Game Design

Game Design: Technology

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Now listening to: the beating of my heart

Artists and engineers hate each other because they are too much alike. Both are selfish pricks unwilling to admit that they create for themselves because they can. They are not pricks because they design for themselves but because they are not willing to admit it.

The secret of the Sonic games is how tough yet rewarding it is to go so fast and not crash. The loops and occasional rails are just brief rewards for managing to keep the blue hedgehog on a tenuous leash. If you can’t capture the essence of a Sonic game that way you better come up with something else.

I wrote down an idea for a game about managing a species’ evolutionary tree. Turns out it is Dominant Species. Kind of.

I think I’ll try my hand at a particle manipulator in VR. Googled it and was surprised to find no results. Kinda weird, could be oodles of fun if done properly, we’ll see how it plays out.

I give no shits about the client or pitching a game project! I mean, it’s important, sure, but what in the decaffeinated fuck can I write about that, eh? Holy shit, though! Those are some big fucking fish! Has every single gaming megacorp and their mommies had a fling with them?

I’m burning out. I want a book on zen koans. I’d like to feel smart if only for a little while.

#104 Technology

#105 Crystal Ball

#106 Utopia

#107 Client

#108 Pitch

#109 Profit

Game Design: Team III

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Test. Test. Test. Test. Test. Think about how much you should test and then multiply that by 10.

Fuck, today I had a pretty good idea about a game with a decentralized system and now I can’t seem to remember it.


There we go. It was not an idea for a game, it was an idea for a novel. In the world where “GENhub” takes place, humanity’s DNA has been fully mapped and our genetic code is now pretty much open source software. You have the GENhub, a vast repository of genetic code. You have compilers that translate the code in GENhub into your DNA. You can get pretty custom if you know what you’re doing.

Enhanced lifespan. Night vision. Super strength. Armored skin. Impossible reflexes. Extreme intelligence.

There’s a catch, however. Much like in the modern machine programming landscape, almost no one actually codes in pure genetic code. It’s tedious and error-prone, so higher-level languages are used. These languages, however, trade simplicity for power consumption and humanity hasn’t found a way to consume less biological energy. This means that the higher you go in the language you use, the more energy your body is consuming constantly. So either you require a higher energy intake or you burn.

Wealthy people who can afford a higher energy intake have extensive genetic modifications done to themselves.

The whole thing smacks of cyberpunk, though, and I’m not sucking Stephenson’s dick hard enough to go for it! There are, of course, ramifications. The genetic code, like any other code, is vulnerable to hacking. This makes human beings vulnerable to genetic hacking. There have been documented cases of “farms”. To avoid a single point of failure, genetic code development was decentralized just as currency was. Many different GENcode chains sprung up. The oldest, most secure and traditionally human chain is BitGEN. There’s EtherGEN, a new protocol that allows anyone to build their own code chain.

How can you explore the implications of being able to tweak your genes?

  • Can someone use GENhub to clone itself to everyone who chooses to fork that library?
  • Can BitGEN be hacked by going after the lizard brain?
  • Can someone without scruples use ransomware on a living person?
  • Can the equivalent of genetic “hello world” be to change the color of one’s eyes?
  • Can genetic tribes emerge?
  • Can GENhub be banned in countries and compilers be declared illegal?

Time to play around a little bit with that idea! And hey, maybe there’s a game in there after all. Whaddayaknow, eh?

Holy fuck: today’s Google doodle is about Har Gobind Khorana.

#103 Playtesting

Game Design: Team II

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A project I was working on stalled because someone insisted we needed documentation. We hadn’t even gone beyond the first paper prototype. It’s been a year and the project has gone nowhere since that day. Documentation is all too often an excuse to avoid the real work. If you see someone all too eager to focus on documentation in the early stages of a project, it may be the sign of someone not willing to grit the teeth. Documentation should be an inevitability.

I like Rumsfeld’s “known knowns and known unknowns” phrase. I’ve talked about them in my digital marketing book. They are a great point of reference when thinking about your playtesting. Coming from a digital analytics background, I don’t understand why games aren’t so much better than they currently are. I’m not saying that you should let the numbers lead, never do that, but you should at least let them inform your decisions. A relevant set of KPIs can turbocharge your playtesting yield into the stratosphere.

#102 Documentation

Game Design: Team

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Now listening to: the roar of the sea

What can I talk about when not talking about a game? I come from the business world. There’s little in Schell’s book that’s new to me…


No. There are certain gems worth mentioning. And they don’t have to do with people as much as groups of people.

  1. Objective analysis: I once fell into the trap of letting my personal investment in a project skew my analysis of it and nearly bit it because of that.
  2. Clarity: I learned to program to inhale the fumes of clarity and learn what real deliverables look on paper.
  3. Persistence: is reading this book for over a year despite my crippling fear of what may or may not come of it.
  4. Comfort: I know where the line is but I try to look back on it from the horizon of struggle.
  5. Respect: is earned, not owed.
  6. Trust: the foundation of any lasting relationship.
  7. HONESTY: fuck you.
  8. Privacy: I am notorious for not giving enough fucks about stuff that people tell me in confidence, so they know their privacy will be respected out of my disinterest.
  9. UNITY: 8 years and going strong!
  10. LOVE: period.

#101 Team

Game Design: Multiplayer

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Now listening to: nothing

Half of what we do is worthless if there’s no one there to see. Doubly so for worldbuilders. Without spectators, the tree is not even important.

I’ve been going back and forth on the idea of the community once the generator is seaworthy. Why do DMs avoid collaboration? Isn’t there a world where DMs come together to form something than one DM could never possibly build? Does the idea of collaboration fly in the face of the cohesion provided by a single creative mind? Couldn’t worldbuilding be fragmented into modular pieces that can be integrated into stories? This world, that city, this NPC, that plotline, BAM!

It does feel a little loose. It’s more of a “mix and match” type of worldbuilding experience than an artisanal one. A DM needs to feel its hands wet with the clay of creation, however subtle the modifications to a pre-existing idea might’ve been. It’s a vain endeavor, and the generator must satisfy that vanity. /r/DnDBehindTheScreen isn’t really a place where one makes friends. It’s a place where one goes to show off one’s creative chops.

What can my generator offer a newbie? A readymade, if not exactly polished, tool to play on the fly.

What can my generator offer the player? A tool to craft and maintain an internally consistent world.

What can my generator offer the elder? A tool to keep everything unimportant organized.

#95 Spectation

#96 Friendship

#97 Expression

Game Design: Beauty

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Now listening to: Wagner

How much better of a game Tokaido is because it’s aesthetically beautiful? +5%? +20%? +500%? If all its beauty were to be stripped away, what would its BGG rating be? Is there even a point in indulging in this question? No, there isn’t. But a lot of gamers of a certain “kind”, shall we say, sure do like to spend their time disparaging on the aesthetics of a game. More often than not, they are angry that were it not for its readily apparent beauty, a game would be perceived as the trash it actually is. But a game’s aesthetic beauty is as much part of the game as its mechanics. This cadre tends to use a very lopsided set of scales to throw a game’s aesthetic value under the bus. On their set of scales the fact that a game can get away with being considered better than it really is mechanically just because it’s nothing short of blasphemy.

Would Chrono Trigger be the masterpiece it is without Akira Toriyama’s contributions?

Isn’t Agricola substantially improved by the addition of wooden tokens for its grain, veggies, sheep, pigs, and cattle?

How many people would play Dwarf Fortress without the Lazy Newb pack?

As far as the generator goes, just like Dwarf Fortress, it only needs enough beauty to spark the imagination of the DM. Sketch the world, detail the important. Continue detailing as needed. Add Tolkien’s “distant mountains” as the players discover new areas. Angmar was never meant to be explored. The barrow wights were cut from the LotR movie adaptation, so the barrow blades are bestowed unto the hobbits by Aragorn and not Tom Bombadil.

#94 Atmosphere

Game Design: Space

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Now listening to: still nothing

I need a map generator. Something simple. Diamond square algorithm ought to do it. Once I got that, I need a way to access each coordinate and assign objects to them. Geographical features, settlements, points of interest. The settlements then need to be fleshed out. A randomly generated map with settlement size relative to estimated population. Specific building allocation within the map.

#92 Inner Contradiction

#93 The Nameless Quality