More from: game design

On how GRIS is a game of distance

Gris, by Nomada Studio, is a platform game with art of paralyzing beauty, and visual and design influences taken from games such as Monument Valley or Journey.

The narrative doesn’t carry the weight of a heavy plot, but it rather develops some themes through cinematics, and exposing certain motifs in its gameplay, by using resources like color, light, or physical distance.

In this analysis I’d like to focus in the latest. How can a game like Gris make, not only a skilful, but also a meaningful use of distance, which we usually take for granted as a property of space and a basic component of the game feel, but rarely as an entry point for thematic exploration?

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Positive and negative reinforcing after losing a round

I noticed the traditional theory estates that even if players lose rounds, you need to reinforce them positively, appreciating the attempt. That way they will keep on trying and not understanding loses as failure, but as part of the process. 

Then checking how games handle this with their end or round flows and with their UI and UX, I noticed examples with different levels of positive reinforcement, and others with completely different approaches. Here are some:

Positive reinforcing

Here’s Overwatch showing you your personal achievements after a game, even if you lost the game with your team.

So the outcome is not completely reduced to a binary lose/win estate, but there’s also a layer of emotional reward that’s meant to nuance the feeling of failure.

Source: https://us.battle.net/

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The issue of understandability of the core loop in F2P games

A player in the first play session of a F2P game.

Whenever I have the chance I ask friends or family what games they’re playing and what they think about them. But the nicest insights I get when we talk about what other games they played but abandoned eventually.

I think we game designers expect players to tell us that they churn in a game because they find progression slow, gates are too long, or because they just don’t engage with the story. And those pieces of feedback we can just friendly assimilate with a ‘not all games are for everyone’, or with a ‘for a free to play game to be sustainable, we need to some times bring the player to some gates’.

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A few insights gained at AdventureX 2017

It’s been a couple of weeks already, but I figured it would still be nice to take a look at my notes and put together a couple of things I learned over there.

Here we go! (You’re invited to add yours on the comments below :D)

Game development has a love/hate relationship with frustration

Dave Gilbert inaugurated the conference with a nice talk where he shared lifelong learnings like how much he wished he hadn’t forced himself to get too much into The Frustration Zone as a developer.

The Frustration Zone is a place we all drop by every once in a while I think, but Dave’s talk made me think about how much we take for granted that things like working over hours and iterating to death are needed in mostly any development.

I wonder if this kind of self-indulgence is leading us to the wrong reasoning that if there’s pain and sweat, there will be success.

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5 UX lessons that can be learned from newspapers

So I’m reading Don’t make me think, a common sense approach to web usability (written by Steve Krug). And I’m amazed when I see the writer takes examples from classical written news design to illustrate usability rules that are relevant on today’s digital world. I was surprised mostly because I studied many of them about six years ago, on my Journalism degree, when the discipline was still figuring out how to make a solid theoretical basis out of the app ecosystem.

Back then I didn’t have a smart phone yet, and stained my fingers on newspapers ink on a daily basis, because that’s what everyone else did, and it felt like the right thing to do. Nevertheless, it comes out as a pleasant surprise that much of the stuff we learned back then I’m able to apply on my content creation and game design work. (Of course, many others don’t apply anymore, but my selective memory already got rid of that.)

So this post is a kind of homage to the perpetuity of (some of the) Knowledge, and to those 7a.m. visits to the news-stand of my student years. And to bring some airs of modernity, each comes along with a couple of examples from games and apps.  

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Little Nightmares and its narrative formulas for discomfort

I have mixed feelings towards Little Nightmares, because as a player, I don’t treasure the moments of extreme frustration, even if the outcome of overcoming the challenge seems to be promising. As game designers, our goal is to entertain, so flirting with negative emotions and responses is always a risk.

However, the way I see it, it’s the way designers deal with strong emotions what makes this game so memorable. And it’s not just about designing puzzles that are difficult to overcome, but also about the pacing, the variations and echoes that surround those puzzles.

There are many great mechanics and small details that left an imprint on me, but I’ll  just try to scratch the surface with some of the ones I found more meaningful on a narrative level.

Anticipation

Every good torturer knows the potential psychological impact of tuning up the torture tool set in front of the victim even before the party starts.

In Little Nightmares, we some times get open shots between chapters where we see a distant blurry silhouette not explicitly harming.

Anticipation has always been a recurrent resource in horror films, so for example, you’ll always get the typical build up music that climaxes on an epic scare that usually ends up being just a false alarm.

An interesting variation I found very effective in Little Nightmares is that even though the silhouettes are so far away, and you’re safe at that moment, the emotional impact is enormous. I think the potential relies on the fact that you always see those shapes heading towards the same direction as you, so there’s an implied promise that the threat doesn’t care about now. It knows it will get you eventually.

Peaks and valleys

The way I see it, it’s that friction between security and danger where the emotional appeal come from in this game.

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What I learned developing my first video game with Construct

Source: www.scirra.com

I was recommended Construct about a year ago by a fellow programmer. He assured me that I, as a Game Designer without an extensive programming knowledge, would be capable of using it to build my own prototypes and indie projects by myself.

After further research I discovered the engine had actually been around for years, so I decided to get the free demo and start learning how to use it while developing a small indie project I could add to my portfolio, a browser-based project Lost Stuff. And last month I finally released my project!

It’s been a long way since I started, but I’ve learned a lot. If you’re thinking about learning how to work with this engine, or if you already are and are looking for some tips, I  hope you enjoy my review.

Cool things about Construct 2

So many hours staring at this interface…

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