Ludomedia #69

November 4, 2019

Ludomedia

Lesens-, hörens- und sehenswerte Fundstücke 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 Glücksspiel birgt einige Gefahren: Zum einen wird durch Normalisierungstendenzen eine positive Einstellung gegenüber Glücksspiel begünstigt. […] In letzter Konsequenz schürt dies den Wunsch auch mal um echtes Geld zu ‘zocken’. Junge Spieler sind dafür besonders anfällig.”

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 Fundstücke 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 Fundstücke 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 Fundstücke 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 Fundstücke 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.”

Ludomedia #64

May 24, 2019

Ludomedia

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


Daniel Cook: Interview (Clockwork Game Design Podcast)

  • “You sort of have a spectrum of different types of activities. […] There are high-trust activities that need a lot of coordination. […] You want to only give people the types of activity that match that group’s trust level. If you as a designer are giving incredibly high-trust activities to a group of strangers, you’re going to get toxicity, it’s inevitable.”

Daniel Märkisch: Was ist Meta?

  • “Der Schwarm löst jedes der Probleme […] einfach viel zu schnell. […] Wenn du Mass Data zulässt, kannst du kein Problem bauen, das nicht innerhalb von kurzer Zeit gelöst wird. […] Magic ist noch nicht bei Mass Data angekommen. Wenn Magic [dort] ankommt, […] dann wird relativ schnell klar werden, dass es auch dort nur wenige Top-Decks an der Spitze gibt.”

Jonathan Blow: Preventing the Collapse of Civilization

  • “Software is actually in decline right now. […] Robustness of software is declining. Productivity of programmers is declining. […] This complication that’s introduced into all of our systems […] accelerates the loss of knowledge over time. […] Technology, by itself, will degrade. And we need to, as soon as we can, start working against this. […] We must simplify, at every level.”

Mark Brown: The Challenge of Cameras

  • “The most important thing to remember is that, while cameras can certainly support aesthetic and cinematic goals, it’s only going to lead to frustration if the actual mechanical experience is harmed. Because, ultimately, the camera should fit the gameplay. Not the other way around.”

Rainer Sigl: Her mit dem Gütesiegel “Games aus Freilandhaltung”!

  • “Es liegt an uns, der Industrie zu sagen, dass das auch für uns, als Spieler und Publikum, eine relevante Information ist. Spiele sind ein spannendes Medium und ein heißgeliebtes Hobby für Millionen; die Menschen, die sie für uns Wirklichkeit werden lassen, haben unsere Solidarität verdient.”

Ludomedia #63

May 7, 2019

Ludomedia

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


Chris Wallace: How YouTube let’s plays are preserving video game history

  • “While let’s plays are unquestionably not preserving the game itself, they can function as secondary documentation, and preserve the cultural impact of a game as well as the community that built up around it. […]Even in their current state let’s plays are an important part of video game history, so it’s probably an idea to look at how we can improve that currently imperfect science.”

Dominik Schott: Anno 1800 schreibt die Geschichte um

  • “Dass Sklaverei und Sklavenhandel auch noch während der Industriellen Revolution […] grundlegender Wirtschaftsfaktor waren, das unterschlägt die Spielwelt komplett. […] Sklavenhandel ist zu heikel, aber Arbeiterproteste in den Städten können auf Knopfdruck blutig niedergeschlagen oder neue Inseln zu Arbeiterkolonien erklären werden, wo Menschen in Überstunden und unterbezahlt malochen müssen.”

Jim Sterling: The Epic Brutality Of Unchecked Capitalism

  • “If you have a problem with Epic’s methods, you don’t just have a problem with Epic. You have a problem with the environment that allows, condones and by design encourages Epic to do what Epic does.”

Ross Scott: “Games as a service” is fraud

Words Per Game: Artifact: Locked by Design

  • “Artifact is built for those who like that there’s no easy answer. […] Artifact is a game where most moves come laden with trade-offs, where actions have cascading, hard-to-evaluate effects across multiple turns. A game that rewards strategic anticipation and modular, flexible planning. […] Everything in it points towards a unified, purposeful direction. It’s just uninterested in communicating it. […] At the end of the day, Artifact doesn’t want to teach you, it just wants you to learn.”

Ludomedia #62

April 26, 2019

Ludomedia

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


Brandon Rym DeCoster & Scott Rubin:

  • Rare Game Mechanics: “There’s common game mechanics like drawing cards or playing Poker. […] We’re trying to highlight things that are interesting, that are different, that you might not have encountered.”
  • The Real Harm of Games: “Variable reward schedules demonstrably cause a behaviour to be done more often in almost all cases. […] Gaming these days seems to be going more and more in the direction of just being gambling but not looking like [a slot machine].”

Jim Sterling: A Video About BioWare Working Staff To Tears And Calling Its Mental Abuse “Magic”

  • “Any single stress casualty in the game industry should be considered an ugly fucking stain on their business and a mark of eternal shame for any company in which things have been allowed to go that far. […] BioWare isn’t the only company to describe game development in terms of magic and mysticism. [….] It tries to hide the fact that human beings work very hard on these games.”

Keith Burgun: Difficulty in Videogames

  • “There are many people who just have never had the time to get good at videogames, because they have to work two jobs, or they have a sick relative, or a dozen other reasons. Many people are disabled in various ways which also makes it more difficult for them to make similar kinds of progress. […] That’s why games, especially games like these, should have more options to allow players with different needs and abilities to engage with them.”

Mark Brown: How Games Get Balanced

  • “This is just not going to be an intensive tutorial. Instead, Game Maker’s Toolkit presents a whirlwind tour through the way games are balanced and rebalanced… and rebalanced… and rebalanced… and rebalanced.”

Wolfgang Walk: Der Computerspiele-Preis ist tot!

  • “Der DCP ist tot. Seine aus historischen Gründen eingebaute, korrumpierende Engführung mit der Politik ist der Krebs, an dem er zugrunde gegangen ist. […] Eine Gala, welche das Kunstschaffen rund um das Spiel zum Thema hat. Dort könnten deutsche Games auf Augenhöhe mit der Welt antreten, dort könnte Deutschland sich eine eigene Identität, einen Markenkern innerhalb der internationalen Spieleindustrie aufbauen.”

Ludomedia #61

April 8, 2019

Ludomedia

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


Alex Jaffe: Cursed Problems in Game Design

  • “A cursed problem is an unsolvable design problem, rooted in a conflict between core player promises. […] Cursed problems cannot just be solved. They require sacrifice. You have to give something up.”

Alex Schwartz, Ziba Scott: 1,500 Slot Machines Walk into a Bar: Adventures in Quantity Over Quality

  • “We were looking through the App Store and realizing how scummy and gross some parts of it can really be. There’s clones everywhere, garbage reskins, low-effort shovelware. […] We thought: How do we do gross better?”

Andrew Przybylski: When the Fun Stops: The Science of Addiction

  • “I think, best case scenario, this party is going to go on for about five more years. […] There is a level of understanding that the public and policy makers have. They can intuit a whole bunch of stuff about gaming addiction. […] But as [they] get closer to the iceberg, they’re going to be able to see all the other stuff.”

Anthony Giovannetti: ‘Slay the Spire’: Metrics Driven Design and Balance

  • “Without change and experimentation you aren’t going to narrow in on the good stuff. Don’t be afraid to make changes. In the worst case you’re only going to get more information to act on later, and ultimately change is just going to help you.”

Jason Rohrer: 2014 vs. 2018: The Shape of Financial Success Before and After the Indiepocalypse

  • “One [type of game] which I think has become extremely risky […] is the consumable game. And far less risky are what I’m calling infinite unique situation generators.”

Lars Doucet: Wash your game’s windows

  • “Ever played one of those games where you have no clue what any of the mechanics actually do and you just kind of muddle through? Playing this kind of game is like peering through a dirty, smudged window. […] So go ahead. Put some Windex on it.”

Mark Brown: Why Synergies are the Secret to Slay the Spire’s Fun

  • “Synergies make you feel smart. […] You weren’t simply given the tools to be powerful, you found them. You noticed some link between two cards and put them together in your deck. […] On the surface these cards seem very simple and easy to use, perfect for new players. But these cards also hide untold complexity that is only seen by advanced players, because the only way to really get the most out of them is to use them in combination with other cards.”

Matthew Davis: ‘Into the Breach’ Design Postmortem

  • “We needed to follow those natural design constraints. We needed to see what the game was imposing on us, instead of us trying to impose nonsense on the game. […] Letting the combat thrive and find its place and really dominate the play experience is fine. Letting the strategy layer just get out of its way, doing its necessary job of mostly not annoying you is all it needed to do.”

Rich Wilson: ‘Mooncrash’: Resetting the Immersive Simulation

  • “Roguelikes generally rely heavily on a player’s internalization of systems. They don’t rely on rote memorization and they generally allow for expressive players and emergent situations. A lot of those core values speak to what we do in immersive sims as well, so there was a lot of overlap there.”

Tom Francis: Design Talk

  • “Having a language to talk about stuff helps you think about it more clearly and helps you advance your thinking beyond basic things and just be better in your reasoning. […] Design thinking, design reasoning is kind of your compass or flashlight, something that is pointing you in a direction – it may well be wrong, but to not have a compass or a flashlight is way worse.”

Ludomedia Extra: “D&D: Chasing the Dragon”

March 8, 2019

Ludomedia

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


Editorial Note: This is the first “Ludomedia Extra” all focused on a single author. I felt it was appropriate given the extraordinary depth, density and volume of this highly important series of articles, as well as its full release over the course of just about one week.

Samuel Ratchkramer: D&D: Chasing the Dragon

“Why six articles? There’s a lot of ground to cover, and there’s a lot of angles of attack. I’ll be talking about the rules of the game and how they inform character design, influence plot, delineate narrative power, and what this all means to the stories you’re likely to tell using D&D.”

  • Part One: Rule Zero is Bullshit
    “The way D&D gets by lies in being a homogeneous, squishy ungame that invites you to project whatever you want onto it by way of a do-it-yourself game design. […] One game can’t be all things to all people, so if a game isn’t working for the direction you’re pushing in, there’s another game waiting for you that you’ll like just as much.”
  • Part Two: On Good Characters
    Focusing on how characters fight instead of why they fight is all wrong. It captures the wrong parts of the fantasy archetype, and leaves only a hollow shell. […] For as many questions as the character creation process asks, for as many combinations of stats, feats, and armor are possible in the game, they all tend to resolve down to about the same thing: a guy that can kill stuff.”
  • Part Three: On Plot and Narrative
    [D&D] is most at home when players are killing things and taking their stuff. […] If we want a gripping narrative, we’ve got to have more than just fighting going on. The motivations and the stakes behind the fighting need to matter, or else the conflict is little more than a sporting event played for fun. […] Conflicts are about people and how their humanity clashes with other people – without that it’s just a meaningless spectacle.”
  • Part Four: On Narrative Power
    D&D exists in a strange space: while the game claims not to be a competitive game, it also claims that the game functions best when players think that it is. […] Players of D&D may outwardly agree that the game is collaborative, but in real play the relationship between between player and DM turns out quite adversarial. […] All the while, the game rules help or hinder either the DM or the players at random. They’re designed as a neutral physics engine instead of a narrative guide, so they care very little what happens.”
  • Part Five: What About 5th Edition?
    I really can’t stress enough how destructive this dedication to realism truly is. […] Either you intend your rules to be about simulating a world, or you intend them to be about generating a story. There really isn’t a middle-ground, because those two design directions are on different layers of detail. […] But by trying to rope all these different interests into the same game, the design of the game often doesn’t know what it wants to be.”
  • Part Six: An Open Break-Up Letter to D&D
    “Every single game that has ever been made has the values of its designer baked into the rules. Every mechanical stroke was put there to serve some purpose, with some particular play experience in mind. […] I’ve been very hard on Dungeons & Dragons in this series. But that’s only because I’ve been evaluating it as a game specifically about storytelling, which is wrong. It never tried to be any of this, not in the beginning. It’s clearly designed as a Conan simulator, a micro-wargame on a global scale.”