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11 Oct 17:00

[Lowes] YMMV Lava hot Pressure treated 2x8x14 Lowe's 22.99 Kitchener

by sassysue
Hot deal on pressure treated in Kitchener only regular price is over 52.99

I bought 10 to do my gazebo all brand new stock no warps

Statistics: Posted by sassysue — Oct 11th, 2020 9:20 am


11 Jan 00:14

Washington turns down Iraqi call to remove troops

Washington on Friday spurned an Iraqi request to prepare to pull out its troops, amid heightened U.S.-Iranian tensions after the U.S. killing of an Iranian commander in Baghdad, and said it was exploring a possible expansion of NATO's presence there.
10 Jun 15:18

California to be first state to provide healthcare to undocumented immigrants

The state is set to become the first to offer government healthcare to people living in the US illegally.
23 May 20:15

How Narendra Modi Seduced India With Envy and Hate

by Pankaj Mishra
The prime minister has won re-election on a tide of violence, fake news and resentment.
20 May 20:39

Tight U.S. job market not attracting new people to the labor force: paper

The tight U.S. labor market is not drawing new people into the labor force, but merely reducing the number dropping out, according to research published on Monday by the San Francisco Federal Reserve.
09 May 18:48

[Virgin Mobile] Virgin Mobile BYOP $35/2gb - $45/4gb (QC)

by s_giguere
So Virgin Mobile is basically copying Fido's latest move (see similar thread with Fido, posted lately), with BYOP plans at $35/month for 2gb and $45/month for 4gb.
This is for Quebec, they seem to also be adding bonus data for other provinces.

Koodo is likely to follow in the next few days.

http://www.virginmobile.ca/en/plans/pos ... V:6#!/BYOP

Statistics: Posted by s_giguere — May 9th, 2018 2:25 pm


01 May 19:00

Senate Democrats Plan To Force Vote On Net Neutrality

by BeauHD
Senator Edward J. Markey tweeted earlier today that Democrats will force a floor vote to restore net neutrality rules on May 9th. "[Democrats] had the signatures in favor of restoring the rules since January, along with a companion House bill (with 80 co-sponsors)," reports Engadget. "Senator Edward J. Markey also introduced a formal Congressional Review Act 'resolution of disapproval' in February." From the report: Of course, this last-ditch attempt to save net neutrality can only help congressional supporters of as they move into mid-term elections. "We're in the homestretch in the fight to save net neutrality," Senator Chuck Schumer said in a statement. "Soon, the American people will know which side their member of Congress is on: fighting for big corporations and ISPs or defending small business owners, entrepreneurs, middle-class families and every-day consumers." Still, even if the Senate passes the Democrat's proposal, notes Politico, it's unlikely it would get through the House or avoid a Trump veto. Also taking place on May 9, net neutrality activists and websites like Etsy, Tumblr, Postmates, Foursquare and Twilio will post "red alerts" to protest the FCC's effort to roll back net neutrality protections.

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Read more of this story at Slashdot.

31 Jan 14:09

Hassell and MVRDV devise "suite of adaptable structures" to combat Bay Area flooding

by Eleanor Gibson

Resilient by Design by Hassell and MVRDV

Architecture firms Hassell and MVRDV have imagined a scheme featuring floating stadiums, emergency castles and pop-up restaurants, which aims to build resiliency to flooding in South San Francisco and foster the local community. Read more

09 Nov 15:57

The Sims Finally Has Great Curly Hair

by Gita Jackson

I have been waiting with bated breath for The Sims 4’s Cats & Dogs expansion since it was announced in September. I didn’t realize that it would give me something else I’ve been waiting for: curly hair.

Read more...

06 Apr 14:28

'Make me think, make me move': New Doom's deceptively simple design

Doom's apparent simplicity belies a core design that is difficult to achieve. Gamasutra recently caught up with Id Software's Marty Stratton and Hugo Martin to talk demon-slaying game design. ...

30 Sep 00:43

How the Mona Lisa became so overrated

by Jason Kottke

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is overrated. Why? For starters, the director of the Louvre said that 80% of the museum’s visitors are there just to see the Mona Lisa. 80%! We’re talking about one of the finest museums in the world, overflowing with some of the world’s greatest artworks, and people come to only see one thing. Overrated. The story of how that happened involves a passionate art critic and a crime.

Tags: art   crime   Leonardo da Vinci   Mona Lisa   video
22 Apr 18:32

Simplilearn Raises $15M For Professional Training And Certification

by Anthony Ha
simplilearn Simplilearn, a company helping customers get certified in areas like PMP (project management) and Android development, has raised $15 million in Series C funding. The company offers courses both online and in classroom workshops and says there are more than 200 courses and 40 accreditations. Since launching in 2010, more than 400,000 people have been certified through Simplilearn courses. Read More
31 Mar 15:39

While You Were Offline: The George R.R. Martin/Taylor Swift Mashup of Your Dreams

by Graeme McMillan
While You Were Offline: The George R.R. Martin/Taylor Swift Mashup of Your Dreams

It's been an up-and-down week on the web. "George R. R. Martin" sang some Taylor Swift and Twitter reacted to Harrison Ford's plane crash. Read it all here.

The post While You Were Offline: The George R.R. Martin/Taylor Swift Mashup of Your Dreams appeared first on WIRED.








02 Dec 20:23

Steam ready to take on Twitch with new game Broadcasting feature

by Terrence O'Brien
Streaming videos of people playing video games is big business. Right now though, there isn't much competition -- Twitch pretty much dominates the scene. But, if there's one company that can topple the king it's Valve. Today it took the wraps off Ste...
09 Dec 01:12

Slow motion video of a base jump going horribly wrong

by Aaron Cohen

Vimeo user Subterminally appears to have had the worst 13 seconds of his life last week when he hit the cliff off of which he was base jumping. Subterminallyill received a "Compression Fracture of the T12 Vertebra, 5 stitches to the eye, 6 stitches to the chin, severely sprained Back, wrist and hand. multiple bruised areas," which is not too bad considering he FELL OFF A FUCKING CLIFF.

Alternate copy for this post, "No. No, no no no no no no. No. No. No. No, no, no, no, no. No."

(via just about everyone)

Tags: slow motion   video
27 Sep 01:06

Lukas Farlan Photography

by Baptiste

Photograph Lukas Farlan offers us snapshots of incredible beauty. Particularly good for capturing landscapes, the artist living in Italy comes with a series of images taken in the Alps to capture our attention and make us instantly travel. To discover in the future.

Lukas Farlan Photography-28 Lukas Farlan Photography-27 Lukas Farlan Photography-26 Lukas Farlan Photography-25 Lukas Farlan Photography-24 Lukas Farlan Photography-23 Lukas Farlan Photography-22 Lukas Farlan Photography-21 Lukas Farlan Photography-20 Lukas Farlan Photography-19 Lukas Farlan Photography-18 Lukas Farlan Photography-17 Lukas Farlan Photography-16 Lukas Farlan Photography-15 Lukas Farlan Photography-14 Lukas Farlan Photography-13 Lukas Farlan Photography-12 Lukas Farlan Photography-11 Lukas Farlan Photography-10 Lukas Farlan Photography-9 Lukas Farlan Photography-8 Lukas Farlan Photography-7 Lukas Farlan Photography-6 Lukas Farlan Photography-5 Lukas Farlan Photography-4 Lukas Farlan Photography-3 Lukas Farlan Photography-2 Lukas Farlan Photography-1 Lukas Farlan Photography-29
08 Sep 14:20

For Gabe Newell, Greenlight is just a stepping stone to a bigger endgame

by Staff

gabe thumb.jpgAs Valve celebrates the first birthday of Steam Greenlight's launch, company founder Gabe Newell keeps his eye on when such an approval process will cease to exist.

Launched a year ago tomorrow, Greenlight was initially met with broad fanfare - this was a new feature of Valve's powerhouse Steam distribution platform that would allow its audience to have a say in what games were released on the 50 million-user-strong storefront. It purpose was to -- and remains -- to help break down walls between developers and players.

But even the term "Greenlight" itself implies a gatekeeper - that someone, or some group, holds the authority to give you the go-ahead. That gatekeeper mentality goes directly against what Valve has in mind for Steam. For Valve, the endgame is to remove all bottlenecks, including Greenlight, and give game developers a platform to reach their audiences directly.

"The immediate goal [of Greenlight] was to give us more data in the selection process as we ramp up the tools needed to get us to our longer term goal of improving the overall throughput of the system," Valve founder Gabe Newell tells us.

"Before Greenlight, folks would send mail to us mail or fill out the posted submission form, hope that someone saw it and liked it, and waited in the dark for a reply. While it is not perfect, Greenlight helped us pull that process out of the dark and help with the selection process."

Unwanted bottleneck

Valve has recognized for a while now that the Steam approval processes are a blockade. Newell has expressed that Steam's future is as a web API that any developer can call, and allowing anyone to create a Steam storefront page.

Breaking down those walls is tricky, to say the least. Valve announced yesterday that it approved 100 titles via its Greenlight program, which is a big jump in volume, and the biggest batch of approvals yet.

That signals progress in Greenlight's efficiency. But at its most efficient, the Greenlight approval process will completely disappear.

"Ultimately, we hope to increase our throughput so significantly that the conversation about selection becomes antiquated," says Newell. "Then we can debate our ability or inability to properly aggregate and display the increased volume of titles being offered."

The Greenlight reality

Greenlight's initial vision was totally in line with one of Valve's pillars of success: Putting the community first and giving players and game developers a voice.

But when the service launched, and the flood of games poured in, reality hit: Developers weren't ready to game the popularity contest, the selection process has become confusing, good games were getting buried, and perhaps worst of all, it was still a considerable bottleneck between developers and the people who wanted to play their games.

What was at first going to be something that would give the community full say in what came to Steam became a situation where Valve had to come in and play gatekeeper once again - Greenlighted games are decided by both the community and by Valve nowadays. That initial vision combined with the current reality tends to lead to confusion about what games are Greenlighted, and why.

"Votes on Greenlight provide a useful point of data in gauging community interest, but we're aware that votes alone may be an inexact form of gauging customer interest," Newell explains. "So we also try to incorporate additional information we have about factors such as press reviews, crowd-funding successes, performance on other similar platforms, and awards and contests to help form a more complete picture of community interest in each title."

The solution to the bottleneck

In other words, Valve still does have the final say, a fact that Newell, an always-self-aware businessman, can readily acknowledge. As Valve continues to chip away at its own self-imposed bottleneck, the company is coming to grips with the daunting challenge of game discoverability.

"Much of the evolution of Steam and Greenlight is driven by what the community of gamers and developers tell us they want to see made possible," says Newell. "Right now, we're focused on expanding the depth and breadth of our catalog. That expansion and addition of content is going to come with a need to innovate and iterate on how customers browse for games and evaluate potential purchases."

"Evolving our tools to allow us to publish more titles more frequently is the solution for the bottleneck," he adds. "We're working on it, and the 100 [Greenlighted games batch] was a big step towards the long term goal. This latest batch is both a celebration and a stress test of our systems. Future batches may not be as large but, if everything goes smoothly, we should be able to continue increasing the throughput of games from Greenlight to the store."

[written by sister site Gamasutra's EIC Kris Graft]

08 Sep 13:19

Early challenges launching Ionage free-to-play

by Tim Wicksteed

This is the third article in a series of guest posts from Tim Wicksteed. In the first he looked at the Free to Play (F2P) vs Premium Dilemma and decided that Ionage, his first commercial title as an indie developer, would be F2P. In the next article he looked at implementing and evolving the F2P design pattern; here he described the manner in which he planned to implement F2P in Ionage.

Ionage has now been released, as of a month ago, and since then he has been busy promoting, updating and analysing. This third article is on how his proposed F2P implementation performed.


The IAPs in Ionage work a little differently to the majority of F2P games. Although the exact implementation is a little different to the plan I laid out in my last article, the main goals are the same. I wanted to create a system which had no tedious grinding mechanics but which still gave the player a good reason to spend.

To achieve this Ionage has no in-game currency, all IAPs are permanent one-time unlocks. Crucially, there is no way to grind your way to unlocking anything covered by an IAP. My argument for this is that permanent unlocks give the player a greater sense of ownership/value than consumable ones and that with no alternative but to pay there is a good reason for the player to spend.

The major consequence of this tactic though, as spotted by Ben Sipe in his Improving Freemium Design article looking at Ionage, is that this strategy limits the Life-Time Value (LTV) of the player. In Ionage, it’s not currently possible to spend more than £9 and really you can get 90% out of the game for just £2. This was a deliberate, if potentially misguided, design decision. The aim of my bizarre experiment was to see if I could create an IAP policy that promotes higher conversion rates but lower LTV because, quite simply, I’d rather make my money from a lot of people paying a little than a few people paying a lot.

To see how it went let’s delve into the statistics. The following is true as of 26/08/13, exactly one month after launch.

Conversion ratesIonage’s lifetime conversion rate worldwide is 2.3% which seems to be in the middle of the pack quoted for Android games, albeit almost two years ago, on GamesBrief. An interesting addendum is that in the UK, where 20% of my users are based, the conversion rate comes in at 3.7% and at times over the last month has averaged over 4%. This suggests to me that my policy of permanent IAPs is particularly attractive to the UK mindset.

ARPPU – So far, the worldwide Average Revenue Per Paying User is £2.25 and is led by the USA who spend £3.65 on average. Interestingly, while UK users convert at a higher percentage than the USA, they spend 28% less on average at £2.61 per user.

ARPU – So far, the worldwide average lifetime revenue per user (including those that pay nothing at all) is 5p. Despite having a lower ARPPU than the USA, UK users top this statistic at 10p per user. Clearly the higher conversion rate in the UK makes up for the slightly lower spend per user. In terms of lowest ARPU, that prize goes to Russian users at 0.22p. To put that into context, that’s 45 times less than my UK users. I also have some fairly compelling evidence that Russian users have managed to trick the game into thinking purchases have been made, as the numbers from my analytics service don’t match with the actual revenue statistics. It’s not a huge problem given the very low conversion rates and a non-paying player who enjoys and publicises your game is better than no player at all!

Engagement – The graph below shows the game’s Daily Active Users (DAU) as well as DAU/current installs since launch. These graphs are heavily affected by the number of new users joining the game each day. Therefore, I prefer to look at returning users as this removes the effects of promotional activity and just looks at how effective the game is at engaging with and holding onto its users. The graph below it shows returning users over days as well as returning users/current installs.

dau4daysreturningusers

Ionage is able to pretty consistently pull back 10% of its current user base into the game each day to play. I believe this suggests that the game has highly addictive qualities. Given that the user base is increasing each day, the number of returning users has to increase as well to maintain the same percentage. This suggests that the game is able to keep people coming back day after day, not just once or twice.

The elephant in the room

Given that Ionage is my first commercial title as well as my first foray into the world of F2P, I’m pretty happy with the metrics. When you note that I’m a one-man team with just a single salary plus artwork and music costs to pay for, the metrics don’t need to compete with the number one grossing app on the chart for the game to be a financial success for me.

However there is an elephant in the room. So far I’ve been talking mainly about percentages or averages rather than straight figures. However you might have noticed the number of users on the last two graphs. No, unfortunately they are not in thousands!

The truth is that while I believe the metrics are strong, the overall numbers are not. At just under 8500 downloads at this point; the total numbers are just not large enough to sustain full-time development. The good news is, at least so far, the numbers are still going up, just not very quickly.

installs

The revenue over the equivalent period is plotted on the graph below. The 7 day moving average shows that the game makes roughly £15 per day and so far isn’t showing any warning signs that this is dropping off.

revenue

Promotional activities

So if user acquisition is my biggest issue, it begs the question: what have I done to gain users and how can I get more? Well like most indies bringing out their first game, I did my research. I read all the articles about how to contact the press and I spent time crafting emails and contacting people from all over the industry. Here are the success stories:

  • Ben’s great article that I mentioned earlier led to a triple whammy record of new users, daily active users and revenue the day it came out
  • I appeared on Guy Cocker’s Video Games Podcast a couple of weeks ago which seemed to give a modest boost to downloads over the following week
  • The game was spotted by Stuart Dredge in his regular column for the Guardian online newspaper and was featured in both the ‘20 Best Android Apps this Week’ and ‘50 best Android games from 2013’
  • The game was featured and critically praised by a few Android review sites

  • The game seems to be almost universally enjoyed by my users with 87% opting to leave a 5 star review

Unfortunately the game failed to make a splash in any of the big online publications that I targeted: One which focused on hardcore mobile titles, one that focused on indie games and a large mobile gaming site. Let me make it very clear, I don’t begrudge any of these sites for not featuring the game. I know journalists and editors have a difficult job and when an email appears in the general editors@onlinesite.com inbox then it’s tough to separate the wheat from the chaff. The advice I’ve been given since is to forget the publically available ‘catch-all’ inboxes and concentrate on cultivating selective, more personal relationships with individual journalists. If there are any journalists reading this then feel free to drop me a line if you are keen on the strategy or Android scenes. I’d love to hear from you.

Over the last week I’ve been experimenting with advertising via Google’s Adwords service. Although based on a relatively small sample size – I’ve only spent just over £10 – the outlook doesn’t look good. Even with tightly focused slogans and only paying for actual clicks, the cost per acquisition has been well over £1 per user in the UK. This warrants further scrutiny of my metrics. While I am perfectly happy with an ARPU of 10p when I gain users organically, it’s clearly not sufficient for any type of paid acquisition. With the top grossing games able to pull in average revenues greater than £1-2 per user (that’s including all the people who play for free) I am effectively being priced out of the paid acquisition market. I’m going to have to find another way to find users.

New markets

My first goal moving forward is to maximise the market penetration of version one of the game. To do this I’m taking the game to the Samsung Apps store, where it is currently awaiting approval, via 100% Indie – a scheme created by the founders of Chillingo.  I’m also thinking about taking the game to the Amazon marketplace as tablet oriented games are rumoured to do well there despite the smaller number of users. The game is also currently being translated into Korean and I’d like to do the same with Japanese. These are the largest Android markets, in terms of revenue, alongside the USA [REF] but so far I’m seeing very few users. This suggests to me that in general, Korean and Japanese Android gamers like to play their games in their own language. Fair enough!

Although I’ve considered taking the game to iOS, it is difficult to make the business case when you look at the game’s current revenue pitted against the cost of porting. I’ll monitor this and if I make the judgement that it is worth it in the future, then it is definitely something I’d like to do.

New features

The final option I have to increase my user numbers is to add new features to the game.  The Ionage community has already reacted positively to the suggestion of a split-screen multiplayer mode, endless mode and the integration of Google Play Game Services. However, making the business case for them is difficult based on current user numbers. I will focus primarily on features/game-modes that have social aspects as these have the potential to drive additional users to the game as well as extra revenue from existing ones.

Conclusions

Looking at the F2P implementation specifically, Ionage has strengths and flaws. It has a moderate conversion rate but the ARPU is too low to justify paid user acquisitions. To make up for this, the game really needs social mechanics to drive user downloads; it is here I believe the game’s biggest flaw lies.

Gameplay-wise the response has been almost unilaterally positive. The worst comments I’ve had were from users who complained the game was pay-to-win, however one user was kind enough to prove this is not the case. Based on this I’m keen to continue to develop the IP and I’m confident, that if I can find the right platform/marketing strategy/business plan then I can make it a success.

 

24 Aug 13:58

Genius Photographer Recreates Iconic E.T. Movie Poster in Real Life

by Casey Chan

Genius Photographer Recreates Iconic E.T. Movie Poster in Real Life

Anyone who was a child once upon a time has probably dreamed about making their bicycles fly across the full moon like in E.T. Awesome photographer Philipp Schmidli actually did that. He recreated the iconic E.T. movie poster by snapping an awesome picture of a biker riding off a ramp against the backdrop of a giant moon.

Read more...

19 Aug 02:25

Obama to meet with financial regulators on Wall Street reform law

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will sit down with the leading U.S. financial market regulators on Monday to discuss their progress in implementing the 2010 Wall Street reform law, the White House said on Sunday.






17 Aug 00:57

Is Economics More Like History Than Physics?

Is economics like physics, or more like history? Steven Pinker says, “ No sane thinker would try to explain World War I in the language of physics .” Yet some economists aim close to such craziness.

Pinker says the “mindset of science” eliminates errors by “open debate, peer review, and double-blind methods,” and especially, experimentation. But experiments require repetition and control over all relevant variables. We can experiment on individual behavior, but not with history or macroeconomics.

[More]
13 Aug 14:29

The essential checklist for making an awesome video game, according to Futurlab

by Staff
velocity art.jpg[written by James Marsden]


One of the most common questions we're asked is:

"How surprised were you at Velocity's success?"

And the answer is:

"Not surprised at all, but relieved."

That is to say that we knew Velocity was an awesome game, and we worked hard to get it noticed. Subsequently we were relieved when it received the attention we knew it deserved. You might ask how could we be so confident? It's because we focused on all the aspects of game design that are essential to success, putting time in to make them as good as possible whilst spending little time on the aspects that don't matter so much. In short, we stuck to an essential checklist.

cs19_art

Essential Checklist

This checklist is our special sauce. We use it to design all of our games, and each has benefited greatly. Our checklist has developed out of necessity because we're a small studio with very limited resources. Every action counts.

So why share our secrets with the world?

We believe in sharing knowledge to make the world a better place. We want to see more independent developers make stunning games to help shift the mainstream public perception of 'indie' as being somehow inferior, less engaging, less polished. The tide is turning, and we'd like to help accelerate it. Yes there has been a democratisation of game development with free tools and new platforms with lower barriers to entry, but what is the use of having all the gear and no idea?

Egg Suck Alert

No doubt there are people reading this who are either already making games as a career, or have studied games and want to learn everything they can about the medium. It’s therefore pretty likely that some of the things contained in this article will already be known and understood. So apologies if that is the case, hopefully we can share some nods of agreement, rather than you folks falling asleep. Having said that, there are some original ideas here, which is why we're publishing it :)

Essence Not Nuance

Games are more diverse now than they have ever been, so to claim that we can summarise all the nuances of what makes an awesome game in a single article would be a gross mistake. However, if there’s one thing we're truly good at, it’s understanding the essence of what makes things great, and being able to apply that understanding. So, this is an article about the essential things that comprise an awesome game. First of all though, we have to establish what makes a good game.

cs04_art

Good Game Essential Checklist

This list is in order of importance. Each aspect is listed here briefly, and discussed in detail afterward.

  1. Responsive Controls Controls have to be close to perfect, if not perfect.
  2. Watertight Concept The game has to make sense throughout.
  3. Appropriate Learning Curve The game has to challenge players in a way that’s fun throughout.
  4. Positive Feedback & Reward Good games are full of positive feedback for the player.
  5. Frictionless User Interface The UI has to be streamlined to keep the player engaged.
  6. Consistent Audio & Visual Style The audiovisual style of the game should be consistent throughout.

1, 2 and 3 loosely comprise the gameplay.

4, 5 and 6 loosely comprise the presentation.

Good Game
All aspects of a production rely on each other to create the whole, and for that production to hold water, all aspects need to be at the same level of quality or polish.

Not So Good Game
If one aspect isn’t as polished as the others, it lets the entire experience down. The overall perception of the production is brought down to the level of the weakest part, which means if your graphics and concept are great, but your controls suck, your game sucks.

We're assuming that readers know this at least on a subconscious level, but how do you ensure all of these aspects are strong? Well, here goes:

1. Responsive Controls

cs09_art

1.1. No Brainer?

Such an obvious one this, but so many games get the controls wrong. Either too fiddly, or not fiddly enough. Great controls can take a lot of time and effort to get right, and most of the time tuning the controls is a matter of personal taste - so it requires empathy to get right.

1.2. Controls Are Half The Fun (Rules Are The Other Half)
And it's essential that you do get them right, because controls are half the fun. If the controls aren’t fun, then you risk frustrating your players, or worse still, boring them. So how do you guarantee your controls are fun to use?

1.3. Find The Toy
Finding The Toy is a phrase that refers to setting up an action and reaction that makes the player feel powerful, regardless of any rules or challenge being imposed. Cutting the rope in CutTheRope is a toy. It’s fun to swipe and cut, and watch something fall. Flinging a bird with a catapult has proven to be quite a good toy too. Games with toys at their core are fun to play around on regardless of any challenge the player is being tasked with.

When I first read about the concept of the toy, I thought to myself: games have been around for a long time now, so if we’re going to find a hit new gameplay toy, we’re going to have to look at new input systems. I imagined having to play around with Tilt, Touch and Swipe, or Motion Control. Which is wrong, fortunately.

You can make the simplest of actions into a great new toy if you have a strong concept. Taking Velocity as an example - you can’t get much simpler than pressing a button and moving left and right, but giving the player the ability to teleport is a really cool toy. It’s satisfying to do regardless of anything else going on in the game.

1.4. Design Around The Toy
Once you have a cool toy, it’s worth building some levels that explore every possible limit of the toy to work out what is fun. Quite often you will be limited in your scope for level design by the mechanics of the toy. In the case of Velocity, it took a long time to tune the feel of the teleport, and what felt right in the toy - nice and quick - meant that we couldn’t have any spaces in the game less than a certain width or height, or the teleport cursor would be too fiddly for the player to try and place, reducing the level of fun. So, every level in Velocity was designed with this in mind.

1.5. Player Is King
The player should always feel in control of the game. They are allowed to feel like they’re crap at it, that’s fine, but the moment the game feels like it’s too hard to play as a result of the controls being too difficult, it stops being fun. Just getting this bit right takes a lot of effort, and is probably the main reason why games are cloned so often. It’s far easier to take an existing control system and change the graphics and call it your game. But if you spend the time coming up with a new toy, you’re setting a trajectory for a game to stand out.

1.6. Acknowledge Conventions
If possible, your game should also follow the conventions established within a genre. Changing things that players expect to be able to do is not creative or innovative, it’s annoying.

2. Watertight Concept

Transition

2.1. Concept Is Actually Context
What is the player doing, where are they doing it, how and why are they doing it? This is why game concepts are quite often inspired by the controls, so if you want to create a really original concept, spend time experimenting with control systems that are under used, or not used at all.

2.2. Strong Concept == Coat Hanger
A strong concept makes it easy to flesh out the game with little effort. Gameplay, level design, art style, music, story, characters - all will hang pretty easily if the concept is strong. So what makes a strong concept?

2.3. Simplicity Is Good
It’s tricky to achieve simplicity, but it’s essential for communicating your game idea to potential team members, publishers, games press and ultimately gamers. If you or your game trailer can’t get across the concept quickly, you risk losing people’s interest.

2.4. Elegance Is Better
You’re doing well if you can achieve simplicity, because people will understand the hook of your game immediately. But it needs to have depth as well, otherwise people will get bored as they start playing. You have to try and add layers of depth that a player can slowly discover as they interact with the game.

The problem with adding layers of depth is that it’s easy to introduce inconsistencies in the concept, which spoils everything. When you’re adding layers of depth to a concept, you have to look at the ideas from every angle you can imagine, because an elegant concept is one that has no significant holes. I can really recommend a book for this called The Art Of Game Design: A Book Of Lenses, and its accompanying Deck Of Lenses. It’s an amazingly useful resource for looking at your game concept in literally a hundred different ways.

2.5. Clever Is Best
If you’ve managed elegance and simplicity with your game, you’ve done better than most game designers out there. But there’s one more level you can get your game concept to, and that’s clever. There’s a goal that I try and achieve with everything we do at FuturLab, which is to get the following response from people that see our work:

  1. “Cool!!"
  2. "Ah, I see!"
  3. "Damn, That’s Really Clever Actually...”

It’s something I strive to achieve on everything I do, and it requires that all three of these conceptual levels are hit properly. You can’t get the ‘Cool!’ reaction from someone if your concept isn’t simple. They need to be able to see your game and immediately feel rewarded, just for seeing it.

That ‘Cool!’ reaction is also the hook that pulls people in, getting them to start playing, or want to play. Then the layers of depth are discovered as someone digs a little deeper, and if the concept is elegant, everything fits together nicely, and you get that: ‘Ah, I see!’ reaction. If your whole concept is clever, then people can’t help but sit back in awe and think: “Damn, That’s Really Clever Actually - I Wish I’d Made It”, or “I have to show this to my friends.” 

If you can get these three levels of experience into your design, the game's trajectory is set up for greatness. If you start with a weak concept, your game runs the risk of being weak, no matter how cunning the gameplay is. If you can’t hook someone in, they won’t be interested. We found this with Coconut Dodge. The gameplay is superb, but few people bothered with it because the concept is weak.

Also, if you have a great concept, you’ll find it really easy to get other people involved in your project. There’s absolutely no way Joris de Man would have signed up to produce music for our game if it was a regular shoot ‘em-up that’s been done a thousand times. The teleportation concept hits all three of these targets, so when he sat down and played our prototype, that’s the experience he had - and he was sold on it and wanted to be involved.

2.7. Excited Yet? (If Not, Try Again)
At this point, if you’ve got a strong concept and you’ve worked out how to make the controls fun, you should be incredibly excited about your game. If you’re not excited by it, then you don’t have a game destined for greatness yet. You need to go back and redo those first two steps. Once you have got those two key aspects sorted, you have to bottle your excitement and get serious, because that was the easy part. In fact, you just experienced what Thomas Edison called the 1% inspiration of genius. The following months will be 99% perspiration trying to get the damn thing made. And the first thing to look at with your sensible hat on, is...

3. Appropriate Learning Curve

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Your amazing idea isn't worth anything if other people can’t enjoy it, so balancing the learning curve requires just as much attention as the initial concept. So how do you get it right?

3.1. Identify Target Audience
It’s essential to tailor the learning curve for your target audience. In the case of Velocity, we wanted everyone from casual players right up to the most skilful gamers to enjoy it. So it was a lot of work for us, the game had to be very accessible for newcomers, whilst also supporting and rewarding an incredible amount of skill for those that want the challenge straight away.

3.2. Integrate Instructions
Modern games don’t have instructions, or even tutorials. The levels should be designed to teach, and actually that philosophy shouldn’t just cover the first few levels either.

3.3. Balance Learning & Challenge
A game is only fun when a player is learning. If they stop learning at any point, the game starts to get repetitive, so the learning curve should ideally just be a straight line. In other words, you are always giving the player an opportunity to learn something new - whether it’s introducing a new mechanic, or providing scope for the player to combine mechanics in new ways. However, if the difficulty curve is the same as the learning curve, the game can feel too laborious and tedious.

The trick is to have a stepped challenge curve that tracks closely to the learning curve, so the player is always learning, but there are short plateaus where a player can flex their knowledge of the game and feel powerful for a while before being challenged again. In the case of Velocity we introduce the mechanics slowly. It’s not until level 16 that you get to use the Long Form Teleport, which is the main USP of the game. From then on we use level design to teach players how to use the mechanics in different ways, combining them together to solve puzzles. The player doesn't actually get to use one of the coolest ideas in the game until the penultimate level.

3.4. Provide Clear Success Markers
Scoring a player provides them with incentive, so it’s really important that a player knows how to win, and therefore knows how and why they failed. Trophies & Achievements have had a huge impact on gaming communities since they were introduced. The younger generation of gamers won’t even bother playing some games unless they have trophies to add to their collection. That’s how powerful the human ego is, so use that in innovative ways to the advantage of your game. In the case of Velocity we have three different scoring criteria that are combined together to create a perfect reward. This means a player can feel rewarded even when they’re failing to reach the higher goals. This leaves scope for the ultra hardcore to get their completionist fix.

3.5. Make The Player Feel Clever
Designing a game is an incredibly rewarding experience. We are the masters of the worlds we create, and that power can very easily appeal to one’s ego. So it takes a lot of self restraint and empathy to be able to design levels for someone else to play; levels that can challenge without being difficult. I once worked with a chap who had a new game idea every day, and nearly all of his ideas were based on tricking the player in some way, which is never going to fly. Designing a game is a very altruistic exercise, and if you can make a player feel good, and look good at the same time, they will love your game. It’s as simple as that.

4. Positive Feedback & Reward

4.1. Feedback Heightens The Experience
Feedback is any event or action that is a direct result of a player’s performance or interaction, and it’s essential for heightening the experience. It’s amazing how much of a difference positive feedback makes to a game. You can have great gameplay mechanics, but if there’s little to no feedback, the game doesn’t feel great. Likewise you can have a mediocre mechanic and make it feel great by dousing it in nicely polished animation and sound effects.

4.2. Negative Feedback Can Help Too
One of the things that helped to make Coconut Dodge so addictive was the horribly abrasive sound that a player is subjected to when they die. It’s also accompanied by the music cutting off abruptly. The game isn’t insulting them, but it is punishing them in a subtle way, and it serves to make them want to jump back in and correct their mistake.

5. Frictionless User Interface

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5.1. Fast Animation
My basic rule for UI animation is that it should be over well before a player knows what’s happening. If your UI is any longer than that, it had better be bloody fantastic. Games that provide animated UI break the player’s sense of control, and that’s not good. Split/Second, one of my favourite games of recent times also has some of the worst UI.

5.2. Short Loading Times
Loading times are important, but it is pretty low on the list. Even if a game does have poor loading times, people will still play it and love it. WipEout 2048 being a good recent example.

5.3. Instant Restart
This is so much more important. If your game is good, your player is going to be in a flow state, fully engaged with your game. If they make a mistake or die, they are going to want to restart as soon as possible, to get back into the flow. Not being able to instantly restart is one of the most frustrating things you can do in a game UI.

5.4. Skippable Cut Scenes
I shouldn't even have to include this, but it still happens. Even worse is when levels that start with a cut scene play the cut scene every time you restart that level. It’s punishing.

6. Distinct Audio & Visual Style

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The audio and visual style is the least important of all these essentials, and that’s because graphics just aren't as important as they used to be. If your game looks like every other game in the genre, but has very innovative gameplay, then it will rise above the noise. That said, you've still got to do a great job, or your game will suffer, so...

6.1. Identify Target Audience
As mentioned above, if you have a great concept, your art style should come pretty easily. Concept, gameplay and art style all have to be pointing in the same direction in order to find an audience easily. We made a big mistake with Coconut Dodge, as the game looks and sounds like a casual game, but it’s got hardcore gameplay mechanics. We should have chosen something more fiendish looking to suit the gameplay better.

6.2. Find An Economical Style
A good game requires a ton of polish. It’s almost guaranteed that no matter how much budget you have for a game, you’ll never be happy with the amount of polish your game has - so decide on an art style that you can produce to a high standard very quickly. This is why so many of the recent great indie games are 2D. It’s so much easier to polish a 2D game. 3D is expensive and time consuming in comparison.

6.3. Support Core Mechanics First
Make the core aspects of your gameplay look and sound great, and then radiate your resources outward from that core focus. If you’re spending time making button rollovers look and feel great you’re wasting time unless your core mechanics are supported by absolutely beautiful effects.

6.4. Demand Great Music
Music can’t save a poor game, but it can certainly elevate a good game into great territory. Coconut Dodge is an example of this. If your game music is repetitive or irritating, the awesome mechanics you’ve spent ages refining will suffer.

6.5. Sound Deserves 50%, Gets 5%
Sound is so important for player feedback. But because every aspect of a game can come together without sound, it usually gets left until the last minute. This is another area we could have improved upon for Velocity. Fortunately we got the key sound effects to work well, but we ran out of time to extend that level of quality throughout the game.

Elevating Your Design From Good To Awesome

If you've managed to achieve all of the points above, then it's likely that your game will be considered good or high quality. But how do you reach a level where people are celebrating your game as being awesome? It all comes down to innovation and flair.

Innovation
Look at what your game is doing across the game play aspects (1, 2 and 3 above), and make sure you're doing something that's innovative; whether it's in the controls, the concept or the journey you're taking the player on.

Flair
Then look at what your game is doing across the presentation aspects (4, 5 and 6 above), and ensure they're being done with some artistic flair.

In essence then, an awesome game is a good game with innovation and flair. Quite simple really.

Velocity Ultra is out now on PlayStation Vita. 

[James Marsden wrote this using sister site Gamasutra's free blogs]
10 Aug 18:56

Not All Saints Row Developers Were Thrilled with the Porn Stars

by Brian Ashcraft

Not All Saints Row Developers Were Thrilled with the Porn Stars

Dildo bats. Adult video stars. Alien anal probes. Yep, this is the world of Saints Row. That doesn't mean everyone making the games have been happy with how Saints Row has been handled or happy about porn star producers.

Read more...

    


09 Jul 01:47

The cycle of media attention (fans to feeders)

by Seth Godin

Fanstofeeders

Most of the time, the work is only seen by fans. The new record, or the public hearing that's being held, or the presentation for the committee. It's going to reach people who already know what's in store.

But, in the connected media world, sometimes an idea starts to blow up. The views on the music video start to trend, the book starts to get talked about. Who notices? People who notice things that are trending. If you're in this group, you may have fooled yourself into thinking that everyone cares about what's trending, but in fact, not so many do.

The buzz hunters don't care so much about the content or the artist--they won't be back for the next piece from this person. What they care about, though, is the trend, the buzz and the heat.

When enough buzz hunters are buzzing, then the masses show up. They want something else, of course. They want what the masses are watching.

Finally, if someone has really screwed up, if there's a trial or a scandal or something catastrophic in politics, the creeps on cable will descend. They'll camp out, spin and look for sound bites. Every time they do, they turn the story into the very same story, they embrace the arc of tragedy, they look for two-dimensional and the black and white.

The audience for online gossip, cable sensationalism and the stuff at the newspaper checkout sees the same thing day after day. They have a very different view of the world because of the circle of media they've chosen to live in.

What's extraordinary about the media attention curve is that each group brings its own truth, its own lens to see what's going on. The fan sees the world one way, the buzz hunter very differently.

The actual work doesn't change so much as the way we talk about it.

You get two choices here: the first is to decide which circle you'll live in when you consume media. And the second is to decide which circle you'd like those that you seek to reach are living in.