Things been hectic for a while now and I'm going abroad for a short while in a few hours, so I'll make this super quick.
First of all, sorry for several downtimes that has lasted a couple of hours each. I've talked to my host and they're trouble shooting the machines to see what's causing it. Hopefully they're done and it won't happen again.
Secondly, Bob Came in Pieces, the well reviewed game in which I'm credited is now not only available on the developer Ludosity's site and Steam, but also on Gamersgate for both PC and Mac! If you haven't already; get it!
Thirdly, my spare time project Iskall has grown since it started and is now made by a team of 13 people, so my work as a project manager (in addition to the game/level design) is increasing. It's both good and bad. It's not as fun as designing, but I still enjoy it and it's a great opportunity for me to increase my management and administration skills.
That's it for now. I gotta get moving!
Off I go then, Tally-Ho!
I just got Wolfenstein RPG for my iPhone because I felt I wanted something RPG-ish to play and I hadn't yet played any of the Id FPS RPG-thingies, so I thought I'd give it a shot.
Anyhow, the thing I wanted to share with you was something that happened to me. Have a look at this first screen and look at the top of the screen and then in the center at the syringe that's referred to.
When I noticed the open hand icon and the text "Evade Syringe" I thought; "Whoah! That was close. I almost stepped on the syringe! I'd better avoid it.", so I left it alone and moved on.
I read the open hand as "Stop!" and "Evade Syringe" as a warning. But lookie, lookie, what I noticed shortly thereafter:
The hand means to pick up and not to stop and the text was the name of the object. The "Evade Syringe" was a usable item that I could use to gain some evasion skill for a short duration.
It's not a huge deal, and I won't be making that mistake again. But the hand in combination with that name sure fooled me.
So lesson learned for me, when making user interface you have to think on how it's read.
This is more how a pick up hand looks in my head:
When you get a work assignment as a test from a company you've applied to work for, is it cheating if you ask someone else to help you?
I think not.
I've heard people saying that's it's not okay, because a test is to see what you, the individual know and what you can do by yourself. I think that's misleading.
Of course, if you get a level design test asking you to build a level, or a programming test asking you to actually code a small game, you can't let someone else do it. But I think it's only fair to ask for hints and tips from others. Heck, I'd even recommend it.
No one would complain if you looked at other finished products and get inspiration from them. Nor would anyone complain if you did a hefty amount of googling to get your job done. But it's so taboo to ask other for help.
What's the difference? It's all "extelligense". And even when I work "for real", I still often ask others what they think and want their feedback.
If the test is to list the five games that's most groundbreaking in its way to present the narrative and why, is it not okay to ask what other people think?!
I mean, it's still you and your response that's the final thing and I think it's great if you first ask people so you can think "Oh yeah, you're right! Why didn't I think of that.". That's a learned knowledge. You now know about that game, and you're really impressed on how it presented it's narrative and you'll look it up.
What you can't do however is ask someone to list their five favorite games and just use their answers.
Okay, just wanted to share.
And I just have to link to this really awesome game I found about 30 minutes ago, called Dragondot!
I love it because of it's absolute simplicity and how it plays on our struggle and enjoyment of getting stronger in-game. I couldn't stop playing until I beat it.
I got a key for the StarCraft 2 Beta today from a friend. (Thanks Jonas.)
I suck at it. There, I said it.
But enough about my tremendous RTS-suckiness.
People envy the people having SC2-keys. And people are now screaming their lungs out, because some people have been getting invites they can use to invite other people into the game. "Everybody" wants one.
When you get access to a beta, you get the privilege to play the game before everyone else, right?
Sometimes you have to buy one game to get the beta key to another. Sometimes you have to sign up for a newsletter or register on a site. Sometimes, it's something completely different. But you usually have to put some effort into getting one, no matter the game, if it's a closed beta.
This is for me fascinating.
What a beta is, is for the developers GETTING help to find and iron out the bugs, test servers and see how well the tweaking works. The goal is to use it to be able to finish the game and do it well. It is not about giving something to the player. Yet, it's treated as a divine gift from the developers. They're so kind to let us try the game, even though it's not even done yet.
I don't like this attitude.
I'm gonna play some more StarCraft 2 now, because I can play it before everyone else. Thanks Blizzard!
A pretty default section of a contract you sign with a game developing company is that the company owns whatever you do within the area of video games, on and off working hours. And some companies doesn't like you doing anything at all regarding video game development other than what you do at work.
I know a horror story about a guy working at company X (I shouldn't mention which one here) but did modding and level designing using another rival company's engine/editor during his spare time. He got fired for working with the enemy.
Of course, you can always try and negotiate your contract. When I signed with Hello There we made it perfectly clear that they only own the stuff I do for their project in their office. They leave my site, my own designs and every spare time project alone. It wasn't a problem.
I understand why companies do this:
- The risk of people taking explicit things they learn at work and implementing it in their own projects.
- The risk of people working very hard on projects in their own time, affecting their performance at work.
But me, personally, I'm still not entirely convinced it's the way to go, because I think it's choking peoples' creativity and blowing our their fire.
If I hire a level designer, I would be thrilled if she's so passionate about level design that after she goes home, she keeps doing it, even if it's not for me. She's still practicing her craft and makes for a better resource for my company. Maybe she learnt something amazing while playing around at home?
Take me for example, I run this site where I write about game design, right? Because of, or thanks to this site, I keep focusing my thoughts and try to communicate different ways of thinking, problems, solutions and ways of doing things. If I didn't "practice" at home, I would be much less of a designer than I am today. (Not saying I'm anything special.)
And besides, if I wasn't able to, or allowed to do what I love during my own time as well, I would be less of a happy guy. And a sad person is a bad worker.
I say: Let people keep doing what they're doing!
At the moment, I'm working on some design for my spare time project I've been talking about earlier; Iskall.
The challenge I'm currently working on is to have the story, its events and the introduction of new gameplay elements to work together.
The game's overall story is set. There are a few scenarios in it, not dependent on being in a particular order to work. And all the themes for the levels are set. Right now, they're all listed in the order that makes most sense and creates the best narrative, experience and allows for some nice transitions between the levels. That is, if you only look at the story.
But here's the catch. Many of the events are directly intertwined with the introduction of new gameplay mechanics. For me, gameplay always comes first, but sometimes you have to compromise since a game is not only mechanics, it's an experience to be had by the player.
Let's draw a parallel to Super Mario Bros.. Nintendo could have introduced the Mushroom that turns Mario into Super Mario during the last levels, but it was better for the game to introduce it in the very first level. I can introduce some of Iskall's stuff very late, but it'll be better if it's early and vice versa.
And also, some events are directly tied to a specific level. Some events I can move freely between the levels, while some must be at specific theme.
Meaning, different story sections have different dependencies like theme, level and gameplay mechanic.
I have a chart showing in what order and when I want each new gameplay element to be introduced. Stuff like new enemies, new abilities, etc. But just cutting and pasting in the story to accomodate that chart doesn't result in a tight presentation context-wise. So what I'm doing right now is to find that balance.
I don't have a sure solution for this, and I don't know how it'll end since I'm not done yet. But the way I'm approaching it is to try and constantly look at the big picture and I'm trying to spread it out, so all the good stuff isn't too close together.
There will have to be some editing from both ends to make it feel just right.