Storytelling at a new level

It’s definitely too much time that I’m not posting anything here… 534476_417853834948833_106206925_n
Time is short and running away like a river, however I found a few minutes to talk about one of the most recent thing I was involved into: Mamoo.
Mamoo is a project aiming at teaching foreign languages to small kids through fairy tales  portrayed on its software.
What I also find interesting is that, beside using famous stories, Mamoo relies on new authors and emerging artists.
As a creative game designer, storytelling is part of my everyday life and is one of my hobbies; for this reason, I enthusiastically joined the group of professionals involved in this ambitious project and wrote down a short fairy tale which is currently under development.
I found the experience of writing a fable quite interesting; in order to be part of Mamoo you can not create just any story, you also need to convey educational messages through simple words. Teaching a language is only one of the many features offered by this project!
Well, let’s hope that Mamoo will become a great success, since it offers a unique and extremely useful service in a colorful and entertaining way!

Of course, I will report when my fairy tale will be published!

When “Music” means “Adventures”!

Disney’s Violetta: Music Adventure is finally out! This is the latest game I worked on as game designer and was released today on the iOS App Store.1
Become Violetta and explore her world, meet her friends and experience her same feelings. This adventure game faithfully follows the popular TV series and allows the players to do whatever they always dreamt about while watching it.ce07b5aa77-SLIDE_02_NEW
The player is asked to take on some quests, in order to help this or that friend who are in need; talk to people, look for objects, visit colourful locations and train your sing skills through funny mini-games.logo
Violetta: Music Adventure is the latest game released by Artematica Entertainment, one of the oldest and most successful Italian game developers. This was not the first time I helped them as an external game designer and it will not be the last one. I am pretty sure that this game will gather a lot of attention from all the series’ fans and top the popularity charts in the blink of an eye.
Violetta: Music Adventure is available for iOS and Google Play.

Taming the Red Dragon

This post is some kind of followup of the one with a related name dated 23rd August 2012. Somehow a year and half passed, but looks like I am still after this ill-famed red dragon. conf5

I don’t know if you read my previous post about this, but in my free time I like to work on parallel game design projects and, helping the Italian Confrontation players’ community (CDRI), is one among them. I will not digress about what is Confrontation, beside furnishing a good link and telling you that is a tabletop wargame.

As said, in the last one and half year, I cooperated with 4 other guys for revisiting all the aspects of this awesome game called Confrontation. Each of us had a different role; of course I was the game designer. We did not create a new game, we “simply” updated an existing one, corrected bugs, bad game mechanics, improved miniatures’ usability, revised spells and so on. Of course, we also create new assets and features, but our will was, as first part of an ongoing project, to make stable what we already have; once that is done, we can move on and enlarge it.

During this time, we worked on so many things concerning the game: the rulebook, the character profiles, the spells, the missions etc. We rewrote several hundreds pages and tested it all. It was a huge work, especially because we did not receive much help from the rest of the gaming community, which was quite skeptic about our determination in fulfilling this project. However, in the end, we manage to do it and almost everybody is happy with our work. In a couple months form the Confrontation 5th Italian Evoultion release, several “old and disappeared” players came back and started playing again thanks to what we did.

We are definitely happy about that, but it is not over yet! safe_image

If you are curious about this, I suggest you to take a look at the teaser we made before the official release, while you can visit the Italian Community forum (you can meet me there as Felian) where you can freely download all the gaming materials (here) or the Facebook page; sadly, everything is written in Italian…

If you are an Italian reader, I warmly encourage you to check this topic in greater detail and try Confrontation 5th Italian Evolution. If you are not, you are anyway invited to check it and take a look to the last official ruleset, freely released as a creative common by its actual owner, Cyanide Studio (which is also making Confrontation based video games).

Casual gamers vs hardcore gamers

hardcore vs casualA full month passed since my last post! Shame on me, but I was super busy… or I wasn’t and I simply was lazy… or both!

Talking about time, it flies and games and gamers change.

cc07b0a1498a3db3cf43025e0a4b65cf-casual-vs-hardcore-gamersA few years ago, when iPhones, iPads and Wii became popular, two new “genre of gamers” were born: casual gamers and, their counterpart, hardcore gamers. Who are these casual and hardcore gamers? Nowadays, this is really a tricky question, while it was easier to answer a few years ago. Why I say so? Because the so-called early casual gamers (those who played Farmville, for example) have evolved, have moved to more complex games and they don’t play “casually” anymore: they attach to a game for long time and many hours a day. Are they still casual than?

And, about hardcore gamers? Are they simply those who play many hours per day? Or are they those who play some games defined “hardcore”? And what about hardcore gamers appreciating more accessible ones? But which games are “hardcore”? Are considered hardcore the games that are time-consuming? Are considered hardcore the games that have high levels of difficulty? Are considered hardcore the niche games with a small amount of players although their high quality? Are considered hardcore the games containing a high quantity of violence?

These are just a few questions to try to define hardcore games, but the main ones. Usually it is believed that a hardcore game answers YES to all the previous questions, but let’s see if it is true and if it its true only for them:

  • Call of Duty:COD
    • many hours long? Yes, in multiplayer
    • difficult? Yes, depending on player and opponents’ skills
    • niche? No: a lot of people play COD
    • violence? Yes, lots of realistic violence
  • League of Legends:LOL
    • many hours long? Yes, in multiplayer
    • difficult? Yes, depending on player and opponents’ skills
    • niche? No, a lot of people play LOL
    • violence? Cartoon mild violence
  • Monster Hunter:
    • many hours lonMHg? Yes, several hundreds
    • difficult? Yes, it is solely based on player’s skills
    • niche? Depending on countries: in western ones it’s not very famous, but in Japan it’s a top seller
    • violence? Fantasy violence against monsters
  • Final Fantasy:Dissidia_Final_Fantasy_-_CG_artwork_of_Warriors_of_Cosmos
    • many hours long? Yes, several dozens
    • difficult? Depending on the time spent on grinding, so the answer could be, “not really”
    • niche? Depending on countries; in western ones it’s quite famous, but in Japan it’s a top seller
    • violence? Fantasy violence
  • FIFA:fifa09_large_1
    • many hours long? Yes, in multiplayer
    • difficult? Yes, depending on player and opponents’ skills
    • niche? Not at all
    • violence? No violence beside fouls
  • R-Type:rtype
    • many hours long? Depends on player’s skills
    • difficult? Extremely difficult
    • niche? Yes, extremely
    • violence? Somehow: spaceships shooting lasers…
  • Blitz Brigade:blitz
    • many hours long? Quite
    • difficult? Yes, depending on player and opponents’ skills
    • niche? No, this is a social game
    • violence? Yes, lots of realistic violence
  • Candy Crush Saga:candy
    • many hours long? Yes, a lot
    • difficult? Advanced levels can be really tough
    • niche? Not at all!
    • Violence? Extreme violence against candies! So, no.

hayday

From this list, if we take a closer look, we see that games like Call of Duty (which is considered hardcore) is not really different from Candy Crush Saga. Can we really judge a gamer from what he/she plays?
Would it be better to judge them by the amount of time spent playing per day? For example, on average Hay Day is played even 81 minutes per day per player, and Hay Day is definitely considered to be a casual game… Candy Crush Saga is played even more!

Mad-World-Wallpaper

Likewise, we could try to argue that it depends on the platform on which the game belongs, but we have several problems with games such as Angry Birds and Minecraft, which are long, difficult, one of niche, the other not and somehow violent. Even consoles such as Wii (erroneously considered to be casual) hosts games such as Pandora’s Tower and Mad World, which are far from being casual games!

So, we can not easily define casual vs hardcore gamers on the played game structures, on the quantity of time spent playing or on the platform used… This makes things really tricky… Especially if you add that somebody plays both games considered to be hardcore and casual!

But, we can ask another kind of question, maybe more interesting for future discussions: does it still make sense to divide these two kind of players in two opposed groups? Is this still relevant?

cropped-wall10-1024x768-1-1

Drink ‘n Drive!

 Global Game Jam 2014 came to an end last Sunday, 26th January 2014.

foto3

I was able to join the event at the Bremen site, which is one of the biggest in Germany; over there, more than 80 jammers met and worked hard on their projects for 48 crazy hours.

foto2

Since I went there without having a team, I joined on the spot a group of guys; luckily, our team got along really fast.
At 4PM the organization presented the Jam’s theme, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”. As such, the options for creating a game were almost endless, but we wanted to make something cool and kicking. That’s why, after a not-too-long brainstorming, we came up with “Drink ‘n Drive”, a non-politically-correct driving game based on the effects that alcohol can cause on drivers.

Titlescreen

screentest

The concept of the game, which sadly was not possible to take to full completion because the lack of time, was the following: there is a driver in his car who is in a big hurry; however, he does not feel like ignoring the speed limits, thus he drives quite slow. But, when he drinks and gets drunk, his inhibitions disappear and he starts driving much faster! In the meantime, his perceptions get altered and things start looking different; for example, a pedestrian might look no anymore as an innocent victim to dodge, but like a coin to collect or a zombie to slay.

Chr_15Chr_04

The game is, of course, pretty simple, but has a feature studied to make it much more funny and more similar to real life: to best appreciate the game, the player can use their Android mobile as a remote controller; thanks to its accelerometer, the device works as a beer bottle and, tilting it, the character drinks and gets drunk. The best way to appreciate the game is to attach the phone to a bottle and really drink to accelerate!

Last but not least game feature, are the real driving license question that are asked to the player! Evey time they start a race, a question is offered; if the player answers correctly, they get an in-game bonus! It was decided to add a small percentage of fake/funny questions, in order to confuse the player, but the time did not allow for that, even if I managed to prepare all of them.

NES_Rad_Racer

The game is realized in pure and awesome pixel art, in order to bring back memories of masterpieces such as Outran and Rad Racer.

 Likewise, the music selected for the game was supposed to be 8bit style.

foto1

I would like to thank again my team for their efforts and great work and offer you, my good reader, the chance to try Drink ‘n Drive, by downloading it for free from the Global Game Jam website.
Maybe, one day, the rest of the team and me will decide to enrich this game and take it to its deserved accomplishment!

Two worlds, two souls: being a game designer today and tomorrow

The profession of game designer is probably one of the most recent job existing. Video games are out for a quite short amount of time and it took a few decades before they become an appealing product for consumers. However, at that point, creating a game was more a matter of programming than anything else; the real need for artists began when hardwares were powerful enough to support nice graphics.

videogamedesign_logo

 

The need for game designers, instead, arose later, when market started to be more competitive and games more complex. At that time, selling any game was no more that easy, consumers started to be more picky. There is no need to explain what is a designer and which tasks he/she holds during the development of a game (although, still nowadays, many managers are not fully convinced of the need of a designer for their projects and do not understand the advantages that these professionals can take to the products they work on; many still think that anybody can be a designer since, to be a designer, the only requirement is having an idea (any idea) for a game).

3744858249_65cc805ebb

In the last 6-8 years, the video game market changed a lot, thanks to the introduction of the digital delivery, the online stores and the mobile and social gaming; not to mention the creation of free(mium) games. These really brought a revolution in the industry and in the market!

From this long and boring opening, finally we reached the core of this post: being a designer today and in the future. With the new market and the new mobile and social games, the game designer’s expertise have started to adapt and changed. This fact is leading to a real split in this profession, creating to different and parallel business roles: the “traditional” console/pc game designer and the “social/mobile” one.

9780672328206_p0_v1_s260x420-640x640

The former is exactly the same as before: not much has changed; he/she works on complete (or almost complete) products, sold the old way and with no need to create players’ retention and loyalty to the product (at least, no more than pushing the player to buy the sequel of that game).

51y1nP0K67L._AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-25,22_AA300_SH20_OU15_

The latter, on the contrary, given the platforms on which he/she works (mobile and/or social), given the fact that he is giving away a game for free but the company still needs to make a profit of it, given the totally different customers (mostly casual gamers), given the reduced development costs and tons of other factors, he/she needs a complete new set of skills, skills that are often extremely different from those needed by a “traditional” designer. 

With the passing of time, the two figures are getting more and more separated: the “traditional” one going everyday more in the storyteller/movie director job direction, while the “social/mobile” is transforming the designer into a seller with psychologist/mentalist competencies.

Take a look at the nowadays game designer job offers; they already witness the upcoming change. In the next few year, these two jobs require so many different skills that they will truly turn into two different professions. Extremely good expert from one sector will be almost totally unable to move to the other, exactly like a skilled UI artist can not instantly transform into a seasoned environment one.  separated: the “traditional” one going everyday more in the storyteller/movie director job direction, while the “social/mobile” is transforming the designer into a seller with psychologist/mentalist competencies.  game-designer