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Game Design

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.

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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.

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A Look Back – Call of Duty – Modern Warfares

I just spent the past two weeks going through all of the Modern Warfare games in preparations for another project that I’m working on it was a struggle. The games aren’t particularly long, consisting of maybe 4 – 6 hours for the campaign, nor were the games particularly difficult, since I set it to novice difficulty just to get through the main plot points of the game. The struggle was stepping back into technology that was still infantile when comparing AAA development from a decade ago to today’s technology. The contrast to how Call of Duty creates a voice for itself through Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare franchise from its first inception to its last makes it hard to piece the games as a trilogy, in everything but name and characters. It makes it hard to go home to your roots.

Hot potatoes get dropped, butter fingers
Hot potatoes get dropped, butter fingers

The problem with calling it a trilogy is that there is normally some coherence between the games. Either a coherence in story, people, setting, tone; but as you play through the games, the story is consistent, albeit sparsely given; the people generally there; the setting somewhat there; but the tone is all over the place.

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Change Some Bits Around: Final Fantasy 7 – Aerith’s Death, Choice and Loss

Probably most people’s first memorable sad moment in a game, Aerith’s Death in Final Fantasy 7 sets the tone for the rest of the game as a means of explaining her death, giving it meaning, and having a renewed pursuit in stopping Sephiroth. Aerith’s death aligns everyone’s motivations, opens up character building arcs and allows for a resolution other than “Save the World” when it comes to the end of the game. We have a vested interest in vengeance.

Aeris-ffvii-fmv-altar

Originally, Sephiroth took control of Cloud to try and kill Aerith at the creation of the Black Materia with the ability to summon Meteor but was knocked out before being able to kill Aerith. When Cloud reawakes, Aerith has already run off to the Forgotten Capital in an attempt to summon Holy from her White Materia that she’s had tied to her ribbon. When Cloud and company reach Aerith, Sephiroth has his way with Aerith using the pointy end of his death stick and everything falls apart from there.

But let’s change some of these bits around.

Aerith’s death might be pivotal to the characters in Final Fantasy 7, but they also change the psychological states of many of them. And given the opportunity to change events, do you think the story would pan out the same way?

Continue reading “Change Some Bits Around: Final Fantasy 7 – Aerith’s Death, Choice and Loss”

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