Game Maker’s Toolkit Review

Thoughts on Game Maker’s Toolkit?

Okay, my general thought is that I overhyped GMT a bit for myself on finding it, and it tends tend to be a bit hit or miss. Despite this, the guy puts the work in frequently and performs above expectations, so I really can’t say he’s average. Overall he’s definitely more good than bad. He’s a solid step in the right direction.

I found the channel when he only had 3 videos up and this video is the one that sold me on the channel:

It presents a very clear idea for a game I had never heard of, shows the mechanics involved and the benefit to the game design. It’s a clever idea, it’s inspirational. It rocks.

The two videos around it are underwhelming by comparison.

Adaptive soundtracks doesn’t really detail an aspect of game design, or even bring up some of the best implementations, but it does provide good examples and is generally a solid documentation. And honestly it does bring up some good examples of sound design to reinforce puzzle solving, so I guess that works.

As a general deconstruction this makes sense, it’s just kind of underwhelming. These two games have these different features, so one is a wilderness getaway murder themepark, and the other is a slog through disease-ridden Africa. I suppose it does demonstrate how mechanics can be used to build theme, but it doesn’t really seem to acknowledge either as being better in a game design sense. It implicitly seems to signal that the Far Cry 2 approach is better because it reinforces a consistent mechanical theme rather than the underlying dissonant tone of Far Cry 3.

This one is actively disappointing. He hasn’t read the book game feel, and doesn’t go into nearly as much detail as he could on the topic. Like, that book is the authority, the sovereign source of information on this topic, as well as this page from the author:
http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/1781/principles_of_virtual_sensation.php?print=1
Instead Mark Brown focuses on Juice, which is a crap term (though I’ll admit game feel is too) by mobile developers that doesn’t capture everything laid out in the book.

He ends up going over a checklist of things from the various game feel presentations that are out there, but missing more subtle stuff like the relationships between input and animations that drive the difference in feeling between say witcher, dark souls, devil may cry. Or the relationship between game feel and the principles of animation, like reaction, anticipation, etc.

This one is kinda common knowledge (introduce, ramp up with consequences, challenge, twist), but a good breakdown on a common topic, so thumbs up from me. I can say however that there’s a side of level design seen in the castlevania or ninja gaiden games on NES that isn’t explored much, how elements can be combined to make players think and actually be challenged and level design analyses like this tend not to focus on that half, but this video is still perfectly satisfactory for what it does.

Boring. Also rips off Hyperbithero’s vid. Death hasn’t really stood still, there’s a lot of different aspects of persistence in death across different games. Not to mention this ignores the role that asking you to do it over again plays. But hey, he does mention a fair number of mechanics here, just feels like an incomplete take on the topic.

Poor choice of game, given how linear it is overall. The world barely links back on itself. A lot of the video is fluff. Has a fair point that too many exploration games tell you where to go. The tricks brought up however do make sense and all fit into the world design of a metroidvania. Pointing out the platform you jump off unknowingly in Axiom Verge really resonated with me because I did exactly that, so points on that part

This one completely dodges the point it set out to make. This is related to the “emergent narrative” meme that’s going around that usually attempts to claim everything is storytelling as a way of making gameplay subservient to stories (probably not his intention, but it’s common). Having a system that can generate a large number of possible outcomes is a good thing, but it’s not the same thing as storytelling, not to mention it’s the basic thing that happens in every game, that you can say what your unique experience was after the fact. This video doesn’t propose anything useful.

The gist of this one is, “have a game get easier when you die, don’t tell anyone” Trouble is people figure this shit out, and it ruins the game for people who are good at the games. They play their best, and want to take on the hardest challenge possible, only to get stuck on a section and instead of having their wishes respected to play at the highest difficulty, are shunted down in difficulty levels rather than being allowed to try to tackle the same challenge until they get it. Not to mention it allows you to purposefully kill yourself to make any section easier. God Hand’s hard mode keeps the difficulty consistent throughout, and its levelup system works so quickly that you can get to lvDIE before leaving the first half of the first area (not to mention it starts backed off and lets you ramp it up rather than handicapping enemies if you suck). Dynamic difficulty only works in theory, a more careful handling of the topic is probably necessary.

I think a more broad point he could have made is that there’s a similarity here to Tetris, which is called a puzzle game by most, but doesn’t have puzzles in the same sense as say Zelda has puzzles. The key thing is there’s a system at work which can be manipulated in a lot of ways to reach the goal using problem solving skills similar to more rote puzzles, but with more freedom of expression and more manipulation of a consistent system. Without completing the loop here, of explaining how the principle can be applied generally instead of just, “hey, some games have you build things that do stuff,” it feels more like a recommendation for the genre (or really this one guy) rather than part of a game maker’s toolkit.

Shrug, I guess it makes sense. Not the most interesting. Basic point about production.

Simple explanation of a simple dynamic. The more broad problem is that raising the stakes too much is irritating, because it increases the amount of time you need to spend on each gameplay loop, which makes the game unattractive to people. Makes sense though. Don’t think he played up the leniency of the 100 day system versus pure roguelike enough, since that’s what really sells it.

Simple point, adventure games are made of matching keys to locks, have the locks point out what keys they need clearly so players know what to look for. Doesn’t consider the downside that the game ends up being a lot of matching like to like instead of challenging skills like problem-solving, but that’s the universal adventure game problem. Fair rules. Works out.

Solid analysis of a bunch of Mario levels. Makes a great point about the part where the whole challenging section isn’t on screen at once, so players need to react and keep moving as they can see more of it. Tons of great ideas about pacing and ramping up challenges. Shies away from the more challenging aspects, doesn’t go into as much depth as it could, even calls one interesting jump in SMB 8-2 uninteresting and unfair, when it has an actually clever setup.

How are these lessons? Goes over some interesting stuff the game does, but fails to really capitalize on why they all work, and the lessons themselves are general creative principles more than actual tools that people can use.

I didn’t watch this episode. I don’t know why it’s on the channel. Watched it for this analysis. Kinda humdrum mildly interesting thoughts I guess.

Poor choice of game to focus on considering Ico is lame because of its subtractive design. I would have gone with Divekick.

Reasonable stuff. Some techniques for visual composition to lead people through linear environments. Another naughty dog guy once talked about how they have a jump tracker, that checks every time a player attempts a jump in their levels, so they can see where the playtesters are jumping at things they can’t grab, then the artists change the assets to look less grabbable.

I don’t totally agree with this one. I left the dotted line on when playing Witcher 3. I used to subscribe to this line of thought, it’s a popular one. There’s this feeling that you’re being spoonfed by all this extra information highlighting, but on my second playthrough of DXHR and Dishonored, I left the hints on, it was frankly faster to navigate and figure out what objects were interactive. Condescending perhaps, but I don’t think turning them off is especially compelling when you want to get to a specific place, and it makes more sense to turn them off when you want players to try going to multiple possible places.

Amazingly doesn’t really cover the benefits of traversal controls/mechanics and doesn’t really go into any sort of detail about how that type of thing is built, the role it really plays, or how they can be built to aid games generally. Also funny is how my dad tried to play the new tomb raiders after the older ones and simply couldn’t do it. This video brings up a lot of examples, but doesn’t go the extra mile in translating them into methods for making traversal more interesting or building an interesting whole system like Mirror’s Edge’s with risks and rewards for different types of movement, with mental math associated with moving that little bit faster.

Highlighting specific examples of good game design is a good idea. Regain system is a solid choice. Fulton recovery works in a neat way, but also has design repercussions in that you can totally remove enemies really easily with fultons. Solid analysis of the relationship between squid and kid, and the way the game has you switch between both regularly. Ori’s save state system having a real cost ingame, allowing you to save anywhere, and using a cool-down timer to keep them far apart in real time, and subtly encourage not saving every 5 steps is a great design overall. Life is Strange is a crappy pick.

I disagree that this facilitates roleplaying. It’s just that there are a lot of different dialogue trees, some are locked behind certain stats, and a large number of them have you pick a dialogue option to do nothing at all, allowing stats to bypass skill challenges.

Surprisingly solid analysis of how Doom succeeds through multiple enemy types. It’s amazing how there’s been such a retrogression in FPS games since Doom in terms of their design. Really solid episode all around.

Basically just says the game is hard, units get burned out, you’re an asshole and recruit more, this resembles corporate structure. Not really that interesting.

Good central idea, represents exactly what I liked about The Witness, though I don’t think Braid was nearly as strong. Falls just short of laying out how to design challenging puzzles using these principles, but does offer a very real method for designing puzzles based on consistent mechanical ideas. Maybe doesn’t deserve so much credit because it’s ripping off Jon Blow so directly.

And here he very much ripped off my friend Jon Williams, Turbo Button, on a video that I collaborated with him on and gave him a lot of info about. Right down to the game choice too. He does offer credit in the description though, and the video has a decent idea, but doesn’t really get at what depth is. Especially irritating with defining breadth as making more new mechanics, and depth as having a few that can perform a lot of functions, then immediately saying bayonetta is deep for having a lot of moves, which is exactly what breadth is, not depth. He mistakes it for depth here because all these moves are possible from combining the inputs of two buttons in different ways, which seems to fit having few mechanics by having few buttons, but is actually just a really large list of mechanics mapped to a small group of buttons.

It’s especially irritating because my entire problem with bayonetta and platinum games beat em ups is that they keep having a large move list of button combinations I really don’t want to memorize instead of a smaller set of consistent functions that can be applied in a lot of ways like Devil May Cry. On a more broad level the video fails for not really understanding what depth is.

Breadth broadly speaking isn’t really a thing in my opinion, more mechanics do create more depth. However a failure of these mechanics to have multiple uses, interaction between each other, and variation in their execution, prevents mechanics from being deep, so adding a ton of these makes a game that isn’t deep, but instead broad. Broadness is a failure to create depth despite adding many mechanical elements, rather than a measure of a game in itself. Objectively speaking, a game becoming more broad is becoming more deep, as every mechanic adds game states, but it’s failing to exponentially expand the number of game states, only linearly expanding them.

The video also seems to view depth as just advanced techniques, when depth is literally everything. It’s the whole possibility space, sans redundant and irrelevant game states. It’s not just that you can switch weapons or sprint to save on reload time, that adds an incredibly minor amount of depth, even though it may relate to mastery of a game. Depth is about emphasizing differentiation between game states, about creating a large range of possible things that can happen. About trying to create analog information instead of digital differentiations. Faster reload is a very linear and exact thing. More interesting is how Vanquish’s advanced tech can be applied in many places for different purposes, and get varied results, than that it simply makes you perform better.

Which is why I told Jon that Vanquish wasn’t a good pick for talking about depth, because yeah it has advanced mechanics, but it’s still not the most deep game. He just wanted to use up footage he had on hand. Mark Brown didn’t get that memo.

Decent video though.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s