Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Do You Have the Skills?

"ALL SKILL" promises the tagline of a high-octane shooter, but what does that even mean? Gamers love to talk about "skill", and which games test it. Unfortunately, what exactly they define as "skill" is one of the murkiest aspects of game discussion, and miscommunications about these definitions sit at the root of heated debates about the evolution of games, particularly when it comes to difficulty and accessibility. What is skill, and how can you think more clearly about the role that skill plays in games?

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Puzzled: the Design of Conundrums and Puzzles

I've been thinking about puzzles lately. It's partly because I recently finished participating in this year's MIT Mystery Hunt, partly because I'm working on puzzles for the Galactic Puzzle Hunt, and I've been pondering the unique experience that puzzles provide, compared to tabletop RPGs and boardgames. There's an interesting satisfaction that comes from puzzles, but it can also be at odds with some of the ways that we engage in other types of play.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Puzzle Design of Life is Strange

It seems odd to talk about Life is Strange in light of its puzzles, since it's so heavily-focused on telling a powerful story, but the puzzles contained in this game were built as part of a cohesive whole. When looking at a game, it's good to remember that every part of that game was put there with some sort of intention--so what was the intention behind the various puzzle sequences in this game? I want to look at a few different types of puzzles found in Life is Strange and explore just how they connect to its story, and what they attempt to achieve.

NOTE: this post will use example scenes from multiple episodes of Life is Strange in order to provide clear and specific examples for its points. I highly recommend that you play the game before reading this, but have avoided plot spoilers.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Life is Strange: Butterflies in the Vortex

Life is Strange Max

"Do your powers include mind reading? Or did you just rewind because I tried to steal the cozy chair?"

Some of you might remember my Walking Dead review, where I talked quite glowingly about Telltale Games' feels trip masquerading as interactive adventure with zombies. This time, I'm covering something that's basically the same, sans zombies and plus the Pacific Northwest. Also, sort-of time travel. Is it as good as The Walking Dead? Is it, dare I say, better? Find out what Life is Strange has in store for you...

This review will be spoiler-free, containing no plot details beyond the basic premise that I mentioned above.

Note: I originally posted this review on The Catholic Geeks, but intend to follow up on it more in-depth here.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Game Stories: Complexity or Depth?

So! Last week, I went on a bit about how I want to see more mechanically-involved RPGs. I'd like to talk a bit this week about what that can mean, because there's a lot of RPGs out there which try to satisfy this criteria by being complex. Complexity, however, often has nothing to do with depth, as many tabletop gamers should know already. But let me give you an example firsthand...

Monday, April 27, 2015

Game Stories: Why RPGs Need Game Designers

I love boardgames. Interestingly, my involvement in boardgames increased dramatically shortly after my involvement in the tabletop roleplaying hobby; this was around 2011, as the second wave of new and popular boardgames started sweeping over America and Wil Wheaton's Tabletop had its genesis. Because I got into boardgaming and RPGs at around the same time, I start thinking about how they relate to one another, and what benefits tabletop RPGs can reap from studying other tabletop gaming...

Monday, April 20, 2015

I Made a Thing: Schism Song Alpha

So, this time around, I've got something new for all of you: a game that I'm slowly starting to polish up. It's inspired by the likes of Bastion, with a dash of Apocalypse World, and it's been through a lot of mental revisions already! Someday maybe I'll break out into the story of how radically this initial alpha has changed from my initial conception of the game.

And this is what I've wrought! MWAHAHA! Um, er. So what I'd love you to do is to read it, have a look at it, and try it out. Let me know what sorts of speed bumps you find in the game, stuff that really needs clearing up, or ways that it falls short of its goal, which is to pull together a vibrant story. The structure of the game is heavily inspired by the concept of music jams, and I'm interested to see how well that translated.

And though I'm short on time these days, I'm open to running a session with people over Google Hangouts.

Schism Song Core: Alpha v0.1