Rather Infrequent Open Thread
I’ll be travelling today, so you all get a big list of links and the opportunity to talk about pretty much anything. Because that, Dragons and Dragonettes, is how we roll on this site.
Raph Koster should need no introduction to anyone who is familiar with the development of Ultima Online. He is also an author, and his most well-known book — A Theory of Fun — was for some time accompanied be a website devoted to the same topic (that is: game design).
Well, I noticed on Twitter that Mr. Koster had announced the rebirth of the site, and he was inviting people to check it out and offer comments on its design and any errors encountered in its content. Please give it a look, Ultima fans!
Now, a distinction needs to be drawn here. The term “mobile gaming” as used here and in the linked article refers to games for smartphones, built to run on the iOS, Android, and/or Windows Phone 7 mobile operating systems. The term “portable gaming”, in contrast, refers to handheld console games, Sony and Nintendo titles.
Which makes this big news:
Using data from NPD as well as Flurry’s own usage analysis on 125,000 mobile apps, the company reports that iOS and Android will make up 58 percent of all U.S. portable game revenue in 2011, compared to just 34 percent in 2010 and 19 percent in 2009.
Nintendo’s DS line makes up an estimated 36 percent of all U.S. portable software revenues in 2011, down from 70 percent in 2009, while the Sony’s PSP accounts for 6 percent of revenues, down from 11 percent two years ago.
The total size of the portable and mobile game software market has also increased in that time, from $2.7 billion in 2009 to an estimated $3.3 billion this year, Flurry says.
As you can imagine, freemium games (free games offering in-app purchases) have proven surprisingly lucrative and have contributed significantly to these figures. But even leaving that aside, the appeal of mobile games as opposed to traditional portable games is easy enough to see. Portable gaming systems, like consoles, don’t see generational iterations all that often (how long ago did the PSP come out?). Mobile phones, on the other hand…my iPhone 3GS was top-of-the-line when I got it less than two years ago; two new iPhone models have been released since then, each substantially more powerful than the model prior.
The current iPhone is about half as powerful as the PS Vita (the next-generation PSP) will be at its launch. It is also almost as powerful as the iPad 2. No less a gaming technology expert than John Carmack has argued that the iPad 2 is about “half as powerful” as the Playstation 3, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that the iPhone 4S is in about the same general category. The next iPhone, whatever it winds up being called, will probably match (or almost match) the Playstation 3 for power and performance, which will mean it will basically match the PS Vita for power and performance. But whereas top-end titles with high production values will cost $25 or more on the PS Vita, titles with the same production values and quality will cost between $2 and $7 on e.g. the Apple App Store.
The math almost does itself.
I mean, Reckoning is worthy of attention (I think) solely on the basis that it’s a massive RPG being worked on by Ian “Tiberius” Frazier from the Ultima V: Lazarus project team. That said, it also seems to include many gameplay features that should appeal to Ultima fans.
Risen 2 isn’t being worked on (that I know) by anyone from the Ultima fan project community…but it is well-enough known that Piranha Bytes (the German developers who created the Gothic and Risen series) were inspired in part by Ultima (especially Ultima 9), and their games reflect this. If you want comprehensive NPC schedules in a 3D, open-world RPG, you’d be well-advised to look up a Piranha Bytes game!
Anyhow, here’s a piece of Risen 2-related content for you all:
I’m actually modestly fascinated at Risen 2′s attempt to blend pirate fantasy (which is still kind of a big thing, since Johnny Depp keeps finding gainful employment in related roles) and classic “swords & sorcery”-type fantasy. I rather hope it works out!
I was pretty much aware of the HR-related ones, courtesy of my own cynicism regarding HR departments and years of reading Dilbert. And I was aware of the first one. Here’s one, though, that some of you Americans might take into consideration:
2. Myth: The First Amendment protects your ability to say what you want at work.
Fact: The First Amendment prevents the government from restricting your speech, but not a private employer. In most states, an employer can fire you for what you say at work, or even outside of work. (An exception to this is if you’re organizing coworkers about wages or working conditions.)
So, you know…be careful who you let read your blog and/or your Facebook profile. But I trust you all already knew that!
Ken Rolston worked for Bethesda Softworks for a number of years; he retired from game development with the release of Oblivion, but got sucked back into game-making to work on Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. And on the subject of fan input, he has this to say:
“Ninety percent has to be familiar and 10 percent has to be new,” he said of evolving game design. “Fans say, ‘I want something new,’ but clearly they want the same thing with less suck.”
This would seem to be a lesson that Origin Systems didn’t ever fully grasp, at least with the last couple of entries in the Ultima series.
Anyhow, Reckoning’s lead designer, Ian Frazier (who is, as mentioned above, well-known to all of us) had this to add via Twitter:
Yes, it’s true, “eliminating the suck” is core to our design philosophy at Big Huge Games.
So…how excited about Reckoning would all of you be if it was described to you as Oblivion without everything that both Oblivion’s lead designer and a hardcore Ultima fan felt sucked about the game?
Or your smartphone’s Kindle app. Or your Nook. Or your Nook app. You get the idea.
Tonight’s post brought to you by how to make extra-fluffy mashed potatoes!
Which, it must be said, works! I have tried it, and it works!