Archive for May, 2012

Unification in Game Design


Magic experiences.

I think this is worth talking about before going on with the last series of post.

Unification is roughly defined by Jesse Schell in his book The Art of Game Design as the effort a designer and his team make to reinforce the theme of the game they are developing.

Once a theme is declared, every resource of the game has to be used to reiforce it. That’s why it is so important to pick a theme from the very beggining of the development cycle. It could be an art piece or style, a word; an idea, a feeling, a technology, but a theme most be there to clarify any doubt while developing.

When facing the question “Is this necessary for the game?” look at the theme and how that action you are about to make is reinforcing it.  If it’s not, that action is not necessary.

How could I explain to anyone what unification actually means?

With his help.



Contextual Reference in Dark Recon (III)


Spoiling everything.

Contextual Reference in Dark Recon (I)

Contextual Reference in Dark Recon (II)

As I said  a bunch of times before, what we are trying to do with Dark Recon is to merge two kind of experiences seamlessly into one piece of game. I didn’t want to spoil the mechanic, but what the hell, I’ll try to explain it on paper and  later on we will provide you the first gameplay demo in order to do it for yourself.

Long story short: you have to find the little grid pattern inside the big one (as I pointed out in this image using the yellow frame), by clicking in each indiviual solid colored square until complete the patttern. If you do that correctly, the big grid updates changing the patter just discovered; if you didn’t do it correctly a big alarm sounds and kills you… nah, for the moment you can click on the squares to erase a particular choice, so you can choose again until you find the pattern.

(Notice that this time the pattern inside the big grid is actually rotated with respect the original one outside of it).

This is the first experience we want to merge in a single one (the other is the top-down shooter).

So, is this game so easy to design? the fact is that it isn’t that simple for several reason. We actually are creating Dark Recon as two games initally separated from each other; we think in that way we will be able to decompose each one of them and do a better polish work that if we try too create one experience in top of the other right away.


SIGGRAPH 2012 : Technical Papers Preview Trailer


Stop, render time!

A little break in my posts series about game design just to share this. Enjoy it!.

Contextual Reference in Dark Recon (II)


Trying to make a point.

Contextual Reference in Dark Recon (I)

Contextual Reference in Dark Recon (III)

As I said in the last post, I don’t like that much to break apart the experience of the player by creating Game Modes inside the main game mechanic.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong or something. Actually, game modes inside the main game mechanic are very useful, but I think that in most games those changes in modes aren’t that coherent with the main mechanic.

But, what’s a game mode anyway and why I’m introducing the term? first of all, a game mode is what you think it is: those options the game gives the player to try different experiences. Single and multiplayer versions of the same game are game modes; each variation of those modes are modes as well, for example, in the multiplayer case Survival, Capture the Flag etc. are game modes. However, it goes further. If you played Bioshock you should remember that you can hack some machines in the game, in order to do it the player has to solve a Pipemania like game. That’s a change of game mode, the kind I’m interested in.


Contextual Reference in Dark Recon (I)


A few comments.

Contextual Reference in Dark Recon (II)

Contextual Reference in Dark Recon (III)

I wasn’t sure about writing stuff about Dark Recon‘s gameplay, because I didn’t want to spoil the experience; but then I realized 2 things:

  • I’m assuming someone will play Dark Recon.
  • I’m assuming someone is going to read this.

So I give up and I will make a few comments about Dark Recon’s gameplay.

As I said in the first post about it, Dark Recon is a top-down shooter puzzle game (whatever that means). The idea is to combine in a seamless experience the thrilling of a well balanced shooter and the pattern search skills required in a puzzle.

What I was thinking when I proposed the design to the team was to avoid a thing I didn’t like in Alien Swarm (one of our references): the lack of unity in some portions of the game.

Alien Swarm is a great game, but I didn’t like how the experience (kinda) breaks apart in some moments. Is not like that’s a mistake, it’s simply that I’m not totally agree with taking a player out of the general experience. For example: sometimes you have to open a door solving some kind of puzzle, and that’s responsability of one player while the others take care of the perimeter. Something similar happens with the medical class an so on. I insist, that’s not a mistake, but I just don’t enjoy it that much.


Contextual Reference


Things are often funny out of its original context.


Contextual Reference is a set of techniques where you provide the tools to the player in the inmediate context of the game, in order to leave them the duty of discovering the means of a particular situation.

Ok, that was kinda confusing, let’s try again:  when you discover the meaning of a word in a book by the paragraph it belongs, that’s contextual reference; when you discover that your little son (brother, nephew, whatever) is crying and you realize why because you see a broken toy nearby, that’s contextual reference; and so on.

So, you are actually deducing a statement given some clues (which isn’t impressive as a concept), but the idea behind the definition is why or how you deduced that statement. You could derive by deduction the meaning of a word because you have knwoledge about linguistic; you also could derive why your little son is crying because of his behaviour (beyond the act of crying). Those sort of things aren’t contextual.


La Mar


Some music here.

Art by Patricia Prestigiacomo.

Well, our friends from La Mar released their first album free to dowload yesterday.

A post rock/post metal instrumental music with a lot of progressive sound in it made in Caracas, Venezuela.

Highly recommended.

You will know more of them from here in the near future.

Puzzle Making vs Puzzle Solving


When a good game designer is not a good player.

Let’s put a thing aside from the very beginning:

Every game out there is a problem solving experience,  so puzzles are involve as a fundamental part of any game in existence. I wrote a post about that point a few weeks ago. On the other hand, it is common practice among game designers to create problems that can be solved in a number of different ways. When you play football there is a lot of possibilities at hand to score. Other games aren’t that open, but still offer a fair amount of freedom to the player.

The idea behind that is to avoid First Order Optimal Strategies (FOOS). Here there something about FOO’s (and related subjects) I posted months ago, but summarizing a FOOS is a strategy that represents the optimal way to solve the problem the game has to offer. If a FOOS exists, there is little the players can do to play the game in a different way,  or in other words: as the problem has been solved, the game doesn’t have anything more to offer.

An excellent example is Tic-Tac-Toe as described by Raph Koster in his book A Theory of Fun. When you realize that any starting position have a very definitive answer in order to win, the game have nothing to offer from that very moment.