Archive for the ‘game design’ Category
Whilst playing No More Zombies on the iPhone recently, I found myself trying to set a limit to my gaming. My limit was set to 100 residents. If I get to 100 people in my town I will stop playing, delete the game and get on with my life. Free of the distraction of stocking shops, building buildings and killing zombies I can discover the other delights of the mobile gaming world.
By 99 I knew the end was near and I was making my price with the world whilst secretly hoping that number 100 was far away. To my surprise, however, the illusive centennial resident was really far away. I continued to pack my shops full of goodies, made a shed load of money and killed more than my fair share of the undead. Yet the regular resident that appeared every few ‘minutes’ (in game time, not real time) failed to materialise.
This got me wondering. Is there a part of game theory that deals with checkpoints, achievements and round numbers in terms of exit points. Is there a shelf life for the casual gamer that can be manipulated to extend the general playtime?
In the old days a game had a beginning and an end, whereas now we have downloadable content which can extend the life of a game ten fold . What interest me though is whether game designers or testers look at ‘exit strategies’. In business an exit strategy is a point in which the investor or owner has got all the best out of a business and leaves the company with money, shares or a general good feeling. I suppose in games with DLC the main exit point is after the main quest or story has been completed but with more endless games such as city builders, when is a good time to unplug?
After some time scouring the Internet for studies or papers to support my theory I was surprised to find nothing that helped. There is a lot online about rewarding gamers in order to keep their attention which I assume is the reaction to losing gamers. However there is little written about when and why they leave the comfort of the gaming world. So for the record, I would like to claim the study of exit theory in gamers as my own.
Gamers leave a good game for many reasons. The top five reasons are:game completion (main game) most achievable achievements achieved left for newer/better game difficulty to steep time, family and other commitments
With further study and a whole host of questionnaires it might be possible to predict the most likely exit points of a game and inject these sections with additional goodies to retain their attention. Being aware that you might lose some of your players at 100 residents might encourage game designers to be smarter when it comes to these exit points.
The path to video game developer success is long and fraught with danger. It might be easy to have and idea but how do you take make that idea a reality. More than that, how do you make game design and development your life?
Developing video games requires knowledge of many different disciplines. Whilst you might be able to outsource certain aspects of the game build, such as game asset design and music composition, your first few games will require you to envisage, creatively direct, project manage and deliver all by yourself. Sadly, game creation is more than just having a game idea, coding the mechanics and then slapping on some lovely graphics… The modern day indie developer needs to manage the marketing and patiently test the final creation in order to secure some commercial success.
Outside of the game design and development process you may want to think about joining a game development team or established studio in order to gain valuable experience in the industry.
With SO many questions floating around, including those questions that you don’t know to ask yet, wouldn’t it be nice if some kind person or website put together a handy list of resources in an easy to read infographic that would act as an ultimate guide to lead you through the ferocious land of game development…
Thanks to the helpful people over at ‘Online Game Design Schools’ you now have such a document.Behold, Click here to read The Ultimate Online Guide to Video Game Design
It dawned on me recently whilst researching game design that there is a fundamental question that you should ask yourself when starting a game:
Am I making a game or a narrative driven fantasy simulation?
Before video games were around, a game was an activity with a set of rules than could be enjoyed again and again. From Tic Tac Toe to soccer they all have a fixed set of rules and can be played anywhere with almost anything. By this I mean that both the examples can be played on a beach, for example, as Tic Tac Toe can be drawn in the sand with a stick and soccer can use a beach ball and use sweaters as goal posts.
Popular video games such as Tetris and Angry Birds adhere to this pattern. Moles could easily replace the birds and the setting changed to a garden. The rules and enjoyment of the games would still be the same. Game developers need to decide right at the beginning whether or not they are making a game and if so, what are the rules, how is it enjoyed and can it be replicated no matter what the graphics, story and rewards.
A narrative based fantasy simulation sees the player assume a role in a story and the player must walk the protagonist through a series of events and/or confrontations until the narrative is complete. Whilst fun, these games are pretty linear and often are disposed of when complete similar to books.
One question that is asked when designing games is:
How is the game won or beaten?
For a narrative driven games this is easy, as it concludes when the story is complete. However, with Tetris, the game is never truly beaten. Success is achieved by beating previous scores. Games like chess can be mastered but never really beaten.
So when your next devising your next video game ask yourself if it’s a game or simulation and if the answer is a game then focus on the rules, the gameplay and how a player wins. If the later is true, focus on story, experience emotion and characters. Trying to mix the two from an early point might just lead to a game that has mediocre effort in both areas.
Like most mobile games developers, Unity have been closely following what important additions and changes the recently released iOS 7 update has made. One of the biggest and most exciting of Apple’s initiatives is the standardization of game controllers for iOS-based platforms. Unity are happy to reveal, in addition to several important bug fixes for Xcode 5 / iOS 7 (Build&Run, WebCamTexture and status bar), Apple Controller support is included with 4.2.2
This blog post (http://blogs.unity3d.com/2013/10/11/unity-4-2-2-brings-ios-game-controller-support/) answers most common questions this addition will raise and serve as a short tutorial on how to add support for iOS Game Controllers in Unity authored games.
Making games is hard, finishing games is near impossible. Indie developers know that bringing a game to market is fraught with so many hurdles that include time, technology and cost. Graphics tend to tug at the latter as hiring an artist to produce ALL the graphics from menu GUI to animated sprites can be expensive. So for some developers and studios a good option is to adopt a ‘simple graphics’ stance where the art style is kept purposely simplistic in order to keep down costs whilst giving the game a unique feel. There are so many indie games that cover a myriad of art styles but I just wanted to pick a handful that took a ‘less is more’ approach to their game graphics.
Limbo is the first game by Playdead and uses stylized silhouettes and a great use of lighting to create an eerie atmosphere. The game, which is a puzzle based platform game is all done in black and white tones, using lighting effects and minimal use of ambient sounds reminiscent of film noir. The nameless boy protagonist is in search of his missing sister and travels through the forest until he reaches a kind of ‘post-apocalyptic’ city. It’s very weird and the end is abrupt leaving you wondering if you actually won but the journey is a lot of fun.Dawn of the Ronin
Though still in development, this game has teased us with videos and images for a while now. Like Limbo, this side scrolling slice-em-up uses shadows and lighting effects to create an unusual style of game forcing the player to focus on gameplay instead of graphics.Airsupply
Created by Quantum Sheep this run and jump indie game is proud of its 1Bit graphic style and mixes the style of retro two color video games with the speed and achievements of a modern mobile game. This pick up and play game is a lot of fun is constantly being updated.Cannanbalt
What started originally as a flash game, has now been ported to multiple formats uses a very simple color palette and pixel style to create a fun infinite runner following the exploits of a suited hero as he escapes an alien invasion.Journey
That Game Company’s latest release is beautifully simple and follows a hooded figures journey to a light at the top of a mountain after ‘waking up’ in the middle of the desolate and baron desert. Being an online game it means that you can meet other players on their own journey to the mountain (only one at a time) and join forces on your mission.Related articles
After you have been working on a game for so long it is common to develop “blindness” to certain aspects. A good tip is to get a post it note and write that user experience is not only about how intuitive features in the user interface are, it is about the ENTIRE gaming experience as a whole (including game balancing, the retention and viral mechanics, even the graphics and ensuring that it goes with the theme of the overall game). Here are a few top tips from working in gaming:1. Let non gamers play it
Ask non-gaming/non-techy friends to have a play of the game and watch them play it. Write down anything that was too difficult or confused them. Try to avoid helping them straight away when they get stuck, but try to include a few cheats for you to input to get your player further in the game depending on how much of your game you want them to test.2. Get them to explain what they are doing
Ask your test players every so often why they are doing whatever it is that they are doing. The answers may surprise you. “Well I don’t want to enter that dungeon yet so I am just going to chop down bunch of trees first.” or “Completing that level is too much effort (probably a game balancing issue), so I’m just going to explore for a while” or “I do not know what to do so I’m not even going to bother paying attention to it or interacting with it.”3. Balance the goals
User experience design in video games isn’t just about captivating your players (but it’s a big part of it), it’s also about balancing the goals. The UI is where users invite their friends, spend money, and it’s through the UI that you can get people to come back – the user interface is perhaps one of the most important, if not THE most important way to meet/exceed your product goals. You want to create a enjoyable and fun gaming experience while also retaining players, increasing virality, and monetizing (if that is your thing). This is more ‘Product Management’, but every UX designer should understand some principles of product management (and every product manager should understand some principles of user experience design). Sometimes, to meet product goals, you have to compromise with delighting users. Your players will tell you one thing but do the complete opposite. Example: during testing, we had users complain that they hated how they had to spend 3 energies to chop down one tree. Their feedback to us was to get rid of it. If we got rid of it, it would severely disadvantage our balancing of the game. But guess what? Looking at their behavior, they still did it to advance in the game. You’ll only be able to measure this in an unreleased game if you do a couple of user tests. There are a few ways to do this, here are two:For bigger teams, get a good group of users (around 50 or so) to test your game while you’re developing it. Be sure to prepare surveys/questionaires to send them. If these are all power users, well, I’d take the results with a grain of salt, but you’ll have a good starting point in that the mechanics and features at least work for them. Try using a service like usertesting.com to test your game in front of completely new people that haven’t been exposed to any of your previous games. 4. Test features on existing games
Use existing games that are maturing as a testing ground. If you’re introducing a new mechanic/feature/balancing, scrap something quick together and release it in an existing game you have that’s maturing in its userbase. This is powerful in that you have real users interacting with the feature or mechanic or the game balance, and you can measure quantitatively rather than qualitatively. That being said, you should also keep confounding factors in mind (theme of the game could be totally different, and therefor it works…etc etc).5. Check out the Competition
See what the competition is doing – you might find that every so often, much larger games companies have a larger budget to test things against their users, so if it’s working for them, chances are, it’s something that works. You can use that as a starting point.6. Don’t reinvent the wheel
There is no point reinventing the wheel or get overly creative. If there’s a common convention for a certain feature or mechanic, stick with it. Chances are, it’s something your players are already used to and it’s something they understand, so seeing something completely different can confuse them or throw them off. For example: in social games, players are used to their neighbour/friends hud on the bottom and Quests on the side. This is a fairly common convention, and if you decided to have the quests on the bottom, and friends on the side, it could cause confusion and frustration.And remember
Making something simple is often harder than creating something complex. Don’t bury anything beyond two clicks – if you do, it’s probably something your users won’t take the time to find, or it’s something that’s not significant. And if it’s not significant, why have it in the first place? It’s just taking up server/bandwidth space.
If you’re a creative games developer who is keen to enhance their skills then you have come to the right place because we are going to show you a few handy tips for you to bare in mind when you make your next game.Keep creative
Firstly do not fall into the trap of letting the software determine the outcome of your game. Ensure you keep your creative juices flowing and keep the control in your hands. You’ll want to concentrate while you build your game as this will reduce your chances of making any silly mistakes and having to correct them later on. Draw inspiration from successful games. Apart from the creative web design and well programmed casino games, the site also features gaming options that increases its functionality. Promotions for topping up the first time, referral programs and “How to Play” links for every game make it a popular choice for first time players and long time gamers as well. Studying the features and functions that make games successful is one of the simplest ways to ensure that your game will appeal and entice your target customers. More than brilliant programming, you will need to make sure that your work will appeal to a wide range of users and not just a specific set of people.Note your ideas down on paper
Sometimes it’s easier to convey your ideas in sketches, drawings or even in spider diagrams. Keep a notebook at hand so when you spontaneously think of a brilliant idea, you can write it down. In addition , it’s good to analyse other people’s games so you can get some inspiration and a few ideas which you can then apply to your game.Mood and ambience
Besides the excitement of fighting enemies and unearthing treasures, a good game should also have a good atmosphere. Think about what you want the overall mood and tone of your game to be and use the background music to better portray this.Rewarding the players
It’s much more effective to have lots of small rewards rather than one big prize at the end of a level. The players will be constantly seeking the next small reward to add to their pot which will keep them interested in the game. A player is more likely to give up if they have not received any prizes and have to complete a whole level to get one. Interest is quickly lost when there are no rewards which is why keeping your players interested and motivated with small prizes as they go along is a more effective method.
Game Engines are an important element for game developers. It eliminates many of the technicalities involved in developing a game and offers game developers the flexibility to focus on building the game. A game engine typically offers wide range of time saving tools for game building. If you are a beginner or a professional developer these top 10 Game development engines will serve as a guide for you to choose the best game engine for your gaming needs.Unity 3D
The GameSalad development suite makes game building simple and easy. You don’t need to wade through complex codes to develop a game. The GameSalad features check boxes, dropdowns and the oddlist similar to features you will see when using utility software like Photoshop. GameSalad can be published to multiple platforms like the Mac or iPhone as well as to devices using the Android platform like the Nook. The game engine has a real-time editing feature enabling scenes to be edited while the game is in play. The game preview feature allows the testing and debugging of memory usage and performance of games. The scene editor makes it super easy to manipulate actors in a scene. All you need to do is to drag and drop actors to alter how they are visualized in a scene.Torque 2D
The Torque 2D features a powerful and user friendly 2D game engine. It offers a lot of the features of the 3D game engine which is custom-made for 2D gameplay. This game engine can be published to Mac, Windows, Xbox 360, Wii and the iPhone. The Torque 2 D’s intuitive and powerful editor makes game creation simple and easy, making it is ideal for individuals with little or no experience. The Level Editor features a host of WYSIWYG tools for game designing and editing. The Level Editor is built into the Torque runtime and offers complete access to the entire Torque subsystem. The powerful rendering of the Torque 2D is great for achieving an excellent artistic style.Stencyl
This is a game engine that can be used to create 2D video games for the web, mobile devices and computers.. Stencyl has extensive platform support. Games built in Stencyl can be released to the web through the Adobe Flash Player and HTML5, to PCs as executable games and can also be exported to various mobile platforms like Android and iOS applications. Stencyl projects use the Haxe programming language and offers flexibility via the NME game framework by using the write once, run anywhere style of game development. The Stencyl application has several modules that can be utilized to create games. These include the Behavior Editor, Tileset Editor, Actor Editor as well as the Scene Designer. Power users are able to import existing code libraries, create and share their own blocks and create customized classes that seamlessly interact with block based behaviors.Pygame
This is a suite of Python modules designed for game creation. With its functionality and excellent SDL library, pygame enables the creation of fully featured games in the python language. This software is free and allows you to create free open source. It has an inbuilt sillness that makes game creation fun. It does not require an open GL and uses either directx, windib, X11 in addition to various backends. The Multi Core CPUs can easily be utilized. Pygame is compatible with many operating systems and does not require set up tools or ctypes for installation and its simple and easy to use.Corona
Corona is a robust game engine that features industry standard technologies including Lua, OpenAL and OpenGL. The Corona comes with the Box2D physics engine, Game Center, Facebook Connect and sprite sheets. With the Corona you can access a wide array of features you will need to create an exciting mobile game. You can easily monetize games via advertising and app purchasing. The Corona can be used on the various platforms including iOS, Kindle Fire, Android and NOOK. Games can easily be built with a single codebase and eliminates the complexities involved in game creation. The Corona SDK starter offers free building and publishing of apps for users.GL Basic
This game engine offers a user friendly, flexible fast to write programming language. GL Basic offers the easiest and most intuitive programming language available making it ideal for writing high performance programs. No need to change the source code when starting your Linux, iPhone development GP2X/Wiz and PocketPC after writing a program, allowing users to concentrate on essentials when building games. GL Basic game engine is free for personal projects on Linux, Windows and Mac OSX. It is ideal for beginners who want to learn programming as a hobby.Eclipse
Eclipse is a 2D game software based on the FMOD and SDL programming making it ideal for usage across different platforms. This game engine is easy to use and takes care of all the tedious tasks, enabling game developers to focus on other areas during the creation of the game.
The RPG Maker VX features a simple operation that offers game builders the flexibility to create original role playing games with little or no expertise, making it an excellent game engine for beginner developers. The software comes with pre-made features so there is no need to learn the code. Simply build a game by pointing and clicking while adding a little creativity.Related articles
With more and more people creating both personal and commercial websites it makes sense that web design wireframe tools are on the rise. Rather than using desktop versions of these applications, many website prototyping tools are now cloud based; meaning that they can be accessed via a web browser, shared online and updated by multiple users.
Here are the top 10 cloud-based website prototyping tools currently available for use online.Cacoo
Cacoo is an ideal website prototyping tool if you find yourself working with developers all over the world, as it currently supports more than twenty languages. As well as being multilingual, Cacoo also supports real time collaboration; enabling multiple parties to work simultaneously on different aspects of your site.
While your SEO guy is using Cacoo to craft your copy, your web designer can also apply the finishing touches to your layout and graphics. Users have the option to make projects private or public, and public projects support comments from non participating users; giving you access to feedback on your new site before it even goes live. Genius!
Like Cacoo, Creately also supports real-time collaboration; however, it only supports seven languages. Creately offer both an online version of their application as well as a desktop version (suitable for Windows, Mac and Linux systems), and the desktop version will sync with the cloud once an internet connection is established.
Creately is a great tool for any developer looking to create wireframes offline (after all, even a developer needs time away from the web!)
The brains behind Gliffy claim that it is ‘the most widely used online diagramming application’; and while this may be true, Gliffy lacks features that other apps listed here offer. For example, although Gliffy can support a variety of different diagrams and it will allow multiple users to have access to a single project, it does not support real time collaboration.
However, Gliffy handles undoing changes more smoothly than its competitors. Every time a change is made to a project the last version is saved and archived. Should a collaborator make a change that you are not happy with it is very easy to reinstate one of the previous wireframe designs. Gliffy also integrates with a number of third party applications including Google Apps and WordPress, and it also has its own API.
HotGloo claims that it will ‘change the way you create and experience wireframes’, and it can certainly be said that this slick interface includes features that other website prototyping tools do not offer, such as an integrated chat feature; allowing all participants to discuss the project while drafting the wireframe and layout designs.
Like many competitor products, HotGloo supports real-time collaboration, making it easy for multiple members to work on a single project.
iPlotz is an unusual tool in the sense that it does not have a standard user setup. Instead, iPlotz offers three access levels; preview, wireframe and manage.
Preview users can access the site for free, and they can look at wireframes but they cannot modify them. Wireframe users can obviously modify a wireframe, but they have to pay for the privilege. Finally, manage users can add and remove other users, and they can also manage user permissions.
iPlotz also supports a desktop version, which like Creately will sync with the cloud version when ‘Online Mode’ is selected.
Invision is a great tool for the non geeks; for those who perhaps want to create their own personal website or a small business website. You don’t need technical knowhow to manipulate the drag and drop interface within Invision.
If you are a developer, you can still find Invision useful. Its user management features make it easy for you to only provide access where it is needed, and Invision gracefully handles any dialogue between developer, collaborator and client within the application.
Lumzy may be a very young website prototyping tool, but it is quickly making waves with users and developers alike. For a start Lumzy offers an integrated image editor that allows users to perform simple image adjustments, such as cropping and resizing. It also offers real-time chat functionality, much like HotGloo.
Lumzy also offers features that can be considered advanced website prototyping, allowing developers to demonstrate more complex interactions compared to other wireframe tools.
Mockingbird is one of the few Flash based website prototyping tools on the market. While this is great for Windows systems, it’s unlikely to be so great for Apple based devices. However, like so many of its competitors, Mockingbird does offer real time collaboration, and wireframes can be exported to PDF for use outside of the internet.
Pidoco focuses its features more on the testing of prototype websites, rather than the developing of them. However, the features it does offer for the testing and debugging processes are invaluable. For example, developers can record testing sessions and they can see the user’s screen. Developers can also use the integrated chat facility or the VoIP feature to communicate with clients and testers real-time.
Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of website prototyping is trying to represent graphical elements with a simple diagram. Anyone unfamiliar with what the web is capable of may struggle to envision what it is you are trying to portray. However, ProtoShare may be the website prototyping tool for you. ProtoShare supports the use of CSS and JS, enabling developers to demonstrate custom components and complex interactions.
Another awesome feature that ProtoShare supports is the quick and easy conversion of onsite comments into actionable tasks, which can greatly speed up the development, debugging and project management processes.