This is a test for the Nexus 7 WP client.

December 27th, 2012 No comments

Happy holidays everyone!

Share Button
Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Purchasing Power

December 15th, 2012 No comments

When the medium was young, game developers didn’t have to care as much about “player buy-in”, the investment of energy, time, money, and other resources that is put in by participants. The novelty, particularly in video games, was a sufficient hook to entice people to make that investment. It was something new, something so unlike what had come before as to produce the necessary buy-in. People were practically lining up just for the privilege of trying such a thing.

But as we’ve come along, and as we begin to look critically at tabletop and video games, it’s becoming clear that player buy-in is absolutely necessary for a successful game. Where once Nintendo would get that buy in with the mere idea of a game, the power has shifted to the players. “There are so many games out there that I have my pick. Why should I choose yours?” People involved in the development of games, either those they are writing themselves, or those they’re leading as storytellers or narrators, must be mindful of this facet of gaming.

First, a little clarity. This phenomenon of investment has always existed, in one form or another. It’s what creates fans of books, or movies, or TV shows. “Did you hear about…?”, “Have you seen…?”, “You know what’s really cool…” and variants have existed for as long as we could talk about our interests, and share them. The desire to make communities around things we love is a very primal one, but with games, it’s taken a decidedly more communal turn. Books are written, produced, and finished. Feedback is submitted to an author, and perhaps he takes note of it (turning The Jew into Fagin for example), but it’s not a prerequisite for writing a novel, nor directing TV. Just ask J. J. Abrams.

Games though are an inherently collaborative experience, and investiture in them means getting something out of them than more than just entertainment. When you grab your five friends and tell them you want to run a game of Vampire: the Masquerade, what you’re saying is “I have an idea for a story I want to tell, and would love for you to help me write it.” When you become part of a guild on WoW or a corporation in EVE, you are throwing a lot more than just your time and energy into the game: you’re building something. You’re investing in something that can be transformed, which is why it’s all the more sad when those structures we build fall, as all things do in time. I’m sad I’m not playing WoW with my guild anymore, even though they’re all still my friends, and we spend a lot of time on LoL now. Some of my sweetest memories of tabletop are the outrageous stories I helped to tell with my characters and their actions, and in one notable circumstance, my character’s death.

The people who are mindful of this property of games are going to be the ones who make the most successful ones. Doublefine and inXile used reward tiers on Kickstarter to promote the idea that we weren’t just investing our money in these projects; they opened up forums for backers to come in and give their opinions as the very games are being made, and I think that’s a very wise move. It’s also something that Kickstarter encourages: you’re not only putting your money on the line for a product, but you are also given an amount of control in the production of what you’re funding. I’m not just a backer of Wasteland 2, it’s in a very real sense my game. That buy-in is, in itself, a reward, and will make for a better experience when all’s said and done.

I think, and I’ve talked about this before, that Kickstarter’s role in gaming is expanding. The ability to invest in games will become the new norm, and big name developers have got to be more responsive to their player’s wants and needs. That responsiveness is one of the reasons Valve and Riot are so successful. What’s keeping the bigger names afloat, the ones who chronically and habitually ignore the ideas and investiture of its customers, is capital. They’ve already got the buy in, but now they’re living on borrowed time. Get ready kids: it’s going to be an exciting few years.

(Next week: Part 2! What does buy-in mean for the players?)

Share Button

Triumphs and Tears

December 12th, 2012 No comments

Eight days ago, Riot Games banned competitive player IWillDominate from playing League of Legends in any sponsored tournament for a year. Though this isn’t the first competitive ban, it’s definitely one of the more noteworthy, particularly for this side of the Pacific. In addition, it’s the first ban of a pro player I can find for League of Legends at all, and it’s worth a deeper look.

I’ve long held that Riot’s system is innovative and the standard by which other games, particularly those that want to make a name for themselves in the competitive gaming arena. DOTA, as a genre, has long been known as a place for trolls and griefers to get their kicks, due in large part to the somewhat unbalanced areas of play in the original maps that spwaned from Warcraft III. As more polished versions of DOTA came out, a more forceful change than simple graphics needed to be implemented if any were to distinguish themselves from their competition. Riot’s solution was the Tribunal, a system by which players could review the conduct of other players, and see if it breached , a set of loose rules and guidelines to promote good behavior and sportsmanship. Balanced on the other side of rewarding players for good behavior (with the Honor Initiative), the twin facets of carrot and stick have generally enhanced peoples’ experiences with the games, according to many accounts.

Of course, there were still some people who were abusive and toxic to the environment, at all levels of play from the low brackets of 600 Elo all the way to Dignitas’ jungler, IWillDominate. In a indictment of his behavior, Riot’s Senior eSports Manager
, letting the community know in no uncertain terms that even players of IWillDominate’s caliber need to comport themselves by the social contract all the members of the League of Legends player base have agreed to.

I think it’s brilliant.

When we start talking, as gamers, about gaming being taken seriously, we have to embrace that notion. Games as art must be able to share human experiences that are not easily conveyed, and be able to transform the witness. Games as entertainment have to be genuinely pleasant experiences, rather than just something to frustrate and annoy our friends, neighbors, and parents with.

But games as sport must hold themselves to a greater standard, for two reasons: money and respect. Though these two don’t often go hand in hand, they do with real life, traditional sports. We pay our athletes a great amount of money, and challenge them to be better than us. We revel in their accomplishments, erecting Halls of Fame to immortalize our great competitors. We bring charges against those who betray our trust, going all the way up to the highest levels of government. In short, we build pedestals for those who compete to put themselves on, and we extol them when they get to the top.

As competitive eSports comes into mainstream society’s awareness, we must be ready to build those pedestals for our own digital competitors. We have to be ready to praise their acts of honest, good natured gamesmanship, and we have to be ready to scorn them for their misdeeds, as Riot has done. By prohibiting IWillDominate from competing at the highest level of play, Riot reinforces the very ethos behind competition: the thrill of the game, and the joy of victory. Going hand in hand with the fines levied against AzubuFrost in October, Riot seems ready to treat this just as seriously as they need to, as we move into the future of gaming’s potential. I commend Riot, and their VP of eSports RedBeard for taking this step, and hope they continue to act as a leader in the competitive gaming world for a long time.

Share Button

Turning It To 11

December 1st, 2012 1 comment

Two years ago, I had the privilege of participating in something amazing and ridiculous. I got to indulge in what video games are designed to do. I got to be a rock star.

When it came out in late 2007, Rock Band made waves. It took Guitar Hero to the next level, and let people indulge in their musical exhibition streak. I have fond memories of getting together with my friends and making bands, such as Tannenbomb and The Robin Sparkles Project. Those happy nights (at least the ones I can remember) were filled with my friends, willingly playing the part of fans until the song ended, and they got their chance to take the stage. I took my show on the road occasionally, and got to play for a bigger audience at the Penny Arcade Expos I went to, and generally had an amazing time. Those days were capped by a fantastic experience: Umloud.

Taking the stage to sing “Epic” by Faith No More while tossing out Its-Its is an experience that I will never forget, but though you might not be in San Francisco to be able to indulge in the atmosphere of the Geekiest Rock Show Ever, I want to highlight the reason for the entire experience: Child’s Play. Founded in 2003, this charity has a long and storied history, and one that gamers everywhere can point to when they say that their hobby is only for the immature and childish.

Since I’ve recently been employed by the San Francisco Food Bank, it’s my honor to point people towards worthy causes, and Child’s Play definitely is. If you’ve got some spare time, consider applying to be a volunteer for an amazing experience, or simply wend your way down to the DNA Lounge next Saturday and have a blast with your fellow geeks, improving some lives and having a stellar time all at once.

Share Button

A Higher Standard

November 28th, 2012 1 comment

You might know of a professional gamer known as Destiny. Steven Bonnell has about 27k followers on Twitter, and a very active presence in several Reddit communities, as well as a popular website. He truly is a professional gamer, and by that, I mean he makes a living through streaming, advertisements, endorsements, and gets to play video games all day.

Which is good, actually. We need more professional gamers if we want to be treated more seriously as a culture. But professional shouldn’t just mean that you’re able to make a living from it. Like in “real” or perhaps “mundane” sports, if we’re going to hold these people up as examples, we need to actually hold them to a higher standard than your typical flamer, troll, griefer, or 12 year old boy in a 23 year old’s body.

About 3 months ago, a female fan of his going by the handle “Bluetea”, was exposed to a few of Destiny’s fans. He had shared naked pictures of his with two of his friends.

This was uncool.

In retaliation, she gained access to his Twitter account and shared pictures of his dick to all of his followers.

This was also uncool.

But here’s where the real crux of my problem: In response to the beginning of this drama, what Cloud Nine Labs, one of Destiny’s major sponsors and the designers of his website said, was largely “That’s just Destiny being Destiny.”

“The principals at Cloud Nine Labs, including myself, remain in support of Stevens PR decisions. Furthermore, we encourage his brutal honesty, snide remarks, controversial comments/subjects, humor, etc. as it brings a uniquely dynamic and highly entertaining element to the streaming experience. His strong personality is what makes him Destiny – one of the most successful SC2 streamers of all time. Other SC2 personalities should take a cue from Mr. Bonnell because the SC2 pro circuit is not just “gaming”. It has become a powerful industry that can be monetized by establishing a strong, widely talked about brand which Steven has managed to accomplish.

In short: stop bitching, change your tampons and up your game”

Contexual language aside, this is really disappointing to me. Not in a sexist way (though it is) and not in a greedy sort of way (it’s that too). It’s disappointing is that this is what we want our role models to be. Snide, arrogant, assholish, and proud.

While admitting that we’ve got a way to go, I’ll also point out that in mundane sports, we don’t accept this behavior. Manny Ramirez, OJ Mayo, and even Mike Tyson aren’t people who we hold up for the next generation to be.

We should be forgiving of flaws of character. We should understand that people have lapses, and people are jerks from time to time. I talk about people behind their backs, I gossip, I carry opinions of people that are less than favorable. You do too. We all do. But we don’t encourage that sort of behavior, and we shouldn’t. It’s certainly not the kind of thing we should hold as an ideal.

So what do you think? Are we hopelessly doomed to being assholes forever. or can we step up our own games? Lemme know.

Share Button

Opening the Marketplace

November 21st, 2012 No comments

As Nintendo’s latest console (the WiiU, for those of you not aware) hits the market, the indie gaming community is reacting to the news that its online market will allow developers to set the prices of their releases, and not Nintendo acting as distributor. Further, in what may be a particularly generous move, they won’t charge developers, nor require them to charge, when releasing patches for their games.

“These seem like perfectly reasonable things to me, and I don’t know why you’re writing about them,” I hear you say.

“Because they’re not the current industry model,” I reply. “Currently, developers have to pay distributors to patch their game, and can’t set their own price points.”

Nintendo is setting itself up for success here. They didn’t do a lot with the Wii in terms of helping indie developers out the last time around, and invariably, they flocked to the better games in town, if you’ll pardon the expression. We got gems like Braid and Limbo, but on the XBox and the PS3. The Wii was sort of standing in the cold, having three main problems: an unfriendly marketing system, advertising which stressed professional development, and developers wary of trying to build a game around the Wii’s controller system.

At least two of these problems vanish with Nintendo’s about face. With their embrace of letting developers set their own pricing, their online market becomes much more appealing for people making small games on their own. They still have to drum up about $5,000 for a WiiU development kit, but considering that XBox’s new development kit Durango is going for about $20,000, this is a small hurdle. Second, Nintendo isn’t shy about trumpeting their new policy on indie gaming, nor should they be. Lots of press around the move has already circulated, and Nintendo has gotten acclaim from such indie studios as Frozenbyte (Trine 2) and Tomorrow Corporation (Little Inferno), both of which are eager to work with the industry veteran when it comes to their new platform.

The third issue, Nintendo’s unusual controller setup, presents a challenge for the interested indie developers, but I hope they think of it as an opportunity, rather than an obstacle. Can they create something to use the WiiU well, or are they just going to be trying to get something that functions without looking too deeply at the hardware?

Whichever situation pans out, I’m hoping that the increased interest in indie development will spur some competition between Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft to treat their consoles as new playgrounds for young developers. Give indie teams something to work with and on, rather than clutter that gets in their way. With review systems to get games into the market already established, there’s no need to further burden small but talented shops from taking the plunge into developing for consoles, rather than PCs. Congrats to Nintendo for realizing this, and starting what I hope is a trend.

Share Button
Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , ,

From the Stream to the Ocean

November 18th, 2012 1 comment

E-sports has particularly taken off in the last few years, driven largely by such streaming websites as and Given that e-sports main point of accessibility is the internet, it should come as no surprise that services should develop that drive this standard, and make it more and more conventional and accessible. Where once YouTube videos might be the best way to view large gaming events, these were merely recaps of the events of tournaments and championship matches that had already passed; it was previously impossible to witness events as they happened, without being their yourself.

And yet, demand grew, and with it, people began to seriously pay attention to the methods of distribution of content. Sites like Twitch and Justin opened up, and began to attract streamers. But game developers have started to pay attention to this as well. Introduced some time ago, Riot’s Spectator Mode for League of Legends allows people to observe games currently being played. You can either chose to spectate any game on your friends list or any of the “Featured” games, though how they come to this determination is as of yet unknown.

Other games, notably Starcraft, utilize these websites as well, but only Riot has bothered to build in the streaming functionality into their games, and this suggests that they are perhaps better prepared to deal with the future of this growing sport.

This is the start of a larger trend, and perhaps a larger post, but I’d appreciate a bit more feedback. Do you think that e-sports have a viable future? What else could streaming do for video games?

Give us your thoughts, either by comment or by email, and suggest some topics for future posts!

Share Button
Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Leader of the Pack

November 13th, 2012 1 comment

Is Valve the best game company in the world? Gabe Newell’s reactions to his impromptu interview/birthday party by members of 4chan’s /v/ board might suggest so. Not only was he willing to talk about one of Valve’s new projects being an entirely new engine (perhaps Source 2), but he was also willing to have a frank discussion about the role of gamers in the industry.

Though he admitted to not being particularly happy with Greenlight at the moment, he was earnest in his endorsement of Kickstarter, even suggesting that the audience he was being interviewed by use it to get /v/’s treasured game Pressure underway. “Greenlight’s better than nothing,” he said in summation of its efforts thus far, “but it’s still not really where we want to be.”

In talking about DRM, he noted that Valve wants to use it, which was initially a bit of a surprise, given his stance in the past. Here, he talks about how DRMing is not important to the individual game, but to the customer’s account. “The problem is, you’re going to end up with a lot of assets inside of your games…what we worry about are people stealing accounts, that’s like a million times bigger of a problem. So the question becomes, as you have more and more value in your accounts…that’s way bigger of a concern.”

The video’s first 30 minutes contain a lot of question and answer stuff that you normally expect, but this is in itself interesting for two reasons. One, Gabe is willing to take the time to meet a bunch of fans who have come up to the studios and want to ask him questions. This isn’t abnormal for Valve, but it is for the rest of the industry. Who goes out of their way to listen to the concerns of their customers like this? Riot comes close I think, and should be lauded for their efforts, but allowing open tours of your facilities and meeting with real people in your own home as it were is really something. The second reason this is interesting is because Mr. Newell is talking earnestly. He’s being clear, honest, upfront. He is not an outsider. He’s a gamer. He’s part of this community, and he’s gotten a lot of respect for it. If other businesses (or hell, even governments) could have such honest representation, I think we’d feel a lot better about the state of the world.

Then, “Gaben” takes it for a twist, and asks the assembled fans what they at Valve should be focusing on. “So what should we be paying attention to that we’re not? I mean, this is your opportunity.” The conversation drifts to talk about Gabe noting that /v/ is generally a good predictor of trends in video games, and that they may want to use this talent to create a market for these predictions. “One, you’d be incredibly accurate, and first of all you’d be blown off, but then you’d be like ‘Holy shit! We’re pretty accurate at predicting stuff.’” He was frustrated, it seemed, at the current usage of Metacritic to be a source of quality information. “Metacritic…nobody at Metacritic called up a bunch of game companies and said ‘You should pay us for this,’ it just turned out it was a better tool than anything anyone in the gaming industry had created for evaluating the quality of what they did.”

This sense of things is what separates Valve from a lot of their competition. They are willing to take their time on a host of things, from developing their product, to critically thinking about their customers’ wants, needs, and desires. They’re approaching this industry from a perspective of an artisan who takes serious pride in their product, and wants their fanbase to be happy. “We try to make sure that the customer knows what they’re getting, but we also don’t want to become the dictator that tells everybody ‘You have to do things our way.’ Doing things the customers don’t know is happening is something that we want to avoid. At some point, they’ll [companies that do this] just turn evil, and be put down.”

I wonder about specific examples he may be thinking of. I think that Gabe would be the first to pick up a pitchfork if he thought Valve was headed in the wrong direction, and this amount of integrity in any industry, much less the gaming industry, should be applauded. So here’s to Gabe Newell and Valve, the leaders of the pack.

Share Button
Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,

Tools of the Trade

November 10th, 2012 2 comments

A lot of controversy has been stirred up in the last two years because of DRM. Notable examples include Assassin’s Creed 2, and Diablo 3. Though Blizzard still uses it on Diablo 3, Ubisoft did away with it, and it looked like the data side of the gaming world had been split, but for the most part, settled. It was a bad thing, and gamers got to rail against it for a bit and have a victory. Right?

Well, turns out that the hardware manufacturers may not be done themselves.

Razer recently updated their popular Naga gaming mouse with new software. Called Synapse, this software acts as to connect your mouse with Razer’s servers, requiring an authentication before allowing you to do anything notable with the mouse, like write scripts for its customizable buttons. Without the ability to add macros, what you’re left with is an $80 plug-and-play mouse. It’s not always on; once you finish your authentication, you can do what you want to with the mouse, but the notion that hardware now has an extra door to go through is galling. As professional gaming is taking off, the equipment those pro players use is under no scrutiny, except honest competition. In the same way that people might talk about which engines are best, or which typewriters have the least problems, gaming tools were just things to be honestly compared on their merits. He uses X mouse. She uses y mouse. The brands were notable for their difference in performance in only positive terms, like a car racer’s vehicle. You didn’t have to avoid a particular brand because of the way the keys might stick or the problems with a scrollwheel.

Now, those instruments must be scrutinized, and not just for mechanical faults. That’s painful and sad. There was something you could trust to be quality, and now, it’s tarnished. Fool’s gold. Razer’s addressed these problems. They’ll update Synpase to give the Nagas “a more robust offline mode”, but it seems like if they had to put out this software after just seeing what Blizzard and Ubisoft had to go through, it was a bad idea that got away from them.

Razer will still go on. They’re a large, successful company, and they’ve been slapped on the wrist, but coming to this point at all is unfortunate. Was Razer just the first? Will there be more hardware manufacturers who decide that they too have to collect data about their customers, and sell it to who knows who. Because of this, gamers are put in the unenviable position of having to go further in their research of products, and perhaps the worst case scenario is that they’re left with no choice in the matter at all. Don’t want to buy Razer because of malware? What you’ve got left is Logitech, really. Sure, there are some out on the fringe, but for the most part, Logitech’s the only other game in town.

I had hoped we’d seen the last of DRM on either side of the fence, but it seems that we have to worry now if our keyboards will have our login information, or if our monitors might store our favored search terms. This is probably a little hyperbolic, but at least we saw software malware years ago. Hardware malware had been largely off the radar until we got blindsided, and now we have to sit and wait to see if there’s more to it than just this.

Share Button
Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

State of the Blog

November 9th, 2012 No comments

So, many of my familiar readers know my situation. Here’s to any that filter in:

My name is Patrick Colford. I’m 28, and currently unemployed. I just came back from Korea, where I taught English for a year. I’m looking for work in a writing field, and I need to build my portfolio, and this is my honest attempt to do both.

Thanks for stopping by.

I’m going to make this blog a way to move forward in my life. I need your help. If you could share this blog with your friends, and look for a donate button some time in the near future, I’d appreciate it.

For those of you who are uninitiated, I write about gaming. I will write about what currently catches my fancy, but since I’m trying to be a paid writer, I’ll give my audience some subject material privilege too. Pay me to write, and I’ll write about what catches your fancy too. You can drop me a line at, and let me know something you heard about on Reddit, or in a gaming magazine or article online. I’ll look it up, think about it, and tell you my thoughts. I’ll try to do some research, and provide an interesting opinion.

Anyway, to add on, I’m trying to make November my time to do it. November, for those of you who aren’t writers or who don’t have writing friends, is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. It’s a time to try and use the entire month to write a novel.

I don’t think I can do this right now, but I’m working on it. I’m honest about this with myself, so I compromised. I’m going to try and make this a month to write more. So, I hope that you’ll indulge me with some time and help me write. Give me your energy and opinions, and I will let you know. Every Tuesday and Friday until the end of the month, even in the face of adversity, will have a blog post.

Thanks for everything guys. Here’s to an honest try.

-Pat (Tabor)

Share Button
Categories: Uncategorized Tags: