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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Some learnings and insights I got at GDC 2018

It’s been my first year at GDC, and I went back home with so many learnings! What I liked the most about the conference is that you can make the most of it in any way you want. The talks, the expo, the networking, the parties… all that is there for you to schedule your time and balance your experience towards any direction you’re interested in. I’m already looking forward to the next year.

Here are a few tips and learnings I’d like to share:

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The camera angle as an expressive resource and narrative booster in video games

I’ve always been curious about the use of camera angles as an expressive resource in story telling.

I remember studying some film history and theory back in the day, and being especially struck by some specific shots from some classic movies, which brought the storytelling to a different level. You can find a few on films like The Third Man:

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Approaches to silent storytelling

Here’s a silent hero!

On the post I published last month I talked about telling stories without words, and how tempting it can be to abuse of a minimalist approach to puzzles and experience design.

Then I remembered Tiny Thief, and how it actually did the same thing as Virginia, which is telling a story (a very different one, though) without words.

Tiny Thief, however, deals with the same challenge in its own way.

While Virginia finds the solution in focusing the attention with a timely use of subtle resources, Tiny Thief relies on expressivity and visual emphasis to guide the player.

When I think about it, I imagine the narrative voice behind Virginia to persistently whisper to the player the direction that needs to be followed, and that of Tiny Thief to cheerfully call to action with eloquent outburst.

Both good. Both unique. Just different, and demanding of different design and visual efforts.

Enjoy the silence

Here I leave you with a couple of screenshots showing how nice and consistent is this game approach to silent story telling.

 

Main menu needs no words! (Okay… there are a couple on the title…)

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Virginia and the risks of an hyper focused interactive storytelling

I’ve been playing Virginia, the 2016 game by Variable State.

It’s a fantastic game, very interesting from a narrative point of view. I’m sure it took them a great creative effort to figure out its visual language, which tells a complex story without any text at all.

And the result is very good, because the game manages to lead you thought the whole storyline dodging the risk of loosing your attention and focus on goals.

Telling a story without words

There’s, for example, a very clever use of ellipsis that gets rid of all that’s irrelevant, so that we don’t get distracted by elements that won’t add up to the story.

The design of the environment, also, with lighting, color and space, pushes us ahead organically, which feels very good.

Guess where you need to head towards!

Symbolism is present throughout all the story as well, which kind of brings the language to a different level by adding a new layer of meaning to what happens.

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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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About randomness, narrative, and humor in video games

This is a topic I find myself thinking about very often. So often that I though I would end up having a saying on it. But as with humor in general goes, it gets difficult to state anything that sounds precise and comprehensible enough.

But since the topic keeps on fascinating me again and again, I ended up deciding to conclude this contemplative stage by gathering a few random comments on the topic of… randomness and humor!

The mystery, the way it goes for me is:

  • What makes randomness funny? 

So probability has been there for ages, and video games make use of it in sophisticated ways. In this post, though, since much has been said about that topic already (and since I couldn’t say much about it anyway), I’ll focus on the role randomness plays on narrative, and how it impacts emotions.

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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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