Rozovian’s Music Log

www.ocremix.org/artist/4795/

Posts Tagged ‘board games’

Apple Doesn’t Work on This Anymore

Posted by Ad on March 9, 2012

Remember AppleWorks? I remember it from back when it was called ClarisWorks. I like it. Sure, it wasn’t Photoshop, it wasn’t Office, it wasn’t even Word, but over the years, it became a useful wrench in my workflow. While the database and spreadsheet functionality saw some use towards the latter years, the painting functionality barely any use at all, those are fairly easily replaced. Now if only I could get LibreOffice spreadsheets to convert a text-based field to boolean while keeping the information…

The drawing functionality, however, is difficult to replace. Any DTP layout program should suffice, but it’s hard to find something affordable and stable. Especially now that I’m out of a job and don’t have spare hundreds to spend on software. Vector graphics and layout programs are sort’a in the right direction, but not quite. EazyDraw, developed as a replacement for the drawing tools in AW and capable of reading most of the information in AW drawing documents would be great, if not for a clunky interface.

That’s probably what irks me the most: interfaces. X11’s interface puts two rows of redundant stuff on the screen, and Inkscape looks ridiculous with 5-6 rows of menus and margins before I actually get to the document itself. I kind’a feel the same about OSX sometimes – the dock is useful and looks nice, but it takes up precious real estate on a laptop screen.

Anyway, I spend some of my spare time trying to design board games, card games, games of whatever type I can. Before I do any prototyping and testing, I sketch it out on the computer. I mean, I did. Now I have to rely on TextEdit – which works ok when it’s just notes and card lists, but it doesn’t let me put text blocks, lines, and images wherever I want. That’s what I did in AppleWorks.

On a related note, I use Snow Leopard’s TextEdit because Lion’s doesn’t fit my workflow, and didn’t give me any working options to change its behavior. For that matter, lots of apps in Lion don’t even understand command-Q because they don’t have a quit option, only “quit with windows” or “quit, close windows”. Apple, Y U NO keep it simple, stupid?

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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 »

Stupid Creativity

Posted by Ad on November 18, 2011

I make music. I make video game music remixes; new arrangements for (usually) old games. Some people like my work. I easily get stuck with my songs, having written half of it, and getting tired of it. Whether it’s remixes or my original work, I just hit a point where I can’t get anything done.

Instead of sitting and doing nothing, my brain switches to some other creative mode, getting me interested in something else for a while. I go back to stories, writing, fiction, worldbuilding, and from there to just about anything. I might come up with an idea that would make a great movie or TV show, or a great computer/console game, or a great board game (less risk of appearing on torrent sites), or a great book, or a great… idunno, comic book?

Now, I could pursue a career in writing for these media, but I fear that’d take me away from doing what I love doing… and I don’t even know what I love doing. Maybe I love telling stories. Maybe I love to build things. Maybe I love entertaining. Maybe I love educating. Maybe I love expressing myself. Maybe I love putting hidden messages in everything I do to manipulate ppl into doing… something.

I realized the other day that despite my liking of video games, it’s not what I wanna spend the rest of my life making. Yes, I wanna make video games. Yes, I have more than a handful of ideas. Yes, I have stories I wanna tell through video games. Yes, I have game mechanics I wanna make use of. Yes, I think my games would be pretty good.

But I also want to write a couple of books, and I wouldn’t mind making a TV series (tho the thought of letting go of my intellectual property is a little troubling, good thing it’s not something I have to think about). I wanna make some board games. I wanna make lots and lots of music.

I wonder what the best approach is. Naturally, I’d wanna get the remix project I’m heading out of the way before trying to build a career doing something creative, but I should figure out what to do next. Try to make that board game I’ve been sketching out? Try to do something for a real video game (indie, probably)? Isolate myself from everything and everyone to write my book or my music? Try to juggle work, life, creative pursuits and sleep?

In any case, I should get a proper job, tho. I wouldn’t mind one in the game industry, but there’s quite a surplus of ppl who can write stuff or make music. Dunno how to market myself anyway. Sure, I’ve got an almost unique artist name, and ocremix has spread my name all over the net, but how do I actually communicate to the right ppl that I want to make music or write stuff for their game? Who are the right ppl, where are they?

tl;dr: Rozo, stop whining, get a job, learn programming.

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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 ┬ásimple 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?

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