Gamasutra - We Happy Few, Early Access, and the danger of a good trailer
While the article is mainly about the changing role of early access in game development and marketing over the past few years, to me the most interesting (and slightly terrifying) part is the way We Happy Few struggled with expectation management. Early trailers created a lot of interest, but also resulted in expectations that were not completely accurate. Once fans get an idea of what a game is going to be, it's hard to change minds without disappointing them.
marketing  we-happy-few  early-access 
20 days ago
Gamasutra: Tom Pugh's Blog - Level Design Tips and Tricks
A compilation of ten tips for designing game levels, clearly explained and with illustrative example screenshots.
design 
7 weeks ago
Hareraiser (The Worst Game Ever) - Stuart Ashen - Norwich Gaming Festival 2017 - YouTube
In this 2017 Norwich Gaming Festival talk, Stuart Ashen tells the amazing story of Hareraiser, a 1984 computer game (of sorts). I wasn't expecting much based on the hyperbolic video title, but the events surrounding this game are actually layered with intrigue and Ashen's expert storytelling makes the thirty-six minutes fly by. In the end, I am persuaded - Hareraiser is quite possibly the worst game ever published and sold, but not for any of the reasons you likely expect.
stuart-ashen  hareraiser  ethics  history  monetization 
august 2018
Building Games That Can Be Understood at a Glance - YouTube
Zach Gage takes a look at how to make games so readable that someone looking over your shoulder on the subway as you play on your phone can tell what's going on and get excited to download the game themselves. The key is the principle of The Three Reads, an approach which ensures that useful information is prominent at the right time and in the right order - first the core of the experience that draws people in, then the key details that convey the high-level rules, then the contextual information that conveys less-central rules.
zach-gage  design  legibility  video 
august 2018
Detroit: Become Human - The Review (2018) [No Spoilers] - YouTube
While I haven't yet played Detroit: Become Human myself, I'm always excited when someone talks sense about David Cage. Here, Skill Up takes a fair look at Quantic Dream's latest, acknowledging its flaws but illuminating how it's the most successful realization yet of Cage's vision for what games can be.
skill-up  detroit-become-human  quantic-dream  video 
august 2018
What Works And Why: Betting on yourself in 868-Hack | Rock, Paper, Shotgun
Tom Francis looks at player-driven risk/reward tradeoffs (which he calls "betting on yourself") in roguelike 868-HACK, explaining their advantages over traditional difficulty modes and designer-driven difficulty spikes.
design  difficulty  tom-francis  868-hack  roguelike 
august 2018
Gamasutra: Bart Stewart's Blog - Irreversible Events
One of my golden rules of game design is "Never punish the player for exploring." Bart Stewart takes a look at one way this happens with what he terms "irreversible events" in RPGs. He mostly doesn't like them, and neither do I.
design 
august 2018
Two histories of Myst – Picking Up the Pieces – Medium
A retrospective on the discourse around Myst as a case study on the weird and inaccurate ways we discuss and recall gaming culture. For me, the main takeaway is that gaming has always had more subcultures than the social narrative has accounted for and when we refer to gaming as a monolith we distort reality by ignoring the experience and perspective of many, many people.
myst  history  journalism 
july 2018
Fighting a toxic Steam community - and winning | GamesIndustry.biz
Creative Assembly's lead social media manager Grace Carroll provides some lessons learned on community management. To me, the key takeaway is that the biggest difference is made just by showing up - making it clear that the community is being heard and that there are consequences for toxic behavior.
community-management  grace-carroll  creative-assembly 
july 2018
How Slay the Spire makes maths fun | Rock, Paper, Shotgun
Tom Francis takes a look at Slay the Spire, pointing out that because it's a roguelike and individual games don't last that long, bonuses and abilities can safely make huge differences rather than tiny incremental ones. The results are a lot easier for players to conceptualize and can make things much more fun. (And as Shamus Young pointed out in http://shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=17585 there are implications for QA as well.)
slay-the-spire  tom-francis  design  roguelike 
july 2018
Gamasutra: Bob Tilford's Blog - Spoiled for choice: The psychology of choice overload in games, and how to avoid it
A quick look at what the research says about how to avoid overwhelming players with too many options and turning them off of mechanics or entire games. See also https://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_the_paradox_of_choice and there's room for more analysis on option categorization and its relationship to chunking or the way it turns one overwhelming decision into a short series of manageable ones.
psychology  design  choice 
june 2018
Gamasutra: Nicholas Kinstler's Blog - Card Games: A Simple Design is a Good Design
As a designer, it's very easy to fall into the trap of putting together a game that's fun to design rather than fun to play. This essay dissects this a bit and explains why it's a problem. It also provides some examples of specific rules of thumb to follow, though these are a bit less clear. The core message is still a valuable lesson.
design 
june 2018
Nintendo Labo and Theories of Edutainment - YouTube
A lot of non-parent, non-child gamers seem nonplussed by Nintendo Labo. Super Bunnyhop takes an in-depth look at why Labo is really exciting for the children lucky enough to grow up with it.
super-bunnyhop  nintendo-labo  learning  video 
may 2018
How Undertale Helped Me Grieve
There's something you can do in Undertale that never appealed to me, but this highly-personal essay finally makes sense of it as a powerful example of how games can help us process difficult emotions. (Spoilers for Undertale. Content warning for loss of a loved one.)
undertale  catharsis 
may 2018
Naughty Dog and Nonlinearity - YouTube
Charlie Cade takes a look at how Naughty Dog's approach to linearity has changed over the years, examining the tradeoffs made in each of its major franchises. To me, the most interesting point is that nonlinearity enables riskier design, as a frustrating moment is much more likely to cost you a player if the player can't try doing something else for a while.
thegamingbritshow  naughty-dog  crash-bandicoot  jak-and-daxter  uncharted  the-last-of-us  design  linearity  video 
april 2018
GDC Vault - Failing to Fail: The Spiderweb Software Way
My favorite curmudgeonly developer Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Software talks at GDC about the near-quarter-century he's been professionally developing and selling games. He offers a very useful perspective focused on long-term sustainability and how to succeed while staying small.
jeff-vogel  history  spiderweb-software  indie-development 
april 2018
Soren Johnson on challenging the norms of 4X games | Rock, Paper, Shotgun
A quick but interesting look at the fundamentals of 4X games, how they've evolved, and how they might evolve further, with an emphasis on the Civilization series.
design  4x  civilization  soren-johnson 
april 2018
Gamasutra: Benjamin Jaekle's Blog - The Four Basics of Open World Storytelling
A clear and actionable rundown of the most important rules to live by for story design in open world games.
story  open-world 
april 2018
Why Dragon Quest Builders is a better building game than Minecraft - YouTube
A look at how the mechanical design of Dragon Quest Builders incentivizes the act of building in ways that no other building game does.
minecraft  dragon-quest-builders  lego-worlds  building-games  video 
march 2018
Still Logged In: What AR and VR Can Learn from MMOs on Vimeo
Raph Koster's fascinating and chilling GDC 2017 talk about the responsibilities of designers and maintainers of virtual and social spaces. Modern games and services from Facebook to Pokémon GO are ignoring the many lessons learned in the early days of shared online worlds, and you don't even have to be a player or user to be affected by the fallout.
video  raph-koster  ethics  multiplayer  mmo  community-management  avatars  virtual-reality  augmented-reality  social 
march 2018
Why I loved “Edith Finch” – Raph's Website
Raph Koster explains why everyone made such a big deal about What Remains of Edith Finch - it's because it was a brilliant showcase of conveying story and emotion through gameplay.
ludonarrative  raph-koster  edith-finch  interactive-storytelling 
march 2018
Framing and World of Warcraft’s Rest System | The Psychology of Video Games
One of the more famous psychology lessons from World of Warcraft - framing is everything. Players hated the "rest" system when it was seen as a penalty for playing too long; they loved it when it was seen as a reward for spending time not playing.
psychology  blizzard  world-of-warcraft  loss-aversion 
february 2018
The Untold History of EA's Long (and Rich) Pay-2-Win Love Affair - YouTube
Skill Up illuminates the history of the loot box from its surprising origin in a side mode in a soccer game to where we are today with the Star Wars Battlefront II backlash, as well as discussion of potential legal regulation of loot boxes as a form of gambling and why this is an existential threat to EA.
video  skill-up  electronic-arts  loot-box  monetization  fifa  history  andrew-wilson  star-wars-battlefront-ii  overwatch  gambling 
february 2018
Gamasutra - Q&A: Translating the humor & tone of Yakuza games for the West
A look at the challenges of localizing the Yakuza series of games for the West and the strategies Atlus has developed to overcome them (in particular working with both editors and translators together). I was intrigued by how important it is to have editors with strong understanding of the characters.
localization  yakuza  characters  atlus 
february 2018
Sequelitis - YouTube
Arin Hanson's short but brilliant series on design evolution in game sequels. His insights are valuable and delivered entertainingly - in particular, he provides the definitive examination of the finely-crafted opening level of Mega Man X.
design  humor  video  egoraptor  mega-man  castlevania  zelda 
february 2018
On Dark Souls and Easy Modes | this cage is worms
Cameron Kunzelman points out the strange assumptions inherent in the discussion around whether Dark Souls should have an Easy Mode and explains why the common objections seem to lack merit. There's some good discussion in the comments as well.
dark-souls  difficulty  authorial-intent 
february 2018
Gamasutra - Postmortem: Indigo Prophecy
Probably my favorite postmortem, this look back at 2005's Indigo Prophecy has a lot of valuable insights. The one that's stuck with me the most is that when writing a story, you can make the audience believe anything - but only once. An impossible premise is not a problem, but adding more impossibilities later is likely to backfire.
postmortem  indigo-prophecy  quantic-dream  design  story  characters 
february 2018
Gamasutra - How MidBoss encodes a player's game data in shareable 'death cards'
An examination of "death cards" from MidBoss - a really clever play artifact that encodes the player's save file into a shareable trading card that can be used to seed new games.
design  play-artifacts 
january 2018
Someone Like Me – Mattias Lehman
It's not news that many groups of people have poor representation in game avatars, but this autobiographical writeup brings an angle I hadn't heard before - games not including the option to play as someone like you sends the message that nobody wants to be like you.
avatars  representation  psychology 
january 2018
Gamasutra: Andreas Papathanasis's Blog - Player Relationship types in Hades’ Star
A few interesting case studies illustrating why the design of social or multiplayer experiences should be driven by the type of relationship players have with each other.
design  multiplayer 
january 2018
Fixing Your Game's Perceived Slowness with Elevators
Clever application of real-world user psychology lessons to game design - and a reminder that what people complain about is not usually the true problem, and what they ask for is not usually the best solution.
design  psychology 
december 2017
Why Device 6 dev Simogo is taking a break from mobile games
I've been annoyed for a while at Apple's attitude toward games preservation - it's interesting to get the perspective of a successful but small mobile game developer on the topic. (Spoiler: They aren't happy with it either.)
apple  mobile  preservation  simogo 
december 2017
4x 868-hack andrew-wilson apple atlus augmented-reality authorial-intent avatars blizzard building-games castlevania catharsis characters choice civilization community-management crash-bandicoot creative-assembly dark-souls design detroit-become-human difficulty dragon-quest-builders early-access edith-finch egoraptor electronic-arts ethics fifa gambling grace-carroll hareraiser history humor indie-development indigo-prophecy interactive-storytelling jak-and-daxter jeff-vogel journalism learning legibility lego-worlds linearity localization loot-box loss-aversion ludonarrative marketing mega-man minecraft mmo mobile monetization multiplayer myst naughty-dog nintendo-labo open-world overwatch play-artifacts postmortem preservation psychology quantic-dream raph-koster representation roguelike simogo skill-up slay-the-spire social soren-johnson spiderweb-software star-wars-battlefront-ii story stuart-ashen super-bunnyhop the-last-of-us thegamingbritshow tom-francis uncharted undertale video virtual-reality we-happy-few world-of-warcraft yakuza zach-gage zelda

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