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Games, Genres, and Why Independent Games are Vital

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Title: Games, Genres, and Why Independent Games are Vital


1
Games, Genres, and Why Independent Games are Vital
  • Greg Costikyan
  • Texas Independent Games Conference
  • 7/22/06

2
What is a Genre?
  • ...2. A category of artistic composition
    characterized by a particular style, form, or
    content (a fine introduction to twelve-tone music
    for those who have had little experience with the
    - Arthur Berger)
  • --Websters Third Intl Dictionary

3
The Nature of Genre Varies with Artform
  • Novels Thematically (science fiction, romance,
    mystery, Western)
  • Music By nature of sound (choral, emo, drum
    bass, Gangsta, the Blues)
  • Film By the nature of the emotion evoked (drama,
    comedy, romantic comedy, horror)

4
How Do We Think of Game Genres Today?
Reflexives Genre List
5
How Do We Think of Game Genres Today?
How Gametap Does it
6
How Do We Think of Game Genres Today?
...and Strategy First
7
This is Braindead
  • Style, Form or Content.
  • Do these people actually play games?
  • This isnt how we actually talk about games.
  • We use terms like FPS, RTS, MMO, graphic
    adventure...

8
Games Have been Implemented for Many Media
From the Neolithic. Tewa Kiva Altar at Hano
Showing Gaming Reeds Tewa Indians,
Arizona Games of the North American
Indians, Stewart Culin, Smithsonian
Institution, 1907
9
To Modern Digital Media
Will Wrights Spore
10
So The Medium Doesnt Define Genre
  • Handheld isnt a genre.
  • Neither is casual downloadable
  • What is a game genre? Or does the term have any
    meaning for games?

11
Parlett Divides All Classic Games By Shared
Mechanics
  • Race games (tracks, victory by being first to
    the end)
  • Games of Leaping Capture (take opposing pieces by
    jumpingCheckers)
  • Games of Territorial Occupation (control the
    board by piece placementGo)

12
The Terms We Use Also Characterize Games by
Shared Mechanics
  • RTS resource extraction, building construction,
    real-time combat
  • FPS first-person view, 1 character/player,
    power-ups, combat with ranged weapons
  • Adventure game inventory, puzzles, unlockable
    areas, story exposed via play

13
For Games, Genre Is Characterized
  • By shared mechanics.
  • As Parlett shows, this has been true since the
    earliest folk games...
  • And as the way we instinctively talk and think
    about games today, it remains true.

14
Heres Our List
15
Game Genres
  • Think of the potential space of all possible
    games.
  • Most of that space is occupied by games that
    would not be interesting.
  • There are local maxima of games that are (or
    would be) interesting.
  • Established game genres exist where weve
    discovered local maxima.

16
Understood Game Genres
  • There are many boardgames of replacement capture
    (Chess), card games of combination (Poker), RTS
    (Warcraft), FPS (Quake), the trading card game
    (Magic)
  • Most games are variations on an understood style

17
Innovation is Driven by Discovering New Genres
  • c. 2000BC Track game with blocking (Royal Game
    of Ur gt Backgammon)
  • c. 800AD Game of Replacement Capture (Shaturanga
    gt Chess, Shogi)
  • c. 1200AD Game of Leaping Capture (Alquerque gt
    Checkers)
  • 1756 Thematic track game (A Journey Through
    Europe gt Candyland)

18
New Game Styles (cont)
  • c. 1850 Trivia Game (Grandmamas Game of Useful
    Knowledge gt Trivial Pursuit)
  • 1856 Word Interpolation Game (Komikal
    Konversation Kards gt Mad Libs)
  • c. 1890 Fishing Game (Fish Pond gt Operation)
  • 1910 Military Miniatures (Little Wars gt
    Warhammer)
  • 1953 Board Wargame (Tactics)

19
New Game Styles (70s)
  • 1972 Adventure Game (Colossal Cave)
  • 1973 RPG (Dungeons Dragons)
  • 1974 Vehicle Sim (Atari Tank)
  • 1977 LARP (Dragohir)
  • 1978 MUD
  • 1979 Flight Sim (Sub-Logic Flight Simulator)

20
New Game Styles (80s)
  • 1981 Platformer (Donkey Kong)
  • 1981 Computer RPG (Ultima 1)
  • 1984 Graphic Adventure (Kings Quest)
  • 1985 Dynamic Puzzle (Tetris)

21
New Game Styles (90s)
  • 1991 First MMOG (AOL Neverwinter Nights)
  • 1992 RTS (Dune II)
  • 1993 FPS (Doom)
  • 1994 TCG (Magic The Gathering)
  • 1996 Rhythm Game (Parappa the Rapper)

22
New Game Styles (00s)
  • 2001 Collectible Miniatures Game (Hero Clix)
  • 2003 Big Urban Games (BUG gt ConQwest
  • 2004 Alternative Reality Game (The Beast)
  • ....NONE OUT OF OUR INDUSTRY SINCE 1996

23
What Happened?
  • Budgets too high to risk anything on an unproven
    game style.
  • Ameliorate risk by sticking with licenses
    franchises
  • No Stars means no talent with the clout to
    force originality through
  • Will Wright the obvious and perhaps lone exception

24
What Will Happen? (if nothing changes...)
  • Budgets keep rising
  • The range of genres that the industry can
    continue to offer will continue to narrow
  • The market will ultimately decline as what was
    once the most fertile and innovative creative
    artform on the planet continues its trend toward
    sterility

25
But Maybe ESD Changes the Game
  • Break the constraints of the retail channel
  • At least the possibility of distribution without
    an 8-figure budget
  • Less sales compressionopportunity for
    word-of-mouth.
  • Xbox Live Arena, Steam, Manifesto, etc., etc.

26
How to Survive as an Independent?
  • ...When your budget is two or more orders of
    magnitude smaller than the majors...
  • ...And when consumers are trained to look for
    glitzy graphics?

27
Go for the Blue Ocean
  • That is, go where others dont.
  • Racing games? RTS? FPS? You cannot compete.
  • Do the things that EA dare not.

28
The Publishers Need 1m Unit Sales
  • ...To repay their bloated budgets.
  • So they cant support MOST of the game styles
    that still have fanatic followings....
  • Because you cant sell a million units.
  • But we dont need to.

29
Adventure Games
30
Wargames
31
Sim/Tycoon Games
32
Shooters that ARENT FPSes
33
Shmups
34
4X
35
Turn-Based Strategy
36
Sports Management
37
Look to the Past
  • Who today is doing modern versions of the great
    games of yesterday?
  • Where is....

38
Balance of Power
39
M.U.L.E.
40
Seven Cities of Gold
41
....Or... Look for New Genres!
  • New genres grow the market...
  • ... creates a new audience
  • By contrast, games in existing styles mostly sell
    to existing fans of that genre.
  • For the field to continue to grow, we need to
    continue to find new game styles

42
Creating New Genres
  • Hard to do, but, if you succeed....
  • You will make a huge amount of money (id,
    Westwood, Wizards of the Coast...)
  • And you will be as famous as Carmack Romero,
    Gygax Arneson, or Richard Garfield
  • You will have materially advanced the state of
    the art

43
How?
  • Doubtless many ways to do it. As Kipling says,
    There are four and twenty ways of writing tribal
    lays, and every single one of them is right.
  • Some historical examples

44
Doom The FPS
  • Attempts to do 3D even from early home computer
    days (e.g., wireframe dungeons in Ultima III)
  • Plenty of 2D, third-person shooting games (e.g.,
    Castle Wolfenstein)
  • Licensed by id for Wolfenstein 3Dessentially
    wireframe graphics with 2D textures...

45
Doom (cont)
  • Wolfenstein 3D opponents as 2D sprites, limited
    variety, choice of weapons, 1st person
    perspective...
  • Doom nails it wide variety of opponents,
    textures give better illusion of truly being in a
    3D space (though still not true 3D)
  • Often the case that it takes several tries to
    really find the sweet spot in terms of
    mechanics and gameplay.

46
Doom (cont)
  • Fundamentally, the FPS results from technical
    improvements with 286 machines, we finally have
    enough processing power to get decent-looking 3D
  • Technical improvements often contribute to the
    establishment of new game styles e.g., color
    printing gt the commercial boardgame cheap
    die-cuttinng gt the board wargame

47
Looking to Technology
  • So one approach is to look at emerging technology
    and ask How can this be used to create
    interesting gameplay?
  • Physics
  • AI
  • Social networking
  • Cross-platform/mobility/ubiquity
  • Procedurally-generated content

48
SimCity
  • Will Wright wanted todo a game about city
    planning
  • Spent over a year doing research
  • Mid-80s machines barely able to keep up with the
    necessary processing to provide the simulation
  • Successful despite technical limitations.

49
SimCity (cont)
  • In other words, Wright looked to a subject matter
    no one else was addressing, and figured how to
    treat it in a game context
  • And it turned out some the same techniques were
    applicable to other subjects (e.g., railroads,
    theme parks)

50
Looking to Subject Material
  • A difficult approach, because often the existing
    techniques dont work
  • Can sometimes be commercially very
    successfule.g., Deer Hunter
  • Poses a marketing challenge, too, as your
    prospective audience probably doesnt visit
    Gamespot or IGN

51
Looking to Subject Material
  • But there are scads of things no one is doing
  • Macroeconomic simulations
  • Social interactions
  • Making roleplaying meaningful in digital games
  • Games-as-theater
  • Geopolitics
  • The love story

52
Magic The Gathering
  • In the late 80s/early 90s, tabletop RPGs began to
    sell through comic stores as well as specialty
    game shops and book stores
  • Collectible card sets are also often sold through
    comic shopsthe know how to stock and sell them.

53
Magic (cont)
  • Garfield reasoned that a game build on
    collectible cards would work through this
    distribution channel
  • And that an exceptions game approach, whereby
    the base rules set is simple but extended by
    rules on other game components would work (an
    idea drawn from Cosmic Encounter)

54
Magic (cont)
  • Thus Magic was bornnot out of a technical
    advance or an approach to a themebut from a
    business idea
  • Of course it helped that Garfield is a superb
    designer
  • Deer Hunter another exampleWal-Mart figured they
    could sell a game that appealed to hunters (they
    sell a lot of guns) and went to Vivendi with the
    idea.

55
Looking to a Business Channel
  • Today, doing something innovative almost demands
    distribution not through the conventional channel
  • What alternative channels can you find?
  • Assume that you cannot simply force an existing
    game style down that channelthat it must be
    tailored to the specifics of that environment

56
Business Channel (cont)
  • What kind of game could you sell through music
    outlets? (A CD-ROM is packaged like a music CD.)
    What would get White Stripes fans excited?
  • What game would get warbloggers excited?
  • What about evangelicals?
  • LL Bean Wilderness Explorer?

57
Dune II
  • Every element of Dune II exists in previous
    games.
  • Building construction (Civilization)
  • Real-time military combat (Patton vs. Rommel)
  • Resource extraction (M.U.L.E.)
  • Dune II combined them in a novel and appealing
    way to create the RTS

58
Mix Match
  • Study other games
  • Learn about as many different mechanics as you
    can
  • Try to figure out how to combine them in ways no
    one has seen before.
  • Game Design Patterns (Björk Holopainen) may be
    a useful reference
  • Prototype test

59
EyeToy
  • Webcams had beenaround for a while, and some PC
    peripheral manufacturers had tried offering games
    with a camera.
  • And configuring a PC with drivers and such is
    difficult
  • Ron Festajo at Sony in the UK wanted to make it
    as simple as possible

60
EyeToy
  • His insight was to view EyeToy as a UI input
    device, not a camera
  • And devise a series of simple games built around
    different UI ideaswiping the screen, batting at
    objects, etc.

61
Starting from UI
  • In other words, the germ of the idea was in a
    different UI element
  • A more elaborate example Journey into Wild
    Divine, controlled by heart rate and sweat
    sensors
  • Of course, its expensive to bundle hardware with
    software

62
Starting from UI
  • But it isnt always necessary
  • Katamari Damacy How do I use a PS controller to
    roll a ball.
  • Oasis I have a limited number of clicks, and
    every click must count.
  • Loop Use the mouse to circle moving objects

63
Starting from UI
  • One approach Imagine a novel gameplay activity,
    and figure out how to map it onto existing
    controls (Katamari Damacy)
  • Another Figure out some way to use existing
    controls that games dont normally use (Loop)
  • A third Provide a new input device (EyeToy)

64
Other Possible Approaches?
  • Evoke an emotion (Cloud)
  • Take game design theory seriously and try to use
    it (Play with Fire, Crawfords conception of
    verbs)
  • Find an interesting mathematical idea and try get
    a game out of it (Scram/non-linear equations)
  • Take lots of drugs?

65
We Know What Works
  • or so publishers say.
  • But the game is a highly plastic medium.
  • So is software.
  • Weve only skirted the coast of a vast virgin
    continent.
  • 30 years of dynamic creativity must not come to
    an end.

66
Whole cloth innovation is risky
  • Most experiments will fail.
  • The ones that work have the potential to be
    vastly more successful than the average game.
  • And the designers we admire most are those who
    have pulled this offWill Wright, Richard
    Garriott, Richard Garfield, Gygax Arneson.

67
Duty Now for the Future
  • If you dont fail from time to time, youre not
    taking enough risks Woody Allen
  • As an industry, we need to take more risks.
  • The potential payoff is big.
  • Go do something cool.
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