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Bias In Gaming – Sequels and Aligning your Game with a Company – Brands as a Frame for Influence

E3 happened a few months back and PAX West (originally PAX Prime) is about to happen in a few weeks. Game companies showcasing their pet projects for all to see, people to play and experiment with the parts that seem to be working and find the flaws that developers thought would go unnoticed, and the gaming media generating as much buzz around these games as can be mustered since (as we mentioned in the previous post) any advertising is good advertising.

But there is one part that I never really enjoy about these events, which mostly applies to E3, and that’s the publisher-sponsored conferences.

Microsoft E3 2016
Microsoft E3 2016
Sony E3 2016
Sony E3 2016

In essence, these conferences dedicate special time to showcase the exclusive/timed-exclusive games for a particular console or showcase all of the games under the same publisher.

But why is it so important for a game to be tied to a publisher/console so heavily? Wouldn’t you think that being untied to a particular lineup means that you have more accessibility to all consoles? I know that being a console exclusive gets you special broadcasting time, but why does it matter so much for non-first party games to be a part of the Microsoft lineup or the Sony brand?

Funny enough, it has a lot to do with why game studios and movie studios push so heavily for sequels and spinoffs.

Studios know the importance of a brand and its recognition in the consumer’s mind. Brands influence our choices as we gravitate towards things that we’re used to, yet we don’t always actively take their influence into account. We’ll look into why this is the case below the break.

Continue reading “Bias In Gaming – Sequels and Aligning your Game with a Company – Brands as a Frame for Influence”

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Bias in Gaming – Coop Fights and the Not-Invented Here

Problem solving can be difficult. You sit there, consuming yourself with a problem, viewing it from as many angles as possible to come up with what you think is a masterful solution, something to be marveled. Sometimes the solution comes quickly and intuitively, but sometimes you sit there for hours trying to make connections from phantom memories that you only partially remember. Even if it were intuitive, it might not be easy to implement. Your solution might mean spending hours doing the a simple task repetitively because your easy to think-up solution requires the most effort, ala the brute force method – minimal thought but maximal energy to complete. With a bit of preplanning, you might’ve been able to think up not so easy solution but requiring far less work to implement.

Whatever solution you come up with, best or not, you try it because it was what you thought was best at the time.

What about if it were you and few others trying to solve the same problem at once? Working collaboratively on a group project for school, or a presentation that goes up in-front of a lot of very important people. If this were Factorio, then you and you group only have a limited amount of space and resources at any given time and many different approaches to making the next great automated machine to generate more Science, collect coal, and protect your area.

factorio

You all probably won’t have the same solution as one-another, but how do you know which solution to use? If this was, say, a math problem then there might be an empirically determined way to distinguish who’s solution works best. Or given the fact that someone’s solution works, then we don’t have to dig deeper to see whose solution works better, as long as they both produce the correct answer. If this were a business design problem, on the other hand, we have a lot of unknowns to worry about. User-retention, market penetration, year-over-year growth, revenue growth, etc… The grayness of whose solution would work best makes it hard to pick which solution to move forward with.

Whose solution do you support the most?

Substitute all that I said about business design and math with gaming and the problem still stands. If you and your friends are trying to come up with a solution to a boss or a dungeon, all solutions sounding equal, whose solution do you try first? Whose plans for what to do with your hard-earned resources and limited space would you focus on? Should we focus on Defenses, Offenses or Infrastructure right now? How do you think you’re group would settle on an idea?

If you’ve ever worked in a group, you know that if someone proposes an idea, they aren’t likely to backdown until they try their solution or until the problem is solved. Whichever comes first. Once you put up a solution, you’ve invested a bit of your ego into the fight and now have a small chip in the fight to prove that your solution works. Your solution may need a few tweaks but the core of your solution works, or so you want to believe.

It’s that overwhelming belief in the ideas that you come up with and its abilities to cloud the consideration of others ideas that we’ll be talking about in this article.

Continue reading “Bias in Gaming – Coop Fights and the Not-Invented Here”

Bias in Gaming: Predetermined Moral Choices, Empathy Gaps, and Victims

Playing a game like inFamous, Bioshock, Dragon Age, Star Wars: The Old Republic, or any game that has a morality system built into the game has been a bit strange for me. They build stories where you get to choose how your character’s life should play out, with dozens of opportunities to piss off the wrong people because they have punchable faces or act like skidmarks on your underwear where regardless of how clean you’ve been they still appear, moments that make you want to change sides because your emotions get in the way causing you to ally with a faction with a sympathetic background or because a character that you’ve grown fond of was killed by one’s hands.

But all of those opportunities are useless. Not because I’m so detached to the struggles that the characters in the story exhibit, nor because the storytelling did a crappy job of getting me attached to the characters within the story so actions against them wouldn’t cause some emotional reaction.

It’s because when the game started, I decided that this playthrough my player would be the Paragon, always choosing the morally “right” thing to do.

By picking a side and sticking to it, my actions are predetermined regardless of how bad the situation got to the characters in the game. No matter what kind of emotional response I would have because my favorite ship was getting tortured, chaos the villain was causing, betrayal that my best-friend would cause.

InFamous_Second_Son_Karmic_Moment_-_Hank

The emotional stress that any of this would cause me normally would be completely disintegrated because I knew that my actions were already predetermined. I would be the Predetermined Paragon for this run of the game.

But why does choosing this even matter? Does the canonical story assume that the player would be a Paragon of goodwill, ethics and morality pulling from an infinite pool of patience and persistence until they succeed? Perhaps.

A question as important: why does it cause such emotional stress in the first place?

More after the break.

Continue reading “Bias in Gaming: Predetermined Moral Choices, Empathy Gaps, and Victims”

Let’s Talk About: Superhot

Having the infinite power to survey and analyze while stuck with the limitations of the human body.

If you ever felt like The Flash needed a handicap, this would be the best one to give him. Given the power of high speed thought and processing, without the powers of high speed movement. How useful is being able to see the Matrix if you can’t manipulate yourself fast enough to dodge bullets.

Superhot is an experiment with these limitations.

The game opens up slowly, in the style of bringing intrigue and curiosity to the picture. A friend recommends you a game to try out, so you do. This is when you start learning your mechanics.

 

superhot - mechanics

When you move, time passes. When you don’t move, time stops.

Continue reading “Let’s Talk About: Superhot”

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 “

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. “

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.

Continue reading “Level Design: A Level Full of Rhythmia”

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