Time for a little experiment. Here’s the deal: most of my free time on weekends has been going to Purity, as I’m trying to get something decent to submit for the IGF deadline in November. This is well and good, but the casualty is you folks – my miniscule readership. Rarely do I feel I can justify the time it’d take to write an entry for this blog. So the experiment is this: I’m going to post some summaries for longer-form blog entries I want to write, you people tell me which sounds most interesting, and I’ll do that one next. I make no promises for the quality of the final post, even if you thought it sounded really exciting at the time… just like game development!
Coelacanth – Sometimes in game design a long-forgotten idea is just as good as a never-before-seen one. Doom is a game I keep coming back to as a designer, and it holds very different lessons for those looking back on it today compared to what it taught the industry in its heyday (ie “use cutting edge technology to make something dark and violent”). The game’s blazing speed, focus on movement-as-defense and twitch aesthetic are quite unlike anything seen in a contemporary FPS. What are some other coelacanth games, what can be learned from them?
What I Get Out of Indie – I barely possess 0.001% the indie cred of a Pixel, a Phil Fish or a Jon Mak, but working on a small-scale game in my spare time has already taught me as much about what I do in mainstream game design as the converse. I’ll argue for why I think indie development is good for the AAA soul and why, if you have the time and drive for it, making something tiny and precious in your off hours can make you a better developer.
Intrinsic / Extrinsic – Jon Blow’s notion of “junk food games” set me thinking about what sort of common mechanic/aesthetic values a designer can embrace if they wish to design a game that’s the opposite of junk food – enriching, or otherwise fulfilling in some more lasting way. Dogs are trained to recognize the sound of a clicker as an abstraction for something legitimately rewarding, as opposed to the “self-rewarding behaviors” that they pursue with no prompting. My theory is that by presenting conflicts and (optionally) rewards that engage faculties humans already use in daily intellectual and emotional life, we foster “meaningful play” and take the first step towards nourishing rather than narcotizing players.
Positivity – Open GameTab or Kotaku and look at the top headlines – chances are, one of them is something like “Developer X flames Developer/Company/Game Y”. Flaming is cathartic, everyone feels like doing it sometimes, but its net effect increases the ambient level of cynicism and hostility in the gamer meta-population. As I become more of a visible person in the game industry I’m trying to focus very exclusively and explicitly on the things I’m passionate about, rather than who I think is clueless or terrible or Ruining Videogames. Life is less stressful and interviews are easy. All it takes is the ounce of creative and intellectual maturity needed to recognize that there is no single “right way forward”.