Category Archives: Design

Building Trust

How can we build trust as game designers? This is a question I have been asking myself. The following article is considerations of an awesome video I watched recently by James Everett Lead Game Designer at Magic Leap talking at Game Connect Asia Pacific.

In the video James touches on a number of things.

Saruman vs Hobbit

James Everett says to not be Saruman. To not be the person that ‘dispenses wisdom’ from an ivory tower. Instead be a hobbit. Be a comrade. Be a facilitator/filter/collaborator for the people around you.


Jason Everett breaks down trust into two components.


The logical component is straightforward. Based on a societal structure it is what we expect from normal, rational human beings. It’s simple and clean.

  1. Contractual
  2. Past behavior
  3. Social norms
  4. Lawful
  5. Contractual

Everett then goes on to talk about the emotional aspect.


Emotional trust is:

  • The default in healthy teams
  • Reciprocal
  • Pleasant and efficient

Everett then discusses three ways in which designers can build or break trust.

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Grapes of Wrath – Level Design Lessons

Last week I designed Grapes of Wrath, a multiplayer level for Battlefield 1. Reflecting on the experience I will detail my process, and lessons learned.

Conceptually I split design into two areas. Theme & Structure.


Given I was aiming to create a post apocalyptic theme I searched for reference images several of which inspired my design.

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During this consideration of theme I considered the games structure.


In the context of Battlefield 1 I define theme as the map objectives, points of interest, and player flow. My research in this area began with Battlefield 1’s two game modes, Conquest & Rush which I intended to incorporate into my map.

Not only did I experience these modes by playing them, but used spectator mode to watch the battle play out on a meta level. This allowed me to more easily see how objective placement and points of interest affected player flows.

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I then looked at the the different units, studying Battlefields different infantry classes, tanks, airplanes and vehicles. I found categories of each which had different play styles:

  • Air – A fast but weak plane, a slow but powerful bomber, and a hybrid plane
  • Tanks – A fast but weak tank, a slow but powerful tank, and a hybrid
  • Infantry – Short, medium and long range infantry
  • The Behemoth – A tie breaker

Battlefields vehicles cater to extreme playstyles with disadvantages, and usually a third averaged option. Combining map knowledge with player elements I created a ‘cerebral map’ of objectives with player flows and major elements such as a Behemoth route and an underground bridge. I had an idea of the experience I wanted to create though this clearly was not a map!

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What I had created was akin to a disfigured skeleton which needed its flesh added and bones tweaked.  A location was needed a to root these abstract concepts in.

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Difficulty in Difficulty

How does one convey difficulty levels?

The most common method in video games is through a menu from which players choose terms to set the difficulty of the game. Such menus generally take the form of the following:

  1. Easier than Easy
  2. Easy
  3. Medium
  4. Hard
  5. Harder than Hard

With each term developers have two ‘paths’ they can take. A generic or idiosyncratic term.

  1. Generic – Commonly used terms which have no thematic basis in a game
  2. Idiosyncratic – Terms that have a thematic basis in a game


The following are examples of generic terms:

  1. Beginner
  2. Easy
  3. Medium / Normal
  4. Hard
  5. Expert

A clear advantage to using such terms is they are established concepts in the gamer zeitgeist making them more likely to be know across cultures, and languages.

On the other hand a number of issues arise when using generic terms such as:

  1. Different MeaningsNintendo Hard’s easy is harder than Western easy
  2. Different Connotations – There are many interpretations of the term. For example Easy can have negative connotations to a players self sense of skill though it may be appropriate. This may cause them to choose a higher difficulty than is appropriate resulting in a less enjoyable experience.
  3. Not Thematic – Alone they add little flavor to the game

Continue reading Difficulty in Difficulty

Pocket Legends Ability System

Pocket legends is a multi-platform mobile massively multiplayer online game where players play with a variety of classes which have unique abilities. For this exercise I will be analyzing the ability system in Pocket Legends with a focus on the player vs environment (PvE) tank system for the warrior class.


In Pocket Legends each class has a role they perform, one such class is the warrior which suits the role of ‘protector’. During gameplay the warrior attracts the attention of enemies, and takes the majority of incoming damage. This role is referred to as being a ‘tank’.

To enact the role of tank, the warrior has an ability system. A tank that is unable to hold the attention of enemies will most likely result in the death of the party. This causes dissatisfaction with the game, which leads to lower player retention. It is therefore important that this system functions well.


The fundamental building blocks of the ability system are the abilities. Warriors have unique abilities they can perform such as Vengeful Slash which has usage requirements, and effects when used. These usage requirements are mana, cooldown, and player level which are the primary variables that control this system.

When an ability is enabled it can be cast, and when cast goes into a ‘cooling’ time period. When cooling the ability cannot be used until the cooling period is over. Once the ability has cooled down, the player is able to cast it again. This process repeats as long as the player is able to cast the ability. Disabled abilities cannot be used at all due not meeting usage requirements such as lack of mana, character being dead etc.

Enabled, Cooling, Disabled

We can represent this loop with the following diagram.

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