Lit A.F. Game Design Newsletter #3

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Hello Game Designers,

Kyle and Olin will be at GDC 2019! Make sure to say 'Hi!' if you see us around San Francisco! You can reach out to us at @KJEveryday and @OlinOlmstead on Twitter. We'll be running a small giveaway during the event, so make sure you find us if you want a chance to win!

Here is what happened this week in game design.
Good Reads

Apex Fish in a Small Pond

This article uses a feature from Apex Legends to illustrate an example of the psychological phenomenon: "Big fish, little pond effect". This concept states that people who are ranked highly within a poor performing group tend to feel better than a person who ranked poorly in a high performing group.

In Apex Legends, the squad eliminated screen shows how players performed within their team. Even if your team did poorly compared to the other 19 teams, you may have done well as an individual on your squad. This screen is about 95% 'little pond' stats while your groups overall rank is merely displayed in small letters.

Squad Eliminated Screen from Apex Legends

The author argues that the game's designers want players to still feel good about themselves, even if their team didn't win. People tend to put a disproportionate amount of value on performing within the small group compared to how they did overall.

The lesson here is that you can make players feel good by bringing down the scope of their stats and emphasizing what the player did well while down-playing their flaws.

Watch & Learn

Fixing Anthem's boring mechs with ballsy design

It’s hard to not finish watching a video that starts with the following statement in the first 5 seconds:

“Hi, I’m Patrick Gill, and Anthem would be a better video game if the robots had truck nuts.”

Gill shows mech truck nuts

Within his Polygon video review, Gill goes into hilarious depth on the different ways games can include more memorable visual design and avoid the pitfalls of being over engineered or designed by committee (I’m looking at you, Sonic). Despite being EA’s first big AAA launch of 2019, he makes a great case that Anthem’s design is a little too safe. He then goes into detail into some “less perfect” games and uses them to show how memorable characters are made with the following half tongue in cheek suggestions:

  1. "Make it the biggest"
  2. "Make it iconic"
  3. "Make it uncomfortably sexy"

I won’t ruin the rest of the video, but in the video Gill shows a knack for combining great insights and a sense of humor that will leave you laughing with a few new ideas on how to improve your own design.

Trending Topics
The Game Designers Kickstarter Header

Zoom Out Media just surpassed its $30k funding goal on Kickstarter for it’s upcoming documentary The Game Designers. The film focuses on five different game designers within the board game industry - investigating how they develop ideas, create physical prototypes, and highlights their work and upcoming projects. There’s still a few hours to go as the Kickstarter ends on Thursday, March 7th at 11:00 PM EST.

User “theteamnoob” on reddit started a thread to ask about Games that tell the story through mechanics only on r/GameDesign. After around 80 comments and robust discussion, the redditors decided that mechanics by themselves cannot tell a story and the art of a game influences the story no matter what. Do you agree? Check out the comments in the link above and maybe add some thoughts yourself.

Earlier on Twitter this week, Mary Kenney (@Maryknews) mused about how riding rides at Disneyland reminded her of some neat game dev tricks, sparking a discussion about the overlap between video game design and theme park design. There’s a few articles in the comments that go into this concept in depth. Check it out!

Game Juice of the Week
Game: The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia
Platforms: PC, Mac
The Textorcist Attack Game Juice

This week's game juice comes from a bullet hell typing game called The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Babbia. I know, some of you might cringe at the thought of a typing game, but The Textorcist seems more like a high quality bullet hell that just happens to have a typing combat system.

Whether or not the game itself intrigues you, this entire attack sequence is a good lesson in player feedback.

The current letter, already typed letters, and future letters are all different shapes and colors

This helps make the typed words clear and legible.

Each typed letter appears as a floating particle around the player

This gives a tangible outcome to every single correctly typed letter. Long phrases create a cloud of letters that build in anticipation for the eventual attack.

Upon completion, all the letters attack the enemy

A small improvement here could be a little randomness in the letter movement. They all seem to just move straight to the enemy. Some horizontal or swirling movement would look awesome.

The enemy is hit causing a stun, a flash, and more particles

A standard move in the world of game juice, but ain't this one pretty?

Upcoming Conferences & Events

SXSW - Gaming Expo

March 8–17, 2019
Austin, TX

"Drawing in developers, manufacturers, and fans from all facets of the gaming community, the Gaming Expo is the epicenter of gaming culture at SXSW. Here is where you’ll find the Indie Corner, Tabletop Experience, PC Arena, Arcade Bunker, and much more."

The Game Developers Conference (GDC)

March 18-22, 2019
San Francisco, CA

"The Game Developers Conference (GDC) is the world's largest professional game industry event. GDC brings together 28,000 attendees to exchange ideas and shape the future of the industry with five days of education, inspiration, and networking at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco."

PAX East

March 28-31, 2019
Boston, MA

"PAX is a series of gaming conventions held in Seattle, Boston, Melbourne, Philadelphia, and San Antonio. Founded by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, authors of the popular web comic Penny Arcade, each PAX is a show dedicated to supporting and celebrating video and tabletop gaming. Since PAX’s inception, millions of attendees have enjoyed the expo floor halls filled with booths from major game publishers and independent developers, panels from video game industry insiders, game culture-inspired concerts, LAN parties, tabletop gaming, competitions and much more."
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Thanks for reading!
- Olin & Kyle
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