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Game Dev-astation
Game Development from the Inside
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A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I had a blog. I wrote about game development and it was kind of interesting for those who read it. Now it's time to unearth it again, because there's a particular thing I wanted to write about.

Everyone knows generally what development cycles are. When a development studio is making a game, they are typically budgeted a certain amount of time to complete it and hand it to their publisher, who then takes it, potentially submits it to Sony, Microsoft and/or Nintendo if it is to be published on a gaming console, then distributes and sells to retailers. This is how it always is. Those famous companies who say "It will be done when it's done" to the public? They're LYING. Even if that is what they tell the public, I guarantee you that it is not the case internally. They have a set schedule, and they have an expected release date. Sometimes that date can get pushed back, but I can guarantee you that every single game project in development has a schedule and a deadline. Every. Single. One.

So what does this have to do with Goldilocks? Collapse )
Humans have an inherent need to justify spending resources on things. People want to know that the time, money, emotion, empathy, or any other personal resource they spent on something is not wasted, even when it is. A good example of this is our time and money investment in leisure activities. There are thousands of comics and baseball cards in circulation, but only a handful of them are worth more than the paper they're printed on. Only a handful of people care who has the world's highest score at pac-man or pinball. Some things can end up being somewhat worthwhile, such as being a professional Magic: The Gathering player, or a professional Starcraft player. These are, of course, few and far between. The ratio of grand master chess players to regular chess player is extremely small, just like not everyone can be Kobe Bryant or Tiger Woods.

What does this have to do with games? Well, in games that save your state, it starts becoming important. The entire genre of MMORPG is all based on ascribing value to something where there really inherently isn't any. I've never seen another specific genre of game take this to such an extreme, and I wanted to spend a bit of time analyzing it.

Ok, so analyze alreadyCollapse )
During Beta:

Frost Presence is +60% armor, -5% magic damage taken.

WoW 3.0.8:

Frost Presence is +80% armor, -15% magic damage taken

WoW 3.1.0:

Frost Presence is +80% armor, -5% overall damage taken

WoW 3.1.3:

Frost Presence is +60% armor, -5% overall damage taken


The change from -5% magic damage to overall damage was sufficient from beta to now. The major reason for the original changes came from a few other things:

- Launch DK needed a lot more defense to be uncrittable. In the intervening time, DK gained Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle and Sigil of the Unfaltering Knight, and no longer need massive defense socketing. This allows them to skew itemization towards massive stamina pools, which get multiplied significantly.

- Launch DK needed either the 20% bonus armor or the 5% damage mitigation. In addition, Blade Barrier changed from 10% parry to 5% all damage reduced. This combines to effectively form 'defensive stance' for DKs (like the other tanks have), but they also had the extra bonus armor that provides more armor than any shield.

Ok, so a couple of things I've been thinking about lately have been cropping up and I wonder about them specifically. WoW v3.1 is coming around the corner soon, and that means a number of things: #1, a new raid dungeon. #2, it means that there's bound to be a tidal wave of complaints as new content arrives. Whenever people think about the raid game, the five most (potentially) dangerous words in game design are often uttered by an armchair designer: "Wouldn't it be cool if..." And it makes sense, since at the outset everyone has lots of ideas and many of them would indeed be cool. They think about them, and some people even flesh the ideas out on paper, or the internet, or whatever. And that's cool, it's fun for somebody to do. However, others seem to take that and think "I could be the next designer and get paid to do this stuff!". While this is true, it's actually less likely than you think... mostly because the difference between somebody who's been designing encounters for years knows a lot of details to think about that the regular armchair designer would never have thought of. Let's investigate what I mean.

What's this all about?Collapse )
So very recently, I picked up and started playing Street Fighter 4 like about 2 million others. If you know me, you probably know that I follow the game fairly well. I really like it, because it has a bunch of stuff that I think is really good for games: A great intuitive control scheme, low barrier to entry, and a good way for skillful players to differentiate themselves in ways that aren't (usually) cheating. This got me thinking about games, and when I think about games I tend to come up with something to blog about. This is no different. When last we talked about accesibility, it was mostly about designing content. This time it's a bit different. The discussion is still about things like how much of a game can be played by people, but content isn't quite the right word to describe it. I'll explain after the jump.

Yes, now you've gotten me all confused.Collapse )
4th-Mar-2009 01:52 pm - Lights! Camera! Bad Game!
So... in today's installment, I am revisiting the old "Why do bad games get made?" riff, and taking aim at a very specific subset of games that tend to be bad: Movie tie-ins. Now... on the outside, it would look extremely promising to have a good game that ties in with a movie. After all, if the movie is good, you've got a huge customer base that's probably hungry for more of what the movie was about, and a game is a perfect way to get them to spend their money to get more. It's got built in marketing, it's got a lot of buzz, and people will buy them. It has a solid story to build on,

So then why do movie games tend to suck?Collapse )
3rd-Mar-2009 01:44 pm - Something old, something new
Moving along in the FAQ series, one of the questions I get pretty regularly are variants of this:

"Why do publishers keep making sequels?"

Alongside this:

"Why don't they come up with new games, instead of keep rehashing stuff?"

Also, recently this has come up:

"Will publishers keep taking risks on triple-a games like Mirror's Edge after seeing them flop?"

These are all facets of the same issue that crops up from time to time, and it is quite true. Part of this stems from what makes a game a game, and part of it comes from customer confidence. Let's discuss this further, shall we?

yes, let'sCollapse )
16th-Feb-2009 02:52 pm - Fighting upstream
So, as stated before, we've got iconic imagery, and iconic motion. When you combine the two, you have something that becomes instantly recognizable to players viewing it as "cool". Here's a good example of that:

Bayonetta is an upcoming 3rd person action game from Sega. Despite being a totally new IP and without much knowledge of how the game plays, just by watching the short video you get a good idea of who the main character is, and what her modus operandi is. She's essentially a sexy warrior who fires guns in every direction, reveling in her own strength and ability to kick ass. Her movements are lithe and graceful, she moves liberally in all 3 dimensions, and her combination of skin tight clothing and sexualized demeanor all contribute to this. Nobody would ever confuse her for a blushing bride or somebody who just wants to be normal. The confidence with which she speaks and moves is apparent, even in such a short amount of time.

But what happens when this sort of thing works against you?

I think you're going to have to show me.Collapse )
14th-Feb-2009 02:02 pm - Economy of Motion
So, in the second of a series (probably of 3), we're discussing iconography. Specifically, what it means to make something recognizable. Last time, we went over how a picture is worth a thousand words. That isn't sufficient though; a picture is a picture. A large part of this is because of the whole Uncanny Valley effect. When a human sees a still image, that person will be more forgiving of certain abnormalities than seeing the object in motion. Most of this has to do with subconscious acceptance of flaws.

So what does this have to do with iconography?Collapse )
13th-Feb-2009 12:45 pm - Realistic vs Not Realistic
Apologies for the lack of updates. I'll try to be better about it.

A lot of people seem to think that there's really a sliding scale between realism and not realism. On one end, you'll see something like Gran Turismo, and on the other you'll see Mario Kart Wii, and you'll declare those two the opposite ends of the scale. But I don't really think that's how it goes. It's actually fully possible to just replace the cars, karts, sprites, models etc. with abstract shapes and such. Sometimes things get weird like that, but what it does is change the way you view things. What most people are thinking of isn't that things aren't realistic, but that they are iconic.

Iconic?Collapse )
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