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Blogged Out: Stats, Style, and Dancin'

Welcome to 'Blogged Out', the news report that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week we look at ...
Welcome to 'Blogged Out', the news report that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week we look at game skills and real skills, stylistic endeavours and dance. (Dance!) Kid Cuisine Technology and science blogging site Corante has run an amusing (doubly so for gaming parents) piece by Rochester Institute of Technology’s Andrew Phelps, who compares RPG play to the tasks of parenthood. Phelps explains: “Now I’m not going to stand here and say that everyone who plays RPG’s should have eight children. But the connection is obvious - the planning, item management, and exploratory focus are totally congruent with the core of RPG design. At a superficial day-to-day level the process of managing life with a young child can be viewed as a game, a steady process of learning the ins and outs of the event/response pattern of the world around you.” And yes, parents of young children really do seem to lug about a knapsack full of otherwise useless objects, don’t they? Assistant Professor Phelps might have a point in all this, but personally I tend to expect gamers to start to interpret any task in terms the descriptive medium of the games they have become over-familiar with. So when I found myself comparing shopping trips to logistics exercises in Eve Online I’m afraid I failed to uncover a spanning theory between the dual endeavours, and instead felt sorry for my tired old brain, which was evidently searching forlornly for patterns to connect the two. Sorry, brain. Still, excessive MMO playing has had one benefit: teaching me to balance my profligate gastronomic gluttony with hours spent in the digi-world. Efficient, healthy cooking now comes as standard – all thanks to a desire for both dungeon-crawling and a plate of fine cuisine. Casual Style William Wilding’s blog ‘Casual Game Design’ has just delivered a piece on stylistic choices in games, where Wilding argues for consistency and coherence of style throughout a game: “Once you know that your game has a style anyway, you might as well consciously decide what that style is going to be. One reason is that you can then apply that style consistently throughout your game. Techno music in a game that has a fantasy theme visually is probably not going to work. Of course, that’s such a blatant mismatch that anyone would catch it, but more subtle discrepancies might pass you by if you are not aware of the style of your game. Players might notice, though, even if only subconsciously.” Cleary the concept of stylistic coherence is one of the issues that plagues all games, casual or otherwise. And yet somehow the bizarre speed metal soundtrack to strategic fantasy beat ‘em up hybrid Kingdom Under Fire (complete with downbeat post-rock idling music) seems entirely congruous. Perhaps coherence isn’t the right concept at all – perhaps styles simply need to be complimentary… Dance Off(line) Finally this week Damion Schbert says “suck my danced-based MMO”, as he points to Audition, an MMO which isn’t doing the swords and sorcery thing. Interesting as it is, Schubert has worries: “If you’re trying to convert your favorite genre to an MMO, be it hardcore shooter, turn-based strategy or football simulation, you have to change core precepts of the game design to support (a) persistence, (b) the quirky Internet and (c) the word 'massively', in some form or another. There’s always a real danger that you change it so far from the inspiring source material that fans of the original genre feels the game is a watered-down compromise. I only mention this, of course, because the linked preview about the dance-based rhythm game talks a lot about hitting the space bar.” And there was me thinking it was an Audition MMO. [Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his game journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times.]

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