I stumbled across this amazing video earlier today. It comes from a website that I'm not at all familiar with - Two Minutes with The Great Discontent. They seem to be a sister site to The Great Discontent which has to be one of my favorite sites right now. Great interviews, great layout, great photography, etc. Just a wonderful place to visit. Their interviews with Merlin Mann, Zack Arias, and Frank Chimero are all must reads.
What I like most about this video is that right now my answer is no. Not a maybe but a strong definitive no. It sucks to say aloud that I'm not creatively satisfied but it's a very helpful reminder to remember I'm not alone. For me I over analyze things and forget that it is a very common feeling.
Now that I know this - I need to start working towards solving this.
Staying focused in a world of distractions
Let me just say that I'm not great at staying focused and it is something I'm struggling with daily. It's too easy for me to have infinity in my pocket and stay attentive. I constantly find myself bringing my phone up to my face to look at for no reason except that I have 5 seconds of down time. Then I put it back in my pocket and wonder what I missed and start checking things again. I honestly don't need to know the weather in 7 different locations yet I check all the time.
I'm slowly finding out I'm not the only one to have this problem either. I definitely didn't seek any of the below articles out but it seems I've been stumbling across a lot of people saying basically the same thing. I thought I would share a few in hopes that it might inspire others.
Being distracted all the time
The first time I remember coming across this topic was a book called, "The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains". The funny part about this whole thing is that I remember reading about the book and thinking it sounded interesting. I even went so far as to buy it! However every time I tried to read it - I stopped every 2 mins to see what was new on Twitter and NeoGaf. It's embarrassing to say that I bought a book about how the Internet was rewiring our brains to be less focused and I couldn't even stay focused to read it. Don't even think I made it to the 2nd chapter.
Although to be fair I have read plenty of other books since then - so it's not like I can't stay focused and read anything. Maybe it was just that I felt like I was being lectured or something. The reviews say it's a good book so maybe I'll try to read it again. On a plane.
Since I noticed the problem to be my phone or constantly having internet access - I started looking into ways to curb this. I noticed a trend of people wanting to use their phone less. Hell, I even wrote about it a while ago. Although I never went cold turkey, mostly because I noticed a few 'failures' from people who had. The most famous probably being Paul Miller and his return to the internet. I hesitate to call it a failure; he definitely stayed off the internet for a year but I'm not sure he really found what he was looking for. The other person I saw was Stephen Hackett's failure to go iphoneless. The things he mentions (specifically the camera) are probably what I would miss the most if I didn't have my phone turned on and on me at all times. My son, Dylan, is only 3 and is doing something new every single day. I'd hate to think I didn't document at least some of that.
Medium is becoming my favorite new place
I'm not sure how I stumbled down the rabbit hole that can be Medium but I've been finding a lot of inspiring articles there lately. I highly recommend spending some time there if you haven't. Below are some of the better ones that have been having an impact on me when it comes to trying to slow down, stay focused, and be more productive.
I really like this article called Siri, focus my attention. He has a lot of good suggestions on how to stay focused. Plus the image makes me laugh (slightly NSFW).
Another great one is slowing down. I really liked his comments about staying engaged and appreciating more. I also like this article called work faster by slowing down. I really appreciate this tagline, Slowness is an art, not a failure. Something that I need to remind myself of all the time.
Finally - don't forget why you are trying to be more engaged and stay productive. The simple answer is to waste time with your loved one. It is easy to forget but very important to remember.
Working in the shed
Matt Gemmell wrote a great article talking about his need to work in a shed. He talks about how the shed is the place to focus. While I'm not going to go to the extreme he did by loading up WordPerfect 5.0 - I understnad what he is trying to convey.
My computer is located in the centralized living room area so that everyone has access to it. The problem is that I do all my computer related stuff in the same spot - check email, twitter, edit photos, watch videos, etc. So when I sit down to write it's easy to become distracted because I'm simply sitting in the same location where I normally do those things.
I find it a good change of place to simply sit in another location or type on the iPad. There is also a great website called coffitivity that loads up great background noises that emulate being at the coffee shop. Researchers have found that the same 70 decibel level found in coffee shops helps creativity.
Journey not the destination
To be completely fair this article probably took a lot longer to write because I kept being distracted. Like I said - it's something I'm still struggling with but I am trying to improve.
I recently started thinking about some of the tricks that we as designers do to help make games more enjoyable. I’m sure that a lot of people don’t even pick up on these subtleties. Not realizing them is usually for the better though as it helps keep the player within the game space. For a lot of things that we as designers do - the less the player notices it the better.
Capcom's 'behind' trick
NKI posted a translation of a throwing chart for Street Fighter 2 the other day. Not only does it have how much damage each character’s throw inflicts but it also has a great column entitled, ‘Behind’. Which confused me at first because I thought it meant throwing the player from behind as opposed to toward.
However since the first version of Street Fighter 2 (1991) if a player had lost the first round, during the second round they would get a slight damage boost when throwing the opponent. Unfortunately I don’t know if that damage boost gets applied to normal attacks or special moves but it looks like if you lost the first round – time to start throwing the opponent more than usual!
Click here to read the chart and other various tidbits that NKI has translated – it’s all really great stuff.
I find it amazing that even back then designers were thinking about how to help out players – regardless of single player or multiplayer. It got me to thinking about some of the things we have done on God of War to help the player out which I’m sure most people never even realized.
The Low Life Health Orb
Normally when you kill a creature you get a predetermined set of orbs based on how you killed the creature. However when Kratos is low on health when the creature dies, the game will also create a health orb. It’s not a huge chunk of health but it helps the player from dying often.
Health boost on Restart
This was a controversial decision but one that I’m ultimately glad we put in. What would happen is that the player would enter an area and have X amount of health. If that area was a certain challenge such as a hard fight or whatever, the player could potentially have been checkpointed with 5% of health and arguably never complete the challenge. So when the player dies and they restart we bump up the player’s health just a tad bit.
These ‘tricks’ are not unique to God of War as I can think of a ton of other games that do these and more. Some games have the player unable to die at all or give them so many extra lives the player doesn’t feel penalized so bad for dying. The Super Mario Bros series immediately comes to mind when I think of having a ton of extra lives for no real reason. When implemented well, such as the Street Fighter example, I think they help keep the game fun for everyone involved.
Design is all about details
NOTE: I'm reprinting this article from my old blog which means unfortunately a lot of links are dead. Especially the store to buy the book so I'm removing all of the links.
I suppose there is a place out there for a designer who does nothing but dream up great ideas that some one else gets to implement but every designer I know spends all of their time going over the fine details of a problem. No matter how simple or complex the problem is or the solution what you are really dealing with is the details of all that.
One of the reasons why I love Street Fighter so much is their ability to pay attention to these small details. Granted Sega probably does it better these days with Virtua Fighter but Capcom used to be the leader of it all. You have to be especially when you are creating games that people are playing against one another. Overlooking one small detail makes a character completely broken and if not caught in time can completely ruin a game (see Tekken 4 as an example).
When releasing various versious of Street Fighter over the years Capcom usually tweaks the characters in efforts to fix problems from before. I hate to say balance but thats the best word I can come up with.
Moving on I still find it interesting as to what Capcom decides to tweak going from one version to another. I recently picked up the Yoga Hyper Book which I HIGHLY recommend to anyone interested in Street Fighter nuances like hit boxes and frame data. You can order it here. While only really covering Super Turbo they have a few pages showing the hit boxes/frames for 'important' moves from World Warrior (the 1st version of Street Fighter 2) to Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo (the 5th and final version to actually be called Street Fighter 2).
One of the more annoying moves in that game happens to be Guile's Low Foward (it's a low hitting move that comes out really fast, has great range and quick recovery) which in the hands of great players like John Choi can win an entire tournament alone.
The book includes pictures of hitboxes/frame data for Guile's Low Forward for all 5 games so I'm going to post each one and give comments for them.
Let me explain a few things about the picture before we go into details:
- The blue is the hurtbox for which the character can be hit
- The red is the hitbox for which the character can hit an opponent
OK - lets look at the 1st one aka World Warrior
- 8 is the number of frames of 'startup' - how many frames before the move can hit
- 5 is the number of frames it can hit
- 7 is the number of frames of recovery where it no longer hits but can be punished
- 14 happens to be the damage it will do to an opponent
Notice the blue area goes around his arm and where it stops - before the boot. Notice how the red area stops at the end of the boot. This move was incredible in World Warrior and it is easy to see why - his whole leg is a gigantic hit box!
Rumor has it that Street Fighter 2: World Warrior got a sequel due to how popular it was in America. The rumor talks about how competitive Americans were at the time and Capcom wanted to satiate their fans and decided to release a 'sequel' with 4 new characters and improved balance. Lets break this picture down a little bit:
The startup, hit frames and recovery are all the same. But notice how the blue and red boxes get shifted around. Guile now gets the ability to be hit in the back of the move as well as a little closer to his boot. However - the red box (the hit box) gets pushed out a little more than the graphic indicates. This was their first attempt at balancing the move out. An interesting choice of decisions.
Capcom was taking a while to come out with another sequel (which would be Super Street Fighter 2 featuring once again 4 new characters) so in the meanwhile urban legend has it that 2 American designers (James Goddard and Dave Winstead) came into to release a minor update to combat all the bootleg rom versions that were coming out (such as Rainbow Edition where you could do all of your moves in the air). This version alone I could probably write a whole article on as it features not one single new frame of animation yet the game was tweaked and is considered by some to best version of Street Fighter. It is also the one that is coming out soon for Xbox Live Arcade (some day...).
For their 2nd attempt at trying to figure out what to do with this move it looks like they left it completely alone from Champion Edition but toned down how much damage it does to the opponent (from 14 to 10 points). Keep in mind that many people consider Guile to be the best in not only World Warrior but also Champion Edition and Hyper Fighting.
Super Street Fighter 2
If you can look back at any game that killed off the Street Fighter franchise it is definitely this game. Hyper Fighting was very fast compared to its predecessor and players got accustomed to it. SSF2 however was around the same speed as CE and it admittedly turned off players who were tired of more of the same old and moved on to other games like Mortal Kombat. History lesson aside lets take a look at how they decided to tweak this great move one more time:
They brought the damage back up from 10 to 14 but they also added a frame of recovery. Notice the red box and how it gets pushed back inside Guile, no longer going past the graphic of his leg arguably having the shortest attack range out of all versions. This also happens to be the first game where Guile is not considered one of the best.
Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo
Another sequel but this time they brought the speed of HF back along with a ton of small changes. However it looks like they decided to leave Guile's Low Forward the same as it was in SSF2.
Small changes can have very huge effects throughout your game. Simply adding one extra frame of recovery can alter how a character can compete. Granted there are way more variables than just this one move but thats just it - you need to keep track of them all and realize how they all interweave and what impact they have upon one another. Even if you aren't making a sequel or a competitive game you should still try to keep everything in mind, one small error can result in an infinite combo or getting the character stuck in an animation loop because the exit frame is longer than the animation itself.
Hopefully this wasn't too boring or too Street Fighter-centric but I felt more comfortable using SF as an example to convey the larger topic since I know that game better than most games.
Note: Images hella used without permission. Sorry Daigo.