I reshuffled this post a bit so I can link this part more easily:
It’s been great to see how much people are loving this very silly weapon, and how excited people are to send us shots of them finding it. One thing I didn’t forsee was that for a small number of people, it could cause anxiety: the fear of missing out, or even when they have it, the fear of somehow losing it. So we’re going to simplify it: Continue reading “Heat Signature’s Launch, And First Player Legend”
This story starts exactly like the last great mission I had in an XCOM game: I kinda took on two missions at once. And everyone got tired from the first one, so we had to send our B-team on the other: to rescue a VIP. Continue reading “A Leftfield Solution To An XCOM Disaster”
They’re releasing the new Hitman game bit by bit: one mission a month, set in a new and sprawling location. Good Hitman missions have always been replayable, but this time the whole game is built around it: a Challenges list tells you of the dozens of different ways to take out the target, an Opportunities system highlights little tricks they’ve designed to let you get the target alone, and a Contracts system lets players challenge each other to take out other targets in particular ways.
And it’s great. It takes a bit of getting used to: the levels are much higher security than Blood Money’s, so you pretty much have to use the Opportunities provided to get your targets alone, but there’s still lots of scope to mix that in to your own evil plans, and the levels are so much bigger, richer, and more complex.
But each of the big systems I mentioned does have some shortcomings, and their strengths suggest an even better way to embrace what makes replaying Hitman missions so enduringly fun. So first off, here’s where I think they fall a little short: Continue reading “Rewarding Creative Play Styles In Hitman”
I was not at all ready for how gorgeous Far Cry Primal is. I walk around it in a daze, gawping at god rays and moon beams and frantically switching weapons and HUD elements* to get them out of the way long enough to take a screenshot. Even twenty hours in it’s still staggering me on a regular basis. Here are some of my favourites so far.
* This was often made easier by a Cheat Engine script Duncan Harris made for it. If you know what that is or are prepared to Google, you can grab his script here. Continue reading “Postcards From Far Cry Primal”
What’s snowballing? In XCOM, if your troops survive the mission, they get stronger, tougher and get more abilities, which makes them more likely to survive future missions and get tougher still. If they die, they’re replaced by vulnerable, weak rookies, who are likely to die and be replaced by vulnerable, weak rookies.
If you’re finding the game easy, it gets easier. If you’re finding the game hard, it gets harder.
That’s bad. And it’s not just theory-crafting, that’s exactly how my XCOM 2 campaign played out: early on we got crushed repeatedly, then a few lucky missions got us off the ground, and after that my people became almost unstoppable for 35 missions straight – even after I upped the game difficulty.
Any game with persistent resources will have some snowbally tendencies: success has to get you something, or failure has to cost you something, otherwise it’s not really persistent. And some parts of XCOM’s snowballing are too good to lose: unlocking cool abilities for my favourite troops is why I play XCOM.
So you can’t scrap that, but what could you do? Here are some ideas. Continue reading “Solving XCOM’s Snowball Problem”
I took on a ‘Very Difficult’ mission in XCOM 2 earlier, to protect some device from attacking aliens. I was determined to do it because the reward was a Scientist, and they’ve been impossibly rare in my campaign so far. We immediately ran into two groups of very tough enemies, and though we had good position and lots of explosives, some unseen, extremely powerful enemy was attacking the objective every turn while we fought. Once they were mopped up, we had no time to be cautious: my two rangers had to sprint to the petrol station housing the objective just to distract the aliens there, with no moves left to fight them off. Continue reading “Kill Zone And Bladestorm”
I just read Zach Gage’s post proposing some changes to the IGF. My summary of his problems with the current system would be:
- For ‘best audio’, it’s not clear whether jurors should a) prioritise audio alone, or b) take into account the quality of the rest of the game and how important audio is to it.
- Currently jurors usually go with b), which “leads to games that are very well designed making it into multiple categories”, reducing the number of distinct games recognised.
- Medium-length single player games also get disproportionately recognised because they’re easier to judge than huge or multiplayer games, and feel more significant than tiny mobile games.
Generally I think b) is fine, but I do agree that over-celebrating single games is needless, and I think the categories themselves are a pretty rigid and inadequate way of capturing what’s worth celebrating in games.
Zach’s suggestion is to change the categories to reflect game length/type, and have developers choose one category to submit for. I’m not wild about this because a) the categories are still rigid and don’t capture gaming’s diversity of form, and b) a developer could screw themselves by miscategorising their game, which is not the skill we are trying to evaluate or award.
As it happens I’ve been thinking about a different kind of award ceremony I’d like to see ever since the BAFTAs in 2013, and I think it would address a lot of this. Continue reading “An Idea For More Flexible Indie Game Awards”
I haven’t talked about the way I randomly generate spaceships in Heat Signature since this post – before it even had actual art. That’s partly because I’ve barely touched it since then. I showed the game to developer friends and the press in LA and SF a few weeks ago, and got lots of great input and ideas, but the main thing I came away thinking was: the on-board game needs to be more interesting. And I think better ship interiors are the foundation of that. Continue reading “Teaching Heat Signature’s Ship Generator To Think In Sectors”
Deus Ex’s appeal is often boiled down to ‘lots of options’, but obviously that doesn’t quite cover it. Right now I’m looking to redesign the ‘sneaking inside spaceships’ part of Heat Signature, so I need more than a vague line about what’s cool about Deus Ex – I need a practical understanding of specifically why it works, and why similar games don’t. So I’m replaying Deus Ex 1 and 3, to figure out what it is I want to steal. And I think it is options, but it’s not just number. They have to fill a certain set of requirements, and this is my attempt to nail down what those are.
I’ve been mostly playing Human Revolution so far, but I’ll also use some examples for DX1 since there’s so much overlap. Continue reading “What Works And Why: Multiple Routes In Deus Ex”
In maths, ‘natural numbers’ are the ones you might use to count observable, whole things: eg. there are six people here. Anything that doesn’t work in place of ‘six’ there, like 3.4 or -2, is not natural. They’re kind of ‘numbers you can see’.
I’d like to use the term in game design to mean specifically that: numbers you can see. Things that are represented so simply and wholly and countably that you don’t need to display an actual numeric figure to tell the player how much they’re seeing. They can just see. Continue reading “Natural Numbers In Game Design”
I’ve been playing Big Pharma, a game where you design production lines to manufacture cures to sell for maximum profit, or to genuinely help people, as your fancy may dictate. It’s excellent and I have become hopelessly addicted to it, but my favourite part is having to come up with names for the often double-edged drugs your imperfect process has produced: Continue reading “Naming Drugs Honestly In Big Pharma”
Writing is like having a conversation with someone who can’t reply until you’ve finished.
Programming is like having a conversation with a robot who screams at you if you pause in the wrong place, electrocutes you if you change your mind, and explodes if you ever use the future tense.
After 7 months, 25 episodes, and about 16 hours of total running time, my tutorial series is complete! I talk you through making a game, from writing your first line of code, to releasing and selling it. It’s aimed at absolute beginners, it only uses free software, the tutorial itself is free, ad-free, the game we made is free, and it’s in fairly digestible 45-minute episodes.
Hope it’s of use! Here’s the game we made:
As always, follow it on Twitter or sign up to be told when it’s out, or ready for testing, here.
I also made a short montage of all the ways I fucked this video up in previous takes: Continue reading “New Heat Signature Video: Galaxies, Suction And Wrench-Throwing”
What Works And Why is a thing where I dig into the design of a game I like and try to analyse what makes it good, hopefully to learn from it but also because I love this stuff.
Continue reading “What Works And Why: Nonlinear Storytelling In Her Story”