From Babylonians to Boardgames

September 6, 2009

What do the movement of the Earth around the Sun has in common with boardgames like Settlers of Catan? That’s what I found and thought it would be interesting to share.

All this started when I read two following paragraphs talking one about the 360 degrees of a circle and the 365 days of a year the later, I immediately thought that maybe there was a relationship between them and did a little research on the internet.

It turns out that many people say there is a relationship and many more accredited say it’s just a coincidence, but if you read with attention you will notice that it may be a relationship, perhaps not a very direct one, but certainly some type of it.

According to this is all just a coincidence, but as we start to read different sources we can find references to the sexagesimal system developed (or at least used) by the Babylonians and many different theories of how they got to develop it, like in here or here and most interestingly in here, also relating all this to why we have 24 hours in a day and 60 minutes in an hour and 60 seconds in a minute.

All these has several sources backing it up and is widely accepted, but the relationship exists, and let me tell you why: Is not from the Earth movement around the Sun but the other way around, it’s from having a circle divided into 360 pieces and the proximity of that number with the 365+ days of the year. In ancient times is very common to find calendars of 360 days divided into 12 months of 30 days. Knowing ancient cultures and more noticeably the Greeks we know that they have the circle and the sphere as the “perfect” shapes, and combining it with the idea of beginning and end joining at the same point, is not hard to relate that shape with the recording of Time.

And when we look at how astronomers believed the cosmos was shaped, besides believing the Earth was in the center, all of them, until Kepler found the truth, thought that the planets moved in “perfect” circles, and the days are just how many times the Earth rotate on its own axis while traveling around the Sun, a travel that takes a little bit more than 360 of these rotations.

But the paper that impressed me the most was this one which makes a geometric relation between a circle and an hexagon, and from there is that we can relate it with boardgames like Settlers of Catan, as this type of games uses the properties of the hexagon in deciding player movements, because contrary to a square board any hexagon in which you are is at the same distance of any other one in the board no matter the road you choose.

It’s very interesting how, from ancient times and still in today’s world, we are still influenced and ruled by mathematical and astronomical notions even in the smaller things. Perhaps it will amaze you even more if you try to pay attention to little things of every day life like this. As for me, I think I’m going to start ordering my pizzas in 6 or 12 slices instead of 8, you know, for diet’s sake 😉


RPG, Virtual Worlds and Guybrush Returns

July 11, 2009

Too much had happen these last weeks so let’s summarize a little bit. First I’d like to say I went to the ApolloCon here in Houston and being my first Con in the states was a good experience, it’s definitely different from the ones I went to in Argentina but impressive nonetheless and I enjoyed it with my five years old son, who met with a real astronaut for his first time (me too btw) and got an autographed picture, how cool is that!

A couple of weeks ago was published on Gamasutra an article about Role Playing Games for computers, although it was long it was full of data and I got to know some games that I didn’t and it also made me remember about Ishar, the ones I played when I was a kid. Very good article indeed and I’m sure it will make you want to play one of those for sure.

Metaplace is something I still haven’t try in full, I setup an account there but haven’t spend too much time yet, but on a newsletter I received was the announcement that you can embed your virtual world from Metaplace in any webpage, including of course your blog, so if I get a little time to make something productive with it I’m sure I’m going to embed it in here.

And well, I can’t go on without saying a word about the biggest comeback on Graphic Adventure Games, Guybrush Threepwood is on his way again, now from Tell Tale Games and as I have said when I knew about this, let the Second Golden Age of Adventure Games Begin.

Summer reading

June 21, 2009

I’m taking summer-classes this year but in the brief period between those and the end of the last semester I bought three books that I wanted to read and I’m going to review it for you here.

The first one I read was “The Gold Standard” by Mike Krzyzewski, it recounts how the USA Basketball Olympic Team got formed and the process used to build it and meet the goal of winning the Gold Medal on the 2008 Olympic Games. It’s clearly trying to catch the business aspect of forming a team, but for those looking for a sports book I can tell you’re not going to be disappointed, it tells about the behind the scenes of a team formed by great stars like Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and how to make them work together and build truly a team. Overall a great reading, you can learn from this book, mostly how to be a team player and of course how to create and lead a team.

Next was “T-Minus: Race to the Moon” by Jim Ottaviani, Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon. This is a graphic novel about the behind the scenes of the Space Race of the ’60 and ’70 between USA and the USSR. Although it would be nice if it was longer it meets the expectations, you get to know the internal fights and stretch time-lines both programs had and much more about how the Soviet program worked, at least I didn’t know that it was so dependent of only one man and who that men was and how brilliant he was. Great reading, fun and informative at the same timed.

The last one was a book I was trying to read since a long time, “A Theory of Fun for Game Design” by Raph Koster. Certainly it’s what everyone is saying about it, an instant classic and a must for those wanting to work on the gaming industry and even for those willing to know why we play games and how to make them in a successful manner. After reading it I truly believe it changed my way of thinking on certain aspects and I was able to identify past behaviors of mine on play situations and the actual reasons of my reactions. A book to read once and consult every time you need it and of course one to recommend to everyone.

Adventure Games Are Back

May 29, 2009

I’ve always loved this type of games, and I think almost everyone from my days grew up playing them. Games like Monkey Island, Loom, Maniac Mansion, King’s Quest, Simon The Sorcerer, Eco Quest, and a lot more shaped the minds and remembrances of several generations.

A couple of years ago I discovered Adventure Game Studio, it is a tool that allow you to make your own Adventure Games just by “configuring it”. Examples of that can be found on its website, but let me suggest you No Action Jackson, a game with a Day of the Tentacle style.

After that I started seeing how many people were trying to produce this type of games for the browser. Tools like Web Adventure Kit, ScummVM or Flash-Scumm will help to do that, these are the ones I’m aware of, I’m sure there’s many more out there.

These tools will allow developers to reach more players and ease the distribution of the games, also making them easy to produce. One such place that takes advantage of this is, and it does it with a nice twist, you can see what other players are doing on the same game while you play it.

The sole existence of a site like Adventure Gamers tells us that this genre is not dead and we can feel, by the amount of adventures lately released, that is coming back. I sure will enjoy the second Golden Age of the Graphic Adventure Games, and that is not far away in the future.

Digital Gaming and Simulation

March 28, 2009

I was almost resigned to have to move or go online to been able to study a Game Development Course here in Houston, until yesterday I found this: The Digital Gaming and Simulation Department on HCC Southwest.

The paths on the HCC degrees usually have a lot of Core Curriculum classes, but this is not the case, almost 90% of the classes are games focused and that is something that makes this course a good choice for those willing to step into the Games industry and not waste your time taking miscellaneous classes.

Now, let me note that everyone tells you that to succeed on the Video Game industry you should have a wide range of interests and studies, and I encourage you to do so, but in only two years you can get a degree on video games, and you have spent that time only focused on producing and delivering games, not only grades.

I can see this course in my future very clear, let’s just hope everything goes as expected.

Ten Tips to be a Game Designer

March 21, 2009

Yesterday I came across this article on Game Career Guide website about the ten things you should be doing or practicing to become a Game Designer and I couldn’t resist the temptation to see what I’ve already done and what is remaining in my path to become one. So let’s start with it.

1. Write a game design document: No, I haven’t done this yet and is probably the first one I should do on the list, although I’m still writing the story for the Graphic Adventure Game I have in mind, maybe I could merge those two.

2. Build a 3D level: No, haven’t done it, and I’m guessing it will be a really time consuming task, for now I’m going to push it back a little more.

3. Write a game script: The article means coding in this case and I can say I did this, so is one Yes on the list. Check.

4. Make a game, or a mod: Done it, another yes, whohoo!

5. Learn to mock things up in flash: Hmmm, this is a difficult one, I used to do thing in flash a while ago, but I’m using other things now like GameMaker, but I think it will count as a yes. Check.

6. Be an enabler: Well, I guess other people should be more qualified to say this about me, but all in all I think I belong to this kind of people.

7. Dissect games and their mechanics, even bad ones: Oh yes, I do this a lot, maybe I don’t put it in writing, which I should be doing in some degree, but this is another Yes.

8. Build an online portfolio: In the process, in the process. Check.

9. Work on your communication skills: Well, this blog is just that so I can say I’m doing it, also with other several activities I’m doing like going to College and posting on other English and Spanish blogs as well.

10. Learn something new every day: Hell Yeah! And I encourage anyone to do the same no matter what are you doing or your dreams are.

Result: 2 No’s and 8 Yes’

Hey, not that bad eh!? Well I guess I should be focusing my efforts on writing a GDD and doing some 3D stuff to have it all, not to worry really, but fun stuff to do anyway.

Game on! Art in a game

March 14, 2009

Video Games are Art? I say YES, and a lot of other people is with me, but as the definition of art is still to be decided too much people still thinks that video games are just that childish thing that make kids go out killing others or adoring the devil.

Well is good to know that around the globe more and more there’s people putting this type of events together so we can see and hear stories about artists making games.

This time the event is going to be in Buenos Aires and the name of it is Game on! Art in a game. For those that have the opportunity to assist I’m sure it will be a good experience, not only because you’re going to discover a part of video games that you didn’t think exists, but because you’re going to find the best of the best of the Video Game Scene of Argentina, one that is growing immensely the last years and is getting worldwide noticing for its achievements.