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Jordan Hoffman

Creating a Game For Yourself Rather than Others

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If you strictly were designing a game that only you would be playing, how would that game be different vs. designing a game that was meant for the mass populace? Would it be different? What do you enjoy to an extent that others might not enjoy? Or something like that.

 

Edit: I'd like to better explain what I'm trying to find out. This is from a post of mine further down:

What I really want to know is what each of you particularly enjoy in games that you think sets you apart from a majority of others. What aspects do you enjoy that most likely you wouldn't find in commercial games because they wouldn't appeal to a majority of the target audience.

Edited by Patliteon

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Well, for starters, you no longer need a tutorial =)  Similarly, one can crank up the difficulty as well.  You probably don't need a story, though maybe playing through one's own narrative game is still enjoyable?

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When I make something only for me, I care only that the core things work within the ranges I work on, and I don't care what happens in any other case.  I don't care if my program crashes on unexpected input. I don't care if it behaves badly on values I know are bad because I know I won't enter them. And I don't care if it fails when things are done in any order other than the order I normally do things.

 

 

When I make something for others, I need to ensure that every route works, and that failures are treated gracefully. I need to take proper actions if data is unexpected. I need to take proper actions when values are bad. I need things to work if they are run in any valid order, and I need to test to ensure every ordering is either permitted and works perfectly, or that the ordering gives a proper failure response.

 

 

 

As far as gameplay, most of the projects I've worked on professionally are also projects I enjoy on my own, or are projects I enjoy watching other people play. As a big example, I spent several years working on a successful line of kid's games. While they weren't the games I would play on my own, I had my own children who came in and played all the time; when each was finished they played the games and shared them with their friends and had hundreds of hours of fun on them.

On the few projects I've worked on that were not in areas I would enjoy, I was still able to see and experience what was fun about them, and was able to leverage that fun.

 

Even on "boring" stuff I can still find ways to make things fun.  I was working on an animated menu system that needed to spin and move nicely, and I found fun in spinning the menu around and goofing off with it.  In another menu system there were sounds for each of the 8 buttons, the sound designer gave them each one pitch in a scale and I could have fun playing simple tunes moving my mouse over items.  Building inventory systems I've had fun trying to figure out quirks of the system like how deeply things can stack, or making comic collections of items as placeholders where designers and others who see the system get a chuckle out of them.

 

No matter what the system is, if you can't find a way to make it fun and entertaining then something is probably wrong with it, or you aren't really trying.

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though maybe playing through one's own narrative game is still enjoyable?

 

probably not, because you already know how the story ends. its like re-reading a book, or watching a movie you've seen before.

 

that's why i try to build maximum randomness into my games, so they're fun for _ME_ to play (as well as others - hopefully).

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If you strictly were designing a game that only you would be playing, how would that game be different vs. designing a game that was meant for the mass populace? Would it be different? What do you enjoy to an extent that others might not enjoy? Or something like that.

 

i wouldn't have to worry about the quality of the graphics, or lack of audio, stuff like that.

 

i primarily build what i want to play that's not out there at the moment. so in that sense i'd still be making the same kinds of games.

 

right now i'm working on a caveman sim, a starship sim, and an airship sim.

 

in the past i've done:

"flying saucer shooter" (aracde)

Mordorventure 1 (text based rpg)

Armies of Steel (wargame)

Combat Zone (arcade wargame)

Tank (arcade tank combat)

Global War (grand strategy)

Cybertank (gravtank sim)

Combat Racer (armored gravcar racing sim)

Dominoker (poker with dominos)

Gamma Wing (space fighter sim)

SIMTrek/SIMSpace (starship flight sim)

Mordorventure III (2d grpahics rpg)

Caveman (FPSRPG/person sim)

 

combat zone was an arcade version of armies of steel, basically just a way to get another game out of the code. armies of steel was the game i wanted to play - and built first.

combat racer was built using the cybertank code, but was a game i wanted to make, not "just another game i can churn out with this existing code base".

dominoker was made for a client. otherwise i would have probably never made that type of game.

so combat zone and dominoker are the only two i didn't build primarily for me to play.

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If you strictly were designing a game that only you would be playing, how would that game be different vs. designing a game that was meant for the mass populace?


Moving to Game Design.

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A fun game is usually streamlined: the features are coherent and essential and understandable.

 

A fun to build game (at least for me) is horribly baroque. Shooting a bow at the enemy? Let's check the angle of the sun, and whether you were up late last night thinking about your love, and is enough adrenaline rushing through your blood to fully ignore the pain from the blister on your right ring finger?

 

I'd tend to give it a story, but a convoluted, ever growing one. Why is this fortress located right here? What battles happened here over the centuries? Where's that guard from originally, who here is he closest to, what's his ambitions in life?

 

There's something enjoyable in just making narrative and gameplay decisions. There's something enjoyable in having a working system and tweaking the nobs in weird ways (what if we give everyone a third arm...) There's something enjoyable about world building at a level far deeper then is every necessary for a story or a game.

 

So much of good development is cutting ideas down and out...

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...

 

There's something enjoyable in just making narrative and gameplay decisions. There's something enjoyable in having a working system and tweaking the nobs in weird ways (what if we give everyone a third arm...) There's something enjoyable about world building at a level far deeper then is every necessary for a story or a game.

 

So much of good development is cutting ideas down and out...

 

 

Thx Polama. This along with the rest of your previous post is what I was trying to get at. When we make games for everyone there's certain rules and limitations we usually abide to. (Ex: Don't make the game too complicated or else you lower your target audience, don't put in tons and tons of forced story that people might get sick of, don't make it so the character loses 9 times out of 10 on the simplest tasks, don't have your character suddenly completely change to a completely different character for the rest of the game, etc.)

 

We usually see these rules or similar rules put into effect in games to make them more universally appealing. What I really want to know is what each of you particularly enjoy in games that you think sets you apart from a majority of others. What aspects do you enjoy that most likely you wouldn't find in commercial games because they wouldn't appeal to a majority of the target audience.

 

Your answer was spot on Polama. Extensive minor detailed tweaking of gameplay mechanics and extensive story decisions are rather rare in games these days (at least I think).

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If I was making a game only for me I don't think I'd bother having female characters.  There's something kind of sad about that, but it's true nonetheless.  In practical terms I don't think I could really enjoy playing a game I had made because it would be all spoilered for me, and most of the fun I get out of playing a game is from experimenting with the gameplay and uncovering the story one piece at a time.  If we're imagining that one copy of me could make the game for a different copy of me, or that I could erase my memories of making the game before playing it, then I'd go for a story-heavy game, with some side gameplay of breeding plants or animals and some adventure game style puzzles, in addition to the main combat and possibly crafting.  If I had to follow the realistic scenario of playing the game after making it then I'd probably go for a completely different type of game - maybe a speed and dexterity minigame like vasebreaker or freaky factory, something I would want to replay over and over again.

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If it's not business driven, I only make games that I'd like to play myself. I've played one of my 2 own games just yesterday (about 16 months after finishing it).

I think the same should go when you want to start your own business (studio or indie).

When your joining a (bigger) studio as a fulltime job I guess the rules change.

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