Why is no one talking about Picross 3D: Round 2?
To put it another way, what can I say about Picross 3D: Round 2?
It is an ideal game. It’s not perfect; I could list flaws like the error-prone controls if I were ever inclined to write a review. But as someone who likes to write about games as works of art and craft, it’s almost too ideal to grasp. Like the smooth carved-wood toys you produce when solving puzzles in the game, there are no hard corners or rough spots to get a rhetorical grip on.
The game just follows. It follows from its ruleset and its heritage and the decisions made in its design are all either necessary or arbitrary. The decisions are hard to even notice and games like these receive less attention in the critical space due to this invisible design.
Continue reading Invisible Design in Picross 3D: Round 2
Symmetra is the most strangely-designed character in Blizzard’s Overwatch. In a game where most heroes’ roles can be summed up in a few words (“fast flanker,” “mobile area-denial tank,” “AOE healer,” “slowing defender”) and their story concepts naturally arise from their roles (“time-traveling jet pilot,” “leaping electric gorilla,” “portable DJ,” “cute ice Satan”), Symmetra makes little sense.
She builds many tiny sentries, gives minor shields to allies, builds teleporters, and can attack with either a short-range cumulative auto-aim beam or a slow-moving death orb. This is explained by her being a combination architect and sci-fi construction worker, shaping solid forms out of light. She is the only character with “photonic” technology, and it is not explained how being able to project physical holograms also lets you bend space and time to craft a teleportation portal.
I have no special insight into the Overwatch design process, but I can speculate with some confidence about how it proceeded. Symmetra (and indeed all the heroes) were not designed from the ground up. They were assembled using an accretive process, where abilities were assembled piecemeal and then unified with a story-based concept.
Continue reading Strange Symmetra: Accretive Design in Overwatch
In my patron-sponsored post on Minecraft I talked about the philosophy of Minecraft mods and play in general, but I didn’t go much into the actual rules or design of the factory and automation play in those mods.
I’ve abandoned the “FTB Resurrection” modpack in favor of “FTB Infinity” (GregTech is just too vague and cruel). This has actually let me get into some limited automation, which has been interesting.
Continue reading Automating Minecraft
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In this episode of the Ludus Novus podcast, I discuss the decisions we make as game designers and developers and how we are responsible for every aspect of the games we make. I touch on polishing, social justice, and emergent aspects of games.
Continue reading Ludus Novus 024: Decision Point
Some games feel inspirational. They do something so different or clever or well-crafted that they make you want to learn from them, to use the same techniques in your own work. Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are big examples: they helped inspire everything from Knytt (still one of my favorites) to, surely, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Half-Life did this for the entire medium, to the extent that we are still feeling the meager aftershocks every time we watch a scripted game event while we wait for an NPC to open a door.
Gone Home gives me that itching sensation of inspiration. I want to make a game like this, one that depends on exploration and exacting observation. One that feels calm but also ominous. One that explores themes like love and family, however sentimentally. Unfortunately, the game is singular enough that I have trouble imagining an inspired work that isn’t hopelessly derivative.
Continue reading Inspiration and Gone Home
Joakim Sandberg has just released Noitu Love 2: Devolution and I highly recommend you check it out. You can pick up the demo for free, but it’s worth the $20 for the full version. It’s the answer to a single burning question: what would happen if you made a platformer that properly incorporated both mouse and keyboard? It gives three perfect answers. Click through for the discussion and minor spoilers.
Continue reading Noitu Love 2: Variations on a Theme