To Cut or Not to Cut?

Cut-scenes have long been the bane of many gamers’ existence. Sure, gamers love story, but cut-scenes often interrupt gameplay, and thus many gamers skip them to get back to the interactive portions that make a game a game. In the end, cut-scene development money is wasted, and gamers end up bumbling through games confused and unsatisfied. So is there a solution? In a recent Gamasutra article, Andrew Vanden Bossche set two fundamental guidelines for including cut-scenes in games: 1. Words must never interrupt the game. 2. Words must never be skippable. Intrigued? Take a look at Bossche’s article, “Analysis: Skippable Cut-Scenes and How They Work in...
Minesweeper: The Movie

Minesweeper: The Movie

Recently, we were tasked with adapting a game to a movie. After pondering some games with strong story lines, I decided to go instead with Minesweeper, the classic puzzle game that has provided countless hours of fun for PC users worldwide. The movie Minesweeper features Ethan, a cop who has devoted his life’s work to studying mines and tracking a particular criminal group known as the Planters. Flashbacks early in the movie reveal that Ethan’s father died from a mine explosion when Ethan was just a kid, thus providing motivation for his intense interest in mines. After a routine detonation exercise goes terribly wrong, Ethan questions his expertise and resigns from the force, sending his life spiraling out of control. At his lowest point, the police chief visits him, requesting his assistance with the latest lead on the Planters, who are planning to plant a massive mine field in the Vancouver harbor for a fireworks festival. Reluctant, Ethan hangs on to a copy of the Planters’ encoded map but promises nothing. Another flashback later that night reveals the map’s connection with Ethan’s late father, and suddenly, the numbers and symbols on the map begin to make sense. The map leads him to a warehouse where he confronts Simon, the leader of the Planters. After some questioning, Ethan realizes that he and Simon share more of a past than he could ever have imagined. Who would’ve thought that such a seemingly simple puzzle game could yield such a complicated story line? Sony and Paramount – if you’re interested, let’s...

Creating Fun

On my way back into town from a wedding this weekend, I decided to start sketching out some ideas for my next level design concept. Being on an airplane without internet access, I had to draw inspiration from the resources available to me, namely the various airport maps within the in-flight magazine. As I was sketching, I could feel the guy in the seat next to me eyeing my drawings curiously, checking my progress every so often to sneak peeks at room layouts, weapon placements, and ideas for cinematics. In that moment, as I saw myself through his eyes, I remembered what an incredibly fun and creative field game design is. Every day, I get to pull inspiration from movies, news, science, and the world around me to create entertaining interactive experiences. I’m in the business of creating fun, and what can be more fun than...

National STEM Video Game Challenge

All I can say is, it’s about time. Last week, Obama announced the National STEM Video Game Challenge, challenging game developers to¬†promote interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through video games. The competition includes two categories: a youth prize for middle school students and a developer prize for emerging developers. The games will target grades pre-K through 4 and will surely inspire many innovative ways to incorporate education and video games. Entries will be accepted from October 12, 2010, through January 5, 2011. Can’t wait to see the...
Rooftop Rumble

Rooftop Rumble

Capture the flag. Such a straightforward game, yet with infinite possibilities. Some of the most memorable CTF maps have been incredibly simple – two bases connected by a winding road. Other maps include transporters, secret passageways, and flying vehicles. Over the past couple of weeks, we were tasked to work in pairs to create our own CTF levels using the Unreal Engine. Several brainstorming sessions in, my partner Chris and I decided on a rooftop CTF level featuring a variety of pathways on multiple levels. Take a...