Train Jam 2016

The Train Jam is a game jam that takes place on an Amtrak car during the trip from Chicago to San Francisco. The idea is that it leads into the Game Developer’s Conference.

The 2016 Train Jam will occur on March 10-12, 2016. The tickets cost between $170 and $390 depending on amenities.

The organizers are also offering their Student Ambassador Program which is a partnership with various universities which will give ambassadors a Coach-Class ticket, access to all sponsor-provided benefits, and a GDC Expo Pass.

Press

Relevant Links

featured image “Waiting at Amtrak Chicago 14th Street Maintainence facility” by Loco Steve licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Louisville Arcade Expo 2016

Louisville Arcadeo Expo flyer 2016

The Louisville Arcade Expo will allow participants to play classic arcade cabinets, pinball machines, and games from home consoles, both popular and obscure. The arcade cabinets and pinball machines will be brought from local owners (who get a free entry into the show) and home consoles are property of the expo’s organizers.

The expo began in 2010, so this will be their sixth year.

The 2016 featured speaker will be Steve Ritchie, designer of such pinball machines as Black Knight and Terminator 2: Judgment Day as well as performing the voice of Shao Kahn in the Mortal Kombat franchise.

Other guests will include Billy Mitchell, Twin Galaxy’s Walter Day, and Joel West.

Relevant Links

Press and Media

featured image from the Louisville Arcade Expo website, all rights reserved Arcade RX LLC, used without permission but believed to be in accordance with Fair Use

Micro- vs. Macro-Management

Micromanagement refers to controlling every detail of a task, usually done by another person. For example, if your boss micromanages you, that means she is hovering over your shoulders and telling you what to do. In video games, micromanagement (or “micro” for short) refers to the exact same act, except that the player will be controlling every action of the player character or, in some cases, multiple characters.

In StarCraft (PC/MAC 1998, Des. Chris Metzen, James Phinney), you must control multiple units by giving them different actions and move commands. SCVs must mine resources while marines fight enemies while dropships carry units across the map, etc. You must micromanage these units during the game so that they are doing exactly what you want them to, otherwise they might make decisions based on their programming and do something you hadn’t intended.

Macromanagement is not as often understood because the word isn’t used as much. Back to the example of you and your boss, imagine that instead of micromanaging you, she was macromanaging you. This would mean that she isn’t constantly controlling your actions, which are in the “here and now”, but she is working on the infrastructure and work space that controls your future actions. While micromanagement is very much about the “here and now”, macromanagement refers to the “big picture”. If you are a chef, you have to cook several dishes at once. Going around and adding spices, stirring, and checking for doneness are micromanagement. However, if you want everything to be finished at the same time, you must know that a risotto takes thirty-five minutes, so you’ll start that before the main course, and you’ll need to sauté the mushrooms before you can put the steak into the pan, so you’ll start that shortly after beginning the risotto, and the salad needs to be the freshest, so it’s done at the end while the steak is getting to temperature. Basically, macromanagement is putting tasks in their most efficient order. Continue reading Micro- vs. Macro-Management

$18 Million for International Dota 2 Championships

The $18 million prize pool for Dota 2 (PC/MAC 2013, Des. IceFrog) was split between the 16 teams with the smallest pool of $55,133 going to the bottom four teams and the highest, $6,616,014, going to the first place winners, team Evil Geniuses. 1

Not only does this make each of the Evil Geniuses a millionaire, it’s also the largest payout of any competitive video gaming competition in history, beating out its own record for the third year in a row. In fact, the top ten highest paying video game competitions have been Dota 2, Smite (PC 2014, Des. HirezScott), and League of Legends (PC/MAC 2009, Dir. Tom “Zileas” Cadwell), all of which are derivative of Defense of the Ancients (DotA), a user-created mod for Warcraft III: Frozen Throne (PC/MAC 2002, Des. Rob Pardo). 2

The reason for such large payouts for Dota 2, a free game, are because of the game’s publisher, Valve Corporation, who owns Steam, one of the world’s largest marketplaces for PC games. Valve directly donated $1.6 million. The rest of the money came from the purchase of in-game items. Like its competitors (such as League of Legends), Dota 2 sells items that can be worn or held by its in-game characters. To date, Valve has made about $400 million from the three games they’ve developed that take micro-transactions, Dota 2, Team Fortress 2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. 3

Team Evil Geniuses is composed of Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora (26, USA), Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling (23, Canada), Clinton “Fear” Loomis (27, USA), Peter “ppd” Dager (23, USA), and Syed “Suma1L” Hassan (16, Pakistan).

Valve also broadcast The International 2015 on YouTube, and the final match can be viewed below.

featured image Copyright 2015 All Rights Reserved Valve Corporation, used in accordance with fair use

RNG (Random Number Generator)

RNG stands for “Random Number Generator” or “Random Number Generation” (depending on whether it’s used as a noun or a verb). This refers to the method in which a video game creates “random” elements.

All programs, at their core, are created with ones (1s) and zeroes (0s). Because of this, a computer can’t create anything randomly. Instead, it must use the resources it has to create a random “seed” that goes into a complicated algorithm and creates something that, to a human being, might as well be random. Usually this is a computer’s clock, but it can use anything else that changes frequently.

In the following video, a member of TASBot demonstrated at the 2015 Summer Games Done Quick how to manipulate the RNG of the Japanese version of Mega Man (NES 1987, Akira Kitamura), which was originally called Rockman.

Because people attending Summer Games Done Quick are interested in completing games in as little time as possible, understanding how the game treats random elements is very important. As you can see in the video, Mega Man decides what score to give the player for completing the stage based on which frame the player presses the Start button.

featured image “Random Numbers” by David licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

Summer Games Done Quick: Super Metroid Four-Player Race

Games Done Quick broadcasts live marathons of various video game speed runs. They collect money throughout the event for various charities. During their Summer Games Done Quick (SGDQ), they collected $1,233,844.10 for Doctors Without Borders. You can view all of the speed runs from their event at their YouTube page.

Super Metroid (1994 SNES, Yoshio Sakamoto) is a side-scrolling, single-player action game in which the player controls an interplanetary bounty hunter named Samus Aran. The basic gameplay loop involves exploring enclosed sectors, killing enemies, and collecting power-ups that increase damage and improve mobility.

While Super Metroid is not a multi-player game, SGDQ created a competition where four players sat side-by-side and raced to finish the game. This also involves exploiting a lot of the game’s abilities in ways they weren’t necessarily intended.

Another thing worth noting for SGDQ is that they hold auctions for certain player-controlled choices during games. For example, the highest bidder on The Legend of Zelda gets to decide what name is entered at the beginning. In Super Metroid, the money is pooled between “Save the Animals” and “Kill the Animals”. At the end of Super Metroid, the player must escape from the planet as a timer ticks down. During this escape sequence, the player may enter a room and open a doorway for some friendly animals before finishing the game. During the video, the commentators will read comments left from donors that talk about “saving” or “killing” the animals. Continue reading Summer Games Done Quick: Super Metroid Four-Player Race

game

Dictionary Definitions

game / gejm / n.

  1. Merriam-Webster
    • activity engaged in for diversion or amusement
  2. Dictionary.com
    • an amusement or pastime
    • a competitive activity involving skill, chance, or endurance on the part of two or more persons who play according to a set of rules, usually for their own amusement or for that of spectators.
  3. Wiktionary.org
    • A playful activity that may be unstructured; an amusement or pastime.
    • from Proto-Germanic *gamaną”, literally: “participation, communion, people together”
  4. The Oxford English Dictionary Online
    • An activity which provides amusement or fun; an amusement, a diversion, a pastime.
Problems

These dictionary definitions don’t accurately describe “video games”. The ideas of “diversion” and “amusement” could be expanded to refer to all art. And the idea that a “game” must be “playful” or “fun” runs counter to horror games such as the Amnesia series or “empathy games” such as Papers, Please; these games are trying to evoke fear or discomfort, not necessarily “fun”.

Academic Definitions

Wikipedia‘s editors have compiled a litany of definitions from academia. You may click this link to view them. They tend to broaden the definition to exclude other activities (such as drama or music) as well as include other emotional responses. Below is my favorite:

  1. Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals by Katie Salen & Eric Zimmerman
    • “A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome.” (pg. 11)

This definition limits a “game” in these ways:

  • It is systematic.
  • Players must engage with an “artificial conflict”.
  • The results of a player’s interaction must be quantifiable.

This cures the above problems of defining a required emotional response as well as narrowing down the medium into something interactive and rule-driven.

This definition from Salen and Zimmerman concludes that more activities can be games than just board and video games. This would include:

  • Audience participation at a live event, such as a magic show.
  • Training exercises, such as practicing payments as a cashier.
  • Psychological experiments.

Should those activities be excluded? Also, what role does narrative play into this definition? Should the definition be narrowed down in order to exclude activities that aren’t intentionally designed to be “played”, or should we take a harder look at activities that don’t appear “game-like” in nature to see what they can reveal about the human experience?


featured image “NY stock exchange traders floor LC-U9-10548-6.jpg” by a staff photographer for U.S. News & World Report is in the public domain

“Social Context in Massively-Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs): Ethical Questions in Shared Space”

By: Dr. Dorothy E. Warner & Mike Raitor

From: International Review of Information EthicsVol. 4 (12/2005) pp. 46-52.

Link (no registration required)

DOI: N/A

Audience

the ethics community

Thesis

Overt:
To better understand what ethical questions arise from Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs).

Covert:
unsure/not applicable

Continue reading “Social Context in Massively-Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs): Ethical Questions in Shared Space”

“Virtual Worldliness: What the Imaginary Asks of the Real”

By: Dr. Richard A. Bartle

From: New York Law School Law Review2004/2005, Vol. 49 Issue 1, p19-44. 26p.

EBSCO link (requires registration)

DOI: N/A

Audience

legal professionals; judges

Thesis

Overt:
To explain how virtual world economies work so that “legal experts may be better informed in their deliberations”. (p. 20)

Covert:
To persuade judges that designers deserve the right to act upon their virtual worlds with complete authority, according to the End User License Agreement (EULA), and to protect the entirety of the virtual world from individuals who would use the legal system to their own benefit. Continue reading “Virtual Worldliness: What the Imaginary Asks of the Real”

Video Game Communities & Education