QANTM

...I'm Free?

A week ago (the 13th) I had my last day at Qantm College Melbourne. This last day was after 3 weeks of 9AM - approx 7PM days, fully in engine, burning away trying to get The Snowman Cometh finished. Over those three weeks, I made up almost 150 hours of work, and I was just one in a team of 9. And we were just one team of many performing the glorious slog that is IEP. And that was just during one of the six trimesters that Qantm spans...

Two years of my life have now finished, and yet, this is merely the beginning. Everything that just was, was in preparation for what will be. Impossible Worlds starts in a month, and we're taking portfolios as I type this (email impossible.worlds.studios@gmail.com if you would like to know more/live in Melbourne and are looking for a place in an indie start up/etc).

Christmas is coming towards us faster and faster, and the stress of buying presents has just abated. I am finally in a position where I can play some games whilst getting ready for the big job-hunt... But something is missing.

I'm not sure if it is because I haven't played games like I used to for 2 years, or because I am still in my Post-WFRP Funk... But something is preventing me from doing all the things I've been wanting to do once Qantm was over. And you know what I am doing instead? You know the truly mad phenomenon which is grasping me at the moment?

I'm making games.

Isn't that just...Insane?! I've spent the last 2 years of my life making games, and now I can't stop?

I think there is only one thing left to say:

Qantm - thanks :) We've had some pretty shaky times. I considered quitting before, but thanks to a solid group of awesome colleagues, and some of the best teachers and people I've ever met (you guys know who you are), I managed to stick it through have come out the other side. Thank you Gorilla5, and thank you everyone who has slugged along side me this whole time.

We did it, you crazy bastards. Now the real battle begins, and I couldn't hope for a greater fusillade at my side!

New House, 7500+ Posts, and Much More!


Greetings everyone!

I do honestly apologise for the lack of posts lately, but I have suffered the worst of any malady possible - yes, that's right, I've been without internet.

You see, the move went ahead as expected, but the internet was only just connected last night, and then a whole host of problems stood in the way of its use. Let's just say that the Omnissiah took pity on our plight and those problems have gone, because, I am clearly now online...
Unless it is all just a dream...
Onto the matters at hand, though, as I am proud to announce that sometime in my absence we tipped 7500 posts! Something must be going right, because the time between this milestone and the last was significantly shorter than the time before 5000... Lets just hope this continues, eh?
7500+ and counting!
My Qantm studies have begun again after 2 weeks of (not really) holidays (during which we did more work than in the last week of actual Qantm for no reason at all) and I am getting back into their full swing. My IEP group, after some initial bloodboiling, have stumbled onto something amazing and will be presenting it tomorrow for a green-light. I am oh-so-excited to start posting about it, but I don't want to until I have talked it through with them all after our green-light.

I've made some progress on Into the Expanse which I will share in a later post, and my players in my Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay campaign continue to get themselves into increasingly hotter water... Also, a KickStarter project I backed a while ago now, Pad of Geomorphic Intent was completed and shipped, and I have been having fun drawing up lots of geomorphs which I will begin posting to versamus as soon as I have everything set up for that. In the mean time, though, check out the man's webstore (Squarehex) set up after the success of the campaign!

Thanks for reading, now and before, and I will be back to you as soon as I can!


Designing Gameplay Mechanics

I'm currently in the middle of planning with my team our major project for Qantm, an assessment called IEP. Whilst I can't release anything about the project itself, I can mention how I am going about this task. I was thinking today on the mechanics, and I thought I should share my design process for this aspect of games design, as it is often one that people flounder at (everyone can come up with mechanics, but they usually fall flat somewhere along the line).

Designing Gameplay Mechanics

Gameplay Mechanics are, in my opinion, the single most important part of a game. The narrative, the world, the graphics, the music, everything else is still damn important, but if the game itself isn't fun to do, then it isn't a game, really. It is a boring task with nice dressing.
Couldn't have defined them any better...
But getting mechanics right is quite a challenge - usually if enough thought hasn't been put into it, they either feel tacked on, played out/overused, or unnecessary (have you ever played a game where you can do the same thing in 50 different ways for no reason?)

So, how does one do it well? I'm not saying I've found the master stroke, but this system has worked really well in the past for me, and hopefully it will do the same for you.

The System

Remember in school during creative writing you were told to write down the "Who, What, When, Where, Why"? Well, think of something similar to that.

First, you're going to define your mechanic as a "What?" - what is the character doing. This is the heart of the mechanic, but at this most basic point, the mechanic shouldn't be too fun. This is things like "Jumping", "Attacking", etc.

Next, you're going to define your mechanic as a "Why?" - why is the player wanting their character to do this thing? What purpose does it serve? This is where your game comes in... What is the point of the game, and how does the mechanic help your player get to this point? If you don't have a concrete answer at this point, or if another one of your mechanics answers the same thing in this point, scrap it. You only want one mechanic per purpose. Think of Minecraft - each tool does one thing well - this is what you want.
Finally, you're going to define the basis of fun - "How is the player limited from doing this?". I know, this one is a longer sentence - doesn't matter... Here we define the unnecessary obstacle to doing the mechanic, the portion that breeds the fun. This can be enemies getting in the way, or it could be a limited amount of charges to the action, or it could be pit traps. In some way, this part needs to make sure the player can't simply do the mechanic constantly, otherwise it become pointless and boring. This is the part that breeds strategy and difficulty.
Ever jumped in World of Warcraft? Not nearly as fun as in Super Mario Bros.

Recap

So lets shorten this off a bit, and give you an example...

What: What are you doing?
E.g. Attacking in Skyrim.
Why: Why are you doing this?
E.g. You need to kill enemies in Skyrim.
How: How are you limited in doing this?
E.g. You're limited by your Stamina in Skyrim, so that you need to plan your attacks.

Conclusion

If you define your mechanics in these three steps you're better able to see what works and why, and more importantly what doesn't. To many games are bogged down by useless and annoying mechanics which either become the brunt of jokes (like the above), or cause players to put the games down for good.

Much Has Changed...

This is an update post, just letting you all know what has changed in my life over the last week (heaps) and letting you know that regular posts will commence again from Saturday onwards. I will do other posts soon regarding several of the points listed below, but I just wanted to take the time to air it all at once.
This is what Qantm does to us.
First up, I finished Qantm Trimester 4. Well, not really. I still have an exam tomorrow, but I am not fussed about it over much. All the hard work is gone and done. Which means...

Chorehammer, a chore management card game that me and three friends were developing was finished today, printed, cut and submitted! I will definitely post more about this later, and intend to show some of the work should my co-creators give their consent.

Also, Light, which I've spoken about before, is now 100% complete and will be submitted tomorrow. I've also been in discussion with my good friend over at Bring It With Nadia, and we may be doing a little bit of press release for it. Which should be interesting!

And, finally, last but not least, my cohort and I got accepted for our preferred rental property! AND WE'RE MOVING WITHIN THE NEXT TWO WEEKS! Many of those I am moving with are in my RPG group, and are all gamers (and several are Qantm students, too), so I will be doing a lot more gaming, a lot more work, and have a lot more to talk about! I haven't discussed this with them, yet, but as most of them read my blog they are about to find out...

...I intend to ask them to co-write some stuff for versamus!

Things are looking up, and much has changed indeed!

Slight Posting Hiccup

Greetings all,

Just letting everyone know that posts will be few and far between for the next week. It is the final week at Qantm for this tri, and my work load turns out to be significantly larger than it was a week ago (I am helping out with the art department now... This should be interesting.)

So, I wont get much time to post. Hopefully I will put up one or two, but no promises.

Sorry :/

Gamification

I'd just like to start this post by saying that, apparently, the Prince of Excess himself decided recently to set up his drum-kit in my brain and never stop playing. As such, I've been getting some pretty horrendous head-aches, so posting schedule may be out the window for a little bit until this gets under control. However, the Maraviglia must go on!

Gamification

Spend five minutes with me and you'll know two things - I think games are more important than out culture gives them credit for, and that gamification is the future of mankind. Big statement, I know, but it is true.
There must be a reason why so many people play games instead of the real world.
It couldn't be that the real work sucks or anything, could it?
For those not in the know, gamification is the process by which one introduces games theory and thinking into an otherwise un-game-like situation. An example could be Chorewars, a project I am working on at the moment to make doing household chores into a card game, or a roleplaying game where you learn Latin, or CodeHero - an FPS game where you learn to code in JavaScript.

These "gameful" variations create far richer and more engaging experiences for their players because they tap into deeper reward systems built into the human brain than other teaching or motivation methods do. For starters, these rewards are intrinsic - a game isn't a game unless it is voluntary.

The Intrinsicness of Play

Whilst "intrinsicness" isn't a word, I believe it should be. But that is off topic.

"Play" and "games" are some of the hardest words to define. That is, define properly. You can say that "play" is any action you do that is "fun", but then, what is "fun"? If you go down that road, you're likely to find the beginning of it again and the realisation that you've made no real progress, pissed off a bunch of theorists, and confused yourself more than you thought possible.

However, there is one definition that I enjoy greatly and believe that it sums up the feeling of "play" better than any other. It goes something along the lines of this:
Play is unnecessary work that we choose to do.
Think about that. There has never been a game that you've been forced to play that you've found fun, right? Perhaps one that a friend pushed you into playing, but never one where, if you didn't play it, you wouldn't be able to function. Because that would be silly.
This all makes sense. Everything else in the world currently doesn't.
Solution: make everything else in the world this. Duh.
Games are, by their nature, voluntary and intrinsically valuable - you get whatever reward you want out of it. If you sit down to play some Minecraft with the sole intention of relaxing, you'll get just that. No one else cares about your achievement of building a virtual cathedral, but you sure as hell do.

The same can be said of your favourite subjects at school - especially elective subjects. You feel great about doing work early, or just going to class, because it is work you don't have to do, but like doing.

When you combine this intrinsic desire to pursue something with a education or otherwise un-gameful pursuits, you create stronger ties to the material.

So What Can Gamification Do?

We know what gamification is, and we know why it is more rewarding and engaging than normal methods, but what can it actually do?

LOADS.
Saving the Earth, one experience point at a time.
Projects like Quest to Learn - a school where New York children are taught primary and secondary education through roleplaying methods - or SuperBetter - a game to help hospital patients feel better about themselves or about their lives - or a myriad of others are springing up.

Hell, I've already mentioned Chorehammer and Light, two projects I am working on to help gamify the world.

Gamification will see our world transformed from this broken mockery we're all walking around justifying to ourselves into the world it should be. The real world must be broken, otherwise we'd be seeing an exodus from video games into "real life", other than the complete opposite. Video games are giving people what they need better than real life, so real life needs an upgrade. And what will we get in this real life DLC?

We will have children who yearn to go to school, not avoid it and stress themselves out to the point of suicide. We will have better functioning economies where money wont represent the be-all-and-end-all (as never before has there been a more extrinsic reward than money). And we will have a happier world at large.

Besides, is it really so hard to let yourself relax a little bit and just play a freakin' game once in a while?!

Introducing “Light”


Greetings all,

I just wanted to post this up here to maybe get a little bit of constructive criticism going. Light, the game I am about to show you, is one I have created (but not finished) for my Games Design course at Qantm College Melbourne. It was created for a subject called Authorship, where in the students are expected to create a game which exemplifies an ideology or belief they hold close to themselves.

Mine was, based on personal experiences way-back-when, Light, a game to model suicide causing depression and to dissuade from suicide being an acceptable course of action.
Click here to download.
I would say more, but it sort of defeats the purpose. Have a go, and tell me what you think.