Episode 13: Cloak and Dagger

Invisible, Inc. Concept Art

The turn-based strategy genre has a rich history, ranging from the storied world of XCOM to fan favorites like Final Fantasy Tactics. Many hardware generations have come and gone since the first of these classic titles, but the genre retains its appeal due to its challenging, consequential gameplay, and the ever-tantalizing prospect of guiding your squad to a perfect tactical victory. This week we’re sitting down with a new member of the turn-based strategy family: Invisible, Inc., by the excellent creative team at Klei Entertainment. Borrowing design cues and conventions from 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Invisible, Inc. evolves its heritage into a stylish espionage sneak-em-up with a unique focus on evasion and misdirection. So what’s it like to be an Invisible agent? Come along with Chris and Derek and find out!

Show Notes

Image credit: Klei Entertainment

Episode 12: Play Different

A very happy smiling seal

From playing ball to playing with words, the varieties of play that humans engage in are almost limitless. When it comes to games though, only a tiny fraction of that richness is typically represented. How might we broaden the kinds of play that games can embody? Join Chris and Derek for an optimistic exploration of game design and play’s many permutations.

Show Notes

Image credit: Donna Nook

Episode 11: The Shoulders of Giants

Artwork from Titanfall 2's single-player campaign

In 2014 Respawn Entertainment debuted Titanfall: an inventive new entrant in the high-stakes world of AAA first-person shooters. The game won numerous accolades for its fluid dual-mode gameplay, but long-term player engagement ultimately proved disappointing. Two years later Respawn has returned with Titanfall 2: a sequel that takes dead aim at the perceived shortcomings of the original. Packing improved multiplayer depth and a dedicated single-player campaign, does the new iteration have the muscle to compete with the FPS juggernauts? Call in your titan and join the fray as we dive into the gameplay and game design of this hotly anticipated sequel.

Spoiler warning! Campaign spoilers are discussed starting at the 47-minute mark.

Show Notes

Image credit: Electronic Arts

Episode 10: Switched On

Nintendo Switch Karen plays a game with friends

In the last decade Nintendo has become synonymous with quirky hardware designs: sometimes inspired leaps of creativity like the original Wii and 3DS, and sometimes befuddling mish-mashes like the Wii U. So, as the first details on the venerable game maker’s seventh-generation console began to trickle out this year, fans and analysts alike were gripped with suspense. Would the new platform be a return to form or a second consecutive stumble? Now that we’ve had our first official look at the Switch, it’s clear that Nintendo is continuing to follow its own muse, this time emphasizing a unique take on the future of home and mobile gaming. Join Chris and Derek for a look ahead at Nintendo’s next chapter, and a wide-ranging discussion of the Switch’s unique creative possibilities.

Show Notes

Image credit: Nintendo

Episode 9: The Pillars of Autumn

Jack-o'-lantern carved with a Triforce pattern

Curling up with a great game on a crisp autumn afternoon is surely one of life’s best simple pleasures. With the leaves outside changing and the days growing shorter, let’s settle in for a cozy chat about fall gaming memories, as well as the end-of-year releases we’re most excited to play this year. There’s a lot of great games to discuss, so get yourself a toasty mug of hot chocolate and let’s begin! Plus, a special bonus this week: Chris and Derek finally introduce themselves.

Show Notes

Image credit: Klim Levene

Episode 8: Complicated Creatures

Winston from Overwatch

The social communities that form around games are complicated creatures. The enthusiasm and energy of a positive, engaged audience can elevate a good game into a phenomenal experience. Yet when communities lapse into immature or toxic behavior, the results make games less welcoming for everyone. So: as players and as creators, how can we better steer our communities towards the positive side of this divide? Join Chris, Derek, and special guest Amanda Knowlton from Gamers with Jobs for a spirited discussion of the best and worst aspects of playing games together.

Show Notes

Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment

Episode 7: Great Expectations

A planet and creatures from No Man's Sky

In a crowded marketplace, a game’s success or failure often hangs on the creator’s ability to woo an audience prior to release. Game creators have to be able to explain, often months or even years before their game is complete, what it is that will make the experience they are offering unique. When done well, this kind of pre-release messaging can build communities and propel previously unknown games to success. But! The path is a perilous one. When creators promise more than they can deliver, the audience’s ire can be swift and severe. This week, Chris and Derek tiptoe onto the treacherous tightrope of managing expectations. What’s the right way to build excitement for your game without over-reaching your grasp?

Show Links

Image credit: Hello Games

Episode 6: Up by the Bootstraps

U.S. Navy Seabees negotiate an obstacle course, 1943

When we think about making games we tend to focus on the creative journey: the path of ideas and insights leading from a rough initial design to an engaging final product. Most of the time though, this process is only half of the true challenge. Taking a game from start to finish also requires negotiating an obstacle course of real-world challenges. How do you find like-minded collaborators? Where can you go for working capital? And of course, if you can’t work full-time on your great idea, how do you squeeze in the sheer number of hours you need to make it happen? This week Chris and Derek take on these tough questions with special guest host Dru Erridge, a game developer who bootstrapped his own creation from the seed of an idea into an incredibly impressive project. Let’s find out how he did it!

Show Notes

Image credit: U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

Episode 5: The Creator’s Dilemma

 

Currencies from around the world

Choosing how to price a game is a deeply tricky business, one that requires almost as much psychological insight as it does economic. Setting your game’s price too high can starve it of the players and exposure it needs to take off; pricing too low can erode your game’s perceived value with no guarantee of return. And of course, in the age of the App Store, all creators have to reckon with the seismic effect that free-to-play has had on player expectations and economic behavior. So what’s the right answer? In this week’s episode Chris and Derek delve into this difficult debate, searching for the elusive balance between creator sustainability and player value.

Show Notes

Image copyright Moyan Brenn

Episode 4: The Moment of Truth

Oculus Rift headset

Virtual reality has long been a totem of our collective imagination. Who wouldn’t want to leap into a fully realized alternative world? The fantasy of VR is one that taps into our most elemental sense of wonder. Now, for the first time, VR’s promise has been neatly packed into mass market consumer devices, available to anyone whose optimism (and graphics card) are sturdy enough to brave the new frontier. Will the first generation of VR hardware validate the medium’s promise or break the spell? In this episode Chris and Derek discuss VR’s moment of truth, and peer into the future of immersive game design.

Show Notes

Image credit: Oculus VR