John Evans' Blog

Tag: game design

Lessons of Collaboration

by on Oct.23, 2008, under Uncategorized

So I went to the IGDA NYC Chapter’s First Annual(?) Pecha Kucha night. Pecha Kucha is a format for giving quick presentations; each presenter is allowed 20 slides, which stay up for exactly 20 seconds each, for a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds of presentation. There were 8 presentations tonight.

All the presentations were interesting in one way or another, although some were better than others. Dave Gilbert had a presentation about Reality on the Norm, an interesting game development community.

Reality on the Norm started when a group of people working in Adventure Game Studio created a simple adventure game set in a kind of wacky town…then they encouraged others to contribute more stories in that same continuity. More and more people created games of their own, many of them introducing new characters. Then the issue of quality control came up; there really wasn’t anyone, because everyone was encouraged to participate. Some games were derided as being low quality. However, there wasn’t any moderation practiced other than a general community consensus. Eventually there were more than 100 characters and the barrier to entry for new people was set fairly high. Still, lots of people had fun and learned a lot about game making.

Why do I have this feeling of déja vu

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1/5th of a hamster

by on Aug.26, 2008, under Uncategorized

So, Kingdom of Loathing recently introduced a “clan dungeon”; an area that was intended to be explored by a group of people. Obviously, it seems foolish to focus effort on content that solo players can’t experience; still, I found myself thinking about it from a sort of mathematical perspective. Specifically, I was thinking about an article about the division of “loot” after completing a “run” of this area.

Let’s say that a group of 5 people go and complete this quest in the hope of getting 1 really interesting item at the end. Of course, there’s only one of these items. How do you divide up the loot? Maybe there is a simple way.

If, at the end of the run, the group gets 1 Mega-Prize, then you award each player a “1/5th of a Mega-Prize” voucher. Now they can do whatever they want with this voucher. They can give it to another player, they can sell it for whatever amount of currency they believe is fair, they can save it for a rainy day…anything. Then, whoever obtains 5/5ths worth of vouchers can trade it in for a Mega-Prize. Until then, the Mega-Prizes just stay stashed in a vault or something.

There may have to be some additional rules, like, “Vouchers can only be traded among clan members” and “If you leave the clan, you forfeit your vouchers” (but to whom? hmmmm…). I think this solves the problem rather neatly.

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Aching Dreams!

by on Mar.03, 2008, under Uncategorized

So, I’ve finally finished a secret project I’ve been working on for…almost two years, in fact. So at long last, here’s my pornographic Flash game!

Aching Dreams – Fantasy Hentai Date Sim!

Go there and check it out (and vote 5 😉 ). It’s not “great literature”, but it’s a pretty fun game. It has completely original artwork, with dialogue and programming by me. Perhaps most important, it’s actually completely finished. 😉

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Revisiting the topic of ‘fun work’

by on May.28, 2007, under Uncategorized

“One of the dirty little secrets of gaming is that playing a game is work. Not hard work and, if we’ve done our jobs right, not unpleasant work. But compared with other media, playing a game is absolutely work. A story moment can serve as reward for successful in-game actions, pulling players along to the next part of the game.”
Warren Spector

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by on Feb.27, 2007, under Uncategorized

I think it’s important for any creative person to realize that what they’re actually attempting to craft is an experience. For computer game designers, certainly, this should be uppermost in their minds…however, I think it can apply to novelists, TV show writers, whatever. It’s not that you’re creating a physical thing, it’s that you’re creating something that will enable your viewer/reader/player to have an interesting experience.

Well, this is my theory, anyway. I just had this kind of epiphany today and I thought I’d write it down. I suppose it may not be news to many people, but I’ve never quite thought of it before. Fortunately, I think it’s somewhat instinctive…especially in my more ambitious game designs, I think to myself, “Okay, I want the player to have a moment where they feel like THIS”…

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The evil from…The Future!

by on Jan.01, 2007, under Uncategorized

So, last post I talked about the past. Now I’ll talk about the future.

Aching Dreams. Ghostlashing. “LSC…” Rosewood. Colonization. Time travel. The Octopoid Alectrometer. Secret languages. Tengu. Outer Gods. The Armadillo Dimension. Transuranics. Lebiscites. Mazuronium. Sweet Flash Mashup. Dragon food. Heju. The Secret Spices. Spell research. Slippery heat. I-Con. Confluence. FINAH. World 7. Return of the Yellow Turbans. Room 2-214. The Nine Games. And…the Piper.

“I think I’m supposed to laugh maniacally now.”

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Game Theory – Fun Work

by on Nov.07, 2006, under Uncategorized

So I have this theory…Games people play are made up of tasks to perform. These tasks could range from throwing a ball so it goes through a hoop, to tapping buttons in the right rhythm, to planning a battle strategy for your virtual units across a virtual battlefield. Since I like strategy computer games, though, I’m going to be focusing on mental tasks. (Applying my arguments to other games is left as an exercise for the reader.)

But playing a game encompasses other tasks, too. Clicking the mouse in such a way as to select the exact combination of units you want, that can be thought of as a task. Or waiting for the game to load can be a tasks. In a larger perspective, leveling up your characters until you’re powerful enough to get to the next part of the story is a task.

All of these tasks are work. The interesting thing is that some of this work is “fun work” and some is just work. Game players expect to (are trained to?) put up with various bits of unfun work to get to the fun work. We just hope it’s worth it in the end.

What’s really interesting is that different people find different types of work to be fun. Depending on your tastes, you may enjoy a completely different aspect of a given game than someone else. For example, I know the old game X-COM: Enemy Unknown/UFO Defense has some devoted fans. I played it, and I enjoyed it. Yet, while it seemed like the focus of the game was the turn-based tactical battles, I saw those battles more as something to be endured. For me they were not-quite-fun work; what I really enjoyed were researching, constructing bases, planning overall strategy like that. (I bet someone out there probably thinks this position is heresy, but all I’m talking about are my personal gaming tastes. 😉 )

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but I was particularly inspired by a post on Penny Arcade today. To quote:

When a battle pops up between your party and let’s say some wolves in [Final Fantasy X] you just select attack on all your characters, maybe toss in a fire spell for fun and then watch the wolves bite it…Most of the time, it’s just you selecting the same moves over and over, occasionally dropping a healing potion. Well all that [Final Fantasy XII] has done is streamline that process. I’m not pushing “X” as much but I’m doing the same things. It was hard for me to get my head around at first because I wanted to believe I was doing more than that but I wasn’t. I wanted to believe that every fight in [Final Fantasy IX] really required strategy but it didn’t…You just grind through monsters until you hit a boss and that’s when the combat really gets interesting.

So what he’s saying is that the Final Fantasy games have a lot of “work” which basically doesn’t require any work at all. These “non-boss monster encounters” can be handled the same way once you familiarize yourself with the battle system. Basically, with the new battle system in FFXII, you can just sit back and watch them be taken care of automatically.

Which begs the question, why are they there at all?

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Game design: Note to self

by on Apr.13, 2006, under Uncategorized

A lot of times I’ve created mechanics and put them into games without explaining them. Kind of a thing, “Let’s see how long it takes the players to find this and figure it out”.

Note to self: This is NOT a good idea.

Well, like many things it’s all right in moderation; a reward for players dedicated enough to put time into really searching the game and trying things out. But major features that you want everyone to use…well, everyone should know about them and how they work. This also ties into the idea of giving more feedback. Don’t just assume players will figure out “Well, if I have this item, then this spell has a larger effect, so the item must give some bonus”…print out the bonuses so players are aware of an arena where they can apply their minds and figure out strategies.

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The Paper Slips Game

by on Mar.12, 2006, under Uncategorized

0: Players sit in a rough circle, ideally around a table. The point is that each player has one player to either side, in an unbroken circle. Each player gets a blank slip of paper and a writing utensil.
1: Each player writes a word near the top of their slip of paper, under any words previously written.
2: Each player passes their slip of paper to the person on their right. (Or left, it doesn’t matter which direction as long as it’s always the same direction.)
3: If you feel like stopping, stop. Otherwise, go to step 1.

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Incredible updates!

by on Jan.27, 2006, under Uncategorized

Well, maybe not that incredible, but definitely things I want to talk about.

Foremost in my mind right now is the Annual Sci-Fi Marathon! I’m going to leave Saturday morning, return sometime Sunday or Monday. Not entirely sure when. Until then I shall be almost certainly incommunicado, unless one happens to find me at the Marathon itself.

In other news, I have a new game over on my website, entitled…Chaostorm. It’s an experiment in several ways. The focus of the game is on creation, creating a world and then exploring it. Also, it becomes more active the more people there are doing stuff. So, I’d like people to sign up and try it out–as many as possible. However! If you do sign up, I’d like you to, at least once a day, log in and use up all your Storm doing stuff. (If you’re lost, check out the Chaostorm Guide, link available at the bottom of the various Chaostorm pages.)

Another creative work I’ve, uh, worked on recently is called Hanamichi. Before I give the link straight out, though, some explanation is in order. Hanamichi is a mini-RPG created for a mini RPG design contest. The whole point of the contest was to explore the “lesbian stripper ninja” trope which is apparently a cliche or something. Not only that, but it’s pretty much the first RPG I’ve ever written, so it doesn’t have rough edges so much as lacks smooth parts at all. Anyway, I commented to that original post, so you can find it there if you’re interested.

By the way…for anyone who might remember the boss Aegagropilon from the SNES game Secret of Mana? The genus name for marimo is Aegagropila. Yes, it was a giant killer algae ball. (That’s why its alignment was “Tree”.)

And one more thing…a new picture of me!

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