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Thread: Noqanky and the Blog of Game Design

  1. #1

    Default Noqanky and the Blog of Game Design

    So it's no secret that I've been working in the past few years at getting myself into the gaming industry, through a variety of means. One of the things I've been working on for months now is more formal writing about game design, more than anything so I can let potential employers/contacts/employees? know where I stand in terms of experience and knowledge.

    My writing is in this site:
    http://gamingwhim.com/
    Blatant self-promotion, yes, but that's kind of the point in this area, right? If not I can place this elsewhere. More than anything I figure (thanks to MetaMario) that some peeps might be interested in commenting and discussing in here. And I can imagine multiple people here who would enjoy discussing games I've written about like Celeste, Mario Party, Smash Bros, etc.

    So yay if anyone looks in here!

  2. #2

    Default Re: Noqanky and the Blog of Game Design

    Well to get the ball rolling I'll paste the thoughts on your recent article.
    nice article on Mario Party. The series was always a big part of my childhood, and I can remember all the intense games my brother and I had, hell even my sister played, and that was rare. It needs to be more competitive again, not cooperative. The car just has everyone too close to each other, where's the tense feeling of looking at the board before rolling, maybe buying an item, etc. Top 100 and that....other 3DS game are steps in the right direction, not really using it, but they're more minigame focused. Minigames are what give the board context. A break from the action, a chance to get coins to be ahead, to get that star. If I had to pick my favorite, it's 3.
    So to browse your recent post:

    Yes, bloat is a concern. Once a simple 12 man roster has ballooned to 40+, and we've already crossed the lines of having Pacman, Sonic, Snake, Bayonetta, Ryu, and Cloud. All great additions! But it's not too far off from being gamefaqs circa 2006 and posting these insane, insane 70+ character rosters having people as minor as Lip and that Japanese block thing, Kurin?
    It's very hard to manage, and once you start increasing the roster more and more, you start to get a larger % of characters are just bad, competitively. The thing is, and it sounds sentimental for the sake of it, but I've viewed the Smashers as one big happy family, and it's sad to see that family lose people. Ice Climbers in particular hurt because they've existed since Melee, and yet they have not returned.

    But *where* do you make cuts? Hard to say. Jigglypuff isn't nearly as popular in the Pokemon fanbase as it was circa 1998, but it's kept as a tradition of the original. I firmly believe Smash needs a new guy in charge, but not just anyone, someone who's worked alongside Sakurai. I love the man, but like Kojima and Metal Gear he's always tried to downplay himself and step away from the series to newer things, yet keeps coming back in some fashion. He's always loved his role in the series, for the toil and stress it's given him.
    Maybe someone more willing to make the game more competitive? Smash should always be a game for everyone, but what makes Melee *still* the most played Smash (competitively) is the low skill floor and high skill ceiling.

    This is why I'm just unsure for the future of it on Switch. I don't want a port of Smash 4, I want something grand, something *new*. Something is most likely in the works now, but how far along is another question.

    and yeah, game modes need some tweaking too. Classic didn't need Uprising's bet system (it's a bit more fun on the 3DS, thanks to branch paths), and I was always down for a "meaty" single player more like Adventure or Subspace. Hell, repurpose Smash Run enemies/system into it, and you've got a lot of legwork done already. I don't need fancy cutscenes, I just want some Nintendo fun. Save the RPG for Nintendo Infinity or something why is there no amiibo game for this yet

    Question: I know you love Palutena but would you mind if she was cut? Poor Kid Icarus has been dormant since 2013.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Noqanky and the Blog of Game Design

    That's a lot of stuff to respond to.

    For cuts, it's a difficult process given Smash can't just look at interesting moveset, but also has to take into account the weight of specific characters. For example, I think boiling down Mario to just Mario, Luigi, Peach and Bowser makes a ton of sense, but it hurts in that Rosalina in particular is such an interesting character mechanically.
    The main obvious ones are saying bye-bye to clones (Dark Pit, Lucina, Dr. Mario), some third parties to simplify the development and production process, and, like you say, characters that just do not fit in given the scope of things. For exmaple, I do LOVE Palutena, but given the state of Kid Icarus I would find it perfectly reasonable to remove her.
    It's the sort of stuff that sucks to think about as a fan, but a rough decision developers need to make. Have rotating rosters in between franchises like other fighting games would be my advice, keeping only the essential characters in every game.

    Also, I don't think making the game competitive and making it casual friendly are mutually exclusive. Melee is still fun casually, so that would be my model.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Noqanky and the Blog of Game Design

    Quote Originally Posted by Noqanky View Post
    That's a lot of stuff to respond to.
    multi quote ;)

    Actually I should've done that myself.

    For cuts, it's a difficult process given Smash can't just look at interesting moveset, but also has to take into account the weight of specific characters. For example, I think boiling down Mario to just Mario, Luigi, Peach and Bowser makes a ton of sense, but it hurts in that Rosalina in particular is such an interesting character mechanically.
    I know, it hurts, and it really isn't an easy decision for anyone. There's no quantifiable original movement vs. relevance numbers or anything.

    It's the sort of stuff that sucks to think about as a fan, but a rough decision developers need to make. Have rotating rosters in between franchises like other fighting games would be my advice, keeping only the essential characters in every game.
    Yeah that sounds right. Unfortunately since we've only had mainly increases these....wow, ~20 years, to get anywhere is to make some roster cuts from the get-go, and that will cause some grief. in the 20-30 range seems pretty fair, but again, hard to put caps on anything.

    Also, I don't think making the game competitive and making it casual friendly are mutually exclusive. Melee is still fun casually, so that would be my model.
    Good point.

  5. #5
    Stranger in a Strange Land lr-hr-rh's Avatar
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    Default Re: Noqanky and the Blog of Game Design

    Oh cool! I really enjoy reading your thoughts on vidya games
    Just a clarification question though; is the aim of this thread to have discussions about your blog posts here where there's a larger pre-established audience? I've been checking in on your blog every now and again, so it'd be good to know if you'd prefer comments here or over there.

    Also, do you read much of the game design stuff that gets published by research labs and the like?
    Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a night. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Noqanky and the Blog of Game Design

    Quote Originally Posted by lr-hr-rh View Post
    Oh cool! I really enjoy reading your thoughts on vidya games
    Just a clarification question though; is the aim of this thread to have discussions about your blog posts here where there's a larger pre-established audience? I've been checking in on your blog every now and again, so it'd be good to know if you'd prefer comments here or over there.
    Aim of the thread is for people to discuss posts if they do not wish to do in other avenues (leaving comments, twitter, etc.). I also figured there might be people here that might not know of it otherwise due to not going to the discord or w.e. else.

    Also, do you read much of the game design stuff that gets published by research labs and the like?
    I have some psych readings I mean to obtain for later, more research-intensive posts. Otherwise, I admit I don't know much of where to find actual research of this sort. If you know of places I'd love the info!

  7. #7
    Stranger in a Strange Land lr-hr-rh's Avatar
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    Default Re: Noqanky and the Blog of Game Design

    Quote Originally Posted by Noqanky View Post
    Aim of the thread is for people to discuss posts if they do not wish to do in other avenues (leaving comments, twitter, etc.). I also figured there might be people here that might not know of it otherwise due to not going to the discord or w.e. else.
    Ok cool, that's good to know

    I have some psych readings I mean to obtain for later, more research-intensive posts. Otherwise, I admit I don't know much of where to find actual research of this sort. If you know of places I'd love the info!
    Well a lot of what I found was looking at creating npcs that are capable of generating their own dialogue, emotional responses and so on. I can share some of that stuff here if you (or anyone else) is interested in that, since the researchers share the pdfs of their papers for free on their site. Looking through some of the citations from that stuff I found this conference:

    http://www.fdg2017.org/

    Which lists a bunch of researchers that presented there, and who therefore likely work in some capacity in digital games research. There are some specific presentations listed on the site with links to the slides from the talks, some other links to workshops that were run that were kind enough to share streams or videos of the lectures they gave (there was a workshop on procedural content generation that put their stream up on youtube if you're interested in that (and don't mind the kinda tilted angle they present the slides at )).

    https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=3102071&picked=prox

    The proceedings for the whole conference that year are in the above link if you wanted to hunt for specific papers that might be of interest. Some of the papers there are also available for free on the researchers personal website (I found the paper on the LoL analysis freely available, not sure about the rest), but you can also just check the researchers involved in a given paper and see if they have their own blog or host some of their work for free elsewhere online if you're interested in their stuff. If there's a particular paper you (or anyone else) is really interested in that's not available for free online you can probably hit up a friend who's a college student to grab them for you, or failing that I should have free access to most journals for the immediate future and can probably find a paper to share here and there.

    If I happen across anything else in my searches, I'll be sure to share it here :)
    Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a night. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Noqanky and the Blog of Game Design

    Cool stuff!
    Loved the Celeste piece and Mario comparison piece, so far.

    (followed you on twitter too!)

  9. #9

    Default Re: Noqanky and the Blog of Game Design

    Quote Originally Posted by lr-hr-rh View Post
    Ok cool, that's good to know



    Well a lot of what I found was looking at creating npcs that are capable of generating their own dialogue, emotional responses and so on. I can share some of that stuff here if you (or anyone else) is interested in that, since the researchers share the pdfs of their papers for free on their site. Looking through some of the citations from that stuff I found this conference:

    http://www.fdg2017.org/

    Which lists a bunch of researchers that presented there, and who therefore likely work in some capacity in digital games research. There are some specific presentations listed on the site with links to the slides from the talks, some other links to workshops that were run that were kind enough to share streams or videos of the lectures they gave (there was a workshop on procedural content generation that put their stream up on youtube if you're interested in that (and don't mind the kinda tilted angle they present the slides at )).

    https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=3102071&picked=prox

    The proceedings for the whole conference that year are in the above link if you wanted to hunt for specific papers that might be of interest. Some of the papers there are also available for free on the researchers personal website (I found the paper on the LoL analysis freely available, not sure about the rest), but you can also just check the researchers involved in a given paper and see if they have their own blog or host some of their work for free elsewhere online if you're interested in their stuff. If there's a particular paper you (or anyone else) is really interested in that's not available for free online you can probably hit up a friend who's a college student to grab them for you, or failing that I should have free access to most journals for the immediate future and can probably find a paper to share here and there.

    If I happen across anything else in my searches, I'll be sure to share it here :)
    This is all excellent information. Thank you so much!

    Quote Originally Posted by CCC View Post
    Cool stuff!
    Loved the Celeste piece and Mario comparison piece, so far.

    (followed you on twitter too!)
    I think those are my favorites as well. The Mario one was fun to research, and the Celeste one something I couldn't wait to write after experiencing it. As far as I can tell I'll be playing Celeste all year.

    I'll go ahead and follow you too! Gotta keep up with those great sculptures o.ob

  10. #10
    Stranger in a Strange Land lr-hr-rh's Avatar
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    Default Re: Noqanky and the Blog of Game Design

    Awesome, glad I could be of some help :)
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  11. #11

    Default Re: Noqanky and the Blog of Game Design

    I liked the point that you made in the smash article of the progression being tied to character familiarization rather than the wall of lamentations (archievements), the PUBG Smash Run, and turning the character releases into a splatoon/overwatch model.

    You hit the nail on the head with the feature bloat.

    Thinking about it the case most related to how to increase a roster with characters that you know are comming, the ones that kind of do it good are Dota2 (back before it finished adapting everyone from the first one) and Heroes of the Storm, who any fan of at least one blizzard game can be asked about 5 characters that aren't yet in the game and get at least one of them for the next 10 character releases. HotS never feels complete, but that can be a feature. As long as it's the overwatch business model.

    I completelly forgot about Street fighter V and Injustice who keep adding characters, but I don't think that these are going to be as consistent as the two above.

    --- Update From New Post Merge ---

    The Rotbar aproach to pokemon battles was done with Audino, with.. ok results. Getting a random Tyranitar battle with a possey of sand rush or sand veil flunkies would be terryfing and apropiate. But getting legendaries like that would take a bit of extra tutorial of "you you saw the Articuno that is followed by Abomansnow and Alolan Ninetails, and beat it? you can battle it again!"
    Last edited by maxterdexter; March 4th, 2018 at 02:29 PM.
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  12. #12
    Stranger in a Strange Land lr-hr-rh's Avatar
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    Default Re: Noqanky and the Blog of Game Design

    Finally got around to reading the Smash Bros. article, it was a really interesting read. It got me thinking about something though, and since I don't really read up much on a lot of the nitty gritty of games development I figure you might be the right person to ask this; how exactly do game companies go about evaluating what it is that people want from the games they plan to produce?

    The ideas for improving single player are also interesting, but also seem kinda antithetical to the idea of limiting the games range of focus to better perfect the smaller number of things included in the overall package.

    Also, I'd be interested to know in what direction the lack of balance tilts in the most recent Smash Bros. (either on the side of most of the roster being too poor to be competitively capable, or on the side of a small cluster of characters with broken abilities). I only have very limited, vicarious knowledge of the balance of Melee, but even I've heard of the trope of "Fox v Fox, Final Destination" or whatever. Is Melee more balanced than 3D Smash U, and if so in what regard? How was the balance of Wii U Smash handled post-release, especially with regards to the DLC characters which seem to, superficially, follow your suggestion of drip-feeding more characters (although obviously not for free, and obviously the comparison is still not 1-for-1 even if price considerations are removed)?

    I suppose what I'm trying to get a better idea of is why Nintendo might not feasibly, if they were so inclined, do both. Create a game with a sprawling roster and reasonably well-defined mechanics, and then tune any major weaknesses revealed in mass distribution post-launch (perhaps facilitating their ability to do so by dropping a lot of the side mode and single player stuff which, while interesting (and a lot of the reason I played the earlier games) doesn't seem, at least to me, like something that would tilt more people towards buying Smash with its inclusion -or tilt people away from buying it because of its absence). My confusion in this regard is where my lack of knowledge of the game development process really reveals itself to be honest. I vaguely understand the idea of budgetary and manpower constraints leading to circumstances where a broader focus (in this case creating an excessive number of characters) necessarily causes depth to be sacrificed in some areas. But then it seems like considerations of novel or intricate mechanics is dependent on creative resources, which seem like the sort of thing you couldn't really solve by throwing more people at the process (or at least it seems like you couldn't). It doesn't sound like Smash is lacking for people to make sure the mechanics, as the developers envision them to work, are tuned to a satisfying level of polish. But then it's also fairly well known that Sakurai worked himself ridiculously hard making Melee, which I assume is related to perfecting and fine-tuning how well it functioned as a game. So is the idea that playing it safe with the mechanics side of things allows them to dedicate more resources to bloating the roster as it were, with a more creative approach necessitating cut backs they don't want to make in the character numbers? From my uninformed view it seems like it should be easier to add more characters to an established base list given the mechanics are pretty constant and a lot of the repeat characters seem to have fairly similar movesets to their previous iterations. Especially if they stick to being unadventurous with the mechanics. But then obviously these games take a while to make so maybe my assumptions (that they don't mess much with the mechanics and that repeat characters are easy to design for a new game) are just wrong? Maybe too much time is wasted on the BS Sakurai-bloat?

    Sorry again if this comes across as meandering or obtuse, but the idea that Nintendo, if they wanted a more balanced game with broader appeal, or e-sports appeal or what have you, would likely to need to trim the roster suggests that Nintendo either can't or won't be able to achieve that goal without the associated cost of reducing characters. The possibility that they just don't want to isn't really conducive to discussion (at least amongst those not deeply informed about Nintendo's corporate culture and so on -it might very well make for an interesting conversation between analysts debating about their competing forecasts for Nintendo's creative direction or something), so I'm interested in trying to understand why you think they can't.
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  13. #13

    Default Re: Noqanky and the Blog of Game Design

    Lots of stuff to respond in there, and while I was already half-way in doing so, I think I'll leave it for tomorrow. It's like 4am where I am XD

    I'll get to it though, there's good questions in there with valuable responses.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Noqanky and the Blog of Game Design

    The main reason that I think that they won't is that they haven't, at least not in the sense of modern competitive games have done, or need.

    It's this conceptual divide between japanese development and western development.

    Western multiplayer competitive games keep geting content and updates, not wanting to rattle the playerbase with the need of sweeping hardware updates, see Team Fortress 2, League of Legends, World of Warcraft, Counter Strike, games with lifecycles longer than console generations and counting.

    While Japanesse games are tied to the consoles lifecycle, and it's easier and more economicaly sound to make the upgrade, as the console jump not only opens up more graphic, procesing and communication options for the game, but also tends to make it easier for the developers and artist to work in it. Keeping old software development kits working, but also keeping testing conditions of old milestones is a challenge.

    Unless I'm missing a western console game with tons of updates, or a Japanesse PC game that was competitive.
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  15. #15

    Default Re: Noqanky and the Blog of Game Design

    Quote Originally Posted by lr-hr-rh View Post
    Finally got around to reading the Smash Bros. article, it was a really interesting read. It got me thinking about something though, and since I don't really read up much on a lot of the nitty gritty of games development I figure you might be the right person to ask this; how exactly do game companies go about evaluating what it is that people want from the games they plan to produce?
    Honest answer? A lot of times they don't. Most games spring up from a design pitch or idea and it's up to the game designers and the production team to ensure the end result is something that will be fun and engaging to the players. With sequels, the work normally is to re-capture the same sense as the original while exploring new mechanics, or in the case of Nintendo new possibilities that take advantage of new hardware. It's a common dev line to say they are keeping an eye on the community and listening to feedback, but not every company is exactly transparent enough to the point where we can say if they actually are or aren't. "Listening to the community" could, for all we know, just mean looking at strictly japanese tweets, for example.
    This is in general, of course. Some companies are better than others at community interactions, but even then in game design one of the warnings is to not listen to your fans too much. You know, since you can never please everybody.


    Also, I'd be interested to know in what direction the lack of balance tilts in the most recent Smash Bros. (either on the side of most of the roster being too poor to be competitively capable, or on the side of a small cluster of characters with broken abilities). I only have very limited, vicarious knowledge of the balance of Melee, but even I've heard of the trope of "Fox v Fox, Final Destination" or whatever. Is Melee more balanced than 3D Smash U, and if so in what regard? How was the balance of Wii U Smash handled post-release, especially with regards to the DLC characters which seem to, superficially, follow your suggestion of drip-feeding more characters (although obviously not for free, and obviously the comparison is still not 1-for-1 even if price considerations are removed)?
    Honestly? It's practically impossible for me to determine "how balanced" something like smash is. The reason I respect these devs a lot while at the same time blasting how much content there is lies in the fact it feels like an impossibility to balance smash in every regard, and yet... if you pick up Smash 4 or Melee, almost every character feels fun in one context or another.

    The main thing to remember is that for us balance in design is strictly competitive, but for the designers it's also a matter of considering every other way people play the game. If a character is not fun in a 1v1 omega stage scenario, it's always entirely possible that that character was NOT meant to be specifically great at that scenario but improves with stages with more movement options. We may not think of multiple players or team scenarios or items, but designers have to do this. It's why Palutena has a weak default moveset compared to her custom moves: because she was supposed to be a lesson to the player on using custom moves. This sucks when you think of what competitive players actually use as rulesets, but that's not what Sakurai and co. get paid to do. To them the kid playing this game during a sleepover is just as important as the two dudes fighting for thousands of dollars on a stage.
    It feels miraculous to me that despite this we can still have something like competitive smash. It speaks volumes to why this is a great game.

    Regarding patches, I honestly barely remember much outside of the "nerf Greninja" meme, where Sakurai kept inexplicably nerfing greninja, probably due to strong use of the character in Japan. The main major shake up I do recall is the introductions of Cloud and Bayonetta who were super strong upon introduction, and it became common to see Bayonettas everywhere in competitive. Whether the meta game adjusted or not I have no idea, and I do wonder about the logic of one of the last character being a super strong one that you can't react to after production ends. It's why I feel like a drip-feed works better than DLC for fighters... DLC means you have to SELL a character, which means making them desirable in one way or another, that way usually being making the character obviously strong. With drip-feed content like Arms and Splatoon the marketing doesn't need to revolve on how powerful x character is and why you should all buy it, but can instead focus on changes the character brings to the meta that everyone gets to participate in by default.

    I suppose what I'm trying to get a better idea of is why Nintendo might not feasibly, if they were so inclined, do both. Create a game with a sprawling roster and reasonably well-defined mechanics, and then tune any major weaknesses revealed in mass distribution post-launch (perhaps facilitating their ability to do so by dropping a lot of the side mode and single player stuff which, while interesting (and a lot of the reason I played the earlier games) doesn't seem, at least to me, like something that would tilt more people towards buying Smash with its inclusion -or tilt people away from buying it because of its absence).
    I do think a lot of people need single player content from Smash Brothers, just by default of the logic that not everyone can have a couch full of people to play with. Despite the industry disagreeing with me, I think single player content will never stop being important, and instead can be a great tool to teach game lessons to the player in scenarios that might avoid early game frustration and dropping the game.
    FighterZ is an interesting case for me when it comes to this. The game is mechanically fun for newer players, but if you do not wish to partake in online multiplayer the game is brutal. The story mode is extremely long and repetitive and, while it teaches you different characters, it concludes with a finale that only tests your capabilities with ONE specific character. Meanwhile, the arcade mode is a breeze UNTIL you get to the final, super strong fight where the enemies are mechanically buffed to resist and overcome things that would work in a competitive scenario.
    It's a great fighter that nevertheless had players like me drop it almost instantly because what it offers outside of online is almost non-existent. Fighting games in particular always have to think of how to retain individual players who are intimidated by competition, and in that sense Smash has done an excellent job... I just personally hope that in the future it is more related to in-game skill and less focused on that wall of misery maxter mentioned.

    My confusion in this regard is where my lack of knowledge of the game development process really reveals itself to be honest. I vaguely understand the idea of budgetary and manpower constraints leading to circumstances where a broader focus (in this case creating an excessive number of characters) necessarily causes depth to be sacrificed in some areas. But then it seems like considerations of novel or intricate mechanics is dependent on creative resources, which seem like the sort of thing you couldn't really solve by throwing more people at the process (or at least it seems like you couldn't). It doesn't sound like Smash is lacking for people to make sure the mechanics, as the developers envision them to work, are tuned to a satisfying level of polish. But then it's also fairly well known that Sakurai worked himself ridiculously hard making Melee, which I assume is related to perfecting and fine-tuning how well it functioned as a game. So is the idea that playing it safe with the mechanics side of things allows them to dedicate more resources to bloating the roster as it were, with a more creative approach necessitating cut backs they don't want to make in the character numbers? From my uninformed view it seems like it should be easier to add more characters to an established base list given the mechanics are pretty constant and a lot of the repeat characters seem to have fairly similar movesets to their previous iterations. Especially if they stick to being unadventurous with the mechanics. But then obviously these games take a while to make so maybe my assumptions (that they don't mess much with the mechanics and that repeat characters are easy to design for a new game) are just wrong? Maybe too much time is wasted on the BS Sakurai-bloat?

    Sorry again if this comes across as meandering or obtuse, but the idea that Nintendo, if they wanted a more balanced game with broader appeal, or e-sports appeal or what have you, would likely to need to trim the roster suggests that Nintendo either can't or won't be able to achieve that goal without the associated cost of reducing characters. The possibility that they just don't want to isn't really conducive to discussion (at least amongst those not deeply informed about Nintendo's corporate culture and so on -it might very well make for an interesting conversation between analysts debating about their competing forecasts for Nintendo's creative direction or something), so I'm interested in trying to understand why you think they can't.
    The main thing about why any mechanical addition to the game costs money is that things do not exist in a bubble. It is impossible for any designer, regardless of how great they are, to know exactly the ramifications a character addition will have on the game. Good ones will have an idea of what it might cause, but when you consider that millions of people out there all play games differently, it's impossible to foresee how accurate things will actually turn out. You cannot just toss in a character and figure "well, let's focus on this new character and leave the old ones untouched", because what will happen at that point is that you overlook or miss design issues or glitches or w.e. else that could arise when those two characters interact. It can also happen that you finish perfecting a character, but then after 9 more characters you look back at the first one you did and realize, fuck, this guy is now completely underpowered and unequipped to deal with what we introduced.

    This is why a character addition to smash involves hours upon hours of testing and revision, something that's extremely expensive whether you have an in-house testing team working full-time or are contracting from another company to house testers, full-time for weeks on end. This also involves hours upon hours of work for developers and programmers that need to be around to fix high-priority bugs that occur during testing and that may in turn delay further testing by blocking testers from specific content. Every time content gets added to the game we are talking about weeks of multiple full-time employees that have to sit down, test, bug, regress bugs, fix issues, etc., before the game can be released to market.

    This is why a mechanically simpler smash, achieved by sticking to an essential roster instead of over 50 characters, cuts down on several hours of work and as such reduces the cost considerably.

    Now, the decision for Nintendo is far hairier than that, because particularly with the last Smash more characters meant more opportunities to market other titles. People buy Nintendo games because of the character being in Smash. So since we don't want to reduce conversation to Nintendo not wanting to do something that would make Smash more approachable developmentally, we can instead look at how easy it is for Nintendo to stick to the same thing they've been doing and make bucketloads of money. Sure, I can hypothesize how my suggestions would also save money in return, while potentially pleasing a competitive base for the game, but that's a hypothetical compared to the certain marketable dream boat that Smash 4 certainly was. Amiibo alone weren't a success because the idea was beloved by people... it was a success because of Smash. With that in mind it's hard to blame Nintendo for burdening poor Sakurai with a million characters that each entail greater sales for their series, much like it's hard to blame them for selling cardboard when people are lining up to buy it.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Noqanky and the Blog of Game Design

    Starting smaller would allow them to put an smash out this year, like, take the original 8, plus other some others plus Calie/Marie or the Inklings, make the online and local multiplayer the only options, and keep old stages. Don't sell it yet, or make it come free with the online service while it's being built up over time.
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  17. #17
    Stranger in a Strange Land lr-hr-rh's Avatar
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    Default Re: Noqanky and the Blog of Game Design

    Quote Originally Posted by Noqanky View Post
    Honestly? It's practically impossible for me to determine "how balanced" something like smash is. The reason I respect these devs a lot while at the same time blasting how much content there is lies in the fact it feels like an impossibility to balance smash in every regard, and yet... if you pick up Smash 4 or Melee, almost every character feels fun in one context or another.

    The main thing to remember is that for us balance in design is strictly competitive, but for the designers it's also a matter of considering every other way people play the game. If a character is not fun in a 1v1 omega stage scenario, it's always entirely possible that that character was NOT meant to be specifically great at that scenario but improves with stages with more movement options. We may not think of multiple players or team scenarios or items, but designers have to do this. It's why Palutena has a weak default moveset compared to her custom moves: because she was supposed to be a lesson to the player on using custom moves. This sucks when you think of what competitive players actually use as rulesets, but that's not what Sakurai and co. get paid to do. To them the kid playing this game during a sleepover is just as important as the two dudes fighting for thousands of dollars on a stage.
    It feels miraculous to me that despite this we can still have something like competitive smash. It speaks volumes to why this is a great game.
    Ah, I probably should’ve rephrased that. I meant to ask more so what the perception of the balance is amongst those communities you imagine future Smash games should do a better job marketing themselves towards. It doesn’t seem like balance would even necessarily be a stagnant thing. I vaguely recall reading years ago about evolution in the competitive Melee scene with someone or other going on a tear with Yoshi or something? Obviously in such a case (if I’m remembering it correctly) evaluations of how well balanced Yoshi (or whoever) was relative to the top of the top would probably differ before and after whatever new strategy is uncovered. And I agree with your point regarding the different facets of gameplay in which different characters might excel.

    Regarding patches, I honestly barely remember much outside of the "nerf Greninja" meme, where Sakurai kept inexplicably nerfing greninja, probably due to strong use of the character in Japan. The main major shake up I do recall is the introductions of Cloud and Bayonetta who were super strong upon introduction, and it became common to see Bayonettas everywhere in competitive. Whether the meta game adjusted or not I have no idea, and I do wonder about the logic of one of the last character being a super strong one that you can't react to after production ends. It's why I feel like a drip-feed works better than DLC for fighters... DLC means you have to SELL a character, which means making them desirable in one way or another, that way usually being making the character obviously strong. With drip-feed content like Arms and Splatoon the marketing doesn't need to revolve on how powerful x character is and why you should all buy it, but can instead focus on changes the character brings to the meta that everyone gets to participate in by default.
    Yeah I figured (without ever actually ending up buying them…except for Roy *sheepish grin*) that the DLC characters would end up pretty strong relative to the base characters. Seemed an easy way to sell them; make them even more powerful than the competition. Or at least make them with the appearance of being such upon early inspection.

    I do think a lot of people need single player content from Smash Brothers, just by default of the logic that not everyone can have a couch full of people to play with. Despite the industry disagreeing with me, I think single player content will never stop being important, and instead can be a great tool to teach game lessons to the player in scenarios that might avoid early game frustration and dropping the game.
    FighterZ is an interesting case for me when it comes to this. The game is mechanically fun for newer players, but if you do not wish to partake in online multiplayer the game is brutal. The story mode is extremely long and repetitive and, while it teaches you different characters, it concludes with a finale that only tests your capabilities with ONE specific character. Meanwhile, the arcade mode is a breeze UNTIL you get to the final, super strong fight where the enemies are mechanically buffed to resist and overcome things that would work in a competitive scenario.
    It's a great fighter that nevertheless had players like me drop it almost instantly because what it offers outside of online is almost non-existent. Fighting games in particular always have to think of how to retain individual players who are intimidated by competition, and in that sense Smash has done an excellent job... I just personally hope that in the future it is more related to in-game skill and less focused on that wall of misery maxter mentioned.
    Regarding single player, I like the idea of it functioning as a learning tool for newer players and it’s not one I’d considered. Funnily enough (although perhaps unsurprisingly) I don’t play online multiplayer so I’d always figured it basically functioned in much the same way playing on the couch with your friends would, except…online. But giving that even a bit more thought it’s obvious that you only need one Switch when your friends come over, but multiple switches when you’re all playing online :/. With that (fairly obvious in hindsight) consideration, yeah I can definitely see why you’d definitely want a substantial experience with Smash a player could enjoy on their own. Not to disregard your frustrating experience with FighterZ, that does sound almost impressively tedious, but it seems like something that would be even worse for Nintendo, given the more consoles you have a game on the increased probability that your friends also have something they can play the game on. That still necessitates multiple games but is still at least one step closer to playing online with a few people you know than the circumstances with Nintendo…
    …or am I being naďve again, and it turns out you actually can’t play the same game with people across different consoles? :/

    The main thing about why any mechanical addition to the game costs money is that things do not exist in a bubble. It is impossible for any designer, regardless of how great they are, to know exactly the ramifications a character addition will have on the game. Good ones will have an idea of what it might cause, but when you consider that millions of people out there all play games differently, it's impossible to foresee how accurate things will actually turn out. You cannot just toss in a character and figure "well, let's focus on this new character and leave the old ones untouched", because what will happen at that point is that you overlook or miss design issues or glitches or w.e. else that could arise when those two characters interact. It can also happen that you finish perfecting a character, but then after 9 more characters you look back at the first one you did and realize, fuck, this guy is now completely underpowered and unequipped to deal with what we introduced.

    This is why a character addition to smash involves hours upon hours of testing and revision, something that's extremely expensive whether you have an in-house testing team working full-time or are contracting from another company to house testers, full-time for weeks on end. This also involves hours upon hours of work for developers and programmers that need to be around to fix high-priority bugs that occur during testing and that may in turn delay further testing by blocking testers from specific content. Every time content gets added to the game we are talking about weeks of multiple full-time employees that have to sit down, test, bug, regress bugs, fix issues, etc., before the game can be released to market.

    This is why a mechanically simpler smash, achieved by sticking to an essential roster instead of over 50 characters, cuts down on several hours of work and as such reduces the cost considerably.

    Now, the decision for Nintendo is far hairier than that, because particularly with the last Smash more characters meant more opportunities to market other titles. People buy Nintendo games because of the character being in Smash. So since we don't want to reduce conversation to Nintendo not wanting to do something that would make Smash more approachable developmentally, we can instead look at how easy it is for Nintendo to stick to the same thing they've been doing and make bucketloads of money. Sure, I can hypothesize how my suggestions would also save money in return, while potentially pleasing a competitive base for the game, but that's a hypothetical compared to the certain marketable dream boat that Smash 4 certainly was. Amiibo alone weren't a success because the idea was beloved by people... it was a success because of Smash. With that in mind it's hard to blame Nintendo for burdening poor Sakurai with a million characters that each entail greater sales for their series, much like it's hard to blame them for selling cardboard when people are lining up to buy it.
    These are all really good points, and I’m getting a much better idea of why it might be a good idea for the devs to cut down on the number of characters if they wanted to spend more time developing interesting mechanics. It does seem like an interesting thing to think about though. In the world of competing corporate interests, how might you feasibly juggle the competing requirements of a huge roster with the necessity of developing some sort of robust single player experience while also trying to branch the mechanics of the game out from their comfortable roots and test different avenues for expansion. Usually whenever I happen across conversations for taking Smash in a different direction the common suggestion is for Sakurai to step down (although rarely in so polite terms). Obviously that’s not what you’re suggesting, but thinking even a little about it, it does seem like these three competing demands are going to exist regardless of who’s in charge. So presuming you can’t cut the character list, or even that Nintendo wants you to make it even *bigger* as the selling point of the next game, and you can’t cut the single player stuff to try and force your captive audience into the online sphere, how might you go about improving and testing and creatively varying the mechanics of the game?

    I like your suggestion of gradually adding characters over time. It seems like you can get both the hype and advertising for new Nintendo franchises and the more focussed development on the mechanics, game modes and so on in the production of the base game. I don’t know enough about the economics and the marketing side of these things however. Maybe Smash has enough franchise power to sell a stripped down but well-built base game in the first instance? If not I could see it maybe having a problem of people putting off buying it until the roster is more fleshed out. In which case maybe there’d be difficulty in keeping the game in the cultural consciousness as more releases come out and try to sell people on buying the game now that so-and-so has joined the party. This depends on how much of the franchise power of Smash is tied into the roster, with people wanting to pick it up and play as their favourite character, or just loving the huge variety or whatever. I suppose this seems to come back to how Nintendo goes about judging the wants of its audience. Overwatch and Splatoon seem to provide good models but were also free from the burden of prior expectations. But then games like BoTW are good exemplars of how willing people are to go completely in on games that deviate from what seemed like the expected conventions of a series (for better or worse… >.<). So maybe Smash would sell like enough of a beast regardless of roster size, and then word of mouth regarding the finer polish and expanded game modes and mechanics might push it to an even larger audience, which can then be built upon and consolidated with later releases of new characters, developed dynamically in tune with the wants of the audience.

    How long did the drip feed of content last for Splatoon by the way? It seems like retaining devs, testers and so on for a long drawn out testing and development process for what might be 30+ characters might get expensive, especially if they’re not selling the characters and maybe aren’t shifting new units of the game after they break the first 10 or so. Overwatch manages it but I’m assuming also has other ways to make money? Lootboxes or subscriptions or something?

    It’s interesting stuff to think about to be sure, and thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts on it.
    Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a night. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Noqanky and the Blog of Game Design

    Overwatch is both base game price (on over 40$) and cosmetics lootboxes (skins, poses, sprays, voices, taunts..).
    3DS FC: 0516-7666-3837
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  19. #19

    Default Re: Noqanky and the Blog of Game Design

    Quote Originally Posted by lr-hr-rh View Post
    Ah, I probably should’ve rephrased that. I meant to ask more so what the perception of the balance is amongst those communities you imagine future Smash games should do a better job marketing themselves towards. It doesn’t seem like balance would even necessarily be a stagnant thing. I vaguely recall reading years ago about evolution in the competitive Melee scene with someone or other going on a tear with Yoshi or something? Obviously in such a case (if I’m remembering it correctly) evaluations of how well balanced Yoshi (or whoever) was relative to the top of the top would probably differ before and after whatever new strategy is uncovered. And I agree with your point regarding the different facets of gameplay in which different characters might excel.
    If there's a wide variety of top/high tier threats with occasional low-tier characters emerging as counterpicks, I feel at that point there's reasonable balance. It's hard to wonder what the community consensus is on what's balanced and what isn't because
    1) the community is not unanymous, and there will be as many people online praising Melee for being balanced as there will be calling it unbalanced
    2) Like you say, games are designed not to be perfectly balanced. The goal is that strong characters are obvious and easy for new players to use, but allow for more technical characters to exist that counter what makes those characters powerful. The actual meta of the game then winds up feeling alive as everyone flocks to strong characters, followed by a season where someone shows everyone else how to counter those and leads to new strategies for victory, and from there the competition diversifies over time. When Smash 4 came out everyone thought Little Mac was stupidly good, until everyone learned how to deal with him.
    As for the Yoshi player, I believe you're thinking of Japanese player Amsa, who did indeed show the world that Yoshi had actual competitive value when used properly.


    Not to disregard your frustrating experience with FighterZ, that does sound almost impressively tedious, but it seems like something that would be even worse for Nintendo, given the more consoles you have a game on the increased probability that your friends also have something they can play the game on. That still necessitates multiple games but is still at least one step closer to playing online with a few people you know than the circumstances with Nintendo…
    …or am I being naďve again, and it turns out you actually can’t play the same game with people across different consoles? :/
    Not sure what you're talking about here. Presumably, if Smash Bros does come out on Switch, chances are it will only be possible to play against other people on that same version, particularly since the Nintendo Switch is expected to have its own paid online services. It would not make sense to allow people to play against each other between Switch and Wii U/3DS with the latter not paying a cent for online. This is assuming you mean different consoles as in different platforms.
    As for availability of other players, I feel like it's important to remember that conditions for gamers world-wide are not as universal as we like to assume. Despite it being 2018, not everyone has access to stable online services or avenues with which to find other people that play games. It's this weird thing where sometimes it feels like the gaming industry imagines a specific coccoon of people as their main demographic ignoring the millions out there that could potentially get into games but won't find themselves with 3 other friends to magically play with, and won't know of things like discord channels focused on specific game communities. I could go on about the benefits of single player, but I probably will just do so in a blog post soon anyway ^^;

    How long did the drip feed of content last for Splatoon by the way? It seems like retaining devs, testers and so on for a long drawn out testing and development process for what might be 30+ characters might get expensive, especially if they’re not selling the characters and maybe aren’t shifting new units of the game after they break the first 10 or so. Overwatch manages it but I’m assuming also has other ways to make money? Lootboxes or subscriptions or something?

    It’s interesting stuff to think about to be sure, and thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts on it.
    Maxterdexter hits the main point on how to make it sustainable.
    The idea would be to develop a Smash Team much like Blizzard has a specific group of people working on Overwatch all the time, instead of moving people from project to project. Since the idea is that you have less content initially while more is developed over time, you get the benefit of releasing early and having income from game sales pour in to support development of continuing content. Instead of the current state where a company eats the cost until game sales offset it and lead to profit.
    And then there's loot boxes. I briefly mentioned it in a note because loot boxes are THE thing to hate right now, given how predatory things have gotten. But in terms of business, in terms of money-making, a Smash game could make a lot of money if instead of selling mii skins and nonsense at DLC price they just did like Overwatch and locked character skins behind a loot box system.
    People, myself included, would HATE IT. But if you look at how Fire Emblem Heroes is the most successful of Nintendo's mobile franchises because of having character-focused content locked behind gacha mechanics, it's hard not to imagine them getting the idea.

    As for Splatoon, I believe it went a bit over a year with weekly content additions for most of it, and then the last bits of content being two main weapon packs released in batches over a couple months. Arms tried the same method but lasted considerably less... it still gets balance patches but the last of the content updates was 6 months after release. Splatoon 2 is still ongoing.

  20. #20

    Default Re: Noqanky and the Blog of Game Design

    I personally if the lootboxes were an overwatch style, of only cosmetics, and a smash with ongoing development would be the price that I'd be willing to pay.

    There is also the heroes of the storm model, with a free base game, and a free rotation of around 10 characters, with lootboxes with chance of characters, primary currency, and cosmetics, plus the characters and skins available for primary currency, while the rest of the cosmetics available for secondary currency (repeats).

    League of legends got a very complex system of tertiary currencies after I left it, so I don't know what is up with that one.

    Pokemon picross with a free to start base, very slow ftp progression but a hard cap of 40$ where you unlock the whole game as it used to be.

    There are a large number of options, but what I'd really want is that the game gets continued Support, its very own Jeff caplan or Ben brode, or critz Metzen, someone who marries the game. Turn it into a marathon, not another race.
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