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Game Design – Crossing the Innovative Line

At what point is a game too much the same as its past incarnations?

This is a question that comes up every year during annual-release gaming season with franchises like Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, and Mario pushing out the current year’s installment. They don’t ever get released to complete fanfare and pageantry as there’s always criticism about the games being glorified map-packs and rarely ever justifying the cost of a full-fledged title, but to be fair most games change slowly overtime and it’s where the developers choose to focus that change where new innovative gameplay spawns for long-standing franchises. There are ways around this by pairing leaping-innovative ideas with old characters or jump-starting a new franchise altogether where these ideas can be explored and tested to see if they have any footing, but franchises are easier sells and less risky.

A different way to phrase this question then is this: Where is the innovative divide between DLC and Standalone justification?

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Thoughts on Gaming: Shared Experiences and Common Connections

There was a time in my youth that I remember only a handful of games that every kid had to have. Super Mario, Mario Kart, GoldenEye, Super Smash Bros, Unreal Tournament, Starcraft, Counter-Strike… Of course there were many other great games in the 90s and early 2000s, but there weren’t many that were ubiquitous among the community. You didn’t even have to be that good at all of these games, but you knew that somewhere during your weekend gaming hang-outs, one of these games would come up and you would spend the next few hours of raging and mocking over these games.

Old-Venn

But it also seems like there aren’t that many of these kinds of ubiquitous games around today. We have our Call of Duty annual wintertime jam, Super Smash Bros groups, League of Legend crews, World of Warcraft guildies, but these games being largely ubiquitous isn’t a given anymore.

New-Venn

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Gaming Experiences: Bonding over Single Player

Every one should check out Zac Gormon at http://magicalgametime.com/ His work hits so many feels buttons, it's not even fair
Every one should check out Zac Gormon at http://magicalgametime.com/ His work hits so many feels buttons, it’s not even fair

Sitting down in front of the couch, friends by your side. One of you pops in a game and everyone’s voice gets hoarse as the chatter escalates to yells and cheers because someone just got a clutch head-shot from across the map just as the countdown reaches 0. There are games design for multiplayer and those designed for single player. Goldeneye, Halo, Mario Party, Unreal Tournament, League of Legends. Many games and franchises build their fan base around single player experiences and multiplayer experiences, but that doesn’t mean that those socializing bonding moments can’t be found in single player games.

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Let’s Talk about: Shovel Knight

I know I talked about it before, but Shovel Knight is probably one of the few games this year that I was hard-pressed to put down. Aside from being a fun Castlevania-Megaman style Platformer, attached is a great soundtrack, a style that references games of the past but is still able to carve out its own image and gameplay that is never “too easy” or “too hard” but consistently finds the middle ground to keep the player lingering in the “I know I can complete this” mentality.

You've come a long way NES-Dracula. Fighting me in a graveyard instead of near your shining throne.
You’ve come a long way NES-Dracula. Fighting me in a graveyard instead of near your shining throne.

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Teaching the Player p2.2 – More on Reactive vs Planned Gameplay

Previous posts in the Series Teaching the Player

And a link to the part 1

Running for Speed

The Speed Running community is a fantastic example of people who take every opportunity to transition all games from a Reaction to Planned Gameplay. They approach every game with its predefined rules and regardless of how well a game teaches you a mechanic, the speed runners put in the time to perfect the most opportune route and routine in getting from the start to the end of the game. They epitomize the idea of “Reaction Gameplay + Time = Planned Gameplay” by learning all of the inadequacies of the player’s abilities and the gamespace’s rules and manipulating them to get a more optimized path for faster completion, and shaving frames, seconds or even minutes off of runtimes by understanding what can be done by the player and what will happen in the gamespace when the player performs the action.

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Teaching the player: Prelude and First Screens

You know what sucks in a game? Being force fed how you are supposed to interact with the world. You know what also sucks? Not knowing what to do, or knowing exactly what to do and making it nearly impossible to accomplish. There are a myriad of ways this can be done correctly or incorrectly and I’m sure there were active decisions as to why certain designs were chosen, but they all contribute to or take away from the player experience in one form or another and it’s left to a good level designer to understand what works best for their game and how to design the level around making the most out of the player experience.

Continue reading “Teaching the player: Prelude and First Screens”

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