segunda-feira, 13 de junho de 2022

The mysterious (and dark) experience of SILT

Silt is, undoubtedly, the most interesting game I played this year. It is an exploration game set in a surreal oceanic void where you need to possess aquatic creatures around you with a strange soul energy to solve environmental puzzles and travel deeper into the darkness. The gaming objective is to face giant deep-sea goliaths and harness their power to awaken a long-dormant force at the core of the abyss.



The narrative is full of strangeness in a scenario full of old creatures’ statues, unexplored ruins, and ancient machinery. The monochromatic elements in the stages were created by the artist Mr. Mead (you can check his work here) and it is an awesome feature of the game. The sound design is also another point to highlight: in Silt there is no music, we experience a kind of a soundscape that follows our path into the abyss.



The narrative doesn’t deliver a full explanation about what is happening, who are you, why are you diving in this dark world. But it doesn’t matter. Silt invites us to be co-authors of its narrative. Following some ideas from Dansky (2007, p.5), it is possible to say that “On the most basic level, narrative strings together the events of the game, providing a framework and what can alternately be called a justification, a reason, or an excuse for the gameplay encounters. At its best, the narrative pulls the player forward through the experience, creating the desire to achieve the hero’s goals and, more importantly, see what happens next”. The blend between the mysterious narrative and the beautiful-grotesque scenario is an ideal approach to create immersion through the stages.



Spiral Circus, the studio behind Silt, made a piece of art and an excellent example of how important the gaming indie scene is for contemporary times. I’m finishing the third level and am already sad for the end of the game. One thing is certain: this is a game I’ll play more than one time.

#GoGamers
#GoSilt
#GoSpiralCircus




Reference:

DANSKY, Richard. Introduction to game narrative. BATEMAN, Chris (editor). Game Writing: narrative skills for videogames. Boston: Thomson, 2007.

terça-feira, 10 de maio de 2022

STENA!

Prepare your smartphone! Today is the grand premiere of my new game: STENA was launched in the Google Play (and soon will be launched in App Store)! Check the trailer below and download for free, now!



I discussed a little bit of the game’s gaming design process (errors, prototyping, wireframes etc.) in this post. But, in this one, I want to talk about the creative process, or, in other words: where did the idea for this game come from?

The year was 2016. I was living in Bratislava (capital of Slovakia) and writing my doctorate thesis in a partnership with Paneurópska Vysoká Škola. In my free time, one of my favorite things was to walk and visit pubs in the old town (or “Staré Mesto” in Slovak language). One day I was in my favorite pub, Zbrojnoš, watching an ice hockey game on TV. One important detail: I’m not a sports fan, but ice hockey is a national passion in Slovakia, so I decided to understand the game better (I even went to Ondrej Nepela Arena to watch the Králi team from my university play).



Trying to discover the mysteries behind ice hockey, two things caught my attention: how difficult it is to put the puck inside the goal and the possibility to skate freely in the whole space (including behind the goal). So, I had an idea: a PONG game with ice hockey rules. Well, that was the starting idea, but the final product is very different. One day I started to sketch some wireframes and created this very first version: a game for two players with rotating paddles where the goal is to hit the center of the opponent's engine.



Well, too complicated. I started to simplify the idea. I started to think about one-player experience, mobile media experience, fast games, and minimal design. So, the rounded space appeared in front of me. I drew a circular arena with different kinds of risks and obstacles. The final touch: the game must be punitive and hard in a way that only games like DARK SOULS can be. =)



I showed more detailed wireframes to my friend Jakub and asked him: “is there any Slovak word that represents, at the same time, the idea of wall, protection and shield?”. He answered: “Yes! STENA is the word”.

So, this is a detail from the creative process of my new game! Always pay attention to small details around you. Always keep a notebook with you. Game ideas are always around, ready to be materialized.

#GoGamers

segunda-feira, 18 de abril de 2022

Using “telepathy” as a game design component

In this post, I’ll talk about two of my favorite tabletop games: THE MIND and WAVELENGTH. The first one was designed by Wolfgang Warsch, the second was created by the same author in partnership with Alex Hague and Justin Vickers. Both titles are very casual and excellent party games - the big feature of both is the telepathic component.



Sounds strange at first moment, but that’s the point of these games. In THE MIND, players have cards with numbers in hand. The gaming objective is to "read” the mind of the other players, organizing cards from the lowest number to the highest. No mimic, no talking allowed, just feeling the energy in the air. It’s a cooperative game that uses only cards with numbers. The video below presents a better notion and a good explaining of the rules:



WAVELENGTH is my latest acquisition to my ludic archive. This one is played in two teams and it’ a competitive game. A player from one team must withdraw a card with two opposites (cold/hot, good actor/bad actor, heavy/light etc.). He looks at the card, rolls a circular device with number marks, checks where the numbers are, closes the device’s screen and shows the card to his team. People must position a pointer more to the left or more to the right trying to enter a telepathic wavelength with the other player. In the video below we can check the simple rules for this game:



In my point of view, these examples are very interesting to understand some game designing processes. Telepathy isn’t a gaming mechanic. In fact it is more like a kind of mutant power. But, with the right set of rules, good components, a bit of creativity and a logical sequence, this can be converted into a true feature for a game.

This is the kind of game that I search today for my collection and research: elegant components with fast rules and a high level of replayability.

#GoGamers

terça-feira, 8 de março de 2022

About my affinity with short games

Sekiro, Red Dead Redemption, Bloodborne, The Last of Us, Detroit: Become Human – there are few examples of games with extensive gameplay that I really appreciate in my life. By “games with extensive gameplay” I mean games with 50 or more hours of playing. But there’s another feature with this kind: it’s very difficult to have any feeling of progress if you have little time a day to experience them. It’s a fact: games like Bloodborne, GTA, Dark Souls etc. require a special dedication; you can advance in the narrative with a minimum of 2 hours of gameplay. Maps are giant, bosses have a not so obvious learning curve, your character needs to achieve special powers with side quests and so on.



For me, there is a paradoxical relationship in this case: I love “games with extensive gameplay”, but – in my daily life – it’s more and more difficult to fit a game like this. It’s not only about work, but I like to watch series/movies, read books, and play board games – so, today I don’t have the time I need for these games.

Because of this, in the last five years I started to search for short games. Games with fast narratives, few levels, or more casual games that allow you to play for a small time every day. One important observation: I’m not talking about acquiring a game only because it has fast play; I'm very judicious in this kind of search.

The last title I played that fits this kind of game was A SHORT HIKE (even in the name of the game we have a hint of how fast it is). It’s a lovely narrative in which you take on the role of a small bird trying to reach the top of a mountain. It’s a very compact scenario full of other characters, each one with a unique mission. Graphics are colorful, minimalistic, and very adequate for the game's proposal. I played the whole game in two days (in two hours more or less) and I had great gameplay, narrative and puzzle action experience.



I’m not abandoning the big games (I’m also preparing myself for Elden Ring soon), but – today – I created a special affinity with short games to fit them into my routine of work and entertainment. And the most important: to always play something new to discuss in my game designing classes.

#GoGamers

quinta-feira, 3 de fevereiro de 2022

Interview with Martin Wallace

Another excellent video content. An interview with the game designer Martin Wallace; famous for board games like Age of Steam, Brass, Toledo, Automobile, A Study in Emerald, and many others.

This is a master class about analogical game design! Enjoy:



#GoGamers