Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dynamic vs static customization

Mass Effect 3 multiplayer demonstrates how important quality is to customization.

It's not enough for the player to have choices. If only a few choices are appealing to the typical player, then you have enabled the player to choose a particular playstyle but have not improved replayability. If the player does not alternate between a variety of options, but rather sticks to one or two playsets, then the game is less dynamic and less perpetually exciting for that player.

In ME3 multiplayer, I am constantly rediscovering classes and weapons. Returning to a previous choice after playing with other choices makes that option feel fresh and even surprising.

Monday, February 06, 2012

AI and predictability

I played the Syndicate demo again. My character is level 7 now. I have probably played that same mission seven or eight times now.

What strikes me is how important the AI is to the replayability. I see players using the same weapons and skills, yet the battle is a little different every time.

In the movie The Ghost and the Darkness , one character tells another, "They've got a saying in prize fighting: Everyone's got a plan until they've been hit."

Good, dynamic AI forces players to adapt every time. It provides just enough predictability to enable strategy, but it doesn't let players anticipate everything.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

memory markers

Dynamics make a game feel longer.

I realized this after reading an article about "Why Times Goes Faster as You Get Older." The article's point is basically that new or unique experiences act as markers in one's reflection on one's history as a whole. The older a person gets, the more routine his or her life is likely to become. By seeking out new and bold experiences, we can slow our lives down... at least in perception.

Likewise, unique and memorable experiences act as markers in a player's reflection. If you want players to feel like they have gotten their money's worth, dynamics can help create an impression of a grander adventure.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Kinect bar games

Microsoft could sell a lot of console-Kinect bundles by creating a good collection of bar games which involve shouting.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

NPCs as geographical indicators

Maps are great when designed well, but landmarks also help.

While roaming alleys in Deus Ex, I realized that I was using particular NPCs like landmarks to tell me which direction to go.

I was able to do so because the NPCs were various and unique. One had wild red-dyed hair. Another had a green mohawk.

If your NPCs are going to be just standing around anyway, why not make them useful in this way?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

preorder bonus announcements

Dear publishers,

If you're going to offer different preorder bonus content through different retailers, announce all of those offers simultaneously... or at least inform us that further offers are upcoming. Otherwise, you're ensuring that some customers will have to cancel one preorder to place another so they get the specific bonus content they want.

A choice is less of a choice if not all options are on the table when the decision is made.

If physicians take an oath to do no harm, salesman can at least try to avoid needlessly annoying their customers.

I'm looking at you, Warner Brothers.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

CGI could be more than advertising

CGI trailers are expensive to make. I get it. But so is the average live-action Hollywood film.

So why haven't we seen Vivendi, EA or Ubisoft devote some of their CGI talents toward making full feature-length films? Surely, there's a market.

production team size vs pacing

How much of the growth in development team sizes is a result of scheduling pressure from publishers?

Just because four people can accomplish the same work in half the time as two people doesn't mean putting four people on the job is the most efficient use of human resources. Accepting just two people means accepting slower production, but those other two folks can be applied to a different game.

Would publishers be better served by producing more games at a slower rate?

Bear in mind, this doesn't necessarily mean a barren publishing schedule. If average production takes four years instead of two, the publisher can still rely on regular releases by offsetting the various studios (Studio A's game releases in Spring 2010, Studio B's in Fall 2010, Studio C's in Spring 2011, etc).