Jitesh's Domain

Game Designer. Producer. Gamer.


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Currently Playing – The Witcher 3: Blood & Wine

The Game

I’m pretty sure by now, most of the readers have already played Witcher 3… or at least have heard about this gem. I finished the main game about 2 years ago and clocked in ~100 hours! For me, this game is without a doubt, one of the finest RPGs of this generation. It just does so many things right.

This post isn’t about what makes the game great, it is about how the game provides multitude of game settings that players can make use of to further intensify the entire game experience by making it more immersive (personalize to your liking). Some of you might know about this, as the game is a little old now… to me though, after trying some settings that I’ve mentioned down below, I can vouch for the increased ‘fun’ the whole thing brings.

How I used to play?

I directly delved into the game by making minimal adjustments to the game settings (apart from visuals and audio) and finished the main game in ‘Blood and Broken Bones’ difficulty. It was an excellent experience.

This is how I played the game (~100+hours):

Witcher3_SettingsON

Take a note of the contents in the RED BOX.

The game itself is exceptionally beautiful, with lots of details in terms of the way interactions work, the way in which the world feels real with some truly well designed geography (with noticeable locations, terrains and points of interests).

Now, with no changes made to the game settings and keeping them at default, this is how it (over)populates the HUD. Unfortunately, I noticed the problem after countless hours of gameplay. Not really a problem per se, more of an hindrance. Everything inside the RED BOX is meant to simplify exploration and ease the players into the game. Give better, detailed directions to what, where, when and so on. In short, easing by hand-holding. Once we start playing the game this way, naturally we progress quicker and feel great about it. However, after paying close attention, we realize that by playing this way, our eyes are mostly focused at the RED BOX. Especially, glued to the glorious, beautiful, rotating, mini-map. This is when, we stop ‘truly playing the game’ to ‘surfing the game’ because of the minutiae brought about by the mini-map. In short, eyes glued at the wrong place… a tiny place in relation to the entire rest of the screen that is filled with intricate details… real details which are begging for your close touch and exploration.

This is how I play the game NOW (~10+hours and counting):

Witcher3_SettingsOFF

Trust me, with this way, my experience with the game and immersion it brings about has increased by a lot! To me at least. This is something that I would seriously recommend you all try too. I started with this personalized setting with the expansion ‘Blood and Wine’.

Toggle the following ‘Off’:

Witcher3_MenuSettings1

Do not forget, we can open the main World map whenever we want to see the destination objective marker, explore and find our own way and traverse like a real ‘Witcher’. Let’s just not look at the shortest way to reach there with dotted lines on your mini-map with the exact distance of footsteps it’ll take you! Try it out and see the experience being enriched.

Along with this, I also found 2 more settings that can really add a little more twist and increase the sense of danger. This can be a little subjective, but worth a try 😉 Turn ‘Off’ Boss and Enemy Health Bars. Yes, sounds scary as frak! I can’t really recall right now, but few other games also have the setting for turning off HP bars. So, try this out here… a Witcher, after all doesn’t really know how much HP the opponents have (unless witcher-vision provides the touch) 😉 role-play!

Witcher_Boss

In short, I encourage every player to try and personalize and find settings that suit you best. Turning Off the mini-map is highly recommended as I personally found that it truly enriches the experience. Everything else, well tweak and play around with them, see if it works for you or not.

This is the beauty of a true player-friendly PC game. Tweaks and tips to dig deep and escape!

 

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Clash Royale – PART I

I’m pretty sure most of you have already started playing Clash Royale by now. Even if you aren’t one of the Royale players, you might very well be aware of the game. Clash Royale is Supercell’s next gem for mobile devices.

I’ve been playing this game on a daily basis since it launched in India. I wanted to jot down and do a few write-ups focusing on design.

The first design overview I felt like covering is the gameplay concept map. Please note:

  • This concept map focuses only on gameplay elements
  • It does not teach you how to play the game
  • Shows the inter-relationships of different elements

Now, I am not explaining what each element (especially the ones taken from the game) stand for. Obviously, if you have been playing the game, you’ll be aware of the intricacies. In case you haven’t tried the game out, this’ll help you understand (a little) the concept of gameplay in Clash Royale (inter-dependencies, skills needed, synergy and complexity).

Clash_Royale_Gameplay_ConceptMap_v4

It is informative to look at the game, realize its scope and go through its various concepts. Do check it out, it’ll be fun to discuss more on this (especially if you have already been playing the game).

Keep checking here for further updates, I’ll most likely do more write-ups by focusing on different features. They may not necessarily be in sequence and will most likely be a little independent of each other.

Do shoot your feedback and rants. It’s always fun ;]

 

 

 


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Roleplaying in Wasteland 2

Playing a role.

I finally gave in and bought one of the games that was lying at No.1 spot for a long time on my Steam wishlist – Wasteland 2 Director’s Cut. I am a huge fan of the classic Fallout 1 and 2, love post-apocalyptic scenarios and isometric role-playing games. Most of the followers of the genre already know that Wasteland 1 is what inspired classic Fallout.

I always had in my mind a very particular set of characters, which I believed would be really interesting in a game like this. I love Firefly. I felt like coyboys, sci-fi and wasteland would be a perfect fit for me to roleplay (as a party). I went ahead with that decision and I am seriously so in love with this game.

Firefly party creation and composition:

  • There are so many amazing characters in the series, I had to shortlist the best taking into account character skills (TV series), ones that would really matter
  • Their chemistry – if made as an away team in a party
  • I know the game to be combat heavy (like Fallout Tactics, unlike Fallout 1 and 2), so made an appropriate selection – since 4 is the maximum number of party members allowed at game start
  • Unfortunately, biography for characters I made in Wasteland 2 party is blank at the moment (I thought those could also be edited after starting the game, but I’ll need to modify saves to do it – will update this later)
  • I’ve tried to make my party as close to their characters on the show as possible (attributes, characteristics, personalities and skills)
  • Quirks were truly interesting – and it took me a long time to choose!
Firefly_Wasteland2

State of Firefly characters – Party creation process

I’ll now share how the characters grew in around 30 hours of gameplay. Most of the characters in my party are Level 13 as of this post. I tried to roleplay and add only those skills which made sense to me (staying in line with their show counterparts and also helpful in the game/ but not always)

Malcolm Reynolds

Without any thought, this guy had to be there. There was no question about it. A leader. Smart Ass. Charmer. Can make horrible/ bad choices ;]

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Character Screen – Coordination, Charisma

Quirk: Opportunist [description from Wasteland 2] –> It takes a certain ethical flexibility to take advantage of others, and it’s a flexibility you possess. Your predatory nature means that you kick your enemies just a bit harder when they’re down. However, you’re also equally timid and fearful of harm coming to you, and as a result, you do less damage to those that are healthy.

I believed that quirk to fit Mal perfectly in this game ;]

2016-01-14_00002

Skills – Leadership, Smart Ass, Handguns

Skills: At this moment in the game, Mal is kind of above average in handgun combat. He also has Pulse Rifle as secondary weapon. Leadership helps during combat and Smart Ass provides interesting dialogue options in conversations (wherever possible). He is also perceptive and overall failure in safe-cracking.

2016-01-14_00003

Perks – Know-it-All!

Perks: bonuses for your characters as they level up.

Mal is pretty much having bonuses in Conversations and a little combat advantage. Overall, I use Mal for primary communication with others in game.

 

Zoe Washburn

I really needed a character that can be strong in combat, hardcore and a true, good friend of Mal. It had to be Zoe. Bad-ass, strong and aware.

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Character Screen – Coordination, Awareness, Strength

Quirk: Now, I went through the entire list present in game, couldn’t really feel like a particular quirk to fit Zoe. So, in this case, there is no quirk! No plus, no minus.

2016-01-14_00006

Skills – Shotguns, Field Medic, Assault Rifles

Skills: So, I really wanted Zoe to be a shotgun expert, bad-ass and strong. Her Field medic expertise (coming from Army) really helps out the other members. She also has average Rifle skills, really really useful when friends are in the way ;]

2016-01-14_00007

Perks – Hardened!

Perks: Without blinking, as soon as I got an opportunity to give her the first Perk, I chose Hardened. +1base armor. Perfect for this character.

At this moment in game, she is one of the best combat lady in my party and really messes up raiders and other critters in-game! Just amazing :]

 

Jayne Cobb

Now, Jayne is a very interesting character. In the series and also in this game. I wanted a brawler, hard-ass and ranged expert at the same time. Jayne is all that and perfect Watchman!

2016-01-14_00009

Character Screen – Awareness, Strength

Quirk: Thick-Skinned [description from Wasteland 2] –> All the boys ‘n girls in the playground used to pick on you. They called you stinky, fatty, ugly, and beat you up until you were bruised and sore. But the more you took it, the more you learned to shrug it off. Sticks and stones won’t break your bones. Years of physical abuse have left you thick-skinned and you can shrug off attacks more easily, but you’re heavier and more sluggish, and as a result, you move slower.

Isn’t it perfect for this guy? Such an easy choice for me – works especially well in the game too!

2016-01-14_00010

Skills – Sniper Rifles, Hard Ass, Brawling

Skills: I did mentioned I wanted Jayne to be ranged expert but also a Hard Ass. Like how he really is. Brawling works wonderfully, when someone makes a mistake to jump on him ;]

2016-01-14_00011

Perks – Watchman

Perks: Now, being a strong-willed sniper, Watchman it was! Also, we have here intimidating and Hoarder – all Jayne bonuses ;]

Right now, after around 30 hours, Jayne is one of the best combat specialist in my party. Ranged destruction FTW! I have even seen him breaking down a Robot Crawler by brawling him!

 

River Tam

Okay, so I’ll be frank, the aforementioned 3 selections (Mal, Zoe and Jayne) were easy choices for me. I mean, I had to have them in my party in Wasteland 2. For the final one, I took some time to decide on the best one.

I wanted the last member in my party to be one of these:

Wasteland2_LastMember

Going with either of those, can give rise to their respective benefits, personalities and skills. After thinking a lot, I almost went with Kaylee. I mean, wouldn’t she be perfect for Mechanical repair, toaster repair and also charismatic? Then it hit me, River is someone who must be tremendously more interesting to have here, because she is so different. And, that is why, even in the game (after finally choosing her) she is so different – useful and oftentimes useless – but oh so interesting!

2016-01-14_00013

Character Screen – Intelligence, Strength and Luck!

Quirk: Manic Depressive [description from Wasteland 2] –> Mania and melancholy are two sides of the same coin, and you have known it all your life. You are subject to intense mood changes, and those around you say you’re almost like a different person each time they see you.

Perfect! Ain’t it? Also, so damn risky. This directly means, her attributes keep shifting every few mins (~15mins) – depending on whether she is feeling Mania or Melancholy! Trust me, because of this the gameplay and how we play around it has become tremendously more enjoyable for me.

2016-01-14_00014

Skills – SMG, Mech Repair, Computer Science and Animal Whisperer!

Skills: Obviously, since I didn’t choose Kaylee, I still needed someone skilled enough to repair stuff, break into locks and use her intelligence to hack into computers and blast into enemies using Submachine guns!

Also, I loved using her Animal Whisperer skills to tame more than 20 animals including gila monsters, goats and worms! :]

2016-01-14_00015

Perks – Weathered

Perks: For bonuses, I’ve selected her to have Weathered (resistance to crits) and Camel – which is really useful in this wasteland. Save, conserve and efficiently use precious water.

During gameplay, if possible I always try to use her whisperer abilities to tame animals (unless its impossible – level difference is high). It is really interesting to make choices based on her mood-state in the game. Many times, I had to wait for her to regain her abilities so that I could lock-pick an important safe!

Well, so that’s about it! I’m currently engrossed in Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut and find the role-playing pretty enjoyable. Especially, with a team like this… what can go wrong?

If you are reading this and love Firefly, RPGs or have been playing Wasteland 2, do post your thoughts.

 

 


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Hearthstone – Monies – Analysis

As many of you already know, I’m currently addicted to Hearthstone and it is the ONLY game for which my iPad is turned ON! No pun intended. Also, I have made no effort in playing this game on my PC. Coz, touch is for now best interface to play card games with.

I present to you a brief analysis I did few days back. This is not about the game design part of Hearthstone. But, more about how you gain benefits, its shop and various layers. Please feel free to comment.

 

BRIEF POINTS

·         Hearthstone has only ONE in-game currency = GOLD.

·         The only other method of purchase is via hard cash.

·         The game makes sure to SELL ONLY Expert Card packs

o   Each Expert Card Pack consists of 5 Cards out of which at least 1 is rare or above

·         The game doesn’t allow trading of cards or packs

 

SHOP

Hearthstone - Shop Screen (Currency is INR)

Hearthstone – Shop Screen (Currency is INR)

 

I made a small table to illustrate how the shop works [the currency here is Euro – €]:

 (The image shown above is from my AppStore account – so it is in Rs. Talking in Euro makes more sense internationally. Sorry for the confusion)

PURCHASE COST Without wholesale discounts – Compared to Cost for 2 Packs – Actual Costs SAVING
Expert Card Packs
1 100 Gold
2 2.69
7 8.99 9.42 0.42
15 17.99 20.18 2.19
40 44.99 53.80 8.81

 

NOTE: Player can always purchase 1 Expert Card pack using in-game currency GOLD but to buy more she must invest in hard-cash (one way). The only other method is to keep accumulating GOLD and buy 1 Pack after another as needed.

Looking at the table above it is very clear that the player can understand and see benefits that keep increasing the higher she goes in spending for card packs.

Overall – € 8.99 and € 17.99 for 7 and 15 Packs are most interesting for players. Good amount of savings.

 

Accumulating GOLD:

·         Hearthstone provides a very interesting Quest system

o   Daily Quests are given to the player [valid in ONLINE play with strangers or Arena mode]

o   A maximum of 3 can be stacked at any given time

o   Quests come in various categories which provide rewards

o   Rewards = GOLD [40-100] – depending on quest difficulty/ length

·         Ideally, a person who doesn’t want to use hard-cash to purchase Card Packs (grinder) – the best way is to ALWAYS make sure to keep finishing Quests

·         3 Consequent wins with same hero – 30 GOLD

 

ARENA MODE

One of my example match in Arena (strength of the key - color)

One of my example match in Arena (strength of the key – color)

 

·         This is my personal favorite and one of the best game mode in Hearthstone

·         Arena mode requires an entry fee

o   150 GOLD OR € 2

·         Arena mechanic

o   Choose one of a random hero presented to the player (choice among 3)

o   Make a card deck from a set of random cards

  Interesting part is – almost entire deck in Hearthstone is available

  This includes every rare, epic and legendary cards

  However, the order and selection is random

o   Player keeps progressing in Arena to unlock better and better rewards until she loses three times

  The player is basically unlocking “KEY”

·         Keys come in different variety and open the specific reward box

 

Check the table below that gives an idea about the rewards presented in Arena (wiki helped here):

 

Wins Key Rewards Random reward pool
0 Novice 2 1. One expert pack 25-40 gold
2. One random reward 25-40 dust
One common card
1 Apprentice 2 1. One expert pack 30-50 gold
2. One random reward 25-50 dust
One common card
2 Journeyman 2 1. One expert pack 40-50 gold
2. One random reward 40-50 dust
One common card
One rare card
3 Copper 3 1. One expert pack 20-25 gold
2. 25-35 gold 20-25 dust
3. One random reward One common card
One rare card
12 Lightforge 5 1. One expert pack 20-175 gold
2. 215-235 gold 20-25 dust
3. One random reward One golden common card
4. One random reward One golden or regular rare card
5. One random reward One golden or regular epic card
One golden or regular legendary card
One expert pack

 

NOTE: The important point to note here is that if the player loses all 3 games in Arena (doesn’t win even a single one) – she still gets 1 Expert Card Pack and any one of the random reward.

So according to the investment made (if used GOLD) to enter Arena –

  • Player is for sure going to get in return 67% GOLD back in terms of 1 Expert Card Pack
  • 25-40 GOLD or dust

For any non-payable player this is almost completely a win scenario.

Arena offers almost fair play as the deck is created in this mode itself + all cards are made available.

No. of wins a player gets in Arena is directly proportional to the rewards she shall reap.

 

CRAFTING

Crafting screen

Crafting screen

·         Player can disenchant any of the cards (except soulbound – hero basic cards) to earn what is called as “Arcane Dust”.

·         Can be termed as other currency (indirect) as this cannot be purchased anywhere/ nor converted from GOLD

 

Check the table below:

 

Rarity in Card Type Crafting Disenchanting
Cost Golden Card Reward Golden Card
Common (White) 40 400 5 50
Rare (Blue) 100 800 20 100
Epic (Purple) 400 1600 100 400
Legendary (Orange) 1600 3200 400 1600

Considering that the reward in Arcane Dust for disenchanting is anywhere from 1/8th to 1/4th – it is just TOO LOW for anyone to make a significant card.The only way is to sacrifice certain unused cards or to dilute extra cards… in other words earn more cards from Arena/ Expert Card purchases.

 

CLOSING POINTS

·         Pushes player to purchase card packs

·         Disenchant additional cards

o   Try crafting common or rare cards

o   Crafting a legendary card revolves around sacrificing other strong cards in huge portion

·         There is no energy system or waiting time

·         Without putting any real money, a grinder can still win many games to her satisfaction by involving more

o   In Arena

o   Daily Quests

o   Casual Online play

·         The game statistics screen NEVER display

o   Win/ Loss ratio (similar to Kill/ Death in multiplayer)

o   It is interesting to note that usually in multiplayer games the ratio is very very important to players

o   Hearthstone goes in a different direction by

  Increasing motivation – by NEVER showing how many games one loses (apart from in Arena – where it is part of core loop)

  Wins are presented strategically and in appealing fashion

  Even Arena category outside on stats page – always display the KEY till which player has reached till date (showing only positive side)

·         An average player will keep earning GOLD in loads if she keeps finishing quests and thus can easily keep purchasing Card Packs

·         The monetization is still going strong for players

o   Who do not wish to grind and wait

o   Excellent savings provided in card packs’ price

o   Very important – player NEVER knows which cards are there when she is buying Expert Packs

  So, there will be duplicates (but they can be disenchanted for dust)

  In case she doesn’t get good enough cards she’ll just go ahead and buy more packs!


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Beyond: Two Souls – Analysis

Cover Art

Cover Art

Design Analysis

I present to my readers a brief analysis of game design in Beyond: Two Souls. This is going to be pretty much a high-level view of the game. In near future, I might dig deeper and provide underlying low details.

Skills

To understand how a game plays out and the challenge provided, it is important to know what player skills are being challenged by a particular game. Beyond: Two Souls demands the following skills from its audience:

  • Observation: Testing player’s ability to read signs and other cues, be it visual or aural.
    • This is one of the main skills challenged as the player is asked to respond by providing inputs based on the cues the game presents.
    • Mainly challenged during:
      • Fight – Observe the sign of the attack, its direction and appropriately provide the input
      • Exploration – Looking out for clues (usually game provides a very strong hint about the situation), secrets and hidden rewards. Challenged heavily when playing as Aiden (the Entity). Playing as Ellen, this is also challenged when looking for cover positions and scouting enemies.
      • Dialogue – Observing the situation and choosing the right/ desired dialog option to converse with non-playing characters
  • Precision: Testing player’s ability to provide inputs to lead where she wants to go
    • This skill is largely challenged while playing as Aiden as it gives a full 360 degrees freedom to explore and roam about.
      • Fight – there is always just one precise input challenged
  • Measurement: Testing player’s ability to provide measured input on controls to a degree of tension
    • Challenged mainly while playing as Aiden.
      • Powers – Interacting with objects in the world – to throw/ use them with a measured degree of power (playing as Aiden)
      • Simple interactions – Playing as Ellen there is some slight challenge is providing simple measured inputs to open door/ closing letter etc.
  • Timing: Testing player’s ability to provide input at the right time
    • Finally, one of the most important skill challenged by this game is Timing. Beyond: Two Souls (much like its predecessor) is heavily based on Quick-Time Events.
      • Fight – The game introduces an upgraded fighting system (appended to its usual QTEs) – wherein player must anticipate and act by providing inputs at the right time. Usually, the window of opportunity given to the player in most of the situations is high. This allows even the slow (low physical-skill) players to act by first carefully observing the sign and then giving the right attack based on timing.
      • Stealth – Playing as Ellen, player can sometimes use stealth and knock-down/ kill enemies from behind/ aerial move by giving input at the appropriate time. Not very highly challenged.
      • Dialogue – Throughout the game, player (playing as Ellen) must converse with other non-playing characters by choosing a dialogue option and providing the input in time. The window to respond to a dialog or to converse is usually very high.

[REMARK – Even though the game challenges player on the mentioned physical and mental skills, the game is no-where close to being hard. The timing never feels stressed, and so on. Compared to Heavy Rain and Indigo Prophecy, this game is very light in terms of challenging the player. Extreme linearity doesn’t help the game either.]

Narrative

The narrative in Beyond: Two Souls is not presented in a regular fashion. The game shifts and jumps the player to different time in Ellen’s life. Player gets a chance to play Ellen as a:

  • Kid
  • Teenager
  • Adult

Throughout the narrative player is challenged on all of the aforementi0ned skills. The narrative does a good job of putting together various clues, revealing information and paces the game accordingly. Game presents gradual character growth, coupled with bonding between Ellen and Aiden (how it grows stronger throughout her life) and usual relationship problems as part of a real world scenario.

[REMARK – As much as I appreciate the narrative direction and slight feeling of character growth, it is again no where close to Heavy Rain. There are hardly any huge plot twists or hard-to-solve mysteries. Narrative is however very close to a Hollywood-cinematic movie experience (apart from the jumps in time-line).]

Visual & Audio

Visually the game has lots of motion-captured sequences, varied settings, themes and highly realized character models. Player is taken form tiny confines of office/ room to the expanse of Mexico.

Aurally, the voice over are present for every characters with high-performance sound-fx and appropriate music. Visually and aurally, the game provides right signs and feedback to the player.

[REMARK – When it comes to direction in this game, there are many scenes that come extremely close to a movie! The train chase and fight, bike riding and forest are memorable and visually breathtaking. Ellen Page gives a great performance and the other characters do a fine job too. As fine as the visuals and audio are, the fact to keep in mind is that the game is more a movie and less of a game. That is not a confusing statement.]

Gameplay Duration

It took me around 15 hours to finish the game in “Easy” setting. I believe the only other option is “Very Easy”. Of course, they are framed differently.

Overall, this game is more of a movie and less of a game (I must mention this again). Given the fact that Quantic Dream was supposed to evolve its gameplay + narration with Beyond: Two Souls compared to its previous offerings, I fully agree that it has not evolved in any way. The only evolution I observed was in the fighting system, where player is now required to sense the direction of attack and act-appropriately. However, as great as it sounds, it doesn’t really fare very well. It makes more sense to go back to defined and strict timing-QTE events.

Would I recommend this game? Well, if you like Ellen Page, movies, drama, story and you are a-okay with minimal gamplay from time to time… then YES! Good enough for a single play-through. Not a challenging game in any way, play it more for its story and direction.

That does it for the high-level and I must soon try and see all the endings …erm… the movie has to offer ;]


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Simple Design: Why Simple Isn’t Easy

KISS… a design methodology that is not only hard to follow but also easy to forget. I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping things simple. Just as the blog states here, it is not so easy to do.

Tweak Your Slides

blog simple.001

The Simple Design series will cover the basics of strong presentation design. The first part in the series is an introduction to the concept of simplicity in design and what that truly means when it comes to creating strong visual aids.

Often, when I consult with students, teachers, and professionals on presentation design, the subject of simplicity comes up. The idea that something complex should at the same time be simple can be a road block for novice presentation designers, particularly because we are so conditioned through misuse of presentation software to fill up every available inch of presentation “real estate” with bullets, clip art, non-sensical diagrams, doo dads, fire animations, wingdings, company logos, word art, and any other number of PowerPoint distractions. Imagine if Abraham Lincoln had used PowerPoint?What would we actually remember about The Gettysburg Address.

Simplicity is a powerful element to creating strong visual aids. Further…

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