I just finished An Architectural Approach to Level Design and I was really pleased with it as a whole!
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)
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:
I gave a talk at Glitch City Demo Night about Masterful Hugging. OR IS IT??
On my most recent developer stream, I dove into the not-so-simple process of preparing my PC-based game jam entry, Cat Trick, for release as a mobile title. There were lots of technical things discussed, but I think the most interesting and insightful segment of the stream was the last part, where we discussed how a lot of design and format decisions depend on the clarity of my goals for what I want out of this game. I recently went over my decisions with my teammate, Will, and since we were in agreement in all of them, I decided to walk through my entire decision-making process here.
Last weekend I participated in (and assisted in the wrangling of) a small experimental game jam focused on games for classroom learning. I’ve always recognized educational games from afar as something challenging and impressive, but this was my first time dabbling in it myself, with 0 experience making an educational game. I learned SO much about educational game design and the shortcomings of my own design intuition in this context, even from one small weekend prototype. It was incredibly valuable!
On one of my recent “class” streams, a conversation evolved about how the flaws of games can give them character. It really started out as looking streamlining between generations of genres. In our case we were playing Borderlands 2, and I was observing how a lot of tropes of that generation were present in Destiny as a more modern “rpg-shooter” hybrid, but had been hyper streamlined. Some of the older conventions of the late PS3/XBox 360 era of shooters now felt a little clunky – things like waiting on NPC positioning for events to occur, the “turn-in” experience, accomplishing different tasks via different menus which sometimes had limited access, how sometimes the relationship between systems and options made some actions obsolete and other decision making processes feel paralyzing.
Sunset Overdrive is out in the wilds! And I feel…surprisingly good! I have talked before how I easily fall victim to post-creation depression. It’s always happened to me – in art, in the theater, in games – there’s this moment when the creation goes out into the world and leaves a big ole void in your heart. Generally I get very depressed, but this time feels different.
After some twitter musings the other night, I got several requests for my list of “books that aren’t about game design that I think game designers should read.” Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many wonderful texts on game design and game development in general with all sorts of useful information. However, I am fond of supplementing these reads with books from unrelated fields that still have something to teach about game design. I think it is because you have to forge your own connections when you read them, and when you do your own digging and have the insights yourself without them being presented to you, I find it tends to make the insights a little stickier. Basically it makes for good learnin’, so here we go!