Smart Things Other People Said

01_gravity_headerThe last couple of months have been pretty productive – I have worked on bringing the narrative concepts and art styles of different worlds and backworlds to a good place, in part so we could see what worked and did not but also because it helped us determine the amount of work needed to make a full art pass on the entire game. This meant both the time needed to create the art and figuring out the technology we needed to develop to make it look pretty and be quick to work with.

I had planned to build some new effects technology for this and discuss it today, but in the end I decided against it for a couple of reasons. First, while new and isolated tech is fun and frequently useful, without seeing heavy use out of it we can’t really say for sure how well it works and if it’ll even end up in the game – I’ve been a bit dishonest promoting prototypes in the past and I’d like to be better than that. Second and maybe more importantly, there are less interesting tasks that are going to improve workflows and save us time. The more time the sooner we add them, in fact. I am making an attempt to be smart about development so we don’t add time to a development cycle that’s already too long, and this was inspired by Tom Francis’ GDC talk Efficiency for Game Designers – we have recommended some free GDC talks in the past, but today I thought I’d pick out some of my favorites over the years.

50 Camera Mistakes by John Nesky of ThatGameCompany – John talks about camera handling in games, specifically about how they solved camera problems in Journey. A lot of the problems are kind of specific but there are so many of them that you are bound to find something useful in this talk – a few were even applicable to Backworlds which is a 2D platform game and nothing like Journey.

Antichamber – Three Years of Hardcore Iteration – I was a big fan of Antichamber and in this talk Alexander Bruce goes into some detail about how he built a world that is fundamentally about deceiving the player but still did not attempt to obfuscate the puzzles.

Fewer Tifas or More Sephiroths – Male Sexualization in Games by writer Michelle Clough. This is a humorous but enlightening talk about the tradition of sexually attractive men in games and how we can write sexually attractive characters – both men and women – without making them into mere objects of desire.

Of Choice and Breaking New Ground – Designing Mark of the Ninja by Nels Andersson. Mark of the Ninja takes a new approach to stealth gameplay – casting the player as a master ninja hiding should be trivial so the game is a lot more focused on planning your approach than actually executing it. Nels goes over the design pillars they established to reach this goal and what they meant for the project.

Techniques for Building Aim Assist in Console Shooters by Nick Weihs of Insomniac Games. Practically all FPS games that are played with a console have some form of aim-assist built in, Nick goes over the problems with aiming from a hardware and muscle perspective and then presents a series of different aim-assist techniques as well as their impact. A great introduction to the subject.

Through the Grinder: Refining Diablo III’s Game Systems by Wyatt Cheng. Wyatt goes over some of the core systems in Diablo III and talks about how they evolved over many iterations and were finely tuned into what ended up in the game. I am a bit biased in recommending this talk but I think it is a very interesting look at the design polish process and how small changes can make a big difference.

What I did end up working with lately has been a better system for sharing art resources across levels – up until now all levels have been completely standalone and changing the style of clusters of levels has been very time-consuming. The new system is simple but a lot more memory-friendly and suited for the structure of the game, if it turns out to be a big win I may write about it in a later post!

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