City of Heroes Architect

City of Heroes ArchitectJoe Morrissey, a Senior Designer at Paragon Studios, discusses City of Heroes Architect — a system that lets users generate in-game content:

Wanting tools so the rest of the team could actually come up with content was the idea. Because we have a lot of guys on the team that are hardcore players, they play the game all the time.

Then they come to me like, “I’ve got this idea for this story, we should really do this arc with this guy!” And I’m like, “That’s great. I haven’t got time to do it. I’ve got plenty of other story arcs to work on.”

But, if we made the tools easy enough, then they could actually come up with the arcs, and we can put them out.

Then somewhere along that road it dawned on me: Why stop with the rest of the team?

It was a scary venture, because we were getting momentum from it, and the studio leads at what is now Paragon but at the time was NC NorCal, they wanted to differentiate us from other games out there.

Architect just kind of kept coming back up like, “How are we got to do that? That’s really scary to do,” and I’m like, “That’s why we are going to do it. We are not going to do it because it is easy.”

We definitely have learned that you have to take risks, even when your game’s been up for five years, especially if your game’s been out for five years, you have to keep reinventing yourself and keep yourself fresh.

Joe Morrissey @ MMO Gamer

Via Slashdot.

Creating Computer Games Can Boost Student Skills

“Teaching people how to use off-the-shelf tools to quickly build a computer game might allow anyone to learn new thinking and computing skills.”

Computer games have a broad appeal that transcends gender, culture, age and socio-economic status. Now, computer scientists in the US think that creating computer games, rather than just playing them could boost students’ critical and creative thinking skills as well as broaden their participation in computing. They discuss details in the current issue of the International Journal of Social and Humanistic Computing.

ScienceDaily

Via Slashdot.

Paper Models Game Design

This sounds like a fun project:

I want to develop a Sci-Fi game that will utilize paper models for the entire game. Models will of course need to be kept fairly simple for this as people might need to print a build a lot of them. Possible even have 2.5 d representations of models to go along with the real builds.

I am thinking along the lines of a fairly large game with different parts that could be played standalone if desired.

Overall idea (this is a very quick, not set in stone idea of course)

Part 1: Outerspace phase will have space combat, troop and resource movement to specified location

part 2: planetary phase will be the dropping of troops and resources, building of bases and atmospheric combat

part 3: planetary conquest will be the taking over and elimination of the opponents bases.

I have no preconcieved notions of complexity but I would like to make it playable on a couple levels, very easy short games (30 min) and medium difficulty longer games (2-4 hours).

I am thinking the short games will just be one phase. Long game all phases.

One thing about the models – we will want to use layers, probably fairly heavily as we will want someone who buys say a space freighter to be able to print it off in different colors or liveries based on The team/race/whatever they wish to play.

Chris @ PaperModellers.com

I’m reminded of Alien Space, which I played back in the mid nineteen-seventies.

Snake Game Design Question

Stack Overflow is a useful resource for programmers — a repository of individual questions and collective responses, by and for programmers.

Someone recently asked a Snake Game Design Question:

I’m trying to make a snake game with additional functionality where snake can eat different types of food some of the foods will give it special powers for some time. like that

For designing diff. food i’m making a food interface. And all types of food implement it. So that using only Food’s ref. i can create any type of food.

The only power is representing a power. I can represent it either on board or in the snake. Snake is the best option as it seems to be more logical. Can any one tell me how am i suppose to represent it??

Snake is a classic game — one of my favorites.
Snake
Wikipedia states: “Snake is a video game first released during the mid 1970s in arcades and has maintained popularity since then, becoming somewhat of a classic. After it became the standard pre-loaded game on Nokia phones in 1998, Snake found a massive audience.”

The Stack Overflow responses include:

You might want to take a look at the Template Pattern or the Decorator Pattern.

The basic idea would be that your “Snake” would have its operations exported into a module tree which are called. So for instance Snake.Move() would really just check to see if there was a move modifier (as provided from your “powers”) otherwise it would default to its own internal move object. Depending on how you implement it the power could replace, temporarily override, or cascade its effects.

And:

You could create a base powerclass of which every food holds a reference. Every food this way can have a certain power.

For every power, you inherit form this base powerclass.

the moment you eat the food, the power class is transferred to the snake. The snake could hold one reference (to the last eaten power), or even a list of powers (if multiple powers can be active at the same time).

And:

Yes, per snake is more flexible. If you were to make it a multiplayer game then each snake would have its power.

What you seem to be missing is Power->Food mapping. But that really depends on whether or not one Food gives many Powers or one Power can have different powers.

Well there are many ways how you can do this. Most basic I can think of is having a static method that will produce a different powers when passed different type of food. Whenever your snake eats something you call
SuperPower.onNomNom(FoodEaten)

Students Create Devil’s Tuning Fork FPS

Very cool — I love it:

Inspired by Dutch artist M.C. Escher, Devil’s Tuning Fork (DTF) challenges players to rescue children whose spirits are trapped in a lightless – and sightless – 3D world. Created by a 15-student development team in DePaul University’s Game Dev program, the free PC game was developed in less than five months, with students working nights and weekends in the University’s development and animation labs.

In DTF, creative graphics and immersive sound design turn the typical first-person shooter upside down. Instead of shooting their way though the map, players must navigate a dream-like maze guided only by the sound waves emitted by the Devil’s Tuning Fork. The game has players “see” through a simulation of the echolocation perception used by dolphins and bats, a mind-bending twist on the FPS genre.

Gamer’s Daily News

Game Design Patterns

What are design patterns?

“A design pattern in architecture and computer science is a formal way of documenting a solution to a design problem in a particular field of expertise. The idea was introduced by the architect Christopher Alexander in the field of architecture and has been adapted for various other disciplines, including computer science. An organized collection of design patterns that relate to a particular field is called a pattern language.”

What are game design patterns? A similar language of design principles which game designers can use to think about and express their work.

Game Design Patterns by Staffan Björk, Sus Lundgren, Jussi Holopainen:

ABSTRACT
We present a model to support the design, analysis, and comparison of games through the use of game design patterns, descriptions of reoccurring interaction relevant to game play. The model consists of a structural framework to describe the components of games, and patterns of interaction that describes how components are used by players (or a computer) to affect various aspects of the game play. Focusing on the patterns and identified methods for using them, we describe the development of the model and how we are currently working to enlarge and validate the collection of patterns.

Keywords
Game Design, Patterns, Taxonomies, Game Models

Game Design Patterns (PDF)

To me, a pattern is a short name for a definition of “how you do something.”

The “something” can be very specific — example, the “Spawnpoint Pattern” makes the player spawn at a particular place in the game (with variations for randomness, delay time, etc.)

Or the something can be very general — the “Player Happiness Pattern” discusses player psychology and game goals.

I’m inventing freely here for purposes of example — “Spawnpoint Pattern” and “Player Happiness Pattern” may be useful to you or not.

Patterns can be as arbitrary as you need them to be — I could speak of the “Handy Vandal Pattern” if I found it useful.

As it happens, “Handy Vandal” doesn’t impress me as a useful pattern, although the fact that it doesn’t impress me as a pattern does imply something about useful patterns.

Good patterns are good because they reflect the deep inner nature of the subject matter.

The pattern is a reflection, a double. Think of pattern in the sense of graphic design, as an image that repeats itself. Now think of the world itself — creation, reality — as the first image, and the game design pattern as a symbolic repetition of the world.

The proper subject matter of game design comprises patterns such as: “game rules” … “player” … “game start” … “game score” … “competition” … “cooperation” … or any other short descriptive phrase that you found useful as a category of information. The pattern name is shorthand for a big topic: the name encapsulates the many complex details of the big topic, giving you a way to talk about high-level patterns without spelling out the details; meanwhile, the details are in there, memorable because of their place in the pattern, ready to be conveniently referenced when needed.
Christopher Alexander
Last word goes to the Patriarch of design patterns:

“The elements of this language are entities called patterns. Each pattern describes a problem that occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice.”

—- Christopher Alexander

FlashPunk ActionScript Library Released

Flash developers may be interested in FlashPunk, a Flash ActionScript library:
Flash Punk

Chevy Ray Johnston (Beacon, Skullpogo) has released FlashPunk, his own ActionScript library designed to offer “a fast, clean framework for prototyping and developing games”. He’s not only put the tool online for free, he’s posted some online documentation, written a beginner’s tutorial, and setup forums.

FlashPunk is specifically geared toward creators who like to work with with 2D raster/bitmap graphics, as opposed to vector graphics. “It can manage thousands of animated bitmap sprites on-screen at a time without slowing, a lot faster than Flash normally could, because it operates under the assumption that your game primarily uses bitmapped graphics,” explains the developer.

FlashPunk ActionScript Library Released @ Game Retail Store

Game Design Manifesto

Edmund McMillen recently posted Indie Game Design Do-s and Don’t-s: A Manifesto — a list of twenty-four principles for game designers.Edmund McMillen: Making Art

2. Realize you’re making art.
Game designers are artists and have advantages over non-creative jobs; think about what they are and exploit them. Your goal shouldn’t be to make tons of money. If it were, you would have gone to business school or become a doctor. This is a creative field and should be treated as such first and foremost. Financing your art comes later. This is probably your greatest advantage as an indie designer.

Edmund McMillen @ indievision

A thoughtful article, nicely enhanced by the charming low-res icons accompanying each of the twenty-four principles.

Building a Game is Essentially a Giant Resource Management Game

Self Aware Games has posted an insightful article about the game design process:

Building a game is essentially a giant resource management game in itself. You’re creating something – you’ve usually got a deadline and a budget. Maybe a target audience, and a platform you’re working on. As a lead designer, you have a handful of really important goals:

1. You need to figure out what the game *is*.
2. You need to get people psyched about making it.
3. You need to make sure you can build it with the resources you have available.

Admin @ Self Aware Games

These principles could form the basis of a game — something like The Movies, but set in a game design studio, where the goal of the game is to create a successful game.

I remember reading, a couple of years ago, about a plug-in for The Sims that allows your Sim character to play SimCity. Now that’s meta!

IEEE Virtual Reality 2010

IEEE Virtual Reality 2010
March 20-24, 2010
Waltham, Massachusetts USA
IEEE Virtual Reality 2010

IEEE VR 2010 is the premier international conference and exhibition on virtual reality.

You will find the brightest minds, the most innovative research, the leading companies, and the most stimulating discussions in the fields of virtual environments, augmented reality, 3D user interfaces, and haptics, all gathered March 20-26, 2010 in Waltham, Massachusetts, USA (just West of Boston). We invite you to submit your work, show your products, and join us for a fascinating week of presentations, exhibits, workshops, and special events.

The greater Boston area is home to over 50 video-game companies. At this year’s conference, we will promote the cross-fertilization of gaming and VR through several efforts. If your work lies at the intersection of VR and gaming, e.g., Serious Games for Education or Health, we look forward to your contributions.

Once again, IEEE VR 2010 is pleased to be co-located with the IEEE Symposium on 3D User Interfaces (March 20-21) and the Symposium on Haptic Interfaces (March 25-26).

IEEE Virtual reality 2010

I’m not planning to be there, alas. Would that it were so — I have great faith in the power of Serious Games for Education or Health.

Which reminds me:

Virtual Reality Genghis KhanVirtual Reality Genghis Khan:
Hello, Lisa!
I’m Genghis Khan.
You’ll go where I go!
Defile what I defile!
Eat who I eat!