Friday, September 19, 2014

Gaming in Ed - TeacherCraft

Some notes from the Gaming in Education conference on Seann Dikker's presentation: TeacherCraft - Amazing teachers using Minecraft in the Classroom :

Games involve Play, which is a VOLUNTARY, explorative activity where the player has an internally compelling story or challenge. Once you make it a WHOLE classroom activity it's not a game anymore, but an assignment or task.

Minecraft is a blank slate - literally, it's like the old slates or nowadays paper. How does paper help in your classroom? Well, Minecraft can help in the same way.

Teachers see themselves as learning experience designers.

Good designers look for NEW WAYS TO ENGAGE rather than specifically best practice. Addressing a room of good designers you would expect them to all take the core concept, but express it in new and meaningful ways.

Teachers finding ideas in non-subject areas. Goes against the Highly Qualified teacher status.

Out of the 49 investigated teachers, 0% had gaming as a hobby or had a conference session that validated gaming as a teaching tool. The majority heard about it in various ways, but drew the validation from personal play (29%) or watching the kids play (42%). Leans toward PD with both teachers and students, or PD with actual use of the product.

Teachers need a place to test where failing is Ok. Relax, take it easy. Especially with students in a lunchtime or after school setting so that failure doesn't impact curriculum.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

GameLog 356-367

So much for starting a routine...

Need to add mobile games on here too as that's where more and more time is being spent.

March of War (50h) - F2P tactical strategy game that's quite polished for the F2P model. Dynamic world campaigns led by human faction leaders has made this more interesting than just the tactical strategy and rare units available on weekends work well on me too.

Marvel Heroes 2015 (48h) - F2P action MMO. Lots of little subsystems to get into, and enough loot explosion to mark it down for a LAN. Picked up the ultimate spidey costume for $30, but have found the free storm character to be more fun to play. Probably worth the investment overall but feels funny spending money on an aspect of the game that I don't play.

At the Gates (40h) - Closed alpha testing ..

Offworld Trading Company (25h)

Godus (20h)

Terraria (10h) - Still a fave for Cam, but getting into hard mode has made the early phase a little more boring.

Pixel Piracy (10h)

Hegemony gold (8h)

Invisible Inc. (7h)

Star Ruler 2 (5h) - Early access space RTS. Very different economy has me hooked at the moment trying to figure out a good build.

Blackguards (5h) - Picked up in a big sale and installed in a lull. Happy I picked up and played Banner Saga when this first came out as the static nature of the quest line is a little grating.

Mighty Quest for Epic Loot (5h) - Beta castle builder / raider in the same vein as notorious. Seemed to change the dungeon layout into a better model, but still feels like there's only 1 good solution.

Sunless Sea (4h)

Hack'n'slash (3h) - Arcadey Double-fine adventure game with the ability to change internal traits of the monsters you're fighting for a novel programming / puzzle / adventure.

Fallen Enchantress (3h) - Ben picked up the undead pack for some trade I'd long forgotten about. Plays a little differently but still too similar to what I remember FE to be like.

Firefall (2h)

Might & Magic: Duel of Champions (2h) - New Expansion.

Endless Legend (2h) Greig got interested in this one when he came down to visit. Got me back into it too. Waiting for it to be finally released though.

Dark Souls (2h) - Super frustrating attempting to play this on PC. 2nd go and same result

ToME (1h) - Another couple of chars to the RNG.

Racing Manager (1h)


The Bureau (.5h)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Meaningful Quests

About 5 years ago there was a new trend appearing with the rise of Free to Play and Facebook games; The Tutorial Quest. These quests were designed to merge the traditional tutorial into the start of the game by implementing interface learning through a simple quest structure. "Please accept a quest to click on this building". Wait, What? Who is asking this of me? Am I participating in the game world or interacting with the screen in front of me? Why are medieval societies asking me to click my mouse? Furthermore, why am I being rewarded handsomely for completing such a menial task? Are the citizens of this world so inept that they have to pay someone to let them know when to harvest their crops?

Ok, so I accept the quest. Who wouldn't? Such a simple task for a bag of gold. Awesome! But why am I doing this? Am I seeking adventure? Am I embarking on this though any volition of my own? No. It's purely about the reward. For tutorial replacements this is somewhat Ok because there really wasn't any intrinsic reward for completing the tutorial except the knowledge that you can play the game properly without getting frustrated, but a new trend is appearing (especially in Free to Plays) where these types of quests extend further and further into the game to the point where there is nothing BUT quests with no in-game meaning.

There was a debate recently on the Games Design Round Table regarding Intrinsic vs Extrinsic rewards. Throughout the podcast the scope of defining what is intrinsically fun kept changing, but to me it comes down to where you find the fun in each task. If the task is still fun when NO completion reward is offered, then the task is intrinsically fun. Ideally the game is made up of all intrinsically fun tasks bound together to make up an intrinsically fun game. The current quest designs of modern F2P games highlight that there is little to no intrinsic reward in the tasks themselves.

Rewards aside, there are also intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Why am I completing this task? What motivates me to even accept the task in the first place? Is it for the shiny bag of gold at the end, or are there tasks that I would do regardless of reward? Motivators become a little more grey because we often accept rewards for common real world boring tasks. Most people would class work as: Do something, get money, spend money for fun. The lucky few find work that they would gladly do for free, but manage to also find someone that would pay for the work to be done. Motivators are also different from person to person. Rushing out to risk your own character to save others may be taken differently by different people and their affinity to your character and to others in the game. The question of "Why?" can still reveal what is REALLY going on in quests.

Why do I need to level up my barracks? Hopefully I see the intrinsic usefulness of building up a larger army to achieve some other task, but some F2P games give such a reward for levelling up my building that the motivation becomes to .. spend the money levelling up my building even further? The motivation is to bounce from quest to quest, completing them for no other reason than the sake of completion. In the current batch of F2P games I'm catching myself doing this more and more.

So why do I do quests? Is "just because it's fun" enough? Why do I play games? Is "just beacuse it's fun" enough? 2 years ago I would have said Yes, but after the recent glut I'm thinking that maybe there was something else in older games that's missing now? I remember playing Railroad Tycoon and walking away with a deeper appreciation of the steepness of the Alps and where Innesbruck is. The fun certainly drew me to the game and kept me there for a long time, but I look back on that game more for its geography lessons than the endless hours I spent in front of the screen. The physics puzzles of Portal drew me to the game, but the end scene is my bigger takeaway. What will I look back on for the 50 hours put into Wartune? Don't get me wrong, I'm still enjoying Wartune at the moment, and it hasn't quite hit the F2P self-referential quest loop yet, but I can see it's coming.

Why do I play games? Mostly because I want to understand the underlying systems. It's a problem yet to be solved. I find intrinsic motivation by seeking out hints through the exposed quest structure as to how the game is put together. Hopefully it also highlights other aspects of understanding the world, but more recently I'm finding it is just a self-serving loop. I complete quests for the sake of completion, I play for the sake of playing. Is there more to games? I hope so. Give me more meaningful quests ...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

GameLog 325-355

30 weeks!

Every time I contemplated doing a post I felt that there was more pressing things to do. Now that I have a somewhat simpler job, it feels that I can start to get back into posting up the GameLogs. I still haven't done the 2013 recap, but I'm happy to at least get something started. My main fear was looking back in 2-3 years and lamenting that my experiences weren't logged.

As with the last post, there's going to be a lot of stuff missed. That said, it's going to be more accurate than I could do a year from now, and that's the main rationale for getting these done.


Mighty Quest for Epic Loot (100h) - Beta Castle builder / Raider in the same vein as notorious. Picked up a couple of good tips for my game, but also a couple of things to steer clear of. Overall solid, but it feels like it's already had it's big promotional spike and it's not even released yet.

At the Gates (60h) - Closed alpha testing ..

Terraria (50h) - A big session to restart from scratch and get into hard mode, and a constant call to play
from Cam when I get home meant that this one keeps racking up the hours. Now up to 330 in total, but a lot of that would be it running in the background as a server.

Might & Magic: Duel of Champions (50h) - Card game that got more interesting with a bit more dedication to PvP, but hit the paywall eventually.

Banner Saga (48h) - Great little story driven tactical combat game. Kinda wished it had a top score on it more than the way it finished, but happy with the overall experience. A game where you really need to go with the flow.

Might & Magic X: Legacy (42h) - Good return to the good old days of tough M&M. That said I appreciated less the amount of linearity there was in the open world caused by the tight gating of difficulty. Don't remember it being that tight back in 4-6.

Warlock 2: The Exiled (46h) - Really plays well and hones the 'Expanding difficulty' maps into a gated experience. Makes more sense than all the map being gradually harder the further away from home you go. My pick out of the current 4X crop.

Endless Legend (23h) 3rd game in a brace of 4X strategy games released in May. Even though it's early access and has obvious rough patches, it seems intriguing enough to keep my attention more than expected. It has that X factor already, so polish can only enhance what could be a

Age of Wonders III (20h) - 59h on steam, bet another that was left on while the PC was playing up. Seems a little snow-bally for my tastes, and even though others were recommending the random games instead of the campaign, it still left a little .. empty.

Tiny Dice Dungeon (20h) - Nice little time waster on both phones.

Football Manager 2014 (20h) - 39h on steam, but I'm sure I left it on a few nights when the PC was playing up. Tried starting a couple of low tier games in anticipation of the world cup, but it's lacking something that it used to have. Even though the systems are slowly changing, it seems a little more like there's less to really get invested in. I might be done with the "start from nothing" approach and look toward just taking a team I actually care about and see what story unfolds.

Game Dev Tycoon (15h) - Nice little game from 1st time developers themselves. 
Rise of Mythos (15h) - Kongregate game that I'd started before. New server and an Ok guild to get going. Lots of nooks & crannies to explore, but once the paywall loomed up without any real way of scaling it with time, I dropped it cold turkey.

Civilization V (15h) - New Venice civilization surprisingly engaging.

Starbound (9h) - Early access attempt at a grander Terraria. Lots of promise, but also lots of grind.

The Last Federation (8h) - From the creators of AI War and more importantly Skyward collapse, it takes the "Indirect grooming" approach to keep a chaotic system from imploding on itself. Works Ok, but the dev had made so many changes after release that it felt like a different game. Actually it felt more early access than most of the early access games I've played recently. That said, I really like the game for its Space Rangers feel.

Dungeon of the Endless (5h) - An interesting diversion from coming off the Endless Legend early access. I like the concept, but seems to be a crapshoot as to whether I make a level clear or not. Another one to fire up once completed.

Marvel Puzzle quest (5h) - Testing the limits of this Free to Pay game

Torchlight II (5h) - New co-op game with cam.

Starpoint Gemini 2 (2h) - Early access, but probably needed to be something to wait for. Hapy to load up again once released.

Path of Exile (2h) - Couple more games with Scott when he's over in Norway.

UnEpic (2h) - I know deep down it's trying to be roguelike, but I feel that all the minimalism misses out on the wanderlust.

Dark Souls (1h) - Press A the start?? No in-game menu to allow exit? Unable to tune the mouse? If I had an XBox I might be able to get into it, but I experienced a whole new level of frustration without even dying.

Magicka: Wizard Wars (1h) - Beta has been a little rough from an Aussie's perspective.

ToME (1h) - Couldn't get steam version to pick up my ToME account, even though it's been linked before. Played a game but quickly found that lack of perks provided by my account makes the game more grating than it needs to be. Shelved until another couple of updates.



Friday, April 11, 2014

Path of Exile for Notorious

Another mini review of Path of Exile with respect to Notorious.

Hardcore characters in Path of Exile have an interesting characteristic in that when you die you don't just vanish, your character then becomes a standard (multiple deaths allowed) character. This is also in use for the various competition levels available in that once the competition is over, the character then becomes hardcore (if it was a hardcore competition).

Specifically for hardcore, this still gives the sting of losing a character for those dedicated to hardcore, but also gives those who want to play on an avenue for doing so. With respect to the competitions, the narrowed time frame and scope brings added incentive to try out new characters or restart the game again. This gives much more longevity to the whole ramp up that is typical of a diablo clone.

I'd always considered having valleys surrounding a starting village be somewhat contained to allow people of similar starting times to compete together (or at least gauge yourself relative to others) in the same way that Grepolis gives an island somewhat of an independent feel until ships open the map up. Now I'm leaning more toward having the valleys open up as the main payment method. Each player would pay a nominal amount of the 2nd tier economy to enter a valley that has a specific achievement and entry conditions associated with it. Once the valley has enough entrants, it opens up that part of the map and players are shielded from other notorious activity until the achievement has been reached by one player. This then opens up the valley to be part of the main world.

Types of requirements would be:
 - New players
 - Power level (Eg min power level 200)
 - Previous achievement holders
 - Notoriety in region

Since the valleys are also based physically on the map, there would also be added incentive to compete in valleys close to your starting location so that you can build up region wide notoriety easier. There can also be tiered access so that lots of small starter villages need to be conquered before there are provincial cities or regional capitals that are exposed to the map.

This concept could also be applied to whole regions rather than just valleys, and allow different playstyles to be rewarded through the specific criteria and conditions placed on that enclosed region.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

First the Worst play mat v2

Turned out the card sizes were too small, so I redesigned the "My card / Your card" space into a single round space (as it makes not difference who plays the card). This gave a little room up the top to add rules and a scoring pad. I like the idea of an aggregate score to be seen in one place by everyone, but I'll see how this goes.




Monday, February 24, 2014

Craft the World review for Notorious


A lot of Craft the World is based on Dwarf Fortress, which is also part of the design of Notorious, so this
review will be more of a reflection on how CTW adapts DF to a tighter, more zoomed-in play experience.
For one thing the dwarves don’t seem to generate as much character and affinity from the player. The dwarves each have individual names, look slightly different and have skill sets to make them unique, but they all just seem to mill around like ants doing their own chores. Even when selecting a dwarf when taking control, it’s easiest to just grab the closest dwarf for the task you want to do rather than specifically looking for somebody. Even swapping through the dwarves, it’s hard to see where they are on the screen. I find myself looking at the stats at the bottom and the activity they are doing rather than their location.

TAKEAWAY: Position is important for building affinity with the individual dwarves. If a minion card is selected in notorious, highlight (and center?) the minion on the screen.


Although you can give dwarves specific equipment, it feels somehow divorced from the task that they are doing. If I set out 8 squares to be dug out, I can potentially have 5 of the 7 dwarves appear to complete the task. In DF you can specifically assign a role to each dwarf and, due to possibly long term play & familiarity with the game, those roles can be very tight indeed. 1 dwarf is the miner, 1 dwarf is the carpenter and possibly the lumberjack. These are chosen before you embark and plays a significant role in success of your fortress for the first season. This raises the barrier to entry significantly because you need to know how to play the game before you start, but it raises your affinity with individual dwarves as you have crafted them personally and know what they should be doing. Continuing on from this, narrowing down the roles for new dwarves during the rest of the game raises the barrier to entry, but also increases affinity.

TAKEAWAY: When the number of minions is limited, assigning them specific roles adds to affinity. When the minion count increases, this can lead to a bogging down into micromanagement. In Notorious, the player can change a minion’s desire to dig and then designate generic digging locations, or they can increase the desire to dig at a specific location. With defence, a general raising of desire for defence will make the minion defend their home territory, whereas a targeted defence will make them defend a specific point. Multiple targets will give a patrol.


There doesn't seem to be any discernible difference in skilled dwarves performing any better than unskilled. This leads to a feeling of nonchalance about who is performing what task. There needs to be feedback on why the skills are important to make the player care about who has what skill. In DF, legendary miners are possibly 4 times faster and produce more spoil. This adds to the desire for sending the right dwarf to the task and gives incentive to investigate and learn the traits of each dwarf. In DF the dwarves also level up by performing the skill rather than skills being assigned by the player. This also adds to the incentive to keep specific dwarves on task.

TAKEAWAY: There needs to be a discernible difference when elevating an action.


GIFTING ITEMS
Another way to increase the player’s affinity with minions is to gift them items from the treasure. This can be done in a number of ways:
Gift – have a way for a specific treasure to be selected then gifted to the minion. This gives a 1 time happiness bonus & increases minion’s knowledge & affection of the player’s name. Note this can have a negative effect as the minion’s memory now has an imprint of the player’s name that can be discovered by other players.
Desire for reward – have a way for the player to transfer ownership of a treasure item to the minion but also associate it with activities they have completed. It may or may not be associated with your name. This gives a bonus to the activity that is being rewarded.
Raise the desire to take an item – there is a natural tendency for minions to have selfish desire for items that they see. Raising one of these desires for the selected treasure has no association with the player’s name or with an action. Note that assignment of ownership is controlled by each minion so an item can have multiple owners (leading to potential fights).
Give item back – have a way to drop the desire for an item so that they abandon it or possibly gift it to another minion. Can also gift back to treasury by raising benevolence of the player’s name.

Gifting items with gems attached and then imprinting the minion again will be one of the main ways to permanently lock in items and improve the minion.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

First the Worst play mat


Woke up yesterday with an idea to make the play mat for First the Worst . Still needs a little work (like adjusting the print to proper card size) but should help in playtesting.



Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Christ be our Light

New year’s eve
Fireworks
Lighting up the sky, lighting up the beach, Lighting up people’s faces.

Odd waiting on the beach, in the dark, sitting and, well, waiting.

We don’t really live much in the dark nowadays do we? At home the lights are on almost all the time. I remember a time when there used to be blackouts fairly regularly, and we’d have a stash of candles and torches to light up the critical areas of the house. We had a blackout recently and it took us a while to even find where the torches were. We’re so used to the light just being there.

If you lived in a major city it’s even worse.
Jimboomba
Hills International school.
Japanese students going camping and being scared.

Light taken for granted?

In Jesus’s time light wasn’t taken for granted. Light was precious and having light allowed a huge advantage for extending the useful hours of a day. Candles were not invented until about 400AD, but Jews had oil lamps. These were covered clay bowls to hold the oil, a hole to fill the oil and a hole for the wick to protrude out to sustain a long burn. Lamps were quite common and most houses would have at least one, but oil is moderately expensive especially clean burning olive oil. The lamps also needed to be continually topped up, so you couldn’t ignore them.

The Jews also saw light from a lamp as a symbol for “lighting” the path of righteousness, giving clear guidance to the wise. It was an important item in Jewish ceremony too, so Jews of the time would see references to the light quite seriously.

Into this mix, John writes his opening sentences that we heard in our bible readings:
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

Even with the importance of physical light in their lives, these words would have leapt out of the page as a spiritual light, keeping out spiritual darkness. We may have abundant physical light ourselves, but we, too, have the same yearning for a spiritual light.

Sometimes our lives are spiritually dark. We can become spiritually dark either by being pulled away from the light by external pressures, or us covering ourselves up.
External darkness is anything which wants to pull you away from the Light.

That voice which says that life is short so you might as well get for yourself what you can while you can at anyone else’s expense - that’s darkness.

That pressure that comes on you because of what everyone else is doing, how everyone else is living. When you set your standards by what others say and do, regardless of what that is - that’s a darkness wanting to envelope you.

When there’s a downgrading of the importance of God or things associated with God – that’s darkness.

When your lines of distinction between what is good and helpful and character building and what is bad and useless and degrading – when those lines become blurred, then there’s a darkness taking hold.

And it can be subtle. It can be a subtle shift in the way you think, a broadening of your tolerance of what previously you disdained. It can be subtle in the way that slowly, bit by bit, God becomes replaced in your life: replaced with success, replaced with the need to be accepted, replaced with busyness, with material things, replaced with relationships.

And there’s an inner darkness and often that comes as a result of the external kind..

That growing emptiness inside, that loss of purpose, that sense of unfulfillment, when each day becomes just a grind.

It can come to us in the form of loneliness which we try to suppress, but it keeps on raising its ugly head.
It can be frustration: it grows in us and leads us to fly off the handle unreasonably and hurt others in the process.
It can be an anger in us: something unresolved, unforgiven, and it eats away at us, bit by bit, and as each day passes a little bit more light is extinguished and the darkness thickens.

I think that that kind of darkness most of us can identify with to some degree or another. Most of us have felt that sometime. Some of us may feel that right now. It’s not a pleasant thing. Once we recognise it we long for something to lighten the picture.

It’s for this that Jesus is being called the light of the world. A spiritual beacon to light up the way ahead. That’s what lights do best, show the way ahead.

Most nights I’m the last one to bed, and I go through a physically dark experience. I turn off the light on one side of the room and have to navigate, usually with my arms outstretched, through the living room to my bed. There’s some twists and turns and sometimes toys to stand on and it’s all a little unnerving. Sometimes I remember my phone and use it as a light and the difference is huge. I can walk quickly, not hunched over, no longer in fear of what might be in front of me next. It gives clarity to all those half shapes and blobs I think I see.

Jesus is saying “Let me be your spiritual light”. Let me guide you out of the darkness.

When we’re out in the blackness seeking things of this world, or tied up in busyness, Jesus comes to provide light to the pitfalls ahead. Please! Turn around! Look out ahead! These are distractions!

When we’re faced with more and more godlessness, Jesus comes to shine light on the issues. Follow my examples! Live like me! Heed my words!

When we’re down on ourselves, when we become aware of our failures, when we are frustrated with our mistakes, we don’t have to dwell on them, We don’t have to keep being turned in on ourselves. Jesus says come to me! Lay your burdens at MY feet and stand in light, unashamed and unafraid for you are forgiven.

When we do live in the light, When we turn our faces toward Jesus, something wonderful also happens. We light up. We can be a beacon to others! But it’s not our light, we’re just reflecting the light provided by Christ. Like the fireworks, we can see the faces of people if we look around, but they are merely reflecting the light and direction of the real source of light. Jesus says that through us, we can reflect his light out so that others may find their way out of the darkness, and also know the direction of the True Light.

We are to be like John in our readings:
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John.7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 
 
I hope and pray that Jesus is also like a firework to you. A light bringing exploding joy and happiness.

Inspiration



Saturday, December 07, 2013

GameLog 313 - 324

Been putting off doing a GameLog for a while mainly due to a site redesign coming up. Comments are now broken and there's other parts that needs a freshen up. Happy to stay with Blogspot for now, but am keen to completely redo the template.

Lots of things to be missed, but here goes ...

Warlock: Master of the Arcane (80h) - Armageddon map looked to add a whole lot more nastiness, but it still felt a little too easy once you get going. Tried a 1-city challenge on it and much more tense game. Final seal to fall and the mage guarding it seems almost impossible to take down with the set I have. Might just need to rush it and resurrect the unlucky.

Crusader Kings II (40h) - Fresh start and I'm already owning most of Scotland, Ireland and parts of France.

At the Gate (30h) - Closed Alpha testing.

League of legends (20h) - LAN stalwart. Slowing down the nightly need, but still ticking along. Alien Heimer skin!

Terraria (20h) - New patch has brought this one back into high rotation for LANs.

Path of Exile (16h) - F2P Diablo. Nice skill tree.

Card Hunter (10h) -After the month ended, it didn't really have the legs to keep me entertained. There's talk of expansions though.

Neptune's pride II (10h) - New release. Beginner game look to be Sandy's. Still in the 64 player, but only 1 planet left.

Tales of Maj Eyal (5h) - Seems easy for the most part, then an intense couple of turns when you know you're in trouble. Interesting how that's developing.

Long live the Queen (5h) - sounded like a better version of Persona or Princess maker, but the linearity of it got to me at the end.

Might & Magic, Duel of Champions (3h) - Sounded like an interesting CCG, but no single player past the initial tutorial. Little disappointing.

Legends of Eisenwald (2h) - Looked good, but still early beta or possibly alpha. Usually don't mind early release, but this seemed to just rub me the wrong way. Happy to wait a couple of months for it to get fleshed out.

Mount & Blade: Fire & Sword (2h) - LAN multiplayer.

Tower of Saviours (2h) - Moved distributors ofthe game and it took at least 1.5 hours to set up alternate accounts to keep the same save alive. Way to kill off a game!

F1 2012 (2h) - pre-race racing before the real F1

Hurl (1h) - VR Jumpy!