Sunday, 2 June 2013

Character Used is (un)defined – the Divide between the Player and the Player Character

The player character (PC) of a game is very important; he or she is not only the window through which players see the world, but it also the vessel through which they act. One important variable in the design of PCs is the amount of personality they have. In one extreme, the PC is a blank slate; in the other extreme, he has an independent personality. The former is what happens more in western role-playing games, which are typically non-linear and focus on player choice, and the latter is what happens more in eastern role-playing games, which are typically very linear and focus on telling a story. I call this dimension the divide between the player character and the player.

Heavy Rain: Sometimes it's important to make the player feel that he is the one making the choices. This is what makes for exciting experiences in Heavy Rain. 

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

"I'm disappointed in you": Creating memorable experiences through NPC reactions

Imagine: I walk into your house, take all your money, break a few pots and pans, and leave without saying a word. How would you respond the next time I see you?

Final Fantasy 7 - Going into somebody's house and stealing underwear... Why not?

Whatever your response may be, it's probably very different from what a vast majority of the non-player characters (NPCs) in typical video games would do. For those of us who have played old role-playing games, the above actions would be a part of our normal routine when entering a new house. To make it even worse, we would usually turn the house upside down right in front of the people who live there. They're probably used to it though, every time a hero comes to town, as they never seem to get mad or upset.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

How to prolong your game experience?

As a designer, you spend hours, days, months or even years creating games. Gamers on the other hand finish those games in a fraction of that time. It is amazing how much effort is needed to create even the most fleeting of experiences, let alone a whole new game. That is why it's sometimes better to prolong your game experience: users will be able to enjoy your game a little longer, and you might be able to generate some extra revenue. But there are many different ways to do so, which is what we'll talk about today.

Super Mario Bros (NES) - What if you don't want the game to end?

Sunday, 24 February 2013

We don't need no... realism in video games!

"We try to make players forget they're playing a game. We want them to live the experience and suspend disbelief. But emotion is complex and challenging to capture through sounds and dialogue and gameplay. In a medium like ours, tech is very important. We rely on new technology to get players emotionally involved."

Quantum Dream Tech Demo - It's amazing to see how far we've gotten, but on their own, and not embedded in a game, such things always seem better.
As impressive as David Cage's presentation was during the Playstation 4 reveal event, it's not the first time I've heard a developer say something like this. With the reveal of every new system, the promises of 'a new level of realism' follow shortly. And why wouldn't those promises be there: the new system comes with a range of intuitive interaction devices, and graphics that will, quite figuratively fortunately, blow your mind. Realism, particularly in terms of interaction and graphics, seems to be the Holy Grail.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

How does Affect affect Challenge in Video Games

What is challenge? Some people would consider meeting their in-laws a challenge. Other people would consider getting up in the morning a challenge. You could even consider answering the question ‘what is challenge?’ a challenge. As always, different people have different definitions and opinions. From a game perspective, I see it as a situation that you want to resolve, but that doesn't automatically resolve itself, unless you choose the correct actions at the correct time. Usually, these actions are limited by constraints: if you’re in-laws are particularly annoying, and you don’t want to meet them, punching them in the face may not be the best approach.

Shadow of the Colossus - To save your loved one, you must slay these peaceful giant creatures. When users become aware that they are slaying these wondrous beasts only for their own selfish reasons, they start feeling guilty when they go to slay the next one. This is how affect can influence the perception of challenge. 

Depending on the type of game, the focus is either on ‘the correct time’ (reactive or behavioural games), or on ‘the right actions’ (deliberative or cognitive games). For example, in Pac-Man, a reactive game, the player has to stay away from the ghosts, while picking up the pac-dots and fruit. If you’re not fast enough, the ghosts will catch you. Another example, while solving Sudokus, a deliberative game, the player has to fill in blanks while making sure that each field of each horizontal line, vertical line, and the 3x3 rectangles contains a unique number (1 to 9). If you add the wrong number to a blank field, then you might discover later on that the Sudoku can’t be solved any more (much to your frustration, as you have to redo the entire Sudoku).

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Games and Gamification

'Gamification will change the world as we know it'. Famous game designers, such as Jesse Schell, want to make us believe that in the next few decades, each and every part of our life will be 'gamified'. On paper this does sound good; who wouldn't like to get regular achievements for being a good human being (especially if others could see them in big bold letters on our Facebook page)? For many people working in big companies, gamification sounded like the answer to all their problems. After all, it could mean that they wouldn't have to spend billions on promotional or educational activities. While there is a lot of enthusiasm about gamification, there is still a lot of unclarity about what it is, and how it works. This time we'll be going a bit deeper into these two issues. 

Gamepocalypse Jesse Schell - Soon our entire life will be a game, let's hope that it won't be like The Game of Life.

Most game designers try to make their game as entertaining as possible; the more entertaining a game is, the better it will sell (this is not always the case, but that is a story for another day). This is different for gamification, as entertainment comes second. There is usually another goal that is more important, such as education, product advertisement, increasing customer loyalty and so on. Game designers see entertainment as a goal; gamification designers see entertainment as a means. 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Your balancing act: How to find the balance between risk and reward

In one of the Nintendo Land attractions for the Wii U, Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, you play a game similar to the age-old children's game cops and robbers. One player, the cop, has to find and catch the other players, These other players, the robbers, have to pick up pieces of candy and drop them off in certain places. The cop wins if he/she catches the thieves a certain amount of times. The thieves win if they are able to drop off a certain amount of candy. One of the fun mechanics of the game is that thieves are able to carry up to three pieces of candy, but with every new piece they pick up, they move much slower. Therefore, the thieves need to balance risk and reward, as picking up one extra piece of candy can be the difference between escaping and winning or getting caught by the cop and losing.

Nintendo Land - Animal Crossing: Sweet Day 

Depending on the amount of expertise of the player, and the quality of the tutorial, this balancing act may be frustrating; losing because you didn't understand the rules is never nice. However, games would not be the same without this balance between risk and reward. It can make players feel empowered because their choices change the state of the game (What should I do now, if I take the wrong action I could lose); it can incite curiosity in players, because their choices may lead to unexpected results (I really thought I would get away with that); and it can create a sense of accomplishment in the player if they are successful (That was a close call, but I'm happy I made it). This balance also helps the player to constrain their set of actions; if the player is doing well in the game, they might want to choose actions that are more risky, if they aren't doing well, they will probably choose the actions with the lowest amount of risk