Is there a future for artisan MMORPGs?

I’ve been playing Star Wars:The Old Repuiblic lately, to see what the state of the art in MMORPG is, and its ok, but as a long time tabletop RPG gamer, it is not very satisfying. I can get lost in it, occasionally, but I’m a bit fed up picking up 7 credits and a pinch magazine from every Separatist trooper I mow down as I level up on Ord Mantell. Do the old sarge give them all 7 credits in the morning for lunch money? (I feel bad about looting them now!) Do Sith Lords all carry empty magazines so I can collect them off their dead bodies? who knows – but I’d like something more in my MMO experience.

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Neil Ferguson‘s mis-adventures in gaming are highlighted on Richard Mehlinger’s blog on HASTAC in a a post which reinforces the dangers of non-gamers getting swept up by the gee-whiz of digital games. I’ve always been wary of digital games for teaching, which is why I’ve always used old fashion non-digital game play and design in my history courses. Continue reading “Theory=Model=Game”

Gaming Reality History

Teaching contemporary International Relations with in-class simulations is sometimes challenging when the simulation scenario may be radically changed by what is happening in the real world, but that is the challenge my HI3112 International Organisations students are dealing with this week in this terms conference game on the Horn Of Africa/Arab Spring. “Upstairs” literally as well as figuratively, the MA class are dealing with the problems of designing a game which bridges the gap between IR theory and contemporary crises for their assignment. Continue reading “Gaming Reality History”

Reworking Courses 2011

The best time to plan next years courses is right after this year’s end and I am already sketching out some revisions to my options for the coming year. Some old assessments are going, some new stuff is in and one course is going in reverse. Continue reading “Reworking Courses 2011”

Games in Three Parts

Good computer games should come in three parts. I don’t mean in terms of gameplay, I mean in terms of architecture. Well designed business client-server applications have three main parts, database, business rules and front end client, but many games are driven mainly by the graphical front end, and munge up the other two parts any old way.  This is a bad thing, and one which computer game designers need to fix. Continue reading “Games in Three Parts”


Are elements of those silly Facebook quizzes and games potentially useful for teaching, at some level? I tend to ignore them, but a comment just now started me thinking about the possibilties. Sam, one of my students, took “What mode of production are are you?” and came out as Feudalism (which some people would think is apt for him!). Like all FB quizzes, it is an extended multi-choice quiz, with a series of questions to match you to something.  The games – or at least the one I joined before I discovered the ‘ignore’ button, are repetative quest games in which you churn through oppnents to gain experience and unlock new abilities. While I find them boring, they are addictive, people play them a lot and you could adapt the basic model from grinding monsters/enemies/whatever to grinding useful skills. Continue reading “Facebookedu?”

Scrabulous and intellectual “Property Rights”

There is no doubt that Hasbro owns the IP on Scrabble, and are within their rights to force Scrabulous off Facebook, but legal rights don’t always make things right.  If I ever create something worth loadsamoney, I would like my childern and probably grandchildren to enjoy some of the windfall, but I’m not impressed with the way suits who’ve never invented anything use IP law to make money out of other peoples ideas.

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Medieval Mobile Boring?

For game that does so much well at the tactical level, Medieval Total War on mobile phones is very disappointing as a strategic game. Clearly, the team who ported the PC game to the J2ME platform have a very good hexmap based, IGUO engine for fighting pre-modern battles, but the strategy and diplomacy end is no more than a device for stringing the individual battles together. At that level, it compares very poorly with Civ3, which I have had on my cellphone for over a year now. I will still be using it in my class on the Infantry Revolution next year though. Continue reading “Medieval Mobile Boring?”

A cohort is a battalion…

“That bad, huh?” the brother said when I slapped down Phil Sabin’s Lost Battles on the table in the campus Starbucks as he joined me for coffee yesterday. Actually, it is not bad at all – far from it. It is a good book, the product of many years of careful scholarship, and a useful contribution to both military history and game design and cliometrics. Unfortunately, I know enough about these to have opinions which differ from Sabin’s and which make me want to argue with the book and I’m going be annoyed that I will never have enough time to run down enough sufficient evidence to test my ideas properly against his. Obviously, this is not going to be a proper review, but more of a first impression. So far (and I accept that I may be proved embarrassingly wrong later in the book) I think he is wrong to ignore articulation and wrong (in the polite academic sense, not the football namecalling sense) about hordes of cavalry.

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Wargame Design Class

scan0001a.jpgI just finished marking the wargame design exercise which I set my War, State & Society class to do as a group exercise for their coursework which was doubly mean because it was (a) not a regular boring old essay so they had to think about it and (b) required them to work in groups which history students never have to do. It was designed so they could not just knock off an essay the night before the deadline. Not only did it turn out really really well, but some of them even admitted to enjoying it.

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