Archive for March, 2015

Structured Level Design and the Loss of Game Structure

I almost wanted to title this article “How Better Level Design Ruined Mario”. But that sounds much too harsh (and desperate for traffic). Still, that was my initial reaction after watching the latest video from Mark Brown, about the level design philosophy of Super Mario 3D World, summarized in this Kotaku article. The idea is that the last few iterations of Super Mario games (Galaxy 1/2, 3D Land, and 3D World) were developed with an increasingly structured approach by applying kishōtenketsu, a classic 4-part Chinese narrative structure. In this structure, each level breaks down into 4 parts, an introduction, a development, a twist, and a conclusion. And while I  think this is a fantastic way of developing a level, my initial reaction was that this structure was exactly why I have been enjoying Mario games less and less. Read the rest of this entry »


Designing Around an Experience

In the run-up to Unpub 5, I felt a lot of pressure to produce a second good game. I took two game ideas that I had worked to build a game around. And then I took the prototypes to Unpub, where I played a single game of one, and the other one never got out of the box. Instead, I played a number of games of One Card Wonder, which I literally pulled out of my pocket. So I feel like I overcame the sophomore slump, and I’m not just a one hit wonder. I knew that One Card Wonder was a much better game than the other two, but I didn’t know why I felt that way until I was playing some published games that were polished and mechanically sound but didn’t excite me. I asked myself what those games were missing that I wanted.

My answer was “an experience”. I felt like the games were built around an idea, rather than being built around an experience. You move stuff around, pick it up, and put it down, but it feels a little empty, like I’m more of an observer a participant, unable to shape the gameplay. The experience isn’t quite the mechanics or theme, but both are a part of it. And it’s not just how I feel about the game emotionally, either. I’ve mentioned experience before when talking about game design, but it is hard to define exactly. So I decided to turn my eye back to my own games to see what “experience” they provided. Read the rest of this entry »