Monday, September 17, 2012

New life for my blog... and web presence!

Ok, so I decided to play hardball. I think it is time to have my own space, with my own hosting where my content is... well... mine! So I decided to create my own website and I moved my blog over there.

Therefore, as of today, I won't be blogging here anymore. Instead, I will be on and my blog will be there as well.

Cya around! ;)

Monday, September 10, 2012

The power of a good story (aka New Game project I'm working on)

Please check for more details. You can red this blog post here.

A very good friend of mine once told me that I am a good storyteller. I was surprised at first and when I asked him to elaborate, he told me that I had everything it takes to be a good storyteller: very good attention to include detail on my descriptions (sometimes too much), the ability to involve and make a connection with the listener/reader and some really crazy ideas! I didn't give it that much thought back then but quite recently I started thinking of what makes a good story and if I was really able to tell a good one.

Now, you might wonder, why this now? What is going through my twisted mind? Well, the thing is: I joined a venture with a few people interested in developing a new game and I am responsible for the game design. At first, all we had was a game concept, a starting idea on how the game should be and how could people play it. But I felt that developing a game without a story behind it would just make the game seem innocuous. Wouldn't it? I mean, what if games like "The Legend of Zelda" or "Metal Gear Solid" had no story behind it? Would the game feel as good as it is? I mean even games like Counter-strike or Team Fortress have a story! A small one but they do!

I believe stories connects the players to the game, makes them feel that they are part of it, taking responsibility for the way things will turn out in the future. And not only role-playing games have that, I remember Pac-Man and Arkanoid had a background story! It may be a grandiose narrative in which the player has to take part of the fight between good and evil or just a simple background story to contextualize what is going on in the game when we play it, but the story is always there.

Therefore, since we are starting on this new game and there is room to add new elements, I decided to create a background story for it. The game is a RTS survival of the fittest type of game who takes place in the future so I decided to go for a interplanetary story. The action takes place in another planet and Humans battle against themselves and that planet's natives in order to control the planet's resources. Controlling the planet's resources will grant them advantage over the competition and more chances to win every battle. The words "Whoever controls the Spice, controls the Universe." comes to mind? Good, it's exactly in that direction that I'm going, with due differences of course! :)

I have four factions, for now, but I will eventually create eight of them. All of them allegedly have honest interests in controlling the planet and made sure they made that public. But in my story, I left a dark-side-of-the-force aspect to their legitimate interests because I prefer having 8 factions of bad guys than 4 of good guys and 4 of bad guys. And sometimes who is good and who is bad is just a matter of perspective. I have put some effort in choosing the names for each faction as well as their acronyms beacuse I wanted it to be someone players remember and refer to easily. I also created a leader for each faction who should work as the image of that faction, making it clear for the player to understand what type of faction he is we looking at. While I was at it, with my creativity flowing, I even added some curiosity easter-eggs-kinda facts into the story just for the fun of it and to see if, later on, some players will find them out!

Unfortunately, I can't reveal much more of this project for now so I'll have to leave it here but please stay tuned for news in a near future. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

When should you start testing your game design?

Please check for more details. You can red this blog post here.

I've been reading a lot about Game Design as part of my effort to get back to the gaming industry and one of the subjects that I've been thinking about the most is the amount of testing you should do and, more important, when to start testing the Game Design.

I am a very big fan of iterative development so I believe that making the full game design document, then implement it and then test the game is just plain wrong. That is, unless you're happy with just fixing sowftware bugs and launch the game without considering the testing feedback.

I prefer to start off with an idea and put it down on paper. Just a simple synopsis and eventually some concept art. Then get together with the team of artists and developers (if YOU are the whole team, get together with all aspects of yourself as a game developer) and discuss the concept with them. The output of this should be at least one "level" or prototype of your game. Just like they do on TV series with the pilot. Put one "pilot" together and start testing immediatly!

Why? Well, the more feedback you get, the better! You may think this is an awesome idea and determine that your target will be a specific demographics and when you actually get people from those demographics to actually play your game, they may tell you it is indeed awesome or they may tell you it sucks big time! And you should listen to them! After all, you're doing this game for them, aren't you?

Recently many people resorted to places like Kickstarter to help fund their games. But to attract investment on your games, you have to convince people that your game is good AND give something back. Makes sense. One thing that occurred to me when I was reading this was that maybe one of the advantages Kickstarter investors might like to do is actually be involved in the development process, as testers. Why not? Who better to help you test your game and tune it than those who actually are willing to put money behind it?! But how would these tests work when your testers might be spread around the world? That is in itself a challenge, but totally doable.

Nevertheless, in response to the question that entitles this blog post, I would say that testing should start as soon as you have a prototype, a pilot. Iterate through that and you're game will be much more successful!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

DJ R.O.B. got mentioned in "Best Entries for Game Career Guide's Game Design Challenge"!

Please check for more details. You can red this blog post here.

I just checked the Results from Game Design Challenge: The Return Of R.O.B. on's website and I was delighted to see that my submitted idea is among the best entries for this challenge!

If you want to know more about the idea, check the original blog post in where I describe it in detail.

To be perfectly honest, I was a bit sceptic that my idea would be in the best entries as I didn't have enough time to polish the game design concept that much, but I was somehow confident that they would like the idea.

But in the end, the idea went through and I am extremely happy as this feels very rewarding. I will definitely keep working on new Game Designs and I'll keep submitting ideas to GCG's Challenges. It allows me to practice my Game Designing skills and although it is not a game to show, it shows that I have good ideas, the ability to design and make them become a real game. And you'll never know, maybe I'll start making one of this games, one of this days! :D

Finally, I would like to thank Nuno Barreiros again for providing me with the amazing art that was submitted with the idea. I'm quite sure it helped my idea get through!


EDIT: I just noticed that when listing the items on Features list in's site (, the icon for the "Results from Game Design Challenge: The Return Of R.O.B." thread is a thumbnail of my submission! :D

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A huge leap for Mankind indeed

Please check for more details. You can red this blog post here.

I just read a very interesting article about the first week of NASA's Mars mission and I can't help feeling totally overwhelmed and in awe with the findings. Sure, its just a bunch of pictures that show pretty much nothing more than a deserted landscape, with no signs of life as we know it.

But I can't help thinking we are talking about a planet that is really far away from us. Depending on where Earth and Mars are in their respective orbits, they can be anywhere from 58 million to over 400 million kilometers apart. That means if you drove your car there, on an average speed of 120km/h, it would take you between 55 to 380 years (!) to get to Mars... :P

Either way, this is indeed a huge step forward for Mankind and the proof that we are indeed very inquisitive and clever beings, if only we'd focus on doing inquisitive and clever things all the time...

Check the 360 degrees images of Mars' surface below or here.

Curiosity rover: Martian solar day 2 in New Mexico

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The strange case of Benjamin SWTOR...

Please check for more details. You can red this blog post here.

I just finished reading this article on Gamasutra where the author explains why, in his opinio, SWTOR (Star Wars - The Old Republic) is, let's face it, a failure. Being a huge fan of MMO's and an active World of Warcraft player since late 2006, I also tried SWTOR as most my friends playing it told me this would be the game that would finally challenge WoW.

I decided to try it out, but I quickly understood that, while the leveling experience was indeed very nice, the game was too much focused on single player progression and everyone I talked to said the end-game experience was not that good. Well, this is where World of Warcraft really shines. I started playing WoW because a very close friend incited me to it and I remember his words, back in 2007: "It's when you reach level 70 that the game REALLY begins!". It's true. It's more than true, it is astonishingly true!

While I disagree with the author of the mentioned article that social experience in SWTOR is not that good (WoW's one is even worse imo), the fact that the end game experience is not good actually killed the game. I mean, why would anyone in his perfect sense play SWTOR (and actually PAY to play it) when it is so frustratingly hard and repetitive to actually consume all the (very good) content of the game? I mean, yes, some people could do it once or twice, but then it just becomes too boring...

Anyway, I believe there is a lesson or two to be learned here and most of all, I don't think people should be afraid to base their ideas in other already existing and well established ones. If it is working, why not do the same and improve it. Reinventing the wheel never seems to payout...

I'm sad. I like Star Wars. A lot. They really had the potential to compete with WoW. But they failed.

Better luck next time, EA.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Game Design Challenge: The Return Of R.O.B.

Please check for more details. You can red this blog post here.

The latest's Game Design Challenge is about R.O.B., aka Robotic Operating Buddy, an accessory for the Nintendo Entertainment System released in 1985. The challenge is to design a game that uses Nintendo's R.O.B. peripheral somehow. I decided to give it a go and create a Game Design that would not only use R.O.B. as a peripheral, but also gave him the leading role in the game itself. I came up with the idea described below and it would be awesome if you could provide me with any feedback you might have. It would mean the world to me as it would help me to become a better Game Designer! Thanks!

Also, I would like to give due credit to Nuno Barreiros (X-Tense) for the fantastic in-game screenshot he made just for my idea. It was exactly what I had in mind, fantastic work! On to the idea...
Game Title: DJ R.O.B.

Background Story: After several years playing secondary roles at different games, R.O.B. decided to take a vacation and travel around the world. Paris, Rome, London, New York, you name it - R.O.B. was there. But when he came back, there was one place that didn't get out of his mind: Ibiza! Oh boy, did he party in Ibiza, met a lot of interesting people, danced all night long... That was the life! R.O.B. felt that the time has come to make a change in his life. And that was it, he was going to be a star: R.O.B. was going to be a DJ!

Basic Concept: In DJ R.O.B. the player plays R.O.B. himself, trying to become the best DJ in the world. To accomplish that, the player must help R.O.B. put together different music pieces to create one masterpiece mix!

Gameplay: The player must help R.O.B. put together pieces of music that are literally coming down on his DJ plates.

These pieces are represented by colored blocks that, when matched in groups of 3 or more of the same color, will be added to the mix increasing the mix's quality and granting R.O.B. music score (points). The higher the score, the better the mix is.

R.O.B. has 4 plates and every one of them has a bonus color, meaning that everytime the player matches 3 or more pieces of a specific color in the plate with the same color bonus active, he will get combo points, increasing the music score.

To be able to do this, the player is able to move the colored blocks right and left while they are moving down to the plates, but as soon as they hit the plate or another block under them, they will stay in that position and will be unable to be moved.

R.O.B. would have two new accessories that should be put on the left and right side of him. Each accessory would have two colored plates, just like the image attached. The player would have to use his controller to tell R.O.B. to turn left of right and touch one colored plate, activating bonus score. The plate R.O.B. touched would grant extra music score. While the player could play alone using his controller, if he used R.O.B. he would be able to have a better score.

Game Objective: For each level, R.O.B. will have a limited amount of time to produce one mix and he has to achieve a certain amount of music score (points) to progress to the next level, otherwise, he will fail his goal of becoming the best DJ in the world.

Score would accumulate on each level and in the end, the player could submit his high score to be able to compare with other DJs around the world.