Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

Xbox Achievements are wildly successful

Friday, January 5th, 2007

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So says an article today on GameDaily
It’s kind of funny how people can succumb to something as simple as points and collecting. I feel pressure to beat my friend Charlie on Xbox Live despite the fact that he is a more avid gamer than I am. While I haven’t gone as far as getting the Japanese version of games like the article described (hmmmmm…..), I have rented games like John Madden Football due to their extremely easy to get achievement points, even though I don’t like sports related games.

The point is that the meta-game of Xbox Achievement Points in some ways is more interesting than the real game.

Why do people do this?

Gears of War developer describes the fanaticism:

“It’s nerd cred, man!” says Cliff Bleszinski, lead designer at Raleigh, North Carolina-based Epic Games, whose tactical third-person shooter Gears Of War is one of the hottest Xbox 360 titles around. He was skeptical when Microsoft first informed developers that they would need to participate in the program, but no longer.

“It’s so clever,” he says. “I mean, it’s just a score. You may say it can’t be used for anything, but gamers use them for pride. They’re pride points! You can compare it to the feeling you get when you pull up to a restaurant in a Lamborghini. People go, ‘Oooo, he must be somebody.’ In the virtual world of gaming, points create that same sense of rank and envy, and that’s why gamers have latched onto them. I read that people are picking up the Burger King Xbox games just so they can score additional points. If that doesn’t prove how well this program is working, nothing does.”

The first hit is free

As I’ve mentioned in the past, the gaming mechanism of collecting is very powerful. If given a choice between playing a game on the Wii and playing on the 360, I’d always choose the 360. Sure, the graphics are better on the 360, but it’s the points, man, the points. Gotta… beat… CharlieI’m never gonna beat Darren, though, he’s more obsessed than I am.

I’m an addict and apparently, I’m not alone.

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[via Slashdot.org]

A Merry Christmas, Indeed

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007

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Ok, they weren’t both for me, but add a TMX Elmo, and I may have had all the hot gifts for Christmas in my trunk.

Loving the Wii

The PS3 was for my brother-in-law, but the Wii (or Wheeeeeeee! as we said over the holidays) was all for me. I don’t want to join the choir in the universal praise the Wii has been getting, but wow! It’s pretty spectacular when you can hand any high tech device to someone who isn’t a gadget nerd and they can immediately use it.

This isn’t to say that the Wii isn’t without faults, but as a first generation device (I guess this counts as a first gen device), the level at which this game system just works is nothing short of amazing.

That said, game developers, you have your work cut out for you. While Wii Sports was spectacular, other games were spectacularly difficult for non-gamers, or even hard core gamers. I’ve found that by turning down the sensitivity on the Wii-mote, it tends to work a bit better for me.

It’s just fun

While the graphics fail to compare to the PS3 or the Xbox 360, we had a lot of fun going bowling, playing tennis and hitting the ball out of the park in baseball. I even had fun playing golf! I can’t emphasize the fun part enough. Often, games feel like another task to complete or a skill to acquire, and frequently feel more like work and less like a game.

Clearly, I can’t recommend this system highly enough to non-gamers, but the Wii also fits as a “supplemental” game system (Wii60 anyone?) for so-called “hard-core” gamers.

My Jellyfish addiction

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

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So, I’ve thought a lot about how gaming mechanisms can make sites more fun to use and my friends at Jellyfish.com have made a very addictive experience.

Jellyfish is yet another comparison shopping site, like Shopping.com, Epinions, NexTag, Yahoo! Shopping, Froogle, yadda, yadda, but they have a few twists up their sleeve. First, they incorporate cash back on most, if not all purchases made through the site. While most of the time, these are small percentages, they do add up.

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The far more interesting feature, however, is Smack Shopping. Essentially, Smack Shopping is Woot! meets reverse eBay. Every day at 11 am EST, Smack Shopping offers up a limited quantity of a product, like an iPod or Zune. As time progresses, the price of the product decreases until they sell out.

Prisoner’s Dilemma

Naturally, some products sell more quickly than others, but so far many products have sold for almost 1/2 off their retail price. So, why don’t people wait longer for the value to go to zero? Theoretically, users could wait it out and get products for free. Fortunately for Jellyfish, most products have a value to people that is a lot higher than zero.

This is classic prisoner’s dilemma, which Wikipedia defines as “a type of non-zero-sum game in which two players can “cooperate” with or “defect” (i.e. betray) the other player.” This is frequently used by policeman to get one criminal to rat out their partner. If no one says anything, both prisoners could walk free. If they both talk, they both go to prison. In Jellyfish’s case, there are more players than products, so it certainly takes advantage of people’s inherent self interest.

The first hit is free

Ultimately, as a bargain shopper, I’m completely addicted. In theory, the more people that go to the site, the less likely products will be heavily discounted. So get out there folks and do your holiday shopping Smack-style :-).

Make my addiction go away.

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Links for Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday, October 20th, 2006

Hands on with the Zune
A little fan boyish, but nevertheless, a first peak at the Zune player from Microsoft. Sharing sounds a little kludgy, but this is a 1st generation concept.

Another point of view on Warcraft
A tale of someone who isn’t addicted to Worlds of Warcraft. I’m not addicted either. I’ve never played it :-).

Bringing them back pt. 3 – Levels

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

In video games, levels are the natural extension of points. Once you receive so many points or have accomplished so many tasks, you are awarded with a new level. If we model this to real life, you could equate this to accumulating wealth, social standing or a position at a company. Games provide a way to achieve “levels” more quickly than in real life and in turn, create more satisfying game play.

Typically, achieving a new level affords you abilities not otherwise afforded to mere beginners. Web sites tend to use two different kinds of levels, explicit, quid pro quo levels or levels that are really jobs in some ways. The benefits of these levels varies from site to site, but generally, if you have achieved a higher level at the site, higher rank means more benefits.

Quid Pro Quo

I’ve mentioned Yahoo! Answers before, but Answers bears mentioning again given how transparent their system of levels is.

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Do this, get that. It’s pretty simple.

Levels as reputation

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Usually, icons next to one’s name on a website indicates to outsiders (or other insiders), that the icon holder has a higher reputation than someone sans icon.

eBay rewards members with positive feedback with “reputation” stars. Yellow stars are on the lower end of the feedback scale, while red tops out their feedback scale.

It may sound silly, but long time eBayers covet these stars and ultimately, having a green star (5k+ positive feedback) on eBay can really help sales.

eBay’s usage of icons extends beyond reputation for sure, but the association of icons with reputation levels is an incentive to get as many icons next to your seller info as possible. Filling out a profile page, reviewing products or adding your Skype contact info will get you a new icon.

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Levels as a job

The best social media sites have users that feel so strongly about the site and use it so much, it is often what some would consider a part time job.

Wikipedia would be a massive failure if it did not employ levels of some kind. If everyone were equal on the site, newbies and old timers, Wikipedia would be rife with errors, vandalism and infighting.

While all Wikipedians, by definition, contribute to the site, there are numerous people who also have administrative roles.

1. Stewards can give and remove permissions to users.
2. Administrators can prevent articles from being edited for numerous reasons.
3. Bureaucrats assign who can be administrators and stewards.

One attains these levels by not only contributing heavily to Wikipedia, but also has a commitment to helping others contribute and keeping the site to a high level of standards.

Finally

At the simplest …. ahem… level, levels are a good way to compare how you are doing in comparison to others. Levels are a good way to reward heavy users and in turn, ensure your web site runs more smoothly.

What other sites out their use levels effectively? How are you using levels on your site?

Bringing users back in droves part 2 – Earning points

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

Ahhhhh… earning points. This is an old chestnut. Earning points in games doesn’t really need much explaining. Shoot Space Invader, get points. Points are all about keeping score (duh) and then comparing your score with your friends.

There are at least two types of points used in community websites, social points and redeemable points. Amy Jo Kim illustrates social as anything from your feedback score on eBay or interestingness on Flickr. Let’s look at some other examples. Redeemable points are used commonly by airline mileage programs, credit cards or a sandwich card from a local lunch joint. I’m going to talk about social points.

In yesterday’s post, I talked about collecting achievements on Xbox Live but they employ a “gamer score” so you can compare your score with your friends. They use leader boards so you can compare to everyone’s score. But for today, let’s talk about some non-gaming sites.

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Web of Trust

Epinions uses a concept called the “Web of Trust” to ensure that the best reviews always appear at the top. The “Web of Trust mimics the way people share word-of-mouth advice every day.” So, how does it work?

First, all reviews that appear on the site are rated by users. To even appear on the site, a review must be rated helpful or better. Then if there is a list of reviews about the same product, those reviews that are rated highest appear further up the list.

Second, as a member of Epinions, you are encouraged to trust members whose reviews you like and opinions you trust. If you add someone to your “Web of Trust,” their review will appear above others when you are reading a list. More importantly, though, the more members that trust you, the higher your review will appear in a list.

Rating the rater

I’ll talk about the concept of levels in a later post, but for now, let’s just say if you are a reviewer that is well trusted, then your ratings matter more. Put simply, everyone gets to vote, but some votes count more. This helps ensure a certain level of writing quality on the site. Having a top rated review on a product that is popular will ensure that you have more readers than those reviews below yours.

And popularity is the name of the game. All the social points are tallied on Epinions by the stats you and your review have.

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Many community review sites use variations on Epinions “Web of Trust.” I’ve not too deeply in Amazon’s reviews system, but I suspect something similar is in play.

Yahoo! Answers (whom we’ve talked about before) uses a simpler points system, but to be fair, Epinions has been refined over the years to alleviate problems of gaming the system. Yahoo! Answers will have to create some safeguards to ensure the quality of their site at some point in the future.

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Where Epinions point system is complicated and opaque, Yahoo! Answers point system is simple and transparent – earn points by answering questions, earn more by being the best answer. For every There are a couple of twists, however. First, you get a point for just showing up. At first glance, this seems odd. Why give points for not doing anything? Having been an active lurker on many community websites, I suspect this is to give the vast majority of users, ie the lurkers, a sense that they belong to the community. [Editors note it seems that Yahoo! understands the lurker phenom quite well].

Leaderboards

The main reason to have points is to compare yourself against others. This is the most primary construct of any game that has a winner and a loser.


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Leaderboards bring out the inner competitor in users. Even if you are number 3200 in a list, you have somewhere to go, and hopefully that is up.

Bottom Line

Points and leaderboards make sites more fun by keeping users jockeying for position and ultimately, creating more value for your site.

How to bring people back to your site in droves

Wednesday, September 20th, 2006

So, you’ve built your totally kick ass web 2.0, long tail, peer to peer, social networking, beta meme review wiki that has all the paradigm shifting, AJAX created reflections you can shake a stick at.

You’ve been on TechCrunch, Engadget, Boing Boing and you’ve been properly Dugg. You’ve gotten great press and lots of people have tried your site. Trouble is, people come to your site once and return only periodically, but they never add anything to your site. The trouble is, your site isn’t fun.

Make your site fun

I heard a talk that Amy Jo Kim gave back at Etech that really stuck with me. fun.gifShe talked about using gaming mechanics to make your site more fun. Gaming mechanics are essentially elements of games that make them addictive by employing elements of behavioral psychology. A great book on this is Theory of Fun by Raph Koster. According to Raph, “fun is about our brain feeling good.”

I thought about the sites I’ve liked, used and help design and the best, most successful ones all use gaming mechanics to bring people in and keep them there. Community based sites tend to use this best.
I’ll give you the basic outline of some gaming mechanics and then draw a few examples from a number of sites.

Gaming Mechanics

Amy Jo outlines 4 very powerful techniques to bring people back in droves. Most of these items aren’t intended for blogs, but for community based web sites.

  1. Collecting
  2. Earning points
  3. Levels
  4. Scheduled Reward

Each one is a powerful mechanism, but used in combination, they add up to a pretty addictive experience for some. For today, I’ll talk about collecting.

Collecting

Collecting is essentially amassing stuff and showing it off. You know people that are very susceptible to this. Your crazy aunt’s beanie baby collection or your friend who bought all those Magic cards back in college are great “real world” examples of this behavior. Collecting is directly related to the primal instinct to hunt and gather. Primitive men and women who were good at hunting and gathering got better mates. Web sites use this mechanism very successfully (although this is often counter to attracting better mates).

Xbox Live
Ok, I realize that Xbox Live isn’t just a website but it serves as a great example.

When Microsoft launched Xbox Live, they did it to reinforce certain activities they wanted gamers to engage in. The folks at Microsoft want you to a. buy an Xbox and b. buy games. One way to get users to do this is to make the games fun (naturally), but building in some extra elements of fun can’t hurt reinforcing this.

On the Xbox Live site, you can show off your gamer card that shows all the games you’ve played and the “achievements” you’ve collected in a given game. You can then compare how well you’ve done against your friends.

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Comparing accomplishments and competing against friends is pretty powerful and it makes you want to do better than your friends to show off. Finishing a game, having a higher score, accomplishing something difficult both increases your score (which gets into Points) and the number of accomplishments

Naturally, adding lots of friends to your Xbox profile is powerful as well, but it’s even more powerful on LinkedIn.

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Must. Complete. Profile.

There are a number of activities on LinkedIn that are natural. First, adding your immediate friends and colleagues is probably the reason that you are there, so that’s a no brainer. But adding a recommendation isn’t necessarily a natural thing, but yet you feel compelled to do so in order to have a complete profile. It’s also something that strengthens LinkedIn’s network. That ties into the end point of collecting and that is completing a set.

When talking about collectible card games, beanie babies, Xbox live profiles, or whatever, completing a set is what you are striving for. No one wants an incomplete set and marketers are keen to exploit this angle.

What do your users collect? What sets do your users need to complete?

More later.

Tuesday Links

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Behind the scenes at Technorati
How Technorati works.

Battlestar Galactica available on Xbox Live
The first full length episode available on Xbox Live. A hint of things to come?

WordPress.com’s Beginner info
Want to learn WordPress? Here’s a good resource including some videos for starting up a WordPress blog.

AOL Music DownloadsYet another Plays for Sure clone, but this one includes some XM Radio channels in the mix.

Monday links

Monday, August 14th, 2006

New York Times compares Canon’s H10 to Sony’s HC3
HD camera smack-down! It’s pretty amazing how quickly these cameras dropped in price.

User created games on Xbox 360
Looks like MS made it a lot easier to create games for the Xbox. This really opens up 3rd party development for the Xbox to almost anyone who develops games.

Peter Moore on the Long Tail of Gaming
Xbox head honcho talks about rationale for opening up the Xbox.

Fox to sell video download on MySpace
Between this and the Google deal, I think this whole MySpace thing might make Rupert Murdoch some money after all.

Gaming Quickies – Xbox update, Seattle #1 gaming city

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

Xbox Live returns with Message Center integration
Looks like no other fancy-pants updates with yesterday’s downtime. Damn…I’m falling into Xbox 360 fanboy hype. On the other hand, I’ve got a really fancy answering machine for Xbox 360 now.

Microsoft Buys Seattle Top Spot In Gaming Cities Poll
Glad to see my epic Oblivion playing last week might have helped our fair city gain some notoriety.

Btw, if you are on Xbox live and want to play head to head, my gamertag is stewtopia.

Xbox Live outage on Tuesday

Monday, May 1st, 2006

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As in tomorrow. Xbox Live will be down for 13 hours tomorrow for what many presume to be a major update. Many are speculating that this update will include background downloading for Marketplace content.

For those of you that don’t have an Xbox 360, one of the cooler features is demo and content downloading on the unit. Demoing a new game before purchase is pretty wise on almost any gaming system, but before Xbox Live, demos were for PCs and game magazine subscribers only.


Microsoft has said recently that E3 will have lots downloadable coverage on Xbox 360 and this update makes sense before such an update occurs. What makes this interesting to me is that this new feature and a deluge of HD or SD content could really test a video download system. Oh, ya, and Xbox Live is free to non-subscribers next week.

If Microsoft wanted to start a video download service, the Xbox 360 could be a perfect Trojan horse to get them in a lot of living rooms. Apple might own the portable content, but no one owns the living room just yet.

Serious side bar aside, don’t plan on playing Burnout Revenge between 2am and 3pm tomorrow morning.

Xbox Live down for 13 hours

E3 on Xbox Live

Xbox 360 is in the house!

Monday, April 3rd, 2006

xbox360logo.jpgSo, I’ve been secretly lusting for the Xbox 360 for some time. I told myself and others that I wasn’t going to hang out at Best Buy or Costco like the other nerds, but all the while I’ve made side trips into these dens of electronic goodness for the past several months.

The persistence finally paid off yesterday, when everyone and their brother could finally get the 360. Apparently, local Best Buy, Walmart and others received shipments of around 60-80 Xbox 360’s. Mind you, they still sold out, but a lot more people got their hands on Xboxes this weekend.

I’ll post a more detailed report later, but so far the experience has been fairly positive. While a minor detail, the most impressive thing so far is how well the wireless controllers work with the Xbox. If you’ve ever tried to pair Bluetooth devices, you’ll appreciate how you turn the Xbox on, hit the big X button on the controller and it just works. You’d think Apple made it :-)

Xbox 360 to triple shipments this week

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

Ok, I admit it. Once I found out that Best Buy received their shipments on Thursday mornings, I have been known to find a reason to visit them a little more often towards the end of the week. But apparently, the news wasn’t exactly an exclusive.

This week, however, their might be a reason to take a trip over to the local BB. Emboldened by the delayed PS3, it looks like all y’all that have been waiting for an Xbox might get one real soon now.

“Today we have turned a major corner,” said Peter Moore, corporate vice
president of the Interactive Entertainment Business in the Entertainment and
Devices Division at Microsoft. “With more consoles on their way to retail,
80 games available by June, and new content and experiences coming to Xbox
Live(R) all the time, there has never been a better time to own an Xbox 360.”

Oh, yeah, and to you other guys hanging out at the Best Buy on Thursday mornings, you should get lives.

Read

(Via Engadget.)

PSP get GPS and VOIP from Sony

Thursday, March 16th, 2006

One other bit of PSP news today that I missed yesterday – at Sony’s announcement yesterday, Ken Kutagari also announced a couple of cool add-ons for the PSP, namely the rumored GPS add-on and an Eyetoy for video VOIP. Both of these devices should give Sony’s PSP a long deserved shot in the arm, but here’s one question, how about some kick-ass games?

Google Video – now for iPods and PSPs

Thursday, March 16th, 2006

googlevideodl.jpgNeed a little content for your iPod? Google has made its videos (not the ‘for pay’ videos, mind you) available for download reformatted for the PSP and iPod. Thank God, I can finally watch “Road Trip Prank,” “Shtanga,” “Indian Exotic Dance in Office 2” wherever I want!

Check it out
(Via The Unofficial Google Weblog)

PS3 officially delayed

Wednesday, March 15th, 2006

If you were expecting to get that Japanese import PS3 for Mom for Mother’s Day, looks like you’ll have to wait until Thanksgiving. Sony has announced instead of a staggered world wide launch starting in the Spring, PS3 will be released simultaneously worldwide in November.

Further details for the console have been confirmed including their “Playstation Network Platform” for online game play and a 60GB hard drive that will ship with all units. PS3 will also be backward compatible with all PS1 and PS2 games.

Looks like Xbox 360 will have a full year of next gen gaming all to itself (if you can find one).

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