Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Game Over! Retry? Podcast: Episode 14 - So many games, so little time...

I'm honestly surprised how early this episode was posted up.  Really, this is hot off the press.

Direct: http://www.secondary-fire.com/gor014-shooting-the-shit-w-adam-blanchard/
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My hard work pays off as we get to take our brand new recording studio for a spin on our 14th episode of Game Over! Retry?. After giving myself a crash course in professional audio recording, I managed to outfit our newly renovated work space with a semi-pro/pro-sumer recording setup. I won’t go into too much detail now, but at some point, I’d like to share the new setup with anyone who’s interested. I’ve mentioned many times that our previous recording set up was Harold and me hovering over a stereo mic, delicately balanced on a folding table. 
We shoot the shit with the zany and intellectual Adam Blanchard, another Game Designer on the edge of the industry. In this free form episode, we discuss what we’ve been playing, including Sol Survivor, Reus, Alan Wake, Kentucky Route Zero, Borderlands 2, Dishonored, and Magic The Gathering. Harold’s been on a video game speed run kick (http://marathon.speeddemosarchive.com), and we briefly discuss the merits of speed running through games. Once again, we’re all over the map… but you didn’t expect anything different, did you? 
Games Referenced this Week: 
Sol SurvivorgeoDefenseDefense GridOrcs Must Die 2Dead IslandReusBlack & WhiteDishonoredAlan Wake
Max Payne
Kentucky Route Zero
Alan Wake: American Nightmare
Borderlands 2
GTA: Vice City
Magic: The Gathering
Dota 2
So yeah, it's a mishmash of all sorts of different topics, and this week we're trying out tagging the thread with all the games and topics we've referenced.  Download, send feedback, etc. Have a good week!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Game Over! Retry? Podcast: Episode 13 - Word of the Day: This episode is worth 10 points

Welcome to another episode of Game Over! Retry? This week, we try out our last new segment: "Word of the day", and I'm sure this week's word, "Achievements", will make some of your blood boil.

Direct: http://www.secondary-fire.com/game-over-retry-episode-13-word-of-the-day/
iTunes Subscribe: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/game-over!-retry/id653554634
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Apologies for my tardiness. It took me a while to get this production out the door, mainly because I’ve been working hard to build a sex dungeon — I mean a podcasting studio. Up until now, Harold and I were recording Game Over! Retry? over a folding table and some bar stools. I know, I know. We’re kings of glamour. So immediately after recording this session, I took it upon myself to repurpose a room as a semi-pro lab and studio, where I could work and record podcasts, and not feel like a teenager living in his mother’s basement. 
In Episode 13, Harold and I discuss our “Word of the Day” (which is really a Term of the Day), “Achievements”. This, of course, was inspired by the recently finished Steam Summer Sale, where Valve put their card achievement system into full swing. We went off on many a tangent (which is kind of the point of this segment), discussing the value of achievements, and how they’re used to gamify commercial business, and how they’re exploited in Social/Freemium games. Also, I accuse Harold of being a coke addict. 
We wander off into many tangents, so be prepared for many angry rants into random topics.  If you listen to the end, you get a badge!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Game Over! Retry? Podcast: Episode 12 - ???: We ♥ Pokemon Snap?

Continuing our trend from last week, we introduce our second segment...

...crap, we don't have a name for it yet.

Direct: http://www.secondary-fire.com/game-over-retry-episode-12/

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Hurray! We’re celebrating our twelfth episode! Okay, not really — I’ve just decided to start tagging our episodes by number instead of date. What the significance is, I’m not sure. Anyway, this episode marks another game design segment we like to call … we don’t know yet. But the premise is essentially this: Harold and I have a running list of old IPs and games that we haven’t seen in some time (some time = 4 or 5 years?). In this design segment, we freely discuss a potential sequel to be made for one or any of the games on the list. 
This week, we chose to discuss Pokemon Snap, Katamari Damacy, and Fatal Frame in some detail. We debate the merits of cameras being ubiquitous in mobile technology, along with the effects of socially-powered gaming for our version of a Pokemon Snap sequel. We get into the puzzle and physics aspects of Katamari, and try to squeeze in our thoughts on horror in Fatal Frame. 
Get set for another Game Design segment on Game Over! Retry? … and if you’ve got any ideas for a name for this segment, be sure to throw your suggestions at us, either here, or on Twitter! 
So yeah, give us name ideas?  The ones we have are pretty non-existant.  And of course, while we've compiled a list of games we could talk about, send some in if any pops into your head!

Friday, July 12, 2013

On My Mind: Play vs Game - Can you play a game wrong?

Warning: This post dives into a really weird place of Ludology, and you may find it quite a bit like my philosophical discussions: quite a bit of self-wankary with a whole lot of hot air.  It's something to think about, but I'm not sure what it really leads to.

One of the things that I've been thinking about recently is whether you can play a game wrong.  By most definitions, the act of "play" can't be wrong: it's merely experimentation, exploration and for enjoyment; "game" on the other hand, may have a "wrong" state: games have rules and structure, and there's definitely room to interpret "wrong".  The problem I'm trying to get at is where these two intersect, and how is this defined in games.

An example: Baseball.  Throwing a baseball, swinging at bat?  Definitely in the realm of play.  Swinging at a pitch, running bases, using the predefined rules of baseball?  A game.  The the question is, if a team decides to only bunt for every player at bat, or move all their outfielders inwards, are they "playing wrong"?

For those who are familiar with the GDC Design Workshops, this may sound familiar to some of the questions and points addressed with both Marc LeBlanc's MDA Framework, Nicole Lazzaro's 4 Fun Keys or even Jason VandenBerghe's 5 Domains of Play. I'm not sure if this is some sort of regurgitation of all of those, or some broken analysis, but please go ahead and take a look at those if you're interested in this sort of thing.

On the surface, you could argue that a team that only bunts is "playing wrong" because that's easily the worst way to try to score, but that's not an entirely accurate picture.  You can definitely point that such a team is "not optimally" using the rules of the game to their benefit, but they're definitely working within the rules of the game.  Similarly, you can look at a team that has only home run hitters: are they as a team playing it wrong if all they can do/want to do is home runs?

Taking this idea of analyzing play vs game into the video game realm: is someone who refuses to use the run button in a Super Mario game playing it wrong?  Well, at some point, when you have large gaps, then maybe.  How about someone who is avoiding the enemies?  Or getting the most coins?  Or finding all the secrets?

Once you start deconstructing what is a game into the rules within the game, the content within the game, and the player's possible actions to act within the world, you start to realize that "you're playing it wrong" suddenly becomes a much more subjective statement: Telling someone they're playing it wrong can mean anywhere from "that's not what the game wants you to do" to "that's not how I would have approached it".

With this in mind, a pretty interesting problem arises for game designers to tackle: player agency vs designer intent.  As designers, you may come up with mechanics, setups, and ideas to nudge players to experience specific events, emotions and challenges; but all those gameplay tools also influence player's choices and actions within the world.  In a game like Bioshock, players are dropped into this atmospheric environment where they're experiencing the story and atmosphere, and the intent was that players interact with the enemies and environment in this fairly serious tone; in direct contrast, because of it's weapon/health system, most players act like rabid scavengers, clicking and scouring through garbage bins, dead bodies, benches, stores, etc.  Think about how that looks like from an outside perspective: you're the protagonist going through this harrowing experience, and the most frequent thing you ended up doing is picking up from bins looking for loot.

In the above case, it's not even "playing wrong", because the world and the rules established within the game suggests that this is what you want to do.  The above is another facet of this "play vs game" discussion: player intent and how that can influence a game.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Game Over! Retry? Podcast: Episode 11 - Rolling Start: The Zombie MMO Experience

We're going to start mixing up things a bit, and here's the first of the newly planned out segments, titled "Rolling Start"

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Howdy y’all. This episode marks the start of something fun. Well… fun for me and Harold, I’m not sure about you folks out there. Anyway, this episode is the start of a segment we like to call “Rolling Start”. 
In this episode, Harold and I splinter away from our typical conversation which was based on existing game design and development, and get into a richer design exercise. We call this exercise Rolling Start because it involves the use of dice to generate game ideas, which we can then flesh out in conversation. If you’re a game designer, or looking to get into game design, this is a good exercise to start brainstorming, and understanding constraints, at least from a broad sense. I’ll write up the process in a separate post. 
In this week’s Rolling Start, we were charged with brainstorming a game with a Zombie theme, that had Looting and MMO components. 
While a portion of this discussion was solely the definition and conventions of Looting and MMO’s, we did come up with two (very broad) game ideas. It only gets more interesting from here on out, so enjoy this episode! 
PS. I’ve quickly written up the process we used for Rolling Thunder here. 
There might be some awkward dead air, but I think that's pretty much expected as the process of thinking and designing live seems to directly contradict the act of filling airspace.  Tell us what you think, and try out the idea yourself!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Game Over! Retry? Podcast: Episode 10 - Driver: Sans Driving

It's another rainy day in Toronto, so why not listen to a podcast:

iTunes Subscribe: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/game-over!-retry/id653554634

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We made it to our Tenth Episode, WOOOOOO!!!! 
It’s a Driver: San Francisco-heavy episode, as Harold wraps up his playthrough and poses some interesting design questions. This week, we talk about bringing context to unique game mechanics, the difficulties of mapping control inputs, and what happens to games when their online communities shrink. 
Sorry folks, it's an hour long talk mostly about Driver: San Francisco.  We do end up covering quite a bit of grounds in other aspects of design relating to Driver (and other FPS) but yeah, it's about Driver...

10th episode!!!