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  • Guest Post: Rethinking War in the FPS

    Posted on March 30th, 2011 IndieGamePod No comments

    Games like Call of Duty and Battlefield have shown that war games, done right, can be amazingly fun and wildly addicting. They do this because they are designed well, and the concept of it all opens up a lot of fun possibilities for the designers to work with. But through Call of Dutythe many iterations, with many more to come, and a lack of emphasis on story, designers have dulled the terribleness of war.

    That is not a good thing. Just to make sure we’re clear here, I have no problem with games focusing on war. I just feel that the with light-heartedness some companies put into their games, they are missing something incredibly moving.

    First, let’s put war into perspective. In war, multiple countries ask or force millions of men and women to fight one another with weapons that blow holes in people. Millions of young lives come to an end for the better of the country.

    In war, people go through traumatic experiences. People lose limbs, are given quick surgery so they can get back up to help, watch friends die, and go through absolute hell. The lucky ones come back, and the absolute luckiest come back in one piece. Some, after war, cannot sleep. Others cannot be in public. Some go through flashbacks, completely losing grip on reality.

    Words cannot describe how terrible it is, a lot worse than the armed forces commercials make it sound, not because of the physical demand, but because of the psychological torture one experiences on the battlefield. How much of this do video games take into account? Not much.

    When you play Modern Warfare 2, you do not think about any of this. The story is more like a James Bond movie than a war story. There are many things designers can do, if they are willing to step outside the ditch they have dug out for war games, to refresh and make right the genre. Modern Warfare 2We need to reexamine the blueprints of the modern war first person shooter.

    First, designers need to change the way they show their enemies. When you infiltrate a camp in a usual game today, you are made to believe that everyone you are about to kill is a dirty, rotten, cocky scumbag, as if that justifies killing them. The designer is telling you it is morally acceptable to kill these people, using some of the same methods that wrestling-writers use to make you root for a certain person, the good guy.

    The designer should avoid giving you these thoughts. The player should know that he is probably killing respectable people, men AND women, who probably have loving families at home like you. Instead of doing this, designers have twisted them into the generic “bad guys”, either to make the player believe in his cause or to make what the player is doing morally right, somehow.

    So, I want to see the occasional enemy pull out a picture of their family after being shot. I want to see the youth in their face. I want to see both sexes on the battlefield. Before infiltrating, I want to watch from afar as the “bad guy” picks up a piece of trash, or horses around with his/her friends.

    Secondly, the overall story, the war, needs to be a little less cut and dry. In Modern Warfare 2, the good and the bad is carved out very bluntly. Sure, there is betrayal and going undercover, but I am talking the issues – the reason you’re fighting.

    It should be possible that your country is wrong. The right-wrong question in the game should be open to moral debate. Maybe there are rumors that you’re country is fighting for the money, not for the good of people. By leaving this question open, and removing the black and white approach on all levels, we allow the player to question the morality of it all on his/her own. This is one of the things you think about in war – am I fighting for the right and just side? What would it be like to fight for a side that people didn’t support (Vietnam?).

    Also, designers should put more focus on the character, or, if the design is aiming to put you in the role of a generic person, you. When you are running through a dark jungle, you should see things in the darkness. When you are in an intense situation, your aim should be trembling. Your charcter is not a superhero – he’s just a regular guy in an extreme situation.

    If the designers choose to have a protagonist with a strong story, we should learn his/her Rambobackstory. Seeing a picture of his kids might make me be a little more hesitant to running through the front steps of enemy territory rambo style. Every soldier has a story, and experiencing it can fill a gap long present in war games and motivate the player to do what is right, to survive, or whatever.

    Things need to seem out of control. Checkmarks kill the player’s feeling of uncertainty. You know exactly where to go at all times in today’s games. What if you are given only a generic location in which to search for something, or you’ve been told something wrong. You want to keep the gamer on the edge. He/she should never feel completely comfortable with what is happening.

    Finally, gamers should witness some of the horrific events that real soldiers go through. Seeing a dead family sacrificed in order to get to the bad guy would be a life-changing experience. Actually playing an accidental role in such a thing would make you ask even more questions. IsSaving Private Ryan what I am doing right? The use of moral choice, the same concept used in games like Bioshock and Infamous, would work very well in this genre. By the end, it should be up to the player as to whether he/she wants to fight or not.

    Game designers need to get out of the clichés they have dugout for themselves. The designer, instead of sticking to the usual formula, should experiment and try new things. Pull a Metroid, when we realize we’d been playing as a girl. Make the player question something he/she has not questioned before, in previous games and in real life. Even above that, developers should encourage innovation and change if the designers believe it will better the game.

    The designer should take the gamer through what it means and feels like to be a soldier. The player should be questioning his/her actions throughout the game, and making believable enemies and a complex story can help this. You should see the psychological effects of war on your character, and at times, the game could become into a sort of survival horror game. More uncertainty would also help add to the game, both in ethics and in tasks. The game should be throwing things at you to make you reconsider your actions in the game and your beliefs in the world.

    This being said, I am aware that too much of this could drive the player from the game, pushing the horrors of war a little too much. When you picture this different kind of war fps, you shouldn’t picture running through the jungle, over carcasses from the school you just bombed. You should picture something little more gradual.

    When the game starts, you could have no reason to question anything your government is doing. Red Badge of CourageIn many stories of war (Red Badge of Courage), the character goes into the experience looking forward to the heroic adventure he/she is about to go through. This would be a perfect metaphor as to what the player pictures as he/she puts the game into the drive.

    The game could start like the regular war shooter, with obvious good and bad. As the game progresses, smaller things might occur to make the player think. Seeing a friend’s legs get blown up, seeing things moving through the trees, helping an injured child, beginning to realize the corruption on top, and beginning to understand how terrible war is could make the player think.

    Combining this with a good, thought-provoking story, including the slow realization that your country Is doing bad things, could set up the player for the ultimate moral dilemma in a game. Do you decide to go with your country’s plan, which will kill many innocent lives, or do you stand up against it?

    I do realize the large conflict a game like this would cause. Morally, I think it is okay to portray war through a video game, especially if the designer makes it a goal to force the gamer to Six Days in Fallujareexamine assumptions about war and life. In fact, I thinking making a war game like this would be more responsible if anything, as you would better show what war really is. This may be considered bad, but it would better than portraying war as a heroic trek, not taking into account the death and destruction. This has been a hot topic since Six Days in Falluja, but I hope I’ve represented the case well.

    These are some things to think about while you are preparing to make another general rehash of what’s already been done. I believe we can combine a genre that many see as thoughtless and all gameplay, with the ability games have to make you think and open your mind to create something that will shine as one of the most respected games to date, while keeping the gameplay fun.

    Dylan Woodbury lives with his family in Southern California. He runs http://dtwgames.com, a game design website that posts intriguing new articles every week, both beginner’s tutorials and theoretical ideas. He also has an interest in writing, and is planning his first novel. His primary goal is to change the world through video games.


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  • Guest Post: Design Your Game — Ideas

    Posted on March 23rd, 2011 IndieGamePod No comments

    Ever wanted to design your own game? Most people who are interested in game design have had an idea for their own game, but where do we get these ideas? How can we make them better? This chapter in the Design Your Game series will concern ideas and where to look.
    Ideas come from everywhere. They can come from other video games, other forms of entertainment, or just life. Shigeru Miyamoto once had the idea for the game Pikmin when he was weeding his yard!

    If you are looking for a game idea, just live your life, and whenever you do something, ask, “Could that be a game?” This is part of the game designer mentality. Game designers are always looking for new sources of fun in the world around them. Mowing the lawn might not be a very fun game, but what about the things you are mowing? The bugs might be fleeing for their life beneath your very nose. What would it be like to be a bug in the suburbs? And that is how the process goes.

    Many games are thought of by playing other games, but you have to be very careful, because if your idea and soon-to-be game is too much like the preexisting game, it may get lost in the shuffle and be seen as a knock-off.

    You need to be constantly examining the living and nonliving things around you, things on the news, daily activities, and using your imagination, much like Shigeru Miyamoto did, to create a solid game idea.

    Now, once you have a game idea, don’t stop. At this point, you should write NOTHING down, but keep it all in your head. Think of new possibilities within your game idea. What if the weeds I pulled were creatures? Maybe there were different kinds. Some might like water? Some could be fast? Strong? Maybe you have to collect them and use them to complete challenges. Or what if they followed you around and you could use them in large quantities? But what about a story… Why are you doing this… Maybe you want to get back home, because there was an earthquake while you were out of town? Or maybe you’re on a new planet as an astronaut! Maybe you have to explore the planet… or, better yet, you have to find the pieces to your broken spaceship!!!
    See how a simple idea of weed creatures can mutate into an entire game! This process, of course, took place over longer periods of time, but until you think you have a solid concept which includes basic gameplay (mechanics and challenge types) and a basic story, do not right anything down – nothing is permanent, and once you write it down, you will hesitate to change it — TRUST ME. Mull it over in your head.

    Take some time to do that, and write down everything you thought of when your concept has met the requirements I gave. If you want to submit your concept for my feedback (I will not steal it – I promise), please do so below. You can even choose to have it have a chance to be published in this series as an example (you can choose not to though). Also, unless you are very lucky, it is going to take a long time for you to get to the point to write it down, so don’t rush. People who already have ideas: try to evolve them if you can, make sure you have no gaps, and make sure it isn’t already a game. If you want a really good chance of getting it published (but do so anyways if you can, as it will help me criticize it), enter how your idea evolved and where you got it from in the coments-submission section of the site.

    Good Luck!

    Dylan Woodbury lives with his family in Southern California. He runs http://dtwgames.com, a game design website that posts intriguing new articles every week, both beginner’s tutorials and theoretical ideas. He also has an interest in writing, and is planning his first novel. His primary goal is to change the world through video games.

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  • Free Casual Connect Europe Videos Online…

    Posted on March 17th, 2011 IndieGamePod No comments

    Hey folks,

    The Casual Connect organization was nice enough to make the Casual Connect Europe conference videos free for people…you can check them out here…
    http://europe.casualconnect.org/content.html

    Enjoy :)

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  • Mobile Game Community Project: Whatever Quest

    Posted on March 8th, 2011 IndieGamePod No comments

    At the Game Developers Conference, there was a whole summit on Smart Phones and I got a chance to talk to a fair amount of mobile game developers. I think it’s interesting to see that mobile may play an important part for game developers.

    Last year, the podcast show tried to do a community game project. It didn’t get as much feedback from the community as hoped…so this year, we’ll try something different. We’ll focus on a mobile game and see how that goes.

    The community game this year is called “Whatever Quest” ….and can be found on the Android market. It uses the sensor systems of smart phones to drive the game. “Whatever Quest” turns everyday life into a quest.

    In the next few weeks, I’ll go into more details about the game design and look for feedback on ways to enhance it :)

    “Whatever Quest” is meant to be a public service project…with the aim to get people to use it for their everyday activities.

    You can download the game in the Android Market. Right now, it has a one-star review. It’s not perfect, but gotta start somewhere :)

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  • Using Corona To Make an Android Mobile App in 15 Minutes…

    Posted on March 2nd, 2011 IndieGamePod 2 comments

    Hey folks,

    We’re going to do some app tutorials to help encourage more app experiments within the community…

    The first tutorial is doing a simple monkey tricks app. The goal here is to make a simple app that has a monkey that does tricks when you tap it on your phone :)

    Let’s get started…first we’re going to use Corona…it’s a cross-platform mobile tool that allows for development for both Android and iPhone. It uses Lua as the primary language.

    You can download it here…
    http://anscamobile.com/corona

    First we need a monkey…let’s add that first :)

    Now we also need a background…a place for the monkey to have fun :)

    Let’s do that next…
    The cool thing about Corona is that there are already pre-made modules to help make simple apps. One of them is the “Director” class…you can download it here…
    http://developer.anscamobile.com/code/director-class-10

    The director class abstracts things so that each “screen” in the app is a new file. Very simple and an easy way to conceptualizing things.

    In our case, we’ll only have one screen…and that will be the Monkey doing tricks against the background.

    Corona has some transition effects we can use to easily rotate and move items. They are like a Tweening class.

    You can read more about the transitions here…
    http://developer.anscamobile.com/reference/index/transitionto

    Now, let’s initialize the code in screen1.lua that allows us to add things…here’s a cutout of the code…
    the “–” denotes comments in Lua :)

    local localGroup = display.newGroup()

    – Background…this is the background from above
    — Corona allows us to do this easily with display.newImage
    local background = display.newImage(“zoobg.png”, 0, 0, true)
    localGroup:insert(background)

    – Title for the screen, for now, we’ll keep things empty
    local title = display.newText(“”, 0, 0, native.systemFontBold, 24)
    title:setTextColor( 0,0,255)
    title.x = 160
    title.y = 20
    localGroup:insert(title)

    — Here is the main part…we create a monkey image
    monkeyBtn = display.newImage(“pet-monkey.png”)
    — We create a function that will do a monkey trick when the player touches the monkey
    local function monkeyBtnt ( event )
    if event.phase == “ended” then
    — Get a random number
    local moveID = math.random(0, 3)
    – We do a monkey trick based on the random number
    if(moveID == 0) then
    transition.to(event.target, {time=250, x = math.random(0, 310), y=math.random(0, 440), rotation=360 })

    elseif(moveID == 1) then
    transition.to(event.target, {time=150, x = math.random(0, 310), rotation=180 })

    elseif(moveID == 2) then

    transition.to(event.target, {time=250, x = math.random(0, 310), y=math.random(0, 440), rotation=360 })

    elseif(moveID == 3) then
    transition.to(event.target, {time=250, x = math.random(0, 310), y=math.random(0, 440), rotation=360 })

    end

    end
    end
    — Now we say that when someone touches the monkey, we call the monkeBtnt function made above
    monkeyBtn:addEventListener(“touch”, monkeyBtnt)
    monkeyBtn.x = 100
    monkeyBtn.y = 320
    monkeyBtn.isVisible = true
    localGroup:insert(monkeyBtn)

    — We’ll also add a close button that allows the player to close the app
    local exitScene = 0
    local closeBtn = display.newImage(“close.png”)
    local function closeBtnt ( event )
    if event.phase == “ended” then
    if(exitScene == 0) then
    exitScene = 1
    os.exit()
    end
    end
    end
    — We have a “touch” event listener that gets called when someone taps the close button
    closeBtn:addEventListener(“touch”,closeBtnt)
    closeBtn.x = 300
    closeBtn.y = 20
    closeBtn.isVisible = true
    localGroup:insert(closeBtn)

    – Runtime:addEventListener(“enterFrame”, showTimer)

    – MUST return a display.newGroup()
    return localGroup

    That’s it! We’re done…very simple. Once again, this is because of Corona and the director class that allows us to abstract things.

    Now that we’re done, we can generate the .apk easily and put it on Android.

    It’s now on the Android market…it got a one-star rating…because someone felt it was too simple. But still…not bad for 15 minutes of work.

    Here’s a screenshot…

    You can download the source and code here…
    pet-monkey
    Enjoy :)

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  • Guest Post: Backtracking and Non-Essential Areas

    Posted on February 8th, 2011 IndieGamePod No comments

    For a very long time, backtracking has been seen as a cheap way to lengthen games. If you are out of time, money, or story, you have a twitching desire to send the player back to places they have already visited to find something you couldn’t get to or do the first time around(Retro did this with missile expansions in the Metroid Prime series).

    This type of backtracking really crushes the freedom the player is supposed to have – if he/she wants to explore, he/she will. Forcing theMetroid Door Blockplayer to do things not essential to the main path down the middle of the game will make the experience less enjoyable. However forceful backtracking can be a good thing if used correctly.

    The weak kind of backtracking ruins games. In Metroid Prime: Corruption, near the end, you come to a door that requires six or so missile expansions to open. You have to go to old areas you have already visited and devour them for missile expansions and doors that were locked the first time you walked by them.

    You even have to defeat some enemies and puzzles you beat the first time. This is terrible design. The weak explanation as to why you need to backtrack (you need six missiles to open this door, the five you have won’t cut it) ruins the player’s suspension of disbelief.

    Not only is the suspension of disbelief hurt, but so is the eagerness of the player. When forcing a backtracking segment, no new challenges are thrown at the player! The learning curve and pacing that has carried the player throughout the game is suddenly cut and halted until you find these missile expansions.

    In addition to that, frustration consumes the player, who has no clear objective and path to the objective, an important rule in game design. This point in Metroid Prime: Corruption is where I stopped playing for months.

    The truth is: if the player wanted to explore, he/she would have! If you allow the player to either charge through the level or check every nook and cranny, the players who just want to advance

    Fallout 3 Worldthe story do so, and those who want to explore the world do so.

    And not everyone feels the same way throughout the game! By leaving the option open for the player to choose, everyone has a lot more fun.

    When I played Fallout 3, there were times where I scoured areas for little things to do, and there were times I put the blinders up and went straight forward, depending on how I felt (self-adjusted pacing). The game allowed me to do what I wanted to do, what would be the most fun for me during that playing session.

    Games like Fallout 3 and Mass Effect 2 take the opposite approach of Metroid Prime: Corruption(although, Corruption didn’t have THAT many extra places to explore). By exploring the worlds ofMass Effect 2 or meeting all the deranged survivors of Fallout 3, the player can nearly DOUBLE his/her playtime! That is a whole lot of extra content.

    But another important detail – Fallout 3and Mass Effect 2 didn’t really need to force you to backtrack anyways to see all there was to see: the worlds were so interesting that I actually WANTED to see what there was to do.

    And honestly, if these two games forced me to explore and find hidden collectables in far reach corners of levels, I wouldn’t have wanted to explore! At that point, it is not really exploration – the best kind of exploration in games doesn’t force you to do so (but I’ll save that for another article).

    It’s like the things I say in these parentheses: you don’t actually have to read them – they are just asides! But you read them anyways (at least I hope you are, or my point will be severely weakened). If I, however, told you before the article started that I was going to test you afterwards on what was written in the parentheses, the reading would have become a task!WELCOME TO WARP ZONEThe same goes for extra, non-essential areas in videogames.

    By not forcing you to talk to the wounded alien leaning against the wall, the designers are actually forcing you to talk to him.

    There are more benefits to adding extra content to a game, too. Even though it costs more money, you are making each gamer’s experience that much greater when they find or do something that none of their friends even heard of before.

    The player gets a grand sense of accomplishment upon discovering something new that he/she knows (or at least believes) very few people have discovered. All gamers have this strange belief that they are somehow better than any other gamer (we gamers are of an egotistical breed).
    Extra content also personalizes the experience of the player. When the game is complete, the player has something he/she can look back on, something different than what any other player experienced. This story is his/her story, and I believe part of Fallout 3’s glory lies in the stories people told after playing the game.

    Before I got to play it, I heard accounts of people stealing carrots and facing a wave of enemies, running into a shop, only to have the monster come in after you, only things that players experienced by exploring and experimenting, using their imagination. And these individual experiences motivated the players to explore even more (and it motivated me to play the game, along with many others)!Mass Effect Dialogue Choice
    It is true that cutting non-essential areas and events build up the cost of the game, but think about what it adds to the experience by KEEPING IT NON-ESSENTIAL!

    And when the player is done with the game, he/she will know that lots of content went undiscovered, leading to a HUGE replay value. In some of the best video games, the player asks what if questions (What if I had shot the sheriff? What if I went down that other hallway?) – that is a sign of good replay value and a good game, if the player is already having the desire to replay the game after the first level.

    Plus you add all the role-playing elements to games likeFallout 3 and Mass Effect 2, and you have a GINORMOUS game, which you could play in many ways, with different goals, with different focuses on the characters and your stats.

    So if you want to force exploration on the player to make him/her explore all of the world you created, DON’T! You will make it more special to the players who actually want to explore the world you created (and if it is as good as you believe, they will; forceful exploration is a band aid over faults of a dull story, world, characters, etc.).

    You should only use backtracking if it is necessary in giving the player a strong set of emotions or a new, truly unique challenge. Lets say you go through a thriving village on the way to a mountain. On the mountain, you cause a landslide, blocking the river that used to run to the village you went through. If the designer forces you to go back through the village, seeing  the thirsty young children, the fishers out of work, the bakers whose bakeries ran on the power of a waterwheel will make you feel (in this case, guilt, or maybe even regret).
    Forcing the player to retrace his steps can be a good thing if the challenge has changed in someMario Comet Levelway, too. Maybe the street of the woman you just robbed is now crawling with FBI, or you now have a tool that completely flips the whole dynamic of the level on its head.

    Simply, something needs to have changed since the last time you were there, something major. Otherwise, it is just a waste of time, and will be regarded as such. Backtracking used correctly can wow the gamer, making him/her see the level (in terms of gameplay or world) in a way he/she didn’t see the first time.

    There is a huge difference between games that have too little content, and too much content. Games that force you to go back through levels, looking for things or separate areas you missed the first, are weak, and their designers are lazy.

    Games that allow you to go through non-essential areas at your discretion are strong in this aspect, and their designers (and producers) should be hailed for understanding the necessity for spending extra money to make extra content that they don’t really need. If Metroid Prime: Corruption did not force you to go back through areas you already went through, it would have been a better game.

    By including a block in the game, it forced the players who were not intrigued enough with the world and story to spend some more time in the same areas, while giving the players who actually cared, the completionists and those who had been sucked into the world of Metroid, the green light to even more content. Logical?

    Dylan Woodbury lives with his family in Southern California. He runs http://dtwgames.com, a game design website that posts intriguing new articles every week, both beginner’s tutorials and theoretical ideas. He also has an interest in writing, and is planning his first novel. His primary goal is to change the world through video games.

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  • Vanessa and Her Nightmare, Best Game Design Winner at IndiePub Contest

    Posted on February 3rd, 2011 IndieGamePod 1 comment

    You can download the podcast here…
    http://www.indiegamepod.com/podcasts/gdco-bad-pilcrow.mp3

    Or listen to it here…

    Read the rest of this entry »

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  • The Fun and Challenges of Building a Successful Tank MMO

    Posted on February 1st, 2011 IndieGamePod No comments

    You can download the podcast here…
    http://www.indiegamepod.com/podcasts/gdco-wargaming.mp3

    Or listen to it here…

    Read the rest of this entry »

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  • Free Game Sounds…

    Posted on January 26th, 2011 IndieGamePod No comments

    Hey folks,

    Someone posted a link in the gamedev.net Announcement forum for Free Game Music/Sounds. Seems like an interesting collection and you can use them for free in your online and mobile games :)

    Check it out here :)
    http://www.nosoapradio.us

    Enjoy :)

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  • How To Build a Game While Having Day Jobs

    Posted on January 25th, 2011 IndieGamePod No comments

    You can download the podcast here…
    http://www.indiegamepod.com/podcasts/gdco-neverbug.mp3

    Or listen to it here…

    Read the rest of this entry »

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