Author Archives: Mungo Tatton-Brown

About Mungo Tatton-Brown

Managing Director at HUMUNGO Games and Public Relations with Indigo Pearl. Vegetarian.

11 Rules To Design The Perfect Videogame

I learned these over many years of making games, playing games, observing people play games, and discussing games. There are exceptions for all of these, but they are a good starting point for any budding designers. Some are also frequently, and pointlessly, broken in the biggest, most professionally made games.

Also, these are only rules for designing enjoyable games. That may not be the same as games that people talk about or games that sell.

1. Start With Gameplay

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Battlefield 1 is a shooter

This is absolutely fundamental. It may sound obvious, but there must be a reason that you are making a game rather than a film or a short story. How a player plays the game affects everything else. It comes before graphics, story, art, sound, everything.

If the core gameplay is turn-based combat, you have to start by making some kind of system of turn-based combat. Why? Because as you play around, you’ll add in ways of healing, and how the player dies, and saving and loading and whatever. And when you know what is satisfying in these circumstances, this will tell you what kinds of assets you can use. If your story is going to be satisfying, then it has to actually fit with the mechanics of the game you are playing.

And what if the focus of your game isn’t game-play? Then you have to decide that at the start, before you make the rest of the game. If you’re making a point-and-click, or an interactive text-based story, you still have to know how the player navigates this world, and what kind of challenges they will face.

If you don’t start with game-play, then you can end up discovering that there is no way to fit it into what you have made. It is easier to create a story based on a set of mechanics, than it is to create a set of mechanics that tell a finely-tuned story.

2. Game Structure Impacts Ideal Game Content

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Is your game linear? Does it have a branching story? Is it open-world? Is it a multiplayer game with weekly seasons?

If your game is linear, know that any secrets of collectables will be locked for players once they have passed them and moved onto the next area. Unless you allow players to replay previously completed levels. In which case, does the game need to be linear?

The structure – how players transition through the game – completely shapes what the game should be. Ask yourself – will players revisit this area? Will they turn around and look back before moving on? Will they travel through the same level again, backwards? Will they be able to skip this level entirely?

Whenever you are considering some persistent element that carries between levels, like experience points, or skills, or the PC’s relationship with other characters, consider how these elements will change depending on the way they traverse the world.

If you require your players to use tools they acquired at the end of the game to open secrets in the earliest levels, you better consider how the players will get back to these early levels, why they would want to, and whether these early levels will change over time.

3. Oh God I Hate Writing Why Did I Start Doing This?

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My brain is full of cotton wool and I am loathe to move my fingertips. I keep rewriting rewriting words. This format is too long. Will anyone keep reading?

4. Don’t Make Me Turn Around

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This is an extension of 2. How many of you frequently look backwards as you travel through your excellent single-player story game? You’re not doing it because you are mad. You are doing it because you have been taught that it is an effective way of maximising your chances as you move through the game.

You found a secret before because you got stuck and you started to retrace your steps and the secret was only visible when approaching that part of the level backwards. Now you’re a compulsive step-retracer. The designer should NOT HAVE REWARDED YOU FOR RETRACING YOUR STEPS. They have now encouraged you to start a habit that pads-out your game time, and makes it more boring. You, the player, are not at fault. You have been trained badly.

5. Playtest Constantly

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You are making your game for players. SO GET PEOPLE TO PLAY IT. If you find that uncomfortable then SUCK IT UP.

The best way to playtest is to get someone to play your game, and then simply observe what they do and take notes of anything they do that surprises you. You should also take note of what they enjoy, and most importantly what they do not enjoy. Everything that a number of players do not enjoy must be changed.

You must make sure that the people who are playtesting it are the kind of people that might enjoy this kind of game, as well.

Playtests are how you find out what of your game works, and what does not.

6. Just Going to Check Facebook

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Just to see what my two right-wing friends are up to. Oh there’s a story about an angry badger. Okay closing the browser now.

Just going to check the smaller Facebook on my phone.

7. Everything is The Designer’s Fault

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This one isn’t actually true. Games can fall on many fronts. They have ugly graphics. They’re glitchy. They’re poorly marketed. The console they’re on doesn’t have a big enough player-base. The Gods are displeased.

So not everything is the designer’s fault. I lied. BUT, nothing is the player’s fault. The players are a given. If something doesn’t take, it’s not the responsibility of the audience to change their tastes. It is the responsibility of game-makers, if they want an audience, to make games for their audience.

And I know a lot of people have bad taste. But the truth is, enough people have good taste that you will find some that like your game. Unless YOU have bad taste.

8. Comprehensive Schools are Good

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I’m just going to slip this in here to annoy any of my grammar-school supporting readers. There have been a number of studies which suggest that in comprehensive areas most students do better, except for those at the top, who do worse.

9. The Typical Player Should Unlock Everything Important A Few Hours Before The End

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It’s okay to have one or two rare special unlocks that players have to jump through hoops to acquire. BUT bear in mind, even if your game is the best game ever made – and your game is not the best game ever made – the vast majority of your players will never complete the main storyline.

So for those who make it most of the way through, why force them to choose between the whirlwind pentagram lavastorm of death and the holy ice Sun resurrection? Players want to unlock all the major powers, and they will tell other potential players how awesome those powers are.

10. Less is More

Image result for scalesGames are unique among all media, because if a player doesn’t like, or sucks at, part of a game, they usually can’t avoid that part. Nonetheless, many players will, because they are typically somewhat deranged people, persevere through the pain in order to pursue what may be good.

It is much better to make your game too short than too long, because players can always go back to the bits they liked, but they will simply give up in frustration if they are trapped in the bits they do not.

11. I Should Probably Start Making Dinner

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I’m thinking vegetarian burritos.

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The Left’s New Vampires

For hundreds of years, vampires have been regarded as safe Tory voters, but in 2017, for the first time ever, more voted for Labour than the Conservatives. Why?

Vampires. Rich. Aristocratic. Extremely traditional. Only a generation ago they were the safest of safe voters for the Conservative Party. Now, fewer than one in three admit to Conservative sympathies. I toured the country, speaking to vampires in marginal constituencies, to find out what has changed.

“I remember being hunted in the ’80s during the AIDS crisis,” says Andre Duvillier, who manages an antiques shop in Kensington. “Back then feeding in Crypts was illegal, and the police would come in with night stakes to beat us up. We’d fly out as bats whenever they attacked. I saw a lot of broken wings.”

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AIDS campaigner and vampire Gaspard Duval in 1984. Gaspard died of sun-stroke during  vampirism conversion-therapy four weeks after this photo was taken. Vampirism conversion-therapy is now illegal in all EU member states.

Andre sighs and runs a thin hand through his soft grey hair. The cobwebs around the shelves used to be for effect, but he doesn’t need to add artificial dust to his grandfather clocks these days.

“People don’t want paintings that bleed any more. They don’t want chandeliers that whisper ‘get out’ just as you’re falling asleep. They want iPhones and Nintendo Switches, and they buy them online. I’m two hundred and seven years old, I’m not going to change now.”

Unlike most vampires, Andre voted for Brexit. “The EU has changed. It used to be there to unify humanity under a global superstate. It used to be about power and control. Now it’s just a glorified trade organisation.”

Madeline Le Compte De Sade, a secretary at St Wulfram’s Mausoleum in Stockton South voted Conservative in 2015, but says she won’t next time.

“I thought Cameron were evil, that’s why I voted for him,” she says. “Gay marriage is right there in book of Satan. And Universal Benefit. On face of it, Universal Benefit appears good but actually leads to thousands of premature deaths. Sneaky. I like that.”

She locks eyes, and I cannot look away. Her gaze is bright, almost luminescent.

“I actually find Jeremy Corbyn attractive, in a strange sort of way. There’s something hypnotic about him. Almost as if he’s a vampire himself!”

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“Vampire” is used as an insult among formerly supportive national newspapers including the Daily Mail

Brexit, like Trump, was a shock to many commentators, but several prominent vampires made grim predictions beforehand.

“I remember speaking to Obama in May 2016,” says Juliette Washington, senior political correspondent for the New York Times, an African American, and a vampire. “He said Trump couldn’t possibly happen. I said that he definitely would and I had seen the coming nuclear war in a dream. Obama has always been an optimist.

“You learn some things if you’re not just an African American but a vampire too. You learn that you’re not safe walking the streets during either the day or the night. You learn that you might survive a police shooting, but a brother will still stake you in the heart.”

This fear of being impaled with a stake is a common theme among vampires. There is also much talk of intersectionality.

“A multitude of factors tend to cluster with vampirism,” says Estheban Surnáme, professor of ethnography at the London School of Arcane Sciences. “Vampires have high rates of depression, rage disorders, eating disorders, seasonal affective disorder and suicidal tendencies. Whilst vampirism is associated with extreme social motility and emotional intelligence, vampires suffer from social exclusion to a higher degree than non-vampires. Most vampires are LGBTQ+, and our studies show that even within this community, they are routinely ostracised, and described with words such as ‘terrifying’, ‘predatory’, ‘evil’, and so on.

Vampire all

A study by the University of Edinburgh found 74% of articles mentioning vampires in 2016 were either “highly misleading” or “totally misleading”

“Despite historically high rates of inherited and earned wealth, vampires report the second highest levels of social isolation of all groups in our study. It is this isolation, believed to be the consequence of increasingly open anti-vampire racism, that has driven vampires’ recent shift from traditionally conservative parties to liberal or socialist parties over the past 20 years.

“A smaller factor is the de-intellectualisation of the right. More than 90% of vampires are university educated. Vampire culture puts a premium on displays of intelligence. Brexit highlighted a change that was already under way.”

Margaux Martinez, who runs a start-up in London’s tech roundabout, agrees. “We deliver blood bags to tired company directors. [‘Blood bags’ is an industry term for graduates who have not yet completed their accountancy qualifications.] They all see it too. The conservative media go on and on about the ‘intellectual elite’. They mean vampires.”

Blood bag

“Blood bags” got their name in 1952 when Alessandro LaCroix, then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, noticed the rosy complexion of graduate hires, and compared them with the pale, deathly faces of the senior civil service. 

I ask Carolina about Brexit. “Vampires are extremely socially liberal. It’s hard for such an international community as ours to understand these arguments about national sovereignty. We regard all humans as equally edible.”

Later, I receive an email from Madeline Le Compte De Sade. She’s having a tasting party with her vampire friends at Gilling Castle. They’re drinking wines, sherries and ‘some special secret nectar of other sorts’.

I ask if she plans to kill me and drink my blood.

“You got me :P,” she writes. My stomach becomes heavy and I can feel myself frowning. I like to think of myself as a good progressive, but I still turn down a traditional vampiric ritual meal.

New Year’s Changes

Hi All,
 
Bit of an update here. At the end of January I will be leaving the games industry, maybe for ever. I’m going to be doing a three month immersive course in User Experience design, with the aim of becoming a UX designer later this year.
 
I still love Indigo Pearl. And I still love making games. But I’m going to be trying for a more realistic long-term career.
 
I will be releasing more games in future, and they will probably be entirely free! Future game projects will be smaller than my current ones, and will be made more purely for the fun of creation.
 
I will also be creating other things like stories and plays and songs and improvised live show performances.
 
HUMUNGO Games the company will probably cease to exist, but the HUMUNGO Games Facebook page and this website will live on.
 
Love love love,
Mungo xxx

2017 – a Review

2016 was the year the world imploded. Trump. Brexit. Probably some other things too. At least that’s how it seemed at the time to a bourgeois semi-progressive like me.

2017 was actually better than expected. Not so many celebrities died. No nuclear war. about as many terror attacks as the trend. It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as many people said or believed it would be.Image result for neutral

2017 has been a bit of a neutral year for me too. It’s a year in which I’ve worked incredibly hard on a huge number of distractions, got quite tired, and ended up pretty much where I started. Older. A bit more experienced. A few more dead brain cells. Not so much drinking as some years before.

And I managed to pay off my student loan with money I’ve inherited, so that’s a big “yay!”

It’s also been great fun. I’ve met a lot of new people, made new games, recorded my own advert, written quite a few articles and one or two short stories.

In the spirit of renewal, here are nine 2018 resolutions:

  1. Pursue and make progress towards realistic career goals. (Sorry my idealistic friends/past Mungo)
  2. Sing more.
  3. Slow down with side projects.
  4. Meet new and delightful people.
  5. Go somewhere sunny with someone I’ve never gone on holiday before.
  6. Pilates.
  7. Make side projects into intrinsic fun, not alternative-career stressgasms.
  8. Dance.
  9. There is no ninth resolution. This is a lie.

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Stone-Faced

A Zen master who was known to never smile received a student who came to inquire about Brexit.

“You told me Brexit means no phased negotiation,” the student said quietly. “But now we have phased negotiation.”

The Zen master was stone-faced.

“You told me Brexit means no divorce bill,” the student said. “But now we are paying between £35 and £39 billion in our divorce bill.”

The Zen master was stone-faced.

“You told me Brexit means no customs union” the student said. “But now we are staying in the customs union in the absence of agreed solutions for upwards of two years after we lose our seat at the table.”

The Zen master was stone-faced.

The student paced the dojo, becoming more and more animated with frustrated energy as he waited for a response. Finally he shouted.

“You have told me so many times what Brexit does not mean. What does Brexit mean?”

The zen master smiled.

“Brexit means Brexit”.

On Not Being Special

I want to be special. By that I mean I want to be uniquely brilliant. A magical star-being who floats brightly through the cosmos, lighting up every face I encounter and bringing joy to the universe.

Most people are not magical star-beings. Most people are human beings made of bones and flesh and skin. Of prickly anxieties. Of uplifting smiles. Of tired, heavy heads. And so on.

Star-beings are the same, except when you encounter a star-being, you don’t just pass them by, you tingle with cosmic resonance. You vibrate, however briefly, at their frequency.

But the chances are, because so very few people are star-beings, that I am not a star-being. The chances are that you are not a star-being. And, for me, not being a star-being is unacceptable.

To want to be a star-being is a strange desire. It is the desire to be followed, monitored and remarked upon by strangers. It is the desire to be known by people you do not know. It is the desire to be a freak.

So why do I want to be this kind of aberration? Why am I not content to be a normal, human kind of person? Why do I wander my kitchen when I think nobody is watching, giving acceptance speeches to prizes I have not won to an audience that does not exist? Why, when I enter a room, do I not stand near the far corner, nor in the centre, but float up towards the ceiling? Why can I pass through solid objects as if they were vast, infinitely thin cobwebs?

The answer is that I am insane. Not insane in the sense that I am illogical or delusional, although I am, like everybody else, certainly both of those. I am insane in the sense that I have a feeling and a belief, despite all contrary evidence and knowledge, that I am special. That I am luminous. That I have some magical lesson to impart to humankind and our successors.

The problem is this; when I see a person and speak with them for an evening, conversation inevitably turns to the big questions of how and why we got here as a species, and where and how we are going as a species. These conversations are invariably filled with unverifiable generalisations, but my observations seem superficially wise. So wise is my persona’s appearance that I have come to regard myself as if I actually am wise.

So there it is. Charm leads to praise. Praise leads to self-confidence. Self-confidence leads to self-aggrandisement, and now I am talking about myself as an interdimensional elf-man. A healer of universes. A real-life Dr Who.

So how do I deal with not being special? I don’t. I can’t. I am special. I am the glimmering gold dust of a thousand worlds. Feel my yellow light billow through your tiny brain. Meet me in your dreams.