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Today's look at the emerging trend of games with minimal or nonexistent heads-up displays (HUDs) got us thinking about how games have traditionally laid out critical information about the player's status. We've come practically full circle from the days of the earliest video games, which were unable to display any status information or even keep track of basic statistics. In between, we've seen HUDs ranging from the realistic (Ace Combat 2) to the ridiculous (World of Warcraft) with everything in between. Recall for yourself by clicking through our gallery.

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A new poker machine has such smart artificial intelligence that players are hooked even though the house always wins. About 200 machines across the country, called "Texas Hold ‘Em Heads Up Poker," use knowledge gained from billions of staged rounds of poker fed through neural networks, and the result is an unpredictable poker player that can win almost every time. Three different banks of knowledge are used depending on the gameplay scenario, but the basic idea behind its play technique is "to prevent itself from being exploited." "The theory behind it is almost paranoid," as engineer Fredrik Dahl explains. Before the machines hit the casinos, the makers spent two years trying to dumb the AI down so players wouldn't walk away from the machines. Even with the adjustment, it's estimated that only 100 players around the world even have a chance of taking the game down. Michael Kaplan has profiled the machines for The New York Times — be sure to read the full article for all the details.

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The concept of badges and medals seems, in theory, very straight forward – reward users for completing specific benchmarks. So why are certain games titans of innovation adding incredible value through their rewards system while others leave their users confused and apathetic? I’m convinced it stems from the very basic human concept of achievement and our desire for it to be relevant. Relevancy will be divided into social and solitary categories.

Let’s start by understanding the broad objective of gamification. Ultimately as a marketer, community manager or designer you want to add value to your game. If done correctly you can also provide structure and direction for gamers (often something many games lack), but this is a tacit result of successful gamification design. The value added comes by attributing quantitative representation of qualitative accomplishment. It gives explicit validation for intrinsic accomplishment or simply put, you have something more tangible to look back on to herald your success and give you something to work to accomplish.

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Automation has struck down on game development. Developing a game gets easier every year. Certain jobs aren't necessary anymore, game companies go bankrupt, business plans can not keep up with industry development speeds. In short the game industry requires a high shifting skill. Today I want to talk about a few of these speedy developments. Where is the industry heading? And what do I think are upcomming trends?

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Original author: 
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These are some concrete examples to illustrate how randomness influences player experience. It is a companion post to the previous post: "Emotions and Randomness - Loot Drops"

Includes Ni No Kuni, Castlevania: SotN, WoW, Demon's Souls, Binding of Isaac

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A look at how a game's mechanics can inform the overall aesthetic of playing the game, even and especially if they are 'imperfect'. RPG systems are explored in-depth, but the theory within is broadly applicable to all genres.

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Trepidity writes "AI systems can (sort of) paint and compose classical music, but can they design games? Slashdot looked at the question a few years ago, and several research groups now have experimental systems that design board games and platformers with varying levels of success. I've put together a survey of the AI game designers I know of, to round up what they can do so far (and what they can't). Are there any others out there? 'Pell's METAGAME is, to my knowledge, the first published game generator. He defines a generative space of games more general than chess, which he calls "symmetric, chess-like games." They're encoded in a representation specific to this genre, which is also symmetric by construction. By symmetric I mean that mechanics are specified only from the perspective of one player, with the starting positions and rules that apply to the other player always being the mirror of the first player's. The rules themselves are represented in a game grammar, and generation is done by stochastically sampling from that grammar, along with some checks for basic game playability, and generative-parameter knobs to tweak some aspects of what's likely to be generated.'"

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Jon Guerrera

Former Lot18 employee Jon Guerrera is big into gamification.  So when Google offered him the chance to interview for an Associate Account Strategist position, he decided to make the process more fun.

He motivated himself to study for his interview by using a combination of milestones and rewards. He threw in time tracking, streak bonuses (i.e. studying for ten days straight unlocks a shopping spree), a progress bar, and variable rewards, which included Sencha shots and energy drinks.

He explains each motivational method on his blog, Living for Improvement:

Milestones and reward combination: Guerrera set up a few studying milestones at the 1 hour, 5 hour, 10 hour and 16 hour marks. Upon hitting each milestone, Guerrera rewarded himself with a pre-planned prize. After the first hour, for example, he was allowed two Rockstar energy drinks. After ten hours, he unlocked a $200 shopping spree. The rewards were realistic; he happily gave them to himself as he reached each goal.

Tracking: Guerrera tracked his daily studying time with a stopwatch on his web browser. He jotted down the results on post-its so he could reward himself for total hours studied and streaks. For example, if he studied for ten days straight, he allowed himself to buy a ThinkGeek item, worth up to $100.

Variable rewards: Some of his rewards were based on chance; they weren't outcomes he could control. For instance, every hour he studied, Guerrera would flip a coin twice. If it landed on heads both times, he'd be allowed an energy drink.

Progress bar: As he grew weary, Guerrera pushed himself to continue by implementing a progress bar, like the ones LinkedIn uses on profile pages to encourage users to upload more items. His progress bar was completed after 16 hours of studying.

A workaround: When he was too tired to study new information, Guerrera came up with a method he dubbed, "low energy progress enabling." In other words, he came up with a satisfactory way to study without actively learning new material. He'd record himself reciting answers to hypothetical Google interview questions, then listen to it when he was on the go. The time spent listening to his recorded answers counted towards his total study time.

Here are the gamiifcation sticky notes Guerrera created to track his progress (click to enlarge):

Jon Guerrera post its

Gamifying interview prep time sounds intense, but for Guerrera, it paid off. He landed the job at Google.

"I arrived at the interview nervous as hell, but I was incredibly well prepared," says Guerrera. "And I never would’ve been so thoroughly prepared without the system I’ve described above – every spare moment of my days leading up to the interview were filled with preparation and practice, which paid off in spades. Eight weeks later, I’m sitting in my San Francisco apartment, currently employed by my dream company. I’m so glad I was able to use gamification to help me capitalize on this once in a lifetime opportunity that presented itself to me."

Now check out what happens when you don't prep for a Google interview enough: My Nightmare Interviews with Google. Then read: This is the Application that Got me a Job Interview with Google >

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