Influence for Next Game

Ever since bumping into Keith Burgun’s perspective on game design, I’ve wanted to create a “game” as he defines it – a contest of ambiguous decision making. It seems that this kind of game is extremely uncommon among video games. In fact the types of sensibilities he describes are much more in line with hobby board games. (For more info on what that means, head to 

To that end, I’m learning the Grids Pro library in Unity, because it seems eaiser to create this kind of thing in discrete space (a square or hex grid probably) and likely in discrete time as well (turn-based). Here are some of the games I’m likely going to be riffing on.

Advance Wars
Hexcells Infinite


Games that look like they’re probably influences but I haven’t played them yet.
Invisible Inc
Close Castles

Halo Multiplayer Design Thoughts

Some quick thoughts about the positive aspects of Halo (1,2+3) Multiplayer Design.

1) Social dynamics of team multiplayer raise the stakes without adding any rules.
2) Heavy emphasis on items and vehicles makes map positioning and tactics important.
3) Weapons are very simple and distinct from one another.
4) Grenades and melee attacks mean you always have options, and give you common skills to develop while you explore other weapons.
5) High health and movement capabilities mean that skirmishes have enough time to develop and establish a back and forth “dialog” between combatants.

Roguelike Progression and Saving

Reading the most recent News Post from Tycho at Penny Arcade ( when I noticed him talking about a game called “Galax-Z” and how you are only allowed to “save” when you complete a complete 5 level “season”. When you break it down, this is what games like Spelunky are doing with the tunnel man system, or as Tycho points out, as From Software is doing in Dark Souls with the bonfire mechanic. You can have players run though your procedural system many times getting better, and have a strict cap on the amount of in game “progress” they make that the game keeps track of.

In this way, maybe its possible to avoid the problems inherent to a regular RPG level up or upgrade system (emphasizing grinding over skill improvement, which is boring), while retaining a bit of their stickiness factor.

Even Ori and the Blind Forest has been playing around with saving as a limited resource lately, and I think this is a very interesting design direction to take.

Single Player Turn-Based Hero Game

In honor of Evil Geniuses’ epic victory at TI5 (#bleedblue #ppdismysensei #bestTIevar), here is an idea that we had at Brain Good Games:

-Single player turn based game.
-Control a hero unit with turn based cooldowns
-Against AI controlled enemies that probably all act after you do your turn
-Random a “Hero” at the start with a certain skillset
-Can change out your skills and improve them as you descend dungeon levels (a la Hoplite)
-Single player ladder to minimize time spent with too easy or too hard of a challenge
-Possibly an Active Time Battle timer and/or some fog of war/hidden information to keep things from feeling too dry/mitigate analysis paralysis.

Achievement Unlocked!

Finally managed to deliver the key all the way from the mines to the end of the ice world in Spelunky! I really like how the tunnel man challenge encourage you to play the levels with a slightly tweaked objective.

An especially nice part of the tunnel man challenges to deliver the shotgun and the key is that it creates a naturally fluctuating intensity curve for the runs. On runs where you don’t find the required item, the intensity is low. Grabbing the item jumps up the intensity, which then steadily increased as you approach your goal and your resources deplete.

The fact that the different runs evoke very distinct feelings on a natural cycle from a single elegant goal is very cool! The key challenge even changes a successful run length from 4+ levels to 12+! (Through mines/jungle/ice world instead of merely through one of them)

Letter Quest Remastered!

My good friend and colleague (@thebaconbandits on twitter) just released an excellent new version of Letter Quest. Awesome game with a tightly integrated core mechanic and now an endless/rougelite type mode that shows off the depth of that core mechanic, and gives an arena for skilled players to shine. 

Check it out on steam at

Clockwork Game Design Book Review


Finally Someone With Concrete Advice on Game Design

“Clockwork Game Design” is an excellent, detailed book with a strong views expressed concisely. Keith Burgun is one of the only game designers I know that is attempting to offer prescriptive advice on designing “strategy” games (in his own taxonomy defined as “contests of decision making”). Very useful and well thought out. Whether you agree or disagree with any or all of the ideas expressed within this book, I think it is much more useful to have people making bold claims to try to push the craft of game design forward than the wishy-washy stuff that makes up most of the existing literature on the subject.

If you like this one, “Game Design Theory” by the same author is similarly informative and enjoyable.