PvP Tetris

TetrisWhile bored one day, I came to think of Tetris. Tetris is a singleplayer game – I’m sure there are multiplayer versions of it, but I’ve never played one. I was considering how one could make a PvP (competitive) version of the game for Xbox Live. The first thing was to identify what makes Tetris singleplayer, and eventual problems in changing that.

  • There is only one player in a Tetris game.
  • You compete not against an enemy, but yourself.
  • You do so by handling a complex task during increasing time pressure.
  • Performance is measured through points, based on how long the player “survived” (measured in the amount of rows removed).

It would be simple to have some form of splitscreen gameplay where each player would play his own Tetris board and just compete about the score, but that wouldn’t be very different from playing on your own and then comparing points. What we want is to engage the other player somehow. These are the ideas I came up with.

  • Keep the splitscreen idea so that both player’s could see each others boards, but turn the view of the enemy’s board upside down to increase the difficulty of analyzing his progress and state.
  • Keep it as a game of survival, but instead of trying to reach the next difficulty level the goal would be to outlive the enemy.
  • Let the players engage with each other through sabotage. Each player could replace the enemy’s Tetris piece with his own (while recieving a random new one himself), triggering a cooldown hindering him from repeating this for another 30 seconds. Different strategies could emerge from this.
    • Whenever the enemy gets a piece he needs, replace it.
    • Wait until the enemy is just about to place his piece before you replace it, giving him no choice to place your piece there instead.
    • Get a new piece when you are not happy with your own.
  • Count not points from the number of rows removed (which would make this into a game of speed, even allowing for the possibility to win the game through points even though you reached the top and failed). Instead, count points in the number of free unblocked rows, at the end of the game.

I think this could be a fairly fun game of Tetris. I’d try it out.

Miguel Sicart on the ethical player

The Ethics of Computer Games

I’ve spent the last 3 days on the conference Philosophy of Computer Games. It was really quite intersting, although the different talks were of varying interest to me as a game designer. But this post is not about the conference, but rather one of the speakers.

Miguel Sicart, Assistant Professor of the IT University of Copenhagen, had a great keynote on the last day of the conference. It was called No More Homo Ludens: Designing for an Ethical Player. It was basically about the ethic dimension in (not of) games, a criticism of the current state and thoughts on how to improve designs that deals with ethics. It was not only very intersting, but thought provoking.

I might write more about it later, but for now I just want to mention Miguel’s book The Ethics of Computer Games, which I’m about to order. Quoting the product description on Amazon.com:

In this first scholarly exploration of the subject, Miguel Sicart addresses broader issues about the ethics of games, the ethics of playing the games, and the ethical responsibilities of game designers. He argues that computer games are ethical objects, that computer game players are ethical agents, and that the ethics of computer games should be seen as a complex network of responsibilities and moral duties. Players should not be considered passive amoral creatures; they reflect, relate, and create with ethical minds. The games they play are ethical systems, with rules that create gameworlds with values at play.

If you’re at all interested in the topic, you should look into this man’s writings. I’ll write more on the topic when I’ve read the book.

GCO 2009 impressions

GCO Panel Talk

The Leipzig Games Convention of old died a cold hard death last year, by the hands of some of the biggest publishers in the world (who instead created GamesCom, in Cologne). But Leipzig didn’t want to give up that easily, and resurrected it as Games Convention Online. It was supposed to be a convention aimed towards the growing online market, searching for a niché trying to survive the loss of support from so many in the industry.

The world’s first GCO ended last saturday, and I was there. So what can be said about this new beast?

1. It’s far smaller than GC last year, as expected. GC 2008 had 203 000 visitors, while GCO 2009 had 43 000. Now, that’s by no means a small convention, even though it had less than a quarter of the visitors of last year. But it also has to be said that while there were quite a lot of visitors, few of them were professionals who attended the trade part of the convention. Some of the lectures had no more than 10 attendees.

2. The conference was confused about its own focus. The “online” part wasn’t sure if it refered to (massively) multiplayer games, digital distribution or simply games played on websites. Those are 3 very different topics, and (despite all requiring a internet connection) aren’t connected in the way the conference pretended them to be.

3. None of the big (western) publishers were there. We had a lot of Korean publishers showing off their games, but the differences between eastern and western gaming meant that it was unimpressive and not very interesting.

4. It was still worth the visit. While there were quite a few tired lectures, some of them were really interesting. I learned a few new things and got to know some cool people. All in all, I’m glad I went.