Game Design

Stadia's biz dev director talks challenges, opportunities in new age of cloud games

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 20 March 2019 - 10:05am

Gamasutra speaks with Jack Buser, director for games business development at Google, about the boxless future that Stadia is promising. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Gnome Stew Notables – Mabel Harper

Gnome Stew - 20 March 2019 - 5:49am

About Mabel, in her own words: I’m a transgender woman of color who enjoys pictures of cats, long walks on the beach, playing guitar, and writing about skinless horrors. I’ve been writing fiction and designing my own tabletop RPG material and have been blogging some of it at a blog full of demons. While I have some projects in the works that I’m hoping to sell, I love putting stuff up for free on my blog. To me, the most joyous thing I can do is share my weird, horrible creations with people who might enjoy them.

Find her on Twitter, or on Patreon!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work? What project are you most proud of? My name’s Mabel Harper. I’m a musician, writer, graphic designer, and apparently a game designer. I’m proud of a lot of things, but I don’t think I’m proud of anything I’ve done in games quite yet. But I’m working on stuff that I hope I can be proud of. What themes do you like to emphasize in game work? Violence, the horror of it, and alternatively the value of it. Body horror, because dysphoria is bullshit. Moral relativism. Shit that goes bump in the night. Speculating horror, cruelty, and terror, and what we can/might/shouldn’t do in the face of it. Consequences, good or bad, because life is just a series of those and then you die. How did you get into games? Who did you try to emulate in your career? I got into games much the same way I got into anything else, whether it’s music or fiction: I saw a bunch of things I liked, and wanted to make my own because even out of the things I fell in love with, none of it fit just right. I also don’t think I can talk about who I’ve tried to emulate or not, because, similarly, even of the people whose work I love, respect, and find influential, I can also see a lot that I don’t want to reiterate. I can see a lot missing that I want to put out there. Do you have any advice for others getting into the industry? Take care of people. Kill cliquish behavior. Make good art. Think before speaking. Seriously, think before speaking. What do you think the most important things in gaming are right now? Radical games by queer people and people of color, especially works that fall outside of what overly polite white liberals want or expect of us. What’s your meaningful gaming experience? My most meaningful game was a five or so year one-on-one game with my best friend at the time, where we did a lot of exploration of, at the time, taboo things such as queerness, sexuality, violence, moral philosophy. It ended badly. What’s the most important change you could see occurring in the industry? People not overly concerning themselves with what kinds of games other people play, especially considering that they likely don’t comprehend the unique factors that occurred on both a societal and individual level that shaped someone else’s preferences. If we could strip the judgment out of that, try to see where people are coming from, and, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, respect what they play, I think we’d see a much brighter community. Anything else you want to add? More OSR and storygame people should be friends. There’s been enough war and trauma in this space, and I’ve met so many people in the space who are traumatized/depressed/otherwise possess some kind of mental disorder, and the constant conflict just makes it all worse. Hell, I fucking have dissociative identity disorder and PTSD, and that leads to a lot of ambivalence on my part towards the community. It’s really bizarre and disheartening. But I have good friends from both sides of the gaming spectrum, and, now that one of the major forces behind that Balkanization is gone (thank godddd), I truly think healing that divide is possible.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Can Video Games Be Used to Teach Children Empathy? - by Jori Hamilton Blogs - 20 March 2019 - 3:53am
Can video games be used to teach children empathy? Recent research suggests yes. Intentional video game design can help improve children's emotional capacity.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Collapse : Pitch for a management simulation - by C Bel Blogs - 20 March 2019 - 3:51am
Economic collapse is a well known scenario, could it not be used as a simulation pitch ? It would be original, educative, and ... violently fun. Here, I'll describe what could be basic rules for such a simulation game.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Combining Game Development Project Roles: Do's & Don'ts - by Pavel Shylenok Blogs - 20 March 2019 - 3:49am
A good game development team is a must if you want to create a worthy game. And it is okay for team members to cover several roles at once if it's done right. So in this article, we'll give you some recipes for reducing the chances of failure.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

The flow applied to game design - by Daniel Berube Blogs - 20 March 2019 - 3:49am
In this post, I will explain what is the flow theory and how can we applied it while designing a video game.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Game Design Discussion: Gathering Quests Sucks - by Davide Aversa Blogs - 20 March 2019 - 3:48am
I hate gathering quests. Whenever a gathering quest pops out in my single player experience, I get furious. Unfortunately, this is a virus that it is spreading. Therefore, I needed to make a stand. This article is my stance: gathering quest sucks.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Shape Theory in Level Design - by Max Pears Blogs - 20 March 2019 - 3:42am
Shape Theory is a theory we all know apart about and we are aware of it subconsciously. Here I break down how it can be used for level design and how it is used to encourage the player to act certain ways.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

The Story of the Story - by Joel Sammallahti Blogs - 20 March 2019 - 3:33am
Introduction to the background of Iron Danger's story.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Weapon Switching - Quality or Quantity? - by EHJ Brouwer Blogs - 20 March 2019 - 3:33am
Article analyzing different versions of weapon-switching in action-games.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

The Olympics of Esports is back - by Paul Vilanoma Blogs - 20 March 2019 - 3:33am
The Olympics of Esports is back! WCG 2019 Registration is open right on their home page:
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Google unveils first-party game studio led by Jade Raymond

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 19 March 2019 - 11:44am

As Google took the wraps off its streaming game platform Stadia, the company also announced Stadia Games and Entertainment -- a new game studio headed up by industry vet Jade Raymond. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

'No console required': Google unveils streaming game platform, 'Stadia'

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 19 March 2019 - 10:46am

At GDC 2019 this morning, Google detailed its long-awaited streaming game platform, dubbed Stadia. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Business of Gaming Retail: How do you sell new Magic?

RPGNet - 19 March 2019 - 12:00am
Magic for Beginners
Categories: Game Theory & Design

GDC 2019 kicks off today! Follow Gamasutra's coverage here

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 18 March 2019 - 8:30am

Gamasutra is on-site at GDC 2019 in San Francisco this week! Follow our coverage at our dedicated event page. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Video Game Deep Cuts: The Flappy Division Bell Is Ringing

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 18 March 2019 - 7:36am

This week's highlights include a look at Flappy Bird's effect on the indie game scene, The Division 2's politics (or lack there-of), info on Harry Potter: Wizards Unite & Days Gone & more. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Session Zero: Confessions of an Uber Nerd

Gnome Stew - 18 March 2019 - 5:27am

Just when you thought that the idea of a session zero wasn’t nerdy enough, along I come to show you how I recently upped the nerd-ante, hopefully to my benefit, the benefit of my players, and the game as a whole.

If you are not familiar with the concept of session zero, it is basically a session that takes place before the start of a campaign. In this session, the players and GM discuss what they would like out of the game, and often characters are created. If you would like to learn more about this idea, check out the delightful GnomeCast on the subject. Generally speaking, session zero is used by most groups as an opportunity to get all of the players on the same page regarding the campaign and their characters.

A couple of months ago, I began a new campaign with a group of six players. Five of those players have been in the group for several years. We had just finished a two-year game of Vampire: The Masquerade, and were now looking to play a campaign of the Kult horror RPG. An old friend was joining the group as a new player. I have grand ambitions for the game, and I thought I would start out by trying to make the most of my session zero. I had a few goals: I wanted to lay down the table rules, I wanted to discuss the framework for the campaign story, I wanted to get a sense of what my players were looking for from the game, and I wanted everyone to make characters.


Yes, I created an agenda. Yes, I was roundly mocked for doing so. However, it did what a good agenda is supposed to do – it kept us on track, and kept the session moving along so that nothing important went unaddressed. Would you like to see it? Of course you would:

Session Zero Agenda
  • Survey
  • Table Rules
    • Table Safety
    • Start and end time, how long (years) should the game last
    • Scheduling, rescheduling, cancellation of games
  • Player Responsibilities vs GM Responsibilities
    • Leadership/Decision-Making
    • Recaps/Notes
    • Player Roles
      • xp, calendar, group gear, notes, maps, etc.
      • Motivation
        • All need to be interested in saving the world, or humanity, should that come up
        • All need to have an interest in being part of the group
          • Why would I stay with these a-holes? Whose responsibility is that?
      • Connection to other PC’s
  • Game Structure
    • Modern Game, intro session circa 1992
      • Family, but not parents
      • Everyone needs to have an emotional attachment to _______________.
    • Historical Game
      • Germanic Tribe circa 378 CE
    • How often do we switch?
    • XP – fast advancement or slow advancement?
  • Character Creation
    • Niche roles – options, how to decide?
    • Family members in modern storyline
    • Make the tribe in the historical storyline

Note that this game is making use of two separate timelines, with two sets of characters (that whole idea is a discussion for another day). When crafting an agenda, I recommend that you consult with players via email prior to the session in order to see if there are any burning issues that they would like to see discussed.

Using this agenda not only facilitated a very productive session zero, but when one of my players says something like, “I think my character likes the idea of the end of humanity,” I have something to point to when I express my incredulity. In the end, this was a very valuable document, and our session zero had many productive discussions which continue to be referenced during the game when needed.


Photo by:


What is that survey thing at the top of my agenda, you ask? In order to truly escalate this session into the upper echelons of nerdocity, I created a survey for all of us to fill out at the table and discuss. Note that this survey was created specifically for this campaign, so it has a variety of questions about horror and suspense. In crafting the survey, I took some inspiration from Chris Sniezak’s excellent article about the different types of fun:

Session Zero Survey       (1 is strongly disagree, 5 is strongly agree)

I like games with difficult decisions.

I like games where a central authority directs our course of action.

I like games where I get to explore something new.

I like games with a big mystery or puzzle to solve.

I like games with a lot of action.

I like games with a lot of side discussions or “back room” play.

I like games in which I feel that I can always trust the other PC’s.

It is important that bad decisions have dire consequences for the PC’s.

Gaining experience and advancing my character is important to me.

Gaining treasure or magic items for my character is important to me.

Having a personal connection with an NPC is important to me.

The central story arc is important to me.

Having a long-lasting antagonist that I hate is important to me.

Having a niche that I am the best at within my group is important to me.

Having a chance to explore the psychology of my character is important to me.

I like suspenseful scenes.

I like horrific or disturbing scenes.

I like scenes with gore or graphic descriptions.

I like scenes where I might have to make a horrible choice.

I like scenes with frantic action, where my character’s life is at risk.

I like scenes where we discuss things without using dice for a long time.

I think good pictures or visual aides are important for a game.

I think good props are important for a game.

I think good ambient music is important for a game.

I think appropriate lighting is important for a game.


The key to using a survey of this nature during a session zero is to go through it at the table and have all of the respondents read out their answers. It was very illuminating for all involved. We discovered that one player didn’t love problem solving because she felt that she wasn’t very good at it. Another player loved exploring new environments best of all. Surprisingly to me, everybody liked graphic descriptions, but only one person felt that gaining treasure was important. Everyone thought that visual aids were important, but no one felt strongly about props. Some people felt that it was important to have a niche for their character in the group, but others did not; knowing this made everyone more sensitive about role-specialization during character creation, because even if it was not important to the person making the character, they recognized that it was important to others and didn’t want to step on toes.

This was a great experiment which wildly exceeded my expectations. The survey led to everyone understanding what the other players look for in a game, and it gave me some direction regarding how I spend my prep-time. Rather than invest two hours into creating a prop, I can spend that time looking for evocative pictures. I don’t have to have a lot of “treasure”, but I should make sure that I have some in order to satisfy one of my players. I don’t need to worry so much about censoring my descriptions of gore, because everyone is into that. When I have a big problem-solving session, I should make sure that I have something else for the player who is not into puzzles. The survey led to everyone understanding what the other players look for in a game, and it gave me some direction regarding how I spend my prep-time.  Share1Tweet1Reddit1Email

We Didn’t Finish Making Characters…

My agenda was so jam-packed that we didn’t end up finishing our character creation, which proved to be a bit of a problem during the first few games. However, I am not sure what I would sacrifice from my agenda in order to make sure that characters were completed. The survey was a goldmine of information that we have referred to many times over the first few months of play, and the other items of the agenda were all valuable. Should I have two session zeros next time? I can’t say that I would recommend that, but I will certainly give some thought to how I can make even better use of this time in the future.

What do you think? Is there anything that should be added to the agenda? Are there other tools that you use to facilitate a session zero? Is this entire exercise too much for you? I look forward to hearing what you think.

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Fuzzy Thinking: Pop!

RPGNet - 18 March 2019 - 12:00am
Fuzzy teleports.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Creating Cool Boss Fights - by Dmitry Aborilov Blogs - 17 March 2019 - 11:59pm
Banzai Games game designer Dmitry Aborilov talks about inspiration, cooperation between the teams, and game mechanics used to achieve the WOW effect in boss fights.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

GPU Path Tracing in Unity – Part 3 - by David Kuri Blogs - 17 March 2019 - 11:57pm
Our Unity Compute-Shader-based ray tracer can now display spheres with fuzzy effects like soft shadows, glossy reflections and diffuse GI, but we're missing an important piece of the puzzle: triangles. This is our job for today.
Categories: Game Theory & Design


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