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biglime
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I've had a simple game design I've wanted to make for ages, I finally got round to downloading blitzplus a couple of months ago to start making it.

It's not as hard to get into the coding side of things as you might expect(I'm a 3D artist so I'm a coding idiot) if you're willing to trawl the relevant forums and go through other people's programs and strip them apart to see what bit does what.

Its amazing how even a relatively simple idea suddenly becomes quite a task coding wise, when you break it down and are actually making it. Then as the reality of your simple idea dawns on you you also have to face the diminishing returns of programming. Getting stuff up and running onscreen is easy, I had a basic version of my game idea running on screen in two weeks(2weeks of 9-5 btw) but then as I played it it needed various refinements(and my n00b code was a fucking slow mess) its the cleaning up and re-working to a good end product thats painstaking. As it turns out my so called 'simple' idea is probably above my station at the moment and I'm considering leaving it to start something simpler, I think the rewards of actually making something that's 'finished' despite its simplicity will be enough to get me stuck into a harder project.

That Wario-Ware-Rllmuk-Style looks more and more like a tempting project :(

I'd love to work on a joint project(after I've done my stuff) but too many people are wanting to jump on the bandwagon without really knowing whats involved(myself included), maybe when I've completed a project and I see other people who've finished theirs.....

PS. If you haven't already check out Sensible's Wire Hang Redux in the development thread, nice little(ongoing) project well realised.

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That Wario-Ware-Rllmuk-Style looks more and more like a tempting project :(

Everyone seems to underestimate Wario Ware. Every single one of those games has a load of variable parameters and is superbly polished and balanced.

Never underestimate a mini-game. A game is a game. If you are writing a big game which has 4 extra mini-games then you are actually writing 5 games.

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Not those idiots.

Ihobo is essentially a flophouse of academy types and self-styled experts (like Adams) most of whom have precisely zero real experience in design (like Adams) but plenty of big ideas that sound like they make sense.

What they actually do is produce reams of witless documentation and design material of the sort that no-one really needs. And then they charge a fortune for it.

Ahahaha.

I'm going to Adams' session at the EDF, I'll send him your love.

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Everyone seems to underestimate Wario Ware.  Every single one of those games has a load of variable parameters and is superbly polished and balanced. 

Never underestimate a mini-game.  A game is a game.  If you are writing a big game which has 4 extra mini-games then you are actually writing 5 games.

Yeah sorry, I meant more in a sense of making a single mini game. I wrote some code that sprayed blue 0's out of a directionally controllable hose and had wind that affected the spray, so I'm thinking I can make the 'extinguish' mini game but as you say when you start factoring everything in(like how to make the mini-game get gradually harder and harder) it still requires a lot of time and skill to make it work.

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Everyone seems to underestimate Wario Ware. Every single one of those games has a load of variable parameters and is superbly polished and balanced.

Never underestimate a mini-game. A game is a game. If you are writing a big game which has 4 extra mini-games then you are actually writing 5 games.

While I agree with what you've said, I have some reservations. For me, the brilliance of Wario Ware is its structure. The unexplained, split-second, and utterly jagged non-presentation of the games is what makes it brilliant. All of the games themselves are pretty great, yes, but even as a three-second game they cannot stand alone. The negative context of the entire collection and the inane way in which they are thrust at the player give these games a point and a life that they could not otherwise have.

That said, I get a bad taste in my mouth at the thought of a mini-game. If I think of Final Fantasy or any other Game that plays host to some smaller distractions like card games or little racing games, the break in mode makes me very angry at the developers. Even the excellent game in the bar in Beyond Good & Evil was annoying in this sense, although it was better presented than many of these things are. Mini-games need integration if they are to be presented within a larger Game. Otherwise, they should just be separate.

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I agree totally. I was just pointing out that the mini-games themselves are extremely well crafted.

Would be a great project to work on in a development team environment though wouldn't it, imagine 20 of you with loads of mini-projects to work on, sheer variety of work.

Although actually now I think about it I wonder whether you'd just end up working on the 'button tap' games or some similar grouping. There'd still be the differing artwork styles within that I guess.

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Ahahaha.

I'm going to Adams' session at the EDF, I'll send him your love.

Just bear in mind this little tidbit of information: Adams has never designed a successful game in his life. He's been an audio producer and so on for EA, but he's never actually been a designer. (Rumour has it that EA actually rehired him as a design consultant a few years ago, only to can his ass shortly afterwards when he proved incapable of actually contributing or leading a design team).

He's part of a whole band of (primarily) American writers and bloggers who write about the 'great issues of gaming' etc without actually having ever done a major videogame project. Many of those guys have experience in other fields of games, notably paper rpgs, but crucially not in videogames.

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Didn't he get Peter Molyneux's job at Bullfrog for a bit?

Someone once phoned me up claiming to be a head-hunter to see if I was interested that very job.  :(    It was probably just a wind-up.

:)

Adams talks up his Bullfrog time a bit.

This is actually the time that he was rehired by EA (in the Bullfrog umbrella) like I was talking about, and he essentially barrelled away on a couple of unmade ideas and was then booted in short order. I can't say how I know this. I just do ;)

EDIT: He was also the lead designer on the 3do version of madden, but that was not really his own design work, and he had been an audio producer on previous iterations of the game.

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I quite liked the guy in the short frame of time that I had to speak to him at a conference dinner.

In his speech at the New Zealand GDC, he said he was an software engineer by trade and listed a fair few games in there - a few of which I recognised.

Regardless of whether he's had a design role, he raises some interesting points and gives names to concepts/happenings that exist but you sometimes don't realise are there.

Personally, I like the guy even if I don't always agree with his thoughts (Dogma 2001).

I also remember telling him that Ninja Gaiden was the antichrist of everything Dogma2001 stood for. Heh heh.

To ED: I've always wondered whether gamers would like to pay for story based game in small bits like what you mentioned. I'm still convinced that something like a 'comic book' structure could work well for gaming. For eg - you could pay $5 an 'issue' which effectively could be a few levels or if it's an RPG, a few quests or a segment of the overall map.

I think it'd suit story based games best - also, there'd need to be some reward for subscribers. Like comics, these games run the risk of being 'cancelled' but I think there's real potential in it. Shorter, cheaper, more 'interesting games. Publishers could make more money in the long run with the fan base and a bit of money in the short run as people 'try a game out for the first few issues'.

Method of distribution? Unsure. Intermawebscope. Possibly picked up from retailers like comics.

I'm not even really into comics, btw - I just find this idea intriguing.

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That said, I get a bad taste in my mouth at the thought of a mini-game. If I think of Final Fantasy or any other Game that plays host to some smaller distractions like card games or little racing games, the break in mode makes me very angry at the developers. Even the excellent game in the bar in Beyond Good & Evil was annoying in this sense, although it was better presented than many of these things are. Mini-games need integration if they are to be presented within a larger Game. Otherwise, they should just be separate.

I found the mini-games in FFVII and Shenmue to be a great distraction but that's down to the fact that I practically forced myself to play through both those games as I was curious as to what rpg/adventure games are like to play and to confirm that I don't actually enjoy them an awful lot, I'm not one for leaving things unfinished (also I can't be seen to be dissing them in any way if I haven't 'seen the entire picture' :) ) Super Hang On(which I actually played enough to be able to complete it in a real arcade :( ) and the Golden Saucer arcade where my way of lying to myself that I was actually still playing FFVII and Shenmue.

In agreement with your integration comment, the forklift racing worked a lot better as part of the main game.

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Just bear in mind this little tidbit of information: Adams has never designed a successful game in his life. He's been an audio producer and so on for EA, but he's never actually been a designer. (Rumour has it that EA actually rehired him as a design consultant a few years ago, only to can his ass shortly afterwards when he proved incapable of actually contributing or leading a design team).

He's part of a whole band of (primarily) American writers and bloggers who write about the 'great issues of gaming' etc without actually having ever done a major videogame project. Many of those guys have experience in other fields of games, notably paper rpgs, but crucially not in videogames.

To be honest, I'm not going to see Adams specifically (I'm going to see David Freeman's talk on emotion in gaming), it's just that I've read bits of the book and there's nothing else on better in that timeslot.

I'm primarily taking the Design track for the day but as you're free to pick and choose I'm going to forego having to listen to Demis Hassabis (never been a fan of his, to be honest) and go to the PSP dev talk, even though I'll probably never ever do any PSP development.

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The thing with story-games is that most people are accustomed to thinking that they need to be long and drawn-out to get the player to feel involved with the story. You would have to prove all of them wrong and make your three-hour installments draw the player in and attach him/her to your characters pretty quickly. That could be tricky. But then again, it might just be a case of making a game/story that isn't stupidly lazy and just like everything else. I also think it needs to be stylized, unusual, and distinctive to grab the player quickly and make him/her want to really get inside it.

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The thing with story-games is that most people are accustomed to thinking that they need to be long and drawn-out to get the player to feel involved with the story. You would have to prove all of them wrong and make your three-hour installments draw the player in and attach him/her to your characters pretty quickly. That could be tricky. But then again, it might just be a case of making a game/story that isn't stupidly lazy and just like everything else. I also think it needs to be stylized, unusual, and distinctive to grab the player quickly and make him/her want to really get inside it.

I never said they were all going to be the same story linked together in small installments. Indeed, the idea of gaming "short stories" intrigues me, but it'd need a lot of work to build the Player-Avatar relationship in such a short space of time.

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1) I never said they were all going to be the same story linked together in small installments. 

2) Indeed, the idea of gaming "short stories" intrigues me, but it'd need a lot of work to build the Player-Avatar relationship in such a short space of time.

I didn't mean to imply (1). I wasn't thinking of it that way. I agree with (2) and was trying to say that myself.

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The fundamental problem with "selling ideas" is that ideas are intrinsically valueless. The value lies in execution, and the ability to execute a concept requires experience, talent, dedication... blah blah blah.

There is a reason developers work all the hours God sends on even the most basic games, and that is because it is a ton of work. Most people completely fail to appreciate the scope of even the most basic software project.

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I didn't mean to imply (1). I wasn't thinking of it that way. I agree with (2) and was trying to say that myself.

It may be worth talking to someone with real writing experience (as in books). Also feeding in to what JP was saying about the Wario Ware stuff - a good short story (and mini-game) is certainly a lot more demanding and time-consuming than you may thing.

Speaking to people who write short stories, apparently there's a real art to it and in some ways it's more demanding than writing a complete novel. I think this could be applied to the mini-game theory in that you're trying to squeeze one or more gaming concepts in to an incredibly condensed space. Wario Ware is an even more extreme example given the short time limits imposed on each game. Very very hard to do well IMO.

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Remember that GT Racing game we raved over a few months back, by Simbin? They're all bedroom coders. OK, so it's built on an EA engine to start with, but they are all living off not very much money, communicating by messenger & a locked forum, and they've come up with an incredible game.

Does help having very rich people willing to bankroll it though.

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The fundamental problem with "selling ideas" is that ideas are intrinsically valueless. The value lies in execution, and the ability to execute a concept requires experience, talent, dedication... blah blah blah.

There is a reason developers work all the hours God sends on even the most basic games, and that is because it is a ton of work. Most people completely fail to appreciate the scope of even the most basic software project.

I don't know that it's valueless. Scriptwriters seem to make a good living out of it, as do tv producers as biglime mentioned. The problem is that there's no recognsied means within the industry to translate or interpret a game idea from a piece of paper. Things like design processes etc are simply not well-developed enough, and most designers are not good enough as writers, to really convey what the idea is.

What people need to see is proof of concept like a demo because nobody's able to describe the idea properly.

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I don't know that it's valueless. Scriptwriters seem to make a good living out of it, as do tv producers as biglime mentioned. The problem is that there's no recognsied means within the industry to translate or interpret a game idea from a piece of paper. Things like design processes etc are simply not well-developed enough, and most designers are not good enough as writers, to really convey what the idea is.

What people need to see is proof of concept like a demo because nobody's able to describe the idea properly.

This is clearly based on your experience and I can't really argue with that, but it's wrong to say that the industry hasn't recognised the necessity for proper processes. Take EA - their games come out on time, are produced to a very high standard, and sell well. They may not all be to your liking, but it's undeniable even without first hand knowledge of how they do it that they're doing something right, and they deserve credit for it.

However, they don't exactly do anything new. Coming up with something new is extremely difficult. You just have to accept there is no structured way of doing it. However in itself is "process" - budget for how much time you can afford to have people investigating new ideas that can be written off if they don't work out.

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Games are an interactive media, so you can't rely on comparisons with film. A scriptwriter can have his idea ready and write a script, which would then be looked at and visualised by those in a position to run with it.

By contrast, you can't visualise gameplay. You can see the concept and the genre (if it exists) but gameplay is something you can only really see when it's working. That means the designer is also going to have to have a demo put together, and that's requiring either his own development team, or his own coding skills.

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However, they don't exactly do anything new. Coming up with something new is extremely difficult. You just have to accept there is no structured way of doing it. However in itself is "process" - budget for how much time you can afford to have people investigating new ideas that can be written off if they don't work out.

Indeed.

It is a lot easier to work from the standpoint of using a genre as your base and than going from there, which is what EA often do. Genrification one of the things that shows that games are not, in fact, still in their infancy, but have become very well-developed as pieces of entertainment.

In that sense, it should be somewhat easier to create standard formats for the diffrent types of genre and maybe create a writing style in that vein. Games can potentially be a lot broader than films, although in practise they tend to revolve around the same few mechanics again and again.

That hasn't happened, though.

Instead, the publishers have focussed on demos. The problem with doing that is that it creates a natural barrier for new ideas, which may be very good but have no funds.

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By contrast, you can't visualise gameplay. You can see the concept and the genre (if it exists) but gameplay is something you can only really see when it's working. That means the designer is also going to have to have a demo put together, and that's requiring either his own development team, or his own coding skills.

For a strategy game, if I produced a boardgame version, would that not approximate the game closely enough to make a determination. You could do the same with paper? Or for an FPS or adventure game, couldn't you write a Fighting Fantasy novella that allowed you to make choices? I don't think scripts usually have detailed shot-by-shot descriptions in them, just a general sense of narrative. Why couldn't you do that with games?

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In that sense, it should be somewhat easier to create standard formats for the diffrent types of genre and maybe create a writing style in that vein. Games can potentially be a lot broader than films, although in practise they tend to revolve around the same few mechanics again and again.

If I'm understanding what you're saying, then there was a "call to arms" about this kinda thing in an excellent article in Develop by one of the designers at Intrepid (the Lionhead satellite company). It called for a standard design "vocabulary"... I can't really remember much of it except that I agreed with it. Which is handy.

One thing I do remember them doing is comparing certain platform games, and noting that the successful ones, for example, had similar "jump times" (i.e, the time duration from when you press the button to when your character hits the ground again), and the time it took to run from one side of the "arena" to the other was also similar (in both these regards Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine were almost identical). What he was trying to say was "let's all adopt a basic set of variables that is proven 'controls well' and then we can focus our efforts on the more important elements of design".

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For a strategy game, if I produced a boardgame version, would that not approximate the game closely enough to make a determination. You could do the same with paper? Or for an FPS or adventure game, couldn't you write a Fighting Fantasy novella that allowed you to make choices? I don't think scripts usually have detailed shot-by-shot descriptions in them, just a general sense of narrative. Why couldn't you do that with games?

With a script, you give it to people who will visualise it. This visualisation will pretty much be the finished thing. With a game though, you can't really tell if it's fun or not without actually playing it.

Perhaps with a strategy game, you're right about the boardgame version. And perhaps for a limited few other genres you could describe it, but for the most part you want to prove your game is going to be fun. If you've an idea that's partly original, you can't say it will work or not unless you actually test it.

Many companies will be unwilling to run with that, and that leaves many designers needing to be trained in other disciplines to get their ideas off the ground.

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Well, I have heard time and again that it is more difficult to write a short story simply because it must be so concise. You have to have a complete story with all the elements and depth that a full novel might in a very small space. I have never played a "mini-"game that is analogous to this, although I think it is possible. I think short unconnected comic-esque games are a very good idea, but, again, it would present certain unique difficulties. Anyway, being concise is a quality that I love to see in games, and I hate when people complain about a game's brevity.

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If I'm understanding what you're saying, then there was a "call to arms" about this kinda thing in an excellent article in Develop by one of the designers at Intrepid (the Lionhead satellite company). It called for a standard design "vocabulary"... I can't really remember much of it except that I agreed with it. Which is handy.

One thing I do remember them doing is comparing certain platform games, and noting that the successful ones, for example, had similar "jump times" (i.e, the time duration from when you press the button to when your character hits the ground again), and the time it took to run from one side of the "arena" to the other was also similar (in both these regards Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine were almost identical). What he was trying to say was "let's all adopt a basic set of variables that is proven 'controls well' and then we can focus our efforts on the more important elements of design".

That sounds awful.

Timing how long it takes to get from one end of the arena to the other? Length of jumps? Madness.

It's totally abitrary. You might as well say Mario games have sold more copies than any other platform series so all characters should have italian accents.

There you go, we never need worry about accents again!

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Right, a few little things to throw in here:

Firstly, Java games on phones are dead easy to write these days, and it's surprisingly satisfying playing your result on a non-PC. It's much more flexible than most people on here seem willing to accept. And the new Mobile 3D API is the easiest proper 3D development thing I've ever seen.

The second thing is I'm a puzzle game nut, and one of my great ambitions is to design a half decent puzzle game. It's damn impossible, because they're so simple you can't just add ideas until it becomes original. I heard that Devil Dice took longer to coneptualise than to develop and I can fully believe it.

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