Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Gamers hell review!

Gamers Hell cast their vote on Dreamlords and and it's an eight!

8 / 10

Read the review here

This review, although the score is very high, is much more informative then the terrible Zitron review, how much worse it would have been for us if he had put forth his review with such detail and clearity.

Monday, May 28, 2007


I have sworn not to rant about flying in this blog since it is a game design blog but I just have to give myself a break!

Here is me performing a very difficult landing in flight simulator X.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

$$ and The Movies

One topic that is often discussed passionately amongst game designers is the question whether or not making money is the "main thing". A natural response is "yes" but if someone raises the following question, is it more important then making a brilliant game? Then thee is a debate.

So what do I think? I used to think that with great gameplay, or at least smart gameplay, players would always come. That doesn't seem to be so, The Movies for instance is a very notable example of this not being true. Most reviewers and industry people think that The Movies is an astonishing feat of development in general but design specifically. And despite this, The Movies didn't perform well at all and was far from a block buster.

Why is this? Ambivalent game identity and over-ambition. One of the things I am so impressed by with the movies (and many with me) is how they, from a design perspective, integrated all features into a whole, a very well functioning game. Almost every aspect of all features were cleverly integrated despite the vast amount of unusual challenges design-wise.

However, all this design magic where to be for nothing, since the game didn't sell. The fantastic game design solutions made no one happy even though they were great because the main bottom line of the game wasn't appreciated by the players.

For those of you not familiar with The movies, there are two major features in the game that are equally big. There is a tycoon game and there is a (superb) movie making tool.

Peter Molyneux once promised that "yes you are indeed going to be able to make movies and watch them within the game itself". This statement cornered the design team, the tycoon mode was absolutely necessary to have a game at all, and Peter had promised the movie making tool...

Since the designers (and whole team) where so damn good, they solved the challenges so well that both modes became equals and in effect, competed for the player's attention.

This is something you don't generally want, having your features competing against each other, but rather work in harmony/symbiosis. (I am the first to admit I only draw this conclusion after the movies proved not to be a hit)

One detail that I think stands out as a conflict between the modes is the rating of a movie within the game world. Since it's a tycoon game your movies will bring you the income, actors, sets, food trollies etc provide expense. Now there is also the movie making tool within the tycoon game, so you are free and encouraged to delve into a single movie, directing it with your bare hands and voila, some algorithm decide that it blows and the revenue is 5 bucks.

Why create real art for an algorithm to judge? Lionhead felt the same thing and rallied to enhance the movie making tool to have a stand alone community where real people would judge real art. Once again, great solution, but it further split the two modes apart.

Imagine two people discussing how to play the game.
Run a movie studio, make movies!, hire actors and manage salaries, make movies that are great, but don't earn revenue unless you have hired the right stars, placed a food trolly and provided your main star with botox, but other people might love them! But my studio will go bankrupt! Develop new scenery through R&D! Yeah.. but you don't need that since all sets are available in the sandbox so you can make cooler movies!, Yeah but that won't be real.... Who cares if the movies are cool?, I make movies for real people!, I use the same set for all movies and earn good money, well I only use the sandbox..!!

In the end, all obvious problems have been cleverly solved by the dev team so only the not so obvious problems remain.

If you haven't already, try the m

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Story in games

I was recently asked to share my view on story in games for a research project. Here is my reply:

I think the consensus is there all right, but more then saying story is bad, what companies are saying is that good gameplay is much more identifiable then story, so in a sense story becomes a risk factor. Since a story so clearly can be good or bad, putting a story in the game can equally clearly enhance or reduce the game. Building a strong game with no story e.g. Battlefield 1942 / 2142 is in that regard "safer".

The old stigma for the game industry regarding story is the linear nature of a story. Only if you make a linear game can a strong story really add to the game in a big way, but even then you take the risk that the story won't be popular with the gamers.

Another factor why story always takes a beating is because it doesn't really matter... This becomes clear in games with a bad story. Take Gears of War for instance, the story is OK I guess but compared to literature it's very basic and flat like an action comic. Critics and players alike love Gears of War despite this fact which suggest that gameplay/graphics etc is much more appreciated among the audience then story.

I do think that traditional storytelling will continue to face difficulties in games and that the best way ahead is to adopt the art and craft of storytelling into the games medium.

For instance, background story has a wider use then story per se, look at the warcraft universe, they have a very strong back story that they draw from when creating the game, however, they also have a story, that is fairly complex but most players don't know about the specifics of the actual story because it doesn't affect them in any way.

To integrate storytelling in games I think it needs to be merged with aspects of game design and simulation so that the story can grow within the game and also have an impact in the game.

The bottom line is I think, stories are unpopular because they don't matter. Make the story matter within the boundaries of the game.

To mention a few great examples where story have been integrated to some extent within the game:
Beyond Good and Evil
Half Life 2

These games have made an effort to take as much as possible from the story/back story and make it real in the game, this is one of the huge advantages with the game medium, not only create this and that weapon but also having huge tv-monitors on walls talking acting out the story, propaganda leaflets and posters on the walls etc to include you in the story you could otherwise just read about.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Nordic Game Conference

I have just recently returned from the southern tip of sweden (malmö) where the Nordic Game Conference is held.

The NGC is very good event for nordic game developers to meet and exchange knowledge (and staff).

The great news is that Lockpick Entertainment won some hundred thousand danish crowns for one of our projects (not dreamlords) and we were also the swedish nominee for Best New Talent 2007 by IGDA, something we are very honored by. In the end, the Danes won the award but at least we are the most talented in Sweden ;)

"Sweden's Best New Talent 2007" -IGDA

Here is Jon Selin looking crazy as always =) He recently quit Lockpick after completing Dreamlords. He was recruited by Icelandic developer CCP who made a good signing for sure.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The all seeing orb

Don't try to hide, don't even think about it!

The all seeing orb will always see you, watch your every move... it is.. omnipotent!

Anyhow. Not much activity lately, and since no one read this blog, there is really no harm done =)

My next post will be a retrospect look at a game that I really admire in many ways; The Movies by lionhead studios. I isn't really brilliantly fun or balanced but it is an incredible feat and possibly the once game with most features that actually made it from idea to working in game.

So that is whats coming next. You are watching CTP.