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Games 2.0: Bringing games to non gamers December 12, 2007

Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, game mechanics, games, games 2.0, gaming, mmorpg.

After reading Raph’s presentation at GDC Prime, I’ve been thinking more about Games 2.0, and in particular how to bring games to people who wouldn’t typically identify themselves as gamers. As I’ve noted before, I think asynchronous multiplayer games may be one way to address this much larger market.

I’ve since stumbled across a couple of relevant posts that address the issue. A couple of years ago at Lost Garden, Dan asked a friend who loved board games why she doesn’t play video games. She gave two reasons:

1. Mastering the learning curve: Most video games require learning complex reaction-based skills in order to player competitively. The required investment in these skills creates a large entry barrier.
2. Lack of social elements: Board games are social and therefore time well spent. Many video games have very limited social interaction and are therefore worthless

Also a couple of years ago, over at Gamasutra, Rich Carlson notes:

Which would you rather play, a computer game that takes forty hours to complete or one that lasts just a few minutes? Don’t be too quick to answer. The former asks for a serious time commitment. The latter says come and go as you please. One is a ball and chain. The other is a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. Well, it’s not exactly that bad but considering all of the things you have to do today, which type of game do you really have time for?

Also, isn’t it peculiar that when you complete a complex or lengthy game you rarely want to replay it, yet short games are often endlessly replayable? After you finish a long RPG or story game, the box goes back on the shelf to gather dust and remain unremembered until the next garage sale. A short game, if it’s good, usually doesn’t suffer that fate. It stays on your hard drive for years.

Both of these posts speak to the opportunity for aysnchronous multiplayer games:

1) Short interactions
2) Played with friends (social aspect)
3) With short learning curves

As I’ve mentioned before, Scrabulous and Attack! are great examples of this, although both solve the learning curve problem by relying on well known board games as their basis. Warbook and Triumph are attacking the problem with new games but with less of a “played with friends” angle (most “turns” are against strangers).

Where do readers see the most innovation is this area?

Games 2.0: Raph Koster at GDC Prime December 11, 2007

Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, game mechanics, games, games 2.0, gaming, web 2.0.
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Last week Raph Koster was a last minute substitute speaker at GDC Prime. You can get a copy of his (long) presentation here.

Some choice quotes from his presentation – slide 93 (The game has changed):

The hot platform is the net
The hot audience is the non-gamer
The hot feature is other players
The hot technology is connectivity
The hot game is a mini-game

and slide 49 (Successful mass market interactive entertainment):

* Asynchronicity
* Indifference to rendering
* Minimal controls
* Platform agnostic

Model first – The system is the game
Universal inputs – Any button will do
Long phases – Take your time
Short decisions – Be done fast
Massively parallel – Side by side
Extended accumulated state – Save your profile
No roles – Classless
Representation agnostic – Draw it however
Open data – Change it however

For those of you interested in games 2.0, it is well worth reading the whole thing.

Fantasy sports as asynchronous casual MMO for men November 30, 2007

Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, casual games, games, games 2.0, mmorpg.

I posted recently about my interest in asynchronous gaming. Andrew Chen posted in the comments that fantasy sports leagues were probably the best and most popular example of these – a very good point. That reminded me of a post that Charles Hudson put up recently, saying that Fantasy Football is casual games for men. He breaks down the reasons for Fantasy Football’s success as follows (summarized):

Simple game mechanics – If you understand how the NFL works, you can play fantasy football.
There is a good combination of luck, skill, and strategy. Skill comes in working the waiver wire, doing your homework before the draft, and staying on top of who’s emerging during the course of the season… However, there’s a lot of luck involved – you can’t control who gets injured and how long they’re out.
The time commitment is manageable (unlike other fantasy sports) – You can basically manage a fantasy football team in a few hours a week… The beauty of fantasy football is that almost all of the action takes place in about 24 hours per week.
Fantasy football is a social experience – Go to any sports bar on Sunday and make an offhand comment about one of the players on your team. Guaranteed you’ll get at least a few other folks at the bar who have a rooting interest in one player or team. Because the rules for fantasy football are fairly universal, two players in separate leagues can often have a good conversation around fantasy football in general.

I most often hear casual games described as games with relatively simple gameplay, manageable time commitments, and a good combination of luck, skill, and strategy. Fantasy football has all of these elements, even if they’re not obvious.

Worth reading the whole thing.

Games 2.0: Asynchronous gaming November 29, 2007

Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, business models, casual games, facebook, game mechanics, games, games 2.0, gaming, user generated content, viral, viral marketing, web 2.0, widgets.

I am not a hard core gamer by background; more of a casual gamer. But casual gaming is now widespread; we’re all gamers now. My interest in the area has grown out of my interest in social networks and social media. I’ve long noted the increasing application of simple game mechanics to social web sites and how this can meaningfully increase the levels and types of interactions that users have with each other and the site.

As an investor in Flixster and Rockyou, both highly viral Facebook and Myspace “app” and “widget” makers, I’ve been tracking closely the spread of emergent user behaviors in these social networks. One Facebook app that really caught my attention is Scrabulous, an online scrabble game that can be played asynchronously, ie players don’t all have to be online at the same time.

Online multiplayer games have long been popular at all the big casual games portals. Multiplayer gaming can be viewed as user generated content for games, one of the drivers of Games 2.0. These games typically have a “lobby” where players can meet and match up before entering into a game against each other in real time.

Making the gameplay asynchronous fits better with the “continuous partial attention” world that we increasingly live in. The reason I never became a hard core gamer is that the serial monogamy requirements (one game at a time, total dedication, long periods of gameplay coordinated with others) doesn’t mesh well with my lifestyle. Scrabulous is a better match for the “play a little bit when you have some time, at various points throughout the day” life that many of us lead. Single player casual gaming (whether Bejeweled online or Brickbreaker on the Blackberry) has been filling that need for many players. These are fun, and at least have the “high score” dynamic, but they lack the social aspect that turn based asynchronous games offer.

Asynchronous games also make it easier to play against friends. You don’t have to coordinate to be online at the same time. Playing friends makes games more fun, and gives them a social aspect (the games have context if you have an ongoing relationship with an opponent). Playing with friends also offers an opportunity for true viral growth for the game, as players invite their friends to play.

Although these turn based multi-player games (especially those derived from boardgames) have some social dynamic, they lack the breadth of social interaction of synchronous MMOGs (not just the direct social interaction, but also the perfomative aspects of gameplay) that help make them such compelling experiences. Part of the appeal of MMOGs (whether World of Warcraft or Puzzle Pirates) is knowing that you’re “in game” with thousands of other people at the same time, each of them interacting with the same universe that you are.

So what would an asynchronous massively multi-player game look like? It can’t be turn based because most players would spend most of their time waiting for someone else to move. That’s not fun. It would have to be time based instead. Players would need to make their moves against a real world clock. Games like Duels.com (swords and sandals PvP fighting game), Manager Zone (soccer manager game) and Kings of Chaos (real time strategy game) all employ this dynamic. Massively multi-player games offer even more opportunity for viral growth because a players invitation ability is unbounded by the number of seats at a board game.

This led to me think about games using the framework below:

narrow games framework

I think that we’ll see a lot more innovation in the two sections of asynchronous multiplayer and massively multiplayer games over the next few years. I’m actively interested in investing in these areas. What are the most interesting such games that you see?