Archive for June, 2008
Monday, June 23rd, 2008
One of the big buzz-phrases these days has been “Web 2.0”. According to Wikipedia, “Web 2.0 is a term describing the trend in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to enhance creativity, information sharing, and, most notably, collaboration among users.” It’s all about involving users in the Web site experience, letting each person enhance the experience for others (and for themselves).
We think the time has now come for “IF 2.0.” School for Heroes will be more than just an interactive story or an adventure game. We want to build an ongoing relationship and community experience between the players and with us. To accomplish this, we are creating a School for Heroes community web site in parallel with developing the IF adventure.
What will you find on the S4H network? We’ll have forums where you can discuss game strategies, learn secrets, and role-play with other “students”. We’ll have articles on heroism in real life. You’ll find maps, hints, and news about upcoming games and extensions to the School for Heroes game. And, of course, Lori and Corey will patrol regularly to answer your questions and participate in the role-playing and discussions.
Why are we doing all this? We’ve never been satisfied to turn out “just a game.” Every one of our games “plays” on multiple levels including the story, the game play, expressing our life philosophies, and maybe even teaching something. For us, creating each game is a rite of passage into a new way of expressing and sharing ourselves. We also hope that when you find a home in the School for Heroes, you’ll want your friends to share in the experience too. With you spreading the word, everyone benefits – We get to keep making games, you get to keep having new games and Web content to play, and we all grow by doing things together?
Sound idyllic? Maybe a little naïve and unrealistic? Well, that’s the brave new world of Interactive Fiction 2.0, Corey and Lori Cole style. Let’s see if we can all make it real together!
Thursday, June 12th, 2008
Corey’s father shared an interesting article with us a few days ago. A researcher (University of Illinois psychology professor Ed Diener) determined that there is a definite correlation between happiness, education, and wealth, but only up to a point (say 8 or 9 on a 1-10 scale). People who rated themselves as “blissful” (10 out of 10 happiness) tended to be less wealthy and less well-educated than those who just considered themselves “happy”.
One can only speculate on the reasons. Dr. Diener’s guess was that truly blissful people have no reason to strive. They have everything they want and see no reason to look for more. Looking at it the other way, people who strive for and accomplish challenging goals get a lot of satisfaction out of that. It makes them happy, but not blissful.
We’ve been very happy the last few years playing World of Warcraft and other games, gardening, making photographic art, and enjoying the Sierra foothills. Creating a computer game is a lot of work and sometimes very stressful, but it’s satisfying. At the end of each phase of the project, we know we’ve accomplished something that has artistic merit and that may make other people happy. After all, happiness shared is far more fun.
Things that made us happy this week:
- After six months of rehearsals, we sang with our local choral group in two concerts based on The Wizard of Oz, The Wiz, and Wicked. We love singing, and it was fun to see all that work come together in a couple of fun performances.
- Corey had a breakout night in his bowling league – games of 254, 207, 201, and 183 – beating his opponent in all but the 3rd game. For you non-bowlers, 300 is a perfect game and 200 is a very good score for most people. It’s been years since I last broke 250. Feeling in control (and enjoying some luck) in an inherently chaotic sport is very satisfying.
- Lori went up into the hills and found a beautiful field of flowers full of butterflies. As she was photographing the flowers, one of the butterflies decided to land on it and pose for her. The world was at peace and nature put on a show for her.
- We completed an interview that will be translated into Russian for a Ukrainian magazine. Our Strange Horizons interview also went live. It makes us happy to know that our work of 10, 15, and 20 years ago still influences people and makes them want more. It also makes us want to do more games.
- We worked out some critical design issues for School for Heroes. We now know the story line for the Magic User and Paladin characters and have a lot of ideas for how the Thief and Warrior scenarios will play out.
Note how many of the things that made us happy fall in the “accomplishment” or “striving” category. If we didn’t risk bowling poorly or showed up at a concert without spending months rehearsing the songs, we couldn’t have had those happy moments. Even in World of Warcraft, the biggest excitement comes from defeating a tough raid boss when everyone in a 25-person group acts in concert to accomplish the goal.
We always strive to do our best. We want to make the most involving and entertaining Interactive Fiction game you’ve ever played. That will make us truly happy.
Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008
We’re all students in life. I once said that the most important thing about my job was that I learned something new every day. When I stopped learning new things, it would be time to move on to something new. Well, here we are doing something new!
School for Heroes is a unique learning opportunity for both the players and ourselves. Every time we start developing a game for a different company, it’s like going back to school. Each game developer has its own standards, style, and library of useful source code. Many use unique proprietary languages (as did Sierra On-Line) and the others use a Babel of languages and libraries. Corey is building School for Heroes with the Inform language, one of a dozen or more computer languages that specializes in Interactive Fiction projects.
We’re learning a lot of other things as well. We started the School for Heroes design process by talking about what worked best in the Quest for Glory series and which story lines we should continue from the online How To Be A Hero school. We also talked about what we like and dislike about other works of Interactive Fiction. (Here’s a hint – For us, it’s all about the characters. Arbitrary puzzles and frustrating mazes are so Last Century.)
To Perpetuate the plethora of P’s that plague this series of paragraphs, we will pontificate further…
Playing games has been an essential part of our lives, whether it is the old fashioned AD&D style of role-playing where you create and develop your character’s personality, or World of Warcraft, where the game play is mostly all goal-driven rather than role-playing. What we want to do is take what we enjoy most of other genres of games, and then push the boundaries of game play for Interactive Fiction. After all, the Play’s the thing….
One thing that we will be doing more of than most Interactive Fiction games is writing. We’re taking the concept that this is Fiction literally. The School for Heroes is just that… a school. You get to play a student and go to classes. The teachers try to teach you things. Unlike lessons in the mundane schools we were forced to go to, the lessons from School for Heroes have practical application (at least in terms of the game… but who knows, you might learn a few things that work for you in real life.) All this means is that there will be a fair amount of reading and writing to this game. You do the reading, Lori’ll do the writing, and we can stick Corey with the ‘rithematic. Somebody’s got to do the math.
Okay, so we have a school… and there’s going to be learning… and reading and writing… so where’s the phun? I mean, if a game isn’t enjoyable to play, what’s the point?
This is the tricky part. This is what game design is really about – creating a game that is enjoyable to play. We’ve given entire lectures at game design conferences on the Phun Phactor (only we spelled better then). Part of what we will be discussing in this blog over the next few months is what makes a game phun, and how we will create a game that will be challenging, thought-provoking, phunny, and phun.
So, thank you for your interest in our game and our writing. We’re opening up the doors to this School for Game Design, and you are officially a part of it now. While we are developing the School for Heroes, we will take a few moments each week to let you know how things are going and to share our Philosophies and ideas about games and game design. Find yourself a seat in this classroom – School is now in session.