F-Zero GX analysis: Multiplayer game mechanics

f-zero mute city

F-zero GX was one of my personal favorites during the Gamecube generation. Its sense of speed, focus on skill and ability to (almost) always create thrilling races made me and my brother play it for years on end. It perhaps isn’t strange it was a major inspiration for the Wheelchair Racer project during my second year at university.

This article is a translation of an analysis written during my third year at university. As part of a “game theory and play mechanics” course, the analysis mostly covered the mechanics of the game. Also, it was written in Swedish. As such, I couldn’t use it as-was on this blog.

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On Making a Tutorial

tutorial-dash-evade source Five years ago, I wrote a post here basically complaining about game tutorials. Having spent the last year on Cloudbuilt alone, and spending the slight dev time I had on its tutorial level (I had a handful of other things to do), I believe it’s time to explain myself to my 5-year-younger self.

In other words, consider this a “making of a tutorial level”.

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A post about the post that never was

This week, I had intended to write about “Why School is Boring and How Games Can Fix it”. I had intended to link to Sir Ken Robinson’s TED-talks about our out-dated school paradigms, how school was built for an industrial world while we today live in an increasingly computerized, creative world with loads for distractions. I had intended to suggest something along the lines of what Robinson suggests, perhaps more detailed (his suggestion is really broad but vague). I also wanted to make the arguement why we need more of the creative fields (painting, sculpturing, game design) as well as rethorics, private economy and programming from day 1. Then put some more arguments why programming would be a super-good idea as a school subject.

Alas, I got cold feet. Politics tends to be controversial (there’s no better way to have disagreements than to discuss politics and religion), and could distract the reader from what currently needs to be the core topic (Video Games). I’ll probably return to this in the future, one way or another. But rather than be quiet, and have one of those long, creepy pauses again, I decided to at least write what I wanted to write about and why I did not. Hopefully I’ll find something video game related during this week! :)

Life-note: Going to GDC, looking for meetings

In addition to my intended post this week, I wanted to throw in an important note.

And if you actually got that, we should totally meet. I have no idea what the Tank or Healer is, but I am probably both those guys?

LFM DPS to GDC! Got key!

I will be going to San Fransisco (which, as a note, is literally half a world away) to talk about, show and play Cloudbuilt. So, let’s babble a bit to justify this as a “Life Note”. It’s the first time to the Americas, I’ve been looking forward to going to GDC for years now and… yeah. It’ll be great.

But I don’t run a blog to talk about my life (I’ll save that for my retirement, if the world cares… hah, who am I kidding, this is the Internet!), and I don’t post this just to express happiness. I want to reach out for finding meetings. I would love chatting with press, of course: Being a small indie studio, making news is our best option. We make news only by having a cool game. And do we have a cool game! Which of course is super-subjective, and I of anybody have some kind of self-interest to claim so; but, honestly, having played the game for months I still find it fun to try new challenges and revised levels. But, hey, don’t take my word for it (especially in these days of preview controversy); let’s meet up and have you play!

We’re working on a new trailer, which is likely to be a lot better than that half-a-year-old-from-Alpha thing you’ve seen so far. We’ve also made – and let me finish this sentence – collage level using bits and pieces of actual levels without spoiling the fun of those actual levels. So… game! Play! Yay!

On Pre-orders

In the wake of the release of Aliens: Colonial Marines, the debate about previews re-surfaced. Total Halibut made a 20-minite case for why previews are anti-consumer and generally hurts the industry. Jim Sterling of the Jimquisition made a very verbal case, as well, calling profilic developers “liars”. A colleague linked the latter, whereon I decided to write a post about it. Not having thought as much about this topic in advance as I did for last week’s Violence in Video Games, I had to do some research. And I found this is kind of a thorny topic, but one well worth investigating.

After these two videos, surely we can claim lock-in previewing a bad game on false premises is a problem. Let’s begin by finding the source of  and, rather than focus on what the gaming press or consumers can do to solve it, which Halibut and Jim seems to have done so well, let’s focus on what the games business can do itself.

Disclaimer: All opinions in this article are my own, and not necessarily those of Coilworks as a whole. I may have a voice, but I’m just one voice. I will not dictate what we think, but will hold open discussions with the the team as a whole.

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On Violence in Video Games

Last year, a debate took place regarding the level of Violence in Video Games. In May, The E3 press briefings in general got Nathan Grayson on RPS to react, and The last of Us in particular managed to get Kris Graft on Gamasutra to react with  “If you were an average Joe who strolled into one of these E3 press conferences, and saw hundreds of people hoot and holler when a guy’s face gets blown off in high-resolution detail, you might think you walked into an ancient Roman coliseum.” Towards the end of the year (or, rather, this January) Leigh Alexander, also on Gamasutra, wrote a more nuanced article about when it might actually be good sometimes.

So you could think all has been said, especially since these people are a lot better with words than I am. However, violence in video games has been a topic I’ve been thinking about for years, and I wouldn’t like the debate just pass by without speaking my mind.

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Back from GDCE/gamescom 2012

I just got back from a hectic, crazy fun and invaluably… valuable week in Cologne. I could do a long write-up about this with impressions, and I will later, but for now I’m happy to just break my own silence to say that’s what’s been up.

A collegue reminded me after my last post that what I type here could colour the perception of Coilworks. So I really should stress that what I type here is my own opinions and thoughts.

Finally, Breakthrough

Maybe they should call themselved "Cirkus starter"?

Cloudbuilt got announced last week, and this picture, used as Rock Paper Shotgun’s header image, turned a small story into a big circus. Click to reach their story.

Wow, what a week!

Last weekend, we at Coilworks uploaded an announcement trailer for our game Cloudbuilt. A colleague expressed an expectaton of at least 500 views, which I found optimistic. We had worked hard on the promotion for Ovelia: The Wake, reaching just a few hundred, so how would we reach that when most videos on youtube reach next to no-one? Oh, how wrong we turned out to be.

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Pre-travel GDC-Europe/gamescom -12

Last year, I volunteered at “Game Developer Conference – Europe” in Cologne, and I’m happy to say I’ll get back this year!

Last year’s visit was really great. A lot of new people to meet and greet, loads of valuable presentations and my first impression of an international games fair.

It was probably the latter that left the strongest lasting impression. I had checked the prices before-hand, in an attempt to get my head around the cost-structure of marketing, and I noticed it was *expensive*. Like, a thousand dollars per square meter expensive. Just for the floor space. So when I entered the halls and saw giant monters with loads of empty space in them, I was baffled – how these guys could complain about risk and profits and spend this kind of money on empty space was beyond me (it later turned out those plazas was intended to hold a crowd, so it wasn’t so wasteful after all). And on top of that, it was 5-10 meter high structures, massive screens and speakers for trailers and of course dozens of computers for the games, gladly with multiple screens so the line outside the booth could watch. Add to that, I also knew this wouldn’t be re-used for other fairs, as I had asked a booth-person at GameX about it the year before. As a new, indie fellow who hadn’t seen the industry before, it was intimidating (and kind of awesome, in the true sense of the word). With the perspective given by distance, I still feel there must be a cheaper way to get your word out. Something smarter to do with a booth to grab attention than be bigger and louder than the next guy.

Before I went home last year, I spoke with a lad who had booked a bed in the room for the duration of gamescom which I and a friend had been staying during GDC-E, and he noted the prices had gone up threefold for the duration of the event. I didn’t think it was this bad at first, but reading about tent-towns setting up in the city of Cologne I understood he wasn’t kidding. After all, gamescom pulled a quarter of a million visitors to a city of a million, I understand if the hotels can’t take the pressure. And, missing out in it, I can see why they were visiting!

Perhaps needless to say, I started to get worried when the application for volunteering this year wasn’t up when I checked in early May. Or late May. Or early June. All room would be flooded if this kept up, and I refused to book rooms and travel I might not get to use.

But the application form finally got up, and I’ve got accepted. Which meant, looking for room wasn’t that easy. Checking the hostles, and even some available apartments (note: not the hotels – it’s way too expensive), and turns out every place is booked during gamescom! I may have found someplace now, but damn was it difficult. Lessoned learned – look ahead better than any bottleneck in your “pipeline” is if you want to do stuff as you want.

Politics is Game Design

It’s all a matter of scale, really.

I’ve always had an interest in game design. I didn’t know that’s what it was called at first, I just found it fun to draw fictional maps on paper, imagining boss-battles play out in my head and – more often than not – imagine what game X would be like if I got to make a game like it. After playing World of Warcraft… no, that’s wrong.. after nudging Interface Elements within an Interface for more time than actually playing the game, just to throw the Interface away for a new one as soon as I finished… I realized what I was doing.

Meanwhile, in a completely different part of the head between my shoulders, some brain cells started having opinions. And a lot of them. And discussing the topic of politics back and forth.

And, suddenly, I was knee-deep into student union politics while studying games design. And felt like both parts benefited for the other. I believe I now know why.

Ask yourself, what is politics, really? Some likely say “a bunch of people who know and do nothing but talk”. Others may say “Game of Thrones, but less action (and sex scenes)”. I guess they’d both be right. But, really, isn’t politics about acting on a core belief and, together with like-minded people, draw or adapt the rules that governs society? I would say it is, and I’ll build the rest of this reasoning upon this premise.

Now ask yourself what game design is. This usually has as many answers as there are self-proclaimed designers. Some focus on the artistic and the creative, comparing the task to that of how a film director uses all channels of stimuli movies bring to send a message. Others focus on the technical side, saying it’s to mathematically construct the a logical rule-set that creates a system. I’m going for a premise somewhere in between these, saying game design is to mathematically construct a rule-set and use all channels of stimuli to create a system that send a message.

Do you see a similarity here? Maybe all I’ve done is imply it, so let’s make it more explicit.

Politics is about connecting with people – like-minded or of a completely different opinion – and either have one side convince the other or, more commonly, find an agreement both parties can accept. This to create rules, incentives and punishments to encourage a desired behaviour. Game Design is about connecting with people – engineers and artists, producers, business, marketing and other designers (one or more of these can be the same person) – and either have one side convince the other or find an agreement all parts can accept. This to create rules, incentives and punishments to encourage a desired behaviour.

In other words, politics is game design. And, very often, the game designer plays a game of politics (see? The “Politics is like Game of Thrones” had a point – although I’d say the latter was about the former than the other way around), navigating between the interests of artists, engineers, designers, producers, business and marketing.

Basically, they’re both about communication – convincing, debating, defining, change.

It’s just a matter of scale, really.