The RSS feed of this site has changed

Following on from the previous post, here is the new URL to the RSS feed for this website:

Again, sorry for the inconvenience.


Update: Well, this is awkward. This post showed up in both the old and the new feed, even though I turned off the old feed on the WordPress side. I don’t even know how this is technically possible. Undead accounts, leeching content from beyond…

Still. Better change your RSS feed URLs just to be sure.

Update 2: So that old Google account was not dead after all. Why am I not surprised. I managed to regain access to it, logged into FeedBurner, and deactivated the feeds there with permanent redirection to the proper URLs.

Read this if you subscribe to the RSS feed of this site

The short story: I am going to change the address of the RSS feeds for this site. And I am going to do it today, and then I will create another blog post saying that I’m done. This blog post will also contain the new URLs.

If you do not see this second blog post on May 4th 2015, then you’re still subscribed to the old feed, and if you want to continue to read my blog, you will have to go to the site and get the new feed URLs. Which I cannot publish here for esoteric reasons explained below.

I apologize for the inconvenience. Also, if you subscribed to this blog by email through FeedBurner – and I have no way of knowing if anyone is doing this – then I apologize even more, because that will stop working entirely.

(Update: Changed “right away” to “today” because I am dependent on when RSS services like FeedHQ etc. query the current feed. So, eh, I’ll do it tonight at some point.)

Continue Reading »

Session evaluation of my GDC 2015 talk

Today I received the evaluation of my GDC 2015 talk on narrative design:

Total Headcount: 470 (holy shit)

Session Ranking within Game Narrative Summit: your session is ranked 13 of 19 

Session Ranking within GDC 2015 Summits: your session ranked 82 of 133

-The Total Headcount shows the number of people who were scanned for the session.
-Session Ranking within your summit and amongst all sessions overall at GDC 2015 Summits. Please note, the highest rank is 1 and it is out of the number of sessions within the summit and conference, respectively (excluding sponsored sessions. special events, roundtables, main conference track sessions, tutorials, etc)

Continue Reading »

The mystery of Miholjanec

I was reading the Wikipedia entry on Charlemagne, as one does, and noticed his sword had a name: “Joyeuse“. Joyous one. And, since “épée” is feminine and Charlemagne was not, it is the sword who is joyous.

Named sword. So far, so cool. Hey, it says “sword in Vienna” (I used to live in Vienna). Let’s check that out:

Sword in Vienna
Before the Miholjanec legend had been regarded, the so-called sword of Attila in Vienna was known as the sword of Charlemagne.

The what now? Let’s click on “Miholjanec legend”. It leads to a Wikipedia entry on the Croatian village of Miholjanec. But there is no mention of a legend (the URL leading me there contained the fragment #Legend, but that now leads nowhere).


What is this about the sword of Attila?

The real historical events of the discovery of this sword will probably remain unknown. More information about the origin of the sword is a legend about a locality of finding, see Miholjanec#Legend, because before this legend had been regarded, this sword was known as the sword of Charlemagne known as “Joyeuse”.

That same broken link.

Before we click onwards: note that the sword of Attila is supposedly in the Imperial Schatzkammer in Vienna. Just like one of the items claiming to be the Spear of Longinus, the Spear of Destiny, the Holy Lance. And regarding Charlemagne’s Joyeuse we know that “some legends claim [it] was forged to contain the Lance of Longinus within its pommel”. So these two swords and the Spear of Longinus are related.

What does the history of the Miholjanec page tell us? There was a change on the 20th of November 2013:

“Deleting “Legend” section: unsourced and doesn’t improve article”

So what was this legend?

Continue Reading »

Recruitment bait-and-switch

À propos of nothing: the first in a series of recruitment war stories. 

Back in 2006, just after the closure of Rockstar Vienna, where I had been a producer, I received quite a few contact request from HR departments and recruiters. One in particular has always stayed in my memory, for reasons which will become obvious.

Continue Reading »

Slides and post-mortem for my GDC 2015 talk on narrative design

Here (12.8 MB PDF) are the slides from my GDC 2015 talk on narrative design. The black slides are my notes, which roughly resemble what I actually said. I have removed the bonus slide showing Verena Riedl – you had to be there :) (Or you can watch it on the vault eventually.)

And here they are embedded:

Inspired by Liz England, here is a little post-mortem of the talk.

This was strictly speaking not my first time as a speaker at GDC. Back in 2000, together with Mark Barrett, I moderated a round table on creating emotional involvement in interactive entertainment. In 2008 I gave a talk on being a producer at GDC Europe, the last time before it moved from France to Germany. But this was my first talk at GDC in San Francisco, and certainly the biggest audience I’ve ever spoken to.

It went well. The preparations went well, the actual speaking went well from my side, and I’ve only had positive reactions so far, including quite a few people coming up to me during the rest of the conference to tell me they had enjoyed my talk.

This was the third presentation I’ve given since December, the other ones being my talk at ENJMIN on the dark side of game development that I’ve briefly mentioned here and here, and a quick talk about storytelling in games I gave over Skype to Nathan Sturtevant’s game capstone class. I feel I’ve learned a lot from giving these three talks, more so than from previous ones, so here are some unordered observations.


Continue Reading »

Gameplay metrics: game design’s best kept secret?

So Laralyn McWilliams just wrote:

And I agree so much with that that I had to write something about it.

When game developers talk about metrics, we typically mean one of three things:

1. F2P metrics, like retention, DAU, ARPPU, etc. This all came out of online marketing, and it’s what people associate with “evil f2p”.

2. Level design metrics, like how high are cover objects, how high are walls the player can’t jump over, etc. This is needed to build level geometry that plays well.

3. Gameplay metrics, which is what Laralyn is talking about, and which seems like the best kept secret in game design or something.

Let’s look at some history:

Continue Reading »

What I talk about when I talk about “story”

First of all, if you’re interested in narrative design at all, you should follow Thomas Grip on Twitter. There are few people who write so many tweets that I agree with. That said, I don’t agree with every single thing he says.

Today, for example, he said:


To which I replied:


And so here is the longer (but still very quick) explanation of what I mean by that.

Continue Reading »

What I learned going from game programming to web programming

I foolishly promised Amandine on Twitter that I would write about my experiences going from hard-core C++ game tech to web tech. And so, before this ends up on the pile of Things I Could Write About, let me take a stab at actually doing so.

Back in the 90s I wrote hard-core game tech in C++ (and before that in C and 68K assembler). Then, in 2001 or so, I changed careers and programming became more of a hobby. I used Python to write small tools, then later got into HTML and CSS. Then, while ostensibly being creative director of the company I co-founded, and despite being surrounded by hard-core C++ programmers whose knowledge, unlike mine, was not literally from the last millenium, I was writing a lot of tools in Python, as well all of the HTML and JavaScript and what have you.

Additionally, I developed Gameconfs and am currently developing full-stack web-based tools for Moon Collider, an AI middleware company. So I guess I’m a web developer now.

Anyway, very quickly and in no particular order, here are some of the things I found remarkable in going from C++ to web technology:

Continue Reading »

A brief note on the formalism discussion

After having read ‘Parley’ by Frank Lantz, I wanted to write down a couple of thoughts about the discussion on formalism that has been going on recently, even though I haven’t followed every part of it, and can barely spell ‘Deleuzian’.

First of all, Parley is great on several levels. It is well written, well argued, and a nice summary of the debate so far.

Second, I am very glad that Frank explains why he felt that:

folks who are aren’t as interested in theme and narrative see an emphasis on theme and narrative everywhere, so they are baffled by the claim that attention to theme and narrative is being crowded out or dominated by attention to rules and structure.

Because I sure don’t feel that way, which is why I must admit that despite my great respect for Frank I felt a hint of annoyance when I read his “we see pretend worlds and childish make-believe” line. (A line which for most people failed to make the point he wanted to make, as he explains in Parley.)

I now completely understand why he feels that way, and that has been enlightening.

But here is what it looks like from where I am sitting, looking more at the design side than the criticism side:

I’ve led a workshop on narrative design last year, and am about to do another one in two weeks. And to prepare for that, I have reviewed my book shelves to look at what other people have been doing.

My books on writing: check. Some good stuff there, and I kinda know how to adapt and integrate that. (You can find some of those books here.)

My books on storytelling in games: sure. Lee Sheldon’s Character Development And Storytelling For Games. Katherine Isbister’s Better Game Characters by Design. I know there’s a couple more, but I’m not really doing a workshop on writing, I’m doing one on narrative design.

So what about my two shelves with books on game design? Meager. Very meager. Here is what I find when I take some books off the shelf and riffle through the table of contents and the index:

  • Salen & Zimmerman’s Rules of Play: 10 pages out of 638.
  • Schell’s Art of Game Design: 4 chapters out of 33. Better than most.
  • Bates’ Game Design: 1 chapter out of 14. And Bob is a writer and adventure game designer.
  • Fullerton, Swain & Hoffman’s Game Design Workshop: 1 chapter out of 16.
  • Brathwaite & Schreiber’s Challenges for Game Designers: 1 chapter out of 21.
  • Fields & Cotton’s Social Game Design: nothing.
  • Trefry’s Casual Game Design: 6 lines.

Chris Crawford’s later books are the only ones dedicated to what one could call narrative design. Maybe The Game Narrative Toolbox will be good – I won’t know until June.


Here’s another fun example. Please allow me to unfairly pick on Stone Librande, someone whose talks I’ve enjoyed and who I’m sure is a perfectly nice gentleman. Here is the syllabus for the Game Design Fundamentals course he teaches at CMU. And here is part 12, out of 15:


While a game can be abstract, adding a theme can help draw players into your game world. This week’s lecture will examine how the “flavor” of a game can enhance the game player’s experience.

Workshop: Thematic Decisions

Design a character that could appear in a low-budget zombie movie. Create a set of options that describe how that character would move and attack if trapped in a room filled with zombies. Make sure that all the options are thematically appropriate. For instance, a Sheriff would be expected to carry a gun, but a Priest would not.


Work on your final project. Focus on elements that will add atmosphere to your game such as colors, fonts, characters and story. 


Flavor. Theme. Atmosphere. Elements such as colors, fonts, characters and story.


That’s what things look like from where I’m sitting. The people teaching, writing, and speaking about designing games, the ones who shape the debate, are primarily focused on the mechanical side of game design, and not on the fictional side or the integration of those two. (I am primarily looking at designers, not critics, although of course there is some overlap.)

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look at the mechanical side – we should, and I find that aspect fascinating, and important. And different people like different things about games, and have different approaches to games. That’s all fine.

It also doesn’t mean every game needs a “story”. But most games have a fictional side, a world in which they take place. For me, the mechanical and the fictional are two aspects of the same thing, and I find the best way to approach designing them is in an integrated manner, and this goes for most games, all the way down to ostensibly abstract games like Tetris (see here).

And that is exactly what I will be talking about during my talk at the GDC narrative summit this year, so this formalism kerfuffle better have died down or I can see I will have to add some slides to my talk.