Column: 'Blogged Out: Thinking... Allowed!'

This week's edition of 'Blogged Out', the regular news report compiled by Jim Rossignol that looks at the world of developer blogging, sees game creators talking non-games, latency issues, and awesome film to game possibilities, among others.
Welcome to 'Blogged Out', the regular news column that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week, Tom Betts, Jason Booth and Big G talk about when games are non-games, latency issues, and awesome film to game possibilities. Thinking Allowed New blog on the roll ThinkingGames is slowly being furnished with the brains of indie games designer Tom Betts. This week, he's been mulling over the ground at the far edges of game design, where game projects appear to blur into non-game projects. "Creating new rulesets can be far more difficult than refining old ones. The designer has to give 'purpose' to the player's interactions and somehow mould this purpose into the 'meaningful choices' that constitute a game. This can be an arduous task, particularly if the designer is attempting to explore the more murky territories of what games can be. Aspects of the old 'ludology vs narrative' argument can guide the process by identifying what a designer feels is important to the experience. However the more unique and explorative the ambition is the more blurred the line between game and non-game becomes." Betts concludes that the games that truly travel some distance in terms of aesthetics often do so at the expense of gameplay - Shadow of The Colossus, Killer 7 and Rez are his examples. He goes on to say: "Radical innovation in representation is also rarely matched by radical innovation in gameplay. Perhaps it is asking too much to re-invent both these aspects at once and of course much depends on the intentions of the developer." These are troublesome questions: What does it means to design a visual system? And what it means to design a game? Are these things even related in modern game design? Does the 'games' moniker simply provide an excuse for some projects that are not really games at all. Abstraction is surely not the issue - since Chess and Go are highly abstract - the issue is what creative intention is built into the system a designer produces. Is it to articulate a puzzle? Or something else? We'll hear more from Tom Betts in a forthcoming column. Ping Pong Are you reading Jason Booth's blog? You're not the only one, thanks to his post on Street Fighter 2 and lag getting Slashdotted. In it he makes some keen observations about the difficulty of fighting-via-IP, as well as recounting his duel with a Japanese man. "About a year later I was in an arcade in Japan, and noticed a man playing SF2 Turbo. Watching him for a moment, I noticed he actually knew how to play, so I jumped in for some matched. We had some great games, with me choosing some particularly uphill battles and coming through at the end. I don't speak any Japanese, and he didn't really speak English, but I was inside this guys head the same as anyone else. By the end of those matches, we knew each other's minds better than many old friends do. He finally got up to leave, turned around and mustered up his only words in English to me: "You are...... very strong..." For further examples of Booth's awesome strength, check out his latest post, which is a further poke in the eye for latency problems in game design: "All of these techniques have limitations, and a mix of techniques combined with a willingness to adapt the design to what works for the internet environment is the clearest path to success. There is no silver bullet for latency, but with a bit of smart design and engineering it is entirely possible to have extremely timing sensitive game play in high latency environments like those found in MMPs. As you work with techniques like these, you'll constantly find small ramifications that need to be accounted for in your design, or discover things you can do that you wouldn't have expected." Important Issues Of Our Time And finally, while 90% of the game development blogging this week has continued to mull over the demise and then partial rebirth of E3, industry commentator Big G has continued to tackle the real issues of our time, like making lists of films that need to be made into games, with immediate effect: "8) For Your Height Only - For those of you who are unfamiliar with this film, it's a James Bond parody starring a creepy looking 2' 9" tall Filipino midget named Weng Weng. I'm pretty sure they made up the dialog as they went along dubbing over its original Tagalog because the dialog doesn't make any sense. Despite that, this movie just begs for a video game. It has everything: guns, assassins, remote control hats, jet packs, and a midget." [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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