21 June 2010

GodFinger, a free app that’s making money

Despite being free, GodFinger has reached #8 among the top grossing iPad apps.

How can that be? In app purchases. You can trade actual money for in-game awe points.

I haven’t bought any awe points. As far as I can tell, there’s nothing you can do through buying awe points that you can’t do without buying awe points. Buying awe points just lets you do things faster than if you didn’t. You’re buying instant gratification.

18 June 2010

The difference of role-playing games

I’ve written before that the distinguishing characteristic of a role-playing game is the judge. I was never completely comfortable with that, however, because I think there might games that do not have a judge which I would consider a role-playing game.

I think—more generally—the key difference is that, in a role-playing game, the fiction matters more than the rules. You can’t justify going against the rules in chess based on the realities of ancient warfare. You can’t justify going against the rules in Monopoly based on the realities of the real estate business. The game is the rules; the fiction is merely window dressing.

In a role-playing game, however, a rule can be overruled based on the fantasy being played out. The fiction is the game; the rules—guidelines actually—are merely play aids. Once the rules become paramount, then it ceases to be a role-playing game—in my view—and becomes a conventional game. The typical way to make this work is to appoint a judge, but there could be other ways to do it.

If you say that a game needs rules then I’m happy to concede that role-playing games—by my definition—aren’t truly games at all.

03 June 2010

Push the button

(Some Lost spoilers follow.)

Push the button every 108 seconds or the world will end.”

The only way to disprove that is to not press the button, but—if you’re right—it will be a pyrrhic victory.

Given what the candidates knew, could any of them be truly certain whether Jacob or his nemesis was the villain? Even with the extra information we—the viewers—have... We know that Jacob was not infallible. It seems that Smokey’s goal was originally fully justified, even if his methods weren’t.

This, to me, has been one of the strongest messages of Lost. Logic and science can only get us so far. Often we reach a point at which a decision must be made with incomplete information. We have to make a leap of faith, though one informed by reason.

Reason and faith are not choices, as they are sometimes presented. Nor are they opposed to one another. Rather they are tools we use to live our lives. You have to use both, and you have to use them together.

02 June 2010

Nielsen and Norman on Gestures

Gestural interfaces: A step backwards in usability...

Yes, new technologies require new methods, but the refusal to follow well-tested, well-established principles leads to usability disaster.

I completely agree. Most of this article covers this and covers it well. There’s been too much abandoning of important user-interface principals with the iPhone and iPad. Apple ought to know better.

Bold explorations should remain inside the company and university research laboratories and not be inflicted on any customers until those recruited to participate in user research have validated the approach.

Following known principles is important. User testing is important. You cannot, however, fully vet an UI in the lab. Lab testing only goes so far. Then you’re going to learn a lot more a lot faster by releasing it into the wild.

01 June 2010

Tabletop achievements

Many computer games these days have “achievements”. These are little things that you can do in the game that aren’t necessarily part of the main gameplay.

e.g. In the iPhone game Rolando, the object is to save the rolandos in each level by getting them to the level’s exit. There are also diamonds scattered around the levels. Collecting all the diamonds can earn an achievement.

I’ve been thinking about adapting this to tabletop role-playing games. Achieving one could grant a small XP bonus. Generally, a character could only earn each achievement once. Although some achievements may be a superset of another achievement. When it is achieved, the player must record it. (Having a record of your character’s achievements is part of the point of pursuing them, so this really isn’t a bookkeeping burden.)

One of the fun things about this—especially if you have the type of players who will find achievements hard to resist—is that it gives the referee an indirect method of influencing player/character behavior.

This is purely a metagame thing, so it might rub some people the wrong way from the get-go. shrug

Well, they don’t have to be purely metagame, I suppose. They could also help make up for the “only getting XP for killing† and stealing” fault that some find with D&D.

Anyway, I haven’t come up with any good ones yet.

†Although in some cases—such as when I’m DM—this should really be “defeating”.