Rotatris: Challenges

This is one of a few blog posts adapted from my Dissertation project about Rotatris, a tetris-like game I made in Swift and SpriteKit. In Rotatris, players try to build “shells” of squares around a central rotating block. You can read my full written dissertation here.

This post is, similar to the last, an excerpt from my dissertation designed to give some idea of how I deal with challenges and design decisions. It’s a bit dry, I’m afraid, since it’s all in the fancy academic format designed to make it dry and unentertaining.

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Rotatris: Interesting Algorithms

This is one of a few blog posts adapted from my Dissertation project about Rotatris, a tetris-like game I made in Swift and SpriteKit. In Rotatris, players try to build “shells” of squares around a central rotating block. You can read my full written dissertation here.

These are some of the key algorithms for the game – it should give you an idea of my thought process when developing a game. My original dissertation has a few more, but i’ve cherry-picked some cool ones here.

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Leading The Player: Mirror’s Edge and Neon Arena

I’m now at the stage of designing levels for Neon Arena, and finding the process of leading players through an absolutely fascinating one. Where do players naturally go? How can we design levels to make the best of that – or how, when the design requires it, do we override those instincts?

So, this is a case study on how a couple of specific Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst levels achieve that, and some examples of how I’ve been using it in my own project so far.

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Mirrors Edge, Half-Life, and Neon Arena

Mirrors Edge, and it’s sequel, are some of the most natural successors to the Half-Life series. Given that Half-Life is held up as perfection in shooter design, and Mirrors Edge is a) often not considered very good and b) not even a shooter, this is perhaps a contentious statement, but it’s one that makes more sense to me as I think about it.

I’ve been replaying the Mirror’s Edge series, you see: for my next coursework project i’m building a similar free-running game, and there’s a lot to understand in how and why Mirror’s Edge does what it does. As such, apologies if this post is a bit of a ramble, but I wanted to talk about the design and level design of Mirror’s Edge, if only for the purposes of marshalling my own thoughts. Continue reading

Losing the Magic: Dishonored 2’s Plot

Excuse a fairly self-indulgent post, but I wanted to articulate the problems I’ve been having with Dishonored 2’s plot. (There will be spoilers for all Dishonored games.)

So, a summary of Dishonored 1’s plot: You’re the bodyguard to the Empress. She is killed by mysterious assassins, and her daughter Emily is kidnapped. You’re framed for the murder, but escape prison with the help of newfound occult powers and join up with a group of loyalists. You rescue Emily, and performing several political assassinations to place the loyalists in charge. As soon as this is done, they betray you, intending to rule by influencing the new empress. You survive, and track them down to find that, they have fallen into infighting: you remove the last of them and return Emily to power.

Aside from the occult powers you gain, it could be just about any spy movie or political thriller. It’s a simple story: the setting builds a deep connection to the magic and the supernatural, but on top of it, the plotline is relatively grounded. There’s no true villain, and the core theme is that all power -supernatural or not – corrupts.

The first thing that happens in Dishonored 2 is a witch launching a coup. Continue reading

Episodes: That Game With The Adverts

Episodes is a cartoonish visual-novel library and I’ve spent more time and money on it than Fallout 4. Arguably had more fun, too, despite the most obnoxious free-to-play bullshit I’ve ever seen.

You’ll most likely recognise Episodes from its advertisements on Tumblr, which are so weird they’ve gone memetic and been shared more widely: usually two handsome young people at a life-changing decision, with the promise that You, the reader, can choose what happens next. Over time, these adverts have been getting markedly stranger: early ones suggested a sort of all-American soap opera, while the latest have included the Titanic, two astronauts (“You never told me you were married!” one says, with her hand on the “eject” lever) and Adam and Eve. This last one was the one that spurred me, while scrolling through Tumblr, to download Episodes and try it out.


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Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst – Oh Brave New World That Has Such Sheeple In It

On the face of it, it should have been easy to make a sequel to 2008’s “Mirror’s Edge”, a gorgeous first-person parkour game set in a sparkling dystopian city. It fell short of perfection with several glaring flaws – mandatory torturous combat, dodgy collision detection, brain-dead plot – and surely all Mirror’s Edge 2 needed was to fix those and rake in the awards, right? Apparently so, since that’s what Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst (not a sequel, a reboot) started off by doing. I say “started off” because it was released fully eight years after the original, and for all of that time they just kept adding features: an open world, time trials, races, challenges, missions, a progression system: not all of it entirely welcome.


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Fixing Symmetra

For the purposes of this article, I’ve been playing a lot of Symmetra, Overwatch’s least-played character. I’ve come to a couple of important conclusions about her.

  • She isn’t fun to play.
  • She isn’t competitively effective.

I hope i’m not leaving anyone behind when I say that gameplay should be at least one of those things.


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