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Books and Games and Knowledge management02 Sep 2010 at 13:22 by Jean-Marc Liotier

I stumbled upon an article published last June by Knowledge@Wharton mentioning “The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion” by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown, Lang Davison. Somehow I had missed this book that offers intriguing alternatives to organizations mired in their own structures. To learn about it you can read this critique by The Economist,  that happen to be titled “In Search of Serendipity” – on a side note, I’m happy that this word that I discovered in 1997 has been enjoying increasing popularity since the beginning of this millennium.

I can’t stand playing a MMORPG for even fifteen minutes (I prefer tactical, operational or strategical games – preferably with a pseudo-realistic environment), but I watched my people play and I agree about Hagel & al’s the mob collaborative dynamics that happen there :

Guild leaders in World of Warcraft “require a high degree of influence,” noted Hagel [..]. “You have to be able to influence and persuade people — not order them to do things. Ordering people in most of these guilds doesn’t get you far.”

In addition to the leadership qualities involved with becoming the head of a guild and assembling a problem-solving team from previously independent players, World of Warcraft enthusiasts, as noted by Hagel, conduct extensive after-action reviews of their performances as well as that of the leader. In addition, he said that game players typically customize their own dashboards to offer statistics and rate performance in areas they consider critical to their strategy.

This parallel between gaming and management is interesting – but Hagel & al. are not the first to notice it. In 2008, in “Collective solitude and social networks in World of Warcraft” my fellow ESSCA alumni and friend Nicolas Ducheneaut remarked :

We show that these social networks are often sparse and that most players spend time in the game experiencing a form of “collective solitude”: they play surrounded by, but not necessarily with, other players. We also show that the most successful player groups are analogous to the organic, team-based forms of organization that are prevalent in today’s workplace. Based on these findings, we discuss the relationship between online social networks and “real world” behavior in organizations in more depth.

“Prevalent in today’s workplace” ? From my big company point of view, I find that statement more than slightly optimistic – though not surprising considering how Nicolas enthusiastically embraces the future. But that is definitely the direction that we are going in. Expect even more of it as Generation Y enters the workforce. Until then, there is still a lot of evangelism to do…

Games and Politics27 Mar 2010 at 17:12 by Jean-Marc Liotier

« Aliens from the communist planet of Rooskee are invading peaceful, democratic planets and turning their inhabitants into “Communist Mutants”. The communist mutant armies are controlled by the Mother Creature, a strange alien who has gone mad due to irradiated vodka. »

Is this real ? Is this really the synopsis for a 1982 computer game ? Wikipedia and various other sources agree that Communist Mutants from Space really did exist. I did not have the privilege of playing it on my Atari 2600 at the time – and somehow I’m glad that the Cold War propaganda we were exposed to did not go to such baroque lengths…

Games and Politics03 May 2007 at 16:05 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Eleven years ago, my posse of fellow computer geeks and myself created a .wad file modeling our business school in Angers, France so that we could play Doom in that familiar environment, frag each other with automatic weapons, slaughter the occasional teacher caricatured as a monster and catch hapless hostages in the crossfire.

I handled the 3D modeling, Erik and Nicolas chose the graphics and made some custom ones to supplement Doom’s standard issue gore fest, Benoît created custom sounds and Aymeric graced the level with an adequately creepy MIDI soundtrack of his creation. None of us has been expelled and we all live happy and prosperous lives.

To help me produce the 3D model, school personnel enthusiastically provided me with the blueprints for the school building – nowadays in the USA those guys would be fired for breach of security.

And we later even convinced the school to host a 200 player tournament – 100 teams of two competing two against two on two networks of four computer provided by the school in a room given to us for the duration of the event. The final rounds took place in our custom level and I recall passionate players and captivated spectators including professors.

That was in 1996. We had a great time both designing the level and organizing the tournament. And no one would ever have imagined that games would one day become a social issue worth suspending a student over mere suspicions.

Nowadays, when a student creates Counter-Strike map of school he gets kicked out :

“In the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre, schools around the country are on high alert for any suspicious activity on the part of their students. The problem comes when this heightened sense of fear leads to stories like the case of a Texas teenager who was suspended from his high school and moved into an alternative school. The reason? He played Counter-Strike on his home computer, on a level that was designed to look like his high school. [..]”

In a few years time in schoolyards, kids will not play “police and thieves” anymore for even in kindergarten they will be aware that playing the thieve’s side is a potential carreer liability…

Games and Military27 Jun 2006 at 2:18 by Jean-Marc Liotier

I bought Harpoon 3 Advanced Naval Warfare yesterday and of course I could not resist the urge to play it immediatly. I selected a scenario at random and ended up in “Three young tigers” commanding some Philippino/Malay/American coalition going up against the PLAN in the usual disagreement over the Spratlys.

Installation was fast and trivial but my immediate impression was one of disappointement. The graphical interface is still its more than a decade old Harpoon II self with its windowing system independant from Windows own and limited to a window (no full screen) with a maximum size of 1280×1024 pixels. As promised it is rock stable – no crash, no glitch and no problems whatsoever switching between H3ANW and other applications. But I expected some ergonomics improvements and there are none. Interaction with the game is still as clunky as ever and the concept of contextual menu and drag’n’drop are still unknown in the Harpoon world.

On top of all that, even on an Athlon 2400, H3ANW is still the CPU hog that Harpoon has always been – I pegged CPU usage to 100% during the whole game. And I do not yet understand what the increased CPU usage brings : I have not found the AI to have improved measurably.

So to me, H3ANW is a stable bug-free Harpoon II with multiplayer capability. Not bad if only for the sheer nostalgia value. I do not regret my purchase and I will surely find much pleasure in toying with imaginary haze gray heavy metal, especially if I can find a like-minded friend to play with. But I do not believe that H3ANW will appeal to anyone outside of a small circle of old Harpoon players and hard-core naval warfare afficionados. That traditionnal audience will find just what it needed, but the casual gamers who overcame the initial hurdle of getting interested to a realistic simulation with historic context and getting used to the NTDS symbols will certainly be horrified by the woeful ergonomics.

Games and Military22 Jun 2006 at 12:19 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Ever since I started playing Harpoon II eleven years ago I longed for human opponents. Multiplayer developments of Harpoon have long been promised but various projects encountered endless corporate obstacles and left the fans frustrated. But today the wait has ended : Harpoon 3 Advanced Naval Warfare has been released with multiplayer support. As Harpoon is by very far the best commercially available naval combat simulator, the perspective of playing against my fellow humans fills me with joy. Now I have to convince some of them to join me… Meanwhile you can read a good article about H3ANW by Armchair General (from which the following screenshot has been taken) with enough background information to put you up to speed with what to expect from Harpoon.

Games28 Feb 2006 at 16:28 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Total Annihilation introduced unparalleled innovation and ambition for its time. I consider it the greatest real-time strategy game I ever played – and I played many. Its legacy still endures ten years later through a robust community of gamers and modders : ever since the demise of the company that created it, Total Annihilation has been enhanced, extended and corrected by its users. My favorite modification is Uberhack : in my opinion Uberhack is the most robust, most complete and best balanced incarnation of the game.

Total Annihilation have kept alive the dream of a game deep enough for hardcore gamers while retaining a strong appeal to the casual crowd. It seems that this baby is in the process of being developped by Gas Powered Games and expected for 2007. It is named Supreme Commander.

Gamespy has a few articles, interviews and screenshots about SupCom. It is a good place to get yourself acquainted to the beast. The Supreme Commander official forums have a nice sticky thread gathering the known public facts. Once you have read all that you can come and join us at the Supreme Commander official forums : 20k posts in six months for a strategy game that will not be out for at least eighteen months is very impressive. If the product holds up to its promises it will surely have a massively commited community of gamers and modders behind it.

My bet is that it is going to be even better than all that it is hyped to be. See you in 18 months !