I made this quick video after watching the latest trailer of Kojima mysterious Death Stranding…
Back in April 2014, I went to the EA Developper Conferences in Redwood shores and did a talk about how rapid prototpying using my
horrible romantic french accent. The thing is that it mostly happened by accident!
A few weeks before going there, we received an email asking if we wanted to share quickly an idea or opinion for 1 to 2 minutes. So I decided to say something – at that time it was supposed to be a simple “pass the mic in the audience” thing. But about a week before the conferences, I received a powerpoint template asking to make it a real talk! I only had less than a week, finished it on the way there and did a few repetition. And I was getting even more nervous when I realized that it was going to be on a proper stage – not just a simple room that I’m used too!
But it all went well – I had some great feedbacks about the ideas and my presentation skills (people really like the “inception exemple”0. So, I guess the morale of the story is that you are never truly ready for thing, so you just need to use every opportunities to improve, especially when it is about stepping out the comfort zone.
Here is a quick list of some of the few games I have been playing and what we can learn from them.
Probably one of the best-written games ever. It is so rare to have such real characters in a game that it actually makes all the other games quiet poor. I really like that the game use all those video game cliché stories to trick you.
– take the time to reveal your characters – it’s a game, you got way more time than a movie
– make sure the game acknowledge the choices the player made in some ways (change the dialogue…)
– for immersion, add things that the player can interact even if they don’t necessary impact the story
Horizon Chase (iOs)
Virtual controls can work on mobile. Horizon Chase manages to do it well by combing the auto-steering to recreate the same vibe from classic arcade racing games like Outrun or Top Gear. It is also worth mentioning that this game could have been free to play (they got many variables like coins or gasoline), the developers decided not to as it was probably damaging the experience.
– if you make tactical controls, get ready to build systems to help the player
– make it free to play if you can; can’t deal with micro-transactions? Put your app as a free demo like they did
Dying Light (PC)
A great example of game full of ideas that delivers a great experience if you can deal with all his problems. It is the “bag of bits game”: some players would love it despite all the bugs and the lack of explanation, while some others won’t even bother after a few hours. I personally enjoy it, but it’s too bad to see how that even the expansion The following suffers from the same problems.
– if you’re making a First Person game, then you must look at this game
– Techland understood that game as a service means updates, patch and new free content, not just paid DLC; too bad it is too rare…
– if your game got too much stuff, don’t be afraid to take some out, polish them later and release them as free content
Call Of Duty Black Ops 3 (PS4)
Say what you want about Call Of Duty: it is still a very solid shooter for consoles. This last iteration got a solid multiplayer and gives many options for players to enjoy the game how they want and with who they want.
– give quick options for players to join then friends or invite them
– to let players customize their characters in any modes, make clear distinctions to avoid balancing issue – your character in single player is different than in mutiplayer
– show the player’s stats – it gives them things to talk about, compare and improve
Life is Strange (PS4)
There are too many games in the style of Telltale, but Life is Strange is really worth looking at. Dontnod adds a very clever mechanic to let the player experience all of them.
– if you have to make a game about choices and consequences, try to build a mechanic to let the player experience all of them
Being creative is about being wrong: how many times you had a great idea and it didn’t work out? This is just part of the creative process – a big mess that you just need to embrace. The problem is that is is tiring and expensive.
Designers shouldn’t just throw ideas – everyone can do that: they should get ideas on how to communicate and test them quickly.
You have a simple game mechanic you want to explore? Try to prototype it. You can use Playmaker for unity to quickly get something without any scripting needed.
Too hard to get it software? Try to make a simple drawing, take screenshots and write over them, use Premiere to make a quick video… Just find any way to communicate your idea clearly and fast.
Making a game system? How about making a board game out of it. If you are making a city builder game, how about building the entire city with legos, and mix it with some cards to represent the player’s interactions. It will be faster and way more fun than spending all those long hours in Powerpoint.
Still too hard? How about using toys or even act it. That is what we did t another producer when we wanted to explain a new mechanic involving multiple vehicles. We could have spent days to illustrate it, but instead we pretended to be vehicles ourselves and acted it in front of the studio! Yes, everyone laughed and the message came across.
People will also remember those concepts more than any other documents you could have provide. Do you remember that powerpoint document? Probably not. But do you remember when I pretend to be an ATV? Yes, that was fun. Your team will be way more engaged in your design if there is some ways for them to interact.
No matter how good your idea can be – if you are not able to demonstrate it, communicate it and test it, then it will never happen. Don’t get stuck in the paper design: ideas are cheap and execution is what matters.
You should play bad games and try to understand what is wrong with them and what could be improve. Just like The Crew because there are some great takeways :
– always choose quality rather than quantity; The Crew has 200 ideas but most of them have not been iterated and it’s too bad because there are some interesting ideas (the simple challenges in the open world, the map, the customization…);
– make sure your world team is working with your handling team; the world of the Crew just isn’t fun to drive, and you can see that the team did try to recreate the US but without the handling in mind (90 degrees turn is just too hard for a racing game).
– create a light fiction rather than a simple story; I’d rather play a racing game where I must become the champion than revenge my brother; think more Forza Horizon than the terrible Need For Speed movie;
– let the game creates multiplayer events to play together rather than letting them sending invitations for multiplayer constantly; The Crew allows you to send invitations for every event but you end up playing alone most of the time; think Destiny’s public events;
Over the past few years, I’ve learnt that playing games and having opinion about them is key: you should understand what it is good and bad about every game you can play.
So I decided to start writing “what we can learn from”: the goal is to share what I’ve learnt from the games I’ve been playing. It is not about telling you which game you should play because I generally believe you should play anything, good or bad.