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Finding my voice: what kind of games do I want to make?
 
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tcaudilllg
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Joined: 20 Jun 2002
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Location: Cedar Bluff, VA

PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2014 8:20 pm    Post subject: Finding my voice: what kind of games do I want to make? [quote]

Having brought my game maker to an advanced stage, I am increasingly thinking about what kinds of games to make. I enjoy games and I enjoy designing them, when I have motivation. However my knowledge of the harmful psychological effects of games on certain people on the one hand, and my own struggles trying to make a mostly un-fun activity like running a food pantry fun, have given me pause. I've realized that I don't want to make games about war, nor do I want to make games that don't have action. So it comes down to the matter of how to create action that doesn't involve mortal conflict. Sports does this of course, but I'm not one for sports, either.

Of course there's also the argument that maybe the primary reason I want to make games is because I play them, so maybe my drive to make games is not so much as to make toys, but so as to expand and enhance the experience of the games themselves. This would explain why I find so little enthusiasm in creating my own worlds/properties.

Another thing that bothers me is that in creating the knowledgebase required for making high quality games, I've pretty much squelched the magic of games as an experience. I'm not the kind of person who enjoys mulling over reams of ideas just to figure what combinations of ideas/derivative ideas have not yet been tried. Music is also a problem: theme music is a major driver in gaming, but little effort has been put into the creation of tools for creating music. The web audio API offers very little to musicians and other audio experts. It's also very difficult to find musicians whose musical tastes appeal to large audiences (particularly on the cheap).

I would prefer to tell fables than fantasy stories. Headstrong jerks appeal to me from a story-telling standpoint... fallible people whose well-meant vanity results in catastrophe. How they deal with their failures is what makes them compelling, and ultimately redeems or damns them. I think "gray" is the most liberating storytelling perspective overall, in that it allows you to see people as they really are, rather than what is expedient given the situation.
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tcaudilllg
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Joined: 20 Jun 2002
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Location: Cedar Bluff, VA

PostPosted: Wed May 14, 2014 5:05 am    Post subject: [quote]

Alright so I've made some tiles for a fort and siege. Gonna make a a tactical RPG. Big issue is the mechanics. In particular, I need a growth mechanism.

I'm reminded of Darklands by Microprose. Old game from 20 years ago. You explored medieval Germany. Did all kinds of things: fought bandits in the streets; fought city guards; fought knights on the road; explored hamlets and exposed witchcraft; crashed witches sabbats; explored fiery caverns; caves with dragons; braved fortresses full of armed guards; and ultimately did battle with the Antichrist. The game had an interesting magic system based around Christianity: spells were miracles made possible by faith and divine intervention by angels. I don't think there were experience levels as such... seems like you had to train yourself by getting cash, or exerting yourself in battle. Your HP on the other hand was fixed... the key was not in improving your ability to take damage, but to lessen it by using the right concoctions and building up to buy better armor. Or to have battle strategy and power enough to simply wipe out the enemy before they could hit you enough. Everything came down to strategy and preparation.

In tactical RPGs we see a problem of advancement. To create challenge, the enemy must be designed stronger than the player. The player must work to close the gab by collecting better equipment, getting more powerful spells and skills, and grinding. In most tactical RPGs, this means retreat from battle and re-entry, or factoring in the need for exp into the battle strategy, so that weaker opponents are defeated first. This leads us back to the fundamental problem of game design today: games are designed to be won by way of a specific set of behaviors. For example, the best way to win a Capcom platform shooter is to run right through it. Turn-by-turn guides exist for winning Fire Emblem. It's possible to beat games without grinding: just take every fight as it comes. For every time an individual deviates from the designer's solution, they incur more effort to finish. Of course the designer's solution isn't immediately known... only practice and determination to finish the game as fast as possible leads to the development of stage layout knowledge that leads to implementation of the optimal process.

But even having a "solution" for a game is bad. Games should not be Rubix Cubes: winning them should be a matter of skill, not rote memorization. Instead games should be designed with multiple pathways to the same result, none of them necessarily better than another. So what to do about grinding? In my opinion, grinding is bad. Levels, for that matter, are bad. Gaining skill is bad, and unrealistic. Exploration is good. Obtaining items is good. Having diverse pathways to the same items is good. Working with items, and relationships between items, increases and drives exploration. Leveling, conversely, kills exploration utterly.

Why do gamers tolerate leveling? I remember grinding in Final Fantasy back in the day. I had two incentives: 1) my awe at the power of the final boss, because I didn't understand stats and didn't understand the importance of armor in shaping stats. Thus, I needed raw power to defeat the final boss before I was killed by it. 2) the music. The battle music in IV was excellent; in 6, OK. But VI had the esper leveling bonus, which permitted the gradual building of the game's females into invincible goddesses. This was an effect of items accentuating leveling. However the main argument I have against leveling at all, is that it's just a time killer. It's literally intended to suck up time and keep players from playing competitors' games. In that sense, it's harmful and should be curtailed.
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Mattias Gustavsson
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PostPosted: Thu May 15, 2014 9:15 am    Post subject: Re: Finding my voice: what kind of games do I want to make? [quote]

tcaudilllg wrote:
I'm not the kind of person who enjoys mulling over reams of ideas just to figure what combinations of ideas/derivative ideas have not yet been tried.


I wouldn't worry about finding something that has not been done before. Just doing something yet again, but do doing *your* take on it, telling it with *your* voice, is enough to make it interesting again.

I guess what I mean is, that novelty wears off quickly, but if you make something which is grounded in yourself, which incorporates part of who you are, can really stand the test of time.
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tcaudilllg
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Joined: 20 Jun 2002
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Location: Cedar Bluff, VA

PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2014 10:02 pm    Post subject: [quote]

Right, but think of it this way: everything is derivative. All innovations are novel configurations of existing ideas. There are many less than ideal configurations, which is why you've got to do the work of running through the bad ideas in your head before you even start laying things down, because that way you only produce excellent product. Of course sometimes you don't know if ideas will work out in advance or not, but to the extent you can evaluate something with your imagination and push it to the limit, you should.

I'm thinking of making a mostly AI driven tactics game. Been playing Agarest and realizing I hate the turn-by-turn nature of the game. Instead I'd phases where everyone moves and acts simultaneously. Sure it may not be as much graphical flair but that gets boring anyhow. Also going to add some Xenogears-style battling to the mix.
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Mattias Gustavsson
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Joined: 10 Nov 2007
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Location: Royal Leamington Spa, UK

PostPosted: Sat May 17, 2014 4:07 am    Post subject: [quote]

tcaudilllg wrote:
Right, but think of it this way: everything is derivative. All innovations are novel configurations of existing ideas.


Oh, absolutely - which reminds me of one of my favourite quotes, by Jim Jarmusch:

Jim Jarmusch wrote:
Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And donít bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: "Itís not where you take things from - itís where you take them to."


And I guess that for me, that authenticity is what really matters. And I totally get the desire to work on the best ideas, but I like to think of it the other way around - if I like the idea, and *want* to do it, I should try to find a way to realize it in a way that makes it a good game. I believe this takes practice, and I know that I personally have a long way to go there - and I believe that the only way to get there is by making lots of stuff. Ira Glass says it better:

Ira Glass wrote:
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, itís just not that good. Itís trying to be good, it has potential, but itís not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesnít have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone Iíve ever met. Itís gonna take awhile. Itís normal to take awhile. Youíve just gotta fight your way through.


tcaudilllg wrote:
Sure it may not be as much graphical flair but that gets boring anyhow.

Very true.
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www.rivtind.com - My Fantasy world and isometric RPG engine
www.pixieuniversity.com - Software 2D Game Engine
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tcaudilllg
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Joined: 20 Jun 2002
Posts: 1730
Location: Cedar Bluff, VA

PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2014 12:40 am    Post subject: [quote]

When I think back to what I loved about games in the past, I remember reading about items in Nintendo Power. Getting the items was a big part of the enjoyment. In the case of Secret of Mana in particular, reading about the game was more interesting than the game itself.

The early Saga games had a mechanic of limited use weapons. You could also find and buy items to boost the stats of some characters. Many would disagree, but in my eyes FF Legend is one of the best RPGs ever made in terms of replay value. Collecting tabs on Chrono Trigger was also lots of fun.

I think I want to tie uses of special skills to items available on hand. Not in a complex manner a la Secret of Evermore, where the value of the items is essentially abstracted, but in a concrete sense of knowing exactly what you are getting. "Stockpiling" can be fun, so long as the designer doesn't draw out the process.
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