Thursday, 7 March 2013

10 More Awesome Indie Dev Links

A while back I wrote an article listing 10 awesome articles I've read and videos I've watched, and I was eager to list some more. Why? Because they're awesome! I tend to read a lot about game development, and have pulled a lot of useful insight from the experiences of others - so it would be silly not to pass that knowledge on!

Game Design

Balancing For Skill (video) - Extra Credits

I really love the Extra Credits video series, and this one in particular is a highlight. It's about balancing the abilities in a game - focusing not on getting the high-level game to be well-balanced, but on creating a game that's equally satisfying for beginners as for expert players. It also deals with making sure that players constantly have reason to improve their skills, rather than settling for the easiest-to-execute abilities. Their video on intentionally-imbalanced systems is also very insightful.

The Puzzle of Designing Puzzles - Toni Sala

Designing puzzles isn't something I do very often. I tend to prefer working on the dynamic, self-generating puzzle-like systems like you see in Greedy Bankers, and that I enjoyed in Triple Town, rather than designed problems with known solutions. This article gives a great reasoning for why players like myself often find designed puzzles unsatisfying, and then goes on to show how great puzzle design can work around these issues. Top stuff.

5 Tips for using Procedural Generation - Mike Rose, Maarten Brouwer

A practical explanation of how to get the most out of procedural generation. I really like how he talks about making sure the generator never produces levels that feel unfair. This article stands out because of just how many practical take-aways there are in it, be it in making the environments feel natural and alive to the kind of issues you'll need to watch out for in testing.

A Matter of Life and Death - Leigh Alexander

Here's a restrospective on a 1988 point-and-click medical simulation called Life & Death. What's particularly fascinating is that as a game design it goes against every lesson we designers are used to heeding - of clarity, of gradually teaching the player how to engage, of forgiving mistakes. And yet I'm sure all of us have had experiences when we've finally made headway in a brutally opaque game like this and felt incredibly satisfied with our achievement. I can't help but feel there's untapped potential in this kind of experience.

Interviews

Post Mortem: Binding of Isaac

Not only is Binding of Isaac one of my favourite video games, but Ed McMillen is one of my favourite designers. This post-mortem is fantastically honest, and gives an incredibly detailed account of the development process.

Lessons from a Master: Adam Saltsman

This interview with the designer behind Canabalt and Hundreds gives a deep and detailed insight into the development process, giving thoughts on how his games found their success. He also looks at design elements such as the power of randomness and unpredictablity - something I definitely agree with.

Business and Marketing

Monkey Drum: 7 Ways to Fail at Free-to-play

Aaron San Fillipo, from Flippfly (who've just successfully Kickstarted their next game - well done them!) looks into why their free-to-play design for kids' game Monkey Drum fell short. It sheds ample light on the challenges of creating a successful free-to-play system, and gives a well-balanced view on whether it's the right way for them to go - neither damning the whole free-to-play methodology, nor claiming it to be the be-all and end-all.

RunJumpDev - Ben Kuchera on Indie Marketing and PR (video)

Indie marketing has been a focus of interest for me for a long time, and this talk is particularly useful because it's coming from someone within the games press. The detail that he goes into about what it is games writers want to hear about, and how to make the most of that, is solid gold.

Visual Design

Colour Theory - John Krikfalusi

I have to say a big thank-you to James Harkins and Adam Vian for getting me to look at John K's blog, because it's absolutely overflowing with useful tips. Game art and cartoon art are very similar, particularly because you're trying to communicate ideas quickly and clearly. Similarly, a lot of the tips for creating rich and vivid scenery and characters apply throughout art and design. Really, anything on his blog is worth a look, but this article is an excellent example of why you should be reading.

Inspiration

Larry Smith - Why you will fail to have a great career (video)

Not quite as pessimistic as it sounds, this is a very funny talk and a great reminder of just how important passion is to your career as an indie game developer. You need to be ready to push yourself, get smart and pursue your passion head-on. Go for it, don't make compromises, and never look back!


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