XCOM Should Have Been Free to Play

XCOM: Enemy Unknown was released to critical acclaim last month and reached a global all-formats chart position of 10th at its highest point. It has since dropped in price to £22.99 less than a month since release.

Perhaps XCOM should have been a free-to-play game from the beginning, and is a game that would lend itself to the free-to-play model without drastic changes to the game’s design. Here are some of the ways in which XCOM could be adapted to use a freemium model:

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Posted in Design Discussion, F2P, Social Games, Zynga | Tagged | 44 Comments

Improving player experience through signposting

As a designer, you should always know what you want the player to do, but just because you know what the player should be doing doesn’t mean that they do.

Making sure that a player doesn’t get lost is an important part of the game’s design, as a lost player is likely to become a frustrated player. And a frustrated player isn’t likely to be your player for long.

Navigation can become an issue even in relatively small games, so effective signposting becomes an essential skill for all designers. As tempting as it may be to begin development by creating amazing graphics and set-pieces, a better starting point would be to decide what you want the player to do in an environment and the route you want them to take through it.

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Posted in Design Discussion, Social Games, The Legend of Zelda | Tagged | 1 Comment

How to Excel in Excel

While artists have Photoshop and 3D Studio Max as their key tools, a designer’s most important program is far less glamourous. Microsoft Excel is probably something which we’ve all used but not perhaps thought of as an essential game design tool. This post is primarily for those just starting their design careers, and covers how to use Excel and its context in games design. Many of the techniques mentioned are likely to be familiar to you but I hope that there will be one or two nuggets of information that will be new.

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Posted in Design Discussion, Music Festivals, Research, Social Games | Tagged | 1 Comment

Using Fibonacci for Game Balance

One of the most important roles as a games designer is the game balance. It’s not the most exciting part of the job by a long shot but a game with poor balance can frustrate and annoy a player, leading them to quit the game and never load it up again.

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Posted in Design Discussion, Music Festivals | Tagged | 3 Comments

Just one more go…

We’ve probably all played games that have had us thinking “I’ll just have one more go, then I’ll stop” and before we know it we’re suddenly watching the sun rise on a new day. It’s the gaming equivalent of a book being “a real page-turner”.

For want of a better phrase let’s call this an ‘engagement loop’, as a player we’re compelled to do something to receive a reward. If you are able to offer a large reward or range of rewards for a small loop, a player becomes highly engaged with the game while committing a small amount of time to each loop.

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Why I Love… Banjo-Kazooie

After writing about why I loved Fez in the previous post, I felt that I should also share some of the reasons why I love Banjo-Kazooie. This was originally written for the My Favourite Game blog, which was set up at the beginning of the year to allow people to share their favourite games. It is still looking for reader submissions if you’re interested in sharing your story.

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Why I Love… Fez

It’s not often that a game excites me both as a player and a games designer quite as much as Fez has. Plenty of games have excited me as one or the other but Fez just has something else.

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Designer Blindness: Respond to Feedback

In my opinion, getting feedback on your game is one of the most important parts of game design and ignoring it is perhaps the biggest mistake you can make during development.

After playing through your game thousands of times (yes, literally thousands) you will become immune to certain elements. If your game features a boss battle, for example, you’ll breeze through it after you’ve defeated it a few dozen times. This could lead you to increasing the difficulty as it no longer presents you with a challenge. This is known as designer blindness and can happen in nearly all games. Continue reading

Posted in Design Discussion, Music Festivals | Tagged | 2 Comments

Tutorial Design: An Experiment

This post was originally written for the Soshi Games blog, which can be found here

Tutorials in games are often left until the end of development, and are written by someone who has spent months if not years with the game and knows it inside out. Because of this, the tutorial designer can only assume what aspects of the game a new player will understand and what they will need explaining. Continue reading

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Mario Kart Vs Mole Kart: A Comparison

There has been a lot of talk across the gaming community as to whether there is still a place for dedicated handheld games consoles following the increasing use of smartphones and tablets as games machines.

I’ve always felt that a games console will provide the best games so with the recent release of Mole Kart (A Mario Kart clone) on the App Store I thought I’d use the opportunity to compare the two games and use cold hard numbers to see which was the better value for money. Continue reading

Posted in Design Discussion, Mario Kart, Research | 5 Comments