Diablo 3 and the devil in the gameplay

When I was younger, Diablo 1 took some level of skill to complete, and consideration of ones armour or weapons. The game was atmospheric, challenging and a load of fun. I’ve got Diablo 3 for Switch now and it just feels like there’s such a missing element in the gameplay, like under the hood the game format changed, but the style, atmosphere and story haven’t.

Diablo 1 from, https://www.polygon.com/2016/11/4/13530784/diablo-3-diablo-1-level-details-darkening-of-tristram

In Diablo 1, you had to make time to consider the best load-out for your character, inspect the item properties and fawn over new items. You were scared entering a new area or level because who knew what may be about to pop and and take you!

With Diablo 3, I’m desperate to enjoy it, and the cut scenes and story are the things that have got me so far. However, even on the higher difficulty, the levels involve me doing nothing me than moving a character towards the dungeon spawn and rolling around control pad buttons to win. You get a new cool upgrade, and you equip them and repeat. You get some new armour, you equip that if it’s stronger and get going.

You just wade through any dungeons like a hot sword through butter without really any concern. The challenge is gone. It’s like the Total War “auto-resolve battle” button was just omni-present throughout the game and bound X,Y,A and B buttons. I fear I may get more enjoyment from just watching all the story cutscenes on Youtube and bypassing the RSI inducing middle-bits. I just don’t enjoy Diablo 3.

Hero image from “dave“, http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/diablo/images/2347181/title/diablo-3-wallpapers-wallpaper

Zelda breath of the Wild and learning design

I love this game. My wife and I have played it every evening after work for about 5 weeks non-stop now.

By the way, this post is riddled with spoilers about Breath of the Wild.

However, the further down the rabbit hole you go the more it speaks to you as a learning designer and the more it reveals as a clever piece of entertainment and learning scaffolding.

Win their hearts

A clever colleague of my always mentions that a module should be meaningful and you need to win their hearts early. Zelda, breaks you straight into a magical world where you start scraping around but the landscape in the distance tells you there’s going to be adventure to be had once you’ve passed your basics.

Endless scenery – https://www.zelda.com/breath-of-the-wild/

Engage with your student early

To start with, your companion is an mysterious old man who guides you between all the early action so you know where you’re going. Also interestingly he is also a bit un-hinged, you’re never quite sure who’s side he’s on until later… this may just be me but it adds to the early game excitement.

The mysterious old man – https://zelda.gamepedia.com/King_Rhoam

Teach in your own style

The best IDs and teachers are able to be creative and teach using methods and techniques that they find engaging. In Zelda, the whole land is based on an early Japanese era and Shinto like shrines. You can tell that for the designers it was like second nature for them to invent these things and challenges because somewhere in their history they’ve engaged with those ideas first hand.

It’s like in Fable 3, the game is based on a dirty old-English industrial revolution and you can tell again that the designers have been taught this througout their history lessons and it’s imprinted in their culture.

Alignment – Formatives lead to Summatives

All of Zelda’s game play and stories is so well set up as training for the ultimate final assessment, calamity Ganon (or calamity Gammon as he was re-named in our house). The daily grind is scaffolding your learning for making elixers, fighting tips and solving puzzles which… apply in the champion bosses (formatives). The champion bosses require lots of effort put in before upgrading your character and button skills before you could stand a chance of flooring them. This then leads to the final boss, Calamity Ganon (the summative) which we can see is going to involve calling on all our training and upgrades so far.

The formatives are aligned to the summative.

Calamity Ganon Fanart – https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/623185667161763399/?lp=true

All of the Zelda grind is scaffolded learning to achieve when you need it. Not much more to say there 😀

Surprising Learning

I talked about this in another blog post, however the Zelda game never ceases to surprise you. The designers team have played with scale of monsters and NPDs, the sound team have pushed the boundaries of music and effects and the level designers have surprised you with challenges.

The world is humungous and each corner brings with it a surprising and new engaging new race. Some are quite close to human, others are a twist on a beast + human. But each one has their own personality and brings with it a new surprise and technique to learn from them.

Let them find their own path

An early design feature of Zelda was to let the player find their own way of doing things, you can cut down logs or knock barrels over to solve puzzles, it doesn’t matter, you can do it. You can skip sections if you want, or you can complete every activity you ever cared to, it’s your own path.

It’s the same in learning design, an adult learner will likely come to your module with their own ways of doing things and is likely to try to approach the problems in their own way or have covered something before. This game allows you to explore many different ways of winning and you can solve them how you want.

Collect Kurok seeds or not, it’s your choice – https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2017/03/09/what-to-do-with-korok-seeds-in-legend-of-zelda-breath-of-the-wild/

Gamification

Well yeah… obviously!

What a game

Me

Midlands lead the way… Games for Health Conference 2016 #G4HUK2016

Who’d have thought I’d ever write that. After leaving the cosy bubble of Bristol, we were “sent to Cov” a couple of years back. It must have been something naughty we’d done…

But last week I attended a conference that is just another example of how Coventry and the Midlands is thinking now. The Games for Health UK Conference  run by Dr Pam Kato and Coventry University was truly outstanding (http://www.seriousgamesinstitute.co.uk/events/pages.aspx?section=29&item=241). When you’ve been to a lot of conferences, it’s easy to spot a good one, this was one and I only was able to make the afternoon which was packed with content.

My afternoon started off with Earnst, talking us through some very practical changes we can all make to our games. Talking through Visual edits and previews with viz. Then moving onto how actually journals in games help people with Mental disabilities to remember and piece together the game they’ve been through already.

Then after such a practical chat, we were blessed with a talk from @alacon who took us through a very cognitive session on Women in Games.

There was some great research which shows how our “work environment” in which we spend most of our time effects men and women differently.

Focus Games were next up @focusgames and they offered a new perspective on the digital games we produce by showing us how they produce their very “low tech” board games for health care learning. Apparently, Agile has no place in board games!

Who’s heard of GTA? You know, Grand Theft Auto One, that game where you steal, punch and make money being super naughty! Well, my friend and I bonded over that game massively and one of the lead producers came to talk to us at the Games for Health Conference.

This man, Jamie King was filled with practical thoughts and books with theory he cares for and was so happy to share it all. He was an absolute highlight to the whole event. I only wish I had time to write more.

Can’t wait for the next one!

What is a hack/ games hack / software hack?

It’s a fun event where software coders, developers, designers and people with an interest in making digital things all come to spend time together and make something. Usually they’re timed events and people will work through the night for their hobby.

That something they make coiuld be anything like a game, a new app, a piece of software or even a website. It won’t be a finished product, but its fun exercising your creative skills for good or a just for a release from work.

Usually the hack events are given a theme, for example the game hack could be “Ninja”, or the environment hack is to use their new data.

The weekends, day or week are usually quite intense and people a well fed with pizza, chocolate and tea.