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Burnout brings high-energy, arcade-style street racing to your gaming console. Drive more than realistic vehicles, and then crash them in spectacular, slow-motion fashion. Burnout monitors your driver's heart rate: You're rewarded for near-misses and the more risks you take.

Cruise the United States and Europe on 14 awesome, traffic-filled courses, through cities and into the countryside. Instant replays allow you to relive your handiwork from multiple angles, in all of its cringe-inducing, metal-bashing glory. Release Date: September 6, You can carefully place your shots and time your dekes with the new "skill stick" system. More-realistic physics have you adjust to a player's speed and size as you navigate the ice.

In addition to NHL stars, you can create your own player or team from the ground up and lead them through an NHL season. NHL 06 also includes both online and offline multiplayer game modes. Luigi steps out from the shadow of his brother Mario and into the gloomy shadows of a very haunted house in this, his first-ever starring role. Armed with a flashlight and a customized vacuum cleaner, Luigi must rid the mansion of Boos and ghouls--and find his missing brother to boot.

As Luigi, you'll search for the keys that open the many locked doors; vacuum coins, cash, and gold bars; and explore vases, bookcases, and drawers. From the brick-walled basement to the gloomy grounds, Luigi's Mansion is packed with chills, thrills, and creepy surprises. Release Date: December 2, In Pac-Man vs. The lead player, viewing the entire maze on the Game Boy Advance, must avoid the other three players controlling the ghosts on the television screen.

To raise the tension factor, the three ghost players can only see part of the maze around their characters. Pac-Man must clear all the pac-dots in each maze to progress to the next level. If you're looking for some BMX action, you could certainly do worse, but Acclaim and Z-Axis could certainly do better. Release Date: December 22, Get ready for more fancy moves, new modes, and online play in the sequel to NFL Street. Now you can jump 15 feet high to make catches off the wall, dive into the end zone, or pull off wild jukes.

You can master these new abilities in seven new game modes, including "crush the carrier" and "own the city. Release Date: March 2, Rayman's universe has fallen into a chaotic world of wicked powers, bizarre characters, and merciless combat. When Globox accidentally swallows the Lord of the Dark Lums, a fanatic army of trigger-happy Hoodlums wreaks total havoc to get their Lord back. Rayman's only chance is to purge the Dark Lum Lord from the manic Globox, scour the lands for new powers, and battle with hordes of Hoodlum soldiers. Even without arms or legs, Rayman can still unleash an arsenal of special powers and fighting moves.

Release Date: March 18, NFL Blitz is the best arcade-style football game on the home market. Release Date: December 4, He might be small, but he's one angry Ninja. I-Ninja stars a consummate warrior who has spent years mastering his weapons and honing his skills. Challenged by the world's most wicked villain, Master O-Dor, and his menacing army of Ranx, the young ninja must now put his skills to use. With access to multiple weapons, including shurikens, swords, blowguns, and rocket launchers, guide I-Ninja through imaginative missions, mini-quests, and a face off with a menacing foot robot.

There is no challenge too big or risk to great for I-Ninja. Release Date: November 3, As Nick Kang, your brutal reputation and lethal skills have landed you a nasty job: heading up an undercover task force to stop the Chinese and Russian gangs from terrorizing Los Angeles. Drive, fight, and blast your way through a massive array of unpredictable missions, using stealth techniques, martial arts moves, and an ask-questions-later arsenal. True Crime features a branching storyline that gives you the freedom to complete missions as you choose and face the consequences later.

The hardcore streets of L. Release Date: June 5, As evil villains return to take over the world, a battle ensues between old and new superheroes. The wise trainer of both generations, Meat, has decided to pit the two generations against each other to decide which generation is the strongest of all time.

In this epic battle, you can play as 20 different characters, each with different wrestling skills and signature finishing moves. Customize your character and play in Story mode or Versus and Tournament mode against three of your friends. Release Date: November 14, Be Harry Potter in a new adventure with more magic, friends, and danger.

In his sophomore year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry stumbles upon a dark chapter in the school's past. In an effort to confront the powers at the heart of the Chamber of Secrets, you'll learn new spells, undertake new quests, make new friends, and challenge new adversaries. Do you dare take the chance that you might face the evil Lord Voldemort again?

Join John Vattic, a man endowed with psychic abilities, as he attempts to escape a US medical facility. As you discover more and more of John's psychic powers, you'll slowly uncover the events that landed him in the hands of the researchers. You'll gain access to a variety of psionic abilities such as Psi-Blast, Telekinesis, Projection, and Charm and powerful weapons including handguns, tranquilizers, and machine guns.

Complete your objectives using a combination of shooting action and stealth tactics. Release Date: March 1, Mortal Kombat: Deception takes the series to the next level with multiple fatalities per character, interactive backgrounds, and new game modes. For the first time in the Mortal Kombat series, you can play a free-roaming Konquest mode, board games, and a puzzle game, in addition to the enhanced one-on-one fighting mode.

Mortal Kombat: Deception supports online play for both the PS2 and Xbox Live and features online matches and tournaments as well as online gameplay capabilities for both the board game and puzzle modes. Traverse an expansive world where you'll encounter outlaws, Native Americans, corrupt lawmen, and army psychopaths. You can assault a fort, hunt for bounties, and upgrade your equipment as you battle through a variety of gameplay styles.

Gun also features a story written by Hollywood script writer Randall Jahnson. Release Date: November 25, Meet Jack Slate, a cop framed for murder and facing execution. In Dead to Rights, you play the role of Slate, as he fights through the hard streets and corrupt enemies of Grant City.

There are plenty of ways go about bringing the conspirators to justice--Jack can perform disarm moves, shoot different weapons, pick locks, fight hand-to-hand, and play minigames such as arm wrestling, bench press, and dancing. In this gritty, crime-noir inspired epic, you're always on the run. MLB SlugFest is back with more aggressive-style baseball than ever. MLB Slugfest delivers a blend of hardcore, lightning-fast gameplay combined with key baseball features that will please even the most diehard sports fan. Turbo running, fielding, batting, and throwing are essential skills in this game, which makes every play a highlight.

Among your favorite MLB players from around the league, you can create your own team of superstars, and then work your way up to a World Series championship. With new moves, rosters, and the addition of the new Home Run Derby mode, this year's SlugFest hits home with awesome power. Release Date: October 18, You can skate or BMX through a new story mode that takes you through all-new skate areas using tricks that have never appeared in previous Tony Hawk games. The cash that you earn can be used to customize your equipment and your skater by going to tattoo parlors and skate shops.

Release Date: November 1, Release Date: June 30, Penniless on an idyllic South Pacific desert island, you discover a variety of pool tables scattered around the beach and in various huts. On the beach, sheltered under the palm trees, is a practice table where you can enhance your skills and watch the waves rolling in.

When you feel you are good enough, you can enter the Competition Hut and start climbing the championship ladder. There are 11 sets of pool rules and 30 different computer opponents for you to challenge. It's not all over if you lose everything; there's a loan shark to lend you more cash--or bite your head off. Release Date: September 8, The legacy continues with WrestleMania XIX, which features deeper move sets and a more strategic reversal system. Choose among an updated list of top WWE superstars, each with realistic abilities, including strength, speed, and stamina.

You can become a legend by battling your way through five stages and more than 25 missions in an effort to destroy Vince's empire. Release Date: September 4, Disney characters step out of the movies and onto skateboards in Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure. Now you can skate, pull off tricks, and solve puzzles in all the exciting places you've seen in the movies, including Pride Rock, the Jungle Treehouse, and Pizza Planet. Release Date: April 15, Assume the role of Peter, a good-hearted teenager bitten by a genetically engineered spider, which gives him muscles, incredible strength, and spider-like abilities.

You'll have to learn how to control your powers including Spider Sense, web-slinging, and wall crawling, and the all-new aerial combat moves. The world's toughest villains, including Shocker, Vulture, and the Green Goblin will all be after you. Are you up for the challenge? Release Date: April 24, Gamers can play as their favorite team from qualification right through to a virtual reproduction of the tournament in Germany. With enhanced player animations, EA SPORTS has emulated close to of the world's superstars, capturing their playing styles and individual likenesses.

In addition to enabling gamers to participate in the FIFA World Cup Germany by taking control of one of national teams, the game features new compelling modes of play, including the groundbreaking Global Challenge that tests even the most hardcore soccer fan by recreating classic moments in FIFA World Cup history. Furthermore, the game supports up to eight-way multiplayer matches and features a plethora of in-game unlockable content such as legendary players and exclusive apparel.

Release Date: September 27, Join Donkey and Diddy Kong as they drum their way through both old and new hits. With the new DK Bongo drum controller, you can drum and clap through this musical adventure. The game features songs that range from kids' medleys to classical and pop music.

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Connect up to four DK Bongo controllers for single-player jam sessions or multiplayer matches. Only you can help Donkey and Diddy realize their dream of becoming famous, earning money, and buying all the bananas they could ever want. Release Date: August 12, Beach Spikers delivers intense beach volleyball action for up to four players, and it showcases beautiful female athletes as they battle it out under the summer sun. You must cooperate and compete as you take control of bikini-clad athletes and go two-on-two at the net. Those craving a deeper experience can create their own athlete and teammate and enter the all-new World Tour mode.

With each win, you'll compete to earn attributes and use a mixture of encouragements and insults to develop your teammate's AI. Release Date: September 26, Improved transition play captures the speed and feel of a NBA fast break, and increased attention to interior defense delivers the physicality of an NBA game. These stars have their own controls and visual modes allowing them to dominate lesser players. Release Date: August 29, In the sequel to WWE Day of Reckoning, you must fight your way back to the top of the wrestling ladder.

WWE Day of Reckoning 2 features new legendary fighters, a new story mode, and more. Release Date: April 6, Wario is back in the video game biz, and this time the tightfisted microgame master is servin' up some insane party games on Nintendo GameCube. Release Date: September 19, A global conflict has reached a stalemate in the console version of the Game Boy Advance series Advance Wars.

The evil Kaiser Vlad, seeking to take advantage of the standoff, has assembled an army of shock troops, forcing The Western Frontier and the Tundran Territories to ally and fight back. Battalion Wars is a real-time strategy game that lets you control teams of soldiers and vehicles and lead them through more than 20 missions, using a variety of weapons and tactics. Release Date: December 5, Nintendo's foray into sports titles continues with Super Mario Strikers, a new soccer game that's unlike anything ever to hit the pitch.

Whether players are freezing their opponents with an ice-cold shell, unleashing a spiny shell on their hapless opponents or making entire teams flee in terror with a roving Chain Chomp, they're sure to see something new around every corner kick. Super Mario Strikers features all the favorite characters from the Nintendo universe, as well as four-person multiplayer action that will have players and their friends cheering all night long.

Get ready for the world cup of gaming. You can clear all the trials in Challenge mode, or sit down for a game in the Toy Field. With multiplayer options for up to four players, wild, character-specific power moves, intense minigames, and more than 50 characters from the Mario universe, Mario Baseball offers a complete arcade baseball experience. Based on the comic book of the same name, Ultimate Spider-Man lets you play as either the hero Spider-Man or his arch-nemesis, Venom. Use the unique combat techniques of either Spider-Man or Venom to battle a host of Spider-Man characters.

Artistic contributions by the creators of the series make for an authentic Spider-Man experience. Release Date: June 25, The excitement of motocross racing and freestyle is now available in MX Superfly. The game features expanded career modes, all-new minigames, top-notch pros, and unbelievable stunts including a freestyle track editor. Reap the rewards of racing through an entire season of intense motocross action while upgrading your gear and bike along the way. For free ride action, you can compete in the new freestyle career mode, dazzling the crowd with new tricks and dangerous maneuvers.

Or simply ride the open terrain searching for secret areas without the burden of competition. The third chapter in THQ's Tak series lets the player reprise the role of Tak, a shaman who uses magic to defeat enemies. Tak: The Great Juju Challenge features a new cooperative mode in which two players can solve puzzles together. Release Date: September 20, Capture all the speed, finesse, and action of professional hockey with NHL The game's new EA Sports Open Ice Control lets you execute offensive plays, such as a give-and-go and a breakaway pass, and you can also call for defensive double-teams.

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User Score: 5. Release Date: January 10, Mega Man X is the series of 2D platformer Mega Man games featuring the game's namesake and his partner, the sword-wielding Zero. In addition to the classic titles, the collection features remixed soundtracks, sketch art, and other Mega Man goodies. Baten Kaitos Origins takes place 20 years before the first Baten Kaitos game.

It explains how the diabolical Emperor Geldoblame rose to power, and it also fills in many details about the heroes from the first title. In addition, players will learn about the origins of the world itself and why the Lost Ocean is returning. The hero, a blue-haired young man named Sagi, was sent to assassinate the Emperor but found the job had been done for him. Blamed for the death, he's now on the run with two friends - a robot named Guillo and a young woman named Milly.

In the initial stages, the player's party will progress in a linear fashion, moving from one area to the next along a set path. After playing the game for a few hours, players will acquire a ship that lets them visit areas in the order of their choosing, allowing them to either pursue optional side quests or blast through the main mission as they see fit. Unlike traditional RPGs, where characters gain levels in categories such as strength and agility, the majority of leveling-up occurs by procuring better Magnus cards.

There are more than different Magnus cards in Baten Kaitos Origins, some of which have truly fantastical properties. Players can acquire cards in many different ways, including trading, buying, winning as spoils of war or by creating them themselves. Release Date: August 28, Use each character's unique abilities to defeat an ancient evil that threatens to destroy them and their world. Set in both familiar and new locations, the game challenges you to overcome a variety of challenges.

Sonic has appeared in many games in the last decade, and now you can relive seven of them from Sonic Mega Collection. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine. With additional content such as character illustrations, movies, and comic-book covers, this game celebrates Sonic's long career and introduces his world to new generation of gamers. Release Date: October 15, All new multiplayer modes include the entire Rogue Leader game in co-op, plus endurance, capture-the-base, and dogfight modes.

Cinematic realism takes you to new heights as you climb out of your cockpit to battle the Empire on foot in this thrilling third chapter of the Rogue Squadron series. Wage an all-out assault as one of 16 fighters, each with the ability to transform mid-fight into their alternate Hpyer-beast life-form. Fight to the finish in 2-player head-to-head and single-player modes through 10 interactive and destructible mutli-level arenas. With fast and furious arena action-fighting has never looked this good or been this brutual. Disney Sports Soccer takes the fun of a neighborhood soccer game and adds your favorite Disney characters.

In three different game modes, including a multiplayer mode, you can use magic, power-ups, and special moves to defeat your opponents. Up to four players can assume the role of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, or other Disney favorites, and they can compete in a variety of stadiums, including Eagle Summit. Release Date: November 20, In the tradition of Jedi Knight, rebel agent Kyle Katarn returns in thrilling first-person action. Several years have passed since Kyle avenged his father's death and saved the Valley of the Jedi from Jerec and his band of Dark Jedi.

When a new and menacing threat to the galaxy emerges, Kyle knows he must reclaim his past in order to save his future. You assume the role of Kyle and employ a unique mix of weapons, Force powers, and your lightsaber in both solo and multiplayer modes. Release Date: February 6, The Sanderson family just got the ultimate in high-tech, house-helper technology: Chibi-Robo. In this inventive, story-driven game, players guide a miniature robot as he completes chores and clashes with enemies in his epic quest to become the highest-ranked Chibi-Robo out there.

The living room can be a dangerous place when you're a robot less than a foot tall, so players will need to team up with the native toys to overcome obstacles, rack up points and keep the family happy. Normally running on battery power, Chibi-Robo needs to plug into power outlets with his built-in cord when he runs low on juice. Doing chores has never been so much fun. Tak must learn new Juju magic to recover the Staff of Dreams and defeat Tlaloc once and for all.

Now dabbling with new abilities, Tak can create a little Juju magic of his own. As Tak, try to master three new Jujus, expanded combat capabilities, and new weapons as you battle Nightmare creatures. Interact with familiar characters from the series, along with Jibolba's brother, JB. Multiplayer "Dinky" games let you face off in head-to-head action with playable characters from Tak's world. Release Date: October 31, What starts in the city is settled in the canyons as Need for Speed Carbon immerses you into the world's most dangerous and adrenaline-filled form of street racing.

You and your crew must race in an all-out war for the city, risking everything to take over your rivals' neighborhoods one block at a time. As the police turn up the heat, the battle ultimately shifts to Carbon Canyon, where territories and reputations can be lost on every perilous curve. Need for Speed Carbon delivers the next generation of customization giving you the power to design and tweak your crew's cars in every way using the ground-breaking new Autosculpt technology.

Represent your car class, your crew, and your turf in Need for Speed Carbon, the next revolution in racing games. Release Date: October 27, The Veritech fighter--a mecha capable of fighting on land, in air, and in outer space--is the only weapon you have against the forces of the alien, Zentraedi. As the intrepid fighter pilot Jack Archer, you'll control this powerful robot through more than 40 missions. With each of the 40 Veritech fighters, you can switch from ground to hover and flight modes instantly.

Battlecry's combination of fast-paced gameplay, freedom of movement, and dramatic storyline make for a unique combat experience. Release Date: March 13, Driven by a completely new and original storyline, James Bond Agent Under Fire is a first-person action game that balances furious action and stealth tactics. An evil world organization has been replacing world leaders with their more docile clones and it's up to you to put a stop to it.

As Bond, you'll encounter villains and allies, both new and familiar, detailed 3D environments, and spy-packed, fast-action gameplay. And don't worry, Q will provide you with all the innovative weapons, sophisticated spy-craft, and state-of-the-art gadgets that Bond fans expect. Midway Arcade Treasures 2 brings 20 classic arcade games back to next-generation consoles. Each game can provide hours of retro-gaming entertainment. Midway Arcade Treasures 2 also features a documentary on the origins of these games.

Release Date: March 19, Pac-Man is on a brand new adventure and once again dealing with the pesky Ghost Gang. You must guide Pac-Man through six new lands with plenty of amusing surprises. New and improved, this Pac-Man can ice skate, rollerblade, submarine dive, and solve many exciting puzzles.

With all-new moves and a zany cast of characters, your Pac-Man heroics will be pushed to its limits. NARUTO: Clash of Ninja 2 delivers non-stop ninja style combat action for players where gamers choose to play as one of 23 playable characters. Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura and the other ninja-in training are going beyond the classroom now and must face each other and challenging new opponents in multi-ninja battles. All-new multi-player modes will engage players in frantic simultaneous four player battles and single-player modes will offer more gameplay choices than before with survival and timed attack modes that allow players to showcase their taijutsu and special jutsu abilities.

When you're a ninja, you must be prepared for anything! Believe it! Release Date: July 7, Killer 7 chronicles the connection between two men whose intertwined paths develop into a tale of revenge and altering personas. You play as not only one man but also as his seven other personalities in a mission to stop a wave of indiscriminate violence that's plaguing the world. Each of your personalities has unique abilities--including invisibility, extra strength, superhearing, and more--that help you defeat the evil Kun Lan and his crazy soldiers.

Release Date: November 2, In The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, you can travel in the wake of the Fellowship while exploring your own path and periodically intersecting the major events of the film trilogy. Through both familiar and new locations, you must fight to save or destroy Middle-earth in an epic adventure. Encounter the demonic Balrog in the Mines of Moria, defend the fallen city of Osgiliath, or try to destroy Helm's Deep. These choices and many more will confront you as you align yourself with the people of Middle-earth or undertake missions on behalf of Sauron.

Mickey and company train you from the streets of Philadelphia to the world heavyweight championship bout. Master Rocky's powerful punch combos and fast flurries. Practices your skills in Sparring mode and then test them out in the Knockout Tournament against 15 other players. Based on the movie trilogy, Rocky tests your dedication, skill, and heart through various gameplay modes.

You've been called to defend your Allied country against the Axis foes. In Call of Duty: Finest Hour, you must fight as part of a squad through the chaos of battle. Whether you play as American, British, or Russian forces, you'll discover the hardships that every unsung hero had to face during World War II. The game also features authentic weapons, vehicles, environments, combat missions, and the real sounds of war.

Finally, the cinematic battlefield conflicts come to life on your gaming console. Release Date: November 24, The president of the United States of America has been assassinated and you are the prime suspect. In XIII, you must unravel a conspiracy that left your memory erased, the President dead, and a bullet wound in your head. Evade assailants eager to end your life or use them as human shields. Select from a deadly arsenal of weapons including silent crossbows, furious automatic weapons, and ashtrays.

Face off against other players in multiplayer modes such as Barfight or go co-op in Cover Me mode. Uncover both your shadowy past and America's darkest corridors of power. Release Date: December 1, Danger is the name of the game in Avalanche. Huge air, massive drop-offs, deep powder, and the nastiest tricks come together in one package.

It's a frantic race to the bottom of the mountain, so stick tricks on the way down to increase your rider's speed and power. Keep your eyes peeled for shortcuts, rockslides, natural wildlife, dizzying drops, and sudden weather changes. The successor to the Nintendo 64 version of the game, Avalanche offers a wide variety of play modes, challenges, and secrets to keep you on your toes.

Release Date: November 9, The Sims have moved to the City where there's always action and where reputation means everything. Combat is an important element, by which the heroes gain strength, experience, and money to buy new equipment. Strategy Games Strategy games require players to manage a limited set of resources to achieve a predetermined goal. This resource management frequently involves deciding which kinds of units to create and when to put them into action. Older strategy games were typically turn-based. The player could take his time as he made each decision, and the computer acted only when the player indicated he was ready.

These games are enormously popular on the Internet. Genres Simulations Simulations, or sims, are games that seek to emulate the real-world operating conditions of complicated machinery, such as jet fighters, helicopters, tanks, and so on. Players expect to spend hours learning the intricacies of the machine, and they expect a thick manual to help them with the finer points. Sports Games Sports games let players vicariously participate in their favorite sport, either as a player or a coach see Figure 1.

These games must accurately reproduce the rules and strategies of the sport. One gameplay session can cover an individual match, a short series, or an entire season. Used with permission of Eidos Interactive Ltd. Others approach the sport from the management side, allowing the user to be a coach or general manager, sending in plays or making trades. These games are generally viewed from a side perspective, and each session lasts only a few minutes. Players expect to find a basic set of attacks and counters they can learn right away, as well as more complicated combinations they can master over time.

They also include easy-to-play, short-session games on the Web, such as Slingo, Poker, and Concentration. Television game shows are also represented in this category, with the very popular Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Players generally want to drop into and out of these games quickly. These games generally have an extremely simple user interface, with little or no learning curve. God Games God games sometimes called software toys are games that have no real goal, other than to encourage the player to fool around with them just to see what happens.

Examples include The Sims see Figure 1. Genres Designers in this genre try to create games in which the player can do no wrong. The games are very open-ended, with no correct way to play and no preset winning conditions. Educational Games Educational games are those that teach while they entertain.

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Sometimes called edutainment, examples of these games include Oregon Trail and Reader Rabbit. Generally, these games are aimed at a much younger audience than most commercial products. Their designers work closely with experts on the subject matter to ensure that the content is appropriate for the target group. Puzzle Games Puzzle games exist purely for the intellectual challenge of problem solving, such as The Castle of Dr.

Brain and The Incredible Machine see Figure 1. Entire communities grow around the most successful of these games, and the designers of games like Everquest and Ultima Online are constantly creating features that encourage those communities to flourish see Figure 1. Online gaming is still in its infancy, and publishers are still groping for a solid profit model.

This has important gameplay implications, which are discussed in Chapter 3. Client Goals Figure 1. Before designing a game, you need to know what the publisher hopes to achieve by funding it. Some companies try to develop many inexpensive games each year, in the hope that one or two will break through and sell enough copies to pay for the duds. These companies are all engaged in risk management. Is it riskier to spread out your eggs across a bunch of inexpensive baskets, or to place them all in a few costly ones? To some extent, moviemakers are faced with the same dilemma. During concept development, you need to know what your client wants.

If he wants a sequel to a franchise title in time for Christmas, perhaps you should concentrate on one or two new features and leave other portions unchanged, because you know the schedule is inflexible. In this case, the publisher probably wants a few new wrinkles that take advantage of the different hardware, but basically he wants to see the same game again.

This is usually a low-cost effort, in which the publisher is trying to leverage the investment from the initial game across as many platforms as possible. Many agendas can be at work here. Occasionally, a publisher has a contract with a licensor that requires a certain number of games to be published by a certain time in order for the license to be renewed.

Then you find yourself in the unfortunate position of designing a game that must be on store shelves by a certain date, no matter what. In all these situations, knowing what your client wants is essential during the concept development phase. The key elements you can manipulate at this time are gameplay, scope, and technical risk. Good gameplay is the cheapest weapon in your arsenal, and you can wield it effectively on any project, no matter the schedule or budget.

Conversely, a game with mediocre graphics but great gameplay can still become a big hit. Like an artist who can afford only a few colors on his palette, a good game designer turns the limitations of the project to his own advantage and creates something new and interesting. Your second big variable is scope. Scope does. How big is the game? How many levels? How many creatures? How many weapons? How many tracks and cars do you put in a racing game? How many moves do you put in a fighting game? Making the game big enough while keeping it affordable is a constant battle. Perhaps the only thing reviewers, publishers, designers, and game players all agree on is that they would rather play a small, well-polished game than a large clunky one.

What you must realize is that every single thing you add to a game design will take someone else time to draw, program, test, and debug. The best time to attack the problem of scope is up front. If you narrow your scope during the design phase, your artists, programmers, and level designers will have the time to concentrate on quality, not quantity. The third important variable is technical risk. The Game Proposal Document The result of the concept development phase is the game proposal. Think of the proposal as the executive summary of what you want to accomplish.

You must quickly convey how the game is played, what will make it great, how long it will take to develop, and how much it will cost. At this stage, the information is imprecise. For now, you need to deal in broad strokes. The format of this document changes from company to company, but all formats seem to include the following elements. High Concept You already looked at the high concept earlier in this chapter. Genre A single sentence that places the game within a genre, or a hybrid of genres.

Typically, this section leads off by placing the game within a genre, and then explains how it departs from genre conventions in creative and entertaining ways. These selling points are likely to end up as a bulleted list on the back of the game box. Setting Summarize in a few paragraphs what makes your gameworld and its occupants interesting and unique. Story If your game has a story, this is the place for a quick synopsis of what happens. Target Market For whom are you developing the game? Is it a niche market of specialized genre fans? The mass market? Sports fans? This section should also include some historical information about how games of this type have traditionally sold to the target demographic.

Target Hardware Platforms Identify the target platforms on which your game will be played. As development costs rise, more and more games are cross-platform projects released on several gaming systems to leverage the costs and create a greater chance of financial success. Estimated Schedule and Budget This is one of the hardest parts of the game proposal to put together. Estimating the schedule and budget of a software project is part science, part art.

Entire books have been devoted to the topic, and we still get it wrong. This document comes too early in the game development cycle to enable any precision, so the best thing to do is to consult with the leads of your technical and art teams to come up with some rough estimates. How did they sell? Why will yours do better or worse? What competition will your game have to face when it comes out? How will your game stack up against the competition and survive the fierce battle for shelf space? The Team What publishers invest in is not so much game ideas as people. Ideas are cheap and plentiful—it takes good people to turn them into reality.

List the major credentials of your team. Document Summary Reiterate why this will be a great game, and why your team is the one to pull it off. Even though our business is young, the principles of good game design have already been established, and paying attention to them will make yours a superior game.

This chapter deals with design principles that are broadly applicable to all game genres. This empathy for the player is crucial. You must be able to close your eyes and see the game unfolding like a movie in your head, all before a single line of code has been written. Now, what will he likely want to do? Naturally, no designer has completely accurate foresight. The urge to tell the tester to go this way instead of that way can be overwhelming. Player empathy not only helps you create good gameplay, but also lets you identify and eliminate problems during the design phase rather than during production, after code has been written and graphics have been created.

Feedback The basic interaction between a player and a game is simple: The player does something. The game does something in response. This feedback is what distinguishes a game from every other form of entertainment. Without it, the player would just be watching a movie on the screen. Every input the player makes in the game should give him a discernible response. No input should go unanswered. It can be visual feedback, aural feedback, or even tactile feedback if the controller is so equipped.

It can be positive feedback or negative feedback, but there must be some feedback. For every conceivable input, be sure to give the player some feedback about it. If you can detect what the player is doing and know how to steer him in the right direction, do so. Give him a message about what he has done. At any given point, he should have a long-term goal, a medium-range goal, and an immediate goal. This is true even of software toys, games that ostensibly have no goals, but in reality have a series of goals the player creates for himself. Grounding the Player played start-to-finish in one sitting.

Physical maps also help see Figure 2. In a strategy game, the long-term goal can be to conquer the world. In a golf game, it can be to win an individual match. Medium-range goals are good-sized steps toward the long-term goal. For the golf game, it can be the battle to win the first hole. Frequently, these medium-range goals turn out to be embodied in levels.

In the strategy game, it can be figuring out which units to build to fend off an impending attack. In the RPG, it can be ordering a party before marching into the next battle. In the golf game, it can be figuring out which club will carry the ball over the water hazard without rolling it into the bunker on the far side of the green. Throughout the game, as the player wrestles with the problem in front of him, he should always have some idea of how this single step fits into the longer path that will eventually lead to success.

Figure 2. You have to hold his attention constantly and entertain him from moment to moment. This is far more important than most designers realize. At every point in the game, the player should have something interesting to do. One of the worst things you can do to a player is to bore him. Verbs The positive side of creating a good moment-to-moment experience is giving the player a constant stream of interesting choices that have significant outcomes.

He also had some adverbs: move slowly walk , move quickly run , shoot quickly machine gun , shoot accurately sniper. As the genre expanded, it was primarily through the addition of more verbs, which allowed players to do new and interesting things: climb, rappel, zip-wire, set explosives, unlock, move stealthily, etc. Each genre uses verbs. In an RTS, the player builds, researches, surveys the terrain, gives orders, etc.

In an RPG, he moves, talks, fights, buys, sells, etc. No matter what the genre, the more verbs you can give a player, the more you allow him to do. Here are several experience-killing pitfalls and how to avoid them. Just give him an Open Safe command to use. If you have rendered transitions, let the player bypass them by pressing the Esc key or a button on the controller. The same principle applies to audio and dialogue trees.

Instead, let him abort each piece of dialogue as it begins, so he can get quickly to the line he wants to hear and then leave the dialogue altogether. The same applies to cutscenes. No one wants to sit through the same cutscene over and over. God gave us the Esc key for a reason. Use it. Restarting the game can also be tedious for the player. Let him bypass it. Avoid text or dialogue dumps. Instead, dole out information in bits and pieces.

In general, have the computer do set-up tasks the player might find boring. In an RPG, for example, allow the gamer to have the computer generate his character and party automatically. In a racing game, give him a default car that will perform acceptably without having to be tweaked. Make the game entertaining, moment to moment, by keeping it interesting. Give the player a lot to do—but also make sure that what he does is fun.

Immersion Immersion is what happens when you make the moment-to-moment experience so compelling that the player is drawn completely into the game and the real world disappears. This can be as true of chess games as it is of action games. Immersion works the same way. You bathe the player in a constant stream of images that pull him into your world, and you avoid gaffes that jar him out of his reverie. If you break the dream, you lose the immersion. These gaffes can be anything from typos to bad voice acting. A successful game entices the player into the gameworld, and then never lets him go.

Writing Good writing is invisible. Every game uses words somewhere. The player might see them as text on the screen or hear them as spoken dialogue. The writing can be confined to cutscenes between levels, or it can be an integral part of gameplay. Regardless, you can be sure that at some point, someone will be sitting down with pen in hand keyboard on lap? It turns out, though, that writing well is hard.

People spend a lifetime learning how to do it. Design Within Limits Designers often forget that building a game is actually a software development project. The person who makes this happen is the tech lead, and you must work with him to make his job easier. The practitioners of both areas have to work together to create an enjoyable game for the player. Disc Swapping If you design a multiple-disc game with a huge world and give the player complete access to the entire world at any time, it will result in annoying disc swaps.

The system requirements will go up, thereby driving sales down. The better solution is to design choke points in the game. By doing this, you give up a theoretical design advantage total freedom for the player to go anywhere at any time in favor of a practical gameplay advantage gameplay uninterrupted by annoying disc swaps. Load Times Another potential impediment is long load times. This, too, is something you can address in your design. If you suspect that load times will be an issue your tech lead should be able to give you a good feel for this , perhaps you should alter your design to allow smaller levels.

Or you can designate points along the way where you pause the game for just a second or two for a quick load. This is a technique that Half-Life has used with much success. Perhaps the player has come to the end of a level. Perhaps his character has died or otherwise hit a failure condition. Regardless of what causes the break, try to keep him involved.

Instead, as quickly as you can, cycle him back to a point just before the failure and let him try again. Always give him the sense that just one more try will bring success. Make it hard for him to give up. If he masters a level, tease him right away with the challenge of the next one. Always have another goal waiting just around the corner.

This is horrible. In a PC game, you simply must allow the player to save his game whenever he wants, wherever he wants, and as many times as he wants. You should also let him name the save files whatever he wants. In a console game, where the size of the memory card is restricted, you should still try to give him as many save slots as you can, allow him to name them, and let him save as often as he wants. Mentioning it to him halfway through development might be too late.

Housekeeping There are a few activities that the player should be able to perform at virtually any point in the game. If you handle these activities gracefully, no one will notice, but players will subconsciously appreciate it. The player should be able to pause at any point. The phone rings, he has to go to the bathroom, the boss walks by. There are any number of reasons why he might need to suspend your game world temporarily in favor of the real world. Removing Impediments It should be easy for the player to quit. Mechanically easy, that is—psychologically, you want to make it as hard as possible for him to leave the game.

The player should have easy access to the options screen so that he can customize the game controls and settings. Help should be available to the player at all times. You should tell the player how to save and load the game, how to customize the game by going to the Options menu, where to find additional information, and so on. Bugs Nothing knocks a player out of a game like a bug. Many designers think that bugs are the exclusive domain of programmers. Not so. There are many ways you can help keep the game bug-free. Be clear in your design documents.

This reduces the amount of time they have to address other problems, and vestiges of the incorrect way are certain to remain and will be hard to stamp out. The more you can get it right the first time, the more they can too. Be flexible in creating your design. Consult with your tech lead and listen to his advice. Stay involved throughout the whole development cycle.

The earlier you catch these problems in the development cycle, the easier they are to fix. The later you discover them, the more likely they are to remain in the game. Keep a level head. At this stage, you must distinguish between problems that are a matter of taste and problems that will actually hurt the game. Yield on the former. Stand firm on the latter. Remember that yours is not the only voice in the room, and try very hard to check your emotions at the door. Vital information must always be easy to find see Figure 2.

For some games, this means creating a HUD heads-up display that overlays information on the action screen. For others, it might be best to display status information and control buttons in a wrapper around a smaller active area. The controls must be clear. You must hone these inputs to a minimum number of nonawkward clicks, keypresses, or button pushes.

Norman insists that the physical appearance of an object must tell us how it works. Interface Design Figure 2. You cannot rely on your instincts to get this right. You have to try out the interface, first with team members and later with testers. Pay attention to the conventions of your genre, and use them to your advantage. Elegance and ease of use are more important than increased functionality.

Achieving this compromise is never easy, however. Frequently, the team will argue about it for months. Prototype the interface early, and keep noodling with it. Usually, there are several interfaces within a game. Look at all of them. Get people to test them early, and listen to their feedback. Most importantly, play your own game. If saving and loading is awkward and drives you nuts, you should fix it before a customer ever sees it. You need to come back to this over and over again throughout the development process.

The game must be easy to play. The player should not have to fight the interface. The whole point is to let the player do things quickly and simply. If the interface looks good and its theme is well integrated into the game, you get plus points. One day, voice recognition and speech synthesis may revolutionize the way we interact with our games.

But until then, the whole point of the interface is to let the player do what he wants without having to think about it. The Start-Up Screen When the game boots, you have no way of knowing anything about the person sitting at the controls. Is he a complete novice for whom this is the first videogame ever? You must design a start-up sequence that will accommodate all these users. Customizable Controls Customizable Controls Give the player as much control over the interface as possible.

Make everything as adjustable as you can. This includes game controls, monitor settings, volume. Give him the best default settings you can arrive at, but then let him change whatever he wants. Different things are important to different players. Another might prefer a higher resolution, even though it slows down the game, because he likes to look at the pictures. Whenever possible, let the player customize the game to his liking. On the options screen, explain what each option does see Figure 2. Explain each feature or setting, and tell him how changing it will affect the game.

Entire third-grade classes are playing Age of Empires. Do they play by the rules? No, but those nine-year-olds are enjoying the game anyway. Not only that, but every one of them made his parents buy him a copy, and many of them will continue buying games in the future. This is a good thing for game designers everywhere. If he wants to get the biggest monster weapon there is and go around flattening everyone else with no challenge at all, let him. In an action game, include god mode and the cheats to get all the weapons or walk through walls.

In an adventure game, give him the cheats to get around puzzles. These cheats need to be tested, however. The more hierarchical the game especially something like an adventure game , the more the game designer depends on the player having followed a certain path to get to where he is. If you let him jump there directly via a cheat, make sure that the cheat simultaneously sets all the game parameters as if he arrived there legitimately, especially in terms of objects in his inventory and flags set in the environment.

You need to let customer support know about this, however. Even though you warned them! Tutorial or Practice Mode Some players like to jump right into a game. Others need a chance to get their feet wet in a nonthreatening atmosphere. A tutorial gives the player hands-on experience without endangering him. If he fails at any one stage, he can simply try again.

Even if he succeeds, he can go back and do it again to become more comfortable or to learn the limits of the move. The Tomb Raider tutorial is especially good because, in addition to teaching those skills, it also introduces the player to the character and the world. Structure and Progression You cannot assume that the player will actually play the tutorial, however. Many people just slam the game disc in and start it right up.

Easy to learn, difficult to master. Anyone can sit down at Quake and start shooting things. Then he learns to circle-strafe. Then to shoot while running backwards. Then to figure out which weapons are better up close or far away. Then he learns to rocket jump. As he progresses, he learns the characteristics of each weapon. Anyone can pick up Quake and start having a good time within minutes, yet the longer he spends mastering the game, the more enjoyable it becomes.

In an adventure game, you should make the first puzzles easy. In an action game, make the first opponents fall over when the player even looks at them. In a fighting game, give the player some easy attacks that are effective right away. In a racing game, make the controls easy enough that the player can get out onto the track and start moving around. The first few minutes of a game are like the first moments of a movie.

If the intermediate levels are too easy, people will lose interest in the game almost as quickly as they do if the first levels are too hard. If he must acquire a special skill to defeat the boss monster late in the game, give him some lesser creatures to practice on in the intermediate levels. If a puzzle calls for an intuitive leap, scatter examples of that kind of leap elsewhere before the player encounters that puzzle.

The final levels should be the hardest of all. You must find that delicate balance between the challenging and the impossible. The trick is to design something in-between. Something that frustrates the player just enough that he enjoys it. This sense of gradually acquiring mastery over a game is a pleasure that cannot be had in traditional media.

The feeling is more like learning a sport—increased skill brings increased pleasure. What you must do is design a game where the better the player plays, the more he wants to play it. Throughout the process, you must listen to your testers. You know its ins and outs, its strengths and weaknesses, its guts. A level or puzzle you think is ridiculously easy can prove impossible to others. You need both kinds of testing to make the game successful.

Although his goal may be to beat the game, your goal is not to beat him. A good designer tries to help players get through the game, take care of them along the way, and protect them from time-wasting traps and pitfalls that take the fun right out of the whole thing. This is a familiar problem in adventure game design, but the phenomenon is now creeping into action games.

He went merrily on his way through level 3 and halfway through level 4, unaware that he missed something. Now he runs into this laser beam problem. He does everything he can to get around it. He becomes frustrated. Instead, you want the player to trust you, to believe at any given moment that if he does the right thing, he can somehow win. Protect Newbies When the game begins, take it easy on the player. Ease him in until he acquires some confidence. Nothing is worse than to be a newbie in an online game and have some experienced player come along and kill you.

All these problems have design solutions. Devise a punishment for experienced players who kill newbies, or cordon off an area of the game where new players can fumble around safely. Make the first opponents easy. Make the first puzzle even easier. And every time you get one move wrong, you die and have to go back and do the whole thing again? Often, entire levels have to be played this way. No matter how close the player is to completion, one false step sends him back to start over. A special section of Hell should be reserved for game designers who do this. These same designers probably think that Sisyphus clapped his hands with glee every time his rock rolled back down to the bottom of the hill.

It needs to be stated once and for all, unequivocally, with no room for doubt: This is not fun. As the player repeats the sequence, pushing one step deeper into it each time, he comes to resent it, as well he should. Why should he spend his time doing the same thing over and over again? Nothing makes a player want to fling down the controller and put his fist through the screen like dying for the hundredth time near the end of one of these sequences and having to go back and do the whole damn thing again!

Nobody gains anything by this torture. This problem has many solutions.

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The simplest is to allow the player to save the game at any point. That way he never has to return to the very start, but can pick up from just before he was killed. Another solution is to code in checkpoints along the way. If the player dies, quickly cycle him back to the last checkpoint so that he can have another go at it. The best solution is to avoid designing one of these sequences in the first place. Give the Player the Information He Needs All the knowledge a player needs in order to play a game should be included within that game.

You cannot expect him to rely on strategy guides, Web sites, or word of mouth to pick up critical information. Whenever possible, the information should be on the disc itself, rather than in the manual. However, some games especially simulations are so complex that a beefy manual cannot be avoided. You could make jokes based on pop-culture references and devise puzzles using the order of colors in the spectrum. Now the person playing your game could be a teenager in Italy or a grandmother in Sweden. So if your gameplay relies on specialized knowledge, you must make that knowledge available to the player.

Give them small, incremental rewards as they make progress toward their goals. Offer Levels of Difficulty Another way of taking care of the player is to include different levels of difficulty in your game. These usually come in three flavors—novice, intermediate, and expert. In an action game, for example, the novice level has fewer opponents, who die more easily and might not have the smartest AI. At the expert level, there are many opponents with good AI, sparse ammunition, and perhaps no armor or health kits.

Similar gradations can be made in other genres. Driving games can vary the performance of the other cars, adventure games can scatter more clues to the puzzles, and sports games can demand greater or lesser adherence to the rules. How to Design With all these principles in mind, how do you actually go about designing your game?

Once you have an original inspiration the high concept , a lot of the design process is mere logic. How does the player use these tools?

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What do they look like on the screen? How does the player select them? How does he manipulate them? Economy of Design Good design in any field is distinguished by simplicity see Figure 2. A good designer includes only those things that are necessary to create the effect he desires. Anything else is superfluous and detracts from the overall goal. In game development, economy of design also helps your schedule and budget. The high concept is also useful in this regard. While a project is in development, features will pop up that the team wants to implement.

One very good benchmark is to assess the proposed feature against the high concept. This is the question most frequently asked of writers and game designers. This was mentioned in the preceding chapter, but it bears repeating. However, even though one person might set the game design in motion, there must still be a balance between his ideas and those of the rest of the team. One of the major tenets of this book is that no one person can come up with all the creativity necessary to make a game successful. Game design is a collaborative art, and you need contributions from all the disciplines, including story, art, programming, gameplay, sound, music—even sales and marketing.

Some endorse the cabal approach. This method sets up highly focused teams, each of which addresses one specific area. Each group usually includes one member from each of the areas of production programmer, artist, level designer, tester, and so on. They have a series of meetings and are empowered to make decisions on behalf of the entire team. A less formal approach to group design is brainstorming. No decisions are made during the meeting; the group tries to get a flow going, and they record the session without interfering with it.

For example, they might photograph the whiteboard as they go along. Keep the size of your brainstorming group small, preferably fewer than seven people. Larger groups tend to ramble and are less productive. Small groups stay more focused, kicking around many variations of one idea before moving on to the next. When a brainstorming session is over, the designer is free to mull over the ideas, accepting some and rejecting others. This system takes advantage of the creativity of the entire team, but relies on the vision guy to keep the focus.

A small flame can easily be extinguished by a puff of wind. If it grows into a fire, the stronger the wind, the more fiercely it burns. When an idea is born, it can easily be extinguished by a single puff of derision. When you get an idea, nurture it along before exposing it to the winds of discussion.

Some look for a casual, quick escape from the real world, and others want a challenge or a simulation of a real-world activity. Various genres have sprung up to satisfy these desires, and each genre has its own design peculiarities. Action Games Your goal in an action game is to keep the player moving and involved at all times.

You want to create an adrenaline rush that makes his heart pound and his palms sweat. Deep thinking is generally not required, although the better games in this category do call for quick tactical thinking on the fly. Point of View Your first design choice is to select the point of view. In third person, the camera is outside the main character, usually floating just above and behind but sometimes moving to different positions to provide a better view of the action see Figures 3.

This choice has important implications for your game. First-person games tend to be faster-paced and more immersive. Third-person games allow the player to see his character in action. Figure 3. Action Games First-person games tend to have more beautiful game environments and higher-detail nonplayer characters NPCs. Third-person games chew up a lot of resources drawing the main character and the animations that go along with it, leaving correspondingly fewer resources to render the game world and the creatures in it.

However, if your emphasis is on the main character instead of the world around him, consider using third person. If a publisher is trying to establish and build a character-based franchise, such as Lara Croft, Mario, or Sonic, he will most likely request you to create a third-person game. Level Design Good level design is crucial to the success of an action game.

Weapons Weapons are extremely important in an action game. They must be appropriate to the game fiction you have created, whether fantasy, science fiction, or real world. They must have interesting characteristics that encourage players to master their quirks. They must be well balanced, which means that there cannot be one uber-weapon that will automatically guarantee victory. Give your player more powerful weapons as the game progresses and opponents become more formidable.

These weapons should not only look interesting on the screen but also be accompanied by flashy graphics and sound effects when the player uses them. Although this sounds simple, it requires close coordination between you and the weapons AI programmer, the special effects programmer, the texture artist who creates the weapon, the artist who creates the special effects, and the sound engineer.

Generally, designers start off players with a basic weapon they can fall back on throughout the game. This weapon is only moderately effective, but plenty of ammunition is available for it. As weapons become more powerful, their ammunition becomes scarcer, which encourages players to become proficient in their use. Each game engine has its own editor, and each editor has its quirks.

Check out the user community for a vigorous discussion of plusses and minuses. If your game is to appear on more than one piece of hardware for example, PC and PlayStation 2 , your engine must support those platforms. Because every engine is built on compromises, make sure that the engine is best suited to your lead platform but can also handle the other platforms gracefully.

For example, some engines are texture-heavy, whereas others emphasize polygons. The former tend to require a lot of memory, which make them better suited to PCs than consoles. Games developed in a particular engine tend to resemble one another. During the evaluation process, play games that use the various technologies, and see which appeal to you the most.

One engine can have an active user community and receive ongoing support from its creators, whereas another can have poor documentation and be incomprehensible to anyone but the people who wrote it. Again, the user community is helpful here. Do you select an engine that is still in development, or one that has already come to market?

Using a new engine is risky, because your schedule is tied to the notoriously unpredictable progress of an engine team. If you require bleeding-edge technology, however, the risk might be worth it. Selecting a stable engine instead eliminates that danger but introduces a different one—your game might look dated by the time it appears. How easy is it for your programming team to modify and add features to the engine? Pricing structures vary. Some companies charge a single usually hefty upfront fee.

Others lower this fee but ask for a back-end royalty. Here are some of his thoughts on the action genre. Action games fall into so many categories. On advances in technology Technical design generally limits game design. Technology improvements do change the immersion factor of games, but it comes so often at the expense of good design and gameplay.

Unfortunately, as an industry we make far too many games with poor designs, and the good ones sometimes get lost in the pack for example, Beyond Good and Evil. How market conditions affect game design I think the marketplace affects production more than design. Long term, this will hurt our industry as people get bored with variations on the same designs.

They take place in large, expansive worlds and are frequently played out over hundreds of hours. Through carefully managed encounters and alliances, the hero and his party slowly grow in competence and power until they are able to take on the baddest of the bad guys. You must give players a range of choices in the attributes of the characters in their party. Some attributes should be shared by many classes of characters, but a few should be unique to a particular class. This allows players to balance the team yet bias it towards their own style of gameplay. Although you should allow the player to select his party individually and to allocate attributes among them within preset limits , you should also be prepared to generate reasonable parties automatically for the player who wants to skip this step.

By the end of the game, the characters will be a peculiar blend created by both you and the player. In no other genre do the players form a more personal attachment to the characters who play out the story on the screen. He either succeeds or fails, depending on some combination of his attributes skill, luck, health, etc. RPGs Recent games have introduced a variation that brings these attributes out from behind the curtain and integrates them more elegantly into gameplay.

All the characters can hack a door, but some are better faster at it than others. This method eliminates the hidden dice-roll and makes the player much more aware of how his skills and attributes are affecting him from moment to moment. The result is a much more satisfying and immersive experience. Some players share this love of statistics and want to micromanage their characters and how they are equipped see Figure 3.

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Others want to get right to the action. You should allow for both. Give the player the ability to micromanage the characters, but also enable an auto-equip option that will automatically upgrade each character to better armor and weapons as he acquires them. Story Generally, storytelling in RPGs is accomplished through a series of quests.

As the player carries out the missions, he explores the world and learns more about its inhabitants and his place among them. At any given time, the player should have several immediate goals, one or two midterm goals, and one final goal. Combat Early RPGs were called hack-and-slash games, and combat still plays an important role in this genre. Give him a training area where he can acquire competence. Carefully sequence his first several combats so that he can win and acquire a sense of mastery. The first hour he plays the game will be crucial.

If it is hard to learn and he is killed again and again, he will return the game to the store and move on to something else. I fundamentally disagree with your assertion that RPGs require large worlds and hundreds of hours of play. Nowadays, I think the trend is toward shorter games, even in the RPG space, and some of us believe that huge, contiguous worlds just mean lots of aimless and dull running around. To me, RPGs should be about character development through player choice in the collaborative telling of a story.

Character classes, stats, and combat are a throwback to our paper game roots. On the differences between U. RPGs tend to be more open-ended, freeform, and player-choice-driven, while Japanese RPGs tend to be more linear in their storytelling style, allowing players to interact only during party-building, power-customization, and combat. Advice to RPG designers Always think in terms of player intention. Offer players the information and capability to make a plan based on their current situation and execute that plan. Opportunities to influence story or character growth are critical, I think.

I like to think Deus Ex belongs on that list, if only to prove just how hard it is to define game genres! Seriously, he gets so much right. On moving forward We need better actors. We can count on players to do interesting things. Let me see a tear or a smile or a frown, caused by my choices. Adventure Games You are standing in an open field west of a white house. The famous opening line of Zork is a call to adventure. The original adventure games combined exploration with puzzle-solving. They were stories in which the player was the hero.

Adventure Games Adventure games have evolved from their static, text-based origins to include more and more real-time elements. You must create interesting people, in interesting places, doing interesting things. If you do not approach your story with this kind of purpose, you will simply write another Tab A in Slot B adventure game, and we have plenty of those already. These obstacles are the puzzles, and they must flow naturally from the setting and story. Some designers think that this requirement is unique to our genre. Putting obstacles in the way of the hero has always been a fundamental part of storytelling.

A bad puzzle leaves the player angry, frustrated, and distrustful of the designer. Interface Simplify your interface. The interface you design determines the kinds of activities, puzzles, and interactions the player will have—not the other way around. Your interface must allow the player to do as much as possible with the minimum amount of effort. Effort, in this case, is defined by the number of clicks it takes to perform actions such as talking with people, examining the environment, doing object-onobject interactions, using inventory, and so on.

If allowing a particular interaction means increasing the number of clicks the player must make for all other activities, abandon that interaction. The player will be happier to have a streamlined interface with basic functionality than to struggle with a clunky interface loaded down by bells and whistles. If there are well-established protocols for the style of game you are building, use them. The interface is not the place to experiment. The highest compliment a player can pay to the interface is not to notice that it is there. Linearity versus Nonlinearity The biggest complaint you hear about adventure games is that they are too linear.

But if you give the player too many choices at once, he gets lost.