Reblog: Swordy by Frogshark

Swordy is a local multiplayer physics based brawler. Harness momentum, physics and timing using analogue controls to send your opponents to their colorful deaths. Emergent combat offers nuance and mastery while being very accessible and easy to pick up. Twin stick genre reimagined with unconventional melee combat.

Richard Says: Swordy reminds me of Super Monkey Ball’s Monkey Fight, one of my favorite party games of all time. I use the term “party game” not to disparage Monkey Ball. That’s the official name for Super Monkey Ball’s super legit multiplayer games. Swordy features top down, multiplayer, melee based action. I love the colored, stylized blood. The dynamic size of the colored rectangles reflects the variable force of the attack according to the physics-based engine. The real time lighting and shadows coupled with how far the camera can pull back makes the action appear too small on the screen.

Mike Says: This reminds me of Hammerfight. Swing your big, inertia-rich weapon around and try to bash the other guy’s mushy bits while avoiding their weapon. The momentum of your weapon gives a kind of strategic commitment to your movement that other action games don’t have. Plan out where you’re gonna be in a second or two because all you can do is make minor adjustments once you start swinging. Those small adjustments can be the difference between your soft innards painting the arena or narrowly parrying a spiky ball of death. Cool mechanics and a nice aesthetic. I look forward to playing it.

Vlambeer Scale: Weighing Fish


Game feel is a general term for the techniques, tips, and tweaks developers use to enhance engagement with interactive systems. It includes everything from how mechanics are calibrated, to  controls, to sound effects, to visual flare. Game feel comprises the details that make players take notice and pay attention. It’s a bit of science, basic art technique, and a chunk of style. Who doesn’t want their games to be interesting to play, watch, and listen to? This is the goal that all designers strive for. And all designers do it a different way, which is exactly why talking about game feel is so difficult.

Now we can use the Vlambeer Scale of Quality as a tool to find some answers. Perhaps there are no two better games to draw a comparison between than Ridiculous Fishing and the game many consider to be a copycat, Ninja Fishing. Ridiculous Fishing was made by Vlambeer while Ninja Fishing was made by Gamenauts (co-developed by Menara Games). Both games have identical gameplay structures featuring dropping fishing lines into the water, avoiding fish on the way down, snagging fish on the way up, and destroying the haul as it’s flung into the air. Yes, the games look the same, but they do not feel the same. Using the Vlambeer Scale of Quality and a quick game design break down, let’s uncover the truth.

See for yourself in this video side-by-side. Which game looks more interesting to you? Which game do you think scored higher on the Vlambeer Scale of Quality? How big do you think the score difference is?

Here’s a breakdown of the Vlambeer Scale of Quality.

Ridiculous Fishing Ninja Fishing Ridiculous Fishing Ninja Fishing
Basic Sound and Animation Yes Yes Camera Position Yes Yes
Lower Enemy HP Yes Yes Screen Shake Yes No
More Enemies Yes Yes Sleep Yes No
Muzzle Flash Yes No More Bass Yes No
Faster Bullets Yes Yes Super Machine Gun Yes No
Less Accuracy Yes No Faster Enemies Yes Yes
Impact Effects Yes Yes More Enemies Yes Yes
Enemy Knockback Yes Yes Higher Rate of Fire Yes No
Permanence Yes Yes Meaning Yes Yes
More Permanece Yes Yes Camera Kick No No
Camera Lerp Yes No Total 20 12

Here are the questions we’re still thinking about:

  • Does the genre and visual style necessitate the use of specific game feel techniques? Does choosing pixel art push a developer towards also developing Vlabeerian game feel?
  • Is a touch screen interface its own kind of game feel where the sense of touch and audio feedback gives the necessary feedback?
  • Does game feel matter most to gameplay-oriented players because the techniques give feedback critical to making gameplay decisions? Is there a different set of game feel tips for interactive experiences that are less action-based and less skill-based?
  • Does Vlambeer’s game feel highlight the quality design of Ridiculous Fishing’s gameplay and other features? In other words, is game feel all style or does it hint at and highlight substance?
  • How do players and critics interpret good game feel? Is it mostly conveyed in the tone of their response? The look on their faces? Or is it reflected in how a game’s other features are described?

I don’t doubt that the game feel of Ridiculous Fishing makes a difference, but the question is to whom and how much of a difference does it make? For the record, Ridiculous Fishing looks like a much more enjoyable game to me.

To close, I’ll leave you with some quotes with tone words bolded.

“Playing Ninja Fishing and Ridiculous Fishing in quick succession illustrates what a difference it makes to care about your audience. The concept may be similar, but Ridiculous Fishing outclasses its would-be competitor in every way.” JC Fletch engaget

“As you master the precision tilt controls, you’ll go from snagging a fish accidentally almost right away, to weaving in and out of a living minefield. The dense but logical organization of fish makes the learning curve satisfying every step of the way, and embodies the ultimate iOS commandment: make the player feel like they’re doing a hundred epic things while only asking them to do one or two.” Eli Cymet Gamezebo

It is, in fact, a ridiculous way to fish. And, thanks to the tilt controls of the fishing line, you look ridiculous playing it! Regardless of its appropriateness as a bus pastime, the tilt controls are natural, responsive, and extremely quick – unlike, say, Ninja Fishing, which has a noticeable, irritating delay on every tilt. JC Fletcher engadget

It’s been a long and frustrating journey for Vlambeer to bring Ridiculous Fishing to the market, but for gamers it’s certainly been well worth the wait. John Bedford modojo

And the moral of the story? A great game design can always be ripped off, sadly, but talent will out in the end. You can’t cut-and-paste the artistry and attitude that Vlambeer has brought to this extravagant bit of disposable nonsense. You can’t copy a true original – even before it’s out. Oli Welsh Eurogamer

Pac-Man Design: What’s Interesting About Pac-Man’s Gameplay?


Have you ever been afraid taking a closer look at a favorite and classic game might reveal that it isn’t as good as you remember? Have you wondered if your memories of a game are just a phantom, a collection of scattered thoughts you follow in an endless loop? Have you chased feelings of nostalgia trying to relive what once was? If so, then you probably can relate to the Ghosts in Pac-Man. For well-designed games, what makes them good back in the day is the same thing that makes them good today. Pac-Man’s fame is still recognized because of its polished, well-tuned gameplay. What makes Pac-Man great can be summed up like this:

Pac-Man is an action game that challenges players to move through a maze. The goal is to navigate through the twists and turns of the maze to consume each dot and Power Pellet. How you navigate is up to you: there are hundreds of ways to beat each maze. And where you need to go is easy to determine: Simply follow the trail. Playing Pac-Man would be a trivial challenge if it weren’t for the Ghosts. Avoiding, kiting, and turning the tables on the enemy Ghosts adds complexity and depth to the gameplay. The threat of running into a Ghost makes a simple pathing decision into a much more complicated one. Where you go, when you go, and why depends on the where the Ghosts are, how they’re moving, and how close Pac-Man is to Power Pellet.

A key factor in what makes Pac-Man so fun is clear feedback. With all the level and enemy elements clearly visible at a glance, the player has all the information needed to make well-informed decisions. Though Pac-Man only features a MOVE mechanic, players constantly make decisions about where and when to move by leveraging this clear feedback. Especially when players are under pressure because of the speed at which events unfold, having such good feedback keeps the Ghosts movement from feeling like frustrating ambushes from out of nowhere.


Perhaps the depth of Pac-Man gameplay can best be understood by considering how each aspect of the enemy Ghost elements makes the goal of eating all the dots and Power Pellet in the maze more difficult. Without Ghosts, the goal is easily obtained. Throw one Ghost in the maze, and crossing its path is generally the only thing a player would have to worry about. In fact, if the Ghost is constantly chasing the player, it stops becoming a threat as it will not be able to catch up to Pac-Man. One ghost is not enough. But throw in four Ghosts, and things get more interesting… at least initially. With a little maneuvering, the same problem exists. As long as the player can get all four Ghosts to follow in Pac-Man’s wake they will not be a threat.

The monotony of the chorale-and-run-away play strategy is shaken up by the Ghost AI personalities and AI modes.

“Ghosts’ movement patterns in the “scatter” phase once they’ve reached their home corner.” Image from the amazaing Pac-Man Dossier by Jamey Pittman See the Ghost switch from chase to scatter From youtube video How to Win at Pac-Man- Proper Arcade Version by stevepiers See the Ghost switch from chase to scatter From youtube video How to Win at Pac-Man- Proper Arcade Version by stevepiers

Each Ghost has a personality that determines how it moves through the maze. Yes, in general all the Ghosts appear to just follow Pac-Man around, but if we look closely only the red Ghost, “Blinky”, is completely dedicated to directly hunting Pac-Man. It always tries to close in on  Pac-Man’s exact position. In contrast “Pinky” prefers to move into the space that is a few squares in front of where Pac-Man is facing. What’s interesting is players generally interpret Pinky’s unique AI personality as being non-confrontational and easily spooked. Put Blinky and Pinky in the maze together and they often work together to head Pac-Man off and pin him from both sides.

Ghost AI modes shake things up in a much more obvious way. Ghosts will switch between “chase” and “scatter” modes on a timer. They’ll spend most of their time in “chase” mode and brief periods where they’ll “scatter.” Even if the Ghosts are closing in for the kill, when the timer goes off the Ghosts will ignore Pac-Man and retreat to their respective home corner. So even if a player manages to string the Ghosts along, it will only last as long as the AI mode timer allows. When Pac-Man grabs an energizer Power Pellet the Ghosts switch to a frightened AI mode, in which they will reverse direction and choose random turns as they run away. Between the automatic, timer-based modes (chase, scatter) and the player-activated mode (frightened), the apparent dominant strategy of kiting the Ghosts is minimized in effectiveness and players have to adjust to the constantly changing and partially unpredictable game state.


Here are more nuances and wrinkles to Pac-Man’s design that increase the challenge for players aiming for high scores:

  • Rules that determine when Ghosts leave the Ghost House
  • Bonus Fruit, an optional pickup out of the way of any necessary path
  • Blinky’s (the red Ghost) speed increase when there are fewer and fewer dots left on the field
  • Increasing difficulty of subsequent levels. Variables include Pac-Man Speed, Pac-Man Dots Speed, Ghost Speed, Ghost Tunnel Speed, Fright. Pac-Man Speed, Fright Pac-Man Dots Speed,  Fright Ghost Speed, Fright. Time (in sec.), # of Flashes
  • Warp tunnels on the sides of the map that Ghosts travel through more slowly


If you take all of these aspects into account, you can see how Pac-Man’s gameplay has enough challenge and complexity for players to spend years enjoying and mastering the game.

With relatively few mechanics, elements, and rules, Pac-Man achieves gameplay that is deep, challenging, and that dynamically changes with each play. Next in this article series, we’ll look at how Pac-Man’s design and gameplay hold up in the Google Doodle and the Google Map versions.

Reblog: Game Maker’s Toolkit – Secrets of Game Feel and Juice


Mark Brown presents a pared down version of Jan Willen Nijman’s talk on game feel (see Vlambeer Scale here). Like in Vlambeer’s talk, Mark’s definition of game feel is remarkably close to a “I know art when I see it” level of scrutiny. But like Vlambeer’s talk, examples provide a much needed base to take game feel from an overly abstract buzz word to a methodology we can apply when making games.

Marcus Says: The two games Mark contrasts at the beginning of the video to show the difference between games with bad and good game feel, scored a 12 and 17 respectively on our Vlambeer Scale. The details listed in the video (screen shake, hit pause, ect.) are all visual details that can be assessed fairly well from a video or an animated gif. The “eye test” seems like a good way to get an initial feel for a game. Without visuals, writing about how a game feels (reviews, previews, ect.) often fails to communicate what a simple picture can. Assuming watching a video is the next best thing to playing when analyzing game feel, I wonder how effective the Vlambeer Scale is?

Richard Says: Great quote: “I’m not sure that ‘be Shigeru Miyamoto’ is particularly useful advice.” In general, I don’t think game design or the sub-category game feel is “elusive,” “ mostly abstract,” or a “largely invisible” art. Hearing Mark Brown say this (47s) reminds me of a forum comment stating that you can’t “see mind games.” If you can’t see mind games, then how do players fall for them when staring at a game screen? Games are complicated and appeal to a lot of different disciplines. Breaking games down, paying careful attention, and taking good notes demystifies a lot of aspects of game design. Also, game feel is rooted in a lot of long standing techniques on animation and sound, so there’s a wealth of knowledge there. Even when a games get game feel right, as Mark claims Super Meat Boy does, players can still have very different play experiences. It took me a bit to get used to the super loose, floaty, crazy acceleration of Meat Boy’s movement. Game feel is an art, not a science.

Reblog: Sonic and All Stars Racing Transformed – Critique Hit

POV: Designer.  Difficulty 3. Level 1-1
POV: Designer.  Difficulty 3. Level 1-1

GameMage shares his analysis of the design goals behind the item design in Mario Kart and Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed. He discusses how the available game modes in each game reflect their overall design goals.

His thesis is that Sonic Racing is a more skill- and skill-building-oriented game, while Mario Kart 8 is more about casual multiplayer play. 

Mike says: It’s an ambitious effort with some pacing and over-scoping problems caused by bringing in too many games later in the video. A promising first episode of a new series of game design analysis videos, though!

Richard says: I like the zoomed in focus on just the power-ups found in Mario Kart 8 and Sonic and All Stars Racing Transformed. The details on when certain power-ups are acquired and the interplay (counters) for them is great. I wish GameMage covered all the power-ups. GameMage essentially argues that the power-up design is the crux of the skill based play in both games. There are many other aspects of these games that determine their capacity for skillful play and depth like controls, frame rate, modes, and options.

Chris says: It’s great that GameMage is able to compare two different games in a genre without succumbing to the temptation to praise one game as better in all aspects over the other. This is why focusing on the details is valuable!

Vlambeer Scale of Quality


At the 2013 INDIGO Classes, Jan Willen Nijman detailed Vlambeer’s tricks for creating better game feel, which is essentially how the play experience and game information hits the player, which is the result of precise details and minor tweaks. In the Talk, Jan took a game with bad game feel and applied each of his 31 tricks step-by-step until the game had what he considered to be good game feel. Some of the tricks are simply visual changes while others address actual gameplay mechanics. The 31 tips are general, genre specific, and the result of a refined personal style from this odd and idiosyncratic indie developer.

Below I have organized the tricks to create The Vlambeer Scale of Game Feel.  Jan’s category names are on the left, and I’ve added my notes on the right. Simply add these simple tricks and you’re game will have great game feel too… maybe. In the meantime, keep a look about for The Vlambeer Scale of Game Feel seal. When the seal is applied to a game, the score is calculated based on the number of tricks it implements. The higher the rating the more Vlambeer-ian (Vlambiric, Vlambeeo?) the games feel.


  1. Basic Sound and Animation – Is it entertaining?
  2. Lower Enemy HP – Is 3 shots the magic number?
  3. Higher Rate of Fire – Increase frequency of core player actions.
  4. More Enemies – Parade (large groups) of enemies
  5. Bigger Bullets – Make bullets Mega Man “lemon” big.
  6. Muzzle Flash – Make the first frame of bullet sprites a white circle.
  7. Faster Bullets – Make Bullets 5 times faster than the player. Or make bullets move half the length of the screen in half a second.
  8. Less Accuracy – Random bullet spread
  9. Impact Effects – Animated “pop” when a bullet hits a wall or an enemy.
  10. Hit Animation – Enemy flashes white when hit
  11. Enemy Knockback – Enemy gets pushed back when shot
  12. Permanence – Leave dead bodies on the ground. Have destructible environment.
  13. Camera Lerp – Camera slightly lags behind the player movement
  14. Camera Position – Position camera to highlight the focus of the game.
  15. Screen Shake – Small shake of the screen when the gun fires
  16. Player Knockback – Player is pushed backwards when firing forwards.
  17. Sleep – A slight pause to the game state when hits connect with targets. (hit pause)
  18. Gun Delay – Gun animates independently from player sprite/model.
  19. Gun Kickback – Animation flourish.
  20. Strafing – Rules that tie moving and shooting together (like stop-and-pop gameplay)
  21. More Permanence – Leave bullet casings on the floor (find at least 3 examples)
  22. More Bass – Gives the gun more kick. (audio design)
  23. Super Machinegun – Have a machinegun (or a supercharged version of core mechanic)
  24. Random Explosions – 33% chance that enemies explode on death hurting other enemies.
  25. Faster Enemies – Compensate for random explosions to increase difficulty.
  26. More Enemies – Compensate for increased fire power.
  27. Higher Rate of Fire – Compensate for increased enemies.
  28. Camera Kick – In addition to the shake, jerk the camera moves in the opposite direction of the fire.
  29. Bigger Explosions – Because bigger is better
  30. Even More Permanence – Smoke from the explosion lingers
  31. Meaning – Have a purpose for the action