The importance of abstraction

From the late 90s to the present day, many commercial games have been focused on some sort of realism – graphical photorealism, real-world physics, etc. Certainly when you look at the man-hours spent on most game software you’ll see far more of it invested in features that further the simulation aspects: eg. the creation of…


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I play a lot of Football Manager 2005. On this game I bought a lesser-known player from Norway whose position is marked as a “Defender/Forward Left/Centre/Right”. So he seemed adaptable, but I never got good results, no matter where I played him on the pitch, so I turned to Google to get more information – maybe other FM2005 players had…


Understanding what facilitates meaningful strategy in games

Often we invent games by taking an existing game that works and adding a twist to it, or changing some aspect of its behaviour or theme to something different. But how would we create a game from nothing, without using an existing game as a framework? In particular, how do we make the game complex…


Crossover games and explaining them to the audience

There’s a post on Penny Arcade from a few weeks back which is complaining that a certain game Brütal Legend seems to masquerade as one type of game (ie. a Real Time Strategy game) while actually being something else (a third person action-RPG). The tone of the article is that games shouldn’t be mixing one…


Code archaeology

Something interesting happened today. For a couple of years, myself and colleagues had mulled over a certain ‘killer feature’ that we wished our networking layer had, as it would have made our time implementing gameplay features much easier. Today, while doing some long awaited R+D work on said layer, I found that feature. The sheer…


Pitfalls of using wikis for game design documents

I recently made a post on this issue over at Gamedev.net, and thought I’d clean it up a bit to post over here, as I think it’s worth talking about. Designers are often looking for new and better ways both to create and present their design documents, and rightfully so. Just as programmers may try…


Playing time

Personally I love RPGs, and especially those permitting a large degree of freedom for exploration such as Oblivion or the Might and Magic series. Even with more linear games I tend to have a cautious play style, spending 30 minutes on Doom 2 levels that had a ‘par’ time of 2 minutes, spending 8 hours…


Dissecting a ‘simple’ game

Apologies in advance for the length of this entry; there’s a short summary in the last paragraph if you’re pressed for time! A few weeks ago, in a moment of extreme boredom, I stopped to watch the snooker player Stephen Hendry score the maximum possible ‘break’ of 147 points. (13 minute video.) Snooker is not…


Does ‘games as art’ have to mean ‘games as metaphor’?

In recent times there has been growing recognition of “games as art”, a term which is necessarily as vague as the wide scope of “games” and “art” allows, but which tends to evoke very specific images. The mainstream games industry tends towards heavily simulation-based 3D games with increased levels of fidelity in terms of rendering,…