Monday, August 31, 2009

facial recognition

As I'm reading IGN's interview with Peter Molyneux, I think about pets. No, not because Fable 2 has a dog. Pets come to mind because they demonstrate how personal something can be without verbal communication.

All a dog needs from you to respond accordingly is your face. Project Natal currently includes accurate enough facial recognition to distinguish one player from another, but I doubt it can detect all the subtle signs of emotion in a human face.

If a game publisher can create a camera system with that kind of accuracy at an affordable price, the sympathetic connection between players and game characters will be able to strengthen exponentially.

Friday, August 28, 2009


I somehow managed to pull off a 40-hit combo the other day in Batman: Arkham Asylum. It was glorious! It was also easy... in comparison to the combo systems of other games.

I'm usually not a fan of combo systems. That's because I have to remember well over a dozen button combinations... XXY, XXXA, X+Y then A while rolling the thumbstick from down to forward, etc.

In Arkham, one can pull off a fun and impressive combo with nothing more than well-timed presses of X and Y. If an enemy has a knife, you'll need B. If an enemy has shock baton, you'll need to double-tap A. With two-to- four buttons, I can put Jet Li to shame.

There are a few other commands that can be given: A+X to throw, Y+B to cripple, LT for a batarang. But they're unnecessary, and combat is a blast without them.

Arkham achieves this through context-sensitivity. One button activates one of dozen animations depending on how the player-character is oriented in relation to enemies and timing. Even the special moves, like throw and cripple, vary in effect or animation.

I guess, if I see a lesson in Arkham Asylum's combat system, it's this: the dynamics of combat don't all have to be controlled by the player. You don't want to cut the player out entirely or fake participation. But complex combat systems don't have to mean complex controls or instructions.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

racer RPG

In this interview about Borderlands, Randy Pitchford talks about the importance of the "feedback loop" in games like Diablo 2. He muses that the game was so enjoyable largely "because of the compelling, compulsive feedback loop of growing my character and becoming a bad ass".

More and more, shooter gameplay is being mixed with RPG-style character progression and customization. Borderlands, Mass Effect 2, Alpha Protocol, The Agency and many others have done this in their own ways.

How might racing and RPG gameplay be mixed?

There are already similarities. Vehicle customization is like gear customization in that the player operates most vehicles in basically the same way while vehicle stats (grip, acceleration, speed, etc) affect style and performance. There's also progression in that the player acquires new vehicles and options for those vehicles.

But some of those similarities are only skin-deep. Customizations cannot be carried from car to car. The same may be said of items in RPGs, but new gear is acquired much more frequently in RPGs. Customizations are more personal in RPGs. Almost every car can be customized in the same ways, and most of those are purely graded (worse to better): exhaust, tires, engine, etc.

Anyway, here are some ideas of how I might design a racer-RPG hybrid.

Create a growth experience with only one or a few cars, instead of encouraging the player to swap out cars or buy new ones. Imagine selecting your vehicle at the beginning of the game and experiencing a whole adventure with just that vehicle. The car is like a companion. It's adorned inside and out with reminders of events. It might even bear scars (until repaired). As the driver improves, it is improved. The player's character talks to the car while driving.

Competitors are not faceless. They are seen. They are heard. And they, too, stick to one vehicle each... vehicles with their own reminders.

Realism isn't ignored entirely, but it takes a back seat to making customization truly personal. If five players all choose to play through the game in Car A, they're customization choices should be different. This personalization of vehicles is in addition to the dynamically-achieved trophies and other reminders of experiences acquired during each player's unique adventure.

The game isn't just racing. Like in an RPG, there are a variety of activities, and not all are sought by the player. For example, the player might be casually driving down a highway or through a city when one or more vehicles start to chase, perhaps even try to ram him off the road. Events like these would be dynamic and not strictly scripted. So what vehicles the player is being chased by might vary, as would where the player happens to be when the chase begins and how the chase ends (perhaps the player or enemy is run off the road, involved in a traffic accident, or police get involved).

What I'm basically proposing is a vehicle-based adventure as opposed to typical driving games.

P.S. Yes, there's more than one pun in this article. And, no, they were not intentional. =P

Also, two games to keep an eye on for how they might mix driving with RPG elements are Rage and Borderlands.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

context-sensitive + co-op

Whoever combines the sort of dynamic and context-sensitive combat of Batman: Arkham Asylum with co-op in a quality game will make a lot of money.

Need I say more?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

avoiding multiplayer maps

I've played both Frontlines and Modern Warfare on my 360 this past week, and the differences between them are staggering. Each game has advantages over the other. Many of the differences are of style, rather than quality.

One key difference is serving hosting. In Modern Warfare, players host the games, so games are often interrupted or ended before they even really begin. It's very annoying, but that's not what I want to talk about. What quickly becomes clear is that hosts often end a game short because they do not like a particular map. In any competitive multiplayer game that moves automatically from one map to another, players complain about maps. But that people cut games short, knowing they'll get an earful from those their playing with, shows just how much a map can be disliked. That begs the question:

Is it not possible to give players complete freedom in which maps they play?

Of course, a player can simply leave a current host when a bad map comes up, but he'll have to leave again with whatever host he finds next. It's annoying. That would also mean abandoning the fellow players who he has hopefully been building a rapport or rivalry with (a skilled enemy player can be similar to a "hero" or "boss" enemy in single-player gameplay). The ideal would be to enable a player to have an unbroken play-session without any content that player dislikes.

With a game as popular as Modern Warfare, the solution seems simple. Allow hosts to customize a map series by simply selecting checkboxes, then allow other players to see that customized list before joining. With eight or ten maps, there are many possible combinations... and that significantly divides the player population. But with a player population of over a hundred thousand at any given time and fewer than twenty players per map, I doubt it's a problem even with matchmaking dividing players further. That's something Infinity Ward should consider for MW2.

But most games don't have such massive player populations. Even MW will get old and its populations will dwindle. So what's a solution for them?

Monday, August 24, 2009

strategic audio

I played some Frontlines multiplayer the other day with some fellow CoWs. Somehow, Oak managed to sneak up on Scott with a tank. Yeah, let that sink in a moment.

He was probably able to do so for one of three reasons: (1) Scott was daydreaming, (2) Scott was so focused on something that all else fell out of focus, or (3) the sound of the tank was masked by other sounds.

It's the third possibility that I think designers should think hard about, because it's a trick rarely used. Sound doesn't have to be a subconscious element in combat. It can be a factor in difficulty... something the player must rely on or distrust.

For example, there's such thing as audio camouflage - intentionally mimicking a sound to create a mistaken impression. It can be used to hide dangers or to make the harmless unnerving. It's a power that can be limited to AI and environments or offered to the player as an active skill.

Noise can be distracting and disorienting. I don't recommend setting an entire game level around loud machinery, but the sort of constant noise you hear next to planes or jets can hide enemies.

The cocking of a gun can warn players that something bad is about to happen... or tip off enemies. Imagine sneaking up behind an enemy and cocking your shotgun just so you could see the enemy jump with surprise and scramble for safety.

My point is sound has a lot of strategic potential in games that rarely gets used.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

birthdays and games

Today, my family celebrates a birthday.

Every year, each person is celebrated on their own day. On that day, the person is treated a little nicer by everyone. There might be gifts, a feast or a party. Visitors might gather from all around, including distant places. And there are likely to be stories shared about the celebrated person and birthdays past.

Birthdays could be excellent inspiration for game features, particularly in MMOs and other online multiplayer games. Each individual player has their own day, and on that day the player is given more than a congratulatory message.

In an item-centric game, perhaps the player can pull something from a grabbag or select from a variety of free items.

Or the player might be granted one day's access to a special play-scenario (the access could be saved for another day).

Or the player's stats might be boosted for a day. Experience points might be earned quicker, health/mana/etc refreshed quicker.

There are a thousand possibilities. The gist is that every player will have one day during which they will be appreciated as an individual and reminded that he or she is important. If you can get fellow players involved, great, but the feature should be able to stand on its own. No matter what schedules are like, no matter where everyone is in the game or what they have at their disposal, the celebrated player will experience a special and memorable day.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

consoles as PC support

I might be mistaken, but I bet a console could be designed so that it could be hooked up to a PC via USB (or something similar) so that the console could augment the PC's processor and RAM.

My computer is over six years old. At this point, it cannot play many games at decent graphic levels and performance. But if it could offload some of its needs to my Xbox 360, then I could probably play almost any game.

I hope something like this is included in the design of next generation consoles.

Monday, August 17, 2009

purchases and drops

I've been playing Mass Effect again, after re-buying it through Games on Demand (partially to test the service), and I noticed something common in games that annoys me. I can purchase items, but the same items are commonly dropped as loot. Half the time I buy something, I find that same item not long after. In effect, I'm paying for early access, rather than actual ownership.

Should loot and purchasable items be the same? It's a question often asked in regard to MMOs, but it should be considered for other games as well. Actually, the MMO question is usually "Which should be better?", a follow-up to the one I pose.

How might a player act if he knows purchasable items appear as drops, too?

On the one hand, the player might hoard his money, as I do. He might ignore the stores almost entirely until he can afford those few epic store items that don't drop. In this case, the store is almost pointless to include (assuming the game doesn't allow the player to lose items by death or failure).

On the other hand, the player might spend freely. Now, the store is fun, but the loot loses its value since the player usually has what he wants already when something drops. Or the player is disappointed whenever he finds he has "wasted" money on something that drops shortly after.

It makes sense to me to make purchasable items and looted items different, because they seem to interfere with each other otherwise.

One way to do this is to divide sale items and loot categorically (ex: armor is looted, but armor augments and customizations must be purchased). But I'm sure there are many possible avenues.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


If there's one feature of Spore that should be adapted to many other games, it's the creature history timeline. A visual history with snapshots of memorable and personal moments in a player's game experience offers far more than a simple achievements system.

A cornerstone of good storytelling is reflection -- showing how past events are relevant to the present. Providing the player with tools for reflecting on their game experiences encourages them to view those experiences as parts of one story (his or her own), rather than random and forgettable events.

Seen as part of one's story, an event takes on personal relevance. The emotional connection is deepened, and the game becomes more important to the player.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

fun and simulation

This article by Ysharros got me thinking. Sometimes it's difficult to find the right balance between fun and simulation in an RPG, where both are at play.

Case in point: crafting.

Should being a beginner/apprentice and learning the basics of the trade be more difficult than being a master? or vis versa?

Yes, masters do crazy-hard stuff, but they’ve also naturalized most habits and strategies. Masters are more likely than beginners to feel flow. Beginners have to think about what they’re doing, rather than what they’re making. In general, masters of any craft think less about technique than about the product ideal they're pursuing.

Thus, as a simulation, the beginning levels of crafting should be harder. But, as a game, the early levels should be easier. Right?

How fun and simulation are balanced depends largely on the specific game's goals. I think it's worth resurrecting such basic questions during every design process, regardless of how many times you've considered and debated it before.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Xbox Live '09 update

I've been able to preview the XBL update for a week or two now. Here are my impressions.

Netflix has been significantly improved, particularly in regard to speed. The stream buffers and correct itself much faster than before. In fact, corrections (adjustments when connection speed slows) usually take no more than one second. You can now see a list of shows you've recently viewed, which makes it easy to jump back into a TV series you were watching or resume a movie you were forced to stop. You can also add shows to your queue from lists of new arrivals and genres, including some tailored to your viewing habits. Oh, and you can now allow or disallow your friends to see what you're watching, so they can choose to join you in viewing. Overall, I'm very pleased with the Netflix update.

The other big change is the addition of Games on Demand. IGN has a nice breakdown of which deals are good and which are not so good. Why anyone would pay $30 for Call of Duty 2, a great game but a largely outdated one that can be found much cheaper elsewhere, is beyond me. On the other hand, Mass Effect for $20 bucks is great. You can pay straight by credit card or by Microsoft Points. It has taken me about an hour-and-a-half to download 52% of the 6.83 Gigs Mass Effect file with a cable connection.

You can now rate games using a 5-star rating system in the Game Marketplace. This applies to both triple-A titles and small indie games. A very welcome addition.

The Avatar Marketplace has potential, but is hard for me to get excited about so far. There are some cool items available, but I dislike the idea of paying for any of it when similar works would be free on a PC service. That said... *sigh* I've already purchased a hat -- an Irish tam similar to the one I wear in real life, which makes my avatar look very much like me. Cool items range from pirate hats and a Big Daddy helmet to a guitar and lightsaber.

If I were you, I'd hold out until Avatar Awards goes live. There's already a place for Awards in the menu below Achievements. Presumably, that will entail similar goodies awarded for free while playing games. Why buy that guitar now when I'll likely be able to get one free later for playing Rock Band 2 or Brutal Legend? As long as Awards are indeed free, and not just unlocked Marketplace items, I'll be happy.

Game save files in your HDD memory are now time-stamped, making them easier to manage.

Those are what I consider to be the main changes. There are some other things -- like the number on your Profile which may or may not accurately reflect the number of years you've been an XBL Gold subsriber (mine is incorrect). Here's Microsoft's press release for the update.

Facebook, Twitter, and Zune Video are coming later in the year. I'm looking forward to the radio service.

What are your impressions of the update?

Monday, August 10, 2009

models 1

Here are some randomly selected innovations of recent years that I think have set great examples for other games. These games may not have pioneered the features I discuss, but they're certainly popular representations of those features.

This will be a series that I update with further articles from time to time.

The oldest innovation I'll mention is Halo's regenerating shield. Many shooter games now have regenerating health, and I think it's a great system. It doesn't just eliminate rationing and enable a wider range of tactics. It also allows players to take more risks, take combat to the edge more often. It offers the thrill of barely surviving and beating the enemy just a moment before your own defeat. Regenerating health isn't always the best health system, but I'd use it more often than not.

Strangely, regenerating health seems to be strongly associated with guns. It could fit a fantasy game like Oblivion or other adventure games just as well.

Two features in Assassin's Creed stand out. The key to both in context sensitivity.

The first is the climbing and acrobatics. The context-sensitive controls are incredibly simple. Assassin's Creed is one of the few blockbuster adventure games that is truly friendly to people who don't play games often... yet the simple controls are not "dumbed down" and are just as enjoyable for seasoned gamers. The animations are elegant and fluid. And the open setting offers many fresh and interesting structures to climb and cross.

The second feature is the combat. Assassin's Creed has the best swordplay of any game I've played, hands down. Once again -- elegant and interesting. The simple, context-sensitive controls offer a variety of options without demanding that the player remember lots of button combinations or hit some random button at some random time. The same moves that are used against one enemy can be used against simultaneous enemies, but the flow changes. Granted, combat didn't vary enough in the first game, though it seems they're fixing that in the sequel. Batman: Arkham Asylum makes use of a similar combat system, and it's just as gratifying.

One potential for future context sensitivity is to make environmental structures, objects, and conditions more relevant. A single combat animation doesn't have to bound to a single result. A particular move can be more effective on some enemies than on others. One knockback becomes effectively a different experiences from another when one sends the enemy slamming against a wall and the other sends the enemy over a ledge. And animations for events like flinging nearby objects (like in Sid Meier's Pirates! swordfighting) can be well worth the extra work.

Spore demonstrated potential for procedural generation, the creation of content by code on-the-fly. Similar systems appear in Diablo 2 and Borderlands. The basic goal is consistently fresh gameplay and endless discovery.

Obviously, fresh isn't always the same as exciting or even surprising. But the existence of less-than-thrilling content can be made fun by context. Just think of the natural world. Not every animal or plant grabs your attention, but the plentiful existence of mundane things like squirrels and common shrubs makes other things more remarkable. And even the mundane can surprise at times. Likewise, few would claim Diablo 2 would have been better if item diversity was exchanged for consistent quality. Spore is not made dull by milder and more predictable creations.

Much more could be done in applying this strategy to setting. It's one thing to replay the same setting under dynamic circumstances. It's quite different to journey through a new setting.

Also, I'd like to see procedural generation applied to NPCs. I'm not talking about dilaog, which requires hand-crafting. But loyalties, motivations, desires and other driving conditions of character could be generated on-the-fly for a world's characters and beasts... made unique for every player.

Friday, August 07, 2009

The Joker

I just want to repeat something I said on Twitter after playing the Batman: Arkham Asylum demo (awesome, by the way).

The Joker is one of the best villains of all time. He is the only villain I know that will choose fun over victory.

That's a trait worth copying.


What makes Mercenaries 2 awesome is that options are always present -- not just before a mission, not just out in the open world, but at any and all times. And what your best options are is always subjective. There are so many ways for an encounter to turn out. Options and dynamics are a powerful combination.

For example:

One common mission in the game is to "Verify" a person, which means to either capture that person or kill him and take a picture of the body. Once, I tried to sneak up and scout a camp with a sniper rifle before entering. But I was spotted! So I immediately rushed in with my assault rifle. If an enemy was close enough, I bashed him with the butt of my rifle.

Someone sounded the alarm, so now all the barracks are alerted and guys are shooting at me through windows with rocket launchers. Someone outside is shooting an RPG as well. I shoot him and rush over to replace my sniper rifle with his RPG (only a couple shots left). I kill some of the men in the barracks, but more show up at the windows. So I throw some C4 on a barracks, run away and hit the detonator. Boom! Now there's rubble of a building to hide behind as I regain a bit of health.

Meanwhile, more enemies are showing up in SUVs with mounted guns. Ouch! Those turrets hurt. Rather than blow them up with my grenades or C4, I strafe and shoot the men on the mounted guns to conserve my explosives. When a man on the turret goes down, the driver gets out, so I immediately rush over to bash him in the head. I exchanged my assault rifle for his LMG (light machine gun) -- shorter range, but tougher.

Someone's called for reinforcements. There was a warning that he was doing so, but I couldn't get to him in time to stop the transmission. Now there's an enemy helicopter shooting at me. I don't have an anti-air missile launcher with me. What I do have is a grappling hook. I duck behind a building and the chopper comes closer to get a better angle on me. Once it's close enough, I rush out from behind the structure, launch my hook, grapple up to the helicopter and pull the driver out. Now I'm flying around the camp. I pick off a couple soldiers with the machine gun, but a series of RPGs bring the chopper crashing to the ground. I survive.

It's time to lay down the hammer! I decided to call in my own support. I have a choice of vehicles, munitions or airstrikes to call in. I call for a tank... one of five tank models available to me, which I purchased with some of my money earlier. It's a light tank, but all I need to finish the job. A helicopter flies in as I shoot the RPG-bearing enemies who try to take it down. The tank drops, I hop in... and everybody dies. :)

I've thinned the resistance, so I make my way to the target. He's holed himself up in a bunker. I run inside and knock him down, then hit the Y button to subdue him (tie his hands behind his back). I still have to carry him to open ground where I can call an ally helicopter to extract him. There are still enemies around shooting at me. And again they call for reinforcements.

I get my man to some flat ground behind the bunker as enemies continue to shoot and call for extraction. A pirate chopper (my allies) land down and I throw the target in. The chopper immediately returns to the air. Normally, I just throw the target inside and fight my way out. This time, I jump in the chopper myself as it's already moving. Guns fire from below. Enemy helicopters patrol nearby. But we escape, and I get paid.

Most battles in Mercenaries 2 aren't this long (more than you'd expect, though). But I wanted to offer a sense of how many options and dynamics are at play at any given moment.

At any point in that battle, I could have called in an airstrike or airdrop -- tanks, helicopters, boats, laser-guided missiles, cluster bombs, anti-chopper or anti-tank fire, RPGs, C4, shotguns, sniper rifles, etc. At any point, I could kill an enemy and tank his weapon or hijack any vehicle. I could hide behind buildings or I could blow them up. I could call for first aid kits or take my chances. I could fight up close or from afar. I could enter in any direction and leave in any direction.

Meanwhile, I was surrounded by variables.

It's not rare for a game to have plenty of options. It is rare for a game to make so many significant options available constantly, including during scripted missions.

The Mercs 2 mission that begins with an oil rig is one of the best missions I've played in any game. Epic, exhilirating and full of freedom.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

vehicles as playgrounds

Combat involving vehicles doesn't have to mean the player is driving or controlling turrets. It can also mean players and enemies climbing around or on top of a vehicle, or fighting for control of the cabin/cockpit.

I thought of this in connection with The Saboteur, so let me just copy my post from those forums:
One of the influences for Sean Devlin is Indiana Jones, right? So how about some combat on and around vehicles, rather than in them.

In the first Indiana Jones movie, there's a scene where Indiana stole a German truck and Nazis are chasing him. Some Nazis are in the truck he stole, and they start to climb around the side of the truck and on top of it. Jones shakes some off, brushes some up against environmental objects, and fights someone battling for control of the vehicle inside the cabin.

In The Last Crusade, Jones is the guy on the outside. He rides up to a tank on a horse and jumps on the tank. At one point, he's squirming around as the driver is trying to crush him against the environment. He also makes it onto the top of the tank, where he battles many soldiers while the tank keeps moving. Earlier in the movie, Jones jumped from one speeding boat to another to battle in that.

John McClane, another influence for Devlin, did this as well. He fought on a plane wing while the plane was moving in Die Hard 2.

If it's not too late to add, this would be fun in The Saboteur. Perhaps only as one level, in which the game controls the vehicles while the player moves around and between them.

If, at least, enemies were able to jump on the side or back of a vehicle, then that would add a new layer of fun as players try to shake or squish the enemies. If the player could jump on a vehicle, then the enemies could try the same thing.

Anyway, the point is: if you're going to have vehicles in your game, consider that vehicles don't have to be objects in a playground -- they can be playgrounds themselves.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Netflix games

It seems likely to me that Netflix could efficiently rent out games via download on Xbox Live.

Whether or not they could stream games, ala OnLive, is debatable. But they could allow XBL users to temporarily download games as Microsoft does with movie rentals. Big downloads, for sure, but the Xbox 360 does allow things to be downloaded in the background or while the console is only partially powered up. And at least some games could be played once a portion of the game is downloaded, allowing gamers to play while downloading the rest, ala Microsoft's movie service.

I would pay an extra 10 bucks per month for that. Would you?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

the thrill of victory

Jason repeats a common criticism of MMOs post-Everquest. He thinks they need harsher penalties for failure in order to make victory feeling like a bigger accomplishment.

I would deepen the thrill of accomplishment another way. Instead of making penalties harsher -- and I've written before on that subject -- make challenges more difficult. And make some so difficult that those victories are not inevitable.

I'm not against player setbacks. In fact, I wrote another article about getting players to accept setbacks. Of particular importance is the section on power:

....The other ingredient, keeping the gameplay fun despite the loss, is more difficult, largely because of an inherent importance of optimization in current MMO models. In the player's eyes, it's not the character's circumstances which have been reduced; it's the character. If the player's character is merely a medium of power, then the loss of power is a loss of identity. The character is diminished, rather than the same character having to approach challenges in a different way.

Think about running out of ammo for your favorite gun in Halo, Goldeneye or some other first-person shooter. You probably cursed your luck and thought about how much more difficult the gameplay was going to be without that weapon. Maybe you were even asking yourself how long you'd have to fight with an inferior weapon before regaining your prized instrument of destruction. But you didn't turn off the console. Why? Because the weapon was just something your character was was not representative of your character. Bond loves his PP7, but he's still James Bond without it. The Master Chief is equally the Master Chief with an assault rifle, pistol or needler.

Whether or not the penalties for failure in combat should be more severe than merely respawning depends largely on other systems in a specific game, as demonstrated above. There are also many penalty systems, like this, which haven't been explored deeply.

In other words, the question "Should a game/MMO have penalties for failure beyond death?" is not a simple yes/no question. But, generally speaking, I still believe in two basic principles: (1) players should experience low moments as well as high moments; (2) the main penalty for failure should be a player's disappointment in him or her self, rather than a judgment made on the player by the game.

Monday, August 03, 2009

idols and memorabilia

You can tell a lot about a person or people by who their heroes are; by who and what they memorialize.

I stopped in a Taco Bell in Louisiana the other day, and a few Saints and LSU jerseys were framed on the wall. A local sports team's trophy sat on a shelf. That marks a culture that's long been free of war (at home) and other great struggles, allowing them to focus on entertainment.

In San Antonio, one restaurant has pictures of Pancho Villa and Santa Anna. The salute to old enemies of Texas is especially striking because nobody thinks much of it, marking a culture with strong ties to Mexico.

Another Texas town used to have a bar with a fantastically long rifle hung on the wall, and letters beneath it saying, "This here rifle once killed thirty mescans in one shot." It symbolized a people's pride in winning their independence in battle over a century ago, even though that independence had long since passed.

Some cities have statues of warriors. Others have statues of poets, philosophers, or politicians. Some choose to celebrate history over a thousand years old, while others focus on the recent.

Some persons hang pictures of relatives and ancestors. Some exhibit love for their parents or grandparents culture, rather than their own. Others fill their homes with glimpses of distant lands because they'd rather be anywhere than home.

More could be done in games to define settings and characters through objects.