Lit A.F. Game Design Newsletter #9

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Hello Game Designers,

No announcements this week :)

Here's what happened this week in game design.
Good Reads

Challenge Games Have Been the Norm
Before I define Creative Games, it's important to understand Challenge based games. This is what we are all used to. The developer lays forth a series of challenges that the player must overcome. There are defined goals and objectives that keep the player going. The difficulty increases at the right pace to hopefully keep the player in a state of flow.

The design philosophy behind Creative Games is that people like to make stuff. Instead of putting challenges in front of the player, the developer puts tools that allows the player to create their own world. Essentially providing a sandbox to the player.

Creative Game Examples
One of the first games to do this well was The Sims. A more modern example is Minecraft and Super Mario Maker. Even challenge based AAA games implement creative modes like Fortnite's new creative mode or Halo Forge.

Creative games are not new but this piece does a good job at dissecting their design philosophy and looking at their full history. I highly recommend taking a look at the full article. It goes into much more detail than I am able to provide here.
From the Vault
The GDC Vault, that is

Slay the Spire: Metrics Driven Design and Balance

Build, Learn, Adjust

That is the key takeaway from this talk. If you haven't heard this advice before, then you might as well engrain it in your mind now.

Slay the Spire is all about building a deck (not the same kind of build, mind you) that is used to fight enemies as you ascend to the top of the spire. You find treasure and fight bosses along the way. This game benefited immensely from iterative development.

First they built out the basic systems and put in a bunch of cards (this is the build I'm talking about).

Then they sent the game out to their beta testers (and eventually their early access players) to learn how players played the game. Feedback was gathered from in game metrics including how often people used certain cards and which cards related to good/bad runs. Feedback was also gathered from their discord channel.

They then adjusted the game based on the data to make the game more balanced. One of the key things they were trying to do was have no over-powered strategy. Or if there was one, make it very rare to come across. This forces players to play differently every time they play the game.

Let's hear that again
Iterate, iterate, iterate! Build a working version, learn from testers, make adjustments. Rinse and repeat.

Watch the full video for tips on gathering data, balancing, and Slay the Spire feature development.

Odds and Ends
A collection of links from around the interwebs
The Evolution of Gaming in Healthcare [Article]
Playing games is good for my health, right?

Why Sad Moments in Games are Good [Video]
Once you hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up

The History of Creativity in Game Design [Video]
Creative innovations in games

Challenges of Team Design [Article]
They key is to make sure everyone is on the same page
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: Steambirds Alliance
Platform: PC, Mac
Release: May 24th, 2019 (Beta)

Steambirds Alliance is a fast paced shmup with planes and cat based enemies. The 2 main mechanics are flying and shooting.

You have a red aimer so you can shoot and move in different directions. The muzzle flash is just a few sprites and yet gives a feeling of power to your shots. When the bullets hit the enemy, the enemy flashes and a number pops up showing how much damage was dealt. This number is the same when you get hit and will be a different color if you are getting healed.

Your movement speed will determine how long of a tail you put out behind you. The longer the tail, the faster you're going. This also helps determine how fast enemies are moving.

The last thing I want to say about this game is just how beautifully they have done 2.5D. Even though you are in a plane, the game is all done at one altitude. The background is a 3D environment that changes depending where you are on the map.

One improvement that would be cool is to have all the destroyed planes physically fall onto this 3D background. Then a big fight will have plane remnants below you. That sense of permanence would be cool!

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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