Category Archives: Game Design
Card games, trading and collectible including, always have had certain randomness to them – at least because the deck is always shuffled so you never know in which order you’ll draw your cards. Hearthstone, being a fully digital card game, tries to expand upon what kind of random effects one can achieve while playing. Some people are happy with these experiments, some are not. But let’s take a look from design perspective at the different kind of randomness in Hearthstone and how they can be perceived by players.
I was playing This War of Mine lately, and what I do when I want to write a blog analysis of a game, is I first check online what posts there are already so to know if there’s a particular topic that wasn’t explored (I first wanted to talk about context of mechanics using This War of Mine as an example, but there already is a great post about it on Gamasutra by the game’s lead designer). But seeing some of the feedback and discussions around This War of Mine have inspired me to talk about a more general subject, one that I touch pretty regularly in conversations with other developers, and consider to be very important. Video games need to stop HAVING to be fun.
If you’re interested in learning about risk/reward mechanics and how they affect player psychology, you should definitely check out The Swindle. It’s a procedurally generated heist game and is pretty much fully based on risk/reward loops. In this post I’m going to explore why The Swindle is so good at this.
Recently in a new PS+ free games update I saw a game that I didn’t know anything about, called Azkend 2. As it turns out, it’s a match-3 game (with a mix of hidden object to it), and I’ve got to say… if we want the match-3 genre to become popular on consoles, as it is on PCs and mobile, we need to fully rethink and repurpose match-3 mechanics there.
I’ve worked on match-3 games for almost 2 years, so I hope I’ve learned enough to say that the most important part of any game of the genre, and why it’s so popular, is that it just feels good to play. And I’m not talking about animations and effects and chain reaction mechanics, although it certainly is a part of enjoyment (and of course good level design plays a huge part as well). I’m talking about how it feels good just to do the basic actions of the game. Sluggish controls are the main reason I disliked Azkend 2, no amount of effects or pretty graphics or level design quality would have saved that, and I have a feeling that had I played it on a tablet or PC (the game is released on both), I’d have more enjoyment out of the game.
I think Broken Age has got to be the game I’m most confused what to think about. Back in the day, I gave some money to its Kickstarter campaign, at the time known just as Double Fine Adventure. And when Act 1 got released, I was absolutely blown away. It was amazing. Though, because my save files were somehow lost, when Act 2 was released I didn’t play it. That is, until I got recently the final backer reward – the collector’s box for Broken Age. It prompted me to binge the full game from start to finish. And… let’s just say, Act 2 is not as good as Act 1, both narrative-wise and gameplay-wise. And that’s mildly putting.
I’m so disappointed by Act 2 that I think I’ve spent 3 or 4 days constantly complaining to everyone I know about it. Yeah, this is a matter of opinion. So this post I’m not going to talk about my thoughts on how the character arcs set up in Act 1 weren’t fulfilled, or how Act 2 jumps the shark with a bunch of strange twists or motivations. But I do want to discuss what I think are glaring design issues with the game, Act 2 specifically, and why they’re such a big problem. Be warned, there will be spoilers!
I’m not a particular fan of MOBA games. I’ve tried at different points in time: League of Legends, Dota 2, and Guardians of Middle-Earth, neither have really grabbed me. So when about a year ago I got into Awesomenauts, which I have from a bundle, I did not expect to get grabbed by it as well. By the time of writing this post I have more than 250 hours in the game.
This made me wonder: is it just a game-specific thing, i.e. I happened to like Awesomenauts but not other MOBA games, or did Awesomenauts act as a better entrance point for the genre? So if I replay other MOBA titles, will I find more enjoyment in them? This has interested me also because I have never really experienced a situation where I didn’t really like any game I tried of a particular genre, and then a game made me appreciate those more. And yet we as developers tend to talk a lot about that – creating games that could act as entry points for titles of a similar kind.
(Post full of spoilers)
When I first played Telltale’s The Walking Dead Season One, back when it was released, it was an amazing experience. I wasn’t familiar with The Walking Dead franchise at all then, so it was just the game, and after every episode I’d feel like shit. Really depressed. And would get back into it as soon as the next episode was released. And I knew that something awful would happen again, that there’s no way the series is gonna end in a good way, but still had this damn hope that everything is going to be alright. And then that hope would get obliterated. And I’d get back for more. And with the release of the third season I decided to replay this, and the journey was as emotional as it was on the first run, even though I knew most of the things that would happen.
Can we just talk about how amazing Valiant Hearts is? It’s absolutely freaking amazing. I mean, just on an overall design level, it somehow manages to take World War I setting, puzzle adventure gameplay, cartoon stylistic, semi-gibberish voices in gameplay, heroic ‘hell yeah’ war moments, dramatic war moments, humanizing both sides of war moments, musical vehicle levels, and put it all together in a way that works and makes you go through one hell of an emotional ride. It’s so hard not to tear up. And the dog. Probably one of the best game dogs ever. But it’s not the dog I’m going to talk about. I’m going to discuss one of the last levels in the game – Chemin des Dames, and how it drives you to the edge.
When choosing what to write about Guacamelee!, it is natural to think of the combat system or the Metroidvania-style progression as the topics. I mean… they’re just SO well designed. Seriously, Guacamelee is a great benchmark and case study when it comes to those two things. It’s awesome. Go play it. Because what I want to discuss in this post is not one of those topics. I want to talk about the ending. Spoilers, obviously.
UI in games has many functions and purposes. From just being something that draws players in because it’s usually the first thing they see, to providing the most comfortable means to do a particular action. One of pretty big functions UI can perform is retention. And I’m going to talk about why this is important on the example of the game AaaaAAAaaaAAA!!! for the Awesome.