Gaming: Developing for stand alone device (console) vs. PC (many devices)

After seeing bug after bug in newly released games I have come to a few conclusions in the gaming world: If you are going to create a game or a simulation, whether it be for fun, entertainment, professional, or training purposes, it will be a much better user experience if you design it for a certain system i.e., xbox, iPad, PS3, Android ICS, etc. That way when it is released there are not tons of errors because my machine has a different type of gpu card.

What I notice in the world of gaming and simulations is that one releases a game that should run on many different systems and then many unforeseen issue arise. This is usually caused by people having old or different versions of browsers, different GPU cards, incorrect settings, different sized monitor, etc. While we try to control for this in companies when designing training or in the game world by describing minimum specs, its still just not that efficient.

In fact, this even translates into the HTML5 vs flash debate because if you are developing specifically for the iPad you might need to use HTML5. However, that HTML5 app probably will not work on the PC or Android device correctly. Thus the need to release multiple versions or include a lot of extra code. This same thing happens to so many games and simulations. The latest example being the new Star Wars game by Bioware (SWTOR). They released this game a bit early and many users are having lag or frames-per-second (FPS) issues and now they need to find and fix them. So what is the solution?

There are a couple of workarounds but no single solution. One would be to develop for one device only, such as the iPad or xbox. This is actually what I love about the xbox or iPad. If I buy an xbox game or iPad app I know it will run flawlessly for the most part on my machine because it was designed for my machine. However this becomes impossible when trying to reach all audiences as too many users have other machines such as PCs. My personal solution? Create a standard for devices each year or every few years that all devices released during that time should have. So if that standard includes a certain amount of memory, gpu, html5, flash, etc then all devices would have it and thus be able to run game and simulations released during that time.

Making games and simulations in your classroom

Educators often ask me what is the best tool for their students to make games in their classes. My first question is always: Do the students have programming experience? If so, I usually turn them onto 3D gaming software such as Unity. However, more often than not this is not the case. So there is some great software out there for educators that is FREE and requires no programming experience. In fact, much of this software is drag and drop and teaches programming logic. It’s geared for kids and is great in the classroom. Here are some of my favorites:

Scratch – created by MIT

Squeak – created by Apple

Alice – created by Carnegie Mellon University

Kodu – created by Microsoft

Gamemaker – created by YoYo Games

For Mobile: Google App Inventor

How to survive your first night in Minecraft

I am exploring this game for my classes so I figured I would post as I learn how to use it. So far there are many possibilities for this game in education. This tutorial goes through creating your first shelter, mining, and crafting tools needed to survive that first night. I did not create this tutorial.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MqkEZn8pN4]

World of Warcraft in Education

This week I am going to be implementing World of Warcraft in my gaming and simulation class. We are going to be exploring the use of WoW as a learning tool. Specifically, I am going to be showing my students how WoW can be used for:

Teamwork
Math
Writing
Reading
Economics
and much more

For this lesson, I am having all students download and install the free version of WoW on their computers before class. I have divided the class up into teams and each group need to choose a Race in the game and then create a character based on that Race. When students arrive in class, we are going to have a brief discussion on MMORPGs and their use in education, we will let them know that even when they struggle they can find a solution, now they can Hire someone to do you online course. Then we are going to play WoW. My goal is to get each team to work together and level their new character a few levels together. Game play will last around 1 hour. After, I will have the class watch my computer and I will show them many of the other things they can do in WoW as their new characters are really unable to do very much. This will be lead into an online discussion on WoW throughout the week and its use in education. Then next week, we are having a guest speaker who will speak on their use of WoW in K-12 Education.

This is a very exciting week. I will post how the activity goes. Here are some links on WoW in education:

Kids Perceptions

A Schools Wiki

Best size HDTV or monitor for multiplayer gaming?

Well most of us think: Bigger=better. However, this is simply not true for a lot of games – specifically first person shooters (FPS) such as halo and call of duty where the multiplayer is king. This can be seen during the major league gaming (MLG) tournaments where the players use 22 inch tvs, not huge 60 inch ones. So why are smaller tvs better for gaming? Its simple, on a 50-60 inch tv you cannot monitor and look around the whole screen as quickly as you can on a smaller tv. Thus the gaming pros at mlg are using 22 inch tvs to play their games. So it appears that the industry standard is 22 inches. I currently use a 32 inch but sit about 6 feet away from the screen. Remember that mlg players sit close to the screen/monitor. So if your looking for that new gaming tv, remember bigger doesnt = better, especially if you like the multiplayer games where you need to be able to see the whole screen and move around quickly.

And if you dont believe me: Try to play halo/call of duty on a 60 inch, then move to a 22 inch to see the difference for yourself. Ive done it and its a big difference.