segunda-feira, 29 de agosto de 2016

Eight steps for great puzzle designing

Scott Kim is a designer who creates puzzles for print media, websites and computer games. He is a big reference in this very specific field of ludic studies. Ernest Adams, in his book Fundamentals of Puzzle and Casual Game Design (2014), references Kim’s work talking about the “eight steps to create a good puzzle”. I want to highlight some ideas in these eight essential points.

1. Find inspiration: seems obvious, but it’s a nuclear part of the process. To solve lots of puzzles could be a great inspiration, but to search for ideas in other fields is another interesting way to create enigmas. Literature, movies, comics, toys and TV series are some examples of where to find inspiration.

2. Simplify: “keep it simple” is a mantra for game designers. After creating the main idea of a puzzle, it’s important to remove the excesses. Exploring the features of the platform (console, board game, mobile media etc.) can give you creative solutions for puzzle design.

3. Create a construction set: this third item is about prototypes and fast tests. With an idea on your mind, start to construct models (analogical or digital ones) and test this initial version. Test, test, test and test it again. Test alone and call other players to test.

4. Define the rules: Adams (2014, p.10) says that rules are “the key part of puzzle design. Most puzzles are characterized in terms of four things: the board (Is it a grid? A network? Is it regular? Or is there no board at all?), the pieces (How are they shaped? What pictures are on them? Where do they come from?), the moves (What is allowed and what is not? Are they sequential or simultaneous? What side effects do they have?), and the good or victory condition (Does it have to be an exact match, or will a partial one do?

5. Build the puzzles: when the mechanics is ready and functional it’s time to create the final version of the puzzle (analogical or digital). Here we need to pay attention to the first aesthetical details, information architecture and clear instructions for the player.

6. Test: is the final version done? Then test, test, test, and test it again. To find zero faults is difficult but it is always the desired outcome.

7. Devise a sequence: in a game with many puzzles - or many levels with puzzles – it’s good to create a logical order for them. Raising difficulty with some hints between the challenges is an interesting way to work the challenges of your game.

8. Pay attention to presentation: sounds, graphics and other details will make the difference in the puzzle experience. A good puzzle folded in a poor layout could be terrible for the players. Here, multidisciplinary work is essential.

Finally, it’s important to remember that, especially in digital games, puzzles can reach a new level of challenge using some impossible features or breaking the laws of physics. But in analogic games it’s possible to find interesting solutions, like in the “Codex Silenda”, a wooden book that compels you to solve puzzles to turn the pages.



In the video below, the designer behind the idea shows us a little bit of his creative process for this product.



#GoGamers



Reference:

ADAMS, Ernest. Fundamentals of Puzzle and Casual Game Design. San Francisco: Pearson, 2014.

terça-feira, 16 de agosto de 2016

How Super Mario Mastered Level Design

This video from Extra Credits is an awesome game design class using the level 1-1 from Super Mario Bros as an example. We can learn many important features with this classic game. It's a simple level but full of good references to think about game design.

Check the content below:



#GoGamers

domingo, 7 de agosto de 2016

What we can learn from Atari's Keystone Kapers

I always like to replay some old classic games from the Atari generation. Not only because of the nostalgia, but to find some simple game design solutions to inspire myself to create new ludic stuff.

This week, I was playing the excellent KEYSTONE KAPERS (Activision, 1983) and I'll talk a little bit about some interesting features from this game, in this post.



I played this game a lot when I was a child and it is a masterpiece until today. The narrative is about a cop chasing a thief inside a kind of a shopping mall. Before discussing some highlights from the game, I invite you to watch the gameplay; please, pay special attention to the brilliant multi-floor scenario linked by a lift.



For a game from the beginning of the 1980's KEYSTONE KAPERS is a very advanced ludic experience. Three important game design points to observe in this title are:

1. Multiple interesting dangers with increasing difficulty throughout the levels. The scenario is always the same, as well as the speed of the two characters; so, objects thrown by the villain against the hero move differently. The shopping cart moves in a straight line, the balls kick, the airplane occupies the top of the floor etc. with a progressing level of speed. About this, Brathwaite and Schreiber (2009, p.100) remember us that "video games that have a sequence of levels, simply start off easy and become progressively more difficult as times goes on" and we can see this feature in classic arcade games.

2. Twitch decision-making. KEYSTONE KAPERS starts slow and becomes fast level by level (as we can see in the previous video). In the beginning of the game, it's possible to run only on the floors, use the stairs and catch the thief. However, in the high levels you must use the lift to capture the villain. Brathwaite and Schreiber (2009, p.101,102) teach us that there are five basic twitch mechanics: pure speed, timing, precision, avoidance, and time pressure. In some way, we can identify these five elements in the gaming interface.

3. Minimal and clear art direction integrated with the gameplay. Everybody knows how difficult it was to create games for Atari platform using minimal resources and few bits for programming, sounds and interface. In KEYSTONE KAPERS, we have a very strategic use of every single element. It's possible to clearly identify all the objects, the scenario, the characters and the gaming interface elements (points, lives etc.). All these features cooperate to create a good gameplay; a good art direction establishes logical dynamics for a good gameplay experience.

Once more, we can find inspiration in some treasures from the past. I usually call it "ludic archeology". If you want to read more about this subject, click here.

#GoGamers



References:

BRATHWAITE, Brenda & SCHREIBER, Ian. CHALLENGES FOR GAME DESIGNERS: non-digital exercises for video game designers. USA: Cengage, 2009.

segunda-feira, 25 de julho de 2016

ABZÛ

We will have an important gaming launching in August: ABZÛ. Created by Giant Squid Games and 505 Games, the game will be a relaxing exploration inside a strange and mystical submarine world. I saw a prototype of this game in 2014 during the E3 fair (Los Angeles). Usually I don't post about gaming launchings but I'm very anxious for this one. I think that ABZÛ will be an art framework to play. One experience similar to the game Journey.



The official release of the game describes the experience as "an epic descent into the depths of the sea, where players will explore beautifully rendered ocean environments with fluid swimming controls. The experience draws inspiration from the deep innate narrative that we all carry within our subconscious: the story of ABZÛ is a universal myth that resonates across cultures. The name references a concept from the oldest mythologies; it is the combination of the two ancient words AB, meaning ocean, and ZÛ, meaning to know. ABZÛ is the ocean of wisdom".

Check the stunning trailer and gameplay below:



Click here to access the official site.

#GoGamers

segunda-feira, 11 de julho de 2016

Level up + power up!

In 2013, I started my doctorate in ESPM (São Paulo) studying the intersections between communication, technology and consume. At that time, when I was planning the main activities for the four-year course, I had decided that 2016 would be the year to make an old dream come true: to spend some time studying and living abroad.

During the first two years of the doctorate (and the previous year), I made excellent contacts in many European universities in cities like Antwerp, Copenhagen, Prague, Oxford, Budapest, Bratislava and others. These contacts were fundamental to start my journey, which I like to call my "side quest adventure".

In the middle of 2015, I started to activate my contacts to establish the first steps of my trip. After some time, I received an invitation from the Paneurópska vysoká škola to go to Bratislava (Slovakia) and study during the first semester of 2016. A formal agreement was signed between ESPM and PEU, creating interesting bonds for further researches and partnerships.


Me and the "man at work" statue (Bratislava)

So, in the beginning of this year, I travelled to Bratislava and, since then, I'm living in this awesome city where I already made great friends and discovered why Slovakia is called "big small country".

The whole semester was very rich and full of good experiences. Just to highlight some of them: 1) I gave some marketing/communication strategy classes for graduation students in Paneurópska vysoká škola (Bratislava); 2) I made a presentation about game design at the Alpen Adria Universität in Klagenfurt (Austria); 3) I presented one lecture about gaming interface at the Charles University in Prague (Czech Republic); 4) I attended an advergaming conference at Bucharest (Romania); 5) I wrote an article about wearable technologies for the Global Media Journal Slovak edition; 6) One text that I wrote with my friend Marcelo Vasconcellos about gaming concepts for the health area was published as a chapter in a book titled "Mapping the Digital", edited by Oxford University; 7) Finally, I progressed a lot on my doctorate thesis in this excellent time for thinking and reflecting.

I want to wish all the best for everybody that made this dream possible. =)

Tomorrow, I'm going back to Brazil.
Now it's time to finish the doctorate.
With many experience points.
On a higher level.
Ready for the next stage.


#GoGamers

terça-feira, 28 de junho de 2016

Using Instagram as a gaming platform

Is it possible to create games using Instagram features? The answer is: yes.

The Turkish cookie brand Biskrem created the "Biskrem Instagram Adventure", a game that uses features from Instagram, such as maps, photos, videos, hashtags, tagging, search, direct messages etc..

The narrative is very fun and mixes aliens with time travel. Check the video case below to better understand the promotional idea.



This example dialogues with the advergaming concept we’ve already discussed here and here. It's another good case of how we can put entertainment and ludic content in marketing/communication campaigns.

And an important thing: this is the post number #250! Epic win!

#GoGamers

domingo, 12 de junho de 2016

Book: Mapping the Digital - Cultures and Territories of Play

I want to share good news in this post: in 2014, I presented the paper “Health, consumption and entertainment: the Nike brand embodied as a playful experience”, that I wrote along with my friend Marcelo Vasconcellos for the Video Game Cultures & The Future of Entertainment conference (VG6).

This week, I received awesome news: all the papers from the conference were compiled in a fantastic book named Mapping the Digital - Cultures and Territories of Play. Edited by Lindsey Joyce and Brian Quinn, and published by Inter-Disciplinary Press (Oxford) the book is a wide discussion about the state of play and the state of games in contemporary culture.



This is what I call a level upgrade!

CLICK HERE to buy!

Below, you can read the book's synopsis:

"Mappings the Digital: Cultures and Territories of Play is an interdisciplinary discussion about the state of play and the state of games in contemporary culture. This volume takes a critical look and how our cultures and territories are being renegotiated through our engagement with digital media, games, and tools. This volume argues broadly that our tangible world, and our understanding of it, are being renegotiated and remapped by the digital worlds with which we engaged. Specifically, the chapters in this volume analyse linguistic changes; unique in-game cultures and behaviours; and new methods for communicating across real and perceived boundaries, for understanding cultural experiences, and for learning through play. Drawing from the global expertise of scholars within the fields of Cultural Studies, Game Studies, Foreign Language, Science and more, this volume bridges academic boarders to assemble a cohesive and authoritative resource on digital culture and play".

#GoGamers