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).
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).
I was looking at Bethesda’s 2015 E3 presentation of the new Doom and I had some thoughts. Mainly they were about how what we were seeing WASN’T a Doom game and how modern developers either don’t understand what made Doom fun or don’t care. I mean, they don’t have to care because the brand name sells itself, but still.
One of the things that Doom was praised for was the speed of its gameplay and quantity of monsters to kill. Doom 3 was later derided for its lack of speed and lack of monsters. And now New Doom/Doom4 also looks pretty slow and pretty absent of hordes of monsters.
What developers like Bethesda and New id may not realize is that the speed of the the original Doom wasn’t just about the physical speed of the player.
There’s certain prerequisites that you need to meet before you can have a fast paced game with tons of monsters to kill: the visual communication of the playspace must be clear to the player; the types of monsters must be visually distinct from each other and from the environment; the playspace must be large and conducive to a range of movement; and the monsters have to actually be slower than the player.
A lot of that has to do with communicating to the player quickly and clearly. The more clear your visual design and enemy design happens to be, the faster the player can interpret the playspace, and the faster he can make decisions, leading to a faster gameplay.
But let’s take a look.
The Fun Gun Award™ is an award for video game guns that aren’t necessarily effective, don’t necessarily give a player a tactical advantage, but which have creative behavior, unique design, and are fun to use. These guns might suck, but they’re so fun that I WANT to learn to use them effectively.
I never played much of the later Unreal Tournaments, so my fondest memories of the Bio Rifle (honorable mention to the Ripper) are from the original Unreal Tournament, way, way back in the ’90s.
When I first starting playing UT I thought the Bio Rifle was completely useless and couldn’t comprehend how it made it into the game.
Years later, it became my favorite gun.
This is part two of four parts to my analysis of Bungie’s Destiny.
Check out Part 1, where I look at visuals, level design, enemy design, etc.; Part 3: I spend my entire blogpost discussing how things have been named in Destiny; and Part 4: where I predict the future of Destiny’s story based on evidence that Destiny is a symbolic retelling of the story from Bungie’s Pathways into Darkness, but from the point of view of the monsters.
BOSS BATTLE DESIGN (analysis in the form of a haiku):
Big guy, lots of health,
stands still, and minions respawn.
Over and over.
CHARACTER CREATION (analysis in the form of a limerick):
You choose how you look in the game,
Don’t matter if it’s cool or it’s lame,
Ex or Awoken,
And the humans are token,
In the end, they play just the same.
“THAT IS SICK FOR BEING MADE 1987 o.O”
“funny that doom and marathon didnt have desks and chairs or anything just sprites”
“Sad thing is this game has more interactivity than more than two thirds of the games out now.”
“I think this was also the first game to feature crates!”
Those are some select quotes from the comments section of two walkthrough videos of the Colony, a 3D FPS from 1987 (I just found the videos even though they’re from 2009). The last quote is from the creator himself, David A. Smith, who narrates the videos and reveals some really fascinating stuff. Like, one wall in the game took up 2 Bytes, and an entire map took about 4K. 4K!!! As one commenter points out: “Now days you can’t even send a email without going over 4kb.”
This is part one of four parts to my analysis of Bungie’s Destiny.
I’ll also have a Part 2: covering player characters, story, weapons, and whether i’d buy it or not; Part 3: I spend my entire blogpost discussing how things have been named in Destiny; and Part 4: where I predict the future of Destiny’s story based on evidence that Destiny is a symbolic retelling of the story from Bungie’s Pathways into Darkness, but from the point of view of the monsters.
So, before Destiny was released, before it was in Beta, I wrote an article about my initial reactions to a “making of” presentation given by the lead art designer and lead writer. You can read it here. Basically, I said that I was excited about the game, clearly a lot of work went into it, but that the end product looked really boring and derivative. It seemed like something weird must have happened between the initial conception and the actual execution that seemed to take the really amazing ideas and watered them down into a bland final product.
Someone named Analyze commented on that blog post, and asked what I thought about the game now that it was out.
So, Analyze, here you go. Just for you, my thoughts on Destiny now that it’s out and I’ve actually played it. It’s long and there’s quite a bit of nitpicking and microanalysis (and this is just part one). Brace yourself.
For anyone who wants to know what I think without reading too much.
Tactile design: the game is so much fun to control, it feels amazing.
Visual design: my eyes bleed from the beauty.
Sound design: it’s pretty good; love the Vex death warbles.
Enemy deaths: so rewarding, so fun, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted.
Level design: Vex have the best and most unique level design; everywhere else it’s the same hallways and rooms.
Architecture: I like the Vex and Hive the best; Fallen, Cabal, and human all look the same; also, everyone has castle merlons on their walkways (check the pics).
AI and Enemy Behavior: the same boring, unintelligent AI is recycled among different races; the Vex and Cabal barely have any AI, the Fallen seem to have the most developed AI, and the Hive seem to have the most diverse AI among their units, although that’s not really saying much.
Enemy visual design: Fallen is most developed, other races are boring and look alike, and the Cabal are a blatant rip off of Warhammer’s Space Marines (check the pic, they look identical).
Spaceships: Love the Fallen and Hive dropships, Cabal look like Pelicans from Halo, and the players’ ships look “meh”.