I think Project Natal can prove to be a stroke of genius from Microsoft’s side if the technology actually works.
But the one big issue I have with it is that it is input only.
I’m not in any way saying that this will cause it’s utter and complete failure, but it is something that every “Natal game designer” will have to work on.
If Natal actually works, it will be able to pretty much keep track of your entire bodies motions, facial recognition, color recognition and voice recognition. These are all inputs. It gives nothing in return.
What the player will get is audio/visual feedback from the TV/speakers just like with any other game and the designers will have to make that part top notch if it is to provide a great gaming experience.
A “normal” controller gives lots and lots of feedback! Not only does is shake/rumble that might be the first thing people think of, but every time you press a button you can feel yourself doing it, you can feel when it’s pressed and when it’s released. When you’re pulling the sticks, there’s a force applied to your thumb that along with its position and angle tells you how far you’ve pulled it.
Some might argue that Natal is like Wii with its motion sensors, but I disagree. You still have the physical Wii-mote, its weight and its buttons. I don’t think it’s anywhere near Natal.
I think even the iPhone would be a better comparison. There are tons and tons of games being released for the iPhone and many of them suffer from not being able to give the player enough feedback when it comes to controls. I get sad every time I see an iPhone game with a D-Pad smacked right onto the screen. It really never works.
But games using the accelerometer and make games that you lean and tilt the iPhone to control, they work like a charm, because you get 1:1 feedback. I lean the iPhone, I lean what’s inside the iPhone.
Another input only gaming device are microphones used in singing games, like Singstar. The microphones don’t give any feedback to the player and the great thing is; they don’t have to!
Just as Singstar single handedly proves that it doesn’t have to be problem, a game for Natal could easily do the same. But I’m really hoping that all Natal designers out there will work hard on this issue and create something other than karaoke games and “dodge the ball”-stuff.
I have no doubt in my mind that it’s possible.
And btw, no one said you can’t have a game that uses both a normal controller and the Natal-camera, right? Enhancing!
There are a gazillion games out there based on Greek mythology. There's yet another billion based on the Japanese lore and still a crazy amount with the Chinese version.
And let's not forget all the ones with christianity in them.
I want more games with Norse mythology, damn it! We got characters that are just as cool as the Greeks and we got gore, blood, betrayal, giants, snakes, wolves, dragons, castles, love, horses, axes and the coolest beards ever!
There are even some great games on Norse mythology. How about Max Payne, huh!? Or Rune!
Now, enough with the Greek minotaurs and in with the Norse ice giants!
Arcade, over and out!
Okay, so I was thinking of stuff that I could do together with my girlfriend that's creative in mind and where you actually create something. Then, somehow I came to think of sewing plush animals (maybe 'cause Kanji does it in Persona 4, who knows) and I suggested it. She gave me a funny look, but eventually we went to buy the stuff needed; needles, cloth, button eyes etc.
Okay, so, five things came out of this:
- The knowledge that I really can't sew... Wow, I really can't.
- Mycreation, simply called; Arcenstein's Monster.
- Extreme laughter from my girlfriend when she saw Arcenstein's Monster finished.
- My girlfriend's creation, named Barney. And btw, she can sew... Bastard. Oh, and I meant the plush dude is named Barney, not my girlfriend.
- A gaming idea.
Now, about my idea. Maybe this has been done, if so, I haven't heard about it. But what about a sewing game for the Nintendo Wii? I'm not actually sure about how it would work. But with all these new ways of interaction with the Wii, the DS/iPhone, PS3's Wii-thingy and the 360's Project Natal; there really oughta be some way of doing a decent "game" out of it. I mean, they've made games about surgery.
Hey, they must include some stitches, right?
Anyway, as often here on my blog, "it's just a thought".
Think about it, make it and then let me know!
I've posted a couple times about my notebooks in which I constantly scribble and doodle ideas.
Here's a post with some of them:
And here's even one where I talk about a special kind i like:
But I think the "Swedish Innovation" has some serious competition now. If the Microsoft "Courier" is real, then it's love at first sight!
Just look at it! And watch the video!
I can really see myself using it. Constantly! I want one. Now!
Isn't this any designers dream? (Let's leave out the popular hate for Microsoft.)
The only thing that could make me fall less in love right now, would be if Apple came and said: "Yeah well, look at this!" and BAM they slam a better tablet/booklet down Microsoft's throat!
Oh, and if all the water marks didn't help you out; I found it over at Gizmodo:
I’m a big fan of handheld games. There are some games I really love on the Gameboy, Gameboy Advance and the Nintendo DS for example.
What I like are the games. The gameplay, the graphics and how incredible fun they are, proving that technical restrictions doesn’t have to mean less fun.
However, I don’t like them being “handheld”. Well… Rather; I don’t like having to hold the game in my hands.
Sure, it’s great that you can bring them along. I personally travel a few hours by train every other week and if I’m not using my laptop, it’s a pretty sure bet you’ll find me with my DS.
But when I’m home, I don’t wanna sit in a chair, looking at my own hands, having my arms and neck hurt. I wanna play on my big screen TV, leaning backwards in the sofa.
One of the best peripherals I’ve ever owned was the “Super Gameboy” for the Super Nintendo. It was a cartridge you put in the Super Nintendo console that you then inserted a Gameboy game into, and voila, you could play the games on the TV, using your SNES-controller. That’s how I played pretty much all of my Gameboy games.
I want to be able to do something like that today too. Okay, so the DS touch screen is required, then find a solution or just let me use the actual DS as the controller.
Okay, enough rage blogging. Time for me to go back to the Tales of Monkey Island!
When applying for a job in the game industry, chances are you'll have to do a work assignment before even getting an interview, for them to make sure you're The (Wo?)Man! That is, unless you're über and everyone knows who you are, in which case, you won't learn much reading this.
The thing about these work assignments are that you can never be really sure about what to expect, but there are some "unwritten rules" that you can think of to help prepare yourself. Now, these rules are just what I've managed to gather myself, so don't expect much of a basis for them:
- It's small enough for them to be able to review several ones, since you're not the only one applying for the job.
- It's small enough for you to be able to finish within a week. They can't really demand more.
And by these two rules, you can use your own references of your diciplin (artist, level designer, etc.) to make some conclusions. Like for Level Designers:
- You will not be asked to build an entire level.
- You will not be asked to learn a new editor and build anything.
I've personally done only two work tests for level design and they were both quite similar, becuase they both were about designing (not building) a level/area based on prerequisites from the company.
I've found it very hard to find real examples of work assignments for level design positions online. Most articles are more in the likes of "they could be like this, similar to that, imagine this" but not an actual and used test.
I will post the actual level design test I got from GRIN back in the spring of 2008. I do this with approval from GRIN GBG's Lead Designer at the time, the man who gave me the test.
And in hopes of being helpful for all aspiring level designers, I'll also post my reply to it. The result that actually got me the job.
I hope you like it.
The original (but PDFified) assignment can be downloaded here:
If you don't feel like reading the entire thing, here's a summary:
Design a level for four player co-op FPS, each player with their own set of tools (from a list in the document) and write step-by-step instructions on how to play the level.
- A fictional game
- The gameplay is about solving things together with the teammates
- Realistic setting
- Must draw a map
- Pretend the game is done using Half-Life 2's Source Engine
First of all, take note that even thought I'm a Swede, applying for a job in Sweden in an office with only Swedes, the test was still in English. All documentation is always done in English in the game industry. At least in Sweden.
After reading the assignment, I reached two conclusions:
- I decided to write a short document for the Game Design as well. I don't think anyone else that applied did that. It wasn't part of the assignment, but since I have a passion for game design, I felt I needed to clarify how I imagined this "fictional game".
- I was happy that we were to pretend it was for Half-Life 2 because I have experience modding for that engine. I therefore decided to actually build a playable mockup of the level as well for Half-Life 2.
I tried to keep the game design document short since it wasn't an actual part of the assignment and I didn't want the employer to get bored before even looking at my level design. It ended up as a four page document, describing the setting, playable characters, tools, enemies, actions and how I defined "realistic" in a game:
After I was done with the game design, I started sketching on a level design. Strangely enough, I never started over from scratch but I kept with my original idea during the whole process. I kept iterating on it, sketching varieties and whatnot.
The level was basically designed by first sketching it, then building it for Half-Life 2 and then creating the map. Building it helped me get the scale right and I could trace an overview of the actual map in Photoshop, making my map picture have a perfect scale. I reused this technique for another work assignment I've done for another company.
The actual map ended up like this:
I worked hard on making the map easy to read, clear and I made small icons with explanations on what they meant. Like enemies, covers, switches, etc. Afterwards I started making notes on it by writing them by hand. I chose to do them by hand because I wanted them to have a "friendly" appeal and to exaggerate the "notiness" of them. I don't regret that decision.
The playable version of the map can be found here:
I provided both the playable file and the workfile. I didn't expect them to play it or open the workfile, but it's a lot about appearance and I wanted to make it clear that I want to keep my way of working transparent to them. And of course, I was hoping for extra points for dedication.
In my Level Design Document I went through the entire map, Step-By-Step, by showing zoomed in areas of the map and describing it with text.
You can find all the images here (also shown in this post):
And the most important file of them all; the 17 pages Level Design Document here:
Why did I get the job?
Of course, interviews and showing who you are as a person are just as important as a work assignment, but putting that aside, let's focus on the results of my test.
An extremely important thing to know about work assignments are that your result is not simply quantifiable and it's not easy to say that one result is better than another. What it all comes down to is what the reviewer happens to like, personally. I was lucky in that way, because the lead at GRIN happened to like my way of thinking. If there had been someone else reviewing my result, I might not even have gotten an interview. Who knows?
I focused heavily on three things:
- Height difference
- Working in pairs
For me it's a natural choice to have a lot of height differences in the level, because a flat level is among the most boring things you can do.
Since it was supposed to be four player co-op, I had to come up with an interesting way to play it. I decided on having the players split up into two pairs from time to time, instead of having them all work in one group or splitting them all up.
With the help of the tools I'd divided amongst them, I made two players being able to see in dark places and two players could survive within areas with poisonous gas.
Afterwards I had the higher areas of the level be full of the gas and the lower parts being extremely dark, thanks to this I could have the players split up, helping each other progress within their own "kind of environment".
The Lead Designer told me he liked this approach very much at my first interview. I was very grateful, because I still think I took a chance there with such a different idea.
I think I was the one applying with most text with my 21 pages and to this day, I'm not sure this was good or bad. It was good that I managed to explain everything I guess, but I can imagine people scratching their heads before starting to read it. But really, have as much text as you feel you need. Don't try and shorten it just because you think it's too long.
In the end, my result landed me an interview. My interview (with only the Lead Designer) landed me another interview later on with the producer, lead level design and associate producer and finally, a month after that I got a call saying I got the job.
I hope you've found this post informative and helpful if you were curious as to how a work assignment for a level design position can be like. This is just my scenario, but still, it's a real one.
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to comment.
Thank you for reading!
All links: 17/9/2009
When you're trying to get a job within the game industry, there are two things you need to do.
- Be able to present yourself in an attractive manner.
- Be ready to do a work assignment.
Today, I'll the discuss the first thing.
Presenting yourself is preferably done with a kick-ass portfolio. Depending on your profession this will manifest itself in various ways. Are you a designer, programmer, 3d artist, animator or perhaps a level designer?
Let's assume you're new and you want your very first job as a game developer, then you'll have a real hard time becoming a game designer.
It's very hard to build a portfolio on your own as a game designer. You can write as many game ideas and game design documents you want, but chances are slim that any recruiter will actually read them. The best thing you can have are actual games made and those usually require more than designers to make, right?
What are you gonna do, put a lot of .pdf's on a site? Good luck. Have fun.
Personally, I think that all the game development programmes at Universities are great for this. That's the "path" I took and it helped me greatly, as I had a couple of projects in my portfolio before my first job. Sure, none of them were a success, but it's still better than nothing.
Take note however, that my first job was not as game designer, it was as a level designer. I'll get back to that soon.
Artists can "easily" create a fat portfolio by himself, assuming he's actually good enough. Same goes for animators. Both have their pretty galleries and show reels to show off, having a very tangible way of showing their skill.
Here's an example of a show reel by an animator friend of mine, currently working at Epic Poland / People Can Fly; Markus "Metal" Hammarstedt:
Programmers are tricky, because it really depends on what kind of stuff they code. But they still often create something... Concrete. So if luck is with them, they can share their creations in one way or another. Demoing physics on YouTube or having entire applications/games on a site.
Lastly, Level Designers are kind of like artists but still... Not.
A level designer can in most cases work independently and create level after level, hosting them all on a website, take some pretty screenshots and let it speak for itself.
Here's an example of an amazing level designer I had the pleasure to work with at GRIN, who's done just that; David "CozyDave" Lundvall:
You can also record some videos. Like I did with my bachelor degree project DM-Theatre:
The problem is; screenshots and videos don't actually relay the actual play experience. You can't tell how fun the level is, just how pretty and a rough estimation on its flow.
If you got ze über-skills a lot of people will play your levels online and you'll build up a reputation and if you're mega lucky, the guys employing will have heard of it. But... That's not likely. And no, that sure as hell didn't happen to me.
But it's still useful to have that portfolio with levels, just to show people that you know how to handle the tools, editors and have an understanding of art in level design.
The funny thing is, I didn't have a portfolio site or any levels created available to the public when I got my job at GRIN. Oh no, what I used was luck.
In two days I'll publish my actual work test I got from GRIN and what I did to land a job as a level designer at what was at the time; one of the most awesome developers in the world.
PS. Sorry all you audio guys, producers and all other professions that I left out. Still love you!
I love it when developers try out alternative art styles. Even if they don't all suitable to my taste, I still appreciate them doing it, because diversity is needed.
There's finally some video of gameplay available on Deathspank from Ron Gilbert with a 2D/3D-mix.
But the one game that has really caught my eye for its' art style alone is definitely 3D Dot Game Heroes.
What is this? Pixeled 3D-art? Well, it's different, hence you should have a looksie. As far as I know, there are no news about a US/European release.
Oh, and btw; I for one actually thinks the game looks like fun to play as well!
When playing Scribblenauts I constantly find myself trying to make each and every scenario harder than it has to be. And it’s fun!
I’ve spent a few hours with Scribblenauts for the Nintendo DS. A game that instantly became one of my all time favorite handheld games. It’s brilliant.
The game in itself is a designers dream, really. If you don’t know about it, I recommend reading up on it or checking some video review.
Summary, coming up:
You’re Maxwell and your mission is to get your hands on a Starite (a star) on every level. Either by simply reaching it, or by solving a puzzle; depending on if it’s an action level or a puzzle level.
The amazing mechanic however, is that you can bring up a keyboard and write any word in it, and it will spawn in the game world. And the crazy thing is, it has a huge amount of words hidden in there. I’ve spawned “laser sword”, “tranquilizer gun”, “wings”, “behemoth”, “ninja”, “shuriken”, “Kraken” and so on… And so on… And so on…
Each thing has a behavior, so you can attack with weapon, shoot with guns, drive vehicles, etc. If you write “hunter” and then “bear”, the hunter will kill the bear.
And yes, you can write “maid” to have her clean up and then type “shotgun”, grab it and kill her. Amazing, isn’t it?
The game in itself is worth all the attention it is getting. I, like many other developers are thinking:
- Why didn’t I think of that! Daaaamn you, 5th Cell!
But(!) the thing that I find really interesting with this game is how I, and most other people play it.
For example, there is one level where the mission is to reunite a cat on a rooftop with a girl standing on the ground.
An obvious, working and easy way to do this would be to simply type “ladder”, climb up to the cat, pick it up and carry it down to the girl.
Did I do that? Of course not! I tried a ton of stuff, like using dynamite to simply destroy the house. Unfortunately, the cat died and I failed. I used a “fan”, placed it on the roof and had the cat blown down. You can use a “helicopter” to get there. Or why not a “jetpack”?
I know I’m not alone in pondering on how to finish the level in a cool, interesting, unnecessary complex or just not an “obvious” way. That’s what makes the game fun for us.
You can’t really “beat the game” (don’t confuse this with finishing it, which you can) because we’re encouraged to try out these mad ideas.
This shows that if you give the player a big enough playing field, there’s a good chance for him to have fun on his own without constant pampering from the game’s creator. This is also often the case with games including a lot of physics, where the player is likely to play around with that, finding different solutions for a given problem.
It’s a fantastic thing, when players start having fun in a game when it’s not just by progressing in it. It’s more of play than a game.
Scribblenauts isn’t the only game that empowers this behavior, but it’s the game that does it best in a very long time! To be completely honest, right now I can’t think of any other game that does it as well.
The two funniest words I’ve found out yet are:
- Longcat – If you’re a lolcatz-fan and is familiar with 4chan, this one will crack you up!
- Ninjashark – It’s a friggin’ Ninja Shark! That is just pure awesomenesss!
When I personally design games I usually try and stay as far away from luck as possible.
Luck is basically the opposite of skill, since it’s something you don’t have control over. For me, that’s the opposite of what the player wants to do. He wants to perform, to affect the outcome of the game, right?
But yes, I can’t deny that luck can be very efficient in game design as well, even if I’m not personally a fan. Like when picking up a Power Up and you don’t know what you’re gonna get.
For me, a rule of thumb when it comes to implementing luck into a game is to figure out where it lies in the scale from “just for fun” and “hardcore competition”.
If the game is used for competing with other players and perhaps even just with bots, luck shouldn’t be a big factor. Imagine playing Quake online and once you have the aim on an opponent and press Fire, a slot machine appears on screen. If you get three of the same icon in a row, he dies, if not, he is unaffected. That’s not really a way to excel.
But when it comes to games that you play “just for fun” (one could argue that’s the reason we play any game but think of it more as a play than a game) even if they are competitive, like Mario Kart with friends, luck can be great.
You never know what Power Up you’re gonna get but that’s just a part of the thrill.
I’m gonna tell you a little story about my time at GRIN and the power of luck.
At GRIN, we were a group of people that usually played LAN during lunch breaks and other spare time. We played GRID, Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead, some were playing Company of Heroes and there was some Battlefield 2 going on. But all the games had a lifespan of a couple of weeks, because after a while it was clear who was the better player and people started having less fun because they never won.
Then, brilliant as I am, I suggested we played Worms Armageddon.
A group of seven people, including me, started playing Worms Armageddon via LAN everyday. To make a long story short, we ended up playing 2-7 matches per day for about half a year. The only reason we stopped playing it was because… Well, our office was shut down. (I hope they’re unrelated…)
What was so amazing with Worms was the tremendous amount of luck and dumb fun involved. You never knew what kind of weapons you’d get your hands on, so even the “worst” gamer could get his hand on a Holy Hand grenade and wipe out an entire team.
The key here is that we never knew who would win the game. And everybody won now and again, even our sound guy Anders… If you’re reading this (I don’t think he is), I’m sorry.
Because of this, we could keep on playing. The game just never stopped being fun.
Skill mattered, but luck triumphed. We were just playing for fun.
If I have to reach a conclusion at the end of this post, I suppose it is that you should think long and hard about what the effect of having luck in your game will be and that it’s a two-edged sword.
And don’t drink and drive!