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Next Generation’s Top 10 Game Design Innovations 2007

December 16, 2007

I’m a little late getting to Next Generation’s Top 10 Game Design Innovations article. It’s been open on my desktop all week, but one thing led to the next, and I am sure you know how that goes. Anyway, the list had some very predictable entries, and some not-so-predictable but wonderful entries, Line Rider and flOw among them. As James Portnow, Next Gen’s writer and Activision’s game designer says, “It’s simple toys like this that serve to remind us that all the mechanics have not been found.” Along these lines, Puzzle Quest also earned a spot.

Portnow goes into all the details about why he picked what he picked, and they’re all completely valid reasons that I don’t need to reiterate here.

It’s applaud-worthy, though, that he picked the three titles I mentioned above, and it’s a real bright spot for the “artsy” games/toys I’ve been into lately. A tiny team or even a single person could have designed Line Writer and flOw, and their very existence proves the point that a games are still to be had that don’t require massive render farms and a team of 40.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2007 10:55 am

    I played Flow about a year ago – as an online Flash game. It was addictive. So simple, but so fun! Stuff like that shows the extent of untapped potential for fun that is out there.

    As for Portal – I completely agree with it being Number 1 on that list. From the moment it loaded up, it felt completely unique.

    I don’t quite agree with the Mass Effect entry. Having completed it, and died many times, I got to see some re-runs of the same speech scenarios. During those times I chose different speech options, but the resulting dialogue was very often completely the same. There’s a lot of potential for this mechanic, but it’s effectiveness is at the moment just an illusion in my opinion. The best moments were in the polar opposites: intimidation and charm options.

    There is obviously an issue of complexity involved with constructing dialogue trees with just about all branches being unique. Think of the storage requirements for the audio… I wander if clever speech synthesis will start being used in these scenarios. The changes in tone are tricky, but maybe… maybe… 🙂

  2. December 16, 2007 11:27 am

    There are numerous Japanese RPGs that still don’t bother to record the dialogue. This gives their writers the ultimate flexibility to craft the story’s various branches.

  3. December 16, 2007 11:38 am

    Definitely. Absence of audio opens up creative possibilities in this scenario, but at the same time hearing your character say what you choose is really fun.

    The dialogue audio is a further stimulation of the senses while playing games. Music is already very developed in this domain, and definitely plays an important role in mood-setting, etc. Speech can have just a similar role. This is why badly-acted game dialogue puts me off.

  4. December 17, 2007 12:20 am

    I’ve often internally debated the importance of spoken dialogue in a game. While I enjoy it profusely, especially when done well (and I point enthusiastically at the English-language Balthier in Final Fantasy XII, Gideon Emery, perhaps my favorite voice actor of all time for that one performance) I don’t think it’s necessary at all, and it can kill a game when done ineffectively. When I do that Game I will Someday Make, I’ve decided to leave out the voice acting.

    Part of the magic of text is that a player can have their own personal interpretation of what the character sounds like when they’re talking. It makes what they say all the more personal and magical to the character. I’m sure when Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children came out, a lot of the magic was broken for watchers who heard Cloud’s and Tifa’s voices and they were nothing like they’d imagined.

    Plus, most of the English cast was horrible. Well, Tifa was, at least.

    I really like the personality voice acting can give a character. But I think well-written characters jump off the screen through the text. They should be able to speak for themselves.
    Plus, I’ve known these characters for half my life now. I wouldn’t be able to cast actors for them. I would never find the perfect match, and I don’t want to have to “compromise” when it comes to something that important.

  5. December 17, 2007 12:24 am

    FYI, the original flOw *did* have one developer (known to most of us as Jenova Chen). I find it the height of irony that it not only managed to find its way onto the PS3 of all consoles, but to do so with a credits list longer than some AAA titles. WTF?

  6. December 17, 2007 7:52 am

    @ai864-I regularly discuss flOw and its thesis with my students. I didn’t say it was a one-man production because I am sure that others assisted Chen in testing or on his thesis committee.

    @aortiz-In games, I don’t like voice acting at all for characters that I am playing, provided I’ve created them. If I’m playing a pre-established character, then I don’t mind, and it often adds to the experience.

  7. December 17, 2007 9:22 am

    I do agree that both voice and music can improve a player’s immersion, but as already have been pointed out, if the dubbing isn’t going to be properly done, just forget about it.

    Although I haven’t play Mass Effect, it seems to try to implement some kind of interactive storytelling. Or at least simulate it. But as Nik stated, it fails big time. I’ve read about interactive storytelling during my game design basics course, and I’m looking forward on reading more about it. I know that Chris Crawford is currently deeply interested in creating an effective mechanism to implement it. Let’s see what will come out of it.

    Finally, I think if you want to make use of voices in your game without having them compromising the gameplay, they should be used as “sound effects”. Take for instance Warcraft I & II (I’ve never played III nor WoW), the units voices are so amusing that almost everyone who had played the games remember the voices. Even in RPGs the voices may be used just on greetings and farewells, with a few variations.

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