Category Archives: Games and Game Development

Thoughts on games and game development

The Line Between Confusion and Discovery

Here’s a video of a Hyper Light Drifter player discovering how the chain dash works, and it’s just an utter delight! He struggles around with it until about 12:12, when it finally starts to click, and he gets SO excited at the discovery!

Walking the line between making sure your players understand the mechanics to be able to effectively play your game and leaving room for the delight of discovery is one the HARDEST calls to make as a game designer, I think.

Here’s something to keep in mind: If you were watching this person playtest, how long do you think it would have taken before you got squirmy and wanted to explain how it works? Subtract that timestamp from the one where he figures it out. Next time you run a playtest and get the squirmy “they aren’t understanding it” feeling, wait at least that amount of time more.

There’s also other factors at play: Was he more apt to keep trying because he had an audience? Is he just the sort of person that keeps hammering at stuff to figure it out? If so, is that who your target audience is? THESE ARE HARD GAME DESIGN QUESTIONS.

(Spoiler alert, he makes it to 800)

I Love Workflowy

As much as I enjoy playing around with different software and apps for task management, I always seem to return to Workflowy when it comes to my own personal to-do management. Yesterday I realized that I have been using it for years at this point, and in that time have come up with a pretty substantial and reliable system for keeping my life organized. Curious about the systems that other people had made for it, I asked around and found that there’s quite a range of approaches.

For the purposes of this post I’ll go over Workflowy’s strengths and weaknesses, outline my personal management system, and give some examples of ways that other people have used it.

Continue reading I Love Workflowy

GDC 2016: Lisa’s Favorite Talks

This year at GDC I had an amazing 100% streak of seeing all good talks! I credit this to finally being able to intuit a talk’s quality based on how the description in the scheduler is worded (Of course, I have no data on the talks I skipped to back up that they weren’t good. Maybe all talks were just good this year!)

For context, when I go to a talk at a conference, I am looking for practical takeaways. I want to see how designers solved hard problems and learn something that I could feasibly start applying to my work right away. This is not to say that I dislike inspirational talks, I just try and reserve GDC for practical learning. Here were my favorite talks:

And now in great detail…

Continue reading GDC 2016: Lisa’s Favorite Talks

Adventures in 2016

I’ve alluded here and there about my leaving LA soon for new adventures, but now let’s make this official!

In 2016 I will be be Harrisburg University’s Game Designer in Residence:

For a summary of a program, this is similar to an artist-in-residence program, only for a game designer. I’ll be working on my own game projects while also advising HU students on their projects, teaching game design segments, guest lecturing, and play a part in the education of da yoots by acting as a bridge to the professional world in as many aspects of the game development community as I can get ahold of.

It should be a fantastic adventure!

It also means that I will be scurrying away from SoCal to Pennsylvania in a matter of weeks. Here’s some answers to questions:

Will you still be working on Hyperlight Drifter?

Yes! I have been contracting on Hyperlight since April or so, and will still be able to help on design needs as the team prepares for launch. It’ll just be on a remote basis.

Will you still do your development and design streams for your Patreon?

My hope and intention is yes, as I’ve gotten so much out of doing the streams (and lots of positive response from others) and definitely want to continue them. However, much of this will depend on how health things pan out in the new year, because I definitely have to prioritize health. I’ll have a better sense of if I can make it work later in January, is my guess.

What projects will you be working on during your residency?

I’m still plotting and planning this out, but I would like to do some experiments to explore craft mastery in game design. I also expect to be pushing students into trying some fun, experimental stuff. Stay tuned!

Can I be a guest speaker for your students?

Glad you asked, disembodied voice. If you’re a developer friend of mine, and enjoy casually educating students, expect me to come poking you to be a Skype guest. Indies and AAA and everyone in between, I want a broad reach!

Will you still be going to any events next year?

Yes! Though my exact schedule is uncertain. I definitely will be at GDC. I hope to try and hit either PRACTICE or Project Horseshoe, and want to do at least one event outside of the US. I’ll be at Dreamhack Austin in April (that one is for funsies, though), and want to try and get to Fantastic Arcade. As for the PAXes, the E3s, Indiecades, A MAZEs, and the like, that all remains to be seen.

I want to contract you to do design work on my game, would you still be able to do that during the residency?

Yes, though it all depends on scheduling and time investment and all that stuff as far as what I can actually commit to. For people who have already asked me about this for next year, you are in my pipeline and I’ll get back to you soon. For other folks, shoot me an email if you’re interested –

Will you still be able to be a guest speaker for events? Will you guest speak at my event?

Possibly! Again it all depends on scheduling and whatnot, but please reach out and ask all the same –

What about 2017?


What if I have a question you didn’t answer?

Please feel free to ask it here:

Lisa’s Indie Adventures – August 2015

August already? How is this possible! Is time accelerating? July’s update saw a bunch of forging ahead on Imaginal and getting to show it, and August was more of the forging. Time moves so fast that I can’t keep up! I’m currently back in Kentucky, trying to rest after an arduous PAX. But anyway, here’s what I did in August:

Continue reading Lisa’s Indie Adventures – August 2015