests. So when you hear somebody say that a game is "better than sex," it's possible that there's more to it than a game geek whose memory of sex is somewhat...hazy.

Also interesting is Koster's comparison of what games can teach versus what stories can teach. He believes that games teach abstract pattern recognition. You beat the game by grokking the pattern. The fact that the obstacles you have to eliminate happen to be human beings...well, games aren't so good at getting you to empathize. Stories do that much better (he claims).

For a contrasting view, you might want to check out "Is Instructional Video Game an Oxymoron?" [nytimes.com] in this week's New York Times (registration required).

Re:Theory of Fun is a Theory of Learning (1)

mfeldstein (119843) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578132)

Oops! Sorry, the NY Times article wasn't the one I was thinking of. The contrasting view I meant to post was "Educational Games Don't Have To Stink!" [gamasutra.com] , (also requiring registration), which argues that games don't teach; they just "illustrate."

Personally, I think Koster is closer to the mark. Games teach something, but they may not be very good at teaching the sorts of things that are often crammed into eduware.

Puzzles? (0, Troll)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 9 years ago | (#11577991)

"Games are puzzles to solve, just like everything else we encounter in life."

*Ask wife for sex
The wife glares at you, and refuses sex.
*take out garbage
*ask wife for sex
The wife glares at you, and refuses sex.
*wash car
*take out garbage
*ask wife for sex
The wife glares at you, and refuses sex.
*buy flowers
*give flowers to wife
*take out garbage
*wash car
*give money to wife
*ask wife for sex
The wife glares at you, and refuses sex.

*kill wife with sword; have sex with corpse...


Puzzles eh? I feel sorry for that guy...

Re:Puzzles? (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578658)

You missed the alternative steps:
*Offer money to wife in return for sex.
The wife agrees
*Give money to wife
*Fuck wife
*Take money back from wife

contradiction (3, Funny)

glMatrixMode (631669) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578091)

A Theory of Fun

you can't use these words together

Art != Craft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11578118)

Art, to me, is just taking craft seriously.
There is art, and there is enterntainment. One who does not see difference is neither capable of making art, nor capable of appreciating art made by others.

Re:Art != Craft (1)

Shelrem (34273) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578497)

Speaking of oversimplifications and things he's wrong about:

"...why gamers cast aside the ethical quandaries brought up by games like Grand Theft Auto (they're playing the game mechanics, not the fiction surrounding the mechanics)."

I mean, this is somewhat true. There's definitely a distinction between the two, but to think that they're entirely seperable, and that the narrative elements don't matter at all is purely ridiculous. If what he says is true, then the only important differences between GTA3, GTA:VC, and GTA:SA would be the feature changes. While those may be big differences, it's ridiculous to claim that the Godfather 2 setting of GTA:VC has no bearing on play experience, or that people aren't interacting with the subject matter on some level. I think playing GTA:VC doesn't make people horribly violent for the same reason that watching the Godfather 2 doesn't make people horribly violent -- because there's no reason it should. Representations of violence and simulations of violence are not themselves violence.

If you want to argue Media Effects, that's fine, but not the point i'm trying to make. The point i'm trying to make is that the fact that playing violent games does not mean the players are violent people does not necessarilly lead us to the conclusion that we ignore the "story" elements of violence in games.

Would GTA sell as well if the story was nonsense?

b.c

Re:Art != Craft (1)

RaphKoster (603840) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578568)

In the book I in fact say that they are INseparable. :)

From the author... (1)

RaphKoster (603840) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578230)

Thanks for the review, Zonk!

I wanted to point out that the book has a website, with a blog with extended commentary and the PDF presentation that originally led to the book. It can be found at http://www.theoryoffun.com.

As regards some of the critiques about myself or my work posted... I've said before that I wrote this book as an effort to get back to basics.

FWIW, though, a lot of people have incorrect impressions about what I did on what titles, and when I was on them and when not. :) I'm far from being perfect, but some of the comments credit me with stuff I didn't do, blame me for stuff I didn't do, don't credit me for stuff I did do, and don't blame me for some things that probably should be considered my fault. That's life, I suppose, but if anyone has questions on those fronts, I'd be happy to clarify them here.

Re:From the author... (1)

losman (840619) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578369)

I've been a UO person for 6+ years. What would you say are some of the things you are proud of from your UO days? What about some of the stuff you wish you could take back/do over?

I only ask since you mention a lot mis-quoting and I always like to hear it directly from the source.

Re:From the author... (1)

RaphKoster (603840) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578471)

I'm proud of making the following things be key parts of the MMO experience, or things that IMHO point the way for future development of MMOs. Yes, many of them existed in muds, but even in muds a lot of them were not common. - crafting - player cities - pets (more Tamagotchi-style than just summonies charmies) - player housing - enough freedom of expression to support things like player-written books, in-game theater troupes, and so on - TRYING to solve the problems inherent in allowing player freedom - bringing together many playstyles in one game - some of what we did in terms of events - no level - no classes Stuff I'd do over if I could: - #1 with a bullet, player freedoms causing playerkilling and it getting totally out of control, and being blind/stubborn to what players were saying about it. There's a thing on my website about that, if you care to read it, "a UO postmortem of sorts" - complete lack of emphasis on traditional questing-style content - not following through on things (necromancy, townstones) FWIW, I was creative lead for the original UO release, and was on Live for two more years after that. I left before the Trammel/Felucca split.

Are games limited to this? (1)

Shelrem (34273) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578307)

As someone who spends a great deal of his time in the scholarly study of videogames, i take an admittedly high-falootin' stance on all this.

I have the same first impression of this book that i would of a book called "A Theory of Prettiness for Painting." Which is not to say that i think fun isn't important or desirable in games (i love Tetris, for instance), but i think the medium has potential for greater things, too. It doesn't help that i see this man's work as being very incremental. The same problems that he was working on in UO and SWG have been dealt with for years in MUDs.

On the other hand, i think that this seems like a fairly accurate description of what actually goes on, and what he's working on. When Raph Koster describes the book as something he could give to non-industry types to describe what he does, i think that he probably hit the nail on the head. I just wish that people would see this more as the way it is, not the way it should be.

I also see posting this on slashdot as similar to posting a review about "A Theory of Prettiness for Painting" on a message board for paint makers, but i know there are a lot of open minded, smart people on here, so hopefully we'll get some interesting discourse out of it.

b.c

WWIIOL Model (1)

Mittermeyer (195358) | more than 9 years ago | (#11578761)

I would say WWIIOL has a completely different model-

* Play up to get rank (and maintain account so you keep access to all your toys),

* Work within a large uberteam (Axis or Allies), each of which may have it's own tribes or clans (squads in WWIIOLspeak),

* Beat the snot out of the other uberteam,

* Players provide content as the 'puzzles' constantly change due to new equipment or new towns being included into the map, and different attack approaches mean even the same old towns are attacked in new ways from differing directions,

* And if the game gets boring, you can switch to air, ground or sea equipment of another nation and work your way up there.
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