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GameIntrospection

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Game Development

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”

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”

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”

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.

Continue reading “Effectiveness and the Playstyle Curve”

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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Game Dev Tutorial: Twinery Day 2: Swigler enters the Hinterlands

For Twinery.org 2.0 Harlowe. Reference guide

This part of the guide is more for advanced use and more advanced routines from the reference guide. Because of this, I’ll be describing the use of what’s going on instead of a step by step guide of a “Let’s Code”.

For understand the basics of Twinery, check out the first post here: Part 1: Basics

Continue reading “Game Dev Tutorial: Twinery Day 2: Swigler enters the Hinterlands”

Game Dev Tutorial: Twinery 2.0 The Basics

Twinery.org

No I’m not a developer for Twinery, just someone who thought it might be useful for others.

So you want to build your own text-adventuring system from the ground up? Well, I don’t know if I’ll be able give you everything to make it the most interactive experience possible, but I did play around with Twinery enough to get a few features down that are necessary for making such a game.

Why Twinery? Twinery can be used for text-adventuring, pick your own stories, or even just to visualize non-linear story telling in a better way so you have a digital cork board to place all of the information and keep track of it in a more manageable way.

Continue reading “Game Dev Tutorial: Twinery 2.0 The Basics”

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