Collectible Design in Games

Game Development 3 Comments

Before Video Games, people collected stampsSome people love em’, some people couldn’t care less about em’. “Collectibles” are simply a finite amount of objects player can obtain in a game. These objects typically aren’t integral to the progression of the game, but are often added to give the game an extra layer of interaction. Some game designs take collectibles beyond just an extra set of objects you can get, while others stay rooted in traditional, old-school collectible design.

I find it interesting that collectibles are still around in many games today. Five years ago I wouldn’t have expected collectibles to show up in mainstream games like Call of Cuty 4 or Halo 3. I thought gamers would have grown out collecting “things” by now. However, the part of me that used to collect stamps and coins when I was a child still finds enjoyment in obsessively hunting for virtual objects. It seems there are many others like me.

I’m going to dissect collectible design and analyze the good, the bad, and the ugly of various collectible systems. I’ll be projecting a lot of my own preferences here, so bare with me. I’ve divided collectible design into five major categories, which are:

Hunting Enjoyment: Are the collectibles fun to hunt down and find? Sometimes, the hunt can be more enjoyable than obtaining the item.

Collection Enjoyment: Is the act of acquiring the object enjoyable? Are there sweet sounds when you pick an object up? Is the art of the object really cool? Do crazy particles play when you touch the collectible?

Immersiveness: Does the object fit into the game world or does it remind you that you’re playing a video game?

Clue Factor: How hard is it to find the collectible without any sort of guide? Are there audio and visual cues which help you find the collectible? Are there any hints in game which help you organize finding the collectibles?

In Game Reward: Do you receive new weapons or abilities by collecting objects? Do the collectibles unlock game content?

Using these categories, lets take a look at some recent Xbox 360 games and see how they stack up. I’ll use a scale from 1 – 10 to rate each category.

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Doctor, I Feel a Crunch Coming On

Game Development 2 Comments

This could be your life!I went to a Grilled Cheese competetion (no joke) a few weeks ago with my wife and her boss. On the way there, her boss asked me about my job and what I do. Once I opened my mouth, I could tell she was lost. Words like crunch, polish, milestones, even AI had no meaning. The same thing usually happens when I talk to my family about my job. They simply don’t care about the ins and outs of the game industry. They’re happy if I’m happy. I don’t really blame them, as I’m not up on the current trends in education or food service either.

Talking about crunch is usually the worst though. Explaining that you work longer hours and don’t get paid more for it seems exclusive to software type industries, especially games. Everyone thinks we’re crazy. They think we’re even crazier when we say that we play games, and even work on other games (modding) for free in our spare time.

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This Happens to Everyone, even Game Developers

Gaming No Comments

Red Rings and GTA IV

Sad, but true. A coffin is on the way. Yes, I’m already setup with a new 360. If you think I’m going to wait 2-3 weeks to play GTA IV you’re out of your damn mind.

Stranglehold: A Benchmark for Destruction

Games for Fun, Gaming No Comments

Stranglehold BoxAfter finishing Stranglehold a while ago, I’m still impressed with the amount of destruction the player is able to do. Pretty much all prop models, and a good portion of environment can be destroyed in one form or another, all of which goes into physics. If you’re into destructible environments, Stranglehold is your cup of tea.

Stranglehold borrows a lot of it’s design from the Max Payne series. Tequila is able to jump and dive around and slow down time, all which were awesome features of Max Payne. In addition, Max Payne had a “follow the bullet” cam on sniper rifles, which in Stranglehold has been mapped to an ability you can use at any time (on the d-pad) assuming you have enough energy stored up.

The combination of the cool Max Payne abilities with all the destructibility adds up to be a pretty decent experience. Unfortunately, the game really falls short due to the art. The lighting on objects is either very flat or very contrast-y, especially on characters. Don’t get me wrong, the artists did a great job with the variety of destructible objects, but the over all “look” of everything in the game is pretty noisy which ends up being distracting for gameplay.

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Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2008: Who Wants Points?

Games for Points, Gaming No Comments

Cabela's Dangerous Hunts 2008 BoxYet another game worthy of only the most respectable point whores. While I’m probably one of the few gamers who delights in rag-dolling animals, Big Game Hunter isn’t terribly fun overall. That should come as no surprise considering this is a “value” title and as we all know, the Cabela’s series has had a pretty terrible history.

What good things can I say about this game? I think shooting the guns and killing game is marginally fun, and I think they did a decent job with the weapon sounds. I like some of the newer interactive elements like getting in tree-stands to hunt deer, and in the camouflaged tents to hunt birds. I also liked getting 1000 points in under four hours.

Most of the game is just lazily designed. Deer you can walk right up to (or walk right up to you), smaller game you can outrun, “boss” fights with lions with require shooting them 10 times in the head, NPCs who stand out in the open in the middle of a field with animals not more than 30 yards away and mini-game involving shooting rodents en masse. It’s a pretty joke-tacular experience.

Big Game Hunter also has some just wacky features you’d never expect in a hunting game. As you kill more animals, you get “adrenaline” which when used, stops time for a bit, allowing you to line up the perfect shot. You also have “Hunter’s Sense” which has no limit of use. Hunter’s Sense allows the player to “see” the animals in the foliage by making them glow bright white, while making everything else in the environment dark shades of gray. I suppose these features allow the game to be more “gamey” rather than “simmy.” They might only be allowed in the easier difficulty settings, I didn’t find out.

So, yeah. Pretty much you get to rag-doll animals and get 1000 points.