Feel & Flow

Game loops are an interesting psychological topic. The rhythm at which a player experiences a game, experiences trials, has breaks, and is issued decisions. Today, I'd like to talk about some concepts of gameplay loops, that of feel and flow.

I'll define feel as the emotional reaction to participating in a certain part of a gameplay loop. For an action game, feel would be the reaction a player has from successfully connecting an attack with an opponent, executing a combo, or simply hitting a desctructible portion of the environment. The environment around the player reacts to the player's actions in some way, feedback is provided (visually and auditory) and the player has a reaction to it. This is the feel we all talk about when we are discussing how it feels to play a game: what is the player's base reaction to making a decision and executing an input successfully or unsuccessfully.

Flow I'll define as the rhythm of choices. Most game can be boiled down to a series of interesting decisions, says Sid Meier. Flow is the rate at which those decisions are presented.

I'll give an example. Let's say you are playing a level of Mario, one with a series of platforms, each incrementally higher than the last, followed by two parallel walls at which the player must execute multiple wall jumps to reach the goal at the top. Now, this may not seem like a series of decisions, but in reality, it is. Each jump is a timing choice, executed by the player, and interpreted by the game. A poorly timed jump results in failure whereas a well-time jump results in success. The flow here, then, is the rate at which these decisions are presented. In this level for example, let's say if the player ran at top speed towards the platforms, they'd have to jump every half second to scale the platforming challenge. The player is presented with a rhythm at which their choices are made. The choice here, however, is very simple: jump or don't jump. However, this serves as a good example of flow. Note that we cannot comment on whether or not this is good or bad flow, because that is a question that is hard to answer without feedback from the player. Some games may require faster flow (more frequent decisions), while others would be better served with a slower pace. It all depends on the feel of the player tapping into the flow.

Let's take another, more complex, example. Character action games are probably the most obvious examples of a game with strong feel and flow. Each action the player character makes has a very noticeable impact on the environment and the world around them, gained from the visual and auditory feedback given back to the player on execution. Hit an enemy with an attack and they reel backwards while the player character digs in, producing a sound effect. Another enemy looms, and the player is now forced to make a decision on what to do next. Here, in the character action genre, the player has a multitude of decisions. The player can attack that enemy with any number of possible abilities, dodge away, keep fighting the enemy they are already engaged to, or simple run away, among a number of other possibilities.

One of the keys that separates a good action game with a poor one is that sense of rhythm or flow. Flow is the rate at which meaningful choices are presented to the player. Too many at once, and the player is overwhelmed. Too few, and the player becomes bored and disengaged. In a character action game, enemies attack the player at a predictable, rhythmic pace. This allows the player to form a rhythm of combat in their head, providing them the opportunity to understand when their next decision point will be, and reacting appropriately. Have you ever been frustrated by a game that very quickly and cheaply made quick work of your player character? It's likely because whatever happened was unexpected. Most of the time, unexpected outcomes come from actions the game takes towards the player that do not fall in line with a pre-established flow. A cheap shot, if you will. A combat action taken by the enemy that is out of the rhythm pre-established by the game. Tetris would never drop a block that falls immediately out of the blue. The player knows the decision points in Tetris, it's a predictable game. This allows the player to play to the flow, become locked in their engagement, and be awarded appropriately.

In these games we have decision points, defined by the flow, and we have those decisions, whose feedback and effect inform the feel. Both of these are inextricably linked, as they both affect a player's moment-to-moment perception of a game, and, I'd argue, a game's "fun factor".

Upending expectations can be fun, but meeting expectations is a very important to defining a clear and fun moment-to-moment experience. Once a game establishes a flow, however, it might be fun and interesting to mess with it.

 

Game Design Problems: Editing out the Subtext

I've covered storytelling in games before, noting that games can utilize unique interactive elements to help convey narrative. Today, I'm going to critique techniques which do the exact opposite: gameplay working at the cost of narrative.

Now, you may be wondering: gameplay is king, why does it matter if story is sacrificed on the altar of gameplay? In most situations, it doesn't. Compelling interaction trumps the need to craft narrative in 90% of cases. However, in the cases that put story in the forefront, there's an impression to make compromising decisions in order to meet their gameplay quota. I spoke previously about a similar effect: of games not "committing" to their style or technique (compelling gameplay or compelling storytelling) in the name of balance but at the cost of both. Now, I'm not saying they cannot co-exist, because they absolutely can. But, here I want to focus on games that primarily try to tell a story, with gameplay as a secondary aspect. I want to talk about story-driven games.

Your archetypal story-driven games is the role-playing game.  In classic role-playing games, a balance is struck between narrative and gameplay elements. The way an RPG generally balances these out is to make them both completely distinct: "game mode" and "story mode". Where "playing" the player is managing their party progression, fighting enemies, and solving puzzles. When in "story" mode, the player is absorbing the narrative. The most distinct and obvious examples of these is the dungeon and the cutscene. However, RPGs do typically contain a mode of play that merges the two "modes". When players explore new towns and interact with the environment the gameplay helps to tell the story. The two modes co-exist at the same time. So you see, you could quantify RPGs as a blended genre, focusing in almost equal measure on both modes of play.

Let's take another example: action-adventure games. As of late action-adventure games have become more and more story-centric, focusing on the cinematic elements to tell a compelling story while allowing the player to experience the narrative through the gameplay. The player gets put in control of the thrilling moments of the cinematic experience. Nowhere is this highlighted more thoroughly than the Uncharted series. Crafted to offer a narrative experience that gives control to the player during exciting adventure moments, these games feel like the player is playing the lead in an action-adventure film. And rightly so: the player is taken on a narrative ride and gets to experience the action first-hand through the gameplay. In this genre, the game still has distinct modes of play: storytelling and gameplay. However instead of the distinction between telling the story and playing the game these games split focus between telling the story and experiencing the story. The gameplay serves the larger narrative purpose. The gameplay heightens the emotional stakes and makes the player that much more invested in the beats of the story.

This is all well and good. However, there remains a major problem existing between these two play modes, and that problem is engagement. The number one rule of game design, as far as I'm concerned, is to strive for a game to always be engaging. Whether it be through an engaging mechanic or an engaging story beat, the player should be invested in whatever is happening on screen. Now you may be asking yourself, "where do these games lack engagement?" And the answer, you'll find, is between the cracks.

As mentioned before, action-adventure games of today follow the two gameplay modes: storytelling mode and story experiencing mode. In the storytelling mode, the exposition is provided through cutscene or dialogue. Non-interactive means of telling the story. In the other mode, the story is being experience through the gameplay. The player battling a group of enemies or finding their way through a complex and dangerous environment. Instead of a cutscene showing the player this is happening, the player is playing an active role in telling the story.

However, another mode that seems to exist for the sole purpose of existing. This mode is what I'd call the filler mode. Now, don't take offense to that, it's just a name for ease of reference. The filler mode is any gameplay inserted into the game that is, while technically part of the story, not serving any greater narrative purpose that could not be achieved with a cutscene or a clever edit.

Let me give an example. After an exciting, cinematic battle, the player is thrown back into the environment to explore. Engaging enough, surely. However, the player comes upon a path they must move through to reach their final destination. This path is not particularly interesting, but for story reasons, it must be crossed. A film, in this situation, would make a series of quick shots and edit them together to convey the idea that the protagonist is making their way through the path. It would then cut to the final destination, where something interesting invariably happens. Games, however, don't know what to do with this negative space. They exist in any narrative, implicitly, but films and books have learned to convey them without treading over them explicitly. They don't need to be explained, just hinted at they are there. They are the subtext of cinema or the invisible lines in between paragraphs of writing. Film conveys this negative space through editing. The character must climb a mountain? Pan into the mountain with the character walking out of frame. Cut to near the top. The climb is never shown, but is implicit. Games don't fully understand how to do this. With the negative space designers throw the player into the default mode for any game: gameplay. But, frequently, this is not any more interesting than watching a cutscene of a slow movement across an uninteresting subject. The player isn't compelled in any way to experience this segment, but the narrative necessitates that this segment happens.

So why not just take a cue from film and use edits? I believe it's a habit of old. Narrative games are in a new place where they don't exactly know where they are. or how to best function Do they emulate film or games? Do they err towards the side of more gameplay at the expense of narrative, or the other way around? There is no rulebook for these questions, and it seems like games do not know the answer and so they default to the traditional answer: when in doubt, make gameplay. The problem is, in this situation, the gameplay is just not compelling. Players would generally rather skip tedium to the next story beat than be required to play through uninteresting segments of the experience. In this case, editing gameplay can serve a greater purpose. Knowing when gameplay is engaging and when it is not, and putting the player in the situations where it is.

The First Few Hours

We've all heard it before, these common complaints: Games are terrible at storytelling. Modern games take way too long to get going. Why am I forced to sit through this cutscene again?

Many narrative-driven games are having an identity crisis. Are they a game first or a story first? That's a topic that can be discussed ad nauseum. But I'd like to talk about a facet I think is really central to this identity crisis: a game's first few hours.

The importance of a game's first few hours cannot be understated. For many games, their first twenty minutes make or break a player's interest. A game must prove many things in a very short period of time: what it's about, why it's fun, what the player does, all the while simultaneously teaching the player how to play it. That's a tall order. It makes sense some games only take one of these things and drive it home, hoping it's enough to keep players engaged.

There are two distinct techniques for introducing a game: a gameplay-first approach and story-first approach. In the gameplay-first approach, games throw the player directly into the action, explaining the story (if any) later. They bank on capturing the player's attention with mechanics to keep them engaged. Games with strong gameplay take this approach frequently, and for good reason. The alternate to this is a story-first approach. The goal here is to sweep the player up in the game's story and make entice them to discover more.

Both of these are completely valid, and when executed well, work. Super Mario 64 is a fantastic example of gameplay-first. The player can move almost immediately, and has free access to their entire moveset from the onset of the game. From the first minute, a player can start experimenting with platforming mechanics and get excited for the opportunity to use them. On the other hand, a great example of story-first is Metal Gear Solid 2. It starts with a swift opening cinematic beginning in media res, quickly setting up the story, characters and goals with just enough information for the player to go on while leaving enough out for the player to seek more. And then it quickly jumps into gameplay. It's important to note MGS2 sets up the characters and their motivations immediately.

Both of these work so well because they commit to their techniques, execute flawlessly, and then get right into the game. Notice in both of these examples, the game is introduced and doesn't really start until the introduction is over. In Mario, you are free to experiment with gameplay, but you don't really do anything until you reach your first actual level. With MGS2, you are watching an intro cutscene to get things going. The game officially starts after that cutscene ends.

And I think that's the key here: commit to the introduction, really sell what the game is about, and then get right into the game. Players want to feel agency as soon as possible. They also want to get excited for the story as soon as possible.

So where do games frequently fail? The biggest, most egregious way is opening cutscene exposition dumps. We've all seen these. You start up the game, a 10-minute cutscene plays explaining the world and circumstances around it. There's frequently no plot here, just lore, or backstory. Some games can get away with this on charm alone (Zelda is a clear candidate, but even that uses fairy tales and folklore tropes to tell the backstory), but most fall flat. After the exposition dump, we're treated to gameplay. However, if the story is big enough, or integral enough, we frequently are bombarded with even more exposition dump. But what purpose does this serve? It sets up the story so that there can be purpose for the main characters actions and also primes the plot to create the central conflict. RPGs are fond of this technique, because it's an easy way to set up the context of the story while still retaining some semblance of gameplay.

If film can teach us anything it's that we can interest players with even the most small taste of a larger plot. We don't have to divulge all aspects of the plot or the world or the existing conflicts, we can introduce those more naturally and at a pace the player can keep up with. A major lesson we can learn from film is that the audiences doesn't care about story nearly as much as they care about the characters. Introducing characters and their relationships with each other and the world around them is much, much more compelling than introducing a grand backstory for the world. After all, why should I, the player, care about a world where I don't know or care about any of the people living in it?

It seems that frequently, in order to strike a balance between storytelling and gameplay, many games sacrifice them both for one another. They quickly dump exposition to set things up, jump to some gameplay, then jump back to exposition. For a gamer who has little patience, this is a jarring move, leaving them required to have faith that the game will pick up: that the story will suddenly get interesting, or that the gameplay will suddenly become more engaging. This, after all, is because sacrifices were made to both in order to have the two exist. I think the better strategy is commit to their strategy for capturing the player's attention and knock it out of the park.

Conveying Concepts with Abstraction Part 1: The World Map

Games are funny. Some have drifted towards trying to be ultra-realistic in certain certain aspects while being content with being unbelievable in others. In this series of posts, I'm going to discuss the idea of abstraction in relation to realism and how games don't need to be realistic to sell an idea. Showing the player a perfect simulation of something is often not essential. The real problem developers are trying to solve is one of conveyanceThis post is going to examine World Maps in older JRPGs and their common use of abstraction to sell the concept of scale. In future posts, I'm going to examine abstractions used in other elements of games.

The JRPG world map is a famous example of game abstraction that absolutely works. In many older RPGs, players were given the ability to traverse a world map. Many remember this fondly: a huge world to explore with towns and dungeons and everything in between. However, there's a strange consideration with these overworlds: the maps are absolutely not to scale, and are in fact quite skewed. As a matter of fact, they are frequently out of scale so much that the player character is often larger than the features of the terrain! The thing is, players don't really care that their character being the size of a small village on the world map. In fact, many don't even notice.

 In many cases, the player character is as large as the terrain features.

In many cases, the player character is as large as the terrain features.

But why was it done this way? Surely, developers had a reason to represent their world like this. On one hand, it was a technical solution to the problem of size: there's no way they could have created a whole entire world when considering time, technology and manpower. On the other hand, it was a clever design trick. An abstraction and a representation of the world they built. Building out an entire world to the scale that they imagined it (read: the scale of an actual world), would be nearly impossible. Even if they did, not only would this world be very, very empty but it would be very, very boring. Mostly, it would be open space. Because of this, Final Fantasy games took an abstract approach to representing their world map. The world map conveys a large world, but one that is not to scale. Towns and dungeons are merely symbols on a map. Symbols indicating something that can be traveled to. The player character on the map is a representation of the entire party travelling around the world. And each step the player character takes may represent days and days of travel from one part of the world to another. Time is compressed much like terrain. Random encounters serve to enforce this further, bringing the player back to the "now" to further highlight the greater abstraction. All of this combines to represent a journey from one end of the map to another without the journey feeling like a burden to the player.

Final Fantasy IX uses a brilliant move the first time the character reaches the world map. The player is treated to a cutscene of the entire party camping out followed by the player being advised to call a moogle (a helper that can be called to the aid the player while on the world map) when they need to rest and save. Doing so while on the world map causes a tent to be pitched, the screen to be darkened, and the player's stats to be refreshed. The implication is, of course, that the characters are resting after a long day of travelling. This journey across the world map is indeed a journey for these characters. As players, we are just getting the highlights. We are subconsciously allowing the game to represent something abstractly without requiring us to experience it directly. We can traverse the world map, knowing that it represents the characters' journey, without having to literally take days and days to walk on foot from one town to another. The game trusts us to believe in it's abstraction and let's our imagination fill in the gaps.

So when you see a game that trades abstract conveyance for realistic simulation, ask yourself whether the the developers could have gotten away with a mere representation of reality instead of a simulation of one. After all, a player doesn't really need to walk through a field for hours and hours to get the sense that the world their inhabiting is huge. That can be conveyed in other ways, using the best tool of all: the player's imagination.

Rules and Fun

I love rules. If I had to define an atomic unit of what makes a game a game, I'd offer up the concept of rules. Rules are the building blocks which developers use to create unique games. Rules are integral to each and every game, even when not as obviously defined to the player.

The interesting thing about rules is they don't make a game fun. You don't look at a bunch of rules and think "Yes, this looks fun." No, instead you would contemplate what interactions come from these rules and analyze a game from there. What is the player doing? Is that fun? Rules are the medium from which fun is drawn from: they help create the fun interactions inside the game.

The cool thing about rules is that at the end of the day, they are unnecessary for fun. Humans can have fun without rules. But constraints frequently make things easier. And it's the same for interactive entertainment. Rules are like a guide for how to get to a fun experience more easily. Here's a great analogy from Improv Comedy, that I think beautifully applies to video games as well.

Rules are like landing gear: you need them to take off. You need them to land. But you don’t need them to fly.
— Unknown

A perfect example of this in effect is an sandbox game like Grand Theft Auto. As in all games, GTA has rules. A weapon does this, a car drives likes this, cops chase you if you break the law, and so on. Simple, obvious rules that mimic real life. At the beginning of the game, players pay attention to these rules. They learn them and it influences their play. But what video games offer apart from any other rule-based game medium (like board games) is that players don't have to consider the rules. They don't even have to remember them. As long as they are aware that they exist, a player may play the game implicitly. Once a player understands this, from that point on, a game like GTA still has rules, they just don't need to be considered by the player anymore. And why should they? If the rules get the player to have fun, it's unnecessary for the player to keep them all in mind.

Granted, plenty of games require players to consider and analyze rules constantly. Strategy games, for example. But the beauty of rules in video games is they are always there, with or without player consideration. Which can lead players to two different wonderful places: discovering new rules by experimentation, and forgetting about the rules and just having fun.  This is one of the many unique aspects of this medium.

Emergent Gameplay

Ah, emergence. By far one of my favorite topics in games. Emergence, put simply, is the process by which patterns or developments emerge from a set of agents or entities interacting with a set of rules or laws. In nature, emergence occurs regularly. When entities interact with the laws of physics, strange and unexpected things can happen.

In the real world, the most beautiful, simple example of emergent behavior I can think of is swarming. There is no captain animal that directs a swarm. No, instead each individual agent follows a set of rules and swarming behavior often follows. Rules as simple as "stay within one foot of your neighbors".

In games, emergence is the process by which agents (players or otherwise) interact with a set of rules that produces outcomes not necessarily defined in the ruleset or explicitly defined by the game. This parallels nature quite perfectly, albeit games are much less complex. But like nature, emergence can arise from a very limited set of rules given enough agents acting upon a system.

The clearest gameplay example is one of physics systems. Again, this mirrors nature's emergence. In games, real-world newtonian physics are frequently simulated. Couple these "laws of physics" with the "rules of the game", and unexpected behavior can and does emerge. Deus Ex is a fantastic example here, where players can frequently use the physics system to their advantage in conquering the game. Moving and stacking objects to reach area not typically accessible or destroying sections of a level to advance, using explosives on walls to scale to areas at that point inaccessible areas are all examples of utilizing the game's simulation system to open up new possibilities. In addition, Deus Ex offers player choice in tackling challenges, offering a variety of lethal and non-lethal approaches to sistuations. The amount of choices the player has coupled with interacting with the well-defined system of rules in Deus Ex leads to emergent gameplay possibilities where players can discover and employ creative solutions for solving the game's problems.

Emergent Gameplay is so great because it's so much fun. A player discovering new possibilities within the rules and mechanics set forth in the game is one of the most rewarding feelings a player can have. Metal Gear Solid V, released last year, was heavily praised for the creative solutions players could employ to succeed in the game world, much in thanks to the care taken to craft the rules and mechanics in such a way that new gameplay could emerge natrually. Players were allowed to experiment with the mechanics, leading them to discover new strategies and mechanics not explicitly defined by the game world.

Emergence is not always intentional by the developers, but yields from systems which rules are developed in an open-ended way to foster interaction and player choice. Many people think emergence is the future of games and a concept we must embrace, and I happen to be one of them.

Metagaming and Metagames

In my last post I very briefly mentioned the idea of "Metagame". It's an interesting concept, to be sure, and one that many of you have probably heard. But what exactly is a metagame? What does meta-game even mean? Well, I hope to shed some light on that in today's post.

"Meta" is a Greek root meaning "beyond". I can probably devote an entire post to the strange, evolving history of the word "meta" and what it means today, but I'll just stick with "beyond" for now. Meta-game, then, yields "beyond game". A metagame is a game played during or within a game that lives outsides (or beyond) the rules and environment of the game. And when we talk about "metagaming" we're talking about playing some game outside the bounds of it's rulesets.

Let's take, for example, one of the very first (at least to me) historical usage of the term. The time: the mid nighties; the game: Magic: The Gathering. For a very, very brief explanation of MTG, just know that it's a trading card game where players collect cards and build decks with them. Each card can do different things and there are literally thousands of them. Well, in MTG there are and always have been dominant strategies and popular deck types. These are the decks that dominate tournaments, and every year MTG has a different set of power decks that many people use because of their strength.

Magic is a game of rules where players play cards in turn until the winner defeats his or her opponent. Metagaming in Magic would be knowing full well what decks and cards are in popular use and devising strategies and decks for the very purpose of countering and defending against the common decks types. By doing so, one is playing the game of Magic without playing the game of Magic. The player is playing a game outside of the rules of Magic: The Gathering that still involves the playing of Magic: The Gathering. That's metagaming.

And while other players are watching game tape, he’s watching game tape of those other players watching game tape.
— ESPN Baseball Promo 2013

So, why is metagaming and meta-games and important concept? Well, the term has popped up a lot over the years in regards to playing games with knowledge of current dominant strategies. Knowing what an opponent's likely to do before even playing a game them has commonly been cited as metagaming, which of course it is. But that is not all metagaming is. A metagame is any game that is played outside of the bounds of established rules.

Take the example I used in a previous post. Making under-the-table deals in Monopoly for leniency is another example. Anything that isn't part of the rules or environment of the game but affects the outcome of the game can be classified as metagaming. Similarly, analyzing the level designer's intention to find the solution to a puzzle or the fastest route would also qualify, as the player is using their knowledge of game development, design, history, and more to solve problems inside the game without using the rules or knowledge from inside the game.

So why is meta-gaming an important concept to consider? Well, as the line between games and reality blurs, games become a meta-game upon themselves. League of Legends is not a game but a lifestyle for many people, and metagaming is part of the game. Discussing popular strategies, reading up on successful players and the champions they use, finding and exploring new tactics within the community: all done outside of game of League of Legends. The developers consider this in designing updates the game now. It's part of the experience playing League of Legends. Future game developers must account for this bizarre but familiar concept.

The "Social Game": The History and Future of Games?

What comes to mind when I say "Social Game"? Is it a game on Facebook or Mobile that has you building a virtual empire using some virtual currency that encourages you to invite friends to join in order to be rewarded with more virtual currency? Most of you probably arrive there. But how did we get there? How is that social? At all? Well, that's maybe the subject for another post. I'm going to talk today about my opinion of true Social Games. Games where social interactions are not just a side-effect, but the entire point.

I've been ruminating on my favorite interactions in games and why I fell in love with games in the first place (video, board, etc.) and I've come to a really interesting conclusion: my favorite part of multiplayer games is almost never the game itself. No, it's almost always experiencing that game with others. The real interesting part? The best, most fun I've had in games is when the rules and mechanics promoted me to interact with others, directly or indirectly.

So what is a Social Game, by my definition? A Social Game is that meta-game you play in Monopoly where you promise your brother leniency when he lands on Park Place in exchange for him paying off all your mortgages. In Mario Party, it's when you make a deal with your best friend to pass up that next star in return for you stealing all of Joe's coins. These are miniature Social Games within regular games, and they are so much fun. The beauty of these social games is they come naturally out of the mechanics. In Monopoly, it's never stated in the rules players can make deals under the table, but since the game is so intertwined with the concepts of property and money, players just play that way. Frequently in Mario Party, it's mutually beneficial to work together to impede the progress of someone else, so alliances are formed, however briefly. Social Games been around forever, in miniature form.

A Social Game is that meta-game you play in Monopoly where you promise your brother leniency when he lands on Park Place in exchange for him paying off all your mortgages.

So what about whole Social Games? Let's take the classic party game Mafia as an example. You'll hear me talk about this game a lot because it's one of my favorite games of all time and really encapsulates where I think gaming's future is headed. Mafia is a really, really simple game. You've got a group of people, some of them are bad guys (Mafia), some of them are good guys (Townspeople). The bad guys know who the other bad guys are, but the good guys have no idea who the bad guys are. The good guys' goal is to out all the bad guys by killing them off by way of voting each round. The bad guys' goal is to off all the good guys by killing them off in secret at the end of each round. There's some extra rules for spice, but at it's heart, that's it.

So why is this game so fun? Well, it's because the mechanics of the game promote, nay, force the players to interact with each other in ways that just aren't all that common in the real world. You see, in Mafia you must decide if a friend you've known for years is lying to your face and is really a member of the Mafia killing off your allies one by one. It's an exercise in social deduction and engineering. And, on top of that, it can get zany. Deciding someone is guilty or innocent based on nonsensical posturing is a par for the course. Really, Mafia isn't really about finding who Mafia is and who Town is. It's about interacting with a bunch of people in fun ways that often aren't possible in real life. Who can say they often get to con their friends and have fun doing it

Well, it’s [fun] because the mechanics of the game promote, nay, force the players to interact with each other in ways that just aren’t all that common in the real world.

Social Games have been, without us even having a name for them, growing all around us lately: card games like Cards Against Humanity, board games like Resistance and Coup, and classic party games like Mafia and Werewolf are all gaining popularity. These games are taking the meta-game/social game side-effects of larger games and condensing them into almost purely socially interactive experiences. And that's really exciting. And it's because of that I propose a new genre of game for your consideration: Social Interaction Games. And no, not those kind of social games.

The Lunch Constitution

I've updated my site with a social game I designed way back in 2012. It's called The Lunch Constitution and it's a fun way for groups of co-workers or friends to pick where they are going to lunch over the course of the week. It's all rules, so you can play as long as you have yourself, some friends, and an appetite!

A little bit of fun history. In 2012 I was at my first game job working on a Facebook game in South Florida. I had a group of buddies that I'd go to lunch with daily, but we had such a hard time picking a place to eat because everyone wanted different things. A pretty common problem in the workplace.

Well, some of us got together and invented this beautiful, simple game to help us pick, which evolved over the course of my time there to this mad meta-gaming mass of fun. The Lunch Constitution, in essence, is just a simple voting game with a twist.

The Lunch Constitution is really, really simple but also really, really fun because it's mechanics promote fun social engineering between a group of friends. It's also my favorite thing I've ever designed, as silly as that may sound.

You can check it out here.

The Power of Failure

It's been a while -- but have no fear. I have a topic for this week. And some for the weeks to come as well.

The topic today is one we are all most certainly accustomed to: Failure. Failure, quite simply, is the state at which one does not succeed in their goals. In games, that can mean many things. The goal can be defined by the game or by the player, and can be an overall goal (beat the level, beat the game) or a momentary goal (get to that platform without falling). In games, a failure state almost always yields some sort of punishment imposed by the development. The player must start the level over, start from the last checkpoint, complete an objective they have already completed, lose some rewards, or the like. The most familiar and iconic failure state in video games is of course the Game Over screen. Today, the most common failure state is the process of reloading back to the last checkpoint and losing any in-between progress (a Game Over screen may or may not be part of this).

Some games experiment with failure. Many have opted to remove the concept of the failure state altogether, replacing it with temporary or irreversible penalties. The Walking Dead game, for example, rarely gives the player a Game Over. Instead, it "fails" the player by causing unwanted consequences and forcing the player to live with them. The player does not enter a "failure state" (Game Over screen, checkpoint reload) and does not lose progress, but instead fails more organically: it happens, and the game moves on. It's still a failure, of course, and one could say still punishment. If the player's goal was to limit death and bad consequences, failure still happens in The Walking Dead. In fact, it happens all the time. But it rarely leads to the classic game failure state. Still other games eliminate failure altogether. Many puzzle games, for example, remove failure altogether. Journey has no failure state -- and why should it? The game is not a test of skill or wits, and was not designed in such a way.

Failure may seem unwanted or confusing to the player, looking inward. Why must I be punished? Why must I fail? Aren't games supposed to be fun? But the concept of failure has it's uses. In fact, it has a lot of uses. Failure, for all the frustrated hate from players, makes certain games a lot more fun. Many challenging games without failure states are by definition, no longer challenging, as the risk to fail does not exist, the challenge does not exist either. One might contend that puzzle games have no failure state -- but I'd argue they do. Being stuck on a puzzle with no solution is a form of failure. Failure does not have a time limit or strict rule for what it must be.

Failure can be many game's greatest strength. Take the example of Dark Souls, a game celebrated for it's difficulty and the player's constant failure. Many players find it fun simply because failure is so common, it's all part of the game. Failure is something that happens to each player who plays the game on a very frequent basis. Learning from that failure and applying the knowledge gained is what make Dark Souls an excellent game. Whereby player's do not celebrate their failure, but their triumph over it.

But, failure is just one part of the equation. Any game can fail the player, but how a game deals with failure is something else altogether. That's where punishment comes in. What is the cost of failure? If the cost is low, failure matters less. In Dark Souls, the cost of failure is high -- possibly loosing one's experience completely, and forcing the player to fight their way back to where death took place. No small task. But in the failure and the strict punishment comes a concept that very few other mediums can provide to such a degree: stakes.

Stakes are to games what tension is to film. Stakes are what make player's stress and worry, but also what makes them cheer and celebrate when challenges are overcome. Without stakes, victory is not as meaningful: victory becomes an exercise of progressing the game, not conquering a challenge. Victory without stakes becomes the equivalent of watching an action hero defeat the bad guy in a movie. Sure, you can cheer for the hero, but you are not the hero.

But when is failure too much? When is punishing failure too much? Some would argue failure is an outdated concept from games of the past. That it is an old, ancient, tradition of game design that is not necessary to games today. While that may be true for many titles, it is not true for all. Games that challenge must have some form of failure to work. And while failure is not fun in the moment of failure, it yields fun in the moment failure is defeated. That form of fun could not exist without failure -- without stakes.

Punishing failure is a balancing act that requires one to examine the constitution of the game's target audience with the difficulty and frustration that players will experience in overcoming failure and reaching their goal. Certainly, punishing a player too much is not fun. And fun, in most cases, should be a designer's top priority. But it's important to remember failure can be fun, too.

Storytelling Through Gameplay: Metal Gear!?

A popular topic amongst gamers, developers and critics is one of game storytelling and where it fits within gameplay proper. The debate often veers off into whether or not to consider interactive storytelling "games". That semantic debate I'll save for another topic. This series is going to explore storytelling through traditional gameplay means, their effectiveness, and the inclination for developers to segment their storytelling and gameplay into disparate pieces they shuffle together to produce a "story-based" game. For this first post, I'll analyze an individual sequence in one of my favorite games and explain why it's so powerful.

If you know anything about what I consider my favorite games (I count Metal Gear Solid 3, Final Fantasy IX and Chrono Trigger among my favorite games of all time.), you'd think that storytelling is my primary draw to gaming. You'd be wrong. Storytelling is a great thing in many games, but to me, it's something that's complementary to the fun I have in playing. In a lot of ways, storytelling in my favorite games are thoroughly intertwined with gameplay.

Take for example my favorite gameplay-as-story moment in Metal Gear Solid 3 (spoilers follow). In the opening act, our protagonist Snake is betrayed by his mentor and confidant, The Boss. She reveals she's defecting to the Soviet Union and leaving America, her mission, and Snake behind. She fights and defeats Snake in hand-to-hand combat which ends in her throwing him off a bridge into a ravine below. An emotional and physical blow is dealt to our hero, one we literally just started getting to know an hour earlier.

We're then called up on our radio to let us know we are in grave condition and we'll need to patch ourselves up. This opens up a gameplay sequence (and tutorial!) on how the injury system works in the game. Opening up the health screen, Snake is shown with broken bones and bruises from the fight. You as a player are required to heal him up using bandage, splints, and the like. It's a simple sequence, but it completely reinforces what just happened to your character. There were immediate gameplay repercussions and you had to deal with them. And just like that, you're emotionally invested in this character. You know that you (as the player) can hurt Snake and your enemies can, too. You realize you're responsible for Snake and his survival. Snake is you. You are Snake. It hurts to survive, but it's necessary to complete the mission. What would take a film an hour in character development to get invested in the character takes this game all of five minutes.

This is theme of survival is reinforced everywhere in the game in the survival system. You must hunt for food, track your mental and physical stamina, and tend your injuries. You must rest when you are tired, take medicine when you are ill, and eat when you are hungry. You have to care about Snake. It's an excellent way of getting the player invested in the story and the main character.

And that's one of the reasons the video game medium is so special. You can do things that in film would take you an hour in half the time by putting power  in the hands of the player. One button press and they're emotionally invested. You've established a link almost immediately.

Now, you may be laughing ironically, because Metal Gear Solid is notorious for it's removal of player control during it's cutscenes. This is altogether true. But most games with a story to tell have similar problems. We're still working on that, as a medium. But we've got to give credit to Metal Gear Solid for something few other games did: experimented with storytelling in games and succeeding in making it emotionally powerful. We owe it a lot for that.

Depth vs. Complexity

Depth and Complexity are often brought up subjects in the world of game development. Usually defined through a set of a examples, depth and complexity are concepts very similar, yet also very different. Let's attempt to define what it means for something to be deep and what it means for something to be complex. Then, we'll try to identify what affect depth and complexity have on games. Ironically enough, defining complexity is often simple, while defining depth is often complex.

First, I'll start with complexity. Complexity, in terms of game design, is the state of having an abundant amount of things within a game that can be interacted with or which interact with each other. At it's most basic form, something is complex when it has a large (and often intricate) set of rules which the player (or players) interact with. Furthermore, complexity is further created through anything that alters the interactions the player has with the game through extraneous rules that aren't immediately obvious to the player. To a player, complexity is hard to grasp, and not readily apparent. The amount of variables that a player must account for or learn in order to grasp the mechanics of the game add to it's complexity. The perfect example of a complex game is the Civilization series.

Depth, on the other hand, is the state at which a set of a few singular rules or things affect the way players interact with the game on a whole. Essentially, depth is the state in which a small subset of rules and/or players interact with each other in a multitude of ways. Many different interactions and outcomes can arise with a limited set of things (in the games space, these things are rules or other player agents). Many fighting games are great examples of depth in gameplay.

Before we proceed further, it's worth noting that complex games can be deep, and deep games can be complex. They are in no way mutually exclusive, nor is one required for the other.

In this example, Ken has a variety of options he can use to respond to Ryu's Hadoken.

Let's take Street Fighter II as a perennial example of depth. Now, you may protest "But Street Fighter has many characters and movesets!" And you'd be right. But remember, depth isn't defined by it's lack of elements, just how these elements interact with one another. In Street Fighter II, for example, the entire game can be played with just Ryu and Ken, and the game will still be exceptionally deep.

Why is that? Because the amount of possible interactions that arise from a two character's movesets (honestly, one and a half characters, considering Ken is very similar to Ryu) and outcomes are exponentially large. This is the definition of depth. Even though the game in a Ryu vs Ken fight is not overly complex, it still yields an incredible amount of possible outcomes and interactions.

In the image above, for example Ryu throws a Hadoken while Ken decides on what do do next. Ken's options are limited, but any choice he makes will affect Ryu's next move as well. He can jump, for example, but then Ryu may read it and follow up with an aerial attack. He could block it, but Ryu may see that and decide to close the gap. Alternately, Ken can throw his own Hadoken to cancel out Ryu's. Each one of these choices creates another choice for the Ryu player. Each choice a player makes informs another choice another player makes, and the chain of possibilities and interactions grows exponentially. We can see, although this match contains only two characters (who are very similar) and a dozen or so moves each (again, mostly similar) a vast amount of interactions come out of it. It's worth noting here that this match is not overly complex. It's actual very minimal in it's complexity, as each player already knows the other player's potential actions and simply must account for which choices the other player may make. Through this, one can see the depth of such a small subset of rules.

Complexity, on the other hand, is the abundance of rules. To some, Street Fighter II may be seen as a complex game (for it's time) for the amount of characters it had. Each character had their own set of moves with their own set of rules for how these moves functioned. A player may need to internalize these rules in order to better understand his or her opponent and what said opponent can do. This is complexity. However, one must note that while some may consider this complex, a player does not have to consider each set of rules (read: movesets) each time they play a match. No, they only must consider their own character's rules and their opponent's character's rules. Because of this, although complex in the amount of rules in Street Fighter II, in the moment to moment, the choices a player and their opponent can make are always limited to the character they have selected. A single match is deep, but not all that complex.

Can you tell what's going on at-a-glance? Probably not unless you are a experienced Civilization player, but that's because Civilization is very complex.

As I mentioned, Civilization is a great example of a complex game. The series is known for it's complexity, it's abundance of mechanics and variables and rules. On a single turn a player must consider a vast amount of things. The task of internalizing each thing and taking it into in consideration is complex. It functions as a web of rules and structures that all affect each other and affect themselves. The more a player considers these things, the better they play.

Complexity, when implemented properly in a game in which players want to do mental heavy-lifting, is fantastic. It forces players to think critically, tactically, and strategically. It gives players a great sense of discovery in uncovering how different rules and mechanics interact with one another. And, above all, when done right, it makes a game lasting. The drawback to complexity, of course, is it's hefty mental weight and it's sometimes frightening learning curve.

Depth, however, can achieve similar results to complexity: critical thinking, problem solving, tactical and strategic maneuvering and lasting gameplay experiences. The difficulty with depth is it's something much harder to design. The rules that are defined must create new interactions and implicit complexity that the player discovers through play. These rules themselves are not complex. They are not abundant or vast or complicated. But they interact with each other in ways players discover that shapes how they play the game. In essence, a deep game can go from a simple experience at the start, to a high-level experience at the end. In Street Fighter II, for example, two new players can immediately grasp the mechanics of the fight and play at a low level, punching and kicking to their heart's content. But, as they play more, they will reveal new strategies and interactions that  come from uncovering the depth of the mechanics. Designing these "hidden mechanics", however, is the challenge. How does one define a simple set of rules that start obvious but seemingly grow in possibilities as a player progresses? This is why most games fall back onto complexity.

Go is an example of a game with very little explicit complexity but an astounding amount of depth.

There is nothing inherently wrong with complexity. Complexity can be a great thing for many games. Adding more interesting interactions for players is usually a good thing, and gives players more ways to interact with the game. Games with lots of depth, however, can achieve a similar result to games that are complex. The advantages of depth over complexity should be obvious: an easier learning curve, less moment-to-moment mental heavy lifting by the player, and the experiential joy that comes from discovering interactions between simple mechanics. So when looking to design a game that challenges a player to tactical or strategic thinking and problem solving, aim first to make a small set of rules or mechanics deep. If that is not enough, complexity can always be added.

 

Challenging, Interesting or Fun Part II: Dissecting Modern Game Design

In my previous post I defined three elemental features of modern game design I feel can categorize many mechanics and features found in most games today.  They serve, in essence, to justify the existence of a gameplay system, mechanic or feature. As a refresher, here they are defined again:

  1. Challenging  Does such a mechanic or feature offer the player a legitimate but fair challenge to overcome? And does completing that challenge offer a worthwhile reward (psychological or otherwise)?
  2. Interesting — Does the mechanic or feature offer the player a compelling reason to keep playing out of interest, intrigue or curiosity? Does the mechanic or feature compel the player to press on, unravel a story, solve a puzzle, or dive into a deep or complex system?
  3. Fun — Does the mechanic or feature offer players the opportunity to have fun. Is the act of partaking in said feature or mechanic fun in and of itself?

Finally, I defined a fourth elemental feature of game design I feel is used to justify feature inclusion. This is the element of necessity. Necessary features are ones that aren't necessarily challenging, interesting or fun and yet are important to be included for other reasons — be it to alleviate issues, justify other features, or tie together a system.

The famous Mario Power-Up shows it's face for the first time.

Today, let's look at a few famous gameplay mechanics and features and see if we can't define them through the lens of Challenging, Interesting or Fun. Let's start with one of the most famous examples in game design — the powerup And, of course, we cannot talk about the power-up without talking about Mario. Specifically, World 1-1, where the Mushroom is first introduced.

So what's so great about power-ups, anyway? Well, let's look at this specific example, the mushroom.

  1. Is it Challenging? — At first glance, no. But if we examine the design decision behind the power-up, in that Mario begins the game small (the equivalent of only having "1 Hit Point"), you can see that adding a Power-Up such as the Mushroom makes the game harder without it. In essence, the Mushroom Mario becomes Mario's "ideal state", and the player, once he or she recognizes the effect of said power-up, will always seek it out. It's challenging to play without the mushroom and it's a challenge to find mushrooms.
  2. Is it Interesting? — Again, not at first glance. But consider how Mario's health system works.. Mario has no life bar, no heart bar, no indication that he can take additional damage apart from his size, or (later) the color of his overalls. The mushroom allows Mario to grow in size and, once the player takes damage, shrink down again. The player discovers that the mushroom serves two purposes: it allows Mario to destroy brick blocks (which is discovered immediately) and it gives the player an additional "chance" if they make a mistake and are hit by an enemy. It may not seem interesting to us now, 30 years later, but if we consider player's of the day, the power-up mechanics of Mario and how they effected the gameplay were a constant discovery to new players. That is the definition of interesting.
  3. Is it Fun? — Subjective as it may be, I am going to go out on a limb and say people absolutely enjoy growing in size and destroying brick blocks. The joy of finding hidden mushrooms and being rewarded with an obvious visual boost (and catchy sound effect!) is a tried and true enjoyable game mechanic.

So you can see, such a simple mechanic as the mushroom is, when you think about it, vast and deep. And it hits all those points quite easily, without much of a stretch!

Now that we looked at one clearly great game mechanic that's been copied and used over and over and over in game design (truly it's great!), let's look at a game mechanic that I feel slightly less inspired by. Heck, I'll say it bothers me beyond reason, but that's because I enjoy analyzing things to oblivion.

I'm going to talk about two mechanics, that we'll try to classify. Remember, if it doesn't fit into the three elemental properties described above, I'll try to make the case for it being necessary.

First up is everyone's favorite annoyance from open-world games (if you continue to follow this blog you'll come across many issues I have with open-world games): you are over encumbered and cannot run. If you don't know what it means to be over encumbered I count you very lucky, as it's truly one of the most aggravating experiences in modern gaming. Essentially, your character has picked up too much "stuff" and now moves ridiculously slow on account of the excessive amount of weight on his or her person. The player can, however, dump some of his or her "stuff" and be allowed to walk at a regular pace again. So let's examine the mechanic that is "over encumbered" through the lens of CIF:

  1. Is it Challenging? — Maybe? Is it challenging to have to move really, really slowly or decide what stuff to dump to move at speed again? I suppose. But then again, the challenge is more in the deciding of what exactly you are going to part with than it is in the gruelingly slow movement speed. Notice that the act of parting with items has really nothing to do with being ridiculously slow. Developers could very well remove the slowing effect and have a hard item cap. Or better yet, give an easy way to sell off the items when the player gets over-burdened. There are plenty of solutions to this that retain the challenge of making the tough decisions of what items to keep and what to let go of without sacrificing player movement.
  2. Is it Interesting? — I don't know if anyone can make a legitimate argument for why a system like this might be interesting, but I'd be very happy to hear it.
  3. Is it Fun? — Is it fun to move slowly or be forced to throw away items? No.

Ah, inventory management. Truly gaming's most enjoyable past-time.

OK, so it's not challenging, interesting or fun. So...is it necessary? Well, some may claim that yes, it is necessary. And that is because we can't have our players running around with infinite items in their pockets at all times. That would just make for a severely unbalanced game world. That is true. But that, to me, is no justification for including a feature that hurts the fun factor of a game.

I posit that having a state of over encumbered is worse than having a hard item cap. Aggravating the players with a needless weighting system just distracts them from the core experience and forces them to do something they don't want to do when they pick up too much. With an item cap, however, the player just isn't  able to pick up an item and they move on. They are not forced to do anything if they don't want to. As I said before, I believe there are much better solutions to the problem that players should not be allowed to have infinitely deep pockets. Over encumbered states merely fix a problem by adding another one. So, no, it's not necessary.

The last mechanic I want to bring up is Weapon and Armor Durability and Degradation. Ah, another open world RPG mechanic? Why yes! Let's examine!

  1. Is it Challenging? — Sometimes! In certain games, having weapon durability can add a lot to the challenge. What weapon do I use on this enemy? Should I save resources to repair it? These are all questions that pose a challenge to players. But not always.
  2. Is it Interesting? — Not particularly, but again it depends on the depth of the weapon degradation system. Most of the time it's simply "this weapon is almost broken" or "this weapon isn't broken". Not particularly interesting.
  3. Is it Fun? — It's not inherently fun to repair weapons.

So what makes a degradation system challenging? When it's implemented in a way that is fair to players. In effect, the player isn't ever taken out of the main game loop and forced to make repairs unless they've consciously ignored it. They  must be cognizant of their weapon durability levels and alternate options when coming up on enemies, and decide when to spend their hard-earned resources on a repair. In such a system, repairs are relatively cheap and easy to do. As in, players don't have to travel too far repair their gear. Dark Souls and Bloodborne are great examples of weapon degradation systems done right. They add a challenge, but rarely become aggravating.

Unfortunately for us, most games don't balance degradation in any great way. Degradation serves as a mechanic to force players back into town to repair their gear. Degradation isn't a challenge, just an annoyance, another "to-do" on a giant list of to-dos. And if put off long enough (which many players do because of the inconvenience), weapons break or severely weaken, frustrating the player more.

So, the final question: is this type of gear degradation necessary? Well, one might need to justify realism in their game. Degradation adds a level of realism to a game. It adds another system for the player to think about. However, in it's most common form, I'd argue it's not necessary at all. Games would not become less challenging, interesting or fun if most games removed gear durability systems. And I cannot fathom a necessary reason other than realism to include such a degradation system in a game. Because of this, I posit that most degradation systems are needless and unnecessary.

To summarize, I think it's great to examine game mechanics through the lens of CIF. It's really quite revealing looking at modern games and question why certain design decisions were made. It is my opinion that simplicity is king in game design. If one can avoid adding an unnecessary system or mechanic to the game, I think one owes it to the game to try. If a feature is necessary, yet not challenging or interesting or fun, I believe it's very important to ask why.

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


Challenging, Interesting, or Fun: The Elements of Modern Game Design

Finding ways to categorize and determine what makes a game compelling or worthwhile may well be a fools errand, but considering academia has attempted to analyze the highs and lows of gameplay through the psychology of rewards and flow, I thought it might be interesting to come at it from a purely classic game theory perspective.

After ruminating long and hard about what factors determine whether a game offers a compelling experience and a metric to weight the pros and cons of including specific features or mechanics in a game, I arrived at three elemental properties. These are:

  1. Challenging  Does such a mechanic or feature offer the player a legitimate but fair challenge to overcome? And does completing that challenge offer a worthwhile reward (psychological or otherwise)?
  2. Interesting — Does the mechanic or feature offer the player a compelling reason to keep playing out of interest, intrigue or curiosity? Does the mechanic or feature compel the player to press on, unravel a story, solve a puzzle, or dive into a deep or complex system?
  3. Fun — Does the mechanic or feature offer players the opportunity to have fun. Is the act of partaking in said feature or mechanic fun in and of itself?

Of course, these are hard to define. Definitions by example go a long way in game design theory, and it serves me well to include them here. Fun, for example, is ill-defined no matter where you look, but I think we can all agree that things like running and jumping through a game world have been proven time and again to be fun if executed well.

As for challenge, well, that is up to the player for the most part. Many games offer too much challenge, others too little. Yet some player's relish these experiences like no other and the thrill of the challenge and the reward of victory is a feeling players are hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

The concept of "interesting" features is a relatively new one to games. It covers varied topics like intriguing stories or deep or complex game systems that promote a player's curiosity — whether they want to see what happens next, or want to understand the system or world around them more fully. Many of the features of story-driven games fall into this category. And yet, complex systems in RPGs fall into the category as well. Anything that sparks the player's curiosity and urges them to discover something, anything, could be classified as interesting. Even discovering a new technique or strategy in a fighting game, for example, could be argued to be interesting.

With these three elemental properties of games, I find myself analyzing mechanics and features constantly using this rubric. Is X addition to game Y challenging, interesting or fun? If not, why is it included in the game? If you've been paying attention, by now you've likely realized I've been missing an essential property. A final element of features in games. Something not as exciting to players or as dear to developers. And that is: Necessary.

Necessary features or mechanics are those that are required, for some reason or another, in a game. Why? Well, again, it's hard to define, but a perfect example of a necessary gameplay system would be Fast-Travel. In many open-world games, a fast-travel system becomes almost necessary. If i did not exist, players would be forced to make extended journeys every time they wanted to make their way towards areas they've previously visited. For many players, this impedes on the fun, challenge or interest in the game. For this reason, developers add fast-travel options as a way to alleviate those issues and allow players to immediately skip from one destination to the next. Though never required to be used, fast-travel allows the players some freedom who wish to use the option.

There are, however, "necessary" features that aren't all that necessary after all. It is of utmost importance, in my mind, to question why a necessary feature must actually be necessary. If a something is working against player fun and a feature is required to alleviate that, in my mind that seems necessary. But a feature or mechanic that stands on it's own, is not a remedy to other problems, and does not promote fun, challenge or interest seems like one that, too me, more developers should willingly question it's inclusion in the game.

In a future post, I'll look at common game mechanics and features through these metrics I've drawn up, and see what categories (if any) they fall into. I'll also analyze features and mechanics that some feel drag some games down, and question whether or not they are truly necessary.

New Site On-line

This is the inaugural first post of my new website. I was in desperate need of a new look and some content updates, so I hope you find the new site more user friendly and accessible. I've updated my portfolio section to better reflect more recent projects as well as have a much more easily accessible resume embedded into the page.

Above all, this blog will serve to convey my thoughts about a variety of topics, mostly geared towards the game industry and game design in general.

I hope you find my new site to your liking and thank you so much for stoping by!