quinta-feira, 1 de dezembro de 2022

My list of the top 10 videogames I played this year!

Here it is! A small list full of epic games!

1.Silt



2.Source of Madness



3.TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge



4.A Short Hike



5.Akane



6.Cult of the Lamb



7.Moonscars



8.Elden Ring



9.Signalis



10.Snap



#GoGamers

quarta-feira, 2 de novembro de 2022

ONE LAST GAME: to think games beyond pure entertainment

ONE LAST GAME is an intense 3 Minute game where you play a final game of checkers with a loved One.

Created for the GMTK Game Jam 2020, in ONE LAST GAME you find yourself sitting down at a table in-front of a checkers board with an old and rather unhappy man sat across from you. You proceed to play checkers, but it soon becomes apparent why your companion is so unhappy – there’s a war going on outside. It only takes three minutes to play through One Last Game but it’s a powerful experience that will stay with you for a long time afterward.

Check the full gameplay below:



This game is an experiment that can prove how powerful games can be to cast serious messages and some thinking about contemporary themes. ONE LAST GAME it is an excellent proof of how games can be media and convey content to broad audiences.

#GoGamers

domingo, 2 de outubro de 2022

Cascadia: a perfect balance between theme and abstraction in a boardgame

Cascadia has just arrived in my collection last week. That’s the "family game" big winner in the last Spiel des Jahres (the well-known "Oscar" of board games).

The board game is a puzzly tile-laying and token-drafting game featuring the habitats and wildlife of the Pacific Northwest. In the game, you take turns building out your own terrain area and populating it with wildlife. You start with three hexagonal habitat tiles (with the five types of habitats in the game), and on a turn you choose a new habitat tile that's paired with a wildlife token, then place that tile next to your other ones and place the wildlife token on an appropriate habitat. (Each tile depicts 1-3 types of wildlife from the five types in the game, and you can place at most one tile on a habitat.) Four tiles are on display, with each tile being paired at random with a wildlife token, so you must make the best of what's available — unless you have a nature token to spend so that you can pick your choice of each item.



I usually say that if you deconstruct a board/card game till the core you will probably find an abstract idea made up with geometric shapes, numbers, patterns, colors, etc. Some of these analogic games use this abstract idea to give life to whole games, as we can see in GIPF Project titles, as an example. On the other hand, we have games created with specific themes, narratives, ambiences, etc. Games that put a thematic skin on abstract mechanics.

Cascadia is a great example of how a game can establish a perfect balance between these two points. The abstract component (the core of the game´s mechanics) is easily visualized in the gaming score, in the tiles and how the colorful tokens match with them. But Randy Flynn, the game designer behind Cascadia, made an excellent thematic insertion in the abstract field of the game.

Obviously, you can change the "nature" theme from the game and place "aliens", "ninjas”, or "zombies" in the same place, but the result in terms of gaming experience will not be the same. Why? Because Flynn looked to the abstract mechanics and abstract components and found a way to describe, very close to reality, the behavior of the animals and the ecosystem around them.

Cascadia is an excellent example of how some themes connect perfectly with some mechanics. It is a practical example of the definition of "game design" proposed by Brathwaite and Schreiber (2009, p.2) who define the term as the process of creating goals that players feel motivated to achieve and rules that they follow. A process where they are making significant decisions to achieve purposes, all the time. In other words: game design is an experience architecture process; it is the materialization of an idea in the form of a game.

#GoGamers



Reference:

BRATHWAITE, Brenda;SCHREIBER, Ian. CHALLENGES FOR GAME DESIGNERS: non-digital exercises for video game designers. USA: Cengage, 2009.

quinta-feira, 1 de setembro de 2022

Source of Madness: elevating the roguelike experience

Source of Madness is a side-scrolling dark action roguelike game set in a twisted Lovecraftian inspired world, and powered by procedural generation and AI machine learning. Basically, each time you enter a run inside the gaming world, you will find a completely new scenario with new monsters, challenges, treasures, and achievements. Even the creatures are always changing in Source of Madness; if you play it a thousand times, you will probably find a thousand different types of enemies.



Have a look into the Source of Madness’s mood and esthetics below:



I think I played very few games with a somber atmosphere like this one. The dark scenario with a disturbing soundscape made of monsters screams offers an experience that few platform games of this category can present.

This game touched my gamer heart in a special way: it received a lot of negative reviews because of the chaotic gameplay and interface, but, for me, it’s the big feature from the game. This roguelike is unique in its composition and programming. But the use of AI machine learning and procedural generation is nothing without the storytelling component. The uniqueness of the game comes from a perfect balance between the gaming architecture and the obscure Lovecraftian narrative full of mysterious (and bizarre) cutscenes and the direct references to the ancient ones from Mr. Howard Philips's mind.

Source of madness is a great example of good use of technology to create an immersive experience. However, it’s a great example, too, of how to blend the narrative layer with good mechanics that comes from the gaming code.

This game is in my top 3 from this year. Another indie game. One more for my list.

#GoGamers

terça-feira, 9 de agosto de 2022

UX writing for games

One of the last acquisitions to my gaming collection was the card game “The Dancer”, one of the titles from Echoes’ series. Basically, the game is an audio-based experience that uses cards and a smartphone app to scan the images in the deck, showing dialogues, sounds, and music to the players.



“The Dancer” narrates a mysterious case that mixes supernatural forces and a murder?. It is a co-op game where all the players must listen to the sounding hints to put the cards in order to solve the case. The app system is very clever and interesting; it requires extreme attention to details and all the solutions are easily shown using the smartphone.

A very interesting feature of “The Dancer” is the UX writing strategy behind the narrative. UX writing, like designing and coding for UX, is a design and engineering process; it is an iterative process of creation and evaluation that uses texts to improve an experience (PODMAJERSKY, p.30, 2019).

In the case of a card game with a sound app, the game designing team must search for a strategic connection between the images scattered in the table and the text players will listen to during the experience. It is a fundamental thing to build the storyline using the best words to create a sense in the game.

Other point to highlight in the case of a complementary app: the UX text patterns in digital platforms like titles, buttons, descriptions, labels, controls, text input fields, transition texts, confirmation/error messages, and notifications must be planned to create an easy access to the narrative (PODMAJERSKY, p.67, 2019).

In a synthetic way: the cards are physical items that allow players to interact collaboratively in a physical space, but the true immersive experience comes from the materialized text in audio format (where the UX writing strategy is built).

I want to try the other games from the Echoes’ series.



Reference:

PODMAJERSKY, Torrey. Strategic writing for UX: drive engagement, conversion, and retention with every word. Sebastopol: O'Reilly Media, 2019.

sexta-feira, 15 de julho de 2022

I visited Ubisoft’s creative studio in Toronto, and it was awesome!

As a game designer and also as a gaming reseacher, part of my job is to talk with the gaming market/industry. When I travel abroad, I always try to talk with some studio or publisher (like in this case in Poland).



Well, last week I was in Toronto (Canada) and had the opportunitty to visit Ubisoft’s creative studio! Guided by Justin Del Giudice I had a complete tour in the building ending in the awesome motion capture studio.



One more for the curriculum! A day full of knowledge, perceptions, and ideas about the present and future of this market!



Thanks Maitê Lorente and Jonnhy Guerra for the contact!

Level up!

#GoGamers

An ancient D30

I found this strange artifact in the Real Ontario Museum in Toronto (Canada). It is an asian 30 faced dice. There is no more information about it, but it is an authentic piece of ludic archeology. =)



#GoGamers

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