Sunday, July 26, 2009


After I started using Twitter I remembered how much I enjoyed having opinions on the internet that no-one will read. However the 160 character limit (you only have 140 you say? Oh. Well, keep at it and they'll make you "Elite" too) isn't always sufficient for my verbose ranting. Any casual reader to this blog (I just made myself chortle) knows I use fifteen squillion words when one (or any real number) would suffice.

So instead of trying to come up with content every week like some moron with motivation and dedication, I'll just occasionally update with whatever pops into my head.

Just to verify, for those wanting the full Mento internet experience:
My Twitter ( ) will be used for updates on what I'm playing and my opinions thereof, therefrom and wherefore. In that order.
My Backlog ( ) is what I own and will intend to play in the future (pretty unimportant, unless you want to read some random internet stranger's playlist and recommend something. Why would you do that? You're weird.)
(I Love) My Dead Gay Blog ( this one ) which I will be about anything else. Nagging mostly.

I will christen/baptise/"anoint with unguents to appease Baphomet" this resurrected blog with a Game Design Observation. What a thrill ride. This is. This blog. Read on already I'm dying up here.

~~ Game Design Observation of the Week ~~

I lately tried the freeware game The Untitled Story (try it here: ) and, while a very decent effort from a single dude using Gamemaker software, there were a few design choices I took issue with. Please note that these design decisions aren't exclusive to this fine (and free!) game and that I'm not picking on it because I'm a resentful hack. *Cough*. These could all be tropes already, in fact, on that TV Tropes site that I waste too much of my time on (though I haven't spotted them as of yet) due to how common they are. What design choices am I talking about? And why do I dislike them? Let's make a list, those are always received well by internet article places:

This Week - Money Glitch or Money Farm Conundrum.

A common instance in any RPG as well as Action/Adventure variants like Zeldas and Metroidvanias (especially the latter genre, where money and numbers in general aren't as relevant) is the appearance of a store where several useful items often necessary to the adventure can be purchased. As the Designer, you have to anticipate that the player will want these items as soon as they're available.

Common convention dictates that you should simply provide your player with sufficient funds to purchase everything available. You could do this by making the usual drops (from enemies or barrels or wherever else you think video game NPCs are likely to hide money in, like toilets or loved ones) plentiful enough to easily buy everything, making the whole money/shop element largely redundant. Or you could simply make the game's currency finite and a secondary collection subquest (such as the Red Jewels in Illusion of Gaia). Finally you could just withhold items until later in the game when it's more likely the player can afford them and are less able to break the game with them. This requires additional scripting flags and some consideration towards balance, so that's extra work the designer isn't interested in. Which leads us, inexorably, to the case below.

Unconventional wisdom dictates that you should present all the game's inventory in one spot and then make some of the items ridiculously expensive in the hopes it chases the gamer away until later on in the game when they have the funds. It will not. Today's crowd are a very anti-authoritative bunch, and if you tell them they're not ready to buy this item they will defy you even if it irritates the heck out of them. But not as much as missing out on something in the present would irritate them. The path of lesser irritation, if you will. So we come to the Money Glitch vs Money Farm decision.

You have anticipated that your players won't take no for an answer, so you can present them two options: Go fish, or a subtle hidden option that allows them to "break" the game's bank with a glitch. The "Go Fish" option is a fine decision if incurring the resentment of everyone who plays the game is your objective, but on the strange off-chance that it isn't, let's consider the glitch option instead. The best place to hide a money glitch is in some kind of nearby gambling mini-game that can be exploited with a little forethought. Don't make it too easy - you want the players to earn this money one way or another, so why not present a challenge that will make them feel superior over the game - even though their "cheating" has only really saved them some farming time. My Case Study example (see above) chooses not to do this - it will provide a gambling mini-game but that game will automatically deduct funds and save the game before you can reload. Forcibly quitting the game to get around this unwanted save will cause the game to kick your PC's RAM in the balls and run off. It very much wants you to earn vast amounts of currency the hard way.

With the Glitch option, the resulting "player confidence boost" costs you nothing as the designer, but it heightens the enjoyment of the player considerably. And if you believe that giving the players that much power will disturb the almighty "balance", just sic something horrible on them as the next boss. This is a battle of the egos after all, my friend.

As an end note, TVTropes does have something about measures a game may take to prevent players from having to endlessly farm gold or items or what have you, charmingly called "Anti-Poop Socking". The idea being that a player will remain fixed to his (I would make this pronoun gender neutral but I honestly don't believe it applies in this case) screen as they farm for hours, necessitating the need to poop in one's own sock rather than take a bathroom break. Ah, to proudly bear the mantle of "Gamer".