Can't Get it Out of My Head

Can't Get it Out of My Head

"The figure of 150 people has become known as 'Dunbar's Number.' The Number is a conjecture so far, supported only by statistical and anecdotal evidence. Dunbar, now at the University of Liverpool School of Biological Sciences, is conducting a 10-year study that may offer firm proof in 2008. ... On the web, humorist David Wong used the Number to launch a funny (but not-safe-for-work) screed about the 'monkeysphere' - 'the group of people who each of us, using our monkeyish brain, is able to conceptualize as people. ... [I]n our monkey brains the old woman next door is a human being, while the cable company is a big, cold, faceless machine. That the company is, in reality, nothing but a group of people every bit as human as the old lady, or that some kind old ladies actually work there and would lose their jobs if enough cable were stolen, rarely occurs to us.'
"Today, Dunbar's Number has gained currency among sociologists, anthropologists, managers and - increasingly - online game designers."

Can't Get it Out of My Head

"Coming down from a love affair can be like breaking an addiction. If you're with someone whose very presence fills your body with sexy endorphins, their removal from your life leaves you crushed. The hardest bit of coming down is finding a way to fill the hours you previously devoted to the object of your affections. Planescape was full of things to do - it wasn't challenging, but there was always something to think about. Which artifact to buy? Where to explore next? What's that angel creature really up to? Roleplaying games are an obsessive's dream."
Kieron Gillen looks at games as consolation prize for a failed romance in "Alone in the Dark."

Can't Get it Out of My Head

"Indeed, Introversion games frequently feel like the kind of game you'd carry over to your friend's house on a 5.25" inch floppy when dinosaurs ruled the earth. I asked if that feeling was intentional. 'Yes, I think that's definitely part of the Introversion aesthetic,' though he added, 'I'm not sure it's entirely intentional, but often seems to end up that way, mainly because it was a really creative and exciting period for game design, and we were growing up in the midst of it all.' As of late, he says, 'We've lost a lot of that fearlessness in the pursuit of innovation and great ideas in recent years, perhaps because the stakes are so much higher. It's all about making a profit nowadays, and the suits are the ones to determine what games will be profitable, not the developers, so we end up with this cookie-cutter approach to game development, with many publishers getting stuck in the design rut.'"

Shannon Drake speaks to Introversion's Chris Delay.

Can't Get it Out of My Head

"Designers were faced with a twofold challenge. First, they had to fit player failure into increasingly complex, fixed stories. The solution was to make failure independent of the story - you could die as often as you liked. The second problem was figuring out how to penalize failure without requiring the player to replay substantial areas. Around the same time, LucasArts, faced with a similar conundrum in the adventure game genre, removed death entirely. But RPG designers could not give up killing the player, in part because cheating death is such an integral part of fantasy stories. Instead, they relied on saving. If the player saved his game regularly, death would not force him to replay much. And if death ended the game, failure didn't cause any story problems because restoring a saved game "undid" the death and reset the story."

Marty M. O'Hale explains why death is overdone in "Killjoy."

Can't Get it Out of My Head

"From the moment the first cut scene plays, we're immediately assaulted with Emotioneering techniques. A beautiful and mysterious flower-girl walks the streets of the grotesquely industrialized city of Midgar. We're intrigued and pulled in by the girl. Who is she? The mystery motivates us to keep playing. Freeman calls mysteries a 'motivation technique.' The visual incongruence of the fantastical city pulls us out of our reality and into that of the game's in an emotionally resonant way. Visual incongruence is a "world induction technique," because it pulls the player into the fantasy world.

"Moments later, the main character, Cloud, nimbly leaps from a train and prepares for combat. By the cut scene's end, we already know Cloud is an athletic action hero looking for a fight. Cliché?