All posts tagged: cost effective game design

Steambirds: Survival: Goodbye Handcrafted Levels

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Steambirds: Survival, the sequel to our original steampunk airplane strategy game was just released today.   You can go play it right now at Steambirds: Survival takes place on a grim fall morning at the start of the Battle of London.  The British forces are taken by surprise as thousands of Axis steam-planes descend upon the doomed city.  Outnumbered and outgunned, your heroic mission is to delay the invaders long enough that a handful […]

Post-it note design docs

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I happen to fall into the artist-designer skill set, so I often find myself trying to prototype ideas on teams rich with programmers. As such, I’m always looking for better game development techniques that work well for this particular team mix. Here is a very lightweight prototyping process using Post-it notes that I quite enjoy. Initial idea: I sit down with an available programmer (and artist/UI designer depending on the system) and we chat about […]

"Content is Bad"

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I just came across an article by the good folks at Introversion discussing procedural animation and its benefits versus hand crafted content. Some of my favorite games of all time are riddled with procedural content. The universes of Elite, the dungeons of NetHack, the random maps of Age of Wonders…all these are littered with procedural content. And how could I forget Dice Wars. Or Tetris. Or Poker. The more handcrafted content you build, the more […]

Future proofing game graphics

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A source of great sadness for me is the loss of so much great game artwork due to the constant erosion of obsolescence. Thousands of pieces of artwork are produced by highly talented teams, crammed into the latest title, launched into the marketplace and then, forgotten. The game eventually stops selling. The artwork was encoded in an obscure custom format that no one understands any more. Other than the occasional archived screenshot and some fuzzy […]

Managing game design risk: Part II – Data Driven Development

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Read part Managing game design risk: Part I here. It provides an overview of different classes of production processes and their relationship to various forms of risk. The next two essays will talk about common techniques for reducing risk. The first technique, data driven development, involves lowering execution risk by investing in lower risk product features and processes. This low execution risk strategy is the predominant technique used by game developers to reduce risk and […]

Managing game design risk: Part I

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GDC was wonderful. Unfortunately, I’m the sort of person who is absolutely miserable at copying notes in any literal way. As soon as I started writing, I became distracted by a thread connecting several intriguing talks on prototyping, tools and production risk. The result was a very long essay. This is the first part. Managing Risk Much of game production is about managing risk. We partake in a highly complex process that juggles people, technology, […]

Never innovate halfway

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Double Fine’s Psychonauts was an original game that by all indications did poorly in the marketplace. This has led to the odd comments from fence sitters (and misinformed publishers) that innovation is a failed strategy. Bad monkeys! Bad! We often talk about “innovation” in product development as if it were a miraculous substance that always benefits a game. I also imagine a scene in an idyllic game development kitchen with a game designer wearing a […]

The root of shock game advertising

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I was flipping through my copy of EGM with my fiancé just the other day. It was a rather embarrassing tour through the current gaming culture. In the first few pages, we perused the standard mixture of guns and ultra violence. “Look,” I pointed, “there’s Lara’s bum festooned with some charming grenade accessories. And check out those flying WW2 chaps on page 10. They certainly do bounce about when consumed in a massive fireball.” Finally, […]

The Neo-Retro Art Style: Savior of the game industry?

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Defining a cheap, sexy, and practical art style for next generation games (image courtesy of WIP here) Everyone knows Retro game art. It invades our culture and manages to be cool despite its primitive nature. But the world has changed and realistic is in. If you aren’t Unreal 3, you are nothing. I’ve got a problem with this and it isn’t my typical artistic / flamboyant / whiney one. This is an economic rant: […]

How small game team efficiency compares to other media

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Often people who deal with Serious Games ask very different questions than people in the game industry. Game developers, driven by intense competition and the urge to have a king of the genre title will typically ask “How can I make the best game possible, no holds barred” Business instead as “How much does it cost to get a basic job done?” You end up with productivity comparison charts that look like this: Getting the […]