quarta-feira, 27 de fevereiro de 2013

A little bit about THE UNFINISHED SWAN

The Unfinished Swan (Giant Sparrow, 2012) was a great game launched for Playstation 3 platform last year. Hands off, one of my favorites from 2012 and a game from which we can learn many things.

The Unfinished Swan is about exploring the unknown. The player is a young boy chasing after a swan who has wandered off into a surreal, unfinished kingdom. The game begins in a completely white space where players can throw paint to splatter their surroundings and reveal the world around them (you can visit the official site here).

The game has many positive features and I believe it is possible to extract valuable lessons from its interface. First of all: like Portal (Valve, 2007) it's a first-person puzzle-platform, but here you shoot paintballs around the scenery to solve enigmas. A great part of the game is made of a completely white screen and the challenge is to discover the paths to move along. The video below shows the basic dynamics of the game:

Another important point about the game is a good balance between storytelling and gameplay. You are an orphan trying to find the painting of an unfinished swan made by your mother. The swan gained life and escaped from the frame to a mysterious world of fantasy, and it's your mission find it and bring it back with you. Inside this narrative the game offers a very clever dynamics of puzzle solving using ink to paint parts of the ambient.

The game has good procedural rhetoric embedded in its interface. You learn gradually how to interact with the interface and how to use different kinds of special powers.

Finally, The Unfinished Swan is an indie game that managed to draw attention of a large producer (Santa Monica) and was launched with support and good advertising.

Undoubtedly, The Unfinished Swan is a living example of another kind of configuration of the gaming industry. A creative independent game launched by a small studio, supported by a great publisher, with many mechanics/storytelling innovations and focused on a casual player. I'm happy that the gaming market today has also room for this kind of initiative (it's a great incentive for game designers all around the world).

quarta-feira, 20 de fevereiro de 2013

Rules and fiction

Picture the following scene: two chess players fully focused on the war for territory over the board. There's no music, there's no battle sounds and there's no special effects following every moving piece. There is only an ecosystem formed by two players immersed in an atmosphere of tension/concentration and sculpted wooden pieces. Both are skilled players and few hours from the beginning of the match, the player with the black pieces checkmates he opponent. They greet each other and now it's time to relax and discuss about the right and wrong movements.

Now, let's picture another scene: it's late night in a big city. Inside a small apartment we can see a lone player sweating while he looks to the TV screen (no, it is not a porn movie). Right now he is a member of the Assassin's Creed and has an important mission to achieve: kill a famous noble from a medieval court. The player drives the character sneaking it through a wooden beam in the ceiling of the medieval court, using the commands of the Xbox 360 gamepad. The soundtrack begins to rise, it is possible to hear the sounds of each step on the rotten wooden floor, the scenario is full 3D and each detail was recreated as state of the art. The player prepares a complex sequence of commands to complete his mission and the character takes a fatal leap behind the noble and cuts his throat. A short movie is exhibited and the player runs to his secret base.

There is a broad discussion inside the field of game design about its rules and fiction. There's a balance between them: Is "Assassin's Creed" more immersive than Chess? Is Chess more strategic than "Assassin's Creed"?

We don't have precise answers for these questions. In game design we are working, all the time, with subjective ideas and different kinds of players. It's important to have in mind that games are systems of meaning.

As Juul (2005, p.163) says, rules and fiction interact, compete, and complement each other. A video game may project a world and the game may be played in only a part of this fictional world. Examining a number of game examples in detail, it turns out that fiction in video games plays an important role in making the player understand the rules of the game. A statement about a fictional character in a game is half-real, since it may describe both an fictional entity and the actual rules of a game.

In the game design process, the game designer must select which aspects of the fictional world to actually implement in the game rules.

Now on to your opinion!


JUUL, Jesper. Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. USA: MIT Press, 2005.

quarta-feira, 13 de fevereiro de 2013

Three levels of player enjoyment

Good visual idea from the author Stewart Woods.

Source: WOODS, Stewart. Eurogames: The Design, Culture and Play of Modern European Board Games. McFarland, 2012.

quarta-feira, 6 de fevereiro de 2013

A little bit about playtest

Few weeks ago, the famous game designer Reiner Knizia (@reinerknizia) tweeted a very good point about the gaming creative process. Knizia said: "even if you are a great mathematician, the lifeblood of game design is playtesting, playtesting, playtesting!".

I think Knizia pointed out one crucial feature about game development in his post. I use to say that playtesting is not about playing alone your own game ten times, but putting ten players to play once and get feedbacks.

A good playtest shows the game's aspects of weakness and positive attributes, and can be an important tool for future ideas on your game design projects.

My advice is: put different kinds of players to play your prototype, watch each movement inside the game dynamics, take notes of everything and, finally, improve your game to a higher ground.

Another important thing: always try to play new games to create a better repertoire and a good critical view.

Go gamers!