Monday, June 27, 2011

Study Imitates Life

Next course at Full Sail University began today, and immediately, I am shocked that I have been studying it all along. They point me to read, which is on my blog roll! They tell me to do in depth analysis of different games, and I do! They tell me to do a bug report, which I have no idea how to do.

So there are some things in there that are new and scary, while at the same time, I feel that the things I normally do have an increased workload. In the end though, it makes me feel more confident in having made the right decision. I knew that I was a game designer at heart. I know that I can make great games. What I didn't know, is exactly what I don't know. So going to this course at Full Sail is of great benefit to me. Essentially I want to gain knowledge in what I don't know, and improve what I do know.

Furthermore, I want to know what I didn't know I was supposed to know.

It sounds silly typing it out as such, but I really feel good about what I've learned so far. I'll be posting more later on my top 10 influential games, the delay is that I've gotten back to work. I'm trying to establish my schedule so that I can work, study, spend time with my son and do my online cooldowns like this blog.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Final Fantasy III

Final Fantasy III was the first RPG that I had ever played. It was really the first time I saw a fantasy story told in such a way. I was really big into fantasy/sci-fi novels at the time and FFIII let me scratch the itch, while playing a game. The thing that struck me most powerfully from FFIII was the storyline. Some of it was told in exposition and flashback. A great deal happened during fights. One interesting bit that stuck with me, was fighting an undead monstrosity for Strago’s storyline, and being able to defeat it like all other undead.

Gameplay wise, there were some interesting things happening in FFIII. Heroes had secret ultimate attacks when they were on critical health. Everyone could learn spells. Unique combinations of items allowed for amazing effects. Each hero had a “class” that they were, and those classes brought unique and interesting abilities.

Interestingly, FFVII brought all these gameplay ideas as well, but personally, I disliked the storyline (which felt more fragmented and inconclusive). FFIII was instead a perfect storm of gameplay ideas for me. A well done RPG, with a few tricks thrown in, like group battles, well done maps, interesting characters, and an amazing storyline.

It is rare to find a game that covers so much ground (Chrono Trigger, Dragon Quest IX come to mind), and so FFIII remains a highly influential game to me.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Legend of Zelda

Legend of Zelda is known for its dungeon puzzles. It is strongly formulaic, yet unlike Mega Man, you really get the prize of the dungeon while exploring it. Once you have it, then you can better face off against the boss, or get to the next challenge.

Zelda also does a good job with scaling difficulty. Dungeons build and add to what happened before. There is also the over world which adds an interesting layer to the game. The secret passages, the tools, powering up, gaining in strength, puzzles and mysteries are all things that made Zelda and games like it amazing.

Its amazing, to think that Zelda has not influenced someone who has played it. It is a standard that adventure games are held up against, similar to how God of War carved its place in the current generation (also God of War borrowed from Zelda). Adventure is usually reserved for point and click games, but it is the main focus of Zelda. I could call it an action adventure game, which also fits, but in the end, the game is about finding items and using them creatively in different situations.

This I find important in games. Perhaps a weapon’s main purpose beyond damage could instead be to knock things around. So while yes, you can hit things with it, its true power comes when facing Demon Turtles that need to be flipped over to deal damage. Perhaps that nifty fire arrow bow is great for killing enemies, but can it also be used to set a rope on fire? What else can you do with a weapon? These questions should be asked while making anything in an adventure game. Zelda helped me understand that.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Kirby Super Star

Kirby Super Star carries a great deal from other games that I love and have influenced me, but it brought to the table something that I rarely experience in other games: a mix of game play. Kirby Super Star is more of a collection of games all themed around Kirby. From Sci-fi to Fantasy to Modern, the game has a variety of settings and play styles.

RPGs used this often to help break up game play from just pressing confirm. Some adventure games used it to diverge from the just find the thing to click on this screen type of game play. And recently (as in with in the last few expansions) World of Warcraft has seen the light, and started actively inserting this into their game.

As I’ve said before, variety is important. Why just leave the puzzle to be worked out with the standard UI of the game. You can create custom experiences within a massive $50 game to add to people’s experience. Zombie mode in games has become rather popular, but I’m also talking about snowboarding in Final Fantasy VII, or Mortal Kombat Kart Racing.

So even though the contribution is small, Kirby Super Star is what gets me thinking about adding other mini-games and play styles to games.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mega Man

Mega Man was the first game that let me choose which stage I wanted to do. I suppose I could include Bionic Commando in this list as well. Yet, Mega Man brought more than just stage selection to how I view game design. It brought reward for defeating a difficult boss, and it brought a sense of purpose to the powers you got. Sometimes an ability was not powerful, but useful. Mega Man X added a sense of the hidden. Suddenly, not only was I going through a stage, but there were hidden areas that also boosted your power.

The biggest thing that Mega Man X brought to me was the importance of movement. The way you move in a game is so important, that any game like it, with bad movement, immediately is not only worse, but bad.

Now, Mega Man to me is about learning a pattern and executing a counter pattern. You find a weakness and you attack it. Some enemies you avoid, others you attack. There is more than one way to face a scenario.

In game design, I feel it is important, especially when creating a puzzle, that there be more than one solution. This may feel counter intuitive to certain puzzles (and it is), but quite often, a solution that stares a designer in the face, is completely lost on the player.

With Mega Man, you can try weapons until one works. Often you find a weapon you think works, but is simply more effective than the regular shot. Many times, you can guess which weapon to use. So Mega Man to me was about variety and choice as well.

So putting it all together, a good game to me has variety, choice and a proper reward for handling a difficult situation or for exploring. Now most people who look at game design, will say, “No, duh!”, but I learned all this from Mega Man.