Weekly Update VII

Lewis Pulsipher discusses the many meanings of the word Theme and suggests some alternatives. An important point to keep in mind to avoid misunderstandings and muddy discussions.

Thoper Doll points towards different resource models in RTSs and how they impact map design while, by means of their resulting interactions, encouraging different play-styles.

In Animation in Action Games Jon Williams delves into how animations provide input and feedback in various action games.

DigiDigger takes a look, through the MDA framework, at different design aspects of Amnesia and how they all contribute to making the game scarier.

Richard Terrell chats with Sanatana Mishra and Tim Dawson about several design aspects of their game Assault Android Cactus.

In the latest installment of Ludology Mike Fitzgerald and Geoff Engelstein talk with Emerson Matsuuchi about hidden and programmed movement.

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Weekly Update VI

Turing Tantrum talks about how, by playing poker, he realized interesting opponents lie at the core of interesting games.

In the latest entry of Gamasutra’s Game Design Deep Dive James Lantz explains the why and how of Invisible, Inc.’s alarm system.

Rob Daviau explains how he tackled issues related with bad luck and early bad choices in Pandemic Legacy.

Mark Brown discusses how Resident Evil 4 implements shifting difficulty levels.

In this short interview about his latest game, Cordial Minuet, Jason Rohrer talks about luck and skill.

Richard Terrell continues his analysis of Pac-Man this time focusing on its level design.

Jason Morningstar gives an overview of GMless design and play.

Marcus Terrell compares the game feel of Ridiculous Fishing and its infamous clone Ninja Fishing.

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Weekly Update V

In Designing Procedural Stealth for Invisible Inc. James Lantz talks about Klei Entertaiment’s design process in relation to the game and game design in general.

In his talk Emotions in Raw Mechanics Daniel Cook talks about how games can elicit emotions through its mechanics.

Time is an implicit resource in every real-time game. Topher Doll points to how a couple of RTSs handle time and how such decisions impact single-player modes.

In Pac-Man Design: What’s Interesting About Pac-Man’s Gameplay? Richard Terrel takes a look at the inner working of Pac-Man.

Bohnanza is at this point nearly twenty years old. In their design analysis Matt Pavlovich and Alex Harkey points towards some issue with the game and how they could be improved.

Jamey Stevenson describes his process for balancing game economies using spreadsheets.

Teale Fristoe describes how several games employ what he calls Relative Numbers.

Extended Reading:

Keith Burgun finally published his latest book Clockwork Game Design in which he explains his clockwork design pattern as a tool to moving forward with strategy games.

Jennifer deWinter and Carly Kocurek just published the first issue in their Influential Video Game Designers series this one’s focused on Shigeru Miyamoto.

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Weekly Update IV

Richard Terrell, Marcus Terrell, Michael Ardizzone and Chris Simpson are officially launching today Design Oriented, a blog dedicated to discussing game design and its process. DEFINITELY check it out. From their opening article, to their piece about the problems with theoretical player perspective critiques the site is packed with good stuff. Go and read it already.

Mark R Johnson argues that constant content unlocking in modern rogue-likes obfuscates the learning process to new players.

Micah Dutro raised several questions in regards to what exactly means depth in 4X games.

Elyot Grant explains the rationale behind some balancing changes in Prismata, especially as how they relate to openings.

Mathew Gravelyn shares a small research he did on the preferences and habits of 2-player boardgames players.

It is not uncommon for well explored RTSs to have stagnant, repetitive early game. Michael Lowell proposes simply getting rid of it as the best solution.

Gustav Dahl shares an introduction to Game Feel and the results of some measuring he did. Also pertaining game feel is Marcus Terrell notes on Vlambeer’s The art of screenshake.

Earlier this Month Liz England started a Game Design Book Club. One book on game design(or a related discipline) per month is the plan. Voting for the first book already started and includes Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Characteristics of Games and Game Feel. All of them books of great insight.

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Weekly Update III

Mike Sellers lays some basic groundwork for understanding games as system in Systems, game systems, and systemic games, and alludes that games relying on interactions between game objects have ultimately more depth.

Humor in games usually comes from narrative, visual and even aural elements. In Funny Games Grant Rodiek points how certain mechanisms facilitate humor in board games.

In Critical Switch: Republican Dad Mechanics Austin C. Howe suggests that souls games would benefit from implementing risk-mitigation mechanics akin to those present in Metal Gear Rising and Bayonetta.

Filip Wiltgren propose mystery and suspense as lenses to better understand how a player perceives information in games.

In the latest episode of The Psychology of Video Games Podcast Jamie Madigan talks with Dr. Linda Kaye about the psychology of flow. A concept constantly referred when dealing with difficulty in relationship to skill.

In Playing Pieces, or Free Agents? A Question of Unit Agency in RTS games Brandon Casteel explores how unit agency could be explored in future RTS games.

David Kalina asserts sports’ rules, just as games’, should be updated whenever needed.

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Weekly Update II

If we were to ask Caillois he would surely sustain that mimicry is the very essence of RPGs. In his The Essence of RPGs series Chris Bateman argues that said essence lies not only in the act of playing a role, but also in practices derived from closely following a ruleset. He also touches on the pervasive influence of D&D.

Making the rounds this week was Itay Keren’s Scroll Back: The Theory and Practice of Cameras in Side-Scrollers in which he documents several camera techniques, and how they relate to attention, interaction and comfort in side-scrollers.

In the seventh installment of his Building a Better RTS series Andrew Crystall focuses on maps and views especially highlighting developments brought by Supreme Commander and Total Annihilation, and how those could be further enhanced.

Over at r/gamedesign vancaesar shares a translation of an article by Russian game designer Dmitry Smirnov in which he describes his approach for refining interactions.

Matt Pavlovich and Alex Harkey continue their Game Design Analysis series by taking a shot at BGG’s darling Twilight Struggle.

In Advanced Game Development Mike Mullins describes how he approaches playtesters feedback during late stages of board game development.

Once again steering the waters is Keith Burgun with Turtling, talking about how optimal play often comes to clash with a game’s purported objective in terms of the options it provides.

In the third part of his Lighting theory for 3D games Robert Yang raises several questions on how lightning influences a playspace readability and why the three-point lighting framework is not useful.

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Weekly Update I

Last Monday Frank Lantz published Against Design a piece in which, by his own clarification, he tried to put into perspective how little we actually know about designing games. Interesting points were brought both in the form of blog posts and comments.

In his A Shattered Dream: Critiquing the 4X Genre Oliver Kiley provides us with a picture of the current state of 4X games. What do we have? Where do we come from? Where should we go? are some of the questions he wrestles with.

What separates game design from other branches of design? is a question that Mike Sellers tried to answer in his What Makes Game Design Unique?

Raph Koster ends his Star Wars Galaxies series afters commenting several design decisions and how they impacted the game at large.

Straight from GDC’s vault Masahiro Sakurai explains how he sees Risk & Return in action games. Tangentially related is Super Smash Academy’s in-depth explanation of shffling in Smash Bros.

Chris Hecker shows how a “minor” cosmetic change can have a huge impact in his upcoming game Spy Party.

In a talk with Erik Davis, Jeff Howard talks about magic in games. Particularly interesting, even if not fully explored, is his idea of designing magic systems as grammars in which conjuration results from carefully arranging words. Eternal Darkness, but with a more elaborated grammar, comes to mind.

Tommy Thompson continues with his project of discussing games by analyzing their AI. In his latest installment he plays Alien: Isolation,  a more focused(less let’splayey) format would certainly be appreciated.

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A Humble Beginning

“…Everywhere *we* look we see pretend worlds and childish make-believe, imaginary dragons, badly written dialogue and unskippable cutscenes in which angry mannequins gesture awkwardly at each other…” – Frank Lantz

We are aware that Frank regretted having phrased his sentiments that way, and how dismissive it sounds. However such phrasing also expresses how a lot of us feel. Even more, for those of us interested in studying the hows and whys of games and their structure is not easy to find resources focusing on such approach.

With that in mind we look to create a place where we can bring attention to anyone trying to explore such design interests. Starting next Monday we will post a weekly roundup of articles, podcasts, videos and discussions. We do not look to divide but to foster discussion.

A widget will be set to facilitate article submission. In the meantime you can reach us via twitter.

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