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Bluefirehawk's: "Path to World Domination"



What the hell, usability? What are you doing in a game?

Posted by , in Game Design 20 December 2012 - - - - - - · 779 views

Sooo... this week I write about the overworld. "Why?", well, I missed writing about it in previous posts and it is important enough to get it's own entry. Without further delay, here it is:

The Overworld
If you remember, I have an overworld. This feels weird writing it like that, as if it's an illness. But back to the topic. The first thing that I missed thinking about, when do I switch from overworld to "fight view", and vice versa? And since everything else kind of depends on that, I should think about that first, right? Maybe, but I won't. I try it the other way around.
The Overworld is rasterized, I call one square a "sector" in game. Of course it doesn't make sense mathematically, but it sounds cool and very military like.
While trying to solidify the idea of the overworld, I came up very Usability-Like requirements... I am baffled, what has dry technical stuff to do with fun games? This makes sense, in Jagged Alliance, you could have let the player run through every sector of the world, but that wouldn't be fun. So my overworld only exists so the gamer can cope with the vast levels. Pure usability. Well done, I tried to do a project to get away from the dry stuff, at least it has more colors and features guns.

But anyways, the overworld view should provide time saving mechanisms and should serve as an information hub, giving an overview of all relevant informations (well duh, it's called OVERworld, of course it should give an OVERview). I know this is a bit like being captain obvious, still it is an important requirement to meet.

time saving
This too seems to be a no-brainer at first, FAST FORWARD! It gets a bit complicated when looked at carefully. When is the gamer able to fast forward? Does it have some kind of dark side? How can he simply command tasks that are to be fast forwarded?
For example, is he able to let his soldier do reconaissance on it's own and fast forward it? Well then it is a useless mechanic and I only waste the player's time, even if it isn't much. Or do I let him chose to do it himself and award him with something? Or do I get rid of it and tell in the lore that satelites provide all necessary info? It is amazing how you can easily include or remove a whole gameplay mechanic. This decision is more important than any "what language to use" decision for the actual game.
Back to the most obvious fast forwarded task, travelling. This too hides some problems. In Jagged Alliance for example, you could fast forward when you travel from sector to sector, there wasn't anything "between" the sectors, even when you manually walked through a sector, you still had some travel time to go to the next. Project Phoenix on the other hand, should have a seamless transition from one sector to an other. In a game like that, where you could get ambushed at any time, it is important for you what route you choose inside of each sector. So I need a powerful tool to let the user chose his path of desire at the right level of abstraction. Furthermore I have to define when the gamer is allowed to fast forward, how far away enemies have to be, and so on... and an other very important question, if I allow the gamer to fast forward, do I allow him to stop time? ...oh boy.

information hub
Still, very easy at the first glance, but what information should I put in the overview? What is relevant to the gamer?
...
What information do I actually have?
I don't know, or I don't know everything not one thing definitively, this shows that my game is "work in progress". At least I now know what I don't know, this is progress, progress is good.
A view thinks are self descriptive:
  • Your camps, and as a pop-up your equipment and supplies.
  • Yout home base and save zones.
  • Your target city/stronghold
  • Enemy movement you know of (somehow)
Now it already gets messy, what enemy movement. For example a fast moving group of hunter demons that hunt YOU is very important to display, but a group of demons that are going to fortify a position, is that important? If not, how do I intuitively hide the info so the user can see it if he thinks it is necessary?
Here, Jagged Alliance has a nice solution idea, there you can toggle displayed information on and off. For example, you can toggle to display enemy troops on and off.

Now that's not too bad of a start, I wanted to write anything about the overworld here, but I start to think I wrote about everything I currently can vote. Like I've written before, I now know what I don't know, I have to write more about the demons and furthermore I have to think about something I call macro strategy. What strategy the gamer can pursue to defeat the demons.


Power of Music, Part 2

Posted by , in Uncategorized, Lore/Story 07 December 2012 - - - - - - · 879 views

sooo, this week I try to write the entry drunk... yeah, I am really drunk, so don't think to harshly about any spelling errors.

This is the second part of the "Power of Music" series, but I have to disappoint you, this won't be a huge entry writing about the missing music pieces of my current project. So why did I have the need to write this?

Basically, I was listening to pandora.com and literally tripped over a piece of music that couldn't represent my game more perfectly than any piece of music that I know of. Here it is:

I can envision it as only a sort of "travel" soundtrack for my game, and yet it strangely underlines my overall vision of the game. It draws a sort of torn apart picture. I can imagine the artwork I'd like to be associated with the game, I can imagine quite a lot.
To be blatantly honest, that's why I had the need to post yet another entry about the music, without having diferen soundtracks for diffenent situations that I coudln't cover before. Until today, it was I kind of searching for music that made ME feel the right things for the specific game moments. This isn't too bad, but now I feel like I've found the music style I would tell to a professional composer (if i had the money).
It seems to me that this day marks a very important decision. At the first glance, it seems more trivial than anything else, but defining the STYLE of the ingame music can be very difinitive to what kind of person likes the game or not.

I first didn't grasp the groundlaying outcome of this decision, but I think defining a music style for a game is more than just "a music style", it defines your overall feel of the game.
Thinking about Portal 2, if it had an other type of ingame music, it wouldn't be the same at all, it is not only the style of music you settle on, it is the style of emotion you try to set for your game.
I am very sure that this decision is often not taken too serious, not thinking about how much the music influences the overall "feel" of the game (in the end, that's what the people will remember of your game).
So, while just posting one music file for my game project, which won't be available in the actual game (due to copyright issues if I am not mistaken), this single soundtrack may be more important than any posts I've wrote over the last couple of months. If I have some art piece posted to me,. I can actually decide if it fits to my world or not, I started to define the remebrable part of the game, the art and feel of it.

Having an arstyle, story, sound and music that fits your world is one part, but making it distinctive enough that people will remember it is an other aspect. I always compare Borderlands to Darksiders. Both games have a good looking artstyle, butTa I am very sure that Borderlands will be remembered as one best games of all times, while Darksiders will eventually be lost in the flood of games.
Darksiders doesn't have an ugly art style, but it is just so generic, it fits to every halfways epic music, it is so mainstream fantasy style.
Borderlands on the other hand has a very distinctive world, very distinctive artstyle. This is not only a good thing, Imagine the difference of the Borderlands 1 and Borderlands 2 theme songs. From a "money" perspective, making a sequel to the predecessor isn't easy, especially when it stood out with it's exceptional artstyle and overall feel, as a game designer, you may be limited in your enovations.

Still, defining a style is to me like having a face for a game in the flood of games we have today. People may not necessarily like your game because of your artstlye, but they at least will remember it, for the good of bad of it.


Maybe you missed my latest entries in this journal. I wrote this in my last "almost missed entry", some weeks ago I wrote the journal entries days to weeks before they were published, I sometimes scheduled the topic of the entries a month before the entry was supposed to get posted. The last few weeks have bitten me in my ass, by not completing me pre-scheduled entries, they were published in a very unfinished state. I was already very annoyed by that. But when I took the already published entries down, made them fit and finish and reposted them, they weren't listened in the gamedev.net latest journal entries.
So if you haven't already, take a look of my past entries, maybe you have missed one if you are interested.

That was it, I hope it was at least entertaining for you to read my text written by drunk me. Have a nice week end.





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