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Reluctant Hero: Tech Demo

Rhautumn_lodgeReluctant Hero is the new computer role-playing game from 3D People and International Hobo. I'm pleased to announce we now have a tech demo for the game, and should hopefully be attracting a publisher for the project in the near future. I introduced the broad concept for this game in an earlier post.

Since the passage of time is an essential element of the gameplay, one of the features of the engine is that locations can be dynamically rendered in Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter. Pictured to the left is a long house in the Conclave of Taymuria in the Autumn. Buildings in the game can be purchased and then used for a variety of purposes - this cabin could be used as a Hunting Lodge, a Trading House or a Hideout, for instance.


To the right you can see a skirmish taking place in Winter. The player, dressed in Sura armour complete with a Boar Helm, has very nearly defeated a foolish Taymurian outlaw. The Sura totemise many animal species, and make armour in the form of those beasts believing that this will embue them with their essential traits. The boar symbolises stubborn victory.

The combat system for the game is quite different from a typical role-playing game, and I hope to discuss the intended mechanics in a future post. In brief, however, there is very limited ability to heal wounds while in the field - if you are injured, expect to spend a few months of your life recovering from your trauma. Consequently, players will need to develop a set of abilities which can protect them from damage for as long as possible.

Rhconversation Finally, to the left we see the player talking to a Taymurian Shaman in the Spring, while a mated pair of condors fly overhead.

The majority of the quest content of the game will be dynamically generated from an event system, reflecting changes in the world that will affect the player's life. Furthermore, almost everyone (and everything!) the player meets for whom they speak the appropriate language can be offered a job in a building they own - this shaman would probably not accept employment in the player's Brothel, but he might consider sharing a Sanctuary where he might impart his knowledge of the dreamworld.

There is a great deal more I'd like to say about the game mechanics, but until we have a deal with a publisher I shall have to bide my time. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these screenshots taken from the tech demo - personally, I can't wait to start work on this project and hope the publishers don't keep us waiting too long!

These images are copyright 3D People; permission may be required to reproduce them.

Introduction to Temperament Theory

This post contains brief exercises to enable you to make a start in exploring how the Temperament patterns relate to you. I therefore suggest you should have at least 15 minutes of spare time before working through it. 

7b Temperament theory is concerned with identifying patterns in human behaviour. In a certain sense, it is a scientific language game concerned with defining words that relate to psychological observations. It is a largely subjective endeavour, but then, so is most science. The capacity to engage in discussions on topics about which we previously had no descriptive words is the most valuable aspect of Temperament theory, and I heartily encourage everyone to learn the basic terms. It will not take long, and it will empower you to consider your behaviour and the actions of others from a completely different perspective.

This post is concerned with providing a basic introduction to Temperament theory, building up to an introduction to the four Temperament patterns themselves. We will follow its development from Jung, through Isabel Myers (of Myers-Briggs fame), to David Keirsey and finally to Linda Berens. As we go, we will begin to learn the language behind the theory. 

We will do this by identifying the three axes of distinction (that’s the plural of ‘axis’, by the way, not the name of a trio of mystical relics) that are currently used to underlie Temperament theory.

First Axis: Abstract versus Concrete (Language) 

Jung’s work from the early decades of the twentieth century is not popular in modern science for reasons beyond the scope of this post. However, essential to his work was a rejection of Freud’s approach of identifying a single factor behind all behaviour. Many of Freud’s opponents disagreed with Freud’s focus on lust as the single drive, but they still advanced very narrow, reductionist theories based on identifying single motivating factors alone. Jung took a different approach. He suggested that people were different from each other, and attempted to identify factors that constituted meaningful distinctions.

Jung’s distinctions were threefold: Introversion versus Extroversion, Thinking versus Feeling and Sensing versus Intuitive. It is this last distinction which constitutes the first axis of modern Temperament theory. I freely admit that Jung’s theories were incomplete and flawed – but it is ever thus in any nascent field, and this is no more a reason to dismiss Jung’s work than it is to avoid studying (say) Darwin’s or Newton’s theories. 

Rather than considering exactly what Jung meant by ‘Sensing’ and ‘Intuitive’ (which are terms familiar to anyone who has examined Myers-Briggs typology) we shall simply consider the particular aspect of these terms used in Temperament theory – namely the axis of distinction in language use: Abstract versus Concrete. (For reference, ‘Sensing’ correlates with ‘Concrete’ and ‘Intuitive’ correlates with ‘Abstract’).

Keirsey wrote: 

In his Abstract and Concrete Behaviour, Goldstein had some people talking more abstractly than concretely and others talking more concretely than abstractly. Similarly, in his Essay on Man Cassirer has some talking more analogically than indicatively, others talking more indicatively than analogically. In other words, some people are prone to send symbol messages, others send signal messages – signals pointing to something present to the eye, symbols bring to mind something absent from view. 

Berens wrote on Abstract language use:

If you are more abstract by nature, you will usually think and talk about concepts and patterns, referencing sensory details as needed. Implication, hypotheses, or symbolic meanings might occupy most of your free “thought time”. 

And on Concrete language use:

If you are more concrete by nature, you will more often think and talk about tangible realities backed up by sensory observation. Your free “thought time” is likely filled with reviewing events, facts, images, memories, and how things look, feel, taste and sound. 

Consider which of these descriptions fits you best. You might express both – this is perfectly normal – but try to distinguish for yourself which description is your best fit.

Read the descriptions again and take a moment to consider before continuing.  Write down your preference between Abstract and Concrete as we will use it later. 

Second Axis: Affiliative versus Pragmatic (Actions)

Following from Jung’s work, Katherine Briggs developed Jung’s work, along with her daughter Isabel Myers. In the 1940’s, Myers had taken over her mother’s work and this lead to the development of the instrument known as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (copyright disclaimer below). This resulted in an inventory of sixteen different personality patterns. 

David Keirsey, working between the 1950s and 1970s, identified common patterns between clusters of the types produced by the MBTI. (His first book on this subject was written with Marilyn Bates; I’m afraid I am uncertain as to her contribution to this work). Although these four clusters form the basis of modern Temperament theory, their definition is independent of the MBTI itself. However, anyone familiar with Myers-Briggs terminology can adapt this understanding to Temperament theory with comparative ease (see below).

Keirsey defined the four Temperaments in terms of two axes – the Abstract versus Concrete distinction we have already seen, and a second distinction reflecting different approaches to taking actions or using tools: Affiliative versus Pragmatic. (Keirsey actually uses the terms Co-operative and Utilitarian, but I have chosen to prefer the terminology of his student, Linda Beren’s, and I have substituted where appropriate). 

Keirsey writes:

[People expressing Affiliative] try to get where they want to go by getting along with others, that is, by being law-abiding and accommodating with those around them, so that they are in full accord with the agreed-upon rules and mores of the social groups they belong to. In contrast, [people expressing Pragmatic] tend to go after what they want in the most effective ways possible, and they choose tools that promise success with minimum cost and effort – whether or not they observe the social rules.

Not, mind you, that the habitually [Affiliative people] don’t care about useful and effective tools. Certainly they do, but they consider the effectiveness of tools as secondary to whether they should be used, or how they will be regarded by others – in other words, whether they are socially acceptable, or morally correct. In the same way, it is not that the habitually [Pragmatic people] refuse to cooperate with their social groups, but they see pleasing others and observing rules as secondary considerations, coming only after they have determined how well their chosen tools will work in accomplishing their ends. It’s a matter of priorities. Most of us learn to get along with others most of the time, and most of us opt for effective action, but our first instinct is to pursue our goals according to our habit of [preferring Affiliative or Pragmatic.]

Berens discusses the matter in terms of roles, rather than tool use, per se. On Affiliative roles she writes:

Affiliative roles require that people act in community, with a sense of what is good for the group. They may be people or task focussed. They may be practical or idealistic. No matter what, there is always some sense of cooperation. 

On Pragmatic roles she writes:

Pragmatic roles require that individuals act in accordance with what they see needs to be done to get the desired result. They, too, may be people or task focussed. They, too, may be practical or idealistic. When a decision needs to be made or an action needs to be taken, their first inclination is to act more independently regardless of norms or consensus. 

Do you recognise yourself in one of these descriptions more than the other? It’s quite possible to express both, but you should attempt to distinguish for yourself which is your best fit out of Affiliative or Pragmatic.

Read the descriptions again and take a moment to consider before continuing. Write down your preference between Affiliative and Pragmatic as we will use it later.

Third Axis: Structure versus Motive (Focus)

Since Temperament theory involves only four patterns, two axes are sufficient. However, working with only the first two axes caused Keirsey to erroneously assume that there were two pairs of Temperament patterns that were diametrically opposed, and that had nothing in common. Conversely, Berens identified a third axis which related these previously disparate Temperaments. 

The three axes therefore not only separate the four Temperament patterns, but also connect them – each single Temperament has one property in common with each other Temperament pattern. This interrelation does not undermine the orthogonally of the patterns, since each pattern has two distinguishing traits between each other pattern.

The final axis concerns where people focus their attention. On the one hand, people who focus on Motive are concerned with why people choose to act, or what they have to gain, while people who focus on Structure are more interested in rules and principles. 

Berens suggests that people whose preferred focus is based upon Structure wish to “have a measure of control over life’s problems and irregularities rather than be at the mercy of random forces.” She suggests that such people “ask or wonder about how things are organized or sequenced” and “notice and refer to methods and requirements or rules.” She suggests such people are “more comfortable when the order of things is clear” and “detect the details of the content of a communication [while potentially] missing the real purpose behind a behaviour.”

Conversely, people whose preferred focus is tied to Motive are more concerned with “why people do things.” She suggests such people “ask or wonder what is motivating someone” and “notice and refer to ‘what’s in it’ for the other person.” She also suggests that such people are “more comfortable when others’ motives are clear” and “detect the purpose behind a behaviour and missing pieces of the content of a communication.” 

Does one of these descriptions sound more like you than the other?

Read the previous two paragraphs again and take a moment to consider before continuing. Write down your preference between Structure and Motive as we will use it later.

The Four Temperaments 

At this point, we are ready to specify how the four Temperaments relate to the three axes of distinction discussed thus far. Detailed descriptions of each Temperament must wait for a future date – I will be writing about each in turn – but a brief description (taken from Berens) is provided here for context.

Remember that we all express all four Temperaments, but to differing degrees. Therefore, you should not be surprised if you recognise yourself in more than one Temperament pattern (although it would be surprising if you found yourself equally represented by all four patterns!) 

If you have made a note of your preferences with respect to the three axes, above, you should be able to home in on a ‘best fit’ pattern directly. It is possible that your expression of multiple Temperaments means that your axis patterns do not identify a single pattern – this is what happens to me when I try and use the axes in this manner. At the very least you will be able to eliminate your ‘worst fit’ pattern in this case.

Here’s the key: 

  • Concrete-Pragmatic-Motive – your best fit pattern is probably Artisan
  • Concrete-Affiliative-Structure – your best fit pattern is probably Guardian
  • Abstract-Pragmatic-Structure – your best fit pattern is probably Rational
  • Abstract-Affiliative-Motive – your best fit pattern is probably Idealist
  • Concrete-Pragmatic-Structure – your weakest pattern is probably Idealist
  • Concrete-Affiliative-Motive – your weakest pattern is probably Rational
  • Abstract-Pragmatic-Motive – your weakest pattern is probably Guardian
  • Abstract-Affiliative-Structure – your weakest pattern is probably Artisan

(Basically, if you do not match one of the ‘best fit’ patterns, invert each of the axes values to determine your weakest pattern instead). 

Adapting from Myers-Briggs Terms

If you are unfamiliar with Myers-Briggs terminology, skip this section. 

If you have already identified a Myers-Briggs type for yourself, you can use your personality code to suggest a best fit pattern and a secondary pattern or yourself as follows:

  • If your code includes SP, your best fit pattern is probably Artisan
  • If your code includes SJ, your best fit pattern is probably Guardian
  • If your code includes NT, your best fit pattern is probably Rational
  • If your code includes NF, your best fit pattern is probably Idealist

Remove the letters for your suggest best fit pattern (above) and the I or E at the start of your Myers-Briggs code and you will be left with a single letter. This may indicate a secondary pattern for you: 

  • If you are left with P, your secondary pattern is probably Artisan
  • If you are left with J, your secondary pattern is probably Guardian
  • If you are left with T, your secondary pattern is probably Rational
  • If you are left with F, your secondary pattern is probably Idealist

Armed with some indication of your Temperament preferences, we are ready to examine the four Temperaments briefly. 

The Artisan Temperament (Concrete-Pragmatic-Motive)

People preferring Artisan… 

Want the freedom to choose the next action. Seek to have impact, to get results…. Are absorbed in the action of the moment. Are oriented toward the present. Seek adventure and stimulation. Hunger for spontaneity. Trust impulses, luck, and their ability to solve any problem they run into… Are gifted tacticians, deciding the best move to make in the moment, the expedient action to take. 

The Guardian Temperament (Concrete-Affiliative-Structure)

People preferring Guardian…

Want to fit in, to have membership. Hunger for responsibility, accountability, and predictability… Tend to… serve and to do their duty. Establish and maintain institutions and standard operating procedures. Tend to protect and preserve, to stand guard and warn. Look to the past and tradition… Want security and stability. Generally are serious and concerned, fatalistic. Are skilled at ensuring that things, information, and people are in the right place, in the right amounts, in the right quality, at the right time. 

The Rational Temperament (Abstract-Pragmatic-Structure)

People preferring Rational… 

Want knowledge and to be competent, to achieve. Seek to understand how the world and things in it work. Are theory oriented. See everything as conditional and relative… Trust logic and reason. Want to have a rationale for everything. Are sceptical… Hunger for precision, especially in thought and language. Are skilled in long-range planning, inventing, designing, and defining. Generally are calm. Foster individualism. 

The Idealist Temperament (Abstract-Affiliative-Motive)

People preferring Idealist… 

Want to be authentic, benevolent and empathic. Search for identity, meaning and significance. Are relationship oriented, particularly valuing meaningful relationships. Are romantic and idealistic, wanting to make the world a better place. Look to the future. Focus on developing potential, fostering and facilitating growth through coaching, teaching, counselling, communicating. Are gifted in the use of metaphors to bridge different perspectives. Are diplomatic. 


Temperament theory provides us with a language for discussing and understanding how and why people behave in certain ways. By acquiring these terms, you will not only be able to better understand your own behaviour, but perhaps more importantly understand why other people behave in ways quite different to you. 

This piece is merely an introduction to the subject, attempting to give you a starting point for examining your behaviour in terms of Temperament theory – either by identifying a possible ‘best fit’ pattern, or by identifying a possible ‘worst fit’ pattern.

We will proceed to look at all four Temperament patterns in turn, to examine how these have been described by Keirsey and Berens, and to explore the implications of each of these patterns of emotional response both for individual behaviour, for play and for society in general. 

All quotes from Keirsey are taken from Please Understand Me II (Prometheus Nemesis Book Company 1998, ISBN 1-885705-02-6).

All quotes from Berens are taken from Understanding Yourself and Others: An Introduction to Temperament 2.0 (Telos Publications 2000, ISBN 0-9664624-4-0). 

All references to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test or MBTI should be understood as references to trademarks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust, owned by Consulting Psychologists Press.

In all cases, the use of copyrighted material or trademarked terms in this post does not represent a challenge to the intellectual property rights of the respective owners.

The opening image is Russell Maier's Colours of the Moment, taken from his website and used according to the terms  of use stated at this site.

Justifications and Criticisms

If you are unfamiliar with Temperament theory, you may prefer to read Introduction to Temperament Theory prior to reading this piece. 

Temperament theory is a psychological model. I contend that it is legitimate science since it allows for testable statements which can be falsified. Furthermore, having read the work of various psychologists who have conducted research in this field, I can find no justification for rejecting its observations at this time. I have examined the key criticisms against it, and find them baseless – but oddly I have also examined the justifications that are advanced to support the theory, and I find these equally dubious. How are we to make sense of this confusing situation?

David Keirsey, one of the most influential psychologists in this field, attempted to justify Temperament theory by tying it back to the theory of the Four Humours used by the ancient Greeks. This is all well and good in terms of making Temperament theory sound convincing to the general populace, but it is hardly sufficient scientific grounds for accepting a theory. 

His student, Linda Berens (whose work I rate very highly) claims that Temperaments are genetically determined based on observations of a dominant Temperament pattern being expressed in children and remaining dominant in later life. I refute this claim as speculative. While I agree that the first Temperament pattern a person expresses remains influential throughout life – I call this a person’s native Temperament – this is not proof of a genetic basis. Alas, this is one of many occasions when scientists presume a genetic basis without any direct evidence. Science has not successfully linked behaviour to genetics yet (remember the embarrassing ‘gay gene’ fiasco), and we should be sceptical of any such claim for the time being.

In this particular instance, how would we distinguish between Temperament being specified genetically, and native Temperament being expressed (say) at random in a young child? The observation that native Temperament persists throughout later life is independent of the cause of that native Temperament being expressed. Furthermore, if Temperament were genetic, a Mendelian study over several generations would provide the requisite evidence – but this study does not exist to my knowledge. I conjecture that it does not exist because Temperament is not genetic in origin. Rather, the first Temperament one expresses (for whatever reason) becomes native. This seems most consistent with the available studies. 

The need to justify Temperament theory probably occurs because critics dismiss psychological modelling of behaviour for various reasons. The renowned skeptic Robert T. Carroll (author of the useful and entertaining website The Skeptic’s Dictionary), for instance, dismisses the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test (copyright disclaimer below) because different individuals get different results on different days. Some of Carroll’s criticisms of the test are justifiable, but much of what he criticises is the misuse of typology tests to place individuals into boxes. Ironically, some of his criticisms rest on the assumption he seeks to undermine: that a paper test can sort people into personality boxes. 

You can read his criticisms of the MBTI here. While I agree that using paper tests to discriminate in the work place is ethically undesirable and somewhat ridiculous, equally absurd is his claim that all such personality typing relies upon the Forer effect. It would be rather easy to test for the Forer effect and Carroll’s example that compares the closely related type patterns ISTJ and INTJ constitutes a particularly feeble attempt to falsify the MBTI. His criticisms would be more convincing if he had conducted the study to test for the Forer effect across all sixteen types, rather than simply citing a trivially constructed example which sadly seems to reveal his lack of comprehension in this field.  

Nonetheless, I invite you to read his criticisms for perspective on why people feel the need to advance justifications for their work in this field. Personally, I find both the criticisms and the justifications to be rather trivial and unnecessary. Temperament theory and its relatives strike me as a vast improvement over astrology as a language for discussing personality traits, and anyone who feels differently is more than welcome to choose not to participate.

It has taken me more than a year to muster sufficient confidence to write on the topic of Temperament theory, because of a profound scientific conflict within myself as to the validity of the approach. The inability to coax an opinion out of most psychologists I’ve spoken to further intensified my indecision. But the bottom line for me is that I have found the language of Temperament theory has dramatically increased my ability to understand the behaviour of others, and in this sense I believe it has significant utility. 

Anyone who wishes to reject the theory is welcome to do so – the subjectivity that underlies the modern scientific enterprise means that we must all pick and choose from the available models – but I suggest on the basis of my own research and experience that this is the best model for the differences and similarities in people’s behaviour currently available, and the inevitability that it will be replaced with a superior model at some future point in time is not sufficient cause to reject it now.

Please feel free to use the comments to this post to discuss this issue further. 

All references to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test or MBTI should be understood as references to trademarks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust, owned by Consulting Psychologists Press. Their use in this post does not represent a challenge to their copyright.

In Control


To what extent has the "standard FPS control scheme" (that is, mouse and ASWD on PC, or twin sticks on console) become the de facto control scheme of the core gamer? Obviously the casual market and those on the fringes of the world of videogames cannot use this control scheme, but does the ability to use this control scheme constitute something of a demarkation of the domain of the "gamer hobbyist"?

I'm interested in your views on this, in particular in the following areas:

  • If you play games with this scheme, are they primarily first person (such as the FPS itself) or third person (such as World of Warcraft)? Do you have a preference?
  • Do you consider yourself to be a dedicated hardcore gamer, but prefer not to play games with this control scheme?
  • This control scheme effectively affords direct control of the camera to the player - does anyone resent this? Or does competence in this mechanism mean the reverse - that you resent it when the game attempts to manage the camera for you?

If possible, try to remain focussed on the control scheme, and the view representation (first person versus third person) rather than discussing the details of specific games.

Thanks in advance for sharing your views!

Are You Human?

Away tomorrow, so reduced blog service from me this week. Also, since we were hit this weekend by a spamstorm of moderate intensity, I have enabled TypePad's new Human Test. Feel free to try it out and let me know how annoying it is. Back soon!

The Human Operating System

Bluepaintingofmindshadows How much do we know about the operating system that we humans are equipped with? We have a great deal of information about biology, and yet our knowledge is still vastly incomplete. Still, we have a sufficient understanding to undertake a whimsical comparison between how we function and how a computer operating system functions. This is my vision of the Human Operating System. 


There are many models of computer operating systems, but for our purposes we will use a very simple framework comprised of four layers. 

Firstly, there is the hardware, which specifies the capabilities of the system. Next, the kernel represents the core of an operating system – that which controls the hardware layer and provides the framework for all higher functions. On top of the kernel we find the service layer – the tools and systems which perform the component tasks. Finally, we have the application layer which is where services are combined to carry out overall tasks.

Using this simple model, we will now look at the corresponding elements in the Human Operating System, or HOS. 


Computers run on hardware, which is fixed. It doesn’t change unless someone intentionally alters it. But biological organisms run on a very different kind of hardware, more dynamic and strange than computer components. I call this wetware, a term coined by cyberpunk author Rudy Rucker in his novels. 

The basic unit of wetware is a cell – and indeed one of the simplest organisms is the bacterial cell which runs on a single cell of wetware. DNA encodes the biochemical ‘construction codes’ of the proteins from which cells are made, as well as ‘control codes’ that influence when these proteins are produced. Opinion is largely divided as to how influential this is. Some people believe all of biology derives solely from the action of DNA, but this position has largely been falsified by the discovery of various epigenetic mechanisms. As with so much of biology, our knowledge is incomplete.

Man_o_war_1 Humans have very complicated wetware. They are akin to vast colonies of many different types of bacterial cells which have learned to co-operate so closely that rather than encoding their proteins in separate DNA, as with, say, a Portuguese Man O' War (Physalia physalis), they encode all their proteins in a single DNA sequence. This co-operation strategy is highly effective and has allowed all manner of complex organisms to secure unique environmental niches. As Lynn Margulis and Carl Sagan wrote: “Life did not take over the globe by combat, but by networking.” 

The part of the human wetware we are most interested in is the central nervous system, as this carries out most of the information processing.


At the core of the Human Operating System is a large associative memory system built from neural networks, coupled with a whole host of complicated additional features including a system of neurotransmitters triggered by the limbic system which incite special states we call emotions. The limbic system distinguishes mammals from earlier forms of life, and can produce a great many different emotional states. 

We actually know very little about how the human kernel works, because neural networks do not decompose in a manner compatible with conventional reductionism, and we have not confidently identified all of the mechanisms at work. For instance, it was only recently discovered that nitrous oxide gas served as a neurotransmitter in the brain – diffusing across the entire cortex to affect signalling globally. Brain operation is a vibrant area of research, and we still have much to learn. 

Fortunately, we don’t need to understand the kernel to examine activities in the other layers.

Service Layer 

In the service layer we find all manner of apparently in-built functions, about which we often know very little.

For example, Noam Chomsky’s postulated Universal Grammar – which he suggested was what allows young humans to learn language so easily – can be considered a hypothetical element of the service layer. Whether or not there transpires to be something akin to a Universal Grammar, it is certainly the case that something in the HOS acquires and manipulates language. I am content to call this the Universal Grammar for the time being. 

Another set of elements in the service layer are Temperaments which can be thought of as patterns of emotional response. Like the Universal Grammar, we have no way of tying this directly to the human kernel (although this hasn’t stopped me from speculating). It is this aspect of the service layer which Myers-Briggs typology, Temperament theory and several other psychological models apply (see below).

Each of the four Temperaments can be understood as a system in the services layer which operates in a certain specific manner. We each possess all four Temperaments (as well as many other services) in this layer of our operating system, although we each express the individual Temperaments to differing degrees. The four “Temperament services” are:

  • Rational, concerned with mastery, self-control and the acquisition of knowledge, and providing strategic skills.
  • Idealist, concerned with meaning, significance and identity, and providing diplomatic skills.
  • Artisan, concerned with freedom of action and the ability to cause impact, imparting tactical skills.
  • Guardian, concerned with membership of groups, responsibility and duty, and imparting logistical skills.

Over the next few months, I will be writing more detailed descriptions of these four Temperaments that will allow you to see how these patterns of emotional response are expressed in your own life. 

Related to this are four Interaction Styles, which are 'social' services concerning the relationship between an individual and those around them. Sadly, these are trademarked so I require permission to write about them, but you can learn a little from here. (I may well substitute my own terms - I have no patience for scientists taking their research out of the public domain). 

Applications Layer

Kakitsub Above the various services, we have the applications – such as languages, metaphysics, scientific models, ethics, customs and skills. Many can be understood as language games, although there are many abilities we learn that are not linguistic. The applications layer varies significantly from culture to culture – indeed, the choice of languages for any individual has a vast effect on how the world is perceived. It is here that we find practically the whole of explicit human knowledge and skills, and it is here that humanity expresses its tremendous individuality. 

It is here that the flaw in the operating system known as cognitive dissonance is triggered – as a result of incompatibility between two separate cognitions. It seems quite likely that this behaviour relates to a specific aspect of the kernel, however. The ‘bug’ (if one chooses to see it as such) is at the kernel level; it just tends to express itself in the interactions of the applications layer. 

For our purposes, the language games of  note in the applications layer are those which describe the “Temperament services” in the layer below. Perhaps because these models are observational science, they are not widely taught. In fact, there may even be a certain overt resistance among those scientists whose metaphysics application tells them that science is wholly objective. Certainly there seems to be no way of using Temperaments meaningfully without using a human as the principle measuring instrument, as paper tests are wildly inaccurate.

However, since science is essentially subjective anyway, I am not certain how valid a criticism this might be, especially given that psychologists using a sixteen type model derived from Temperament theory can make testable predictions which can be validated, as was shown during the BBCs coverage of the subject. As far as I’m concerned, this is perfectly legitimate science, and we have a lot to gain from upgrading crude astrological models of personality (widely used by the general populace) with these more carefully constructed systems. 

The Temperament and Interaction Style models interrelate to provide sixteen different “personality types” which correlate to the sixteen types of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator test, (a zealously guarded trademark of Consulting Psychologists Press). These “types” are better understood as roles that individual humans can adopt with varying degrees of ease according to which Temperaments and Interaction Styles they find most comfortable. It is not that you "are such-and-such a type" but rather there are certain roles you can adopt more easily than others. 

I am in no doubt that in the future mankind will have better models of the service layer than we have now. But for the time being, the Temperament Theory "application" strikes me as one of the best models available – and the ease with which it can be taught further enhances its utility.

I look forward to discussing this further with you over the next few months. 


This model of the Human Operating System is naturally incomplete, and based upon a fanciful metaphor, but it demonstrates both how little we know about the working of our own minds and bodies, and yet at the same time how much progress we have made in the last century in terms of expanding our scientific knowledge. Indeed, there is now so much research that it is possible to pick and choose from the available knowledge and build many different models and metaphors from which to understand the world and everything in it. That we exist as organisms with this extraordinary ability is one of the most astonishing things imaginable, and yet we tend to take it for granted.

Your consciousness occurs in an astonishing piece of wetware with amazing capabilities, but alas, no operating manual to help you use it. Don’t let the lack of clear instructions deter you from enjoying your mind and body to the fullest extent imaginable.

The opening image is Blue Painting of Mind Shadows, by Sabin Corneliu Buraga, which I found here. As ever, no copyright infringement is intended and I will take the image down if asked.

Play with Fire Goes Beta


It gives me great pleasure to announce that Play with Fire just went Beta! It's been a long road to get here - longer than any of us expected - but then, isn't that always the way in game development?

So, where do we go from here?

Well, I expect we have several weeks of tearing our hair out trying to confirm that the game is Master quality before we can put it up for sale on Manifesto. There are still some questions...

Should we offer a demo for download now, when we can't offer the full game?

Should we let people in the pool make their own YouTube videos for some free publicity?

What can we do to get some attention from the websites and magazines? Are we doomed to be wholly reliant on word of mouth to promote the game?

Not to mention the big question...

Will people enjoy playing with fire?

The Role of the Indie Market

Red_jigsaw What is the role of the indie games market? Why do we need one? After all, we already have a neatly striated games market with the upper market producing glossy expensive übergames and crassly expensive film tie ins, a mid-market of successful franchises and more modest licensed product, and a lower market of budget games and minority niches. Where does the indie market fit into all this? The answer to this question is as a source of boundless creativity to inspire and infect the rest of the industry. Just like in films. 

Greg Costikyan makes for an uneasy indie messiah, but he wears this uncomfortable mantle well. Recently, he’s been pushing the business case for his new direct download indie publisher Manifesto Games, as well as noting the large amount of money that is theoretically lost in the long tail most publishers have abandoned as too fractured to pursue. Since my game Play with Fire is going to be sold exclusively via Manifesto, I admit my own bias in this regard. But there’s a reason I’ve decided to back Manifesto to the hilt, even though I could arguably make more money by accepting the non-exclusive offer Greg and his team actually offered. 

I was an indie kid when I was growing up – mainstream music didn’t interest me very much, but the wildly inventive nonsense coming out of artists like Spacemen 3, Loop and Galaxie 500 really spoke to me. It appealed because it was different – quite radically so – and it encouraged me to accept my own differences. This was a good thing, because I was not a particularly normal child or teenager (at age nine I was talking about the Rutherford model of the atom) and I needed someone to say: it’s okay not to fit in!

At university, I became sucked into helping to run the film society, which also allowed me to attend press screenings for all manner of films with dubious commercial value. The indie film movement wasn’t worried about commercial success, but about exploring original themes and ideas. Sometimes these were floundering muddles, sometimes they were masterpieces – the films of Wim Wenders spring to mind. As works of art, indie movies were often worthwhile in and of themselves – but they also served a very important secondary purpose.

Indie films provide inspiration to future mainstream film makers. Indie music provides inspiration to future mainstream musicians. In short, indie is the creative breeding ground for new ideas – which can then be commercially exploited by the mainstream industries. Now this doesn’t necessarily sounds like a good thing – but would you prefer the stagnation of a mainstream market which is dominated by its own self-made restrictions to a mainstream market occasionally invigorated by stolen ideas?

And this is the reason that an indie games market is something vital to the games industry. It is already the case that the upper market is stifled with severe limitations forced upon it by hierarchical, risk-averse, profit-driven decision making. Publishers are so focussed on what is currently successful - chiefly games of hard agon, which is to say, games which invoke fiero (the feeling of triumph over adversity) that they persistently ignore most other approaches to play, with just a few notable exceptions.

But there are many different ways to play! I hope I have amply demonstrated that even if we only use Caillois’ model, alea, ilinx and mimicry all provide a completely different basis to play from hard agon – and this is not to mention the equally distinct experience of easy agon, or the “toyplay” of paidia. And we could equally use a different model to see this issue from a different perspective, but seem reach the same conclusion – play is a highly diverse activity.

The mainstream publishers remain focussed on hard agon because this is where they make most of their money. But at any moment a new genre could break onto the scene and captivate a new audience. One can argue that this is already happening. 

It is in the best interests of the entire industry to have a vibrant indie games market that can explore the full extent of game making creativity without having to be too concerned about profit and risk. The mass market publishers will be able to copy the successful game ideas and attach licensed IP to them, while players interested in new and inventive ideas will have a place to find games that meet those needs.

Support the indie game market by buying something that didn’t come from a multinational corporation every now and then. I’m not asking you to stop playing the obvious games – I will certainly continue buying and playing some of the best of the games coming out of the mainstream market – but go out there and buy and play something different every once in a while. We all stand to benefit.

Specialist Developers

Lorraineghuberfollowyourdream What is every game developer’s dream? Well, assuming they’re not just in it for the money, most people would like to work for a developer small and independent enough for their own voice to count, and where they can work on games they enjoy playing. And amazingly, some developers manage to carve out a niche for themselves that allows just this. An inspiration to everyone hoping to make games without signing up for indentured corporate servitude, these are the specialist developers. 

Idlogo Perhaps the most famous specialist developer is Dallas-based id software, the creators of Doom and Quake, who built a market for themselves from their early shareware, and now make highly popular and relatively successful game titles, as well as licensing their software technology to other developers. They employ roughly thirty people, and it’s a safe bet their staff enjoy playing first person shooters.

Nippon_ichi_logo_1 On a smaller scale, the Japanese developer Nippon Ichi (“Japan One” or "Japan's Best") have carved out a tiny but stable niche market making high quality, low budget, turn-based strategy games for the PS2. These games sell in relatively modest numbers, but they cost so little to make that it is a profitable enterprise – and code reuse from one game to the next is doubtless an added benefit. Fans of the Nippon Ichi games are extremely loyal – several members of International Hobo’s staff have been known to vanish for long stretches of time while playing Disgaea and its siblings. 

Supersonic We’re always pleased to have the opportunity to work with specialist developers, and I’m honoured to count the UK’s most famous specialist developer, Supersonic Software, as one of International Hobo’s clients. We’ve been playing and loving Supersonic’s games for many years – in fact, I bought a Sega Megadrive (Genesis in the US) and four controllers solely so we could play Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament on it. It’s one of my wife’s favourite games.

Although Supersonic have made some other games, their speciality is multiplayer top-down racers. The demise of the traditional top-down perspective in gaming hasn’t stopped them, as they went ahead and developed a camera system that works in 3D but plays like a top down racer. These games allow for the friendly competitive fun of a game like Mario Kart but without resorting to an eye-straining split screen format. With simple, accessible controls and a readily understandable challenge (stay ahead!) Supersonic’s racing games command a loyal following among gamers, as well as appealing to a wider casual market thanks to their accessibility. 

Mashed3_1 Supersonic have created a number of games in this niche – including the aforementioned Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament, Micro Machines Military, Supersonic Racers, Circuit Breakers, and Mashed (which we had the pleasure of working on in a small capacity). I was always disappointed that Supersonic lost access to Hasbro’s Micro Machines license, so it was a cause of some delight when I learned that Codemasters had gone with Supersonic for Micro Machines V4, which is the current multiplayer game of choice in our office.

Clearly, the guys at Supersonic, headed up by industry veterans Peter and Andrew Williamson, love making this kind of game – and this is what gives a specialist developer their strength. When a game developer works on a different title every few years, it may stave off boredom, but it doesn’t allow the team to refine their game-making skills. Focussing on a particular style of game has huge advantages in terms of letting the team adapt to a specific development scenario – like an animal adapted to its ecological niche, a specialist development team knows the pitfalls and shortcuts of their own form, and this allows them to make better games. By ‘better’ I of course mean ‘more fun for the game’s target audience’. 

It should be understood that the many multiplayer racing games Supersonic have made are all distinctly different. Specialist development is not about making exactly the same game over and over again, as with a sports franchise for instance, but rather about honing one’s skill in a distinct area. (The same can be seen with Nippon Ichi’s turn-based strategy games; all similar in some ways, yet quite unique in others). The subtle differences from one game to the next are what give each its unique identity.

Mm4 Remembering that Micro Machines is a Hasbro license, Supersonic’s software credits have been quite dependent upon licensed projects. Independent games companies have to make ends meet, and it is a fact of the market that there is more money for developing licensed games than for original product. New game developers should not be afraid or ashamed of taking money that’s on the table to get started or to make ends meet. If this licensed money wasn’t there, many companies – my own included – would not have been able to survive. And remember, a licensed game can still be a great game, as Supersonic has amply demonstrated. 

Anyone hoping to start their own professional specialist developer should bear the following suggestions in mind:

  • Find a niche you like – there’s no point setting up a specialist developer in a genre you don’t enjoy. Make sure your choosing a specialisation that you will continue to love for many years.
  • Don’t compete unnecessarily – don’t attempt to carve out a niche where the market is already well served… You aren’t going to be able to take on mega-brand names directly (Gran Turismo, for instance), and you have little hope of unseating an already populated niche.
  • Make licenses work – you need money to run a company, and licenses are safer investments for publishers. Micro Machines and LEGO Star Wars demonstrate that licenses can help make great games under the right circumstances. But make sure your licenses fit the genre niche you have chosen.
  • Reuse your code base – you’ll have to update your software as new game systems come and go, but you need to minimise your development costs however you can. There are few better ways than planning for code reuse.
  • Don’t grow too fast – if you are lucky enough to enjoy some success, don’t be fooled into suddenly doubling in size and chasing more money. Successful games are rarely followed by games of equal success (except with rare franchise hits) – if you try and grow too fast, you may bankrupt yourself.
  • Have fun with it! That’s the best reason to plan on becoming a specialist developer in the first place, after all.

To anyone hoping to give specialist development a try, I wish you the best of luck! The games industry can’t have too many successful independent developers and I hope that your future company prospers in its niche – and that you have fun doing it!

The opening image is Follow Your Dream by Lorraine Huber, which I found here. As ever, no copyright infringement is intended and I'll take the image down if asked.

On Conventions

Game design conventions become genre conventions, and these allow a game-literate player to learn a particular game rapidly by drawing on prior game knowledge. Thus, conventions make it easier for an experienced player to learn a new game that follows an established template. This creates a niche market. 

In the casual markets, however, game literacy cannot be taken for granted. Here, the game designer should draw from more widespread conventions from culture and other media. Hence the relative ubiquity of the Red Cross symbol to indicate a health power up, and the use of letterbox format to indicate a non-interactive sequence.

When stable game design conventions occur, it permits a genre to bloom in popularity because the barrier of learning to play is reduced. For instance, the standardised FPS control scheme has created an explosion of popularity in the genre. An established audience who enjoy playing this way are eager for more of the same. 

But nothing lasts forever. New, templates occur by chance or design and seduce players away from the old conventions – especially in the core markets where the search for novelty in games is ceaseless.

Don’t reinvent the wheel unnecessarily. If your game can benefit from using existing game conventions, then use them. But game designers should also keep inventing new “wheels” – especially for indie games which cost so little to make – because you never know when you might come up with a better one.