Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 627

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 691

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/kses.php on line 692
Mar 31

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 82

Have you ever wondered why a popular game like the original Phoenix Wright was so hard to find in stores? MTV has an interesting article on the business behind how many copies of each game get made.

“The sales life cycle of a product is shrinking,” said Svensson. If a game undersells its first month at retail, it’s finished at retail. Often, though, it’s quicker: if a game underperforms its first week, it is more than likely “dead on arrival.”

Mar 28

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 82

That’s the question a lot of people hold as the standard for games becoming a mature form of art, capable of engaging audiences in meaningful emotions.

The vast majority of fine art I’ve seen hasn’t made me shed a single tear. I’ve visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York — 3 of the world’s most respectable museums — and I didn’t cry nor did I see any visitor cry (well, maybe a baby or two). Very few movies in IMDB’s top 250 movies of all time are tear-jerkers.

If “making you cry” isn’t a good standard for evoking meaningful emotions in other forms of art, why should it be for games?

Mar 27

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 82

Once in a while, I read someone saying that Portal shows what can be done with a small budget nowadays. Yet, a lot of developers only dream of getting Portal’s “low budget”.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Portal and yes, it did have a smaller budget than other inferior games, but it wasn’t a low budget game.

Just take a look at the game’s credits — there’s way more than 100 names in there. Most of those probably didn’t work directly on the game, but that’s still a lot of people.

Let’s say the core team consisted of 15 people. According to Wikipedia, the game is based on an independent game released in 2005 — so that’s 2.5 years working on the game after a fully working prototype was made. Moreover, since the team was at Valve, they had complete access to the Source Engine — most low-budget games can’t even afford to license that engine for their game, much less afford the level of access to the engine coders the Portal team had.

Portal is a brilliant game, one of the best of 2007, but it’s not a low-budget game. The team took an established game with a gigantic budget, Half-Life 2, and added a single, but very clever, feature: the portal gun. They took 2 and a half year to make a game that uses that one feature at its best. That’s quite a margin with a real low-budget game, made from scratch in 8 months isn’t it?

Mar 26

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 82

You may be familiar with the uncanny valley. It’s the name of the phenomenon where almost, but not quite, real-looking characters appear creepy to viewers. The gap between the almost real and the real makes the character look repulsive.

As game graphics improve, we’re reaching this point. The characters in Mass Effect looked quite strange at times, for example. The makers of animated movies understand this principle — Pixar’s stylish graphics are much more attractive (and popular) than those of The Polar Express.

I’m surprised there are so few western games with stylized graphics. Manga-looking Japanese games are popular here and so was the cartoony Team Fortress 2. Why must so-called next-gen games always look more realistic?

Mar 25

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 82

Over the last few decades, a number of video game genres have come in and out of fashion repeatedly: turn-based strategy games, fightings games, RPGs, etc. There seems to be a pattern to this process.

  1. Birth: An amazing new game comes out, creating a whole new genre. It’s simple and clever and everybody loves it.
  2. Sophistication: Different teams create games in this genre, adding new features to differentiate their game. The new features make the games broader and deeper and at first they don’t make the games much more complicated.
  3. Complexification: Competition increases, forcing teams to add more and more stuff in their games. The new features please the fans of the genre who have played those games since the birth of the genre, but raising complexity makes it harder for new players to join the fun.
  4. Death: Old fans of the genre start playing other games, while very few new players try the overly complicated genre. The number of players drops and publishers don’t dare create new titles in the genre. Some established franchises can do somewhat good business, but otherwise the genre shows few signs of life.
  5. Rebirth: An amazing new game comes out, reinventing the genre. It refreshes tired gameplay by putting a new twist on it, bringing it to a whole new audience. The new game is simple and clever and everybody loves it. And competitors start figuring out what they can add to the genre…

Genres can stay in each stage for years, even decades. Western-style RPGs were born very early in the history of video games. They started very simple, but grew more and more complicated until they dropped in popularity. It took Diablo, Fallout and Baldur’s Gate to bring them back to popularity with a new point of view and a new way of playing (top-down point and click instead of first-person turn-based).

A number of modern games seem to be getting far into this process. FPSs are getting more complicated rather than more sophisticated. They got a new life by being introduced to console players, but even then I believe they’re getting into the “complexification” stage. RTSs have long reached the complexification stage and are going toward death. A few years ago you couldn’t throw a stick without hitting a RTS, now I can’t name a single one that came out in 2007. Turn-based strategy games may be having a small rebirth on handhelds: Advance Wars is doing great on the DS and the PSP has many Japanese Tactical RPGs.

Mar 24

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 82

I liked Mass Effect, but one thing that annoyed me were the over-balanced items you found. You’d find a level 7 upgrade for your weapon that would increase damage by a whooping 2% over the level 6 upgrade. I guess once in a while an enemy would require one less bullet to kill. Big deal.

I think that came from MMORPGs, which need to be very finely tuned to avoid unbalanced gameplay that would affect millions of simultaneous players. That might be fine for multiplayer games, but for single player games you need everything to feel different rather than just be technically different mathematically.

If, in a game, you offered two weapons to players with no mathematical description of their stats, one a huge sword that does awesome fire effects and the other a small sword with no special effects but which deals 10% more damage, I bet the vast majority of players would take the big flaming sword. The small sword may technically be superior, but the big sword feels superior and that’s what matters most when making the choice.

Good feedback is very, very important in making a good game. If all you give players are incremental improvements that aren’t readily perceivable, they won’t feel like they’re getting better stuff even if they are. Putting enough difference between upgrades — both mechanically and in the feel of the upgrade — makes for much better rewards.

Mar 20

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 82

A lot of games are boring and bland, with nothing really cool or original in them. With all the money behind modern games, you’d think games lacking that little extra something that makes a game stand out would be canceled so the budget can be better spent.  Why isn’t it the case?

Here’s a short list of the people who can veto any idea in a typical licensed game:

  1. The designer of the game
  2. The studio’s producer of the game
  3. The owner of the studio making it
  4. The producer responsible for the game at the publisher
  5. The higher management of the publisher
  6. The producer responsible for the game at the licensor
  7. The higher management of the licensor

Optimistically, that’s 7 people who can say “No” to anything going in the game — realistically it’s probably more than that.

By definition, creative ideas are unproven. How likely do you think it is for an unproven idea to survive through 7 levels of approval? Most games are bland because only safe, boring, proven idea can get through this process. Truly creative stuff must usually short-circuit this process to get made.

Mar 19

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 82

There’s an interesting article on the Magic: the Gathering website by Mark Rosewater, lead designer of the game. Talking about the upcoming set of cards, he discusses the importance of balancing game mechanics that make the game feel cool (form) and mechanics that make the game play well (function):

 If all the mechanics sit in the middle straddling function and form, the set will suffer. It will neither play as tight nor feel as evocative as it needs to. Both extremes play an important role in design and thus each needs to have cards at its beck and call. This means that designers have to understand the role that each mechanic fills.

You can read the whole thing here.

Mar 18

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 82

Sometimes I feel like I’ve stumbled into an alternate universe. When I was a teenager, admitting to liking computers was social suicide, now fancy computers are created specifically for fashion-conscious women. Going on a BBS was the height of nerdity, now all the cool kids use Facebook. Computers were big beige boxes that cost the price of a used car, now the tiny EEE PC costs a few hundreds.

PCs have become a cheap commodity. They’re not really exciting anymore, you buy one to browse the web and hope you won’t have to buy another one for as long as possible. Price is what matters for most  people, not performance.

Buying a 500$ video card doesn’t make much sense when the rest of the computer costs less than that. The enthusiasts who are willing to get an expensive PC to put that card in are also technologically knowledgeable enough to pirate games — and chances are they will if they want to save the money to buy their next PC.

As PCs become an inexpensive commodity, it makes less and less sense to target the most powerful computers on the market. Indeed, casual games are booming while hardcore games have a hard time becoming hits.

PCs will still be good platforms to put games on, but I expect they’ll get fewer high-performance games in the future. The most successful PC games will make creative use of the PC’s unparalleled network access and openness.

Mar 17

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 82

These days, the top 3 things I look for in a design are: is the concept Fun, Grokkable and Distinctive? Everything else is just gravy.

« Previous Entries