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What topics for a Game Design Podcast? The gauntlet was thrown.

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Gigiwoo, Aug 6, 2015.

  1. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    @Gigiwoo - Ok, this is the point where I know you've improved. I used to be a LoL fan, and participated in the HotS Technical Alpha. I've played both games, spent money on LoL and have some unique skins...and now play neither. Yet, I still listened all the way through #011 and was engaged by it. I was expecting to just cut the stream partway through and get back to watching SF Debris videos...but it didn't happen.

    My perspective on the MOBA genre agrees with part of what you said - these games rely on long matches to create emotional investment in the outcome. MOBAs are unique in that, as a function of how the game progresses, they make an extrinsic goal intrinsic. That's some powerful stuff.

    The problem is, MOBAs - actually, just League of Legends, LoL is pretty much its own genre at this point - in my opinion is toxic, as a result. The arguments/rudeness with family? I've experienced that, too. Above and beyond the time requirements, it's why I quit playing. If a game is creating civil problems, the correct answer is to quit playing.

    But, why is the game creating those problems in the first place?

    The answer I would put forward, is what I call "Dark Flow". It's still Flow...just honed to its sharpest edge, with the end result that the player gets so invested in the fictional, that it's possible to experience something like, including, or even surpassing resentment of the real. I suspect that over-application of Flow underlies other serious gaming problems like MMO Addiction as well, but I can't prove that.

    As the old saying goes, "Too much of a good thing, isn't." Flow is a good thing. Too much Flow isn't. Dark Flow is when humanity's natural drive towards OCD is concentrated to the point of being explosive. I've experienced it. You've experienced it. I'd imagine others have. I think you've just talked about your first Dark Pattern...but you may not have even realized it.

    Exacerbating Dark Flow for me, is the simple fact that I really don't have 45 minutes to devote to a game. I'm lucky to be able to put two hours into making my own indie games a night. As a result, my temper would flare further, and hotter - I was already playing on borrowed time, that any distraction from was explosively jarring. However, when stuff gets that bad, as I said: the real should take precedence. The game went, and I'm better off for it.

    Now, I think Heroes of the Storm was a valiant, and actually a really noble attempt to - as you said - make MOBAs more casual. They cut the time requirement down, which took the emotional impact with it, thus gutting the game from its inception. It seems to me that their first objective was to eliminate the critical pain points (something Blizzard has professed is a key part of their design process before) - in this case, replace Dark Flow with regular Flow. Clear goals are accounted for (map objectives), excellent feedback is there (at its finest, I'd say the feedback is better than LoL's), cool ways for the player to achieve those goals (the characters have interesting abilities in general.)

    Yet this isn't useful for designers. Someone who's a jerk would blame the players (MOBAs are toxic because of the people who play them!) Someone who doesn't pay attention to the gaming landscape might blame the genre (MOBAs are toxic because they are!) No, League of Legends is toxic because it's designed that way. The community is an expression of the game.

    To be sure, HotS has design flaws - the "WoW Instance" problem is the biggest one, social fun is a critical part of the fabric of any game. It's the reason why Skyrim is well regarded - even vanilla Skyrim you can get together with your friends and discuss the game's legion of physics bugs, including but not limited to using a horse to wall-climb into the Thalmor Embassy even if you're not supposed to go there, or using buckets to quantum leap through walls, and that's not even getting to the modding communities.

    I guess a thought I have that I wouldn't mind you expanding on in a future episode - especially given your apparent psychology background - involves how a game manifests its community. Why do some games like Skyrim manifest a community as being creative, while others like League of Legends create a community known for social toxicity?
     
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  2. Martin_H

    Martin_H

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    You might like the video I linked in my last post, it's about this topic. It is a part 1 of 2 I think, but didn't find a working link for part 2 yet.
     
  3. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    @Asvarduil - Just wow! Thank you for sharing those fantastically insightful thoughts. Dark flow, ethics, and generating communities. Powerful stuff - worth exploring! Since I can't Like it twice, here's a virtual +1!

    Gigi
     
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  4. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    I didn't just pull "Dark Flow" out of nowhere. Dark Pattern as a term comes from UX engineering, and are defined as "patterns that fool people." I think a better description, is "Patterns that exploit people." This fits with an ethical discussion as well.

    The reason I named what LoL does as being "Dark Flow", is because of what I see it doing to people. Dark Flow is when you make something so Flow-conducive that it creates something akin to actual addiction, even if there's no external chemical to imbibe.

    I'm sure there are other Game Design Dark Patterns out there. The fact that I don't know what they are worries me - even though my ethical framework tells me to create a game that does the player no harm, it's still possible to do so; all I have to do, as the discussion of LoL showed us, is simply give the player too much of a good thing.*

    I don't know what they are, because I'm not as far along in my journey as some others, but I think I need to in order to be aware, to know what to avoid doing. I think that's something your podcast can help less experienced designers like me know.

    *: I have to give the player a good thing first, which I've found trickier than I would like...but still, the point stands.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2015
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  5. RockoDyne

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    One thing I've always been curious about are anti-bingeing mechanics, mechanics that discourage or strongly diminish the reward of continuous play. As far as I am aware, the only games that really have any of them are Animal Crossing and Destiny. Of what I understand, they both have points where you have a daily allotment of things to do, and after that, there isn't much that really needs to be done. They basically induce a behavior that wants to turn playing them into a little daily routine, and asks for a long term relationship with it rather than the usual binge and purge mentality.
     
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  6. Martin_H

    Martin_H

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    Is that actively discouraging bingeing or are these more often then not just "boring" games that try to keep you coming back with daily rewards?
     
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  7. RockoDyne

    RockoDyne

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    Since I've never played either, I'll withhold judgement.
     
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  8. Aiursrage2k

    Aiursrage2k

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    I did play dota, spent a few hundred hours (eventually I bought a few voice packs and skins but it took along of playing to reach this point), and eventually I moved on. I tried HOTS when it came out, and had to keep using the same heroes over and over again, I was not invested enough to keep playing the game or pay real money to unlock the characters so that was it -- I never went back to the game. I think they just screwed on the monetization

    LOL was first to market (giving us the AAA 5v5 game we wanted), DOTA came out later with a better monetization strategy -- all characters are unlocked from the start but its gameplay was too hardcore to appeal to most people, HOTS was way late to the party and came with a casual gameplay but a stupid character unlock system (which probably only worked for LOL is because it was basically the only game in town back then).
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2015
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  9. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Why only for boring? Habit loops are important for long-term retention, whether the game is outstanding, mediocre, or anywhere in between. The science of habits is: cue -> behavior -> reward. So, for daily habits, the cue is, 'It's a new day". The behavior is "Login to a game that I enjoy to do X". The reward is usually an abnormally large burst of a limited resource. Daily rewards are just one way to leverage habit loops. A pretty sound strategy.

    PS - LoL has 'first-win-of-the-day bonus'. HoTS has daily quests (up to 3, like Hearthstone). Mobile games often have a 'daily-login reward', which often increases to some max. Heroes Charge takes that to another level by giving a daily-login reward, based on the number of times you've logged in this month, where you usually want to hit somewhere in the 25-28 range (very effective).

    Gigi
     
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  10. Martin_H

    Martin_H

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    I might have phrased my point poorly. I see how that makes people come back to a game, create a habbit and nurture longterm engagement, no matter if the game is good or bad.
    I just doubt that many devs put something into a game with the thought "better make this activity pointless after x hours for that day, we wouldn't want the player to keep playing for too long in one sitting". There may be actual cases for that in games that are beyond what I can comprehend (like f2p mobile/browser/facebook games or something along that line), but in games that I'd be interested in, I have never seen an "anti-bingeing" mechanic. I never played Animal crossing but my impression from the Destiny demo (which is backed by many critics who played many hours of the game) is that it is a rather dull grindfest that might need the habit forming for people to come back. Other games like Insurgency on the other hand have no meta progression or daily rewards at all, and yet I have played over 300 hours of it for the sole reason that I'm having fun doing it.

    It is possible that I'm biased to think games are boring if they try any of that psychological manipulation stuff on me. Like "I see what you are trying to do here, there must be a reason for it."
     
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  11. RockoDyne

    RockoDyne

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    The better way to look at it (or at least the more optimistic way) is that it is respects that players have a life, and the game wants to be only a part of the players' life, not the center of it like most MMO's. At least that's what I have hoped would come out of those mechanics.
     
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  12. tedthebug

    tedthebug

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    It's the balance of wanting people to keep playing your game without it needing to be the sole focus of their life. If you want them to play non stop you need to make sure you have the content, design elements etc to make it work so it would be easier to fail. Also, anything that encourages slavish devotion isn't healthy physically, mentally or psychologically.
    Encouraging people to play everyday, or even a few times a day, is a good business & design skill. Encouraging them to go away & do something else in between those times is a good human skill. You want your player base to be as well balanced as possible to foster a community that is a bit nicer & more representative of a 'normal' society & that can only happen if they are partaking of a normal life (preferably working to earn money that they can then spend a portion of on your game). Plus, if they are away from the game & interacting with other people that don't play your game there is a chance they may help recruit new players.
     
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  13. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    How about in the real world? Talking about balancing life, respecting player's free time, and not being the center of someone's life assumes that you've got the skills to create a game that's too good. And, I'm not sure that there's a REAL game, that actually exists, that I'd consider to be too good - like truly, beyond 'good game' into the realm of 'bad for humans'. I can't think of one. Which is not to say that some people haven't been harmed by games - in the same way that a lady spilled hot-coffee on her lap, so now all coffee cups have warnings. Like DUH - coffee is hot!

    Gigi

    PS - My thoughts about ethics aren't not concise enough for an episode. Yet.
     
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  14. AndrewGrayGames

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    First - nice bait-and-switch you've got there! ;)

    ...But back on a topic that's not 'Asvarduil is a grammar nazi', the argument "there's no game that is exploitative because no game is that good" has a serious logic hole you should consider before advancing that argument. I can prove it with a very notable game that set precedents a good number of games are based upon here and now in 2015.

    You don't have to have a game so good it qualifies as a candidate for being a controlled substance, to have a work that exploits players. You can have a mediocre, or even a terrible work, that uses certain game design patterns not to improve the work or add substance to it, but instead to serve a purpose that is at odds with what a player wants.

    FarmVille is one such game. I was in college when FarmVille became a thing, and I watched the whole thing unfold. FarmVille had two primary goals, both of which used players, but didn't serve them: A) spread itself to other players, and B) make Zynga money through microtransactions.

    Let's start with the second one. FarmVille had a clear inspiration and precedent from the Harvest Moon series, a series of RPGs focused around starting and running a farm. The original works had a terminating condition - you have to have a profitable farm within two in-game years. In the course of that, mechanics such as having a significant other and children came into play over the course of the series. FarmVille had no such constraint - the best way to think of FarmVille is pretty much 'Harvest Moon Online.'

    FarmVille shows its sinister side right away, though. All game objectives take place in real-time. This is significant, because in order to progress you have to either wait for a plant/animal to mature...or you can micropay to make that constraint go away, allowing you to progress more quickly. For those of us in 2015, unfortunately we've become used to this, but I want to direct your perspective to the fact, that by default, the game acts in a way that obstructs the player...unless they fulfill one of Zynga's goals, not theirs.

    The takeaway from this is that the software was designed with a misleading objective. On the surface the game mimics an established, if eccentric, series that may not be the most popular, but is certainly well-enough established to have an air of legitimacy. The difference is, this software isn't about enriching the player's time, but requiring players to spend either time or small amounts of money in-situ; the player is secondary to the needs/wants of the developer.

    This is the prototypical case for why people consider micropayments a Dark Pattern in their own right, even though that's not accurate...and I'll get into why that's the case later.

    We've already established that the point of FarmVille is not to provide value to the player, only to Zynga. Spreading the game to players can be a good goal provided your work is sufficiently good/useful/beneficial. While a work's quality or usefulness is very much subjective or situational, respectively, the beneficial part is where things fall apart.

    The game 'infects' one player. In addition to micropaying for advantages...you have a different option: 'spread' the game to a new player to gain a small amount of currency. For Zynga this is a good move - Player A does not want to pay, so they 'pass' the game to Player B, who might pay. Sooner or later, you're going to put the game in front of someone who does pay. For the player...well, anyone who used FaceBook in 2010 remembers the wall posts we used to get, right?



    I'm going to be charitable and professional. I am not going to say what it really was, and instead just go with, "It was a major annoyance." There was a time you could not see other useful posts, because you played FarmVille. Later improvements to FaceBook included filtering specifically for this case. But the point remains - once a player is 'infected' the game starts suppressing other valuable interactions the players can have with other players. In other words, FarmVille is viral, similarly to how Hepatitis is.

    So, @Gigiwoo, I strongly disagree with the assertion that 'a game can only be abusive if it's good enough.' FarmVille stripped large chunks of Harvest Moon out of itself, and was built specifically to enrich Zynga, not the player.

    Now, to tie up my final loose end, here's the hard sell: Micropaying is not a Game Design Dark Pattern. ...At least not alone.

    The Dark Pattern is the dynamic that's in play. We saw this recently with Dungeon Keeper Mobile. Certain actions take significant periods of time (TL;DR you have intentionally over-timed timer mechanics) that are 100% mitigated by micropayment. The dynamic is 'pay or wait.' You've given the player not a fictional decision, but a real one - for this recreational activity, do I pay with significant amounts of time or a little money?

    You can argue, 'well, time is money!'...and I would stop the conversation and bang my head on a metal bulkhead for a few minutes, because that's not the point. The point is:



    You have to pay the toll to play the game that's already on your system.

    Going one step further, to prove my point that micropayments on their own are not a Dark Pattern, look at League of Legends. Players buy skins for champions to show that they invest time in a champion and know how to play them. It lets them differentiate themselves, which is of inherent value to the player. Sure, Riot gets their cut, but to the player it's a fair trade - the player has something they want, Riot has something they want. Nothing nefarious about it. Not having a skin doesn't prevent you from playing...it just means you play with the default look, not a custom one.
     
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  15. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    What's the practical value? It is true that Farmville used questionable, short-term, monetization strategies. It led some people to spend a lot of money. And, others to get as far as possible without spending a dime! I suppose, it's likely true that Farmville harmed somebody, somewhere.

    Even so, I don't think Farmville qualifies as a game that is "too good - like truly, beyond good-game into the realm of bad-for-humans." Not from any simple, objective point of view. Because, you could easily argue that Farmville added a lot of good. First, people enjoyed playing it - so there was enjoyment. Second, is the social aspect. Even though it's manipulative, it's also true that Farmville did encourage people to interact together - maybe they chatted, visited each other, or even helped each other. Socialization is a primary source of happiness. So, it's probably a net positive in favor of Farmville. It's a subjective argument.

    I've read a lot of Ramin Shockrizade, who argues that in general, most of these scummy strategies are only useful in the short-term. That long-term monetization comes from give people things that they want, rather than using anxiety/pinch-points. I think it's likely that the industry is slowly becoming better, by adopting more sophisticated strategies (ex. LoL).

    TL;DR - Dark Patterns may exist, as a philosophical exercise. And, in the real world, where most games fail, I'm not convinced of the practical relevance as game designers. It's like debating the distinction between assassination and murder.

    Gigi
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2015
  16. FlyingRobot

    FlyingRobot

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    I'll just drop by and say your Podcasts are amazing. More or less, you are my game design teacher. I tried getting game design lessons from many places, some are too expensive and some are cheapskates.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I'm sure many of us are going to be benefited.
     
  17. Gigiwoo

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    What vexes you now? I'm grateful you took the time to share these kind words. And, I'm always looking for inspiration for new topics. Currently, my back log has feedback, monetization, and Fallout 4.

    Thank you!
    Gigi
     
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  18. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    Another game you may want to keep your eye on is Overwatch from Blizzard. The footage and reactions from the ongoing beta phase of that game are, to say the least, "promising." It also is a good topic for one of your podcasts - the difference between mindlessly cloning other games, and taking the best bits from other games, putting your own spin on them, and polishing to a mirror shine.
     
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  19. Gigiwoo

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    I am SOOO looking forward to that game. Hoping to get into the Beta. Fingers crossed. And great suggestion for a topic!

    Gigi
     
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  20. tedthebug

    tedthebug

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    When is a clone not a clone?

    How different does it have to be to no longer be considered a clone but rather a game that pays homage to the 'original' (for some reason a clone is deemed inferior but a game that pays homage is normally considered to be a good game or a game that took the key elements of the original & improved on it)?
     
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  21. RockoDyne

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    Is the term still used? At the very least it's not being used like Doom clone was. The closest thing in common usage is roguelike, and that pretty much represents a genre without necessarily evoking rogue (especially when you get to roguelites).
     
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  22. Schneider21

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    Maybe that's a better exploration of that topic: Cloning vs genre iteration/evolution.
     
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  23. FlyingRobot

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    I'm still struggling with basic stuff like level progression and designing the difficulty curve. This is so tricky due to the large variation in player skills.

    Mostly I'm looking for practical tips on this, may be a process walkthrough of designing a simple game. Want to know how a designer approaches the design process of a game, starting from a blank slate or some inspiration.

    Thanks
     
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  24. Gigiwoo

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    I hadn't thought about that. Might be interesting to look at a basic concept, walk through some of the design considerations, and explore the steps a designer/developer/artist might take. Thanks for sharing the idea!

    Gigi
     
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  25. tedthebug

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    I'm struggling with a puzzle based game design at the moment. I know I'm jumping ahead since we haven't even prototyped but I'm considering design elements that will go into the level design & then using those to consider how we ramp up difficulty. My problem is how to design enough levels of increasing difficulty. I'm not stupid but there comes a point in every puzzler where I can't progress so I find a solution & look at it & half the time it turns out it was simple & I was overthinking it.

    This is what caused the problem for me. The puzzles will probably have one 'ideal' solution but lots of other ways to achieve the level goal so I can't work out how to judge the difficulty of it to work out its position in the hierarchy & also how to design puzzles that I can't do but am confident have a solution I.e. The harder levels that only a few will solve without a walk through.
     
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  26. RockoDyne

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    The problem there is once you provide alternatives, you undermine the player's knowledge going forward and end up making everything worse.

    As I see it, you can design solutions or you can design problems. Solutions start from the end and work backward, setting up all the steps the player has to go through. Problems can be designed by stating the issue and thinking up ways to solve it (and possibly create new problems from solutions). The engagement from solutions based design is mostly in getting to the next step, while problems based design is from the juggling act the player starts having to do.

    Just as something humorous to think on:

     
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  27. tedthebug

    tedthebug

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    Yeah, I should've also added that I need to make sure that when I'm designing a level that is to hard for me I.e. I can't solve it, that it is actually solvable. I'm not sure how to do that without giving it to 1000 people to see if at least one can work it out. Is there another way to ensure it can be solved?
     
  28. Martin_H

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    Would it be possible to write an algorithm that bruteforces through all possible actions a player could make and track both the number of possible solutions and the number of actions involved to get to the solutions?
     
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  29. Master-Frog

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    Start with a weird solution, then work backwards to give the player no choice. If you play the game, yourself over and over you should be able to become a really good player. Make the early levels boring easy and then make the later ones more confusing. Just play it yourself, be your own best customer.
     
  30. Gigiwoo

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    What's your thought process? I'm hearing that you have created a puzzle, have no idea if it can be solved, and can't solve it yourself. I'm not sure how you get from there to thinking that you should give it to players. You might consider that you have some fundamental confusion with understanding your audience.

    BUILD THINGS YOUR AUDIENCE WANTS. One key to success is knowing the difference between the things you think they want, and what they actually want. I suspect that this particular puzzle is the former. Without knowing more about the game (blocks, words, letters, spatial, ...), it's tricky to offer any deeper insights.

    Gigi
     
  31. tedthebug

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    It's a bit like a lemmings puzzle I.e. Getting certain things to a specific spot where they always move forward unless something happens to cause them to change direction. My problem is knowing how to design harder levels that I wouldn't normally be able to solve but are actually solvable.

    Let's say I average 3/4 of my way through puzzle games before I get stuck. What I want to be able to do is find a way so that when I design a puzzle game I can design those levels that I wouldn't be able to solve myself so that I can give those players that are better at puzzle solving than me some challenging levels so they can play beyond where I would've been able to get myself.
     
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  32. tedthebug

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    This is what I'm thinking we may need to do but my maths isn't that strong & I was wondering if others had found other tips.
     
  33. tedthebug

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    This is certainly what I was thinking we'd do but I'm stuck on those harder levels as the area & player elements increase later in the game as the variables become quite large
     
  34. Master-Frog

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    Hmm. Time to bring in a level designer, do you have a level editor built?. It is more art than science. Maybe you just need to find the right talent. If you want to learn it yourself, go play zelda and pokemon games and observe some well structured levels. Best of luck.
     
  35. AndrewGrayGames

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    At first I believed that, but the reason I turned to resources like Game Design Zen, and have been working on the Game Mechanics Pokedex, is because there's more to those excellent levels than just "structure things really really smartly." There is a logic, a science, underlying that art.

    I think that his question is a good one, and a driving one for most of us who are trying to improve our ability to write games. Merely saying, "go throw money at the problem" is a great way to solve an immediate, material need, but it doesn't help someone become more competent...which is the entire point of why we're all even having this discussion in the first place.
     
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  36. Master-Frog

    Master-Frog

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    Hmm. If you have the time, go play zelda and pokemon and see how the masters did it. Whoa, de ja vu. Yes, there is science. There is logic. But games are an experience. You get the goal, you get the feedback, you get some way(s) of achieving that goal. Now, how are you going to make this player use his various mechanics/abilities in ways that aren't immediately apparent?

    It all comes down to thinking about what the player can do, and stopping him from going about it in a straight-forward manner. I once made 40 levels for a game where the only mechanic was sliding things around on ice. The shooting game in my sig technically only has shooting and moving left and right, and it got o.k. comments. I made the levels so you had to move left and right and shoot. Simple enough. That's all.

    Just stop the player from beating the level, then give them *one* way to get through it that isn't super obvious. (I still will play a cereal box maze, if it is there in front of me on a kitchen table).

    Or argue about it for 2 years and then scrap the game. Choose your own adventure.
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2015
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  37. RockoDyne

    RockoDyne

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    If you really want to learn that way, it's actually better to check out something crappy so you can understand how and why they completely F***ed up. Skilled craftsmanship is usually recognized as being flawless, and in games you effectively forget something is there because it's largely transparent and a total non-issue.
     
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  38. Master-Frog

    Master-Frog

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    Ah, that's a fair point. Just pick any game that the Angry Video Game Nerd has reviewed, play it until you literally can't stand it any more. Then, go play Zelda for the NES. Repeat until you can understand why/how they did so much better with the same/less overall resources. It's not a busy game, but it is sublime. Pokemon has that same quality.

    Yes, there's a science behind life but it has to be experienced to be understood.
     
  39. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    @tedthebug - It's no replacement for a GDZ podcast, and there's some bits I want to include in the GMP, but I found this GamaSutra article somewhat useful.

    I was reading around, because - in response to Feedback Friday - I did some asset replacements and was playtesting my game. Before I go all crazy adding AI, I wanted some ideas on how to make what I have more fun - it seems to me that what I have isn't as fun as I want, before adding AI and beginning work on individual units.

    The idea of activity statements is something that sort of exists in my Game Design Document, to a limited extent, but that I hadn't worked with to the extent talked about in the document. I defined a "user experience" section where I talk about what the player is doing. (@Gigiwoo asking that question a few times at the tail end of my work on Sara the Shieldmage managed to leave an imprint in my thick, thick skull.) I can't believe I didn't take this to its logical conclusion...but, hey. Dunning-Krueger. You don't know you don't know until you know that you don't know what you don't know, and this was a thing that I thought I knew...that I didn't.

    Please don't try to say that three times fast. My brain hurts from typing it.
     
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  40. tedthebug

    tedthebug

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    Thanks guys. I will try to check out those games & read that article. I guess it is a case of learn by doing but I was really hoping someone would give me an easy way out (apart from hiring as I'd still like to learn) by having a step by step guide & a step by step 'be careful of these things' guide.

    I don't have access to the old zelda but I think my kids have the 3ds one from last year so will hunt it out & try to pay attention to the design & not get sucked into playing it.
     
  41. Master-Frog

    Master-Frog

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    That isn't learning, either. I always find it intriguing when someone asks for advice to learn something, and when given an assignment to go study, seems disappointed. :/
     
  42. tedthebug

    tedthebug

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    Because I learn from doing it that way & then I can expand on bits to see what the effect is. It's not knowing how/where to start & progress that stops me
     
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  43. Master-Frog

    Master-Frog

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    Start by looking at what the player can do. Then, figure out what would be impossible for them to achieve. An unreachable goal. Then, move the goal back until it is just barely reachable. I don't know anything about your game, so I can't say. But you want to learn so you don't want anyone doing it for you. I don't know how else to explain it, so I am done. Dinner time.
     
  44. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    At some point you could give some practical advice about game design documents. I've noticed so far you haven't mentioned them at all. Are they something you use? Are they worth the time of developing? Or is the time better spent on iterations?
     
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  45. tedthebug

    tedthebug

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    That would be good. Plus how strict do you hold to the gdd if you use it? What goes in the gdd at the start gets updated/modified as development progresses but at what point does it change from a necessary update to the design to scope creep?
     
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  46. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    As an Indie or as a Pro? As a pro, we have GDD's of sorts, though, less than you might expect. For the most part, the game design is a vision in the lead designer's head. They then work to make that a shared vision, that quickly becomes a playable prototype, and then evolves. As an Indie, my GDD is a couple sheets of blank paper, with lots of doodles, diagrams, and algorithms, plus a long-list of todo's. When I've crossed off enough todo's, and stop adding new ones, then it's time to release.

    Picture =1000 words
    Video = 100 pictures
    Prototype = 10 videos


    I guess a prototype is worth 1,000,000 words. Which would be a big game design document.

    Gigi
     
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  47. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Because ... Fallout 4. Never mind thanksgiving, traveling to a conf, or being sick. Let's get straight to the good, bad, and ugly of the biggest game of the year. Time to get zen on Fallout 4!

    Web Link ----- iTunes Link

    Gigi
     
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  48. Martin_H

    Martin_H

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    Thanks for putting up another episode! This was really interesting to me, because as a Fallout "Veteran" I've felt very differently about some things you experienced while playing. I'll just put a spoiler tag around the following to be sure, but I don't really think many would consider these as real spoilers, and most of it refers to the old games anyway. Of course all this is from memory, talking about games I have played many years ago. Some might not be 100% correct, so take it with a grain of salt.

    You said you really enjoyed the moment where you got your first powerarmor. For me it was the opposite. It was probably the point of the game where I've had the most frustration. Or at least it was the first real harsh lowpoint for me. In Fallout 1 and 2 the powerarmor was a lategame item that as far as I remember was rather hard to get. In Fallout 3 the only way of wearing one was to join the Brotherhood of Steel and get their special training. This iconic thing that serves as cover art for all the games always was an item that had great value through its context in the game. It was always one of the lategame goals for me to get the powerarmor because that meant a significant boost in your survivability. Especially Fallout 1 and 2 I remember to be quite hard at times and not only in the first half of the game. I might be wrong though because that's so many years in the past and I might have just been worse at that kind of game back then.
    Anyway, in Fallout 4 you get the powerarmor simply handed to you within the first few hours of the game. The one thing you need to activate it, I alreay had collected on the way. To me the thing got massively devalued and I loathed how conveniently everything got handed to me on a silver platter. "Here is the powerarmor you know from the cover, here is your dog companion that you already knew you would get. Need anything else?" It feels like a game, not like a story or a world. It massively broke my immersion and the expectations I had from previous games. I understand all that you say about the paradox of choice. But here is an interesting difference between you as someone new to the franchise and me, loaded with expectations and knowledge from previous games.
    Imho the emergent narrative in Fallout always was about making the best out of a S***ty situation that you got thrown into.

    Fallout 1 - your vault needs a water purifier chip, if you don't find one, everyone your character spent his life with so far will die. Go figure it out! You've got 100 days till their water supply runs out, clock's tickin'.

    Fallout 2 - your tribe is suffering from the infertile land they live on, they need you to find a garden-of-eden-creation-kit to end their suffering. Go figure it out! I think you don't have the fixed time limit (which was a questionable game mechanic by the way because you could lose the game without realizing it immediately), but if you take long you'll get visions of your tribes suffering in your dreams.

    Fallout 3 - you play through parts of your childhood in the vault during character creation, at the end you get one last chance to make changes in case you screwed up or changed your mind and then you step out of the vault. At that point you've spent half an hour to an hour or so playing in the very confined space of the vault. Then you open the door, step out into the Wasteland, are blinded by the light and then look in awe at that vast space of possibilities and all the places you could go. You are overwhelmed by choice, but in a very positive way and to me it was one of the more memorable moments in my personal gaming history. The massive amount of choice you are confronted with makes the experience more real and meaningful to me. You could go anywhere. If you wanted to, you could even eradicate a whole city with a nuke early on in the game. And I'm talking dropped-from-a-plane-sized-nuke, not one of those flimsy mini nukes. You had the power and choice to make a city disappear from the world, and that was only a side quest. Compared to something like that, Fallout 4 doesn't really give you many interesting choices at all imho.

    I think a great freedom of choice and the inconvenience that brings with it always were an integral part of what makes the Fallout games work so well for hardcore gamers. Fallout 4 removes so much of that, that it almost is comical to me when you suggest that it still has way too much choice and is overwhelming at first. The moment where you started to no longer feel that paradox of choice, which you dislike, is proably not too far away from the point where I started to get bored with the game. I felt rather quickly that in terms of skills and perks I'm no longer making decisions because I had the basic needs down and the rest of the perks almost had a logical order in which it made sense to take them or in which I could take them because of the min level requirements. I was no longer making meaningful decisions and whenever that happens I feel like I lose part of the fun of a game.
    Another low point for me was when I saved during a dialog, explored every possible combination of things that I could say and found out that even though I always had 4 options what to say, none of it mattered and everything led to the exact same outcome in the end. That was a real bummer because I started to question if I actually ever had made a choice in that game, or if it just tricked me into believing I did.

    The Fallout series starts out with a dialog system that gates options of what to say with your intelligence value. I once started a low intelligence combat focused char and I thought to myself during a dialog "OMG, everything I can say here makes me sound like an absolute idiot. That's not me, I have to make an new character that is not a moron.". I doubt any of that is still in Fallout 4, at least it didn't seem that way.

    I found it interesting that you prefer the skill system of Skyrim where you level things up that you do. I'm not sure where I stand on this. The Skyrim system makes sense for the most part, but it also locks you in and limits you. Once you are a Legendary one handed swordsman you aren't going to go learn two handed swords now for a change because you'll suck at it and the enemies scale with your overall level and not with how good you are at the thing you are trying to do. The system leads to a more monotonous playstyle imho and also to mind numbing grind like crafting and enchanting hundreds of iron daggers to get smithing high enough so that you can get the baddass ebony armor. Some will call that immersive. I call it tedious busywork that makes me look back shamefully on the time I invested into boring grind. In Fallout 4 exploring other playstyles is much more encouraged. You can get XP with whatever is the most fun to you, everything seems rather balanced and both building settlements or killing stuff are viable paths. E.g. I focused on rifles and pistols at first and when I got bored I had enough XP to get perks that make melee viable and I could experiment with sneaking around and stealthily stabbing people with a knife. Making that kind of character build change in Skyrim is rather tedious imho. For me it does not increase the fun. However I could see how it might increase the fun for people that really want to work for their rewards. Pretty much the same thing like getting the power armor handed to you vs. having to work for it. I'm not opposed to the work, but imho in Skyrim that drop in competence that you experience when you change to a weapon class that you haven't trained yet just does not feel like fun to me gameplay wise.
    The old Fallout games kind of stand on a middleground on this issue. You had skill stats like sneaking, small guns, big guns, energy weapons, but you could invest skillpoints that you get each levelup however you liked. You didn't have to do the skill-specific grind, just xp grind in general.

    I can't say I'm a Dark Souls fan, but I really appreciate about that game that the skillcap for the player is so high and it is always more about getting better at the game yourself than getting a number higher. You experience how you are getting better at the game and that makes it satisfying to me. I miss that element in Fallout because I think as a mechanic it would fit wonderfully into the context of the world you play in.
     
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  49. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    @Martin_H - Great discussion. I particularly enjoyed the exploration of the skill system. The Skyrim system has its flaws, and the Fallout 4 system has it's flaws too. They are different flaws, which gives a hint to what the design team valued.

    I do think it would be fun to make a sneaky, dagger character, that gets the 'Long Adventurer' stat, with no companion. So far, I've never got farther than one sneak attack before a whole camp opens up on me.

    Gigi
     
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  50. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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