USC game designer Kevin Wong has nine reasons why every aspiring game developer should participate in the Global Game Jam.
On any given Sunday, the day on which it is played most often, more than 200 million matches of Fifa take place in living rooms, studies and bedrooms around the world. The series has sold more than 150m copies, its popularity extending far beyond the world of football. In 2013, the NBA star LeBron James, who features in numerous EA-made basketball games, posted a photograph to Instagram of his sons playing Fifa alongside the caption: “Game is fresh to death!” Celebrity endorsements like this on social media can cost more than £10,000 a go. Yet LeBron, alongside other athletes and pop stars (Justin Bieber: “@Drake: I’m getting nice at Fifa. Be prepared”), have, at least according to EA, expressed their fandom freely.
Here’s a pretty cool code that lets a game identify button inputs as various combos or special moves, a la fighting games. Kinda cool since I know a lot of you guys love these games!
This is kind of a hefty code to be using this early on in Unity development, but as a fan of scheduled games and simulation style games, day/night cycles are some of the best things out there. The page itself does point out how there are better, more immersive ways to do this (such as manually editing skybox materials in relation to time passing), but this script needs only be attached to an object and pretty much handles all the work itself! Instructions are within the script to make it your own, so it should be easy to add on to even the simplest of games for a bit of immersion.
Found a script that can get the time that has passed in a game and show it. This would be super ideal for a racing game, and you could tweak it for time attack modes or something else of the sort!
Online, I found level designers who had spent hours carefully planning out their stages before they ever touched the Wii U GamePad. They drew them on graph paper; they brainstormed ideas with friends andtold stories through level design. My childhood dream of creating games was merely romantic, but for these people it had been a practical passion. They drew levels on paper; they used other game-making programs; they built up their love for game design as a skill. I didn’t. It’s as simple as that.
“Is my game too easy? Is my game too hard?” Difficulty in games is an interesting subject because games are the only art form that can afford to demand a certain margin of effort from their participants. While most other art forms are inherently difficult to create, games require a level of consideration from their creators in relation to their players. Simply put, an artist might deliberately create an abstract, layered piece of art, but difficulty level is an intrinsic element of game design that it garners its own merit.
When a developer designs their game, difficulty level plays a large role in the game because it actively affects the flow of the game itself. The amount of effort a game requires from players can easily make or break a game right off the bat. So it would make sense that difficulty is always carefully thought of by developers, right? But instead, difficulty is being ignored as a key aspect to games on more accounts than one.
To better understand this, it’s worth dissecting what difficulty actually is in a game, and understanding what forms it comes in. Difficulty is obviously the amount of effort and hard work a game demands from its player. This can be accomplished in any number of ways, but for the most part, it can be reduced to two major categories:
- Artificial Difficulty: Difficulty created by altering variables. This is generally accomplished by skewing values more drastically against the player, such as lowering their damage, resources, or health, and bolstering enemy damage, health, etc.
- Intentional Difficulty: Difficulty built into the game’s working mechanics. Most commonly seen as a design function such as puzzles, level design, or even enemy intelligence. Functional to the very flow of the game.
As such, difficulty can be easily created artificially, thus enabling even the simplest, easiest of games to become painstakingly hard, or it can be created intentionally as a component of the game itself, making for an inherently difficult game to begin with.
So what exactly is the problem?
Artificial difficulty has become the norm for games. While arguably a noble cause because it gives players of all skill levels a suitable challenge, it also is simultaneously negatively impacting the industry.
Games such as Dark Souls or Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne are lauded for their insane difficulty, but any other game such as Call of Duty can theoretically be every bit as difficult when ramped up to the max difficulty level. So why do people praise the earlier titles for the same thing the latter can accomplish. Because the earlier games are designed from the get go to be difficult.
On the hardest difficulty, Call of Duty becomes a game of memorization: understanding through unnecessary levels of trial-and-error where enemies will be at exact moments, lest they automatically snap to your position and kill you with one bullet no human could ever land so easily. The higher difficulties pay no mind to the order or flow of the game, and the addiction to “difficulty” that breeds an elitist group of gamers is nothing more than unfairly ruining the statistics of the game. Many RPGs suffer from difficulty curves simply because the game did not give players enough content to go through in order to compete with the next boss, and thus are forced to backtrack and battle past enemies repeatedly. Thus senselessly extends playtime and is really just making every number in the game larger. This is what is killing the industry: the notion that we must have difficult games and the subsequent lack of effort to do so. In a way, these artificial difficulty levels are the same thing as a poorly designed game, and are applauding players for being able to get through them nonetheless. We’re slapping a band-aid onto a broken game that reads “Hardcore Players Only” with no incentive to do so other than the occasional bonus item or bragging right.
Nocturne is a game that will repeatedly punish and humiliate players as a turn based RPG. But the game is praised for this because it has achieved a cult status for its difficulty for one major reason: ironically, it is fair. Nocturne is a game that requires players not to senselessly grind and level up every time an enemy proves to powerful, but to adjust their strategy and skills to outmatch the enemy that otherwise responds to and adapts to the players tactics. It creates a distinct tension to every battle because enemies feature a slew of abilities that they full well understand how to use effectively, all for the purpose of defeating the player. The game demands thought and strategy from the player, making every action less of a chore and more of a battle of wits. This type of difficulty forces the player to actively seek out every opening they can and to soak into the game world rather than tirelessly fighting random enemies as the only solution. While Nocturne still requires a degree of level grinding, most enemies will have no trouble defeating you if you don’t apply strategy regardless of how powerful you are.
Intentional Difficulty might prevent a group of players from playing your game, but it also acts as a great piece of game design because the game becomes a more dynamic entity: rather than simply boosting variables, a planned out harmony is created by a games intentional difficulty. When a game relies solely on artificial difficulty, it upsets the natural flow of the game by harshly unbalancing all of the components that work together.
It comes down to understanding where artificial difficulty should be used, typically in moderation. Artificial difficulty has place in opening your game up to more demographics, but that also runs the risk of skewing the game’s design at the same time. Easy modes are very important, and having “Super Painful Hellish Nightmare Suffering” modes are arguably just as fun for the sole fact that they are ridiculous and near impossible. There is no reason to ignore these, but simply to understand the difference between artificial and intentional difficulties. It is incredibly important to know the difference and understand how important it is to factor difficulty in, be it easy or hard, as a component of design on a fundamental level rather than a last minute add on simply for demographic purposes. A well designed game should be able to find the balance of difficulty for the players it wants by the way each element of the game is constructed and acts in correspondence with each other rather than just slapping more variables on. Food for thought!
Today I actually found an interesting project going on by a super small team of two at Sinxsoft: Making a full-fledged JRPG.
The entire project is being done in Unity and while it calls in work from outside participants to handle things such as the soundtrack, it’s looking to be primarily the work of one programmer and creative director alongside one story writer. The JRPG genre is definitely a love-it-or-hate-it category of games, so seeing a game of such depth being made purely out of passion is a really cool thing to see. Since the genre is known for it’s heavy emphasis on character-driven narratives and stories, as well as the mix of engrossing combat and layered exploration, seeing a small team able to create such a large scale (and niche) game is really awesome even from the perspective of one who isn’t into these types of games.
The video definitely shows room for improvement, but it also shows promise: I found myself judging the animations (or lack of) in it, but that’s just a lack of polish. The environments and the presentation are very solid and honestly show a real attention to detail in a game of such a comical style. And mind you this is just a prototype demo.
The article I found about it can be read here, to find out more about how this game came to be.
While I personally have a bias for these games and want to make one myself, I think the biggest takeaway from this is just how much feasible indie development is becoming. Thanks to crowdfunding such as Kickstarter, the financial component to game making is much more reasonable by offering a realm of passion to the funding. The immediacy of consumers to say “YEAH I WANT THIS” can tell even the smallest of developers whether their project will tend to the audience it wants. And with the technology present now, with programs such as Unity, making games of this caliber is completely possible. WHAT A TIME TO BE AN INDIE DEVELOPER.