Thursday, May 29, 2008

Design Lesson 101 - LostWinds

lostwinds.jpgOriginal IP is always a tough sell in this industry. According to the NPD, in 2007 the only original IP to break the top ten in sales in the United States were Wii Play and Assassin's Creed. It's debatable whether or not Wii Play even classifies as original IP. The launch of services such as Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and WiiWare have been heralded as the impetus for the gaming revolution, with lower budgets allowing for more experimentation in gameplay.

While this may not be the great revolution many predicted or would like, it is hard to ignore that there are some genuinely unique titles available on these services. One such title is LostWinds, for the Nintendo Wii. By utilizing the Wiimote's motion capabilities to move the player character, Frontier Developments is able to offer a unique gameplay experience in the familiar setting of a 2D platformer.

Design Lesson: Changing the method of input can make a familiar genre feel like a unique experience

LostWinds strength is in its usage of the Wiimote. The game places you as a young boy named Toku. Early in the game, you gain an ally Enril; oh, and Enril is the disembodied Wind Spirit. That's right, Enril (and the player) can control the wind, which become the major mechanic of the game. Toku may be the main character of the game, but the star is the wind.

Instead of just pressing a button to jump, LostWinds has you make a motion with the Wiimote to create a gust of wind. This gust will push the player, objects, and enemies in the world in any direction. Gusts will often affect even the backgrounds of the world. While there is no gameplay behind making bushes and trees sway and rustle from gusts of wind, it makes the player feel in control and like he is directly affecting the world.
I've never felt like I'm really directly affecting the world in Super Mario Bros. Instead, I directly affect the other inhabitants of the world, but not the world itself (Only some of the bricks are breakable in the game and never the critical path, so that doesn't feel like affecting the world enough to me).

In LostWinds this changes the entire way of traversing and interacting with the world. No longer is checking out the entire village as simple as just pressing a button to jump every now and again. Instead, the player constantly is physically moving to make Toku jump on screen. Every gust affects trees, enemies, fire, water, and even NPCs. The player truly feels as if he is directly affecting the world around him, something that is isn't found in the standard 2D platform game.

This motion input also creates mechanics that defy genre conventions. There is no way to directly attack enemies. Jumping on their heads, a wildly accepted convention, will lead to death. Rather, the player must use gusts of wind to slam the enemies into the ground.

This means you can defeat enemies as long as they are on screen, even if Toku isn't near them. This creates a puzzle-centric game, over a combat-centric game, which isn't always found in platformers. It reminded me of the original Prince of Persia where the environment was your real enemy, not the guards. Combat is always secondary in the game.

lostwinds.jpg (Side design note: I do question the need for any combat in the game, but maybe we need some opportunity for failure to truly feel success. Or maybe I've just been trained to think that way from genre conventions and life. I have a feeling this warrants deeper pondering and discussion, but I'd love to hear any thoughts if you have them).

Later in the game, you get the power to channel other elements to solve puzzles. By using the Wiimote to draw on the screen, you can make fire, water, and wind follow the path you've drawn. This allows you to burn down barriers that would be otherwise impassable, by connecting the barrier with the source of fire.

Again, the game is making a more direct correlation with the player's physical movement with the Wiimote and the movement of fire and water on the screen. This interface could be replicated with a mouse, so it's not some major innovation. However, it's still so different than how most platformers behave that it helps the game feel more novel and unique than it may actually be (I promise that's a compliment).

These simple changes in the input method of LostWinds help the game standout as something that feels unique and different. The player experience is altered just by wagging around a Wiimote in the air, instead of holding an Xbox 360 controller in their hands.

Had the game had you jump by pressing a button, solve puzzles by maneuvering your in-game character to push items around, it wouldn't have the same charm and feel.

The game is defined by its input, something that is usually avoided by designers. Usually designers try to make the player forget that they have to use a controller for input, concentrating on immersing the player through graphics, sound, and gameplay.

This isn't the case with LostWinds. The developers are all too happy to remind you that you are playing a game by forcing physical movement to progress.

LostWinds is not necessarily innovative, but it's different thanks to its usage of the Wiimote. Sometimes, that's all it takes to get noticed. I only hope more developers are able to take a chance on “something different” on the WiiWare in the future.

New Design Lesson 101 Available - LostWinds

Check it out on Gamasutra or GameSetWatch. Memorial Day set the schedule for getting it posted back a little, so I'm sorry for the delay. I'd recommend the game personally, if you have a Wii. It's $10 on WiiWare and about 3 hours long, but there's a good amount of fun packed into those 3 hours.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I Am Tired Of Being The White Guy

A Far Cry 2 trailer has been released from the recent Ubidays 2008 event. Far Cry 2 is a first-person shooter in development by Ubisoft Montreal and takes place in Africa, with the player being sent to assassinate a man known as "The Jackal". The trailer starts with a reporter, seemingly of African decent, narrating. At first I thought this was the in-game character narrating the trailer, setting up the story. Soon I realized, through the narrator's usage of the word "you" continuously, that the character was not the player but rather another character talking to the player's character.

Towards the end of the trailer, actual in-game footage is shown. I see the arm and hand of the player. He's white. Again. Why, oh why, do I have to play as The White Guy(tm) again? I am tired of playing as The White Guy. I played as The White Guy in BioShock, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and Condemned: Criminal Origins this year already. Not to mention countless other games throughout my life.

Here comes Far Cry 2, with its story set in Africa, with clearly African characters. And once again, here I am playing as The White Guy. Now, I don't know too much about the game and its story itself - I've only watched a handful of videos on the game, read some blog posts, and checked out the official website.

Maybe there is a fantastic reason for you being The White Guy in this game. Maybe it wouldn't have made sense to be a African, Asian, or Hispanic man (or woman). I have no idea if Clint Hocking, Patrick Redding and company discussed having a player character of a different race. I sincerely hope they did, and have no reason to believe they didn't at least discuss the issue.

The fact remains, you are still The White Guy. It is the default of this industry. Being The White Guy is automatically what occurs in a game, unless there is a good reason not to (for example Prey). This is especially true of North American and European developers.

I am not about to claim racism on any level on this topic, and not out of fear to use the term. No one (at least hopefully no one) is saying "Oh, I hate black people, so my character will be white." However, at the same time I have doubts that we consider alternatives. Do we give true consideration to other ethnicities?

This is not meant to point fingers at one game, or even a handful of games. Rather, I want us as an industry to look within and discuss the problem. Is this because our demographics as developers are skewed, especially in North America, to white and male? Is this because we are creatures of habit and this is the way it always has been? Do the same issues exist in television, film, and literature? I don't know the answers to these questions. I do know, however, that I am tired of playing The White Guy.

Let's just default to another color. What if, as an industry, we just defaulted to all characters being black for the next year, unless there was a good reason to do otherwise? It couldn't possibly be that terrible. Even if nothing else changed about the game, but the character was a different skin color, that would be a start. If you read that and thought to yourself that it's silly to change the ethnicity for no reason other than just to change it, you are correct. There's no reason to not change the ethnicity either.

That is the point. It makes no difference.

What if in the next Halo game Master Chief took his helmet off and... he's black. Truly think about that situation for a moment. What would the forum and blog posts be like? Would the topic of his race be discussed? Would it be discussed more than if he took his helmet off and he was white?

I think one of the first forum posts would be along the lines of "OMG Mistar Chef is teh black!" That's how we know the issue of race in video games (and in our society) isn't a non-issue yet - a discussion of race would occur in the case of Master Chief being black, where it would not occur in the case of him being white. Two black football coaches cannot coach in the biggest game of the year and not have the issue of race discussed. Why would Master Chief or any other game character be any different?

We need to diversify our characters. We need black, brown, and yellow characters. We need gay and lesbian characters. We need realistic women, not just large-chested ones. We need Atheist, Catholic, Jewish, and Sikh characters. We need all of these types of characters. Most of all, we need to talk about these subjects as a community and create something different. We don't have to always use The White Guy as our protagonist.

I am not trying to single out Far Cry 2 or any other game, but rather use them as a launching point for a true discussion. This issue has bothered me for some time, and it took the trailer to make me think about it more. Had Far Cry 2 not been set in Africa, had it not had an African man narrating, I probably wouldn't have thought much of it.

That's the problem. We don't think much of it. Let's start.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Better Idea for Xbox Live Arcade

I just saw this post over at Kotaku, which states that Microsoft will start removing underperforming games from Xbox Live Arcade.

According to Whitten, any title that is six months old, with an average Metacritic score below 65 and a demo-to-full conversion ratio below 6%, will be pulled from the service. Concerned parties will be notified three months in advance if a title is going to be pulled.
That's your solution Microsoft? Just pull the title? What happens to the person who needs to re-download the game, because their Xbox 360 red ringed for the seventh time, but now the title they bought is gone from the service.

Here's a better idea. First off, allow user ratings. Users should be able to rate games, like on YouTube. This will allow the community to tell each other what games suck and which are awesome.

Secondly, offer sorting of games by "channel". An example could be the Indie Channel, where all the independent games go. People who are interested in those games could check that channel. It would be like the Fox Searchlight label that is used by 20th Century Fox for smaller, indie movies. There could be other channels, such as the Comedy Channel, Horror Channel, etc. Microsoft could still allow people to sort by genre, but allow sorting by this channel as well.

The advantages of this is that people may start gravitating towards channels as they prove themselves. Maybe someone plays N+ and realizes, hey there are other games in this Indie Channel I also like. It also allows people who don't care about those games, and would rather play Yaris to do that.

The biggest point here is that one massive list (or multiple massive lists by genre) is useless to go through. It's a usability nightmare. I have no idea, without searching the web or hearing from friends, what is good and bad on Xbox Live Arcade. Since so many games aren't that good now, I just default to not trying a game unless I hear I should. Or, I check the full game out for free at work (Xbox 360 dev kits connect to PartnerNet, which has the majority of Xbox Live Arcade titles on it available for free, including yet to be released titles. It's used for testing mostly, and is one of the nice perks about working on console games).

I think organizing games by channels and allowing user ratings are great ideas, and is a better alternative than just removing games from the service. That's a pretty poor way to handle things, especially for people who may have bought the game. If your reasoning is that you want people to be able to filter through the crap, then don't let it get in there the first place. At least put in real measures to let others inform each other how good/bad something is.

Of course, since Microsoft gets a piece of the pie for all games sold, this won't happen...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Design Lesson 101 - Boom Blox

-The name Steven Spielberg is synonymous with big Hollywood movies, such as Jaws, Jurassic Park, and Minority Report. When it was revealed that he signed an exclusive contract with EA to produce three games for the next-gen consoles, it was assumed by most that all three games would be like his films: huge blockbusters. So, like many others, I was very surprised to find out that his first title would be a simple physics-based puzzle game on the Wii.

Don't let appearances fool you. Even though the production values aren't epic, Spielberg's Boom Blox manages to produce a very entertaining set of puzzles that can appeal to gamers of all ages. Part of the reason is the fun, kinetic style of play that does a great job of utilizing the Wiimote's motion features. Additionally, Boom Blox does an excellent job of setting regular, small goals for the player, which is the focus of this design lesson.

Design Lesson: Give regular micro-goals during gameplay, so that the player knows what is expected of him and exactly what to do at all times.

This is a fairly basic rule of design, and complements the design lesson from Sam & Max Season Two, where I talked about the player needing to feel constant progress. Playing Boom Blox re-emphasized this point, so I felt the need to expand on the original lesson.

Boom Blox has a number of types of puzzles within it. Some of the puzzles require the player to topple down structures in the fewest amount of throws. Others require the player to remove blocks Jenga-style for point. There are even some shooting gallery puzzles, that focus on quick reflexes in small amounts of time.

No matter what the puzzle, a couple of things are always true. First, the player is always told exactly what conditions must be met to get a bronze, silver, or gold medal for the puzzle. Second, the puzzles usually last under five minutes. In fact, most of the puzzles take about a minute to complete.

The effect of having such short puzzles, with specific goals, is that the player is constantly aware of exactly what to do at all times. If some of the puzzles took fifteen minutes, you may get frustrated at your inability to make progress or even forget exactly what is needed for a gold medal. If you weren't told what was necessary for a gold medal, only that it exists, you may have an even harder time reaching that goal.

Think about action games for a moment. How many times have you progressed through a level in a shooter, not knowing exactly what you are trying to do, only because forward is the only way to go? Eventually, you get to the boss or the level objective, at which point you are reminded of why you were running through this particular graveyard on this particular night shooting these particular zombies.

Boom Blox is a completely different type of game, but to me the lesson is still valid. Let the player know, at all times, exactly what to do for the next few minutes of gameplay. String that together enough times, and you are at engaging the player by giving him constant feedback as to his progress.

Boom Blox's positive feedback results in the unlocking of more puzzles. Completing the first set of puzzles opens the second set, and so-on. One of the more frustrating parts of the game was when I had unlocked all of the single player puzzles, except for one set (“Master Challenges”). The game didn't tell me what I needed to do to unlock this set of puzzles, so I had to guess.

In other words, I was unsure of my micro-goals that needed to be completed in order to reach my macro-goal of unlocking the “master challenges”. The game told me what I needed to do for all the other unlockable puzzles, tools, and characters, so I didn't run into this problem until after playing the game for a long time. When it occurred, I got frustrated and looked up what I needed on the internet. It made me realize what a great job the rest of the game had done at setting small, manageable goals for the player.

Spielberg and EA may not have brought us a blockbuster game, in terms of budget, but they have built it from very sound design fundamentals. Boom Blox does an excellent job of setting player expectations up front, with respect to its goals. If its puzzles were longer or the requirements for getting a gold medal unspecified (I'm looking at you Guitar Hero and your inability to tell me what score I need to get 5-stars on a song), the game would have been less enjoyable.

Luckily, the majority of the game focuses the player on small, obtainable goals for completing puzzles and unlocking new puzzles. This makes sure the player is always aware of exactly what to do next, but not necessarily how to do it. This allows the player to make constant progress, which is important to keep a player engaged, and part of why Boom Blox is so much fun.

Bonus Lesson: Destroying things is fun!

This is the other big (and more important) reason Boom Blox is so much fun. There's not much more to be said about this. Knocking down towers of blocks is just, at its core, enjoyable. It reminds me of being a kid and playing with Lego. More games where I can knock down towers of blocks please!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New Design Lesson 101 - Boom Blox

Available at Gamasutra and GameSetWatch like always.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Do Wii Have A Problem?

As far as I can tell, there are two distinct kinds of games for the Nintendo Wii. There are games that require physical movement for primary play (Wii Sports, Boom Blox) and those that are the more traditional fare (Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Super Mario Galaxy). Sure, some of the traditional games have some motion aspect to them, but they are usually tacked on similar to PlayStation 3 games.

Something I am noticing from myself, particularly playing a lot of Boom Blox this week, is that I don't have the endurance to play the more physical games for very long (a couple hours at most). This may actually be a good thing, but I'm not used to it. My arm is actually a little sore from whipping the Wiimote around this week. My wrist sounds like a cement mixer. Now, it should be noted that I work on a computer all day at work, then come home and use the computer some more, so it's not like I'm giving my body a break.

However, the physical games actually put limits on my game time. I can't pull marathon sessions of these games. I've played games for six, eight, even ten hours in a day before, but that will never happen with these physical Wii games. Is this a problem or a good thing?

I tend to feel that games should allow you to play as much or as little as you one. Adults could, and should, be expected to make decisions such as "how much time will I spend playing games today" and not have a game impede them. At the same time, the game isn't really the impediment - it's the player's body. So I could go either way on this. Yeah, I know, not a good answer. That's why this post is filed under ramblings.

What do you think? Do any of you run into physically tiring from playing some of these games?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Design Lesson 101 - Rez HD

rezcover.jpg On the surface, Rez is nothing more than a simple on-rails shooter. You cannot control your avatar, only what you shoot. The levels are finite, the enemies predictable, and the mechanics simple.

However, the developers (headed by original designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi) have utilized a number of visual, aural, and tactile elements in the game to create a surreal experience that can often defy explanation. This is an experience that goes beyond just pure gameplay.

Design Lesson: It is possible to layer and intertwine simple aesthetics with each other in order to create a more engaging player experience.

Before I start talking about the game, I feel it's important, more than most games, to have some understanding of what this game is like. If you have not played it, check out this video on YouTube or any of the other videos of the game available. It doesn't replace actually playing the game, but at least you'll understand the game on a basic level.

The aural component is possibly the most significant of the three senses stimulated by the game. Each level of Rez is based around a trance music track. At the start of a level, a very basic beat is established. As you work further into each level, the music itself becomes more and more complex. The basic beat always exists, but now there are additional phrases of music that are more up-tempo and fast paced, ultimately creating the final musical track of the level.

By actually starting with a simple beat and adding additional layers to the music itself, the game is able to draw the player into its world gradually. As the music intensity increases, so does the intensity of the gameplay itself. It feels natural, never jarring, and it's something I didn't fully notice until after I started thinking about what really made Rez work as a game.

What Rez does next with the audio is where it becomes interesting. There aren't any specific sound effects in the game, at least not in the traditional sense. Rather, the sounds meld into the music itself, with synthesized sounds playing as you shoot that fit the surrounding music and feel like a part of the track.

The player, as a result, feels as if he is affecting the music along with the gameplay, rather than the music being ancillary. This draws the player further into the game, and makes the sound and gameplay feel as one cohesive, intertwined unit, instead of separate entities.

Rez1.jpg The visuals use the sound as a jumping-off point to add to the player experience. Rez uses a very colorful, but geometrically simple visual style. The game seems to be made up of simple lines and polygons, so it wouldn't seem there is all that much to be entranced by.

In actuality, the entire world is in-sync with the audio of the game; the player avatar throbs with the same beat of the music; the background of the world flashes and changes colors according to the musical beat as well. Couple this with the colorful explosions, reminiscent of audio visualization algorithms, and you get a very stimulating, yet relaxing experience.

The game also uses the rumble of the controller to add a final, tactile, layer to the entire experience. As the player creates havoc on screen, the controller rumble matches the game, giving another feedback loop to the player's senses. Controller rumble is fairly standard of games, but Rez goes one step further.

It offers “trance vibration”, which on the Xbox Live Arcade version of the game is realized by using additional controllers (There was a separate USB peripheral for this in previous versions of the game). These additional controllers will vibrate with the musical track and other sounds (thus also the visuals) of the game itself, rather than just player actions.

Multiple controllers in trance vibration mode create more unique sensations, as different controllers are used to vibrate at different times. The impact of the vibration of the controllers ties the aural and visual components together. You begin to feel the gameplay that occurs on screen.

While other games stimulate these three senses, Rez is unique in the way it truly intertwines and layers them together. The concept of seeing the music exists in the game. While playing the game, I ended up “zoning out”. I would not thinking about what I was doing, but rather I just played.

The feedback from the game is such that it drove me into a further state of calm and meditation, rather than anxiety and alertness (something many games do). I often found my own physical surroundings disappearing as my conscious mind became one with the game.

This made me ultimately have a very different experience than I have had with most games. Most games involve actively thinking, processing, and decision making. That didn't feel like the case in Rez. I was certainly still performing these actions, but I wasn't thinking about them, rather I was just doing them. I was in the zone. This is ultimately what was engaging about the game.

It's extremely difficult to discuss a game such as this, due to its cerebral nature, but I hope I've made a good first step. I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on Rez and how its elements work together to create a unique, engaging player experience. Being able to discuss a game such as this is important to gain more understanding of game design, and I feel I've only scratched the surface with my limited time thus far with the game.

I can say, almost assuredly, that I will play Rez numerous more times over the years, not only to have fun and zone out, but to further understand what makes the game work so well. So much here is difficult to discuss without playing the game, so I'd make the recommendation to check it out, if you can, and see how it makes you feel.

Rez has opened my eyes to better ways to intertwine aural, visual, and tactile elements together to draw the player further into the game world. Often we treat these as complementary, separate elements in games, but that clearly does not have to be the case.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

New Design Lesson 101 Column - Rez HD

GameSetWatch has posted my latest column in the 'Design Lesson 101' series. It should be on Gamasutra in the morning as well and on this blog in a day. This may have been the most difficult game I've ever tried to talk about. Check it out!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Have You Ever Played Something Moving and Confusing?

Thanks to Gamers With Jobs, I just found a little flash game called Polcarstva. It's about 5-10 minutes long and can best be described as a short, strange trip. The music is absolutely beautiful and the gameplay itself is interesting, with somewhat obtuse puzzles using a point and click interface.

I do not know how to describe the experience of playing the game, nor do I think I understand what the game is trying to say with it's puzzles. However, something about it is very special and makes me think of art when I play it. Play it now, and let me know what you think in the comments. Are these types of games interesting to you? Or are arty games like this only for pretentious snobs with blogs, like myself?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Design Lesson 101 - Crysis

crysis1.jpgI've always been an advocate of choice in games. Performing the same action over and over in a game can be monotonous and boring. This is probably why I enjoy RPG games so much; by their very nature they often offer the player a multitude of different things to choose from.

Shooters, unlike RPGs, usually offer only one thing to do during the entire game: shoot. Yet, even in this genre there is a growing amount in variety of actions that the player can perform. Halo showed how integrating vehicles into portions of the game could make for even more frantic feeling to the game. Duke Nukem 3D showed how various different, unconventional weapons in a game could radically change the feeling of combat during the game.

Whether choosing what weapons you are using or what strategies you will use to fight the enemies, shooters do offer small amounts of choice. As technology advances, we are seeing more and more meaningful choices being offered in games. It's not enough to just give the player a choice, however.

Design Lesson: Once you give the player the power to choose, you must not take that ability away from the player.

Crysis is the spiritual successor to Far Cry, a game that was heralded for its wide open nature. Crysis continues that tradition, putting the player on an island in the Philippines and allowing him to go almost anywhere.

This is what sets the game apart from other shooters. Players are truly free to approach each combat situation from their own perspective. You can charge into the base from the well-guarded front. You can swim down the river and enter the base from the exposed rear. You can even jump over the high wall that surrounds the base and drop in the middle. The choice is yours.

The choices are vast and this is a large part of why Crysis is so successful as a shooter. It gives options that most shooters are unable to offer. As a result, the game plays out in a very unique fashion.

The game starts out with you fighting against a group of Korean soldiers that have taken a group of archaeologists hostage. As the game progresses, you learn that the Koreans are not the real threat, but rather something more sinister (It shouldn't be hard to figure out what that is if you have watched any of the trailers for the game).

When you start meeting the other enemies in the game, a little after the halfway point of the game, the style of the game shifts. It becomes much more linear and constrained, like a traditional shooter.

There are a couple of levels, including the final level, that are pure linear corridor levels. One would expect levels such as these out of a game such as Quake, but not this game. These become the weakest parts of the game, by far, because they go against all the strengths of Crysis.

The strength of Crysis lies in choice. The choice to enter the situation on your own terms and from your own perspective. The game gives you powers, such as cloaking, speed, and strength, that can be used to turn the tide of battle. This adds more choice to how you handle a given combat situation.

The linear, corridor levels go against that sense of choice that the rest of the game has set up. The problem is that this other style of level does not compliment the more open style the rest of the game has set up. It feels far more restricting, in fact. You have less places to move around, less ways to approach a situation, and less opportunities to use your nanosuit powers.

crysis1.jpg Another thing that changes towards the latter part of the game is the enemy types. You stop fighting humans and start fighting mysterious creatures. This, in an of itself, is actually a good thing.

To me, this is a great way to add variety to a game, especially a shooter where your options are limited. Give the player new enemies to fight that are radically different from all of the other enemies that have been fought against the rest of the game.

Where Crysis fails with respect to the new enemies, however, is the fact that powers the player has becomes nearly useless. I spent the first half of the game using my cloaking capabilities a lot.

It would get me out of dangerous combat situations, let me get the jump on the AI, and allow me to change my style of play from run-and-gun to stealthy, depending on what situation I was in.

This choice virtually went away with the new enemies. They could often see through my cloaking and it became almost useless. I played the rest of the game barely using my special abilities, which changed the way the game felt and played. Couple that in with the more linear levels, and it becomes evident that the end of the game offers far less choice than the beginning.

CryTek would have been better off making the last third of the game more like the first two-thirds, in my opinion. They proved they can do the wide open combat game well, and they had enough variety in enemies and weapons to keep the game interesting.

By removing a lot of the choice towards the end of the game, Crysis loses part of its uniqueness that sets it apart from other shooters. The linear levels minimize the elements of strategic choice available to the player, which is the major strength of the game. The new enemies make the cloaking ability almost useless, which is another choice that then goes away.

Changing the style of the game part-way through isn't inherently a bad idea. I think it's important to understand why changing that style is detrimental to this game, however. By removing the choice that the player is given the rest of the game, the player feels less empowered. Had the game never introduced these choices, it wouldn't be a problem.

It did, however, so it should have allowed the player to continue to make those choices until the credits. If you are going to remove a choice from the game, at least offer the player a different, equally valuable choice to make in its place.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

New Design Lesson 101 on Gamasutra - Crysis

Gamasutra has put up my latest column up in the 'Design Lesson 101' series. This week, Crysis. Read it here or the cross-post on GameSetWatch.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A PC Heretic

Re-reading my last post about whether or not I'm a PC Gamer, I realized I didn't clarify what I currently am. Just as there are Sony fanboys, Nintendo fanboys, and Microsoft fanboys, I was a PC fanboy. I had an elitist sense about me. PC games were better. Consoles were for idiots who couldn't handle real games. N'Gai Croal's reference to me as a heretic (tongue-in-cheek as it may have been) makes me want to make sure I clarify my position.

I am not now a console gamer. I am not a PC gamer. I am just a gamer. I hold no allegiance to platform. I usually end up buying 360 games over the PS3 version, but that's because of Xbox Live and they usually have less performance issues. Not because I think 360 is amazing and PS3 sucks. The same goes for the PC as a platform. I will continue to buy PC games when it is the best option. RTS games are a great example. I will continue to upgrade my computer. I love playing with hardware - it's geeky fun. It's costly, that's to be sure, but as people tweak their cars, I tweak my computer.

So, I don't consider myself a heretic. Rather, I consider myself enlightened. I now make the best gaming choice, rather than the blind choice. I cannot foresee me ever forsaking the PC. I also cannot foresee me having such blind loyalty to PC games either. Consoles have come too far to overcome many of the weaknesses that used to be the reasons I gravitated towards PC games.

Or maybe N'Gai is right and I am a damn heretic...