Hatchlings Games

Web Gaming 2.0 Revolution

How to be a Great Game Designer

Dustin BrowdenRaph KosterTim Cain

Rand MillerWarren SpectorBrian Reynolds

Alexey PajitnovTim SchaferTan Zie Aun

He is actually Tan Zie Aun aka nowing, the game designer of Encephalon and Creative Director of Quasr.
Tan Zie Aun

He should really grow a beard don’t you think? Then he’ll look very much like a great game designer doesn’t he?

Disclaimer: Except for Zie Aun, we are not associated with any of the game designers above. We took their pictures from websites.

Top posts by Zie Aun aka nowing:

July 10, 2007 Posted by | Game Industry, Humor, Sharing | , | 4 Comments

Parents Just Tend to Blame It On Computer Games

“Computer games are addictive.”

This is where all fun ends and the horror begins. Computer games are said to be stealing away the fun of traditional toys like Lego. Parents also believe that this new toy promote individual isolation therefore reducing the participation in a child’s creativity growth.

Toy in general is fun and addictive. The computer game is on a different level of fun and additivity. In Raph Koster’s A Theory of Fun, fun is learning and learning is fun. The computer game is a very powerful learning medium for it is a platform of unconscious learning.

Most parents believe that they are excluded from the child’s creativity growth when the virtual world invades. I am going to turn the table around today.

This time I will just focus on the number of players in a game. Different modes of play serves different types of participations and experiences.

Single Player Games
Early computer games are majority single player games. This is where parents complain about individual but if there is audience, this could be a different story. Audience can give guidance and comments to help the player along the way. It is a good way to observe the process of learning, the best way to know how a mind works. If the player plays a game well and want to give the audience a great experience, cinematic games are perfect for this type of participation.

Two Players Only Games
There are 2 types, one that rival against each other and helping each other. This type of game only focus on the participation of 2 players. Best for building close bonds. Audience do not have much fun watching. Recommended for parents and siblings. (Drinking session maybe?)

Online Games
The best thing about online? Social convenience. It is not so hard to find a friend to play with you now. Players are having fun making new friends and most importantly, getting things done in a team. The level of competitiveness in game is a moist environment for team building. Weird thing is, parents treat real players in virtual worlds as fakes and their reason is standard, “You don’t even see them.” Well try playing MMORPGs with parents and let them know how real they are! Invite your family to play, I am sure that your family are going to make a great team!

Children love sharing the fun and I am sure that everyone had ask their parents to play a game with them before, but then again they would usually answer:

“I don’t know how to play.”

Dear gamers, parents are actually afraid of trying new things. So be patience on educating parents about games, I guarantee that the return is priceless.

Yes, I am back from China and hope you enjoyed my opening blog post.

inspired by How Killing People with My Dad Improves Our Relationship


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June 21, 2007 Posted by | Education, Games, Gaming, Sharing | 4 Comments

Chessy Game Commercials

Where and how did you get to know about a video game?

I remember running into friend’s house when they have the latest console or the latest game. I had never ever watch a single video game commercial on the television before and so I thought video game is a viral phenomena.

And so, I was wrong on the commercial part. I ran a search and stumbled upon this: Top 10 Chessiest Classic Game Commercials. Well, I already posted the videos all here (and it is youtube video!).

10. Activision: Sports

9. Berzerk

8. Activision: Ice Hockey featuring Phil Hartman

7. Give Me Everything

6. French Tutor

5. Intellivision: Featuring Henry Thomas from E.T.

4. Nintendo: Power Glove

3. Vanguard

2. Pole Position

1. The Legend of Zelda Rap

Oh, I have the lyrics here. You can rap along 😉

Back when I was riseing up
All the suckers used to play
Acting like they all that
And no one knew the way
To Ganon’s castle, Level nine
Link had the power, I had the mind
I held the magic sword way up high

I knew I could win I didn’t have to try
The NES Advantage was on my side
I take evil for a ride
I smoke the tactites like they was hooch
Cause soon I know I’d have zelda’s cootch
I’d walk to meet The motherfuckin gannon
He’d dissappear like a ball from a cannon
I raise my voice and I shout out loud
I got the triforce and I am proud

I finally hit him with the silver arrow
And you know I leave the rock
Even though the road to good is narrow
Zelda’s on my jock
Cause my balls is big, to be this brave
Princess zelda is the one I saved
Now I’m playing with power
The nineteen eighty’s will never go sour

Yeah, who would have thunk it, it must have been a drunken
someone who could pump it with a beat so funky
hell yeah bitch, you heard it hear first,
recognize now or you’re gonna need a nurse
to stitch up the wounds from the k and the b
redefine the word “originality”, cant fuck with this shit, 1986
we was in the mix and zelda was the fuckin fix
now we bringin this shit, full fuckin circle
cant hate with this?go hang with steve erkle

cause we regulatin hardcore, now you know whats in store
beggin for a little more, glad i was in level 4
realize this, im creepin through the mist
with the fuckin triforce, and im motherfuckin pissed
now you realizin this beats hipnotizin, my skill keeps rising
all this shit just ties in, step back i got the players guide
fuckin game genie with the codes inside
skill to save hyrule and the rest of mankind
all this shit be stickin in your mind

now you understand the controller in your hand
you almost beat the game, but you aint the fuckin man
so leave it up to me, and back the fuck off
you think you’re hardcore, but your skill be soft
i piss on your cartridge, throw it in the trash
take it to the pawn shop for some cash
you dont belong on my NES
i grab your controller to show im the best

Classic games are out? Not quite. I’m still playing the my Donkey Kong Game & Watch.

June 10, 2007 Posted by | Humor, Sharing | Leave a comment

Fighting Noise?

The battle between me and the noise begins…

From the previous post, I’ve explained noise in game design but what kinda noise does Encephalon have anyway?

Lack of Preparation Stage

Every time when I play Encephalon I have no idea what to do first. I know is a strategy game and I needed to think of a strategy to win beforehand but… there weren’t enough information or anything that I can plan ahead. Ok look, I’m holding a bunch of cards which we call it the deck then 2 cards are drawn to be laid on anywhere on the first row of the board. Alright, the cards are randomly drawn and so hopefully I’m lucky enough to get the card I want so that I can think of a strategy later.

Newmw made a comment about my previous post at my personal blog:

“I remember the first computer ‘games’ being all about randomness. Around the beginning of the 80s designers creating viruses just battling each other. That’s pretty random too”

Randomness can be a friend(signal) or an enemy(noise) but the randomness that “attacked” Encephalon will then change our game from a strategy game to a chance based game.

“…hopefully I’m lucky enough to get the card I want so that I can think of a strategy later.”

So why is this preparation stage so important? Duh, it is a strategy game.

Let’s take a look at soccer (I’m not a soccer expert). A soccer team consist different type of players with different positions (Ah yes… is the team building that matters, not individual spoon-feeding!). Imagine the team playing on the soccer field without any preparation or some strategy… even playing among friends, I’m sure you will at least say something like “Hey, Ben stay there and be good” *pat* *pat*. Thing is, the customization feature of our game concentrated on individual card building rather than team building or the deck building.

More problems to solve ahead 😉 but we will have to think out of the “BOX” first…

Related post:

January 9, 2007 Posted by | Encephalon, Game Design, Game Development | Leave a comment

What is Noise?

Noise is randomness which lead to the quality of lacking any predictable order or plan and also unable to see a pattern or a signal.

Fighting noise is definitely one of game design challenges. To fix a game design problem I usually locate all noises before I start going in too deep (and yes, it is ok to dislike your own game and force yourself liking it by fixing all the problems, not ignoring them!)

Back from the horrible scolding and driving, Slade shoved me a copy of Raph Koster’s A Theory of Fun (Do read the book if you want to know more about noise). I went to a quiet corner and started reading it. I didn’t read much because I spent most of the time arguing with my mother over the phone, darn. Ok, what exactly is wrong with Encephalon’s design? Let’s take a look at the concept of some popular board games.

Chess – Complexity to simplicity
You start with a board with pieces and slowly clearing up the board to make space.
The chess pieces are not random and is all laid out on the board and therefore you can plan and predict.
No noise occurred.

Othello – Simplicity to complexity
You start with an empty board and laying down your pieces to force your opponent to play moves which relinquish good moves.
Pieces are coin-like with a light and a dark face and have a defined starting position and therefore you can plan and predict too.
No noise occurred.

Interesting fact about Othello: Originally, Othello did not have a defined starting position. Later it adopted Othello’s rules, which state that the game begins with four markers placed in a square in the middle of the grid, two facing light-up, two pieces with the dark side up. The dark player makes the first move. (I guess he might have figured out that without a defined starting position, players can then place the pieces wherever they like and therefore creates a lot of randomness that leads to noise)

Encephalon – Simplicity to complexity to simplicity to complexity to simplicity to… wait, I lost count… Encephalon is a two player strategy game using customizable card as chess pieces. The game start off with an empty board and each turn you will get two new cards to lay on the board.
With customizable card “pieces” that creates a lot of randomness and the game concept that is so confusing it unable players to plan ahead and therefore it didn’t allow the player to even think or play strategically.
Noise occurred

And we dare to call it a strategy game… Shame on us!

So, can you imagine how it would play? Try on a few seconds and your brain will go bzzzz…. *wrecked* There were definitely a lot of noise in the game.

*Pushing back sleeves up to elbow level*

*Cracks knuckles*

“Time to kick some noise!”

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January 9, 2007 Posted by | Encephalon, Game Design | 5 Comments

Slade went mad

We weren’t trying hard enough.

I was confused. Being a game designer but dislike the game that we are going to make and still can live through every day. What is wrong with me? Every time when I imagine myself playing the game, I will stop after a few seconds. I just didn’t like it.

One day when we were out for dinner, we discussed about the game. I kept thinking that maybe it is just me who doesn’t like the game because I dislike playing strategy game and trading card game. So, I went on asking more about the game to understand it more so that I can force myself liking it. It was a bad idea. I mean, a bad idea to think that I dislike specific game so it is ok not to be bothered of. All of a sudden, Slade went mad and started scolding all of us. (Hate it when he does that)

All the while all of us known that there is a big problem with the game design but we were so blinded with the old design and never wanted a change badly. Slade was mad again and wanted new game design. All of us were contributing ideas in the car and nowing was the driver. (Never discuss something like that in the car) I’ll talk more about nowing’s driving later.

No matter how we come up with new ideas we were still stuck with the old design…

We weren’t trying hard enough.

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January 9, 2007 Posted by | Drama, Encephalon, Game Design, Sharing | 6 Comments

Life after Pitch

We are having our level 25 monster in our office! He is our product manager, Roshan. He is now in the office playing DoTa…

Everything seemed to have slowed down after the pitch. I feel like I’m useless after we had won the pitch, progress is not much. I have a lot of questions about the game also. Since I had never like trading card game neither MMOG, I’ve been thinking about the game deeply. I asked myself if I had like any turn based game. I failed to like chess but I love Othello; I sucked at strategy games but I liked Heroes of Might and Magic 2. Hey, I do like turn base strategy game! I remembered playing it when I was 10 and if I were to be abandoned on an island, I will bring this game with me.

In MM2, you play as a knight of the king. The game has single player story mode and as well as hotspots. You can choose to either be a Knight, Wizard, Necromancer, Sorcerers, Barbarian, and Warlock. As a knight, you will have a castle as your base, you then can hire unlimited heroes to help you in the battle. You will lose the game when you lost all your castles; you win by getting all the castles.

MM2 actually have a lot of resemblance in our game, Encephalon. I will first separate this into 2 parts: In the game and outside the game. Encephalon is the world, the community is “outside the game” while the battle ground is “in the game”. Same goes to MM2, Heroes of Might and Magic is the world, the map is “outside the game” while the battle ground is “in the game”.

Outside the game doesn’t mean that is not a part of the game. Take a look at Magic the Gathering Trading Card Game. While you are playing cards with your opponent, I considered this as “in the game”. So what about the people watching the game? I considered them as “outside the game”. So does that mean they are not part of the game? Even things like trading, talking about the game, and networking are part of the game.

In MM2, the map is “outside the game”. Why so? When you are in the map screen, you can perform any sort of configurations, eg. buying monsters, buying heroes, build things in castles, upgrades, check out your enemy stats, your own stats and also trading. What happens when you meet up with your enemy? You will be in a battle screen where configuration is not available. (I don’t think you will even think that comes into mind when battling).

Map Screen

Castle

You move your monsters on the screen like moving chess pieces because MM2 move in Hexagons.

hexagonMove

For your information, monsters are in a “collective” group, which means, even you have 100 of zombies they will only have one zombie image on the screen, just that they will show 100 in the bottom of the image. Although there are many kinds of monsters in the game but the monster are separate into classes just like chess! So, my main point is, each monster is different so that made every monster a “chess piece” but the number of classes are fixed.

So, the biggest problem that we might face while designing Encephalon could be the “chess pieces”. Since it is user generated, so how are we going to fix the number of chess pieces on the chess board? Imagine having all different chess pieces on the board and every round you play it is different. Having to play on a board where you have to recognize new piece while scurrying around trying to dig some big strategy behind your mind… this is insane…

I’m now sitting in the cold office with an empty tummy while writing this blog post. Going to get some food now, I’m having a stupid Media Authoring test later at 2.30pm. See ya!

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January 4, 2007 Posted by | Encephalon, Game Design | 4 Comments

A Review on Winning Games of MSC Malaysia Game Pitch

The winners of MSC IP Challenge Series 2006: Game Pitch are, Encephalon Trading Card Game by Hatchlings, Cucumber Mosaic by Johaess Reuben Jozni, Urban Sprinting by Jason Khong Wei Siong, Riot HQ by Mark Hayden and Mystic Order by Project Caterpillar.

I need not to do a review of our own game. Just check this out:
First Post [introduction]
Web Trading Card Gaming 2.0 [vision and goals]
Life of a Pawn [game design]
Concepting Encephalon [setting & concept art]

Among all the winners, I only got to watch pitches by Urban Sprinting and Cucumber Mosaic. Wait, it is not because I fall asleep in between the pitch. Blame it on the organizer’s scheduling, they arranged all 3 pitches: Game, Comic and Mobile Content all on the same time. I was walking to one hall to another just to catch a glimpse of everything. So, I will just make a review on two winning games.

I personally like Urban Sprinting the best. In Jason Khong’s speech, he mentioned that the idea comes from a video on YouTube. The video featured a man sneaking around in the department store, snatched some product and purposely trigger the alarm to get security guards chasing after him. The chasing was very exciting because the man was making some stunts and fooling around with the security guards. In the end he ran into Burger King as a hideout I guess. Urban Sprinting is simple, fresh, fun and I think it would sell if it is well executed.

So, based on this video, he came up with this game idea and called it the “Urban Sprinting”. He wanted the game to be done in 3D and so and so… but I think for start(RM 50,000 grant is too little for something big), the game is better in 2D or even pixel art. (Pixel art is cool! Look at Habbo Hotel!) One thing I like about Jason’s pitch, he seemed enjoyed it a lot and like his own game a lot. Yes, I like it too but I wished he could focus more on “Stunts” rather than “Power-ups” in the gameplay. (Everyone likes creating new and cool stunts in GTA right?)

Cucumber Mosaic brought up some laughs. Johaess wanted to bring back some nostalgic arcade games and came up with this game idea. It is a classic arcade game where you have to stop enemies destroying your base by shooting at them. The enemies will surround and attack the base by “sticking” it. I guess that the enemies are sucking out energy from the base. The laughs rained when every one of us figured that the enemies (sperm-like-creature) that attacked the rounded base looked like…
Just plain shooting to hit the high scores ain’t fun or new anymore. So I really hope that Cucumber Mosaic could shift its focus to humorous game rather than a mixture of some classical arcade. (Well, is the Sperm-Like-Thingy that caught all of our attention!)

If someone wants to do a mixture or remake, I have a few advise for you.

Do’s
mixture 1 + mixture 2 + special ingredient(core concept) = new game

Don’ts
mixture 1 + mixture 2 = mixture 1 + mixture 2 = boring

It is fine to make a game by mixing 2 games but do make sure you have the core concept right that make your game stand out from the rest. Do not make a game that adopts old gameplay, mix it together, give it better graphics, technically better and call it new. Well, graphics will come into play if you intend to use your graphics as the special ingredient. For example, Super Cosplay War Ultra by Team FK is a 2 player fighting game that is similiar to Street Fighter. The fighthing characters are some familiar faces we see in manga and anime (Astro Boy, Doraemon, Hunter X Hunter, Tontoro etc). In the surface, this game is different from others in terms of the graphics but what made them stand out the most is their “core concept”, which is “Cosplay”.

Some equation (I’m sick of conclusion):

Urban Sprinting = Grand Theft Auto + Tony Hawk
Cucumber Mosaic = Space invaders + Battle Tanks

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December 27, 2006 Posted by | Entrepreneurship, Game Development, Game Industry, Malaysia | 2 Comments

MSC Malaysia Game Pitch

It was one day away from the Pitch but the Hatchies were still unsure of what to present. Anyway, things always changes in Hatchlings… and it changes FAST.

Game Pitch
(from left) Moy, Kuan, Iris, Jarod, John, YC, Andrew, Wong

In a small, stuffy and filled with softoys workspace at the Incubator, we created Encephalon the Trading Card Game. I will introduce the team and as well as the softoys later in the next post. I’m a game designer in the team. So far, I’ve designed the User Interface of the game… stay tune for more designs in the future of development… Oh, my recent work includes a short animated presentation of the pitch 🙂


“Message from the Dark King of Cosmos”

We presented the funniest pitch of the day and of course, we won tons of claps from the audiences. To know more in depth about the content of presentation, please click here.

Here, I received a late DKoC’s Christmas postcard for the all of you!
DKoC's Christmas Postcard

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December 26, 2006 Posted by | Game Development, Game Industry, Malaysia | 1 Comment