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Game Design

Let’s Talk About: (Zen and the art of) Absolute Drift

sumi-e 2

Have you ever seen a Sumi-e painting before? There’s a distinct elegance to looking at a Sumi-e painting because of its minimalism. The use of a single color (black). The confidence in their brushstroke that this line is exactly how I want to look or even the ability to adjust when the stroke came out wrong. Being able to visualize the mystic beauty of the world with only greyed silhouettes. Able to use the void of the whitespace to your advantage, to give more meaning to the color on the page, instead of requiring color to fill all of the canvas.

sumi-e 1

This is probably why I picked up Absolute Drift in the first place.

Absolute Drift - Intro

 

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Thoughts on: Rockman 3 Burst Chasers (The opposite of speed is frustration)

Watching SGDQ 2015 over the past week helped to prove two things to me. The first is that regardless of the game, watching someone who has devoted their time into mastering anything is mesmerizing regardless if the game was Tetris: Grandmaster, Mario: Lost Levels, or Super Noah’s Ark 3D. The second that should be apparent is that playing a game quickly is hard. To have small (1/60 – 5/60 per second) frame windows to inputs, mastering complex rhythm sensitive button combinations, and knowing how to react to during long sessions of concentration is something to admire. But some games can be made to be played faster, like the video below:

 

Rockman 4: Burst Chasers is a rom hack of Rockman 3 played at a high gameloop and that speed makes all the difference in terms of difficulty with the game. Think of strapping a blaster to Sonic and throwing him into the Megaman world.

The game was intended to be played at the pace and speed of Megaman, fast enough to get and understanding of the world and decent enough time to react to it. Throw Sonic into this world and it becomes a chaotic mess. The only thing that a player can do is to try and take it slow, like Megaman would, until you develop the reaction enough and are comfortable enough with RockSonic to run through the world at the speed that RockSonic was intended to run at, or memorize the game world to know when to do what action.

Continue reading “Thoughts on: Rockman 3 Burst Chasers (The opposite of speed is frustration)”

Let’s Talk About: Her Story

 

A dim lit room. A lone computer screen in the middle of that room radiating all of the noticeable light around you. Like a moth, you’re drawn to the light. You take a seat in front of the monitor where a single application is running with the text “MURDER” in the text box. Looks like a crappy search engine from a college homework assignment, you think to yourself. You click the Search button anyways. Querying Database and a green sense of progress fills up the bar. A few videos with a brunette appear. She’s been there for more than one day, as her clothes aren’t the same across the videos. It looks like she’s being interrogated. Without warning, without forced motivation, without someone whispering text in front of you face, you sit there watching each video, trying to figure out what this murder is about.

HerStory-Intro

Her Story is probably one of the better story-driven games I’ve played in a while, not because it breaks ground in storytelling but because it leaves the player in complete control of how they unravel the story.

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Impressions: Might No 9 – E3 2015, New Mechanics and Forcing Better Pattern Mastery

Might No 9

Release: Sept 15, 2015

Might no 9 - Splash

Might No 9, the game where Megaman started to rebel against Capcom, the company that began to neglect the robot, so much that he decided to get cosmetic-enhancements done to his mechanic body and embody the 90s cool kid look in our post-3D world.

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Impressions: Tom Clancy’s The Division – E3 2015

Release: 2016(?)

Tom Clancy’s The (Troll Hard) Division puts you with a group of 3 post-apocalyptic sleeper agents in the midst of a viral epidemic killing off the US population and you have the single goal of looting every player and NPC that you come into contact with. It doesn’t even matter if they were situational allies or members of your own party, if they have a gun that you like, you can shank a fool and take it off of their body. What’s a dead body going to do to protest? Ragdoll in anger? At least, that would be what the E3 demo would lead me to believe that this game is going to play out.

The Open-world cooperative shooter-genre is definitely trying to explore new directions since Borderlands made its debut a few years ago for the closed party format and Destiny released last year as the drop-in drop-out open party format. Troll Hard has both a drop-in-drop out system where parties are automatically dropped into random servers with other random groups already in them but this is the first with a betrayal system that works contains both inter-party and intra-party mechanics.

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Impressions: Cuphead – E3 2015

Cuphead

Platform: Xbox-one (E3 2015 Build)

Release Date: 2016 (Xbox One, Steam)

E3 - Cuphead

Like the 1920s, 30s, and 40s cartoons that the game emulates, Cuphead is an expression of what fun can mean without all of this newfangled futurism. The game is always rhythmic, bouncing to its own beat to keep up the liveliness that it tries to portray, but always extra expressive thanks to the big eyes and big head making it unnecessary to need nuanced, subjective feelings but instantly knowing the anger or anguish from having every possible feature, from the eyes to the hands to the body language shouting out their current state of being.

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Effectiveness and the Playstyle Curve

The world and everything that resides within it has its own pace. Some things start and stop with regularity, others just move in their own direction at their own speed till the end of time. And as you play a game, you develop your own pacing. You might want to take your time for every platform that you need to jump from or corner that you need to turn and take in the risks to make sure there aren’t any surprises that you’ll recklessly run into, or you might dive in Action Hank headfirst into every situation tumbling and reacting to anything that’s in your way because you haven’t been punished enough for that recklessness.

It’s up to the developers to teach you what the pacing of the world is and manipulate the player into adjusting their playstyle to match the pacing that is required to be successful in that world. There isn’t an exact speed that the player much hit, but there are limits between the cautiousness and haste that a player needs to be between to play effectively in the gameworld. Visually, this is considered the playstyle-curve to see the relationship between different playstyle how effective those playstyles can exist within the game.

The Playstyle Curve
The Playstyle Curve

When a playstyle fits within the boundaries that of the game’s pacing, then a player is less likely to feel like the game is too slow because they won’t be able to take their time to check every nook and cranny for the inevitable damage that they will take and they won’t feel that the game is too easy because they can’t just run through and have their way with the game without consequence.

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Level Design: A Level Full of Rhythmia

Every game, with all its enemies and doors and health bars and platforms, has a set pace. A pace in how they move, when they move, how fast they move. And that pace, the pace of everything on screen, dictates the pace that the player can plan out their moves and it dictates the window that the player has to perform their plan. But when the pace of everything on the screen is rhythmic, meaning that the pacing matches a particular interval, is matched by the rhythm of the player to plan and perform within the window that the game gives then a sort of harmonic resonance can develop between the player and the game, and that can be a wonderful feeling to have.

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Story Design – Teaching Others What They Won’t Experience

What are you able to show to someone that they don’t already know? Can you make them change their mind about an idea or way of thinking because they’ve been indoctrinated into an idea for years? Can you prove a misconception, shine a light on the dark unknown that we know nothing about? Can you help us see a part of a life that we might never get to experience and help us understand that everyone has it hard, some in different ways and many in ways that we’ll never be able to experience firsthand but maybe we can get a small understanding from the wisdom of those who have experienced it?

There is something to be said about the power of storytelling. Having a story, filled with characters with flaws and faults, having well-meaning intentions fall through because they went about it in a way that played to the desires of another. Stories filled with morales to help us see our own faults and showing the dangers of being blind how those faults can affect others, be manipulated against us, and play to the prejudices and misconceptions that others hold tightly.

And what kind of views are stories lacking in telling? Stories that people that can relate to and that people have always related to will have plenty of stories with many points of view to get a clear understanding of their picture shown in the many hues that you can filter.

The stories that are missing, the ones that can teach us a better understanding of the nuances of the human condition, are the ones that are relatively new and where people have started to learn and understand only recently and who have the relatable vocabulary to express and the mediums that work best in portraying such a nuance.

Continue reading “Story Design – Teaching Others What They Won’t Experience”

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