Ludomedia #65

July 1, 2019


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


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 GĂĽtesiegel “Games aus Freilandhaltung”!

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

Ludomedia #63

May 7, 2019


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 Ăśberstunden und unterbezahlt malochen mĂĽssen.”

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


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 GrĂĽnden eingebaute, korrumpierende EngfĂĽhrung 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


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


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.”

Ludomedia #60

February 26, 2019


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

Adrian Novell: Core, Focus & Power – A Game Design Methodology

  • “Core is the objective, the intent behind the design, the North that we’ll keep through the design. […] Focusing is asking ourselves every time that something is about to be implemented: does this feature point towards the Core of our game? […] [Power] aims towards also making this experience extraordinary, fresh and bold.”

Brad Grow: Bad Game Design – Clicker Games

  • “Why do we keep playing [clicker games] knowing they’re so inherently shallow? […] I’m not saying you’re a bad person for playing them […] but when you sit back and look at the big picture, they highlight how many different games can take advantage of our subconscious desires to steal our money at the worst, but our time at the very least. […] They’ve sort of dropped off in popularity in recent years, but I’ve noticed the techniques that they employed are still cropping up all over the place.”

Jim Sterling: CAAApitalism: The Successful Failure Of Videogames

  • “The endgame of thoroughly unchecked capitalism is to have no endgame. […] This is all working as intended by design. It looks like a total mess […] but apparently this is doing it right.”

Keith Burgun: 3 Minute Game Design – Systemic Meaning

  • “The process of making an internal model is a creative act of moulding interpretations together into a coherent picture of a ruleset. […] In storytelling and game design you must always make sure that there is coherence to random events, so that they can be built into our little castle of meaning.”

Keith Burgun: Clockwork Game Design Podcast Episode #53

  • “Most strategy games that we have are still just tactics games. This points to a larger problem: We don’t really think that much about match structure. […] In terms of single-player games we have no respect at all for the match end feedback, win/loss, the structure of a match overall.”

Ludomedia #59

February 8, 2019


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

Brandon Rym DeCoster & Scott Rubin: Nostalgia vs Game Design

  • “You really have to distill games down to very fundamental components […] to be able to understand what it is about a game that you liked that was fun, that made the game work. […] Kind of like when you make moonshine, some of the stuff that comes out of that still is super poisonous.”

Josh Bycer: The Game Design Trap of the “Zelda Rogue-Like”

  • “The beauty of Zelda’s formula was that the dungeons and points of interest always build on top of the previous. […] The point of a good rogue-like is never about getting to the end, but all the varying ways the middle can turn out differently.”

Keith Burgun: Clockwork Game Design Podcast Episode #52

  • “This is what’s so bad about non-variable match lengths: When you know where the end is coming, that tells you where to invest and where to start cashing out. […] If you look at a game that has a variable match length, you can get all kinds of different arrangements in terms of the strategy space.”

Mark Brown: Should Roguelikes Have Persistent Upgrades?

  • “The random levels mean you can’t rely on memorizing level layouts and permadeath means you can’t rely on accumulating power over time. […] I would argue that persistent upgrades go against that ideal and can minimize the role of player skill, putting much more emphasis on simply how long you’ve been playing the game.”

Raph Koster: What drives retention

  • “Once you have retention, you can worry about how to make money. […] Again, it doesn’t imply a particular business model: a service-based game is not a dirty word, doesn’t mandate constant moneygrubbing, doesn’t mean it has to be free to play. It just means that you the developer and you the player are in it for the long haul.”

Ludomedia #58

January 9, 2019


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

Frank Lantz: Y Combinator Interview

  • “In the way that painting is the art form about looking, games are the art form about thinking and doing. […] They are opportunities to carve out a little space separate from the ordinary world, where we solve problems, we think and do, for its own sake.”

Jannick Gänger: Null gespielt, trotzdem toll: Previews sind falsch

  • “Wer radikal umdenkt und die größte, ungenutzte Ressource entdeckt, nämlich Stil, Handwerk, Können, nur der kann sich der fortwährenden Peinlichkeit namens 85-Prozent-SpielspaĂź-Award und Spiel-XY-hat-Potenzial-Preview entziehen.”

Jon Shafer: How At the Gates took 7 years of my life – and nearly the rest

  • “This is the story of how At the Gates was made, and how it almost destroyed me.”

Michael Ardizzone: Carrot or Stick? Fixing an XCOM Design Problem

  • “XCOM2 does a much better job at putting the player into tough but survivable combat situations. Since this is the core of its tactical combat, I view it as a design success and an improvement over XCOM2012.”

Michael Austin et al.: Constructing Emergence

  • “We believe that viewing games within the space defined by the three axes of Agency, Abstraction, and Complexity, and specifying object interactions via a Component Interaction Matrix (or multiple hierarchical ones) will help demystify emergence and sharpen the designer’s ability to create it.”

Ludomedia #57

December 10, 2018


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

Jim Sterling: Child Gambling Quadruples In UK, Loot Boxes Named And Shamed

  • “If the video game industry doesn’t want to regulate itself, it’s gonna keep drawing negative attention to itself. […] Aggressive monetization is about the only innovation many major publishers care about now.”

Joseph Anderson: Subjectivity is Implied

  • “It makes me recall that saying ‘If everyone is special, then nobody is’. Can’t you do the same for opinion statements? If every sentence needs one, can’t we agree that most of them don’t?”

Keith Burgun: Artifact and the Game-Complexity Overton Window

  • “I think we’re moving towards a more complex idea of what games will be, and not just in strategy games. And this is a really positive thing, because I think our games have been just squarely too simple, which has forced us to rely on execution and bad forms of randomness to create variant outcomes.”

Mark Brown: Building Better Skill Trees

  • “Don’t feel the need to add in crappy skills just to boost the numbers. Some skill tree designers obviously believe that bigger is better. […] But if you ask me, a tightly pruned bush with a handful of truly interesting upgrades is often the best solution.”

Michael Ardizzone: Incentives and Intent: XCOM’s Creeping Forward Problem

  • “The design punishes the player for engaging the most stimulating and interesting kinds of dangerous combat situations. The design gives the player no reason to seek challenge, so the smart player studiously avoids it.”