Game Design

Insights from VR

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Not excited about VR but this talk has some quite interesting insights about both the human body and mind as well as game design decisions so I thought I’d quickly post it.

Skywind – Official Development Video #4

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Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaan this project is so amazing!!!! I really hope these guys manage to bring it to completion!!! It would be sooooo cool to walk the lands of Morrowind again with this much love given!

Doom 2 quick re-impressions

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A funny game to play for Christmas, I know, but I was so excited to find it released on the ps3 as a collection I had to buy it and play it a bit, and one thing lead to another, great fun ensued for days… and i finished it again. So, this is interestingly enough a review… 20 years later.

+ very interesting game designs, variety in level designs

-, –  some puzzles feel a bit arbitrary, and some I found totally unreasonable, being about as hidden as a secret level, except being mandatory for the main game

+ original puzzles making use of gradually built up previously introduced elements. One example that comes to mind is the original tunnel of barrels level which forces you to think of a quick and alternative solution to not be caught in the chains of explosions

-,- obviously very aged graphics for somebody who’s never lived those times

+ i would say the game aged pretty good, still being fun in 2015, of course if one is willing to look over the huge graphical changes in these years

+, – I didn’t remember the game had so many puzzles. I mean i remembered the shooting, but not how often i got stuck and wondered around either aimlessly or trying to figure out things. This is a plus as it creates pacing, moments of quiet to emphasize those of action, but can also be a minus as some puzzles are in my opinion a bit too hidden

+ pretty decent midi music

-, – inconsistent use of visuals: some textures sometimes signified they can be triggered/would move, while at other times the same things didn’t do anything and were just decorative. I understand the need but it was confusing.

+ a lot of content to explore. I didn’t remember there was so much to explore, even stuff that felt optional, and alternate routes! Impressive!

+, + something that i miss in modern shooters, i loved that all through the game there was a lot of advancing and exploration, covering huge distances. (yeah, i feel there’s a drought in such shooters, i’d love to play more FPSs)

 

All in all I’ve had great fun replaying it, of course largely due to the memories, but to my surprise I found that having forgotten >60% of it i also had a large feeling of discovery and surprise, which was very enjoyable. Compensating for the huge time elapsed since launche and/or with some nostalgia sprinkled on top i’d give it a 2.5 on a -5 to 5 scale. Those who are willing to give it a chance might have some fun.

Places of Horror

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Nice analysis. I also see some interesting correlations with the types of horror.

Fears for (of?) Dark Souls 3 PVP

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My fear is that in catering to the wishes of PvP players they will alienate world exploration and storytelling and atmosphere players like me & my friends. I play for the deep world, the mature story, and the feeling of exploration, and i’m afraid such a focus on invasions will destroy the atmosphere of solitude and alienation in a strange world taht souls games have traditionally given, and result in the kind of time wasting that the MMOs create. What i see in this video is very mmo-ish, with a lot of time wasted from my point of view, not advancing or exploring the world, not getting new story, just going back and forth playing multiplayer. The fear of this in review videos is what had me delay trying out Dark Souls 1 for many years, and now i’m having the same fear with DS3. Not that long ago i went back after DS2 & before Bloodborne to Demonsouls, and although it felt it’s difficulty balancing brokend due to the empty servers, at the same time that gave it so much atmosphere. I’m fearing that with every iteration i’ve seen the souls games have gone more and more from a singleplayer game with a bit of ghost messages to increase the “purgatory” feeling, to destiny style obligatory 3 player co-ops and multiplayer grinding, which i find to be a huge shame. My wife has recently gotten the courage to play a whole new DS2 character from the beginning all by herself and there too i see the same thing: whenever she’s exploring the world, and slowly (and paranoically carefully) advancing there’s joy and fulfilment from the game, while the invasions are frustration creators and feel like cheats from tha game just to have you waste more time or to force you to play multiplayer even if you hate it as taht’s the only way to adjust the difficulty curve.

In addition to all the things said above, the reasons for those of us appreaciating story and lore immersion with atmosphere, there’s the health percentage you mentioned. I feel 70% of health is waaaay too much for an invader of an already insecure and afraid player. If it was only on players who want it, sure, but i know people like myself who just want to play through the game, and they’re mostly more on the rookie side, already having needed persuasion to give this punishing game a try on the promise of exploration big world. What i mean to argue is that here is a self-selection problem: the invaded are the meak/shey/world explorers, likely on their first playthrough, while the invaders are likely veteran bloody players, on their 3rd + playthrough, and while the invaded are barely figuring out the controls and the basic weapons the invaders are using game exploit type tricks, having had gathered all the items in the game and mixing fatal combos of different items. So in my opinion 50% would be the maximum the invaders should have since they are actively trying to destroy the game experience of somebody else and i hope the developers will be smart enough to protect their customers from such experience destroyers, just like in general one assumes on social sites and netwroks/forums that spammers and those who insult others will get admin punishment. Don’t get me wrong, i don’t have anything against consenting adults invading eachother, they can have all the multiplayer fun they want… but they have to be for people who want that, the difference between sex & rape is the consent, and i hope From Software will be careful or risk creaing a world more inviting to the rapists and discouraging those who just want to explore an interesting universe and hear some deep and moving stories with interesting characters and well thought out world-background.

FZD Design Considerations

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Interesting discussion with many implications for not just game creation but generally entertainment design and business.

Demon’s Souls – impressions

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Wow, I can’t believe we finished it. It came so close to never getting finished… a couple of times. But so very happy we did. Quick thoughts:

+, +, +, + aaaaaaaaaamazing level design, the connections, the locations, the secrets

+, +, + very interesting world

-, -, – the difficulty is sometimes wildly impossibly hard. Theoretically this could be fixed by some summoned friends, but that system is also broken in design because as the game ages, the servers are more empty and you are left to yourself often when you would most need help. The community is still surprisingly active, which is how we actually ended up finishing it, but not necessarily the ingame one but the online resources. Ingame also there’s a lot of messages and good stuff, but game is very restrictive where it allows to place summon points and thus discourages it

+, +, + some truly truuly fascinating locations, and the variety and surprises are just amaziiing!

-, -, – I had to do quite a bit of grinding until things got more manageably doable

+, +, + greeeat value for money, you could spend a year or two in this fantastic universe

+ pretty good and fitting music

+ quite interesting characters along the way

+, – there are easily stuff you could HUGELY miss forever, your only (reasonable) chance is looking online for guides. This is a plus because it shows depth, but a minus because … well, you could easily miss awesome stuff if you don’t spend hundreds of hours trying out random things. For example there was a major interesting character, a witch, which you would have never met unless you wore a certain specific hat in a certain specific quite secret place which was not obvious to find even after acquiring a quite secret key & character friend.

-, -, + very unexplained and cryptical, though that is sometimes was also interesting

+, + very touching story moments

– there were a few creatures/enemies that were a bit ridiculous/silly

+, + the architecture is quite amazing

+, +, + very deep and interesting system for weapon developments, major choices to be taken, deeply thought out resources and requirements that force you to think hard about what you do

Conclusions: All in all an aaaamazing game if you are willing to put up with it’s insane difficulty curve. It has a lot to offer and hides a HUUGE world under the surface… but one that is quite had to dig out. If you do it though you’ll be left with one of a kind memories. 4 (on a -5 to 5 scale).

Dark Souls: Why It’s Different

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what an interesting perspective!

 

 

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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