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Male, 34 years old, lives in Austin

Asvarduil published a video
  • Nov 13, 2014, 1:56:00 PM

This is only Part I of the run. You can find part 2 here:

Standing Invitation: Game Dev Streams, 8:30PM Central!

So, over the past couple of months, I've created all sorts of Game Dev Stream posts in Design Mode letting people know when my game dev streams were happening, what the agenda was (which, sometimes got blown out of the water completely), and other comments.

The thing is, this blog is about game design, and my game development streams encompass the greater project of writing my games, or patches for the same.

So, I wanted to do something a little different, and less repetitive. I wanted to issue a standing invitation to my game dev streams!

WHERE: My Twitch Channel
WHEN: 8:30PM Central Time
WHAT: Writin' Games!
WHY: Because I'm a geek.

If you ever miss one, don't worry; you can catch it on my youtube channel.

So, see you all there!

EDIT: One other note: I'm also going to be clearing all the other Game Dev Stream posts from this Blog, to clean things up a bit. There's no sense in wading through a bunch of now-defunct notices of livestreams, is there?

Question: Are Game Challenges Actually Interesting?

While surfing the interwebs today, I came upon yet another video from Extra Credits.

While I'm not going to get as passionate as I did about their analysis of the Blue Shell in Mario Kart 8, I feel that there is a valid point in their attempt to analyze what players remember from their gaming experiences.

Some Introductory Questions
In the comments section, EC has some questions. For the sake of argument, I will repost them and ask you to actually attempt to answer them. Seriously, please try it.

  • How many times did you shoot in the third room of the last FPS you played?
  • How many enemies were in the fifth encounter of the second level of the last action game you played and what moves did they use on you (not what moves do they have)?
  • In the last RPG you played what specific enemies did you fight to hit level 22?

Do you have your answers yet? Need more time? It's OK, this is a blog post. I can wait.

...Right so now that you've got your answers, what are they? Can you not remember? If so, that's OK too. That's because there's something critical that I feel Extra Credits is fundamentally missing in this episode.

I feel Extra Credits is ignoring the fact that as humans we have a few key directives hardcoded into us all directly. Among them:

  • Survival
  • Reproduction

These are the two most base aspects of humanity, that we've spent millenia creating rules to harness in a constructive way (e.g. civilizations! And not the ones from Cid Meyer.) We need to have resources to live, we need to be safe from danger, so that we can reproduce and keep our neighborhood populated. For the purposes of this article, higher needs like self-actualization are ignored in that list, but they will figure in later.

Back on the subject of those three questions, if you can't remember, I have some new questions:

  • In what situations is it necessary to know how often you have fired your weapon, in an FPS?
  • In a given encounter, is it necessary to know how many enemies there are and their movesets, in an action game?
  • Is it necessary to know how many enemies you must defeat to advance to the next character level, in an RPG (western or eastern?)

I bet you don't have to think too long on these. In fact, as a gamer I bet I can predict your answer.

In a FPS, you sort of keep a background tally of how much you've used your weapon in a firefight, because ammunition is a finite resource. You have a weapon counter to ease this process, of course - it's salient tactical data.

In an Action game, it's often easy to see how many enemies you have to deal with in a given encounter. If you don't know their movesets you're at a severe disadvantage, but chances are a game designer wouldn't force you to face a bunch of new enemies with new moves or completely different moveset dynamics that you've never dealt with in a pack, the first time you meet them...unless they're really weak!

In an older RPG, yes, because they're tough and you need every character level, because RPG designers were total dicks back in the day! In a modern RPG, no for various reasons, including the fact that completing quests rewards experience. Chances are good that you can do a minimum of combat to attain even an intermediate level (such as Lv.22 from the EC question.)

There's a common theme in all of these answers to why you would do the sorts of behavior that EC is asking about - it's all down to relative challenge.

What if we weren't playing a Modern Military Shooter (MMS, a subtype of FPS) - what if we were in the American Civil War instead? There were no ammo counters back then period, weapons had horrible reload times, prior to the automatic repeating rifle, which if my history serves was introduced in the later days of the war. You'd walk into a stage with a known number of bullets. You'd be forced to keep a mental tally.

What if we were playing a new Battletoads? Most modern gamers have never experienced the delightful ease of Battletoads. Let's go a step further - what if it was a modern adaptation of Battletoads with dudes with firearms (ineffective of course; in a beat-em-up, why would we want the players to die in one hit? Oh...yeah. Battletoads. You know what, forget that for the time being...) or other projectile mechanics? I'd be willing to bet players would be defeated before realizing the new mechanics in play, and it would be minorly upsetting (because, Battletoads.)

What if we were playing a the successor to World of Warcraft? We still wouldn't care, because modern RPGs, as noted above, have been dispensing with 'grind' scenarios in favor of more varied sets of challenges.

But, that may be a bad example; let's try another - Dragon Quest? That's better; DQ is a more traditional Eastern RPG series, where spells cost, there are no Phoenix Downs (actually they're Yggdrasil Leaves). Now we're back in a grinding scenario again, but DQ games aren't known for being pushovers - they're actually hard!

Shall we try a Final Fantasy, assuming Square Enix wants to start creating JRPGs again? That's better - grinding, easy, no quests that yield XP. No, you wouldn't pay any attention to the number of monsters, for any reason except that they're between you and Point B.

So...why do we forget our gaming experiences
Simply put, they're just not challenging enough. There's certainly things worth remembering (awesome multiplayer moments...awesome boss fights...close shaves against what should have been an easy opponent), but really the reason we forget what's in our games is it's just not challenging enough.

This isn't a bad thing; there has to be valleys between peaks of challenges. We need time to experiment with new player-facing mechanics. We need breathing room to be honest (those emotional needs are finally creeping in!)

But, why are we answering those super-geeky questions from Extra Credits?
That's the best question I've read all day.

Just because it's theoretically possible to recall fine details of an experience, doesn't mean it's necessary. Why should we recall how many enemies it took to grind to Lv.22? Who cares!? We need to be stronger because there's a T-Rex with special attacks that involve lasers coming from its eyes!

My answer, is that EC has the wrong general idea. They're mistaking that for videogames to be considered seriously, that they must be processed in the same way as books and television and other established media. This is wrong; videogames offer a completely separate type of experience.

But why are we, the audience retaining so little? Are games worth less than traditional media?

No. The answer is that parts of the media in question are worth less. You have useless mooks who, charitably put, are there for target practice (in a speedrun, you just skip them.) All of the reasons you wouldn't care about the fine details of your game...comes from faceless mooks, actually.

So, Faceless Mooks Ate My Memory?
If we want to create memorable games, we need real challenges, even on easy difficulties. The reason we remember Mega Man for being great, is because nothing was handed to us on a silver platter. We died - time and again - to learn a Robot Master's attack pattern so we could defeat it with our mega buster and the sliver of health we had. Conversely, the reason we forget Final Fantasy XIII is long narrow hallways filled with useless mooks and no freedom to choose anything.

Faceless Mooks did eat your memory. Now, let's stop designing faceless mooks as the go-to option for adding filler to our games; let's create true, memorable challenges for our players to overcome.

Asvarduil is now following Lonrem.
Turning Red! (Not really)

So, I've been advancing Red Magea, the Redguard Red Mage, and she's now Lv.10. Not VR10...just Lv.10.

Even in five low levels of play, this is turning into a very interesting character to level. I started off with a fire staff (I found it apropos), and took some Destruction Staff abilities like Elemental Reach and Elemental Wall. I liked the 'Wall' ability because in PvP it could potentially provide some area-denial, which is nice.

However, I switched Red Magea to being a dual-wielder (both swords have Sharpened, which is +damage and spell penetration). I think this has been the correct way to go all along, because now RM is a she-beast. Starting with Dark Flare, I pound enemies with Sun Fire until they get into close range. Most PvE enemies are dying well before they get close enough to bring the dual swords to bear, but in PvP, the initial barrage probably won't mean much.

The big debate for right now, is what to do with Sun Fire? Vampire's Bane is tempting for PvP, but Reflective Light will make my PvE career easier. Similarly for Nova, Solar Disturbance is tempting for PvP...but in the sorts of large-scale battles that exist in ESO, maybe Solar Prison is better.

The Big Picture
Long story short, you can see what I've got up to this point. (Note that the Destruction Staff bar has to be hard-swapped to right now, as I'm not yet Lv.15) I've sought all of the first two 'noob island' skyshards, done the quest to get Lyra Titanborn back, and have gotten a few of the Glenumbra Skyshards.

With Dual Wield, I've sacrificed some ranged damage ability to be able to actually fight at close range, but Red Magea left unattended will be periodically debuffing and nuking like a champ. Up close she's actually really vulnerable, but with proper kiting/column-humping techniques she could be a fair guerilla fighter.

The Red Mage!

After having not really done a lot with The Elder Scrolls Online in about a month, I had a sudden burst of inspiration yesterday: what if I were to make a character who was a sort of Jack-of-all-Trades? A character equally good at fighting in both melee and at range, and could heal? I mean, Final Fantasy has had Red Mages since the 1980s. It's definently a thing.

Enter Red Magea
Red Magea on the NA Superserver is my attempt to make this happen.

I've started her off as a Redguard Templar (see what I did there?) who majors in Destruction Staves, and will take Restoration Staves later on. Of course, Staves are best for ranged combat, so at some point I'm going to switch out her setup to be a one-hand and shield user, as that's what Redguards usually gravitate to.

For her armor, I'm going 4 Light/1 Medium/2 Heavy while I'm leveling. This way, should I want to do something different with her in the future I'll have the levels necessary in different armor types, but will be able to be a respectable magic user nonetheless.

Templar was really the only choice for a Red Mage archetype. All three of the Templar's trees are focused on different aspects of the Trinity (Tank, Heals, DPS), unlike other classes (Dragon Knight is focused on Tanking, Sorcerer focuses on DPS with some interesting Utility thrown in, and Nightblade is really all about melee with some different interesting Utility abilities.) Thus, with either Destro or Resto loadout, I can fight or heal as necessary.

How far along is she?
Level 5. Not 'Veteran 5'...just Level 5.

I'm going to be playing through the game with her, and I'll see if I have any interesting adventures. I'm guessing I will; Lorrithimar, my 'Knight in Shining Armor' Templar generally tears through content in a reasonably safe way. Having to play a character who sacrifices durability for versatility (and, high amounts of damage for versatility) could end up being really interesting.

I'll let you know how it goes.

  • Oct 7, 2014, 12:58:41 PM

That's because @luther wrote this in our private guild forums. @luther you could maybe copy past your build on this Nook that is public and made especially for that use >> (most of poeple stillignore this Nook :'( )

  • Oct 7, 2014, 1:36:37 PM

oh ok, I'm not very familiar with anook, sorry ;). I'll do that after work.

  • Oct 7, 2014, 1:38:24 PM

For now I can provide you the links without the explanations: and… Last weekend I tried a Craglorn dungeon (VR14) with 3 other random people and I could heal enough so nobody dies (even with the OP dps of the mobs and the fact I didn't switch for all light armor). I guess this could be a good swiss knife build with the right skills on the bar.

Livestreaming - 8:30 PM CDT, "The Hero's Journey"

One more Sunday, one more Dev Livestream!

This week, I'm doing some work on The Hero's Journey, in preparation for the 1.1.5 patch to the game, which revamps some things to be less, Evil Castle 2, the one dungeon that I made perhaps too evil.

I'm also going to consider some level design for a section that got cut from my official release back in February - the Lake Aylea bridge sequence. So, there will be a level design double-header if all goes well.

As always you can catch it through my livestream widget, or directly on Twitch. If you miss the livestream, you can always catch it on my YouTube channel.

See you all there!

EDIT: Another livestream done. I found new reasons to consider physics my greatest enemy, and reasoned out some solutions to the worst dungeon I've ever created with the feedback of my viewers. You can see it here.

Livestreaming - 8:30PM CDT, "Sara the Shieldmage"

It's a Sunday. You know what that means!

I'm going to be livestreaming some final bits of development on my basic mechanical prototype of Sara the Shieldmage. I've got a Trine-like spellcasting system in the game, a small level that uses the nature of the Summoned Blocks to your advantage (which, is your only spell in this demo), and a treasure that does nothing, because I'm not really concerned about that yet.

Catch it on Twitch if you can.
Otherwise, it will be on YouTube after the fact.

As an added bonus, a link will be added to my playable prototype build.

Speaking of, if you like my work, give me a like/subscribe, and feel free to chime in on Twitch chat or the YouTube comments...or, even in response to this blog post. I do seriously consider all suggestions and ideas, especially if they happen during my stream.

EDIT: Another successful livestream! Had some good comments/ideas. You can watch it here. See you next Sunday!


I finally figured out how to rotate the map! [, to the left, . to the right]. I also nearly wiped out my small kingdom because crops didn't grow fast enough.

Asvarduil is now following Gnomoria and Hyrule Warriors.
Livestreaming - 8:30PM CDT, "Sara the Shieldmage"

Hi all!

Once again, I'm going to be livestreaming some game development at 8:30 PM CDT tonight, working on my mechanical prototype of "Sara the Shieldmage", a side-scrolling action/puzzle platformer.

Over this past week, I've been looking at my feedback, and people really liked when I got into the pixel art part of my last livestream. I'm going to be doing that again tonight, because some of my animations need a bit of work. If I get any inspiration, I'll try to do some music composition too, but I can't promise that will happen; more likely I'll wind up adding more mechanics to my 'jungle gym' scene instead. I'm keeping the 45-minute chunk idea, people liked that too.

As always, you can catch my livestream either from here on the livestream widget, or directly on my channel. Should you miss the livestream, not only will I save highlights for each of the 45-minute segments to Twitch, the whole livestream can be viewed from my YouTube channel - I always make my last recorded stream my new subscriber clip.

Speaking of, if you like my work, give me a like/subscribe, and feel free to chime in on Twitch chat or the YouTube comments...or, even in response to this blog post. I do seriously consider all suggestions and ideas, especially if they happen during my stream.

EDIT: Another 'smooth' livestream! It would have been actually smooth had I not boffed a Git commit and cleanup earlier in the day, and wound up nuking my stuff. Much of the code in the livestream was rewritten 30mins before broadcast. The art was all done on camera. The 45/45 rule was tossed out the window pretty quickly, but everything went amazingly well. This is how you recover from a critical failure.

Game Design Patterns

Way back in October 2010, a League of Legends designer that goes by 'Zileas' compiled a list of what he considered game design anti-patterns as executed by some MMORPGs and MOBAs.

As someone who's just turned my attention to designing a new game, I read this list again yesterday before my Game Dev Livestream. Today, I want to talk about what I've extracted from the list - while these 'negative rules' are useful for knowing what to, if you want to design a fun game, what should you do?

Rule #0 - These Aren't Rules
As Zileas put it in his introductory paragraphs, the point of game design is to ensure that the fun of playing a game outweighs the fun of the game playing against you (or, other people playing against you.) As a rule, it always feels at least a little good to win; it always feels at least a little bad to have something happen that hinders a player.

Game Design and Development is, among other things, an engineering discipline. We make tradeoffs in service of completing a product that is of use/enjoyment to people. Sometimes, an antipattern needs to be invoked to buy us some other advantage in our design.

Of course, this article isn't about antipatterns, it's about things we should do.

Guideline #1 - Power is Derived From Gameplay (The Cid Meyer Rule)
The legendary game designer Cid Meyer once defined a game as, 'A series of interesting choices'; others like Steve Rabin et al have defined a game further as, 'A series of interesting choices made in pursuit of a clear and compelling goal.'

Compelling goals are interesting things. They can be a long-term goal, like destroying an opponent's Nexus in League, or a short term thing like recovering from a Blue Shell strike in Mario Kart 8. These are things that you know why you want to do them, because they give you a clear advantage with intrinsic value.

When doing something, it's a given that you're creating a problem that the opposing agent is tasked with solving in some time scale. Generally, if you choose correctly, you are rewarded and the tables turned. This is A) the concept of counter-play in a nutshell, but also B) a core tennet of good game design.

Power by its definition is not your abliity to win the game, or your ability to do some situational thing like cast a stronger spell. Power is the ability to make choices that allow you to fulfill your goals, both in real life and in games. At the most fundamental level, as designers we should endeavor to make sure that the challenges our players face lead to the ability for the players to make some set of choices that lead to progress in the game, but also the ability to deal with new sets of challenges.

Guideline #2 - The Game Affords Play Easily
There's a saying in game development that I still struggle with implementing: "Easy to pick up, difficult to master." In Zileas' list, he talks about mechanics having an unusually high 'Burden of Knowledge' as an anti-pattern, either due to being extremely convoluted, poorly 'sold' in such a way that players know what is going on, or similar acts of mind-screwery.

What all of this suggests to this designer, is that we want to think about what our player finds as 'intuitive.' Extra Creditz calls this the concept 'affordances', but it's not purely their term - it's been in use long before anyone created the first video game; it's in every door handle, every keyboard, this website's's everywhere. And, it needs to be in your games.

The benefits of this are A) it may be easier to implement a more intuitive mechanic, and B) you can engineer situations that are unintuitive. Remember that part about breaking a rule above? This is where it comes into play. If, as in my example, you're devising mechanics all about summoning objects, the first case you may be presented, is using the summoned object to move around. However, after you do that you may be faced with an enemy that spits projectiles! As it's something you can climb, chances are good you can deflect that projectile with your summoned object. Later on, you gain an ability that lets you weaponize this summoned object - the original setup didn't tell you you could do that! But, it makes sense that you can.

That's affordance. It makes sense that you can do something that the game didn't go out of its way to tell you that you can do. That's "easy to pick up, but difficult to master." I feel like I've had a truly worthwhile revelation in that.

Guideline #3 - Themes are Things
One of the cool things about the human brain is that it's a pattern-recognition engine. Most of our brain's workload is finding and interpreting patterns (not unlike the characters that your brain is parsing into words that have meaning, about game development, at this very instant!)

Thus, it's usually rather disruptive when something is thrown at us that willfully and blatantly violates this pattern; a suitable term might be 'cognitive dissonance', or as laymen might call it, 'a profound feeling of WTF!?'

Let's return to my next project's example. Sara the Shieldmage is a mage whose magic revolves around shields and barriers. She can summon blocks, shields, monoliths, and dispel the same. Given her theme of protection and influence of things that protect, this makes sense.

So what if, we gave her a fireball? It'd be cool, I admit. It'd reinforce the 'mage' part of 'Shieldmage.' It'd give offensive potential which is nice. The cost would be, that the entire playstyle of the game would be undermined. The character is decidedly defensive in her magic use; giving her an offensive spell renders more than a few of her powers either obsolete, or way less useful than they should be, since fireball tends to beat horde of goblins armed with sharpened sticks.

When you violate this, you get what I call a 'Violated Theme.' For instance, for a long time in League, Master Yi was optimally built using the Ability Power stat, which is usually more commonly invested in by Support and Mage roles...despite Yi being a Fighter, possibly even a Melee Carry. The best build to use with Master Yi completely violated his archetype, and was a mindscrew, until you figured out that he had been built to scale better with AP than Attack Damage. Fortunately, Riot has since (partially) changed that.

Guideline #4 - Choices Need To Be Clear
Generally, I feel that choice in a game is about tuning. When faced with two+ choices (mutually exclusive options, if you will), you're willingly locking yourself into some path, for a given amount of time.

If a mechanic affects you in such a way that the results are too small to be immediately/easily measured, that's a sign that the design needs a change; players should quickly be able to consider the ramifications of choosing a particular path. The example I like is +1% damage vs. +1% attack speed. These are really small bonuses that, at low stat levels, don't even account to floating-point rounding criteria much of the time. Granted, at end game when your base stats are in excess of the 100s, that +1 can theoretically make a huge difference! But, it's not clear immediately, which leads to some problems.

Another problem exists in trope from: 'But Thou Must', as fashioned by Princess Gwaelin of Tantegel, in Dragon Warrior I. After rescuing her from a dragon (yes, this was an original plot at one time!) you're asked by her, "Dost thou love me?" You cannot continue the conversation unless you say 'Yes', which leads to her giving you a GPS that makes finding one of the key items to completing the game, Erdrick's Mark, much easier (though, it's strictly not necessary if you already know the coordinates.) This is a false choice, but the game is patient. It can wait for you to realize that saying 'No' will continue this conversation. This is rather anti-fun, because you lose a feeling of agency, or that your choices/ideas matter in the game world.

Finally, the way you do this right, is the way the Mass Effect series does it, albeit the Mass Effect series does it whole-hog, and remembers key decisions you made in previous games. You're always reminded if it was Ashley who sacrificed herself in ME1, or if you took the time to max out your companions' affections such that they chose to get their species to make peace in time to stand up against the Reaper invasion. A game that makes choices effective is a game that remembers those choices, and runs with them.

Guideline #5 - Reliable Mechanics Reliably Please
One of the last items on Zileas' list is about overuse of RNG in game mechanics. As many people have said in other games, particularly Magic: The Gathering, RNG is not good design. RNG adds uncertainty, which has uses. But, generally, the point of a game mechanic is to allow the player to make a choice based on their assumptions/knowledge, and have some insight as to what the result will be.

Having shades of uncertainty seems like a good way to keep a mechanic fresh, but can lead to irritating losses if the player 'somehow' manages to roll wrong (have I mentioned the RNG Gods hate you today? They still do.) It's much better for the game world to have some form of uncertainty (random encounters haven't quite gone out of style, based on Elder Scrolls Online and Skyrim), but most of the player's mechanics be solid and predictable, albeit with more interesting uses.

Zileas' list, and my own observations on things you want to do, are hardly scripture, they're guidelines. However, the gaming community, and high profile designers, have noticed trends that generally work, time and again.

Players' choices, and enemy choices, should lead to satisfying sequences of decisions. The game's mechanics and world should be consistent and make some form of sense. Themes for a character or location should be violated only sparingly, because breaking them shatters the consistency the game world needs to suspend our disbelief. Choices that are presented to the player need to be clear, to be enjoyable and empowering. Finally, mechanics need to be stable as they're tools for the player; there are places in a game to include uncertainty in pursuit of a more suspenseful game.

Writing this article made me think of things I can improve in my own titles, and I hope it sheds some light - or at least, leads to some interesting discussions - on game design principles that we who write games can use to make more cool experiences for our players. What do you think of these guidelines?

Livestreaming - 8:30PM CDT, "Sara the Shieldmage" (Tentative)

Hey guys!

I'm going to be livestreaming today, at 8:30PM Central Daylight Savings Time. On the agenda today is a brand new project, based off of The Hero's Journey.

Given my feedback of my last episode, It will probably be 1:30:00 long. The first half, I'll be talking about the general mechanical design of my new project, Sara the Shieldmage (Tentative Title). The 45 after that, we'll change gears and I'll do some live pixel art!

I also replaced my mic and have locked down my OBS settings, so this time, there will be no lost content. The next thing I have to do is upgrade my computer such that my broadcasts are less choppy.

As always you can catch my stream on or my livestream widget here. Additionally if you miss it, no worries; you can just catch it on my YouTube Channel.

Looking forward to it. See you all there!

EDIT: The livestream was a success! For once, I had no technical issues, and I think my voice sounds better with my new microphone than before. As for the livestream, you can see it on YouTube here. The Mechanical Design segment goes from 00:00 to about 45:00; the pixel art segment goes from 45:00ish to the end.

Asvarduil uploaded a picture

Tin Death Star 2.0! The world this is in is pre-hardmode. I've got most normal mode NPCs accounted for, with the sole exception of the Witch Doctor.

  • Nov 6, 2014, 8:29:32 PM

I love it! What a pretty house v.v