Archive for December, 2010

December 22, 2010

Removing The Rust – Working through a DotA hero suggestion

Last Updated: January 17th 12:59PM GMT

It’s been a while since I’ve really taken the time to sit down and think about game design. I’ve recently left Shanghai, so have been celebrating and saying farewell to friends and colleagues. I’ll get the Great CityVille Race started after Christmas, but until then I feel like getting back into the swing of things. When I want to do that, I like to design a DotA hero.

As mentioned a while back, creating DotA heroes is a fun process that makes you think about lots of activities relevant to game design; theme, gameplay and balance in particular. I’ve designed a few heroes in the past. Since they’re never put in game, it’s hard to really evaluate them. However, feedback has sometimes been positive, sometimes negative and sometimes neutral! For this post, I’m going to design one completely from scratch. I want to take you through my thought processes as I go from “I want to make a new hero” to the completed idea.

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Of course, I’d like you guys, the readers, to help out! As I update this post, I’d love to hear some comments and ideas about the direction I head. Unfortunately, not many people read the blog yet (just broke 4000 hits though!), so please do comment if you see this. It would be much appreciated!

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December 15, 2010

Opportunities Over The Horizon

Apologies for a complete lack of updates recently. I’ve been very busy with a certain opportunity that I can’t reveal just yet! Alas, The Great CityVille Race will have to be delayed for around a week since I will have no access to Facebook until I return to the UK on the 21st. It will all be very worth it though, when/if I receive some good news… stay tuned!

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Until then, give this article about the state of independent game development in China a read. It’s by one of my awesome colleagues, whose blog, LevelWan, you should also check out!

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Sam

December 7, 2010

The Great CityVille Race

As mentioned in my previous post, I’ve decided to do an experiment. I want to work out if the hidden complexity of CityVille is actually worth learning. Would playing CityVille with a brain = more success than without one, and by how much more?

The only way I can think of doing this is by controlled experiment! I’m not a big science guy but I’ll try and make this as scientific and as fair as possible.

Here’s what I’m going to do…

  1. Open a second CityVille account (I’ve already started one)
  2. Get both accounts to level 10
  3. Account A will be casual
  4. Account B will be core
  5. After 1 week, the progression of both accounts will be measured.
  6. The highest level will be the winner!

Pretty simple, eh?

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December 3, 2010

Zynga’s CityVille – Groundbreaking?

Zynga launched CityVille recently and I first got my hands on it this morning. I had to pinch myself, because I found myself saying “This is actually impressive” about a Zynga game. I’m not Zynga’s biggest fan, I’m still not a fan of the company itself (and all of the cheated game developers it climbed upon to get to the top), but I am a fan of CityVille. So far…

Beginning with my Nightclub City post, I’ve been thinking more and more about metagames and hidden complexity that can be added to social games. These mechanics are invisible to the casual player, but the core player can switch their vision modes and seek out more complicated and strategic gameplay behind the facade of simplicity. This allows core players to experience true strategy, without scaring off the casual players who think “aaaaah this game is like a real game! I’m not a gamer!“.

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Any complexity in here?

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CityVille on an initial look is just a simple social game. It doesn’t look like it breaks any ground, or that it does anything but pretty up the standard town-building game (and it is very pretty). But, even from the first 25 minutes of gameplay, I realized that there is a lot of smart thinking behind it. What’s amazing is that I could just switch off my game designing brain and enjoy it for the simple experience that 90% of the audience will desire. Yet, when I switch it back on, there’s a lot to think about. I actually wanted to stop playing it in the background, grab a pen and start thinking about how I could manipulate the numbers through planning and achieve faster progress.

The reason why I want to start planning, for a social game I care nothing about, is something for another post. Why do I care about being awesome when all my ‘friends’ are fake (I play Facebook games on a fake account)? I still want to beat them… which is interesting. What I would like to go into, over the next week or so, is how I can plan to ‘beat’ a social game. If a social game has enough strategy to facilitate planning, then it must be more advanced than the typical example of a social game. What makes this different to the strategy in social strategy games (i.e. Verdonia, Evony, Kingdoms of Camelot) is that this is Zynga and that they aim for the mainstream. Once the mainstream embraces complexity then the revolution will begin.

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Looks simple, right? You don't get 'Holy Smokes' for nothing!!

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I’m going to look in-depth at a number of features in CityVille and how they provide satisfying strategy but remain invisible to the casual user. I hope to get a second account running and will try and test just how much quicker a hardcore player would progress compared to a casual one. In doing this, we can really see the effectiveness of its hidden complexity. Who knows, perhaps it will turn out to be hidden hidden complexity!

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Sam