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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Surprise your players and they will love your games

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

I just read this article about how introducing surprise events improves the gamer's learning process. This is the result of a study led by Erik Van der Spek and his colleagues at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands who used a mod of the game Half Life 2: Episode Two to create a training scenario in which students undertake the role of a medical first responder. The study was published in the British Journal of Educational Technology.

The whole idea was to determine what would be the reaction of players to the introduction of surprising events and how would that affect their learning experience in dealing with the challenges presented to them. Seems like those elements of surprise do improve the learning performance. According to the above mentioned article: 

"It appears that when we are engaged in a scenario we construct a situation model through which we seek to understand and act. For example, the relationships between individuals, what objectives and roles individuals have and how this may change. This situation model is updated as we work through the scenario.

However, as humans we are strongly wedded to our points of view. We will look for information that confirms our view of the world. When we receive information that does not fit with our situation model, we may often choose to ignore it, or even use it to polarize our view. This has been shown in experiments featuring individuals holding extreme political views on the left or right of the spectrum.

When we encounter a surprise in a scenario it grabs our attention and forces us to question the situation model that we have formed. In performing this action, the leaner must go beyond surface learning activities. Instead they must engage in deeper learning processes to compare, contrast and synthesize information presented with this event (Graesser et al, 2009).".

Most forms of art that I have strongly embedded in my mind and that I consider to be the best pieces of art I've been exposed to, are those who surprised me somehow. I remember the first time I saw movies like The Exorcist, Schindler's List, The Ring, The Sixth Sense or Inception. It was the fact that they didn't have a regular story line and had impressive and surprising events that led me to conclude that they are among the best movies I've ever seen. Same thing applies to when I read "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" by Milan Kundera. Might not be the best book ever for you but it totally knocked me off my feet as I have never had someone telling me a story that way before. It was surprising! Same goes for music, painting, etc. and, of course, games.

Hence, I would have to agree that this is an important tool for Game Designers. Being able to create engaging and compelling stories around a game will obviously make the player want to play more. But adding surprising events will not only improve their learning process and performance while playing the game but will also improve their satisfaction and increase their willingness to play more and more of it. Now, isn't that what we all want?

I believe that it is not always possible to include those kind of surprising events, but whenever it is, Game Designers should go for it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Write the game you want to tatoo!

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

I just read Gamasutra's newsletter and I couldn't help noticing one article where Game designer David Jones (Grand Theft Auto, Crackdown, Lemmings) points out something that is quite true when you think about it.

He says that "If I forget about an idea after 4 or 5 months I know it was a good thing we never started it, but if after two years it's still there and you're still excited by it, then that's the time to start thinking about putting it into production."

When you think of it, this is the exact same principle as making a tatoo. I mean, you should only tatoo something that you envision in your head for several years. Then you know that you really would like to have that tatoo'ed in your body permanently. Exactly because it is supposed to stay there forever.

I was already thinking about writing down some of the ideas I have in my head, but now I'm sure that I should start by writing those who have been in my head the longest. On to creative writing we go!

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria to release on September 25th 2012!

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

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria now has an official release date (check this link). It will be released on September 25th 2012. This is my favorite game ever and I already upgraded my version, how about you? (check picture)

Game Design Challenge - Bring it on!

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

I was browsing Gamasutra the other day and I came across an initiative they have called "Game Design Challenge". According to them "'s Game Design Challenge is an exercise in becoming a game developer, asking you to look at games in a new way -- from the perspective of a game creator, producer, marketer, businessperson, and so forth.

Every other Wednesday we'll present you with a challenge about developing video games. You'll have two weeks to brainstorm a brilliant solution (see below for how to submit your answers). After the two week submission period elapses, the best answers and the names of those who submitted them will be posted.".

I thought, why not? I have many Game Design ideas, why not challenge myself into actually putting pen to paper? It's not about the competition, its more about actually starting to write stuff down. The initiative is awesome, if you ask me. Last challenge was to design a game for the recently announced Microsoft Surface (check this) and I was curious to see the outcome. The top 3 ideas were just amazing. I liked the one on 2nd place more than the 1st placed design, but hey, I'm not in the panel of judges! :)

Looking forward to see what is the next challenge and I will enter the competition. Bring it on! :)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My passion for games... lives on!

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

In early 2007, me and a long time friend also in the IT area found out that we shared an immense passion about Video Games and decided to put to use our already considerable experience in the field of IT to try and create a Games Studio in Lisbon, Portugal.

We had several brilliant ideas and we were almost certain we would change the world of video games with them and make great, fun things. I still do.

My role was to do Product and Project Management, Game Design of the ideas I had in my head to create games and since I was fluent in English and had strong communication skills, I was also appointed to do Business Development, i.e. make sure our games got published.

During the time our Game Studio was able to survive the lack of investment from anyone else but ourselves, I was able to work on some brilliant titles, with fantastic ideas and extremely skilled individuals.

The first game we produced was called Steam, a Match 3/Action/Puzzle full 3D casual game, where you would have to help a cute young girl travel across the land of Sweetopia, fighting “the bad guys” with her train who fired colourful marble balls to unveil the secret of the stolen candies! We successfully managed to get the game published with Oberon Media, Big Fish Games, Boonty and a couple other publishers. The game can still be played today here as it still is being sold.

The second title I worked on was Starwheels, a Car Racing Full 3D casual game. The idea was very good and the concept was awesome as well as the graphics. One of my key participation in this game had to do with making sure the whole art was extremely polished and had to look cute, as the game was intended to be played by women mostly. The players would have to instantly relate to the characters and cars, and the cars had no major differences apart from the aesthetic ones. As with Steam, I was also producing the game and was responsible for making sure the team (the same as in Steam) met deadlines and implemented the game features as they were in the design document. Although the game never got to be published, every single Publisher I pitched the game to was impressed by the game’s graphics and its fluidity.

At the same time as with Starwheels, we had a different team working on a game called Netliga (a Web game). It was a Soccer Management Game and the user had to pick a team of players based on the official players who played in the Portuguese Premier League. The user would then define his team’s starting line-up and the game engine would rate the players depending on their performance in real life. It would then compute the results and determine each user team’s score. In this game, I designed the game concept, gameplay and other game elements, the general layout guidelines and also did some development on the starting line-up UI. I also managed to have it published by, the largest portuguese web portal, on its game section and at its highest peak we had over 10000 active players registered and playing.

Later on, we created another game called Ignite Factory, an Online Action Game. The storyline was intended to show the day-to-day work of our studio and the characters of the game represented each of the studio members. Each one of us was supposed to do something, from creating the raw materials to transforming them with the goal of producing lighters (our games!). My character was responsible to make sure the bits and pieces got together moving from one production phase to the other (kind of mimicking what I did in real life). The game is still playable here and its one of the things I liked doing the most, despite being a very simple flash game.

The last big project I worked on was Portucale, a Real Time Strategy Web Game similar to the very popular Travian or Tribal Wars. The concept was to have a player impersonate one Knight, servant to the first King of Portugal and help the Kingdom grow, always respecting the real events of the History of Portugal. The game started in 1143 (when Portugal was created) and ended in 1910 (when the Monarchy was abolished and the Republic implemented in the country) and the player would evolve with time, accordingly to Portugal and the world’s history and technological evolutions as well. The storyline was very rich and full of historical events and I tried to always keep a pedagogical approach to every aspect of the game as I wanted to be a way for young people to learn a little bit more about their country’s history while having fun! I was also very careful to make sure the environment of the game evolved as the years passed by and major historical events took place (the Arab Wars, the Sea Conquest, the Napoleon Invasions, The Industrial Revolution, etc.).

Sadly, this game came in a late phase of our game studio’s life and we didn’t get any funding for it so it eventually followed the studio’s demise and had to be stopped.

Before our studios had to close, I had the opportunity to work on the design of a game that never got past the initial concept and prototype phase code-named “Pet Doctor”. It was a game aimed for the casual games biggest audience (women in their mid-30s/40s) and the idea was to have a pet with some kind of condition (never anything too serious) and the player would control a cute female veterinarian that would have to use mouse gestures to heal the pet. My idea was to have a cool subject (save/help animals) with innovative technologies (gesture recognition) as I was already looking at having a mobile/tablet touchable version of this game as well. Unfortunately, the studio had to close and the game never got to be done.

Nevertheless, my unending passion for games continues and I still dream of having a career in the gaming industry. Maybe one of these days... ;)

Sunday, July 01, 2012

A new beginning...

I know it has been a while since I came here but there has been many changes recently in  my life. Important changes. Earlier this year, I decided to move out of Lisbon, Portugal, my hometown and the place where I lived whole my life. As you might easily understand, it was not an easy decision. Leaving everything you know behind, family and friends, even the places you used to know and be every single day. Trust me when I say it is not easy.

But things in Portugal are becoming increasingly unbearable and many people took the same route I did. Actually, according to official numbers, 180.000 people left the country in 2010, 200.000 in 2011 and apparently, in 2012 we'll reach 250.000 people leaving Portugal in search for a better life elsewhere. A friend of mine told me the other day "This is the most well educated and technically prepared generation in the last 50 years and everyone is leaving the country." So, the question is, why is everyone leaving? That is a good yet very complicated question with political and economic implications and this blog is not about politics or economics, so I'll leave it up to you to think about it.

Moving on, I decided to leave the country and the first question was: where to? I considered several options: Germany, Netherlands, France, Sweden, Denmark, UK and Ireland. You might think, all are countries with good economy and quality of living except maybe Ireland, as the country was also in a delicate situation, just like Portugal, Greece and now Spain. Well, it turned out that from all the mentioned countries, it was the one I chose and I honestly believe it is the best choice. I am an IT professional and Ireland is the place where every single multinational IT company has its European HQ. In Ireland you have Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, IBM, Oracle and many many other IT "giants". Besides that, some of the biggest Gaming companies (games are my unending passion) also are established in Ireland somehow (Activision, Electronic Arts, Riot Games, etc). On top of that, salaries are in par with all the other countries and the cost of living (rent, etc) is a bit cheaper, as well as taxes. Seemed a natural choice.

So, here I am! I've been living and working in Dublin since April 2012 and all I can say is that I totally love the city and its people. Yeah, sure, the weather sucks big time, but hey, the sun doesn't pay bills at the end of the month, right?

Also, since I've been here, I have way more time to do so many things I love doing and didn't had the time to do when I was in Portugal. Worse part is: I miss my son and daughter. A lot. There's no day that goes by that I don't miss them dearly. But hey, that's life.

And my life has just gave me a new beginning.