Ludomedia #74

June 5, 2020

Ludomedia

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

Ludomedia

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

Ludomedia

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

Ludomedia

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

Ludomedia

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.”

Ludomedia #69

November 4, 2019

Ludomedia

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…”

Ludomedia #68

September 23, 2019

Ludomedia

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).”

Ludomedia #67

August 28, 2019

Ludomedia

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


Adam Millard: Why We’re Wrong About Violence In Games

  • “We need to be able to distinguish aesthetic from how we approach and engage with games […] I’d argue that instead of judging games by whether they have bloodshed or not, we should instead judge them by what kind of player experience they’re creating.”

Extra Credits: Diegetic UI – Realistic, or Distracting?

  • “Some information, it seems, is just better represented by a bar or number on screen, or even a menu list. This is because the purpose of UI is to show critical information to the player. So displaying that information in the most straightforward way is generally better. […] Good UI should be legible first, stylized second.”

Jim Sterling: The Political Agenda Of Dark Souls

  • “Dark Souls explores the idea of perpetuating cycles to keep a status quo upheld while the ruling class cling to their stale thrones. A ruling class that has convinced those lower on the social rungs to vote against their own interests and belief things that actively keep them under the elite’s boot heels.”

Mark Brown: The Best Games from GMTK Game Jam 2019

  • “This year the theme was ‘Only One’ which encouraged designers to make games with only one bullet, or only one room, or only one button. […] I want to send the jam off by showing the 20 games that I think are most deserving of note and attention.”

Mark Brown: Why Does Celeste Feel So Good To Play?

  • “[Celeste] shows the importance of getting the curves right when building basic movement, adding mechanics that introduce very different ways to navigate the space, using feedback to emphasize movement, being forgiving about pixel precision, increasing the skill ceiling with advanced movement and not being afraid to test, tweak and toss away work throughout the lengthy process of getting this stuff right.”

Ludomedia #66

July 24, 2019

Ludomedia

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


Adam Millard: Engineering The Perfect Enemy

  • “Having enemies with a clear, focussed design is a great foundation upon which to build an iconic bad guy, but it’s not enough. A great enemy also needs to fit into the wider ecosystem of play, whether that’s working alongside other enemies, the environment, or even the player. In other words: A good enemy is synergistic.”

George Weidman: Media Literacy and Game News

  • “Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms. […] But media literacy also requires an understanding of not just the standards and ethics that serious journalists should themselves accountable to, but also the sinister effects that money and cognitive bias have on it.”

Jim Sterling: The Exploitative Push For Social Networking In Games

  • “We’re in an age where kids at school are being bullied for not having any premium skins in Fortnite. […] Social gaming has its place, but its mass adoption by the AAA game industry is a fucking scam, a long con, yet another way […] in which video game publishers plan to swindle, trick and seduce cash out of you.”

Jonathan Blow: Singapore Games Guild Keynote

  • “Don’t even entertain ideas like ‘extending the playtime’, because it’ll make your game really boring. […] You really just want your game to have enough material in it to be interesting enough to last a long time. […] You want to actually have so much material that you then cut the worst material and leave the best material. That’s how the average value of your game goes up.”

Mark Brown: Can We Make Talking as Much Fun as Shooting?

  • “We can make dialogue trees that aren’t just basic skill checks that let you skip through gameplay, but involved negotiations that become exciting gameplay in of themselves, where you’re gathering evidence and intel, reading social cues and body language, and manipulating a web of relationships to get your way.”

Ludomedia #65

July 1, 2019

Ludomedia

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


Gbay99: Why “Auto-Chess” Games are Taking Over

  • “While card games are about having a pre-conceived strategy that you’re going for no matter what, Auto Chess games start off completely fresh with nothing pre-planned. […] Oftentimes a Hearthstone game between two equally skilled players isn’t won by who made more right decisions, but just who […] got luckier. Auto Chess games […] have way more room for skillful players to show off how good they are.”

Jim Sterling: The Addictive Cost Of Predatory Videogame Monetization

  • “[Addiction] doesn’t just stop on a dime and the game industry knows this. That’s why they go after those who will form habits. […] Get people to knee-jerk spend, to not think about what they’re doing as they’re doing it; keep the pressure up with limited offers, fixed prices to make each spend more appealing; get players a sense of emotional as well as financial investment; maintain the sunk cost fallacy as long as possible; everything I’ve ever ranted and raved about […] is not only supported, but gloated over by people in the industry.”

Jonathan Blow: Interview (Casual Connect)

  • “I’m soundly on the gameplay side. […] It’s a place where we’re making our own progress. […] Games are good at making settings, they’re good at establishing mood. What they’re not good at is plot, so why are we copying these storytelling structures that have plot?”

Keith Burgun: Execution in Strategy Games Should Be Considered Randomness

  • “Execution is always a matter of personally training some physical ability, whether it be muscle memory, strength, reflexes, etc. There is no way that a particular player’s ability here can be implemented into a strategy game in a way that’s strategically meaningful. You could balance around it to get it back to something like a 50% win ratio but it still needs to basically be factored out and then treated as a kind of output randomness.”

Kyle Orland: In praise of ultra-short games

  • “These quick-hit games contain more raw, memorable emotional moments than half of the 80-hour open-world epics out there. And there’s something for games that focus with such intensity on getting to the point quickly and then getting out without hours and hours of repetitive padding put on just for the sake of “value.” That’s especially true as the overall gaming audience continues to age and face more adult demands on their time and attention.”