Category Archives: game design

Horizon Zero Dawn’s weird weapon system

Horizon Zero Dawn limits you to four weapons on your character at a time  – but you can swap them out for extra weapons in your inventory at any time.  Eh?

Horizon Zero Dawn lets you carry multiple weapons in your inventory.  I think it’s six or eight.

However during gameplay, you can only carry four of those weapons.  This isn’t a true limitation though, because at any point you can pause the game, go into your inventory and swap them.

Thus, in practical terms you have access to any of your weapons at any time, but only if you go through the rigmarole of inventory management.

Why have the inventory stage at all?   By letting me swap quickly between any weapon as you’re fighting, you’d encourage people to experiment in gameplay.

 

 

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What in-game timers were replaced by shrinking screens?

What if in-game timers were replaced by screens that started shrinking, making the play space smaller and smaller?

Speed Runners is a 2D platformer/racing game.  As a race goes on, the  playspace will start to shrink.   Anyone caught outside the space, because they were too far away from the player in first, will lose.

 

It struck me that, in terms of provking aggressive play, shrinking screens and in-game timers are similar.  As the screen shrinks, you try to run faster.  As the clock counts down, you play harder to secure a victory.

But what would happen if we replaced all in-game timers with shrinking screens?

How would that affect gameplay?

 

 

Invent a fighting game using characters from films. No superheroes.

Pick any non-superhero character from a film and put it into a fighting game.  What’s it’s special movie?  (Accidental pun.)

What kind of match-ups could you come up with?

I’d start with Zatoichi, the blind swordsman.  In an online game he could make his opponent’s screen go black, so the player would only see the flash of his sword.

Next, I’d have Lassie.  She’d be able to call other characters for help.  Or maybe her special movie would be dropping the enemy down a well.

What would you have?

 

Race for the Galaxy is on Android & iOS

Race for the Galaxy is finally on Android on iOS and officially on PC.  It’s a good game.

Race for the Galaxy is a card game where you have to build a space empire.  On your turn you get to choose actions such as trading goods for points or more cards, concentrating on building up your military, settling worlds and developing factories.

On each turn you pick an action, but the quirk is your opponent can piggyback on that and copy your action.  You want to develop a world? He can too.

The theme’s pasted on, but thanks to the artwork on the cards it all works and definitely feels sci-fi.

Games don’t last long have interesting decisions.   The AI and game logic was developed by the same guy who did a fan-made version.

I really enjoy it and you should buy it.

Turn a reality TV show into a game. Describe it.

From NeoGaf:

I’ve been watching Highway Thru Hell. It’s a reality TV show about a group of recovery drivers in Canada that specialise in clearing crashed big rigs. Most of the show is filmed in winter when it’s very very cold and there’s heavy snow.

Before each job they go to, there’s a CGI video explaining how and why the truck crashed.

During each job they’ll show them picking up the big rigs with cranes and cables; the drivers will talk about the geometry of each wreck and how they’ll recover it.

Will a single tow truck do, or do they need a crane? Should the chains be attached to the top of the rig or the side, or both? If the trailer is full of supplies, how does it affect the momentum as it’s pulled upright?

It would make a great physics based game. The obvious part would be about having different ‘puzzles’ of crushed trucks, where you have to choose the right equipment to recover them.

You could even have a prelude section where you try to recreate the crash to understand it. It could be like Burnout’s crash mode, but more serious. You have to create a jackknife truck that ends up straddling concrete barriers in the middle of the road.

If you wanted an RPG element, you could unlock new trucks or try to manage party members – different drivers and how they relate to each other.

Trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyyINDKeRJ0

Switch Mario Kart has a cluttered minimap

I played a Switch for the first time today.  Mario Kart.  The on-screen minimap is cluttered and doesn’t need to be.   I hope there’s an option to change it.

I played a two-player VS AI using the Switch as the screen.   We had a three-player game, against AI.   Both were league races on a variety of tracks.

In both modes the minimap was in the centre of the screen, so everyone could see it.

Problem 1 –

Because it was shared, it didn’t rotate according to my position.  It’s easier to follow a map it turns and orients itself in the direction you’re travelling.   This shared map was confusing because I was constantly having to re-orient it in my head.
Not the game’s fault. I can’t think of an easy solution to having a map that’s supposed to rotate to show four players’ positions.  But the fact it didn’t move was compounded by…

Problem 2 –

Each player had a large icon on the map, so you could see people’s position.   But as players bunched up, which was all the time, it was hard to pick out your position from the group.

In a game that’s split across AI/humans, I don’t care about AI positions on the map.   It doesn’t matter much if I beat the AI, but it matters if I beat my friends.   I hope the game has an option to toggle whether I want to see everyone, nobody, AI or humans, then other players or friends.

Pushing that idea farther, there’s an argument that in racing games in general we don’t need to see players’ positions on the minimap.

Firstly, the map becomes less useful the longer you play.  You get used to tracks and stop relying on the map for information about turns and straights.

Second, if end up behind someone am I not going to overtake them?   What does the map add to my decision making in this situation?  (See above for decisions on when to overtake.)

Maybe it would be useful if they player on the map had a weapon and it was shown on the map, so I could know what to expect.  Or if I had a limited turbo boost and wanted a better idea of when to pop it.  (But again see two paragraphs up.)

But that’s not most racing games.   So exactly what information do we need to see on a minimap?