Game talkGood design, Bad design, Great design

 Posted by (Visited 29488 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.
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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.

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MusicThe Sunday Song: Alice

 Posted by (Visited 8342 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 talkGame feedback & hide-and-seek

 Posted by (Visited 7275 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).

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Game talkNotes on game feedback

 Posted by (Visited 11529 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.

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Game talkInterview for a high-school junior

 Posted by (Visited 6420 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Dec 062011

Hi this is N—–.

I am a jr in high school right now, we are doing something called a jr research paper, and the career that I chose and have been looking into is game design and I need to get an interview with a game designer, I was wondering if you could email me back and you may help me. If you have the time that would be really nice.

Thank you

Sure. Here’s my answers to your questions:
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Nov 302011

I was sent a link to this set of YouTube vids on the history of the MMO genre from MUDs forward. It’s worth a look, even if only to get  a rare glimpse of actual video footage from some of the older games that many folks today don’t even know existed (after all, WoW invented the genre, right?)…

Among the oddities, errors, and omissions:

  • Leaving out Kingdom of the Winds, which predated Lineage.
  • Leaving out kids’ MMOs entirely, especially Club Penguin.
  • Saying that the Ultima Online team had never made anything multiplayer before (Ken Demarest, mentioned in the documentary, left very shortly after UO actually had a team put together — and the original core team that was assembled on the programming and design side was all MUD/MUSH/MOO veterans except for one guy).
  • Saying that Meridian 59 going flat fee was what opened up that business model… I’m fuzzy on this, but my recollection is that M59 was not flat fee at launch… it happened later. And for a while they had a weird complicated fee structure…
  • Leaving out Kart Rider, the genre explosion, and the rise of free-to-play in Korea… it just sort of stops short at Lineage there. Instead F2P seems to all be attributed to Runescape, which is a real misread of where the lines of influence actually flowed, I think.
  • No mention of key non-game worlds like Second Life and Habbo Hotel. I suppose this is excused by the emphasis on game worlds, except for the mention of Habitat.

As a side note, on the graphical MMO explosion — even though a bunch of titles launched in a very staggered way that is covered in the documentary, I think that in practice just about all of them started development around the same time. It’s just that some of them finished faster.

There’s definitely a book to be had about everything in this history… someone (not me) should go write it. 🙂

Vids after the fold:

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ArtWritingA Theory of Fun website is back!

 Posted by (Visited 13829 times)  Art, Writing  Tagged with:
Nov 242011

After a bunch of painful adventures with domain registrars and WHOIS and other stuff, I am happy to say that the A Theory of Fun for Game Design book website is back.

In the process, I also modernized it — it’s all CSS fancy now, instead of using ancient Javascript stuff to make highlighting buttons. It’s got a fresh coat of paint on it, and actually looks like it was maybe made this century, maybe.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Music“After the Flood” is available again

 Posted by (Visited 6027 times)  Music
Nov 152011

After the Flood CD coverBack in 1999, the audio guys at Origin had spare time, and they put together this cool little program whereby people who worked there at Origin could get recording studio time.

In my case, that resulted in my only CD, AFTER THE FLOOD, which features Matt Mitchell on bass, Todd McKimmey on bass and electric guitar, and Stretch Williams on slide guitar.

I put it up on back when there was such a thing, and some of the songs did fairly well — the opening track hit #9 on the folk-rock chart, for example. But then went away.

Then I put it on CafePress just so it wouldn’t vanish altogether. And then CafePress did away with CDs.

So basically, it’s been out of print for years and years.

I decided, hey, if I am going to write hundreds of songs in a spare bedroom, I should actually let someone hear them. So the CD is back! (Well, as mp3 downloads anyway).

If you like it, leave a review, tell friends… if you don’t, blame it on it being from so long ago. 😉