sexta-feira, 31 de outubro de 2014

Spelunky: a randomly generated level design adventure

Spelunky is an indie action-adventure game created by Derek Yu and published by Mossmouth. The first version of this game was launched in 2009 for PC, but now it is possible to find the game in Xbox and Playstation platforms.

The idea of the game is very simple: you are a kind of a bounty hunter exploring some inhospitable places (old temples, dungeons, forests etc.) looking for gems and gold. You need to enter, find the treasures and scape. Looks simple but Spelunky has two particular features: you can die easily and, every time it happens, the stage changes itself.

That’s it. It’s impossible to remember the details of a dungeon because there aren’t fixed dungeons in the game. Each time you restart, you'll play a new, randomly generated set of levels. The game’s system creates new challenges each time a character dies.

Another good feature of the game: there's a lot of freedom to how you want to navigate the levels, which are fully destructible.

You can check the Playstation 4’s gameplay below (I’m playing this one at this moment and it’s an awesome – and hardcore – experience):

It’s important to remember, “games consist of stages, or levels. As the player progresses through a game, the levels generally increase in difficulty and the story develops. The designer must create a series of challenges for the player as he progresses through a level. This means that the design of individual levels is closely linked to the design of the game mechanics” (THOMPSON; BERBANK-GREEN; CUSWORTH: 2007: p.93).

In Spelunky, the levels are always with the “hard mode” activated. We have, as a variation of difficulty, the mutable ability of the scenario.

About that, Fullerton says that games organized into levels will need someone to actually design and implement each level. If your project is very small, you might design all the levels yourself. On a larger project, however, the game designer often leads a team of level designers who implement their concepts for the various game levels, and sometimes come up with ideas for levels themselves. And an important point: level designers use a toolkit or “level editor” to develop new missions, scenarios, or quests for the players (2008, p.361 & 362).

The game we’re discussing has a level generator inside its system and that’s a very good way to create new kinds of entertainment experiences.


FULLERTON, Tracy; SWAIN, Christopher; HOFFMAN, Steven. Game design workshop: a playcentric approach to creating innovative games. Burlington: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 2008.

THOMPSON, Jim; BERBANK-GREEN, Barnaby; CUSWORTH, Nic. Game Design: principles, practice, and techniques - the ultimate guide for the aspiring game designer. New Jersey: Wiley, 2007

quinta-feira, 23 de outubro de 2014

Social engagement loops

The use of games in non-gaming activities is rising each and every year. The idea of “gamification” (or game thinking, or ludic interface) became popular in our business culture and one feature to highlight in this context is engagement.

A game, in a business context, for example, needs a perfect balance between serious content and entertainment. From there, it’s possible to create strategies to engage audiences more accurately.

One fundamental idea in this discussion is the idea of “social engagement loops”.

As Cunningham and Zichermann say (2011, p.67) “social engagement loops, while not exclusive to games, borrow heavily from a viral loop design. A designer must not only see the way a player engages with the system, but also how he leaves it and – perhaps even more importantly – what brings him back again. In a social engagement loop, a motivating emotion leads to player re-engagement, which leads to a social call to action, which flows to visible progress and/or rewards, which loops back around to a motivating emotion”.

The figure below illustrates this idea:

A social engagement loop, designed to maximize player engagement and reengagement using core product design (CUNNINGHAM; ZICHERMANN, 2011, p.68)

Certain ludic contexts need deeper strategic building. Especially when we talk about serious games, business games, and gamification. The book in the end of this post is a great source of reference for this subject.


CUNNINGHAM, Christopher; ZICHERMANN, Gabe. Gamification by design: Implementing game mechanics in web and mobile apps. Canada: O’Reilly, 2011.

quinta-feira, 9 de outubro de 2014

Tooth Protectors: an Atari advergame

This game is one of my favorite examples for my game design classes. In 1983, in a partnership with Atari, Johnson & Johnson launched a curious game named Tooth Protectors. The experimental project inserted some features from the modern advergames in its interface and it’s possible to see the brand in the opening screen with some product placement (toothbrush, dental floss and mouthwash).

The game mechanics is very simple and the player must protect teeth from the attack of the cavities. You earn points by folding the harmful elements that fall from the top of the screen. In the video below you can have an idea of the game:

Despite being very simple, Tooth Protectors is the precursor of many examples we see today and a good example of how to do a “ludic archeology”. It’s important to observe that the main branding elements - even in a rudimentary way - are all represented in the proposed interface.

We have other good examples of advergames from Atari platform. I intend to discuss deeply in another post doing a presentation with other examples of different gaming generations.

Go gamers!

quinta-feira, 2 de outubro de 2014

Building characters in DESTINY

Undoubtedly, the game DESTINY became a blockbuster of this year. Launched for Xbox, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4 and PC platforms, the game congregated a legion of players in its spatial trenches. Created by Bungie Studios and published by Activision, DESTINY is an online first-person shooter video game in a "mythic science fiction" open world setting. DESTINY was one of the great highlights from the last E3 fair and game’s launching site is an awesome experience.

Besides the beautiful interface and great history, there’s one point to discuss around DESTINY’s ecosystem: the building of characters inside the game. There’s a very good balance between the creation of the different types of characters and we bring the ideas from Flint Dille and John Zuur Platten (2007, ps.65-68) to talk about that.

This authors says that we – fundamentally – have two kinds of characters: the player character (PC) and the nonplayer characters (NPCs).

The PC is the character that you, the player, control as you play the game. “This will either be the role that you’ll play during the experience, or the character that you’ll control (depending on the point of view that the game utilizes)”. In DESTINY there’s a full customization of your PC and it creates a good bound between the player and the character. Another good point here is the possibility of evolution of the character in many ways: special powers, weapons or aesthetical components (clothes, symbols and badges).

In the other hand, the NPCs in DESTINY are very important to create an immersive experience. We have a special ally full time with the PCs, a small robot named “Ghost” that helps the player to access systems and summon special resources; there’s neutral characters that figures walking inside the sanctuary citadel and selling products in shops; we also have the enemies and level bosses as NPCs to complete the experience.

In DESTINY’s experience, the enemies and final bosses determinates the level of the challenge and by killing them and collecting special items it’s possible to reach new levels, weapons and powers.

In this game, we can observe the strategic creation of characters that fit perfectly into the writing. DESTINY shows us that more than beautiful graphics, a blockbuster game in the contemporary culture needs to create a perfect balance between each single character and a good and immersive script.


DILLE, Flint; PLATTEN, John Zuur. The ultimate guide to video game writing and design. New York: Skip Press, 2007