June 2011

Sid Meier's CivWorld: Civilization for Facebook

Due out sometime this summer, CivWorld has people talking.

    

The Civilization franchise has had a cult-like following since its initial release by MicroProse in 1991. It was developed for DOS, those of you born before 1985. I remember sitting at my friend Evan's house on his 1st generation Gateway, looking at the encyclodepia-sized box while we figured out the best possible spot to place our first city, by which time other civilizations had already built armies that eventually came and wiped out our little village. Since then the company has changed, the franchise has gotten bigger and more complicated, and has even produced half a dozen spin-offs, but it's still going strong. I can't think of another game that has survived the twenty years since PC gaming's infancy. It has, and in no small part that is due to the game's fanatical following. Now, with the development of CivWorld, the Facebook adaptation of the game, it is being met with optimism and some major criticisms.

VideoGameCharacterDating.com: Lara Croft

Name: Lara Tabitha Louise Ellen Croft of Wimbledon.

Age: 26 (apparent), 15 (actual).

Occupation: Irresponsible Archeologist, Treasure Hunter, Occasional Savior of the World, Model.

In Search Of: A man who likes to travel to exotic locations, engage in a variety of challenging sports and isn't like my stupid rich jerk of a father. Despite what certain individuals on the Internet seem to believe, I have no interest in romantic or sexual involvement with other women. We all have our boarding school experiments, but I'm afraid those dalliances didn't blossom outside the gates of Gordonstoun.

VideoGameCharacterDating.com: Simon Belmont

Name: Simon Belmont.

Age: Let's say an average of 30, give or take a few curses.

Occupation: Vampire Hunter.

In Search Of: A young, living woman who chooses not to associate with undead or demonic forces and enjoys giving adventurers cryptic and sometimes downright misleading clues related to their current quest of righteousness.

Likes: Whips, laurels, hearts, the 99 years of relative peace and common decency that come in between periods of ubiquitous violence and horror that nobody but me, a parkour pirate, a magical girl and a guy with the stupidest name I've ever heard seem to want to do anything about.

Player Exploits Can Suck the Fun Out of Games

Known as "Water Finds the Crack", players over-optimize games until they're no longer challenging or fun.

    

The latest blog entry on Designer Notes, a game-design journal by Soren Johnson, is called "water finds the crack". It is an insightfully academic look into the behavior of games and gamers that looks at home games create a balance of risk vs. reward that appeals to the essential desire of most people; what's the greatest reward for least risk? This is also called an optimization puzzle, and it is Johnson's theory that designers must create safeguards against players that will optimize the fun right out of the game. They call this, "water finds the crack".

The Best Game Monster Designs

 

 
 
It's easy enough to build a hero. Design some armor, a few weapons, maybe a personality quirk or two. In most games, you never even see the protagonist you steer. In many RPGs, the design of your avatar is largely up to you. Designing a character that the player can relate to and get behind isn't hard. But designing creatures so repulsive, so terrifying, and simultaneously so interesting that it's an absolute thrill to destroy them? That takes talent.

Volpin Props

Propmaker constructs incredible gaming replicas

 

Video game designers have one of the best jobs. They get to sculpt physically impossible objects from virtual space, creating worlds where anything goes and the laws of physics bend to your will. From alien worlds to zombie apocalypses, a wide variety of universes emerge from the minds of game designers. The only problem is that those worlds stay behind a screen.