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How game forms are shaped by their environment

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  We often consider artistic works from a creative or cultural perspective, but I find it just as enlightening to examine them from an economic or evolutionary lens. How does the economic environment within which a developer finds themselves shape the form that art takes? As a case study of this in practice, I’ve been fascinated by a class of content-focused game that’s recently found a stable niche in the maturing mobile, PC and console […]

Multiplayer Logistics

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How do we get players to play together in a manner that fits their schedules? This is a key logistical challenge a designer faces when building multiplayer games. The promise We are seeing a blossoming of innovative multiplayer systems. In previous eras there were a handful of default models that games might use (matches, play-by-mail). Games today exist on a spectrum from fully concurrent to fully asynchronous and everything in between. A game like Dark […]

Prototyping Challenge: 3D Modeling Tool for 2.5D RPG Art

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I was creating some 2.5D art for an game jam recently in a perspective similar to a 2D RPG like Zelda. Naturally my next step was that I started thinking about how you might recreate this style using a custom 3D modeling tool. Yes, another art tool design challenge. 🙂 I’ve played with voxel editors in the past, but I’m not completely happy with the blocky results that they produce. So where’s a quick and […]

A single game as a lifelong hobby

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Do you finish one game and then move onto the next? This is the dominant pattern of play for gamers. What happens when players stop consuming and starts investing in a single evergreen computer game for years on end? Players of traditional games specialize Across the 5500+ year history of gaming and sports, players typically focus on a single game and turn it into their predominant hobby. A chess player may dabble in other games, […]

Coercive Pay-2-Play Techniques

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Coercive monetization models are used by many of the large corporations that dominate the “Pay to play” (P2P) charts in retail, console and mobile. They employ carefully engineered psychological traps intended to defraud ignorant players of their money. This shocking expose shines a light on their dark, inhumane practices. Be forewarned: Despite extensive examinations of opinions similar to my own, I am intentionally unaware of any company that manages to use these systems of coercion […]

Understanding randomness in terms of mastery

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Instead of categorizing games as either ‘games of skill’ or ‘games of luck’, I see games with randomness as being a subset of ‘games of mastery’. This view helps the designer see randomness in games as the intersection between both the player skill set and the game mechanics. By understanding the underlying skills involved in mastering randomness, we can build more meaningful games. Discerning cause and effect from noise One of the fundamental elements of […]

Building Tight Game Systems of Cause and Effect

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To play a game well, a player must master a mental model of cause and effect.  You learn that pressing a specific button moves you forward.  You figure out that a sequence of controller moves lets you dodge a fired rocket.  You observe a slight pause before an enemy attack and theorize that you could fire off a headshot at that exact moment.  At each stage of learning, you create a hypothesis, test it via […]