Monthly Archives: June 2013

Game Design: Punishing For Success

One thing I’ve noticed when playing games is that many games intentionally or inadvertently punish successful players. Some of this is necessary, to prevent abuse, but other times it feels damaging to play, especially in a single-player experience.

The core example of this would be games with “adaptive difficulty”. This takes a variety of formats; sometimes they’re based off of a universal game slider of difficulty, but sometimes they just determine the challenges faced in the game. This would include something like the AI Director in Left 4 Dead, which will occasionally add more challenges if the players are doing exceptionally well to keep things interesting, but also like GearHead‘s reputation system. The problem inherent in GearHead’s system is that Renown is earned like experience whenever the player is victorious, but can ramp up quicker than players’ levels. Continue reading

Table Reflection: Learning to Roll With It

Get it, because tabletop games usually involve dice?

Sorry, I figured I’d break the ice with a pun.

Moving on into more serious matters, tabletop gaming is one of my major hobbies-it’s cheap, entertaining, and social. Even though a lot of people who do it are often falsely labeled as anti-social (after all, who gets together to celebrate oft-violent narratives?) and some are rather accurately labeled as anti-social, I know a lot of great guys through the hobby, some of whom I’ve met online and some of whom I’ve met in person. Continue reading

Skyrim Versus Oblivion: A Game Design Perspective

Let’s quick get this out there: I love both Oblivion and Skyrim, and I’ve spent about an equal amount of time in each (I won’t throw out a number, but let’s just say that I could’ve made a lot of money by being productive in that time). The Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages has a more mechanical list of these things, which can be found here: Differences Between Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim. Of course, I look at things from a slightly different perspective than just the mechanical, and look to see if any of the mechanical changes really had an impact on core play. Continue reading

Learning from Dungeons and Dragons Online Part 3: Financial Model

Dungeons and Dragons Online, as I’ve said before, is my favorite MMORPG, and there’s several things I like about its business plan that really help me as a player who isn’t willing to subscribe but is willing to buy content on occasion (though that might change; I’m not planning on subscribing forever but I might pick up VIP for the months when I’m off school next summer). Continue reading

Switching the Model

Some people may have noticed that I’ve been doing daily posts. This is really nice, but it’s not terribly sustainable, especially as full-time school starts up again and I need to worry more about writing massive essays and working on my honors thesis. I’m going to switch to a three-post per week system, and here’s what you can expect:

  • Monday: Game Design
  • Wednesday: Project Update
  • Friday: Table Reflection
  • Sunday: Extra! Continue reading

Dust Watch: Filling the Void

One thing I’ve been doing with Dust Watch is trying to fill a market void-that is, the fact that there aren’t many great sci-fi games that are easy to play and offer engaging, deep settings. There are enough to make things difficult for me, but I’ve still got to look at some of the other things in the market, especially when you consider Dust Watch’s elevator pitch:

An exotic science-fiction setting where faith and technology come together on a planet divorced from the rest of mankind. Continue reading

Learning from Dungeons and Dragons Online Part 2: Story and Presentation

I really wrote a lot of nice things about DDO, and now I’m going to get less nice.

DDO, while an exceptionally good MMORPG, is still somewhat lacking in storyline. I don’t mean this so much in the small scale as in the large scale; Korthos Island, for instance, gives you a short, simple plot, and you wind up liberating the island from the Sahuagin. This is good, but the truth of the matter is that there’s not much in the way of a “You’re an epic hero sent out to save us” thing, unlike, say, Oblivion or Skyrim (though, with Skyrim’s final bossfight *grumble grumble*) where the player is the definite protagonist. Continue reading

Learning from Dungeons and Dragons Online Part 1: Mechanics

My favorite MMORPG is Dungeons and Dragons Online; and I think that it’s because we can look at it as an example of a very different approach to a massive multiuser gaming experience.

Traditional MMORPGs tend to be pretty stereotypical-you picture a guy in armor running around clearing out dungeons full of foes and purging the land of wickedness. DDO does exactly the same things. It does them, however, in an incredibly different way. We won’t really be looking at the free-to-play model here (though DDO has gotten me to have my worst case of alt-itis ever, courtesy of trying to save up for adventure packs as a non-VIP), but rather at the gameplay; for MMO designers DDO’s model is perhaps a great starting point, but I’m looking at it from a more general design perspective. Continue reading