Hey I’m David, designer for Team 1, and I’m here to take you through the initial thought process of our game. Way back in a time long ago (about two weeks before Iron Dev started), Tom (our programmer) and I were sitting around thinking about the upcoming Ludum Dare competition. I had been playing a lot of ‘Dungeons of Dredmor’, ‘The Binding of Isaac’ and ‘Spelunky’. Tom had been playing a lot of ‘Legends of Grimrock’, and we got into a conversation about how awesome ‘Roguelike’ games were, but how they were often hampered by some clunky design, mainly inventories and awkward control systems.
The genre ‘Roguelike’ has been undergoing rapid changes over the past few years, and with some recent additions like ‘The Binding of Isaac’ and ‘Spelunky’, the genre has been quite loosely defined. I defined a ‘Roguelike’ as a game with procedurally generated content, learning through death, and progress defined by how far you get before dying. This encompasses Isaac, Spelunky, Dredmor, Dwarf Fortress, and the traditional roguelikes. At this point Tom jokingly made the observation that if that is how you define a Roguelike , ‘Infinite Runners’ are Roguelikes. This observation went full circle back to what we wanted to achieve, an accessible pick-up and play (PUP) Roguelike.
If we could take the simplicity of an infinite runner and the incredible depth of a Roguelike, we could be onto something very special. Based on this observation we tried to see if we could take the really cool parts of Roguelikes and repackage them in a more accessible form. By doing this we would be exposing casual gamers to something that normally only hardcore gamers would experience. In other words we decided to make a Roguelike for casual gamers.
So then Ludum Dare came along, Tom and I both decided to make two games inspired by our conversation. Tom made a cool minimalistic Roguelike dungeon crawler called ‘Vol’. I went in the other direction and actually made an infinite runner with some RPG style elements called ‘Unnatural Selection’. Both games then went on to inspire Team 1′s next game…
Here is a little teaser to keep everyone occupied (PS this is on mobile):
It’s been a strange kind of a month at the Fishbowl. Paul and I have been present less than we’d like, due to day jobs and illness, and even when I’ve been here I’ve had the sneaking feeling that something wasn’t quite right. All this came to a head a week or so ago, with Paul and I having separate revelations about the problems inherent in our current plans.
For Paul, it was assessing project proposals for some games students that returned the term “over-scoped” firmly to the forefront of his consciousness, and he has once more taken to uttering his classic phrase “we’ll put it in the sequel”. For me, it was my time showing off Flatland: Fallen Angle at the Indie Games Room, down in Adelaide-town, that brought things back into focus. I realised again how much people like that game, a fact far more surprising than it should be.
In that darkened room I watched player after player sink into that strange world of polygonal brutality, and almost all of them emerged smiling. And that made me realise just how much the game we’ve been building since then fails to learn from and improve on the strengths of its forerunner. The stealth puzzles we’ve been doing, as well as David has crafted them, seem blandly linear and slow when compared to the helter-skelter ride that we originally built over three energy-charged weeks. (more…)
I’m thinking of submitting an abstract for the CODE conference that’s on later this year, and so I’ve been looking at the different themes to find some sort of direction (yeah, this might be a little late, what with it being due in 3 weeks…). I’ve had a thought that needs to be fleshed out some more, and would love to get some feedback on this topic to help me cement it into some sort of throughline.
Also, it’s been ages since I wrote about the theory of game design and I kinda miss it.
The theme I’m looking at is ‘Code and the in/visible’. The conference site explains that it has been argued that “software, operating at the level of screen and interface, obscures the constant workings of code, which become opaque to ‘end-users’”, and asks for papers that discuss “the technical, ideological and academic aspects that work to obscure codes? And what might be the strategies for making codes visible again?”
My response to this? For me, games are in a unique position when it comes to the visibility and invisibility of code and, that at some level, they undermine the very idea of obscuration.
What? Why? How? Read on and I’ll (hopefully) explain (clearly).
So I was thinking about Kurt Vonnegut’s lecture on the shapes of stories again, and it occurred to me that the ludonarrative* arc of most games is good at going up on the Good/Ill Fortune graph, but very bad at going down it. In fact, most ludonarratives are a cut-down version of the Cinderella story that ends at 11:59pm.
*I’m using ludonarrative here to mean ‘the gameplay story’, though I’m not 100% sure it’s the right usage.
Bear with me a moment as I explain exactly what all that means and why it matters, right after I get (buy) a beautiful dress (a sword wider than my body) from my fairy godmother (the blacksmith)…
We’ve been doing a lot of planning lately, and the biggest help in this process has been the humble index card. So far, we’ve used them to plan development timelines and game/story progression with far more success than other collaborative design tools (including whiteboards and online collaboration tools).
I’m seriously in awe of just how useful these tiny, simple things really are. Why is this, and how do we use them? Find out after the jump.
I’d like to talk about women in games for a moment. Not the usual discussion about female characters in games, but about one particular character: the player. I am both a gamer and a writer. As a woman who plays games, when the story makes an implicit or explicit assumption that I am male, I lose my imersion. This means that as a writer, I am conscious of the need to include all possible players in the story when I am writing the script. This can be very difficult due to an annoying facet of the English language: The third person singular pronoun. He or she?
There’s an awesome video where Kurt Vonnegut explains the shapes of stories using narrative graphs. In fact, I’m going to just chuck the video here and talk about their applications after the jump.