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.
Assassin’s Creed: Rogue is a curious beast. I don’t think it offers a well-put narrative, main campaign, or a cohesive overall experience. And the implementation of Assassin turned Templar concept is underwhelming at best. It does, however, offer some amazing side-content. It’s an Assassin’s Creed game where you just enjoy travelling around the world, exploring, and completing very well-designed side missions and activities. Including getting quite a lot of collectibles, which is the main topic of my today’s post.
Assassin’s Creed III was the game that essentially kickstarted me blogging, as I talked about the design of its different levels. That series of posts was pretty popular among the Assassin’s Creed community, though to be honest I tried to reread it and I think it’s just better if I don’t open up my writings from several years ago, because it makes me want to faceplant myself into the table (even if from outside perspective there’s no real reason to). On the plus side, that impulse at least shows that I’ve gained experience over the years.
Now I come back to Assassin’s Creed III in this ongoing blog post series I write based on the whole franchise, and the topic of mission design as well (though not any single mission in particular). I think the game is very suited for studying the principles of open-world level design, and not because it excels at it. When you take the game as a whole – it doesn’t. But it does have plenty of both positive and negative examples of open-world missions, which means their analysis provides very useful learnings that I’m going to share with you right now.
There are many tools we can use to create emotional arcs for the player, as well as the character(s) of the game. The list consists of, but is not limited to, narrative structure, visual design, level design, gameplay mechanics, and many other things. In this particular post, though, I want to explore how weapon progression can play a big role in providing a certain emotional experience, on the example of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Be warned, there will be spoilers.
Creating and filling open worlds is a tricky thing. On one hand, you want them to be massive, expansive, provide a feeling that you have a whole sandbox to play in, and incentivize exploration. On the other hand, you also don’t want them to feel like there’s nothing to do, you want there to be content. Pretty much every open world game (that is not an RPG, I suppose) tries to mitigate this issue by adding a bunch of collectibles spread all over the world. That’s content that, if the player chooses to complete it, will have them explore every part of the map. But, to be honest, I consider most collectibles to be filler with very little value. What’s much more important is how the world is utilized in missions or other meaty actual content. And a game that I think is a very good example of open world usage in missions is Assassin’s Creed II.
I was so hooked on Rayman Legends the past couple weeks. You know those games that you’ve tried for a bit and know are really good but didn’t play extensively for some reason? Rayman Origins and Legends are some of those games in my case. And not long ago I played Legends for a bit longer and couldn’t let it go. It’s simply stunning. So well-designed, well-tuned, insanely creative and very engaging to play and the whole package is like, woah! And the music levels. Can’t talk about Rayman Legends without mentioning those. They’re amazing. But in this particular post, we’re gonna take a look at how Rayman Legends handles secret areas. It doesn’t take much to mess up with these kinds of things and make the process of finding them really arbitrary or annoying, but Rayman Legends does everything right.
Whenever we as designers play games, we always look at them from analytical standpoint. What works? What doesn’t? Why? And of course, ‘What I would have changed to make it better?’ This is a very important exercise that keeps our brain always ticking and trying to improve oneself. That said, there is one big flaw with that last question – a lot of times it’s not something we can put to practice mid-development. During analysis, we have the advantage of calm environment and knowing the final result, something that’s absent when developing a game. It’s messy, there’s a whole lot the team needs to do, and there are times when they absolutely know how to improve certain parts of the game, but can’t. Time restrictions, priorities, other issues. So what exercise would help to prepare for that? Well, a much less perfectionist question: ‘How to make a great experience with problematic parts?’
Today I would like to talk about Limbo. It’s a dark and moody puzzle-platformer, and in my opinion one of the best representatives of the genre out there. It’s short, but it provides a very specific and concise experience of us journeying through this bleak, dangerous world and overcoming the hurdles it throws our way.
Assassin’s Creed II is widely regarded as the best Assassin’s Creed game. And I love Assassin’s Creed II, don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of awesome things about it. But there are also quite a few flaws that it gets away with, in my opinion, and having repeatedly argued about these topics with a number of people over a certain course of time, decided to make a small blog mini-series. I’ll start with Sequence 9. Spoilers to those who haven’t played the game.
Hey, guys. This is it. The last post in my Assassin’s Creed III Level Analysis series. Before I start, I would like to thank the people from UbiSoft forums for all their feedback, and especially a person by the nickname of Sushiglutton for taking on a task of challenging a lot of things that I say – I really appreciate that. This post is going to be about Hostile Negotiations. This is going to be a bit different in nature from my other posts, because for the most part I talk about what Assassin’s Creed III has done wrong in its mission design and how I think it would be better to improve it. In this post, I will talk about what the game has done right. As usual, spoilers bellow.