Saturday, October 8, 2011

More Intricate Details On Game Design

Edited Once

First of all, RIP Steve Jobs...he was an American exceptionalist whose work made a lot of people happy.  So he should be commended for this.  I don't have much to say but to wish him well.


Now about school.  Whenever I'm not doing schoolwork, I'm just lazy.  Didn't really know what to talk about on this blog until something popped up.  Nothing Sega-related but I'll discuss a couple of things I learned from school and how they pertain to the game industry.  The topics are: Playtesting, Game Challenge, Game Violence, Console Standards, and Licensed Titles.


Playtesting.  You make a game and you want to make sure it's good.  One of the worst things you can do it keep it concealed until some climatic moment since you're not getting feedback.  The best thing to do is to get average joes (not "pros" at the game or so forth) to play the game.  Don't try to poke them with a stick into getting them to see things from your point of view.  Ask them "What are the worst aspects about the game?"  Because it's really easy to get mush that does you no good.


Game Challenge.  Okay, this topic is really old but worth mentioning anyway.  When designing a game, it's really easy to tip the scales on direction.  If the game's too easy or too hard, it will turn off many players.

So what to do?  One solution to use self-defined metrics so that you can determine which aspects of the game are too easy and which ones are too hard.  This can help if you have a few segments of the game that are abnormally difficult while the rest are piss easy.  Also coming up with a fair punishment for failing is something to check out.  If there's no penalty for dying, then what's the point of trying (*cough*Bioshock*cough*)?  On the flip side, no one wants to feel ripped off because they made a slight mistake and must redo the same portions of the game over again.

Now, if the game's very difficult to balance, which would be better?  Easy or hard?  Err towards easy.  If you give the player lots of stuff to fool around with, they'll make up their own user challenge.  For instance, in Super Mario Bros., you'll want to stomp three goombas.  Or in Zelda, you want to collect all the items & stuff.  So think about that during level/stage design.

In the end, though, as a game designer, you want your players to win.  Work them through a series of steps so they get good at the game, overcome some challenging obstacles, earn some items that make the game easier, and then they win.  Of course, some gamers may be pissed that the game is essentially holding their hand the whole way (I somewhat agree) but the casuals will love you for it.


Game violence & other misdemeanors.  We dedicated one class to just sitting there and discussing this issue.  Now, as a goody two-shoes Christian, there's some games I'm just offended about.  That doesn't mean however that those games shouldn't be made.  We have the First Amendment (freedom of speech) after all.  But what line games should outright be banned--I don't know.

Here's something that I brought up.  I'm thinking about the Fox News debates--you know how Mass Effect got busted for "sidal nudity" and Modern Warfare 2 for its airport shooting scene.  Now, I know that people rail on the news & other forms of media that point out these things (yes, they do go to extremes), but I hate it when people think these games shouldn't be called out ever.  Let me ask the people who made Mass Effect, MW2, Manhunt, etc.: What is the POINT behind your controversial content?  Like if you're going to put near nudity or graphic content in your game, you should be ready to give an answer for it.  Saying "well, it's just a game, it has no effect on kids' minds" is a load of crap.

It's funny that the teacher who brought up this point (Rick Hall) almost took the side of the anti-violence party.  Like everyone gets all anal when anyone questions violent games.  Aren't they a means of channeling someone's violent/sadistic tendencies?  What if some kids go overboard from a game you made--aren't you partially responsible?  It got people thinking, I see.

Of course, I also noted that people become violent over things that aren't violent in the first place.  Mario Party, Sports Games, nothing worse than getting RAGE'D and wanting to bash your friend over the head with your controller.  And throughout the course of history, people have been overly violent (wars, torture, killing people for fun, etc.) so a couple of violent games aren't anything new.  And please don't bring up the "violent crimes went down as violent games were released" because that reeks of "Correlation does not imply causation"...

A funny story--Rick Hall (being a producer in the industry after all) mentioned the MW2 airport mission and how Infinity Ward basically included it because of the shock value and how it could sell more copies of the game.  However, IW came to the conclusion that it had moreso a negative effect on the game so I betcha they regretted including that mission in the game...


Console Standards.  When you submit a console game to be published, it goes through a rigorous checklist of qualities that the QA team checks for--game quality, the intro screen is so long, your controller comes unplugged and a warning pops up, etc.  You submit the game to the QA and must wait until they check off the necessary.  If it doesn't meet requirements, the game is given back to you and you're forced to the back of the queue.  So don't piss around or you'll end up wasting a lot of time.

Sony and Nintendo are notorious for this.  Sega, eh....sort of.  The biggest lack of quality control was the 3DO.  At the time, it was a powerful console, but people could submit whatever piece of crap they wanted to publish and it made it through.  The console died a sudden death.  Ever heard of Plumbers Don't Wear Ties?

Profanity Alert

And off on a slight tangent, we're talking about how dev kits, tools, API's, IDE's, etc for specific consoles.  You need these to adapt your game to the console you're programming for.  Nintendo is considered the easiest console to make games on.  Take the Wii for instance.  It even comes with tools which automatically convert Wiimote motions so they're very easy to implement into the game!  So no wonder we got a lot of Wiiware trash...

But you know what's one of the main offenders of this rule?  The Sega Dreamcast.  I'm not lying--Rick himself said that the console was very difficult to program for.  It's probably one of the contributing factors that led to the Dreamcast's short lifespan.  As a matter of fact, it took a team of programming experts to "crack open" the hardware and produce their own tools that eased the difficulty of development for the Dreamcast.  No wonder the DC now boasts a library of homebrew games...years after Sega discontinued support for the console.


Licensed Titles.  Why do movie-based games almost always suck?  Probably the most apparent reason is that these games are quick cash-ins to be released along with the feature film or whatever.  People watch Spiderman in the movies...therefore they play as Spiderman in the video games.  Makes sense, right?  Sega did this with Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor so it's good to know that their efforts are spent in the right places.

Another one of the main reasons why is that the devs are basically constrained by the IP's source material.  You can't Harry Potter and turn it into a FPS or The Terminator and turn it into a point-and-click adventure (go play Full Throttle).  You're working on a Star Wars game?  Well, you can't mess around with the source material because people buy the game to play STAR WARS, not whatever take you decide to put on the game.  Good example: the MMO Star Wars Galaxies.  People play Star Wars games to be a Jedi or fly a TIE Fighter, not to be some junkyard guy or hair dresser.  Originally, the main producer had an idea for a generic space MMO but later tacked on the "Star Wars" IP in order to sell the game to the publishers.  So that game bombed very quickly.


I still have more to say about game design but not now...I'm very sleepy.


  1. Hi Eric, hope all is well with you...great to see your first few games up and running; I wish my PC was powerful enough to play them!

    Re bug testing: you may wish to look at my updates on the Metropolis Street Racer Wiki page.

  2. I'm fine right now. Get a better PC so you can run my games and the Supermodel emulator :D