Oskar On Assignment: Make It Rain Is No Cookie Clicker

Make It Rain: For The Love of Money was #1 in the iOS app store a month after it was released. This is astonishing to me. The game is essentially Cookie Clicker with in-app purchases, and with swiping instead of clicking. In both games the purpose is to accrue as much wealth as possible, using your money to buy items that make you either earn more money/cookies per click/swipe or per second. Unlike Cookie Clicker when you get far enough into the game the FBI indict you and can take up to half your fortune. The only way to get out of this is a bribe card, one of which you get for free and the rest cost real money. Also unlike Cookie Clicker which only earns cookies if you stay on the site Make It Rain has upgrades that earn cash with the app closed. This made the game almost instantly annoying because I foolishly allowed notifications when I first installed it. Every 10-15 minutes afterward I would get a phone pop-up telling me to collect money that was passively filling up my “bucket,” which in theory would act as incentive to bring the player back to the game, but for me did the exact opposite. I deleted the app after about an hour of playing it.

Cookie Clicker was fun at first because I had never played a game so obviously unchanging and static. The gameplay never evolves and it is completely un skill-based, and for a while I amused myself with amassing a giant army of grandmas with rolling pins for no reason other than to say I had. But after a week or so the game became like a chore and I never went back. With Make It Rain I knew what I was in for and while the design was good, it felt like a dumbed down version of Cookie Clicker with notifications that felt spam-like and ads abound. The pay-to-win game model with bribe cards you waste real money on felt ironic and fitting as the game is all about carelessly throwing money into the air.

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OSKAR ON ASSIGNMENT: What Makes a Great Game (about Games)?

In Game Dev Story the player takes control of a start-up video game company tasked with creating bestselling hits. Originally released for the PC in 1996, the game was ported to iOS and Android in late 2010. It is a semi-realistic look at the industry with tons of pop culture references and addictive gameplay, but what makes a great game in Game Dev Story and does Kairosoft follow their own formula in creating the perfect game?

When you start to develop a game in Game Dev Story you are able to choose a platform, genre, type of game, and a direction to take the development in. As the game progresses new platforms will be released, each of which give different shares of the profits of your game, and have differing numbers of units which affect how many people will buy your game.

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New genres are unlocked when you level up employees or unlock new careers, and new types are unlocked when you use a specific training method like meditation or going for a stroll to level up an employee. The right combination of genre and type will yield games ranging on a success level from Not Good to Amazing, ratings which greatly affect sales. From this list of Amazing combinations we can begin to see Kairosoft’s bias show through: the three genres with the most possible Amazing combinations are Simulation, Online Sim, and Life. Interestingly sim RPG games, educational games, and card games all cannot be Amazing combos with any game type. Games like Blizzard’s online TCG Hearthstone are proof that the last genre at least is capable of being a popular game, in this case combined with the fantasy game type.

Screenshot 2014-05-28 12.59.01The final step is choosing a direction before development begins. You can choose to have no focus, emphasize speed, quality, focus on Research Data to train your staff, or choose budget which makes the game cost twice as much but serves as a hybrid of the speed and quality directions. From there the direction gets more specific and you are able to put direction points into eight categories: cuteness, approachability, simplicity, game world, realism, niche appeal, innovation, and polish. Once you have finished with the game’s direction the development begins with writing a proposal. The four stages of game development are as follows: writing, art, music, and debugging. At each of these stages you choose one employee to take charge and use their stats to buff the parameters of the game.

The parameters that make up a game are Fun, Creativity, Graphics, Sound, and Bugs. Each have opportunities to be boosted at each stage of development, while bugs accumulate throughout the process of creating the game and are turned into Research Data at the debugging stage.

Screenshot 2014-05-28 12.59.08Debugging can be skipped, but this is never a good idea unless the game time is almost the holiday season, the best time to release a game. The higher you can get the parameters the more successful your game will be, although success also depends on the money you spend on advertising for the game, how many fans your company has, if your game wins at the annual Global Game Awards, and even how many copies you sell in the first week. Once the game reaches the 21st year your score cannot be increased and the game is technically over. You can start over from the beginning with benefits that carry over from your last company, and the cycle begins again.

Is Game Dev Story a good game by it’s own standards? It is a creative take on the sim genre and rather tongue in cheek, but the graphics are overly simple and the gameplay got too repetitive and easy after a while. Game Dev Story is approachable but deceptively complex, and as the first sim game I played it was a great introduction to the genre.

Eventually the gameplay became bogged down as my employees got more and more powerful, to the point where making winning games was too easy and I lost interest. I was addicted for a while because GDS is the same task over and over with the reward increasing almost exponentially. It has cuteness and niche appeal, both of which are in-game factors of success and could explain Kairosoft’s huge popularity in Japan. Since 2010 the company has made numerous sequels with only minor changes to setting and gameplay with titles like Pocket Academy, Grand Prix Story, and Hot Springs Story. This follows their recipe for success in-game because when you make many games of the same type and genre your company levels up the combo and making them is easier and more profitable. I should pick up one of Kairosoft’s later Story games and see if they have perfected their craft much as your company can in Game Dev Story.

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Narrative Clips

We received the Narrative Clip last Monday and we’re posting images to our Flickr account.

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The K5M 25-Share Bracket Challenge

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As many shareholders know we love betting, and there is no greater gambling event in America than March Madness. So, in the spirit of Warren Buffett, who is sponsoring a billion dollar prize for a perfect bracket, we’re launching our own tournament for the shareholders.

The K5M 25 Share Bracket Challenge

We are offering a prize of 25 shares to whoever wins the K5M 25 Share Bracket Challenge. Additionally we will give one share to any bracket that beats our own best bracket!

We’ll be using the Yahoo! Fantasy Sports system with Fibonacci scoring. Everyone can set up two brackets, allowing for both an aggressive and conservative attempt. Each bracket that beats our best bracket will be awarded a share (so it’s possible to win two shares) with the exception of the winning bracket, which will receive a 25 share prize.

Sign Up Here

You will not automatically be entered into Warren Buffett’s Billion Bracket game, but you should also sign up for that in case your bracket is perfect. Just think of all the shares you could buy…

More information on the Shareholder Forums.

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Oskar On Assignment: Central Bank Video Games

Euro Cash Academy

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This game has the music you would hear in a Safeway commercial. I am happy that someone was paid to make these illustrations, but the animation of the the Europa character’s mouth moving was just creepy because it didn’t match the words she was speaking. Kind of an uncanny valley-type creepy. The game starts off forcing you to watch a boringly shot video and then quizzing you on the new Euro banknotes.

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Then you are able to learn more about the features of the note by twirling around in a panorama of a European town, finding informational pop-ups sort of like a drab advent calendar with no yummy chocolates. The music also became aggressively cheery and after about a minute of listening to the 16-bar loop I quickly closed the window. I felt sad that I wasn’t able to play their much cooler looking Tetris game but they appear to have taken it down.

Escape From Barter Islands

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A very simple puzzle game where you are marooned in an archipelago and need to trade oranges for a sail to escape. The first two islands you go to have barter economies which makes the game somewhat challenging. Much like a maze you have to find what sequence of trades will get you to the next island, all before the sun goes down. I liked that the sun actually progressed across the sky as you traded on each island rather than a simple countdown, but the art style was definitely not my favorite.

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On the third island they trade everything for coconuts, which makes trading for your sail as easy as two trades. The lesson here being that currency helps expedite the process of fixing merchant ships and other transactions besides. An easy game, a simple message.

€conomia

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The first thing that impressed me about this game was the music, unlike the Cash Academy it was actually listenable! The point of this game is something like a soccer management game (which I’ve never understood the appeal for) except you play as a central bank; changing the key interest rate to try and keep inflation down and at a steady 2%. You can check in with advisors, most of whom are hilarious looking, look at indicators, or read fake news headlines to help plan your next move.

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The animations were clean and the interface could have used only minor improvements, but what I was impressed by was the leaderboards which actually gave the player an incentive to win the game. I played this multiple times to try and win, and learned not only about the key interest rate but that I would make a lousy head of a central bank.

Fed Chairman Game

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This was a lousier version of it’s Europian counterpart, €conomia. I’d be interested to learn which game came out first because of how similar they are, down to the newspaper headlines idea. It had no music except for a few jarring sound effects, it’s interface and font were pretty run of the mill, and I think it used Microsoft Word clip art for the intro picture. I was severely unimpressed.

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Top Floor

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Another quiz game from the European Central Bank, same as €conomia, and Euro Cash Academy. The animations were incredibly slick, but there’s no real way to get me excited for what is basically a glorified SAT-style test on the European banking industry.

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I was immediately disappointed that due to an issue with the browser or the coding of the game it wouldn’t properly fit in my window, I learned later that my mission was to deliver important documents to the council of the bank and on the elevator ride answer questions Cash Cab-style to earn the papers for my bosses. The intro music was very repetitive but still better than the uninspired muzak of the Cash Academy, and the people that kept rushing into my elevator were as vaguely hilarious as the characters in €conomia. Again the top scores were recorded which makes the player have a reason for answering quickly instead of relying on the lifeline telephone for the answers.

Monetary Policy Balloon

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Honestly I was surprised that a game with this little effort put into it would be the most entertaining to play. Like €conomia and the excitingly named Fed Chairman Game, Balloon serves to teach the player that the interest rate and inflation are inversely related. And it does so pretty quickly when you realize to make the balloon (inflation) go up you use the down arrow.

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Now, this game is not without it’s flaws. Firstly, the design is utterly abysmal, the font is Comic San’s utilitarian half-brother. Taking a page out of Escape From Barter Islands’ book they used simplistic art style to make it look bright and fun, which unfortunately made it look slapdash and uninspired. Lastly, the narration made me feel sorry for the English dude forced to read that script on a soundstage somewhere, their plan was to use rainclouds and factories as metaphors for economic crises and booms respectively, but the guy sounded so dreary I played the next few games with the sound off. It could have had some music, but seeing their font choice I shudder to think what they would have used.

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