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Ray's Favorite Game Design Videos

The Cerny Method

by Mark Cerny

55 mins
  1. Pre-Production is of utmost importance. "You aren't making a game, you're making a game design." Put your best team on it. It's impossible to plan and schedule; don't waste money trying. Don't hold the team to demoable milestones. You will repeatedly prototype levels of your game to narrow in on the fun (you'll build a level about 5 times before hitting the mark).

  2. Publishable First Playable. At the end of pre-production, you should know whether you've got a game design that will be successful. You should come away with a first playable (one level) that is of publishable quality. You should also have your Macro Design.

  3. Macro Design vs. Micro Design. A good Macro Design maps out your major features and how they interact at a high level, and also charts out the progression of your game (often in a spreadsheet to chart each level's core play and progression). Micro Designs are the details of individual features, descriptions or script for each level, enemy behaviors, etc.

  4. Gameplay Testing

Constructing the Catacombs:
Procedural Architecture for Platformers

24 mins
GDC 2015

by Tyriq Plummer

  1. Sketch out a visual representation of the process first.

  2. Think of it all in an abstract tile-based representation. In this case...

  3. For the Map: Room Grid & Room Size --> Place Start Room --> Connections --> End, Level Up, and Pre-Made Rooms --> Combine some Rooms & add Loops --> Shift off Grid --> Entry & Exit Points between rooms (slightly inside rooms --> Pathing Obstacles --> Turn Connections into Paths w/A* --> Find Room "Cores" & then Spread Core to Room Size, but stop at Room Exits --> Extend Rooms More with some extra "roughness" to give them more organic shape --> Define Water & Lava --> Move on to room substructures.

  4. For individual Rooms: Place dividers (block, horizontal/vertical walls, sub-rooms) --> Punch holes in divisions --> Add platforms --> Fill the reserved template rooms --> "Flood Fill" level to make sure it's all connected, punch holes where necessary --> Check upward mobility, make ladders, find drops & add elevators, check for drops into environmental hazards, etc. --> Add teleporters if needed.

Constructing the Catacombs.jpg

Are Video Games TOO LONG?

7 mins
  1. Many video games boast about length, and can take 40, 60, or upwards 100 hours to complete. In an age where ~90% of players don't finish games, is this too long?

  2. Why not let players set the desired length of a game, much like some games let you set difficulty? Choose Short, Medium, Long, or Legendary! Want to play the Cliff's notes version of a game? You should be able to.

  3. Or, we can try to make more games that are highly repeatable with varying outcomes, like The Stanley Parable.

Quest Design Part I

5 mins
  1. What quests in MMOs used to be like: you had to engage in conversation and dig into key topics that came up; you had to stumble across mysterious items in the world.

  2. The 5 overused quest types now (Kill, Collect, Fetch, FedEx, Escort), and how these are used almost exclusively to teach the game, familiarize you with locations, and get you to travel, rather than to encourage exploration and elicit wonder.

  3. Contains a great example of an Everquest quest about a ring you might have happened to find at the bottom of a lake in the depths of a dungeon.

Quest Design Part II

8 mins
  1. An example of a fantastic quest in The Secret World that has the player following Illuminati symbols on manhole covers, considering the purpose of buildings in the town, staring at paintings, deciphering riddles, and looking up bible passages. The quest gives the player new eyes on the normal world around them.

  2. Quest Load: So that the story in these quests doesn't lose its meaning, the quest log in The Secret World only holds 5 at a time -- one story quest, one big quest, and 3 minor quests. Contrast to other modern MMOs with giant quest logs and scores of NPCs with yellow exclamations.

  3. With lower quest load, players are encouraged to engage with quests on a deeper level.

ZELDA: A Link to the Past vs. Ocarina of Time

31 mins
  • Explores the design differences between older and newer Zelda games.

  • Posits that the magical essence of Zelda & Link to the Past was exploration, the mystery around the world, and the satisfaction from the accomplishment of finding items. It suggests that this recipe got watered down in 3D due to (1) Waiting, (2) A separation of navigating the space from fighting, (3) use of "looking around a room" for a switch as a "puzzle", and (4) unnecessary roadblocks that segmented the world.

  • Point (1): The player has to wait for travel time, dialog, cut scenes, and enemies to be vulnerable. This all gets in the way of what the player really wants to do -- explore, discover, and fight.

  • Point (2): The player now has to choose whether to fight -- which uses Z-targeting and changes the camera view -- or actively explore the space. In 2D Zelda games, this happened simultaneously. In the 3D games, this constant mode switching is often disruptive and frustrating, and can lead to your untimely death if you then don't see the edges of platforms, or monsters coming up from behind you, etc. He gives an example of one mini boss, the Iron Knuckle, as an enemy done right. It merges fighting with the world in that when he swings his axe, he can crush pillars which drop hearts, giving you some strategy with how you use your space while fighting. The Iron Knuckle is also rare in that you don't have to wait for it to be vulnerable before you attack, instead, your attacks trigger it to fight. Egoraptor also gives an example of a simple enemy that would work to merge fighting and space -- an enemy that has knockback for both you and it when you hit it, and it can be knocked off platforms (into pits or lava). This sort of design isn't too difficult; it's just mostly absent from the 3D Zelda games.

  • Point (3): Often the player is in a room where he just needs to go into first person camera mode and look around until he sees where the switch is hidden -- a pressure switch, an arrow target, a crystal, etc. That's not fun. That's not a puzzle. It's just delaying the opening of a door by a meaningless exercise in camera control.

  • Point (4): Zelda games have become more and more linear as roadblocks have been injected under the guise of story. For example: You can't go up this path to Death Mountain until I get a letter from the king. It's rather standard, poorly-designed linear story-based gameplay mechanics... which prevent you from being able to experience what made the early Zelda games awesome: unbridled exploration and a sense of danger from being further than maybe you should be.

Mega Man Classic vs. Mega Man X

20 mins
  • A look at how Mega Man X (SNES) taught the player the mechanics with an incredibly well-designed introduction level (and even the title screen), with no explicit tutorials.

  • Then how it uses the character "Z" to psyche you up to be as cool as he is and to look forward to all the upgrades and powers.

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