Replay Value?

I’ve been drawing the first level for my co-op stealth prototype, and there’s one major gameplay issue I started pondering: replay value.

The multiplayer games I’ve played are all about replay:

    Zombie Panic (or other Half-life zombie mods): I kept playing the same 2-3 levels over and over.

  • L4D: Versus or co-op mode, but I did spend some time playing the same levels.
  • NHL ’10 (and of course ’95) is pretty obvious: skating on the ice with bit different teams doing the same thing over and over.

This got me thinking whether I should try find ways to offer replay value for the first level by various systems (such as randomizing the places of important objects, guards, guard AI, and so on) or whether I should focus on doing a totally handcrafted level where guards, objects, and everything are found from the designed locations.

Since stealth games are different from action games, adding the replay value might become tricky as the levels are somewhat “puzzles to be solved”. Once you know the route to complete the mission, the replay value is close to zero.

I know I’ll just start with simple system: I’ll design a map that needs to be “solved” cooperatively and see how that works out. Better not try make things more complex than necessary.

Your take on this?
If you’ve played online multiplayer games, what has been the most useful elements that have got you back to play the game over and over? To me, the biggest replay value has been people – the multiplayer gaming experience in itself. Even a simple game of Risk becomes much more fun when playing against Real People instead of AI.

Note for self: there’s tons of material about “replay value” in the net and design books. Re-reading some resources might bring more ideas on how to handle this.

Share Your Most Memorable (Online) Multiplayer Gaming Experiences

I touched the surface of this topic earlier and wanted to hear some more experiences about what you guys like in online gaming.

What I like
To me, the one-timer experience is certainly a thing I look forward, but I also enjoy doing great passes to others that might shoot the puck in the net. In Zombie Panic I liked the collaboration in building defenses and shooting out zombies (or protecting other people). In L4D I liked to bandage others or get them up (or shoot zombies near them).

Some memorable moments
Not sure if these were actually so fun, but there’s 3 memorable online incidents that I really remember well.

First one happened in Zombie Panic. In this game, one side (humans) does barricades, while the other side – the zombies – try eat the freaking brainz until all humans are dead (or time runs out). Well, once when I looked forward to starting to play a round of zombie survival some guy started telling Michael Jackson jokes via the microphone. This was so unexpected that it sure was memorable. Reminds me that giving players a way to communicate can help them bring memorable moments.

Second recollection comes from NHL ’10. In one game, there was 12 human controlled players (6 on each side). One of the opponents left the game for a moment and his player was standing in the ice without nobody controlling him. Well, one brainiac from our side got this idea and moved the idle player to our defense area – meaning the opponents couldn’t attack because it would have caused an offside. It was pretty interesting to see how a game of ice hockey turned into “move the player on one side of the blue line” when couple of guys started pushing the idle player. (This reminds me that NHL ’10 sure needs some sort of “I’m idle” button, and it also means that when given tools to people, they find truly creative ways to change the whole gaming experience).

The third experience comes from Left 4 Dead. In this game, players are supposed to protect and support each other and make it to the next checkpoint. In one game, there was this one guy who constantly kept running solo and ended up beaten by the zombies – which made us 3 (the rest of the team) constantly helping him, and it was hindering our progress. It was pretty hilarious moment when quite near the end of the checkpoint this one guy got once again beaten up by zombies (and he was lying in ground) one of our teammates started shouting “leave him! leave him!” (since without him we could finish the map if the zombies killed him). Well, I pondered for a second and thought it was a sensible move. We run with the rest of the team to safety while you could still hear one guy shouting “leave him! get to the checkpoint!” – so much for cooperation…

Tell your story
Now I’d really be keen to hear what kind of multiplayer experiences have been most memorable to you?

What kind of multiplayer experiences you really enjoy?

I’ve Never Seen This Sort of Persistence

I’m talking about this lil chap who arrived in our house bit over a month ago.

Babies are very determined and persistent. If they need to get their diaper changed, that happens. If they are hungry, they get food. If they need to sleep – well, they first wake up everybody else and make sure somebody comes to help. If they need attention, they make sure they get it. That’s pretty amazing for a creature that can pretty much only cuddle, smile, cry and wave their limbs (in a totally awesome and cool way of course).

There’s just one 2 tools they use:

  • Crying
  • Crying louder

(And of course super-extra-mega-unresistable cuteness.)

They are very determined to get their one thing, and then they put 110% focus to get it – and eventually they do.

I’m not sure what happened in my life, but somewhere after the baby age I stopped doing this. If I want something, I usually use the zen-attitude to get it (which works pretty nicely)… but I wonder if I should learn more from my baby. She is so determined to get what she wants.

How to Handle Wireless Networking Issues

I bought PlayStation 3 some time ago. It was the reason why I started to set up a proper wireless networking stuff in my home. Since we have 2 floors, and the router is located in the lower floor and the PS3 in the upper floor, there’s some issues to ensure the signal is good.

First, I bought a better antenna to replace the basic router antenna. This was a pretty cheap upgrade (30 eur) and made the signal somewhat better, but I wanted more. I bought a wireless airstation which I connected to the adsl modem. This made the signal bit better again, but I was still not happy.

I knew that the store would have one more upgrade available, but then I got a better idea.

I went and bought 20 meter RJ-45 cable, some “make the cord stay nicely on the walls” nails and a hammer.

100 hammer hits later I got a cord coming from downstairs to upstairs. I threw away the airstation and just decided to use PS3 with a cord.

Cave man era style, but works bloody well.

Spare Parts Clutter My House

I wonder if I should do something sensible with the stuff I’ve collected. For example, I have totally good 20″ ViewSonic extra monitor at home since I bought a 24″ screen to replace the old one. Now I don’t know where to put this. Or who would buy this.

I also have spare routers, adsl modem (or modems), printer, motherboard, old gpu etc. etc. et cetera.

Do you guys get rid of the old stuff when you replace your gear with newer one? Mine seems to stay floating here.

(Anyone fancy buy some stuff from me?)

So, Facebook Finally Figured Out How To Make Some Donuts From FB (Games) Apps

After hearing the puzz word “social games” (which is a sucky name that pretty much means “games that are played on social platforms such as Facebook” – or crap that you use to spam your friends like somebody put it) I was wondering how come Facebook doesn’t donutize those games.

Well, they now figured it out.

Basically -if I understood correct – Facebook wants that all Facebooks apps where people buy stuff they ought to use facebook credits. That’s 30% split to Facebook, 70% to the developers.

I wonder what Big Fish Games – who recently has moved into the social games bandwagon – people have to say on this (if this really means that FB is going to take 30% from all transactions).

What Makes Stealth & (Online) Co-op Fun?

I’m working on this co-op stealth game prototype, and one part of my design is to gather tons of ideas around the core game design. I’ve re-tested some games such as Thief (which in my opinion was – and still is – the best stealth game there is in the market), Assassins Creed (gets repetitive and bit boring), Hitman (which comes close to what I really enjoyed in stealth/disguise) and Splinter Cell (the theme didn’t suit me, and somehow the camera/controls felt clumsy) to mention most played ones.

I want the game to be about that one-timer experience (which as an ice hockey term might be slightly confusing): the levels will be made so that both players are needed for the victory. A pretty good example is in a below video: (where other guy distracts the guard by making noise from the “shadows”, while the other guy gets the key when the guard is distracted)

In the last years, I hardly even remember playing single-player games (well, a bit yes, but not much) and most of my gaming experience comes from online multiplayer games. It’s left to see whether this experience will show in creating the game, but I have confidence in creating the game such that I would enjoy… and then of course if some others that’s an added bonus.

I started by doing some research and here’s some articles (and a video) about games that use stealth in some form.

Shinobido: Way of the Ninja

1UP: What Stealth is

Splinter Cell: Conviction Co-Op Map Walkthrough Video

Handbook for stealth games:

New stealth games we would kill to play:

In case you have any good resources to share, please feel free to let me know.

What makes stealth & co-op fun?
Here’s some – very few – points that I like in co-op & stealth games.

I loved the L4D system where you need to help the other guy up when he is down. That’s a bloody simple (and probably very unrealistic, since the guy starts running the minute he is up) and it works brilliantly. I could imagine having something similar: a guard (or two) gets the other ninja surrounded, but the other ninja can come throw smoke bomb to help the other guy vanish.

In Army of Two, there was similar: one guy cannot climb up to a high cliff, but when the one guy first pushes the other upwards he can then give hand and help also the first guy up to the cliff. Brilliant.

I could imagine having system where one ninja could give hand signals to the other ninja (like: “drop now!”) who cannot see the guards, and must trust on the hand signals.

Or, after getting to a tower, the first ninja can throw a rope to the other who can then climb up. I bet there’s tons of different and simple ideas which translate into fun* gaming experience.

*fun = here of course meaning the sort of fun that *I* like

And stealth is fun when it’s done like in Thief (or Hitman). In Thief you had to stay in the shadows and guards went pass you. Thief’s 1st person mode probably adds a dimension that I cannot replicate (due the fact that I will do 2D prototype), but we’ll see if something similar can be received.

Lights were also very important in Thief, although I won’t have dynamic lights and the “dark areas where you can hide” are probably differently done.

And of course stealth is about stealth: moving silently without killing anyone. In some games you could execute kills (which was pretty fun in Hitman), but I’ve yet to decide if I want to have that sort of stuff in the game. If I see that giving the possibility to do stealth kills helps build the co-op experience (like the ninjas simultaneously killing 2 guards from the shadows) then I can consider it, but there’s already so many action oriented stealth games (read: all of the current “stealth” games are like that), that I’m better off by focusing more on stealth rather than action.

The last – and most important – part of co-op games are of course human players. That’s why I design the game to be played online with other people first (and solo play is just “added bonus”). It’s the humans that bring variety into any game. Even though it might sound stupid but there’s not a single repetitive game in NHL ’10 when you go play online. All the matches are different – since there’s humans.

Next steps
Of course this is still in a very, very, very early prototype level and after more stuff gets done and if the prototype feels interesting enough, I’ll consider doing a game out of it. Right now I feel that I’m getting forward with this and have been working on a (very simple) game design document while doing the prototype.

And of course I’ve drawn some new ninja graphics.

“Multi-player Based Games Are Very Difficult For Indies to Succeed At”

The very first Insiders member Mr. Phil pointed out – after seeing my 2 player co-op ninja video – that doing multi-player based game can be a tricky beast to tackle. It might be difficult to find other people to play with.

Year or two back I’d be worried.

Today, I’m not.

I have a couple of reasons why:

  • Look at the game who won Indie Grand Prize at GDC 2010 – Monaco is a co-op multiplayer game.
  • Secondly: I’m not going to forget single-players, although multiplayers come first, and “solo play” is just an added bonus. How? Well, it’s in my interest to make so that one player can guide those 2 ninjas with one keyboard (perhaps by TAB-switching between the controlled ninja, or by simply controlling one with ASDW keys and the other with ARROW keys). With this being said and done, the game is designed for 2 player co-op.

But these two reasons for me are somewhat “external excuses/arguments over why one should do multiplayer” to which have quite little meaning to why I’m doing this stealth game prototype.

The most important reason:

  • I’m interested in doing a game that I’d wanna play. I’ve done some single player games earlier, but the games I play are only online multiplayer. (L4D, NHL ’10, Zombie Panic and so on). This is the biggest reason why I’m doing a co-op game. Perhaps it’s tricky to succeed, but… I have a good feeling about this. Going to follow my guts here.

After all, that’s why we are blessed of having guts. We need something to follow.

2D Line of Sight?

It’s becoming pretty obvious that I need some sort of “line of sight” system to figure out if the ninjas get spotted. (My current “compare direction and coordinate X” won’t go a long way).

I did check some BlitzMax archives, and was hoping to find some libraries but couldn’t find suitable yet. (It’s too late now anyway, so I’m better off by checking things tomorrow).

Here’s some articles I googled regarding 2D line of sight – seemed to have some decent info:

Any relevant links are most welcome.