Ludomedia #78

November 27, 2020

Ludomedia

Games media worth reading, watching or listening to.


Andreas Papathanasis: The argument for simpler games, in an industry obsessed with complexity

  • “This common obsession with complexity (regardless how well intentioned it starts) is at the root of many problems in the industry. Lack of focus and vision is often cited as a reason for a project that failed, and/or caused significant crunch and stress to employees. It is directly associated with complexity.”

Brett Lowey: Axes of Victory

  • “The Strategy Dance: Players make moves that change their commitment and power along each axis (some moves also change how much an opponent knows about each). Each player tries to find a “window” in which their power along some axis is sufficient relative to their opponent or the game state to allow for a win.”

Em Lazer-Walker: Using Game Design to Make Virtual Events More Social

  • “Roguelike Celebration took place in a custom browser-based text-based social space. Most of the UI and UX design were based on modern chat apps like Discord and Slack, but structurally it much more resembled MUDs, the text-based precursors to modern online MMOs.”

Keith Burgun: Clockwork Gamefest – 5 Year Anniversary Show

  • “Clockwork Gamefest: a conversation with a bunch of designers to commemorate the 5 year anniversary of the Clockwork Game Design Podcast. Guests include: Raph Koster, Dan Cook, Frank Lantz, Richard Terrell and many more!”

Story Mode: Outer Wilds — Storytelling Through Exploration

  • “The key to beating the game lies in making these paradigm-shifting scientific discoveries. […] Your tools haven’t changed and the places you can go haven’t changed, but suddenly you’ve unlocked a new rule about how to navigate this world because YOU have changed.”

đŸ‡©đŸ‡Ș Literaturhinweis

Mario Donick: Let’s Play! Was wir aus Computerspielen ĂŒber das Leben lernen können

Eine durchweg lesenswerte Abhandlung ĂŒber die diversen “Mehrwerte” des Spielens (und zum Teil auch ihre Kehrseiten). Der Schreibstil ist zugĂ€nglich und der Inhalt setzt keine speziellen Kenntnisse voraus, sodass sich das Buch auch als EinfĂŒhrung fĂŒr “Außenstehende” eignet und, sofern sich darauf eingelassen wird, durchaus Überzeugungsarbeit leisten kann. der Der Autor ist seines Zeichens Spielemacher (u.a. LamdaRogue) und Kommunikationswissenschaftler.

  • Aus dem Vorwort: “Ich will zeigen, dass Spielen an PC und Spielekonsole uns Erkenntnisse ĂŒber unser Leben und unsere Wirklichkeit auf eine Weise vermitteln kann, wie es andere Medien nicht können, und dass wir etwas Wertvolles verpassen, wenn wir Spiele nicht ernstnehmen.”

Ludomedia #77

October 20, 2020

Ludomedia

Games media worth reading, watching or listening to.


Andrea Roberts: Designing a Roguelike for People Who’ve Never Played Roguelikes

  • “What is the heart of the genre? Obviously there’s procedural generation, there’s permadeath and there’s that intense challenge. I see all of that as serving this big goal of learning.”

Andrew Aversa: The End of Permadeath

  • “When you have permadeath […] you are basically guaranteeing that early content is going to be seen over and over. You’re making a promise to the player that they’re going to die and so we as developers are going to make a wide variety of content for you at the beginning of the game.”

Jason Schreier: Cyberpunk 2077 Publisher Orders 6-Day Weeks Ahead of Game Debut

  • “Polish video game developer CD Projekt Red told employees on Monday that six-day work weeks will be mandatory leading up to the November release of the highly anticipated Cyberpunk 2077, reneging on an earlier promise to not force overtime on the project.”

Mark Brown: Are Lives Outdated Game Design?

  • “So are lives outdated? Well, it’s really down to how they are implemented, how they are balanced, how they are supported by the other systems in the game and how they are presented to the player. But more importantly it’s about why they are implemented. […] The most amazing games come about when every single system is added with intention, thought and care.”

Tom Francis: What makes a good death?

  • “Failure of execution: I know what I was trying to do, the challenge wasn’t difficult or interesting, I just want it over with. […] Failure of foresight: I knew the rules, I failed to foressee how they’d interact.”

Ludomedia #76

September 23, 2020

Ludomedia

Games media worth reading, watching or listening to.


Celia Hodent: Emotion in Game Design (A UX Perspective)

  • “An art form is going to manipulate emotions by definition, but we need to be careful about what it is we’re manipulating and if we’re using some of these emotional tricks not to serve gameplay, not to improve the experience for the players, but to reach our business goals by making players come back or spend more.”

Kristian A. Bjþrkelo: “Elves are Jews with Pointy Ears and Gay Magic”: White Nationalist Readings of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

  • “If an action is designed to be possible, is it a subversive result of an oppositional reading by the player? Or should it be considered a dominant or preferred reading, as the game indeed allows for it, and may not even discourage this reading by punishing certain actions through game mechanics?”

Matthewmatosis: The Last of Us Part 2 Review

  • “To be clear, I always acted as was expected of me on my first playthrough, but the gap between presentation and mechanics became obvious regardless. One key factor here is just how often the gameplay shifts into some kind of scripted event. […] Flipping a script made it abundantly clear how little agency I had as a player. So all of a sudden the game felt like two puppets I was barely in control of acting out a film I had no impact on. […] I lost any interest in pretending to pull the strings.”

Mark Brown: The Psychological Trick That Can Make Rewards Backfire

  • “There’s a huge body of evidence that says when extrinsic motivation is attached to a task that we already find intrinsically motivating, we suddenly become way less interested in the task. Other studies show rewards can also make people less creative, worse at problem-solving, more prone to cheating and may lose motivation entirely once the rewards stop, even though previously they were happy to do it for its own sake.”

Tom Simonite: AI Ruined Chess. Now, It’s Making the Game Beautiful Again [Full Paper]

  • “Kramnik presented some ideas for how to restore some of the human art to chess, with help from a counterintuitive source—the world’s most powerful chess computer. He teamed up with Alphabet artificial intelligence lab DeepMind, whose researchers challenged their superhuman game-playing software AlphaZero to learn nine variants of chess chosen to jolt players into creative new patterns.”

Ludomedia #75

July 27, 2020

Ludomedia

Games media worth reading, watching or listening to.


Adam Millard: What Makes a Great Deckbuilder?

  • “Deckbuilders are fantastic at stimulating our creativity […] I think I’ve managed to come up with a set of three criteria that I think all well-designed deckbuilder card pools fall into: The cards need to enable synergies, they need to create interesting decisions as part of longer-term strategies, and they all need to have distinct identities.”

Alan Zucconi: The AI of “Creatures”

  • “Creatures was designed around the very concepts of empathy and nurturing, making it the closest experience possible to having a pet. To this date it was, and still is, an experience unmatched by any other game. But how could a game that is almost 25 years old succeed where even modern games are struggling?”

Jonathan Blow: Video Games and the Future of Education

  • “I think that one of the things that games can do is help you develop systems thinking. […] Systems literacy is becoming something of an emergency, it’s important in a way that it’s never been in the past. We need to develop systems literacy society-wide, we need to train people in systems thinking. And the way to do that is by engaging with systems.”

Mark Brown: The Best Games from GMTK Game Jam 2020

  • “Again, it was the biggest jam in itch.io’s history, but this year’s event was, by my numbers, the biggest online-only jam to ever be held. […] These are my 20 favorite games from the GMTK Game Jam 2020, in no particular order.”

Riad Djemili: The complete sales history of modest indie hit game Curious Expedition

  • “The first commercial version of Curious Expedition was released at the end of 2014. In this blog post I will give you the complete overview of all the sales numbers of these first six years. How many units we sold, when we sold them, in which territories, on which platforms. I will also tell how it felt to tank with our game and how we were able to eventually turn it into a bigger success than we ever imagined.”

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…”