Designer Notes 46: Brendon Chung – Part 1

In this episode, Soren interviews independent game developer Brendon Chung, best known for his work on Atom Zombie Smasher, Thirty Flights of Loving, and Quadrilateral Cowboy. They discuss how to make an adventure game inside of Doom, why he won’t read text popups but will read the back of cereal boxes, and what does the ending of Gravity Bone mean.

Games discussed: Sierra Adventure Games, Doom, XCOM, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Planescape: Torment, Hexen 2, Strife, Thief, Company of Heroes, Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers, The Lord of the Rings: Conquest, Gravity Bone

https://www.idlethumbs.net/designernotes/episodes/brendon-chung-part-1

Designer Notes 45: Rami Ismail

In this episode, Soren and Leyla Johnson interview independent game developer Rami Ismail of Vlambeer, best known for his work on Super Crate Box, Ridiculous Fishing, Luftrausers, and Nuclear Throne. They discuss why he started a company with someone he couldn’t stand, how to make games in a place without electricity, and why the world “inclusivity” can still be exclusionary.

Games discussed: StarCraft, Urban Assault, Final Fantasy XV, Nier: Automata, Star Wraith, Evochron, Super Crate Box, Serious Sam: The Random Encounter, Ridiculous Fishing, Luftrausers, Nuclear Throne

https://www.idlethumbs.net/designernotes/episodes/rami-ismail

Free Offworld!!!

Today is a very big day for Offworld Trading Company – the multiplayer is now free on Steam!

Offworld was born as a multiplayer game, inspired by my own multiplayer experiences with a variety of economic-minded games, like BelterM.U.L.E., and Age of Empires. Mohawk started the game’s development with multiplayer, usually playing the game at least once per day and usually never playing under the same rules twice. If someone came up with a great idea – like picking one’s HQ after starting the game – we figured out a way to test it out the next day.

Once Offworld came out on Early Access, the multiplayer community became the backbone of our testing and feedback group. We ran a number of tournaments (organized by my wife who remains a dedicated player to this day) that were the crucible for deciding which ideas did and didn’t make it into the final game. This community has stuck together for years now, the best place to find them is on the official unofficial Offworld Discord server.

However, multiplayer games are hard to make work because they have the biggest gap between games that take off into the stratosphere (League of Legends, Fortnite) and games that die off spectacularly from the negative feedback loop of a dying userbase (rhymes with Jawbreakers). There is very little middle ground between those two extremes, which is why multiplayer games have increasingly moved towards free-to-play as the default model as a hedge against the possibility of the player base death spiral.

Offworld never had quite this issue because the game has robust single-player, with a dynamic campaign and competent AI. Having said that, players who went to look for a multiplayer game often couldn’t find one, which is a tragic situation for a game built from and built for multiplayer. The obvious solution was to move to a free-to-play model for multiplayer, but of course, that could mean many different things.

I’ve had a long-running lovehatefear relationship with free-to-play games; indeed, I even made one! However, after they did end up either eating or expanding the industry (depending on one’s perspective), it is clear now that there are different types of free-to-play games and different reasons to use the model. Our model is the simplest, dumbest available. Multiplayer is free, and we are developing new DLC and retrofitting old DLC to be mutually exclusive so that players can buy whatever parts of the game they like. The most obvious purchase is the base game itself, which unlocks all sorts of things, but there are other attractive options which can be bought and played without the base game:

  • Blue Chip Ventures, a series of scripted scenarios and challenges that help teach the game
  • Market Corrections, three scripted campaigns that give access to that side of the game
  • Limited Supply, an alternate version of Offworld which takes away the market in favor of resource puzzles

There’s even a cosmetic-only set of skins for special buildings called Conspicuous Consumption. (See, we were thinking ahead!)

I’m very curious to see what will happen. In the two hours since the free version came out, our player base has already quadrupled. Hopefully, multiplayer games will now always be available for budding tycoons.

Designer Notes 44: Clint Hocking – Part 2

In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer Clint Hocking, who started his career working on the original Splinter Cell and was also the Creative Director of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Far Cry 2. They discuss why games always need three months at the end, how he feels about his crunch on Chaos Theory, and how they choose Africa for Far Cry 2.

Games discussed: Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, Far Cry 2

https://www.idlethumbs.net/designernotes/episodes/clint-hocking-part-2/

Designer Notes 43: Clint Hocking – Part 1

In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer Clint Hocking, who started his career working on the original Splinter Cell and was also the Creative Director of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Far Cry 2. They discuss how his early time as a Dungeon Master informs his design work, how he took a huge pay cut to join the games industry, and how the Splinter Cell team was conflicted over dynamic gameplay vs. set piece content.

Games discussed: Space Invaders, Turbo, Dig Dug, Dragon’s Lair, Lode Runner, Ultima IV, Dungeons and Dragons, GURPS, Thief, Deus Ex, Rainbow Six, Alpha Centauri, Splinter Cell

https://www.idlethumbs.net/designernotes/episodes/clint-hocking-part-1

Designer Notes 42: David Sirlin – Part 2

In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer David Sirlin, best known for his work on Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Yomi, and Puzzle Strike. They discuss how many hit points are too many hit points, whether his work is post-modernist, and how to make the first move in Yomi. Also, listen to see if Soren can successfully pronounce iconoclast.

Games discussed: Fantasy Strike, Divekick, Rising Thunder, Yomi, Pandante, Puzzle Strike, Offworld Trading Company, Codex

https://www.idlethumbs.net/designernotes/episodes/david-sirlin-part-2

Designer Notes 41: David Sirlin – Part 1

In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer David Sirlin, best known for his work on Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Yomi, and Puzzle Strike. They discuss why games with more mechanics are not deeper, whether fighting games should also include cake baking, and why he didn’t end up designing Street Fighter 4.

Games discussed:: the Street Fighter series, the Guilty Gear series, Yomi, Puzzle Fighter, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Death Jr., Kongai

https://www.idlethumbs.net/designernotes/episodes/david-sirlin-part-1

Designer Notes 40: Brian Reynolds – Part 3

In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer Brian Reynolds, best known for his work on Colonization, Civilization 2, Alpha Centauri, and Rise of Nations. They discuss why Big Huge made Rise of Legends instead of Rise of Nations 2, why you shouldn’t let a company provide you with a computer, and how he cost Zynga $800K from a spreadsheet error.

Games discussed: Rise of Nations, Rise of Legends, Settlers of Catan, Age of Empires 3: The Asian Dynasties, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Farmville, Mafia Wars, FrontierVille, Brian Reynold’s Unreleased Fashion Game, CityVille 2, DomiNations

https://www.idlethumbs.net/designernotes/episodes/brian-reynolds-part-3

Designer Notes 39: Brian Reynolds – Part 2

In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer Brian Reynolds, best known for his work on Colonization, Civilization 2, Alpha Centauri, and Rise of Nations. They discuss when Brian discovered Twilight Struggle, how Alpha Centauri influenced BioShock, and whether he could have made Rise of Nations at Firaxis.

Games discussed: Twilight Struggle, Civilization 2, Gettysburg, Alpha Centauri, BioShock, Call to Power, Rise of Nations

https://www.idlethumbs.net/designernotes/episodes/brian-reynolds-part-2

Designer Notes 38: Brian Reynolds – Part 1

In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer Brian Reynolds, best know for his work on Colonization, Civilization 2, Alpha Centauri, and Rise of Nations. They discuss how his original dream job was to write compilers, all the bad decisions he needed to make to end up as a game designer, and his true feelings about the philosophy department at UC Berkley in the state of California.

Games discussed: Hannibal, Twilight Struggle, Pong, Space Invaders, Quest 1, the Ultima series, Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender, Civilization 1, Colonization, Civilization 2

https://www.idlethumbs.net/designernotes/episodes/brian-reynolds-part-1