Ludomedia #85

August 8, 2022

Ludomedia

Games media worth reading, watching or listening to.


Jesper Juul: The Meanings & Consequences of Rules & Algorithms

  • “I realized the other day that it’s been years since I had this experience of someone dismissing game rules as irrelevant or meaningless, and I think there is a reason: Our world is now so completely enmeshed in algorithms and in issues of algorithmic bias, that it’s now a given that rules, algorithms, and programming fundamentally matter.”

Lucas Pope: Cramming ‘Papers, Please’ Onto Phones

  • “I created Papers, Please in 2013 specifically for desktop computers with mouse control. Now, here, in 2022, desktop computers no longer exist and all computing is done via handheld mobile telephone. Time to update this dinosaur. These thousands of words and megabytes of images will cover some bits of porting the game from big desktop to little phone.”

Matti Vuorre et al.: Time spent playing video games is unlikely to impact well-being

  • “Conceptually replicating previous cross-sectional findings, our results suggested that intrinsic motivation positively and extrinsic motivation negatively affects well-being. […] Our findings, therefore, suggest that amount of play does not, on balance, undermine well-being. Instead, our results align with a perspective that the motivational experiences during play may influence well-being. Simply put, the subjective qualities of play may be more important than its quantity.”

Will Bedingfield: It’s Not Just Loot Boxes: Predatory Monetization Is Everywhere

  • “As Hon suggests, predatory monetization salts the earth of creativity. The games built on these systems exploit their players—they aren’t art, but propaganda, another way to turn play into work. And the history of loot boxes demonstrates that the most exploitative systems can become mainstream if they prove they can turn a serious profit.”

Zayne Black: How To Design A Videogame

  • “Many of you watching might be thinking: ‘Zayne, […] everybody knows this, this is useless!’ First of all, no they don’t. If they did, you wouldn’t get games that burry their genuinely very impressive mechanical gameplay loops under layer after layer of sludgy, tedious, ham-fisted storytelling, as if the cinematic presentation was the reason to buy it, for example. […] Figure out, what you want the game to be […] and then run every single decision through that filter of whether or not it helps you receive your game’s intention!”

Ludomedia #84

June 13, 2022

Ludomedia

Games media worth reading, watching or listening to.


Casey Muratori: What is the Blockchain Threat Model?

  • “As soon as [decentralized systems] try to build dispute resolution into them, you’re right back to a government and a court system, which we already have and has to involve humans making these decisions. […] Dispute resolution is absolutely critical in finance. If you don’t have it, it’s dead in the water. […] I can’t think of anything [hashed chains of blocks] defend against, where actually you couldn’t have just made a much simpler system and then have the dispute resolution that you already needed anyway.”

Eggplant: The Secret Lives of Games: Untangling Language with Knotwords

  • “Knotwords creators Jack Schlesinger and our own Zach Gage chat to us about their elegant new logic puzzle word game. We discuss “cracking” the game design they’d been chasing forever, and how they created the puzzle/word generator that makes it great.”

Josh Strife Hayes: The Immoral Design of Diablo Immortal

  • “It is indeed fun, but it is also insidiously developed from the ground up to funnel every player action toward the cash shop. […] I enjoy having to engage my brain to beat a game, but if you do that with Diablo Immortal you will ask yourself lots of questions, and the answer to every question is: the credit card. […] I cannot believe that decisions were made in Diablo Immortal with the players in mind. I believe they were made with the payers in mind.”

Keith Burgun: Diablo: Immortal and Aesthetic Gacha-ism

  • “The line between game design and marketing gets blurrier and blurrier and games increasingly become ads for themselves, a constant rolling advertisement that tells you to keep playing. Of course mobile F2P gacha games are the absolute peak level of this sort of stuff, but it bleeds out and infects everything else too, more and more, year after year.”

Kyle Kukshtel: Game Design Mimetics (Or, What Happened To Game Design?)

  • “If the role of mechanics design in a game is to best serve the content of the game, be legible to the player, and not introduce too much uncertainty into the middle of a production, the simplest answer to design is just “copy what already works”. “What already works” is a fundamentally conservative and nostalgic lens through which to view cultural production. Looking at “what already works” rejects an idea or potential of progress, and instead narrows the scope of possibility of a medium to only be capable or remediating the “greatest hits”.”

Ludomedia #83

January 27, 2022

Ludomedia

Games media worth reading, watching or listening to.


Babbling Brook: The Unfortunate Truth about NFTs…

  • “Microtransactions and gacha mechanics are one thing, but attempting to turn your player base, including children, into a literal workforce that will need to grind endlessly, scam one another, and cheat to earn back their investment, is completely unacceptable behaviour. You are simply making a mockery of an industry that so many people hold dear.”

Christopher Natsuume: Let me explain Blockchain gaming and Play-to-Earn. // Using NFTs to own ingame objects: Also pretty much a scam.

  • “NFTs are a pure scam. Blockchain gaming is a pyramid scheme. And play-to-earn is not only a scam, it’s deeply immoral. […] At our brightest moments, games can be a wonderful, beautiful force for good. […] And what I’ve seen in the last two years is one of the most cynical, painful, destructive attacks on our industry that I have seen in decades of working in video games.”
  • “We produce more revenue than any other entertainment industry in the world. And so we presented this enormous target to the crypro bros. […] And so they’ve created this ridiculous fantasy story of NFTs and cryptocurrencies somehow adding some kind of value to any of this, for the basic reason that they want you to go out and buy cryptocurrency.”

Dan Olson: The Problem With NFTs

  • “If you pitch your game based on earning potential, you’re going to attract people seeking to industrialize your platform faster and in greater numbers than would otherwise play. This is exactly the parasitic situation that games for decades now have been actively minimizing, because it creates vicious negative externalities. If players can sell their in-game stuff, then it changes the way that they play the game. It changes the way that they optimize their playtime.”

Elizabeth M. Renieris: Amid the Hype over Web3, Informed Skepticism Is Critical

  • “If Web 2.0 was predicated on selling our data, Web3 will have us sell ourselves as it doubles down on extractivism, turning every interaction into a commercial transaction. Without a critical perspective, familiar harms will not only be replicated; they will be exacerbated. […] Criticism is the hard work of accepting the reality of what is, understanding how and why it came about, and addressing the deeper issues and forces involved. It is the opposite of the “building” ethos of continually punting to new tech or the next thing, as if on a blank slate of human nature and culture.”

Jürgen “tante” Geuter: The legacy of NFTs

  • “But getting these assets means you “earned”. As if you had another job. And while you probably never will be able to realize those gains, you can tell yourself and the people around you, that it totally makes sense to play more of the game you “invested” in. That you should play it even if it’s not fun. That you should spend more time on it. And potentially pay for another microtransaction. […] This is why so many people warn about NFTs and the Web3 stuff: The idea that everything should be a tradable asset is even more dangerous than the massive environmental cost of the whole blockchain space.”

Ludomedia #82

December 31, 2021

Ludomedia

Games media worth reading, watching or listening to.


Derek Yu: One More Run: The Making of ‘Spelunky 2’

  • “I think spiky games are often thought of as punishing, but to me the difficiulty, while it’s an important part of the design ethos, is in service of the goal rather than the goal itself. The real goal, I think, is to put the player into a state of focus about the game and to really care about what they’re doing at any given moment. It’s to make them feel like the world existed before they arrived and that it will exist after they leave. To make it feel real.”

JĂĽrgen “tante” Geuter: The Third Web

  • “The promise of the Internet of giving people access to information and potentially the power of publication is supposed to be replaced with an unregulated casino that literally burns our planet to the ground. I can hardly come up with anything this despicable. Nobody is an island but the Web3 crowd wants to further individualize us, turn everything about our digital and ideally analog selves into objects for speculation with semi-automated trading of assets replacing politics. The full financialization and depoliticization of life with no regard for the ecological consequences. This is not a utopian vision. This is a declaration of war against a lot of the political and social progress of the last decades.”

Keith Burgun: “Handicaps”, “Balanced Difficulty” and the one-player perspective

  • “There is a sense in which all games could be looked at as “1 player games”. When we play a game, we are always only playing from a single player’s perspective. We perceive things from just one perspective (our own, not our opponent’s), and we make choices for just one player (ourselves). In the case of highly systemic, deep strategy games, I argue that we not only can look at games as though they were all “1 player” games, but that we should. By doing so, we can focus on making players have a balanced difficulty, but it can also lead us away from rules that lead to “griefing”.”

Paul Butler: “Play-to-earn” and Bullshit Jobs

  • “Any sufficiently complex game will come to realize, as Axie Infinity has, that immutable property rights are at odds with the ability to counter abuse. Games that maximize property rights (as Axie Infinity wisely hasn’t) are bound to be overrun with cheaters and bots, which in turn will just bring down the value of in-game assets anyway. Ultimately, in-game labour is just a re-branding of gameplay designed to be dull enough that rich players will pay to outsource it to poor players. In spite of being presented as the future of work by some venture capitalists, the incentives just don’t make sense.”

Sanny Syberfeldt: Random Challenges

  • “I think having decisions be context-dependent is absolutely crucial for strategy game design, because that means if I get to the same type of decision situation multiple times […] then it will not be the same alternative that is the correct one in every situation, because the context is important enough to change which option I choose.”


Ludomedia #81

September 12, 2021

Ludomedia

Games media worth reading, watching or listening to.


a327ex: Auto chess formula

  • “Wizard of Legend is a really cool game which I super enjoyed, but it has one huge flaw, in my opinion, which is that as you unlock new spells, you can choose any spell out of hundreds for your loadout of 4 spells to start the run with: Now, choice is a complicated thing in video games. Do I want to have the ability to choose things in a game? Yes. Do I want to have to make choices about every aspect of it? No! That’s partly what the developer is there to do. He will explore the space of possibilities and give me the curated, more enjoyable version of it.”

Joris Dormans: A Table-Top Feel: Designing Unexplored 2’s Fortune System To Replace Virtual Dice Rolling

  • “The fortune system is able to express a wide variety of possible situations that would otherwise be difficult to represent in the game. I am particularly proud of the way it can handle social interaction in a meaningful way. We do not rely on branching dialog trees with many blind choices.”

Krystian Majewski: The 30 Circle Test

  • “There’s a thing I like to say: Making games is impossible. […] It’s impossible unless you come up with some kind of trick. […] We are afraid of the scrutiny. We are afraid that somebody will call us out on this. […] I think a ‘lazy dev’ is actually something worth aspiring to. […] That’s the kind of mindset that it takes to finish a game.”

Rym DeCoster & Scott Rubin: Atari Game Design

  • “If you understand what exactly you find fun about games, you will have a lot more fun with games. […] What are the main mechanics? […] Could I remove something without compromising the core of this game? […] The answer is usually yes.”

Tom Francis: Void Bastards Vs Heat Signature: A Completely Objective Analysis

  • “Void Bastards is a roguelike first-person shooter about boarding randomly generated spaceships. I designed a top-down roguelike about boarding randomly generated spaceships, so it’s interesting to see how the two games tackled the same issues differently, and how well their solutions worked out!”


Ludomedia #80

May 15, 2021

Ludomedia

Games media worth reading, watching or listening to.


Frank Lantz & Naomi Clark: Looking Back and Looking Forward

  • “The thing that makes a game actually work is often not the same thing as the thing that makes it sound cool.”
  • “We don’t have any idea what we’re doing. […] And actually it’s totally fine that that’s the case. […] Understanding games, in part, means finding out what we’re discovering by making them.”

Keith Burgun: How To Add Strategy To Your Tactics Game

  • “The classical way that developers have added longer arcs to tactical games has been to have a second screen, from which you draw a few variables, such as which troops have survived, what loot you’ve found, and things like that. You often have some kind of base building or RPG mini-game, as is the case in X-Com, or Into the Breach. But what if you’re interested in asking the question: ‘how can I make the tactical game – the battlefield game *itself* – more strategic?'”

Mark Brown: The Power of Video Game HUDs

  • “Ultimately, if something can’t be made clear to the player then maybe it’s not a good game mechanic and should be simplified. UI isn’t a band-aid to fix broken game mechanics. And this is why it’s important to design the HUD in tandem with everything else and not throw it together at the end.”

Rune Skovbo Johansen: Designing for a Sense of Mystery and Wonder

  • “I play games to get to explore intriguing places, while challenge and story is secondary to me. But there still has to be a point to the exploration. I don’t want to just wander around some place – I want to uncover something intriguing and ideally mysterious. But the mystery lies not in the uncovering; it lies in the anticipation, or rather the lack of knowing exactly what I might find.”

Samuel Ratchkramer: Truth and Lies in Game Design

  • The idea that games are ideally some kind of canned holodeck program induces a fixation on surface-level imagery over meaning and utility. […] I curse you with the seed of doubt. I curse you to scrutinize the games you love and wonder if they’re everything you thought they were. But I don’t curse you in order to share my pain – I curse you because in the end I promise it isn’t a curse. I really don’t miss all the lies, because experience has taught me that they absolutely cannot compete with truth, with the real.

Ludomedia #79

January 5, 2021

Ludomedia

Games media worth reading, watching or listening to.


Kevin Kuipers: A Pico-8 story: How the fantasy console unlocked Frédéric Souchu’s dreams

  • “Pico-8 provides both strict limitations and straight forward creation allowing you to easily make amazing playable creations in a few hours. Alongside the all-in-one suite, Pico-8 also provides a platform to share your creations with the community and a forum to meet other Pico-8 enthusiasts. As you would expect, some of them are insanely skilled.”

Mark Brown: How Watch Dogs: Legion Works

  • “Because it’s not supported by the game design in any real way, it’s all rendered largely meaningless. […] Watch Dogs: Legion is a strong reminder that innovation alone is not worth chasing. It’s only when those clever ideas are actually supported by the rest of the game and become a critical part of the structure, that they become legendary bits of design.”

Matthewmatosis: Meta Microvideos

  • “In a sense, games are evolving to exploit us. […] On paper, wouldn’t we all agree that getting better at a game yourself is much more rewarding than pretending you’ve gotten better by unlocking more upgrades? […] As a species, we have these collective weaknesses and, now more than ever, games are tapping into them.”

The Game Overanalyser: The Immersive Fallacy in Game Design

  • “Maybe VR is making the same mistake as traditional games: focusing on the sensory dimensions of representation instead of recognizing what kinds of novel mechanical and storytelling experiences they can craft.”

Timothy Welsh: (Re)Mastering Dark Souls

  • “For games developed explicitly around recurrent user payment monetization models, this reorganization of play as its opposite is fairly easy to identify. Dark Souls, however, was not designed for recurrent user payments. It has never included microtransactions and its one downloadable content patch was distributed for free. […] At the same time, however, Dark Souls cannot completely resist the neoliberal reformatting of play.”

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.”

🇩🇪 Literaturhinweis

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

Eine durchweg lesenswerte Abhandlung ĂĽber die diversen “Mehrwerte” des Spielens (und zum Teil auch ihre Kehrseiten). Der Schreibstil ist zugänglich und der Inhalt setzt keine speziellen Kenntnisse voraus, sodass sich das Buch auch als EinfĂĽhrung fĂĽr “AuĂźenstehende” eignet und, sofern sich darauf eingelassen wird, durchaus Ăśberzeugungsarbeit 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 ĂĽber 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. Bjørkelo: “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.”