Posts Tagged ‘gamasutra’

Time-Limited Demos, Death by Auto-Save

Friday, October 10th, 2008

The Designer’s Notebook: Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie! IX by Ernest Adams is up over at Gamasutra. If you haven’t read the column before, it’s a checklist of bad design choices that will frustrate the heck out of your players. If you missed any of the last eight episodes, you can find a database of all the points here.

This year’s column is particularly good. Points covered are:

– Failure to Explain Victory and Loss Conditions
– Time-Constrained Demos
– Obvious and Cheap Reskins
– Computer Crashed While Saving? Game Over
– Friendly AI Characters That Do More Harm Than Good
– Fake Interactivity
– Bad Gamepad-to-Mouse/Keyboard Conversions
– Setting the Player Up to Fail
– Your Only Save is Immediately Before Your Death

I’m hard-pressed to disagree with much that was said with the exception of time-limited demos. Most of the time, I agree, that time-limited demos are a bad idea. I’d rather have a content-limited demo. If the game cuts me off too soon I can’t tell if I liked it or not. That said, I’ve seen cases where time-limited demos have worked very well. For example, I think PopCap does an excellent job with time-limited demos. I’ve bought several of their games when the demo cut me off and I was eager to play more.

I’ve given some thought as to why some time-limited demos work, and some are just irritating. I think the key difference is not just whether or not the player has had enough time to enjoy the game before the demo runs out, but whether or not the player has had enough time to understand the game before the demo runs out. A casual puzzle game can be understood in a few seconds, and most of the demo is spent finding out if you like it. For an adventure game, you might have to play an hour or more before you understand the mechanics well enough to actually play. If the whole demo is spent learning how to play, you never get enough time to find out if it is fun.

The last point in the article, “Your Only Save is Immediately Before Your Death”, is a really important one. I think we’ve all been bit by this at some time or another; I know I have. You load the game from your save point and die before you have a chance to even do anything. After 10 reloads, you realize you might as well delete the save file. Ernest doesn’t mention it, but this is a critical consideration if your game auto-saves! If you auto-save, be warned that you may have just killed the player permanently if you are not careful.

Helping People Play Nice

Monday, April 7th, 2008

According to a recent report by NPD, 42 percent of people who play games play online. Of those who do play online, 90 percent play through their PCs. Only 19 percent of the 42 percent play on a game console or portable.

That it means that nearly 60% of all gamers don’t play online at all, and an even smaller fraction play console games online–despite the fact that the retail console game market is substantially larger than the PC market. That still adds up to millions of players, but it’s small compared to the offline and single-player market.

Many people have explored different reasons for this from connectivity to ease-of-use, but in a new article on Gamasutra, Bill Fulton explores one of the less-discussed causes: The behavior of some online gamers is so abrasive–even to the point of abusive at times–that many new players would simply rather not play.

Some gamers might be thinking “If he’s so thin-skinned that he can’t take the online banter, maybe he shouldn’t play online.” Unfortunately, many people do just that — they stop playing online.

Even more gamers go online a few times and then never play again. This isn’t just my personal speculation; I have seen convincing data from two different sources that the biggest problem with online gaming is the behavior of others. The biggest problem isn’t the cost; it isn’t connectivity issues, or even the quality of the games — it is how people are f***wads online.


The online behavior of our customers is dramatically reducing our sales, and continues to stunt the growth of our industry. Non-gamers simply don’t love games enough to put up with the crap they get online.

I think most people who play online would agree that this is a problem… not just for games, but across the Internet in general as forums, instant messaging and other services are often equally plagued by griefers, net trolls and others those who’s primary source of amusement is making other people miserable. While many people use these services anyway, many people don’t, or they severely limit the online communities they participate in.

The article goes on to further suggest ways that game developers can implement game rules to discourage the anti-social behavior of the minority of players who would otherwise spoil the game for everyone.

Read the article: Fixing Online Gaming Idiocy: A Psychological Approach (WARNING: This article contains strong language.)

NPD report on online gaming: Online Gaming 2008

GDC Already?

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

In case you missed it, the annual Game Developer’s Conference is early this year! The conference is usually held in March, but this year it runs from February 18-22 in San Francisco, California. Alumni early-registration deadline is December 5.