Monthly Archives: April 2008

Designing ‘The Player League’ Part 1: Why It’s Hard

For a while now, I’ve wanted to make a competitive strategy game about picking up chicks. It seemed strange that it hadn’t been done before. Everyone understands the concept, many people have done it personally. It should be a no-brainer as a game, I thought. Unfortunately, it’s a design challenge that’s been kicking my ass for months now.

Last October, I had no computer because I was studying in Hong Kong. All I had was access to the crappy school computers. I figured I’d use the time to write out a design. Even better, I was also spending lots of time in bars and clubs at the time. I’d see some behaviour pattern at night, and write it into the design the next day. It’s not often that you get to personally witness your game in real life while you’re designing it.

I’ve recently finished coding a playable prototype. In later posts I hope to discuss it. First, I want to explain a bit of the journey that this game has taken me on.

Many of these design challenges are direct reflections of why I think the idea has so much potential in the first place. Social interaction presents us with a strategic space of unparalleled depth, diversity, and intensity, far beyond any other real-life type of competition I can think of. I definitely think that different designers could extract many completely different and fascinating games from the social competition idea.

This for part 1 of this little series, I’ll start us off with why designing a realistic social competition game is hard. Some of these difficulties were obvious at the beginning, but some only appeared while I was trying to execute my design.

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Scaffolding and Masonry

This article was published at Gamasutra.

It’s amazing how little normal people will consciously register about video games. To us game freaks, they pick out the oddest things.

I built a new PC this Christmas. One of the first games I tried on it was Crysis. As expected, the graphics were incredible. Beautiful, lush jungles, fully animated grass and leaves, dynamic shadows and time-of-day, strong HDR. Anyone who is familiar with my older levels will know that I love this stuff.

crysis_shot.jpg

I showed it to my father one day. “Check it out!” I said gleefully, certain that his jaw would drop at this incredible display of computational and artistic awesomeness.

Naturally, the first thing he noticed was that there were plants popping into existence as I moved around and the LOD system recalculated their detail relevance.

Naturally, I was aghast. Doesn’t he see? Look at the technological and artistic beauty of it all! Possibly the most beautiful real-time graphical simulation ever created was sitting in front of him, and all he noticed was the very minor LOD popping. I’m trained to deconstruct digital images and even I wasn’t registering those little plants swooping in and out of existence.

Obviously there was something different about how my father, a non-gamer, was perceiving the scene and how I was. I realized what it was some days later when playing Assassin’s Creed.

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