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!

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!

Göttingen Game Designer Convention 2019 Impressions

In the first weekend of July once again the yearly game designer convention was organised in Göttingen. The SAZ has taken on the organisation and the location changed to the Lokhalle. Together with a fellow designer and a game illustrator we participated on Saturday. Time to look back (for more tips and tricks see this blog on a visit 2 years ago).

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Some rough numbers: around 160 designers were present and around 80 publisher representatives. Some publishers were represented by 3 or more, while other publishers had 1 scout that stalked the hall. There were also agents, who scout for prototypes they then pitch to publishers all around the world. It was a very productive event for us, getting interest in many of the prototypes we brought.

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Some personal impressions:

  • We talked to publishers and agents from Germany (most were), Switzerland, Austria, Lithuania, Belgium and Russia.
  • The SAZ indicates who will be there (some companies were not mentioned but still were present). Emailing those companies in advance helped with making appointments. I was a bit late (1 week in advance), and should have done it sooner. Luckily, compared to big conventions like Spiel Essen, it was still possible to make some appointments. Publisher have a full focus on meeting (new) designers at this event.
  • Making sell-sheets, to pitch concept(s) works really well. These can be used to place on your table, hang on the pin-board and put into publishers’s folders they will look into. This year I made them just before the weekend and not emailed them
  • Sunday is relatively less busy with publishers and this year we decided to be only present on Saturday. That did feel a bit short and rushed. Sometimes it was asked whether we would be there Sunday as well, to play a concept or talk more. For next time, I will consider going the full weekend again.
  • When being present on Sunday: the event is then open for the public and they might love to play your game. People enjoying your game is great advertisement, but do keep check if publisher would also like to talk to you.
  • I brought 2 published games that are available for sub-licensing outside the Netherlands. While most publisher look for new concepts I did get some interest in these and could then introduce them to the original publishers.
  • Another Dutch designer could not join, but send me demo-copies of his kickstarted game (Rollecate). 5 publishers were interested in checking it out and accepted a copy to take away. Whether this results in anything we will have to see, but this does seem to work to a degree.
  • Going as a team makes it much more fun. We had experienced this prior and is true still. And we could help each other out with playing a demo and by referring publishers to each other.
  • Some designers had a prototype in a rough state, not much playtested or developed yet. They got useful feedback but I heard one publisher also say they were being polite and not see these talks as useful for them. Seeing how making games takes a lot of effort and time I get that. It is stating the obvious perhaps, but do playtest and bring fleshed-out games. They certainly do not have to be finished, however. Some concept I brought I could indicate what still needs to be done (or how to improve it). There should be a good core of a game that can be assessed.
  • Note to self: make better conversation notes. After 15 talks some scribbled down key words is not ideal to remember what has been discussed and what follow-up has been agreed upon (extra nice: a spreadsheet with names, contacts, summary of talks and what actions you need to to next).

In short: preparation and representation will lead to better meetings!

 

Based on our experiences this is a really good event to pitch and to network. Once you have established a lot of contacts with publishers it might be less needed to go there. However even ‘big names’ are there to pitch (Friedemann Friese, Michael Kiesling). That is actually what makes this event more special: first time designers and veterans are there, all passionate about games and their newest concepts.

This was our 3rd visit and we each brought more different concepts and improved our preparation. In the end all our prototypes got some publisher interest, actually. Of course, the path from interest to publication is perilous, so we’ll see what comes out of it. It is encouraging for sure.

Game on!

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Looking back: Test & Chill Playtesting April 2019

Tuesday afternoon 2 April we had another playtesting event at our study, supported once again by the study association Glitch. This time we had around 25 students showing up, most of them looking for feedback. On top of that we had a few external guests: a VR game company that wanted input on their VR multiplayer survival game and a tabletop designer who playtested a board game.

Check out the picture below. In a few week we will have the next event!

Impression Northern Dutch Digital Games Industry

In my work as a lecturer at the Hanze Applied University we focus on the digital games industry. To showcase more where this industry stands in the north of the Netherlands, they made a video with interviews of many participants in this field: students, company owners and lecturers. If you want to know more about the industry and see me appear, check it out:

There is second video which showcases some work, including Studio Bleep’s Augmented Reality Storywall: awesome wallpaper in a hospital that ‘comes to life’:

Overview of the video’s and read more about the local game incubator association, go here.