Rozovian’s Music Log

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How to Handle Criticism

Posted by Ad on February 15, 2014

TotalBiscuit, the Cynical Brit, has had one of his videos censored via the copyright flagging system. Not cool. The situation is still developing and unraveling, but the whole thing blew up not so much over the copyright abuse, but rather over how the devs of the game TB reviewed don’t seem to be able to handle criticism.

Rather than rant about copyright and add fuel to what the internet is already turning into a rather large firestorm against the devs, I’ll cover a different angle: how to handle criticism.

Your game, your music, your art, your work; whatever you do, you’ll likely take it personally when someone eviscerates your work, whether this is accurate criticism or hate/trolling. It’s not necessarily easy to ignore random disembodied voices on the internet, but the higher profile someone is, or the more you value their opinion, the worse it’ll sting.

The approach I have to criticism is to understand everything, and fix what you agree with.

Let’s say someone says an arrangement of mine is cookie-cuter, paint-by-numbers, blocky or newby. First, I have to understand what they mean. My arrangement might not have good transitions, might not differentiate parts with different rhythms, textures or dynamics, might have too little or too much variation between parts. It could be just one of these, but it’s more likely that it’s a bit of everything.

Then I have to agree. Theres two parts to this: I have to agree with their observation, and I have to agree that it’s a problem. My chiptune-y track sounds like cheap synths? Not a problem. My orchestral piece sounds like cheap synths? Problem… if it’s true.

Finally, I have to fix what I agree with, if possible. Cheap synth orchestra? Either go for it as a stylistic choice, embrace it, do it well; or make it sound more real; or scrap it. Cheap synth chiptune-y track? Not a problem, doesn’t need fixing.

But the thing is, just because I don’t agree with criticism doesn’t mean I’m right. If I do something, it should sound intentional. It doesn’t matter whether it actually _is_ intentional, it just has to sound that way. My cheap synth orchestra may be the sound I’m going for, but I’d have to make that obvious somehow. Easiest trick is to name it something like “Pocket Orchestra” or “Synthetic SYmphony” or something along those lines. But preferably, the music should be able to communicate this on its own. An exposed, really cheap synth solo early on, that highlights the cheapness and is still expressive should do the trick.

That’s doing it right. How can you do it wrong?

Ignoring. Arguably a better approach than some other wrong approaches. Ignore the trolls, but don’t ignore valid criticism. Dismissing it with a “well you don’t have to like it, other people will” isn’t going to help you make your work any better.

Arguing. This isn’t about valid arguments to better explain your positions and understand where the other party is coming from. This is about questioning the other party’s qualifications, eg “who are you to say an orchestra doesn’t sound like this?” (an ad hominem attack). This is about undue defense, eg “well it’s a style choice to have a square synth in my historically correct baroque track”. This is about justifying things instead of re-evaluating them in light of the criticism. That’s wrong.

Flaming, raging, threatening. These are all pretty much the same, because they’re all about throwing a tantrum in some form. Legal threats count. Threats of violence count. Threats of reporting count. Personal threats certainly count. Ranting, as a form of venting, is a way to deal with frustration, but do that somewhere else.

Magic. I’m not talking forest rites and hexes and stuff, I mean trying to make the criticism go away. Flagging stuff as spam or copyright infringement, downvoting, deleting… Bribing? Whatever. It’s a form of ignoring, but offensively. And it’s offensive to anyone who values the craft.

These are in order of how bad they can backfire. Ignoring something generally doesn’t backfire, but you might not get a lot more good feedback that way. Less bug reports, less suggestions, less valid criticism. Arguing is likely to offend the person offering criticism, and is likely to drive them away or make them hostile towards you and your work… which isn’t a good thing.

Flaming, raging, and threatening tends to backfire spectacularly and become little wars on the internet where supporters of different causes start attacking each other on every medium and every platform they can get at. And worse, magic, when it gets out, tends to ruin whoever tried to censor someone else. The Streisand effect goes into full swing when this gets out. The bigger you and/or your critic are, the bigger the backlash. And any PR is _not_ good PR…

…as I’m sure certain devs have noticed by now.

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Maybe I should pirate more?

Posted by Ad on August 4, 2012

So I grabbed a bunch of games during Steam’s Summer Sale. Games that were cheap enough for my atm meager funds, games that would work on mac. The problem is that this mac compatibility isn’t that great… and it surprises me that game devs don’t consider the obvious solution:

Don’t put graphics above gameplay!

Crusader Kings II looks like a pretty cool game from the screenshots. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work on my machines. One machine can’t run it at all because it has the wrong graphics card, and the other runs it at a ridiculous frame rate, not to mention screws up the colors. Sure, a purple sea (tho it still looks like water) might not be the best creative choice despite that might work for a more moody scenario, but if the frame rate is horrible, the game is unplayable. As the game is really just a bunch of screens with stats on them, plus a map with random troops on it, the graphics can be at a FreeCiv level. FreeCiv is hardly the epitome of graphics, but the game works.

Anyway, I find that SimCity 4 has a bit of the same frame rate problem as well, plus some bizarre and amusing texture issues, but it’s far from unplayable. The problem there is that Steam didn’t offer a mac version, but I found ways around that problem.

The thing is, these aren’t games that need all that much graphics. In fact, most games don’t need anything past what we were able to render a decade ago. A multiplayer FPS would need it to let players blend into the environment realistically, and any real-time game would need it to make sure players get to react as soon as something happens rather than suffer a second’s delay before they see what’s going on and having to work the interface for a few seconds before getting their troops/vehicle/dude/whatever to do what it’s supposed to do. Civ V doesn’t need the graphics it has, the gameplay doesn’t need those graphics. The Strategic View is unfortunately not the default view, nor are its symbols as easy to identify at a glance as the units in the standard view. CKII doesn’t need its 3d display and fancy window decor (and the decor would load faster if the 3d stuff wasn’t hogging the graphics processing). Many games of today are more for show than for gaming, and it’s shutting ppl out from getting to play them.

I wonder if it makes business sense. I mean, I get how it works for the marketing department; they get screenshots and videos and stuff that look good. It’s easier to market than game mechanics. “It looks great, lemme prove it with this non-interactive, print-friendly thing.” But with games like Civ and CK and SC and others, it’s the mechanics that are the game, the graphics are just packaging. They’re harder to market based on gameplay.

Not that I’d want the graphics reduced to the lowest common denominator, but a low-resource alternative graphics option would be nice to have, one that’s less picky about the graphics card and doesn’t require platform specific libraries or only runs on select graphics chipsets. Likewise, the option to not load all the resource-hogging stuff when you start the game (I may have mentioned this before). More graphics options would open up games to a variety of platforms, ultimately getting more players into the game.

Anyway, on a semi-related note…

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The Pros and Cons of Game Writers

Posted by Ad on February 23, 2012

I’d much rather give this a lengthier and more applicable title, but it’d be too long for Twitter, I’m afraid. Id’ call it something along the lines of: “The Pros and Cons of Game Development Using Writers Who Do Not Appreciate Games” or something like that. At least I’m not talking about how ppl are ruining the internet again.

Yes, there’s a shitstorm concerning BioWare writer Jennifer Hepler‘s ill-conceived idea that games should let players skip the gameplay, much akin to having an audience skip the destruction, violence, and stunts in action movies, the songs in a musical, or the reading in a book. Seems to me like Hepler is in the wrong industry. If you want to write stories but don’t like having a lot of words, you should write write comic books, or children’s books, not epic fantasy tomes. In the same sense, if you don’t like the interactive aspect of games, find a different medium to write for.

That said, I may be misrepresenting her position of several years back. I think the ability to skip combat is ridiculous (grinding, on the other hand…), but there are some merits to having writers that aren’t pleased with or familiar with the medium.

An obvious pro of having non-game writers write for games is that the outside perspective and outside experiences can bring in fresh new ideas. Voice acting in games is something that can be used badly in so many ways, so having someone with experience with voice acting would certainly alleviate some of those issues. At the same time, gamers play to _do_, not to watch and listen, so a counter-balancing perspective is obviously also needed to avoid turning games into movies with chores between scenes.

Another pro is similar, but rather concerns storytelling itself. Unskilled or inexperienced writers or non-writers can look at the writing side of storytelling in games and think of it as needing to _tell_ the story, leading to excessively wordy stories, story scene upon story scene, dialogue line upon dialogue line repeating ad nauseam what the players figured out a few minutes into the game. A skilled writer, gamer writer or non-game writer, would understand the story elements that need to be told, the ones that can be shown, and hopefully what can be experienced rather than shown or told. Let me re-iterate my position on interactive mediums: they’re the only art that within a work lets you experience regret.

The obvious con is that non-game writers might not write for the strengths of the medium. A non-game writer wouldn’t necessarily make the scenes between Guybrush and Elaine in Monkey Island 1 interactive (to the limited, hilarious extent they were). A non-game writer wouldn’t necessarily understand that gamers play to act, to do, to have agency in that world and influence over the characters they play. There are linear stories in linear games with linear characters, but not all games can be like that, nor should they.

Still, for whatever past failures to understand the medium and its audience, Hepler does not deserve the response she’s been getting. Those that say they want no part in an industry she’s part of should stick to their word and stay out of video games. Don’t play them, don’t talk about them, don’t get a job that involves them in any way.

On a related topic, the rules (especially the Swedish rules) for Antoine Bauda’s 7 Wonders, a board game, are terribly written, and the version I got my hands on didn’t have an English rulebook included. I know ppl around here are expected to be able to read one of the local languages, but when the rulebook is a wordy mess, I’d prefer to have an English version available, one with a little more effort put into clarifying the rules and not leaving portions of other languages (plural) in it. Whoever wrote the rules is a bad writer. The game is good, tho.

Posted in game design, video game industry | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Thoughts on Civ V

Posted by Ad on November 12, 2011

Civilization V is annoying. I mean, I like this game, it maintains the flavor of Civ while innovating a lot of the gameplay. But there’s a lot that annoys me. But first, improvements.

You don’t need fragile little transports to move units across the sea anymore, tho why you can’t upgrade your old ships to ocean-faring ones at the same time bothers me, and I’d still like to see an explorer ship that can find new land and build some kind of colony, or at the very least make landfall and explore further.

The hex grid. So much cooler, and it makes distances a little more sensible. I’m still waiting on a spherical map. Realism. Coolness. An icosahedron subdivided into triangles, maybe?

No “stack of doom”. The new system isn’t without its problems, it doesn’t always recognize that I wanna switch places between two units… and what if I wanna rotate places between three units?

I want ability to just draw how I want my land to look like (tile improvements) and have the workers just work accordingly. I don’t trust the auto function, and working with them manually is annoying. Besides, idle workers could reduce maintenance on tile improvements. Someone, make this happen. Currently, I don’t know what to do with them once they’re done with all tiles until I discover Oil, Uranium or Aluminium in my territory. Fortifying them somewhere and then trying to find them amongst other units and details on the map is annoying.

I want more diplomatic options. I can’t threaten blockade or go to war, and I can’t threaten to attack the other player’s friends or allies. It’d be nice to have more spice in the single-player mode. Civ is a difficult game to play multiplayer, in that not everyone have that much time to spare, and games today tend not to be cheap, either. Not seeing who is friends with whom (especially with city states) from a single diplomatic window is annoying, I have to close two diplomacy views to get to a scren that provides _some_ of that information.

I want a more advanced culture system. Yes, it’s simplified to make it a more valuable and versatile game mechanic, but I’d like to see culture divided into multiple cultures, a military culture that every military unit, military structure, and military diplomatic option adds to. Likewise, science, industry, and whatever else works. In Civ 4 you could basically take over the world with culture, much like the USA seems to have been doing irl. Why not have a few stacks of policies that require a certain amount of a specific culture type to use, so that a militaristic civ gets bonuses for their military, while a scientific civ gets bonuses for that?

I want Animal Husbandry to be researched faster if there are animal resources in the Civ’s territory, likewise Mining if there are hills, naval research if there’s sea, metal research if there’s metal, etc.. Combine this with a spherical map (assuming axial tilt) and Calendar would be research sooner further from the equator.

But most of all, I want a game that loads faster. I don’t need every graphical detail, the game can’t possible need to load the main menu for a minute (and the legal notice before the menu may be necessary the first time you start the game but it just annoys ppl after that). Really, the game looks nice, plays ok, and does a lot of unnecessary stuff in between.

I want options to turn off all sound. I want options to turn off leader backgrounds… or leader screens at all. Having to start/load a game every time I change any video options (or worse, restart the whole game) is stupid. A lot of the game is stupid. I don’t mean gameplay things, I mean the program itself. A lot of it is stupid. And slow.

So what I really want is less waiting, more playing. And a Mac version that’s not watered-down. It doesn’t even do mods without screwing with files that any update would revert and who knows what else.

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Really about color, ain’t it?

Posted by Ad on May 12, 2011

Today’s topic was prompted by an upcoming costume party I have to attend. For which I have some trouble coming up with a low-work constume that’s both cool and fits the theme. And that doesn’t require me to shave my beard.

Anyway, this got me thinking about costumes. Clothes. Fashion. Attire. I don’t pay that much attention to it unless it’s exceptional in some way, and with games being fantasy lands full of exceptional outfits, few of them stand out enough, and I often find myself more intrigued by background NPCs than by the main chars. As for exceptional and not, we get characters (usually female) who wears less and less and it’s less and less of an issue in the industry overall. Or it seems to consumers like me.

But putting aside the straps and loincloths that the less dressed characters wear, most characters wear stuff that in our culturally diverse expressive modern/post-modern world wouldn’t be entirely out of place. Sure, body paint, goggles, and a huge-ass sword might not make it into the everyman’s wardrobe, and if they did, there’s probably only one day a  year when those things would be taking out of there. But the clothes themselves might actually work.

While more commonplace in my country than in palces without conscription, uniforms might not be all that suitable everyday wear. Sure, camo colors and the camo pattern has made it into everyday use, and jeans have lost to more loose pants with more pockets. Still, uniforms will probably not become everyday fashion. Nor will the swimsuit-based outfits in games.

So what would we expect to see a generation raised on video games wear? Layers. Parts. Leggings are apparently in, and they lend themselves to a variety of other clothes. I don’t think men, who generally just wear “pants” and some kind of “shirt”, should wear those, tho. Coats, vests, armwear, headgear… just as long as ppl don’t start sporting those ridiculous goggles, I’m all for it.

And colors. Since games started coming in color, color has been important to the design in games. We could go classic with colors referencing the Mario brothers, or more modern referencing Kratos or the Master Chief. Pick any game with characters with distinct design. Here’s a quick spectrum:

Auron, Kratos, Nariko (rule 63 of Kratos?), Zero in red; Gordon Freeman and Chell orange; Wario, Daisy, Penelo, Scorpion and too many chars in FFX in yellow; Link, Luigi and Blanka green; Mega Man, Sonic, Sub-Zero, Chun-Li, and lots of others in blue; Waluigi in purple; Zelda, Peach, Kairi in pink… I won’t list characters in black.

Actually, colors might be the most striking thing about video game design. IRL, we went from bright colors in the 70s to unnatural colors in the 80s followed by more and more black in the 90s and 00s. Now we’re seeing a return of color. I’m thinking it’s partly thanks to video games.

So really, the way video games will impact what we wear is color. We’ve grown up with a gallery of colorful characters, be they pink-haired princesses or sporting red body paint; be they human or hedgehogs or what the heck Bowser is. Surely this will change how we think of what we wear.

I have a red shirt I wear from time to time. I hear surprisingly few redshirt jokes. Apparently, Star Trek is so 1900s.

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Mass Defect

Posted by Ad on December 15, 2010

A copy of Mass Effect recently appeared near one of my computers. It said it worked on Mac. It kind’a did. After a couple of hours trying to figure out the problem, I think I’m sure it’s the graphics card. The game allegedly runs fine of an nVidia-MacBook, but not on my Radeon-iMac. And obviously not on my pre-Intel Radeon PowerBook.

So what bothers me about this? That there’s no official Mac version? That it works on some macs and not others? That it took me hours to figure this all out? Yes to all applicable, but the last one more than the others.

The game and the audio works just fine, but the 3d parts of the screen turns white and a lot of models are missing. I saw vistas of space and empty chairs in the intro, then a quick whiteout and flashes of the geometry. Said white flashes might be effects, since they managed to obscure just part of a hallway at one point, but once I turned too far the whole world went white again. Not the HUD, just the world.

On a related note, we have a lot of snow outside. They say there were these things called ditches than ran across the lawns. I have no idea what they’re talking about.

Anyway, missing models and a big whiteness. And there are instances where I found myself probably in a corner with the camera inside some thing, outside the geometry. There I could see something, but it was pretty weird and abstract looking. And dark, so probably just the other side of the thing I was looking through.

I might have spent 2-3 hours on figuring this out, trying different settings and seeing if the same problems persist, googling how to tell if the firmware is up to date and how to force an OS X 10.5-compatible updater to update on 10.6, rendering issues and how to access the graphics card’s settings, getting all kinds of support forum posts and torrent links in all that searching. And it all leads me to a simple solution:

I need to steal that laptop.

Also, I came across probably dozens of threads with ppl stating these same problems, or similar. On that note, some Radeon-OS X compatibility problem could explain the weird texture things happening on big ships in FreeSpace 2. Or did I solve that with some vSync thing, I don’t remember.

And to address the piracy issue, I’d buy a Steam licence if the game would work for me. It’s just 15 euros. BioWare, do you hear me? Make an official Mac version available, or leak a Radeon-compatible Cider version or something. Keyword: Radeon-compatible.

Post title refers to defects, not defecting. It’s punny in writing.

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Abloogy-woogy- *boom*

Posted by Ad on November 16, 2010

I might get it, but it’s not done yet and I’m not sure I’ll like it.

Not talking about Supoer Meat Boy, which I’m pretty sure I’ll get the second I see it’s out for mac on Steam. If I have money on my PayPal account at that moment, thatis. Anyway, I’m talking about Undead Labs’ unnamed Zombie-killing console MMO.

I’ve never really liked MMOs. In principle, cooperative play is fun, but it usually forces you to play the same level together on the same screen, and you don’t have much say in the story. In an MMO there’s these bigger raids going on and that’s about all the story you get. Right? Idunno, I don’t play them. Then there’s the grinding and stuff.

I also don’t like the math thing that a lot of games, including MMOs, do. Yes, there’s a lot of math going on behind the scenes in every game, like how weapon x either has water-element attributes and +2 on Saturdays, or has sharpness 3 out of 10 because it’s a wrench or something else that’s kind’a blunt and not really designed for cutting. But if I shoot an enemy in the leg, I want him to limp and stuff, not bleed red numbers. If I chop his head off, I expect him to die, not just lose 40% of his health.
This is what makes Undead Labs’ project so interesting – it takes the stuff I conceptually like about MMOs and leaves out the stuff I’d except to just be bothered by.

I’m not a big fan of zombies tho. Maybe because of their position among horror/fantasy/scifi monsters as one of the more plausible ones, and that combined with my imagination makes going to the basement shower in my house a little scary at times. Down the stairs, there could be zombies coming from the left, from the right, or from behind/under the stairs. I’ve more than once, while the “energy-saving” light bulb in the sauna warms up, walked around down there, looking for things I could use as weapons. Ideally, I’d get my hands on an axe, but the sauna ladle might work too.

Upstairs, I’d probably go for my sister’s katana; the melon-knife I call it. If only it was sharpened (die, watermelons, die). No slicy action, but I could do some thrusty stabby damage with it in its current state. Hm, for someone who doesn’t like zombies, I seem to think about surviving them a lot. Could explain my tendency for buying flashlights and battier all the time. They also make great improvised gifts. Everybody needs flashlights.

I’m still scared of the dark. My imagination lives there.

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My longest post ever

Posted by Ad on November 4, 2010


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The 3d trend

Posted by Ad on November 3, 2010

Avatar was spectacular. Not good, jsut decent and a spectacle you had to see in 3d. Much like fireworks are that thing you gotta see, not for a compelling story or anything, just for the spectacle. Same with movies where the script could be a list detailing in what order stuff blows up, and how. A spectacular effects extravaganza. Avatar’s cool alien world and 3D made it a spectacle. Otherwise it wasn’t that big a deal. (we’ve all seen the story before, right?)

I can see two benefits with 3D in games. And by 3D I mean the stereoscope thing, not the Mario 64 thing. First, it’ll make platformers easier. Platformers and 3d has always been a mess of looking down when you jump, or assuming the level designer had designed the jump you wanna do as something you can do. Second, people that don’t know better will buy the next big thing, which means 3D games will rake in money. Oh and you need a 3D TV for it. More money to someone. All it’ll cost game devs is the cost it takes to add a second virtual camera a few inches beside the first one, and send its picture to a second video output thingy. There’s no such thing as free money, but this comes pretty close.

An FPS dev, Jared Gerritzen, says 3D is the new big thing in FPSs. As immersive as it may be, I’d be much more interested in a clean design and a story with options. Non-linearity. Consequences. Big consequences for little things. Don’t save person X, lose valuable intel, don’t get backup at location x; strangle/stab enemy X, which alerts the enemies when enemy X doesn’t report in; steal car, speed, get your ass busted, be on Cops.

While on the topic of cars, I’ve had this idea of taking what Need for Speed has been doing with infractions and taking it to the next level: cost. Add people, make them sue for personal or property damage. Add infractions that are kind’a silly (in an underground racing kind of driving game at least) like running a red light and driving on the wrong side of the road or on the sidewalk. See how much it’d cost to do this stuff. See what a court of law would think about a wheel-bound serial killer.

I miss Carmageddon.

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Doing it wrong

Posted by Ad on October 28, 2010

I saw a YouTube comment a while back, in which someone stated having grown up on the modern RPGs but felt the older ones (snes-era, according to the video commented on) were just… better. The graphics were 2d, no voice acting, low-resolution sprites, menu-driven combat in many of the games, static monster sprites in many of the games, etc.. So why are these games “better”?

I’ve been thinking of what makes for a good game, what about a game that makes it enjoyable. in board games, I’m pretty sure it’s the opportunity to screw things up for other players. Quarto, chinese checkers, rummy, even games as  simple as four/five-in-a-row have that. More advanced games like Illuminati is also about screwing things up for other players (tho often through threats diplomacy). One of the games that has seen the most play among our gaming group would be Blokus. For this very reason. Our Uno games tend to be competitive. Our adapted rules to other games make them more competitive. More opportunities to screw things up for other players.
So what about video games, esp. single-player RPG games? I had a short list in my head, a list of the most important features of a game, but have forgotten some of them. Oh well. Here’s what I do remember:

1. Controls. If the controls are sluggish, the game sucks. If thinking about a direction causes the character to spurt head-first in that direction, the game will be annoying. If the character won’t even move until you shove the stick as far as it goes, the game will be annoying. Some RPGs have a run button. Some don’t. And don’t get me started on menu-driven combat.

2. Exploration. Not applicable to all kinds of games, but my favorite part of a Civ game is when most of the map is blank and I can just head in whatever direction I want, see what’s there. Many RPGs have a huge world, whether or not you ever get to see a world map. Aquaria is a great example of games based around exploration. If new areas aren’t interesting enough, exploration isn’t a reward enough to keep ppl playing. if there are no new areas, your game is small, and it better have a good focus on other important elements… like investigating a mystery… Oh wait, that’s also a form of exploration.

3. Story. Yes, you kind’a need a story to justify the gameplay. No, you really don’t need much. Mario and Zelda are just going to rescue the damsel in distress by defeating the bad guy, right? That’s actually a pretty deep story for a game, it has TWO objectives (albeit accomplished at the same time the same way). Then there are stories that are long and/or thick, but still not very deep. And then there’s the worst kind, the ones that stop the game to tell a story you either already know or don’t really care about. I mean, at the start of Monkey Island 1, what would we need to know about Guybrush Threepwood besides that he wants to become a pirate?

4. Icons. A guy in a green tunic and a silly green hat? Red cap, mustache, red and blue clothing? Yellow/orange space armor with big shoulder thingies? A blue hedgehog with red boots? Classic video game heroes. As tech advanced, we got more complicated appearances for the characters, but this didn’t make them better. The good ones are iconic for their simplicity, they’re archetypes and their appearance somehow reflects this. More recent successful characters would have to include Master Chief. Why? Archetype with an easily identified appearance. Kratos? Sackboy? Whether or not the characters themselves are iconic, something in the game must be. The design of Portal and the archetype GLaDOS represents? The design of the world of BioSchock? The design of the world of Aquaria?

5. Mythology. Related to icons. By this I don’t mean a creation myth, gods and giants, and the source of life, magic, and everything. I just mean a set of rules that the world design abides by. Maybe numbers, shapes, colors, locations, maybe these things represent something, making things identified through their association with whatever is referenced in their design? If the bad guy has horns, and we all know it, other characters with horns will be perceived as bad guys, right? How about the color red, or black? How about a pitchfork? Goat legs? Silly tail? Red or black eyes? If we establish this as the face of evil, all these attributes will be associated with evil. Goatherders, farmers, and emo kids beware. How about pale skin, fangs, and cape? How about suit and tie? How about the blue water people, the brown mountain people, and the green forest people? All identified as iconic in the Zelda series, but the mythology goes deeper than that, as evidenced with a few characters in Twilight Princess, where mere colored dots under some characters’ eyes identify them as tied to one of these peoples/locations, depending on their color.

6. Freedom. Tied to controls and exploration. Sequence-breaking was one of the main features of the Metroid series, at least before being constrained to a 3d gameplay and/or a more story-driven gameplay. This freedom has been enjoyed by lots of gamers. Is it weird that a game which unintentionally includes abilities to skip entire sections of the game is so enjoyable because of such an oversight on the designers’ part? Maybe. I don’t care, I just like being able to go places. Linear exploration is like sitting in a bus, whereas freedom is having your own car. In keeping with that analogy, Aquaria had a car, and I want cars in more games. And stories that take cars into account, plz… or at least doesn’t get in the way.

7. Direction, parallel of freedom. As much fun as a sandbox game can be, without a clear story the freedom comes off as lazy game design. Huge world, somewhere something to do that moves the story forward, but no incentive to go there and not a lot of clues pointing that way either. Either make the story as free as the world, or don’t make the world so free. As much as invisible walls and seemingly arbitrary restrictions bother me, I’m more bothered by being far from my objectives because the game never told me where I was supposed to go. I would of course prefer to be able to go anywhere, and the story would adapt, give me the story of where I am, not of where I should be, plz.

8. What else… NO GRINDING! Okay so I played through game X last year, now I wanna play it again. I don’t want to have to run around area X for an hour, again, to level up so I can beat the boss. How about we do away with all this exp crap and just let ppl play on skill and knowledge? Battles back in the day were limited by tech, but they weren’t limited by loading times and long attack animations, so the grinding was a lot faster then. Still annoying when you play the old games, but nowhere near the wait it takes to grind in modern games.

That’s all I can think of atm, but I’m sure there’s more to it than this. I’ll probably revise this at some point, post a new version. These are my thoughts today. The main problem with newer games is that they’re still doing what the old games are doing, except prettier and slower. I don’t think Metroid: Other M’s story, or most modern games’ for that matter, is half as bad as some of the direction and tech behind it makes it look like. We’re years ahead of the snes, why are we still designing games as if they’re nothing but a graphical 3d upgrade of those games? With the interactive nature of video games, why are the stories still so linear?

Games like Civ and Illuminati end up as a modular story that’s based in the game mechanics. I don’t see why RPGs, shooters, and others couldn’t do the same. Anybody know anybody who does this?

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