Posts Tagged ‘creative’

Six Impossible Things

“There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen.  “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

I’ve always wondered what kinds of ideas would come out of believing in impossible things for half an hour a day. What kinds of games would we see (or have seen) from doing just that?


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I’ve having to deal with a lot of things at the moment so I don’t really have a whole lot of time to write. Instead of skipping a post, however, I’ve decided to share a pitch document I created for a game that might come into existence at some point. The game idea is called 1-800 Zombies and it is about hiring out zombies as temp workers to make oodles of money.

You can download the pdf here. I’ll talk more about the project when I get the time.

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Update: Apparently, pOnd stirred up enough traffic that it brought down the Peanut Gallery website. For the time being you can now play pOnd here.

Warning: Spoilers appear below the break. If you want to fully experience pOnd play the game before reading below the break.

IndieGames.com lead me to an intriguing game yesterday called pOnd. It’s a simple, one-button browser based game made by The Peanut Gallery in which you use the space bar to control a characters breathing as he walks through the woods towards a pond. The creators proclaim the game to be a very zen like experience and even suggest players breath in time with the game.

Over all, its a wonderful experience. The graphics are superb and the music and sound really pull you into the experience of walking though a forest in the early morning. Actions in the world are triggered by the passing of the player and their breathing  which sends wildlife scampering and prompts beams of light to cascade between tree branches.

By the time I reached the pond I was totally immersed in the experience and like the character stopped to admire the scenery taking in the pulsing spheres that prompt the player to breath in and out.

-Spoilers Ahead!-


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‘Make games you want to play’ is a phrase in game design that often troubles me.

The phrase has great appeal. I would love to make games I want to play. If I had the ability to crank them out I would never be a slave to game companies again. There is also danger in this phrase, and I often feel like it can lead designers down a treacherous path if they are not careful.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of examples of the build it and they will play principle, but I can assure you that for every success there are a dozen or so games that never see the light of day. The reason is because someone made a game they wanted to play and forgot about everyone else who might want to play it.

Games suffering from this problem are often unnecessarily complex without reason. Large tables of character stats, convoluted interactions, or a storyline that only make sense to the writer do not make a game better. Even triple a titles suffer from problems like these, but they have a marketing department whose jobs rely on how well they can make people think they want to buy a game (regardless of how good it actually is).

The other problem I see with many games with the problem of forgetting everyone else is that the game doesn’t get interesting until half way through playing it. Many people attribute the success of Star Wars to the fact that it started with the interesting stuff. People don’t want to play the lead up to your game they want to play your game; let them.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is make the games you want to make with the caveat that you will keep other people in mind when making them. After all, it seems rather silly to make a game if only you will ever play it?

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I have a problem. I love Team Fortress 2 (TF2). It’s a fantastic game that’s well balanced and full of interesting things to do (like back stabbing people as a spy!). But I hate playing with douche bags.

You know who I’m talking about. The trash talking, vulgar, dude-bro, drink, whiny, mike-breathing, a-holes you can’t seem to avoid when playing anything vaguely first-person-shooter like online. I know that there are plenty of non douche bags playing TF2 because there are often 10+ people I don’t mind playing with, but it only takes one to muddy the waters and create a bad experience for everyone. Even with dedicated servers (which are being phased out) you still run into problems. If the trend continues even those who rely on dedicated servers to filter out the people they don’t want to play with will need a solution.

The solution I propose we use combines the Bartle Test and a tagging system to create a gamer personality which could be used universally across platforms to help players filter out people they do not enjoy playing games with.

The Gamer Personality System would work something like this:

When you first buy a game (or possibly even a game system) you will be prompted to take a short test asking you a number of questions about your gaming preferences. The test will help determine what kind of a gamer the player is based on Bartle’s Test. Some of this information could also potentially be derived from saved data present on the console or from achievement systems already in place.

As the gamer plays through game sessions they will receive assessments from other players on their play style. This is to prevent players from abusing the initial test and to keep the test dynamic so that it keeps up with a player’s changing habits. This system could be implemented in between games while servers are loading to give players something to do and encourage participation. It would ask players about a randomly chosen individual and inquire about their play style through a series of short questions. It would also ask the player to tag the other player with an adjective that cannot be determined by the Bartle Test, such as ‘talkative’ or ‘nerdy’ or ‘vulgar’. To further encourage participation, incentives could be offered such as game credit, achievements, etc.

The Gamer Personality System could then be implemented in a number of ways to help a player filter their play experience. A player could use the system to determine they don’t like playing with a certain type of player and avoid them. Games could be setup to not appear available to certain gamer personalities. Outside of a first-person-shooter, the system could be used to gauge how a player might fit into a guild or could be used by companies to see what kinds of players their games (or changes) are attracting.

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Game designers are artists and have advantages over non-creative jobs; think about what they are and exploit them. Your goal shouldn’t be to make tons of money. If it were, you would have gone to business school or become a doctor. This is a creative field and should be treated as such first and foremost. Financing your art comes later.

Edmund McMillen

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Cracked has an article about ways games are trying to get you addicted that I find to be an interesting read. It’s scary to think about how video games can condition their players to spend hours (sometimes days) pursuing seemingly meaningless goals. Many video games, especially MMO’s are built around the concept of hooking you in and keeping you there, that’s how they make their money after all.

What if we could use that hook for something good? What if we could use these virtual Skinner Boxes to teach? How crazy would it be if World of Warcraft taught you something like calculus or American History and they still had nearly 3.8 million subscribers in the US alone?

Now, I’m not saying video games are bad. I’m not even saying games that use the ideas and concepts behind BF Skinner’s research are wrong (though some people might think otherwise). In fact, I’m fairly certain anyone reading this probably thinks the same as I do, that video games are great, but there are plenty of people who don’t. Many of those people are also going to have a hard time believing video games can be art as long as they don’t think they are great. So, one of the first steps to achieving validation is to get more people on board with the idea that video games aren’t evil.

Anime hair does not make your game more engaging Knowledge Adventure.

Educational games are nothing new to the world of video games. The biggest problem with educational games, however, is that they suck. Most of them have the repetition aspect dead on, but they fail to be engaging for more than a few minutes at a time. These games (and maybe education systems in general) need to take a few pointers from games like World of Warcraft that can keep players engaged for several days at a time.

I can only imagine the headlines if there was an educational game that engaged someone to the point World of Warcraft is able to.

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