Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Language of Creators

In an article at 1up.com called "So You Want to Make a Game" several indie developers are interviewed about their craft. I lifted a few quotes from the articles that fall in line with the approach I'm taking with my games and that support the kind of critical-thinking we do here on the blog.
  • Go find the mechanic at the heart of a favorite title
It's important to start a game off at the core by thinking about the core mechanic.

  • For Desktop, Preece created a game based solely on the real-time strategy genre's "mazing" mechanic -- forcing units down a path of destruction -- and banning any feature that didn't interact with that primary mechanic.
Preece's approach to game developing involves focusing solely on the primary mechanic/function of his game.

  • Mario is like that. There's already some interesting things about Mario when you're just moving him around. He's got a bit of inertia. If you hold the jump button, he'll jump a little bit higher.
As if taking notes straight out of Miyamoto's book, Mak understands the power of making a game around a mechanic that is fun by itself. Once you do that, the game practically makes itself. After all, you don't have to worry so much about making a fun game when simply moving the character around is satisfying.

  • What I'm trying to say is that If you have a turd and you try to add stuff on top of a turd, it's still going to be a turd.
Many games these days are not only building on "turds," but they're copying and stealing turds from other games. It's a sad cycle. I won't name any names.

  • Don't get married to your idea. With myself, I've seen is I'll spend all this time making this technology that didn't really lead to good gameplay, but I spent three months on it so I'm going to use it no matter what. You can't be afraid to throw out work that you didn't like.
There are many mechanics and elements in Neo*RPG and GuitaRPG that I had to let go of as I went along. You can even find little traces of the magic system that I left in Neo*RPG. It's tricky and buggy, so I don't recommend clicking the scroll wheel anytime soon.

  • As you play a lot of games, you get a sense of when a game is pretty tight. I think Street Fighter is pretty tight. Maybe I should say Mario because it's simpler. Is it? N is tight. You can tell. There's no need to add anything else. It's really tight. Every aspect of this game is talking to each other and enforcing each other. And if I add anything else, it'll destroy that equilibrium.
Supporting the primary function of the game is ultimately about creating that sense of wholeness, balance, or "equilibrium." If the options and elements that are being added don't enhance the game or primary function in a significant way, then perhaps it shouldn't be added (especially when the game is nearing equilibrium). It takes a lot of skill and experience both for the game maker and the critical-reviewer to bring to the surface and express this balance. Hopefully, by participating in the design challenges on the blog as well as the development of GuitaRPG, you'll becomes a crafter that has a leg up on understanding and explaining the craft.

Game makers have a unique and privileged perspective on games. Just look at the success of Nintendo under the leadership of Satoru Iwata.

4 comments:

jrhee said...

A lot of the insights seem pretty self explanatory but it's surprising that developers today can still produce games that lack these aspects.

They all talked about the mechanics of gaming which is important but what about the storyline? I mean, whats a game with awesome mechanics and a cliche story. If the story sucks it would decrease the gaming experience and no mechanics no matter how awesome can save that.

Shouldn't these two aspects go hand in hand?

KirbyKid said...

jrhee:

Story is a complicated issue with games. First of all, many people mistakenly identify stories in games using the same criteria that they learned from books and movies.

Interactive stories are much more complicated than that.

But in general, all the sports that the world has fallen in love with don't have stories, and they're still games. Super Smash Brothers Melee is a great game that doesn't really have any coherent story. Tetris doesn't have a story either.

It's clear that games don't need stories to be games. This is why I feel that it's important to talk about and understand games as games before trying to understand how stories fit in with them.

It's complicated, and the war over it is vicious.

jrhee said...

Alright, I see the aspect of you saying that you don't need a story or an "interactive" story. But regarding the issue of game play there will always be a motive. For sports it's to beat the crap out of the other teams and become the best. And for Brawl, they are adding a whole new story mode with an actual plot. So regardless of not needing a story you still need a motive and that motive will determine whether the mechanics of the game helped you fulfill your task to the best of its abilities in all the aspects of the game play. There will be certain reasons why you do certain things, and that will allow the player to have motive to utilize the game play mechanics.

But I mean, without solid mechanics all games are in trouble

KirbyKid said...

jrhee:

Indeed. The fiction/story of a game can go a long way in giving the player focus, context, and motive. For me, I always (or almost always) want to win at a game, understand it better, and have fun. So those are always what motivates me. You commented keyed in on the interesting effect that story has in shaping the way players can approach playing a game.