PhD form troubles and the Garbage Can Model of Organizational Choice

At many points during your PhD you have to go through box ticking exercises. These exist to make sure that you are doing something that is along the University’s right track. I hate these exercises because at this point I start to realise that I am although I have read, written and coded things. I still don’t have an idea where I am heading. The exercise is an attempt to give you an idea where you are heading, you write down on a form what you have done, what you plan to do and a group of people sign it off. The worst part of the process is the corrections, the reviewers tell you to change certain sentences or remove / add bits to the form. I hate the process because by the end of the exercise the work doesn’t feel like my own, I’ll change the sentences because I will play the game, in fact I think I can get the form passed by simply reordering the content and without actually adding anything to it. It makes you really think about how we judge research.

One of the most frustrating comments I am currently battling is to ‘add references on politics and ethics’. This frustrates me because I have added many references on politics and ethics, they just: 1. Weren’t obvious under the politics and ethics header – meaning I will have to move my writing around to make it more obvious. 2. Not the references that the group wanted. This second point frustrates me, if a different group of people were sat around the table I’d have different points to address, I guess they would want different references. Should the direction of my research really be at the whim of who can make it in on a certain day to review my forms? The good thing about these forms is that it sends me off on a rant at one of my supervisors. The supervisor does a good job at concentrating the angry energy in to inquiry of some kind.

After my angry discussion with said supervisor about knowledge silos and PhDs being at the mercy of the whim of a random group I somehow found myself looking in to the Garbage Can Model of Organizational Choice and decision making’ in what the model calls decision making by “organized anarchies”, a confusing term that somehow feels familiar to those employed by a University and described here as:

Problems, solutions, and decision makers move from one choice to another depending on the mix of recognized problems, the choices available, the mix of solutions available for problems, and outside influences on the decision makers. In short, problems are uncoupled from choices giving an image of “rummaging around” inside a garbage can. Problems are addressed based on a solution choice, but choices are made based on shifting combinations of problems, solutions, and decision makers. In this sense, decision-making appears “pathological” instead of rational.

Sounds familiar. One of the best ways to get your head around something is to play with a simulation, so it’s a good job that Guido Fioretti created a Netlogo model of it.

Posted in PhD

Timing

This week I have been following the news that ‘The Pub landlord‘ is going to stand as MP for Thanet South, meaning that he will be standing against UKIP’s Nigel Farage. I have enjoyed this story somewhat, while we seem to have a lot of comedy/odd characters standing this election, Al Murray’s character is the most calculated. The wording of his press releases (“It seems to me that the UK is ready for a bloke waving a pint around, offering common sense solutions.”) and policy plans  (” We brick up the Channel Tunnel. With British bricks. Probably have to get some Poles in to do it. “) are a clever attack on the UKIP mindset, with Murray trying to blur the lines of real life and his character, making us all think just how dangerous mindsets can really be (my favourite tweet so far from The Pub Landlord- “Shocked to learn today from the papers that @Nigel_Farage is running in South Thanet. Coincidence or something more sinister?”). I hadn’t really been a fan of the character before, but it becomes a perfect vehicle for Murrays message. I don’t know how the thing will pan out, I don’t think Murray knows either.

It reminds me somewhat of the Brass Eye ‘Pedophile Special’ in 2001, a spoof current affairs style news program aired in 2001 with the aim of showcasing the dangerous and stupidity of knee jerk reactions. It came during a time where the Sarah Payne murder was guiding the nations judgement and even went as far as convincing celebrities into presenting ridiculous news articles, my favourite scene being DJ Neil “Doctor” Fox proving he isn’t a real Doctor by telling the nation that pedophiles don’t deserve any mercy because they share more genes in common with a crab than they do with other humans. The Brass Eye special came out years after the original run of the show, the creator of the show just knowing that there was a time to bring it back.

Last year, in an article about Robin Williams, Russel Brand described what he thought a genius was:

For me genius is defined by that irrationality; how can he talk like that? Play like that? Kick a ball like that?

Which at the time really struck me, I too define a genius in a similar way, I find a genius is somebody who knows just the right time to make an intervention, they do ‘that’ thing at the right time and it makes a change to society. How did they know this was the right time? How did they know that doing ‘that’ thing would change things forever. Perhaps  I think the similarity of the Pedophille special and the pub landlord, and my fascination with them both is the fascination of ‘how did they time it so perfectly?’. Comedians have a knack for this timing lark, and I guess comedy lends itself as a vehicle to get a message across.

The genius quote struck a chord with me when I first read it because I find I often think to myself “damn, they are a genius!” when I follow links to blog posts by my colleagues. Not only am I always impressed and envious of how well they can write, but also of the timing of the subjects they write about.

This week David Cameron promised that if he were to be elected this year that a new data bill will be put in to place. It is a pretty scary promise, basically saying that online privacy will be a thing of the past and that censorship is a must. He is playing his timing well, because he knows that he can play on the knee jerk reactions of Charlie Hebdo attacks to put this across. Perhaps he is an evil genius? Still, the worry I have is that these legislations take away opportunities to say the right thing at the right time. I’m worried for the ‘network of genius’ we have access  to through technology.

Posted in Uncategorized

Sony’s mixed infrastructure of cloud delivery and streaming from consumer device to consumer device

During my degree my networking tutor made the claim that by 2015 most TV shows, computer programs and music would be streamed through the Internet. He claimed that we would return to a ‘mainframe model’ where homes would be equipped with dumb terminals and we would turn them on, join a domain (where we would all choose different packages of services, a bit like how we choose Sky packages) and everything we wanted to do would be crunched on a mainframe somewhere.

His prediction that increases in bandwidth would change how media is streamed to us was right. Most of my TV and film comes over my Internet connection and I don’t buy music CD’s anymore. I guess you could argue that the prediction that software will be hosted online was kinda right. While applications still live on our machines and most web apps do much of their processing in the browser via Javascript, web apps are still hosted online and applications like Adobe Creative Cloud requite a subscription much like my tutor predicted. Still, I haven’t yet seen many examples of a whole application being hosted online, with all the data crunching happening on the mainframe end. If you believe the Gartner hype cycle the best is yet to come when it comes to cloud computing. We are finally out of the trough of disillusionment and in 2-5 years it will rise up the slope of enlightenment to the plateau of productivity.

Personally I find that one of the best places to get a feel for upcoming technologies is the games industry. Developers of consoles have a challenge in that they have to develop a piece of hardware that will last anywhere between 5-10 years. Microsoft’s decision to add an Ethernet port and hard drive to every Xbox and requirement that every online gamer had broadband back in the early 00’s gave Microsoft the edge it needed to launch a new product in an extremely competitive market. Last generation we saw the decision of both Sony and Microsoft to force all developers to make their games HD  as an indication that they thought we would all have HD televisions a few years after launch, The key was not to predict what gamers need when a console is released, but what they would need in the next 5 or 10 years of the consoles lifespan.

Last year Microsoft and Sony launched new consoles, with the previous consoles still going strong after 10 years both companies have to think very hard about what gamers will need in 2025. Both came up with different answers. It’s Sony’s answer I am most interested in because while Microsoft have been investing heavily in cloud computing hardware infrastructure, Sony invested heavily in the software side of streaming technologies and (apparently) still use Amazon AWS as their backend. In 2012 during the lead up to the latest Sony console Sony purchased Gaikai, a company that provides steaming of high end video games. The expert opinion was that they would use the technology to launch a Netflixs style gaming service, which they did and  full details of such  service were revealed yesterday . The gist being that old games can be streamed from Sony’s servers to Sony’s products . The general census online that Sony are covering all bases in case the need for a dedicated console is wiped out by 2015 (so they can stream you the games to a Sony TV instead)

The really truly interesting thing about Sony’s streaming services are not the things they are making a fanfare about now, but the stuff they are not yet making a such a fuss about, the stuff they hope will carry them through to 2025.

Over the past year Sony have released a number of software updates that allow users to stream media not from the Sony network, but from other Sony devices that users have in their home. For example it is possible to play on the PS4 that lives under your telly at home half way across the world on your Android phone or PS vita. Sony’s view on streaming services seems to be that users have a lot of powerful devices in their home, so why not use their processing power instead of the cloud? My guess is the fanfare is missing because the technology is not quite there yet. It works fine if you have a 5mb upload speed at home, something most users don’t have…yet.

Bypassing the cloud and streaming from consumer device to consumer device isn’t on the Gartner Hype cycle but Sony aren’t the only company banking on customers wanting to stream from their more powerful devices. At the beginning of 2014 Value were all ready to bring Steam Machines in to the living room to live under your TV, cheapish machines manufactured by an array of companies that let you stream programs, games and media from your powerful PC to the ‘not so powerful one that lives under the telly’. While Valve would not produce the machines they would own the streaming technology and the failure of not getting the technology out last year being described as ‘Valves wasted year’ .

While all the hype has been on the battle of who owns the cloud hardware I can’t help but wonder if the winner will be the company with the protocol to bypass it. Or perhaps we  will see a mixed infrastructure of streaming from the cloud and streaming from the more powerful devices we own. I guess it’s to early to tell yet but I am interested in how privacy concerns shape the technology. Do people prefer streaming from their own devices or would they rather pay for the convenience of someone to host it for them?

update:

After a few conversations around the office I’m also interested in how cheap motherboard style computers fit in to this. I guess what I am describing is a scenario where we have a powerful machine or system and then satellite systems that can stream from them. As products like the raspberry/banana pi support are cheap and can run Linux/Android, will they get more popular and be used as cheap dumb terminals?

Posted in Computer Games

Gaming and Education

2014 was described by GamesTM as a ‘transitional’ year in gaming, there were lots of new things. New platforms, business models, discussions and technologies. On paper it sounds like exciting times and I guess it was, but with most periods of great change comes a little pain.Well-known industry vet Jonathan Burroughs who has seen many years in the industry come and go summed 2014 as such:

2014 has been sullied by the firestorm of bigotry and misinformation raging on social media

He was of course referring to #GamerGate, an ugly affair, the hashtag apparently concerned with ethics in video game journalism yet riddled with sexism and misogyny. While I don’t want to go in to detail of the controversy one thing was very clear. The video games industry moves fast, serious issues and talking points arise but it is moving so fast that onlookers are confused, not sure what the issues are and what is being proposed to tackle them. Following #GamerGate was difficult, the misinformation on the subject and the many layers of inception style ‘misinformation about misinformation’ muddying the water. I think that Brianna Wu in her now infamous interview in Develop was right, that gaming has been a boys’ club for 30 years and I think it is time for a change, and while 2014 might unfortunately be remembered for a bitter culture war we can hope that 2015 is that year of change.

The way in which a movement used misinformation to defend its elite club was not the only talking point in 2014. The backlash of using ‘gamification’ or ‘viral mechanisms’ to prey on the emotion of players or on addictive personalities reached a new high, the term ‘exploitationware’, proposed by Ian Bogost, started to replace gamification, the EU stepped in and made Apple and Google change their description policies, even South Park got in on the act. While these techniques are still raking in big money for publishers it feels like we found a voice and started to tell publishers that ‘paying to win’ just isn’t good enough.

Also there was the hardware! At the start of the year we were all playing with Oculus Rift beta units and waiting in line for a go on Google Glass, at the end of the year VR was summed up by Research Analysist Micheal Pachter as being like HDTV in the late 90s, by which I gather he means its there and we can all be excited, but don’t expect the casual user to get involved for a few years yet. Which while I think was mostly right but didn’t take in to account that new technologies such as the Oculus Rift give us much more opportunities to create stuff, rather than just TV style consume stuff.

I could go on and on about 2014 in gaming, but I guess the common theme I am getting at is that it all moves so fast. The boys club was challenged, the EU stepped in to review business models, the term gamification became the term exploitationware, new virtual reality hardware was released, used and evaluated.

I’m not sure moving so fast is always a good thing, the games industry does move fast because it is a relatively young industry and there is lots of money to be made. I think it also moves fast because it is so many peoples passion, both the people who play games and people who are employed in the industry want to move fast because its what they enjoy doing. Sometimes I wonder if it would be better if it just slowed down to think.

These last few weeks I’ve seen a lot of tweets about games in education, questions like ‘should we use gamification techniques in education?’ or ‘how do technologies like the Oculus Rift in education?’.

As somebody who has survived the great gaming transitional year of 2014 it is tempting to claim that you know all the answers. Tell those educational technologists to stop, we’ve already decided that gamification is bad and that you have to call it explotationware now. Or perhaps it is the other way around, maybe as somebody employed in an educational institution I should be heading back to reddit/r/truegaming and telling them to stop relabeling things, we are going to fast and that there are a bunch of clever people in education not rushing ahead, instead they are taking their time to think about how this stuff might be useful in a way we haven’t thought of. I guess I was just glad to see these questions from education being asked on Twitter and a hope for 2015 in gaming is seeing one big conversation become the end of a boys’ club.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Application to Register for a Professional Doctorate Award Form (R1 Form) test

“Alright, listen to me. You go to the office where they are based, right? Before you get enter that office, you pack your Application to Register for a Professional Doctorate Award Form (R1 Form) in your bag, make sure there are no bookmarks. Then, enter the office and walk over to them at their desk. Dig out the Application to Register for a Professional Doctorate Award Form (R1 Form) and put on the desk next to them. Then you remember you should have shut the office door. Walk back towards the door to close it. Then while you walk to door check the Professor. If they don’t turn away from that computer screen, lift up that Application to Register for a Professional Doctorate Award Form (R1 Form) and start to flick through it before you get back from that door, dump them.”

“Just like that?”

“Listen to me, kid. If they don’t reach over and flick through that Application to Register for a Professional Doctorate Award Form( R1 Form), that means they are a selfish tutor and all you’re seeing is the tip of the iceberg. You dump them and you dump them fast.”

Posted in Education

Additional content in games and doubting intentions in education

Survival horror is a genre within computer games that has a horror focus and the aim to simply help the main character stay alive while they are underpowered and vulnerable in scary scenarios. There are a wide range of games with lots of different takes on the of survival horror genre and with bits of kit such as the Oculus Rift round the corner developers are exploring all new ways of trying to emerge the player in scary scenarios. Ever since I first guided Alpha Team to successfully escape the old mansion on the outskirts of Raccoon City back in ’96, survival horror has been my favorite type of computer game.

Nowadays I play games much less than I used to, and as a result I am much more picky about the games I choose to invest my time in. I’ve found that now most of the games I pick up and play until completion belong to the survival genre, the last two games I booted up on my console were Alien Isolation and Dead Space 3, and while they were both good games I was left feeling that I didn’t get the full experience from either of them.

(Spoilers ahead)

Alien Isolation is a great game and a great example of survival horror. You play Amanda Ripley who is investigating the disappearance of her mother, who you will know as Ellen from the Alien film franchise. About an hour in to the game Amanda meets a single Alien much like her mother did aboard the Nistromo. This alien cannot be killed and Amanda must use stealth tactics in order to survive. It is a great game, and the fact you cannot kill the alien makes the feeling of managing to simply stay alive part of the game, that is until the end cut scene at the very end. When Ripley finds herself floating in space not knowing what will happen to he next, roll credits. I was very annoyed at this ending to the game because surly the payoff of playing a survival horror game is that if you complete it your character survives.

(End of spoilers)

Dead Space 3 is anther good example of survival horror, this time it is more action based and unlike Ripley, the main character, Issac Clarke, can fight back against his enemies. To fight back Issac can craft weapons out of bits he finds lay around. Crafting bits and pieces together to survive is a staple of survival horror, it makes you feel underpowered and think hard about which items you craft and when you should use them. I was really glad this feature had made it in to the game, that was until I made my way to a crafting bench only to be met with a message that said something along the lines of “You don’t have enough resources to build this, press X to pay 69p to buy some more”. It was basically giving me the option to skip part of the game where I have to think about resources, scavenging and survival, is it still a survival horror?

The problem I have with both these games is that the developers have both lost my trust in them as game designers. The ending to Alien Isolation was not an ending at all, I know that Amanda Ripley will survive…. as long as I pay for the additional downloadable content packs. In the case of Dead Space how can we trust the developer to make a game with a fair resource system when they are trying to push micro transactions.

I understand why this has happened, the price of a big budget video game is actually less than it ever has been before. While the price of a new game might seem steep at £30-£40, long time players might remember that the most outlets sold survival horror game Resident Evil 2 on the N64 was £70, and that was back in 1999,  the game was also practicality a port! One reason that prices might have come down is that more people buy the product than they did then or that production costs are cheaper (N64 cartridges were much more expensive then DVDs/Blu Ray). But another big reason is that now, when a user buys a game there is a good chance they will purchase extras for the game in the form of in app purchases or other additional content.

I’m not against paying for additional content to add to a product, but it becomes a problem when it makes us doubt the way in which the original product was designed. With games I think it is quite easy to see when the game play is designed in a certain way to make you want to pay more. Not having a real ending or screwing with the resource system I think are very clear messages that the developers expect you to pay more than the initial cost for the base product and that the base product  itself has been designed according to the additional content they plan to push, it will affect you if you want the content or not. I suppose at least it isn’t making me pay just so that I can look better than my friends like many mobile games do.

I guess the thing about having played games for so long is even as a consumer we know how the model has changed, we know that actually we pay less for the base product than we used to but now we pay more for the bells and whistles additional content. Some games and publishers make a good separation between the extra content and the base product and some do not, publishers such as EA and Ubisoft broke the trust of gamers and got a bad rep because of it. I’ll check the reviews very carefully of anything I buy from the same publishers of Alien Isolation and Dead Space just to see just how much the base product has been tampered with in the hope I’ll put down some extra cash.

As a customer I find it much harder to decipher what is going on in the business models surrounding the education system. I mean, we are paying more, right? At a recent meeting with Talis about Learning Analytis systems a student recently told Talis staff they shouldn’t be doing all this stuff with his data (he called Talis services ‘spyware’) and then turned to University staff in anger and explained that now he is paying all this money we should be more trustworthy than before. In his eyes the reverse has happened than the games industry, the University is getting more money for the product than it was a short time ago, and as a result the University should be cutting back on the addition ‘bells and whistles’ content and improving the core package he is paying so much for. It was hard to argue against his point.

I know that behind the scenes the funding model has changed and that the University is not getting 9 grand extra per student, but of course they do not see it like that. Changes in application rules and numbers some Universities are doing everything they can to create bells and whistle that will bring in extra income. Overseas courses,  ‘sexy’ subject courses, TV personalities driving cars, gamification of content, etc etc. I also think the themes I seem to be working on, Learning Analytics and the such, seem to be most happily pitched to management as ‘additional content that will bring in extra income’. I wonder if these extras affect the base product in a similar way to games, and if we’ll break the trust of our customers in the same way if we are not clear about what is happening. Do students feel like Amanda Ripley after their undergraduate degree, waiting for the Masters degree additional content to finish their story?

 

 

 

Posted in Computer Games, Education

The Alien Isolation motion tracker on Playstation 4

I have to admit I haven’t played on the new generation of consoles much but recently I did get the chance to play on a Playstation 4. I had heard that the PS4 pad had a built in speaker but hadn’t really given it any thought, the Wii remote also had a speaker built in to it and I hadn’t ever really seen it be used for anything useful. The PS4 game I had was fortunate enough to play was the excellent Alien Isolation, it is a great game and really captures the atmosphere of the first Alien film, although it looks and feels very much like an 360/PS3 game and I was struggling to spot anything new and exciting being delivered by the PS4 experience.

I had in fact forgotten that I was playing the game on a PS4 until walking down a spooky corridor I heard a crackle from the controller I was holding. The sound was a crackling, like an ancient piece radio coming to life, within the crackling I could here familiar beeps that I recognised from the alien franchise, I was holding a motion tracker! The PS4 Pad also has a light emitting from it, as the motion tracker appeared on the TV screen the pad light changed to green to match its onscreen colour. It started to beep and vibrate in time with the beeps. While the information from the tracker was on the TV screen I felt it really added to the experience, especially since it is a game filled with suspense and the tracker in your hand makes it feel much more immediate. I think it is the only time I’ve ever seen a speaker on a pad do anything cool!

Some dude made his own physical version of the tracker. Got to love this:

 

 

Posted in Computer Games

Preposts, freemium, addictiveness and education

Sometimes over the course of a few days I read a couple of posts, have a few interesting meetings over a pot of tea ,watch some good television, play some good games and think to myself ‘the messages that all these things are telling me are related! There is a narrative here and I must blog about it. I wait until Friday, which of course, is the best day to write rambly blog posts, in the mean time I play a few video games in the mean time to think things over. Friday comes, boot up Microsoft Word, fingers to keys, mind goes blank. How where all these things linked again? Where do I start? Sometimes I need to write a post just to work out what my post should be about, something of a pre-post:

Today I read this blog post: Big Data, Social Ecology and the Surveillance of Management by the people. In which Mark describes one of the most distasteful things about big data, the top-down-ness. The idea of it becoming a ‘science’ of the future based on surveillance with results only available to the elite resulting ‘decisions based on a particular elite interpretation’. It is a great post and reminded me of the latest episode of South Park I watched yesterday, which dealt with the topic of addiction. In particular it focused on gamification and the freemium model. (‘mium’ being Latin for ‘not really’). This gist of the episode was that the model prays on a small number of users, it only needs to pray on a few peoples addictive behaviour make a profit, it is made worse by the fact these games have access to all this data about the user. I worry that these elite decisions that Mark talks about are not just particular elite interpretations but are made in a similar fashion to the designer of a slot machine. I did enjoy the fake advert for beer that aired after the ad break:

The show was showing that other industries sucker people in with their vices, know damn well what they are doing but justify it with a ‘well we told them to do it responsibly’. I also had some thoughts that perhaps the elites making their interpretations have their own addictions to feed.. but perhaps that is for another post. Before the episode of South Park I had seen an infomercial for a for-profit University:

The infomercial introduces gamification, micro-payments, data-harvesting bots and many of the same techniques South Park was knocking freemium for. What really struck me was that these techniques weren’t even the butt of the joke, instead the clip went all sci-fi and focused around a data-harvesting bot becoming sentient. The themes that education is starting to prey on addictive behaviour using a mixture of social pressure and the data it knows about us isn’t even the joke anymore.

I’m still not sure where I am going with this, but since I started writing this post I have received the following information in 3 emails. I think the theme for my post should be addiction, data, education and dangerous personalization

laceproject tweets

boss

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 11.02.11

 

 

 

Posted in Education, General Chatter

Finding symbols when you don’t know the name

findingcharacternames

You know, that fish thing.

Everyone hates it when you want to put a character in to a Word document but you don’t know the name of the character, just what it looks like. “how do you do one of those things that look like a cross between a ‘a’ and a fish” you ask your college. He has no idea what you are on about and you end up trying to draw it in the air with your finger.

I bet there are loads of technological solutions to this that I haven’t come across yet, but a college, fed up of my finger wagging did point out how to do it in a Google Doc.

 

1. Open Google Doc

2. Go to Insert->Special Character

3. Draw the symbol in the ‘draw symbol here’ box

4. IT TELLS YOU WHAT YOU WANT. MIND BLOWN

Video of the steps

 

Posted in General Chatter

Starting to explore Wikipedia: Part 1. Query woes.

I’ve started to wonder, just how much can we find out about a subject from Wikipedia? I’ve been wondering if I can ask serious questions and big questions to the data set to get serious and big answers out. I thought I’d start by exploring an area of Wikipedia that was reasonably well maintained, I had a hunch that the video game community would keep their hobby and interest up to date and started there. While I keep saying Wikipedia, this data is from actually taken from the Dbpedia endpoint , which is a mirror of Wikipedia that structures its data in a way that I can query. There are some things I have noticed, the data is not mirrored exactly, for example the Wikipedia page for the game Hawken  clearly states that the game engine is Unreal Engine 3, DBpedia says it uses the Unreal Engine but does not tell me which one. I don’t know  why yet. Also the data set is frozen in time, this data set is frozen mid 2014. There is a live version of DBpedia at but it seems to break for me, or at least for my SPARQL R package.

I decide to start on one very easy question, what are the different game engines that games use. I started with a very simple query:

Basically this pulls out all video games  that have a game engine, it made me think. The way data is structured in Wikipedia is not always consistent, making it hard to write the perfect query. For example, User A creates a page for their new game studio and uses a certain vocabulary to describe the city that their game studio is based in. User B creates a similar page for a different game studio but uses different vocab. When I write a query to grab all the cities that have game studios based in them I have to know what vocab they both used. As articles get more popular these sort of problems get ironed out as people standardise the vocab used. The other problem is that people can have different ideas of what things are; its no good telling me off because XNA is a language and not a game engine, because Wikipedia is reporting it as a game engine. In this reguard the process might be a good way of examining and reflecting on how your hobby is represented in Wikipedia than an actual answer to the question. The other thing this doesn’t do is pull out the names of the games or the engines, I could pull them out using something like this:

But I started to notice all sorts of funny business in my results. If a game was described as using the Unreal Engine it would putt back the names for all of engines, that is Unreal Engine 1, 2, 2.5, and 4 but for other engines, such as Id Tech, it would just pull back the one correct name.

If you are interested, I went with the first query and a bit of regex to get the results, I counted them using plyrr in R, here are the top engines with more than 20 Games built on them.

Game Engine Games Built On
Unreal Engine 313
Havok 132
Unity 114
RenderWare 84
Source 67
Gamebryo 60
Z-machine 49
LithTech 43
CryEngine 33
Adobe Flash 31
Id Tech 3 29
Torque 28
Sierra’s Creative Interpreter 27
Ren’Py 26
Adventure Game Studio 24
PhysX 24
PopCap Games 24
Telltale Tool 24
GoldSrc 23
SCUMM 22

There is another thing fishy about this data. It is hard to believe that Id Tech is not in the list. It turns out that Id Tech IS on the list, but when a game lists Id Tech as it’s Engine it has the correct Id Tech version as the attribute, where as Unreal has a more general Unreal Engine attribute.

I revisited my original SPARQL query and added the collection of dates to the query. This time I get less results, this is because I have asked the database to only return answers when it knows a year that the game was published, if there is no year there is no result. Some games have different release dates, I told the database to give me a random year. Looking back this was a bad idea because now it looks like remakes use the original engine (or originals use the remake engine) I don’t think I can find a method that will pull back the correct year with every release date when it comes to titles that were remade with different engines. Another thing to remember when writing my queries. This is what I went with:

I’m finding it hard to do what I want with the results when they come back as a dataframe in R. This could be because I find tools like ggplot2 hard as nails or because I’m not familar with how I should be structuring my results. Perhaps a problem for part 2. Anyway, I counted the results per year and saved as CSV, which for future reference that I’m sure I’m sure I will need:

And just to see if it looked right, checked the popularity of the Unreal Engine per year:

Unreal Engine Popularity per year according to wikipedia

Unreal Engine Popularity per year according to wikipedia

Those that know your games might think that the numbers look low for such an engine. I think it does look low, and it is more to think about when trying to ask Wikipedia for answers. These are only articles with games that state they use Unreal and have a release date in my dataset. Because of this I thought I should look at trends rather than actual numbers. The trend shows a growth in the popularity of the Unreal engine up until 2014, most of this makes sense to me:

  • Unreal Engine usage growth has seen growth year on year
  • The dataset was frozen in the middle of 2014, I guess many entry’s for 2014 games aren’t as mature as older games, or the entry doesn’t exist yet
  • Games in the future are pages created about a game that hasn’t been released yet.

Still, I was curious as to why we saw some games in 2018, that seems a long way off for a developer to be releasing information about a game engine they intend to use for a future game. Intrigued I looked up the 2018 game only to find out that it was an old game, released a few years ago that Wikipedia has an incorrect release data for (at the time the data set was frozen). So.. Wikipedia can be wrong.

Time to carry on playing…

Posted in Data Analytics