Has a game ever made you interested in how they are created?


#1

The talk of Media Molecule’s Dreams this week has left me thinking nostalgically about my time spent on their previous series, LittleBigPlanet. It’s almost been 10 years since I first started playing the original LittleBigPlanet and messing around with the tools in its “create” mode. It was my first experience with a level creator and my first introduction to the basic questions asked when making a game. What are the win/lose states? What rules are imposed on the player? What message/narrative are you trying to communicate? I never made anything of note but simply playing with the logic and systems the game offered up was enjoyable in its own right, and in a way educational. The sequel even introduced me to music sequencers and boolean logic before I would later encounter them in school. In all, it left me with an appreciation for the craft of how games are made.

Some years later I would get into the immersive and walking simulator genres with the likes of Dishonored and Gone Home, games that would teach me to start playing closer attention to level design. Looking at the objects in these virtual environments knowing that a designer had to have specifically placed them there fascinated me and left me questioning what stories they were trying to tell. Even the shape of a space intrigued me more as I pondered how the designers were guiding me to my destination. These days I try to play most games without objective markers enabled, hoping that the level design will be able to communicate the right direction if I’m paying attention.

So I put the question to all of you: has a game ever made you interested in how they are made, or taught you something about the practice?


#2

I was really blown away when I played Portal for the second time with the developers’ commentary turned on. It was the first time I really considered the design work that goes into games and got me far more interested how games are made. I understand that it’s a lot of work, but I would love for more games to have a commentary mode. Or, alternatively, I’d love for Waypoint to run through a level of a game with a member of the development team talking through how it was made!


#3

Ah that’s a good one! I’d also love if more games offered some kind of dev commentary. Which reminds me, I really need to go back and try the dev commentary modes that were later added to Firewatch and more recently Tacoma.


#4

My first experience with trying to use the in-game creation tools to make and code my own stages was Age of Empires II. It had a big online scene for custom stages and you could actually code “if x then y” conditions to create custom game modes where for example each player always had 100 archers which would respawn forever unless your leader was taken out, which would close off the portal. I spent a lot of time tinkering with that level creator.

The next game to make me interested in the principles of design was probably Super Mario Maker 15 years later. It’s still a great and accessible game for teaching people game design, hope it gets a Switch remaster.


#5

The first game to really make me interested in how a game is designed was Civilization III. Before playing that game I was really only familiar with educational games or action games, but Civilization III was incredibly interesting, but just as importantly, turnbased. The pace of the game allowed me to take my time pondering consider how every aspect of the game came together to enhance other aspect of the game.

A more direct answer, about 14 years ago I found a Mario fan-game website. At that point I hadn’t played a Mario game ever, but as one does on the internet in 2004, I stumbled on to the website and started playing people’s games they made. And the amazing part was when I found the forums and realized I can just talk to these folks and ask them how they do things. After a bit I started mucking around with Gamemaker and trying to figure out how to perfect Mario’s jump. It was a ton of fun!


#6

Honestly I get this playing battlefield, especially battlefield 1. This is especially the case when talking about how all the guns and canons are projectile based and not hit-scan.

I genuinely do not understand how the game is able to get 64 players all firing hundreds of projectiles through the air, all of which causes destruction, and then relay all that information to 64 players around the world instantaneously. i dont get it.

Meanwhile i cant talk to a client on skype on my office internet without them looking like some pixelated monster.


#7

Sorta related, but if anyone is interested in the art&science of level design, Robert Yang has a series of streams called Level With Me where he walks through games and talks about the design of the levels, and why you’d do certain stuff in certain eras, and it’s pretty interesting

it’s also pretty good because he’ll get distracted by a weirdly placed light or something and die


#8

I don’t think I really considered game design seriously until I started listening to Idle Thumbs circa 2013, but I think before that my interest was piqued by two separate moments:

  1. I got Streets of Sim City for Christmas. I’ve heard stories about people getting this on accident and being bummed out by it, but I put it on my wishlist. The idea of playing Twisted Metal in my Sim City 2000 cities seemed completely awesome, and quickly turned into me messing around with terrain in SC2000’s level editor, trying to create the craziest jumps I could manage. Seeing the connection between the two programs was very exciting and triggered something in my brain.

  2. Which lead to me messing around in Starcraft and Warcraft 2 level editors, trying to create story missions. Ultimately I never could figure out scripting well enough to do anything, but I did discover that the AI in Warcraft 2 doesn’t know how to break walls, which lead to me creating a custom map where the AI was a single peon trapped in a stonewall prison, with the rest of the map (utterly over-saturated with trees and goldmines, naturally) at my disposal. I’d play this map as a fantasy version of Sim-City 2000, creating a sprawling city with dozens of castles, mage towers and churches (the three buildings I thought looked the coolest), until I got bored and would send a gryphon over to the peon’s prison to kill him for an easy win.

That Portal commentary is a good call too, lot of fascinating detail I’d never intuit on my own.