Monday, March 31, 2008

Saw Game

The executive producer, and also the writer of two of the
Saw movies, is writing for a Saw game. Here are a couple quotes that jumped out at me:

"We have no idea how that is going to apply to a computer game format, considering that most games are generally pretty simple in it's plotting."

"Maybe its a good thing that Leigh and I are naive to the video game world and that we're writing it like its a movie!"

Despite claiming to be big gaming fans, the quotes don't really give me that impression. Maybe it depends on what kind of games they've been playing, but "simple" in plotting doesn't describe a lot of games that actually have a story script (whether or not they're good scripts is another matter). Simple isn't necessarily a bad term, but I would think people who like to create stories might want to try doing something
more instead of dismissing game stories as bland or simple.

Writing for a game and writing for a movie are two very different things, and I don't think it's wise to jump into one or the other blindly.


I can't believe this person. He purposely makes bad movies to take advantage of a law that is supposed 
to help my country's future prospects. I hope they finally are able to close the loophole. 
Talking about translating games into movies would be more fun if this man didn't exist.

Take-Two, in an effort to escape EA's takeover bid, has told their investors they are interested in pursuing a Bioshock movie 
and MMO and a Civilization MMO. Many of the comments state that this enderavor may fail because 
Bioshock is about exploration. Although Bioshock is linear, you don't even know who your  character is for most of the game. I only see this film doing well as a prequel, focusing on the founding of Rapture, it's rise, and it's ultimate downfall.

This article states that they are wanting to give the MGS Script to Wimmer, the "mastermind" behind Ultraviolet. I wonder if these people watch movies at all? Would it help if someone who knows video games and movies were to write a script?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Translated Spaces: The Last Topic!

At least, the last topic for this semester. For next week's class, please remember to post twice, comment twice, and bring in any game-related films you'd like to sample in class. Obviously we won't have time to watch a full feature, but I'm willing to dedicate at least half of class to discussion of film clips.

Possible subtopics for this unit include: adaptations and interactive translations; games and other media, including films, TV series, novels, and comic books; games utilizing multiple forms of media; textless gaming; historical or non-fiction game types; expanded universes; licensing and intellectual property; sequels and remakes; translated experiences

The Super Mario Bros. Movie: Underappreciated Masterpiece

I've mentioned this a couple of times, but now I get the dubious pleasure of posting it in some context. This article talks about why the Super Mario Bros. Movie is an underappreciated masterpiece. While I don't necessarily agree with all the points (although, some of them are oddly right), it is a hilarious and semi-informative read. Anyway, enjoy!

DVD Bonus Footage:
Of course, if you can't stand ANYONE liking the Mario Bros. Movie, you can always get an alternate and more swear filled perspective.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bragging Rights

There are many many different reasons people play video games. However, it can be said that on average there are four big reasons a person decides to play a game:

1. To be entertained by the gameplay. To feel a sense of “fun” or enjoyment from playing the game.

2. To achieve a sense of accomplishment/satisfaction upon completion of the game. This can be achieved even is the game does not have a set “end” and sometimes even if the player does not finish the game, as games can have several breaks that can give this feeling.

3. To experience a story or characters. This is another different source of entertainment. The story or characters do not have to be well crafted; they merely have to appeal to that particular player’s sensibilities.

4. Bragging Rights.

This last motivation is my topic of discussion for this paper. There is one major motivation I didn’t mention which would be “to be challenged” but for the sake of simplicity in this paper, “to be challenged” will be lumped together with accomplishment even though it is a different sort of accomplishment. Although, as you will see, “to be challenged” is also closely related to bragging rights, although here I am referring more to challenge for challenge’s sake.

Let’s start with an anecdote. I was recently playing Super Smash Brothers Brawl and looked up an FAQ on beating a special mode called 100-man brawl using every character in the game. This is one of the challenges in the game and doing these challenges gives you a reward like a trophy or new stage or what have you. The game gives you these golden hammer items that can be used to automatically complete a challenge that the player doesn’t want to do or might be too hard. I had used one on this particular challenge because I found it annoying and time consuming. The FAQ had this to say about this particular challenge, “Now the last one is a bit of a challenge, not really that hard if you know what you're doing. But it's still very time consuming and some players use one of their golden hammers on it. Don't, you don't need to use one on that, you don't need to use it on anything.” This made me think. Why would you not use any of the golden hammers on anything? You don’t unlock anything special for not using them. Why would anyone want to go through extra aggravation and spend a bunch of extra time doing all the challenges that they don’t actually enjoy doing when they have an item that is specifically there to be used to avoid this?

This is what I refer to as “bragging rights”. The force that drives players to take a route in a game that gives the same result but uses a much harder path. The thing that drives players to spend hours and hours on a game, only to receive a large number followed by their initials. Bragging rights is the motivation for players to be able to say things like, “I have the highest score in Pac-man,” or “I beat Metal Gear 2 using only the knife,” or “I beat Hoshigami.”

This is a long standing tradition in video games. In the early days of the arcade many games had no ending; they were designed to get increasingly harder with no story to progress through due to technological limitations and in an effort to get the player to use more quarters. As a method of motivating these players to keep playing beyond the simple enjoyment of the game, these games had charts that would show the high scores. The better the player did, the higher the score. It became a sort of competition among arcade goers; the person with the highest score could brag that they were better than anyone else at that game. Nowadays, this tradition is still alive. However, there are very few games whose sole motivation is a score. In fact, many games on the market don’t even have a scoring system at all. Players achieve bragging rights through other methods however, often artificially created by the player. It can be something like playing through a game on hard mode to not losing any lives to beating all the challenges yourself, without using a golden hammer to finish one for you. Many games and companies are offering new ways to relive this old tradition, like adding in more difficult modes of play in the game or like Microsoft creating a “gamerscore” for all Xbox 360 games.

This practice raises two questions. Are other players really impressed by the accomplishments of one person in playing a game? Especially now where the games and the market are so different. Can a player really brag to others about his achievement and receive praise or even not end up looking like a loser/braggart? I think that this is much harder to do now and that most players who challenge themselves in this way are really looking for a different kind of end result with their bragging rights. These players feel a greater sense of achievement at merely having accomplished such a large feat worthy of bragging about. In a way they want to be able to brag to themselves to make themselves feel skilled or proud for their achievements.

The other question is: At what point does the aggravation, time, effort, and difficulty out weigh the right to brag? This is really dependent on what the goal is and who the player is. Many players find it too much of a hassle merely to play through a game on a higher difficulty level. They see no reason for it. Yet, it also depends on the developer and how they handled the challenging task, because there is a major difference between and enjoyably challenging and aggravatingly hard. In the end it’s something that has to be determined by the player. And maybe the players friends if they are competitive enough or at least interested enough to react to the achievement.

Indy Games: Think Big or Think Small?

There's no doubt that the Indy gaming movement is garnering a lot of attention right now. It's often seen that larger corporations are too busy with money and sequels to worry about things like experimental gameplay and art. However, there seems to be two ways to approach Indy games. One is to make a small demo game to get across concepts for gameplay without fully fleshing out an experience, and the other is to make a much larger game that creates a more complete experience. Essentially, there's Indy demos and Indy games.

If a developer chooses to think small, there's actually quite a few advantages to go along with it. The biggest of these is that a small team of people can churn out a large amount of content at a very rapid pace. This can effectively allow one group of people to test the waters on numerous ideas for gameplay and keep a fan base that enjoys these demos satisfied long enough to the next demo. Furthermore, this can allow for a group working on a game like this to develop the game in their spare time rather than treating it as a second job. The advent of the casual games market also gives an advantage to this style of thought. While a larger game made by an Indy developer can sometimes be considered a casual experience, the large number of the real casual gaming experiences in the field are definitely shown in smaller demos. A good example of this is Crayon Physics. While not exactly a multi-hour long masterpiece, the goal of Crayon Physics is certainly casual in nature. At the very least, it can be said that Crayon Physics is closer to a casual game than something like Cave Story. Another interesting point is that you can always build up from a smaller game. Should an idea succeed, like the aforementioned Crayon Physics, you can always make a bigger game out of the gameplay later. The final thing to consider about smaller demos is that the smaller Indy games tend to be more serious or deal with the concept as games as art or experiment with weird narratives. While not true in all cases, games, like Mondo Medicals, at least try to stick out in terms of story, narrative, or the design of the game itself. Sometimes the experience is just short enough to try out a new narrative style without irritating the player if the concept fails. Mondo Medicals and it's sequel, Mondo Agency, provide a surreal and incoherent plot, a game entirely done in gray scale, and counterintuitive solutions to the puzzles. It sounds like a bad idea, but those elements make Mondo Medicals charming. In a longer game, they would not be tolerated.

Should a developer think to go large with the Indy game, there's quite a few advantages as well. A wider selection of gameplay is open to a larger game. Small demos are constrained by the unfortunate fact that you can't always fit deep gameplay into a demo. However, a larger game can be much more deep in concept. Audio Surf or Cave Story are Indy games that just wouldn't work as incredibly small demos. Audio Surf's upload element is too key to it's success to put in a short demo with a couple of songs. Cave Story's RPG gunning elements and difficulty make it difficult to place a good time to put a demo. Too early and you don't show off a lot of core gameplay, too late and the players won't be able to beat it. With the rise of Xbox Live Arcade, a lot of major developers are buying a lot more Indy games. More complete games seem to be more likely to be picked up by these developers. A good number of games have been confirmed for the Wii's Wiiware service. The vast majority of these are rather large games that just seem to take up a bit less memory. Behemoth studios has managed to get by selling Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers. Alien Hominid actually sold well as a multi-console budget title, and Castle Crashers got bought as an Xbox Live exclusive. While not massive 30 hour experiences, both games are pretty long for an Indy game. On top of all this, when a larger Indy game is completed, there seems to be a better reaction to its release. Why play a 15 minute experience made in a day when you can essentially play a whole game? The idea with bigger Indy games is to think larger with the gameplay and design the games with the intent to sell.

So, what should an aspiring game developer do? Do you make smaller games in larger amounts and treat them as tech demos or do you go for broke and make the big fully fleshed out titles from the beginning? Both concepts are valid and have their champions, but personally, I have to give a slight edge to larger Indy games. If you can be bothered to spend the time, there's just a lot more flexibility involved in creating a larger, deeper experience. It's also just more efficient to make games from the beginning with the intent to make a profit. If the concept is solid, there's a chance it can be picked up and bought which will make getting an even bigger game into the industry easier. Finally, among the Indy games that seem to have the biggest press around them, the larger ones definitely take the cake. Smaller games have titles such as Crayon Physics or Mondo Medicals. Larger games have Audiosurf, Cave Story, Knytt Stories, Trilby: The Art of Theft, La Mulana, and the list goes on. That's not to say that smaller games aren't a good idea. For a college student who also needs to study, they're the perfect solution, but if someone considers themselves a full time Indy developer thinking big is the way to go.

The More You Know

Since the genesis of video games, certain developers have taken it upon themselves to include messages within their games. These messages can be obvious or hidden, and tend to be positive and can sometimes be controversial. The definition of games with messages for this discussion will be games that released on a major console that included an obvious, positive message and are NOT categorized as edutainment. The reason for this is that console games require a license and are therefore screened, and console games tend to have more financial backing thereby giving them access to the mainstream market. Messages in video games are akin to product placement; they are subtle yet pervasive and synchronize with the theme of the game. Are video games a good vehicle for the dissemination of positive messages? I will argue that video games actually serve to dilute the message due to the fact that that gameplay and storyline take priority.

Advertising, regardless of the delivery vehicle, is meant to generate or enhance recall. In short, recall is what causes buyers to pick one brand over another when they are unsure, indecisive, new, or looking to switch brands. However, positive messages such as saving the rainforest, recycling, protecting endangered species, and animal cruelty require a much higher investment on the part of the viewer. These messages require constant action and engagement and therefore are less likely to be remembered using traditional, passive methods.

Throughout video game history there have been a handful of games that have attempted to deliver a message or generate awareness around a particular topic. While the titles depicted here are of above average caliber in terms of gameplay, they do a poor job delivering a concrete, lasting methods. The analysis of these older games, before moving on to recent titles, will show that the delivery of these messages is hindered by the medium of games and not by hardware or graphical limitations. Growl (Sega Genesis), a beat’em up developed by the Taito Corporation, has the player, a member of the Protectors of Animals’ World Society (P.A.W.S.), defeating a nefarious poaching and smuggling syndicate known as the Rendow Animal Protection Organization (R.A.P.O.). While saving oppressed animals is a noble task, this message is tainted by the extremely brutal portrayals of 16-bit violence. For example, after you save an elephant, he tramples around the screen for three minutes killing all your enemies which explode into 10 pieces under his foot. Also, the first enemy you kill in this game is a woman. Lastly, the final boss of this obscure title turns out to be an alien worm parasite that hid in a human body to control all the poachers. The violent gameplay paired with the odd ending sends mixed messages, thereby leaving the player remembering the quote, “Get lost you wisp!” in lieu of the “save the animals” message.

Kolibri (Sega 32X) and Ecco Jr. (Sega Genesis) were both developed by Novatrade, the creators of Ecco the Dolphin. Kolibri is a very unique shoot’em up requiring the player to save the Earth using a hummingbird imbued with Earth’s power. Ecco Jr. is a toned down, kid-friendly game featuring facts about dolphins and a light-puzzle solving adventure to save the oceans. These two games feature completely different gameplay but share the same themes: they want to make you aware of the beauty and fragility of nature. Kolibri and all the Ecco titles portray the Earth as a living, sentient being. The majority of Kolibri’s manual displays information about hummingbirds, their lives, their habits, and how to build a hummingbird feeder. These aforementioned games serve as poor vehicles because their gameplay mechanics and storylines are too far detached from their message.

Eco Fighters, or Ultimate Ecology in Japan (CPS-2), is an obscure shoot’em up created by Capcom. This game features renegade ecologists, led by Dr. Mori, that fight against pollution on an Earth-like planet. These ecologists use a ship to fight against an evil corporation, a corporation which has every legal right to be on the planet. Once again, the message is lost on the player due to the gameplay and storyline. Dr. Mori even advocates eco-terrorism in his line, “We must fight pollution, whatever the cost!”

Now I will move on to three recent games that will show that, although technology has improved, developers still cannot deliver a clear message and entertainment simultaneously. Finny the Fish and the Seven Waters (PS2) delivers mixed messages. On one hand, the in-game characters are very much against fishing. Conversely, all the lures Finny can collect are actual, licensed fishing lures from Japanese companies. Also, after Kappa the Turtle forces Finny into servitude, he tells him that he must eat to survive. He even says, “Your prey’s will to live is a strong as yours. They will put up a fight.” He actually makes the player feel bad for eating small fish. This is a title aimed at a younger generation that showcases that it is difficult to achieve a balance between generating awareness and entertaining.

Herdy Gerdy (PS2) is an interesting tale of courage, competition, and saving the world through the eyes of a little boy. This game was developed by Core, the same team responsible for Tomb Raider. In this game the player guides Gerdy through the world as he begins to understand himself and his bond to nature. This is a “world where animals have thoughts, feelings and personalities that you must learn to understand and influence.” (Herdy Gerdy synopsis on back of box) This title features absolutely no combat, and the goal is to herd all the animals unharmed into their respective pens using magical herding tools. This eco-friendly title is presented in a beautiful style of animation that captures the personality of each creature.

The final title in this analysis is the hilarious platformer, Whiplash. This title chronicles the escape of two test-lab animals, Spanx, the stupid weasel and Redmond, the intelligent hare. Redmond has been chained to Spanx’s arm allowing him to be used as a weapon. He is also indestructible due to being repeatedly sprayed by mega-hold hairspray. Naturally, the enemy in the game, FD Mann, and the Genron Corporation are made out to be the pinnacle of all evil. Crystal Dynamics actually received criticism from some groups claiming they made light of animal testing. Crystal Dynamics ensured them that this would help raise awareness for the issue. Whiplash actually does a commendable job of reinforcing the “evils of animal testing” message throughout the game. The player receives bonus points for freeing fellow inmates and destroying Genron property. Nurse Carol Ann, an ally in the game, is a Genron employee who has become sickened by the animal testing. Although this is a fun and witty game, it still is not able to fully deliver its message. It is difficult to broach a serious subject with laugh out loud humor. It would be akin to making a hilarious Susan B. Komen flash game.

Attempting to generate awareness or garner support for a cause is a difficult task to accomplish using a console game as a communication vehicle. If a title were to be an obvious an anti-war plug and lacked entertainment, very few people would be willing to play it. No one has yet to find an ideal balance between their pitch and the entertainment value of their game. Thus the message is often diluted or lost altogether when attempting to use a video game. Console games require a heavy investment of time and money, therefore I believe these messages will continue to be communicated poorly as storyline and gameplay must take priority.

Socializing in The Sims 2

The world of The Sims 2 encompasses a social culture where making friends leads to happiness and success. While players can choose how they want to play, socialization between Sims is encouraged through game mechanics. The Sims 2 focuses on relationships in a neighborhood, offering social Sims more advantages than anti-social Sims. One may be aware of how The Sims 2 measures aspects of being social and how the measuring affects gameplay.

Each Sim has his or her own aspirations and personalities, defined by simple options such as putting points in personality attributes and choosing turn-ons and turn-offs. The Sim’s life aspiration, a Sim’s ultimate goal, can also be chosen by the player. While these goals do not specifically state the need for socializing, being social plays a large part in developing a Sim enough to reach his or her lifetime goal. A goal of having a family is obvious in the social aspect while the social aspect in rising to the top of the medical field may not be as apparent. Sims cannot get a promotion at work without friends, nor can they fulfill aspirations to keep themselves happy without interacting with other Sims. Friendships drive Sims forward in life and closer to their goals.

The Social bar represents one of the needs of a Sim, equally with Hunger, Energy, Comfort, Bladder, Fun, Hygiene, and Environment. The Social bar gauges how much a Sim socializes with other Sims. As the bar decreases, the Sim becomes unhappier, so the player must continuously interact with other Sims to keep the meter at a sufficient level. To raise the Social meter, Sims must talk with another Sim, whether in person, on the phone, or through e-mail. A content Sim performs better at work and is generally more willing to listen to the player’s commands. Playing the game with a content Sim runs more smoothly than playing with a discontent one.

Similarly to the Social bar, a meter is used to gauge the experience of dates or outings. The meter measures the agreeability of the player’s Sim to current company. To be agreeable, the Sim must actively pursue approval of others. Otherwise, the meter decreases, and the Sims are left with a poor experience. A poor experience does not help in making friends.

A Sim must make friends in order to progress to the highest level management in his or her career, which will then in turn earn the Sim more income. Like in the real world, friends supposedly give the player’s Sim more credibility that moves employers to promote the Sim. Although being social and maintaining a number of friends is necessary for job promotions, a Sim no longer needs to maintain friendships once he or she achieves the maximum level of the job. Negative marks can appear, friends can disappear, but the Social meter can still be full. In this manner, The Sims 2 sees general interaction between Sims as a social activity, no matter the circumstance of the activity, and yet gives the player many benefits for having friends to draw the player in the direction of having amiable Sims.

Making friends leads to benefits like job advancement. Friends can also leave presents at a Sim’s doorstep, from flower vases to plasma TVs, but only if they have a good time with the player’s Sim. The game clearly tells the player when a Sim’s interaction is positive or negative through conventional icons. Green plus signs and green arrows are good, and red minus signs and red arrows are not. The clear-cut design of good or bad does not necessarily mean the character is not socializing. While a Sim needs to act approvingly at dates or outings—needing green plus signs and green arrows—the Social bar still increases whether the Sim gossips or argues. The player may find playing an anti-social character less fulfilling than a social character due to the amount of content and rewards created for social Sims.

The Sims 2 measures social interaction, and game mechanics encourage socializing. Socializing is a Sim need, and a large amount of socializing is essential to rising in ranks, achieving goals, and staying happy. The Sims 2 is a game not about living and directing a virtual life, but living and directing an actively social virtual life.

Taste the Rainbow

Darkened Skye has, in my experience, the most prevalent in-game product placement of any game. It takes the real world item of Skittles and puts them into the game as the most important piece of the game.
Most games that use in-game product placement will make it a part of the background or a prop; Darkened Skye uses Skittles for many aspects of the game. In the beginning your health is shown by an orange circle with a white ‘s’. After completion of the first level you gain another circle, this time a red one, and speak with an old lady who calls them Skittles. They originally show your health, but later become your goal for each level and they are used in combination with the other colors to form magic spells. There are continuous references to the rainbow and magic, both synonymous with the Skittles image. The plot of the game is very simple: Skye, the main character, must go and get the rainbow back from the evil Necroth who has stolen the rainbow so he can keep all the Skittles to himself.
What does a game with this level of in-game product placement mean? Honestly, I can see this being both good and bad for this game in particular, and videogames in general. My main complaint is that the gamer is not informed they are paying for the lovechild of all the Skittles commercials from the 90’s. The box has no reference to Skittles anywhere and so you do not realize what you are buying. Obviously, there are games that let users down and cause them to regret buying the game, but Darkened Skye is nothing but deceptiveness. One site said that Skittles had commissioned the game, but I have not seen a lot of information from other sites confirming that. Would the sales of the game been drastically reduced had they been honest about the presence of Skittles? I definitely believe so; on pure principle people do not want to pay for an advertisement.
I mentioned that the addition of Skittles could possibly be a positive aspect for this game. This is purely because it is one of the only things that add to the game. This game is very weak on many levels and does not compete with many other games. The Skittles gives it some form of identity and uniqueness. The game continually pokes fun at itself and many other normal gaming conventions; it attempts to be funny and is occasionally successful. The game play is pretty rough and I read gets worse the farther you get into the game. My main point is that the Skittles may be the only interesting point that would cause one to even remember the game’s name. In conclusion, the game frustrated me and left me annoyed. I read many reviews that some people found the surprise addition of Skittles very amusing and an important part of their enjoyment in the game. If the game had been a good game, that felt completely finished and fun to play, maybe I would have felt the same. Since it did not have that feel to it, it came across as a feeble attempt to make a new kind of advertising and failed. If they decided to do this, they should have been done much better.

Games from Class

Play before you read too much about these, they are meant to be experienced.

Also, here's Facade:

PS - this was on the wrong blog for a while. I have too many things in Blogger!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Botched PC Game Launches

Game launches are pretty much a happening event, especially when that game is one of the most anticipated ones out there. The more the anticipation, the more the expectations from the game. And in case of PC games, there are those free "micro-installments" we so lovingly call patches. Then, there are those publisher pressure and deadline requirements that many games are released, well unfinished. A prime example could be SiN, released in 1998 and expected to stand its own against the critically acclaimed Half-Life and to be released during the Christmas holiday season, was let out with bugs and resulted in SiN not achieving as much success as the developers had hoped. In short, I would think a lot more could go wrong at PC game launch than a console game. And has documented the top five of those messed up launches.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

An Anecdote of Social Dynamics In-Game

As an on and off player of World of Warcraft, City of Heroes/Villains or any other MMORPGs, it has always been challenging for me to blend in easily into the game as I would do in an online first person shooter. To my credit I have played most of the good MMORPGs and RPGs out there, but I just cannot hang on to it long enough to build a completely loaded character on level 60 or something. That said, I have some friends who just swear by them and like playing MMORPGs (Guildwars in this case) over anything else and they do it for more than five hours every day! There are those small elements that attract me to play these games and unfortunately, many that drive me away from it after I start indulging into these.

Starting with the good bits, what fascinates me is the choice and options you get to create your character. I would say out of all the MMORPGs out there, World of Warcraft employs the most number of character customization. The game has nine character classes that a player can choose from, though not all classes are available for each race. Each class has a set of unique abilities (general skills and spells available to the entire class) and talents (allow players to build their character and further refine their role). Every class has a set of three talent trees, with which players may choose to build their character's talent trees for damage-dealing, healing, etc. Characters can also equip different weapons and armor, either to customize their character or to improve abilities, as and when they acquire it. In addition to all this, it will let you change the head gear, skin color, hair style, facial hair, etc. Now this seemingly results into an enormous number of customized player characters. The sense of uniqueness in my character is what makes this part interesting and makes me give this a shot. The character is ready and unfortunately that’s the end of good times for me!

I think, game balance and design is one of the most difficult tasks when it comes to MMORPGs. Open ended gameplay, un-anticipated human behavior, huge number of player, weapons, levels combinations lead to a lot of un-expected situations. And to make the gameplay smooth and playable on most computers, you cannot expect eye-candy of the highest order from these games. But that’s a personal opinion, or else you won’t have millions of gamers playing this game every now and then.

Almost every game starts with a message stating that game play experience may change when you play this game online. WOW doesn’t have any difficulty level to choose from. Thinking it will be difficult to play against computer by default, I decided that playing against other humans on a PvP server (the interaction within the game in a PvP server occurs between other human players) would help me grasp faster as there would be other humans on the same level as me. But this theory backfired real bad and real quickly! My level one paladin stood no chance against the bunch of rogues I ran into. Every time I went back to my body (after they killed me) they used to lurk around, waiting for me. And me being a grade A World of Warcraft noob, did not realize it for the first eight times they killed me! I don’t know how level 52 rogues can stoop to such low levels by assaulting a level one paladin time and again. I later found out that this distasteful practice was described as "corpse camping" in Wikipedia.

"Corpse camping is where after killing another player, that player then continues to camp at the enemy's corpse (either by using stealth or other means) and kills them when the player resurrects themselves. Although this is frustrating to the camped player, this is not considered griefing by Blizzard and is not subject to punishment by Game Masters."

That said, I quit that server and hopped onto a PvE server. I get to create my player character once again from scratch. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I cannot take the same character that I had created in the PvP server to the PvE server, not for free at least. Paid transfer was an option, but my character was not worth it!

Player vs. Environment, commonly referred to as PvE by most online games and gamers, is the player-controlled character competing against the game world and its computer-controlled denizens, as opposed to Player vs. Player. A player must complete a pre-defined task without fighting other players. To my surprise, Blizzard usually calls them "normal" servers. Since it would seem that, a PvP server would be a normal server in an MMORPG. For a casual player like me, who just wants to play the game and train with less interruption, then PvE may just be the place for you. Some players like the thrill and risk of random player vs. player combat, and would consider PvE realms to have a difficulty that is too low. But in its defense, in a PvE server corpse camping, ganking, and griefing tend to be less prevalent.

Ganking and griefing have several meanings. When an overwhelmingly large or more powerful group or party kills you and/or your group or when a single player attacks a player of equal or lesser level who is in the middle of a fight with something else and is handicapped by that fight, its ganking. Griefing is the term used to describe the act of one player hassling another player. This can be as simple as someone trying to obscure someone else's view with their own character, or as bad as pulling mobs onto someone, or even preventing someone from achieving their goals like killing quest-givers or other NPCs.

But then I ran into a different kind of problem in the PvE server. I was only able to interact with players who were near about the same lever as I was i.e. level one! Other experienced players who were on much higher levels than me, would not either have the time and patience to speak to me, or maybe I did not initiate the conversation in the right manner. In any case it leads me to ponder about in-game social dynamics. I was later helped by a level six player who got me up to level three by directing me what to do and which quests were to be take. Should there be etiquette for in-game conversations too? In my opinion there should be, but I don’t see any courses educating you in schools for that in near future.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

GMI evaluates SL

In an extensive 2007 survey of several hundred SL users, conducted by Global Market InSite, not only evaluated the market potential for real-life brands and product advertisements, but also studied negative and positive social attributes as reported by the SL residents.

Interestingly, some negative consequences were evident, but significantly paled in comparison to the positive.

Having recently researched the "Warcraft Widow" groups (, I found it quite interesting that SL does not impose time commitments which are so present in other 'game structured' online worlds. One does not have to cut off real-life, to improve their online characters.

Virtual theft, is it?

Now, this is something new. I was going through the law website and there was an "old" article (dated Dec 21, 2007) about a game publisher made to pay-up for the loss of virtual property of a gamer in China! A Chinese court has ordered MMO publisher Shanda Interactive Entertainment to pay the equivalent of $680 USD to a player in its MMO World Of Legend for the loss of virtual items. The gamer plans to return to court to sue Shanda for the roughly $20,000 USD he has spent on the game over the previous five years.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Everybody Has to Start Somewhere

I was looking at some recent examples of how the people and developers in the indy game industry have managed to become "legitimate" or at least more successful than the typical indy game developer both here and abroad.

Darwinia- Developed by the creators of the critically acclaimed yet small release Uplink, Darwinia was Intoversion Software's second game which pretty much sold way better than anybody could have anticipated. They are also the group that developed Defcon.

N+ - Developed by a two man team, N was a platformer based around tricky acrobatic game mechanics in which the player had to make their way through a death filled level to reach the exit. What was a free game and also updated and released on PC as N+, but still as a free game, is now available on Xbox Live and has DS and PSP versions coming out soon.

Cave Story - Many of you probably have heard of the awesome action-platformer created by one Japanese man over the course of five years. A fan translation was made for an English version and it's popularity has garnered it a PSP release, although it has been some time since I last heard new information regarding the PSP version.
English version -

Touhou Project - From Doujin group Team Shanghai Alice, the Touhou Project is in fact a series of bullet-hell shooter (and a couple fighting games) known for its characters and its creation by one man team ZUN. Although as far as I know none of the Touhou games have a "legitimate" release, the series has way more popularity than the average Doujin game.

Melty Blood - As mentioned in class, Melty Blood started as a doujin game by group French Bread with the help of Type Moon which was based off of Type Moon's game Lunar Legend Tsukihime which itself started as a small release and turned into a bigger game and anime series. Melty Blood, after several different versions were released, eventually received a PS2 release of Melty Blood: Act Cadenza and is a popular 2d fighter in Japan.

Replica Swords

Apparently Square Enix is suing several stores for selling unlicensed replicas of swords from Final Fantasy. I am surprised regarding whether or not the design of a sword is actually covered by trademark, the law in this area can be a tricky thing.

Line Rider and a tiny bit about machinima

Drawing a bit of a blank on the articles this week. So, I thought I'd show something related to gamer culture that also pertains to my semester paper. I'm writing on the rise of gamers who like to create in games more than playing them. One of the prime examples of this is Line Rider. This game literally could not exist without a huge creative fan base. The basic idea is to draw tracks for a little man on a slide to ride down. It's supposed to be a basic level editor, but the fans have taken it to a new level and given it a cult status. It's a good example of exactly how far the creativity of gamer culture is willing to go.

Here's a good example of one of the many artistically rendered levels. Keep in mind that this is ONLY done with a line drawing tool. There are no fill functions.

Also, I ran across this while writing the post.

Apparently there's an ACADEMY for Machinima now, and they have a film festival. We've come a long way since the days of people making jokes in Gary's Mod and Unreal.

Japanese Gaming Culture

I found this article about Japanese gamer culture while looking around and just now realized that'd it'd make for a nice perspective to comapre to American gaming culture. The difference is vast, and sometimes it's worth considering, when analyzing the industry or making a game, that Americans are not the only consumers of games. We have a very different style from other countries. Although, I'd love to see something on European gamer culture. All I have to run on is a few weird cases and Ubisoft.

Drafting in Professional Gaming

Looking over the article on the CGS earlier I noticed something rather amusing.

The CGS has instituted a draft like in most professional sports. While maybe not shocking, this seems to have some unusual backlash to it. Specifically, the Counterstrike players seem to be angry that the draft picks are based on individuals and not teams. This means that teams are getting split up in the name of the draft pick. The teams, of course, are arguing that this destroys the team dynamic for what is a team sport. Certainly, the idea of drafting one's former hated rival onto your team raises a few eyebrows.

This does actually make sense for single-player games played in rounds. Team dynamic doesn't exactly matter heavily in games like Forza 2 or single-player WoW PvP. Sponsored teams should pick only the best players in these categories. However, the Counterstrike one seems almost like a situation where someone tried to tie professional gaming into regular professional games. It seems like these analogies just don't work. 

Either way, does being a "Professional" league give you the right to break up teams? Does this lead the way to showmanship and singular stars rather than well-balanced teams? Is this what's different from the CPL that's keeping them alive? Do people find drafts to be more professional or interesting?

Enlightened Ass-Kicking

This is an interesting article about Chinese monks spending time in an internet cafe playing Counterstrike. Apparently Buddhists have no problems achieving moksha after cutting bloody swathes through a virtual realm. I guess teenagers are the same everywhere. It's nice to know that those that walk "a higher path" have the same sense of fun as the rest of us.

295 million USD in 2007. That is not very much money. More money was spent on the Super Bowl alone. This number, however, is going to continually increase. E-marketer predicts that this number will be 650 million by 2012. Those who don't want to see 
their storied franchises violated  by these ads probably have nothing to worry about. Their is a lot of criteria for 
choosing product placement, in-game ads, etc. and Zelda, Mario, and Final Fantasy probably aren't there yet (and probably never will be).

Just for Fun
Little. Yellow. Different.

Guinness World Records - London Gaming Costume Gathering

There are lots of Marios, and I think I saw a ghost from Pac-Man. People gathered in London for the Guinness World Records for the largest assembly of people dressed as video game characters.

Somehow eighty people doesn't seem like a very big number to break a video game character gathering record, but I suppose it's never been recorded for the Guinness Book of World Records before so would then be a record.

The gathering is not the only game-related thing in the book:

I don't have a copy of the book, so I don't know just how many entries concerning games are in it.

Oblivion's Downloadable Content

Morrowind mods were free, even the ones made by the developers. With Oblivion came a different story: developer-made mods are called downloadable content and are not free. One of the first downloadable content was a horse armor pack that allowed players to outfit their horses in one of two types of armor. The horse armor was supposed to be in the release of the game, so players felt cheated not so much because of the price, but for having to buy a very small mod that should have been part of the game to begin with.

Later downloadable content added more in-depth quests, player-houses, and new items, so some people are willing to pay for them, but many other people aren't. Players feel they have the right to download official mods for free, as well, maybe because they were free for Morrowind.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Taste the Spyware

I'm playing Darkened Skye to see how big a part Skittles are in the game....They are the game. It is a giant mesh of all the old "taste the rainbow" commercials. Skittles are your health, your magic and your goal. They don't even try to hide it either. They use the same colors that are in the package, put a 's' on them and call them skittles. This is the best review/description I have found on it, check it out if you are interested. I'll save any more description for class.

My other article is relates to installing what some gamers are calling spyware. I don't know if this works for console games as well or just PC games, but would be interested if you know more about it. Basically EA is allowing advertisers to display ads that would be relative to your location and also I think your preferences. It is started with Battlefield 2142 and NFS Carbon. This may be old news to you, but I hadn't heard about it.

Death of the CPL

Pertinent to our gaming-for-profit conversations: After a ten-year run, the Cyberathlete Professional League has closed down, canceling its 2008 events. Their reasons include "the current fragmentation of the sport, a crowded field of competing leagues, and the current economic climate." On the other hand, the Championship Gaming Series seems to be fine. Wonder what the difference is?

The CPL's notice, and Joystiq's commentary.

Friday, March 7, 2008

And one more thing....

...on professional gaming. From Kotaku:

Is it just me, or is there something about doing your draft picks at the Playboy Mansion that tries a little too hard?

Inside the ESRB?

As per our conversation last class, here's an article from Gamepolitics in which one ex-game-rater explains how the process works, and what problems he has with the current state of the system. Interesting reading.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

In game ads: Hellgate

I plan on surveying current attitudes/buzz regarding in-game ads, and I'm starting with Hellgate:London.

I'll start by saying that I don't like in-game ads, but I don't hate them either. A lot of people seem to get up in arms about advertising and any sort of "spying" done to target ads. More precisely, these alarmists are the loud ones and few people stand up in support of ads or moderated rhetoric. One common complaint is that the consumer is still paying $50 or so to look at ads. You get a taste of this point of view in the Slashdot comments in the link above. The other issue is that some people perceive advertising as distracting or as ruining their experience. Luckily I have not played a game where it was the case that the ads were overly obtrusive. As someone points out, also on Slashdot, the ads are in the form of posters left up in the post-apocalyptic subway stations. They feel right and are even preferable to simply having bare wall.

The second link is a sort of follow-up to the whole in-game ad issue. The developers of the game are now using the poster space to occasionally celebrate the achievements of certain players (richest, highest level, etc). I think this is an example of a company doing something cool for players. Interestingly, it's also the only thing anyone has mentioned lately regarding the ads.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Second Life economy

Interesting things to note:
There are almost 13 million SL accounts
Less than 500,000 logged in last week

Last month, almost 1,000 people made USD$1,000 from Second Life.

Twice as many Linden Dollars go into the world every month as come out.

For a couple months last year, the monthly spending inside SL was over USD$35 million.


Topic 3,curpg-1.cms

This article isn't very long, but what I found interesting is that American women, mostly teenagers, go to a site to role play in arranged marriages. Unfortunately it does not go into much depth about what the game does, but I thought the fact that there are games that even do this was surprising.

This site talks a little about advertising through a game, but not necessarily in game. It has a lot of valid points because no one wants their gaming experience interrupted.

Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier

I don’t expect anyone else to read this entire document.
This is an early look at the emerging economics of Virtual Worlds. The author uses Norrath as his site of study and presents some interesting facts. He also provides a good definition for a location having an economy: any distinct territory with a labor force, a GNP, and a floating FX rate, has an economy.

1. The exchange of PP to dollars occurs in a highly liquid, illegal market. Its value exceeds that if the JP Yen and IT Lira. (in 2001)

2. A competition for time has arisen between Earth and VWs. For many people Earth is the less desirable option.

3. Each avatar develops a social role by becoming a specialized agent. The avatar’s class determines what items it will supply and demand. This includes asocial players

4. Many people spend more time in-game than they do working.

5. It is possible, with the .0125 $/PP exchange rate, to maintain a living above the poverty line. In 2001 the poverty line for 1 person was around 9000 a year. He says that the average wage was around $3.42 an hour in-game.

6. Norrath’s real-world GNP in 2001 made it the 77th richest country. Imagine where WoW stands.

This is a study of one game, but the principles, assumptions, and findings are far-reaching. They can be applied to MMO’s today. Studies like this will foster understanding of how societies and economies evolve. The beauty of an MMO is that each time a game is released the society and economy start from scratch. The interaction between virtual and real world is becoming more important each day.

Police and Virtual Thefts (in Japan)

On the contrary, the gaming culture as its glorified in Japan is more mature than in US. Police and lawmakers take virtual thefts and offenses seriously. But well, it maybe because the numbers involved in the Japanese case was much higher than the one in US; $340,000 in Japan vs $4,000 in US.

"A Japanese teenager was recently arrested by the Tokyo Police for stealing the virtual equivalent of 36 million yen (roughly $340,000 USD) from Korean MMO publishing giant Nexon, according to a story at Kotaku.

When confronted by authorities, the 16-year-old confessed, saying, "I originally wanted the dress worn by the princess, but I just ended up racking up a bunch of game points."

The boy, a player of Nexon's Mabinogi, obtained the private login name and password of an employee of Nexon's Tokyo branch, and used that information to illegally access the game's servers and pilfer the aforementioned loot.

Obviously the Tokyo Metropolitan Police are treating this as a serious offense, but it will be interesting to see if it's handled as the equivalent of the theft of a similar amount of real-world currency. One could argue that technically none of the stolen goods actually exist, though an argument could also be made in the opposite direction.

Luckily for the boy though, they'll probably just skip right over all of the Gibsonian considerations created by this brave new virtual world and chalk his crimes up to teenage indiscretions."

Police and Virtual Thefts (in US of A)

I was reading through based blog and I came across one that was aptly named "gamelife". It had a post pertaining to a virtual theft that happened in Final Fantasy XI. Its not surprising that that local police couldn't charge the alleged perpetrator of the virtual theft, who was actually a friend of the actual FF XI player. The investigators blatantly told the player that the items were devoid of any monetary value and hence the suspect cannot be charged with any kind of criminal law. It is still difficult to frame laws for virtual heists and the real issue seems to hinge on people's definition of the term "monetary value".

"After the loss of almost $4,000 USD in virtual goods and currency, Final Fantasy XI player Geoff Luurs brought his case before the Blaine, Minnesota police department only to be refused any kind of aid.

Instead of arresting the alleged perpetrator of the virtual theft (a friend of Mr. Luurs), police investigators told Mr. Luurs that virtual items "are devoid of monetary value," thus no crime had actually been committed.

While it's not surprising that police were unwilling to aid Mr. Luurs, Joshua Fairfield, an associate professor of law at Washington And Lee University feels the police hesitance was due entirely to the amount of money lost. He commiserates with Mr. Luurs and says that, "the first time IBM loses $10 million, we're going to see some police action."

It's long been speculated as to how police forces would react to virtual theft, and many gamers had come to the conclusion that the police would do nothing long before this incident proved them correct.

While we'd like to think there would be some kind of legal recourse for the loss of any property with monetary value, the real issue seems to hinge on people's definition of "monetary value."

Perhaps Mr. Fairfield is right and we'll have to see a high-profile company like IBM take a major hit before the police of the world will have enough precedent to believe every 20-year-old who claims his roommate stole his +5 Helm Of Rat Punching.

Then again, it's not hard to imagine that scenario creating a ridiculous strain on law enforcement agencies.

In the end, we seem to be left with what the games' creators have told us all along: guard your login info with your life and trust no one."

WOW Economics
This is an interesting study of the exchange rates between Azeroth and our World. The difference between Europe and the US is astounding. The author implies that Blizzard polices the US servers more thereby creating a shortage of sellable gold. This actually makes sense:
If demand remains static and the money supply is reduced, the supply curve would shift left, thereby raising its price.
I am curious to find out if any savvy players have taken advantage of any arbitrage opportunities. I don’t know if this is even possible.
Government intervention can play a large role in exchange rates. Monetary, fiscal, and legal policies can have tremendous effects on inflation, and appreciation/ depreciation. Blizzard is the government of Azeroth and their policies seem to have a clear effect on the economy.
The author also suggests that American may have more dispensable income and are therefore more inclined to spend more money. An increased amount of discretionary income does not always increase the propensity to consume.
I find the idea of the interactions of real and virtual economies very fascinating and I am hoping to do more research in this area.

The Idea of the Let's Play.

My Posts are a bit video heavy this week. I apologize. Most of these topics are better to show than tell.

Anyway, I know this is my third post, but in the past couple of months or so, I've come across an unusual phenomenon on message boards and youtube; the Let's Play. The idea of the Let's Play is to watch someone play a game through message board posts that highlight the gameplay step by step or watching videos of someone playing the game with commentary. The original concept was for someone to play a game so you didn't have to. This was either because the game was:
1. Hard to get
2. Hard
3. So good you needed to be exposed to it
4. So bad it should never be played by anyone, but it's funny to watch

This supposedly started out pretty small, but has now exploded into a rather large sub-genre of the gamer community. It's gotten weird enough, that there are actually people that are considered "celebrities/professionals" of the Let's Play community. The videos I posted in my Indy Gaming Gone Horribly HORRIBLY Wrong posts are examples of Let's Plays (thus, why I posted this as a third post since it's technically a sub-post of one of my other ones).

I know why the LPers (name of people that post these videos) do it. It's a mix of pride, prestige, bragging, ego, and the desire to perform in front of an audience. The thing that slightly baffles me is the precise reason that most of these are fun to watch. Watching people play games without getting to play yourself is often boring. What about the youtube environment makes it more fun. Is it because in some way we attach to the video's creator as we would sitting next to a friend at our house playing games and cracking jokes. Is it because the commentary is funny? I'm curious what other people think. To get you started here's a link to one of the more "well-known" LP'ers youtube profile. Pick a game that sounds fun and watch for a bit if you dare.

For the record, avoid the Barbie: Magic of Pegasus one unless you're ready to watch a man on heavy painkillers playing a game intended for 4 year old girls while playing heavy metal music.

Viral Marketing Campaign

Upon the mention of Viral Marketing, I remembered one of my favorite viral marketing campaigns ever. Unfortunately, the site doesn't exist anymore, but I found some links that show what it was. The following are links remarking on the viral marketing for Shadow of the Colossus. They mocked up some fake documentary crews and had them discover "real life" Colossi. They called it, "Giantology". Enjoy.

Like I said, I personally think this is one of the more clever viral marketing ads I've seen.

Indy Gaming Gone Horribly HORRIBLY Wrong

For those of you that haven't seen this yet, this is "I Wanna Be The Guy: The Movie: The Game". It's essentially a huge gamer pop culture reference. On top of that, it follows a recent trend of rom hacks and independent games of being unnecessarily hard, unintuitive, and unfair. Ultimately, this makes it fun to watch, feels like an accomplishment if you finish it, and just a pain in the ass to play.

This is just one of the many video runs of this game. It's just a taste of how sadistic it is. A quick search on youtube will show you more, and for anyone curious, yes, I do own a copy of the game if you REALLY want to try it.

Either way, I find this interesting, because there's a huge gamer culture surrounding these ridiculously hard and unfair games right now, and they're rather popular. Is this because people enjoy a challenge, have to prove themselves better at the cost of their sanity, or because Schadenfreude makes the videos irresistible to watch. For reference, here's a few other examples of independent games that are unfair and people getting frustrated over them. Fair warning. These WILL probably contain some cursing.

Cat Mario Parody:
Kaizo Mario World:
La-Mulana (and the start of the fabled Hell Temple):

Either way, I figure this makes for an interesting look in current gamer culture while getting a few laughs.

Viral Marketing

We're all familiar with one viral marketing campaign or another and the video game industry is certainly no newbie when it comes to the subject. Many people know about I Love Bees which was done for Halo 2. There was also the big failure from Sony to use viral marketing to increase PSP sales at the end of 2006, in which they had "fans" exclaim their love for the PSP through videos and blogs. It was easily discovered by SomethingAwful as well as others on the internet as it was too obvious. What is interesting is that the Japanese video game market seems to also be picking up on this trend. Armored Core For Another is being hyped up by Japanese bloggers who were paid to praise the game on their blog and Famitsu's blogger Jamzy has gotten in on it as well, as his blog seems entirely dedicated to selling 360s anyway.

Gary Gygax

I'm sure most of you already know this but the world lost gaming legend Gary Gygax yesterday. Fittingly, March 4th was also the day celebrated as GM's Day. The world of games, video games included, would not be what it is today had Gary Gygax not helped expand the niche historical miniature market into fantasy wargaming. From there his and Jeff Perren's fantasy wargame Chainmail developed into the pen and paper RPG known as Dungeons and Dragons. A lot of the earliest video games were made so people could try to play D&D on the computer. Don Daglow, president of Stormfront Studios, speaks of when he used his college mainframe to create DNGEON (because only six letter names were allowed) and other college systems who got it couldn't run it because of its massive 32k size. Just imagine western gaming without the influence of D&D to build upon and take a moment to thank Gary Gygax for his vision and hard work. Maybe roll up a character in his memory or play through an old adventure module. And remember that Gary Gygax isn't truly dead, he reached epic level and ascended to godhood.

online burglary

This is an interesting article about the theft of virtual goods
from players of Habbo Hotel. What I find the most interesting is that 
he was not only charged with hacking, but 
burglary as well. How do legal bodies go about assigning value 
to virtual objrcts? Do, or will, virtual 
goods be subject to any depreciation? Will a household's assets 
include virtual assets in their investment portfolio in the future? 
This act stirs a lot of questions.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Independent Games Festival

I was not aware of the Independent Games Festival before I just now looked it up. Usually when I heard the term "independent game," I think of 8-bit games or "playful" software that didn't do much aside from something "neat." I missed a whole world of gaming. The link takes you to the finalists and winners of the IGF. Be sure to look at a few of their sites.

I watched Crayon Physics Deluxe and tried Tri-Achnid. Both have beautiful art and music, and the mechanics in Tri-Achnid are very intuitive.

Insight into E3 Booth Babes

These are a couple of links to interviews with booth babes. I'm not sure if this fits in the topics for the next weeks (maybe under instances of virtual in the real?), but I've always wondered what E3 was like in different people's perspectives. While the articles are about the booth babes, you can still get an idea of what visitors and developers are like at E3.

In the GameCritics link, a reporter asks several booth babes (and one that wasn't and was offended that she was mistaken for one) what it's like being a booth babe. The Joystiq article goes into the perspective of one booth babe, who is also a gamer/actress/model.

Here is a link to what E3 was supposed to enforce in 2006.

I personally would go to E3 to see the games, not the girls (or guys, if they would ever do such a thing). It wouldn't hurt to go there for both games and girls, but it seems maybe the girls were becoming more the focus and more the reason to go to E3 than the games.

On a side note, the game industry seems professional and yet not so professional at the same time, if professional is taken in the conventional meaning. E3 is a serious place for game exposure, and yet it seems like a huge spring break cosplay party. I understand the developers work hard to get their best latest work up and have to compete for attention, and using a sexy model or two would turn some heads. But if I were a developer, I'd feel inept as a developer if I have to rely on something that probably has nothing to do or very little to do with my game to market my game.

Topic Three: Money and Culture

Possible subtopics include virtual economics; in-game product placement; viral marketing; replicas, theme parks, merchandise, and other instances of the virtual in the real; direct downloadable content; console wars and the future of the commercial industry; independent game creation; the mainstreaming of gamer culture; professional gaming; and anything else you can think of :)

Please remember to post twice a week and to comment twice on the posts of your classmates.