What motion control game development can teach us about Virtual Reality

Hi my name is Lau Korsgaard. I am a game designer involved with the Copenhagen Game Collective. Through the last five years I have been part of teams and projects that explored a wide range of the new interfaces for games, such as Wii Remotes, Balance Board, Dance Pad, Move Controllers, Kinect, Buzz buttons and heck, even our own custom hardware. This August I participated in IndieCade and Oculus Rift’s VRjam together with Sebbe Selvig and Simon Nielsen making the game Virtual Internet Hacker VR that took the first price and a 10,000 $ check among the invited developers. I would argue that lesson learned from years of development for motion controls can help us a lot in understanding development for virtual reality. I wouldn’t say that this perspective is the only way to make good virtual reality games, but I hope it will help nuance game developers understanding of what virtual reality can and cannot do.

Bring VR to Reality

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Grapefrukt and Petri present: Platformer Physics!

This video is so much fun that it deserved its own post.

At Nordic Game Indie Night, our friends Martin Jonasson and Petri Purho used upcoming indie game Cobalt by Oxeye Game Studio as an excuse to launch into a detailed lecture on physics in platformer games. Lau and I make a guest appearance. Enjoy!

On GIRP, Birds, and Abusive Game Design

Here at the office, we’ve been obsessed with GIRP, a brilliant new online game by Bennett Foddy.

And fuck! After 34 minutes of careful keyboard calisthenics, I was finally grabbing for my prize – the very last ledge – only to have the fucking bird beat me to it. Thing is, I think I might be as amused as I am frustrated.

My colleague Lau, by contrast, is quite the GIRP prodigy, and can beat the game in ~20 minutes. Geez, I have my work cut out for me.

Despite my epic defeat, GIRP has quickly become one of my all-time favorite web games. And until something better comes along, it’s my pick for Game of 2011. I love how the visceral physics of the death-defying climb are closely paralleled by my own struggle to keep my sweaty fingers on the keyboard. As Foddy himself observes, “You have to grip the keyboard just like you would cling to the cliff.”

Many of us have experienced the so-called Tetris effect, where thoughts of the game start pervading our thoughts and dreams, as if our brain was still running the game. Well, no joke, I’ve started to experience the “GIRP effect” – when I close my eyes, I start thinking about and feeling the physics of swinging from ledge to ledge. My brain just can’t put the game down.

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Erotic Game Tip: Players Who Suit Chat Roulette

Do you play chat roulette? I think it’s a great erotic game. Before you judge me as a pervert (too late?) let me elaborate a bit on that statement.

One of the pinnacles of good game design is a game that can be played in many ways where the players co-design and shape their own experiences. Especially in multi-user environments on the internet, different player types playing different “games” in the same environment can create an ecology of players reinforcing and supplementing each other’s experiences. A typical example would be MMORPGs, where some players enjoy playing the crafting game, others the high end PvP game, and still others enjoy just playing the auction house, brokering goods. Richard Bartle first aired these ideas in 1996 in the now-classic article “Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players who suit MUDs.” He described the players of MUDs as roughly four different kinds of players: Killers, Achievers, Explorers and Socializers. More importantly, he analyzed the interactions between these types of players in online environments.

Bartle has been used and misused for a lot of stuff, and I am in particularly skeptical about using this theory prescriptively, which easily could lead to a self-reinforcing loop of only designing games that cater to specific experiences that players already expect. Nevertheless, it is always fun to apply this taxonomy, as well as any other theory of personality types, to any social ecosystem in order to model some of the social dynamics happening.

So what games can be played in Chat Roulette?

Some of the content below may be NSFW. We’re talking about ChatRoulette, after all..

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The craziest soccer match ever played

It’s been a quiet week for Copenhagen Game Collective. The whole gang has been away at Roskilde Festival – everyone but me and Bernie, that is.

To fill the time, we’ve been watching the World Cup. Yes, this year’s tournament has been full of drama. But even this World Cup can’t compare to this insane story, about a 1994 match between Barbados and Grenada. Some footage here:

There’s a lesson here for game designers: a game system might sound good on paper, but remember to carefully think through what kind of nutty game theoretical incentives might emerge from it.

The World Cup, of course, learned this the hard way from the infamous 1982 West Germany v Austria match, in which the two teams colluded to let Germany win. After this incident, the tournament was changed so that the final pair of matches within each group are now played simultaneously.

More recently, at Euro 2004, Denmark and Sweden were accused of intentionally tying in order to ensure that both Scandinavian teams would advance, at the expense of Italy. This scenario is sometimes used to justify why FIFA, unlike UEFA, prioritizes “goal difference” over “head-to-head play” in its tie break criteria. But as the Wikipedia page on match fixing cogently argues, there’s no one perfectly satisfactory solution to these issues. These are problems that no technology, e.g. instant replay, can “solve.”

My adviser, TL Taylor, gave an excellent paper at DiGRA 2009 on this same topic, as it relates to e-sports. She argues that even through the computer game “handles” the rules through code, there will always be objections to and negotiations around the way the participants play. “Technology” is not a panacea.

An interesting example from this year’s World Cup is Uruguay’s Luis Suarez and his intentional handball against Ghana. Ghana went on to miss the penalty kick, and ended up losing the game. Call Suarez a cheater if you want, but his infraction was completely rational. He quite literally won the game for his team. Still, the handball feels especially cheap because it robbed Africa of its first-ever berth into the World Cup semifinals.

I’ve heard one good suggestion for a rule change: some commentators argue that this kind of clearly intentional handball should result in an automatic goal, rather than a PK. There is certainly precedent behind this suggestion, e.g. goal-tending in professional basketball leads to an automatic basket. But how does one define “clearly intentional”? The suggestion is a good one, but it certainly doesn’t “fix” the problem entirely.

Again: there is no such thing as a perfect rule-set or system. The job of a game designer is tough!

Update: Check out this New York Times article about Suarez’ handball. Apparently, Suarez is now boasting that he has the “Hand of God,” not Maradona. The nerve!

Kital, Natnect, Kinect

Let me tell you about Kinect. I just spend a week in Los Angeles during E3 and had a blast hanging out with new and old friends. We were invited by IndieCade and showcased B.U.T.T.O.N at their curated exhibition in the West Hall. I didn’t spend much time at E3 away from the IndieCade booth, but did take some time to play a few Kinect games with Ivona from IndieCade.

Two poor guys playing the Wack 'a' Mole minigame in Game Party

My first impression of the system was that it was terrible. I played WB’s Game Party: In Motion and it was creatively, technologically, and bodily insulting to me and mankind. How can such a piece of software become a launch title? It felt like a terrible Eye-Toy game from 10 years ago. In one of the minigames, we were jumping from side to side between counters, serving root beer to customers in a shameless rip-off of Tapper. Very tellingly, the game showed three pictures of us after playing the game, not having fun at all. None of the minigames that WB showcased succeeded in demanding anything else from the player but frantically waving arms and legs in a 2D plane in front of the screen.

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Erotic Game Tip: Super Strip Fighter IV

This week’s erotic game tip is a bit different than the last erotic game tip, as it is less sexy and more just plain fun in an “erotic” setting.  Super Strip Fighter IV, created by Dōjin, is a hentai fighting game parody of the popular Street Fighter series, with one obvious change: the adult part of the game. Each character has their own fighting style and moves. Rana, for instance, is covered in oil and can rub herself against the opponents and slip them out between her legs.

Getting over the initial juvenile laughs on the occasional nipple slip or the special combo moves like the boobcopter (has to be the roflcopter’s successor), the game actually has an extra interesting element from a game design perspective that gives it added value compared to the normal Street Fighter.

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Train Mafia, CPH Edition, Take #2

In honor of Markus and Jaakko being in town, we decided to run Train Mafia on the CPH Metro for a second time.

Witch hunt!

This time around, the citizens won. But it went right down to the wire – to the final three. Exciting!

The second game (on the “loser train”) was affected by unexpected Metro delays. But we made the most of it, and had a good time anyway.

More photos and analysis after the jump.

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Weekly Music Tip, May 2 2010: Noby Noby Boy OST!

The Noby Noby Boy OST was finally released to iTunes this past week!

Noby Noby Boy was my very favorite “game”  of 2009 – in no small part because of the music. On the surface of things, the game is very lighthearted and chaotic. Indeed, inflicting chaos on tiny digital worlds is the entire point. Silly-looking characters run for cover as you crash into homes buildings and eat anything and everything in sight, while animals dressed in spacesuits hop on your avatar’s back for a joyride.

Yet despite the madcap surrealism of it all, the soundtrack is very relaxed. I particularly love the wistful acoustic numbers, like the “Folk Guitar” and “Acoustic Guitar” instrumentals, or the acoustic cover of “Lonely Rolling Star.” My very favorite Noby Noby Boy moments, though, happen when J.S. Bach’s famous “Cello Suite No. 1” kicks in. It’s just so absurd to hear Bach’s exquisite harmonies play as a crudely modeled giant robot falls from the sky, or as your friend swallows your avatar for the umpteenth time. But it’s precisely this gleeful absurdity that’s so striking.

For me, it’s this stark contrast between gameplay and music that frames the whole experience of the game. The tranquil vibe of the background music hints that there’s something deeper going on here, that there’s something important in surrendering oneself to the fanciful and absurd, to the joy of unstructured childlike play. It never fails to put a smile on my face.

Tobias Wrigstad at ITU

A few weeks ago, Tobias Wrigstad spoke at ITU and delivered a fascinating (and provocative!) lecture on intentionally uncomfortable role-playing games. The lecture was titled: “This will sting a little: Why worthwhile and meaningful does not imply fun”

It’s most certainly worth viewing! Here’s the recording, brought to you by the good people at ITU’s Interaction and Learning Unit:

Game Lecture Series – Tobias Wrigstad from itucph on Vimeo.

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