Develop 2018: What Players Want

Develop BannerInternational Hobo’s founder Chris Bateman is at Develop Brighton this year with a talk entitled What Players Want: Understanding Player Diversity. This session is a culmination of more than a decade of work in player satisfaction modelling (not to mention game design experience from fifty published games), and presents a new way of understanding the psychology of videogames in terms of Player Motives. As well as helping clarify effective videogame design, the model can help studios make tough commercial decisions about which audiences they can or should be pursuing with a specific design concept.

For more details, see Chris’ speaker page at the Develop conference website.

Cross-posted from ihobo.com


Zelda Facets (6): Zelda

Over at ihobo today, the final part of the Zelda serial, looking at the narrative role of Zelda herself throughout the franchise. Here’s an extract:

Considering the franchise is named after her, Princess Zelda took a while to take an active role in the series. Shigeru Miyamoto has explained that she is named after F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, simply because he liked the sound of the name. In the 1986 original, which was called The Hyrule Fantasy: Legend of Zelda in Japan, Zelda serves as a framing device in the grand pattern of the ‘rescue the princess’ trope. This is not wholly surprising, since the game’s working title was ‘Adventure Mario’, and the Mario series has almost universally been framed as a ‘rescue the princess’ story. These stories have a long history, with some of the oldest examples being Andromeda being rescued from the dragon by Perseus in Greek mythology, and the rescue of Sita from the demon king Ravana by Lord Rama in the Hindu epic the Ramayana. Even if we have recently become suspicious of the implications of ‘rescue the princess’ stories, the Zelda franchise’s thirty year run helps reveal a gradual change of attitude towards ‘helpless’ Princesses.

You can read the entirety of Zelda Facets (6): Zelda over at ihobo.com.


Zelda Facets (5): Horses

Over on ihobo today, the serial continues with a piece about Zelda’s horses:

It was Koizuma-san who came up with the name Epona, after the goddess of horses and fertility in Celtic mythology, having apparently been briefly called ‘Ao’, a Japanese word for a blue-green colour with no equivalent word in English, associated with horses because of the exceptionally rare blue roan coloration. An inherent design tension is apparent in the implementation of Epona: on the one hand, Miyamoto-san had dictated that “a Legend of Zelda game doesn’t need any difficult actions”, hence the horse jumps automatically. On the other, the Zelda-creator felt that simply riding the horse wouldn’t be fun without some kind of action, so the horse was given a set of carrots that allowed the player to make the horse go faster, but when none were left it was not possible to jump. It is within this tension – actions that are easy to take but require finesse to use well – that all Zelda games pitch their challenges.

You can read the entirety of Zelda Facets (5): Horses over at ihobo.com.


Zelda Facets (4): Weapons

The Zelda serial continues today on ihobo, this week examining the unexpectedly fragile weapons of Breath of the Wild. Here’s an extract:

One thing and only one thing remains consistent across the various armouries of the Zelda series: Link is armed with a sword, a shield, and a bow. There may be other weapons – a boomerang, for instance, or a slingshot – but the certainty that Link’s standard compliment of weapons is a sword and a bow remains unchanged until Breath of the Wild. Similarly, it is not until the latest Zelda that the game features a dynamic inventory capable of holding a variety of items: up until this point, every Zelda game has a static set of items and the only question is whether the player has acquired a specific item or not. This is an element of the Zelda practices that few other games have copied, and the change in the latest game is one of the few cases of Zelda apparently moving towards a more conventional videogame practice and giving up its own unique ways of doing things.

You can read the entirety of Zelda Facets (4): Weapons over at ihobo.com.


Zelda Facets (3): Hyrule

Over on ihobo today, the next part of the new Zelda serial, looking at the relationship between an avatar and its world in the context of The Legend of Zelda. Here’s an extract:

The elegance of the Zelda franchise’s solution to the problems entailed in facilitating avatars is such that it has many imitators, although it is worth noting that the 1986 Metroid – released by Nintendo in the same year as the original Legend of Zelda – has essentially the same relationship between character and world. It can be described as follows: the character starts with only the capacity to explore and to defend themselves (or, equivalently, to enact violence but without a huge degree of efficacy). Through exploration and survival, the player overcomes challenges that grant them an increase in their power, which can involve making the character tougher, increasing their capacity for violence, or granting them a way to access parts of the world that were previously inaccessible. Once the player has acquired sufficient powers in this way, they have a final showdown that tests their ability to deploy all the powers of their character, after which the game concludes. If this reads like a description of any videogame, this is a mirage caused by the extent to which this structure has permeated the player practices of digital entertainment.

You can read the entirety of Zelda Facets (3): Hyrule over at ihobo.com.


Zelda Facets (2): Link

Over on ihobo today, the new serial continues with a discussion of how Zelda games represent Link – and whether he qualifies as a ‘character’ in any narrative sense. Here’s an extract:

Link is a particularly interesting case because with the singular exception of Skyward Sword, Link is not developed significantly as a narrative character but functions primarily as a mask for the player to act out with. Yet Link does not fall into the schizophrenia of the GTA franchise and its imitators, nor the player-led genericism of Elder Scrolls that defines a role for the player but lets the character fulfilling that role exist solely in the player head (which, all considered, is a perfectly reasonable solution to this problem). Link is a mask who remains consistent with the character he is intended to be. In other words, Link the character – Link the denizen of Hyrule – is designed to be consistent with Link the mask – Link the avatar of the player. The alignment is never perfect, of course, but the fidelity between avatar and character in the case of Link is better than in the vast majority of games.

You can read the entirety of Zelda Facets (2): Link over at ihobo.com.


Zelda Facets (1): Introduction

Over on ihobo today, the start of a brand new serial looking at the player practices of The Legend of Zelda franchise and how they manifest in Breath of the Wild. Here’s an extract:

Putting aside the billions of yen and hundreds of developers involved in making a contemporary Zelda game, at the core of this franchise – unlike any other that we know of – is the relationship of master to apprentice that has passed from Shigeru Miyamoto (age 65), to Eiji Aonuma (age 54), and is currently being passed along to Hidemaro Fujibayashi (age 45), who has worked on Zelda since 2001, firstly for Capcom on The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages for the Game Boy Color before joining Nintendo, co-directing Phantom Hourglass, and then directing both Skyward Sword and Breath of the Wild. This is not how major commercial videogames are made, but it is how Zelda is made, and provides the reason that the franchise is primarily governed by the conservation of its own player practices, and the creative vision of a succession of apprentices that subverts these in subtle or radical ways in each iteration.

You can read the entirety of Zelda Facets (1): Introduction over at ihobo.com. Check it out!


Metagame vs Structure

Over on ihobo today, discussion of game structures, metagames, and the monetisation metagame. Here’s an extract:

The structure of a game is the framework of the design that compels players to keep playing over the long term. There are numerous different game structures, both chronological, geographical, and in terms of character advancement. Conversely, the metagame is the social consequence of releasing a game into a community of players, an ever-changing set of tactical and strategic considerations that have to be considered if players are going to remain engaged with their community.

Understanding the distinction between these two concepts is crucial to effective game design (although it isn’t strictly necessary to understand these concepts by these specific names, of course). In this piece, I hope to disentangle some confusions about the relationship between game structure and metagame, to emphasise the benefits to thinking carefully about both, and raise some concerns about the ‘monetisation metagame’.

You can read the entirety of Metagame vs Structure over at ihobo.com. Check it out!


Cyberamicable Game Design

FriendsIs it possible to design videogames to encourage friendships? This is a question about whether cyberamicable games are a possibility, and it’s one that

Earlier this year, Dan Cook published a long report from his November 2016 Project Horseshoe visit, entitled Game Design Patterns for Building Friendships. This is precisely a discussion about what I have been calling cybervirtue, in the context of games, and I want to suggest that games that are designed to encourage friendship would be cyberamicable, since we call ‘amicable’ a person who gets on well with others, or who forms friendships easily.

Here’s an extract from Dan’s piece:

Games that lack the tools for disclosing personal info between two people will never facilitate deep relationships. They may never even facilitate shallow relationships since players see that there will never be a long term future for any relationship they form in the game. However, disclosure is a highly risky action and teams will often try to cut it from their designs. Sharing information before a relationship is strong enough can result in broken or antagonistic relationships.

There’s a ton of useful and thought-provoking ideas here, and it’s well worth a look for anyone working in the space of multiplayer games. Check it out!

Cross-posted from ihobo.com.