Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Checkmate & Teapots

A funny comic from a great webcomic site: The Perry Bible Fellowship, if you are into dark comedy and random humour it's worth a few laughs.

I recently picked up a great book on game design: Rules of Play. Instead of trying to define and cram the field of game design into one conceptual model, they approach it from multiple angles like emergent gameplay or games as information systems. For example, if you were to define what exactly defined teapot, would you go by how it was used? How it was built? What it looked like? Salem & Zimmerman approach the "Teapot" of game design from all these various angles, providing a very solid toolset for game design. I'm working my through it when time permits and will post the particularly juicy bits that I find.

Gamasutra featured an interview with Paul Sams, COO of Blizzard Entertainment, besides the usual Blizzard "Wait and see, we love making great games" treatment, I have to note one really intesting point he made reflecting the topic of making games outside the male 18-30 demographic:

"Our feeling is that if you're going to have people put a number of years of their life, and they're going to put their blood, sweat, and tears into the development of the game, they better believe in it, and want to play it, and it's going to be a passion of theirs. And if it's a kid's game – unless that's what they're really into – then it's not going to be great."

You can probobly tell where I'm going to go with this, but essentially, how can we expect development teams to make great games outside the common market when the vast majority of those developers are found in that same market? There probobly arn't very many developers who would like to work on Barbie Horse Adventures their whole career barring one very special web comic author.

On the gaming front itself, I've been playing 3 titles lately:

Gemcraft: A well-polished tower defense featuring RPG elements and a light storyline. You can find many hours of gameplay that, while somewhat repetitive, has great spins on the traditional Tower Defense model. Difficulty, while actually dynamic and left in the player's hands, still manages to be challenging and rewarding. A must play for TD fans, period.

Pandemic II: A unique sim that has the player engineer and evolve a lethal pandemic with the goal of wiping out the human race. Now who doesn't love that? Despite the somewhat dry gameplay and tricky learning curve, it's still quite a bit of fun to make your infection suddenly cause diarrhea and then watch the ports close. The interface is clunky in the sense that it is difficult to tell exactly what your actions are doing on a global scale, but still worth the time to check out if you enjoy a good power trip.

Battlefield: Bad Company (Single Player): Hoo boy, this game has everything you can expect from a professional budget title. Great graphics, great sound (outstanding actually), mediocre gameplay. The single player campaign is nothing special, good for some explosions and the occasional laugh, the ending is disappointing and not worth the 20 hours in my humble opinion.

I get the feeling EA wanted to release this game as a way of showing off (and an excuse to make) the frostbite engine. The defining feature of the engine (besides the epic sound design it can offer) is "destructable environments" which boils down to a handful of extra features:

-The ability to knock down trees
-The ability to obliterate outhouses and other small structures
-The ability to create small craters in the ground
-The ability to reduce sturdy houses to sturdy frames of houses

While it's fun to literally blow the cover of a pesky enemy trooper (and usually the enemy himself), to be able to decimate a brick wall and do nothing to the 4x4 holding the 2nd floor up, ruins the immersion for me and reminds me I am still playing a video game. If you are going to build a million dollar game around a feature, you should probobly make sure that feature stands rock solid.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

First Post eh?

I love games, I love making games.

I love board games, card games, video games, collectable games, retro games, video games, live action games, and the list goes on. Is there nothing better than opening up a new rulebook, game manual or sealed set and savouring that anticipation of good things to come?

Ha, I have other passions, but if I could dedicate my life to something, it would be creating the ultimate gaming experience that everyone could participate in and enjoy, really bring gaming above and beyond the level of film and music, renew mankind's oldest passtime of play. Children play, dogs and cats play, why dont we adults do it more if it made us so happy?

Now that I've firmly established that, Hi, I'm Tyler, a 22 year old aspiring game designer from Canada. An adventuring hard-working metal-head gamer trying to make a name for himself in the games industry. It's really all I've ever wanted to do. I can remember when I was 8 years old designing weapon ideas for an Eastern-Style Console RPG at my cottage up in North Ontario. I can remember when I was 12 and discovered emulation and ended up going through dozens of SNES games in a summer. I remember when I was 16 and downloaded RPG Maker, trying to make the next big hit for myself to enjoy. Trouble was I knew where all the hidden chests were.

I can remember watching the behind the scenes VHS for Donkey Kong for the SNES and being blown away at people being payed to play games. I remember opening my first booster pack of Magic: The Gathering. I remember watching the animated Legend of Zelda series. I remember seeing the Live Action Super Mario movie. I remember playing Risk with my cousins and designing maps on the Warcraft II Map Editor.

With the end of university just around the corner, now the real fun begins!