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Ten games every designer should play

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I find it quite interesting that there are several games here that I really think have serious design flaws (Baldur's Gate, FF7, Tekken 3, Daggerfall). There's something to be learned from most games, even if it's just how not to do something.

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Jedi Knight. I saw it the other day at target, bundled with the expansion, for $10. It was perhaps the best star wars game ever - until KOTOR.

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My 10 cents (1 cent per game) in no order. There are a million other great games which other people have mentioned but these are ones that stand out in my mind as very unique games.

1) Super Mario 3
2) Super Metroid
3) Beatmania IIDX series (Japanese music game)
4) Zelda 3
5) Metal Gear
6) Myth II (IMHO the best Bungie game ever, yes better than Halo)
7) Halo
8) Half-Life 2 (the first one as well they go hand and hand)
9) Final Fantasy 7 (great system)
10) Pac-Man (much love for the yellow pill popper)

and shameless plug for
11) In The Groove

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No order:

1) Super Mario Kart - Most fun I have ever had in two player

2) Legend of Zelda a Link to the Past - First time the world felt deep and real

3) Tetris - This game has amazing staying power

4) Final Fantasy IV (or II depending on how you look at it) - First characters I ever felt attached to.

5) Beyond Good and Evil - From a design stance this game was really different. It had some flaws but in a time of GTA clones it is a risk worth mentioning.

6) Pac-Man - It had one screen and you could get addicted like it was Everquest

7) Ice Hockey - To me this is the greatest sports game ever. It was easy to learn, balanced two player fun. The fat guy, skinny guy, medium guy thing was brilliant for the time.

8) World of Warcraft - A lot more MMORPGs are going to be made. This is the direction to go in for mass market appeal.

9) Castlevania: Symphony of the Night - No reason for 2D to be dead.

10) Street Fighter II - I was never a big fan of fighting games but this one really launched the whole thing.

Not on the list but but no less important.....

Maniac Mansion - Hmmmm run around collecting items to solve puzzles in a creepy mansion with lots of doors. Too the modern example of this doesn't have a sense of humor.( No, "You were almost a Jill sandwich" doesn't count as humor).

Ultima IV - an RPG where your moral choices had an effect. It took us a long time (and millions of random battles) to get back to this.

Sim City - a great example of thinking outside the Hollywood box

Morrowind - All around great. But the thing that sticks out was the caves. I was actually nervous that something was gonna jump out at me.

Not a video game but....

D+D - the old standby

Axis and Allies - more in depth than risk but much easier to play than hardcore wargames

Rubix Cube - a true masterpiece of game design. This and Sim City may be the most inspired game ideas ever

Bubble Wrap - I have seen this turn PhDs in Engineering into 5 year olds

Learn from the mistakes of.....

Night Shift - Bad FMV Bad FMV

Tomb Raider - she looks like a Porsche handles like a UPS truck

Ultima Online - (I do like this game a lot and realize they were breaking new ground) The launch is so important. Is open PvP really what your community wants, or just what you want?

The Challenger - (I am serious here and mean this in the most respectful way, this is a lesson that should not be wasted) There is no better example of the money people having too much sway over the designers and true experts. Integrity of the product whether artistic (music), technical (the space shuttle), or both (video games) is as important as the marketing. If you sell it by advertising and it stinks or does not work it will follow you.

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Original post by Oluseyi
Not a single sports game on anyone's list. Interesting.

Bollocks, I mentioned Tecmo Bowl, Bases Loaded, Blades of Steal, and Gran Turismo (not "Grand Turismo" or "Gran Tourismo") long before you joined the thread.

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Where's Ultima VII? :)
It is, without doubt, the best game ever made.

And a game that you should definently check out is ADOM, a rougelike which is in my opinion better than NetHack) www.adom.de

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What about Quake 3? In my opinion one of the best multiplayer FPS out there for just gritty, fast-paced deathmatch action.

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Alright, I'm mainly an RPG fan, but here's some of mine:

Final Fantasy 7
Super Mario RPG
Warcraft 2
Super Mario 64
Crono Trigger
Breath of Fire 2
Monkey Island
Tony Hawk - All of em
Zelda - Ocarina of time
Diablo 1 and 2
Mario Kart 64 (double dash wasn't as good)
James Bond 64 - Golden Eye (multiplayer with friends was the funnest)

And 2 of my all time favorites that nobodie's mentioned:
Dragon Warrior 4 - NES
Shining Force 2

Yeah baby!

[Edited by - deadlydog on March 13, 2005 12:50:34 AM]

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Not exactly all games, but similar to it:

Halo 2
Bungie documentary (the special edition video, shows development at its finest)
Myth 2
Warcraft 3
SW: Republic Commando (AI and squad action rival most other squad games)
Age of Empires 2(or AoM, either way, they are very good games)
Their own (Important to constantly play your game all the time. Gets you in the mood and helps you figure own any bugs or mistakes you might have made. Like a design or story thing.)
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (great game, amazing graphics and effects, I actually got scared when confonting the ringwraiths. Then again, I got 360 surround sound stereo.

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I find it interesting that in three pages of games, I noticed only three people mentioning non computer games (SunAndShadow, acapulco and BioMors)...

I mean come on guys, how can you talk about RTS and not look at the evolution of games like the Warhammer series (Fantasy Battle, 40k, Epic, and others)
For instance, my favourite, Epic 40k, started its life as a smaller scale version of 40k, where every single unit in the game had stats, options, powers, etc. When you have several hundred units on the table on each side, I let you imagine the time it took to fight a battle. Although the die hard veterans keep the old version alive and kicking online, over the years, the designers have done a fantastic job of streamlining the rules and making it much faster, the latest version having squad based orders and much less micromanagement.

What about roleplaying games ?
How on Earth do you dare talk about designing a cRPG if you have only ever heard of Dungeon and Dragons ?
Do you guys even realise Fallout, the oh so often lauded cRPG, is based on the GURPS roleplaying game ? A system a find particularly awful, IMO, despite some excellent supplement (like the Transhuman Space series, or the Discworld RPG).
And for the love of all things sacred, don't call Diablo a RPG. It's a roguelike, a hack and slash, a kill em all, but not a roleplaying game (and I _do_ adore Crawl and ADOM, personally)

Magic the Gathering ?
Hello ? This game started a freaking industry. They bought Dungeon and Dragons (well, TSR, technically speaking)! Need I say more ?

But there are also non collectable ones, little card games like, oh I don't know, Citadels ? Anyone played Munchkin and its sequels ? Uno ? Once upon a time ?

There are so many board games out there that are just begging to be converted to the computer.
I mean, if you have ever heard of Car Wars, don't you think this should have been made into a computer game years ago ? (yes, all those Interstate 76, Carmaggeddon, and other drive and kill games are all based on this game, IMHO)

Man, has any of you played the Lord of the Rings board game ? One the many games designer Rainer Knizia has made. Gee, the German have bloody conventions on board games! So much untapped potential...

and I am forgetting tons, here, pick up any good gaming shop catalogue and you'll realise just how much there is to play. Good old Wargames, classic board games (Chess, Go and all the others), puzzles and jigsaws (not the "make a picture" ones, the 3D ones)

[headshake] My, my, so much games, so little time!

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Original post by ahw
I find it interesting that in three pages of games, I noticed only three people mentioning non computer games ...

My experience has been that good game design comes in one of two forms:
1 - An improvment upon an existing idea
2 - The development of a new one

From a design perspective, the former is easier. From a development perspective, it may require more work because you have to exert 200% effort to get that extra 10% niftiness that brings a game from decent to amazing.

The development of new ideas requires, at the very least, a shift away from computerized games. In playing other peoples games, you tend to taint your own imagination with the subconscious relationship to games that you're already playing. If you absolutely can't live without gaming, try playing a table-top game: This will help alleviate the influence of other people's computerized games while still keeping your gameer's appetite satiated. The influence of table-top games can even improve your designing mindset.

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My own 2 cents...

I gotta agree with X-Com, UFO Defense. Loved that game. Great turn based tactical combat, unique research and development system focused around captured alien technology, funding system from nations around the world.

Morrowind for it's good and bad. Open ended gameplay, explorable environments, and the freedom to do pretty much anything you wished, even when it meant ending your chances of completing a quest, even a main storyline quest. Great variety of quests, though it could have used far better quest management. Combat and magic systems were a bit lacking in my opinion though. The concept for Combat is sound, the implementation still needs work. Oblivion sounds like it'll be greatly improving that. Magic system was meh all together from my perspective, but that's supposedly getting a big improvement with Oblivion.

Duke Nukem 3D. Some of the funnest FPS action I've ever played, both single and multiplayer (though the multiplayer was all local LAN play). Just a plain fun game. Pipe bombs you detonated yourself. Laser mines, jet pack, shrink ray... Silly enemies, strip bars, one liners... Just fun stuff with a surprising amount of potential strategy mixed in.

As well as every game that's been listed in this thread 3 or more times Just lots of popular games that all have at least something to offer as far as good design, but many also have their flaws as well. I don't think there are really any truly perfect games out there, but you can learn from the mistakes just as well.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Most of the games you said would be in my list too. I would add Omicron: The Nomad Soul. An game that combines most genres (fighting, 3D Shooter, Puzzle, Adventure, RPG, etc)

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Ye gods, people, how can you have forgotten Paradox's series of games based on the Europa Universalis engine? From the original right up to Victoria, these set the standard for 4x games. Civ? It pales in comparison. A fine idea when it (and computer games in general) were new, but really, technology has moved on.

I agree with the nomination of Epic 40k, truly an excellent tabletop wargame; the rules are so elegant that I believe they could be ported to a computer with no loss of playability, and still be quite realistic. This is what the RTS / wargame genre should be doing.

For boardgames, how about Junta and Diplomacy? While it would be difficult to give these much impact as single-player games, since so much of the fun is in the interaction between humans, for excellence of background (Junta) and simplicity of rules (Dip) these have no equal.

Settlers of Catan! Can it really be true that no-one has made a computer port of this yet? Someone is missing a major opportunity here. (Hmm... Makes note.)

On a slight tangent, how about books every designer should have read? I would nominate :

- LOTR. Ok, its reputation is way overblown. Still, this is where all the fantasy cliches start; you should read it just to see where the genre comes from, and perhaps be able to avoid some of the mistakes.

- Honor Harrington series. Spaceship combat with broadsides, yeah! Space opera at its best.

- Turtledove's Great War and Worldwar series. The man can't do dialogue for shit, and has apparently given up on producing alternate history, as opposed to reruns of the thirties with different players and identical plays. (And for God's sake stay away from the Darkness and Civil War stuff!) But he can do impact of wars on economic and social fabrics, which any designer of strategy games should think about.

- Stirling, Island in the Sea of Time series. Again with the logistics, but this time the writing is much better. Also worth while for its look at ancient diplomacy and the impact of sea power. Not to mention that it's worth reading just for the sentence "The cannon were keeping up well with the chariots; Pharaoh would be pleased." Classic!

- Speaking of sea power, Mahan! The Influence of Sea Power upon History. Agree or disagree with his thesis, the book will certainly give you ideas for your next strategy game. For some reason, most games have ignored naval power or simulated it badly. Mahan will tell you why this is a horrible idea.

EDIT : Forgot the reason I actually started this post, which was to mention Monkey Island. The culmination of the adventure-puzzle genre. Why does no-one make games like this anymore?

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Original post by Kylotan
I find it quite interesting that there are several games here that I really think have serious design flaws (Baldur's Gate, FF7, Tekken 3, Daggerfall). There's something to be learned from most games, even if it's just how not to do something.

I think it's hard to find any game (or novel for that matter) that doesn't have a major design flaw somewhere; especially an innovative game, because when you're doing something experimental it's hard to anticipate what it's going to feel like to the player, and once you get to the beta-testing phase some flaws are too deeply rooted in the design to fix, especially if it's a commercial project where you're trying to make a release date.

So, who's going to go through this thread and helpfully collect all the suggestions into a single list, categorized by genre? ;)

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BoZo - I agree, Ultima 7 is the best computer game ever made. There's plenty to be learned there, not least how not to design an interface - it put off many people who would otherwise have loved the game.

ahw - I think the Warhammer games have some of the worst rules invented. They exist merely to sell the miniatures and have been dumbed down in each successive edition to appeal to younger and younger children. The result these days is that instead of being a game of strategy it's a game of rolling a bucket of dice. (I must type this quietly as my housemate works for Games Workshop...!) And Wizards Of The Coast only really managed to buy TSR (the D+D makers) because TSR were pretty much bankrupt. Magic: The Gathering does have some good mechanics, or at least did do, before that too ended up having to cannibalise and parody itself to continue making it worth buying new cards. However I do think the intention here was to talk about computer games, although I do see your point.

King of Men - I find Civ much more playable than Europa Universalis. The balance and pacing in the latter game is incredibly poor. I have heard that it's less of a problem in the sequel however.

sunandshadow - I see your point, but the games I mentioned were all sequels except for Baldur's Gate, which also didn't feature anything innovative (unless I missed it). I think it's possible to be noticeably innovative and yet still deliver a quality experience, so I don't think that significantly flawed games deserve to make it to the top 10.

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Original post by sunandshadow
So, who's going to go through this thread and helpfully collect all the suggestions into a single list, categorized by genre? ;)

This could take a while [lol] I assume you were at least half joking, but I think it could be useful.

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Original post by mhamlin
Original post by TechnoGoth
6) Quest for glory 1-4 – PC - These enjoyable games are an excellent blend of adventure, rpg, and humor. With 3 different character types each possessing there own path through the game and methods for overcoming obstacles, make a lot more then you standard adventure game or rpg. Add to this the fact that you can bring your character along from one game into the next and you have one of the most enjoyable game series ever made.

Seconded. I'm a huge QFG fan--definately some of the finest games Sierra ever made (perhaps the finest?). In fact, I recently replayed 1-3, and am in the process of replaying QFG4.

Man, those were damn well made games.

Thirded.. Escpecially the first two in EGA version. Point and click might be easier, but I personally liked to type what I wanted the character to do and it didn't have the pixel-hunting of more modern adventure games. The VGA remake of QFG1 wasn't as enjoyable. The mix between Adventure, RPG and action is great, and I've yet to see a RPG combat system I've liked better than the one in these games. The only disadvangage about it is that when you fight multiple enemies, only 1 step forward and fight at a time, so it's not very realistic. Also, it's not team based, but in my opinion that's not really a bad thing. In KOTOR2 I have to spend at least as much time stopping my team-mates from running headfirst into trouble, so I pretty much find it easier to park them away from the combat zone and go solo.

BTW, I managed to get 525 (or so) points out of 500 in QFG1 (EGA). Beat that! [smile]

On a list of games all game designers should play there should be at least one game of each kind.. I don't see anyone mentioning plane/space-fighter simulation games. My preference is the Wing Commander series (Esp 2, 3 and 4), and to a lesser degree Starlancer, but that's mainly because I enjoy games with good stories better than others.

I'll also give a vote to the Ultima series (esp. 7). They're absolutely huge, has good stories, and offer a lot of freedom (making things, robbing the bank and having sex comes to mind [smile]). When you consider that U7 was about 5MB and came out in the early 90's, 50+ hours of gameplay with ok graphics (great for it's time) is pretty impressive.

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Went through the thread up until here and summed it all up. Alphabetically for now:

Civilisation 1
Age of Empires 2
Alpha Centauri
Ape Escape
Baldur's Gate
Beatmania IIDX
Beyond Good & Evil
Black & White
Boulder Dash
Breath of Fire 2
Castelvania (all)
Chrono Cross
Chrono Trigger
Civilisation 3
Command & Conquer
Contra 3
Counter Strike
Creatures 2/3
Dance Dance Revolution
Dangerous Dave
Deus Ex
Diablo 2
Do DonPachi
Dragon Warrior 4
Duck Hunt
Duke Nukem 3D
Dungeon Keeper
Elder Scrolls (all)
EVO: The Search for Eden
Eye of the Beholder
Fallout 2
Fallout 2
Fallout Tactics
Final Fantasy (all)
Gex Enter the Gecho
Gran Turismo
Grim Fandango
GTA 3: Vice City
Halo 1 / 2
Harvest Moon (any)
Heroes of Might and Magic 4
Hotshots Golf
Ice Hockey
Jedi Knight
Jumper Redux
Katamari Damacy
Knights of valour
Knight of the Old Republic
Lands of Lore 1
Legends of Kyrandia
Little Big Adventure 1 / 2
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Lurking Horror
Maniac Mansion
Mario 64
Mario Kart
Mario Kart 64
Masters of Orion 2
Mechwarrior 1
Medal of Honor
Medievel: Total War
Mega man
Metal Gear Solid
Metal Slug
Metroid Prime
Monkey Island
Monster Rancher
Mutant League Football
Myth 2
Neverwinter Nights
Nights: Into Dreams
Omicron: The Nomad Soul
Out of this World
Persona 2
Prince of Persia
Prince of Persia (SNES)
Project Eden
Puyo Puyo
Quake 3
Quest for Glory (1-4)
Racing Destruction Set
Rainbow Six (all)
Road Rash
Shining Force 2
Sim City
Smash Bros. 2
Sonic 2/3
Spiderman 2
Star Control 2
Star Wars: Republic Commando
Street Fighter
Street Fighter 2
Super Bomberman
Super Donkey Kong Country
Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts
Super Mario 3
Super Metroid
System Shock
Tekken 3
Tekken 4
Tekken Tag
The Sims ½
Thief (all)
TIE Fighter
Tony Hawk
Total Annihilation
Typing of the dead
UFO Enemy Unknown
Ultima (all)
Unreal Tournament 2004
Vagrant Story
Warcraft 2
Warcraft 3
Warcraft Adventures
Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War
Warning Forever
Wing Commander
Winning Eleven (all)
World of Warcraft
Yoshi's Island
Zelda Link to the Past
Zelda Ocarina of Time

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Original post by rick_appleton
[list of games]

Thanks, you've just made my job with the other thread (link) a whole lot easier to manage. [smile]

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That was the basic idea. Besides which, I'm bored :D

I'm not so sure about putting these in categories, since you'll always have games that span categories. Do you add them to both then?

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For now, I'm trying to fit them into whatever they best match, and I'll put notes of crossovers. If it becomes a problem as the list grows, some other system of organisation will probably be needed, but thus far it hasn't presented a major issue. I'm planning to sub-organise the categories alphabetically once I've got a bit more done as well.

What additional information would you provide for each, in addition to:
-some keywords
-link to a website (official or otherwise)
-brief summary

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My 2 pennies...
In no order...

1) Super Ghosts & Ghouls -> Great shout whoever came up with that, innovative mid-air jump and very addictive. Incredibly simple.

2) Ultima Underworld -> Obviously, technically, one of 1st 3D 1st-person games, great story as always.

3) Bloodwych -> Dungeon Master rightly gets all the acclaim for this genre but Bloodwych had very clever dungeon design that used limited creatures to great effect and required no mapping as most areas were fairly segmented (similar to a hub system in a way). No need to map is a definite plus for these games.

4) Civ -> No question.

5) Elite -> For same reasons as civ really.

6) GTA3 -> Elite in a city, a great modern representation of the same values.

7) Rez -> I'm soooo glad someone mentioned this one. Spectacular and innovative.

8) NWN -> Hmm, interesting inclusion as I guess games like this are really very similar but the scope of this one is incredible. Still searching for the *perfect* adventure but the integration of the Aurora toolset with its vast set of features is another plus.

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UFO - Enemy Unknown
System Shock
Doom/Duke Nukem 3D
Star Control 2
Master of orion

All blizzard's and westwood's games are worth checking out. Also like looking glass's games aswell.

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