Category Archives: Game design

The Future of Computer Games

NOTE: This article was supposed to appear in a Gaming related website (one more prominent than this) but due to certain re-arrangements concerning the operation behind the website, this plan has been (now finally) abandoned. Cheers and all the best to Nick.

We are peering in to a crystal ball to see what kind of developments we might see in gaming in the next 10-30 years. Usually when people make predictions they tend to exaggerate the short term development but underestimate the long term development. I take 10-30 to be short term so I’m taking the safe route proposing that things will stay mostly the same. We wont have the “holodeck” or “brain-computer -interfaces”. The computers we use will look mostly like the ones we use today. Perhaps they will be smaller, quieter but not light-based or quantum-anything. Programming of sort will still be required, Artificial Intelligence (AI) won’t be doing the job of game development for us, and cars will, for the most part, stay in the ground.
Continue reading

Reality-Tv Idea

Why has no-one thought about a reality tv-series set in Game industry? The possibilites are endless! There would be a number of people competing over a chance to get their game design realized by a team of harnened industry veterans. You could subject the candidates to all kinds of hardships, sleep deprivation, impossible dead-lines, hunger, humiliation and of course all manner of personal strife. You could draw party-lines based on whether candidate was brought up on the NES or C64.

Since most of the candidates would probably be men, you could set them up with a model school attendants and add alcohol. Then you could have a bit of Gordon Ramsey -type screaming and cursing, visits from industry heavyweights offering words of encouragement and wisdom and of course challenges with overly luxurious prizes like dinner with Pac-man.

Now that I’d like to see.

Throwing Out Ideas…

… to make room for new ones.

Not so long ago, I was asked to deliver a level-design for an imaginary computer game as a work example to a Game designer position. Suprisingly I didn’t get the position for lack of experience, what I did get was a rather nifty idea to be used in mystery or problem-solving games or anywhere you deduction would be part of the game. I’m describing it in this entry and if anyone sees any value in it or might use it in their own games, it would be nice to be told about it or credited in somehow. Continue reading

Brief Hiatus in Game Design to Design a Game (Level)

I was given a small Game design task by a prospective employer and this task has required my game design -eligible part of my brain. Fortunately I’ve now finished working out the idea I had and should soon return to the task at hand.

I was given a task to design a level to a game and given character around which the game revolves. I have a question for you hordes out there. Do you think a walk-through would be a good way to demonstrate my idea?

Announcing My Apprenticeship

I have been thinking about this for awhile. In order to get oneself lodged into the Game Industry one needs work experience, at least here in Finland. Master’s degree means dick. In order to crack this slight of circle of doom I am launching a project with the intent of:

  1. Producing a Game design document and
  2. Producing a Game in accordance with the said Game design document.

Since my aspirations are on Game design the quality and practical usefulness of the Game design document is of outmost importance to me. Furthermore, the adherence of the Game with the document (as opposed to content of my mind) is important. Whatever is in the game should also appear in the document. I will open a separate page for this project, which will house the design document and general information. I will also document in detail all the problems, misgivings, misunderstandings and failures in this blog under the tag “Apprenticeship”.

Make no mistake, this is something I have to do, whatever the outcome. Can you dig it, bitches?

Does Two Half-Life’s Equal One Full-Life?

Half-Life is one of the most succesful games of recent history. It is always a pleasure to say why somethings good and at the same time, aim to claim that for the exact reason it is also a baaad example of its category. Even more when it’s something as influential as Half-Life.

HL is part of a well-established genre of computer games called first-person shooter. HL didn’t actually bring anything new to the genre, it just did a few things well, very, very well. The game has a standard plot revolving around a secret research center and something going wrong with some of that secret research. It also has a silent main character, the player’s alter ego, Gordon Freeman.

The execution of the plot is beautifully balanced as far as gameplay goes. Some half way through the game the player gets hold of some experimental and alien weapons. Shortly after this the player is casted on an alien world. Gordon Freeman is also an existing entity, he has co-workers who get shot infront of his eyes by a soldiers coming to their “rescue”. Now that’s how you engage a player! These soldier eventually learn who’s the lone scientist causing all kinds of mayhem around the center and begin to leave messages on the walls “Die Freeman!” and a host of booby-traps.

HL engages the player using it’s character setup (unarmed, peaceful, scientists, players colleagues, are killed), keeps it interesting when the action is getting boring (new weapons, completely different surroundings). It also executes the essentials of first-person shooters well enough (different weapons, three parties to a conflict [the player, the soldiers and the aliens], interesting level-design).

It is exactly the reasons that makes HL stand out, makes it a bad example of a computer game. The scripted and dramatic actions don’t last a second a playing. While at first making the player feel like he’s part of the gameworld, the second time around they expose their scripted nature. The story runs on rails, with the players actions allowing only one way of advancement. Computer games are not essentially a narrative medium.

Never Underestimate the Longevity of Italian Plumbers!

Super Mario Worlds 1 and 2 were published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). SMW1 came with the SNES unit itself (published in 1992 in Europe). SWM2: Yoshi’s Island was published in 1995.

I won’t delve too deeply into the why it is so pleasurable to play Super Mario Worlds. I wish to make a few points that are missing in most of todays games. First of all, the worlds are modeled with certain consistency. Objects (like Koopa shells) interact with other objects (like other shells, blocks, Yoshi’s tongue) and not just some objects that are chosen carefully beforehand. This allows much more freedom for the player to advance and also makes for much more interesting level design. Consistency damnit!

SWM2 also has done with the running clock. I don’t know why this relevant-to-arcades -quality has persisted for so long where it’s absolutely not required. Why should the player be forced to run against a clock, among other things? While this makes sense in the arcades where it’s games intention that playtime per player is limited. Especially in SWM1 I often would like to browse around the level, looking for all the secrets, in peace. It’s quite interesting how a somewhat small change makes a difference in gameplay.

That’s it. If you want more for your click, leave a comment, interactivate!

Are Your People Populous Enough?

Populous was produced by Bullfrog and published by Electronic Arts in 1989. Personally it was the time influential years for myself, but I think Populous can teach us something beyond nostalgia.

I believe it was Populous that brought the term god-sim into game-lingo. If I recall correctly it was originally intended that the two sides in the game would be God and Devil but this was changed into simply ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Players intention is to keep a good care of his people, which simply consists of leveling out the land and keeping it level and free of boulders. I think this idea is lovely on its own, but there’s one idea in the game that I think deserves more consideration.

It is the way you control your people. Your people have one designated leader that you can order to go from one place to another, but otherwise you control your people as a whole! This is the idea that e.g. Populous: The Beginning (P3 so-to -speak) lost and succumbed to the boring, unwieldy style of painting a group of people and telling them to go somewhere.

In the original Populous it didn’t matter how many people you had, the control method stayed the same and as effective. The player influenced his people with three buttons that either set them to settle new places, stay home and grow stronger or attack the enemy. Compare this with many so-called realtime-strategy games way of laborously giving orders to your troops one, or a group at a time.

I find this kind of indirect control very interesting and one which would work in any type of game.

How to Hack a Net

NetHack is a game that would have enough to write about for a few good books, but since we are blogging here I’ll try and make it short and simple.

NetHack is a Rogue-like (who even knows this day what Rogue was like?) computer roleplaying game. That’s the classic definition. More to the point it’s one presented in colored ASCII-characters, turn-based and immensely detailed. NetHack is a good example of a complex game that doesn’t swamp the player with it. In any given game the player won’t come in contact with most of the games intrigues. This means theres plenty of stuff to wonder over for years. There’s a joke about the DevTeam thinking about everything.

But that’s not where I’d like to draw the attention in NetHack. The main lessons NetHack can give any particular game enthusiast would be:

  1. Computer Games can be revised, honed, perfected indefinetely. NetHack has been in development some 20 years.
  2. NetHack isn’t imprisoned by it’s rugged apperiance but draws power from it and makes it work for it.  There are features in the game that would be practically impossible to realize without it’s ASCII-base.

Ok, is that concise enough for you? Need something elaborated? There is a thing called comment-section in this blog these days…

Who Would Ever Dream of Pinballs?

As a follow-up to my previous post, I here take a good look at one of my favourite games of all times and why it matters.

Pinball Dreams was released back in 1992 and was one of the last big hits for the Amiga. It came quite out of the blue, made by first-comers Digital Illusions (DI), also known in the demo scene as The Silents. Pinball Dreams is a pinball game with 4 different tables with different themes.

Continue reading