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The Right Amount Of Depth: Lord British Goes Social
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The Right Amount Of Depth: Lord British Goes Social

June 10, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

Why build a lot of infrastructure when you could actually sort of build that into Facebook? The iPhone has infrastructure for gaming as well.

RG: By the way, I almost do all of my gaming now on iPhone. But the infrastructure that's on there... I'm not talking about the infrastructure that allows people to post on the Wall with OpenFeint-type results. I'm talking about real time data streams to where, in real time, we're aware of each other's activity so that we can find each other more ad hoc, and interact on a real time basis.

Well, in fact, let me give you this analogy. I was on LinkedIn before I was on Facebook, so I have a whole friends list on LinkedIn, I have a different set of friends on Facebook, and I have another set of followers and followees on Twitter.

Well, in my mind, all I really care about is who my friends are. And I have no personal tie to Facebook, I have no personal tie to Twitter, I have no personal tie to LinkedIn -- I only have a personal tie to my friends.

And so what we're trying to do is obfuscate the platform, because I don't think you care about that platform; what you care about is your friends. And so we, part of our tool suite people will actually help you integrate all of your friends into one friends list, and as you move around in life, your friends list is for you.

And you don't want to be spammed by all the crap that comes from people who aren't actually your friends, and you do want to, at least, have the choice to follow in on the activities of the people you have elected to be your true friends.

And how do you do that from a UI perspective?

RG: If you have any game open, or the web browser open, or a plugin installed, there's just a little window that pops up that just says, "Hey, your friend so-and-so just conquered three bad guys and you got three sacks of gold." And that'll just be a little briefly popped up window that will close on its own.

But also what's on that little placard, it could say "ignore", which means you won't see anymore from that particular data stream. Or reply, which you could say, "Hey, congratulations", but that's the end of it; you'd still have a real time interaction. Or "play", and that means it will immediately launch that game and drop you in the world right next to that person.

A lot of these games send too many notifications already. You could maybe do a ticker...

RG: Well, way too many, I think. But these are small enough and frequent enough in our minds that I don't think it'll become overwhelming. But, by the way, if it was basically a constant stream, a ticker would by far be the better choice. But at this point, we don't anticipate that the frequency will be that high.

But yeah, one of my frustrations with social media games is how basically everything I do, a placard pops up that says, "Sure you don't want to post it to Facebook to every one of your friends?", and I'm going, "No, I really don't."

Xbox Live is kind of analogous, and actually I do get annoyed by the popups like, "So and so is online", and they're having some network connectivity problems so like every few seconds...

RG: It starts up over and over again?

Yeah, every minute. It's like I'm trying to look at something and it's like, "Heeey!"

RG: "Hey, hey!" Yep, yep. Well, that's why our little ignore button will kind of remove that whole stream. And once you've kind of indicated your interest level of following along with that person today or not, that'll be the end of it.

Talking of like the deeper level stuff, last year we had a brief conversation about directed narrative in social games and whether it was possible. Now that you've been working with these platforms a little more, what do you think about that now?

RG: That's one of the things I think that's going to be interesting to see how it plays out in this new era. If you think about it right now, most of the games that have proven to be popular on social media are not actually what I call massively multiplayer; they're not people concurrently playing in the same world. There are people whose activities in a world can leave a trail which can be adopted, or impact someone else's trail or activity in that virtual world, if you follow my meaning.

And actually in that particular, I think linear narrative is actually pretty easy. Because frankly that you can do a solo player Ultima that [notifies] whenever I've achieved something, or left something in your world for you to pick up next time you were in there. So you can actually do directive narrative pretty easily in the way that most social media games are currently popular.

Now that being said, one of my personal goals is to create a more what I call an Ultima Online-like experience with the game that I'm hoping to do -- the big game coming up. And that will again go back to making linear narrative somewhat of a challenge, just like it was a challenge in Ultima Online.

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