Lit A.F. Game Design Newsletter #7

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Hello Game Designers,

Kyle is stepping down from the team. I want to thank him for helping me get the newsletter off the ground. With that being said, please reach out to me if you are interested in joining the team! I'm looking for someone to help me with the business and marketing side of things. Just respond to this email.

Don't you worry, his departure won't interrupt the flow of the newsletter!

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

This article takes a look at the core game design reason that Anthem became a critical failure. Kotaku published a very long article interviewing multiple people from Bioware that describe the 6 years of project management hell. The reoccurring theme is that no one on the team knew what the game was about.

This idea of understanding your core gameplay loop early is vital to the success of a game. Everything else is built on this main piece of gameplay. Games that figure this out early and then iterate on that one idea can be very successful. A recent example is Slay the Spire. Their core gameplay loop is battling enemies one floor at a time while you build your deck. The bosses, stores, and different gameplay modes all support this main loop.

Anthem, on the other hand, appeared to know that they were a 3rd person shooter, but lacked the knowledge of how to close the loop. Would there be levels, raids, or is it completely open world? Even the movement was unknown because flying was put in and taken out multiple times throughout the 6 year process.

The takeaway is to figure out your core gameplay loop as early as possible. In other words, find the fun!

Watch and Learn
Great videos on game design

How Interface Screws Mess with You

An interface screw is when the game changes something about how you interact with the game. 2 common methods are to physically block the screen (ex. Ink splatter in Mario Kart or the puppies in Smash) or reverse the movement controls.

When the developers do this, they are likely trying to make you feel how your character feels. If your character is drunk and confused, your controls will change to reflect that behavior. If your character is partially blinded, then you need to be blinded as well.

After defining what interface screws actually are, Daryl talks about some implications of these screws.

My favorite topic is how interface screws mess with a player's automaticity. For example, player movement using the arrow keys is 2nd nature to most gamers. However, when the left & right and up & down keys get reversed, the player now has to fight against their previous knowledge of the controls.

Other topics include:

  • Do NPCs experience interface screws?
  • How changing the game's mechanics is like creating a new mechanic
  • Asymmetrical vs symmetrical interface screws

Watch the full video for more!

Odds and Ends
A collection of links from around the interwebs
Is Fortnite Any More Addictive than Facebook? [Article]
Hint: They are both interactive pieces of software

Making Video Games for Doctors [Article]
Turns out that games can save lives

Using Narrative as Context [Video]
Extra Credits explores balancing gameplay with story elements

The Fun of Inaccessibility [Article]
Does adding challenge to your game make it inaccessible?
Game Juice of the Week
Juice is feedback to a player's actions that is delightful and exciting. This can reinforce behavior or just feel good.
Game: Katana Zero
Platform: PC, Switch
Release: April 18th, 2019

The katana mechanic is the number 1 thing that stands out, and it should be considering the name of the game is Katana Zero.

The first thing that jumps out to me is the color of the katana's slashes. It's a bright neon blue that contrasts the dull background. The color also fits the theme of this retro style game.

One of the more interesting pieces of this mechanic is that there are 2 visual slashes. There is one big, thick swoosh and a thin, long line that cuts across the screen. The swoosh looks more satisfying as you decimate your foes while the thin line shows the angle at which your blade moves.

Each hit you land is accompanied by a freeze (or sleep or pause) so that the katana really feels like it hits the enemy.

Finally, the sound effect is a nice wooshing sound followed by another sound of slicing flesh if you land the hit.

We want to hear from you! If you have opinions about the newsletter, please respond to this email!
Thanks for reading!
- Olin
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