Your Game is Your Baby

appsIn the world of digital games, you generally have two ends of a spectrum.  On one end, we have the AAA stuff - the stuff that has a standee at GameStop and that you might see television commercials for.  On the other end of the spectrum, you have the indie stuff - stuff that you encounter simply browsing app stores or due to word of mouth. While I have a whole slew of problems with AAA games, I don't find it that interesting or worthwhile to criticize them.  They are, for the most part, doing the only thing that they can do.  They work in an industry where the expectation and standard is a multi-million dollar production, which in turn means that very few risks can be taken at all.  This results in games that are of high production quality, but which are extremely safe, canned, and unoriginal in their gameplay. But I can't blame them for it.  Not only is it asking a lot of any investor to risk millions of dollars on an idea that seems like it could be cool, but making another third-person action game about "zombie apocalypse!!!" is basically a guaranteed success.  People just buy these things, year after year, over and over again, for sixty-five dollars.  So you can't blame the AAA people for what they do, and that isn't what this article is about. However, you can blame the indies for some of the problems they have.  Being an independent game developer myself, I feel it's particularly fair for me to criticize some of the behavior of my colleagues.  And for all the hype that's been swelling around the world of indie games over the past few years, there is one issue holding them back from their potential more than anything else - and it isn't their lack of a budget. (more…)

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Interview & AURO Coverage on IndieRPG.com

I did a decently extensive interview over at IndieRPG.com about game design in general, which was posted on the site yesterday.

IndieRPG:  I’m trying to think of who would be in the market for a tactical roguelike variant that isn’t already familiar with at least some D&D-derived character stats, and coming up blank. Are you looking to expand the market here, or is this simply a matter of design purity?

Keith Burgun: We don’t consider AURO a roguelike, and won’t be marketing it as such.  It is a “dungeon-crawling tactics game”, really a game of its own kind.  We absolutely want to be able to reach all kinds of people.  We think that AURO can find a place next to abstracts like Chess or Tetris, and we’re shooting to make it as accessible as either.  So, “expand the market” isn’t quite right, because AURO is definitely not an RPG and in my mind it’s also definitely not a roguelike (although people argue a lot about what that means exactly).  It’s a new kind of game, so its market is going to be a new one.

Read the complete interview here! Then today, they did another story about us - this time specifically about AURO and what it's all about.  Pretty cool!    

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Are Games a Storytelling Medium? (Guest Article by Fabian Fischer)

Editor's Note: One of our most active Auro beta testers, Fabian Fischer (aka "Nachtfischer"), had written this great piece for his German-language site.  We've been talking a lot about story in games on our forum, and I decided it would be great if Fabian could translate and update this article for my site, and that's just what he did.  I think it pretty much nails why authored story and interactivity don't go well together.  Enjoy!

 

A while back, Mr. Burgun wrote about this issue. Nevertheless, since there is still a frequent and passionate debate on the matter, so I thought it would not hurt to approach it from a slightly different point of view and throw some new arguments into the mix.

 

Definitions

  • Story in the context of this article describes an authored, linear (not necessarily chronologically linear) sequence of fictional events.

  • Game specifically means a contest of ambiguous decision-making; most readers of this site should be familiar with this.

(Some games look like movies.)

(more…)

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New Page for my System of Interactive Forms

Just a quick announcement, I've added a page that clearly explains what my system of interactive forms is and why it's useful.  After years of working with it, I actually feel even more confident in it, although I have made some minor tweaks and have learned to explain it much better. If you've read my book, you'll notice that this is a much more detailed version of the same chart.  I've now added the "value" property to it, which I think helps illustrate why it's generally a good guideline to hone in on one of these forms when approaching game design.   http://keithburgun.net/system-of-forms/   Let me know what you think and if you see any room for improvement or other explanation.

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Smash Bros: Decapitated

Editor's Note: Today I'm happy to release the second guest article for keithburgun.net!  This piece is written by lead artist at Dinofarm Games, Blake Reynolds.  Frequent visitors might also know him from the Dinofarm ART BARN articles or from the Game Design Theory Podcast, where he's a regular.  Enjoy!

psall1I know I’m late to the party, but considering the subject matter, I suspect many have already left anyway.  The party I'm talking about is a rousing discussion about PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.  I think the reason so many have departed is because the game was boring and forgettable, but many of these people might not have a full grasp as to what made it so boring and forgettable. Those who are still playing and are trying their very hardest to like or justify this product won’t last much longer, and I'll explain why.

Most of the flak this game has caught in the past number of months has been quiet little suggestions that it is, well, a little bit similar to Super Smash Bros.  It has features such as Smash Attacks like SSB, directional tilt-attacks like SSB, rolling like SSB, air dodging like SSB, blocking like SSB, double jumps and recoveries like SSB, “A” attacks in four directions on the ground and four in the air,  “B” attacks in four directions, grappling from SSB, projectiles like smash, spiking, items... you know... every single mechanism to the last minute detail.

This complete thievery alone is enough of a blatant, cynical display of utter disrespect for the basic intelligence of the average consumer, and that's enough to be insulting.  But hey - people re-skin a set of mechanisms all the time. Re-theme it, tweak a few rules, and voila!  “If you liked original idea X, you’ll love cynical cash-grab Y!”

But plagiarism is not actually the point of this article. A game can technically be a ripoff of another game and still have longevity, if it's ripping off something really good and keeping what made the original thing good intact.  The point of this article is to explain why will nobody be playing PlayStation All-Stars next year, yet even Super Smash Bros. 64, the oldest game in that series, is still going strong. The reason this game will be forgotten in another year is because of what they changed, not what they stole.   (more…)

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