Lit A.F. Game Design Newsletter #17

Hello Game Designers,

I hope everyone had a great end to their summer. If fall means heading back to school, good luck! 

Good Reads - How Game Dev Made Me A More Balanced Designer
Watch and Learn - Is PS4 Dreams Good?
Game Juice of the Week - Showdown Bandit

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

This article is for the pure designers out there (Although everyone can gleam some takeaways). 

It's all about the benefits a designer gains with some development experience. When you have done some coding before, you will be able to work with engineers in a more productive way.

Understand Technical Constraints
There are always limitations on what you can put in a game. Being able to understand where those boundaries are will save you time and will save the engineers a headache.

Time, Scope, Priority
Didn't think we would get into the business side of things, eh? I focus as much as I can on design, however I think this is one of those times it's important to be aware of other aspects of the game making process.

Having done some coding, you will understand how long things take. This will help you in determining what design changes you want to make and in what order. If you have a deadline coming up, how will you prioritize what should make the cut? Maybe you think that's the producer's job or just wait for the engineer to tell you what is possible. But if you can make some educated guesses ahead of time, you will be able to have more control over the design of the game at every step of the way.

The key takeaway is to not design in a bubble. This article introduces some other aspects of the game making process from the perspective of a designer.

Watch and Learn
Great videos on game design

Is Dreams PS4 Good? Yep! But It's Also BORING!

David Jaffe (Twisted Metal, God of War) gives you his thoughts on Dreams. For those of you that don't know, Dreams is a game where you can make games. It gives you the tools to be able to make any kind of game you want while using a PS4 controller.

These types of games are a little exciting because of how easy it makes game development, but also a little scary because of how easy it makes game development. Making games is hard, and if everyone could do it, then I would be out of the job.

Jaffe curbs those scares with some good critiques of Dreams.

The Games Are Not Engaging
The games look good initially, but once you get passed the shock and awe that this was made by a fan, you see the lack of quality. The game is fun for about 10 minutes before you see the lack of depth and engagement. And these were comments about the top games on the platform.

It's for Hobbyists for a Reason
The tool does take some getting used to, and if you were really good at it, you should learn Unity or Unreal and get a job in the industry. It's just that simple in my mind.

Maybe eventually a truly easy game dev tool will come out, but for now, Jaffe doesn't think this is it.

There were a couple good analogies that he brought up that really sealed the deal with me.

Dreams is like an instrument, anyone can pick up and play it, but not many will become a star.

Dreams has been compared to the Youtube of video games. While millions of people watch low quality content on Youtube, people still shell out cash for blockbuster movies.

To end this editorial in a similar manner to Jaffe's video, if you are playing this game for fun and making games as a hobby, then by all means this is a great tool. Go have fun. However, it's unlikely to become an industry shattering tool.

Odds and Ends
A collection of links from around the interwebs
How Dead Cells Exploits Your Indecision [Video]
Forcing you to make uncomfortable decisions through loss aversion

Game Design Rebrands - New Core Mechanics vs. Fan Expectations [Video]
How to reboot a franchise...and how not to

‘NOSTOS’ Gameplay Highlights the Pitfalls of ‘VR-optional’ Design [Article]
Don't just tack on VR

History of Game Design Part 1: Space Invaders | Design Icons [Video]
A new video series from Mark Brown (GMTK)
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: Showdown Bandit
Platform: PC
Release: August 29th, 2019

I'm not usually one for horror games but this one caught my eye. It has a unique style where you play as a puppet wandering around an abandoned tv set.

The lighting in this game is really well done. Of course the first thing to mention is the spotlight that follows the character around. It really keeps with the whole TV set theme. The dark dim atmosphere, common to horror games, allows lights to guide your eyes to either look at something creepy or show you where to go.

Speaking of staying in theme. The set transitions between areas is so. Freakin. Cool. I don't have much else to say about it.

The subtle use of icons is nice here as well. Interactable objects, like a door, will have an icon appear when you get close. The icon even pops in and out elastically. There is also an 'X' marked in tape on the ground where you are walking to.

Another subtle piece of juice is how the camera and spotlight are just a fraction of a second behind the player character.

In terms of improvements, I would like the 'X' to not just appear on the ground. A really quick animation of the two crosses appearing would be satisfying. Again, nothing should just appear out of nowhere. Of course, the player can click really fast so maybe that would create a timing of feedback issue.

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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