Archive for the ‘Gaming’ Category

Viral Gaming

25 Nov
With NxtGens up and coming XNA games day and the work I’ve been doing around social media, I thought I’d write some notes as to where these two interesting areas overlap.
Richie Costall and Pete McGann did a really cool Silverlight version of the ZX Spectrum game, Manic Miner, which has a level in it promoting NxtGen. (play it here).

Here’s another really good example of some games from Cadbury. Each of the elves have their own game, and they even have their own blogs!
These so called ‘Viral Games’ are usually small, easy to play, and usually web based.. and most importantly if you want it to spread, fun to play!
These games, if you can get people engaged with them, becomes a powerful marketing tool. But to be successful, you cant just write any old game, here some things to consider.
Marketing Strategy
So, you’ve managed to get half the world playing your game, but if the marketing message is not there, then all you have is a cool game. You need a theme that gets your audience thinking in a particular way is the key. Games that are way too over branded, or make you register before you can play, will be a turn off to the gaming community – which is who you will be relying on to pass your message around.

Get The Game Right
The game itself needs to have enough meat on it for people to actually want to play. It needs to look good enough to encourage people to have a go, but watch the size of downloads, bandwidth needed to play.
You don’t want a Halo, massive 3D game that takes 6 fingers on each hand to play, but neither do you want something that’s going to get boring after 5 mins. There needs to be a low entry level of difficulty, but that climbs up as you progress, to keep people wanting to beat their previous best. Placing high score tables for people that register, will add an additional level of competition and encourages registration. We do this for the Manic Miner game.
Get The Game Out There.
Most games will spread amongst work colleagues and friends on a peer-2-peer basis. but there still needs to be a number of initial people going this to get going in the first place. If you have a website lots of people visit, then placing a link, maybe to a ‘challenge’ (score more than 1000 points for a discount for example) to encourage play.
Remember, the biggest group of people who are likely to ‘distribute’ your game is going to be the gaming community, so placing you game on the many gaming portals is a good idea.
Deciding On A Technology
As I’ve already said, a lot of these games tend to be web based, so building the game to support this is really a must. Flash games abound on the Internet. As you are (hopefully) expecting a load of visitors, you need to make sure your infrastructure is capable of delivering the game. Imagine you have managed to attract 5 million people but you servers cant handle more than 20 downloads!
As well as the web, there’s another large market that can be exploited. Console community games. Games consoles, such as the Xbox360, and development environments such as XNA allow development of games that can be downloaded and played by the casual console user. There’s also the possibility to make a small charge for the game in this arena as well. With ‘proper’ console games costing in excess of £40, good, playable games costing £1 will be readily be adopted. The Manic Miner game is written to be playable both on the web and also on the XNA platform to take advantage of both audiences.
If you would like to find out more about XNA, then NxtGen is running an ‘XNA assault course’ in Birmingham on Saturday 5th December. Have a look here for registration details.

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Posted in Gaming, Viral


Live 2 Code – Code 2 Live – Swagilly Fortunes

16 Jun


As one of the founders of the NxtGen user group, myself and the other two reprobates, Rich and Dave, realised that after spending a whole day listening to presenters talk about the latest technology, there’s only so much information that the human brain can absorb. I felt that some light relief was needed at the end of the day. So, Swaggily Fortunes was born.

Since its first outing at NxtGens’ Fest 07 at Reading, its appeared 4 times since, including at TechEd Barcelona. We still receive requests to run it at various events.

So, what is it? I’m sure you remember Family Fortunes on ITV, (even if you don’t want to admit to it!) Well this is my take on this game show.

There are 2 teams and one member of each team steps up to a table, then the quizmaster asks question and whoever buzzes first gets to answer, if they get it right the whole team gets to come up with answers. Each correct answer earns their team some points. Get it wrong, and you lose a life. Lose 3 lives and the other team wins.

So, whats the technical makeup of this? Well, first there’s the question master. In Swaggily Fortunes thats Microsoft Anna. She reads the question out each time, and waits for the buzzer.

Theres some hardware involved as well, the buzzers. They are big red buttons mounted on plastic boxes connected via some howngrown electronics to a usb port, where they are recognised by Vista as a HID (Human Interface Device)

The input from the buzzers is dealt with by DirectX, Direct Input to be precise. This scans the game controller ports looking for which button is pressed first.

When one is, the WPF code runs an animation to show which team pressed and well as playing the obligatory buzzing sound.Theres 2 screens that make up this application.

 The first is want the audience sees, the main game screen. This is a WPF application that shows the question in play, the answers given and the lives lost down the side.

The second screen, which is where I run the game from, appears on the Laptops own screen, whereas the main screen is put out to the projector using some .NET code to detect the presence of the number of monitors and allocates the right thing to the right display.

From the control screen, I can allow people to test their buzzers, choose the question, change which team is playing, although this is automatically selected. If the teams take too long to answer, I can also play a tick tock sound to tell them to hurry up.

So, if you hear that Swagilly Fortunes is playing at an event near you then come and say hello!


Halo 3 Model flythrough

17 Sep
I’ve seen some cool stuff about Halo3 over the past few months, that latest of which was a sequence of in-game play at Mix07 in London last week. One of my colleagues sent me this link today, which probably gets the topspot as the most awesome bit of Halo3 stuff I’ve seen so far. It a flythrough of real models, you know the painted plastic kind.

Favourite bits are the explosions made out of cotton wool.

I know it sounds very Blue Peterish, but its absolutely fantastic.

Have a look.

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Posted in Gaming