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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation Appendix E An Overview of Digital Games As the intelligence community and others think about positioning themselves to utilize and understand games, they must first understand the range and language of the game types, players, and gaming experiences they might pursue. Beyond recognizing these available game play tools, communities must work to understand the range of outputs of gaming and potential applications beyond the entertainment world. This appendix gives an in-depth overview of two important aspects of games. The first segment of the appendix looks at the social and cultural outputs of games, covering specifically the range of genres, platforms, and player types of games. The latter half examines distinct segments of the games industry and analyzes the relevance of its various business models. This growth emphasizes the pervasiveness and still unrealized potential of the games industry. GAME TYPES Games yield from a number of distinct genres and on a variety of platforms, all with specific conventions. These genres types are often attached to specific design patterns, the root mechanics that define game play. The committee provides example descriptions of several genres to illustrate the scope and diversity of game genres, not only from a technological and design perspective but from a usage and social perspective as well. The following categorizations dive into the genres and medium for play as well as player constructs. Genres Much like other forms of entertainment media, digital games are often categorized by genre. The difference, in the case of digital games, is that game play interactions rather than visual or narrative differences are used as the prime organizing principle. As the digital game medium has become more mature, the lines between genres have become increasingly blurred—a phenomenon similar to that which has
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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation occurred for television and film. As a result, the descriptions of genres provided—listed below—should be taken as a general framework. Desktop simulation games War games Puzzles Adventure Role-playing games Action First-person shooters Strategy “God” games and other simulation games Alternate-reality games Serious games Desktop Simulation Games Since the dawn of computer games there have always been games best described more as “simulations” in that they tended to be purposely built scaled software models of real-world systems or devices. While simulation may fit the definition of many computer games in the world of computer and video games, a simulation game is more often than not a nonfiction vehicle simulation usually of military persuasion. That said, the world of computer game simulations is increasingly filled with games that use the core design pattern of desktop vehicle simulation but that feature fictional vehicles such as X-Wing Fighters and futuristic tanks, among others. Some entire genres of games are quite simulative but from a genre distinction standpoint are grouped under different banners, such as sport games (see Madden Football), racing games (see Need for Speed or DIRT), and many strategy titles (e.g., SimCity, Rise of Nations). In the simulation genre as defined mostly by vehicle simulation, the computer games world has had a fair amount of activity. Microsoft’s Flight Simulator has been a widely respected simulation product that even saw some derivative usage for large nonentertainment simulation usage (as Microsoft ESP) before the entire product and its derivatives were recently shut down in a reorganization of Microsoft’s games business. Throughout the years the games industry has produced strong desktop simulations of F-15/16/18 fighters and many other aircraft, various tanks, naval ships (PHM Pegasus, Strike Fleet), space vehicles, civilian cars, and much more. Originally these simulations were fairly scaled compared to counterparts on workstation systems or higher end computing systems only available to government or large corporate customers. However, paralleling the rise of desktop computing as it supplanted these systems, the core computer games simulation genre has itself matured considerably. There is little difference in graphics and some game play modeling with today’s desktop simulations of vehicles and those played on non-personal computer (PC) systems. The architectures are now fairly unified and the software is at times almost the same, the only distinction being some level of realism and graphical response made possible by parallel computing platforms running the same software at a higher resolution and with more modeling or graphical effects turned on. Like the war games genre, the “pure simulation” genre in computer games is a smaller percentage of the overall games market, as other genres like sports, action games, and so forth, have arisen. This has placed the simulation genre in a more niche realm, which while smaller in some market-size respects
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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation is heavily populated by very devout user bases. Over time these user bases are increasingly supported by smaller dedicated developers who service the genre and keep advancing it. Where there are some breakouts from the more entrenched smaller market, they tend to be in very specific areas such as battlespace games (see Operation Flashpoint, VBS, etc.) that combine vehicle simulation with traditional first-person soldier battle or sister genres like sports and racing. Overall the core genre and its cousins do have a clear dynamic that realism is a critical selling point. This often starts with graphical fidelity but quickly also includes fidelity of various interfaces and critical modeling such as weather, flight dynamics, vehicle capabilities, and more. It is this selling point of realism that drives the creators and the core fan base in the genre. As one of the first genres to really embrace multiplayer play, there is also increasingly little need for computer artifical intelligence (AI) and any paradoxes of realism that a game developer can create in the simulation genre. Thus, realism very much is about how realistically rendered the simulation is leaving the simulation of the opponents to other humans versus a machine that must ultimately lose to a less skilled player. What desktop game simulations represent to the larger field of simulation is the continued evolution of constrained but highly capable simulations people may learn from—flight simulator offers some level of help to those learning to fly and other simulations may provide similar if still small coefficients to real-world training and operation of those vehicles being simulated. War Games In the world of video games, war games started out essentially as computer-powered tabletop war games. Many of the original designers were essentially those that moved over from venerable tabletop game creators like Avalon Hill to computer-based games. The main advantage of the computer was two-fold. First, the game could rapidly compute outcomes of units engaged and, perhaps more importantly, the computer could use basic approaches to AI to create single-player experiences. This allowed war games and general strategy game cousins to flourish beyond their board game pedigree because now you could play them by yourself, dispensing with the need for correspondence (no e-mail in those days) or the presence of another capable player. Companies such as SSI (Strategic Simulations, Inc.) and even board maker Avalon Hill published dozens of war games during the early to late 1980s. The basic computer war game design pattern is essentially one where opposing forces deploy units and move them on a game board and, whenever two units attempt to occupy the same piece of land (usually a spot on a X × X grid), there is a battle where one or more factors are used to calculate an outcome. Sides each take turns moving their units, and the usual factors for each unit are movement speed (how many units it can move in one turn), strength (i.e., firepower), defensive capability (how likely they can withstand attack), and often morale, which acts as some level of positive or negative force multiplier. Most computer war games have been historical in nature, but as titles evolved, there have been a larger number of fictional or even generalized titles. As programmers and designers began thinking beyond the first advantages of computerized board games, they started to create improved aspects of play for war games played on computers. Chris Crawford, at Atari, created Eastern Front 1941, in which a player plotted paths for all units at once and then watched as the computer played out the resulting skirmishes. Other designers added more factors to the general calculus of war games as well as ever more elaborate editors for others to use. AI has also improved but an important aspect of AI for war games as well as many other computer games is that the AI is intended as an obstacle that can be overcome by the player and so the approach of creating an AI that is “Deep Blue” in nature is often not the goal of many war game designers. So AI has advanced to create more realistic approaches that challenge the player but not so the player is overwhelmed. Indeed,
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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation when Origin Systems created a computer version of Steve Jackson Games’ Ogre it had to dumb down the AI because the computer was too good and thus the game was deemed by play testers as unplayable. Despite better graphics, increased strategy, and better marketing, computer war games have remained a smaller niche than many other genres of games. Only in two respects have war games moved beyond their niche today. First, they contribute generally to the large parent genre of strategy games (and even some role-playing games) that contain lots of general principles and interface elements of the first generations of war games. This includes games such as Ubisoft’s Heroes of Might & Magic, Civilization, Nintendo’s Advance Wars, and Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy Tactics. Second, where computer war games have most evolved to break out of their niche status is as “real-time strategy” games, or RTS games as they are more readily called. The idea of real-time strategy games is to essentially do away with the turn-based approach that has and still dominates many war games today. Their approach is to reward those players who can muster strategy and resources and physically command them faster against an enemy. Any unit can move at any time based on a commander’s ability to tell them what to do. The RTS has evolved out of war games into its own recognized genre of video games. The first RTS game was arguably Herzog’s Zwei on the Sega Genesis in the late 1980s. This was followed by the Westwood Games (now part of Electronic Arts) title Dune2, which then beget one of the stalwart RTS brands, Command & Conquer. This top title was later joined by Blizzard’s Warcraft and Starcraft series and Microsoft’s Age of Empires series. Overall the success of the RTS has further pigeonholed the more traditional computer war game as the RTS has sold well enough to get far better budgets, graphics, and marketing, thereby reinforcing its success as a game genre. The irony of the RTS, however, is that it is a perverted sense of real time. No version of warfare past small squad-based encounters actually unfolds in the seconds and compressed time of any RTS. Traditional war at the theater level plays out in hours/days/weeks versus seconds and minutes. A true “real-time” war game would mimic the 1:1 nature of modern conflict, which ironically would bore most video gamers used to instant feedback, quick resolution of conflict, and fast iterative play involving trial and error. While it may demand a bit more cognitively of players, there remains a question of whether the RTS style of war games offers anything important to more methodological war games played out in the military. Today the core war game genre of detailed historical or fictional conflicts played out over large theaters of war is essentially still a purview of enthusiasts, history buffs, and fans of the genre known collectively as “grognards” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grognard), which in the 1970s through today essentially is a term for those who love the war games genre. The importance of computer war games as a genre is twofold. First, it is the historical nature of how war games link more advanced styles of game design from pen-and-paper origins to that of central-processing-unit-based gaming and how the thread of war gaming runs through many evolutionary stages of game development in the modern video game era. Second, and perhaps useful today, is the fact that war games have at times seen some levels of advancement on the video games side more so than in other areas where they are used. Even in their reduced market size, there has been strong continued evolution of the genre, including games like Harpoon, Panzer General, Empire, Patton vs. Rommel, the Total War Series, and the work of stalwarts such as Slitherine Simulations (http://www.slitherine.com), which have continued to seek ways where core game play is enhanced through better simulations, models, graphics, and interface. What this might tell those for whom war games are important is that despite their overall reduced commercial capacity it is still that continued consumer entertainment-oriented progression that offers large utility to projects utilizing war gaming for more specific nonentertainment needs.
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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation Puzzles As the name implies, puzzle games generally revolve around a player solving a puzzle. The types of puzzles can vary wildly, and they require players to engage in tests of logic, strategy, pattern recognition, sequence solving, spatial awareness, and word completion (Rollings and Adams, 2003). Perhaps the most famous example of a puzzle game is Tetris (Loguidice and Barton, 2009), which leverages the player’s spatial recognition, pattern recognition, and strategic thinking. It is important to note that many puzzle games are either variations of earlier games or variations of existing nondigital games. Unlike other genres, puzzles games are not generally story based (although there are some notable exceptions, such as the 2007 game Puzzle Quest). Because puzzle games do not generally rely on advanced three-dimensional graphics, they are more common on mobile and handheld devices (such as the iPhone or the Nintendo DS) (Perez, 2009). An excellent example of this is the iPhone game Trism, a direct descendent of Tetris, which offers users near-infinite play length. Adventure Among the earliest games available for home computer systems (dating back as early as 1972 with Gregory Yob’s game Hunt the Wumpus), adventure games are characterized by game play without reflex challenges or action (often referred to as “twitch” behavior) (Jones, 1997). Instead, adventure games are characterized by puzzle solving, exploration, and interaction with people and the environment. Game play is most often highly story driven. For this reason, adventure games are often closely associated with film and are considered to be cinematic in design, pacing, and storytelling. In addition, adventure games are usually nonconfrontational in nature. Noteworthy examples of adventure games include Zork (1980), King’s Quest (1984), Myst (1993), and The Longest Journey (1999). Early text-based adventure games (in which players were required to enter commands into the game via a keyboard) are sometimes referred to as “interactive fiction.” An example of this is GemStone IV (1995). Role-Playing Games As a genre, role-playing games (RPGs) usually involve the player taking control of a character or characters while progressing through a relatively predetermined storyline. Core game mechanics in RPGs such as attribute-based character generation, experience points for character advancement, and statistically based combat all originate from traditional pen and paper, tabletop, role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons (Barton, 2008; Crigger, 2008). As the name suggests, role-playing games require the player to take the role of their in-game character. Moreover, players often make an emotional investment in their character that is not seen in most other genres. Noteworthy RPGs include Ultima (1980), Fallout (1997), Knights of the Old Republic (2003), Fable (2004), and World of Warcraft (2005). Action All action games share a specific quality: game play rooted in hand-eye coordination and reaction time.1 The vast majority of challenges found in action games are tests of the game player’s physical 1 Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Action_game. Accessed June 2, 2009.
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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation skill. While action games incorporate challenges such as puzzles, races, or object collection, these are simply game play mechanisms and in no way central to the genre. Action games are easily the most common type of game—so common, in fact, that one might easily argue that they are a meta-genre populated by a series of distinct subgenres, such as platformers, first-person shooters, and third-person fighting games. Noteworthy action games include arcade titles such as Space Invaders (1978), platformers such as Super Mario Brothers (1985) or Psychonauts (2005), stealth action games such as Assassin’s Creed (2007), fighting games such as Street Fighter IV (2009) or Mortal Kombat (1992), music-based games such as Guitar Hero (2005) or Donkey Konga (2003), or first-person shooters such as Halo (2001) or Doom (1993). First-Person Shooters While first-person shooters (FPSs) are generally thought of as a subgenre of action games, they are important and pervasive enough that it might be argued that they could easily stand as their own genre. First-person shooters, as the name implies, put the player in the role of the protagonist, providing a first-person perspective with which to interact with the world. As action games, FPSs are usually firearm based and provide game play rooted in the player having swift hand-eye coordination and reaction time (Garmon, 2005). Classic FPSs include Doom (1993), Quake (1996), Half-Life (1998), Unreal (1999), Halo (2001), and America’s Army (2002). FPS games appear to define the games industry for activists such as former lawyer Jack Thompson, who has publicly argued that these games are “murder simulators” and influence teenage players to become more violent (Leung, 2005), although connections between violent FPS games and violent behavior have been both supported and repudiated by the scientific community (Anderson and Dill, 2000; Wang et al., 2009). Perhaps the most innovative contribution of the FPS genre was the capability (via embedded editors) for players to create their own game “levels” (three-dimensional maps with objects and AI-driven opponents), which could then be distributed via the Internet and used for multiplayer matches between distributed opponents.2 This predated the widespread acceptance of massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) and helped form the foundation for the concept of user-generated content on the Internet today (Keiser, 2006; Jenkins, 2006). The phenomenon is epitomized by the game CounterStrike (1999), a user-created “mod” (modification) to the FPS Half-Life (1998), which was eventually offered commercially and has outsold the original commercial offering (Lister et al., 2009). Strategy The driving principle of strategy games is generally a measured and thoughtful management of resources (both human and natural) from a god-like perspective. Digital strategy games are most often conflict-based (e.g., military, social, economic) models of game play in which the player is pitted against either a single or multiple computer-controlled entity (Rollings and Adams, 2003). The strategy genre is usually divided into two subgenres: real-time strategy (RTS) and turn-based strategy (TBS). In the case of RTS games, action is continuous, and players are required to make their decisions and actions within the fabric of a constantly changing game state. RTS game play is most often characterized by the acquisition of natural resources, the construction of a production infrastructure (factory, barracks, etc.), the research of technologies, and the production of units (troops, vehicles, etc.). The game play in 2 Available at http://www.fpscreator.com/about.html. Accessed June 2, 2009.
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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation many RTS games is characterized by military conflict, with the win conditions of the game being destruction of a human- or computer-controlled opponent (Adams, 2006). While there are several examples of RTS games designed specifically for home consoles, they are generally geared exclusively toward the PC, given that the RTS control interface is better suited to the “hot-key” nature of a keyboard compared to the limited control of a console controller. Noteworthy RTS games include Dune 2 (1992), Command and Conquer (1995), Starcraft (1998), World in Conflict (2007), and Halo Wars (2009). In the case of TBS games, game play is characterized by a sequential order of play in which each player (either human- or computer-controlled) is allotted a period in which they are free to analyze the game conditions and commit decisions to actions. After a player signals that he or she is finished with their actions, the play sequence cycles to the next player, who has the same opportunity to analyze the state of game play and commit decisions to actions. In this way, TBS games are similar to nondigital tabletop role-playing games, collectible card games, collectible miniature games, and designer board games. Noteworthy digital TBS games include the Civilization series, the Heroes of Might and Magic series, and the Total War series. In social and historical model-based strategy games (both TBS and RTS), such as Civilization, Sins of a Solar Empire, or Age of Empires, game play is mediated by a “social engine” that simulates the interaction of complex social and economic variables. In certain cases, such as the Civilization franchise, the “social engine” is based on models of cultural evolution and change whose theoretical roots are found in 19th- and early 20th-century anthropology. These models, such as Elman Service’s band/tribe/chiefdom state model (Service, 1963) or earlier unilinear cultural evolutionary models (e.g., Morgan’s model formulated in 1877, Tylor’s model formulated in 1871, the Durkheim model published in 1900), are considered to be over simplified and inaccurate by modern social anthropologists (Watrall, 2002a,b). As such these RTS games should not be considered accurate social-historical simulators. “God” Games and Other Simulation Games This genre is based on an underlying simulation of real-world tasks and is discussed in detail in the section “Political and Other Simulation Games” in Chapter 3. Alternate-Reality Games The genres explained thus far have been major historically active game genres. As technology expands and new types of games become possible, new genres begin to form. Similarly, some genres (e.g., interactive fiction) tend to depreciate over time, becoming more niche in their status. One such emergent genre gaining a lot of attention lately is alternate-reality games (ARGs; Jenkins, 2008). A description of ARGs shows how games are morphing into new forms that can permeate other types of emergent media online. In ARGs, game play reaches into player’s lives via everyday technologies like Web sites, blogs, e-mail, and mobile devices, blurring the line between in-game and out-of-game experiences.3 Stories flow from one platform to another, as players are challenged to discover bits and pieces of often cleverly hidden content, which contributes to the complete narrative picture. While ARGs began as marketing tools for products or services, they have evolved into a rich and compelling entertainment environment for telling engaging and immersive stories. ARGs are highly mediated experiences in which the game is facilitated, controlled, and paced by teams of “puppet masters” (Gosney, 2005; Rose, 2007). 3 Available at http://www.argn.com/about/. Accessed June 1, 2009.
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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation Technically ARGs are a form of MMOG, with individual ARGs attracting player bases numbering in the tens or hundreds of thousands and with a heavy slant toward online media.4 However, online platforms for ARGs are used less as a narrow framework to deliver a tightly defined gaming experience than simply as a convenient, cheap, mass communication medium (Szulaorski, 2005; Edery and Mollick, 2008). While the typical MMOG uses a custom client (an application running on the player’s home computer) that delivers and controls all content and interaction, ARGs use any application available on the Internet, such as e-mail or social network platforms, and potentially any Web site, as a mechanism to deliver a rich and compelling overall game experience to the player. Despite widespread coverage and some marketing-oriented successes, ARGs have still been dogged by a niche status in the overall marketplace, and several commercial ARGs have flopped (e.g., Electronic Arts’s Majestic, Mind Candy’s Perplex City). However, the player behaviors associated with ARGs remain of great interest to large organizations seeking to foster new forms of collaboration, and groups like the Institute for the Future still actively pursue them in hopes of finding ways to utilize their design patterns for larger-scale problem solving. Serious Games “Serious games” is the title given to projects that utilize video game technologies and/or design techniques or that build complete games to address some need other than entertainment. Given the name, it might be easy to classify them as a genre of games, but actually serious games are more a field of activity than a distinct genre. In fact, most serious games are themselves members of a defined game genre (e.g., an RPG for teaching history or a “racing” game engine repurposed for driver education) with the prefix of “serious” added as a means to indicate the primary intent of the product’s sponsor. More description and discussion of serious games as a field are given in Chapter 3. Major Platforms As provided earlier, a general definition for a platform refers to the combination of hardware and software that allows a game to operate. As with genres and player types, the platforms for which games are developed vary widely. In many ways these platforms directly impact both design and usage patterns. Common gaming platforms include arcades, PCs, consoles, handheld devices, and mobile devices, as described below. Online games are not platforms, but often there are platforms that enable various types of online games. Given their nature to be separate from but also at times closely associated with platforms, online games are described here in terms of classification. Arcade As a platform or a locus for propagating game culture, arcades do not have the relevance they had in the mid-1980s, nor are arcade machines as ubiquitous as they were then. The arcades that remain are often housed in malls, amusement parks, and/or family entertainment centers/restaurants, such as the Dave & Busters chain. This is not entirely true worldwide, and even in North America there are some evolved aspects of arcades that still exist. Outside North America, in Japan and parts of Asia the idea of the arcade as a physical “third place” filled with games still exists in the form of “PC Bangs” (bang is Korean for room), essentially Internet 4 Available at http://www.unfiction.com/history, Accessed June 2, 2009.
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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation cafes that exist predominantly to play MMOGs like Lineage and World of Warcraft or online team shooters like CounterStrike. These Internet game rooms are dominant throughout Asia, especially Korea and China, but exist in the Middle East as well. As for the more traditional arcade that saw the debut of new titles and fancy cabinets, where titans such as Sega, Atari, Namco, and others slugged it out for billions in quarters, those days are long gone. The location-based entertainment business is now one more of amusement-level opportunities on one end and PC-centric Internet cafes or “bangs” on the other. The arcade as a platform is gone. Personal Computers While historically the dominant digital game platform, the PC has been eclipsed by the console as the predominant game platform since the late 1990s. The number of console games sold in 2007 was substantially higher than the number of PC games sold that year (Entertainment Software Association, 2008). However, the PC as a platform remains noteworthy for several reasons: It is still the most common platform for MMOGs. Since there is no control over the content developed for PCs (Windows, Mac, Linux, or otherwise), there is still a large amount of creativity and independent development on PCs. This importantly includes a lot of rhetorically oriented content (i.e., propaganda) and serious games-oriented content that would never be condoned on controlled platforms. The PC is still the dominant gateway to the Web and other evolved social networks; those offered by consoles are currently weak by comparison. While in some areas Internet-based phones (perhaps coupled with netbooks) will eclipse PCs, in Western countries the PC is still a critical source of connectivity for gamers. Even console households have PCs where players are able to join communities, find out news about their favorite games, and more. Web browsing on leading consoles is still a fraction of that done on PCs. The PC is still the dominant authoring environment for games and more importantly is still the means for creating most user-generated content for games (including those on consoles). The PC’s interface and application power makes it the means by which gamers will create content, software hacks, helper applications, and so forth, for their favorite games. While some work has shown that consoles can play a larger role in allowing for user-generated content, it is likely that PCs working with consoles may still be the development platform for gamers for some time. Console Consoles represent the majority of the commercial digital games market in terms of both hardware and software. Video game consoles are appliance-like devices whose entire design serves its primary purpose to play digital games. Unlike PCs, consoles generally have fixed hardware and as such cannot be easily upgraded or altered. The current generation of consoles includes the Microsoft Xbox 360, the Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3), and the Nintendo Wii, shown in Figures E-1 and E-2. Traditionally, console games reside on removable media, such as cartridges or optical media. However, the most recent generation features an online distribution service that allows users to download games for a fee on to a form of nonvolatile storage, typically a hard disk or flash memory. The current generation of consoles (e.g., Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii) also serve as platforms for social networks. Each features online services that support friend lists, text chat, voice chat, ranking, recommendation systems, and online identity generation and representation. While PC and Web-based offer-
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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation FIGURE E-1 PlayStation 3 and Xbox consoles. SOURCE: See http://cybernetnews.com/do-you-know-the-capabilities-of-your-next-gen-game-console. Image courtesy of CyberNet News. FIGURE E-2 Wii console with accelerometer-based control. SOURCE: Image courtesy of Nintendo of America, Inc. ings like Facebook are more advanced in some respects, the console companies are working toward a seamless integrated social network and play experience. Xbox Live!, for example, shows the depth to which these new social services are being developed. Its “Party System” allows players to connect with up to eight friends and remain with those friends as the player moves from service to service. A player can seamlessly move from watching online Netflix movies together (if all members of the group have Netflix accounts) to playing cooperatively in a multiplayer game such as Gears of War or Halo. Sony and Nintendo also have multiplayer social systems, but they are less developed than those of Microsoft. PC systems such as Valve’s Steam and Kongregate and systems that mesh with Facebook (which even the console companies may do soon) are also in the mix. Looking at the distribution capabilities of digital and social services, consoles appear to be transitioning from game systems into full-featured entertainment platforms. However, they are doing this on gaming terms, providing tight experiences that eventually blur the lines between streamed audio/video, interactive experiences, social exchanges, and games. For all the advances made in digital distribution, a majority of retail revenue is still derived from sales of consumer packaged goods (Gaudiosi, 2009). The next generation of systems is likely to move to a more dominant digital distribution system for their offerings.
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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation The question then is, What happens to the console as it exists now? Some companies like newly formed OnLive! (www.onlive.com) foresee a totally digital distribution system where game play is rendered on server farms and piped as video back to a small thin client that resides in the home, with a monthly subscription fee to a service. This cloud model debuted at the 2009 Game Developers Conference but was fairly criticized by skeptical industry developers. The future more likely holds a mix of cloud services and locally processed games. Thus, the console is moving from its more stoic one-off game system toward being a balanced blend of PC capabilities, cloud computing services, locally processed applications, and dynamic control interfaces (e.g., cameras, motion sensors) with some evolutionary capability, all in the name of dominating access to entertainment experiences at home. It is a titanic battle that shapes many aspects of where games will go as a result.5 Handheld Handheld game devices are lightweight, portable, dedicated console units with integrated display, controls, and audio. The current generation of handheld game devices—the most popular of which are the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) and the Nintendo Dual-Screen (DS, or the recently released DSi)—feature integrated WiFi, with which users can connect to the Web, play wirelessly (either locally or over the Internet) with other players, or, in the case of the Nintendo DSi, purchase and download additional games.6 As of February 2009, 50 million units of the Sony PlayStation Portable had been sold worldwide (Robinson, 2009), whereas 100 million units of the Nintendo DS had sold worldwide (Kelly and Wyman, 2009). Handheld games are generally far cheaper than PC or console games. As such, they are designed to be accessible to a wider variety of users. Partially as a result of pricing and marketing (especially in the case of the Nintendo DS) and partially as a result of adoption patterns, handheld game devices have been broadly adopted and may not have the negative subcultural affiliations of console and PC games and gamers (Patsuris, 2004). Such devices have sometimes created problems for publishers, which have found it difficult to market products with the same level of audience consistency they see on other systems. Despite these problems, Nintendo has shown that its DS device, coupled with more obtuse software offerings like BrainAge and puzzle games, can successfully attract an older demographic. This example provides evidence that as the population ages and video game developers get sharper about their software and hardware offerings, games can maintain a much higher level of popularity than once assumed. Mobile With robust and powerful platforms like the iPhone or Google’s Android OS that marry ubiquitous connectivity with rich graphics, versatile mobile devices are seeing an amazing amount of growth in the game design industry (Wingfield and Lawton, 2008). However, prior to the iPhone’s success, mobile, while growing, was a landscape of regressed innovation and tough markets. There were many different types of mobile devices that required heavy porting of games across many different specifications to achieve a reasonable level of market opportunity. Furthermore, since games had to be downloaded directly from the local telecommunications operator, consumers faced enormous gate-keeping restrictions. This setup essentially stunted mobile game opportunities for some time. Only as the new genera- 5 For additional information on cloud computing, see the following Web site: http://www.supercomp.de/isc09/Program/At-aGlance/Cloud-Computing-HPC-Synergy-or-Competition. Last accessed October 14, 2009. 6 Available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nintendo_DSi. Accessed June 2, 2009.
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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation tion of mobile smart devices, such as the iPhone, come about—where applications are not as controlled by the telecommunications services partners and the system is much more standardized, robust, and installed in large homogenized numbers—has mobile gaming use begun to explode. Most games available on mobile devices tend to be casual in nature in that they are designed specifically to be played in small chunks with little investment in time. However, as devices and services get more sophisticated and specific types of devices, such as the iPhone, see a higher degree of market penetration, there is beginning to be a rise in other game genres. One of the most recent examples of this is Watchmen: Justice Is Coming, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) for the iPhone designed to let players collectively experience the world of Alan Moore’s Watchmen comic. The iPhone is a critical glimpse at the future of mobile phone games. It is essentially a robust computer, game console, and phone with much more lenient publishing rules than any other device in its category. As it and similar offerings from other providers evolve into the market, lower prices, and hit wider global audiences, it is evident that computing power for games and other applications will be available to people in the coming years even if they never own a true PC or game console. (See “Mobile Games Platforms” in Chapter 3 for further analysis.) Online The term “online games” covers an amalgamation of game types and processes. The ambiguity of the term leaves that audience confused or assuming online games only means “massively” multiplayer online games,7 a subset of a larger set of games played online. Online games consist of the following broad categories: Single-player online games: These games are accessed via an online connection usually through a Web browser. These games often are written in Java or Flash and are accessed by visiting a Web site that contains the game. Multiplayer Online Games: These are games in which players play against other opponents through online connections. Such games can feature up to 128 players per match, although these are usually 2 to 32 players, in teams battling against one another. These games once existed offline and were played over local area networks, but now they are predominantly played online. Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs): These games feature an ability to serve thousands or even millions of players. Such games are often also persistent worlds where the game state is consistently evolving over time whether a given player participates or not. Social Network Games: These games are a relatively new form of online game popularized by games embedded on sites like Facebook. These games use the social network connections a user has specified to foster various forms of peer-to-peer game play. Such work is still in its infancy, but several games are played by millions of users and often can generate a lot of messaging to go alongside the game play. 7 The term “massively multiplayer online role-playing games” is slightly misleading. It is used colloquially to refer to all online persistent virtual worlds. However, it is more often used to refer to a genre of massively multiplayer online games, specifically fantasy-based RPGs such as World of Warcraft, Everquest, Dungeons & Dragons Online, or Warhammer Online. In recent years, with the increasing success of MMORPGs, new online multiplayer genres have begun to emerge, such as MMOFPSs (massively multiplayer online first person shooters) and MMORTS (massively multiplayer online real-time strategy) (Ryan, 2007). Most people call these MMOs or MMOGs (massively multiplayer online games) and do not use the longer, more specific acronyms.
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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation The fastest-growing online MMOGs at this point in time are those connected with social media sites, such as Facebook. The game company Zynga produces many of these hits, including Mafia Wars, Yoville, and several others, that together earned the company $50 million in microtransaction revenue in 2008 (Chowdhry, 2009). The integration of these games with Facebook means that Zynga is able to ride on Facebook’s ascent and growing media presence. With Facebook’s ability to rally together like-minded groups for social, intellectual, and personal causes, Zynga is well positioned to create and sell targeted games. MMOGs online are also somewhat confusingly named. Often neophytes will think that these games have an ability to house all players in the same shared space or even game. In fact, only a few games and virtual worlds achieve such a “full single world” state (namely Second Life and Eve Online), because technical limitations of hardware would make it nearly impossible to do this, let alone an interface for guiding people around a virtual world where everyone crowds into the same arena for battle. Instead, most MMOGs are segmented into mirrored versions of the same geographies, and then there are limits to how many users can log into the server at a single time. Thus, a game such as World of Warcraft with millions of players spreads them across hundreds if not thousands of servers, each supporting a fraction of the total subscriber base expected online at any specific instance. Furthermore, segments of the games (called instances) reduce the number of players to an area down to 20 to 50 people at a time to enhance the response time and minimize player confusion. From a collaboration standpoint, observations, and so forth, a player on Server 1 might never come into contact with a player on Server 22 in a game like World of Warcraft. Despite these limiting factors, such games are still fairly massive in scope and are dynamic cauldrons of social behavior that can only erupt from such a large number of players in the same communal space. Player Types Whether committed or casual gamers, players of all stripes find themselves shaped by the games they play and the ways they play them. As with genres, players exhibit a great deal of diversity as to their motivations, play styles, preferences, and characteristics. One widely recognized and respected method of player classification is known as the Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology (Bartle, 1996). Developed by Richard Bartle, one of the original developers for the first multiplayer online game (or MUD, from Multi-User Dungeon), the system categorizes player motivation as a given percentage of four categories commonly referred to as Bartle’s player types: achievers, explorers, socializers, and killers. While these categories were developed based on Bartle’s observation of MUD players, they are equally applicable to nonmultiplayer games. Achievers Achievers view point-based reward gathering as the primary motivation for the game. Other ingame activities such as socializing are either subservient or a means to accomplish goals linked to point gathering. Explorers Explorers delight in testing the boundaries of the game and having its inner workings revealed to them. Explorers revel in finding content or features (either intentional or unintentional on the part of the
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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation player accounts. The committee expects that in the next 20 years there will be even more platforms and technologies enabling game play. THE BUSINESS OF GAMES Industry Structure The modern games industry has a number of key players, each of whose role is described below. Console Developers: Driving Platform Innovation Many video games are played on dedicated devices designed specifically for game play, known as consoles. In the modern hardware manufacturing game, hardware platform development is expensive and time consuming, with the typical hardware platform having a 2- to 3-year development cycle and a 5- to 10-year market lifetime (with an upgrade or two during that cycle for the serious player; Ivan, 2009). The latest versions of the three main console platforms have achieved impressive worldwide installed bases. The Wii, which focuses more on casual games, has achieved a meaningful footprint in the market. Considered more accessible, less intimidating, and more “natural” for nongamers to play with its innovative accelerometer-based control without the need for complex key combinations, the platform has broadened the user base for console games (Morrison, 2008). Figure E-3 shows hardware sold through May 2009 for three major consoles. In addition to their strong hardware footprints, these hardware manufacturers have built ecosystems that allow massive numbers of software developers to build large franchises, as illustrated by the growth in software sales shown in Figure E-4. FIGURE E-3 Xbox 360, Wii, and PS3—hardware units, lifetime sales through May 2009. SOURCE: Data from NPD Group, Deutsche Bank. FIGURE E-4 Xbox 360, Wii, and PS3—software units, lifetime sales through May 2009. SOURCE: Data from NPD Group, Deutsche Bank.
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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation Game Developers: The Engine of the Games Industry Game developers are the lifeblood of the games industry. Game development teams bring new intellectual property to life by combining technical and creative talent to design and build games they believe will succeed in the marketplace. These teams can be organized in many different ways. Independent game developers (also known as “indies”) are generally small teams of people focused on creating a breakout title. These developers create relationships with other third parties to get wider distribution and marketing support for the games they create. Because indie developers are often financially constrained, they often ally themselves with publishers to get financial and go-to-market support for new games. Many large publishers also have development studios of their own. Publisher studios tend to be larger than independent game development studios with a focus on the creation of a particular game title or franchise. There is additionally a submarket of component and content developers that support some studios, much like the support organizations found in other major industries. Publishers: Key Marketing and Distribution Conduits Publishers are a key part of the games industry value chain. They are responsible for bringing developers’ intellectual property (IP) to market. Publishers support game developers in a number of ways: by providing financing for new game development, by maintaining relationships with online and retail distribution outlets, and by facilitating marketing support for new game launches. By way of analogy, game publishers are similar to movie studios in terms of the marketing and distribution roles they play in the industry. The two dominant independent (i.e., not tied to any specific hardware platform) publishers in the United States are Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard; French-based Ubisoft is the other major publisher by marketshare (and is 20 percent owned by Electronic Arts); other major publishers include Japanese-based Namco/Bandai, Konami, Square|Enix, and Capcom. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are major platform holders and also have significant in-house publishing arms focused on developing and marketing games designed for play on their respective platforms. As the games industry shifts from retail distribution to online distribution, the role of the publisher continues to morph and consolidate. As the distribution for games shifts online, other groups may eventually rise to play significant publishing-styled roles. Already, Time-Warner and Viacom have become major owners of game studios and are creating new publishing groups for games such as Rock Band and Lego Star Wars. Peripherals and Accessories In addition to game consoles and software, there is a robust market for game peripherals and accessories. Peripherals and accessories are generally designed to improve or augment game play by providing a more comfortable game-playing experience. On the console side, peripherals and accessories can add network connectivity, voice-over-IP (Internet protocol) technology, advanced controls, and navigation. For many of these accessories (including the iPhone), just like their software counterparts the producers must pay a licensing fee per unit to gain the right to market compatible hardware. This is yet another reason ownership of a successful console platform can be a large money maker. While at first peripherals were only a sideshow for the industry, the recent rise of simulative rhythm games such as Rock Band, Guitar Hero, DJ Hero, DanceDanceRevolution, and more has seen the role of controllers and peripherals become much bigger in scope. Games are increasingly seen as performance based, and controllers are an essential contributor in this process.
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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation Games Industry Business Models As the games industry continues to mature, the ways in which developers generate revenue continues to evolve. There are three dominant business models in the games industry—packaged consumer goods, subscription software and services, and microtransaction-based—with some players employing hybrid strategies that combine a number of the discrete models described below. Packaged Software Historically, the games business has been driven through the sales of packaged products. Such a model was natural, especially given that the industry’s highest-level employees have traditionally come from packaged consumer goods industries. The majority of game sales occur through traditional retailers, with the consumer purchasing a physical copy of the game for use on a home computer or game console. Publishers are responsible for securing retail distribution and promotion for game titles, and large electronics retailers have been the most efficient way to get a new game in front of a mass audience (Riley, 2008). The dominance of retail distribution continues to decline as the Internet and digital delivery become more important mechanisms for getting games to consumers (Macrovision Corporation, 2003). This is especially true in many non-Western markets where IP laws are regularly curtailed and the most dependable revenue streams for game sales are through online-distributed games accessed via a validated subscription. In Korea, for example, online games are already the norm rather than the exception. Business models are expected to change over time at a slower pace in the West, but the digital distribution model is widely expected to dominate in the next decade. Subscription Software and Services With the advent of broadband connectivity has come a second approach to package and price products for end users. Whereas the packaged software model involves one-time transactions, the subscription model allows a user to pay a small amount on a monthly basis for ongoing access to a game hosted online. The publisher or game developer takes responsibility for hosting and maintaining the game via a Web site or downloadable client software application. Subscription software and services (such as the Xbox Live! service) have been one of the fastest-growing submarkets in the games industry. Subscription software has the additional benefit of providing the publisher with a recurring revenue stream to support future development. Subscription games have also allowed games to reach a wider audience as they do not require proximity to a retail location to acquire a copy of the game and most do not require a specialized game console. Free-to-Play Games with Microtransactions The free-to-play business model, which generates revenue predominantly through the collection of microtransaction purchases of in-game items, is discussed in depth in the corresponding section in Chapter 3.
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