Posts Tagged ‘design’

Why it feels great to hit things in Vermintide 2

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the difficult journeys they’ve taken to make their games. This time, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 [official site].

In designing Vermintide II’s melee combat, Mats Andersson ran through the same preset level 50 times a day for two years. This hodgepodge of the game’s most distinctive areas, enemies and swarms makes no sense and it looks terrible, but playing it about 100,000 times was what it took to ensure face-to-face brawling would be rich in heft and detail.

Andersson knew how fast he could clear that level, how much damage he should take, how many kills he should be getting; yardsticks by which he could measure each run, and it’s how clicking to swing your hammer feels like it’s caving a skull in, and why your sword feels like it can split a rat’s stringy carcass in two. “It’s very much home to me,” he says. Read the rest of this entry »

The problem with building a car in Jalopy

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the difficult journeys they’ve taken to make their games. This time, Jalopy [official site].

”A lot of people have made the correlation between game development being a janky mess and the car in the game being a janky mess,” says Greg Pryjmachuk, the sole developer of Jalopy, a game about driving a Laika 601 Deluxe through the countries of the former Soviet bloc with your uncle. “It does seem quite apt.”

But he’s definitely being a little hard on himself. Jalopy is a game he never intended to be as big as it’s become, a project he started to escape from mainstream development. A couple of weeks back, after two years in Early Access, it finally reached its official launch, and with it has come a slew of negative reviews and angry forum threads born of a weight of expectation that Jalopy’s rattling old chassis was never really designed to live up to. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Celeste’s dash feels great

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the difficult journeys they underwent to make the best bits of their games. This time, mountain-climbing platformer Celeste and the importance of timing in its movements and kindness in its code.

Early last month, the makers of Celeste released the source code behind the game’s star, Madeline. Across 5472 lines and in variables like JumpGraceTime, DashHJumpThruNudge and DuckFriction, the code precisely defines her ability to run, climb, jump and dash, bringing her to life in your hands.

If you’re not a programmer, it’s difficult to figure out what the code really means, so I asked Noel Berry to explain how it coalesces into a character who feels so good to control. Focusing on her dash, the mechanic around which Celeste revolves, it turns out that a lot of it’s down to the game making her do what you expected her to do, and not necessarily what you actually did. Read the rest of this entry »

How Deep Rock Galactic mines fun from absolute darkness

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This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the difficult journeys they underwent to make the best bits of their games. This time, Deep Rock Galactic [official site].

The moment Deep Rock Galactic took my imagination was when I saw its dwarf miners throwing flares into the inky blackness of a cave in its E3 trailer. Few games do darkness, and here was a game trading in it. As the flares fell they lit up the faceted low-poly walls of the cavern, revealing what lay ahead: ore to mine, pitfalls to fall into, twisting passageways to get lost in, and swarms of alien enemies. It got right to the core of exploration, capturing the mystery and adventure of blundering into spaces where no one has been before. In short, darkness leans right into everyone’s favourite fantasy of being a dwarven miner in space. Read the rest of this entry »

Into the Breach’s interface was a nightmare to make and the key to its greatness

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This is The Mechanic, in which Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the difficult journeys they underwent to make the best bits of their games. This time, Into the Breach [official site].

“I think we were resolved to having a UI nightmare from the beginning,” says Matthew Davis, co-designer and programmer of Into the Breach.

“When we decided we had to show what every enemy was doing every single turn, and that every action needed to be clear, it became clear how bad that nightmare would be,” says Justin Ma, its co-designer and artist.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why revealing all is the secret of Slay The Spire’s success

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the difficult journeys they underwent to make the best bits of their games. This time, Slay the Spire [official site].

Slay the Spire is a deck-building card game about careful attack and defence. And poisoning. And letting your own blood to amplify your damage, and hitting each enemy every time you lose a card, and gaining energy by hovering close to death. It’s a bit like Hearthstone, but it’s also a Rogue-like in which you ascend floors and find new cards and relics which power up your character in transformational ways.

It’s really good! And the secret behind it is a detail that seems minor, but without it your card-playing strategising would be for nothing. It’s the fact you get to see what your enemies will do on their next turn. Read the rest of this entry »

How Iconoclasts makes platforming flow

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the difficult journeys they underwent to make the best bits of their games. This time, Iconoclasts [official site].

Iconoclasts is a platformer that feels great to play. As Robin, a daring mechanic armed with a wrench and a stun gun, you’ll run, jump and shoot your way through sprawling multi-level areas, enjoying precise movements which balance detail and nuance with smoothness. It’s a feel that’s down to developer Joakim Sandberg’s taste in games. ”Something I always enjoy in a videogame is that feeling, usually when you’ve played it a few times, of being able to push through,” he tells me. “Flow, essentially.”

Almost all of Iconoclasts’ design features are directly about maintaining this sense of flow, of momentum in which you feel like nothing is getting in the way of your intention. And one feature you’ll notice when you first start playing the game is kind of shocking. Read the rest of this entry »

How Gorogoa is a game about fitting things together

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the difficult journeys they underwent to make the best bits of their games. This time, Gorogoa [official site].

Gorogoa is a game about fitting things together. Fitting a detail in one image with a detail in another and see how it produces something new. And in making it, developer Jason Roberts found that making things fit was one of the greatest challenges he faced, whether those things were puzzles into the game’s tiles, sequences into its story, or details into players’ heads.

Gorogoa is also a game about linking things together. You draw relationships between images and find them leading into and influencing wider themes. And in making it, Roberts found that each decision he made had profound effects on others, the biggest being limiting the game to its two-by-two grid. Read the rest of this entry »

How killing permadeath in Darkwood led deeper into the forest

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the difficult journeys they underwent to make the best bits of their games. This time, Darkwood [official site].

“All roads lead deeper into the woods,” says one of the twisted characters in Darkwood, an excellent and haunting game of survival in a nightmarish forest. There are horrors in its tangles of subsuming wood, things you won’t quite understand, characters who aren’t quite human, aren’t quite friendly. A game in the tradition of Pathologic and STALKER, Darkwood was developed by a Polish team of three called Acid Wizard Studio, and in many ways, it sounds as if that mordant quote is a comment on their experience of making it.

Their desire to marry a strong non-linear story, meaningful choice, a threatening atmosphere, and a procedurally generated world that changes shape during play, led to serious challenges. As team working on their first-ever game, they’d blundered into tackling some of the biggest design questions in games today. “It was an extremely stressful experience,” artist and writer Artur Kordas tells me, as Darkwood’s development pushed into five long years. And part of their solution? Killing permadeath – a decision that led them deeper into the woods. Read the rest of this entry »

How an amputation saved Quadrilateral Cowboy’s life

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the difficult journeys they underwent to make the best bits of their games. This time, Quadrilateral Cowboy [official site].

Quadrilateral Cowboy is a firstperson puzzle game about a group of hacker friends who stage heists across a set of increasingly challenging missions. Together they tell a surprising and affecting story of professionalism, friendship and rising threat through Blendo Games’ distinctive tight cutting between interactive scenes, flipping the action from a hoverbike chase to the gang’s return to their hideout. It’s clever, pacy, and rich in detail and nuance. Pretty much, in other words, what you’d expect from Blendo Games.

But it’s not what Blendo Games – which is to say, Brendon Chung – expected to make. Quadrilateral Cowboy’s entire structure and form is completely different to what he originally envisaged. The way in which his game changed over the course of its development is a model for how a game is shaped by the realities of production, and how ideas can be far too big for their own good. Read the rest of this entry »

How Total War: Warhammer’s Mortal Empires engineers a world of unending war

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the difficult journeys they underwent to make the best bits of their games. This time, Total War: Warhammer’s Mortal Empires campaign [official site].

Mortal Empires is the logical conclusion of Total War: Warhammer. It asks this: what happens if all the races, factions, legendary lords and terrain of both Total War: Warhammer and its sequel were folded together into a single giant campaign? The answer was released in October as a free addition to owners of the two games, and it is, as game director Ian Roxborough tells me, “By far the biggest, most content-rich campaign that we’ve ever done in Total War.”

But how do you make games that are designed to be played both in discrete and distinctive smaller chunks, and also in huge and unified ones? How do you balance Warhammer’s strongly asymmetric races against each other while continually adding more? And how do you make a game as big as Mortal Empires comprehensible and playable at all? Read the rest of this entry »

How What Remains Of Edith Finch guides players with words

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This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the inner workings of their games. This time, What Remains of Edith Finch [official site].

The Finch house fits together in a jumble. The original building serves as a foundation for the floors that teeter on top and its rooms connect in strange and confounding ways, through hidden passages and external ladders. The whole thing looks like it couldn’t function as a building, a pile of timbers that’d tumble in a gale.

Yet, as I played What Remains of Edith Finch I found it making sense. Its rooms are fantastically detailed, and though their entrances can be through children’s playhouses and exits can be secret trapdoors, the game pulled me through. I was rarely confused or lost, and yet there are no quest markers or breadcrumb trails to follow. How What Remains of Edith Finch guides without pushing is simple, and yet complex. It’s all about:

THE MECHANIC: Signposting with words Read the rest of this entry »

How multiplayer makes Divinity: Original Sin 2’s singleplayer great

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This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the inner workings of their games. This time, Divinity: Original Sin 2 [official site].

It’s the holy grail for RPGs, right, that perfect mix of a strong story and freedom to do what you want. But if players can do anything, how do you tell them a story in the right order and without bits missing? What if they kill some plot-important character or sell the magical thing that does the special thing?

Quite a few RPGs do a good job! Planescape: Torment, for one, presents a fantastically dense and interwoven set of characters and scenarios which you can approach in many different ways. But Divinity: Original Sin 2 goes a step beyond, telling a clear story and allowing – even encouraging – you to do all kinds of dumb things, all without completely breaking. How does it succeed? Well, through a feature that you’d never think is related.

THE MECHANIC: Multiplayer

Very mild spoilers follow, but nothing actually spoiling, promise. Read the rest of this entry »

How Tacoma tells a non-linear story with ghosts

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This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the inner workings of their games. This time, Tacoma [official site].

Fullbright is running out of things to steal from the Shock series. “Like, we made a game that is basically about audio diaries for Gone Home, and now we’ve made a game that’s basically about the ghost sequences in System Shock 2 and BioShock with Tacoma,” co-founder Steve Gaynor tells me. “We’re running out of things to rip! What are we doing next?”

He’s laughing about it, but it’s only half true, since Tacoma is really about taking audio diaries and making them into a game. You don’t find and passively listen to them, you’re an active observer of augmented reality recordings of the crew members of a now-deserted space station. The distinction makes a huge difference, and had a profound effect on the way Tacoma’s story was written, because it posed complex puzzles of fitting dialogue and direction into both space and time. All because in Tacoma you can:

THE MECHANIC: Pause, fast-forward and rewind ghosts Read the rest of this entry »

How Everything conjures infinity with camera tricks

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This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the inner workings of their games. This time, Everything [official site].

Everything is a game about everything. You can play as everything. Planets and hairs, whales and articulated buses. Pollen, spiral galaxies, tents, penguins – you get the picture. Within a few seconds, you might have moved from being a tardigrade floating on the microscopic scale all the way to being a sun hanging in a star-flecked universe. But the transitions, as you scale from from tardigrade to clump of grass to chimpanzee to forest to continent to planet to sun, feel remarkably smooth, even magical, reflecting the game’s core philosophical message: that everything is related and part of a whole, and that we are natural a part of it all too.

Under that smoothness lie a lot of design tricks by its creators, David O’Reilly and Damien Di Fede, all centred on something it’s very easy to take for granted:

THE MECHANIC: Thirdperson cameras Read the rest of this entry »

How Viscera Cleanup Detail makes menial work fun

Viscera Cleanup Detail

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the inner workings of their games. This time, Viscera Cleanup Detail [official site].

Viscera Cleanup Detail is a game about cleaning. You’ll wash blood and slime from floors and walls and pick up rubbish, bullet casings and body parts. Your slop will spill, your ichor-covered boots will leave prints over surfaces you’ve worked hard to scrub, and you’ll drop an oozing limb just as you thought you’d made things right.

It’s brutal, menial work, and every feature and level is designed to make it extra fraught with problems. “A main theme is that everything in the world hates you, or is at least indifferent,” developer Nolan Richert tells me. “The noble janitor has a miserable job to do and no one cares or witnesses their struggle. They only complain about the results. It’s inspired by real life, you see.”

Also it’s fun, thanks to a set of tools that do all they can to hinder your attempts to just do your damn job.

THE MECHANIC: Physics bins and buckets and mops Read the rest of this entry »

How a cargo plane sets up Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds for greatness

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the inner workings of their games. This time, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds [official site].

Somewhere across Erangel’s 64 square kilometres of towns, villages, hills, rivers and sea, 100 players are running, looting, driving and shooting each other. With every one of them having an average of well over half a square kilometre to themselves, it might sound like playing PUBG is a lonely experience, but in practice it’s anything but. The opening minutes are always intense, demanding strategy and planning. It’s all down to a clever piece of design that relates to how you’re being delivered to this Battle Royale:

THE MECHANIC: Cargo plane Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t hate on tutorials

“Press B to Crouch” under the obviously placed fallen ceiling. Remove your abilities to show you how to aim your gun. Wrest the camera control away to show the low cover you’re meant to be hiding behind. ‘Onboarding’? Vomit. Usability is a mark of all that is bad about modern game design. It undermines all the best things about games, sanding off their edges, taking autonomy away, designing for the lowest common denominator. Right?

Nope. “I’ve never met anybody yet who only wanted ten people to play their game,” says Graham McAllister, founder of Player Research, a playtesting and user research specialist for games. “These are passionate people who want as many people as possible to love their game.” Usability is one of the more misunderstood elements of game design. It doesn’t strangle challenge, depth and imagination. In fact, it’s meant to do precisely the opposite. Read the rest of this entry »

How Crawl found the fun in unfairness

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the inner workings of their games. This time, Crawl [official site].

Crawl is a game about cooperation, betrayal and murder and accumulating enough eldritch power to kill a god. Made by Australian indie Powerhoof, it’s a couch multiplayer game played with up to three friends, but only one of you can be the hero. Everyone else is playing a monster, but when a monster kills the hero, it takes their place. This loop, of ganging up, competing to strike the final blow and then turning on your friends, captures the essential heart of the best local multiplayer games. It’s that delicious tension of power and powerlessness, of ruthlessness and submission, of laughter and jeering. At the centre of Crawl is a lovely bit of:

THE MECHANIC: Unfairness Read the rest of this entry »

Charting the puzzle depths of Cosmic Express

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the inner workings of their games. This time, Cosmic Express [official site].

There are many reasons why puzzle games designed by Alan “Draknek” Hazelden sit on top of the form. There’s the puzzles, for one thing. They’re pretty good. They explore seemingly simple rulesets and find in them huge and satisfying challenge, dragging you along for the ride. That’s as true for Cosmic Express as for all Hazelden’s games. (Actually, maybe that’s sort of literally true, since Cosmic Express is about drawing tracks to take aliens on little train rides.)

But there’s something else to his puzzles, something that opens up a sense of wonder at the depth of the little logical worlds that emerge from their rulesets and layouts. It’s also something that gives you a sense of involvement and discovery in a genre that can so often feel like jumping through a designer’s tortuous hoops. It’s that they have:

THE MECHANIC: Multiple solutions Read the rest of this entry »