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A new-ish way of blogging

As you can see from the previous post, I have started using a new way to blog interesting things. Whatever I save and tag in Delicious automatically gets posted here (using Postalicious, a nice WordPress plugin). Keen IA readers may remember I did something similar back in late 2006, but I was not happy with the formatting and the control. Hence 'new-ish'.

I often come across links that I find interesting, but I cannot find the time or inspiration to write an entire blog post about it. So instead, I often do not post it at all. This method should help solve that and increase my posting frequency.

I will be tweaking the parameters a bit over the next few days. Let me know what you think!

Bookmarks for January 9th from 09:14 to 09:21

These are my links for January 9th from 09:14 to 09:21:

Observations on Lego Star Wars

Miss Berzerk Raccoon and I have been playing Lego Star Wars 2 recently, as you may already know if you read her blog. I own Lego Star Wars 1 and 2 and have finished all of the levels (a rare thing for me). I also recently bought Lego Batman after playing the Xbox Live demo, but haven't had a chance to play that yet due to the lack of a functioning Wii. So you could say I'm a fan of Travellers' Tales' (TT) Lego games. (I didn't get Lego Indiana Jones because I know a level designer at TT and he claimed the Batman game was better.)

Here are some observations on Lego Star Wars now that I'm playing through again in coop mode:

The inherent absurdity of a film license done in Lego allows TT to circumvent the restrictions of the license (especially this license: They can do things with Star Wars I can imagine few official Star Wars products being allowed to do). While you could do a funny game without Lego and you could probably even do a non-humorous Lego game, the humor and the Lego nicely reinforce each other.

Lego also means you can get away with simpler graphics and lower production values, which means lower costs as well as more platforms and thus more potential customers.

Lego Star Wars is made for replayability. It is easy to finish all of the levels, but advancing in the pretty deep metagame takes more time and skill. It also requires the player to completely break the rules of the Star Wars universe and replay levels with groups consisting of, say, Darth Vader, Han Solo, R2-D2, Jar-Jar Binks and young Anakin Skywalker, in order to reach each level's nooks and crannies. So this replayability is possible because of the light tone and irreverence regarding the license. Lego Star Wars' replayability would not fit in a Half-Life 2 or a Gears of War (although in the latter the replayability is in the multiplayer mode).

On a side note: This kind of replayability is an excellent way of generating more hours of fun per development dollar. A Lego Star Wars level might cost more than a similar level that is designed to be played only once, but it provides disproportionally more entertainment.

Lego Star Wars has strong casual game values: it's very easy to get into, restarts after failure are very quick, and the rewards are constant.

However, the game also proves again and again that being extremely forgiving and extremely charming can make up for a lot of mistakes, bugs and sources of frustration. And there really are a lot: fiddly vehicle sections, a camera implementation that means one player can push the other one off a cliff despite being on the other side of the screen, and very uneven level design. I actually find the game more frustrating during the second coop playthrough than during my first solo playthrough.

Despite that slowly increasing frustration, we're still having fun, and I can see us playing the game for a bit longer. At least, until my Wii works again and we can dive into Lego Batman.

Blog Anniversary

I just remembered that this blog is now 6 years old. Or rather, on December 19th 2008 the blog was 6 years old. But hey, who's keeping count. Well, me, OK, I will grant you that. Anyway. 6 years. Wow. Pretty... meaningless. Apart from being a long time. Kind of. Not compared to the age of the universe, true. But that first post seems like an awful long time ago.

Whether you've just discovered this site or whether you've been reading from the start (and I think I know all five of you): thanks for reading. Which posts do you like? Which posts do you not like?

Oh, and happy new year.

The 90-9-1 Principle explained

The 90-9-1 Principle is an often discussed concept that has been used in countless conversations about online communities and social strategy. Until now, there hasn't been a single collection of description and support for the principle, making it hard to share a single links with clients, colleagues, and friends who haven't heard of 90-9-1. This site works to solve that problem!

Funnily enough, I have occasionally wanted to refer to the 90-9-1 principle, but without just hand-wavingly putting in a sourceless reference, so I had to scour the web for a good bit of text explaining things. So this site looks like it may solve an actual problem for me. This site even lists some sources, making it at least appear to be a valid and reputable theory.

Update: The web page I used until discovering this dedicated site is this one by Bradley Horowitz from February 2006. It is the earliest mention of the idea I was able to find.

Game Development Failure

Why did that take so long? Apart from legal issues I mean. I Get Your Fail is a blog showcasing failure in game development. The fun kind where you laugh, not the kind where you spend 3 years and 20 million dollars on a flop. Every game dev project has some good failures... often these are more fun than the game for a long, long time.

(Via Offworld.)


Hi. Remember me? I hate writing blog posts about not having blogged for a while, so I will keep that part short.

I have been busy the last 6 weeks, but if you were to ask me what exactly I've been doing, I'd have trouble answering you. I read a book about accounting and am now reading a book about designing companies, to be followed by books about investing and books about game design. I did a short but interesting gig in Paris. I organized a meeting for the IGDA Vienna chapter (on which more later). But mostly, it's been the slow, patient pursuit of leads that hopefully eventually lead to paid and interesting work, to be followed by the slow, patient pursuit of my money. Ah, the life of the free-lancer. It does involve drinking a lot of coffee.

Also, my beautiful girlfriend and, I should probably add, lovely partner in crime, has decided to start her own blog: Berzerk Raccoon. And she has initiated two cool projects so far: a get-together for game designers in Vienna, and a gaming girl pin-up photography project. I am quite excited about both.

In general I am feeling very restless and energetic and entrepreneurial. We will see where this leads.

Arkane: We'll move on from EA project cuts interviewed Raphael Colantonio during last week's Game Connection in Lyon about the loss of the EA project:

"We're moving on," said CEO and creative director Raphael Colantonio. "We do have some reserves, some cash that allows us to wait for a while, to find deals and reassign staff. But the right deals - that's really important, to keep the vision of what our objective is as a company, and what our identity is."

"To some degree, although it sounds like a bit of a paradox, all these publishers cutting things right now - I think it will eventually benefit the independent developers."

"Those companies will be looking for projects, and if they're looking, rightly, to lower their costs it makes sense to work with independent companies - they're always cheaper than anything they can produce internally."

OBAMOIDA T-shirt at the store

OK, this will likely only interest people who know a little about Viennese sub-cultures and slang and the current US elections... but if you do, you may find this OBAMOIDA T-shirt hilarious. Full disclosure: Even if you're not getting one for free, like me.


While you're there, why not check out the other fine articles in the merchandise web store. For instance, if you were not invited to the exclusive Tupalo party at the Museumsquartier earlier this year, now is your chance to get the tote bag and pretend you were there with all of Vienna's digerati!

(To better understand the enigmatic word OIDA, you could read this, although it's important to know that the word was in wide-spread use long before the rise of the Krocha movement.)

THQ closes multiple studios

Robin just pointed out that THQ is laying off a ton of people as well as EA. Paradigm Entertainment has been closed, one third of the staff at Juice Games in the UK has been laid off, Mass Media has been closed, Helixe may have been closed, Locomotive Games has been closed, and staff from Rainbow Studios has been laid off.

One plausible theory I heard is that it makes good business sense to contract now and hoard cash, so as to be better prepared for when things get better again in a year or two. It is no surprise that EA and THQ, big public companies, do this first. (I am also hearing rumors of a hiring freeze at Ubisoft.)

This means that companies that don't lay off people may wish they had in a year or so, and may then become prime takeover targets - for EA and THQ. I wonder if Blizzard Activision might lay people off to be seen to do the right thing and to get rid of dead wood, even though they might not need to do so because of the money they are making with WoW.

In any case, as Alex pointed out on Twitter recently, working for a big, publisher-owned development studio is no longer a guarantee of safe employment (if it ever was).