Game Design

Historian discusses Red Dead Redemption 2 - by Bob Whitaker

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 26 November 2018 - 6:54am
Historian Bob Whitaker explores the depiction of crime and the Pinkerton Detective Agency in Red Dead Redemption 2. Topics include "testing," train robbery, and informants.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Scalability: How to scale your app or online game in terms of architecture and hosting infrastructure - by Moris Preston

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 26 November 2018 - 6:47am
In this post I would like to talk a bit about very important problem affecting developers of online video games and app developers. It is about scaling of growing projects.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Attentat 1942: The Long Road Towards German Release - by Ondrej Trhon

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 26 November 2018 - 6:47am
In our first development blog, we look back on how our serious game about Nazi regime in Czechoslovakia became the first officially released PC game with Third Reich symbolism in Germany after this year's policy change.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

4 Ways to Make Your Game Better By Making It More Accessible

Gnome Stew - 26 November 2018 - 5:22am

He ain’t heavy, he’s my clone. (Image Courtesy of Pixabay.com)

A couple of months ago, a friend sent me this great Lifehacker article about how using audio descriptions in streamed content can help teach the fine art of providing enough (but not too much) description as a GM. Audio descriptions, initially intended to make media more accessible, also have the delightful side-effect of creating a tool that has the potential to help everyone have a better time of it. This phenomenon, usually called the “Curb Cut Effect” refers to how making something more accessible for some people ultimately makes things better for everyone. It takes its name from those small ramps (or “cuts”) that you find on curbs near crosswalks. These were originally intended for those with wheelchairs or other mobility considerations to be able to get up on sidewalks without being hit by the nearest bus. However, if you’ve ever pushed a stroller, had to jump a curb with a shopping cart, or had the kind of Saturday night that leads to a greater-than-average number of stumbles (*cough*), you’ll have noticed that clever little piece of design is useful in a whole lot of ways.

Of course, the biggest benefit of accessibility is, and will always be, accessibility. More accessible games mean fewer people being shut out for reasons that have nothing to do with the games they want to play or run. Fewer people being shut out means more different perspectives on this hobby we all love. More perspectives means (and I cannot highlight this enough), more stuff for us to play with. We live in a world with D&D and Pathfinder and Blue Rose and Harlem Unbound and Monsterhearts and Bluebeard’s Bride and the Cortex System and the Pip System and the Cypher System and Dread and literally hundreds of other games full of unique and interesting stories and mechanics. No single person, no matter how brilliant or driven, could ever, ever come up with all of those things on their own. Making space for more people at our tables makes our tables better in every way we could imagine.

Which brings me to an important point. I don’t personally have any accessibility concerns. I’m lucky enough to be able to cruise through most situations without being made aware of my limitations. However, I have some friends who do have these considerations, and I try my best to listen to them. My life is immeasurably better for having those folks in my life and at my table when I’m lucky enough to play with them, but I’m not an authority on any of this.

Look: I’m a half-functional manchild, barely able to dress myself in the morning, and I’ve been doing that since at least high school.  I’m not an expert on anything except how to eat fifty cent ramen for a week without dry heaving (the secret is butter and low expectations). Share13Tweet18+11Reddit1EmailI’m not an expert on anything except how to eat fifty cent ramen for a week without dry heaving (the secret is butter and low expectations). I’m most especially not an authority on the experiences of the people at your table. If you have a player or a GM who requests accommodations that are different from or contradict anything I say here, listen to that player or GM. Everyone is an unparalleled expert in their own lives; listen to that expertise.

However, with all of that said, I can now climb down off of my soapbox and present to you 4 Ways to Make Your Game Better By Making It More Accessible.

Turn On Audio Descriptions When you Watch TV

Accessibility Functions: helping blind or visually impaired media audiences engage with media.

How it can make your game better: If you’re not used to it, the experience of listening to descriptions as they take place is jarring at first, but very rapidly the descriptions begin to recede into the background of your attention, and you begin unconsciously following along with the meter and language of that description. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself moving faster and more evocatively in your descriptions almost immediately.

 Nothing will ever, ever make conversations between two NPCs anything but painfully awkward for everyone involved. Sorry. Share13Tweet18+11Reddit1EmailOver time, it also becomes easier to tell how to smoothly transition between character dialogue and description. Though nothing will ever, ever make conversations between two NPCs anything but painfully awkward for everyone involved. Sorry.

Pay Attention to Space

Accessibility Functions: People with mobility concerns or mobility aids like canes need clear walkways and adequate space between tables, walls and chairs. Cluttered surroundings can lead to your friends struggling to move around in the space you’ve set up for them, or in extreme cases, not being able to participate at all.

How it can make your game better: Paying attention to how your space is laid out helps all of your players move in and out to grab snacks, quickly step away from the table without disrupting others, and, for an added bonus, helps make cleanup quicker and easier, too.

Take Breaks

Accessibility Functions: Players or GMs with joint, back, or muscular problems, attention issues, or some conditions like Crohn’s disease need to take breaks more frequently than players without those issues.

How it can make your game better: Getting into the habit of taking more frequent breaks (five minutes or so every hour or hour-and-a-half of gameplay) helps to keep your players fresh, and allows them to plan their next moves. It also takes the pressure off of you as a GM to keep the game running for long stretches of time. When setting the expectation for frequent breaks, it also helps maintain focus during other times, since everyone knows that there will be another break coming soon, and provides a convenient stopping point for a session.

Note that it’s critical to keep short breaks short—especially at first, it’s very easy to allow a five-minute break to stretch into a ten-minute or fifteen-minute break, but that can very rapidly turn into not getting to play at all. Having frequent breaks means everything that isn’t a break needs to stay on task.

Focus on Visual Aid Design

Accessibility Functions: Players and GMs with ADHD, dyslexia, and visual impairment sometimes struggle to read rules or handouts that are overly long or designed for those with sharper vision.

How it can make your game better: There are a few clear ways that paying closer attention to how your visual aids are designed can help you and your players enjoy your handouts more. Paying attention to this kind of thing is 25% graphic design, 50% writing, 30% putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, and 7% being terrible at arithmetic. But don’t let that intimidate you; if you’re thinking about this at all, you’re already light years ahead of many GMs.  The harder something is to be used, the less likely it is that it actually will be used. And your stuff is there to be used, right? Right? Share13Tweet18+11Reddit1EmailThe harder something is to be used, the less likely it is that it actually will be used. And your stuff is there to be used, right? Right?

  • Keep handouts short and sweet. It’s tempting to add additional evocative language to your handouts. Don’t. That’s what your narration is for. More words means crowded text and longer sentences. Every second your players spend reading is a second they’re not listening or engaging the game. Most players should be able to take in everything (unless it’s a puzzle) at a glance. Your handouts are reminders, not instruction sheets. Speaking of:
  • Don’t rely on written rule instructions. I have a dyslexic friend who is one of the best players I know; I enjoy every game I’m in with him, and if he hadn’t told me, I never would have known he was dyslexic. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t impact his experience. Once, in a large con game, this player was handed over a dozen pages of densely-packed rules when he walked in to play. While the rules were e-mailed out before the game, predictably, almost none of the players read them. Anyone would have struggled to understand such complicated instructions in a compressed timeline, but for my friend, that wall of text erected a barrier it was completely impossible for him to get over in time to participate in the game. In that situation, the GM taking the time to boil down the essence of the rules to the players all at once would have gone a long way to making sure everyone could play. There are a lot of challenges out there, and not every player who has them will be comfortable telling every GM.
  • Remember that design matters. Use big, simple fonts. Usually, I try not to use anything smaller or more complicated than size 14 Calibri. Fancy fonts may look cool, and occasionally have a neat immersion effect, but use them sparingly and intentionally. There’s nothing wrong with using simple black text on a white background; odds are good your players won’t even notice. The real imagination is in the game, and other combinations run the risk of making it exhausting for your players to read.  You’re not trying to create a logo here—you’re trying to create a tool to get your players more in the game. Share13Tweet18+11Reddit1EmailYou’re not trying to create a logo here—you’re trying to create a tool to get your players more in the game.

So what do you think? Do you do anything at your table to help make it easier for your players or GM to engage?

Resources:
  • Fans for Accessible Conventions (Facebook Group). A great group of folks with a wonderful perspective on the intersection of fandom and accessibility. I can’t recommend this group highly enough, and a couple of these suggestions came directly from this group.
  • Usabilablog’s Article on Design for Color Blindness. The same blog’s article on readability is also worth a look.
  • Interactive Design Foundation’s Usability for All While focused on web design (like much of what you’ll find on the web, unsurprisingly), has a great overview of how accessibility is broader than thinking about how someone with a given disability may interact with your stuff. Worth a read.

 

Categories: Game Theory & Design

test - by Kris Graft

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 26 November 2018 - 2:03am
test
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Fuzzy Thinking: Timing and the RPG Stack

RPGNet - 26 November 2018 - 12:00am
Fuzzy botch!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Video Game Deep Cuts: Hex Me With This Underworld Battlefield

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 25 November 2018 - 8:11pm

This week's highlights include impressions of more late-breaking notable games of this holiday season, from Let's Go Pikachu through Battlefield V to Underworld Ascendant and beyond. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

AOE and Range Templates

New RPG Product Reviews - 25 November 2018 - 7:49pm
Publisher: Patrick Mitchell Johnston
Rating: 4
A nice-looking set of effect templates for tabletop RPGs. The templates print up nicely and are colorful, and a few paper size options are available. My only gripe is that some of the templates, like the 30' radius and 60' cone, are only available to print in the wide sized file, when both could have fit onto pages in the letter sized file. Overall a very good product for the price.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

5e Spell Scroll Cards

New RPG Product Reviews - 25 November 2018 - 11:26am
Publisher: Patrick Mitchell Johnston
Rating: 4
A solid set of spell scroll cards for D and D 5e with no frills and several printing options. They print up clear and easy to read. Each card is presented on a separate page, allowing you to print only the ones you need (using the multiple page feature on your printer). General rules for scrolls are presented on one side of each card, with the rules for the spell on the other. Overall a very solid and useful product.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Video Game Deep Cuts: Hex Me With This Underworld Battlefield - by Simon Carless

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 25 November 2018 - 8:06am
This week's highlights include impressions of more late-breaking notable games of this holiday season, from Let's Go Pikachu through Battlefield V to Underworld Ascendant and beyond - as well as undiscovered notables like The Hex & more.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

5e Magical Item Cards

New RPG Product Reviews - 25 November 2018 - 7:09am
Publisher: Patrick Mitchell Johnston
Rating: 4
A solid set of magic item cards for D and D 5e with no frills and several printing options. They print up clear and easy to read. Each card is presented on a separate page, allowing you to print only the ones you need (use the multiple page feature on your printer). Overall a very solid and useful product.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Large Monster Block Card Form

New RPG Product Reviews - 25 November 2018 - 6:54am
Publisher: Patrick Mitchell Johnston
Rating: 4
A solid set of monster cards for D and D 5e with no frills and several printing options. They print up clear and easy to read. Each card is presented on a separate page, allowing you to print only the ones you need. Overall a very solid and useful product.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Small Monster Block Cards

New RPG Product Reviews - 25 November 2018 - 6:50am
Publisher: Patrick Mitchell Johnston
Rating: 4
A solid set of monster cards for D and D 5e with no frills and several printing options. They print up clear and easy to read. Each card is presented on a separate page, allowing you to print only the ones you need. Overall a very solid and useful product.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Storytelling and Games

Gnome Stew - 23 November 2018 - 1:00am

My #tableselfie for the class. I forgot to take it until the end, so we missed a couple students.

Last week, I had the privilege of speaking to an honors seminar class at Finger Lakes Community College. The class was called Storytelling and Games, and I was asked if I was interested in coming in and talk to the class about narrative in roleplaying games. Was I interested? Ooh boy, was I ever!

Of course, the closer we got to the date, the more nervous I got. It was a two-hour class that met once a week with about twelve students. I wouldn’t be overwhelmed by a large audience, but I still wanted to make sure I gave them a good presentation. My friend, the instructor who invited me, had let me know they were a bunch of awesome nerds, and whatever I brought in should be fine. While all of them were definitely folk of a nerdy flavor, only a few of them had actually played table top RPGs before.

So, what did I do? Well, first, I talked about the history of RPGs and how narrative was kind of an accidental byproduct of early games. I’m sure some grognard somewhere is screaming sacrilege, but RPGs were born out of miniature wargames. The theming of early games was on point right from the beginning, but rules that lead to the story the game’s theme promised weren’t really there yet. Obviously, something about the characters and the stories that did come out of games was captivating, otherwise those original players would have wandered back to minis and war games.

As games evolved, the narrative they were advertising became more and more important. In the early 90’s, Vampire: the Masquerade debuted and they called the game runner a storyteller, right out of the gate. The rules still had some issues lining up the story of a monster’s struggle with its own humanity with the rules as presented, but the mechanics were getting closer. Then there was the D20 Boom of the early 00’s. In the shadow of D&D 3.0 and all the other publishers making D20 compatible products, an indie aesthetic arose in designers looking for something different. Slowly, the idea of aligning the mechanics the story the game is promising became more prominent and part of many designers’ goals.

This wasn’t a history class, though, so kept the lecture to a minimum. I wanted to frame the games I was presenting to them to show the evolution of the hobby and how modern games build the narrative into the core fabric of the game. What I really wanted to do was SHOW them how roleplaying games work.

The Games!

I split the class in two and gave one half Monster of the Week playbooks and the other half Masks playbooks. Both games have very strong, easy to understand themes and the playbooks do a good job of guiding character creation quickly. Because both games have a large number of playbooks, I could have stuck with one or another based on the number of students, but I felt it was more realistic to divide them into groups that were better representative of what an actual gaming table might have. We wouldn’t be able to get in a full game, but I still wanted to give them a taste of it all.

The Monster of the Week crew chose a Monstrous, a Crooked, a Spell-Slinger, and a Chosen. After they worked through their playbooks, we ended up with a Chosen that didn’t really understand that he was destined for something important, but kept being nudged by outside forces into saving the day. The Crooked was a pick-pocket who acted like he was made of Teflon because nothing bad could stick to him. The Spell-Slinger started off as a direct homage to Harry Dresden, but ended up with a little Karrin Murphy flavor in there as well. The Monstrous was a vampire that had decided humanity was getting too good at creating evil on its own, so out of self-preservation, she was working for the good guys to keep the world from going to complete crap.

The Masks players!

The Masks group chose a Transformed, a Delinquent, a Doomed, an Outsider, and a Bull. The Transformed was a metal dude trying to figure out how to still be a normal kid in his new body. The Delinquent developed his powers naturally and just used them to get even more rebellious with his illegal urban exploration. The Bull was an ex-football player that got experimented on, but ended up rescuing all the other kids getting experimented on with them. The Outsider came from the planet Glarfunk, was bright blue with bizarre hair, and never ever passed for normal. The Doomed, on the other hand, was normal enough that her primary enemy was a high school bully that was trying to kill her off.

Once we got the basics of the characters out of the way, we did connections. I did this to show how you can build the narrative of the game at the beginning by interweaving all of the characters together. With the Masks group, most of them revolved their connections around the Bull. During a regular game, I would have pushed them to spread their connections around, but they were all having so much fun making the Bull their social lynchpin, I didn’t want to stop them. For the monster hunters of Monster of the Week, the connections weren’t as cohesive and took a little more prodding. In the end, they eventually came up with enough connections to logically explain why they were all in Houston working together to stop a cult trying to summon a major demon.

With the connections out of the way, I ran a quick scene for each group. With each, I tried to demonstrate how the story builds from the scene I set as the GM, but evolved from the actions they took. RPGs should be a collaborative affair, after all.

With the Masks kids, like you sometimes see with new players, I had to nudge them into acting on what they were seeing. They were all super into the world building during character creation, but weren’t sure how to dive into the game once we got rolling. The scene I sent for them was a mall that was being attacked by someone or something. One fun thing that happened early was me being able to demonstrate how their ideas can help influence the game. I described the wreckage of a Build-A-Bear store and one of the players asked if they were going to be fighting a giant stuffed bear? Yes, yes you are. Eventually they started to get more proactive and after a couple of times around the table, I ended on a cliffhanger, letting them discover that their real enemy was a little girl on the merry-go-round, animating giant dolls and statues as her ‘friends’.

The Monster hunters!

For Monster of the Week, I gave them a set up where the cult they were fighting against had kidnapped a bunch of innocent civilians and was about to sacrifice them on the floor of the Houston Texan’s stadium. Right out of the gate, I had to have a talk about tone. Again, as you sometimes see with newer players, they were a little more bloodthirsty than the tone of the game calls for. The Crooked’s solution for dealing with the cultists was to blow up the stadium and the kidnapped people would be ‘acceptable casualties’. I pointed out that they are supposed to be the heroes and blowing up innocent civilians goes against that. If it had been a full game, I would have spent more time guiding them into the proper tone of the game, but that was a luxury we didn’t have. In the end, as is often the case in Monster of the Week, the dice made things go sideways anyway. When I ended it, the explosion didn’t go off like they had hoped and the vampire was being held by the cult leader as an acceptable sacrificial alternative.

I had a really fun time with the class and I hope to get the chance to do it again in the future. The students all said they had fun, and I’ve been told that a couple of them expressed that they really enjoyed their first taste of RPGs. Huge thanks to April Broughton for inviting me to the class and good luck to all the students!

Categories: Game Theory & Design

NPD: Skipping single player didn't hurt sales for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 21 November 2018 - 10:50am

An NPD Group analyst says that sales of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 weren't hurt 'in the slightest' by the game's multiplayer-only model. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Gaming with Non-Gamer Family

Gnome Stew - 21 November 2018 - 5:00am

It’s that time of year where family members from near and far gather together for the wide and various holidays of the winter season. This is a great chance to game with some folks that you normally don’t get a chance to roll some dice with. Some of your family may not be aware of your gaming, while others will. Their attitudes may range from eagerness to participate to approval to neutral to scorn. You obviously know your family better than I ever will, so please take this advice and apply it where you can. Where things don’t quite align with you and your family, feel free to ignore me.

Weird

Most gamers have a decent level of “weird” in their psyche. After all, we enjoy getting together to play make-believe in a structured manner with our friends. Even though it’s weird to do this as adults, I think it’s pretty darn cool. You should think it’s cool, so let your “weird light” shine bright and clear! (Yes, even in front of your family).

…But Not Too Weird

However, don’t get too weird. You don’t want to ook out your family members who may be unaware of this part of your life. To be more specific, I would advise avoiding games that get deep into psychological horror (or horror in general), politics, religious statements/evaluations, or that tend to lead to inter-party conflict. While I love a good game of Paranoia as much as the next person, the inter-party, clone-on-clone violence can completely ruin the next family meal as people may still hold a grudge because Little Billy killed Uncle Frank’s very last clone. Know what I mean?

Fun and Simple!

Try to find a game that’s fun and simple. The simpler the game, the more fun it will be because there will be fewer rules to explain and go through. Avoid the crunchy games like recent iterations of D&D and Pathfinder. GURPS, Hero System, and most other point-build systems are straight out (even though I love those types of systems).

A stripped down Savage Worlds (no edges or hindrances) could work. I’ve done this before at a horror-based literary convention with a LARGE group (14 players, only 2 of whom had played RPGs before) and it worked very well. Fate Accelerated (with maybe 1 or 2 simple aspects per player) can also be run smoothly.

Basically, if you can legibly fit the “character sheet” on an index card (yes, you can use both sides), then you’re in good shape. I would also highly advise pre-generated characters because you’ll basically be playing a con-style game during a holiday gathering. We have plenty of articles on prepping for and running a convention game, so I suggest you search for those and check them out.

Safety Tools

I’m not going to delve into the different types of safety tools because Phil did a great job of it here, but I will press you to include them at the table. If you (or another player) upsets the random stranger at a con game, there are typically few long-term negative impacts on your life. However, if you get under Uncle Frank’s skin in a serious manner and he has no way to politely let you know to back off a certain topic, then it could cause friction in your family for the long-term. Then again, maybe your family structure is more stable and able to handle this than what I’m used to, and I could just be a “Nervous Nellie” in this area. Better safe than sorry, I think.

In Game Meta Currency

Lots of games have Bennies or Fate Points or some other mechanic. While I normally state that these tokens should not be edible, I’m going to say that tossing out mini-candies as bennies is a good thing in these scenarios. Just let your family members know that if they eat the candy, then the empty wrapper is not valid as a Bennie… Or maybe it is? Depends on how you want to play the game. I think tossing candy out is a great ice breaker. I’d also be more generous with them than the rules (or other standards) dictate. This will encourage higher levels of participation as people will amp things up in the role playing side of things in order to score some more chocolate from your stash. Just make sure that stash is stocked!

End Words

Finally, I hope this is a great holiday season for you. I don’t care who you’re celebrating with, how you’re celebrating it (if at all), or what games you get to play. I just want everyone out there in the Gnome Lands to be safe, sound, and happy around the gaming table.

If you do end up celebrating the season with family at the gaming table, I’d love for you to come back here and let me know how things went.

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Teenage Boys Show Little Interest In Anthropomorphic Turtles ... Observations of an Industry Fossil - by William Volk

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 20 November 2018 - 10:58pm
Do users know what they want in a game in terms of original ideas? Maybe not.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Breaking the Loop: A Look at the Cinematic Music of Breath of the Wild - by Jason Yu

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 20 November 2018 - 10:53pm
A look at the music of Breath of the Wild and how it breaks convention from "traditional" Zelda music, highlighting the creative use of non-looped music.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Opinion: World of Warcraft: Classic will disappoint you

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 20 November 2018 - 1:03pm

"I fear that World of Warcraft: Classic is unsustainable, and will prove to be incapable of sustaining a meaningful community of anyone other than those committed to burning through the endgame." ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Don't Miss: Designing the Elusive Target system for 2016's Hitman

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 20 November 2018 - 12:11pm

"They would be tough because players would have one chance to get them right, and the whole dynamic around how you play the game should change." ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

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