Sunday, September 24, 2017

Cost of Failure

One of the most interesting pieces of game design to me is the cost of failure. That is, when you fail at something in a game, what is the negative impact. For instance, in the original Super Mario Brothers, when you die, you go back to the beginning of the current level, and you lose 1 life. If you run out of lives you start the game over. That was pretty common in the 80's and 90's, but in today's world, that's pretty high.

I've purchased 2 different 2D platforming games for my switch. One is Sonic Mania and one is Rayman Legends. I picked up Sonic because people have said that it's one of the best Sonic games there is, and I used to play them back in Junior High, so I figured I would like it. Rayman is newer, so I don't have nostalgia for it, but again, people have been saying it's a great game.

I would say that the actual gameplay in Rayman is more difficult than Sonic, but because it's cost of failure is lower, it's much more enjoyable to play. There's no limit to the number of times you can die, where Sonic you only get 3 lives. Also in Rayman you tend to not have to go back very far when you die. This leads me to be much less frustrated when playing even though I'm dying a lot more.

There are other simple things than can affect the cost of failure. Having to rewatch some sort of cut-scene or video before playing again can really increase the cost of failure. Spending time on a loading screen waiting to play again is a pretty expensive cost of failure.

There are times when Rayman really plays with the cost. There are some levels where you do have to go all the way back to the beginning of the level if you die. You can tell, that it was very intentional in that design though. Very well thought out.

Sonic is trying to be a 90's game, so it is keeping the cost that the other games from the 90's had. It makes sense, and I wouldn't tell them to change it. It's just an interesting comparison.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Apathy Towards Today's Apple Event

Today a slug of new Apple devices are going to get announced. I am fairly entrenched in the Apple ecosystem and this is probably the least excited I've ever been for an announcement. Which is a bit strange because I'm a mobile app developer.

Part of it is because I won't be upgrading this time around. It's only been a year since I got my phone, and I don't have to have the newest to keep making apps. I haven't even really been following the news to see what they're going to be releasing. I know that there's something about a phone where screen goes edge to edge on the top and bottom, and it sounds like there might be a new Apple TV that can handle 4K video.

iOS 11 will probably come out today as well, which all I really know about it is that it will break some of the apps that I have in the app store.

I have a pair of meetings this afternoon that begin halfway through the presentation, so I won't watch very much of it live. I'll have to go find a good summary after it's over to see what all was announced.

At this point, there probably won't really be anything surprising to the tech journalists who are keeping up with this sort of thing. Apple used to work really hard to surprise people, but those days have been gone for a while.

Thursday, August 31, 2017


My brain is wired to write code. That fact becomes apparent every time I start working on some sort of coding project. When I'm working on some project everything else fades to the background and time slips by. Yesterday I had intentions of getting some marketing work done, but once I started coding on Cast Off, nothing else happened.

As I work on different projects, I'm figuring out that I need to do things that my brain is wired to do. Earlier this year I started making videos for youtube where I teach programming concepts. Planning the videos out ahead of time, and editing them after are things that I'm really not wired to do, so that project is abandoned.

I did a Facebook live video this morning, and that is much better. There's no editing, and there doesn't need to be much planning. I did know what I was going to talk about, but it's more of an off the cuff platform.

The takeaway is find the things that you are wired to do, and that you enjoy doing, and figure out a way to get paid to do those things.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Post Gen Con Thoughts 2017

I'm not going to do the usual break everything down that happened to me at Gen Con post this year. I did have a great time, and I really enjoyed seeing everyone. I think this is the first time I introduced myself to someone on Friday who said that we had just met on Wednesday. To be fair, I was playing host to an event on Wednesday and introduced myself to something like 100 people in the course of 3 hours.

The playtests that I did on my western game went really well. It did give me a lot to think about what I need to put into the final text of the game. I'm going to have to work on having the players develop their towns into something that feels a bit more real and give them quicker roads to feel like their are improving the town with their actions. I specifically had one player mention after the game that he was looking forward to doing something to improve the town. This is something that I'm going to have to put some major thought into and work on going forward.

This might be a little inside baseball for some, but the game uses town mechanics lifted from No Country for Old Kobolds. That game has you create wants for you town, and the players go on adventures to get those things the town wants. They are often things like fresh food or water. Things that can run out, and you keep going back to get. For a story about a bunch of kobolds, that totally works. For a more historical game about a diverse group of people in a Wyoming town, it kind of falls apart. The business owner, the sheriff and the youth aren't going to go adventuring together to get clean water every other week. They might go off to fix something upstream that is causing the local creek to reduce it's flow, which makes it more of a one time attack on a resource.

More thought required.

More coffee is also required.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Travel Anxiety

I get really unnatural anxiety over flying. I don't have any problems with the actual part of hurtling through the air in a metal tube at hundreds of miles an hour. That part is fine, I worry about missing my flights and getting to places in time.

Tonight, I'm driving to Billings so that I can get up early in the morning to go to the airport for my 6AM flight. I woke up this morning at 4:30 with my stomach in knots.

I'm worried that I'll miss my alarm tomorrow morning.
I'm worried that I'll forget to turn it on.
I'm worried that the security lines will be really long.
I'm worried that the lines to check my luggage will be really long.

I'm worried that I'm so worried I'll have trouble falling asleep tonight making tomorrow morning even more difficult.

My flight leaves at 6, I can probably get away with getting to the airport at 5:15. I'll get there much before that. I'll set my alarm for 4. My anxiety will wake me up earlier. I'll probably leave the hotel at 4 am, and get to the airport at 4:15.

I know that it'll be fine, but my stomach is still in knots.

Once I get to the gate, I'll be fine. Today, I'm worried.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Nihilist Game Designer

Gaming conventions, Gen Con in particular, seem to eat game designers. Everyone I know seems to be in the midst of "aaaaa gotta get all the things done, Gen Con is coming!"

I commented on a friend's Facebook post:
GenCon prep never really ends, there's just a point where you are at GenCon muddying through as best you can with the prep that happened. Then it's over and Metatopia prep starts. #nihilistgamedesigner
Which is of course very depressing, and really, it's not that bad. Yes, there is a lot to do, and sure, there are things I'd like to have finished that won't get done. But, with one week until I start traveling, the list of things that I need to have finished, is getting pretty short. I'm excited for the convention, and I hope most are in the same boat as me.

Just don't ask a lot of game designers this week. They probably are quite busy.

Friday, August 4, 2017

New Time

I bet you thought this blog was dead...


With my new direction of life, I find myself with a block of time in which I want to fill with something productive, but not actual work. So I might try blogging. I wake up pretty much every day at 5:30 in the morning, because I can't go any longer without drinking coffee. When I had a 35 minute commute, and had to be at a place of employment by 7:30, it worked out pretty well. Now that my commute is a flight of stairs to the basement, I have some extra time.

During the summer, I've been using the time to work on lessons from a marketing class that I'm taking, but that class is nearly over, so I need something new to fill the time. For now, blogging seems like an interesting choice.