quarta-feira, 17 de dezembro de 2014

PIXELS - the movie

The independent short movie:

Will be a complete movie in 2015:

Go gamers!

quarta-feira, 10 de dezembro de 2014

More about gaming interface

Much is said about interface in games today. After a long winter, producers and game designers discovered that a merely beautiful game does not work as product nor as a good experience to different kinds of players.

Try to imagine this situation: a beautiful futuristic game fulfilled of great cut scenes and technological characters. Everything in the scenario is perfect, but every action is a mystery for the player inside this fictional universe. It’s difficult to understand where you need to go, when the objective is accomplished, and it’s impossible to determine what kind of object you can take from the ambient.

Schell (2008, p.222) says in his book The Art of Game Design that the goal of a good gaming interface “isn’t ‘to look nice’ or ‘to be fluid’, although those are nice qualities; the goal of an interface is to make players feel in control of their experience.

Complementing Schell’s ideas, Perron and Wolf (2009, p.66) postulate that one of the “fundamental conditions that govern our interactions with video game virtual environments is that our actions are mapped onto the game system by various technological means, since we cannot physically manipulate the virtual entities directly”. By this last quotation we can understand the importance of a good interface and how it can create an immersive experience to the audience.

An interface establishes an answer system between the game and the player. Before we think about fantastic graphics, it is more important to design the interface to create a deeper experience. For more information and to discover more about this theme, I strongly recommend the following readings.


PERRON, Bernard; WOLF, Mark. The Video Game Theory Reader 2. New York: Routledge, 2009.

SCHELL, Jesse. The art of game design. Burlington: Elsevier, 2008.

terça-feira, 2 de dezembro de 2014

Freemium gameplay loop

We already have spoken of this subject here and here, but it's always good to reinforce some ideas.

"A freemium game is one that you can play, for free, for an unlimited time, but that also offers advantages to players that spend some cash on premium items. These items could be magic spells, higher character stats, more health points, secret characters, or special weapons. They could even be purely aesthetic items, like hats, that just customize your in-game avatar and offer no benefit beyond that".

"Unlike a shareware game, a freemium game doesn't require you to buy anything, ever; you can play it normally without spending a penny, but to really get everything out of the game you'll have to pay. Freemium game designers need to define a clear line between the free and paid. This line needs to be thin; the free items must be great enough to let the player have fun and slowly turn into an addict, while the paid items must be desirable without offering too great an advantage to those players who spend their cash".

Source: Tuts+ (Game Development)

quarta-feira, 26 de novembro de 2014

Daddy Long Legs

Daddy Long Legs is a nonsense type of running game created by Set Snail publisher, where you control a bizarre creature with long legs. The hardcore challenge is to control the monster’s steps by tapping on the screen.

If you fail, the monster falls. The idea is to reach further distances each time. Despite the nonsense theme, it’s very fun and has somewhat of a Flappy Bird’s aura in the challenge.

Check a video below with the main idea of Daddy Long Legs:

This kind of game shows us that a strange theme with a bizarre character could be interesting in a first moment, but the “soul” of the experience lives in the gameplay. And about this subject it’s important to remember that gameplay is only one element in the composition of modern games and it means interesting choices (Rollings; Morris, 2004, p.59)

A simple gameplay looks essential in a casual game. Experiences like Daddy Long Legs tend to be forgotten quickly on mobile phones, so it’s important to establish what kind of complexity one game like this one deserves. This kind of thinking is also part of the business model of the game.


ROLLINGS, Andrew; MORRIS, Davis. Game Architecture and Design. USA: New Riders, 2004.

terça-feira, 18 de novembro de 2014

Anxiety as a component of game design

Alien Isolation is a big hit this semester. Specialized magazines and websites heavily criticized the game but, regardless of the criticism, I enjoyed the game. I think it’s the first good game of the Alien franchise.

The game tells the story of Amanda Ripley investigating the possible reasons for the disappearance of her mother: the main character from the first Alien movie, Ellen Ripley. Check the trailer below for the plot:

It’s a first person adventure with very interesting cut scenes that create an atmosphere of tension and fear. There’s one true fact about the game: things take longer to happen in the narrative, but that's part of the fear experience.

Maral Tajerian, in an article for the site Gamasutra* entitled Fight or Flight: The Neuroscience of Survival Horror, says that anxiety is a point to highlight in terror/horror games. This author also says that “next to fear, anxiety is perhaps the most prominent feeling experienced in video games. Unlike fear, which is a response to an imminent threat, anxiety is a response to a future potential threat”.

Anxiety is an important game design component in this example. The whole game is based in it, and all fear/horror/terror reactions are derived from it. Alien Isolation is a game to enjoy slowly, a game to be played in the mood of the first movie. An immersive and memorable experience.

*Source: Gamasutra (click here to read the article)

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

quarta-feira, 24 de setembro de 2014

Geo-locating for mobile games

A few years ago, we had a boom of mobile games with geo-locating features. The idea of using this feature to put some “real world” component inside the gameplay is good but, sometimes, bureaucratic for some players. It’s cool to imagine a game that the player needs to reach real locations to achieve some prize, but, on the other hand, it’s a little bit limiting for lots of people.

Whether it be good or bad, we will discuss three interesting cases in this post.

The first one is “Jetset: a game for airports”. The game has a tapping gameplay and the player must prevent certain passengers from entering the flight with prohibited products. The game could be played anytime/anywhere but has a special function: if you play Jetset inside an airport you gain new stages, levels and powers.

The second one is “Zombies, run!”. This is funny but complex for most off players. In this game you need to run (for real) from imaginary zombies. The interface is created with audio features and puts the player to run through real locations to discover special items and, sure enough, avoid zombies. Check the video case below:

Today's third and last example is “Shadow cities”. This one is very curious because it takes the player’s location (with the maps function) and creates a medieval scenario to play fantasy battles.

Despite all the difficulties involved, I still see the geo-location feature as a good opportunity for strategies with mobile entertainment. Let’s think more about this subject.

quinta-feira, 18 de setembro de 2014

terça-feira, 9 de setembro de 2014

A new way to play a memory game

Last year I wrote a post about the importance of recreate gaming mechanics using my card game Álmok as an example. Just to recap, the game used as an example in this post uses the classical mechanics of a memory game with special powers and new card moves (click here to read the content).

Few weeks ago, I was talking about causal games with my friend Terence Reis and he showed me a great mobile app that also recreates the game mechanics of memory: Dizzy Fruit.

Dizzy Fruit is a linear memory game. The interface is very simple and it only shows a drawing of a fruit; the challenge is to say if the next fruit is the same or different than the previous. The more you advance, the faster the game becomes. Check the gameplay below:

Dizzy Fruit is another good example of how we can reinvent a new game using a classic framework. As Juul says (2010, p.2), we are living a “moment in which the simplicity of early video games is being rediscovered”.

Go Gamers!


JUUL, Jesper. A casual revolution. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2010.

terça-feira, 2 de setembro de 2014

Horror and terror in Silent Hills’ playable teaser

Few weeks ago, the gamer community was excited about a mysterious game demo available in the Playstation Network named “P.T.”. Sony announced the creepy game in the Gamescon Conference without more details and broke a record of downloads that day.

After many hours of puzzle solving and collective work in the Internet, gamers discovered the enigma behind P.T., the demo was a Playable Teaser of the new Silent Hill, entitled “Sillent Hills”.

The teaser is a mysterious first person experience inside a haunted house. You walk through the same door in a repetitive way. Each time you pass the same scenario, little details are altered and you need to investigate some puzzles to find clues about why you are jailed in this nightmare. There’s another sick element in this ambient: a kind of evil spirit that appears randomly (and trust me, it’s really creepy).

Check the end of the playable trailer and the moment that we discover the protagonist of this new adventure (Norman Reedus from Walking Dead) and the title of the new game (Silent Hills, now on the plural):

This playable teaser balances horror and terror to create a frightful atmosphere. Terror comes in tense moments of exploration and horror comes with the appearing of the ghost. As Ghita (2014, p.58) says as a “refining of fear, ‘terror’ constitutes a multifocal aesthetic emotion, whose main feature is the state of anxiety, brought about by a well-balanced series of artistic elements: plot, atmosphere, characters. As an intensification of fear, ‘horror’ represents a unifocal aesthetic emotion, whose main feature is the state of revulsion, brought about by the paroxistical development of the afore-mentioned artistic elements.”

In summary, “horror games have a strong tendency to use the uncanny in monster design, sound design, and level design (architecture) in order to induce fear and anxiety. Furthermore, the less the odds are of overcoming an immediate threat the greater the emotional response may be” (NIELSEN; SCHØNAU-FOG, p.45, 2013).

The playable teaser is available for free in Playstation Network. It’s a must play.


GHITA, Catalin. Discussing Romanian Gothic. IN: KATTELMAN, Beth; HODALSKA, Magdalena. Frightful Witnessing: the rhetoric and (re)presentation of fear, horror and terror. Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2014.

NIELSEN, Danny Langhoff; SCHØNAU-FOG, Henrik. In the mood for horror: a game design approach on investigating absorbing player experiences in horror games. IN: HUBER, Simon; MITGUTSCH, Konstantin; ROSENSTINGL, Herbert; WAGNER, Michael G; WIMMER, Jeffrey (Eds.). Context Matters! Proceedings of the Vienna Games Conference 2013: Exploring and Reframing Games and Play in Context. New Academic Press: Viena, 2013.

quarta-feira, 27 de agosto de 2014

Iterative design for games

One important point about games is the process for an error-free product. To achieve this challenge many studios/publishers uses the iterative design. Iterative design is a methodology based on constant testing of a particular product, game, interface etc. The iteration process consists of: prototype, test, analyze and refine the object to be created.

The process of iterative design for games, according to Fullerton, Swain and Hoffman (2008, p. 249) can be divided into few stages: A) conceptual phase: consists of generating ideas, formalizing and testing them; B) pre-production: here the ideas are reviewed to evolve and be tested again; C) the production stage: the game is tested and revised with different groups of play testers to locate errors; D) phase of quality assurance: where the game is tested to be launched with zero errors.

The image below synthesizes the main idea about iterative design and it’s a perfect reference to our gaming projects:


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

quarta-feira, 20 de agosto de 2014

quarta-feira, 13 de agosto de 2014

Interview with Jesper Juul

This week we have a special post on Gaming Conceptz. Jesper Juul, the video game theorist, gave this blog a special interview. I had the honor of meeting the author last year at the F.R.O.G (Future and Reality of Gaming) Conference. Enjoy the content! Thank you so much Mr. Juul. May the force be with you. =)

Bio: Jesper Juul is a video game theorist and associate professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts - The School of Design, and a visiting associate professor at Comparative Media Studies/Writing at MIT. He has been working with video game theory since the early 1990s, at the IT University of Copenhagen, MIT, and at New York University. His previous books are the video game theory classic Half-Real and A Casual Revolution. He recently published The Art of Failure, a book that combines personal confessions about failure with philosophy, game design analysis, psychology and fiction theory.

1) In your last book 'The Art of Failure' you talk about 'the pain of playing video games' in a very interesting way. What was your primary inspiration source to write about this subject?
Two things: 1) That our interaction with video games is clearly filled with frustration and unhappiness, yet we tend to talk about video games in purely positive terms - good, great, awesome, deep etc.. Why are we not talking about this darker side of game playing, and why do we play games even though it is there? 2) My personal experience as a very sore loser of all types of games. Losing makes me very frustrated, yet why is losing so important to me?

2) 'The Art of Failure' is about video games. Can we use the same ideas for board games and card games?
I used mostly video games as examples, but most of the discussion applies to all games. Video games then add some particular twists, especially in terms of single-player games, where the designer can closely follow the progress of the player and tweak the difficult and failure rates to match the player's current skill level.

3) In your keynote at F.R.O.G. 2013, you talked a little bit about "Gamification". This buzzword became very popular recently. What do you think about this buzzword? Do you think it's a good concept to define the use of game elements in non-game activities? Do you think it's correct to use 'game thinking' instead?
Like most buzzwords, gamification is overused, overhyped etc.. We could try to introduce a different term, but I think we should rather try to live with "gamification" and then explain what its problems are, what the advantages are etc.. I.e. the important thing is not the word itself, but what we use the ideas for, and how we implement them.

Gamification is a good idea in some activities.

It works best for situations where users / students / employees are in need of feedback, and when the gamification system allows the user to exercise sound judgment.

It works very badly in situations where users are meant to be creative, or if they are already deeply, personally committed to doing the best job that they possibly can. In such situations, gamification can become deeply demotivating.

We could call this the paradox of gamification: we associate games with fun and freedom, yet if we implement the wrong kind of gamification system, it becomes 1984, instead, by closely monitoring and punishing everybody who deviates from the path decided by the leaders.

4) The world is going mobile. How do you see the field of mobile gaming for the next years?
For a while, it seemed that traditional games would keep playing on consoles and PCs, and the broader public would be playing on mobile devices. But now this division seems to have almost disappeared. I think we will continue to see more, "deeper" game experiences on mobile devices.

For phones and tablets, the question to me is still whether external controllers will at some point become mainstream.

5) What are you playing at this moment?
My summer playing has mostly been Clash of Clans - there is something deeply compelling about the strategic multiplayer clan experience.

6) Send a final message to the new researchers of the gaming studies field.
There are many, many things that we don't understand about games, players, development and so on. What is the question that you are in a unique position to formulate and then answer?

quarta-feira, 6 de agosto de 2014

The curious experience of SOMETIMES YOU DIE

Created by the developer Philipp Stollenmayer, SOMETIMES YOU DIE has become the surprise hit of 2014, despite (or perhaps because of) its unusual take on life, death and the meaning of video games.

In this game you control a simple square and the challenge is to reach the exit of each stage. But there’s a important detail: you need to die to achieve your missions; by dying you leave a previous “corpse” to use as a ladder or to block some spikes, saws and other dangerous artifacts. You can understand the main idea of the game in the image below:

It’s possible to die many times to create solutions for the puzzles. The game still uses some interaction with your smartphone, like rotating the device to change gravity rules and some special elements like the very clever advertising box below.

With a minimal design and a disturbing soundtrack, SOMETIMES YOU DIE is an awesome gaming experience for mobile devices. Check the trailer with the gameplay and mechanics:

This kind of game explains the procedural rhetoric idea proposed by Bogost (2007, p.3). This author says that procedural rhetoric is the practice of using processes persuasively.

And, finally, this kind of ludic experiment gives us clues as how the gaming market is increasingly diverse and full of possibilities.


BOGOST, Ian. Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames. MIT Press, 2007.

quarta-feira, 30 de julho de 2014

Video Game Cultures & The Future of Entertainment Conference (Oxford – July 2014)

Last week I was in Oxford (UK) at the Mansfield College for the “Video Game Cultures & The Future of Entertainment Conference”. The event is part of the Oxford’s University inter-disciplinary program, a global network for dynamic research and publishing. There were 3 days of full immersion inside the gaming research universe with excellent content presented by people from 15 different countries.

On the first day, we had a very interesting discussion with René Schalleger about how game designers create interactive experiences that let players explore complex issues of identity, free will and agency. Another highlight from day 1 was Teros Pasanen’s presentation about the Hobbesian state of nature in the game DayZ.

The second day was intense and focused on mobile gaming, gender in video games, serious games, educational games and game design.

On the third day, I presented my paper “Health, consumption and entertainment: the Nike brand embodied as a playful experience” that I wrote with my friend Marcelo Vasconcellos (click here to download).

This kind of event is perfect for networking and to improve our researches. For more information and the complete conference’s content access the official site of inter-disciplinary.net by clicking here.

Another good badge for my character’s sheet. =)

Go gamers!

quarta-feira, 16 de julho de 2014

Google Maps Smarty Pins: putting trivia on the map

Google is well known for using different strategies of entertainment in its various sites and social networks. The latest company's creation is the Smarty Pins game, a trivia challenge that uses Google Maps to solve enigmas.

Before playing, you can select some categories for the questions like “arts & culture”, “science & geography”, “sports & games”, “entertainment” etc. The main idea of Smarty Pins is to answer as many questions as you can before you run out of kilometers (the “energy” of the game); you need to submit answers by dropping a pin on the map at the correct location and kilometers are lost by placing the pin incorrectly (bonus kilometers are gained for quick thinking). There’s a cool gallery of trophies and badges for advanced players.

In the example below – in the category “sports & games” – the system asked “Which city hosted all FA Cup finals between 2001 and 2006 while the new Wembley Stadium was under construction?”. You have little time to drop the pin on the correct location.

After choosing a place and dropping the pin, the system returns the right answer and the difference between your tip and the correct place.

With this tool, Google is teaching – in a fun way – how to use various Maps tools.

Click here to play >>

quarta-feira, 2 de julho de 2014


"MISSPENT YOUTH" by the Paper Crane.

More information here.

quarta-feira, 25 de junho de 2014

Talking about my new mobile game DOMINAEDRO

Last week my new game, DOMINAEDRO, landed at the App Store. The game is a strategic puzzle that mixes dominoes and tic-tac-toe. It’s is an abstract battle between two players that uses pieces of domino as weapons.

The game, originally, was analogic and was launched as an independent title in the beginning of this year. After lots of positive reviews from Brazilian (and even European) sites I decided to transform the analogic version into a digital game.

The game is very simple and I will share the main idea of the rules below. The game’s grid is arranged with nine numbers randomly selected by the system. In a decreasing order: the highest number will be allocated in the center, intermediate values will be around the highest one, and lower values will be on the corners.

Your starting hand has 3 domino pieces. The player with the lowest sum of numbers in a single piece starts the game. On your turn, you must try to put a single piece in the grid respecting the following rules:

1) A number in a domino can only touch a piece with the same number, or lower, in the grid.
2) Like in a domino game, pieces connected on the grid must have the same numbers.
3) Every time you choose a piece, the system will point out the spaces allowed for allocating on the table.

You earn points by dominating a sum on the grid. For that, you should be the player with the highest sum of numbers around a value. In case of a tie, the sum of the second values of dominoes sets the winner. In case of a tie in both sides of the dominoes, the winner will be the player with more pieces.

The game ends when you cannot allocate more pieces on the grid. Each piece not allocated is worth -1 point. Values of the grid that were not completely surrounded by pieces are scored normally.

If a player has dominated all values in a row, column or diagonal, they win 4 extra points for each line. The player with the most points wins the game. Check a short video demo with the game mechanics below:

You can download DOMINAEDRO for free. Click here for more information. I’m waiting for your suggestions, critics and improvements.

Go gamers!

quarta-feira, 18 de junho de 2014

E3 2014

Last week, I visited the famous Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles. The fair is well known as one of the biggest videogame events in the world, and every year the trends and launchings of such market are presented in this mega fair.

The experience of two days fully immersed in new games, videogames, game accessories, gaming conferences, and gamers was too complex to synthetize in a small post, so I decided to create a list of highlights of the fair, divided by subject:

1) Games, games and more games: this year great games were announced in the event, like Little Big Planet 3, The Order 1886, Alien: isolation, Evolve, Super Smash Bros WiiU, the new Halo and Batman: Arkham Knight, only to name a few blockbusters. The experimental games also gained terrain and titles like Entwined, Abzû (I felt mesmerized by this one, check the trailer below) and No Man’s Sky had good space at E3.

2) Sony’s press conference: I watched the exclusive presentation about the future of the PlayStation platform. The company said that, for 2014/2015, the focus would be on more free content and in exploring the videogame as an entertainment central. Sony intends to launch each TV of the brand with PlayStation Network embedded in its interface, so it will be possible to play some of the games without a PS console. Another great revelation from Sony is the PlayStation TV, a U$ 99,00 device with access to exclusive content (animations, movies, documentaries etc.) created exclusively for PS network, the first production will be an animation of the comic book POWERS (created by Brain Bendis). You can watch the full conference in the video below:

3) Nintendo: the brand bets on classic characters but showed nothing relevant to the public.

4) Microsoft: the Halo franchising was the great highlight of Microsoft’s stand. The Xbox One with new Kinect interactions generated good experiences for the public. Microsoft bets on a perfect balance between the casual and the hardcore player.

5) Accessories: loads of equipment were displayed at the fair, like joysticks, screens and special chairs, but the true highlight was the VR devices like Oculus and the Virtuix Omni (check the video).

6) Final thoughts and some pics: staying in touch with the experience of E3 is something unique. The fair is a place to see how the next year will be in the gaming market, to anticipate the future and make good networking. I came back to Brazil full of ideas (and souvenirs from the stands) and I want to work hard to put some projects in practice as soon as possible (a new book among them). And check some images from this great event.

Go gamers!

quarta-feira, 11 de junho de 2014


A few weeks ago I downloaded a very elegant game in my mobile phone: Duet. The game is a minimal and hypnotic experience created with a simple interface and high level of involvement. It is an invitation to “expand the limits of your radial awareness”.

The game comes from an Australian publisher named Kumobius and the composer Tim Shiel signs the awesome soundtrack. The idea is very simple: you press the right side of the screen, two small balls spin to the right; you press the left side of the screen, they spin to the left. With these two simple movements you must dodge elements that fall from above. Check the gameplay below to understand the main idea:

The game has a complex learning curve with a real challenge in the high levels. This kind of experience tells us about how a casual game could be a challenge even for hardcore players. And, in this scenario, we can see how rich the field for good ideas to mobile media is.

Another point to highlight on Duet is the simplicity of the interface. With few elements, the game conveys an engaging idea and a perfect ballet between aesthetics and gameplay. About that, it’s possible to say that “Gameplay must take place somewhere, and so the design and creation of digital environments is a critical factor in developing outstanding games. (…) Designing game spaces comes in two distinct parts – the first is the look and feel of the game environment, and the second is the design and challenge of the playing space” (THOMPSON; BERBANK-GREEN; CUSWORTH: 2007: p.98).

Let’s discuss more and more about this emerging category of the gaming industry.


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

terça-feira, 3 de junho de 2014

Indie Prototyping

Jonathan Blow (Braid's creator) giving a talk about prototyping at the Independent Games Summit (part of the Independent Games Festival) in 2007. An excellent presentation on game design with many good insights. Essential content for those who are creating independent games.

terça-feira, 27 de maio de 2014

The shell

We are always looking for graphics, mechanics, dynamics, information architecture, gameplay, writing and many other features of a game. But, there is one aspect of them that is always overlooked: the shell.

As Omernick says (2004, p.248) “the word shell describes the initial screens and menus a player encounters when first starting a game. The most basic purpose of a shell is to act as an introduction and a doorway to the gameplay. By offering options like Save and Load, controller configurations, and a good old Start button, you are allowing players to choose how and when they want to play the game”.

The first contact with the game is fundamental to establish a dialogue with the player. It’s simple, but the initial menu is the primary access to the gaming world. Keeping it simple and intuitive is a key factor for a good experience. Even for casual games, the shell is an essential thing to capture the user’s attention to the gameplay.

In your next project, take time to watch the first steps of the player within the game.


OMERNICK, Matthew. Creating the art of the game. California: New Riders, 2004.

quarta-feira, 14 de maio de 2014

Article: Brazilian Gaming Market

Craving to disseminate information about the Brazilian gaming market, my friend Mauro Berimbau and I wrote a brief article explaining some peculiarities of this environment with many relevant research data. We want to share our feelings with you.

Click here to download the PDF. We are waiting for your opinions!

terça-feira, 6 de maio de 2014

Casual games for casual players

Today’s post is about one of my favorite subjects: casual game design. Undoubtedly, the contemporary multiplatform environment, with so many connections between different devices, becomes a privileged ambient for games, especially casual games.

Casual games are everywhere: in the console, in the smartphone/tablet, inside Facebook and even in analogical card/board games.

To discuss some essential points about casual game design, we bring Jesper Juul into the discussion. In his awesome book Casual Revolution (2010), Juul points out (2013, p.50) that casual game design has five components:

1.Fiction: “The player is introduced to the game by way of a screenshot, a logo on a web page, or the physical game box”.

2.Usability: “The player tries to play the game, and may or may not have trouble understanding how to play”.

3.Interruptibility: “A game demands a certain time commitment from the player. It is not that casual games can only be played for short periods of time (…)”

4. Difficulty and punishment: “A game challenges and punishes the player for failing. Casual games often become very difficult during the playing of a game, but they do not force the player to replay large parts of the game.”

5. Juiciness: “Though this was not predicted by the description of casual players, casual game design commonly features excessive positive feedback for every successful action the player performs.”

All these topics help us think how to develop better games and – in some way – how to reinvent video games for a broader audience.


JUUL, Jesper. A casual revolution. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2010.

quarta-feira, 30 de abril de 2014

Monument Valley: business model and creativity in mobile gaming industry

Independent games for mobile platforms are a path for creativity and innovation inside the current gaming industry. Mobile stores like App Store (Apple) and Play Store (Google) changed the ways to distribute and stock digital content. With a few clicks and a Wi-Fi connection, it’s possible to download a great amount of data, including games and other kinds of entertainment.

Few weeks ago, a puzzle game named Monument Valley (Ustwo, 2014) debuted, causing a huge buzz in specialized sites/blogs. The game uses the “error” of perspective from M.C. Escher’s paintings to create visual puzzles and enigmas. Check the gameplay and game’s aesthetics below:

It’s not a new resource in gaming mechanics. Even God of War used this kind of “visual error” to create puzzles for the mighty Kratos. So what’s new? It’s a new way to tell an old story. The minimalist aesthetic along with the zen atmosphere of Monument Valley creates an unique experience to solve Escher’s illusions on a smartphone/tablet screen.

The gaming concept is another good feature; the slogan of Monument Valley is “an illusory adventure of impossible architecture and forgiveness”. Because this game is not a simple abstract puzzle game, there’s a mysterious plot in each chapter and it’s exciting to advance each stage and discover new aspects from the world with such impossible geometry.

Quickly, the game became a phenomenon and balanced with mastery some questions like aesthetics, screenplay, gameplay, and advertising on the Internet. Some players complained that the game is too short, but it is understandable that a small studio chooses to release a game with fewer stages, but with high quality in the right time. Ustwo Studio now has a huge player base to increase the dissemination of new games or expansions to Monument Valley.

Mobile platform is a way to a new gaming market. Especially in countries like Brazil, that doesn’t have a formal gaming industry. Even small productions are gaining space in this huge market. One thing is certain: to innovate and be successful in mobile gaming is necessary a lot of training. It’s important to create games, put them online, observe weaknesses, improve good features and exchange experiences with other publishers. To better understand the creative process of an independent game like Monument Valley, check out the mini-documentary below:

I think the most interesting area for studies inside the wide gaming industry is mobile. With the advances in smartphones and tablets we have awesome platforms to develop new experiences. Let’s discuss more and more this sector through here.

terça-feira, 22 de abril de 2014

From the past: ICO

Ico is a 3D adventure game developed by Team Ico (2001) and published by Sony for PlayStation 2. I played this game many years ago and am, at this moment, playing the HD version for Playstation 3.

I really like to replay some games years later to observe things that I didn’t notice the first time. From 2001 to today, I have read many books and studied a lot about gaming concepts and game design, so this is a singular opportunity to discuss some important features of this game with an updated view.

The story of the game is about Ico, a boy who was born with horns, which among his people is considered bad omen. Ico is locked in an abandoned dark fortress, where he must explore and run out from. During the exploration, Ico encounters Yorda, the daughter of the castle's queen. The queen has an evil plan to possess the body of Yorda for eternal life and Ico needs to take the girl out of the fortress. The main mechanics of the game is created with puzzle-solving and some combats against demoniac shadow creatures (it’s truly creepy).

You can check the gameplay and game’s intro below:

The game breaks a paradigm of the gaming industry by presenting an interface devoid of tutorials. By controlling the character, the player must try the buttons and add knowledge from other games he/she played for solving puzzles and traversing the scenarios.

Sometimes it is quite difficult to visualize how to solve a puzzle or what sequence of commands must be clicked. However, this is not a defect, it is a gaming feature. Ico works with the idea that we must explore the environment and learn from it. The game operates on a very strong procedural logic/rhetoric inside its interface.

As Bogost says (2007, p.3) “just as verbal rhetoric is useful for both the orator and the audience, and just as written rhetoric is useful for both the writer and the reader, procedural rhetoric is useful for both the programmer and the user, the game designer and the player”.

So, it’s good to have a chance to discuss old games with new observations. I’ll try to do this more frequently from now on.


BOGOST,Ian. Persuasive Games. The MIT Press, 2010 (paperback) http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/persuasive-games

quinta-feira, 3 de abril de 2014

Horror games

I love horror games. Since the primordial experiences, like Haunted House (Atari, 1982), Friday the 13th (Atlus, 1989) and Splatterhouse 2 (Namco, 1992) to the sophisticated Outlast (Red Barrels, 2013), I’ve always had a special interest for this particular genre. Maybe because I’m a big horror movies fan or maybe because fear is a good kind of element to be used in interactive narratives.

Sounds weird, but unlike other game genres, e.g. role-playing, first person shooters, puzzle, action, sport games etc., horror games focus on stimulating the player in a negative way (NIELSEN; SCHØNAU-FOG, 2013, p.45). Nowadays it’s not unusual to find a horror game as frightening as a horror movie, and one key feature in them is the player-narrative interaction.

In the context of horror game design, it has been possible to identify three specific elements as Nielsen and Schønau-Fog (2013, ps.52-53) propose: 1) a deep narrative that allows the player to invest emotions into the character; 2) a deep sense of freedom to establish a connection and a deep grade of immersion on the player; 3) and – finally – the player should feel like a victim rather than a contender. Another point to highlight on horror games is the use of “illogical architecture to turn houses, gardens and streets into great mazes which would make no sense in the real world” (NIELSEN; SCHØNAU-FOG, 2013, p.45, 2013, p.45).

The love for this subject, the inspiration on the words of Nielsen and Schønau-Fog and many other authors led me to write a book about horror games. It’ll be launched in April and the title is “HORROR LUDENS: FEAR, ENTERTAINMENT AND CONSUMPTION IN VIDEOGAME NARRATIVES”. Check the book’s cover below with Marcelo Braga’s illustration.

The main idea of my new book is that fear is one of the most ancient feelings that surround the existence of man, and, historically, it was a fruitful base so that writers, filmmakers and many other narrators could grow inspiration for their pieces. And the game universe pertains this ground. In this book, we seek to discuss, through an empirical look, the horror games panorama in contemporary times, while promoting a reflection over the billionaire worldwide industry of games, the horror genre intake and its many mediatic ramifications.

The book is in Portuguese, but I intend to publish some parts in English here on the blog. Make sure to visit for more news. Go gamers!


NIELSEN, Danny Langhoff; SCHØNAU-FOG, Henrik. In the mood for horror: a game design approach on investigating absorbing player experiences in horror games. IN: HUBER, Simon; MITGUTSCH, Konstantin; ROSENSTINGL, Herbert; WAGNER, Michael G; WIMMER, Jeffrey (Eds.). Context Matters! Proceedings of the Vienna Games Conference 2013: Exploring and Reframing Games and Play in Context. New Academic Press: Viena, 2013.HH

sexta-feira, 28 de março de 2014

Types of failure in games

Recently, I finished the awesome book by Jesper Juul named “The Art of Failure”. This book is a great inspiration for game designers, game researchers and game lovers of all platforms. The idea about the “the pain of playing video games” gives us a new view on failure and on how to create entertainment from it (which is considered a bad thing in the real world).

There are two details I want to bring into this discussion right now: the first one is about the two types of failure. As Jull says (2013, p.25) we can find the “real failure” and the “fictional failure”: the “real failure occurs when a player invests time into playing a game and fails” and the “fictional failure is what befalls the character(s) in the fictional game world” *SPOILER ALERT* (Like in Red Dead Redemption. You need to die with John Marston to continue the narrative).

The second point to highlight is about the idea that we are “emotionally affected by games, and we are aware of this before we start playing” (JUUL, 2013, p.56). This means that games arouse feelings in players and can create a strange connection during the gaming experience working with feelings like happiness, anger, frustration, fear etc. To understand the interface between the game and the player’s emotions is a great step to create new kinds of gaming experiences. Maybe a new door to be opened to new sensations inside the ludic universe.


JUUL, Jesper. The Art of Failure: an essay on the pain of playing video games. Cambridge/London: MIT Press, 2013.

quarta-feira, 19 de março de 2014

The art of making friendly enemies

I participate in a group called Board Game Tuesday (or BGT). We meet weekly to play and discuss board games. Our primary focus is the playing, but we always set aside a time to analyze the structure of the games (mechanics, dynamics, art, components etc.).

However, I quite like to analyze the behavior of players during matches. I like to observe the nervousness to roll the dice for something important, the glory in the eyes of a player with a well-structured combo of cards, the malignant partnerships between players and – of course – arguments and "fights" because of the final results of a gaming experience.

(Playing ISLA DORADA. Big, Vince & Snow. Pic: Estevão)

This last feature, particularly, impresses me. The “magic circle” of a game has the power to transform friends in enemies with established social rules (and gaming rules). As Juul says (2013, p.11) “when playing a game, a number of actions that would regularly be awkward and rude are recast as pleasant and sociable”. So, we can say that a game can generate a kind of friendly enemies during the time of a match.

About this context Juul (2013, p.14) also says that, to play a game is “to make an emotional gamble: we invest time and self-esteem in the hopes that it will pay off. Players are not willing to run the same amount of risk – some even prefer not to run a risk at all, not to play”.

The gaming ecosystem is a complex and privileged field of studies. But we must never forget that behind a game there are human players full of feelings and this is an important part of the experience to observe, analyze and discuss.

At this moment, I’m reading again Jesper Juul’s “The Art of Failure” and Bernad Suits “The Grasshopper”. I’m full of new ideas about the role of the player inside the gaming universe and I count on this inspiration for a “wave” of posts with this subject this semester.

Keep your radars alert for that.


JUUL, Jesper. The Art of Failure: an essay on the pain of playing video games. Cambridge/London: MIT Press, 2013.

SUITS, Bernard. The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia. EUA: Broadview Press, 2005.

terça-feira, 18 de fevereiro de 2014

The delicate balance between learning curve and meaning on games

Videogames are, undoubtedly, leading and intertwining landmarks of contemporary culture. From countless consoles/devices, gamers are increasingly experiencing worlds of fantastic narratives. From simple mobile games like Flappy Bird (Gears Studios, 2014) to complicated Playstation 4 and Xbox One titles, we can see players discovering new contents, communities and learning new stuff from these platforms.

In this complex scenario, multidisciplinary crews are necessary to establish the delicate balance between two essential points: 1) the learning curve: or how each stage of the game is connected, creating a challenging experience – level by level – to the players; 2) the meaning: or how the experience of the game will emotionally “touch” the player in his/her social context.

As Bienvenido and Ruiz (2013, p.225) say, “during play activity it is possible to maintain the ability to learn and grow, training our individual and collective skill to adapt to the evolving condition of the surrounding context. In light of that, we believe it is crucial to harness a conscious and aware design process able to lead to a ludic meaningful experience activity that, on its side, is able, on the one hand, to engage and involve players, and on the other hand, to transmit meaningful concepts and prompt interesting contexts”.

In this discussion, it’s important to remember the social aspect of gaming culture. Especially in times of extreme connection between individuals we can see the strong role of social interaction between gamers. As Bartle (2014, p.11) reminds us “indeed, it could be argued that all games – even single-player games – are at least in some way social, because the people who play them are framed by the society in which they live. Subjectively, though, certain types of game are ‘more social’ than others because they involve more people interacting more often in more ways”.

I don’t intend to synthetize such complex subject in a simple blog’s post, but I think it’s a good starting point to broaden the discussion. Now, on to your opinion!


BARTLE, Richard. Design principles: use and misuse. IN: QUANDT, Thorsten; KRÖGER, Sonja (Eds.). Multiplayer: The Social Aspects of Digital Gaming. New York: Routledge, 2014

BIENVENIDO, Héctor Puente; RUIZ, Marta Fernández. User generated content: A situated production of video walkthroughts on Youtube. IN: HUBER, Simon; MITGUTSCH, Konstantin; ROSENSTINGL, Herbert; WAGNER, Michael G; WIMMER, Jeffrey (Eds.). Context Matters! Proceedings of the Vienna Games Conference 2013: Exploring and Reframing Games and Play in Context. New Academic Press: Viena, 2013.

terça-feira, 11 de fevereiro de 2014

Rymdkapsel: a new way to observe tower defense games

Today I played a ‘meditative space strategy game’ named Rymdkapsel. Rymdkapsel is a game in which you take command of a space station and its minions. You will have to plan your expansion and manage your resources to explore the galaxy. In its essence, it’s a tower defense game with a minimal interface created using isometric perspective.

As Nitsche says (2008, p.99) “isometric views eliminate any distortion of the depicted shape caused by the perspective. (…) True isometric views are an artistic construct and always include a level of abstraction, because the real world is not perceived in that way”.

In the game mechanics you need to manage the different random pieces to construct the scenario (very similar to Tetris). It’s necessary to construct corridors, extracting devices, food providers, cannons etc. It’s important to explore the space attaching your ship to other platforms. You have few minions in your ship, and a good management is essential to keep it working.

The game has a unique and immersive environment structured with a relaxing soundtrack, minimal sound effects and simple colorful graphics.

Check the gameplay below:

Rymdkapsel is a mobile game (for iOS and Android) by Martin Jonasson with music by Niklas Ström. Click here to visit the official site.


NITSCHE, Michael. VIDEO GAME SPACES - image, play and structure in 3D worlds. Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2008

terça-feira, 28 de janeiro de 2014

Beer + arcade = Beercade

The McKinney Ten Percent, the ad agency's incubator that encourages all employees to devote 10% of their time to focus on new applications of creativity and technology unrelated to current client business, has found a way to breathe new life into both beer tasting and arcade gaming. The agency created the first-ever beer-dispensing arcade game for Big Boss Beer brand, that puts two players against each other in a simple fighting game, developed with Adobe Flash technology.

Players choose one of five characters, each one representing one kind of beer from Big Boss Brewing Company. The fight begins and the winner receives a glass full of beer from the arcade machine. Check the video case below:

This kind of advertising action is called advergame. Advergame means "advertise" + "game". It’s a strategy for marketing communication that uses mainly electronic games to advertise brands and products. That includes a large range that goes from games that are developed specifically for advertising purposes, to common games that have ads in its interfaces.

It’s always good to see gaming language hybridizing with other areas of knowledge, like advertising in this case. If you like this subject I strongly recommend this site (link here).

quinta-feira, 16 de janeiro de 2014

The awesome experience of DEVICE 6

The end of 2013 brought a great ludic surprise to my iPhone: DEVICE 6, a very different game from publisher Simogo Games.

As described on the game’s official website, DEVICE 6 is a “surreal thriller in which the written word is your map, as well as your narrator. DEVICE 6 plays with the conventions of games and literature, entwines story with geography and blends puzzle and novella, to draw players into an intriguing mystery of technology and neuroscience”.

Check the game trailer below:

The gameplay is a creative combination of scrolling screens with puzzle solving. As the player scrolls down the screen, texts and images arise, creating the experience of the gaming narrative. One important detail: the player can go back and forward in the maze of words as a map. So let’s check the gameplay in the video below to understand this feature:

This game reflects clearly the idea proposed by Aarseth (1997, p.1-2) of ergodic literature. As the author says, ergodic literature is derived from “the Greek words ergon, meaning ‘work’, and hodos, meaning ‘path’. In ergodic literature, nontrivial effort is required to allow the reader to traverse the text. If ergodic literature is to make sense as a concept, there must also be nonergodic literature, where the effort to traverse the text is trivial, with no extranoematic responsibilities placed on the reader except (for example) eye movement and the periodic or arbitrary turning of pages”.

DEVICE 6 creates a perfect balance between many cultural elements. It’s a unique experience to play and study. Go ahead, download the game and have fun.


AARSETH, Espen. Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. The Johns Hopkins University Press: Maryland, 1997.

quinta-feira, 2 de janeiro de 2014

Sound as a gameplay element

As in movies, sound is an essential component for videogames. Games like God of War even using an orchestra to record its soundtrack, and war games like Call of Duty recreate each detail of sound inside a battle camp. But some games like Beat Sneak Bandit (Simogo Games, 2012) use the sound design as a component for the gameplay.

In this very fun game, created for smartphones and tablets, the player is invited to control a bandit trying to invade different houses in a fixed screen interface. The idea is to move the character tapping the screen to the rhythm of the beat. One music beat equals one tap on the screen, so it’s important to be careful not to go off the rhythm. And here's a hint: try to beat your foot on the floor simultaneously with the beat of the music; this helps to keep your concentration and not miss a move. You can check the gameplay below:

Another good example that we can bring into our discussion is Zapp Zerapp, a board game with a curious sound component. In this example, players roll two dice for numbers from two to thirteen and simultaneously start picking up one of the thirteen wooden containers and shaking them. Inside the containers are one to thirteen lead pellets. Players are trying to select the container with the highest number of pellets, so long as it doesn't exceed the result of the dice. (source: Boardgame Geek)

Games that work auditory and tactile stimuli are even widely used with visually impaired children. Therefore, it is important to observe more carefully this kind of playful experiment. And this will be the subject of a future post.

Wait for it.