Crispy Gamer

Catch-up: Shuffling the Deck and my OnLive hands-on


Getting to from Gamesbeat yesterday sucked up a lot of my time, so let's get to the backlog, shall we?


1. Before heading over to Gamesbeat, I went to a GDC session led in part by Robin Hunicke, an EA designer who spearheaded development on MySims, Boom Blox, and the upcoming Boom Blox Blast Party. The session was mostly attended by other developers and was an enlightening window into game design education and peer relationships between developers. As the speakers described it, MDA–which stands for Mechanics Design Aesthetics–is a vocabulary for discussing play that tries to address the gap between ideas and game mechanics. Mechanics were defined as the rules and concepts that formally specify the game-as-system and Dynamics were defined as the run-time behavior of the game-as-system + players. Finally, Aesthetics were defined as emotional responses evoked by game dynamics. The session used a teaching exercise based on Bartok, a playing card game similar to Uno. Tables of six played round after round with changing rules added sporadically. The shifting rules changed the way my table talked and played about the game. The point was made that most people experience digital games as aesthetics first and that designers should put themselves in the player role and see if the mechanics that they as designers love to pile on actually affect the aesthetic feeling. I couldn't stay for the rest of the session but I feel like even that little bit will help me as a critic.



2. Readers may have seen James Fudge's post about the new OnLive service announced yesterday. I had a chance to try it out two weeks ago and have to say at this point it seems very attractive. I played Crysis on the service on a HDTV connected via the OnLive microconsole. The responsiveness was impressive. It was so good I couldn't tell if there was a hint of lag or if I was just imagining it. I also watched them play Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box edition and didn't notce any latency whatsoever, even with that' game's shiny, particle-heavy graphics. If the tech holds up under real-time conditions, OnLive will be a good solution for people like me who've never had the inclination or money to keep up with constantly shifting high-end PC components.

Execs claim this won’t be a retread of GameTap or *shudder* Phantom
because, unlike those game-on-demand services, they’re aiming to have
titles appear on the service when they show up in brick-and-mortar
stores.  As James notes, the company’s exec team formerly did stints at
tech and game heavyweights Apple, Eidos and Microsoft among others.
They’ve managed to line up investments from Warner Brothers, Autodesk
and Maverick Capital. On the publishing side, nine major game companies
have pledged support for the OnLive service, including EA, Ubisoft,
THQ, Epic and Codemasters.