Game Design Analysis – Invisible, Inc.

Official Site: https://www.klei.com/games/invisible-inc

Invisible, Inc. is hands down my favourite game of all time. It is a singleplayer turn-based stealth rougelite, developed by indie studio Klei Entertainment. Players assume the role of a remote operator for an espionage agency, controlling a team of agents and an AI, to hack and sneak in and out of rival corporations.

Lens 9 – The Elemental Tetrad

Invisible, Inc. review - A thrilling blend of high-tech stealth and  strategy | Articles | Pocket Gamer

The Aesthetics of Invisible. Inc are beautiful, but more importantly, minimalistic. The graphics are also very focused on relaying essential information to the player in an intuitive manner. You are able to identify hazards and valuables at a glance. If that’s not enough for you, the game even has an inbuilt tactical view that shows only the barebones strategic information that the player needs. All of this contributes to setting the player up to feel like a master strategist, making their actions feel ever more intentional and rewarding.

Technology in Invisible. Inc was nothing too special. It was heavily inspired by XCOM, and as such, most of the technologies used have already been seen before. The one thing that I would like to point out would be its random map generation that I believe is unique to this game, as the maps required for this genre of game have very specific requirements: they have to be “solvable”, varied enough to encourage replayability, all while still looking like a natural floor plan. This was one of the keys to the game’s success as it essentially defined the level design of the game.

There are many Mechanics that contribute to the satisfaction of pulling off a high stakes heist on every level. The most prominent of which would be the security level, a counter that increases every turn and when you get spotted. At fixed increments, new threats will then be introduced. This is the core of the game’s tension, as the player can no longer take their time to gain intel and play safe, they will have to take risks and make exciting decisions like whether to keep looting or to escape. To go hand in hand with this, the game’s difficulty also increases with each level completed, thus applying pressure on the player to improve and to take bigger risks for bigger rewards at every level.

Another important mechanic is the AI that you control. Although rather disconnected from the stealth aspect of the game, hacking the mainframe with the AI adds exponentially more complexity to the game, especially later on when more threats are introduced. The AI also gives the player unrealistic foreknowledge of the level, such as guard patrols and hacked cameras, which all contribute to the fantasy of being an omnipresent strategist.

Last but not least, the Story of Invisible, Inc. is mostly conveyed through engaging voiceovers and cutscenes. The concept of this game was actually inspired by heist movies, which explains its very unique gameplay. The interesting thing about this game is that the best story experiences actually come from the gameplay itself, whether you pull off a clutch escape or lose an agent, these are the moments that you as a player will remember the most.

All in all, the four elements work in harmony to really sell the common theme of espionage and stealth, making it the exciting yet deeply strategic game that I love.

Lens 13 – Infinite Inspiration

Invisible, Inc. was originally inspired by XCOM. In its early development phase, agents had health and ammunition, and combat was the central mechanic of the game. However, the designers at Klei decided that this did not give them the feeling of espionage that they wanted. Eventually, this whole combat system was scrapped in favor of the stealthy gameplay that remains. The designers actually drew inspiration from heist movies, where the protagonist finds themselves in unwinnable fights, unarmed and outnumbered. They will have to overcome the odds using their wits, gadgets, and whatever is present in their environment. This led to the exhilerating underdog experience that players face in the game today.

Lens 37 – Fairness

From a player vs environment perspective, the game is intentionally unfair, starting every level with no intel and vastly outnumbered and surrounded. But as previously mentioned, this just adds to the rewarding feeling of progressing through the level and eventually conquering it as an underdog.

From a skill level perspective, the game is extremely accessible, providing a whole host of options to customise the game’s difficulty, including turning off the turn counter, and making guards get knocked out for longer. Conversely, for those who crave a challenge, the game has a New Game + option with a whole new set of mechanics to make the game harder, as well as a Time Attack option for players who don’t like to sit around and think.

Lens 42 – Head and Hands

As with most turn based strategy games, Invisible, Inc. is 100% a mental game, which requires no physical dexterity to play at all. While this significantly limits their target player base, this makes the game much more appealing to players of this genre. To compliment the mental grind, the game makes sure that actions are very predictable, and that you can take an indefinite amount of time to take any action, so that the player always feels like they are in control.

Lens 69 – Interest Curve

Being a very tactical game, Invisible, Inc. encourages players to think ahead, often leaving players interested in something they have even yet to see. I wonder what’s around this corner? What new threats await me in the levels ahead? By constantly rewarding players with new and interesting mechanics and experiences, the game slowly ramps up the players interest throughout.

The true beauty of the interest curve lies in the individual levels, where the player starts of calm, with very little information and choices to make. But as the level progresses and gets more chaotic, the player gets more and more invested into the level, eventually reaching a climax when they make their grand escape. This is the ever so rewarding interest curve that really sells the replayability of the game, constantly bringing players back for one more level.

In conclusion

I love this game so much like you don’t even know fam.

Game Design Analysis: Subway Surfers (Space Station)

Subway Surfers is a single-player game where the player seeks to collect the most coins in a highly dynamic and fast-paced environment where there are trains and obstacles to avoid. The gameplay gets faster as the player progresses through the obstacles and time passes, making it a fun and challenging experience.

This new version of the game is in a space station backdrop, as observed in the design of the gameplay background and props. This analysis will examine how the different game design lenses apply to Subway Surfers.

Lens 1: Essential Experience

The essential experience of this game is to collect as many coins. However, an interesting secondary objective to enable this essential experience is the need to escape oncoming trains, which becomes more challenging as the game goes on. In addition, there are also barriers which act as obstacles which the player can slide under, and the option to climb onto the top of the trains, where there are often coins available for the players.

Lens 6: Problem Solving

Interestingly unlike many other games, the idea of complex problem solving is not applied in this game. Problem solving is often used in games to give players a sense of accomplishment. In contrast, this game does provide players with a sense of accomplishment primarily through the timing of their actions to avoid the obstacles, which enable them to go a further distance and have more opportunities to collect more coins.

This singular focus throughout the game makes the game extremely addictive in the short term, with players able to grasp the basic concepts and mechanics of the game very quickly, motivating them to persevere to achieve a better score, which is then highlighted in the game user interface as displayed in the image below when the player achieves a high score. Conversely, the game is likely to not be able retain a big number of users as there is little variation to the game, resulting in less incentive for the player to explore further and continue playing in the long term.

Lens 7: Elemental Tetrad

In terms of aesthetics, the game’s aesthetics are well-designed and appealing, with the combination of the immersive design of the space station coupled with the sound effects. In particular, the jingle sounds when the player collects coins acts as a positive feedback mechanism and encourages the player to continue to strive to collect more coins. This inherently also acts as an audio cue for users to understand the objective when learning the game.

The mechanics of the game applies basic physics, especially with regards to the jumping and landing of the character when he seeks to avoid the oncoming trains. In terms of the story, there is hardly any plot development, and the player has a simple aim of collecting the coins, as mentioned in the analysis of Lens 6: Problem Solving.

Technologically, being aimed in the smartphone market, this game creates an addictive gaming experience and is played in the portrait orientation, which is highly suitable for the display of the oncoming trains.

Lens 48: Simplicity

The simplicity of the controls makes the game highly accessible to all ages. This game encompassess three simple actions

  1. Swiping up: to jump
  2. Swiping down: to duck under obstacles
  3. Swiping left/right: to change between the three lanes of the track

The intuitive game design makes it a simple gaming experience and one that is easy to learn. This explains why it was especially popular with youths in the initial release of the game due to its simplicity and yet addictive objective of getting a better score than their peers and friends.

Conclusion

As a whole, Subway Surfers is a game that is simple yet extremely addictive. Interestingly, the simplicity of the game is what makes the players want to keep playing to achieve a higher score. Although it does not have intricate problem solving challenges, the simple mechanics of the game make it addictive in the short-term and create an accessible gaming experience for all ages and individuals.

Game Design Analysis – Overwatch

Description

Overwatch is a First Person Shooter (FPS) game, where players get to choose a hero they want to play from a particular selection. Each hero generally has unique abilities that differentiate themselves from one another. Working in a team of 6 players against another team of 6, the primary goal of players is to capture points or escort what is known as a “payload” to a destination, whilst trying to kill the enemy team to aid this process.


Below is a link showing some plays from various Overwatch professionals collected into a montage. They show what the UI of the game is like and the general gameplay as well:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NB_Dd9WZwNk

Lens 9 – Elemental Tetrad – Aesthetics

The game primarily has 2 major items which aesthetics play a rather major role in. The first being the maps in which the players play in. These maps are generally designed based off real life buildings, as seen in the picture below.

The art is designed such that players will feel more of a mental model connection with the buildings you see in real life. For example, the buildings can act as shelter for a player to take cover from enemy fire, and the open areas outside of a map generally signal to a player that falling off there would lead to certain death. 

The other major item is the characters (or heroes as they are termed in Overwatch) themselves. Fine details are made to the skins of each character, such as having shurikens as weapons, which is used by a character that has the background of being a ninja. In addition, the game has many skins that the player can earn and use, so that they can see the weapon that they use in the most aesthetically pleasing way. 

Lens 9 – Elemental Tetrad – Mechanics

Each hero is generalised as having a primary way of attacking, using the weapon that they are holding. Some heroes have an alternative way of firing their weapon (also known as secondary fire). The most unique part is the abilities that each hero has, which are generally kept within 2 to 3, along with an Ultimate ability that the player charges up to use.

The general mechanics of the game is quite simple to understand. Attacking the enemies and dealing damage provides charge for a player to use their Ultimate ability, and each of their regular abilities have a cooldown. Killing the enemies are generally the best way to progress to their objective, which is to capture the enemy’s points, or push the payload to the enemy’s territory. This enables a wide range of players to enjoy the game itself. 

Each of the heroes, given the wide variety available, then has different mechanics and skill ceilings based off the heroes abilities and general recommended playstyle. This allows players to find the hero that they are most comfortable with, or challenge themselves to play a hero that is more mechanically demanding, making the game more interesting.

Lens 9 – Elemental Tetrad – Story

Overwatch lore and backstories for each of the heroes is something that has been present since the early conception of Overwatch beta. However, even though the game has made Player vs Event modes before that touch more and expand upon the Overwatch storyline, it is safe to say that most players are playing an FPS game more so for the action rather than the history. It is worth noting however that this is not necessarily a bad thing, as the initial introduction to the lore can help serve as a starting point to attract players to try out the game, and hopefully convince them to stay through the mechanics and aesthetics portion.

Lens 9 – Elemental Tetrad – Technology

One of the points about technology that makes Overwatch stand out is the overall capability of being able have such a fast paced game without giving up a lot of performance. Based on the Youtube link in the front part of this analysis, you can tell that Overwatch has a lot of different unique models, coupled with complex effects that come from the player weapons. Some heroes even have the ability to teleport or move at rapid speeds using their abilities. Yet, somehow the game manages to give the players a seamless experience when playing, which is something I felt was very important for a game like Overwatch to succeed. Sure, you can compare it to other FPS’s like Quake or CounterStrike, but the quality of art and design in Overwatch is relatively much more vivid compared to those games.

Lens 34 – Skill

Overwatch mainly requires players to have the skill to aim and shoot. In terms of practicing, the players are able to train in the practice range against bots and such, but they are also able to play general games against other public players, using a hidden MMR (Match making rating), so that players of generally equal skill values are matched up against one another for an overall better game experience. 

The player is also required to have the skill to discern what they should play based on a multitude of factors, such as the enemy’s team composition, the map itself, what their teammate’s are playing, and so on. This skill is relatively hard to acquire and requires much practice and playing in order to develop a sense for the game, but having such a skill helps to set apart the players who are exceptionally good, which can give them a sense of overall achievement in the game through competitive game modes.

Lens 37 – Fairness

As touched upon briefly in the Lens of Skill, the general public game mode that most players engage in is called “Quick Play” and it involves the system using a hidden “Match making rating” to put the player alongside 11 other players that have a similar rating, in hopes to provide a better and fairer game. The more the player plays, the more statistics that Overwatch has to come up with a rating that is as close to the player’s skill level as possible. In the competitive mode, this rating similiarly applies, but it is a publicly shown value instead.

Lens 44 – Cooperation

In each of Overwatch’s game modes, players who are in the same team as one another can enter a voice channel and communicate, so that they can time their attacks and usage of abilities together with their teammates. In addition, communication in Overwatch is considered one of the key aspects needed in order to raise one’s chances of winning the game, as timing your attacks with your team helps to bring down the enemy quicker and faster, instead of operating as a solo minded player.

However, sometimes the team can be a group of total strangers, where 6 solo players are grouped together. In that event, Overwatch does not contain any form of avenue for these players to try and get to know each other first, which is understandable since this can waste the time of the players when they want to play as many games as possible. Another seemingly bad point is that Overwatch has no particular roles when it comes to communication, hence there can be situations where the communication channels are overloaded with information, or filled with silence. Either way, both scenarios are generally considered bad and hinder teamwork.

Lens 87 – Character Traits

This lens could possibly be the most defining aspect of Overwatch, since the traits of each hero are very unique, and are usually very strongly tied to the hero.

For example, there is a hero called Genji who is supposedly a ninja. His weapons consist of shurikens which is generally what ninjas are perceived to use. His abilities include deflecting the enemy’s attacks, showcasing the swiftness and agility of a ninja, as well the ability to dash across a given distance. These abilities and actions that the hero has are usually created based off the hero’s traits, which is something I found to be very unique and helps given our mental models of certain heroes. 

Conclusion

Overall, Overwatch has succeeded in being a very popular game, with many Overwatch professionals having a successful career in the Overwatch League.

This can be attributed to the way the game easily allows players of various skill levels to enter and play, without much regard for their previous gaming experiences, and yet ensuring relatively balanced games each time. In addition, the way each character is so uniquely developed helps to ensure that each game is relatively fresh and new. Finally, the overall aesthetics in this fast paced game rounds up the quality of the gaming experience.

Although the game quality can be quite hectic and bad when communications die down during a competitive match, those are still relatively few are far between, given the usual player’s drive to win. Hence, I feel that Overwatch is a game that I not only enjoy, but which many others do too.

Game Design Analysis – Dota 2

The game I will be analyzing will be Dota 2. Dota 2 is a MOBA game by Steam. 2 teams of 5 players will control a hero each and try to take down the enemies’ ancient. Below is a link to the a game from TI 9 Grand Finals (actual gameplay start at 12mins):

A runthrough of the game:

The game starts with a hero selection phase where the 2 team picks their heroes.

Afterwards, they spawn at their base and the game begins. They will try to upgrade their heroes while vying for objectives and resources. Inevitably, teamfights will occur

until a team wins the game!

Lens 9: Lens of Elemental Tetrad

Of the four, the most important aspect of Dota 2 is its mechanics. The basic mechanics of the game is rather simple and can be picked up quickly. However, there are many subtleties to its mechanics and various interaction between the hero skills, items as well as environment mechanics. All of these takes years to master and fully understand as the gameplay can get very deep. To become “good” at the game, the player must understand all of these mechanics, many of which is not told explicitly by the game and have to be learnt through experience, ranging from how the AI of in game units, to environment interaction to various gimmicks and tricks. Apart from the depth of the mechanics, it has to be balanced across its many heroes and items so as to allow a diverse and competitive gameplay experience.

With regards to story, Dota 2 does not really have a proper lore. It tries to build a lore but it does not really make sense and does not tie to the game itself. However, this is understandable as story is not the focus of the game and is just a bonus.

Dota 2 does have decent aesthetics and compared to the other MOBA games, it is darker in nature and have a more realistic and gritty vibe to it. However, it has a rather clear UI which is important to the gameplay experience. It does feature in game cosmetic that do make your hero look much cooler than default but does not affect the gameplay.

In terms of technology, Dota 2 is available on PC, Mac and Linux. It is exclusively on PC and uses a mouse and keyboard primarily. It features voice chat so you can attach speakers to it.

Lens 43: Lens of Competition

The game features a matchmaking system which is dependent on your matchmaking rank, a measure of how good you are at the game.

Players have a numerical number and a medal which was added quite recently 2-3 years ago. This makes the game competitive and many players (myself included) spend thousands of hours into the game, playing matches after matches in an attempt to get a good rank. While this makes the game highly addictive, it can also be a detriment as it can cause the community to be toxic and elitist towards lower ranked players.

Lens 44: Lens of Cooperation

As a team game, cooperation is very important to the game. A team that cooperates well have a much higher chance of winning. This is because of the nature of the game and the various mechanics that the game uses. Many skills and interactions relies on your team for its full potential to be unleashed. Furthermore, one man is not able to do everything by himself and players in the teams usually have their own roles to fulfill. Communication is very important and the game features a text and voice chat as well as pings and indicators for players to signal their intention with other players.

Lens 6: Lens of Problem Solving

There are a myriad of strategy a team and player can use. Even from the start at the hero selection phase, the player have to think about what hero they should pick in order to best counter the enemy picks, while synergizing with their own team picks. During the game, players have to consistently device strategies and plans to allow them to outmaneuver the enemy and to counter their current strategy.

Lens 5: Endogenous Value

While the ultimate goal of the game is the destroy the opponent’s ancient and win the game, over the course of the game, the players can do many things to improve his character, improve his gear so as to improve his chances of winning. Take the core mechanics of last hitting for example.

In the initial phase of the game, the players will usually go to the lane to farm gold and experience. This is done by killing creeps and in the case of gold, dealing the final blow to the creep. This incentives players to last hit the creep to get gold which will allow them to buy better item and improve their heroes.

Killing the enemy heroes too does provide rewards. Other than the in-game announcer announcing the player’s kill streak, the player gets gold and experience from the kill.

Godlike streak (10+ killstreak) announced!

This also punishes the dying player as he has to wait for a non negligible amount of time to respawn while being unable to do anything, and lose gold at the game time.

Lens 98: Lens of Community

Finally, one of the reason of Dota 2 success is its community. While it does have the reputation for being extremely toxic, a lot of people play the game because of their friends and peers. It is very enjoyable to play Dota 2 with your friends late at night after school or work. Competitions are also supported by the community with the annual International Dota Tournament being largely funded by the community. The previous TI, boasts a prize pool of 33million USD, mostly crowdfunded by the community

Outside the game, there are also twitch streams, youtube videos and forums where people discuss Dota 2 and their experiences, while exchanging strategies. This is one of the reason why after 10 years since its initial release, there are alot of people still playing Dota 2.

Game Design Analysis – Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 (RCT2)

Name of the game

Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 (Playing the OpenRCT2 open-source adaptation of the game)

Short description of the game

Released in 2002, Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 (or RCT2 for short) is a construction and management simulation game developed by Chris Sawyer. The game is second in the Roller Coaster Tycoon series and it was all designed and programmed by Sawyer in assembly language.

RCT2’s main mode of gameplay consists of different scenarios where players have to manage a theme park and meet certain objectives by a deadline. It also has a sandbox mode where players could create their own scenarios and rides without constraints as well as having scenarios which modelled after the real-life Six Flags Theme Parks. With its unique gameplay, it is considered one of the pioneers of the simulation games genre.

The open-source adaptation of the game, OpenRCT2, was created by a group of volunteers to make the game compatible with more modern versions of current operating systems as well as adding more control and options to the game.

Links

OpenRCT2 download: https://openrct2.org/ (Requires the original RCT2 game which can be downloaded on Steam)

RCT2: https://store.steampowered.com/app/285330/RollerCoaster_Tycoon_2_Triple_Thrill_Pack/

Gameplay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATvnpazWFPU

Preamble + How I felt upon playing the game

Before I dive into the analysis of the game, this game was my childhood and I would play it ever so often during my primary and secondary school years.

Upon playing the game, I experience a sense of satisfaction whenever I managed to build a roller coaster that has high excitement ratings. I also realized that at any moment in the game, I am always worried about my park rating as well as my finances and my eyes tend to be focused on this HUD a lot.

Nonetheless, this game really gave me a sense of nostalgia through the pixelated graphics. The clear animations as well as the sounds also made me feel like I am overseeing the management of an actual theme park.

Relate to elemental tetrad and 4-5 lenses

Lens 9: The Lens of The Elemental Tetrad

Technology: As RCT2 is a rather old PC game (2002), the original game was only supported on older versions of Windows such as Windows XP or Windows Vista. However, after the open source adaption was released, the game is now playable on Windows 10, macOS and Linux. Hence, I would say that the technology for this game has been well-managed now thanks to the adaptation.

Mechanics: The main gameplay for RCT2 is unique in the sense that there were not many games of the same genre back then. The gameplay involves a collection of scenarios in which each scenario gives the player the control of a theme park with certain constraints. For each scenario. the player is required to meet certain objectives whilst keeping in mind the deadline in order to complete it.

This challenge of managing a theme park requires a lot of strategic planning from players as there are many things that the player must take care of. This includes things like finances and loans, staffing, park rating and guest happiness which keeps the player engaged at any given moment in the game. The scenarios also progressively get harder as more challenging scenarios get unlocked with each scenario cleared.

The game also allowed players to express their creativity and encouraging the spirit of design as players are able to place scenery around the park to beautify it and think of how to construct roads/paths and rides that can navigate through the park environment.

Personally, I feel that the mechanics of the game is the reason why this game is considered a classic as it really engages the player’s creativity, imagination, and organisation skills.

Aesthetics: As an early 2000s game, the aesthetics can seem rather pixelated when viewed with a modern lens. However, at that time, the aesthetics of the game was considered amazing with how life-like the parks can look with clear animations of guests walking around the park and roller coasters darting about on the tracks. The audio of guests screaming as they enter a drop on the roller coaster is also a nice touch as it added to how a theme park should sound like. Although the objects in the game (such as the scenery) were of low quality, they were definitely detailed enough for players to distinguish between different objects in the scene and there was enough variation for players to create their own unique theme park.

Story: As this game is a simulation game, a story is not needed for it to be fun and addictive for players. Even though a well-constructed story could be effective in giving player some context as to why they are managing a certain park, it may be superfluous as the main appeal of the game are the mechanics which traps the player to carry on managing the park rather than a deep lore.

Lens 38: The Lens of Challenge

In each scenario, there are certain objectives that the player must meet to clear them. These objectives can include achieving a minimum park rating by a certain date or getting a certain number of guests in the park.

As the scenarios often have a tight deadline, the player must plan and imagine in advance how they would allocate their resources and go about expanding the park. For instance, the player might start with cheap and simple roller coasters in the beginning to attract more guests in the initial stages of the game or invest bulk of the money into advertisements in order to entice more guests into the park to meet a certain goal. The scenarios also progressively get harder with more constraints as the player advances through the scenarios which keeps the game interesting.

Lens 51: The Lens of Imagination

As the game was fairly limited in terms of technology at that time with regard to graphics, imagination plays a huge role in the game to immerse the player into managing a real-life amusement park. The game uses a lot of sound that is commonly heard in an amusement park (such as guests chatting, screaming upon a drop on a roller coaster, the splashing noise of water rides) which fills the gap in trying to capture the experience of being in a theme park. The objects in the game are also nicely and smartly designed (such as the roller coasters) to enhance the realism of the game. For example, the guest walking animations, although simple, has a lot of variation in the speed as well as going back and forth different sprites which can tell you if a guest in the park is happy/excited or sad/tired. This forces the player to imagine how a guest would appear with various moods by fitting the player’s mental model.


Lens 52: The Lens of Economy

Bulk of the game is heavily centered around managing finances as the player would want to keep the theme park running at a profit to expand the park. As such, there are a lot of choices that needs to be made by the player so that he/she is able to keep the theme park afloat.

For instance, a player might decide to only build smaller thrill rides in the beginning before spending massively on a huge and attractive roller coaster. On the other hand, another player would think that building smaller roller coasters would be more beneficial in ensuring a more constant supply of guests arriving to the park. Both approaches are indeed valid ways of managing the expansion of the park with the financial constraints and they each have their own trade-offs and benefits.

However, even though this game might seem fun for a problem-solver and strategy-game lover like myself, there are players who would find this constant planning of resources to be tiring and may find the game stressful or not as fun.

Lens 21: The Lens of Flow

Although the different scenarios have clear objectives set, the game (in my opinion) does not do a very good job in trying to keep the players fixated on them. In my experience of playing the game, I am often carried away by my imagination in building the best theme park that I can such that I forget what the original objectives of the scenarios were. This happens frequently to me as the game rarely reminds you of the objectives that you need to complete. Hence, the game does not really have a flow as there is no constant reminder of objectives which does not really hold a player’s focus.

However, it is also possible that this seems more like a feature rather than an oversight on how the game is supposed to be. Bulk of the reason why this game is considered a classic is because most players consider the fun in the game to be the actual building and designing of the park rather than the accomplishment of meeting certain objectives.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the various lenses play a role in helping to shape the experience of the player in RCT2. Even though the game may not necessarily have a defined story or objectives, it was incredibly addictive as it relies on imagination and creativity to keep players engaged (since no playthrough of any scenario would ever look the same due to the endless possibilities of design and management approaches).

Note: Images are taken from the actual game played (OpenRCT2 Adaptation)

By: Sim Jun Yuen, Darren (A0136233N) (CS3247: Game Development AY20/21 S2)

Game Design: Fall Guys

Game: Fall Guys

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout on Steam

Fall Guys is a platformer battle royale game released by Mediatonic. The main concept of the game is simple: Compete against 60 people and be the last man standing in a series of levels designed to eliminate players. The levels are split into 4 different categories with different goals.

Race: Race through levels with to qualify for the next round.

Survival: Stay alive for as long as possible

Team: Do not lose to other teams

Final: Get the crown

Fall Guys Official Website

Gameplay Demo:

Lens 9: The Elemental Tetrad

Most successful games tend to have a healthy combination of the 4 types (aesthetics, technology, mechanics and story) in the tetrad. Despite Fall Guys lacking in the story department of the tetrad, the game has still managed to be successful by using elements from the other 3 types to make the game fun.

Story:

Like most battle royale games, Fall Guys doesn’t really have a strong story to it. The story of the game is simply to be the last man standing. Despite the lack of story, many games have managed to be successful without having a strong story component. In recent years, battle royale games like PUBG and Fortnite have achieved much success without the need for a story driven game.

However, Fall Guys tries to compensate for this by having new “seasons.” Each season lasts about 3 months which boast a new rotation of maps and skins, making the experience of the game different every once in a while.

Aesthetics:

How to change your name in Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout | Windows Central

Design in the game is beautiful and well thought out. In general, Fall Guys tends to use bright, candy-like neon colours for the levels and, making the game feel very lighthearted. Levels are designed such that they have varying obstacles, making every level unique. The main character of the game is a cute jellybean-like creature with long arms and short legs. The visuals are accompanied with a very cheerful soundtrack.

UI elements in the game are designed to reduce unnecessary interaction so that the user can jump straight into the game.

Mechanics:

I believe a large part of Fall Guys success has to do with its relatively simplistic gameplay, making it easy to pick up. To play the game, you only need to use 3 buttons to jump, grab and dive. Additionally, levels are designed following Mediatonic’s “three word rule” where the goal of each level can be explained using 3 words only (e.g. Grab The Tail, Reach The Finish). The simplicity of the game allows beginners to hop in and play at any time.

Technology:

As mentioned before, the reason Fall Guys is so popular is largely due to its simplistic gameplay, allowing people to hop in and play at any time. The game is not resource intensive and does not require good GPUs/CPUs to run it smoothly. It is released on PCs and the popular console PS4, making it very accessible to casual gamers.

Lens 40: Triangularity

Win in the Fall Guys Whirlygig stage with these tips and a shortcut

Some levels in Fall Guys are designed with multiple pathways (mostly maps in the race category) with different difficulty, allowing players to decide if they want to take a longer route and play it safe, or take a shortcut with higher risk to reach the goal faster. This makes the game more unpredictable and exciting.

Lens 43: Competition

Apart from having to deal with the chaos brought about by obstacles in the level and having to avoid being trampled over by other players, Fall Guys has a unique mechanic which allows players to grab others to prevent them from moving. This mechanic introduces a new way of playing the game, where you can intentionally hinder one’s progress by pulling them away from the goal making the game that much more competitive and fun.

Also, the game allows users to purchase cosmetics for their characters using crowns won from games as currency, giving players a greater incentive to win.

Lens 48: Simplicity/Complexity

The controls of the game are very simple, and only requires 3 buttons to do everything required. Additionally, levels are designed such that the goals are obvious. This simplicity engages beginners and casual gamers, allowing them to pick up the game quickly. That being said, it isn’t easy to win the crown every game. Obstacles introduced in levels are difficult to overcome and require skill and planning. Players will need to have appropriate strategies to navigate these obstacles and a bit of skill to dodge flying fruits.

Fall Guys strikes the right balance between simplicity and complexity. Simplicity of the games attracts players, and the complexity makes them stay, improve and want to play more.

Lens 95: Spectation

Fall Guys promptly soars to top trending spots on Steam & Twitch following  launch | Shacknews

Part of the game’s success is due to the game’s broadcastability which has attracted a large audience and player base. While playing the game for yourself could be stressful or infuriating if you are determined to reach the goal, watching the game as a third party changes the whole experience. Being able to watch someone play allows the viewer to enjoy the humor of one falling into the slime or getting flung backwards by a hammer, without having to deal with the emotional pain. As the game is designed like a game show, the experience of watching it could be likened to watching funny game shows like Total Wipeout or Ninja Warrior, where viewers can appreciate the experience without having to actively participate.

Game Design Analysis – Overcooked! 2

The game that I have chosen for this assignment would be “Overcooked! 2”. “Overcooked! 2” is a co-op game where 2-4 players prepare and cook different recipes in various themed restaurants while facing a multitude of various obstacles. Links to the game’s website and a short gameplay demo are described below:

In this write-up, I will be evaluating my gameplay experience accordingly to the various lenses listed in “The Art of Game Design – A Book of Lenses”.

Lens 9: The Lens of The Elemental Tetrad

The story revolves around the Onion King, Kevin and the Unbread (bread zombies) that have risen from the dead. The role of the player is to hone their skills in cooking, so they can satisfy the cravings of the Unbread in the final “boss level”. Once players complete the final level, the game ends with a dialogue with the Onion King that summarises how the Unbread are not dangerous anymore and peace has been restored in the kingdom. However, I felt the story was not really integrated well with the game. It just seemed to serve as a means to introduce the game to new players and to wrap up the game after the final boss level, but the storyline was not mentioned anywhere else between the other levels. There were times I felt bored during the dialogue and I tend to skip past it as well.

In terms of technology, “Overcooked! 2” is supported on various platforms (Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation and Windows platforms). For this assignment, I’ll be focusing on the Nintendo Switch. Players control their avatars with the Joycon controllers to carry out the various actions of chopping and holding ingredients, to dashing in the kitchen.

Additionally, the aesthetics of the game is such that the whole game revolves around 6 differently-themed kitchens. Some examples include wooden rafts and an enchanted castle. Relevant animations are also played based on how the player interacts with the world. Each world comes with their own themed background music, as well as their own unique set of obstacles that behave differently (i.e. portals only appear in the enchanted castle levels).

This brings us to the mechanics of the game. It includes preparing ingredients (e.g. chopping, mixing) and cooking the food (e.g. boiling it in a pot/frying it in a pan/baking in an oven) before serving them. Players can also throw “raw” ingredients over obstacles to their teammates or dash to facilitate faster service in the kitchen. Obstacles may also behave differently based on the varying difficulty of the level (i.e. stationary portals progressively develop into moving portals in later levels). This results in a gradual increase in difficulty as players progress in the game.

Lens 8: The Lens of Problem Solving

There are many different ways of overcoming the obstacles in a level or obtaining a higher score. Players would need to devise strategies and decide which is the “best one” to overcome them accordingly and obtain the highest score in that level. However, there are also hidden problems to solve that arise based on the number of the players. For instance, the difficulty of all levels remains the same regardless of the number of players. As the score is linearly related to the number of orders served, it will be more difficult for 2 players to obtain 4 stars compared to 4 players. I usually encounter this problem as I only have 2 Joycon controllers (i.e. only 2 players can play at any time). However, my sister and I would try to formulate various strategies in order to solve and overcome this problem. Though it can be challenging at times, it does make the game fun and engaging as you sometimes find innovative ways to make use of certain mechanics to process orders faster.

An example of a “hack” where players stockpile ingredients at the side to pick up the ingredients more efficiently

Lens 44: The Lens of Cooperation

Secondly, players would have to communicate and cooperate effectively in the game in order to excel as a team. Since playing on the Nintendo Switch requires players to all be together in one physical location, players have enough opportunity to communicate. In order to beat the clock, the most effective way would be for players to delegate tasks among one another (i.e. one player focuses on chopping, one player focuses on cooking and serving). Players need to communicate well in order to know what strategy they want to adopt, and what each member is doing to serve orders efficiently.

Despite it being a co-op game, it is ironic that there are also times when my sister and I get frustrated at each other while playing the game (especially so when one of us gets “lost” while rushing out the orders/keep “dying” from the obstacles in place). This is probably attributed to the fact that the game gets more stressful as we try to beat our previous highscores. However, managing to overcome the levels together always feel satisfying, especially if the level was a difficult one.  

Lens 55: The Lens of Visible Progress:

Thirdly, the player’s progress is clearly displayed in each level, as well as their overall progression in the game as a whole.

Within each round, players earn points that corresponds to the number of orders they served. Points serve as a way for players to see whether they have improved or not when trying to solve a level. A breakdown of their score will be given in the end card, as seen on the image on the left. Highscores for each level are also tracked accordingly.

As a whole, the player’s progress in the game can be benchmarked by the number of stars they have earned in total. Players earn stars according to the number they have earned in each level, with a maximum of 4 stars to be earned on each level. As players progress further into the game, they will realise that a certain number of stars also have to be collected before they can unlock and play some of the higher levels which are more difficult. This progress is visible on the map, as exemplified in the image on the right. However, there is also some hidden progress in the form of hidden “Kevin levels”, which are bonus levels that are unlocked and revealed to players once they have acquired enough stars. This is highly related to the next lens, The Lens of Flow.

Lens 21: The Lens of Flow

Lastly, the game provides clear goals to the player, which is to progress to higher levels until reach “final boss” level. The game provides a steady stream of challenges to the player – difficulty of the game adjusts slowly according to how players progress through the levels. Doing so gives players time to get used to the game’s mechanics when they first start playing, as well as improve their skills the more they play. By gradually increasing the difficulty to accommodate to the players’ improving skills, this allows them to keep engaged and stay in the state of flow. This is something that I experienced when playing “Overcooked! 2” and I find that it helps keep me engaged and not get tired of the game too quickly.

Conclusion

In conclusion, various lenses contribute to the player’s experience when playing “Overcooked! 2”. In a way, the game tries to simulate the real world as well – communication and cooperation between players (chefs) are integral in the game, which is akin to working a professional kitchen. Overall, this assignment has helped me to glean more insight into how the lenses can be applied when considering how to design a game that value-adds to the player’s experience, which is a skill that could be applicable and relevant to our group project.

References:
Images obtained from Google Images

Game Analysis: Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey for Nintendo Switch – Nintendo Game Details

Description

Super Mario Odyssey is a 3D Platformer published by Nintendo. It features Nintendo’s flagship character Mario, as he traverses around the world with his sentient hat, Cappy, in order to save Princess Peach and Cappy’s sister from a forced marriage with Bowser. Typical Mario stuff. Released in 2017, it was a nominee for game of the year alongside notable titles such as Persona 5, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, as well as Horizon Zero Dawn.

Super Mario Odyssey – Game Trailer – Nintendo E3 2017 – YouTube

Super Mario Odyssey – Nintendo Switch Presentation 2017 Trailer – YouTube

Lens 9: The Elemental Tetrad

In Super Mario Odyssey, the game successfully ties together the various elements (aesthetics, technology, mechanics and story) into one cohesive package.

The Story

Super Mario Odyssey has a simple story, as per usual platforming Mario games, with most of the emphasis placed more on the mechanics. However, Mario Odyssey does something which most of its predecessors does not, which is to make each distinctly different role have some level of cohesion to the theme of the game.

In the story, after kidnapping Peach, Bowser goes to different kingdom and steals a particular item (wedding dress, a diamond, famous stew, etc.) which would play a part in the wedding. Mario, having a semi-functioning ship, has to go to each kingdom in order to gain more stars to fuel his ship, whilst resolving the issue that was left over by Bowser.

This all directly plays into the theme of an odyssey, where Mario is made to go on this voyage around the globe in order to catch up with Bowser. It’s a subtle touch, but adds a layer of cohesion that’s not usually seen in other 3D Mario games. In such a case, most worlds and bosses are mostly just temporary obstacles rather than existing as a unit for storytelling.

The Mechanics

In practically all 3D Mario games, he possesses his usual suite of jumping and movement abilities, including the triple jump, the long jump, backflip, and more. In addition, he usually gains a separate ability unique to the game in question. For Super Mario Odyssey, this is the Cap Throw.

The Cap Throw allows Mario to do one key thing: Take possession of another entity. This can include electricity, enemies, and even a DINOSAUR.

The goal of each kingdom is to collect enough moons in order to power up the ship to allow Mario to catchup with Bowser. Each kingdom showcases its own theme, from a realistic New York-esque city, to a low polygonal cooking themed volcano town. The contrast designed really shows the Odyssey-like nature of the game, with each kingdom being ever so different from the other.

Technology

Super Mario Odyssey was built for the Nintendo Switch, and its joycon controllers pair well with the mechanics of the game. There are multiple joycon motions available which would allow Mario to use his cap in a multitude of ways.

Aesthetics

Super Mario Odyssey’s aesthetics further reinforce the nature of an odyssey. Barring the designs of Mario and common enemies in the game, each kingdom showcases a drastically different style from one another, bolstering the idea that Mario is far from home and is on an epic journey around the world.

As such, it can be seen that Super Mario Odyssey successfully melds the 4 elements together seamlessly, creating a thoroughly cohesive game worthy of its praise and accolades.

Lens 1: Emotion

The way the game is setup is to give the player a sense of wonderment that one might have when they travel overseas. The unique designs and themes of each kingdom is testament to that fact.

A sense of nostalgia is also prevalent in a certain sequence of the game, where Mario pays homage to the first Donkey Kong game in a festival that has an overall feel-good factor.

Super Mario Odyssey – Pauline Band Festival w/ Jump Up Super Star – YouTube

Lens 5: Fun

Super Mario Odyssey is a game that does not lack any breadth or depth. The sheer number of collectible moons are sufficient even for the most hardcore of players. The variation in the puzzles and hidden areas for each moon is also far reaching, and despite the seemingly simplistic nature of the mechanics, the combinations that come from optimization are seemingly endless and drastically magnifies the fun derived from the game.

Lens 8: Problem Solving

Super Mario Odyssey boasts a myriad of puzzles for the player to solve in order to find moons. Some are literally just sitting in a corner, whilst others require a bit of platforming skill to get to. Some require to answer a few questions in a quiz, whilst others require you to solve a simple puzzle from different ends of the map to complete. The variety is magnificent, which keeps players on their toes and always coming back for more as they do not know what to expect.

Additionally, an added segment named ‘Luigi’s Balloon World’ sees the player seek out balloons that other players have hidden across the map with a time limit. The player is also able to hide his own balloons. The PVP structure of this minigame expands the scope of problem solving in this game as we pit players against one another to see who can pop the other’s balloon. Multiply that with more than 10 kingdoms, and it’s easy to see why players would continue coming back.

Conclusion

Super Mario Odyssey pog.

Lens 27: Time

Super Mario Odyssey is a game that is accommodating to different player styles. The length of the game is largely determinant on the player style. If one is more of a completionist, he/she would definitely spend a lot more time trying to collect the over 800 moons available in the game. For players that are more casual, a mere 120 moons are required to to complete the game, with 500 for the true ending. If one so wishes to skip finding moons, he/she can simply buy them at a shop at an infinite amount!

This accessibility to different player types easily accommodates players such that they would not find frustration or boredom in having to play the game for too long or too short.

Homework 1 – VR/MR Review

My pick for VR device is Oculus Quest 2 and my pick for MR is HoloLens 2. My pick is based on the following reasons.

For Oculus Quest 2:

  1. Good Specs. I believe it has great specs at its price level. With a resolution of 1832*1920 per eye, an FOV of 110 degrees at 90Hz, the experience will not be bad. In addition, the Snapdragon XR2 Chip with 6GB RAM. I heard that it offers performance equivalent to Snapdragon 865.
  2. Affordable price. At a price <450 SGD, it is much more affordable than an iPhone.
  3. Rich contents. Since Oculus is a subsidiary of Facebook, which has an online store of adequate resources, I have higher chances to find games or videos that I want. It can also use steamVR.
  4. Easy to use. The setup of Oculus Quest 2 contains only the display, a handle, and the connecting cable. I heard that the optional Headband breaks easily, but we can always use TaoBao.com.

It is difficult to find a match for Oculus Quest 2, because for example, Valve index that offers 144Hz is almost three times the price of Oculus Quest 2, while the devices below the price is almost unusable, say, Samsung Odyssey+ (2018 version).

For MR, I pick HoloLens 2 only because it gives me a feeling of Tony Stark. Evidently, I cannot afford to purchase it. However, even at its terrifying cost, HoloLens 2 still has multiple things that I cannot overlook, not to mention other entry-level MR devices. For example, all MR devices are not so friendly to those who wear spectacles. Battery is a problem, and resolution is limited. I believe MR technology still has great potential to improve. Maybe the current MR devices are like iPhone 3G, they are usable, but they do not provide the best experience. Thus I will hold my money and only purchase when MR technology becomes better.  

Game Design Analysis: Civilisation VI

Epic Games Store Releases Civilization VI As Latest Free Mystery Game |  Geek Culture

Description

Civilization VI (cvi6) is a turn based strategy game. It was published by 2k Games. First released on 2016 on Windows and macOS, it was later released on most other platforms. The game was based on real history of mankind and contains many famous leaders of the world, world wonders and natural wonders.

link to game: https://civilization.com/

Link to game play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pczrASkYGSo&t=1368s

Lens 9: The Elemental Tetrad

Aesthetics

  • 3D game, top down command view of the map with detailed and breathtaking game graphics of human civilization through history.
  • Very engaging audio and sfx, there were distinct sounds for each buildings and characters.
  • Beautifully crafted animations for different interactions.
  • Realistic reflection of light in many parts of buildings/ water bodies in game, also in part due to the tech used.

Technology

  • Only 1 interaction at a time, reducing computation burden on the system.
  • Fps is insignificant in a turn based game, setting it at 20 could allow for finer and more detailed textures and game objects in the game on low spec systems.
  • Seamless cross play between steam and epic games users with just a room code. Such feature is not supported in other games.
  • Advance and realistic simulation with seemingly infinite outcomes.

Mechanics

  • This is a turn based strategy game.
  • There are 4 types of resources the player would generate per turn
    1. Science
    2. Faith
    3. Gold
    4. Culture
  • These resources would determine the actions player can take.
  • Each turn, a player can take multiple actions
    1. Build new cites
    2. Build buildings
    3. Train troops
    4. Move troops
  • Well planned actions would allow the player to advance their civilization towards the 5 victory conditions.
  • There are 5 victories, achieving any counts as a victory and you would be the leader of the greatest civilization in mankind.
    1. Religion, convert every civilization to your worship your civilization’s religion.
    2. Science, beat the science race by having high amount of science.
    3. Domination, conquer and hold all the civilization’s original capital by force.
    4. Cultural, be the most cultured civilization by having huge amount of artworks/wonders which grants high tourism to your capital
    5. Score, have the highest score at the game of the game.

Story

Only the strongest civilization writes human history. Hence, as the leader of a human civilization, the player must carefully develop their cities, with the goal to be the greatest civilization by being the first civilization to complete a victory. Build as many world wonders as you like, research as much science as you like, just be really good at something and your civilization would be the greatest amongst them all.

The game had a slow learning curve which was easy to pick up and uses a very hands on approach. Playing with the lowest difficulty is very useful to learn to slowly pick up the game and explore the endless possibility to advance your civilization. However, also due to it’s endless possibility, the game is also challenging at high level allowing players to repeat levels without beating the game easily.

Lens 8: Problem solving

The game poses many problems for players at different skill level, ensuring civ6 always pose new problems for the players to solve to be bring their civilization to great new heights.

  • Placing buildings in civ6 have different bonuses.
    • As a beginner who is starting to learn the game, the most basic bonuses are overlaid and shown to the player when placing buildings. Though it’s not the most, the different values at differ tiles would probe the players to ponder about it while learning the game.
    • As the player became more advance, they would realized there are hidden bonuses from their leaders/ buildings, if well planned would allow the player to squeeze out all the bonuses it has to offer.

Lens 79: Freedom

As a leader of a great civilization, players can do anything they like. Though there are only 5 ways to victory, the path to victory is never fixed. The player can focus on anything they like or are good at, and use those aspects to drive their civilization’s development.

For example: Player going for science victory in civ6 can still go around conquering other civilization if they are very advance in science. There is no fixed path to victory.

Lens 6: Curiosity

Civ6 does is very limitless, there’s lots of hidden details and bonuses for the players to uncover. The game strongly adopts a show, don’t tell technique to arouse players interest in any area. It always shows just enough information to the player. If the player first discovered a new item, the player can visually see it, but it will not prompt the player to act on it, this would allow the player to be continue their tasks at hand and come back again later if they are curious. But if it didn’t pique their interests, when other civilizations are using it, it would prompt the player to investigate it further. Having a encyclopedia called civilopedia also helps aid users to easily investigate their interests.

Lens 55: Visible Progress

As a turn based game, there are often downtime while waiting for other players to take their turns. Hence, players can view their progress towards each of the 5 victory in civ6. There is a world ranking board which allows the player to keep up to date with the latest progress of everyone in the game. This information allows players to prioritize their game play depending on other players progress. Players would be able to adopt different tactics to be the best civilization.

Lens 59: Control

The game provides a guide perimeter for players to know how to control and move their character. Meaningful UI allows the players to act in control and to check their understanding of the characters movement. It is easy to master since clicking on troops only moves or attacks a object and nothing more. By being easier to control and more predictable in the characters’ movement, it allows players to feel powerful. Also, the controls does not feel outdated like a normal 5 year old game would.