lundi 3 décembre 2012

Why the Wii U can (but probably won't) create new gameplays.

Recently, the Wii U was released in Europe, and sooner in the US. Another Nintendo console with its Zelda Metroid Mario games, with yet another goofy controller, the Gamepad.
It's a bad tablet (monotouch), it's a bad controller (have you seen the size of it?!), the pro controller is a rip-off of the (perfect in my opinion) xbox 360 controller. And the specs. Oh, the specs ! It's so lame, so slow !
Well, it's gonna be another Nintendo console, right ?

Right ?

No !

A few days after the release in US, I started thinking about it for real.
The specs : I don't give a damn about it. We are currently playing with a 6 years-old PS3 and a 7 years-old xbox 360, and people still think they're powerful. When their successor will be out, a new generation of graphics will appear. A generation that's already ready, for quite a moment.

But I'm not here to talk about why or if the Wii U is a good system, I want to talk about the opportunities that the system can offer.

Nintendo consoles have always been better at local multiplayer, they are designed for that. But the Wii U can go one step further.
It can offer different gameplays.

As you have probably already seen, the gamepad can be used in platformers to create platforms.

  • Hey, guys ! Can I play ?
  • Eeeer... We're already four...
  • Here ! you can have the gamepad, and touch, from time to time, if you feel like it.
Somebody on the gamekult forum called it the "Tails Syndrome". In Sonic 2, a second player could play as tails. He was invincible, the camera never follows him, and the game would be EXACTLY the same if he wasn't here. The last player is bored and doesn't really play, he isn't involved.

But we've also seen NintendoLand, that shows not only the power of the console, but the opportunities gamedesigners should take.

Different gameplay for different players.
Why make a balanced game ?
In Mario Party, the rare moments when you have fun are the 3vs1 games.
In Saints Row, you can play a Golf car versus a tank. When the tank killed the golf car (it's not likely to be the opposite), the players switch, and there it is, it is balanced, because each player had the tank.

So why keeping your game balanced, if you can switch the balance ?

"Okay, but this works for short games or casual themes"
Not neccesarily;
Natural Selection and Nuclear Dawn both have 2 gameplays : a STR gameplay, and a FPS gameplay. The player can become a commander or a soldier.

On a tablet, the player can see both screens, and holds the whole system in its hands : he is bigger than the console, he can carry it, shake it, throw it. He's more powerful than the system.
The gamepad players however, only have one screen, heavy and big, lots of wires, it's bigger than them, and carrying, shaking, throwing the system would be a real effort. They are weaker than the system.

These two players can now easily meet thanks to the wii U. A god vs soldiers. Or is it a god helping soldiers ?  or a god helping farmers ? Or a farmer, taking care of its sheeps ? or a wolf who wants to eat the sheeps ?

let's throw a random game idea :
the gamepad players are in first person, and are stuck in a labyrinth
the tablet is in an above view, and can move the walls

You now have developped a small vision of the game in your head. But now, you might be wondering : "is it cooperative gameplay, or competitive?". It's compatible with both.

about multiplayer with different gameplay, the Wii U could be what I was waiting for. Let's now see if I was right, or if we'll be playing Zelda with he inventory showing the scores on the table.

mercredi 10 octobre 2012

Sequelitis : Analysis of a tutorial by a gamer

Have you ever seen this video ?
In this video, Egoraptor (creator of the awesome series) talks about Megaman, and it's transition to Megaman X.
But he also talks about the tutorial (or absence of tutorial) in Megaman X, a game more complex than the average platformer at its time.
He's a real fan, and his "analysis" isn't objective, but it's passionate. And he is mostly right. Plus, he talks about it in a funny way.

But with this episode of Sequelitis, Egoraptor makes us think about tutorial.

Those damn tutorials, always preventing me from playing the real game to tell me that I should "press jump to jump."

Hey, I can do that!? Why didn't it tell me that in the tutorial ?

Oh god, this tutorial is teaching me too many things, I'll never remember all that !

Depending on the game, the same player can have each reaction. Why is the tutorial so important ?
It's the first contact with the game.

In the video, Egoraptor already talks about why there shouldn't be a tutorial. If the game is simple enough, and uses, maybe extends, an easy gameplay, then you can make a "instinctive" tutorial, like Megaman X.
But when you play a game like Assassin's Creed, with its passive input (you don't jump, you ask the character to jump when needed), and its mode system (passive and active mode), the tutorial is unavoidable.

I hated AC2's tutorial, because it didn't show me the influence of my actions. If you remember, you play Ezio as a baby, and can move your feet and arms.
That's it, that was the tutorial. So, what can I do? move my feet and arms? thanks for the info, I never saw a game where I could do that !

Another game with a complex input, that needed a tutorial, was Alan Wake. In Alan Wake, the tutorial is simple, you can experiment what you learned before the next tutorial, easy step by easy step. Once it's done, you can start the game and you'll never be surprised by what you are doing. You know how to play. Alan Wake's tutorial isn't perfect (I don't like it at all), but that's another story.

But when you play Super Meat Boy, you have to know how to run, and how to jump. That's a very classic input, very simple and instinctive. Super Meat Boy's tutorial is displayed in front of the screen during the 3 first levels, but you can simply ignore it and finish the levels. It lets you choose whether you want to learn by yourself, or be told how to play.

Another interesting example is Resident Evil 6. I didn't play the game, but recently, a forum user posted "the controls you were never told", like how to lock an enemy, ask for help...
Why ? Why did the game teach some controls to the player, but not all of them ? And they are complicated input, pressing two buttons at the same time.

But you can still surprise your player. When I was a kid, I was playing Tomb Raider, jumping in the pool in Lara's house.

Suddenly, I made a beautiful dive. I had no idea how I did it ( HOLD R1 THEN PRESS THE JUMP KEY. ) but I got out of the pool, and tried again, and again, and again...
I was having fun, because I did something new. But it's not an important move, so I wasn't frustrated and wondering why the game didn't taught me how to do that. He didn't have to.

Don't consider your player as a stupid person. "Press up to go up" is useful in games for 3 years old kids that never played a video game, but in call of battlefield, it would be pointless AND frustrating.

Anyway, enjoy the video, and think about it.

mardi 9 octobre 2012

The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell

Being a game designer, what is it ? What do I have to do to do it ? Is there some precise ways, some documents to do, what qualifications do I need ?
Am I a game designer ?

I had a lot of these questions, mostly "how to design games?" in my mind. I'm still sure that I have some ideas, some elements that could make a great game, but how to write them down, how to create them ?

So, I bought Jesse Schell's "The Art of Game Design" (french translation made by Antony Champane, good translation for a computer related book).

So far, I'm only at chapter 6, so I'll talk more about it later.

It's a very interesting book, because it doesn't tells you everything. It forces you to think by yourself. There's no precise way to design games, there are mostly objectives : gamer's experience, objective of the game, the importance of theming...). Jesse Schell helps you think what are the objectives of your game, why and how you should think about it, by using examples, not only in video games, but in movies, painting, music... It treats games (not gaming) as an art.
But most of the time, he isn't right. He isn't wrong either, but, as he states, game design is an art, not a science. So, there are no "right" or "wrong". Everybody has his definition of "fun", "play", "game". Everyone has a different experience while playing a game.
But he helps finding your own definition, and qualities about games. What is a game, what am I creating?

For now, this book helps answer these questions. I hope that, later, It'll be more precise, but if it isn't, it still helped me think about why I am making games, and how.

Another plus side : it's really easy to read.

Should you buy this book ?
Of course not, you choose your ways to design your games. But it helps getting some self-confidence you might be lacking.

First post

Hello everyone !

For this first post, let me introduce myself.

I'm a 22-years-old french man, I recently finished my degree in Realtime 3D and Virtual Reality, and I am currently trying, with two of my friends, to become a game developer. We are mostly using Unity 3D.

In this blog, I'm going to post my experience and probably some code. It's mainly for people who, like me, want to start making video games.

I hope you'll find my blog interesting, and, if you're looking for something, that you'll find it here.

"Your blog is ugly ! "
Yes, I'm a game developer, not a web designer.

And if you're a game designer, I hope I'll hear about your games someday !