GameDesign

Disney Magic Kingdoms - Game Design Analysis

Welcome to my long time coming analysis of Disney Magic Kingdoms. I wrote this from a design perspective and hope anyone who hasn’t familiarized themselves with the app can enjoy the post. I start off outlining the mechanics and how the game functions, to familiarize the reader with the game. If you’re already familiar with the app, and are primarily interested in the most design heavy sections, skip to the “So, where’s the fun?” section. From there on, we get into the game’s economy balancing and how the designers promoted engagement. Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy!

What is it?

Disney Magic Kingdoms is a mobile game by Gameloft featuring a variety of Disney and Pixar IPs. The objective of the game is to clear out the darkness, which is threatening to consume the theme park. This is done via expanding your park and assisting Merlin in bringing back the magic so he can fight back against Maleficent.

How does it work?

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of it. The game is all about resource management. There are five kinds of resources in the game: magic, gems, happiness, materials and time.

Let’s break them down:

·      Magic is your general currency. It is easy to obtain via doing quests, assigning tasks for characters, or just letting the attractions/shops create it automatically over time. Magic can also be purchased via spending gems.

·      Gems are your premium currency. This is a currency that players can receive in game, but is considerably more rare. The only standard way I’ve seen to obtain gems in game is by leveling characters up or leveling the player up. Gems can be also purchased for real world currency.

·      Happiness: Happiness is a little trickier. When a player boots up the app after some time, children will come running into the park with thought bubbles above their head. Players can “grant wishes” to the children via tapping on these bubbles and sending them to the activity that they are interested in. As a player grants their wishes, their happiness level will go up. Each of the four tiers grants the player an additional benefit.

o   Tier 1: Content – grants no bonus.

o   Tier 2: Cheerful – gives players access to parades

o   Tier 3: Joyous – gives players an additional 10% to magic and player experience earned.

o   Tier 4: Ecstatic:  gives a 10% increased chance for materials to drop.

Happiness decays over time, so players will have to continually grant wishes to keep their happiness level up.

·      Materials: Materials are used to level up characters. A player can get a chance to obtain materials via sending out characters to do tasks, through certain attractions that automatically generate materials over time, or by buying a parade.

We can see some of the example tasks for Mickey. The star, which represents player experience, and magic are guaranteed drops. The materials that are labeled as “rare” have a slight possibility of them dropping upon completing the task. The green numbers are bonuses I have for having a high happiness level. We also see how long the task will take, and if it requires another character as well to be carried out.

We can see in this image that, in order to level Goofy up, I’ll still need nine more Goofy hat materials. Character progression is built around players collecting enough materials and currency. Upon collecting the required currency and materials they can initiate the level up process, which will take time to complete. In Goofy’s case it will take him twenty-four hours to level up to level ten.

·      Time: Time is a resource because users always have the option to spend time or real world money.

o   A character needs to level up? Spend X hours waiting or X gems to level them up now.

o   Don’t have enough materials to level up or obtain a character? Spend X hours mining resources or spend X gems to level them up now.

o   Don’t have enough gems to obtain that one exclusive gems only character? Spend X time leveling up and collecting gems for free or buy more gems.

Character/Story Progression:

Characters need to be specific levels to do certain quests. For example:

·      Woody may need to be level 6 to go help Buzz find Zurg.

·      If Woody isn’t level 6, the player will be shown what materials will be needed to level him up. Players can then view the available tasks on other characters and see the possible rewards.

o   Notice I said possible rewards. Much like Destiny players have a chance at getting the item they need.

-  There are a few tiers of item rarity

·      Common

·      Uncommon

·      Rare

·      Epic

·      Legendary

o   The more rare the item, the less likely the player will receive it. You can see why having maxed out happiness is so important.

You might notice a slight difference in the HUD for this image. I’ll get to that later

We can see that “Maintain Hydration” is a different color than the other tasks. That is because it is part of a quest line, and will need to be completed before the quest can progress.

So, where’s the fun?

The base layer of fun comes from players expanding their park. This comes in the form of adding characters, attractions, and just adding more space overall. A simplified gameplay loop looks something like this:

FlowChart made in LucidChart

The player getting to see their additions over time is rewarding in itself. When you add the Disney frosting, it becomes a prime addiction for fans of the parks much like myself. Getting to bring in Flynn Rider and Minnie Mouse is an absolute delight. Of course, if the sessions were longer than five minutes the game would quickly lose its charm. This is why it works so well on mobile where short play sessions thrive.

The Updates:

In the recent months, Gameloft continues to add content faster than I can complete the quests. Additionally, I’ve seen continual events/competitions every week.

Events:

Events occur on a weekly basis. Each event typically lasts a week. From what I’ve seen, there are two kinds of events:

·      Collect as many coins as possible in the course of the week.

o   Coins can be collected via assigning characters to do specific tasks or just allowing your structures to produces them over time.

·      Tap on enemies!

o   Players are tasked with clearing out their park of robots, crows, or whatever enemy it is that week.

o   X creatures respawn after x minutes

At the end of the week, players are ranked based on how many enemies tapped or coins collected against other players. The players are then rewarded based on how well they did with either gems or currency.

Personally, I prefer the creature tapping over the coin collecting. This is because the creature tapping doesn’t have any way to speed up the process. The players have to wait until the creatures respawn, where as in the coin collecting events the player can speed up tasks and the attractions producing them by spending gems. This creates a pay to win mentality, which can be exploited.

The Incredibles:

The most interesting event yet is the Incredibles expansion. In this expansion, players have to wait a week to unlock each character. The first week was Mrs. Incredible, the second Dash, etc. Having a new character which I get to spend time doing quests and gathering materials to unlock timed characters makes me come back to an app which was running out of steam.

As you can see, I’m attempting to unlock Violet at the moment. The quest line to unlock Mr. Incredible will begin in 5 Days 9 Hours. Frozone, Mrs. Incredible, and Dash have all been unlocked already.

While I haven’t let the characters time lapse, this info sheet makes it seem like I will only be able to get the Incredibles during this month long event, at least until the event comes back around again.

With the new expansion came a couple new tweaks. One of which is additional currency.

While I don’t personally mind the additional currency, I’m hoping this isn’t a reflection of the future of the app. Outside of beginning to clutter the UI, it becomes one more thing to keep track of. More frustratingly, now there are three major forms of currency: magic, gems and Incredibles currency (IC). Furthermore, the player will need to send their characters on special tasks to obtain IC. So now progression along the quest line, which focuses around the player collecting magic, has been dramatically slowed.

How did the designers deal with this issue?

They made the Incredibles tasks considerably shorter. For example, Daisy takes six hours to do the task that would give the player the Sully ears material. Or they can have Daisy do the task for Violet’s ears, which takes only eight minutes. Both items hold a “rare” rating amongst materials. The Incredibles tasks are considerably shorter. This makes the event actually plausible, because with longer times they simply wouldn’t have enough time to get the job done.

The mix of short and long times also engages players more often. Before this event, I was checking in the morning, setting up my tasks for the day and checking at night to set up over night tasks. After this event started, because the materials I need can be acquired so quickly and I can give my characters new tasks so often, I find myself checking sometimes twice or more on breaks, lunch, and even the bus ride home as well.

How else do the designers promote engagement?

If we take a look at two tasks for Mickey, “Search for Friends” and “Research Magic”, we can see the following:

·      Search for Friends

o   Pays out 1 star (+1 For happiness bonus)

o   Pays out 5 Magic (+1 for happiness bonus)

o   It takes 60 seconds to complete

·      Research Magic

o   Pays out 7 stars (+1 for happiness bonus)

o   Pays out 40 Magic (+5 for happiness bonus)

o   It takes 60 minutes to complete

Now, if we do the math, let’s say ten minutes of engagement continually re-cuing the “Search for Friends” task.  The player will earn 50 Magic, or 55 if we’re including the happiness bonus. Now compare that to the 40 Magic the player will earn for setting Mickey on the “Research Magic” task. In fact, this trend continues across all characters with all tasks. The longer the task, the less magic and experience the user will gain. This is balanced though by the longer tasks frequently having rarer materials.

This graph shows each of Mickey’s tasks max reward if the player continually engages Mickey in the task over the course of 8 hours. We can see the rewards continually shrink, thus rewarding engagement. This trend is even more dramatic when compared to tasks, which involve two characters. For example, the task “Dance with Minnie (2h)” nets the player 400 Magic & 52 XP. If the player’s goal is Magic and XP, it would be more beneficial to have the characters work solo as each of them can net 300 Magic and 40 XP individually for two hour tasks, resulting in a total of 600 Magic and 80 XP. Thus, there is little point for the player to choose a longer task unless they cannot engage for long periods of time.

With that said, I am still glad they have the longer tasks so I can set my characters to work while I sleep. The game really adjusts to how the player wishes to play it.

This game’s success is built around a solid gameplay loop skinned with Disney characters. While I am enjoying the additions of the events, their flirting with overcomplicating the game does worry me. I’m hoping the talented designers at Gameloft are able to walk that line without falling off because I’m really enjoying watching my kingdom grow.

I hope you guys enjoyed this weeks post. I know it has been a long time coming. Hopefully you learned something more about designing for mobile resource management games. I know I did. 

I’ll see you guys next week,

Scott

 

NFL RUSH Heroes & Rivals Postmortem

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of sitting down with an old friend of mine, Derek Prate. For those of you who haven’t heard of him, he was one of the other designers on the NFL RUSH series of apps. Nowadays, he enlightens the next generation of game designers at Chapman University as an adjunct professor. But for a little over a year, I worked very closely with him to push out the NFL RUSH apps, and later to try save them.

While we were catching up, our conversation naturally drifted towards our time working on the apps. What we enjoyed. What we thought we could have done better. And what we thought could have been done better in general. Due to this conversation, I thought it might be fun to write a postmortem on NFL RUSH Heroes & Rivals, the larger of the two apps.

First, let us get what went wrong out of the way:

1.     Scope blew up

Let’s turn back the clock, and pull the curtain away to late January 2014. Everything was awesome. We had just made a deal with the NFL to create an app. The design team was told to research micro-games (Think Wario-Ware), as there had been a few successful ones on the iOS App store. So we did. The initial concept for the NFL Apps was actually one app. It would have the player play micro-games, which would train players on their team to compete in a football game. We wanted to have it completed by pre-season so we could get featured in the iOS and Android app store.

Seven months was a short window, but it seemed doable for eight micro games and the primary football game. But as time progressed, the game got larger. Micro-games turned into mini-games. I’m not sure who made the decision, but we decided there would be a social element. So I created the Teams System. For the Clubs System we pulled the Clans system from School of Dragons. While this was still large and we were going to have to cut it close, we could have still made it. It wouldn’t have been the highest quality app, but it would have still been an excellent app.

Then came the straw that broke the camel’s back. As the one app was scaling up and becoming a fairly large beast, word came down that we had to do a second one. This one was to be smaller and more family focused. So Heroes and Rivals was meant to be targeted at a hardcore football fandom, while GameDay Heroes was meant to be played by families in one room. This split the team. And while GameDay Heroes went on to be released on time, because the team was bouncing back and forth, both apps suffered due to the lack of attention the team was able to give to them. Had we done only one app or the other, we probably could have released a truly polished experience. Instead, we scoped the games poorly, and for that they both suffered.

2.     Made a football game with no football/ Just reskinned games

Due to having two ever expanding apps in the pipeline, we were forced to reskin already existing games. We released them with slight mechanical tweaks, but as a whole they were the very similar. For example, D-Dash is a reskin of Ghost Town Grab from JumpStart.

Ghost town grab:

D-Dash:

Fun Story: I received D-Dash maybe two weeks before we shipped. My only instructions were: “It’s not testing well. Make it fun.” Mind you, this was on top of everything else we were trying to accomplish. So I tried a few things without much luck, and three days before release I turned to Derek and said, “I want to try something crazy. I want to change all the level layouts.” He thought it might work, and told me I should talk to our Design Manager. He gave me the go ahead, and I made the tweaks. I adjusted the location of the collectables and power ups, requiring the player to face danger in order to get the highest score. I also required them to platform in order to do it. This created more risk and felt more rewarding for players. While the game isn’t the best mini-game in the app, it became actually fun.

While this was a great idea to speed up production time, it ultimately came back to bite us. This is because our “Hardcore” football game didn’t have “Hardcore” football in it. Yes, in the mini-games the player may be collecting footballs, but that has almost nothing to do with real football. Mechanically, it doesn’t feel anything like football. Of the eight games only two felt remotely like football:

Perfect Pass – Where the player has to tap on the field to throw the ball to their receiver, all the while keeping an eye on rushers and enemies trying to get an interception.

Upright Aim – In this one, players would swipe the screen to kick the ball to make a field goal. They would have to deal with rushers and the wind while kicking the ball from different positions on the field.

Side note: An argument could be made for Tackle Trouble, but I think it appeals more to a broader, more causal audience rather than a hardcore football audience.

These two were also original games built from the ground up for this app. The other six were reskins and not “Hardcore” football enough to appeal to our audience.

Side note: I’m not saying the other mini-games were bad. Quite the contrary, there were a few which children physically would not put down. The two biggest contenders were Perfect Pass and Tackle Trouble, but they were not appealing towards the audience we were trying to go after. Think of it this way, we essentially gave Animal Crossing to a hardcore Call of Duty player.

3.     Tutorials/Pre-loading took too long

Upon release, we had a strange problem. Players would download the app, but would never make it past the log in screen and into the rest of the game. Not long after booting it up on our own phones, we learned about the curse of the pre-loader.

A lot of mobile games today have pre-loaders. This is so app developers can release apps which are larger than 100 mb and not require Wi-Fi for an initial download.

Side note: You can’t imagine the number of players you’ll lose if you require Wi-Fi to download your game. They might look at it and think, “Huh that’s cool. I’ll download it,” but when they try, they can’t because they aren’t connected to Wi-Fi. This results in them forgetting about your app and thus never actually downloading and playing it. Everything with mobile apps are spur of the moment, instant gratification. That’s why in app purchases for premium currency work so well.

Our pre-loader was downloading over 3 gigs of data. It was taking well over ten minutes, even while connected to Wi-Fi, to get our game running. Mind you, this was after we had them create an account and go through that whole process.

So things weren’t going so great, but we were able to fix that by reducing the load time to a more manageable amount. So let’s say the player finally gets in. What happens next?

Tutorials.

And more tutorials.

AND EVEN MORE TUTORIALS! 

This was a problem. We had tutorials for everything. We held the player’s hand through the entire process, which took well over fifteen minutes to get through. And there was no way to skip them. So we built this great game we wanted everyone to play, but we won’t let them play it. Over ten minutes to get into the game, then an additional fifteen minutes or so just to get through the tutorials and then play the actual game. I know AAA console experiences which have shorter tutorials than that, yet we did this on a device which the average user engages for less than ten minutes at a time.

This, more than anything, hurt us.

Luckily, we were able to reduce the loader time and cut out 90% of the tutorials once we realized the issue. The remaining tutorials were cut down to a reasonable size, and allowed the player to skip them. But the fixes came too late. Our moment in the spotlight had passed and, while we did fix most of the app, it would never recover.

As a result of this app failing, along with a couple others, the company fell into financial trouble and, last I heard, over half of the staff had been laid off. I sometimes think about if I had known then what I know now, maybe I could have worked harder to fix the problems and fought harder for good design choices. Sadly, I can’t. The only thing I can do is take my experience and make sure the same mistakes aren’t made in the next project I get to be apart of.

With all the sadness and what went wrong out of the way, let’s finish off on a high note.

What went right:

1.     Some really good mini-games

While the mini-games were not the best for kids who were actually very interested in football, many of them were still fun experiences. The tweaks we made on the reskins made the games a lot of fun.

For example, in the original game, Dodge n Dash, the player would collect treasure chests. Upon collecting a treasure chest, they would gain 10 points and an enemy spawns somewhere else on the screen. This continues until the player’s character touches an enemy and dies. This isn’t particularly fun, because at a certain point there is no way to survive.

When it got into my hands, I made a few additions:

·      Every 5th enemy that spawns chases the player, instead of traveling randomly.

·      After every X item collected, a NFL shield coin will spawn. Shield coins could initially spawn after five to nine collectibles are collected. But every shield coin collected raised the minimum and the maximum for the range by one. This made the game difficulty ramp up nicely.

·      When a player collected the shield coin, enemies would turn into collectibles for a short amount of time. If the player collected the enemy collectibles, the player would gain bonus points and enemies would be removed from the game.

·      Enemy movement slowly increased over time to encourage players to collect shield coins.

·      Initially, the more footballs a player collected without collecting a shield coin, the higher the multiplier would be, thus increasing the points the player would receive. This encouraged players to collect as many footballs as they could without clearing the field.

o   This particular mechanic changed with another alteration we put in the game. After some play-tester feedback, we decided to add a health bar as well. This meant that, instead of players losing from being touched once, they could take a few hits. As more enemies piled on top of the player’s character, the health bar would drain faster. When the health bar was completely empty, they lost. Players could get out of the tackle via tapping the screen rapidly. The mechanic changed by resetting the multiplier when they were tackled by enemies rather than by when they grabbed the shield coin. It was actually a lot of fun and kids loved it.

Side note: I wanted to play with the idea of risk vs reward. The theme of scoring more points for putting yourself in more danger is a fun little mechanic I tried to apply across most of the mini-games for this app. Most of them evolved over time into combo systems, where a player was rewarded additional points for doing something continuously and not failing.

These kinds of changes were made across all the reskinned apps, by all the designers, making them considerably more fun.

2.     The Team’s untapped skills

In the 11th hour, you’ll always see what you are truly capable of. This went for the team as well. Towards the end, each developer on the team went above and beyond. Some designers did additional coding. Others reviewed games which were not theirs to ensure everything was working properly. We had artists and programmers play-testing builds. Everyone was wearing multiple hats to finish the products on time and ship the best possible experience. There was a lot of “Wait… you can code?” and “Hey, I’ve got 15 minutes. Who needs me to play test something?” going around. And the best part was that we did it without crunch time.

Soapbox: I keep hearing glorified moments where developers come together during crunch to finish a game. It’s suppose to make them feel closer? How are they supposed to feel closer when they are sleep-deprived and constantly snapping at each other? Working on a common goal that is difficult brings people closer together. This brought us closer via being forced to do multiple jobs. We enjoyed each other’s company and had something to show for it. I feel like crunch bringing everyone closer is more akin to a natural disaster happening and everyone has to band together, over straining themselves to survive. They become closer only because they have a traumatic experience in common.

3.     The update

You’ve read all the things that went wrong. The release was pretty much a disaster, but we did our best to recover. After the release of the app, our Design Manager started giving designers specific apps which they would primarily work on. We all shuffled around projects, but I was settled on the NFL apps with Derek helping me out 25% of the time (his focus at this time was School of Dragons.) With this newfound control, we went to work on saving the apps.

We took a hard look at what we could reasonably salvage and fix. We redid the menu system, changing it from the previous system, which hid all the options, to the current tabbed system where all the options are directly in front of the player. We cleared out most of the tutorials, streamlining the experience. The big football game got more feedback, and I re-balanced it to give the players more control over the outcome.

Here’s a very high level explanation: Before it was like playing rock-paper-scissors, with the players’ stats combined with the chosen plays determining how well they did. The change kept this as the base, but added a challenge for the Offensive player to complete before scores were rendered. Depending on the plays chosen, they would be thrown into a mini-game. Based on the difference between the player and their opponent’s score, they would have to score above a certain point threshold, within the mini-game, to win the challenge. If they won the challenge, they would get a bonus to their score and have a guarantee win against the other player. This really gave the mini-games a purpose, and made the app feel like one cohesive experience. It made an experience which previously had a very steep learning curve turn into something more accessible and fun for players.

When I was let go, we were still working to improve the app. There was some discussion about potentially doing more experiences with the NFL. Words like World of Warcraft, Mario Party and Hearthstone were being tossed around. A lot. But I sadly believe support has been stopped due to the smaller team.

I look back at this project with fond memories. I learned a ton, and met some of the most amazing people I know today. I'd like to thank Derek Prate for helping me to reflect on this project and Kaitlyn Fine for editing this post.

I’m hoping that you can learn from some of our mistakes, as those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. Next week I’m going to sink my claws into Flappy Bird. We’ll discuss why sometimes a fair game isn’t necessarily a fun one, and where is the fun in Flappy Bird?

I’ll see you guys next week,

Scott

 

 

Jetpac (1983) A Retro Analysis

With the release of Rare Replay, I’ve had the chance to play a few games I had never heard of. One of which was Jetpac.

 

Objective: In Jetpac the player is an astronaut exploring other planets. Unfortunately, these planets don’t always have the friendliest of occupants. So their job is to construct a ship and fuel it without getting killed by the aliens. They can collect bonus items for extra points. Once they’ve fueled up their ship they need to get back to it to take off.

**Side note: The player only has to construct the ship once every 4 levels. When they are not constructing it they are just collecting fuel.

Simple enough.

What can the player control?

Shooting, moving left and right, and thrust upward.

Where does the fun come from?

Figuring out each planet’s inhabitant’s movement patterns. The first planet (Seen above) just has enemies flying left to right or right to left. They don’t change direction and they don’t seek out the player. This is a perfect learning level because they are not too fast and are fairly easy to avoid/kill. This allows the player to experiment with the buttons/ controller and figure out how to play. The next level the enemies move only diagonally but this time they bounce off surfaces so it changes their direction, increasing the difficulty. Next are bubbles which can travel either diagonally or horizontally bouncing off surfaces. You get the idea. Eventually there are some enemies which chase the player via moving up and down or side to side.  It’s fun to “outsmart” and out maneuver these aliens.

So where’s the risk reward?

Some of the rewards consist of additional points, the reward of getting a cooler looking ship, getting to see a new planet/alien race (Additional challenge/exploration) and the “Cinema” of the ship taking off and the player escaping the planet.

The risk is where it gets interesting. If we were to just have to kill the aliens to get points, then a player could easily stay on the top right platform and kill aliens. The risk is small and the reward the player receives is also small. (a few points and little challenge. Not very fun.) But the designers fixed that by forcing the player to build the ship. This forces the player to move from their secure hiding spot to retrieve the piece needed and return it to the ship. (Increased risk/challenge for an increased reward) Forcing the player to get out of their safety zone like this is clever but the Fuel kicks it up a notch.

 Once the ship is completed a fuel canister will fall randomly from the sky. This randomizes play and helps to keep the player on their toes because they don’t know where it is going to spawn. When it does it can be easy to obtain like the one in the image above (Somewhere in the middle of the screen) or incredibly difficult. (On the edges of the screen)

Why is it so difficult to get the fuel canisters on the side?

Because that’s where the enemies spawn. And immediately before the enemies spawn the player has no idea as to where on the side they are going to spawn. Another reason is that when a player goes off the right side of the screen they return on the left side of the screen. This applies to enemies as well so players will have to be extra aware. In this situation I have found it to be the best strategy to stop killing enemies. Because only a certain amount can spawn. This way they wont have them spawn on top of the player and killing them.

As we can see here in the first level the enemy explosions match the color of the enemies destroyed. We have a collectible which the player can retrieve for additional points. The Fuel has fallen and is now resting waiting for the player to retrieve it. And we have two enemies flying across the bottom of the screen.

As we can see here in the first level the enemy explosions match the color of the enemies destroyed. We have a collectible which the player can retrieve for additional points. The Fuel has fallen and is now resting waiting for the player to retrieve it. And we have two enemies flying across the bottom of the screen.

By level 3 we can see the enemy movement has changed to make them more difficult to deal with. While still predictable they move in a larger variety of directions creating a more difficult scenario for the player.

By level 3 we can see the enemy movement has changed to make them more difficult to deal with. While still predictable they move in a larger variety of directions creating a more difficult scenario for the player.

In later levels we have enemies which will seek the player. These jet like enemies will travel up and down the sides of the screen a couple of times. Then turn white and charge at the player. If they hit something on the way they explode. The predictable movement of all the enemies makes the game considerably less frustrating.

In later levels we have enemies which will seek the player. These jet like enemies will travel up and down the sides of the screen a couple of times. Then turn white and charge at the player. If they hit something on the way they explode. The predictable movement of all the enemies makes the game considerably less frustrating.

Little design decisions often overlooked which I like:

  • The player can tell how fueled the ship is based on how purple the ship has turned. (Purple is also the color of the fuel canisters)
  • The aliens are all different colors. This make it easier for players to track them and their movements when they are all close together.
  • The aliens explode the same color which they are. This helps the player to track which enemy they killed.
  • When the player is holding a ship piece or fuel cell and they travel above the ship they automatically drop the item they are carrying into the ship so the player can focus more on not dying.
  • It’s all on one screen. This means it is considerably easier for the player to track what’s going on and what they need to do.
  • The enemies spawning on the sides of the screen gives a feeling of them traveling from elsewhere to come into the player’s field of view.

I like this game because it is (for the most part) incredibly fair. Meaning when the player dies 99% of the time they see it coming. As in they are too slow react or made a mistake. When a game is fair like this it makes it feel less frustrating when a player loses. They are less likely to throw their controller at the T.V. and instead continue playing. The predicable movement of the enemies contributes to the game not feeling cheap. And the challenge/puzzle of figuring out the best way to tackle each planet, combined with the skill of maneuvering, make for an interesting game.

Thank you,

Scott

Sidebar: As I was playing this game and thinking about the enemy movements I couldn’t help but think harder into the story of the game. The first aliens the player meets don’t chase the player they just go about their business leaving the player alone unless they float into the them. It makes me think that these creatures are not necessarily sentient. Or at the very least unable to control their own movements. But as the game progresses the aliens begin to hunt the player and directly attack them. I wonder if the aliens somehow communicated with each other and told one another about the astronaut who is shooting them up as he travels from planet to planet. Much like Shadow of the Colossus where the first couple colossi don’t really attack the player but the later ones hunt the player. But I’m probably overthinking it and just having fun.

The future of shooters…. isn’t shooting?

Shooters for the last few years (previous to Titanfall) have for the most part been resting on their laurels. Something like the Call of Duty games hadn’t changed much since Modern Warfare. But since Titanfall we’ve been seeing a big change in the shooter scene.

Briefly: What did Titanfall do different (aside from the giant robots falling from the sky)?

Movement. The way a player moves in Titanfall is so radically different than anything that had come before it. Walls were no longer barriers but became surfaces to run on. Rocks could be clambered over (Parkour!). This change in movement, of being able to run on walls and clamber to ledges and locations, which in most shooters wouldn’t be used, changed the game. This made the gameplay more vertical and more interesting. When someone is playing Titanfall they have to be looking everywhere. Enemies hiding above you is commonplace and the bane of new players.

Note to self: Don't take titans on head on. Especially when they are already looking at me.

Note to self: Don't take titans on head on. Especially when they are already looking at me.

Call of Duty: Advance Warfare learned from this movement and applied verticality as well. But they implemented it in a different way. They used “boosts” to allow the player to do an extra jump or a dash. Because of this you will see a lot of skilled players jump dash into the air every chance they get when running into a firefight (Easier to get headshots and harder to get hit is a win in my book). Again creating more of a threat from above that players are not accustomed to. Where as in Titanfall players will be jumping between walls and wall hanging, Call of Duty the players can boost into the sky whenever they feel it to be appropriate. (A lot of credit of how good these games feel go to the Level Designers as well because they created environments which players can utilize these tools effectively).

My only issue with the way CoD applied it is they created what would seem like a bit of a dominant strategy. Where in Titanfall when the player wall runs or wall hangs it does give them a little bit of an advantage over hiding from titans, but it is necessary to even out combat against them. Without the verticality against the titans it would become much more difficult for a pilot to rodeo an enemy titan. Against other players it doesn’t dominate them because you have reduced accuracy when shooting while wall hanging or running. Because of the double jump boost in CoD giving the player an immediate advantage over other players and doesn’t seem to penalize the player doing it in any way, it pushes everyone to be jumping all over the place when they see an enemy. The change in movement in Titanfall seems to be more for getting the player from point A to point B quickly and to even the score against titans rather than against enemy pilots. Where as in CoD the jump boost may have had similar intentions but seem to have become a necessity against other players when playing at a higher level. Had CoDs intention been movement (The more I think about it the more I think they did it intentionally with a focus on combat rather than movement.) they could fix this issue by reducing accuracy of weapons while boosted in the air. I’m not sure if I agree with this design choice if the intention was to create this dominant strategy. Because it feels a little cheap (much like shot gun sliding in Destiny) and doesn’t feel as rewarding when it is pulled off because players doing the same thing over and over again wears down enthusiasm very quickly.

The high ground is always already an advantage. Now everywhere is the high ground!

The high ground is always already an advantage. Now everywhere is the high ground!

Soap Box time:

In multiplayer games players should be given tools to win. How they use these tools is up to the individual players. But each tool should feel like a viable option against the others. When you make one tool or one strategy more effective than the others, players will flock to that tool/strategy because they want to win. Thus it may be time to re-examine the tools and re-balancing them. This is why we have patches. But when a mechanic creates a problem how do you fix it? You can’t just patch the mechanic out because a huge chunk of the game is built on it. This is the question I ask to everyone. Do you just wait until the next iteration of you game and let this one have a dominate strategy? Do you pull the mechanic only for multiplayer? Because when you have something like the boost jump in CoD it is hurting other aspects of the game. I don’t have the stats but I would imagine shotgun usage would take a hit because this strategy relies on faster firing medium-long range weapons. Or does it really matter? I mean in regards to as long as the player base is having fun does it matter? If everyone playing CoD loves jumping all over the place and shooting enemies, does that dominant strategy matter? Because in the end people are playing our games for fun.

Other games learning from these two juggernauts consist of Halo 5. It has clambering and boosts (And a ground pound players can do from the air). Destiny has hovering, double and triple jumps. Each of these games giving their own twist and feel to movement that makes them feel unique.

Blue never knew what hit him...

Blue never knew what hit him...

While there is always room for more classic shooter styles like Unreal Tournament (Nothing in a million years will beat the nosebleed speed of that series) I’m excited to see where the rest of the genre does as well. And with this new focus on movement finally rearing its head in full force, I can’t wait to see the next iteration of Titanfall or Call of Duty and how they iterate on these new mechanics.

Thank you,

Scott