The life and death of online games

Originally posted at on Fri, 04 Nov 2005

Most of the people I know on the Internet I've met through computer games. Pretty much everyone on my MSN contact list is either someone I've met in real life or met through a common interest in a game. With most it's through TFC, with some it's through Planetarion and with others its through Guild Wars.

Unlike single-player games, multiplayer games need other people. Generally speaking they need a lot of other people.

TFC and other First Person Shooters (FPS) only need around 16 people in total for a good game of 8v8, but for a prolonged experience an FPS needs at least hundreds of people, to form clans, leagues and tournaments and to make new content like maps.

It goes without saying that some kinds of games rely even more heavily on people, such as MMOGs, many of which would not be playable, even casually, without at least thousands of players.

What happens when people stop playing? Taking my favourite multiplayer game, TFC as an example, it's quite possible that eventually a new game with some similarities to TFC will appear (maybe Fortress Forever) and the majority of the TFC community will migrate to this new game. If this happens then TFC in its current state will be unplayable.

The same applies to any other online game. There is perhaps less of a threat to MMORPGs, since the time invested by the player is represented in-game by the character's level or a fortune in GP, increasing the incentive to stick with the game. But the threat is still present; if a game that's considerably better arrives then most people will switch.

What about retro gaming? Retro gaming is pretty popular at the moment and I think it probably will be forever – nothing quite compares to sitting down with a game that you played years ago and reliving the experience. With single player games this is relatively easy, you just plug in your old device or download an emulator. But with multiplayer games most of the feelings tied up with playing rely on other people. You might be able to get away with finding 15 other people on the internet, all eager to reminisce at the same time as you, and get a quick 8v8 out of it. Reliving the experience of more organised multiplayer gaming, however, will probably be impossible. The experience is often less to do with the game itself and more to do with the community. Planetarion, for example, was (at least when I played) largely more to do with politics and group planning than it was to do with the actual process of logging in and launching ships.

In summary, I don't think we will be able to relive the onine-community experience of multiplayer games in the same way that we are able to relive the more simple single-player experience. So make the most of your favourite online game when you can, because it probably won't be here in a few years time!

Moving To Edinburgh

Originally posted at on Wed, 19 Oct 2005


Tomorrow I'm moving to Edinburgh.

There are a few reasons for the move, but the main one is that Lindsey and myself really like the place. Lindsey has a job lined up but I haven't found one yet. I haven't had much luck finding any Edinburgh based companies offering Computer Science related graduate positions, but I'm happy doing anything really, so hopefully it won't take long to find a job. :)

I haven't posted much on here in a while, but hopefully I'll have time to update this more regularly once the move is over.

GameBoy Micro

Originally posted at on Sat, 01 Oct 2005

My GameBoy Micro

The GameBoy Micro was released last month, and I just managed to get hold of the Famicom edition from Japan.

I can't play it yet since I don't have a japanese plug adapter. I managed to get about 20 minutes of play out of it before it died on me. The quality is amazing considering the reduced screen size. The only downside is that it the more compact button layout.

The Micro will play all GameBoy Advance games, so it already has a huge library. Combined with its portability this should be a fantastic little handheld console.

Revolution Controller Revealed

Originally posted at on Sat, 17 Sep 2005

Revolution controllers

Nintendo today revealed the Revolution controller after months of anticipation from the gaming community. Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo, took the opportunity during his keynote speech at the Tokyo Game Show to announce the details of the controller. Unlike previous incarnations of game controllers, the Revolution controller is designed for use with one hand, and is intentionally crafted to resemble a remote control.

"We want a system that takes advantage of new technology for something that anyone, regardless of age or gender, can pick up and play.", said Shigeru Miyamoto when asked about the design of the controller. "[Something with a] gameplay style that people who have never played games can pick up and not be intimidated by. We wanted a controller that somebody's mother will look at and not be afraid of."

Revolution controller from various angles

You only have to look at the evolution of the game controller, from NES (d-pad with 2 buttons) to X-Box (d-pad, 2 analogue sticks, 8 face buttons, 2 shoulder buttons), to see that it's become the norm to expect more complex controllers from more advanced systems, but Nintendo have taken a step away from this mentality in the hope of attracting more non-gamers.

The controller uses two sensors placed near the television to monitor the location of the controller, registering movement forwards, backwards, up, down, left and right as well as being able to register tilt and yaw. The controller is completely wireless and gives rumble feedback. Journalists at the TGS were invited to use the controller and were able to play a number of demos including a firing-range style game, air hockey and a flight simulator. Developers have shown interest in the controller, and I think it's reasonable to say that we can expect to see some very interesting games for the Revolution, not least from Shigeru Miyamoto himself. It seems clear that, just like with the release of the Nintendo DS, Nintendo are trying to take computer games in a new direction.

Opinion on the controller is varied, but seems mostly positive. It remains to be seen whether the gaming community will come to love the Revolution and its controller or loathe it.

Further Reading:

Ruby on Rails

Originally posted at on Tue, 19 Jul 2005

As usual I woke up today (at about midday as I have been lately :/) and decided to check on the GuildWiki. Usually I spend quite some time going through recent changes and making sure nothing's gone terribly wrong. However today the wiki was down, so I went to Gravewit's blog, the guy who hosts the wiki, to see if there was any mention of it there, but there wasn't, and the most recent post was something about someone being critically ill, so I decided not to post a comment on that particular entry asking about the status of the wiki. It seemed kind of disrespectful...

I noticed one of the posts was discussing the merits of two methods of authentication for posting comments on blogs/forums/websites in general. OpenID and TypeKey.

OpenID the idea that your home site can run a server that will authenticate who you are when posting comments. While looking at the OpenID Wiki I discovered that, despite the specs only being 90% complete, some people had already written some servers and consumers. I ended up following a few links to some interesting PHP servers (the language I'm most likely to understand) and then another link to, an OpenID server written in Ruby on Rails. I'd heard of Ruby before, but I didn't know what "on Rails" meant exactly, so I followed yet another link to another site, and here is where the story truly begins my friends!!

Rails is a framework designed to aid in the development of dynamic web content sites, so basically most websites you'll find these days! To quote the main page:

Rails is a full-stack, open-source web framework in Ruby for writing real-world applications with joy and less code than most frameworks spend doing XML sit-ups

With joy? A tall order, I thought. The site features a ~15 minute video that explains (to an extent) what Rails does. The developer programs very little in Ruby and Rails fills in the gaps. It's truly remarkable to watch, and I don't think I can do it justice simply talking about it. The way that the developer gets his app to interact with the database blew me away! Being used to writing very small amounts of code to connect php to mysql it was amazing to see just how much less you need to write in Ruby on Rails! It really is black magic. I suggest, if you are interested at all in programming or development of any kind, to have a look at Ruby on Rails. Half of the site is a wiki as well. Have I used the word 'wiki' a lot in this entry...?