PART 1 of 2
OH MAN! I have been trying to get through a backlog of ideas so that I could finally get to this. I still haven’t gotten through my backlog, but felt like jumping to this anyway.
I myself have dabbled in game design and modding over the years. I haven’t done much. There’s various reasons for this including that I’ve never had quality, modern PC hardware. For most of my life I’ve only had outdated Macs handed down to me by family.
Nevertheless, I figured that with all the analyzing and critiquing of other games that I do that it was about time I did some postmortems of my own extant work (some of my earlier modding, game design, and programming, as well as games I made on my graphing calculator, have been lost to history).
The first thing I’ll look at will be a mod I made for the indie game Lugaru, by Wolfire Games (aka David Rosen) (the sequel, Overgrowth, is currently being developed). I made my mod way back in early 2009 and the forum post where I posted it still exists on Wolfire’s website.
[~2700 words; ~1600 on jump cuts; ~1100 going off on tangents towards the end]
I was musing about video games the other day and for some reason, out of nowhere, I got this vision for the use of a sequence of jump cuts that I don’t think has ever been seen in a game before.
And the more I thought about it the more I realized that the act of suddenly, and without effect, cutting from one scene to another is almost never used in games. Almost all games have an uninterrupted, linear sequence of events that play out through an unbroken span of time. The breaks that do happen are between levels, if the game has levels, or through cutscenes that create bridges between two different locations.
The first image isn’t actually a good example of what I want to talk about; it’s just a cool map in a video game. What I want to talk about in this post are maps that actually represent the level or playable space in a game, but which don’t actually serve a gameplay purpose to the player.
Let’s dive in.
I used to play a lot of a mobile FPS game called Midnight Star and I thought it was pretty good. Several months ago I beta-tested its sequel, Midnight Star: Renegade. I thought the changes between the two games were fascinating to observe.
Midnight Star is designed like an older PC FPS: it consists of large, hand crafted experiences delivering the developer’s specific vision to the player. Meanwhile, Midnight Star: Renegade is designed to consist of smaller, quickly iterated, quickly consumable experiences which focus on letting the player create their own “vision”. The changes feel like a microcosm of the changes taking place in the game industry in general, especially in the mobile market.
I thought the shift in game design was so interesting that I wanted to write this post back when I was playtesting Renegade, but I didn’t have time then (ironic considering I had the time to beta-test the game). At this point in time, both Midnight Star and Midnight Star: Renegade are available on the app store or google play store or what have you. They are micropay games where you can play for free and either grind a heck of a lot or pay real money to get equipment and upgrades.
Both games were developed by Industrial Toys, which was founded by Alexander Seropian (one of the co-founders of Bungie Studios and Wideload Games).
For whatever reason I started thinking about a game I used to play long, long ago called Pocket Tanks. As I thought about all the strange and different weapons in the game, I thought I’d make this post a Fun Gun Award and talk about some of the most creative weapons. However, with 400 different guns (30-40 in shareware versions) I realized this would be pointless.
And I as thought about the quantity of different weapons I realized that the majority of them were not balanced and despite this the game was still fun. I realized something about how the quantity and variety of weapons affects the very nature of the game.
So, here we go…
The Fun Gun Award™ is an award I give to video game guns that aren’t necessarily effective, aren’t necessarily balanced, don’t necessarily give the player any tactical advantage, but which do have creative behavior, unique design, and which are fun to use. These guns might suck (or they might even be overpowered), but they’re so fun to use that they’re worth talking about.
I don’t think the Resistance series gets enough credit.
It’s visuals and enemies were a little dull and plain (everything is mostly grey and brown), but I actually kind of liked the Chimera’s design with their weird back pillars and multiple eyes. The game also had a health system that was a sensible compromise between regenerating health and static health. The story even had some creative moments: for example, in the Resistance 2 the player character is slowly becoming evil and has to be assassinated by the end of the game; in Resistance 3 you play as the killer.
But, of course, the most important thing that needs to stand out in an FPS are the weapons. And that’s one of the things that really shine in Resistance. Some of the weapons are pretty standard fair, but a lot of them play around with creative and clever mechanics that change the way the player thinks and changes the way he plays the game. Among these imaginative weapons, none of them are useless, all of them are effective, and some of them are flat out overpowered (which is a change pace for a Fun Gun Award).
Here’s a brief post about an interesting moment in a level of the real-time-tactical game Myth 2: Soulblighter. The level is called “Into the Breach” and it involves you trying to get your troops to infiltrate the motte-and-bailey castle of a traitorous baron who is creating an army of Thrall (essentially zombies with axes).
In what amounts to the mission briefing, the narrator mentions how in the night he and his comrades saw an army of 1,000 thrall leave the castle and march off towards a friendly village.
This bit of narrative is reflected and reiterated in a moment in the level itself.