Sunday, January 16, 2011

Challenging vs. Frustruating

The title of this blog post might be a little misguiding, because I am not explaining the difference between challenging and frustration. I'm writing this blog post not because I am telling you how to handle this balance act between the two sides of the difficulty spectrum.

I'm writing this blog post because I need your help (yes, you).

As a kid, I really didn't think about what I liked about gameplay. I liked games because I liked the atmosphere, and because I was a kid, the plotlines entertained me. Plus, I liked being in control.

But now, as a game designer, I wish I thought about that. Because I'll be honest. I don't play (mainstream) games anymore (I do however kill time by playing indie games. Go indie games!).

Anyway, here's the problem. I don't know how to make games challenging, as opposed to frustrating. Before we go any further, I want to tell you what I mean when I use these two terms (every time you see me say these two things, just replace the words with these explanations).

Challenging- A generally positive sensation that occurs when skills are tested, pushing one to a higher level of ability. Usually reinforces (makes the player want to play more of the game).

Frustrating- A generally negative sensation that occurs when skill is seemingly uninvolved, making one feel as if the outcome of the game is out of their hands. Usually punishes (makes the player want to stop playing the game).

Yes, those are my interpretations of the words. Not a definition, obviously. I tried my best. Anyway, I know what you're thinking. "If you can come up with two separate definitions, then that means you know what the difference is.

In theory, yes. I know what the on-paper difference between the two terms are. However, in practice, I do not know how to make my games challenging. Essentially, I always get feedback that my games are frustrating. Let me give you an example.

I recently worked as a level designer with Pinpickle on our game Propel. We sent the finished version off to a lot of indie review sites and such. The graphics and music were well-received. The gameplay? The word "frustrating" was probably the most used phrase in every review! To get the best idea of this, it's probably best to play the game. If you don't want to do that, just know this. It involves a lot of brain-twisting gravity switches, split-second decisions and quick reflexes. We thought this was a good idea. I still do, kind of.

Doesn't this take skill? How come this can be described as the "f" word? That's where you come in. How could I make something like this skillful and challenging as opposed to annoying?

So, I need your help. I need your expertise. I'm all ears. I just want to learn.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Happy Birthday Abscure!

Well everyone, I’m sure you have no idea that today is… Abscure’s 3rd (I think) birthday! Yes, today, a few years back, I started Abscure’s first forum, which is what I consider the official beginning.

Now, I know you don't really care about this at all.

Pinpickle is working at this moment to give you Launch for free. That's right, you've probably never heard of Launch. It's a terrific game, that I've spent a ton of time playing. But it costs money for all of you, and because of that, you probably haven't played it.

Sometime soon (within a week) that'll change. Alright, happy birthday Abscure!


Sunday, January 2, 2011


A while back I blogged about a demo for a game I've been working on - Propel. A good three months later I finally finished those last touches to the game, for two of those months I was very occupied and that's why it's taken so long to get this out.

In Propel you must utilize the different powerful arrows that will change your gravity or give you a boost (or both). Twenty five different levels each with their own collectable is what you will get, and plenty of unlockables.

One of the main differences from the demo is the level editor. Once unlocked in game (not very difficult to do), it has a comprehensive way to put all of the features available in game and a few more.
If you make a level, upload it and post it as a comment here. You may just get a mention on the Propel page.

So go along and download it here.

PS: The first person to post a picture of the super secret unlockable at the end gets a cookie.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Flash Platformer

Recently Abscure started working with Stencyl, a Flash library. We have just finished up our second Flash project, an 80 level platformer designed by me, Ethan, with tons of help from the Stencyl community (thanks guys).

The Courtship is a game where you use guns to get rid of obstacles, as opposed to enemies. It might start off simple, but eventually you will need great timing to complete the challenges in the game.

Expect more to come from the Flash world soon (and the Game Maker world, of course).

Play The Courtship