Why Not Games




Article Notes, December, 2015

These are just the notes I took down in December. All of the notes can be found here

Gamasutra: Lessons from Big Pharma

  • Getting a few high-profile YouTubers to play your game results in more YouTubers playing your game.
  • They want the game to be fun to play and watch.
  • They want to be able to express their creativity.
  • They want to be able to use it to make jokes.
  • If you hand-hold too hard with the tutorial, your players never learn how to play the game.
  • Civ 5 does a great job of integrating the tutorial into the core loop of the game. The game constantly helps you figure out what you have left to do.

RPS: Valhalla Hills Release

  • Most building games have very little tension in them and people enjoy that aspect of them. How much leeway do you have with that? Also, why exactly is that the case?

D'toid: Review Pokemon Picross

  • Picross does a really good job of rewarding you for completing a puzzle by having the complete puzzle form an image.
  • Pokemon Picross also gives you that pokemon and you gotta catch 'em all.

Gamasutra: Playable Demos as ads

  • The vendors already support HTML5 ads. This should be more of a thing.

Youtube: Masahiro Sakurai - Game Design: Risk and Return

  • The risk/reward of stomping on an enemy in a Mario game feels so good because it handles tension so well. There's a build-up that feels risky that is then converted into a reward.
  • More risk is more intense and also more difficult.

Hidden Information in Secret Hitler

  • Werewolf-style games are all about giving people asymmetric information.
  • This gives people the ability to lie and tell if other people are lying.
  • Secret Hitler illustrates one way this can be done.
  • This also lets people use their trust level of other players to determine their trust in yet other players.

Tom Francis: Open World Games - What Works And Why

  • Assassin's Creed 2 gives you a variety of things to do, which lets you do the activity that you most feel like doing.
  • WoW is hurt by the lack of a main quest and the fact that everyone is doing the same quests as you are.

RPS: Best Co-op Game of 2015 - Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes!

  • This game does a lot of things as a co-op game.
    • The pressure is distributed well across the entire team.
    • The game is based around inevitable failure and doesn't feel too bad when it happens. This is partly achieved through humour and partly through being PvE.
    • The game makes communication tricky which forms the primary challenge of the game and also leads bystanders to think that they could do better.

Gamasutra: Psychonauts Post Mortem

  • This game would not have been anywhere near as good if not for the small details.
  • Good description of how important tools are.
  • The lack of a producer hurt the game and Tim Schafer trying to do everything resulted in everything being slower than it should have been.

Ten Lessons Over Ten Years

  • Context is everything for game design. A feature can be great in one context and terrible in other contexts.
  • All else being equal, the design with lower complexity is better. View it like weight in a space ship, if you do it, you need to make sure that it adds value.
  • When you look at games considered innovative, they actually do not innovate on more than a few axes.
  • The rest is rather trivially obvious.

Tom Francis: Ideas for an open world game

  • Ideas for how to flesh out an open world game.

RPS: Nuclear Throne

  • Another example of how people value actually becoming better at a game, especially when they can see that it happened themselves.

RPS: Best Simulation Game 2015 - Cities:Skylines

  • It is important for a simulation game to be fun to just sit and watch.
  • Cities: Skylines manages to transition nicely from background to foreground depending on how you feel while playing it. It is a good game to multitask with.

RPS: SC2: Legacy of the Void Review

  • It's good to see SC2 get eviscerated for their appaling approach to story. Video game stories don't need to be stupid and their justification for doing so is an obscenity.

Al Jazeera: Man Arrested In Thailand Over Facebook Posts

  • Example of someone being arrested over posting on Facebook.

Eurogamer: Overwatch Interview

  • The progression system for a game like Overwatch must be different than a game like WoW or Diablo.
  • They don't want the progression system to dicate what you do or how you play and they don't want it to have a power delta associated with it.
  • The Hearthstone ranking system can be viewed as a progression system.

RPS: Best Strategy Game 2015 - Invisible, Inc.

  • Good point about how it was helped by early access.
  • It's also worth noting just how impressive a turn-based, procedurally generated stealth game is.

RPS: Thea: The Awakening review

  • The game has a lot of new ideas, and RPS liked that, but then it got bogged down by execution issues.
  • The game has a lot of busywork.
  • Their combat lacked depth. Part of this was because the game didn't offer players the ability to do clever things. Part of this was because the player wasn't rewarded for making good decisions in the combat system. The supergame has such a large impact on the combat results that skill in that system is meaningless.
  • The skill that the game rewarded was playing the game a lot, instead of beating challenges through skill, you would beat them by having seen them before.
  • The game incentivized playing it conservatively.
  • The game was hard to stop playing for the reviewer though due to the progression systems, 4X style immediate tasks and charming world.
  • The lack of variety in the game hurt it as well, playing after 2 hours felt the same as playing it after 20.

Channel Fireball: What Makes A Great Player Great

  • Really interesting article going over what PV things makes a great M:tG player and what some other pros think as well.
  • His takeaways:
    • Have a plan. This to him is the most important point.
    • Adjust to new scenarios.
    • Pay attention to details.
    • Network with other great players.

Game Career Guide: Design 101 - The Role of Randomness

  • Pretty basic overview of randomness in game design.

Gamasutra: Emotions and Mechanics - Lessons About Shame

  • An examination of games designed to evoke shame.
  • Being watched by other characters in the game or by spectators in real life intensifies the feeling of shame.
  • Similar to being watched, being caught committing a wrong deed also causes shame.
  • AI needs to show visibly human behavior or features in order to evoke the emotion of shame in players.
  • Giving players some time to reflect after something happens will facilitate the emotion of shame.
  • When the player has to make decisions under time pressure, they do not blame themselves for mistakes they make, hence do not feel ashamed.
  • Concrete relatable scenarios are more effective in evoking shame.

What was fake on the Internet this week - Final Column

  • Hoaxing is more profitable than writing articles that are true.
  • Middle age conservatives are the group that shares the most on Facebook.
  • A number of these hoaxes seem to be motivated not by profit, but by hate.
  • Cognitive bias and institutional distrust are both factors that are very strong right now.

Extra Credits: Propoganda Games

  • This video is completely factually wrong, so treat it purely as a hypothetical discussion.
  • It goes over ways to gamify being a better citizen of China.

Super Mario 3D World's 4 Step Level Design

  • Super Mario 3D World has a lot of ideas and keeps them comprehensible by having each level focus on one of them.
  • Each level then has the same structure of introducing an idea, developing it, twisting it and then concluding.

Gamasutra: Games That Last

  • This is for expandable games, ie; games with a set core that continually release expansions.
  • Start with a simple, defined core.
  • For each expansion have a single hook that plays into that core.
    • Designs cut from the core are a good place to start.
    • Designs that solve a standard pain point (here used as source of interesting decisions) for players, but replace it with another do well as players are excited to not have the pain point.
  • Force players to re-evaluate old concepts in light of the new hook.
  • Rotate focus and cycle mechanics.
  • Listen and engage.

NYT: Personalized Children's Books

  • Essentially, they let you fill in a template.
  • This is a step less complex than just printing out a single path of an IF. I wonder if it will get closer to that.

RPS: Helldivers Review

  • I really like the flavor of calling in reinforcements to respawn a friend. It sells the theme and the mortality of the characters.
  • Point that the Destiny treadmill took over from the rest of the game.
  • Point that you need to understand the progression system for it to be meaningful.
  • The game seems to handle different loadouts well. They give you the feeling of DIY classes and change playstyle.
  • Focused games are good games.

Gamasutra: Designing Co-op Gameplay Experiences

  • Players need a common overarching goal.
  • Players need to each own a specific component. Eg; the trinity.
  • Planning helps stimulate player interaction.
  • Synergies between player abilities reinforces teamwork.

Gamasutra: Modular Storytelling

  • Eg; Sunless Sea and 80 Days
  • This adds a lot of flexibility to your process as different people can create content in parallel.
  • It also makes the size of your story flexible.
  • It helped with Early Access as Sunless Sea was able to push out islands without breaking anything else.
  • Helped with prototyping as a vertical slice was easy to obtain.
  • The choice becomes more of where to go than what to do with these games.

P4K: The Year In Rap

  • Interesting take on the use of memes in current culture.

Ian Bogost: Winning Isn't Everything

  • Zimmerman argues that the 20th century was about media that communicate data, but that is insufficient for the 21st. Now, we need to grasp systems. This is the key argument for games over movies for the 21st century.
  • Bogost sees the same, where arguments take the form of playable systems instead of words or images.
  • He then talks about systems-based thinking and the current narrative:
    • Systems-based thinking requires a rejection of simple answers. I don't know that this is true, there are many systems where a simple answer is best.
    • I can see the contrapositive though, narratives (eg; movies) tend to force simple answers due to the limitations of the media. However, that does not imply that this must be true.
    • The point that the narrative of games becoming the dominant medium and the "changing the world" narrative are both too simple to be consistent with system-based thinking.
    • Additionally, the idea of a dominant medium is questionable and stating that the current one is movies is even more so.
    • Media live in an ecosystem with each other. They are not wholly independent entities.

Hollywood Reporter: How Star Wars Went From Shakespearean Saga to Harry Potter in Space

  • This is not actually why I am disappointed with the new Star Wars, but it makes good points.
  • His problem is that Lucas was an innovator while Abrams is an imitator.
  • Lucas had depth while Abrams does not.

Youtube: 33 on Metacritic: Why My Game Failed

  • Being something new gave them a ton of coverage. Their trailer views increased tenfold.
  • The press misreported them in a bunch of places.
  • Launch fell flat. Part of that was the hate group that disliked what they thought was their pitch. Part of it was that their build was unstable.
  • People felt their price to content ratio was poor.

- @murthynikhil

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