30 May, 2011
Adam Martin wrote an blog post about The 10 Games You Should Have Played based on a talk he gave. He then emailed a few people and challenged us to come up with 10 games ourselves.
Sounds good to me, but let me mix this up a bit.
Adam suggested that we might include an optional subtitle, “…but probably haven’t.” I’ll give a list of 10 games, but let me make this more personal.
Five games I should play, but haven’t
I view myself as a compulsive game player. I feel a good game designer should have a wide variety of game playing experience, as that adds more information to his or her stores of knowledge. Solving a game design problem is easier if you have a lot of experience playing other games, especially games in other media and genres than you normally play. But, there are still games that I’ve not played that I really should, and you probably should, too.
Yeah, I have to admit, this is one game I never got around to playing despite being an MMO designer. Part of it is that by the time I got into MMOs I didn’t have enough time to really dedicate to playing one that I wasn’t working on. I’ve studied enough writing and talked to enough hard-core fans that I get the basics, but I’m sure most people will argue it’s not the same as playing the game myself.
The other issue is that MMOs seem to be a product of their time, and trying to play one later isn’t quite the same. Plus, MMOs evolve and change. Playing WoW today is not like playing WoW during TBC or WoW during “vanilla”. So, perhaps the time I could have really dived into UO is passed.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy text adventure
I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of adventure games. I’m not alone in my disdain for some. The only adventure games I got into were the Quest for Glory series, which mixed in some RPG elements. I think I mostly found the gameplay to be rote in all the adventure game I tried, and often the puzzles seemed rather silly after you had figured out the “trick”.
That said, there are a few that do seem to be required playing by a lot of other people. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was mentioned on Adam’s list. This is likely to be a good one for me, since I’ve enjoyed these stories in non-game media. Although I’ve already been spoiled on the part where you have to do something or lose the game irrevocably later, which will save me a lot of creative swearing.
What’s funny is I’ve bought both Thief and Thief 2, but I never finished the first one. I’m the type of gamer who likes to play the first one before playing the second. The stealth-based gameplay is interesting, but the first game just didn’t catch my attention. This is definitely one game I should go back and play.
I like a lot of non-digital games, and feel a good designer should be familiar with games outside his or her medium. I’ve played a lot of card games, but there are still a lot I’d like to play. Bridge is one of those games I really should get around to playing sometime. But, I’ve never had the time or a good teacher to learn. It looks dauntingly complex, but it has a wide fan base.
Dogs in the Vineyard
I have shelves of RPG books, some of which I’ve actually played! But, there has been a wave of new “story games” where the game focuses less on statistics and damage dice than telling a story. The games tend to be one-off, with custom mechanics for each game that is tied to the theme of the game. Dogs in the Vineyard is one of these games where you play traveling moral guardians in a wild frontier setting. It’s a fascinating game to read about, but one I’ve never gotten to play with a group.
A bonus game to list here. I don’t own a smart phone, so I haven’t played a lot of the game on iPhone, etc. Given the reception and attention Angry Birds has gotten, I should probably play it. Although, I’ve played Flash games with similar mechanics, one of which was supposedly a game that Angry Birds
ripped off was heavily inspired by.
Five (types of) games aspiring game designers should play
Okay, so let’s turn this around and talk about what a newbie game designer should play. I’m not going to name specific games, but rather general games that you should be familiar with, particularly if you want to get into MMO development. I’ll give an example of each type that I’ve enjoyed, so I’ll technically meet the requirement. :)
A pre-EQ MMO
Obiviously I have my biases, but I a real game designer, especially one who wants to design MMOs, should play an MMO from before the current era. Hell, just take a look at the sheer breadth of games from earlier eras and see how all that variety got distilled down into dozens of DIKU MUD clones and hundreds of Korean games.
An old-school RPG
Yes, people had a lot of fun with the older games. Read through the exceptional CRPG Addict’s blog to see someone having fun with these game even today. I also played Might & Magic I an old-school RPG earlier this year and gained some new insight from it. (Note that you don’t have to be as obsessive compulsive as the CRPG addict is. A bit of cheating past the stupid parts is fine in my book.)
A paper RPG
Dungeons & Dragons is the old standby here, but I’d actually recommend one of the older White Wolf games like Vampire: The Masquerade or Werewolf: the Apocalpyse. These games made a huge splash and while they never dethroned D&D, they showed that you didn’t have to have a high fantasy setting to make a great game. The focus on storytelling instead of simulation made the games great. But, you’ll have to find some friends. You might also be interested in the anniversary edition of V:tM which includes most of the rules for the old system into one book. (I also wouldn’t mind if someone bought me a copy as a present. ;)
A European board game
These were all the rage some years ago: board games, usually from Germany, that had a specific feel to them. They had a theme, but this was usually secondary to some abstract form of gameplay. The Settlers of Catan is probably the best example here, a great game to play with some friends. Try the base game before worrying about expansions; some of the expansions seem a bit hit or miss to me. But, there are a number of these types of games that are a lot of fun. Optionally, you could try playing some modern American board games, but avoid the “old standbys” like Sorry and its ilk; the newer board games have a lot more depth.
A Wii title
Specifically one of the titles that uses the Wiimote to great effect. I’d recommend Wii Sports. Take a look at how Nintendo used the control in a really great way to introduce people to the game. I think the lack of current success for the Wii demonstrates a lot of the lack of many game designers’ creativity to really embrace the new control format. It’s easier (and likely more profitable) to make a cross-platform game that uses the unique controls as little as possible. This is less related to MMOs than the others, but still good for thinking as a real designer.
As Adam wrote, this list is wrong and on the internet. So, it’s time for you to suggest some changes. What games do you think designers should play to become more well rounded? Preferrably something a bit more obscure than Halo or Minecraft. :)