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Posts Tagged ‘designer sins’

We all commit design sins while making games. Whether it’s because of producers, time constraints or just plain ignorance, things get put in or removed that should not be. It’s time to take a look at our transgressions so we may cleanse ourselves and become better.

Earlier this week, I wrote about my concern with transferring Fuse to the digital space because it might possibly neuter the social aspects of the game. As an artist and a game designer, I feel that games (especially games with multiple players) are often much more than systems players are interacting with. There is something very special about gathering in a place, real or digital, and interacting with other humans.

As an iPhone developer I’ve seen and heard a number of ideas from colleagues for ports of games onto the device that  shouldn’t be. This often comes from a lack of understanding about how the device cannot support the social aspects that make the game they want to port a well designed game.

I encountered this about a week or so ago when I was approached by a fellow student who want some information about iPhone development. The game he wants to make is an iPhone version of Egyptian Ratscrew (ERS) which is a card game with an interesting system of mechanics. It also has a large amount of social interaction encouraged by the “slapping” mechanic. Regardless of the coding challenges involved in porting ERS to the iPhone, what concerns me most about the idea is how the social aspects of the game will suffer. Even if a player can network to play live with other players the feeling just isn’t the same. The excitement of slapping the pile and taking someone’s jack or misjudging and slapping the pile at the wrong time causing the player to draw cards isn’t the same. There’s no smack talk or interesting alliances/betrayals to be had.

It’s all cold, sterile game mechanics and where’s the fun in that?

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We all commit design sins while making games. Whether it’s because of producers, time constraints or just plain ignorance, things get put into games that should not be. It’s time to take a look at our transgressions so we may cleanse ourselves and become better.

The first sin I would like to look at is something that has always irked me as a mobile developer: the on-screen game controls. I’m talking about the archaic controls pads we are using to interact with our new technology. It boggles me why we are making games for touchscreen devices that use part of the screen for a control indicator that usually doesn’t even give the player feed back.

I know what some people are probably thinking, and I agree with you, the control pad is a good way to control a game, but not for a touch pad game. The reason: thumbs. Considering something like the iPhone (which has one of the larger touch screens) is roughly 3 inches by 2 inches this means my thumbs are blocking a third of the screen (bottom left and bottom right sixth) to accommodate the controls. By the time you add in all the user interface pieces that usually come with a game that needs a control pad you are lucky if you have a third of the screen left to actually play on.

More than anything it feels like developers are trying to force certain types of games where they don’t belong. In my mind, mobile gaming should not be something that you sit down for a few hours to play. It should be quick burst of ten to fifteen minutes max with a focus on casual play. Things like hack and slashes, role playing games and first person shooters just don’t feel right on a phone.

So designers, please. Do us all a favor and stop committing this sin. Use the touch screen as an opportunity to explore new ways to interact with games instead of sticking with what’s safe. Who knows, we just might learn something.

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