Impressions Test & Chill Playtesting

In March we had another playtesting event at CMD, Hanze Applied University. It is early in the current block, yet still some project groups showed up with a concept or even more fleshed out prototype to test out. We also had some external guests -8D Games, Starkx- and a company showcasing their mobile game soon to be released: Big Bang Studios. Check out the pictures:

In a few weeks we will have another session. And you can come over to the Spellenmaakgilde Tabletop Testing Night on Friday 3 April!

Workshop Feedback Loops in MOBA’s

For students of our major Game Design at CMD, Hanze Applied University, I held a extra-curricular workshop on feedback loops. We even had a guest from a local other education (MBO) who was interested.

Split into 2 groups we discussed what positive and negative feedback loops are and how the can be used to steer the player experience in games. Then we started sketching out what happens in MOBA games such as League of Legends (LoL), Defenders of the Ancients 2 (DOTA2) and Heroes of the Storm (HotS). These are real-time team versus team competitive games with a lot of tactical and strategical layers. Plus they offer a lot of depth to explore due to the large amount of different heroes they offer. And in case of HotS also a very diverse set of maps, each with their own extra events and map challenges.

It was very interesting to see how many potential loops there are in the game and how they raise the stakes the longer the match lasts and create spikes of opportunities at certain moments. These are not so much guaranteed counterbalances or reinforcements of success and failure, rather they offer leverage but they leave it up to the players to

A team needs to play well together to capitalize on them, by offering more platforms for skillful play and leaving it fully in hands of the players. This seems to link really really well to the the 3 core aspects of intrinsic motivation: relatedness, mastery and autonomy!

We also discussed how many heroes, abilities and items seemed to have stronger links to feedback loops, or related to it the progression of the match. So which abilities do better if you do well, or have diminishing returns depending on your relative progress compared to the other team. This led to a lively debate on the pro’s and con’s of of certain items and heroes (of wich I knew nothing, as I only play HotS).

For now, the group playing HotS was the minority. But that was ok. Seen from this lens, it is interesting and no surprise that HotS only has 1 hero now, Abathur, that has an ability (talent) that lets you repair buildings: reducing the progress in some form of the opponents. And the other games did not to have such an ability.

The reality of these games is even more complex than we discussed, yet this was insightful and inspiring!

GGJ 2020 Impressions

End of Februari the international Global Game Jam was once again organised: teams make a game in 1 weekend, inspired by a theme. This time the theme was ‘repair’.

In Groningen this was the 5th time the event was organised. 180 participants showed up and made games. I had the honour to be one of the ‘judges’ to walk around on Sunday and offer feedback. Teams could sign up for 1 category to be reviewed in. I looked at the game design (a very broad category) and luckily had still some extra time to play the games of others. It was great to see how many games were created. And cool to see many alumni students again.

The prizes created by Ornate Design are an eye-catcher. Big shout out to the organisation, sponsors and the many volunteers that made this possible. Well done, game on!

A new initiative: Dutch Tabletop Game Designer Award

In our goal to stimulate the local tabletop design scene there is a new initiative under the rallying banner that is the ‘Spellenmaakgilde’ (Dutch Game Design Guild). Dennis Merkx, a few designer initiated this and together with Jeroen Geenen and Ellis Hendriksen we kicked off the first annual Dutch Tabletop Game Designer Award.

The goal is to stimulate (new) designers and put a spotlight on the fact that games have an author. We will iterate the process and see how to improve/expand it, but so far I think we are off to a good start.

Here you can read more about the initiative (in Dutch).

SpelAuteur Prijs NL

Looking Back: Test & Chill – December 2019

At our study CMD at the Hanze Applied University we held another playtesting event. With around 50 participants multiple student projects were experienced by guests, lecturers and fellow students. In addition, several companies came over for user testing and showcasing, including the academic hospital UCMG with their LEAN game, the big governmental organisation DUO with their app for students and Big Bang Studio with their mobile game. Plus we had some guests over from Tokyo, Japan and Ohio, USA that could check out the prototypes.

Day Jam November Impressions

Once again a few students took up the challenge to develop a game with a preset theme within 24 ours. Design muscles were flexed, custom art was made, the 3D printer set in motion and the lazer cutter burned wood. In the end, with various amount of night time playtesting, 3 games reached the finish line and were played by everyone. Feedback to improve the concept was offered and some games as prizes to all teams. Nice work!

Looking back: Test & Chill October 2019

Just before the student Autumn break we had another edition of the playtesting event ‘Test & Chill’, co-organised with the student association Glitch. With around 80 participants -from all study years- we had a great turn up! It meant year 1 card game concepts were played, as were digital games. Check out the pictures below (made by Vasil and me).

Next block we will have 1 or 2 more playtesting events. And before that, to get your design juices flowing, we will have a ‘Day Jam’ on 14 and 15 November. Make a game in 24 hours!

Monster Problems: Co-creating a ‘serious’ game

Spring 2019 I was contacted by the municipality of Groningen. Their Kids Council is involved with serious topics and currently they had discussed poverty for kids and their families. They wanted to make a game out of it. Could I help? Together with a co-designer I asked to join, Robert Brouwer, we set out with the group to see what the topic is, what kind of game we could create and what design restrictions there are.

The result is a ‘serious’ card game for age 8 and older, in which players learn about problems caused by poverty and potential solutions for such situations. This is done by seeing text one side of the cards, the other side shows monster heads (problems) and limbs (solutions) that can be combined if they are of the appropriate color (type). The design challenge was to make use of all the information the Council had gathered and have the game be playable by kids without a parent, teacher or other supervisor to direct them or teach.

This was a co-creation production with fellow designer Robert Brouwer, the municipality of Groningen and their Kids Council. Drawings were made by the Kids Council, under art direction of Robert. Graphic design and art implementation done by Marco Westerkamp, who really enhanced the looks of it! The game will be distributed to primary schools in the city.

It was a blast to do and we are proud on the results!

 

News bulletin of the Municipality on the project during development:

Raad van Kinderen bedenkt armoede-monsterspel | Gemeente Groningen