Game Design

Dark Souls 2, the love-hate generator

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Ive stumbled upon some quite smart and deep critiques from people who actually love the game and the series, thought I’d share:

and this video has some interesting points too, despite being at times somewhat annoying:

The Business Behind the Artwork Choices

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Beautifully explained. Why most big games take the safe choices, the budgets for different game categories, the way the pipeline can amplify problems and punish exploration. Very interesting stuff. All explained with the help of going through a hypothetical concept of a dragon for a game.

Skywind = Skyrim + Oblivion

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I gotta say I am incredibly tempted… and impressed.

Imbuing games with emotions – Jenova Chen

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For my first post here, I wanted to share with you something that’s has touched me recently. I hope that you will find some interest in it as well.

 

Every year now, a fair amount of industry professionals meet up to talk about how video games could help shape a better world tomorrow. This event wears the descriptive name of “Games for Change“. Today, I want to share with you this year’s talk from Jenova Chen, the famous game designer of Journey and founder of ThatGameCompany.

Jenova’s talk is about conveying emotions through gameplay : he starts off by observing what mainstream games offer nowadays. This leads him to explaining his projects choices as a student and presenting Cloud, a relaxing game about life. He then presents the philosophy of his studio, and how ThatGameCompany imbued their games with emotions. I invite you to discover his thoughts on the entertainment industry and possibilities offered by the game media :

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_RKKuKvAvA]

Machinarium update: the iPad edition

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As an update to Firefish`s article about this brilliant gem from the Czech private game studio Amanita Design, the new iPad edition of Machinarium was released!!!
Although at first I hesitated whether to purchase it or not, since I`m not that much into testing games on different platforms, I eventually decided to do so – I liked this game too much and was curious about how it would present itself in the modern tablet format.

The game excells on iPad on all levels: perfect graphics, great sound (music is here and there a bit different from the PC version, but still keeps in the same ambiental, spatial, gloomy note). The iPad edition costs much less than the one for PC, but the feeling it gives is way better, stronger, deeper. It feels nice being able to control everything and play with a single touch, easily make the robot move, use objects or adjust his size. This great iPad edition offers a new game experience with Machinarium, it inlays a new perspective on the game, relying on the much closer interraction between gamer and game interface.
Personally, I love playing it on my iPad3 always with headers, so I can let myself carried away into the steel world of robotic adventure. Each time when I play, I`m over and over surprised by the fine details, genuine design, intelligent puzzles and sensitive colour scheme; I must admit, I oversaw some of these while playing it on the good old PC.

A last quick note: the game doesn`t work on iPad 1, unfortunately; due to its ingenious game features, it requires at least iPad 2 to work properly.

If you already tested the game on iPad, I`m looking forward to hearing your impressions on it.

By the way, another iPad joy from Amanita Design is the Kooky app, including film, comics, illustrated book and mini games, all about the lost teddy bear.
After having checked out other Amanita Design works like Samorost and Botanicula, I must say: Nice! They`re original, artistic, with a very interesting touch of humour – I warmly recommend them, not just to Indie game fans, but to everybody keen on games. It`s something new they bring about.

Voice volume is NOT screaming

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This is something i encountered in way too many games so thought i should underline it: i play games for artwork (mostly), and a big part of that is the storytelling, hearing the characters. Unfortunately most games have a lot of shooting and screaming and stuff so in order not to *totally* freak out my neighbors (at strange hours even) while still getting a deep experience i tend to set my volumes something like this

sounds 40%, music 60%, voices 100%

All good and well, except most games tend to take that literally and treat a screaming mutant charging at me as “voice” … which totally sucks. I mean if it was a once in a game experience, i could understand it, but since games these days still go with the duplication of characters (someday i hope they’ll follow the movie industry in this) it’s totally unjustified hearing the same insane charging sound or dying sounds.

So, I would like to make a plea to developers out there, please, if it’s fighting stuff, please consider it a “sound”. Voices are supposed to say something, to tell a story, to convey a message. A dying sound played 50 times conveys no more message than “bang, boom, jzbang, kablooomy” bullet and explosion noises.

Thanks in advance.

Plants VS Zombies

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I would’ve posted this video anyway, … just ’cause it’s brillliiaant… but if I mention that the game behind it is beautiful, addictive and creative too… well… have to recomend it… also: this coming from a guy who generally avoids small stuff and respects the big stuff (currently playing Mass Effect & Witcher & Bioshock & Assassin’s Creed…)
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Osmos

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That Osmos thing has the feel of something that could be peacefully brilliant. Haven’t tried it though but i get good recomandations

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Time tricks in big titles

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I’m happy to note that it seems big time developers ARE paying attention to good ideas in lil indie games & tech demo type ideas: puzzle solving via time loops: yeaayyy! (remember the pointer game i posted here?)

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the creators discuss Bioshock 2

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Sounds pretty interesting… but i am quite worried about the ability of most people to identify with a nonhuman mechanical creature… still, if the artwork is good I expect the game to be good. I’m sorry about it not turning into choices. I do see the potential of a tragic story of a human turned inhuman …

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Dyson

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I’m quite surprised to be recomending yet another non-big-story game… but I tried this thanks to Mat and i found myself very excited by the feeling of controling a colony: you can’t think individually… you think in groups and roughly… i love that kind of intuitive level thinking.
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Dead Space – art & gore doc

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Though i am still largely unimpressed by the visual design (seems still too generic and uninteresting) I am happy about what they’re saying here as it promisses good things: however it may be from a pure visual arts standpoint I see they’re working on the intelectual angle which is at least as important (even to me) in that things which are well thought out (as opposed to just throwing artwork in ther) increase immersion and believability a lot, and it is indeed a strong desing principle that i’ve discovered in my work (i’m a graphics artist/designer) that people really do need to be able to relate and "understand’ what they see: you can’t be too original/weird/different without facing the strong possibility that people will no longer get the message, while the safe & most probably succesfull formula is what they’re talking about: take known objects and just make modifications on them.

The thing that i suspect will go wrong with this game, at least for me, is that they won’t show restraint in the number of monsters: it’s awesome and very personal when you see a crew member with his spine hanging out in mutation, but with the second one it loses it’s uniqueness… and i’m afraid (for practical reasons that i DO understand) they’ll end up havign say 50 or 200 same model reuse throughout the game which will totally make you lose that special feel that you have in a movie where your memory can rewind to "the moment when i saw that super scary baby"… while the chances are much smaller that you’ll remember "baby number 143, and even if you do it won’t be as vivid and speciffic.

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Life beyond death!!! (in a game)

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David Cage, director of Heavy Rain, said that the game can continue even if the main character dies! wooow!!! This is the best sign i’ve seen from the games industry in years! for many years i’ve been hoping that games will break away from books/movies and stand out in what only they can do, nonlinearity… and this is one of the ways. how very very cooool!!!

From the videogaming247.com article

“I can’t really tell you too much about what the story’s about or how it’s going to work with the characters, all I can tell you that your character – the main character – can die, and the story will continue,” said Cage in a back-room demo the day after the conference.

“You can continue to play, without this character, of course.”

Cage was asked if this meant the player would move into a side-story if the leading character died.

“No, no,” he said. “It’s one big story.”

 

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Dark Void (dev walkthrough)

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Some very cool ideas, the flight fantasy, hovering, air fights… all great… but I’m afraid this may turn out to be a comunity of programmers with not as many artists: it feels to me like a trully great technology/idea/concept but i don’t see very original/varied settings: they seem to me kinda copy pasted… still, great idea. I haven’t had the flying experience ever since Giants…

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western RPGs

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Max pointed to me to this interesting article on western rpgs on Moby Games:
The world of Western RPGs
I wish there were more though… i find one i like every two years or so… and that lasts me for like a month… i wish i had at least 4 a year… I have nothing against epic stories… but it’s only in these types of RPGs do i see the true gianormous potential of games even partially fulfilled: to stop being movies/books and become branching stories with choices and paths…

"B-but, killing monsters is the fundamental element of RPGs!" No, it is not. Many RPGs have been only about exploration, quite a few about skills and stuff, and currently RPGs are pretty much about choices and consequences since outside from the RPG genre no one really deals with this area of game design.

I wish RPGs would remember what their name means: ROLE playing games… games in which you play a role, you identify with a fictional character, you live her/his life… you have the chance to experience things outside your daily realm, things outside our real life possibilities, choices and consequences, settings and problems that delight & challenge your imagination…
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