Heavy Rain is doing really well in the reviews. I haven't actually read any of them, but Metacritic is my friend at times.
Nor have I played the entire game, only the demo but that's enough for me to discuss one thing.
The other day I was talking to a friend who'd just tried out the Heavy Rain demo on PSN and he said he really liked it. He said he liked that it seems like the game has a ton of story and that he really enjoyed the gameplay.
I agree about the story part, but the gameplay? Come on!?
During the entire demo, I rarely ever knew what I was doing untill afterwards, when it was already done.
Okay, I'm guessing and hoping this is something that has been discussed already in... Every review, but if it is, why is the game scoring so incredibly high? It's at 88/100 right now.
Let me explain. In the game, a bunch of different commands pop up on the screen. A normal situation in the game might offer you these options:
- Pull your right stick right.
- Pull your right stick in a semi circle counter clockwise.
- Press R1.
But the thing is; they don't tell you what each of the commands does. I don't know, maybe you're just supposed to "get it" naturally, but I sure didn't. They try and make them somewhat understandable since pulling the stick right will likely do something towards the right, like reaching out an arm, but I can't be sure.
For me, personally, that's completely crazy and I wouldn't dream of doing such a control scheme. However, that being said; I'm not saying it's a bad game. Everyone seems to love it, so maybe it's just me not getting it, and maybe it all becomes crystal clear if I get the entire game.
It's just that I can't let go of this weird design choice. Sure, maybe it's immersive for most, but for me it just breaks my suspension of disbelief.
When I told another friend about my frustration, he sent me a link to one of the comics over at Ctrl-Alt-Delete and really, they nailed it.
Despite all this, maybe it really is an amazing adventure to be had? I'm not saying it isn't.
I guess I'd have a roll of 15 in Strength or something in D&D and the Default Body in a character maker tool.
Not extraordinary in any way regarding my pshysique and I rarely (read: never) work out. If I did, how would I get the time to blog?
But the thing is, there's this iPhone App; "100 Pushups" that's an application you run every second day and it tells you how many push-ups to do (at least) for you to be able to 100 of them within six weeks. (There's also another version that's "200 Situps".)
Basically, it does:
- Keeps track of the day and week for you
- Adjusts the program to suit you level after each exhaustion tests
- Has a rest timer so you don’t need to remember the time between sets
- Allows you to do follow the six-week plan wherever you are and without the need to be near a computer
The brilliant thing here is, it works! Well, I don't know if I'll be able to do 100 when it's all over, but it actually makes me wanna try and keep on doing it because of one simple thing:
It shows me how many I've been able to do each time and if I do well, it increases ever so slowly. It's a highscore table, damn it!
They've created a real world meta game for me to play. I want to really push it to be able to get the real high scores.
There's just one tiny problem. I haven't been able to try it more than once, because after my first day I got muscle inflammation because of over exertion. FAIL! And now I have to wait for it to go away before I can continue.
So really, all we (I?) need to change my way of doing things is a highscore table? Looks like it.
This case is really a lot like what Carnegie Mellon University Professor, Jesse Schell talks about at DICE at one point. How "games" are reaching into the real world.
It's a great vid and I highly recommend it. He talks about several interesting things, some of which I'll discuss later here on my site as well. But in it, he talks about how Fords 's new hybrid cars have a field with leaves in the dashboard. Depending on how environmental friendly you drive, the leaves increase, increasing your "highscore".
It's absolutely fantastic! A simple display with some vegetation on it change how people drive!
It, in turn is just like "The Fun Theory", where they make people take the stairs instead of escalator and throw things in the trash instead of on the ground, by making it fun. It was initiated by Volkswagen.
Amazing power is to be had if making things fun.
Something that's been on my mind lately is the extra attention to the numbers when tweaking exposed variables. As in, values shown to the player.
Sometimes the "perfect" value when tweaking... Let's say the jump strength in a platformer is 4.56697. That's the value that makes the game feel just right, and if it's "hidden" as most variables are, then it's just fine.
But sometimes, in some games certain variables are shown to the player. Like the power of spells in a Role Playing Game or maybe the duration of a boost-skill?
Take Mass Effect 2 for example. In it you, the player, can read about the duration of skills for each level, the exact range and radius, the damage it does and even the percentage of another variable (weapon damage).
When doing things like this, what I'm wondering about is how far should you go to make the variable values "pretty". How much of a compromise? Now, in many cases I'm sure we're only talking about rounding it to the closest decimal, but sometimes I think this can be a bother and something that's a pain for the designer.
The perfect duration for fantastic gameplay might be 57 seconds, but that's in no way as pretty as 60. But maybe 60 in reality is too much? Not worth arguing about some might say, but at the same time, isn't the micro tweaking what really makes a game great?
Also, when exposing the variables, you have to keep them simple enough for that particular audience to grasp. In Dungeon & Dragon-games for example, there's a lot more statistics than . can find in Mass Effect, and that's not a problem for the normal D&D-audience, because they're used to it and might in fact like it. Meanwhile, it scares me and I much more appreciate the Mass Effect 2 approach with "medium amount" of info.
But heck, you always have to cater to the specific audience regarding all subjects and not only numbers, I guess.
This post was finished at 22:54, but it might be wiser of me to say 23:00. Sounds better, don't ya think?
Maybe I've been living under a rock or something, I don't know. Or maybe it's because it isn't established in Sweden, where I live but apparently there's this huge Online Office Suite out there that people claim to be better than Google Docs.
And as some of you might have noticed, I love trying out new tools and tell you about them if they can help you out in the design process.
http://arcadeberg.com/causerie/office-live-workspace/ (Office Live Workspace)
The Suite I've stumbeled upon is "Zoho". They seem to got it all, writer, presentations, wiki, project management, you name it. And apparently, from what I've gathered so far, they're good! Their writing tool sure is prettier than Google's and if you're into formating your text, Zoho seems to be a better choice.
I've always been a Google fanboy so it'll be hard to like Zoho, but I'll give it a real chance and hopefully it's even better than what Google is offering. Although, I haven't found any drawing tools in Zoho yet.
There's nothing like always having your docs within reach!
When talking about uncanny valley in video games we usually refer to animations or 3D models being so close to reality that even the slightest difference makes us feel that something is "wrong".
But nowadays, isn't there an uncanny valley in gameplay?
The big studios spend a lot of resources on the writing, characters, dialogue, setting and environment, creating a very believable game world. And then when we encounter a very "video game:y" solution, like a very conveniently placed platform, lever or trigger we're smacked in the face.
It does at least ruin the experience somewhat for me. Overall I'm very good at accepting the premise in both movies and games, but I do often think "How convenient..." in games like Assassin's Creed and other realistic games. But I never think like that when I play Mario, because there it all makes perfect sense within the game world.
I think that when working with a believable setting, you have to think long and hard about the context for in which the gameplay takes place.
Ten days without posting, I must be dead! No, but I've been abroad to a couple of places and just got home and I'm about to crash into bed. I just wanted to tell you one thing first.
While being abroad I met with a game developer student, recently graduated. It was pretty much random that I met him and I didn't know who he was. We introduced each other and we talked about our diciplines of development. He told me that he was a character artist and I told him I'm a game designer. That's when he said to me:
- Game Designer? I do not know what that is.
I was totally in shock and didn't know what to do. I tried explaining it and I think he eventually understood it somewhat. But apparently, some game development schools have a long way to go....
But I've been thinking about a few things while being away. So tomorrow I'll make sure to write a couple of posts (published every other day) about:
- Uncanney Valley of Gameplay
- One hand games
- Beat Boxing
I started playing Mass Effect 2 last night and I imported my character from Mass Effect (1).
During my play-troughs of Mass Effect, I've always been a bit bothered with the looks I set for my character, because his hairstyle is a bit glitchy sometimes. In some cut-scenes there's some major clipping going on. So yeah, that's always been annoying me.
After having imported him into Mass Effect 2, I got the option to keep or change the appearance of him and guess what; I just couldn't bear with me to change it. I just couldn't. Because for me, that guy with the glitchy hair is commander Shepard and we've been together for more than 50 hours already, so I can't just change him for my Mass Effect 2.
Well done Bioware!
*Phew* Global Game Jam in Skövde, called GSP Games ended last night after 48h.
It was fantastic and incredibly fun! We didn't win, but I'm still very proud of my group of four (or five, depending on how you look at things) people and the game we somehow managed to get done.
We call it Illusive Escape and it can be played online here:
You control it using only your arrow keys. Btw, it has gamepad support if you have one hooked in to your computer.
(If you don't have the Unity web player yet, you'll be asked to download it. It's safe, small and you don't need administrator rights to install it. You don't even need to restart the browser once done.)
The theme we had to follow when making the game was "Deception" and we decided to implement it into the game's setting. You're an evil magician helping prisoners escape from jail. But while they're trying to escape you have to dress them up as guards, so they can safely pass the gates without being shot.
We also had to implement a monkey, a donkey or a key; so we have some prisoners riding donkeys and keys for locking gates (so you can predict the prisoners more easily).
In addition, we weren't allowed to use too many colors or include any text nor numbers. That is, if we wanted to earn a couple of "developer achievements".
I slept for a total of 4h in the 60h, but that's the power of energy drinks I guess.
That's it for now. I'll type a short post mortem later but right now, I just wanted to show the game we made in less than 60 and give a big shout out and thanks to the great group I worked with!