Control Magazine International #10

Page 1


38 most influential game


No Entry for IGF-finalist from Iran • FPS: Why do we Kill? The Changing Nature of Storytelling • Bringing Tomb Raider to PC & PS3

c o py r i g h t g e r r i t w i ll e m s e .c o m


the perfect city for your game company

It’s true, Amsterdam ís the perfect city for your game company. But don’t take our word for it, listen to these game professionals. They feel Amsterdam is an integral part of their success. hermen hulst

managing director guerrilla games “For Guerrilla, Amsterdam has always been an important source of inspiration. The City offers all the attractions of a modern day metropolis condensed in the setting of small historic town. There’s no need to worry about commuting, walking to the Van Gogh museum or cycling your kid to school is the norm. It’s easy for our many foreign employees to feel at home: Everyone is fluent in English and although Schiphol airport is just a 15min train ride from the office, it typically offers a direct flight home.”

gerrit willemse artist

The beautiful artwork for this page is created by concept artist Gerrit Willemse. He worked at Lost Boys Games (which later transformed into Guerrilla Games) and Playlogic. His latest project is Speedrunner. Check his portfolio online at

martin de ronde

cco Vanguard entertainment group “Amsterdam is a great location for our game development studio. It provides a perfect balance between a creative place to work in, and a city that provides lots of leisure opportunities after work. And above all, it’s a relatively small and thus socially strong place where it’s easy to quickly meet friends, colleagues and other game developers scattered around the Amsterdam area. That combined with a great digital and physical infrastructure and it’s international orientation makes Amsterdam the best location for Vanguard full stop.”

did you know?

sounds oF amsterdam When working on Killzone 2 the sound department of Guerrilla Games looked for the perfect sound for their flying ships, called intruders. They found it literally across the street from their office. The intruders are powered by the sound of an Amsterdam tram!

claire Boonstra co-Founder layar

“We have no difficulty getting international people over to Layar. We already have 13 different nationalities (including USA, Cyprus, China, India, Spain and various Eastern European countries) working at Layar and they all love living and working here. Amsterdam is an asset!”

contact amsterdam Annelies in ‘t Veld +31 20 552 3204

w w w. a m st e r d a m i n b u s i n e s s .c o m

Killzone Shadow Fall: Guerrilla goes real-time Guerrilla Games has a bit of a history with unveiling a new Killzone game on a Sony press event. Remember the notorious 2005 demo of Killzone 2 that turned out to be a ‘target render of the final product’? It didn't matter that the game later fully lived up to that target nor that Killzone 3 was later demoed live on stage at E3 in 2010, people tend to scrutinize over every bit of new Killzone footage when it’s first shown on stage. Killzone Shadow Fall was played live on stage during the Sony press event that unveiled the PlayStation 4. Live. On stage. With the new PlayStation controller. It was the first blockbuster title that showed off the new hardware that night. It showed a glimpse of things to come later this year when the PS4 will be released. Now we all know that the next generation console war isn’t won by pretty graphics alone. But Killzone Shadow Fall sure wowed us with a sprawling city bathing in sunlight that bounced off the glass surface of the high rise, showing a color palette highly unlikely for such a dark gritty title. Things looked even prettier when all hell broke loose and everything got shot to bits by the nasty Helghast with their trademark orange glowing eyes. Shadow Fall is set 30 years after the events of Killzone 3. Helghast refugees were granted permission to resettle on planet Vekta. The Vektan and Helghast factions are living in a city which is divided by a large security wall. The Helghast are fighting for their right to exist, while the Vektans are fighting for survival.

Control Magazine Neude 5 3512 AD Utrecht, The Netherlands


T: +31 (0)30 - 231 99 14 M:


MAGAZINE TEAM Publisher / Matthijs Dierckx

05. News 10. Making Lara even prettier 12. Stories that move you 16. Coverstory: Game Mechanics 24. Why we Kill 26. No Entry for Iranian IGF-finalist WWW.CONTROLMAGAZINE.NET

Editor-in-chief / Eric Bartelson

Editor / Alessandra van Otterlo

Manager Operations Arno Landsbergen Website & network management Martijn Frazer

CONTRIBUTORS Rami Ismail Dennis Scimeca Martijn van Best Kitty Calis Jan Willem Nijman Joris de Man Romar Bucur


COVER IMAGE Cover Design by Natalie Hanke

Control Magazine was founded in 2007 by Matthijs Dierckx and Eric Bartelson

ADVERTISING Print and Online / www. T: +31 (0)30 - 231 99 14 E: ABOUT CONTROL Control is an international pivotal platform for news, information, opinion and job opportunities within the game industry.

News website (English) Jobsite for gamejobs Facebook Twitter @ControlMagazine

PARTNERS Control Magazine is proud media partner of: GDC San Francisco GDC Europe Dutch Games Association INDIGO – the indie showcase Indievelopment Nothing in this magazine may be reproduced in whole or part without the written permission of the publisher. This magazine is fully independent and not affiliated in any way with the companies mentioned herein.


INDIGO San Francisco: the playable showcase

INDIGO, the playable showcase of selected games, is making its American debut. For the course of one week, the top floor of the Dutch consulate in San Francisco will transform into indie game heaven. >> Twenty titles, ranging from well known successes to unannounced gems, will find a temporary home in one of INDIGO's specially-designed modern day arcade cabinets. INDIGO has been around for a couple of years and has proven to be a resounding success in its home country, The Netherlands. “I firmly believe we’ve created a compelling collection of some of the best and most original games the scene has to offer”, explains JP Van Seventer, Development Director of organiser Dutch Game Garden. “The venue is a five minute walk from the Moscone Convention Center. The GDC audience will discover the exhibition is definitely worth stretching their legs for.” One of the highlights of the show is the

upcoming PlayStation 3 title ibb & obb. Van Seventer: “It’s something really special. A multiplayer game with an extremely smart mechanic that creates an instant bond between the people

Play it for two minutes and you're sold playing it. You just have to play it for two minutes and you're sold.” Another highlight amongst highlights is the upcoming Steam game Reus, which presents players with a comfortably familiar albeit different take on the God-

game genre. Van Seventer: “It’s these kinds of games that make me want to shout ‘Come over here, have a look! Play these games before they enter the market and become household names’!” Indeed, there’s much to discover. But mind you, not ‘just’ for developers looking for their inspirational fix. Not all of the games have their future laid out in front of them. “Some developers haven’t decided yet how they’ll bring their game to the market. I think publishers and investors should take note. There are some unsigned high potentials on display here.” INDIGO Powered by Dutch Game Garden Dutch Consulate 120 Kearny Street, Suite 3100 San Francisco, CA 94104 GDC week Monday : Mixer & official opening 5:00 - 7:00 PM Tuesday to Friday: 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM Open for business 4:00 PM - 6:30 PM INDIGO Mixer (open for public) TGI INDIGO Friday 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM



Notch invests

New Age of Wonders made possible by Minecraft Triumph Studios announced the return of turn based classic Age Of Wonders. Turns out the development was made possible by an old time fan. No other than Markus ‘Notch’ Persson, creator of Minecraft. Dutch independent developer Triumph Studios found themselves in a bit of a tough spot. When Overlord III was cancelled by Codemasters they had to come up with a new project fast. That new project was Age of Wonders III. Hardly new IP, but rather a return

to the very beginnings of the studio some 15 years ago. Back to the roots, so to speak. Turn based Studio director and co-founder Lennart Sas explains the decision to reboot the series: “Two years ago, the rights to Age of Wonders I and II fell back to us. [Epic Games used to be the publisher] We put them up on platforms like Steam and were pleasantly surprised how well they sold so many years after release. We realized that

there are still a lot of people out there that want to play turn based fantasy games.” Triumph went on to make a playable demo for their fresh new take on the classic game. “We financed the first part of development, but we knew we had to get a partner on board to finish it to the standard we wanted.” Sas showed the demo to publishers and there was definitely interest but most of them wanted ownership of the game and that was something Triumph wasn’t willing to give up. What the hell While playing some Minecraft by chance they saw a random titlescreen message mentioning Age of Wonders. “I just thought what the hell, let’s send him an e-mail”, Sas recalls. Markus Persson answered the mail and a period of carefully negotiating and getting to know each other began. Sas: “Markus is a busy man and as much as he loved the game, he just didn’t want it to take up too much of his time and attention. It helped in his final decision that we are an experienced studio and we had the core of what will become the game.” Lennart Sas is pleased how things turned out: “It’s truly fantastic to be able to create the game in our own creative vision, without having to give up the IP rights just to get it funded. Hats off to Notch.”


Can games save lives? A major leap in medical training tools has been made with the medical simulator abcdeSIM developed by IJsfontein. For the last couple of years hospitals have been experimenting with innovative digital technologies for providing better care, including the use of serious games as training tools. The abcdeSIM is the first serious game in the Netherlands officially accredited for medical training. The goal of the game is very simple: the player has to stabilize a patient brought into the E.R. Under time pressure he has to follow the step-bystep approach dictated by the ABCDE-method.

More information? Contact Naomi van Stelten. T. +31 20 33 00 111

The game stands out from traditional simulators by providing a game experience. Being designed with game flow, competition and replay value in mind it creates an intrinsic motivation with the player to outdo his fellow students and provides players (and teachers alike) with feedback about their performance. The fact that the abcdeSIM game is now officially accredited and can be used as compulsory periodic training goes to show that the industry is ready for the next step in digital training. •7 Amsterdam, The Netherlands


Rotterdam: leader in Serious Games & E-learning LO ST IC S & SA FE TY

The Rotterdam area in the Netherlands is a frontrunner in the e-learning and serious and applied games industry in Europe. >>




Developer • VSTEP / Client • Port of Rotterdam

The virtual RescueSim training platform allows port authorities in the port of Rotterdam to practice with every imaginable port incident in a realistic way. Both incidents on land and water are available, ranging from a collision of two ships and on-board fires to incidents with hazardous substances. With the help of RescueSim, first aid workers and authorities can train every aspect in the decision making process.

Rotterdam is a global leader in the international market of serious games. This becomes clear from the growing number of specialised companies in the Rotterdam area. A number of those companies present themselves in the magazine Serious New Learning: Rotterdam. You will find some of the developers featured in that magazine on these pages. Jan Hoogesteijn, managing director of the Rotterdam Media Commission: “This part of the creative industry has great innovative capacities and a far-reaching spin-off into educational and health organizations, as well as logistics and other commercial industries. Co-operation with this industry will offer many opportunities and possibilities.” Hamit Karakus, municipal council member: “Rotterdam was able to grow into a leading city in this international market, and I am proud of that. The city is investing in a new economy. Serious games and e-learning are an important part of that economy.” If you are considering developing e-learning solutions or a serious game for your company or establishment, Rotterdam is your ideal starting point.


Developer • MCW Studios / Client • Huisman Equipment

Huisman developed a special drilling tower for Noble. In order to optimally train operators to work on this tower, a comprehensive simulator was developed that allows operators to practice all the necessary procedures in real-time before going on board.

logistics • HealtH care


Read the entire magazine online!

• education • Hrm •

Serious New Learning Rotterdam, The Netherlands marKeting & communication





includes an oVERVIEW oF RELEVanT games and e-learning CoMPanIES






25-02-13 15:53












Developer • Ranj Serious Games / Client • TNO

Teacher-in-a-box is an educational game to train writing skills in a playful way. The game is based on a scientific NTT method (Neuromotor Task Training) that is widely used by children's physiotherapists. Teacher-in-a-Box was developed for children aged 4-7, who do or don't have problems with their writing skills. A first feasibility study showed that children think Teacher-in-aBox is fun and that they manage to work on boring writing assignments with much more focus.


Developer • Organiq New Media / Client • de Leidse Onderwijs Instellingen

A number of special, fun tools were developed for a children's typing course in order to teach children to touch type using ten fingers. A tracking system registers the letters that are difficult for the child, and these will be given special attention in the exercises.

Contact us at / +31 (0)10 221 4080


Developer • Vertigo Games / Client • Eye Hospital Rotterdam

The Safety Game was developed to enable the Rotterdam Eye Hospital to train personnel and increase the awareness of safety in an efficient and cost effective manner. In realistic simulations, medical professionals learn to recognize and prevent the main risks related to their daily practice. The game and its implementation led to new insights on safety procedures and demonstrably teaches them to medical personnel.


Developer /client • Redmax

The purpose of the game is to support obese children aged 10 to 13 who are in the process of losing weight. The game should establish a link between the health care and the guidance coming from schools, dieticians and clubs.


Making Lara even prettier You may have never heard of Nixxes. Yet they work on the biggest blockbuster titles in the industry. Their business is to make sure a game is simultaneously shipped on all platforms. And as a bonus they make their versions look better than the source material. >> Tomb Raider launched the day before and raving reviews poor in. Jurjen Katsman has much to be pleased about. His company produced the PlayStation 3 and PC version of the game and so far the review scores on Metacritic show slighty higher scores than the Xbox 360 version that was developed by Crystal Dynamics. “When two teams work on the same thing but on different platforms, you can’t help but feel a bit competitive”, says Katsman, smiling. “But that’s all in good fun. We have the same goals as our clients and that is to deliver the best possible game.” Nixxes is in the business of porting games since 1999, when Katsman produced the Dreamcast version of The Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver by himself in six months. Every project that followed grew his company and now he has 17 people working full

10 •

time, all programmers. The company has an impressive track record that includes titles like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Hitman Absolution, Kain & Lynch: Dog Days and several Tomb Raiders. When asked if he’s ever tempted to create a game himself Katsman shakes his head vigoroursly: “I have always been more interested in the technical side of games. That’s why this is such a great job. Constantly pushing the hardware to improve performance and streamlining code to get the best results is extremely satisfying.” The Black Lotus Katsman has always been fascinated by computers. When his dad brought home a MSX to do his administration, it was his son that did most of the work on it. Starting in BASIC and working his way down, diving deeper and deeper into the machine. When

Nixxes and Tomb Raider developer Crystal Dynamics go back a long way, starting in 1999 with a Dreamcast conversion of Soul Reaver. The working relationship remained close over the years so Nixxes was involved in this installment of the franchise right from the pre production fase. They also do extensive work on the game engine.

his dad switched to a PC, his son made the transition as well and just kept on exploring. “I ended up in the demoscene”, says Katsman. “We called ourselves The Black Lotus after we merged with a Swedish team and we made some very cool stuff in 64k. That’s definitely the basis of my work.” It was here he made his first port. As PC moved on to Windows there was a strong aversion from the demo community to the new platform. Katsman: “I really pushed our team to accept Windows. To make it easier on some, I ported our DOS demos to Windows.” All that tinkering with computers landed him his first job at Eidos. When he quit he was rehired as a freelance consultant to check out Crystal Dynamics' PC version of their new game Soul Reaver. Not long after he was asked to do the Dreamcast Read more on this subject at

conversion. A string of ports followed, always bringing a game to another platform after the original had shipped. But times changed and publishers demanded simultaneous

they want to see return on investment on screen. Every pixel and every frame per second counts. Draw distances are longer, resolutions are much higher, textures are

"10.000 INDIVIDUAL STRANDS OF HAIR ARE BEING RENDERED IN REAL TIME. PRETTY COOL TO WORK ON THAT KIND OF TECH." release on all platforms. That's when conversion shifted to co-development. Intimate Katsman explains why simultaneous development of all versions, even when it’s done by different studios, sometimes continents apart, is a good idea: “When the game is in production it has the full attention of everyone involved. We have regular meetings to share our progress and throw around ideas to make things better. We share the same code so we have an intimate understanding of the underlying mechanics. That way we strengthen the development team in a way you can never do when you do a conversion afterwards.” To make a PC version of a console game you sometimes have to add to what the developer is making. PC gamers are a demanding bunch. They spend much more money on their hardware than console gamers and

more crisp. You name it, PC gamers will look for it and tear you apart online if it’s absent from the PC version. That’s why a lot of studios outsource the PC development to specialized companies like Nixxes. PlayStation 4 “We hired an outside artist for the first time to do the PC specific graphic stuff in Tomb Raider”, says Katsman. “On console a lot of things like displacement maps are being faked because it’s too expensive, but on PC you can’t do that. So we have to go over every surface and make it work.” The extra power of the hardware makes specific graphical details possible. A good reason for AMD to show off the massivelyparallel processing capabilities of the latest range of graphic cards with Lara’s famous ponytail. TressFX Hair it’s called and it shows a more detailed and realistic movement and appearance of the hair. “Every major PC release comes with a manufacture specific

graphical effect. AMD picked Tomb Raider to show this specific effect. 10.000 individual strands of hair are being rendered in real time. Pretty cool to work on that kind of tech.” So what’s next for Nixxes? Their logo appeared on screen among other developers confirmed to work on PlayStation 4 hardware during the official Sony announcement. “We are really pleased with the hardware so far. It’s very straight forward and logical, but with enough possibilities to really push it hard.” The programmers at Nixxes all share the same mindset. That love for the hardware. “I have some older guys here that I know from the demo scene way back when. And I thought they were the last real hardcore programmers, you know? A dying breed. But I hired some young guys that have that same drive and skill to completely master the hardware.” He smiles: “I think we’re going to do just fine.” Jurjen Katsman is founder and CEO of Nixxes, an independent studio that works mainly for Square Enix. The name of the company comes from his time in de demo scene. His nick was NIX.

The Changing Nature of Storytelling

Stories that move you More and more writers come to grips with the unique features that games offer as a narrative tool. “The games have to evolve, not the audience. I think we forget that the audience can only put in what we give them. So we have to evolve first.â€? >> 12 •

The story in Journey is written by the players and their actions, not the developers at thatgamecompany, but it was one of the most powerful narrative video game experiences of 2012. The Walking Dead is a critical and commercial success for Telltale Games and has invigorated the adventure game genre. The reception to both games speaks to a change in how segments of the

Disposable Historically, the notion has been that story was an optional, disposable aspect of core games, and we asked whether they thought this was still the case. “To an extent, yes,” said Williams. “I think that the core video game audience recognizes a good story, I think they react to a good story. I think they’re willing to get behind a good story, but I think in regard to what they’re willing to let slide first they’re willing to let slide a good story. It’s not something that they necessarily need for the broader enjoyment of the game.

Adam Levine is creative director and co-founder of Irrational Games. He’s the writer of (among other games) BioShock and the upcoming BioShock Infinite.

“Story has only in the past two generations of consoles really become such a bigger, more cinematic addition to games outside of certain genres like role playing games or certain PC games,” Williams continued. “It’s only now that story has really begun to permeate the other genres of games, and take that into a more cinematic way. So when you look at the full history of games and how little story has generally been a part of the enjoyment of it, it makes sense why people are willing to accept a bad story in a game.” Levine disagrees to a point. “I think that if you look at some of the most successful games, story is going to be a very important element in them, whether it’s Rockstar’s stuff or our stuff or Assassin’s Creed, people care about story,” he said. “What’s interesting about games is there’s a broad scope of how people interact with games. Some people skip every cutscene or don’t care, some people just zip through BioShock just shooting things and that’s fine. The game’s gotta support that, but I think in general most of the questions I get about the game are generally related to the story. Certainly from journalists and certainly on my twitter page. You still get a bunch of people who are like, ‘What are the control remapping options?’ but in general the questions are about the story.”

Walt Williams is Lead Writer for 2K Games. He worked on BioShock 2, Darkness 2 and Mafia. Spec Ops the Line was his first original game concept.

video game audience are seeking out and valuing narrative experiences. Spec Ops: The Line was also critically acclaimed for pushing the boundaries of what a military shooter, a genre known for its lack of depth, could accomplish with a strong narrative and this year’s BioShock Infinite has been lauded as potentially raising the bar for storytelling

across the entire industry, but unlike Journey and The Walking Dead these are games aimed at the core audience. We spoke with Walt Williams, lead scribe of Spec Ops, and Ken Levine, Creative Director of Irrational Games and the writer of the BioShock series, about the future of storytelling in games produced for that larger, traditional audience.

Controversial Williams attempted to subvert mil-shooters from the inside out. It was a controversial move and he knew it was a huge risk. “[Spec Ops is] not a fun experience,” he said. “It’s not designed to make you feel good about yourself. You know, it’s one thing to take ten bucks and go see a movie that makes you depressed or ninety-nine cents for a song that makes you depressed, but sixty bucks for a game that makes you depressed? That is a different kind of investment that you’re asking someone to make.” Spec Ops performed poorly in the marketplace, but we asked how much that had to do with the challenge of marketing the game without giving away the fashion in which the story twisted from a standard, frenetic shooter to a

• 13

<< BioShock Infinite: Set in 1912 during the growth of American Exceptionalism, the game's protagonist, former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt, is sent to the floating air-city of Columbia to find a young woman, Elizabeth, who has been held captive there for the last twelve years. Booker finds Elizabeth to be central to the conflict between the founders and the common people in the city. She holds strange powers to manipulate rifts in the time-space continuum that ravage Columbia.

disturbing psychological experience. “I blame myself for that 100%,” Williams said. “When we were working at getting the overall story structure of [Spec Ops] and building the story and essentially the pacing of how everything comes together, I was very adamant that I believed a slow, kind of false entry into the game would be accepted. And I wasn’t thinking towards the end of the project when we would be putting out demos for previews, and those moments in the level that are meant to lull you into the sense of security and familiarity, that that was what people were going to play two years down the line. “I didn’t think forward enough to that, and I pushed very hard and convinced everyone that people were willing to sit down and play a game that had a slower beginning, that they were willing to invest themselves into a slower beginning,” Williams said. “Half-Life sends you on a train to ride in search of a building, and people loved that.” Don’t shoot Levine is mindful about the way narrative shooter games may operate differently from traditional shooter experiences. “When I used to write movies, if you don’t get the audience in the first five minutes, you’re fucked,” Levine said. “I think that the opening of BioShock and the opening of BioShock Infinite, too, are both designed to grab the player’s attention but you’re not going to


Spec Ops: The Line Dubai has fallen victim to a series of cataclysmic sandstorms. The city's ultramodern architecture lies half-buried under millions of tons of sand. While most people have fled the now-barren wasteland before the sandstorms swept through, U.S. Army Colonel John Konrad and his squad remained behind to protect those incapable of escape. Unable to reach anyone in Dubai after the storm hit, the U.S. Army sends in an elite Delta Force team led by Captain Martin Walker to bring Konrad home. Things turn sour very quickly and players struggle to keep their focus and sanity.

14 •

be able to do it with every single player. “There’s no shooting in the first twenty minutes of BioShock, and there’s no shooting in the first forty-some-odd minutes of BioShock Infinite, and that was incredibly controversial inside the studio on BioShock 1 when there’s no shooting, and that’s probably one of the reasons [someone might be] like ‘What the fuck is this?’ right? You’re in this fucking submarine going down and being told about Objectivism and you’re like ‘Why am I in this experience?’ because it didn’t work for you at that point.” Risk The audiences for indie games or art games seek experiences that diverge from established patterns, and the critical successes of Spec Ops and BioShock and the rabid anticipation for BioShock Infinite speak to a core audience that is slowly walking down the same path. We asked whether the video game industry’s ability to focus on story will depend more on an audience that matures independently of their video game experiences, or whether developers will have to take the risk of leading the way. “The games have to evolve, not the audience. I think we forget that the audience can only put in what we give them. So we have to evolve first,” said Williams. “We have to give them those options for them to go to, and then we have to trust the audience. With a

game like Spec Ops where you know it was received really well, and it garnered steam over time, it didn’t sell necessarily well. We had to look at the reasons why it didn’t and not say, ‘Well, story just doesn’t sell,’ we have to look at it instead and say, ‘Okay, well, these are the other reasons it didn’t sell,’ because frankly, story is probably the only reason that it sold what it did sell.” Levine agreed wholeheartedly. “The producers of content always have to lead the way. You can’t sit around and wait for the audience to become something they’re not,” he said. “I think that it’s our job to make them understand. If there’s some quality there, we have to expose it to people. It’s our responsibility. And we have to sort of give them experiences that make them want to pursue stories rather than expecting them just to do it or being upset with them because they don’t. At the end of the day it’s their sixty dollars or however how much, and they’re going to drive that experience. Whether they like it or not is really up to them, and it’s up to us to entice them.” Emotional The video game industry is increasingly attracting writers from other creative fields like screenwriting and novels, which certainly plays into the continuing evolution of storytelling in games. We asked Williams and Levine whether those writers will face any emotional risks when they jump into writing for such a different medium than they are used to. “Writing for games, the words that you write are the least important thing. Your intention as the writer is the least important thing. You really have to be willing to open up your view of what you’re creating and what you’re doing,” Williams said. “We were doing focus tests for Bioshock 2 before it came out, and this guy was super excited to be focus testing it. He loved Bioshock 1. He couldn’t believe he was going to get to play Bioshock 2 early. He was so excited, and he was playing through the first four levels

Ken Levine makes no secret of his desire to work without cutscenes or to otherwise take control of the player’s experience. It’s one of his trademarks as a designer. “I think that’s very frustrating when you just arbitrarily grab control, and you do it sometimes as a method of last resort,” he said, “but I think you have

I THINK WE FORGET THAT THE AUDIENCE CAN ONLY PUT IN WHAT WE GIVE THEM. SO WE HAVE TO EVOLVE FIRST story had been designed to make him feel. “And I think this is the difference between a video game experience and a video game story from experiencing that story as a film or a book reader or a voyeur. Ultimately, the person who’s experiencing the story is interacting with it. They’re inhabiting the shoes of the main character. And I know it goes against every instinct that every writer has ever had to say, ‘Oh my God, they didn’t understand my brilliant words and themes'. But for me, with a game like Spec Ops, for me it felt like even if they totally got the story wrong, if they felt the emotions that we had wanted them to feel… to me that feels like we got them down the path we wanted them to be anyway.”

MARCH 25 - 30

to give up that control as a writer, and you have to be thinking of ways of how to get that information across when you have control?” Control Levine doesn’t think writers new to video games need to fear surrendering control if they’re willing to fully embrace the medium. “It’s not an emotional risk because if you need to get something across you’d better damn well make sure there’s enough, that you structure the game so that the idea comes across,” Levine said. “We have plenty of that where we’d show people the game, you know, for the last year or so, and they would not understand certain things and our job was to go back and figure out. And again the method of last resort is to grab control, but generally

ntry free e

sometimes we wonder, ‘Is it worth it that you can share this information?’ So, you can’t, no, I mean if you’re precious about that stuff, if it’s not necessary, and you’re worried people are going to miss it, you’re being too precious. If it’s necessary and people miss it then you’re not doing your job, because you have to make sure they don’t miss it. You'd have to figure out a way to get that information across.” Williams aptly observed how the video game industry is changing in terms of its relationship to strong narratives. “You have some amazing companies out there doing amazing things, and not only is that happening but they’re being recognized for it. Even like Walking Dead, getting the wonderful recognition that it deserves, I don’t think that would have happened three to four years ago, or a game like Journey wouldn’t have found such a recognition it had this year, even just a few years ago. There’s acceptance of these different types of games.” Not concerning themselves with quality narratives may be a risk game developers face in the very near future.

Dennis Scimeca

Play the best games from the Netherlands Monday March 25

5:00 PM - 7:00 PM INDIGO Monday Mixer & official opening

Tuesday March 26 7:30 AM - 9:00 AM Dutch breakfast 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM Open for business* 4:00 PM - 6:30 PM INDIGO Mixer

Wednesday o indig

Thursday March 28 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM Open for business* 4:00 PM - 6:30 PM INDIGO Mixer


March 27

9:00 AM - 4:00 PM Open for business* 4:00 PM - 6:30 PM INDIGO Mixer

March 29

9:00 AM - 4:00 PM Open for business* 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM INDIGO Mixer 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM TGI INDIGO Friday

Saturday March 30 12:00 PM - 5:00 PM INDIGO GDC Playtime

* For appointments go to

Location The Netherlands Consulate General

INDIGO is a playable showcase organized by Dutch Game Garden. We show you the best games made by talented developers from the Netherlands.

Suite 3100 120 Kearny Street San Francisco, CA 94104 Questions? Call +31 6 11 86 76 06

Investing in your future. Dutch Game Garden is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) of the European Commission

Questions? Call +31 6 11 86 76 06

and we asked him to tell the story back to us and he was like, ‘So, you’re like a Big Daddy trying to find your Little Sister whose name is Rapture, and somehow Andrew Ryan is like…’ and he had no idea what the story was. He didn’t pick up any of it. But he emotionally felt all the beats that the

What makes games tick? THE INNERWORKS OF GAMES: 38 GAME MECHANICS EXPOSED This feature is an ode to game designers – a celebration of tens of years of creativity. This is not the definitive list of game mechanics, but an inspiring overview of the many, many great ideas that make up a game. >> 16 •

Text by: Rami Ismail, Eric Bartelson, Matthijs Dierckx & Alessandra van Otterlo


1. JUMPING Although jumping has been a mechanic used in games as chess and checkers far before the rise of videogames, the jump as we know it in videogames wasn’t introduced to the mainstream until Donkey Kong in 1981. Since, jumping has sprouted an entire genre – the platformer – and features prominently in many contemporary genres.


While the technique known as ‘strafing’ was common in the earlier first person shooters as Doom, what modern gamers refer to as strafing was formerly known as circle-strafing. Circlestrafing was an advanced technique that was seldomly employed due to the fact that strafing often required multiple keypresses and required a mouse for a first person shooter. Circle-strafing was made accessible in games like Quake and Goldeneye and hasn’t disappeared since.

5. LOCAL COMPETITIVE MULTIPLAYER Since computers lacked power back in the seventies, it was easier to design a local multiplayer game than a single player game. The latter required AI, which was an incredibly complex task on the limited contemporary hardware. While local multiplayer all but disappeared from the public eye for a decade, the mechanic has regained relevance with its success on Nintendo’s Wii.

8. DIFFICULTY LEVEL No one can make a book easier to read, a movie scarier to watch or a theatre play more accessible, so that puts gaming in a unique position: unlike aforementioned media, most games offer options to make them suit the player better. The most prominent and oldest method, the possibility to manually select a level of difficult, is quickly losing ground. Matchmaking replaced difficulty settings in multiplayer and in singleplayer, better AI has allowed for adaptive difficulty. Although so-called hardcore gamers are on the fences about adapting the difficulty to the player, a game that adapts to the skills and strengths of the player tends to offer a less frustrating and thus more enjoyable experience – while still offering a decent challenge.

Missing important mechanics? Please join the discussion at

2. CONTROLLABLE CHARACTER Like many mechanics on this list, the controllable character is something we have taken for granted since the beginning of video games. Allan Alcorn’s Pong first introduced the phenomenom of a controllable character on screen with a short, vertical line. Even decades later the amount of games that manage to avoid using the controllable character as a focal point of their games is minimal.


Popularized by Toru Iwatani’s Pac-Man in the 1980’s, the time limited power-up made a blistering comeback thanks to id Software’s Doom- and Quake-series. Nowadays, time limited power-ups seem to have lost most of their appeal amongst developers and gamers alike, reducing the mechanic to something primarily found in retro arcade games.

6. PRONE / STRAIGHT / CROUCH While many 2D games of the earlier days of gaming use a mechanic in which the player can apply three differences stances, the now ubiquitous three-stance in first person videogames was brought to fame by cult hit System Shock. Later, Half Life and Call of Duty would further popularize the trope of ‘quiet crouched movement’.

9. MINGLEPLAYER Maybe one of the most important innovations of the last few years: the single/multiplayerhybrid (we’ll call it mingleplayer for now). Although others have tried before, FROM Software and thatgamecompany collectively put this form of play firmly on the map with their Demon’s Souls and Journey. Considering the overwhelmingly positive feedback these games received from the development community, we dare say mingeplayer will become standard issue in the next few years. It seems Bungie’s Destiny might be a first new foray into this hybrid.


Being both the most used and most controversial game mechanic, it’s no surprise it’s as old as video games themselves. Spacewar!, developed in 1961, was probably the game that introduced the mechanic. It wasn’t until almost two decades later that Space Invaders irreversibly caused the games industry to be as trigger happy as it is today. (The reasons why it remains so popular are explained in our feature starting on page 24). Shooting provides both a skill based challenge and instant feedback – no wonder it has become so immensely popular.

10. GAME OVER. CONTINUE? Giving players hours of gameplay for a quarter might have been an unparalleled act of kindness, for the manufacturers of arcade cabinets it was commercial suicide. Designers had to find a compromise: if players had to restart the game at the end of each attempt, they would find a more fun game to play – but if designers offered too few dangers, they’d be out of money in no time. The answer was the introduction of ‘Game Over’: games could last for hours while still being commercially viable – especially if coupled with the ‘Continue?’screen that urged players to cough up another quarter if they wanted to keep their progress. This Game Over/Continue-combo surprisingly outlived most arcades. To this day scores of game designers build their games around a Game Over-state, even if the original motivation behind it is a fading memory of the past.

• 17

11. QUICK TIME EVENT Love it or loathe it, the Quick Time Event (QTE) has a prominent role in many current blockbuster titles such as Tomb Raider and God of War. The term was coined by Yu Suzuki who featured the technique in Shenmue (1999) as a cutscene that players navigate through by pressing the right button after an on screen prompt. Shenmue was not the first though, 1996 Die Hard Arcade (Sega AM1) already featured QTEs.


Taking cover has long been regarded as a big detraction in adrenaline filled macho shooters. Although we already played with cover against the advancing aliens in the early Space Invaders (1978), it wasn’t until the 1995 arcade light gun shooter Time Crisis, that ‘taking cover’ was properly introduced in action games. Stepping on a pedal on the floor made you pop out of cover. To reload or to take active cover from guys shooting at you, you released the pedal. Later Kill.Switch introduced the mechanic in console games and after Gears of War made it cool, almost all of contemporary action games offer some form of cover.

15. DIRECTIONAL DAMAGE INDICATOR A small but clever HUD-improvement. Since the original Half-Life this indicator allowed players to understand from which side they are being attacked. The feature is now almost ubiquitous in shooters and adventure games alike.

18. NON PLAYABLE CHARACTER As with many of these mechanics, it’s hard to pinpoint who, but at some point in the history of videogames, a designer decided that not every character on screen necessarily should be hostile. A simple thought, but nevertheless revolutionary. We somehow ended up calling on-screen friendlies ‘Non Playable Characters’, as if the enemies are playable. Of course, nowadays the NPC is definied by the possibility to interact with the character (in addition to throwing flame balls at them) – they are a great tool for driving the story forward, giving the player character his or her motivation and of course, a natural but tired starting point for quests and missions. NPCs are here to stay and with increasing processor power, their credibility and thus importance is likely to grow in the future.

18 •

12. CO-OP Multiplayer has always been a big part of gaming right from the start, but it took a while before the hardware supported two players teaming up against the computer AI. One of the earliest examples of co-op was Atari’s Gauntlet, which allowed four players to play on a single screen. Many games followed suit with sports games being the most logical fit, but almost every genre has a unique form of co-op.


When we say Stealth, you say? Chances are you’ll say Metal Gear Solid. The Japanese series has been synonymous with stealthy gameplay since its debut on the MSX2 in 1987. Due to the technical limitations of the hardware the number of characters on screen was limited, forcing designer Hideo Kojima to come up with alternative gameplay for his military action title. When the game exploded on the PlayStation, a number of games adopted the signature gameplay and placed it in different times and locales. Splinter Cell, Tenchu, Thief, Hitman, a lot of games owe important parts of their gameplay to Metal Gear’s main man Snake. Solid Snake. Or was it Liquid?


Health is often represented as a horizontal bar complety filled if the player is 100% healthy. With every hit the character takes, health points are subtracted from that 100% and the bar depletes untill it reaches zero and the player is dead. A simple concept that (video) game designers didn’t need to invent themselves: pen and paper role players already used the concept of Hit Points before the dawn of time (the dark ages before videogames).

19. TELEPORTING You could argue Pac-man is the first popular game to feature teleporting, although technically wrapping was a more appropriate term. During the early emergence of multiplayer shooters, teleporting quickly became a popular feature to allow surprises, escapes and fast movement. Valve’s Portal took the mechanic further and turned it into the focal point of the game. Due to the emphasis on real locations in more and more current games, teleporting has lost most of its former popularity.


Rewarding points to the player sounds like an unavoidable mechanic, but is it? The recent internet discussions sure make a point to the contrary. Rewarding through arbitrary values has been part of gaming since the early beginnings of our media, providing the player with a motive to continue playing. Highscores and the current (online) leaderboards offered incentive and motivation. So while arguably points, rewards and highscores are a obstacle to giving games a more profound meaning, they still (and perhaps always will) serve as a proven device to keep players going.

20. REGENERATING HEALTH Not feeling too well? Been stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted or burned? If you just wait a sec your health will regenerate. 3,2,1 there you go! Halo is credited with introducing this mechanic, but it wasn't the first and technically it wasn't regenerating health, it was a regenerating shield. Halo 2 did the regenerating health thing. But other games employed regenerating health long before Halo. In the eighties Hydlide, a series of Japanese RPGs, already featured the mechanic. There are several flavors of regenerating health. The full recovery, as seen in Call of Duty, has players just taking cover for a while to change from mingled and burnt to a crisp to running around jumping between buildings. Then there is the segmented health bar like in Resistance, which only refills health until a certain point unless health packs or similar items allow players to fully recharge again.

Discuss game development at

21. GETTING PHYSICAL Nintendo's Wii wasn't the first gaming machine that had people standing up and actively participating in gameplay. Many examples of outrageous (let’s face it, mainly Japanese) arcade games has had us dancing (Dance Dance Revolution), skateboarding (Top Skater), horseback riding (Final Furlong), punching (Sonic Blast Heroes) and god knows what for years. But sure, Wii Fit made you sweat. Once. When you carried that piece of plastic home from the shop.

23. REWINDING TIME An interesting game mechanic or a cheap way for players to correct their fuck-ups? A little bit of both we think. While it is a cool mechanic in titles like Braid and Blinx where the manipulation of time is essential for progression through a level and therefore an essential part of the game, it’s an infantile addition to a racing game. Yes, we are looking at you Forza and Grid. It only serves as an easy way out for lazy gamers who don’t want to replay a track if they fail to hit the brakes on time and land upside down in the hay stacks.


Non-local competitive multiplayer (it was too early to call it online multiplayer) wasn't invented by id Software, but it sure was Doom that made it popular. John Romero did coin the word Deathmatch, a term that has become almost inseparable from the genre. It's hard to imagine the current generation shooters without at least a form of Deathmatch, although Team Deathmatch has become the defacto standard. Without Deathmatch, there would have been no Capture the Flag-aswe-know-it or other objective based non-local multiplayer modes that make up the core mechanics of series like Battlefield. Which brings us to...

28. TEXT AS CONTROLLING MECHANISM Text based games are pure nostalgia to many and Zork is a true classic in the genre. The purely text-based game was one of the earliest interactive computer games and was written in the late seventies. The name stems from the MIT hacker slang expression zork, meaning unfinished program. Upon completion, Zork was renamed to Dungeon, which drew the ire of the Dungeons & Dragons publisher and thus, the game was named Zork once more. The game distinguised itself from other text based games by a quality story, but what really made it stand out was the advanced text analysis. Where other text based games would only respond to short commands, Zork players could also use prepositions and conjunctions. In the current age of polygon-counts the reach of text as input has diminished almost completely, but popular culture still refers to the early days of computer games. In an episode of The Big Bang Theory, character Sheldon Cooper refound his love for text based gaming. Besides some obscure online games, text has become a rare controlling mechanism, but every now and then a Scribblenauts will give the mechanic a whirl.

What is your favorite mechanic? Let us know at

22. AUGMENTED REALITY Augmented reality is a technique that fits perfectly with advertising and we have seen many examples of products that feature tags that change into ‘3D’. AR is quickly becoming more popular amongst designers. Sony introduced it in the living room with the PlayStation Eye and their own Tamagotchi EyePet, a mildly disturbing mix of monkey and dog. Dozens of iOS and Android-games – and even a few 3DS-titles – have built on it.

24. SNIPING There is something so cool about the use of a sniper rifle in videogames. The careful aiming, holding your breath and gently squeezing the trigger. Only to see your target going down without him ever knowing what hit him. Priceless. There is also something annoying about a sniper rifle. If you’re on the receiving end that is. The 1997 PC game MDK by Shiny Entertainment was one of the first to use the sniper scope and instantly got it right, allowing you to zoom in over large distances and pick of the ugly alien adversaries from afar.


Like many popular mechanics, Capture the Flag actually predates video games by ages. In video games early examples can be traced back to the likes of the Apple II and Commodore 64, the CTF as we know it today was introduced by Apogee’s Rise of the Triad in 1994. The original Quake did not feature CTF, although that was rectified through a mod. Team Fortress popularized the game mode, before it quickly became standard material in most shooters in the nineties and early 2000s.

29. TIME LIMITS Like the Game Over-screen, Time limits were introduced when games progressed from hobbyist projects to commercialized product. In an attempt to keep players paying money for arcade cabinets, videogames employed various techniques to allow players to fail and spend yet another quarter. One of the most infuriating examples was the time limit, which would remain a common factor in games after they transitioned to home entertainment. Ultimately, the time limit as a constant source of worry all but disappeared, but is still commonly used as a narrative tool in segments of games to emphasize a sense of urgency.


Nothing shows a hero’s journey better than leveling up. Gaining enough experience points to go to the next level gives a real sense of achievement and more importantly gives your character better abilities and unlocks previous inaccessible locations. Pen and paper RPG Dungeons & Dragons introduced the mechanic and gamedesigners took notice. Leveling happens a lot in RPGs but other genres have embraced the concept as wel. Leveling usually implies grinding as well: the act of doing the same thing over and over (and over) in order to collect the corresponding experience points. Booooring...

30. BOSS BATTLES If you consider boss battles to be real monstrosities in game design, you’ll be glad to know the games industry didn’t invent them. Actually, bosses in games outdate video games by a fair bit. Think of the Queen in chess, the keeper in soccer and of course the gazillion high-level monsters in table top RPGs. A good boss battle is a marriage between equal amounts of frustration and exhilaration, offering a bigger challenge than regular enemies and more importantly, a change in pace. For such an ancient phenomenon bosses still enjoy a decent amount of popularity amongst game designers. It proves difficult to come up with an alternative to end a section or even a whole game in style, although modern day shooters tend to either apply time pressure or a desperate fight against an increased numbers of enemies rather than a single overpowered enemy. Japanese developers are still madly in love with their bosses, often making them leading characters in the game’s story: Shadow of the Colossus, Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy all feature leading characters as bosses.

• 19



Games have several unique features that set them apart as a narrative tool from other forms of media. Games don’t have to follow a linear story, we can just go off the beaten track and serve up several diverse storylines with different endings. All within the same basic story and with the same characters. How cool is that? Well, very. In the eighties games really started to experiment with branching story lines. Legend of Zelda for instance but also arcade games like Out Run offered different paths to take, leading to a different finish location.

34. SAVEGAME When video games moved from the arcades into peoples homes, game designers rushed to offer longer and more complicated experiences. These expanded games created a whole new problem: what if the player wanted to take a break, go to bed and pick up the game the next morning? How could developers prevent the player from having to start from scratch? The first “saved game” was actually an analog affair: the game compiled the player’s state into a unique string of characters that they had to write down. This system evolved to those states being saved on the external media of home computers (cassettes, floppy disks) or, in the case of consoles, on the battery powered RAM in cartridges. The influence of savegames was and continues to be enormous: modern video games as we know them would simply be impossible without them. Saving the game itself spawned a couple of widely popular sub-mechanics: quicksave (popularized by id Software’s Doom) and checkpoints being the most prominent. Some designers managed to integrate the process of saving in the game, like confessing in a church in Dragon Quest and using a typewriter in Resident Evil. A recent technical improvement is the possibility to save to a cloud, reducing the risk of losing hours of gameplay and opening the door to cross device gaming for single player games. The latest trend seems to be offering the player just one savegame, thereby increasing the weight of the player’s action and decisions (Demon’s Souls, Minecraft Survival Mode, Xcom Enemy Unknown).

20 •

Every game has its own physics. Whether that simulates our own earth physics or some made up cartoony or alien physics, there is always gravity (or lack of) to which objects react. It gets really interesting when you can play around with the game world’s physics. Like that time in Half Life 2 you got your hands on that zero-point energy field manipulator (or gravity gun if you’re not into the whole extensive thing). Now you had some real power to your disposal to solve environmental puzzles or make projectiles from household items such as crates. Playing with physics was possible long before Half Life 2 came along but it was never this much fun.

33. DOUBLE TAP / HOLD Four buttons, four options. The player didn't have many ways of communicating with the game in the beginning. Until some smart designer figured out every button could communicate at least four states by introducing double tapping and holding (the other two being normal tap and idle). Suddenly mechanics like double jump and running (besides walking) started to appear.

Nowadays, dozens and dozens iOS and Android-games have brought 2D physics based gameplay to the mainstream.

35. RETICULE Placing a dot in the center of the screen to tell the player where they’re aiming sounds like a no-brainer. But in early shooters like Wolfenstein 3D, Rise of the Triads and Doom the reticule was nowhere to be found. In those days, it wasn’t quite necessary because players weren’t able to aim up or down. Since Quake every first (and most third) person shooters comes with a reticule or crosshair that’s always present on screen. It doesn’t stop there – nowadays using a coloured reticule to tell the player he’s about to shoot a friend or a foe, is almost as common as the reticule itself. It’s hard to tell whether the ‘always onreticule’ is here to stay, since it’s conflicting with another, increasingly popular design choice: increasing realism by decreasing the number of HUD-elements.

37. INVENTORY Even the most realistic game punches real-life in the face when it comes to the ridiculous amount of stuff the player is able to carry. Without losing the ability to run, jump and gun game-characters lift upwards of 100 of times their own weight – they’re ants, basically. To be fair, it’s a logical trade-off between realism and fun and an inventory limited by weight and/or number of items is a great way of balancing the game. Making powerful weapons, ammo and items take a lot of space in an inventory kept players from becoming over-powered in games like Diablo.


The recent meteoric rise of Minecraft (and the staggering amount of spin-offs) proves the appeal of handing over some of the responsibilities of gamedevelopers to the player. Pinball Construction Set (1983) for the Apple II and Atari 800 was one of the first games to successfully deploy such a mechanism (and lured Will Wright into a life as game designer). TrackMania, Garry’s Mod, Little Big Planet, and ModNations Racers all build on its success.

38. FIRST PERSON PERSPECTIVE It's not entirely clear who came up with the idea to develop a game with a first person perspective. Since the seventies at least two dozen games have used it, before id Software (there they are again) introduced it to the mainstream with their hit game Wolfenstein 3D. Earlier games often used pre-rendered or even hand drawn imagery to convey a feeling of 'being there'. Other examples did draw the screens on the fly, but they were static nonetheless. Since Wolfenstein 3D we think of the first person perspective as a real time created environment with great freedom of movement. Some would even argue current third person games descend directly from their first person counterparts, rather than evolving from early non-3D games.

Missing important mechanics? Please join the discussion at

Senior Environment Artists Principal Character Artists Senior Asset Artists Shader & Texture Artists Senior Online Producers Writers GUI Tools Programmers Game Programmers AI Programmers Tech Programmers


Brand New World Playful Advertising


It’s a matter of vision and timing this Engamesment”, says Steph Vermeulen, founder / CCO and industry veteran on both the adverting as the creative side of the business. “We created an effective and efficient way for advertisers to use mobile as a medium in order to reach a very large and growing group of consumers, to create awareness and influence behavior.” Custom build But to truly unleash the true advertisement potential of mobile games, agencies and brands have to stop treating them as sales tool and make them fun experiences instead. “And that’s where we come in”, says Vermeulen. ”Advertising is often boring and chases away consumers. Our mission is to make advertising fun for consumers and to help advertisers to build brands through mobile gaming. We have a gaming platform with scalable game experiences. We custom build it to the preferences

of the client and update regularly to make sure players keep coming back.” AMX Engamesment currently has a creative studio in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, with its own crew of talented 3D game developers, designers, modelers and programmers. In this full service studio, AMX can create anything from custom game design and game programming, to video, production and postproduction, 3D modeling and animation, sound recording and design and creating custom music, just to name a few skills. Hollywood AMX has just opened a brand new office at the Paramount studio lot in Hollywood. Additionally, AMX Engamesment has access to a large network of high-quality artists, animation and 3D studios and production facilities that are specialized in mobile apps and games and are among the best in their field. That means that your playful ad campaign can be up and running in no time. It’s a Brand New World. Make sure you are a part of it.

AMX Engamesment Amsterdam • Hollywood, Los Angeles


Engamesment “These numbers are staggering”, says Henk Jan Engelhardt, CEO of AMX Engamesment. “It’s a whole new world, ready to be explored and conquered. But traditional advertisement agencies and large brands are slow to capitalize on this huge untapped market. In the US, 25 percent of media consumption time is on mobile. Yet only 1 percent of the advertising budget is spent on that platform. It’s a matter of vision and timing.” He leans back and smiles: “We have both.” Despite the enormous growth of this market, there is still a huge gap between the rapid adaption of mobile and the advertising budgets assigned to it. Brands will need to seriously implement new strategies to catch up to the level at which consumers are embracing the channel. Specifically mobile games offer the

opportunity to create high impact experiences. Games are the ultimate means to involve smartphone and tablet users with a brand in a friendly and casual way. “We call


• Mobile is the place where everything happens. The hardware advancements on smart phones and tablets have paved the road for engaging creative experiences for the largest and fastest growing audience ever. Worldwide, the number of people that play games on their mobile device has surpassed the 500 million mark. The rapid growth of smart phone and tablet penetration will further push these numbers. Today, over 150 million hours a day are spent on mobile gaming.


To unleash the true advertisement potential of mobile games, agencies and brands have to stop treating them as sales tool and make them fun experiences instead. “Your players will love you for it”, says AMX Engamesment.

The appeal of first person shooters

Why do we kill? 24 •

A lot of research is done into the effects of violent video games, but do we actually know why we are drawn to these types of games? Dennis Scimeca is looking for some answers. >> The most popular and recognizable sports in the world involve throwing, kicking, or otherwise kinesthetically interacting with a ball. Could it be that human beings have a natural comprehension of Newtonian physics that enabled our ancestors to throw rocks and hurl spears, and that legacy has been passed on to us? Is that why so many video games from the dawn of the arcade age like Space Invaders and Asteroids and Centipede involved shooting things, because we naturally understand the kinesthetics involved without needing to be taught? Let’s investigate. Boys love first person shooters because they love to fight enemies. That’s a rough summation of a theory suggested during a June 2010 Harvard University event titled “Who Plays Games and Why: Evolutionary Biology Looks at Videogames.” The first half of the event was presented by game developers who went over breakdowns in video game preferences by gender.

behavior any more than other forms of media. American lawmakers are still contemplating legislative action regarding violent video games, like levying “sin” taxes on their sale, even though any such law would almost surely be struck down as unconstitutional. Poll results indicate that a clear plurality of conservative American voters believe violent video games do elicit violent behavior. Lack of evidence to support that position doesn’t seem to matter in the continuing debate. We can have a discussion as to why first person shooters have been and will likely continue to be a popular genre for game developers, like the relative ease of replicating the perspective by which we see the world, and the plethora of tools available to developers to enable FPS development, like the Unreal Engine and CryEngine. The immersion offered by a first person shooter is also opening doors for storytelling. Half-Life blazed the trail and games like BioShock and Dear Esther walked it to great effect.

"EXPLAINING THE POPULARITY OF FPS GAMES FROM THE PLAYERS’ PERSPECTIVE, HOWEVER, ISN’T A QUESTION FOR WHICH WE HAVE NEARLY AS MUCH INSIGHT." The second half was presented by Joyce Benenson, a Professor of Psychology at Emmanuel College. Benenson presented study results which indicated that young male children bond into social groups around the idea of fighting bad guys. The studies Benenson drew her conclusions from were conducted using American, Canadian and British children, so an Anglo centric cultural bias can’t be excluded as a factor in the study’s conclusions, but we can’t entirely discount the idea that gender somehow plays into the appeal of first person shooters among the 18-35 year old male audience. In the absence of a definitive explanation for why FPS games have been consistently popular for over two decades, the doors are wide open to any number of theories, even if they don’t have a logical leg to stand on. Violent behavior It doesn’t seem to be enough that in their landmark Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association decision the United States Supreme Court ruled that there is a lack of evidence that video games influence Join the discussion at

Explaining the popularity of FPS games from the players’ perspective, however, isn’t a question for which we have nearly as much insight. War and conflict Jon Radoff is the founder of the social media company GamerDNA and CEO of the social game publisher Disruptor Beam. In August of 2011, Radoff delivered a presentation at Boston Post-Mortem, a monthly meeting of Boston-area game developers, which he titled “Game On: What Motivates Gamers?” Radoff suggested that tapping into the human propensity for play was the key to creating engaging video game experiences. This was the thesis of his book “Game On: Energize Your Business with Social Media Games.” During his presentation Radoff suggested that play is a form of practice for skills that would be required in real life, so I posed the idea that the popularity of first person shooters was tied to the human propensity for war and conflict. Radoff countered with the idea that the popularity of first person shooters may be connected to human beings’ natural ability to process

and act upon visual information. Benefits of Gaming There are studies which suggest action games – with a focus in the research on first person shooters specifically – can improve eyesight, visual attention, and decisionmaking capabilities. If Radoff’s suggestion were on the money it would certainly help to explain the results of these studies. Unless we want to argue that gamers play action or FPS games for the satisfaction of improving these abilities, however, the studies in question don’t necessarily address the appeal of these games. A German psychological study titled “DOOM’d to switch: superior cognitive flexibility in players of first person shooter games” was published in April of 2010 and presented evidence that first person shooters promote cognitive flexibility. FPS players were able to switch between tasks faster and more efficiently than non-video game players. The idea makes perfect sense if one considers how tactical situations rapidly change in games like Call of Duty, or the importance of assessing the value of and switching between tool sets in Halo. This study might also be a clue to understanding the appeal of FPS games. If these games allow us to exercise our natural cognitive strengths, then a sense of satisfaction from interacting with these games seems like a valid hypothesis. And if that theory proves true, engaging in FPS play could be argued as not as a gateway to aberrant behavior, but rather a very healthy and normal behavior for a human being. Ignorance The moment-to-moment visual and aural engagement required to successfully navigate a rich, virtual environment, like a first person shooter, creates a wealth of biofeedback, the likes of which Valve has been experimenting with for years, This biofeedback can be measured and quantified, mapped to human brain activity and studied, such that we might have the ability to understand human interaction with video games in way we cannot understand human interaction with any other form of art. That’s an understanding worth pursuing, if for no other reason than to finally silence the voices who would like to see our favorite pastime constrained by the equivalent of Hayes Laws or a Comics Code Authority, or otherwise tampered with out of ignorance.

• 25


for IGF-finalist from Iran Iranian student Mahdi Bahrami (20) didn't get a visa for the USA. His Farsh is finalist in the IGF Student Showcase, in 2011 his game Bo got an honorable mention. Currently he's studying in The Netherlands. >> Can you tell us a bit about what life is like for a boy who wants to become a game developer and lives in Iran? At first sight there is no difference [if you want] to become a game developer. As long as you have access to a normal computer with internet connection, it doesn't matter where you live. But there are some details that could be different based on the location. For example, in high schools in Iran students study lots of math and physics. After six month of going to college in The Netherlands, what I know is that Highschool students in Iran study much more than their Dutch counterparts. I think those studies helped me a lot to be able to learn programming. Furthermore, we have lots of programming competitions and festivals in Iran. When I was twelve years old, for the first time in my life I submitted a software program that I had made with Visual Basic for a software development festival that was held in our school. It was the first time in my life that something I had programmed became the winning entry. Those competitions and festivals really helped me to find my way and improve my skills. On the other hand there are some unfair things that happen to you if your nationality is Iranian. Think you have made a game in XNA and are going to submit it for DreamBuildPlay – a competition organized by Microsoft for the games made by XNA. Then you see this when you are reading the rules: Residents of the following countries are ineligible to participate: Cuba; Iran; North Korea; Sudan; and Syria.

was found to be from an account from Iran. Even though it is currently being submitted from an Australian account, the U.S. maintains a trade embargo on Iran. Microsoft may not sell or support, directly or indirectly, products or services to Iran. Microsoft cannot partner with a third party if we know or have reason to know that they might be sending our products to Iran. Current international discussions of increasing sanctions on Iran will have little impact to the existing comprehensive controls on Microsoft products to Iran. Therefore this account will remain banned and this game will not be approved. What if you want to submit your game to IGF but you're not able to pay $100 fee just because there is no accessible way of paying the fees from Iran? These are some important ones but that's not all. What I want to say is that for developing games, yeah, everything is fine – but for showing or distributing the game there are lots of problems. Even now that I'm living in The Netherlands, those difficulties are still with me. I'm not able to attend GDC because my VISA application was rejected. Being a finalist in IGF was something of a dream for me. But instead of being happy for fulfilling my dream, I'm depressed. This is the most unfair situation happened to me in my life. Because of my bad economic situation I'm not sure if I can survive until graduating from school and GDC was an opportunity for me to find some people who could support me.

Or what if you have made a game and you want to sell it on Xbox Live Indie Games then you get this message from Microsoft: Your current game titled KooChooLoo!!! was submitted previously as KooChooLoo! and

Would you like to remain independent, or would you like to join or start studio? I'd like to continue working independently, and I'd love to form my own little studio or company. I'm not sure if I can do it right after graduating – maybe I need to work for a few years in a company. Working in Iran is one of


Go to Bahrami's website and play his games:

the possibilities and I really like the idea of having my own company in Iran, but before going back to Iran I need to find solutions for those problems otherwise it will be same as before, disconnected to the world. Farsh is your second game being noticed by the IGF-jurors, and you're just twenty years old. What is it that makes your games special? I think having original gameplay is the main reason for that. By far. What made you decide to go to Europe? And the NHTV in The Netherlandsin particular? I was searching for universities around the world to apply for a bachelor degree and asking my friends for suggestions. Valmbeer's Rami Ismail suggested the HKU [whose alumni include the likes of Ronimi Games and Vlambeer] and the NHTV in the Netherlands. They both seemed great schools. Finally I decided to apply for NTHV because it was an International school. Do you think Europeans, Americans, Africans, Arabics, Asians all have a different approach to game design due to their different cultural background? Yes, if each part of the world has it's own type art, literature, music, architecture and... why shouldn't they sport their own type of games? All I am trying to do is designing games which are inspired by my culture. Your visa was rejected, so you can't attend GDC nor IGF. Is that something that happens often, having to miss out on events because of this? That's something that happens only for the USA. About three years ago one of my games was selected for Sense of Wonder Night conference at the Tokyo Game Show. I got my VISA and travelled to Japan to present my game. Six month ago I got my visa to study in The Netherlands. But for USA? It's different.

Read and comment on this article online at

"Then you read the rules: Residents of the following countries are ineligible to participate: Cuba; Iran; North Korea; Sudan; and Syria..."

Photo and Retouch: Joram Wolters

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.