Ludomedia #74

June 5, 2020


Games media worth reading, watching or listening to.

Jon Ingold: Dreaming Spires: Dynamic Narrative, Layer by Layer

  • “Is it possible to make the entire narrative out of contextual dialogue? Instead of tying the conversation engine to something rigid, like an adventure game world, we’ve tied it instead to a procedurally-generated Chess-like strategy game. Boards, moves, pieces… and combinatorial explosion. “

Keith Burgun: Why “quarterbacking” isn’t a problem in cooperative games

  • “Whenever there is quarterbacking, the actual problem is that there is a large skill imbalance between the players. This is a problem in all multi-player games, not just in cooperative games, though. […] If you have a group that you want to play Pandemic with, you have to try and make sure that all the players have played a similar amount, same as how if you want to really get into Chess it’s best if you have a partner who is somewhere near your level. In short, I don’t think this is a “game design” problem.”

Mark Brown: School of Stealth

  • “These are games where your power doesn’t come through sheer brute force, but only through your ability to hide from the enemy. So having your sneaky status be fragile and fuzzy reminds you that you’re always at risk of losing your tenuous advantage over the enemy. […] But making the system completely obvious has its own advantages. It puts way more power in your hands and allows you to play with a huge amount of confidence.”

Tommy Thompson: The Story of Facade: The AI-Powered Interactive Drama

  • “The player is secretly playing along in several of what are known as ‘social games’. These social games are specific phases of Facade where based upon your interactions, they can influence Grace and Trip’s feelings on a particular subject matter, their self-awareness about their underlying problems and their affinity towards the player. Every provocation, criticism or praise found within the natural language typed in from the keyboard will nudge the characters feelings on each subject.”

Zach Gage: Humans Who Make Games (Interview)

  • “Games are ways to learn and enjoy the skill of critical thinking, and I think a lot of adults don’t do a lot of critical thinking. […] One style of solving a problem is basically a pattern-matching style. […] But there’s this other way of teaching, which is teaching people how to be good problem solvers. […] If you can do problem solving well, you can learn anything.”

Ludomedia #73

April 15, 2020


Games media worth reading, watching or listening to.

Derek Yu: Death Loops

  • “Generally, the choice is between more polish, more ambitious game design, or shorter development time, and how much of each you can choose depends on your experience level and your available resources. […] One of the biggest strengths of indie devs is our freedom, which allows us to work in our own way, to make decisions swiftly, and to make bold choices that AAA studios might not be able to. It’s the lone wolf approach versus the large army approach. Unfortunately, it also means that we can be free to spin our wheels with very little accountability.

Jim Sterling: XP Boosters Are Some Sinister Bullshit

  • “I expect boosters to become more this decade and coming console generation. I think it’ll be the new popular way of capitalizing on the concept of monetized grind, especially with the growing popularity of battle passes and the sense of slow teasing progression they ferment.”

Keith Burgun: A discussion about “structure” in strategy game design

  • “Structure exists in the rules of the game when they have high interconnectivity or high ‘coupling’. […] Because these rules are a holistic part of the game […] they have a multiplying effect on the system’s potential depth. Componential rules, or low-structure systemic rules […], have something more like an additive effect, by contrast.”

Mark Brown: Anatomy of a DOOM Eternal Fight

  • “So getting through […] any combat encounter […] means finding answers to four key questions. You might want to think of these as priority, preference, preservation and position – or the four Ps. All four Ps must be considered simultaneously and constantly re-evaluated as new information arises, like running out of ammo or seeing new enemies spawn in.”

Tom Francis: Consider Giving Up

  • “‘Never give up’ is really bad advice, especially for newcomers. We’re very quick to romanticize dedication, and we’re quick to look at folks who already released successful games and say ‘Look at them! They didn’t give up!’ […] There are ideas out there that give you something back when you work on them, but you need to explore to find them. You can’t explore if you never give up on the first path you picked.”

Ludomedia #72

March 2, 2020


Games media worth reading, watching or listening to.

Brett Lowey: Action Funnels

  • “An action funnel is any system in a game that takes a wide menu of possible player actions and limits it to a subset of currently possible actions. […] So help your players navigate a complicated and interesting game space without heavy proofreading, action parsing and calculation. Use Action Funnels!”

Brett Lowey: Skill Compensation

  • “Skill Compensation is the degree to which a player’s performance is reflected in the final outcome of a match. […] Varying Skill Compensation can have both positive and negative effects on your game design, depending on what other properties you’re optimizing for (evaluation, learning rate, playfulness, etc).”

Joost van Dongen: Five important realisations about game balance

  • “1. Overpowered is much worse than underpowered […] 2. Variety always adds imbalance” […] 3. Competitive players often dislike randomness and luck […] 4. Balance automatically becomes worse over time […] 5. ‘Perfect’ balance is impossible”

Mark Brown: How Level Design Can Tell a Story

  • “Environmental storytelling requires a certain level of deductive reasoning as we connect up details to create an overall story. We use investigative and archeological skills to determine relationships, cause and effect, and history. This makes us an active participant in the storytelling process and not just a passive viewer.”

Keith Burgun: Achieving playfulness in strategy game design

  • “A playful strategy game is deep: there is a huge range of possible tactics and strategies. […] A playful strategy game is expressive: each player plays the game a little bit differently […] A playful strategy game feels low-stress. You don’t have a feeling that if you make one mistake, you’re screwed. […] A playful strategy game has a balanced difficulty. […] You have to play seriously, but not so hard that you don’t have room for experimentation or so hard that the experience becomes stressful.”

Ludomedia #71

January 28, 2020


Games media worth reading, watching or listening to.

Brett Lowey: The “Playfulness” Property of Strategy Games

  • “So I’m not talking about simplicity/complexity, and I’m not talking about depth. […] Instead playfulness refers to a property of games that encourages players to play with their gut/creatively, and minimizes the incentives to calculate/count/solve.”

Elliot George: Complexity and Noise in Games

  • “I noted that [players] are in principle unpredictable, but they are not the same thing as noise. In some contexts it is possible to improve ones ability to predict other players. […] Players are, at the very least, weighted noise generators, and in some contexts they are noisy pattern generators.”

Iggy Zuk: Modularity

  • “Modularity in game design can be used to improve the depth of a game by introducing complexity. This is done primarily by breaking up an object into many components and having them all do something. […] Systems become more fundamental to the overall structure of the object the deeper they are.”

Mark Brown: The Two Types of Random

  • “Randomness can be an incredibly important part of games. It’s used for variety, balance, rewards, the information horizon, and probably more things I’ve forgotten about. […] Understanding the difference between input and output randomness is perhaps the most important thing to learn.”

Randy Farmer et al.: Prosocial economics for game design

  • “Multiplayer games can help build a player’s social support network. What would game design look like if our goals included reducing loneliness, decreasing toxicity and boosting a player’s positive connections with others?”

Ludomedia #70

December 16, 2019


Lesens-, hörens- und sehenswerte FundstĂŒcke aus der Welt der Spiele.

Christian Huberts: Die Spieler scheißen auf den grĂ¶ĂŸten Haufen

  • “Death Stranding belohnt somit Influencer. Jeder möchte viel Laufpublikum fĂŒr seine Leitern und am Ende fĂŒhren gleich fĂŒnf ĂŒber denselben Fluss. Der Teufel, in dem Fall der Spieler, scheißt auf den grĂ¶ĂŸten Haufen. Alle anderen können der Elite zumindest den erhobenen Daumen zeigen.”

Jonathan Blow: Making Games in 2019 and Beyond

  • “It’s hard for people to understand what your game will be. […] Look, feedback is good. […] Seeing other people interact with your game can shatter any illusions that you may have. […] On the other hand […] if you release something in early access and it’s far from what it’s going to be, I think most of the feedback will be incorrect.

Mark Brown: The Most Innovative Game of 2019

  • “While making an open-ended puzzle game sounds great, it’s open to easy answers […] so the designer’s job is to actually lock you in and force restrictions on you.”

Rym DeCoster & Scott Rubin: Take Your #@*$ Turn!

  • “If a game is fun, but it takes a long time, it’s not that good. Or at least it has a low fun economy. […] If you can find a game that is a certain amount of fun, but takes like 10 or 20 or 30 minutes to play, that game is probably objectively better as a game, and you should seek those games out. You should reward the games […] that respect you enough to not waste your time.”

Stephen Blessing: The Incan Gold Experiment (GameTek 213.5)

  • “We had an abstract condition, which is devoid of any content or theme. […] The abstracts, regardless if they were playing more risky or more cautious […] scored higher than the other two conditions, and they also took significantly less time playing.”

Spiele des Jahres 2019

December 9, 2019

1. Minion Masters

Im Grunde gehört Minion Masters seit Jahren zu meinen meistgespielten Titeln. Nun ist das Echtzeit-Kartenspiel aber endlich nicht mehr im Early Access und damit auch fĂŒr meine Top-Liste qualifiziert.

Kurz beschreibe ich es gerne als “Clash Royale in gut”. In Wahrheit ist der Mobile-Hit von Supercell auch kein ganz schlechtes Spiel. Doch “MM” liegt in so ziemlich allen Belangen vorn. Es ist tiefer, flexibler, fairer, enthĂ€lt deutlich weniger Grind und bietet mit seinen “King of the Hill”-Anleihen auch das wesentlich interessantere Grundsystem.

DarĂŒber hinaus kann man die Entwickler von BetaDwarf kaum genug loben. Sie supporten ihre Spiele grundsĂ€tzlich ĂŒber lange Zeit und fĂŒgen entsprechend auch bei Minion Masters seit Beginn der Early-Access-Phase vor 3 Jahren regelmĂ€ĂŸig Content hinzu (zuletzt einen vollwertigen “Roguelike”-Modus) und feilen am Balancing. Belohnt wird dies mit einer ĂŒber Jahre hinweg stabilen Spielerschaft. Zurecht!

2. Auto Chess: Origin

Bereits als Mod fĂŒr Dota 2 wies “Auto Chess” ein sehr interessantes Konzept auf, war aber noch ziemlich clunky und fehleranfĂ€llig. Doch das Mod-Team von Drodo Studio besserte schnell selbst nach und entwickelte eine Mobile-Umsetzung.

“Origin” stellt meines Erachtens den bislang besten Genre-Vertreter des neu begrĂŒndeten Genres der “Auto Battler” dar. Im Gegensatz zu vielen anderen Titeln stimmt das Balancing, da auf Monate an Daten durch den Quasi-Betatest mittels der Original-Mod zurĂŒckgegriffen werden konnte. Auch wird das Konzept nicht mit NebenkriegsschauplĂ€tzen ĂŒberladen (wie etwa in Riots Teamfight Tactics). Und Valves eigenes Dota Underlords hat sich mit seinen namensgebenden “Underlords” ohnehin selbst zu Fall gebracht.

Fehlt nur, dass die bislang doch stark vernachlĂ€ssigte Standalone-PC-Version auf einen brauchbaren Stand gebracht wird…

3. Slay the Spire

Der Roguelike-Deckbuilder, mit dem alles begann. Die Idee, die klassisch-mathematische RPG-Progression (“höhere Stats, mehr Schaden”) durch ein bedeutsameres System zu ersetzen, das die Möglichkeit bietet, sich spontan im Spielverlauf verschiedenste “Builds” zu basteln, ist brilliant.

Über einige Early-Access-Jahre hinweg und dank des unablĂ€ssigen Supports durch Mega Crit hat sich Slay the Spire zu einem echten Content-Monster gemausert. Dank unzĂ€hliger Regel-Modifikatoren gleicht kein Run dem anderen. Die “Ascensions” bieten eine Art Single-Player-Matchmaking und motivieren langfristig.

Durch die grundverschiedenen Charakterklassen (sowie einige clevere Community-Mods) wird beinahe das Maximum aus der Design-PrĂ€misse herausgeholt. Einzig eine Prise RĂ€umlichkeit wĂŒrde dem Kampfsystem meines Erachtens gut tun. Doch das ist Meckern auf sehr hohem Niveau.

4. The Legend of Bum-Bo

Edmund McMillens neuester Streich prĂ€sentiert sich selbst als “Deck-building Roguelike” und damit im Fahrwasser von Slay the Spire. In Wahrheit ist der Isaac- und Meat-Boy-Designer jedoch mit der Idee gestartet, eine strategischere Variante des Kult-Klassikers Puzzle Quest umzusetzen. Dies ist ihm letztlich auch ganz hervorragend gelungen.

Zwar spielt der Zufall etwas zu oft eine zu gewichtige Rolle fĂŒr den Ausgang eines Durchlaufs, allerdings wird so zugleich fĂŒr einen hohen Wiederspielwert gesorgt. Auch die Isaac-Ästhetik – hier im Pappe-Look – wird nicht jedem zusagen. Einzigartig ist sie jedoch allemal.

5. Dicey Dungeons

Ein weiteres “Spire-like”, diesmal mit WĂŒrfeln. Terry Cavanagh (Super Hexagon, VVVVVV) gelingt mit seinem ersten kommerziellen Spiel seit 7 Jahren eine umfangreiche und mit Content vollgepackte Exploration des “Roguelike-WĂŒrfler”-Ansatzes.

WĂ€hrend im Karten-Vorbild dank mehr Kontrolle ĂŒber die eigenen FĂ€higkeiten und rotierendem Kartendeck alles etwas zuverlĂ€ssiger und planbarer ist, wird hier eher auf die großen “Heureka”-Momente gesetzt, die durch die “Limit-Break”-Mechanik teils regelrecht forciert werden. Das macht Spaß, verbraucht sich aber auch vergleichsweise schneller.

Weitere Highlights

Card of Darkness

Militia 2

Nowhere Prophet

P1 Select

Void Bastards

Ludomedia #69

November 4, 2019


Lesens-, hörens- und sehenswerte FundstĂŒcke aus der Welt der Spiele.

David Stark: Why I Made A Game That Isn’t Fun

  • “Pay to skip the wait. Pay to remove the limit. Pay to get a boost, skip the ads, make the numbers go up faster. Sandstorm is a game that was sparked by a conversation about the intentionality of these kind of mechanics, and the idea that a game could be purposefully unfun.”

Hamish Black: John Wick Hex and the Problems of Adaptation

  • “You can see what they were going for, but in practice [John Wick] Hex ends up being too inconsistent to be a puzzler and too rigid to be an action game. It just lies awkwardly in the middle.”

Jim Sterling: Are Automated Bots A Deceptive Con?

  • “If you don’t know that it’s all pretend times, you think you’re winning. And if you think you’re winning you’ll feel encouraged to keep playing. […] And the more you play, the more you’re entrenched in that game’s economy. And the more entrenched in the economy you are, the more tempted you may be to spend cash on it.”

Neo Magazin Royale: Coin Master – Abzocke mit Fun

  • “Simuliertes GlĂŒcksspiel birgt einige Gefahren: Zum einen wird durch Normalisierungstendenzen eine positive Einstellung gegenĂŒber GlĂŒcksspiel begĂŒnstigt. […] In letzter Konsequenz schĂŒrt dies den Wunsch auch mal um echtes Geld zu ‘zocken’. Junge Spieler sind dafĂŒr besonders anfĂ€llig.”

Razbuten: What Games Are Like For Someone Who Doesn’t Play Games

  • “Watching [my wife] work through this early section [of Hollow Knight] and seeing the different ways that she viewed the game got me thinking a lot about the language of video games, and just how much a person’s level of video game literacy affects their experience with any given title. […] So I decided to run an informal experiment…”

10 Jahre Zockwork Orange

October 30, 2019

10 Jahre gibt es bereits das famose Zockwork Orange, davon gut zwei mit mir. Zum JubilĂ€um gab es nun eine Artikelreihe, in der die Redaktion auf ihre jeweiligen Jahreshighlights der letzten Dekade zurĂŒckblickt.

Das hier sind meine “Picks”!

Read the rest of this entry »

Crimson Company: “The Other Side”

October 29, 2019

Ein kurzer Hinweis: Crimson Company ist mit seiner ersten Erweiterung “The Other Side” zurĂŒck auf Kickstarter! FĂŒr neue Spieler bieten wir auch ein Bundle inklusive Deluxe Edition an.

FĂŒr jedwede UnterstĂŒtzung (sei es direkt auf Kickstarter, in Form von Likes und Shares auf Social Media oder einfach per Mundpropaganda) sind wir wie immer sehr dankbar! ❀

Mehr zu den UrsprĂŒngen der Spielidee gab es ĂŒbrigens vor etwa einem Jahr in einem Artikel zu lesen.

Ludomedia #68

September 23, 2019


Lesens-, hörens- und sehenswerte FundstĂŒcke aus der Welt der Spiele.

Mark Brown: Space Invaders | Design Icons

  • “While [Space Invaders] was far from the first ever video game, it made a number of incredibly important contributions to the field of game design that would fundamentally change how games were made. From high scores, to destructible cover, to adaptive soundtracks, to the entire shoot-em-up genre, and that oh-so-important difficulty curve.”

Doc Burford: i don’t think i like prestige games

  • “I’d say that prestige games are expensive AAA-type games that imitate better art without really understanding or improving upon them in any way, often using fairly boilerplate mechanics to accomplish this. […] With a lot of these prestige games, the mechanics seem to be there because the designers needed to put some mechanics in to justify telling this story as a game.”

Jim Sterling: How Game Companies Abuse Passion

  • “If there’s one thing a corporation loves to do, it’s to make people feel like they’re choosing to participate in their own oppression. It’s a classic manipulation tactic. […] In short, passion has become a bullshit word used in place of compensation or fair treatment.”

Joel Goodwin: Go the Distance

  • “The beautiful thing about roguelikes is how they force you to overdose on system analysis. What variables you can control, what variables you can predict and what variables are out for your blood. And, boy, Speed Run sent me down a lava-scarred rabbit hole of Hoplite’s systems.”

Keith Burgun: Why it’s important that we push back on Auto Chess being a “genre”

  • “We get some super successful game, and then everyone is ape-ing that for a decade instead of just stepping back and thinking about interactivity in a more broad sense (which is totally possible and works, as demonstrated year after year by board game designers).”