I don't have much games on my Mac. In a way it's kind of good, because games make me feel unproductive. It would be great if games could educate me in some way, or allow me save and even share what I have accomplished in the game (e.g. Minecraft, Dwarf Fortress). Leveling up a number is less interesting to me. It can be fun to become better at a player skill oriented game (e.g. Tribes), but ultimately that feels like a waste of time too.

It's a bit of a tangent perhaps. I felt like sharing some thoughs. This is a blog after all. Maybe I should treat it as such and post more often. In respect to Diablo... I think it's a game about building a character. I always liked the character creation and development aspect of games, be it Starflight, Spore, or Dungeons & Dragons. I often play the wrong class (e.g. warrior sorceress) in Diablo 2 because I enjoy playing like I shouldn't. Feels more creative.

Diablo 1 allowed you to mix things up more (Magic being learned from books), but the game isn't available in Blizzards BattleNet store. While the Diablo games did a good job at giving you what felt like personal items, most of the items actually disappear into the information swallowing black hole that is the town store. Anyways, personally I'd like the see the character personalization aspect taken further, be it wearing in boots and gear, naming things, changing graphical appearances, or even stuff like home decoration and pets, as seen in some Japanese dungeon raiding games (e.g. Azure Dreams).

Anyways. I have hastily put together a rather incoherent page with some notes and random ideas. I'm not sure where it's heading.

Diablo page


Ryan Beck Sebenius said...

"I felt like sharing some thoughs. This is a blog after all. Maybe I should treat it as such and post more often."

Please do! I have thus far enjoyed your perspective on game design.

I feel the same about games being unproductive; what benefit do they have? As I stop playing a game, have I emerged a better person? You can't deny that games, even the most dull, keep your brain occupied, but there are many more things in the world which can keep your brain occupied, and - perhaps as a better option - engaged.

Without creative outlet (as you mentioned, Minecraft, Dwarf Fortress, etc.) or significant intellectual advancement (such as puzzle games, the exception to my argument) games serve as an escape akin to movies and novels - worthwhile only in their insight into another person's creativity, and their distraction from reality.

Anonymous said...

Holy sh*t Ryan I was about to quote that same phrase and also agree with him...

Now I have been relegated to just saying: "What Ryan said."

Marcin said...

I agree with Rayn, "Please do!" :)

I have some thoughts about game settings. it would be better if human was main antagonist (angels can help them). reason why they attack hell is simple, one of hell lords attack they kingdom (diablo :>) and fall on that. now humans create great crusade to wipe out every demon from hell, to prevent another demon attack.

In this setting you can be "good" even you are on demon side. its because you didnt invade human word and you arent allied with that hell lord. you goal is simple, protect your own hell realm and stop this war (not kill all humans, but not prevent you from killing them :) )

This setting will solve another problem with vary of enemies. human could bring to hell some beast from they world to fight demons and enslave some of demons they defeated. dont forget that people can varied too (barbarians, amazons, necro etc.)

Arne said...

I think my problem is that I tend to prefer games which last for a decade. I would probably enjoy myself more if I played games with a low replay value but an unique story and atmosphere. Games which you put on the shelf after 10-30 hours, a bit like how one treats most movies. It would provide the variation which games with longer lifetimes rarely can offer. The amount of fun per time unit invested would probably be higher this way.

But for some reason I like having long personal relationships with a select few games. I want something to carry with me in a meaningful way, even when I'm not playing.

Some movies or books can stay with you (because of some educational, emotional or philosophical insight) and others, while fun, do not.

It's more difficult to tell an emotionally engaging story in games due to their interactive nature (the player might be frustrated at the game for forcing the story over interaction). Still, the game universe itself can be engaging and offer an space where other creative projects can take place. If the game is creative, this aspect is even stronger.

Games can be educational, although few are. Instead we learn behavior mapping and associations which are only useful in the game.

I guess, right now I play games by not playing them. Instead I see their components as puzzle pieces or building blocks that I can play with in other ways.

Arne said...

I've toyed around with the idea of Hell having several rulers (I think it's hinted at in the Diablo fluff.) Using the Diablo setting does present problems several though.

The demons are quite obviously nasty, and it would be hard to not sympathize with the humans. So, I'd probably use my own setting where the Hell is of an anarchy with cultural and biological diversity, and Angels are more of the fascist or imperialistic flavor.

Comment from elsewhere:

I wanted my Diabloesque setting to be a bit different, so I toyed with the idea of hell being the good guys and heaven being the bad guys (using names from the Edda, Muspelheim vs. Niflheim). It's really a more plausible setup. Oppressors and aggressors rarely want to spread chaos and evil, whatever those things even are. In Mortal Combat, or Judge Dredd, the bad guys often come from a decimated world with skull piles, gothic ruins and sporadic burning piles of stuff. What kind of conqueror would terraform a world like that then just sit and laugh on a throne? I just can't understand the motivation or react against it.

It's a lot easier to dislike an orderly oppressor. Perhaps I want to see something more like the Necromongers from the Riddick universe, themed in white (like The Island).

My big worry with this reversed stylistic angle, is that the white sterile look will be less rich than the typical gothic + gritty monsters approach. If all enemies are white robed guys, the game will be hard to read, and monotonous. So I will have to innovate there and come up with variations in color and shapes which are as rich as regular monster designs, while also promoting the feeling that the sterile guys are structured and actively oppress the diversity of the monsters living in hell.


I do think, even with the variation that you can squeeze out of human character classes, it's going to be difficult to achieve the diversity that you get out of spiders, bats, giant beetles, ogres, wraiths, snakes, etc. I did mention the possibility of enslavement on my page, but this has two disadvantages: If the evil angels embrace the use of monster slaves to diversify their ranks, that goes against the idea that they are fighting diversity. It also makes the player feel like he's fighting the good guys (his own monster kind).

So, perhaps what I need to do is... to come up with some angelic type designs (seraphs, etc.), and maybe have a neutral "natural bests" + "mankind" faction which has sided with the angels but do not belong to their faction (the angels are just using them temporarily).


JulieWang87 said...

I love your art soo much, it's ridiculous!

Anonymous said...

You haven't played Diablo 2 if you don't play Hardcore. Suddenly everything is more risky, town shops are actually useful, everything is more thrilling, more attention is paid to your stat/skills... it's a much more satisfying experience.

Arne said...

Thanks Julie!

And Anon> That's how I play X-COM, but I have yet to try it in Diablo. I tend to fumble around a lot with the keys, and misclick, and the punishment for that in Diablo is often death.

In X-COM, losing a soldier is a bummer, but you can still carry on. It would perhaps be fun having a stable of heroes in a Diabloesque game, so the current game world would survive in some way.

Then there's "Demon's Souls", which I haven't played.

MRFB said...

I especially like this bit:

"The game could simply allow twinking, perhaps even include it as a core mechanic. One example could be having permanent death of characters, but with a permanent treasure room."

This suggests to me some kind of "family of dungeon delvers" kind of game. Outside of the dungeon, the family could be propagating and doing things (crafting items, raising children, trading for profit, etc - ala research in the Civilization/Master of Orion) while the chosen son/daughter was questing to clear the dungeon.

When the chosen son/daughter gets killed in the dungeon, the player picks the next family member to control. Different family members might have different base stats/strengths/weaknesses. There might be other sort of breeding/pedigree things thrown in there, too.

This maybe combines the fun roguelike nature of permadeath with a persistent world that the player explores. A true game over might only happen when the entire line is killed.

Apropos to nothing, Arne: you're a total inspiration to me! Basically it was you and Derek Yu that inspired me to take up painting and pursue being a game designer.

Galspanic said...

Being a huge Diablo fanthis was a great fun read. I'd be interested to know your take on the Monster Hunter genre of games. I think Capcom's approach to the level grind is a novel if somewhat not-perfect solution. It's gear-based leveling. The character's stats never really change. The accomplishments that the player makes causes their environment to upgrade, and the materials the player acquires through whatever means allow the player to develop their stats. As always, I enjoy your insight and concepts.

Csmif said...

Ya prom, I agree with a lot of how you feel towards games and the modern thought that game skills must only be applicable in the current game being played is a huge negative.

But I think the benefit of those longer more engaging games that attempt to give the player an experience, is also the con. I remember all the games I consider classics and worth their weight in gold, and I realize there is just no way I could go back and play it like I want to. I still have save files on old memory cards and hard drives that are over 3-400 hours a piece if not more.

I wonder if there is a meeting ground in the middle, a place where there can still be that full experience and connection made with the game but not require you to sell your soul to get enough time to play it

Arne said...

Families doing dungeon raiding? Maybe it's the Drasle family ;)

Monster Hunter looks very nice from a character/monster design perspective. If I had a Wii I'd check out the third(?) game...

When it comes to getting back into old games (saves), I can think of several obstacles at the top of my head.

1: The game lacking a recap. It's something which I want to add to my Master of Orion game. A generated history with comments by the game and the player for each turn could help the player to get back into the game. An actual replay function could be handy too.

2: A goal might be an obstacle. If the game doesn't have a goal or a clear progression with items and quests, it's much easier to pick it back up. For example, in Elite, you can just trade, shoot some pirates, do some imperial missions or whatever. In a game like Dwarf Fortress, you can continue to expand your fort and deal with problems as they arise. X-COM is a bit harder to pick up again because you're probably researching stuff and planning new bases. Also, a lot of the charm in that game is getting to know your characters. After a while you will forget the heroics and antics of your Rambo soldier "Bob".

3: The platform for the game might play in. I don't play games on my phone, but I can imagine that most phone games are 5-20 minute deals.

4: I'm too old and don't have patience or time to spend. Maybe entertainment in general has changed. So many accessible short term distractions now.

Dan said...

You could have a history of your character that followed you throughout your play similar to dwarf fortress. Imagine a cross between the permanent damage of limbs and such of Dwarf Fortress and the hardcore mode of Diablo 2.

Being forced to retire your character when they are too battle fatigued and injured and move on to a new character inheriting the old character's items similar to the shop mechanic you mentioned in your writeup.

I actually think a color-shift could work quite well if there were also an element system in the game which corresponded with it. E.g. red skeletons were resistant to fire and weak to ice, blue skeletons are weak to ice but resistant to fire, etc.

In regard to your scenario of early game enemies attacking the colorful and peaceful town to set the stage for the later dark game. Maybe it could even include a choice by the character. If the character stays to defend the town then enemies are harder in the dungeon. First play through it may be impossible to defend the town but with a character that has some inherited items/skills they can do that to add a replayability factor. The reward being a preserved and more robust town to come back to and buy/sell items etc. This also overcomes a certain annoyance I've had with games where scripted sequences force me to surrender even when I want to take on an enemy.

As for items being worn in, I really like this idea. I think that leveling an item along with a character is very powerful. For instance, an axe can become legendary for being the weapon which was used to slay a notorious demon. If each character can maintain a history (battle scars, experience, campaigns) then so can a weapon or armor.

I actually think spending skill/stat points automatically based on the player's activities is the best option. It mirrors real life most closely. I played Ultima Online and they did this (although it was still easy to game that system to level various stats).

It seems like it would be trivial for an xp yield to be based on the difficulty of defeating an enemy. This mechanic also requires the enemies to dynamically progress in difficulty along with the player so the grind doesn't become boring.

I like your tidying up angels idea. In fact it hints at a game that the player could choose to play from one side or the other. If they choose evil they fight angels who slowly corrupt their own minions to use against them. If they choose good then the evil corrupts various noble units to use against them. This would even allow the player character to switch halfway through. If the plot forced them to switch then they could be battling their own high-leveled units while taking allies from the weakened ranks they'd been attacking.

I think there's a good solution to the grind/reincarnation mechanic. If all games are played in a hardcore mode which adapts to the player's skill then when they die they return as their son/daughter and the enemies have respawned based on how far the made it in the dungeons they can re-grind quickly and face off against the boss which killed them hopefully earning better items in the process. I think this also generates a very visceral element of vengeance. I've reclaimed my corpse many times, but if the enemy who killed me had become a legend among his people and when I approached said, "I've killed you once, I'll do it again" and I said, "Bring it on" I would feel much more immersed.


Dan said...


There's a sweet spot between puzzle games (like Tetris, which are intrisically fun) and more story based (like Diablo) where the grind/gameplay isn't actually fun but the character/skills/leveling/questing/item-gathering plays a big part in it. I don't think this has ever been done well. If it is done well then that game would be a hit.

I can respect your idea of "playing games by not playing them" but I still wish for that ultimate game which is both what I play and what I play without playing.

With regard to phone games being 5-20 minutes. This is generally true, but I would gladly play a dungeon crawl on my phone that allowed me to progress continually but at a pace of 5 minutes at a time. I am just waiting for a game like that to appear that's really good.a

Arne said...

The thing which bothers me with color shifting is that it's very gamey. I do agree that it's often a good idea to make the game readable by the player. Humans vary in color, but aside from UV ray vulnerability, there's little difference of course. When it comes to skeletons, I prefer them in bone color, because it's difficult to imagine why they would be red, blue or green. I'd rather see a more 'natural' explanation, such as magically burning skeletons (red).

I really like limited resource mechanics. Being able to max out or unlock/complete all, quickly becomes an uninteresting list of chores for me. So, being given a choice to defend town or go offensive seems like an interesting concept. In an RTS game, this kind of mechanic is emergent. If you turtle the enemy might build up a larger force than if you rush and harass his economy.

I always wanted to play a Zelda or Mario game with resources and such being used in an actual invasion/war/conflict. Started a bit on the Mario game a while ago: http://androidarts.com/smb/ It would have features such as clouds dropping rain falling on soil growing SMB radishes and such things. Got some simple water and destructible terrain working. Every enemy would be a persistent actor with a real use/goal.

Weapons recording kills (and users?) would be interesting. I briefly discussed the idea of the player being able wear in weapons and such... but I suppose another interesting mechanic could be to have level-uppable items. Diablo already has sockets and imbuing, but there could be some magic at work there, like a weapon becoming stronger when it slays certain things, visits certain places. A sword like that, with history and character, would be more fun to pass down through the generations.

Arne said...

I remember liking the UO leveling system where practice made you better and IIRC lack of practice made you worse. It was ruined by macroing later of course.

XP yield is a tricky beast. I suppose one could yield XP like: Yield = 100 * (EnemyLevel / PlayerLevel)^2 or something like that. The idea with my system was to mimic how we learn stuff, or rather how I learn to draw. Variation, brushing up on old subjects, practicing on stuff outside of the comfort zone to avoid stagnation. I can imagine that if you're a fencer or StarCraft player, what really makes you grow is complex opponents which force you to improvise. If an opponent becomes predictable, you learn less new things because you can re-use the same cheap tactics.

So with my proposed system, Opponent complexity is the yield and/or how quickly the yield decreases as you grind.

Another idea is to level up on fighting specific enemy hierarchies: General skill / Dodgy small creatures / Black imp. You'd learn how to read the movements of Black imps, and this would rub onto the small dodgy creatures category, and also improve your general skill a bit.

Arne said...


Ever since I played progress quest, and perhaps before, I've wanted to make a game where the hero runs out and grinds (like a bot playing Dragon Warrior), but when he returns to town you get to do the shopping, raise stats and set adventuring preferences (e.g. risk taking and general exploration directions).

But maybe the lack of player labor would make these things feel less rewarding?

Anonymous said...

Regarding your progress quest idea:


First time visitor said...

"What Ryan said"

- Games which tend to be hard, make you a more longanimous/strongheaded person. That however applies only to old games since our "recent" ones are build only on graphics and fast paced killing action to deliver fast satisfaction. (However, exceptions like Demons Souls exist)
- Playing voiced games in different languages have helped me to get the pronounciation right. This may only apply to me since I am german and have to export games as soon as half a litre of blood is shown anywhere in the game and thus forbidden to put on sale.

It's true that one can gain these benefits from attending other activities - But it's not half as fun as doing so by playing.

Also: Holy shit, someone else beside me who has played "azure dreams"

Anonymous said...

I get much in your theme really wedding jackets for the bride thank your very much i will come every day