3:00pm- Code of Everand: Designing the Serious Casual MMO (summary)
I thought this talk was excellent.
Essentially, the speaker works for a hip NY group, who usually do real world events. They were approached by UK government agency to develop something about road safety which kids could actually respect. They chose to go for a fantasy video game, and focus on sneaking in the “teaching” under guise of metaphor and fun.
talk is based around “Code of Everand” an mmo that supposedly sugar coats “road safety ideas” in the form of a graphically rich browser based MMO. (interesting from angle of MMO for learning at Ecampus?).
Kevin Cancion- he is considered important for making one of best looking serious games in recent memory. Works for Area/Code, based in NY
they were hired by UK group who developed educational videos in 70s. Super cheesy commercials shown. [ex: green cross code man – was played by david cross (or whomever played Vader in the star wars movies)]
the problems: “kids know to look both ways, they just don’t” There was an attitude problem. Hip kids felt safety is for babies. Generally, being a teen means taking more risks. And suddenly they’re in new schools, further away from home, thus crossing more streets.
The UK group was looking at less print and tv spending. doing more gaming. at this age, they already knew that games were where they needed to be. they understood kids were turning to games.
Initially, they thought Area/Code could do games in actual streets, based on past ARG games. Area/Code thought it a bad idea. but also didn’t want to suggest frogger.
Not about hammering home a jingle or slogan, or cementing a message. it is about making a BEHAVIOR relevant and desirable.
three layers of ‘what this game is about’
1. core mechanic: road crossing.
2. strategic layer (skill challenge).
3. then sprinkle on narrative and thematic elements to make it engaging.
so they made a game where you hunt beasts in strips of foggy ether. if you see them you engage, with magic traps that match their “alignment”. mostly you check left and right. repetition and metaphor, rather than simulation. They hoped it would seep in at unconscious level.
? – did they give him any grief over theme/style? or over not being more direct?
a: there was sometimes tension, but he didn’t go into gorey detail. (there is one example below).
?- did they request more games? (to me, this would be a sign of success)
a: they’ve signed on for an additional year of maintenance and content refresh. They’re watching what works and what doesn’t.
the idea of masks was shot down. (they said you can never suggest that crossing a street with your face covered is ok). but they ate up the concept art transitions from cars to beasts. compact conceptual model was key to the UK Group’s trust and excitement.
on story level, NPCs couldn’t leave town to get medicine. so they needed you to help them. This made the player subtely cool and powerful, because only they can navigate the roads. plus, they could choose routes to avoid worst roads (a requested element).
“games can embody, not just illustrate or explicate.”
plan to game launch was 1 year. ?- How big team?
someone asks: how often did average kid play? was client happy with some kids barely playing, vs. others getting really involved?
a: game out for 5 months. haven’t gotten much feed back. they do have a “longitudinal” measure in place.
they convinced client that it would need marketing. that it isn’t marketing unto itself, just by being a game…
…they avoided pandering to kids. no “goofus and gallant”. And they didn’t want to punish them. (especially at this age). They navigated these tricky waters by having marked places where you get something appropriate to your level (reward), but they added random crossing spots which could be randomly easy or hard (they were forced to add these, thanks to some bureaucracy everyone called simply “Policy”. a sort of agency they had to check in with).
* look up will wright’s talk at NYU a few weeks ago. about serious games getting tangled in things that aren’t fun. so nobody will play it. has to be fun to ensure repeated engagement.
he notes: the audience is spoiled for choice. we’re competing with games that just want to be fun (or just want to be addictive).
(maybe i should look into this, by beefing up the pirate character/narrator in the whale diving sim)