Tuesday, August 12, 2008

You Don't Know Jack - Interactive Conversations

Y'all are aware that free Flash-based episodes of You Don't Know Jack have been regularly released online since 2006, right?

I'm talking about the best interactive quiz game ever created, and I was sadly ignorant of its revival myself until someone on my RSS feed drew it to my attention. If you've never experienced the magic you should absolutely go get yourself some Jack RIGHT NOW.

Seriously, I'll wait.

The thing that's always made YDKJ work so well is the presenter. The games unfailingly deliver the sense that the presenter is speaking directly to you, the player.

That's no accident. YDKJ creators Jellyvision know what they're doing. Interactive conversations are their niche, and in addition to pimping Jack they're also busy producing all manner of neat widgets for business. You should try some of them out - I'm not the least bit interested in architectural design software but Jellyvision's applet delivers a significantly more entertaining conversation on the subject than I'd expect from your average human.

Where I'm leading with all of this is that this is first-class game design theory. They've boiled their genius down into some easy-to-understand maxims that they like to call "The Jack Principles", which they've placed online for the unfortunately-named Joe Public to read at his leisure.

It's so refreshing to see game designers who actually understand why what they're doing is working. Big round of applause, everybody.

And then go play some Jack.


Duncan said...

I've been saying this for Years! For some reason Jellyvision are the only ones who ever figured out how to make the interactive conversation work.

Aspiring game designers should be taught the Jack Principles right alongside "Theory of Fun".

Even non-game designers need to learn these. One of the most impressive demos was a mock-conversation with a catalog phone order service. It was all audio, and sounded impressive. Automated phone services would be 1,000,000 times better if more people understood the Jack Principles and applied them.

GregT said...

Ah hah! Duncan, I'm pretty sure that you're the "someone in my RSS feed" I was talking about in the post; just couldn't remember who'd been pimping it at me.

Koster's Theory of Fun is definitely Game Design 101, but in the sense that you have to learn the easy lies before you learn the hard truths. A lot of what's in there doesn't look as sharp today as it did when he originally put it forwards.

Duncan said...

I'd argue that the Jack Principles are an easy lie too. The lie is that not everyone can write dialog that sounds conversational. Fewer people can write it in the re-combine-able chunks needed to make an interactive conversation work. And then you need voice actors who can make the script-bits come to life and seem like a whole. There is more to the implementation than the surface reveals.

But if you taught it early, you'd be able to ingrain in designers the need for good writers, good voice actors, and unified story/dialog/design.

Anonymous said...

These saga continues...