July 15th, 2016
Stolen Projects, the outfit which published Game Design Companion: A Critical Analysis of Wario Land 4, has recently closed. Yesterday I opened a Gumroad account to continue selling the book online. The new shopfront will also host future publishing ventures and I will continue to work with Daniel Purvis, the creative behind Stolen Projects, moving forwards. Feel free to direct any purchasing queries to my email danielprimed [at] gmail [dot] com.
I have also taken this opportunity to update the Additional Material page with links to Wario-related articles which I have published since the release of the book.
August 10th, 2014
Every now and then I come across a great quote that articulates something that’s been sitting in one of the dark corners of my brain, patiently waiting for that light bulb moment of articulation. One of the great things about this game design discussion group that I’m part of (more details here) is that such quotes come regularly. Here is one on games criticism:
“I think a lot of the criticism field is about proving authority through displaying how well you fit in the group. You do this by outward displays of intellectualism, which is easiest to manufacture by taking the simple and rendering it complex enough to justify your college degree. Since today’s game design culture is such a loose world of ideas with very little in the way of concrete knowledge, currying status among the critical community doesn’t mean producing results that others can reproduce and use–it means harnessing intellectual fads and making everyone feel good (read: smart). “Let’s come up with language that is less ambiguous and more concrete so we can more directly describe how games work and how we can do game design better” is actually at odds with this status quo, and thus needs to be said. It’s tempting to see a statement so close to our values and say “well, isn’t that obvious?”–it’s not obvious, though no one will argue the other side of it because admitting that games criticism is primarily a status game would damage the status communication mechanism that is games criticism and provide no benefit to the vast majority of games critics who would prefer to continue their effective status-gaining strategies.
Regardless, there are often kernels of truth and useful information to be gleaned from the needless verbal profusion of games criticism.”
The speaker sums up a lot of the ideas I was forming back in 2007-2008 when I first started writing and interacting in this space. Not much has changed since then and not much will change going forward without a critical language to ground our conversations and communities. What are your thoughts?
June 19th, 2014
This video was too funny to pass up.
For the first time in a long time I was completely satisfied by the E3 showing this year. Loads of great games and plenty of innovation. After hours of reading, watching, and reflection, here are my main take aways from the show:
Video playthroughs focused on select portions of a game accompanied by developer commentary and gameplay trailers with few cuts are the best way to show off your gameplay to a new audience. Montages, CG trailers, early prototype video, and conceptual demos of the developers talking high concept just doesn’t cut it. Let the gameplay do the talking.
Between Nintendo’s Digital Event and the Treehouse Sessions, they covered these bases pretty well. However, the Treehouse videos were often drawn out due to the Japanese to English translation. Yes, I’m interested in Codename STEAM. No, I don’t have 45 minutes to sit through a slowly narrated playthrough with translation delays. Sony’s developer interviews were much more digestible at 10 minutes a piece, but they were too unfocused. Take this video of Hohokum for the PS4. After watching a 9-minute interview, I still have no idea what you do in this game. Start the interview with a short, elevator-pitch summary guys….geeze. The interviews are also inter-spliced with short snippets of trailer footage. It’s a good idea, but there’s not enough gameplay or context in the interviews to be constructive. Sony’s punchy length and Nintendo’s dictated playthroughs together would make a winning formula. Next year, guys.
If you stripped out all the CG trailers and meandering demos from the E3 conferences and replaced them with focused gameplay explanations, they’d be much more effective. I’m an E3 nut, but 1hr and a half of sizzle grows tiresome real quick.
It boggle the mind that Sony and Microsoft continue this pissing match of minor exclusivity. “Console debut”, “DLC first”, “it’s better on…”, “exclusive alpha version”, every time you hear these words—or in the case of self-apparent multiplatform titles, not hear—you know that it’s still a free kick to the other team.
Microsoft’s conference was basically a rehash of what they’ve been doing for the past 7 years: shooting, stabbing, and driving. I have no problem with these kinds of games, but there wasn’t anything genuinely new—unlike Titanfall
The start of Nintendo’s Digital Event was so refreshing especially after two marathon hours of self-important sizzle. It was funny too; I almost fell out of my seat. I also love the idea of Nintendo pushing back against the vocal minority of idiots in the Nintendo fan base. However, it was unfair of them to use Mother 3—a game which they can easily bring over to the virtual console.
Sony gave even more time than last year to indie games and it certainly injected a shot of dynamism into their showing. I’m not sure that Microsoft’s “we have 100s of these games” tactic is as effective as Sony’s curation approach. Giving these games a platform outside of a video montage and winning over some exclusivity on key titles is the best way to demonstrate commitment. That’s to say I think that players are more interested in playing the next great wave of indie games than having a large quantity of indie games to play. After all, we’ve all got PCs. In saying all this, though, maybe it’s just a consequence of the way Sony presented their indie game line up, but it was hard to see how these games were unique outside of their visual flair.
I was surprised that no one said that the new Zelda looks like Killer is Dead meets Skyward Sword. It totally does, right?
Nintendo say that the latest Zelda will be “open world”, but I wonder what that means exactly. Open world design works against the squeeze of gameplay, so I wonder how they’re going to pull it off while still maintaining the high level of gameplay quality that the Zelda series is known for. I guess A Link Between Worlds, which I have sitting on my 3DS SD card unplayed, will answer some of those questions for me. Whatever the case, I think it’ll take all the design ingenuity that Nintendo can muster to deliver on what Aonuma articulated during the digital event.
Splatoon was my game of the show. The genius behind this game makes my head spin. Territory control represented visually and organically as ink. Ink as a central dynamic that syncs into movement speed, traversal options, abilities, game flow and progression, and spatial dynamics. Ink as a solution to the issues inherent to gunplay (easy-to-see bullets that you can respond to, a weight dynamic to aiming, gyro to tune aiming, non-violent gunplay). Motion controls, touch screen controls, and traditional controller inputs. A reinvention of a well-worn genre. In terms of design, this is the most modern and sophisticated game I’ve seen in a long time.
I’m also surprised that no one said that Splatoon looks like a Sonic team game.
Odds and Ends
- Prior to the show I was hoping that Nintendo would announce a new IP. In the end they announced six and they all look fantastic.
- Project Spark was one of the only kid-friendly games shown at Microsoft’s conference and so what did they do? They added Conker to it. Well done.
- There seems to be a lot of different coloured gems in Yarn Yoshi. I hope they’re not just excessive collectables. I’m still not convinced of this game.
- It’s cool that Criterion are working on something awesome and completely new, but showing it off so early is poor form for EA.
- Shape Up treats work out moves as interactions and then builds a game around them. It’s a neat idea.
- Having recently read Alan Moore’s Jack the Ripper epic From Hell, I’m curious about The Order. However, not much has been said about what makes the gameplay unique and what we saw at E3 doesn’t aspire much confidence that it’ll be anything more than Uncharted 2 inter-spliced with Heavy Rain.
- The Grim Fandango remake announcement was the biggest megaton of the show (although the game hardly needs a remake, but I’m open to being proven wrong).
- The additions to LittleBigPlanet 3 look smart and substantial. It’s funny that the same team who worked on Forza Horizon 2 are working on this game.
- I can’t believe that Konami put out another MGS5 trailer. I wish they would explain more about the gameplay. I guess they kind of did that with Ground Zeros… :/
Yep. Very satisfied indeed. What did you most enjoy about the show? Let me know in the comments.