terça-feira, 29 de maio de 2012

Game design process: a third approach

By Vince

In this present post I want to discuss the details about the creation of my new board game, PYRAMYZ.

PYRAMYZ is an independent title that will be hopefully launched next month. It is an abstract game for two players that uses pyramidal dice (D4) as pieces and has an area control game mechanics.

The inspiration for part of the game mechanics came from “Chinese checkers”, a very traditional abstract game where the pieces jump other pieces (or a row of pieces) to reach the player’s side on the board.

(Art by Marcelo Bissoli)

In PYRAMYZ, first of all, players must choose the color “black” or color “white”. This part is important because each player earns points by having the dice on top of their color spaces. It is possible to get points joining dice with the same color adjacent (orthogonally), when this happens the players achieve the number of points of the dice upon the respective color spaces.

The objective is to achieve the higher number of points.

In this game a player can put the dice from a bag on the board or move a die that has been placed on the board. A roll is required to put a die in the game , because the random number on the D4 will be the number of spaces the piece can move (orthogonally) by the board. A die will spawn from five special areas with different color.

For this game I created four prototypes with different dynamics, layouts and rules. It’s important to have many views in a game design process to choose the bestconnection between them. I started with a triangular board but it was not good, the traditional orthogonal grid proved to be the best option.

In this part of the creative process I defend the use of simple prototypes. It’s essential to use simple drawings, ordinary material and have total focus on the game mechanics.

After a lot of tests and a minimum certainty about the functionality of the game I recommend to generate a better prototype/layout. And remember: beta testing is not about playing your game alone by hundred times, it is about putting one hundred people to play once and have a lot of different feedbacks.

In two previous posts I’ve talked about the process to create another board game and a SMS mobile game (links here and here). I recommend the reading of both posts to complete the idea of this one.

Wait for news about the PYRAMYZ’s launching!

segunda-feira, 21 de maio de 2012

Keep it simple

By Vince

This post is a kind of an advice for new game designers and game developing enthusiast.

Nowadays, we have a broad market for many categories of games and this is very good because we can target different kinds of players. Every game designer one day, possibly, dreamed about the chance of developing a complex console/PC game for a very specific type of player: the heavy user gamer.

But, don’t forget that a wide part of gaming consumption comes from casual gamers. The high numbers of casual/simple game downloads from platforms like App Store (Apple) and Play Store (Google) give us a clue of the enormous potential in this area.

More than 200 million people worldwide play casual games via Internet, and it’s impossible to forget the high numbers of casual gamers in mobile devices too.

The essence of the success in this area is the mantra: keep it simple. But “simple” (or casual) is not a synonymous of “poor”, and creating good simple/casual games is a great challenge for game designers. The “Angry Birds”, “Temple Run” and “Draw Something” are good proofs of this idea.

Keep the casual player on your mind all the time and don’t forget that a casual game requires good content, intuitive mechanics and well defined interface. It must be wonderful to create the new “Battlefield” complex FPS game, but it must be wonderful to create the new “Angry Birds” casual game too.

To finish this post I have a good hint for you: visit the site of the “Casual Games Association” (LINK HERE) to get more information about this growing entertainment market.

And I want to share this excellent presentation from Newzoo: the “Trend Report: Casual Social Games - February 2012

View more presentations from Newzoo

Go (casual) gamers!

terça-feira, 15 de maio de 2012

The game and the mind

By Vince

Do you like to reunite your friends for hours of intense battles in RISK? Do you find amusing dueling against a rival in MORTAL KOMBAT for Playstation 3? Or for you the real emotion comes from an intense POKER night?

When we think about these situations, a good question arises: why do we like to play games so much?

We can find some answers in the excellent book "Everything bad is good for you" from the author Steven Johnson.

Johnson is graduated in Semiotic at Brown University and in English Literacy by Columbia University. He is known to defend the full access of games, TV series, internet and social media to young audience. The author defends that these stuff has different intellectual and cognitive features, but is not inferior to activities like reading a book.

As Johnson says “the dirty little secret of gaming is how much time you spend not having fun. You may be frustrated; you may be confused and disoriented; you may be struck. When you put the game down and move back into the real world, you may find yourself mentally working through the problem you’ve been wrestling with, as though you were worrying a loose tooth. If this mindless escapism, it’s a strangely masochistic version. Who wants to escape to a world that irritates you 90 percent of the time?”. (page 26)

We are talking here about the game and the mind. We are talking about reward.

Where our brain wiring is concerned, the craving instinct triggers a desire to explore. The system says, in effect: “Can’t find the reward you were promised? Perhaps if you just look a little harder you’ll be in luck – it’s got to be around here somewhere.” (JOHNSON, page 35)

Why do we like to play games so much? Reward is one of the possible answers.


JOHNSON, Steven. Everything bad is good for you: why popular culture is making us smarter. London: Penguin Books, 2006.

segunda-feira, 7 de maio de 2012

Hints & tips for a good game prototype – Part I (card game)

By Vince

A good idea for a game needs a good prototype. In the first tests of your game is totally understandable the use of sketches, roughs and non-finished materials, but a formal presentation to a publisher needs more care.

In this post I´ll talk about analogical prototype. More precisely how to create a card game prototype.

I like to create cards in three layers of paper:

1) First layer: the back from the card (with some kind of pattern or the logotype of the game) printed with laser jet in a good opaque paper;
2) Second layer: I like to put a middle layer using a thick paper. It’s important to maintain your card resistant and plain;
3) Third layer: the front of the card with the content of the game in the same way of the first layer.

Check the diagram below:

In the end it’s important to keep your cards protected from physical damage. I strongly recommend putting the cards inside plastic protector sleeves.

Your game will look more professional and your idea certainly will be clearer to the publisher or your beta test group.


quarta-feira, 2 de maio de 2012

Health & games

By Vince

I want to dedicate this post to my friend Marcelo de Vasconcellos (link here), a brazilian researcher with an interesting work with the theme “videogames as means of communication in health”.

I’ll talk about DIDGET in this text. DIDGET is a medical apparatus with blood glucose monitoring system launched by pharmaceutical company Bayer in a partnership with NINTENDO. It was launched in 2010, but I think it's still a good case for discussion.

This health project highlights the concept of “ludification” and reinforces the idea of the use of elements from the ludic universe in another areas of knowledge.

DIDGET connects with the Nintendo DS system and rewards consistent testing with unlockable minigames. The system does not require a Nintendo DS to operate but has this special feature with the videogame. The site GamaSutra describes better the functioning of the medical apparatus: “when connected to the Game Boy Advance cartridge slot on Nintendo DS and DS Lite systems, DIDGET converts blood glucose test results into reward points”.

My friend Marcelo de Vasconcellos posted another good example of games in health area in his site. It’s about Intera, a software that works with Microsoft’s Kinect to be used during surgeries. The video below is in Portuguese, but the images speak for themselves.

I believe in a near future full of ludic interface interaction in the health area. I think we’ll see more and more uses for game mechanics and gaming concepts inside this field. Why? Because game is not only about fun, game is a language to be used in different and unusual fields of knowledge.

GamaSutra (link here)
Marcelo de Vasconcellos (link here)