Posts tagged gamasutra
Posts tagged gamasutra
Almost two years ago, I wrote a blog post on Gamasutra, “A Peek into the Mind of a Social Gamer” (excerpt: “A social gamer (a.k.a. me) writes about what we, social gamers, like and look for in social games”). In that blog post, I said that casual gamers want their games cute, simple, and what’s the last one again, oh yeah, easily accessible.
I mentioned: “KISS. Keep it short and simple. The game itself doesn’t have to be short per se, but it has, absolutely, has to be simple. Otherwise, we wouldn’t get it. I’m not saying that social gamers are dumb, because we most definitely are not! But, but, the reason we play games is so that we can relax and rest our brains. So yeah, we don’t really want to spend 30 minutes or so figuring out how a game works.”
I also mentioned easily accessible, back then it meant Alt Tab, and Facebook, “we just have to switch tabs on our Firefox to play games while we’re pretending to be researching stuff.”
And then almost a year ago I wrote another blog post on Gamasutra, “I Want My Games In Bite Sized Chunks!” (excerpt: “Some thoughts on casual gamers having shorter and shorter attention spans, and some ideas on how design games for them”). The solution I came up with then is “games in bite size chunks that I can keep challenging myself over and over again with”.
I mentioned: “Games HAVE to be pick up and play. Games don’t have to be really short, but it should be short enough so that the player doesn’t lose interest, or it has to be really engaging so that the player doesn’t get bored. Like I mentioned before, casual games are played in between, in between classes, checking Facebook messages, or during train rides.”
Now after a year in iPhone game development, I made some new realizations.
So we recently released a game (I will stop advertising it here, since my previous blog posts on #AltDevBlogADay already did), and the comment that we got often is the game is too short. Our game is a shoot ‘em up, with 5 levels about 3 minutes each, okay, it does seem short, so in our next update we will have add another level. Although would adding another level really solve the problem? I fear, that we might end up adding levels (repeat ad infinitum).
Our problem is not actually how short, rather how replayable is the game?
So I realized that I don’t want my games simply in bite sized chunks, I want my game in bite sized chunks that I can keep on eating forever (and not get bored or fat). Basically, I want a game that doesn’t end (like the song).
But how do we make a game that is infinitely replayable and not get our players bored? I think Tiny Wings (and the newly released Be The Kiwi) already answers the question in some ways.
Both games offers “a new look every day you play”, “different appearance every time you start the game”. Tiny Wings uses procedural graphics to generate the levels each day. And with procedural generation, it’s almost impossible to end up generating the exact same level. So in a sense, it has infinite possibilities of levels.
But why would we want a game that never ends?
The target audience of iPhone games (Android, etc) are casual and commuter gamers, (people who play with games while they are waiting for the train, etc).
They are the type of people (forgive me for generalizing) who would slide unlock their phones, and then tap on one game and start playing when they get bored on the train, etc. Easily accessible now means that, they would want to be able to play the game as soon as possible, they would not want to have to sign in the GameCenter, etc in order to play the game, they would want a Quick Play button, just on tap and the game would start. Also, when they arrive at their stop, they would want to stop the game at once and then maybe pick up again whenever.
In a way, they are not as invested to the game as people who would play games on their consoles or PCs. They play games to pass the time, to relax.
So once they got the simple mechanics of one game, most likely they would play the game over and over again. I have seen many people (ok, myself included), play Angry Birds to death. Well, with Angry Birds, I play the same levels over and over again in order to get the three stars. And the good thing about Angry Birds is that it has a lot of levels. But of course, a lot of levels is hard work to design, develop and balance.
So it’s either make a lot of levels, or find a way to make your game levels procedural and have an infinite number of levels. Which is a better option? As a developer, I’m not really sure.
But as a gamer, I think I’d like a game that I can play forever, at $0.99, that’s a bargain.
Interesting post :)
Yah, I’m a little bored, and for the Gamasutra Member Blogs links, it mentions my blog being stand out posts for that week.
This Week’s Standout Member Blogs
- A Peek into the Mind of a Social Gamer
(Hsiao Wei Chen)
Social games are monumentally successful, but they are also quite young, and relatively under-discussed compared to their more mature gaming brethren. Hsiao Wei Chen is a self-described social gamer, and in this post she provides a profile of the segment’s audience.
For her effort, she will receive a lifetime subscription to Gamasutra sister publication Game Developer magazine.
This Week’s Standout Member Blogs
It just occured to me, I never gotten around to getting that lifetime subscription to Game Developer magazine, and it has already been more than a year, ahaha.
WHile the other post that other link that features Gamasutra’s Best of 2009 (oh my 2009, that was a long time ago), features one of my comments on Unity game engine, under Top 5 Game Companies.
Top 5 Game Companies
Hsiao Wei Chen: “Unity rocks! :D I love them, they are really friendly to developers. I once posted a question on their forums, and I think it was their CTO who answered my question. They really deserve to be on that list. And giving away their amazing engine for free is really a smart move.”
I sound so much like a fangirl. Lolz.
I might start Googling my name next, wonder what other things I’ll find.
Breaking A Visually Art-Centric Generation
(Len de Gracia)
Len de Gracia argues that modern games suffer from an excessive focus on art over design, urging developers to first think about what lies beneath the aesthetic beauty of their games.
Gamasutra front page.
Len de Gracia on “ Breaking a Visually Art-Centric Generation”
And me on “ I Want My Games In Bite Sized Chunks! “
Gamasutra Featured Blog
A Non Gamer’s Story
After reading Alistair Jones’ blog post about the hardships he encountered to break into the games industry, I thought of writing my own version. Oh and the title is just based on Alistair;s, I am actually more of a casual and social gamer. Another reason I’m writing this is because I’m moving to another country and even though I managed to stumble into the local games industry, I’m not sure how I would fare somewhere else.
Some parts are from my old personal blog post.
Recently, I have been hanging out in game engine forums, and there are a lot of dedicated indie developers and modders. And there are off-topic posts wherein they would brag about how young they are and they are already making really cool stuff (not explicitly bragging, of course, but you get it). And they are not just dedicated, but they are also young, one would say that they’re only 15, then the other would say, well I’m only 10 or something. Yeah, you’re 10, that’s like elementary or something and they already got their minds set that they will be game developers when they grow up. Well, growing up is still a long way to go. But it’s good I guess, that they feel as if they already know what they want in their lives and they are already making a lot of effort to achieve it. Which is great.
And then I started thinking of what I was doing when I was their age. When I was in 5th grade, and I wanted to be a fashion designer and I drew bunches of stuff and came up with tons of crazy designs in my head and on paper. My dad also bought me tons of fashion books and magazines which I read and reread. I thought then that I would grow up to be a fashion designer.
I used to think that I was ambitious, that I got my mind set up and I was going to go through with it, and everything else will just fall into place. I had a plan. And up till I was in 3rd year high school, I thought that I was going to go through with it. I was eyeing an art school back then.
And then bam, comes fourth year high school, when we are picking college courses, I have no idea, but I picked Computer Science. Just like that. In all the schools that I applied in, I wrote Computer Science or some computer related course, while Fashion Design and Arts? They were the second choice. I don’t really know why I did that. Okay, I do know. I like computers as much as the next person, but that was surfing the net and Yahoo! Messenger and making personal websites and Flash stuff. I thought that Computer Science was the same as Multimedia Arts or Computer Applications. Well, that was a boo boo.
If you noticed in my list of things that I used to do with computers, well it didn’t exactly include games. I wasn’t a gamer, nor am I a gamer now, actually. I wasn’t one of those classmates who picked CompSci because they wanted to make games. I never owned a console and I work on a laptop, which means, I can’t really run any PC games, unless it’s the Pop Cap and Facebook variety.The other day on my way to work (the very long walk from the MRT to the office, which is about 3 blocks away), I was thinking, did I know that I was going to be a game developer? To make games for a living, how cool is that. But I’m just thinking, that last year, when I was graduating, I didn’t know I’d be where I am right now.
How did it all start really? And when I come to think about it, they were all pretty random, actually, the events that led me to the games industry.
I was part of a multimedia organization in college, and one time when I was manning a booth, I got to talk to another officer and we got to talking about the local game companies, there was Anino, (then) Matahari , and the company that I am currently working for. The funny thing is, back then, I didn’t even know that the Philippines even have a games industry.
When we got to third year college, we were free to choose our electives, and some are in the games track, I chose those, because I figured they would be the closest thing to multimedia. And true enough, there were graphics and 3D modeling classes, and Game Design and Game Development. Although the graphics and 3D modeling turned out to be OpenGL and Blender, lolz. But the Game Design class, now that one, I really enjoyed.
It was a 3 hour class every Saturday, but our professor (who is a professional game designer and writer, who wrote a feature article here on Gamasutra about Quick and Dirty prototyping) would allot 1 and a half hour for lecture and the for the other half of the class, we would play games (she would bring a Wii and some board games), or watch game trailers (first time seeing the Final Fantasy XIII trailer left me drooling), or design games on pen a paper (I think my group even made a paper dice once).We had assignments, but they were basically reading Gamasutra articles and writing a 100 word review or comment, or playing at least 10 SNES games on a simulator (now, can we even call those assignments?). The end goal of that class is to design a game and then write a full fledged game design document. I was a Mystery Case Files addict then, so I designed an art and story driven hidden object game (it was “green lit” and had a pretty high score :D).
But my game idea didn’t stop there. The second class I took is Game Development, which basically means, take the game design document and turn it into a full fledged game. The Game Development class was jam packed with game programming shitniz, that to be honest, I didn’t really understand half of what my professor was saying. But the only requirement for the class is to of course make a game. Our professor wanted us to make a game using Microsoft XNA, which meant C#. But we weren’t taught C# in school, we were Java people. So we had less then 3 months to learn C#, XNA and how to put it all together as a game. Oh, we were all programmers in the class, so we still had to find an artist or make the art assets ourselves. I was feeling artsy and since I wanted to make an art driven game, I volunteered to do all the art assets for the game (oh, there was only 3 of us in our group, so we don’t really have much resources). Oh, and hidden object games has tons of assets (I don’t know what I was thinking when I volunteered), and I had to draw them one by one, using the touch pad of my laptop (I didn’t have a Wacom tablet nor a mouse). I don’t really know how we did it, but we managed to finish the game in a couple of weeks (we were crammers, and didn’t start until it was near our deadline). The last day of the class, all the groups presented their games and the best ones get a prize (we were second best :D).
And then there was a non-game related thesis and a bunch of other stuff and then there was graduation.
On graduation day, we had to line up for a long time outside the venue before the ceremony started, and I was next to a friend of mine, who at that time was already working for a game company (and since then had moved on to two other game companies, first as a producer and now as a game designer, and did I mention that she’s only 22), and we got to talking, and she suggested that I should try applying to game companies (at that time I already had a job offer from a high paying IT company), one of the companies she mentioned, is well, my current company.
So after graduation, I alloted 1 month to bum before accepting any job offers, so I was not really looking for a job. If I would send in my resume, it would be through emails, I did not bother dropping by companies or even job fairs. So one day, in between watching some Korean drama and Mystery Case Files, I sent my resume to my current company.
I was not a hardcore gamer, but I was addicted to casual games. I would play Peggle instead of studying for an exam. One of the games I played in the thesis room (when my thesismates weren’t looking) is a Sherlock Holmes game, wherein Sherlock in the cutscene would even move his mouth, I was so amused by that.
So one morning, I received a phonecall from my current boss (I remember it was a Friday morning, and I was still sleeping), about my job application, and she asked if when I would be available for an interview, and since I was a little sleepy then, I said that I was availabled that afternoon. And so I got up, got dressed and took a taxi to a really nice building with a big ass water fountain in front.
During the interview, my boss mentioned that they made the Sherlock Holmes cutscene, and my jaw may have dropped then, and he went on to mentioning the games that they were currently developing- games based on Clueless and Mean Girls- and then I was trying my best to resist dolphin squealing, those are like my favorite movies, and one is even a fashion matchup game. I was probably smiling to my ears by then. I knew then, that that was what I want to be doing. And thankfully I was hired. And a week later, I started working as a game programmer.
And it has been 1 and a half years since.
Even though the events that led me to the games industry were very random (I am very lucky, it seems) and though I didn’t plan on being a game developer, it turned out quite well for me. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard at first, because it was. I had to catch up on all the years I missed playing games, not to mention all the technical aspects of games. I learned soo much since then, and I had a lot of fun, well, who can complain when you are getting paid play make games?
Oh if you asked me now what I see 25 year old me doing, I would say, I would be one of those speakers in GDC, because even though I have to resign my current job to move to another country (my supposed home country, Taiwan), I am going to continue making games, not just programming them, but I want to continue learning, design, productions, arts, the whole enchilada. I just hope that the industry would continue being kind to me.
A repost from my Gamasutra Blog: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/HsiaoWeiChen/20100420/4012/A_Non_Gamers_Story.php
Gamasutra Featured Blog
How to simplify “Hard Core” Games for “Social” Gamers?
First of all, thank you for all the responses you guys left on my last blog post about social gaming. And thank you Gamasutra for featuring it. :D
One of the points raised in my blog post about the mind of a social gamer (este my mind), is that can “hard core” games appeal to a broader base of players, if it had cute graphics. My answer is probably, but it not only has to have cute graphics, it would also have to be simpler and easier to pick up.
So basically this blog post will be about how to simplify “Hard Core” games for “Social” gamers. “Hard Core” would mean those shooters, RPGs and tactical games, but for this post, I’m going to look into RPGs the most. “Social” gamers, aside from the fact that I am one, well, because most of my friends are also social gamers. Before Facebook,I could not imagine calling my friends gamers, because they aren’t, but with Farmville and Pet Society, they (along with alot of moms and dads and grandparents) are playing games now. So how do we simplify those RPG games? I thought we should look at some board games for ideas.
One of the activities my professor in Game Design (Ms. Luna Cruz), made us do is a board game out of paper. Our group even made a paper dice. Because if a game works on paper, it would probably work in a PC game. Not sure how you can make a paper shooter game though. Although, the ones that involve rubber bands and bullets made out of paper, that can work…
How I thought about looking at board games? Well, during one of our Board Game Nights (it’s an event my friends and I picked up from that chic flick with Jennifer Aniston, and started after we spent too much time in Hobbes and Landes),my friend (a med student who logs onto to Facebook first thing after getting home from school everyday, and then she studies) brought her brand new Game of Life : Pirates of the Caribbean edition.
Now this version of Game of Life is very different from all the other Game of Lifes I’ve played before, for one thing, you don’t play as yourself anymore, there are character cards that you pick at the start of the game, and the characters are of course, Johnny Depp-I-mean-Jack Sparrow, Elizabeth Swann, Orlando Bloom este Will Turner, and the rest of the gang, and each character has different perks, like Jack Sparrow always seem to get the most loot, etc. And I thought, hey, it’s like role playing. And as the game goes along, you can even get a pet,and a ship. Now comes the interesting part, you can buy ships, you can also steal ships from other players, by challenging them to a duel este wheel spin-off, and the one with a higher number (plus the some other number depending on their character, I think) gets the ship. So this got me thinking, why it’s like the dice rolling in Dungeons and Dragons to determine an action. Now D&D is supposedly the classic RPG. And it’s also the basis of Neverwinter Nights, right? (correct me, if I’m wrong). So this whole board game thing got me thinking, although it has a few RPG elements, and it was simple enough that my friends (including my friend’s 9 yr old cousin) got it and enjoyed it.
Now another game (on another Board Game Night), my other friend (who now works as a banker) introduced to us is Citadels. It is a card game, but there is a ot of strategy involved. And this too, has some RPG elements.
First off, is that this too, has different kind of characters, and at the start of the game, you are assigned a character, like assassin, thief, magician, merchant etc. And each of this characters have specific and unique abilities, like the assassin can, of course, kill someone, and the thief can steal, etc. Well, the goal of the game is to build citadels (in the form of district cards) , and you can build citadels using gold. On a player’s turn, he can either get gold, build a citadel or perform any character specific action, after he is done, the next player plays, and so on. So basically, it’s a turn based game. What’s tricky is that, sometimes, before it even got to your turn, the assassin already killed you, and you loose that turn. Of course, you can always plan your revenge as you wait it out (you can also collaborate with another player). So at the end of the day, we realized that it is actually more of a strategy game. It sounded complicated at first, but we picked it up pretty quickly, and we also love this one.
Okay, one last board game (before I realize that I’m really just forcing it), Bang! (I can’t seem to find a picture of us playing it, though). Now Bang! was introduced to us just last Christmas, by my other friend (I think he works in marketing, even though his college degree is similar to mine), it came in a metal case shaped like a bullet (I can’t believe we don’t have a picture of that!), how adorable is that? Now with Bang!, now this one, you have characters, abilities and roles. It’s like the card game, wherein there is a police, a bad guy and some civilians, and the police has to figure out who the bad guy is, and the bad guy, just well, kill peopl. So in Bang!, after we picked our role cards (sheriff, vice sheriff, renegade, outlaw, etc.), we don’t show it to the other players (aside from the sheriff, the sheriff’s card is shown and he even gets a badge). We also get character cards, like the other games, each character has a different ability. Oh, and the characters also have lives (like any shooter game, right?), different characters have different number of lives. And so the game begins, there is a deck of cards (action cards? I suppose we can call them that), some are Bang! cards, which can be used to shoot any player, and there are also cards can reinforce your Bang! cards, like a scope and burst (why, it’s llike weapon attachments in shooter games). There are also heal cards (rum and whiskey, lol). And basically that’s it. So after playing that and describing the game in the blog post, it made me realize, hey, it’s a bit like a shooter gaame too, I think. We only got to play a round of this game, but after that, we already started planning our next Board Game Night, because this game needs to be played again.
Oh, by the way, the reason why I kept mentioning what my friends does, is to show how diverse we are, and how different our interests are, but even so, we all found those board games amusing.
So to summarize a bit, this board games obviously have some PC gameplay elements. And yet, they managed to simplify it, so that kids of all ages (I think) and social gamers, non gamers, hard core gamers (?) would understand it and enjoy it (or maybe it’s just us, who are board game fans). But how do they do it?
For RPGs, I got the definition of RPG off Wikipedia, and basically it says that RPGs, are games wherein players assume roles of a fictional character and the success rate of the actions taken in the game are determined by rules. Sound simple enough, right?
Oh by the way, when I said that I want to simplify “Hard Core” games for “social” gamers, I was thinking of something along the line of… the best game I played last year… Plants VS Zombies! Now, that is basically a tower defense game, and I am usually not a fan of tower defense games, but Plants VS Zombies is really nice. It was of course, first and foremost cute (I love how the Sunflower sings at the end. There are Zombies on the lawn…), and it was also very simple to understand. And I think that is what I am aiming for, easy to pick up games. Oh three cheers for Plants VS Zombies for being one of the best games last year.
Anyway, back to the topic.
So RPGs that are easy to pick up and play. Exactly, like those board games mentioned above. I know, RPGs (I just realized that I might have said RPG games, instead of just RPG, anyway) usually allow the user to customize their characters, as in, they get to, of course, change the look of your character (my favorite part), they also allow you to customize seemingly every single statistic of the character (my least favorite part), because I don’t get it, I just don’t. In the board games, they didn’t give you a chance to pick your stats anymore or allow you to customize your character.
Oh by the way, feel free to correct (or bash) me, because I don’t really know much about complicated RPGs. For me, what makes an RPG fun is the story and the cutscenes. What makes a RPG complicated is the stats allocation bit at the start of the game.
So, I think the stats bit can be obstructed from the player, or that it can be simplified (remove those that sounds complicated). Strength and speed, we can still understand but, some of the rest just leaves me scratching my head.
Omigosh, could it be, I ran out of things to say?
Oh, another RPG element that confuses me, when it come to abilities. There are just to many kinds of abilities for one character. And it gets confusing, especially if the player is only playing the game between Alt Tabs. What those board games did, they only gave one ability per character. You can of course, have more than one ability still, but try to lessen it, so that the player can master it more.
Well, obviously, there is no dice rolling in Facebook, all those are already obstructed, which already makes it simpler. I mean, the player no longer have to add up numbers to figure out if he can do that action or not. Well, obviously, all the existing RPGs already has that down.
So yeah, so far this is what occured to me. I will probably read my blog post again and come up with even more ideas. I hope this blog post helps you guys too.
Oh and once again, feel free to comment, bash or whatever. Thanks for reading!
Gamasutra Featured Blog
A Peek into the Mind of a Social Gamer
I have been thinking and over thinking this post for the past few days, so now, I’m just going to go into it. Forgive me for the occasional stream of consciousness and enthusiasm that will probably litter this post. Oh, this is also my first time writing a blog here at Gamasutra, so if you don’t like it, just say so, so I can save you all the trouble and say delete it.
Okay, long intro, let’s get into it.
I’m just going to assume that not many, social gamers (social gamers, I remember before I was calling myself a casual gamer and now there’s this whole new term called social gamer, wow, anyways, can I continue calling myself a casual gamer, I haven’t gotten used to the term ‘social gamer’ yet.)
So, I read what Tony Ventrice wrote about Building a Social Foundation. He was talking about what the objectives of Social Game Design is, so I am not going to go into that, but I would just like to say, what he said about Spreading the Game Virally is on the dot. If your users love the game, they would not just invite their friends using the default Facebook feature, they would also talk about it with their friends during a dinner party, and anyone there who doesn’t have a pet in Pet Society would feel left out, and would subsequently go home, log into their Facebook and make their own pet (it happened to me, once).
So, what do social gamers really want in their games anyway?
For me, games are like candy. It has to be cute and sugary sweet. I am going to write this in bold: It has to be CUTE :3 Most of my friends who played the Playfish games are attracted to it, because the look and feel of the game is simply adorable. So lay on all the cartoony art style and bright colors, we love them.
Oh, the game mechanic themselves don’t have to be cute though. So maybe you can even sneak a first person action game in there too. My officemates almost convinced me to play Borderlands by showing me the screenshots. Toon shader apparently works for us. And the girl character there (I forgot her name, I’m sorry), with all those particle effects and pink-ness, was extra convincing. Unfortunately, my laptop couldn’t run it properly (I’m working on a tiny netbook).
Second point, the game play has to be simple. Remember what your teachers taught you in English class? KISS. Keep it short and simple. The game itself doesn’t have to be short per se, but it has, absolutely, has to be simple. Otherwise, we wouldn’t get it. I’m not saying that social gamers are dumb, because we most definitely are not! But, but, the reason we play games is so that we can relax and rest our brains. So yeah, we don’t really want to spend 30 minutes or so figuring out how a game works. I was made to play Neverwinter Nights 2 before and it just really got me stuck, I did not understand a thing. And I stopped playing after I got to the first town, or something. So yeah, keep it as simple as possible. We don’t want to play games to get even more stressed out.
Oh, and we also play games in between other things, like, let’s say classes (or during classes. I think I played Mystery Case Files during an Algorithms class before). Since we are doing so many things at once a.k.a. multitask, Alt Tab is our friend. So we like our games light weight and easy to access. Thank goodness, social games are easily accessible on Facebook. So now, we just have to switch tabs on our Firefox to play games while we’re pretending to be researching stuff.
Well, we don’t ask for much (I’m sorry, I keep on generalizing), I don’t ask for much. Just keep social games pretty, simple and easily accessible, and we (rather, I) would appreciate you guys so much, that I would tell all my friends about your games at the next high school or college reunion.
If anyone did stumble upon this post, please post a note or something, so that I would know that I am not talking to thin air (although, I don’t really mind talking to air).
So that’s it!
A repost from my Gamasutra Blog: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/HsiaoWeiChen/20091215/3834/A_Peek_into_the_Mind_of_a_Social_Gamer.php