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Which games should I try?

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I am going to a retro-arcade this weekend and I was wondering what I should assign myself for homework. I would like to try an example of each kind of basic mechanic. There is no way to know exactly what games they will have there, but they include pinball, racing games that you sit in, air hockey and skeeball, as well as video arcade games from Pac Man to more recent 3d games. By the way, these should ideally be mechanics that would also apply to tabletop games, so that when I teach those, I know what principles to focus on and carry through to the video game making part of the curriculum later in the year.

 

To learn more about game design for the course I will be teaching I would like to go in with a critical eye and learn the differences. So what do you think the categories would be? Are there basic mechanics for different genres (i.e. fps, fighting games, racing games, etc.)? And what should I be looking for as I play?

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Maybe prioritize arcade experience that you can't get at home without extra peripherals?

Like the ones where you use light guns, racing games with actual steering wheels or those flight simulators with rotating seats (if they exist).

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The retro-arcade might not be the best place to learn these things (unless you have a knowledgeable guide with you).  Not that you shouldn't go, but it's a hard place to learn anything.

 

It's easier to learn when you've got some more time and less pressure, so I really recommend buying a few, cheap, "gateway games" in various genres, that aren't too demanding on computer hardware.  Lots of games are regularly under $5 at steampowered.com, humblebundle.com/store, or gog.com, and some have free demos.  (But arcades, and "free to play" games, are mechanically set up to make you give them more money.  It's easier to learn about the relationship between mechanics and genres without all that noise.  That's why I'm recommending purchased games or games that are genuinely free.)

 

Do you have a PC or Mac?  PC has a wider selection but lots of recent games are cross platform.

 

The following will give you a taste of a genre without overtaxing your computer, and these are frequently available very cheap.  (Also, I tended towards lower-violence options when available, given your statement of preference earlier, and gave a bias towards "arty" games.)  There are a lot of platformers here because it's a basic genre that you can find tutorials for; I also threw in a "walking simulator" because it's the easier kind of 3d game to make by far.

 

First-person puzzler: Portal

Puzzle: Sokobond

3d platformer: Psychonauts

Puzzle platformer: Braid or Fez

Precision platformer: Hmmm... VVVVVV?  There's a free demo of that.

Metroidvania platformer: Aquaria

Roguelike platformer: Spelunky (still available in its original, free incarnation)

Roguelike: Crypt of the NecroDancer

RPG: Can't think of a good entry point here.  Knights of the Old Republic, maybe?

Japanese-style RPG: Not a great selection on PC/Mac.  Maybe track down Chrono Trigger by some means...

Action RPG: Torchlight

Japanese-style Action RPG: Recettear maybe?

Visual novel/Dating: Hatoful Boyfriend

Graphic adventure: Day of the Tentacle

Strategy: Hmm... Civizilation IV?  The XCOM reboot?  Any ideas?

Shoot-'em-up: Jamestown

Fighting game: Skullgirls (I thought Jamestown and Skullgirls did an admirable job of trying to train new players in genres that have become difficult to get into as a beginner)

Stealth: Hmm... Dishonored?  Monaco?

Walking simulator: Proteus

 

Even cheaper option: Watch some "Let's Play"s or "Long Play"s on YouTube.  Watching an insightful player play a game can be as illuminating, or more illuminating, than playing it.

Edited by valrus

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@ valrus

Pretty interesting list of games. I don't think the OP has to go much further at all :)

 

@ OP

I'd like only to add a few items to an already great list:

 

Platform: Super Mario. Any flavor really. It's a landmark in the genre and pretty retro.

 

RPG: Final Fantasy. The older the better if you can get your hands on them.

Edited by Raaf

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>>  these should ideally be mechanics that would also apply to tabletop games, so that when I teach those, I know what principles to focus on and carry through to the video game making part of the curriculum later in the year.

 

the mechanics of table top games are really rather limited:

1. rolling dice

2. moving board pieces

3. drawing or playing cards

4. saying what you do or some other form of talking / communication with other player / participants..

5. looking up rules in books, or consulting charts for results.

6. that kind of stuff.

 

as you can see, there's little or nothing in common with video / computer game mechanics.

 

>> Are there basic mechanics for different genres (i.e. fps, fighting games, racing games, etc.)? And what should I be looking for as I play?\

 

most definitely.  fighting games are about combo move mechanics. racing games are about turning , acceleration, and braking mechanics, and so on...

 

try as many games as you can, to get a feel for how they work, and what the basic idea of the game is.

 

then follow valrus' recommendation and just start checking stuff out.

Edited by Norman Barrows

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Arcade games by their nature tend to be high in action content. Table top games by their nature do not tend to be high in action content. Computer games involving strategy games or RPGs would likely have more in common with table top games.

You'll probably see a few games where there's some spaceship that's continually traveling in one direction while enemies come and shoot at the player. The player destroys them, grabs some power up item and then faces a large challenging "boss" at the end of the level.

Maybe you'll probably see a completely different games where a soldier on the ground continually traveling in one direction while enemies come and shoot at the player. The player destroys them, grabs some power up item and then faces a large challenging "boss" at the end of the level.

You should hopefully then say, "Oh I see!" and realize their common elements give rise to the name "scrolling shooter". And hopefully then you'll then have an idea of how to look at the other games to find commonalities.

Also, the thing about games in an arcade is that after awhile someone figured out that you don't really want people playing your game for a long time off of a single credit. You want to give people a reason to continually put money into the machine or otherwise bring in the next person quickly. If you can compare the older games to the newer games, it'll probably be easier to notice this trend.

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Arcade games by their nature tend to be high in action content. Table top games by their nature do not tend to be high in action content. Computer games involving strategy games or RPGs would likely have more in common with table top games.

You'll probably see a few games where there's some spaceship that's continually traveling in one direction while enemies come and shoot at the player. The player destroys them, grabs some power up item and then faces a large challenging "boss" at the end of the level.

Maybe you'll probably see a completely different games where a soldier on the ground continually traveling in one direction while enemies come and shoot at the player. The player destroys them, grabs some power up item and then faces a large challenging "boss" at the end of the level.

You should hopefully then say, "Oh I see!" and realize their common elements give rise to the name "scrolling shooter". And hopefully then you'll then have an idea of how to look at the other games to find commonalities.

Also, the thing about games in an arcade is that after awhile someone figured out that you don't really want people playing your game for a long time off of a single credit. You want to give people a reason to continually put money into the machine or otherwise bring in the next person quickly. If you can compare the older games to the newer games, it'll probably be easier to notice this trend.

Good points. Thanks!

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Can anyone think of any other commonalities between table top games and video games other than theme? What game design principles are the same? Would that be story, drama and conflict? Anything else?

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>> Computer games involving strategy games or RPGs would likely have more in common with table top games.

 

ah yes, a very good point. 

 

but the mechanics - what you do - are a bit different- well, sort of - the computer does all the dice rolling and looking up stuff for you - basically taking over the role of "referee" or "game mater" in a tabletop rpg.  but you still attack with your sword, cast spells or move units - in the  case of wargames (IE grand strategy). guess i was being a little literal minded. or maybe i was thinking more in terms of the next level below mechanics - IE implementation or controls or input methods. in a tabletop rpg you say "i attack with thus and such" and roll dice and consult tables. in a fpsrpg, you click the left mouse button. not at all similar, but both result in an attack.

 

and you're right, attack is the mechanic, how its done is the implementation. this assumes you define mechanics as the basic list of stuff you can do, IE move, look around, jump, attack, block, use/interact, etc.

 

>> Also, the thing about games in an arcade is that after awhile someone figured out that you don't really want people playing your game for a long time off of a single credit

 

a good point. arcade games are specifically designed and laid out to make you keep putting quarters in them.

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