4:15- Increasing Our Reach: Designing To Grab and Retain Players
RandyApparently this is the keynote. Speaker rants off a charming intro about not being that indie, and his fears that the crowd will rush the stage and attack him (well that’s kinda what he was implying. he wasn’t that explicit).

This year his company released “Spider: the secret of blah blah manor.” It uses a design philosphy he calls “Immediacy with depth” (first 10 minutes should always be awesome, while depth brings you back). his focus is on applying this to iPhone games.

immediacy means: jump in, learn, accomplish goals. He starts listing games as examples…

canabalt – great immediacy. (one button to “jump”. constant failure repetition… would any class benefit from this approach?)

edit: this game has been updated/reimagined as a learing game (typing tutor basically, where jump key changes).

flight control – you guide planes in for landings by simply dragging your finger. “how much fun you get out of it, divided by time invested, is core to the idea here”

… He keep talks about “affordances”. Not sure what he means. measure of impact on gameplay? Things you are allowed to do in game? (ed: oh, it was just a failing of my grammar. it does mean “an action that an individual can potentially perform in his or her environment” – wiki def). “Ideally there is minimal effort at the beginning to experiment with affordances. they need to learn up front.”

…talking about “juicy” game elements. basically those rewarding little animations and effects that spice up the interaction and highlight your control (ex: Mario’s feet sending up little puffs of dust when he stops running).

I Dig It – talking about coolness of drilling down. talks about gomi being crappy for its slow loading, slow control, and little variation. plus tons of menus just to start game.

FakeINtrodissing scribblenauts for its endless tutorial levels, and profile requirement. these are lengthy barriers to just starting the game. I agree. But… it also lets you play right in the title screen,right? (discuss with doug). I’d argue the prob was more lack of direction/plot.

in general, let them jump right into the game. let them discover what controls are “for” by playing the game. don’t ever tell them what is coming.

disses dwarf fortress slightly for having you learn different commands for dig/build/chop/hoard/fish – which are all basically same urge for player. Though he admits it is still in beta. (ask phil if he agrees)

“hard to fail. low pressure” at least at first, is the key. … unless you dig around? some people really enjoy a slow buildup and “balanced decision making”. (w: how to accommodate both? maybe GoW style, let them choose paths? … and then ditch these hand holding paths whenever they want? or hide cool things in training levels to encourage them to break out of the training?)

He talks about hook champ. Talks about negative feedback loop (as if it’s a good thing? am i understanding this correctly? or was he criticizing?) – ie., when you die you keep your gold. So you can eventually upgrade your equipment, which lets you pass hard levels (if they kill you repeatedly).

“Invite player into depth”. let them pass a level with less than 100% completed. But let them know what they failed to find/do, so they’ll want to come back.

Talking about low level loops (handling the problem in front of you – tactics), and mid level loops (strategy – what do next). ehhh. is this known grammar?

Depth can be:
– just a crap load of content (a large quantity of shallow content).
– or slow introduction of new features (but your control must be consistent, right?). Letting you explore cool core mechanic in tons of different ways.

VVVVVV looks cool. (no jumping. just flip). very fast and colorful. But he says controls are wildly amplified (fussy). … but isn’t this “skill” challenge? (“I died not because I didn’t know what to do, but because i was off by split second. repeatedly.”)

check out Galcon (on iphone). You launch spores to take over planets, competitively. Reminds me of Othello game. You learn to “look for large planets that are poorly defended.” depth derives from simple rules with interesting consequences. you have to master the game systems. you can try the core game play out in quite a few different “modes”. Many players don’t realize there are entirely different games waiting in this title’s menus.

Another depth trick is to give achievement for failing in weird ways. This shows that the designer thought out some strange non-standard approaches to their game. Player can snoop achievements to see weird things (to discover missions, basically). Or player can just enjoy stumbling across them. You offer “different goals worth achieving”. in same space… like replaying mario world paintings.

Captain:Forever is pimped as a good game. Customize your simple ship by snapping parts onto it. (w:Guy next to me has looked bored for some time. now he lets out a big “YEAHAH!” and claps for this game. huh. I have never let out a hearty “YEAH!” for a game mention. everrrrrrr.)
Looks like a cool game. when you die, you can go back through all designs you progressed through and pick one to restart with. … some person found a way to trap opponents inside his ship, making it a prison ship. another dude hacked it to make crazy fun ships (xkcd guy did this? or just a tribute to him? -ship spells out “xkcd”)

Also pimps Spelunky (w: girl next to the bored guy lets out a low throated “yesss” “yuzzz”. Would she have done this if he hadn’t broken the awkward game love ice first?), speaker says this is basically his favorite indie game (w: I heard this from several people during the show). Lots of strong affordances – climbing ladders to evade boulders. sliding down rope into snake pit. bombs. idols and princesses). talks about “the rogue magic”. not sure what this is. past game by Derek Yu? or a concept? – apparently a concept roguelike gaming (single player exploring dungeon which changes randomly on replay). “random content puts emphasis on learning the rules.” (probs: lots of player failure)

The ratio of “novel player insight” divided by “time invested”: is low.
(w: what about changing hit points based on whether you’re using idol or princess? minor power up psychology. I should just play the game…)

… any my notes abruptly end there… ehhh. I thought there was much more speechifying after this… but. hmm. maybe not.

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