Stockholm syndrome :
Very excited for the release of this game. For more info go to www.primeonline.com or www.pitchblackgames.com This is the newest Q and A that they do every Friday, which is something that I think more developers should do. Kudos Pitch Black.
My favorite quotes of this stream:
- “Did you not hear me?” “No I wasn’t listening”
- “Just me and Al Gore, we used to have death-matches in QUAKE”
Special note for this stream: There may be BETA testing open tonight!
Very excited for the release of this game. For more info go to www.primeonline.com or www.pitchblackgames.com This is the newest Q and A that they do pretty much weekly, which in my opinion is something more developers should do. These guys love the community, and the community loves them back.
My favorite quote of this stream “Atari 2600, not that old common guys!?”
I am a big fan of the original F.E.A.R title that debut on multiple platforms between October 2005 and April 2007. A big part of that is due to the ambiance of the horror elements and the strength of the unknown segments of narrative that slowly come to the surface. Other titles that I categorize in the same light include the Silent Hill series and “most” of the Resident Evil series, so to see such an emotionally jarring game as F.E.A.R leave most of its horror elements behind in F.3.A.R (fear 3) is a shame. But at least it’s a decent shooter. The video below explains it pretty well:
I recently added a page to my portfolio site (http://dannygamedesign.com/) called DESIGN THEORIES: here it is in post form.
(NOTE: The updates i’ve added to the site through the past weeks have been added to this post)
ENGAGEMENT – FILLING THE GLASS: I had a revelation just recently that every simulated achievement or struggle within a game is a push and pull sequence. At it’s very foundation it’s the act of filling a glass or emptying a glass; then attaining more glasses to empty and fill once more. But the resistance and opposition to our attempts to fill the glass is what makes the act itself engaging. This becomes almost obvious when you think of all the meters and gauges involved in measuring your achievement within a game: health bars, experience bars, mana levels, power levels, attack modifiers, defense modifiers. But things get more interesting when you begin to see the relationship between the state of the glass and your attempt to fill or empty it. Let’s say you have too much water for the glass, so your new goal is to earn a bigger glass. Or the power you just gained allows you to poke a hole in your opponents glass causing it to empty faster. And now a power you have temporarily causes your water to turn to ice so the opponents hole poking attempt is futile. Better yet, you have the ability to destroy your opponents glass causing them to need back-ups if they are to continue the battle. All of these different thought processes begin to outline the thousands of interesting ways to turn the act of emptying and filling a glass (pushing and pulling) into something engaging and memorable. This is the simple beauty of Game Design.
REACHING FOR THE STICK: How often as designer’s do we look to punishments and death penalties to coax the player into making the “right” decisions? Like good little digital parents we teach and poke and prod until the player gets the picture. But very often the most effective way to teach a player right from wrong in relation to the game world is to reward them in subtle and powerful ways that they are on the right path. To remind them without saying a word, or entice them without showing any signs of the obvious thought and development. This is when the world itself truly feels alive and the player’s path feels rewarding and natural. Like the digital world around them is bestowing countless and subtle blessings on them for being awesome. Instead of countless punishments for being inadequate.
THE FACE-LESS HERO: Having a main character or protagonist in a game is of course very important (in most cases), but how far should you take his identity? Some characters have their own reams of dialogue and back-story, an acquired wardrobe, and great hair (hah). But the more pre-made identity your main character has the more it requires the player to decide whether or not they relate to that character’s many strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes a story truly calls for a strong protagonist identity, and the player is able to live out a new identity in this strong character. But on the other hand, a main character with more of a blank slate allows the player to project more of himself into the character. Projecting his own traits.
RESOURCE MANAGEMENT: Resources and gathered assets in a game (digital or traditional) need to be used at some point, otherwise they’re useless. The whole point of farming a resource is to spend it or expel it in some way that’s useful or strategic, either defensive or offensive. But what if you want your player to use up a resource to build up the play/possibility space more frequently? Then as a designer you add a mechanic that encourages (or even forces, but be careful with that) a player to use that resource at a given time. A great example is the renowned SETTLERS OF CATAN table-top game; in the game’s basic rule-set if a player rolls the thief number, you have to discard resource cards if you have more than a certain number in your hand. This is meant to encourage building and cashing-in your resources, which actually populates the board faster and makes the matter of building more urgent than it would be otherwise.
THE SINGLE/CO-OP DILLEMA: This one is pretty simple. What makes a great single player game? What makes a great multi-player game? And what happens when you try to turn a single player game into a multi-player game? If gameplay is designed for a single-player experience, than very careful and special consideration needs to be taken on how to add another party to that experience in such a way that plays to the strengths of 2+ people at the same time, without breaking the experience and fighting the core mechanics. Some great games have handled this beautifully such as Valve’s PORTAL-2; The co-op experience is a totally different but related story-line that has all of its own charm and entice. And you ABSOLUTELY need the other person, there is no other way to complete the puzzles without that help of your fellow droid.
LUCK VS. STRATEGY: You’ve probably heard that “luck is the enemy of strategy”. The less luck is involved, the more you can predict and therefore strategize. But there’s a fine line, because if you can strategize too completely the outcome of the game is no longer interesting. This is where things get a little fuzzy; if you’re playing with other people, their choices provide organic (semi-random) effects on the game world, keeping things mixed up and interesting. If you’re playing solo the game is required to generate its own form of organic instances which can border on random chance. It’s necessary a lot of times because without that element things start to get stale and extremely predictable. The reason that so many board/table-top games utilize dice is for this very reason; adding the coaxed enemy of strategy to compel you into further strategizing against the results that followed. Tricky business, but I the sweet spot comes when the random occurrences no longer feel so random. At that point the player begins to relate to the pattern in a way that allows him/her to engage their own forces and strategies. According to Raph Koster fun only happens with succesful pattern achievement and recognition. If you haven’t read his book “A Theory of Fun for Game Design” you should.
SHOW AND TELL: You may have also heard, ‘It’s always better to allow the player to act out the story instead of showing them a cut-scene’. Again for the most part I agree. Instead I would say, ‘only use a cut-scene when you absolutely need that cinematic experience woven in.’ And don’t have the catalyst in an awkward part of gameplay, it needs to flow and be natural so the player can feel it coming up. Enhancing the experience, not taking away from it. Being able to express a scene with chosen camera angles and focus (while allowing the player to enjoy the moment, and take a short break from trying not to die), can be very powerful if done sparsely and with good artistic faculties. But in the end it will always be more rewarding and engaging to really allow the player to accomplish these story points through gameplay.
I recently started re-watching an old pop-favorite known as Angel. You remember right? The anti-hero vampire whose character was spawned out of the popular (albeit quirky show) Buffy: the vampire slayer. Which was spawned out of the very 90′s flick by the same name.
I’ll be the first to say that Angel is kinda goofy, and doesn’t have the best production value. BUT what does it for me is the interesting stories and character angles the show takes. You can tell most of the time that the writers thought the plot through ahead of time, which is a sign of a better story. Many shows that they don’t expect to run a long course can suffer quickly from inept and short-sided chunk writing that leads to spastic and un-inspired stories. But Angel doesn’t take itself too seriousley which makes it a heck of a lot funnier to watch, and takes away the sting of bad costumes and cheap imitation weapons that some prop-director saved a few bucks on.
As I was pondering the un-dead/re-dead legends and folklore of the vampire I came to a very cool realization; the few weaknesses that vampires have can be studied in their own right, as full-fledged Game Mechanics! A way to give us non-ghoully breeders a fighting chance when faced with these chomp-tastic thirsty friends. After all, everyone loves a good under-dog story right? So lets take a look at their traditional weaknesses and how they act as mechanics of a human vs. vampire showdown.
1. Sunlight: As a creature that can only linger is false light or very real darkness, this gives us humans a use-able time frame in which to prepare or recover from a vampy attack. Although the movie DAYBREAKERS shows us what technically savvy vamps can do with a few cameras and some ultra-tinted glass =P
2. Garlic: Historically known as a food that will actually ‘cleanse’ the blood, our undead counter-parts can have nothing to do with it since their blood is ‘borrowed’ and UN-CLEAN. Garlic is a resource that we can grow or find in abundance in some cultures such as Italian and South American. This makes it a renew-able and natural weapon.
3. Crosses or Holy Relics: Traditionally vamps are not only undead, but evil. They are only in existance because of some kind of demon combination whether it be spiritual or physical. So the relics and symbols of God that are holy and powerful are said to repel them,or even harm them on contact. This added a very religious and spiritual side to the folklore that in my opinion gives it a much more interesting foundation. Here’s the benefit: higher power/spiritual backing, water as a resource (holy water), churches as sanctuaries or strong-holds, decadent jewelry that not only looks classy but also serves a function (:P)
4. Invitation Only (you shall not pass!): Vamps cannot enter a home unless invited, but it may only take one invitation to give them perpetual access, so chill out and don’t be charmed too quickly by passing strangers. This gives us some protection in our own homes, but also gives the vamp a chance to charm their way in before you know what they are.
5. Stake Through the Heart: Wood is everywhere dammit! That’s great, but good luck getting him to let you do that before he chomps you to savory bitts! But seriously, there’s wood everywhere…