Good design, Bad design, Great design

 Posted by (Visited 29798 times)  Game talk  Tagged with:
Dec 162011

Good design is familiar.
Bad design is boring.
Great design is exciting.

Good design embraces human nature.
Bad design exploits human nature.
Great design is humane and humanistic.

Good design guides.
Bad design controls.
Great design invites.

Good design drives habit.
Bad design drives frustration.
Great design drives passion.
Continue reading »

Dec 132011

Ian Schreiber posted on Twitter asking

Game designers: in your everyday use of the terms, is there a difference between “rules” and “mechanics”? If so, what?

I do make the distinction, and I had to think a bit about how to even phrase it. So here’s a quick thousand+ words on it. 🙂

First off, I think these are both terms that will feel different to a player vs a designer.

Continue reading »

The Sunday Song: Alice

 Posted by (Visited 8549 times)  Music  Tagged with: , , , ,
Dec 112011

I wrote this song quite a long time ago, for one of my favorite webcomics, entitled Alice! The comic hasn’t updated since 2006, but I actually own the print collection that was available for a while. The vibe of it was somewhere between Peanuts and Calvin & Hobbes — except it was about an overimaginative teen or tween girl. Glancing at it now, it makes me think of my daughter, who similarly dives into roleplaying and doesn’t come out for days.


An Alice comic strip

An Alice comic strip



The tablature and sheet music have actually been posted up for ages and ages in the Music section of the site. It’s in standard tuning, but uses a partial capo on the 4th fret covering only three of the strings — strings 3, 4, and 5, numbered from the high E as the first string.

Hope you like it!

Game feedback & hide-and-seek

 Posted by (Visited 7485 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Dec 092011

Raph, aren’t there some situation where lack of feedback actually add to the experience? I’m thinking, for instance, something as simple as a game of hide and seek. You don’t really know if you’re well hidden until you’re found (or not)! Doesn’t “knowing you don’t know” add more tension and excitement?

-Olivier Carrère

Well, first of all, let’s not underestimate the amount of feedback there is for the hider while hiding; the sound of giggles and held breaths let go, the clear sounds of the seeker exploring the area, and depending on your location, actual visual tracking of the seeker. But all of that isn’t even really the feedback, as you state — it’s whether or not you’re found. Having to wait for that level of feedback is common in all sorts of games.

To address your question more specifically: yes, of course a certain amount of lack of feedback is fine. In the case of hide and seek, you are building a heuristic for “how the seeker seeks.” So it’s a psych game as well as a puzzle of finding decent hiding spaces. You are trying to determine how the seeker thinks, and outwit them. Worse, you have to do so with limited resources (limited environment, limited timeframe).

Continue reading »

Notes on game feedback

 Posted by (Visited 11769 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Dec 082011

I was mentioned in a comment on Google+, and ended up writing a little bit about game feedback as a result. So here it is.

The discussion was on the absence of combat logs (scrolling text windows showing you exact numbers for combat actions) in the new SWTOR MMO. Some folks regret the absence, because they use the logs to optimize what they are doing, and use it as a learning tool. Other players find them a legacy of the text mud days, or a feature that hastens the deconstruction of the entire system and therefore damages the fun factor.

Both sides are right, really. Combat logs are just a form of feedback. The more feedback the system gives you, the more information you have for the process of figuring out how the system works. This then makes the process of optimizing play easier (read that as “getting the results you want from a given input”).

The first thing to realize here is that everything the game shows you, really, is a form of feedback. The locations of chess pieces on a board, the “game state,” is a type of feedback. Numbers floating off the enemy are feedback; the glowy effect trailing a swinging sword is also feedback.

Some forms of feedback are better suited for certain types of information than others.

Continue reading »