6th May 2008

StoneLoops – One Great Game

Written By: Tami Quiring

This game is maddeningly addictive. I opened it up expecting to just take a quick tour, try a few levels to check out the game play, and here I am two hours later writing my review. I finally found the strength to end the game, even though I really wanted to unlock that last volcano level in Survival Mode.

StoneLoops, a game from Polish indie game developer Codeminion is a refreshingly new twist on the “match three or more” puzzle genre occupied by other casual games such as Luxor and Zuma. I found everything about the game to be pleasing – except the failing to clear a level part, that is. The graphics are very well done, with attention paid to detail, depth and colour. The audio soundtrack is a very nice tribal, monastic style combining orchestration with haunting vocals, matching the game atmosphere very well. The entire theme of the game has been carefully thought through, with bits of humour mixed in if you take the time to check trophy descriptions and other subtle graphics.

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6th May 2008

How to Use Technology to Better Prepare Students for the Workforce

By Tina O’Block

Technology is becoming more and more prevalent in our everyday lives as well as the workforce.Recent studies predict that by the year 2010 almost every job in the American workplace will require some use of technology. This influx in technology has caused changes in the way the computer is being used in the workplace and in the way computer literacy needs to be taught in our schools.

When the personal computer was first introduced in the 1980’s, people had to learn how to operate it, program it, and utilize its basic functions. Today, people and businesses are becoming more familiar with technology and using it more as a tool for such things as information gathering, data analysis and interpretation, presenting information, problem solving, communication, etc. This technology is also continually being updated and changed to allow for more efficient and productive work, causing people to have to keep pace with this new information. In such a knowledge-based economy, knowing how to locate information quickly, evaluate this information for bias and accuracy, and synthesize and apply that information to solve problems will be needed and valued skills. Therefore, teaching students skills such as these will better prepare them for the workforce of the 21st century.

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6th May 2008

Breaking Into Gaming

By Tami Quiring

Written from notes on a lecture given by Vlad Ceraldi, President and Joint CEO of HotHead Games, Vancouver.

Vlad Ceraldi

Mr. Ceraldi began his lecture by asking attendees what they love most about gaming. The top four answers were story, action, interaction and environments. He next asked why they wanted to go into game development, and the top two responses were for the creativity and enjoyment of doing the work. He then held up the box for a PlayStation 3, and asked if given the choice, would they choose the console or having a job in the industry, and without hesitation the answer was having a job in the industry.

Throughout his lecture, Mr. Ceraldi was brutally honest with attendees. He did not paint a Hollywood fantasy picture of the game development industry, and I feel that because of his honesty, those looking for jobs in the industry have a much clearer idea of what it takes to enter such a competitive field. He stated that if you only wanted to become a game developer to get rich, you would be better off pursuing another career, because you would have to work just as hard in game development, if not harder, as you would to be successful in any other career.

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6th May 2008

Game Dev Student Checklist

This checklist was prepared by the Game Developers’ Association (Australia)

STUDENT CHECKLIST: Questions that every potential games student should ask

The following checklist has been prepared for students and parents to use when reviewing potential game courses and educational institutions.

What links does the course have with the games industry?

Is there anyone in the game industry that could be spoken to regarding the course?

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3rd May 2008

Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling

Originally Written for KillaNet Community Resource in 2005

Chris Crawford on Interactive StorytellingChris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling
Author: Chris Crawford
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: New Riders Games
October 2005

This book opened up a whole new pattern of thinking for me. The information Mr. Crawford conveys in this publication is invaluable to any writer seeking to break into new areas-particularly gaming and other applications utilizing interactive storytelling. Writing for this genre requires a whole different mindset from traditional genres and Mr. Crawford succeeds at moving the reader towards that mindset.

Time and again I see in game reviews how a particular game has “awesome graphics and great gameplay but the story and dialogue” were severely lacking. With Mr. Crawford’s extensive experience in the gaming industry, he very capable gives aspiring writers every tool he or she will need to get a very good start in the industry. Throughtout the book, he stresses how important it is for the “artsie” thinkers (the writers & artists) to work together with the “techie” thinkers (the programmers) and I think this is a valuable lesson that many current game producers have yet to learn. Mr. Crawford reminds the entire programming industry that one sector of development cannot succeed without the other. He more than adequately investigates and chronicles how the different development teams can work together and bridge the “communication” gap between the “artsies” and the “techies.”

This book, while not exactly a tutorial piece, offers many examples and exercises to move the writer along in thinking like an interactive storyteller. The only real drawback may be the detail Mr. Crawford goes into. While I personally don’t have a problem with this, I work with several young people who, while they are very keen on gaming development, probably wouldn’t spend an adequate amount of time studying the information contained in the book unless it were required reading in a course.

Personally I feel that any writer who wants to pursue and develop stories for interactive programming should study this book. It’s not enough to read it through once, twice or even three times. This is a book which needs to be worked through section by section, until writing for this relatively new genre becomes second nature. This book will have a permanent home in my library; it is very rich in information-hats off to Mr. Crawford for producing a very timely manual.

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2nd May 2008

The Book of Games Volume 1

Originally Written for KillaNet Community Resource in 2006

Book of Games Volume 1The Book of Games, Volume 1
by Bendik Stang
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: gameXplore N.A. Inc.
November 2006

The Book of Games is a comprehensive look at hundreds of the current top video games on the market. It is obvious that alot of time and research has gone into this volume, with attention paid to detail. From first page to last, this book is full of information relative to the video game end market. Its pages are filled with vibrant full-colour screenshots from the games covered, and in the individual game listings, the screenshots offer a very accurate view of what to expect during gameplay. This includes not only the high quality graphics for the games themselves, but also shots of what to expect in regards to violence in the game.

The title page for each game genre has thumbnail shots of retro games, showing the progression of game development. As a longtime gamer, I would have liked to have seen more material on the history of video gaming and the advances which have been made in the industry. Naturally, such a focus could easily fill a volume all on its own, and was not the purpose of this publication. The chapter on the future of gaming carries some interesting predictions. First and foremost is the prediction that those parents who purchase a Wii will themselves get involved in video gaming (if they aren’t already). I find this an interesting prediction, because that is exactly what Nintendo hopes will happen, and the reason for its basic yet futuristic control system. This very prediction was discussed at a recent panel night hosted by the Vancouver chapter of the International Game Developers’ Association. I was pleased to see the interactive future of video games given more than just a passing glance, along with the practical side of video game usage in scenario training. As someone involved in the video game industry, this is important to me primarily because of the general public’s opinion of video gaming. They often are not aware of the benefits of this industry, and The Book of Games does a good job of passing along this important information.

Each game genre is indexed into alphabetical sections with colour-coded page edges and a brief description of the genre. There are accompanying appendices at the end of the book which further break down the game genres according to age ratings for ESRB and PEGI, so it is practical for those whose countries follow these rating systems. The games list is also cross-referenced alphabetically and by platform. Also included is a glossary, which will be especially useful for the non-gaming geek parents of the world. There is also a calendar of notable dates in the game industry for 2006; unfortunately I noted one small error in the calendar: the release date for Guild Wars: Factions was April 28, not March 28 as stated in the book.

Going back to the genre sections, I noted that some sections were a bit on the thin side while others held abundant game listings. A section which I would’ve expected to see more listings for was RPG. Two of the biggest selling Multi-Player Online roleplaying games for this genre were not listed at all. In May of 2006, Guild Wars: Factions became the top-selling PC game in North America and Europe, surpassing World of Warcraft, yet Guild Wars warranted nothing other than a thumbnail screenshot in the feature chapter about the MMORPG genre. Neither Guild Wars nor World of Warcraft were listed in the indexed RPG chapter, where only five games of a huge genre were given coverage. While Warcraft was given more coverage in the MMORPG feature chapter, I feel that the chapter could’ve gone more indepth on a genre which is so hugely popular on a global scale. The feature chapter about the making of Age of Conan was a somewhat interesting read, particularly as the game is so highly anticipated, largely due to its being one of the first large-scale games written for Vista.

The short feature chapter about the cross-over of games to movies, while giving an honest opinion about the growing trend, again could have gone further indepth. The fastest growing industry is New Media, and the lines are blurring between the traditional industries, largely due to the technological advances. Two of my screen-writing friends are currently working on a Uwe Boll movie, so this chapter held some special interest for me. I felt there could’ve been more mention of the cross-overs and mass-marketing benefits the video game industry is seeing from the inclusion of cartoons, comic books, movies, and of course television.

The feature chapter on gaming consoles again could’ve gone a little more indepth, comparing those early consoles (Pong, anyone?) with how far the industry has come. There was no mention of the early consoles which really opened up the home video game industry such as Atari and Sega. I know that I said earlier in this review that the history of gaming really wasn’t the scope of this publication, but this is one area I felt should’ve been further expanded. I understand that the Book of Games is expected to become an annual publication, so perhaps many areas will be expanded in the future.

Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable book to read, and one that will prove useful in the future. I think it would make a nice gift for most gamers, and at the very least will get them away from their consoles for awhile. There are a few online references given where readers can watch a video battle between Sonic and Mario as well as check out some other game research sites. The volume is full of good information and well laid out; I am giving it a thumbs-up recommendation and feel it worth the purchase price.

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