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Review: Casual Game Design: Designing Play for the Gamer in ALL of Us

11 July 2010 1 comment

Haven’t posted in a long time, so figured I’d post a review of a book I recently read. It’s no secret I’ve an interest in casual game design. The addictive simplicity of play is what appeals to me. If you think about it, one can consider the old coin-op games like Pac-Man and Tempest and all those greats, heck, even Pong, casual games. But generally the consensus is that the first real casual game to really jump-start the casual design movement is Bejeweled (speaking of which, I tried the World of Warcraft version yesterday. It was meh. I’ll stick to my iPhone version (tied in with Facebook).

The book in question? Casual Game Design: Designing Play for the Gamer in ALL of Us by Gregory Tefry. [Purchase from Amazon]

What I like about this book is that it’s really good for budding game designers or those who are interested in designing casual games, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. Trefry starts with the basics: writing the game design document, what makes a game, and the like. He then goes into a myriad number of major casual game design themes (e.g. matching) and discusses what makes a game like Solitaire or Bejeweled work, not work, and examples of games that don’t quite get it. This is actually very important: one of the key factors in design is knowing what works, what doesn’t, and why, and how you can build upon this. Design is not at all about lines of code: it’s about solid concept expressed extremely well so that others one the team, from the artists to programmers etc., can work with your vision and create a solid product.

For the experienced designer, this book has benefits as well. Casual game design is different: your focus isn’t on large, complex systems, but smaller, addictive forms of game play that will inspire your game to be played by players who don’t have the time to invest in a large project. Casual Game Design’s focus on example games really helps the experienced designer looking to work on a different genre to see design differently.

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Facebook SRPG experiment continues to FAIL

25 October 2009 2 comments

So far, my Facebook social roleplaying game experiment is an absolute failure. I wonder if it’s because I’m not as proactive as I could be, playing 10,000 games within my experimental Facebook account.

My iPhone experiment, however, is going along nicely, but it really depends upon the game. You can see the myriad of games that I’ve been playing on the iPhone below:

SRPGs on the iPhone

SRPGs on the iPhone

Swabs Online and Agency Wars are two new additions to my small stable of SRPGs. I only began checking them out today. The remainder I have been playing for a while, but unfortunately individual game data is not stored anywhere for most of the games, so when I had to swap my iPhone to “change the battery” at the Apple Store, I wound up losing all of my account data.

Gameplay for these games are mostly the same: press, press, press. Agency Wars seems to be slightly different in this regard, and Storm8‘s World War III is the one that I’m enjoying the most, mostly because I like, well, World War III scenarios. Some of the games listed above don’t have mission leveling, and I find that I tend to like those a lot less than I do the ones which have it. This is because I don’t really feel as if I’m accomplishing anything when I’m playing these kinds of games–the whole button smashing game design seems a lot more obvious because of it.

Getting more players in your team is not as easy at it is in most SRPGs when it comes to the iPhone. In order to recruit, you need to give people your character code. This means that you need to have other friends with iPhones and actively tell them your code if they decide to play the game as well. This can result in not a lot of people on your team if you don’t have a lot of iPhone-enabled friends with a need to play SRPGs while they are waiting for their latte machiatto espresso chai tea doubleshot at Starbucks.

Another design flaw? Possibly. Except players in many of these games have come up with a way to inspire others to invite them to their teams. Since all of these games have some sort of player versus player feature, many participants have taken to naming their character after their game code. This allows people to quickly scan the PvP list, find those who want to be recruited from the list, and send an invite. As an alternative to this, some players, after fighting another player, will leave a combat on their victim’s account with their character code.

Not all games have this level of recruitment agency. On Playdom’s Mobsters, I’m having no luck finding anyone to recruit, but so far World War III has been pretty good to me.

Of course, if I wanted to spend money, I could simply pay for points, which would allow me to acquire NPCs to fill my roster. Until recently, Apple didn’t allow microtransactions for free iPhone apps; recently, they changed their policy, allowing game developers to earn revenue via both microtransactions and adverts. I am not a Rockerfeller, so my SPRG gaming is going to be as free as I can get it.

Categories: srpgs Tags: , ,