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Game Design

Bias in Gaming: Pre-Orders, DLC, Valuation and Pain of Paying 

Big Boss’s Dismembered Arm. Jacob’s Hidden Stabby Knife. Pipboy Wristband for a phone that won’t fit inside. A statue of a dragon that will never see the light of day. Another year goes by and more toys begin collecting dust, trying to match the shade of grey as the collectables next to them. A Street Fighter 4 duffle bag, with matching 4gb USB stick. Travel Chest housing a Nathan Drake Statue. A lie of reselling at mark-up that will never be true. Things that I’ll never use, nor had any intention of using.

Books filled with in-game pre-order bonuses that will never be redeemed. Enough digital bow and arrows to build a small log cabin. A digital black market of goods that will never be offloaded. Ships whose cargo never reaching their destined port.

Why do we fall for preorder bonuses every time when we know they are money sinkholes? Are these toys really that enticing? Do we feel like we’ll be missing out on some grand revelation by not getting the ultimate collector’s definitive edition boxset? (super turbo world champions)

Continue reading “Bias in Gaming: Pre-Orders, DLC, Valuation and Pain of Paying “

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Bias in Gaming: Defaults and False Choice. 

Legend of Zelda has always had some interesting design choices; from its gameplay, to its level design, to its enemy creation and how it chose to inform the player of how to progress. Oversimplifying its weapons to make sure that they are intuitive to use and easily instinctual in recognizing when to use it. Enemies with only a single mechanic to perform makes them easy to deduce means of dispatching them; and the difficulty comes when mixing placement with variety with terrain forcing you to take into account more variables and manage more moving parts. It shows that they put at least some attention to how they create the experience in their games.

That doesn’t mean that the Legend of Zelda is a perfect fleet and even its best ships have a few holes in them. The one that comes up time and time again is how they handle dialog.

Paragraphs of dialogue being spit at you. Line after line, given 10 words at a time. You sit there hitting the “next” button for minutes at-a-time. At the end of it you’re asked “Did you get all that?”

zelda-owl-gif

And the default placement of the cursor is on the “No.”

You hit “next” and you scream and storm away from the TV, incredulous to wasting your time for twice the length.

A game actively keeping you away from the action by forcing you, the player, to slow down and pay attention. Why would the cursor be set to “No”?

Continue reading “Bias in Gaming: Defaults and False Choice. “

Cultural Context and Impact on Perception

The ending to Braid has always been a surprise when new players pick it up. The story is obstuse, given in disjoint bursts so there is already varying amounts confusion to the understanding of what’s going on in the game already. Some sort of story about being obsessed and about the longing for someone, the sleepless nights and the wasted time. Then you go through the puzzles about controlling and manipulating time to find yourself at the game’s ending.

Your obsession leads you to finding a princess, whom the player may automatically assume (as one typically does) that they’re their savior, helping her try to escape from the knight once clutching her. You help her by clearing a path of escape, using the pulleys and switches to move  obstructions hindering her path of escape. Then you’re forced to hit the rewind.

You watch your actions play out with a different narrative. You’re actually the one in pursuit of the princess, trying to hinder her escape by blocking her path, chasing her away with your obsessiveness into the arms of another.

The moral lesson was the dangers of obsession and control, but the storytelling lesson is one of context. The learned context from many years of gaming, that you always assume that you’re the hero of the story and that princess always needs saving by you alone. The shallow context given to you in the story that doesn’t explicitly tell you that you are the hero of the story but it does little in dissuading you from this belief. You come into Braid, like many games, with these preconceptions and the story plays on them, making the reveal even more impactful.

What’s worth exploring is how much context the player brings with them into a game, and how that changes the impact of the game for the player.

Continue reading “Cultural Context and Impact on Perception”

Impressions – Just Shapes and Beats – PAX Prime 2015

Just Shapes and Beats

Music games are strange. They’re strange in that there is something about the game that you can sync up with to make the game more predictable, something that’s rhythmic, something on beat. When you play the game well because you’re completely in-sync with the music there’s a strange body-extension sensation that takes over, but only for the time you feel in-time with the music.

That means that music games typically went one of a few ways. You make finding that synchronicity the main point of the game and pushing the limit of that synchronicity by pushing your dexterity and stamina, ala Rock Band. Maybe you make the music a byproduct of the player’s actions so those actions create new music on every playthrough, e.g. Sound Shapes or Everyday Shooter. Maybe you have the music be the cue for onscreen action and movement, e.g. Donkey Kong Country Returns and Axiom Verge.

Just Shapes and Beats is probably closest to the last of these, onscreen cues except that cues aren’t the easiest to judge and time.

just-shapes-and-beats-boss-1

Continue reading “Impressions – Just Shapes and Beats – PAX Prime 2015”

Impressions: Ultimate Chicken Horse – PAX Prime 2015

Ultimate Chicken Horse

Original Kickstarter

There’s a lot of ways to ruin friendships when playing a game. Games like Mario Party and Nintendoland have you building temporary alliances and never-forgotten rivalries from past betrayals. Others like Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros relying solely on yourself for victory with the randomness of items to keep things interesting and forcing you to be globally aware but you still feel the anguist when victory is snatched from your grasps by a well-timed red-shell or a lucky pokeball grab.

It’s weird to find a party game that doesn’t have you building a hatred for the people that you’re with over time, but Ultimate Chicken Horse was definitely on its way there.

ultimate-chicken-horse

Continue reading “Impressions: Ultimate Chicken Horse – PAX Prime 2015”

Presented Narratives vs Present Narratives

Does a game’s narrative always need to be presented?

We play games for many reasons. To have a ready-steady shoot-em-up time, to watch over-the-top explosion filled action set-pieces, to have an emotional ride through the struggle of the human condition, to have a few minutes of escape from our current reality in a world completely disjoint from our own. You start up a game (can we really not say “pop-in a game” anymore? Is that obsolete?) and you go in looking for that game to fulfill some criteria for you. Sometimes that criteria is already known. You’re in the mood for a mindless bullet-feast or you’re looking to strum your plastic guitar to some Beetles music or whatever. Sometimes that criteria is unbeknownst to you, so you walk into a game blindly and hopefully some aspect of the game is worthwhile. But does this mean all parts of the game need to be there for you to enjoy it? Are your priorities always the same when you start up a game?

I ask this because of games like the Dark Souls/Bloodborne series approach to how it deals with story, mainly which isn’t really presented to you. The story is present but not presented to the player. The player can read descriptions and text to figure out all that’s going on but they aren’t given a mandatory lecture of the game and its world. The player isn’t even given a synopsis. But is that a problem?

darksoulsart

Continue reading “Presented Narratives vs Present Narratives”

Gaming Experiences: How I Learned to Stop Caring and Embrace Easy Mode

It might’ve been a pride thing, to show that I had gaming skill and the proper ability to play a game at harder settings, but I used to always look down at Easy Mode as the child’s setting. The be able to make the fewest mistakes in a game, to show that I had such a high proficiency in my gaming ability that making it less difficult was insulting to me. In all reality it was probably just insulting to my ego. But a difficulty setting is important. If a game is too easy, then it’s easy to get bored in the game you lose interest. If you set it too difficult, then having a lack of mastery of the game means that you’re going to get frustrated and likely drop the game at this point. Some games don’t have a means of changing the difficulty and expect the level design to test the player’s proficiency of the game. Look at any Mario Brothers game and you’re hard-pressed to find any adjustable difficulty setting, but go to Megaman or a Shmup or an FPS and they’ll lean on difficulty settings to better tune the game to the player. This is also useful for replayability where players already have an understanding of the mechanics and are returning for a deeper experience. I think we've all held right when the game started on instinct, and if you say otherwise you have some pants that should be moved from some sprinklers.

Continue reading “Gaming Experiences: How I Learned to Stop Caring and Embrace Easy Mode”

Onboarding and Recovering Progress for Mobile Games

Get Up. Take a shower. Make breakfast. Drive to work. Make Coffee. Start work for the day. Check your phone. Phone starts restarting…

Take out battery. Turn on phone. Phone starts restarting.

Google symptoms. Fiddle with phone settings. Phone starts restarting.

Factory Reset Phone. Phone looks fine.

Start setting up phone again. Download essential apps. Download non-essential apps. Download games. Load up game to restore data.

It’s at this point where one of two things can happen. You can either get your data back easily, or you can spend the next 10 minutes with your eyes engulfed in ever deeper shades of red.

Continue reading “Onboarding and Recovering Progress for Mobile Games”

Let’s Talk About: Absolute Drift (Actually talk about it)

Absolute Drift - Intro

So yes, I kind of talked about Absolute Drift yesterday, but not really to any analytic sense. I really only touched on the game’s philosophy and stylings. The aesthetic likeness to Japanese Sumi-e art and building up an artistic confidence that experience plus loss of self-doubt can only bring. (Post here)

This is more to focus on what the game does and doesn’t do well.

Continue reading “Let’s Talk About: Absolute Drift (Actually talk about it)”

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