Marketing The Outer Worlds

In this blog series, I’ll be breaking down Oblivion’s journey with the Outer Worlds, and the marketing strategies surrounding it. This will be a continuous blog, so information may develop over periods of time.

The Outer Worlds is a narratively driven, first person shooting game developed by the game studio Oblivion, published by Private Division publishing company. The game can be both a tangible product and a downloaded item, but the experience of the product is all digital, making it more of a service than a good. The product is available for many systems to play it: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and any computer. Because I’m going to be pursuing game development in the future, I wanted to focus on a product from a company that I’m interested in applying to. Obsidian is an interesting company because they’ve traded a lot of hands between large publishers. While they published The Outer Worlds with the publishing firm Private Division, they are now owned by Microsoft Game Studios and publish their future games under that new name. Here we’ll break down the 4P’s of marketing: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion.


Being a narratively driven video game, players can get lost within its complex branching storyline, with each play through of the game being different than the last. Even if the game is roughly 20 hours for a whole playthrough, players can experience something different each time they restart, given them an endless amount of re-playability and content. With all the different choices the game offers, players can manipulate the game in how they want to play it. Want to have a strong team to explore new worlds with? Talk to your members and formulate a cohesive workplace. Want to blast through, guns blazing, all on your own? Reject team members and start shooting. Being a single player game allows the game to cater to each individual player, rather than being slightly generic for a wider audience.


There is a lot of variation for the pricing of the game. Since the game is available on most platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Epic Games Store and Steam for computers. Because of these different platforms, this means that it is sold on all of the various digital storefronts that it appears on. Most of the time, games try to be the same price on every store, but stores can lower the prices to be competitive, and offer limited time sales. The game also has the opportunity to offer the game at full price when it reaches a new store, due to buyers being typically dedicated to a specific platform or store. An example of this is when it comes to Nintendo Switch June 5th. It will probably be at the full price of $60, instead of its currently discounted price of $36 (found on Amazon) on the platforms its been on for half a year. There are also “second-hand” retailers both digital and in person that sell games. Walmart has started selling newly released games for $10 less than other retailers to attract more people to buy games from them. This is a smart move for Walmart, because a lot of brand new games that are as big as The Outer Worlds start at the hefty price of $60 a piece, so cutting consumers a break and offering the game slightly cheaper at $50 gives the buyers a positive attitude when shopping at Walmart. The benefit of also getting games from retailers is that used games usually go for a lot cheaper and can depend on how much that user sells it for.

Here are all the current locations and prices where one can obtain a new hard copy of The Outer Worlds:

SellerPlatformPrice (in US $)
Amazon.comPlayStation 436.93
 Nintendo Switch59.99
 Xbox One36.93
 Microsoft Store (for computers)38.99
GamestopAll gaming systems59.99
 PC digital download38.99
Best BuyNintendo Switch59.99
 PS4 & Xbox One39.99
WalmartNintendo Switch59.99
 PS4 & Xbox One36.93
TargetNintendo Switch59.99
 PS4 & Xbox One39.99
Digital Playstation StorePS459.99
Digital Xbox StoreXbox One59.99
 Xbox Game Pass ($10 monthly fee)Free
Digital Nintendo StoreNintendo Switch59.99
Epic Game StoreComputers38.99
SteamComputersProbably 59.99, not released yet


As seen previously, the game is sold at a variety of different places. It is important to note that most of these places are digital store fronts, and stores like Walmart and Gamestop also have their own digital storefront. It is important for this game to be on as many storefronts as possible, due to the nature of players and their dedication to a specific platform. Many people were outraged in learning that the game won’t be released on Steam until a year after it was released on the Epic Game Store. Even though both storefronts are located on the computer and both can easily be downloaded by similar means, there is a large group of people that refuse to have multiple storefronts downloaded on their computer, and want their library of games to all be in one place. The benefit of having a video game produced both as a disc at retailers and a digital copy is the versatility of how the product can be sold. By having hard copies, smaller, lesser-known stores can sell the game, and used sellers like eBay can list their prices as well. By having a tangible product allows it to share many hands than if it were to just be sold digitally. If it were to only be sold digitally, it couldn’t be used as a gift for someone to unwrap. This problem with tangibility for digital content is solved, however, when we look at download codes. While the disc may not be available, a card with the download code can be bought. This allows in-person store fronts to serve the same needs as digital retailers, so the people who still enjoy shopping at brick and mortar places for games can still have the same feeling for when they shop digitally.


The announcement of this game was exciting and slightly unexpected for people. There was almost a cult following of people who enjoyed their previous story-driven game Fallout: New Vegas, which was released years ago. The developers also keyed in on the fact that they combined the two different styles of games into one, by getting the look of Bioshock (another cult classic) and New Vegas. Even though Microsoft was the ones publishing it, since they recently acquired Oblivion Entertainment, they made the new game front and center in their series of announcement trailers. One of the fastest growing events of the year, The Game Awards, featured the game, showing it off to the millions in the crowd and those watching online. The next year, the year the game released, the game itself was nominated for four game awards. Being in the public eye is very important for games, so being able to reach the large stages of these gaming events is a big promotional opportunity. By having a clean, funny trailer that gets audiences happy and excited, The Outer Worlds was able to integrate itself and become an instant hit.

Microsoft also has a lot of power in the gaming marketplace, with both computer and gaming system platforms and systems, and an immense amount of assets to purchase full game studios. Because of Microsoft’s control, they were able to make The Outer Worlds free on their streaming platform, Xbox Game Pass, day one. Game Pass ask consumers to spend only $10 a month, in exchange for consumers to play a wide variety of games. As a consumer, not having to buy multiple games and being able to play them for a cheap $10 is a great benefit. In terms of The Outer Worlds, Game Pass also let players “pre-download” the game. This means as soon as it was released, players could start playing it without having to wait for any downloads. Pre-orders are a big promotional tool for games because it both gets people excited for the game, and it also fills the need to have the game right away. For games that are a bit older, which the game is for the most part, many sellers offer competitive discounts that’s usually tied into other games that are on sale as well. These sales god be developer related, like all the games the developer made are on sale, or theme related, like any space games (which this game is) are on sale.

Thanks for reading! You can check out my other work at, and if you’re feeling generous, consider contributing to my ko-fi. Have a great day!

Maya Architecture in-Design

A Life in-Design blog series

In this blog series I take a quick look at people, places, actions, and things and break them down and compare them to games. Today I decided to shift my focus to the artwork featured in Maya architecture.

A glance at the past

The early Maya societies were prosperous, and built large plazas to host the work of both the noble and the common folk. The homes of the nobles, including their religious burial sites, were often made into these large, looming stepped pyramids that overlooked the plaza. Atop these pyramids were ritual chambers for the celebration of specific gods. Many of these pyramids were also home to observatories. Because of their obsession with the night sky, this lead the Maya to create on of the most sophisticated calendars ever created. The calendar comprises of three calendars, one tracking 365 days, another tracking important events, and another tracking thousands of years in both the past and the future. It’s unfortunate that during the Spanish inquisition all but four of the Maya literature was burned. The Maya’s way of tracking information was not our typical way of writing words, but they were actually in forms of pictograms. These pictograms represented different words, and can be combined in a series of blocked pictures. Even though the writing of the Maya was mostly burned, fortunately they kept their history sculpted upon their architecture.

Brick by brick

Due to the limestone-enriched soil in the Yucatan Peninsula, where the Maya were located, the Maya were able to use a combination of mud and plastered bricks to create these large structures. By starting small, they built on top of the same formations over and over again, which reflected the city’s growing population. It is on these structures that we can find unique design patterns and their hieroglyphics.

By looking at the different stone workings, we find common patterns that they used. The use of the spiral is found in many spots upon the stonework. The spiral could represent tails of different creatures. Serpents were an integral animal in both Maya architecture and religion, from the crawling serpent temple El Castillo, with its depiction of a crawling serpent during the spring and autumn equinoxes, and the feathered snake Maya god Kukulkan. Another feature of architecture is a kind of cross-hatched, checkered pattern. These individual blocks could have had more hieroglyphs on theme, but due to the softness of limestone, they could have weathered down. A prominent feature in much of the architecture is the use of stone faces or protrusions. Because the building’s history was document upon itself, and the Maya scripture was depicted in pictograms, it makes sense to have facial features appear on their architecture much like it does in their texts.

What makes their architecture so fascinating is how it appears to be just a combination of multiple patterns, expertly placed in sequence. It almost appears to be like a quilt of some sort, stitched together as an assortment of multiple designs. Going on the fact of the Maya building on top of previous buildings, they would also place carvings on top of one another. It curious to see that of the parts of building used for decorative design, there are no blank spaces, or breaks, within that design. Even though the design consists of multiple different patterns, it is formed to create one unique whole.

Recreating through modern mediums

The current game I’m working on, Vex, is a 2D, resource management, geometric survival game, where a player must defeat waves of different shapes. Trying to create a theme and art style for the game, I happened to think of Maya architecture and its intricacies. I decided to have the background become completely filled with a pattern representing the likeness of the Maya art, and all the different shapes depicted in the game be pieces of the background pattern. The patterns seemed to fit well to the art of the Maya, especially the spirals and the checkered patterns. This was due to the fact that the art I was recreating it on was through pixel art, which lead to a more block-y square pattern. While the pixel art is made up of a series of squares, I wanted the artwork to feel more fluid and natural, like if it was the written Maya hieroglyphs, so each pattern isn’t exactly the same size as the next.

Current progress of a background in Vex

Relating to games

As I’ve mentioned before, the kind of patterns in the Maya architecture could be considered a kind of quilt, almost fitting together like puzzle pieces. Since brick is laid by placing it on top of one another, the game of Tetris can resemble the act of creating the architecture, due to both having uniquely designed blocks. When a Tetris board is also filled with blocks, it appears as a kind of quilt as well. If we think about spirals and snakes as a big feature in Maya architecture, the game of Snake also comes to mind, with the player curling around to grab the items. There is some comparison to the snake growing in Snake, and the way the Maya would constantly build buildings on top of one another.

Interested in learning more about the Maya? Check out these links!

Thanks for reading! You can check out my other work at, and if you’re feeling generous, consider contributing to my ko-fi. Have a great day!

Narrative Design in Oxenfree

After finishing the game last night, I decided to analyze the narrative behaviors in the 2016 game Oxenfree.

Oxenfree is a narratively driven horror game where you control the character Alex and try to stop dimensional ghosts from taking over your friends. Being narratively driven, Oxenfree has a total of 10 endings, allowing itself for multiple playthroughs. How the player chooses the dialog in this game I think is unique to other dialog games. In many dialog games, a kind of word block appears at the bottom and shows you a list of choices to take. In this game, however, there are different word bubbles that appear over the player’s head, and depending on which button is pressed (I played it on xbox), the story tree changes. How the narration is represented can be seen in the heading photo. Now I’m not going to break apart the story line and analyze the different changes, but rather take a different approach and look at how the decision making actually works.

Decisions, decisions

As far as I can tell, there are really only two different ways the choices work: there is a timed choice, where the bubbles fade out if you don’t answer, and a stable answer where the game waits for you to make a choice. Let’s look at each one a little more closely:

Timing is everything

The bulk of the game features timed dialog segments. In these segments, the player is either given an option to remark to something that is happening, or to reply in conversation to the other characters. Not every timed choice has the same amount of time, however. There are times where the bubbles fade out quickly, and other times that take a long time to answer. The bubbles that fade out quickly usually represents a quick, witty remark that affects how the characters think of you, so it turns the decision making almost into a quick-time event, but with multiple choices. These timed responses can add stress onto the player as they try to quickly handle a situation.

It’s also curious to see that even though there’s only three choices presented to the player, there’s also another choice: not speaking at all. There were times where I didn’t like any of the choices being given to me, so I just waited until the dialog boxes went away. The only problem with this choice is I didn’t know how the game would react to that decision. By choosing the different dialog boxes, we can infer how others are going to react to what we say, but by not talking at all, the game is left to itself to make the decisions for us.

Think Carefully Now

In the bubbles that wait for you, the player is given time to think about the choices that they are about to make. Most of the time, these choices are very important, like when choosing who to bring with you to check out the other side of the island. By waiting, the game places emphasis on these decisions, allowing the character to have time in choosing how they want to vastly change the game.


Most of the time, the player is having a conversation with the other characters. In Oxenfree, the developers want the conversations to be as natural as possible, so the other characters behave to your responses a certain way. When waiting for you to talk, the characters usually say “Hello?” or “Did you hear me?” as if they’re expecting you to answer. If this is during a timed dialog, the characters will just say something like “Oh playing the quiet game are we?” or something snooty like that. If timed correctly, the player can answer back with “Yes, I heard you, yeah i think you’re right” or something like that, where the player responds to the character’s questioning remarks. There are sometimes where the player just interrupts the conversation, either the other characters were talking about how the player is being quiet, or they were going off in a tangent from the conversation. Sometimes it’s disappointing to interrupt what the character was going to say; perhaps they were giving something away about the story, other times it feels like the player wants to get the conversation over with. Another way a player interacts is by making a decision, but only answering it at a certain point in the conversation, instead of interrupting the characters. Because of the variations in this system, the player realizes which conversations are actually important to the story, and which are world building, characterization fluff.

Besides answering the characters, there are also objects in the world to interact with. Because of the unique way the dialog works, players can move around while also talking, giving a more natural feeling to the conversation. When a player selects certain objects, when that object becomes available to select either during or after conversation, the player starts a new conversation about it. Sometimes finding an object progresses the gameplay, but other times it’s just for world building. When the object is important, previous conversations are interrupted as the game focuses on the next task. Other times, however, the characters will go back to their conversation with the player. There was one point in time where I was talking to a character and I wanted to drop the conversation, so I just kept selecting the different items in the room. The game, however, found this conversation important, so it brought it up again immediately after.

Interacting by leaving the different areas, or walking too far away, also causes different interactions. In the case of entering a different area, whole conversations can be lost behind, because certain conversations only happen at certain places (we’ll talk about triggers in the next segment). This can be a detriment on the game, because the player just lost all the important choices that they could’ve made. When the game wants the player to listen in on a conversation, the characters will sometime beckon the player to come back, like saying “Hey, why don’t you stay and chat?” These kinds of interactions are ways the game is telling the player that exploration isn’t important, and there’s no point rushing from area to area.

What makes it tick?

So we just described the different kinds of systems that are involved with the conversation to make it flow naturally, but how does it actually work behind the scenes? Note: with programming, there are multiple kinds of ways to complete certain tasks, so what I say may not be exactly what’s programmed, but it could be a similar system. Now, within the program, there are the different Update methods, which are just called every frame (so like 30 frames per second or what have you). Then there are Coroutines, which follow their own set of actions. To make it easier to visualize, just think of Updates and Coroutines on separate timelines: the walking and scenery effects in the game are on the update side, while the actual conversations are on the Coroutines side. By being able to aptly control the timing of Coroutines, developers can figure out the right timing for each conversation.

Imagine the conversations as a web of Coroutines. By interconnecting the system with a series of true or false statements (called booleans, or bools in C#), the game can choose which Coroutine to call next when a player makes a decision. Using while loops, which are activate if certain terms are met, there the bubbles can fade out naturally, waiting until a player makes a choices. Within that while loop, there can be “if” statements where if a player presses this button, then this conversation is true and moves to the next Coroutine, or if a player doesn’t make a decision at all, move to something else. If a conversation is interrupted in the middle, it can check if there were any bools that were set off or not. I can picture a kind of game manager for the scene or conversation where it holds a set of bools and if there is a bool that is false, that set of Coroutines start. If you’re not sure what I mean, don’t worry, just imagine like if you were grocery shopping and you were following a list, but in the middle of shopping, a friends stops you to say hi. After that conversation, you go back to your list of items and proceed to shop.

When I talk about triggers in terms of programming, I’m talking about invisible boxes that the player can’t see. When a player enters or exits a box, an event happens, which could mean a conversation starts, or the characters beckon the player back to a certain area. Because the player can move around while also talking, triggers in this game are very important. It may seem like sometimes the characters start conversations with the player randomly, but a lot of the time it’s because a player walked into certain areas of the map. Triggers are also useful when a player gets close to an object and the selectable option and its description shows up. There can also be trigger boxes that are on the characters themselves. If the player is either following the character or the character is following the player, the game can determine how far away the player is by if they are in a character’s trigger box or not.

I could go farther in depth about all the programming and techniques used to make the game, but I’m going to keep it at that for now. Maybe sometime in the future I’ll try to recreate a level of another game, but we’ll see. You can check out Oxenfree here. What did you think of the game? What were you favorite bits of dialog? Let me know in the comments below! Have a great day, and thanks for reading!

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Design Reflection: Human Fall Flat

In this blog series I take a game I’ve completed and analyze design aspects randomly given to me from the Game Design: A Deck of Lenses app by Jesse Schell.

Human Fall Flat (HFF) is a physics based puzzle game with quirky ragdoll mechanics. The goal for your character is to reach the other side of the level by doing a bunch of tasks.

Today we’ll look at three lenses:

The Lens of the Avatar

The avatar is the player’s gateway into the world of the game.

Jesse Schell, “The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses”

In this game, players play as a kind of ragdoll in the form of a soft, clumsy Pillsbury dough boy. The way the character moves is a kind of waddling as it tries to walk with its limbless appendages. Both of their arms and legs are kind of stubby and a tad difficult to control, but in this game, the movability of the character is the most important part of the game.

By having a game called “Human Fall Flat,” it’s expected that the player will fail a lot because of the clumsiness of the character they control. The “Fall Flat” part of the name derives from the phrase “falling flat on their face,” like when someone trips. Would this kind of playable character be something for players to enjoy? I think for the most part, yes, but there are times where the character gets in the way of themselves, but more on that later. In terms of the player projecting themselves onto the character, it can be a little mis-matched at times. The character starts off as a completely blank slate, with no features at all. The player may enjoy this featureless persona, but the game is hinting at the fact that the player can customize their character. The whole act of customizing allows players to put little pieces of themselves in the game by having a character look how they want it to. The whole act of customizing a character can be a delicate balance. On one hand, there may be games that let the player customize their character in too fine of a detail. This seems to be the case in many RPG’s. There are other times where there are not enough customizable pieces to a character, like the developer didn’t create as many costumes to try on, or those costumes are locked behind a paywall. If a player doesn’t feel that any of their customizing choices fit with their own self, a player can feel a little disjointed from the game. At that point, a connection is lost between player and character. There’s a noticeable difference between a player saying “Oh no I fell off the cliff!” and “Oh no my character fell off a cliff!” Just by how the player describes the character they’re controlling show us how truly they connected are to the game.

Back to my reference on movement. There are a lot of situations in this game where the player has to do some fine motor movement to get through a level. This could include platform jumping, climbing up ledges, and steering cranes. The “fun” found in this game is from the character’s inability to be able to perform these movements well. Besides the player lacking limbs and having bouncy, gooey physics, the clumsiness also is in the controls. Both the direction of the arms and where the player moves to are controlled by the same control stick (I was playing on an xbox, it could be different on the computer). Now having to overcome this strange function of the mechanics can be fun, but there are times where things can become frustrating. This kind of game comes down to the perspective of the player. If a player is happy and doesn’t care to really reach the end, then the game can be fun and goofy as they fail multiple times. If the player is trying really hard to get to the end, however, I can see the player becoming frustrated as they try to not walk off of a crane while also trying to steer it.

The Lens of Resonance

To use the Lens of Resonance, you must look for hidden power.

Jesse Schell, “The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses”

What is it about HFF that makes the game special? I think the game really likes to advertise how players enter the level when they fail. When players enter, they fall through the air and belly flop onto the ground. By having the players constantly do this, the game is promoting silliness in its movements. The game is telling the player that things are going to be ridiculous and blown out of proportion, just by showing the player splatting on the ground.

The act of having the player fall into a scene tells a lot about what is going to happen. The game tries to tell the player that it’s fun to fail. If a player would have just entered the scene without any kind of dramatic entrance, then the players would lose the fun in it. By telling the player that it’s fun to fail, the game can get away with the player accidentally dying multiple times without being too frustrated. Having failing be funny can relax the player because they don’t have to worry so much about surviving. There are also times when players play with others and they try to get others to fail, rather than actually focus on the level. This turns into more of a meta game where players are climbing over each other and landing on top of one another. It’s interesting to see just how effective it can be to make failing a silly focal point of a game.

The Lens of Beauty

Beauty is mysterious. Why, for example, do the most beautiful things have a touch of sadness about them?

Jesse Schell, “The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses”

In this cell-shaded, polygonal world, what makes this game beautiful? Due to the layout of each level being a series of challenges, there are sometimes when you reach a high point you can see all the things that have to happen. It’s moments like these where the player is filled with excitement as the question the purpose of all the things that lay before them. Most levels have a theme to them, like a steam factory, medieval castles, and an ice level. The game plays on a lot of these kinds of themes, by having the challenges be integrated within them. For example, in the ice level ice cubes are used as platform devices, but they slowly melt if placed in the sun. The trick is in finding the shadows and trying to get the cube there before it evaporates. This causes the player to look at the level a slightly different way because instead of looking up around them, they are looking down at the ground for shade. Being cell shaded, however, has the objects lacking detail, and can make a lot of the levels seem kind of bland.

If the game portrays fun through its player movement and failing animations, it doesn’t try to portray it in anything else. Because of its lack of details, there are just areas with muted colors and nothing much to look at. For a game that’s about grabbing things and ragdolling about, the game tries to keep a seriousness to how it presents itself. The contrast between the silly movements of the player and how the levels portray itself could be funny if seen in more of a dry humor sort of way. There’s no part of the level that tells the player to be goofy. The only real goofy things are the players themselves as they waddle throughout. Perhaps it’s social commentary where even though the world can be daunting and serious, humans still have a chance to be silly. Part of me wishes there was some acknowledgement that the game knows it’s silly, perhaps the narrator at the beginning could speak some funny quips, or the scene could have an obnoxious color palette.

The music in this game is also something to talk about. Before going into the game, I thought the music would be lighthearted, like some quiet jazz squeaking in the background. Upon opening up the scene, however, I’m greeted with this giant swell of emotional strings and piano. On one side the music is nice, and tries to be elegant and professional, but on the other side it just doesn’t really fit what’s happening. If the game is trying to be completely serious with its theme, level, and music, then the developers nailed it, but is it what the game needs? Some would say the juxtaposition is funny when compared to the goofiness of the characters, but personally it dampens my mood to have fun. The problem with the music as well is that it goes away, so there are moments where you’re just walking around and you can only hear the thumps and bumps as you run into things. Perhaps the developers wanted to accent on these sounds to help accentuate how clumsy the player is, but the lack of audio and connection between the seriousness and the silly just adds to the blandness of the game.

I think the game is a lot of fun, especially when playing with friends who are also wanting to be goofy. I wish the game focused more on being silly rather than having a serious side to itself. Of course it’s always the players that bring the fun into the game, but it’s nice to have a game that encourages the fun that the player can have. While the falling feature is funny, it’s the only feature that is.

Thanks for reading! You can find the “Deck of Lenses” by searching for it on the app store. You can find Schell’s full book “The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses” here. Try Human Fall Flat here! What did you think of the game? What were your favorite and least favorite parts? Let me know in the comments below. Have a great day!

Psst! If you liked this blog and you want more, please consider contributing to my Ko-Fi. It helps me make new and exciting media like this blog and you get a game in return! Check it out here

Time Management in-Design

A Life in-Design blog series

In this blog series, I talk about different actions, events, things, or ideas every day and analyze them a bit and possibly relate a game to it. This is more of an exercise in exploring deeper into emotions and experiences.

The Clock is Ticking…..

As ironic as it is to write this post at 8pm tonight, I usually deal with time management well. Many people could say they don’t manage time well, or they don’t have enough time to do something. I’m going to take a quick look at that mentality and the different solutions facing this conundrum.

The Perception of Time

I think our mentality of being able to use time wisely correlates to our own perception of time. If I’m trying to work on something that has a deadline, I have one eye on the clock and one on what I’m doing. On the other hand, if I’m more “loose” with when my tasks need to be done, I’m not as focused on the time. Time always seems to go by quicker when I’m working on something or having fun. The bottom line is when I’m not focused on the time, it goes by a lot quicker.

I think there’s different levels of focus that you could have on the clock. There’s the casual glance, like to make sure your stomach is in sync of when it’s time for lunch; the rapid glance, like when you’re looking back and forth at the road and your clock because you’re late for work; and the surprised glance, like when you look outside and then at the clock when you realize the day just flew by. Notice in every scenario we are looking perceptively at time. Time itself is something we merely created to make sense of the circular motion of the stars and planets. If we were to just be still, close our eyes, and just sit there, we won’t really know how long we’ve been in that state. It’s like when you’re really tired so you drift off, then jolt back awake thinking you’ve been asleep for a while, only for it to be a minute or so.

Think inability to “feel” time is the constant problem we’re trying to overcome. We could get lost in watching TV, playing games, or scrolling through social media. There may be an inexplicable reason why televisions don’t have a constant clock at the top (could be a setting, I wouldn’t know). These kinds of devices require your time and attention and know that you’ll probably get lost for hours in it.

“No!” you say “I’m not distracted at all. I’m a well-oiled machine of tasks and actions.” Okay, that may be true, I’m not going to judge you. Have you ever thought about how long things take you, however? Just thought, “I’ll make lunch, which is 30 minutes, then go to the store, which will be an hour,” and you’ve completed all the tasks in the exact time you thought of? Obviously, since time is mainly within our own imagination, not all tasks can fit within the time frame that you’ve allotted for it. The real problem comes when we look back at the clock and realize how long we’ve spent doing something. If it’s something you enjoyed, you’ll react in a more positive surprise like “Oh the time just flew by!” If you look at the time however and knew that you should’ve been doing something else, you’re filled with regret, like “Oh, shoot, I need to go do the laundry.” These feelings of regret are what motivate us to take control of time and search for ways to make ourselves more efficient.

Father Time

I’m going to go out on a limb and just say it: Nothing can motivate you other than yourself. Sure, you can buy all the planners, clocks, egg timers that you want, only you can force yourself to use them. In the purpose of using these tools, they are there to keep stimulating yourself with positive emotions as you’re checking things off of your list. They could also be friendly reminders so you’re not late for an important meeting. These time tracking tools CAN be helpful, but they could also work in a negative way. If you’re spending so much time writing down all the things you are going to do on your planner, then you are just wasting time writing things down on your planner. Having a planner could also cause the problem to over plan. Remember how we felt when we were late in completing our tasks? Imagine that feeling multiplied as you realize your tight-knit schedule went uncompleted as a task too way longer than you expected. Every day is a kind of balancing between the tasks we have to complete and how we want to feel at the end of the day when no more tasks can be done.

You got time for a game?

Time stresses people out. It stresses me out. Our inability to mentally sync up with the clock is detrimental to how we want to organize our life. As humans, we are more conscious about time than we think we are, and there are many games that reflect on our desire to control time.

Imagine any kind of race: marathon, triathlon, NASCAR, you name it. The biggest judge on who wins in any of these games is time. In each of these games we are trying to win at time. Yes, we could be racing against others, but we’re merely trying to get a better score, which is denoted by the numbers on a stopwatch. Isn’t it strange how we try to manipulate the very thing we created for ourselves? Perhaps I’ll dive deeper into more invented measurements in the future, but for now it seems I’ve run out of time.

Thanks for reading! You can check out my other work at, and if you’re feeling generous, consider contributing a couple dollars to my ko-fi. Have a great day!

Snacking in-Design

A Life in-Design Blog series

In this blog series, I talk about things that I’ve done or have been thinking about, and analyze them in terms of design while relating them to games.

Crispy, Crunchy, Salty, Sweet

If you’re like me, you love your snacks. I usually like to have a salty snack when I’m relaxing, with a sweet snack nearby to balance it out. As I write this, I’m munching on a freshly popped bowl of popcorn, with a bag of M&M’s sitting on the table a foot away. Why do we snack? I believe it’s a combination of different senses: first we have the obvious taste to it, then the texture in both our hands and mouth, and then the sound as we bite down. I’ll go over each sensation in more detail, then try to see if I can compare then all to a game or two.

The Taste you can taste

I’m probably different than most people in such that I like my food to be bland. Well, maybe BLAND isn’t the right word for it. It’s more of a one-note. I don’t each many things with complex flavors, it tastes like one thing and that’s good enough. Take for example my favorite snack (and food): popcorn. Popcorn has little to no natural flavor to it, it is merely a vehicle to carry butter and salt.

If we think about the one ingredient, salt, it is in a lot of snack foods. Just think of all the chips, pretzels, popcorn, and nuts that line the snack food aisle. The parts of our tongue that favor salt take up most of the area on both sides. There’s a reason why salt is a very popular ingredient in snack foods. The ingredient itself is very easy to prescribe: I just take the salt shaker and tip it over some food I need to flavor. The same can be said for sugar, but powdered sugar is less commonly used, and not many foods need sugar as much as they need salt.

The Sound you can hear

Whatever movement takes place, there’s sound that happens. Most of the time, we don’t think about the sound we’re making when we’re eating, unless you happen to have Misophenia towards mouth noises. Crunch is a widely popular sound among snack foods, because a lot of the snacks we eat must be ground down to chew and swallow. If you think of it in a way, our mouth is like a mortar and pestle; the top part of our mouth is like the pestle, that pushes the food into the bottom part of our mouth, like a mortar. The ways we hear the sound is determined by how we shape our mouth. Think of the mouth as a kind of cavern, however the inside is shaped determines the reflections of sounds that echo inside. Companies use the sounds from snack foods to their advantage in marketing. If you’re interested in finding our more, check out this cool article:

The texture you feel

Here it is. This is the most important sense, I believe, in terms of snacking. There are multiple times we “feel” the food: when we hold the container, when we bring it up and out of its container, when we place it in our mouth, and the little parts we feel when we chew. I think we are drawn to certain snacks is mainly by “mouth feel.” What I mean is that certain foods, like say a banana, feels a lot different in my mouth than a chip would. This goes back to why crispy and crunchy snack foods mainly dominate. When a crunchy food is chewed, it is broken down into smaller hard bits of itself, kind of like when glass breaks into smaller pieces. When a soft food is chewed, it kind of forms into a soft string. When we smash a chip apart, it almost has the same consistency of sand.

Many people find sand relaxing, like walking on the beach barefooted. This is mainly because it is many little hard rocks that push against our skin, massaging the many little tendons in our feet (I’m not scientist, but this seems like a viable reason). Since crispy food turns into a kind of sand when chewed up, it can have positive feelings within our mouth.

Snack foods and games

So one of the popular games people have played with small snacks include who can catch it into their mouth. The game is fun because it takes skill and coordination between both your hand and your head. The challenge is trying to figure out the actual trajectory the piece of food will take as it leaves your hand and flies into the air. Since every piece of food weighs slightly different, there’s no way in correctly determining where to place you head exactly so the food falls into your mouth. While this is a solo game, it is enjoyed by others around because one: it is impressive if someone can catch the food, especially if it is thrown from a great height; and two: it’s funny to see people jerk their heads widely, only to miss.

While playing with food can be fun, there can be games that resemble food. The most notable one that I can think of is jacks. It’s a simple kid’s game when you bounce a ball off the ground and while it’s still in the air, pick up as many jacks as you can while also catching the ball as it comes down. The reason I relate this game to food mainly has to do with the shape of the objects. The jacks almost resemble popcorn, as there’s a center part with limbs that stretch randomly in all directions. The act of picking up the jacks is reminiscent of scooping popcorn out of a bowl. It’s a little bit of a stretch to compare the two, but I hope you understand what I mean.

Thanks for reading! You can check out my other work at, and if you’re feeling generous, consider contributing a couple dollars to my ko-fi. Have a great day!

Mixing in-Design

A Life in-Design daily blog

So this is the first time that I’ll try to keep a daily blog of comparing my usual life (or things that happened in the past) in a more design perspective. This means I’ll be analyzing the different structures that surround certain events and relating the experiences to different kinds of games.

The Elements of Mixing

Now I don’t mean mixing as in stirring things up (I’m no chef, so I would never talk about those kind of things), but I’m actually talking about mixing in terms of audio. For the past couple of days, I’ve been editing a lot of audio in preparation for this weekend’s digital memorial day concert. My first shot at mixing them were quite terrible; panning was all off, levels were out of balance, and the audio wasn’t lined up. Wanting to start over, I erased all the plugins (reverb, EQ, etc.) that I had for each track, reset the levels and panning for each track, and started fresh.

Game 1: Lining things up

When I “line things up” in the mix, I try to get the instruments to play at the same time, which is done by taking a wavelength and “nudging” it until its beginning matches up with another. Here’s the challenge, however, sure you can visually line up the wavelengths to match, but when you play it back, one instrument may not have full resonance right at the beginning, so it sounds like they come in late.

Okay, so let’s relate this action of lining up instruments to a kind of game. Imagine if you had a puzzle, but the pieces were cut diagonally, so they had to be slid in sideways instead of merely straight up and down. Lining up sounds feels almost like that. Even if you only complete one corner of the puzzle, it feels satisfying to have part of the picture complete. It’s also interesting to note the contrast of the jagged edges of the puzzle when the pieces are loose, and the smoothness of the puzzle surface once the puzzle is complete. The same kind of feeling comes from wiping a clean line on a dirty window (not that I would know such feelings). So yeah, when the audio all lines up, it feels like I’ve solved a kind of puzzle of sorts, and it’s satisfying to go from different notes jumping out at me at random times, to one unison note from everyone playing together.

Game 2: Panning

Panning in terms of audio, means moving the sounds being heard from one side of the stereo space (or you could go surround sound, but I don’t bother with it), to the other side, or balancing left or right. When I record instruments, I typically record in mono, which allows me to choose which side (left or right) that I want it to go. Sometimes I want an instrument to be fully on one side so only the left ear hears it, and sometimes I want it to go through both ears. So you can see in this kind of scenario, it’s a little balancing act.

In this game, imagine you have different widths of cooked spaghetti (it’s what I’m having for dinner tonight, gotta have spaghetti Monday), and you want to try to balance them on a balancing scale because you’re only allowed a half a pound to eat. The problem with this spaghetti is that it’s so long, it hangs off the sides, so even by having one end of the noodle hang off the edge affects the weight on the balance scale. So most of the time you’re spending shifting the noodles back and forth to really see if you have the correct amount. This kind of game relates a lot to panning, where I must shift the different instruments to either the left or right to help balance out the space, and make it sound like a live ensemble. Is the bass too heavy on this side? Are the mid range instruments clashing by both being on the same side? Once everything is balanced, the audio feels solid, meaning that nothing is pulling my ear from one side or another. This is also the same kind of feeling as trying to figure out how tight to pull the straps on your backpack; if one side is too tight, you can loose balance.

Game 3: Levels

Yeah there’s panning, but what about the actual levels? Should the levels of the instruments change throughout the piece, or should they be constant? This kind of depends on the piece and how the instruments and players were recorded at the time. Sometimes a player can get a little too excited and blast a section when they should really be in the background, and sometimes the sound engineer puts the microphone to close to the instrument (not that I would EVER do that). Through these different scenarios, while the panning may stay the same, the levels may change from song to song.

Okay, so you have this giant cooler of lemonade (could be pink), and you’re trying to get it to the pitcher sitting outside in preparation for a party. Your friends offer to help, but all they have are irregular sized cups, and the cooler is too heavy to carry over to the pitcher (this scenario doesn’t make sense, but just roll with it). Your goal is to figure out how much to fill each cup so that it one; doesn’t overflow, and two; fills the pitcher perfectly. So relating this to determining audio levels, imagine the cooler is all the audio you’ve collected from a previous recording, the cups are the instruments, the lemonade is the sound, and the pitcher is the main sound levels (or the capacity at which your computer can process the sound). How much should we give each instrument to fill up the pitcher of sound? What instrument is more important, i.e., which cups are taller? What if you fill up the cup, but some ice falls in it, meaning that it could overflow once it melts, just like an instrument could get louder later into the song? This kind of puzzle is tricky, but once completed, you’re left with a cool, refreshing pitcher of lemonade, or a clean wall of sound. The act of moving the faders (it’s what control the levels) up and down almost look like the different levels of cups, with the knob being where the top of the liquid is.

Analysis in real-time

Of course I’m not writing this while actually mixing audio, but here are just some thoughts I had whilst mixing. The more you work on a piece of audio, the more numb your mind gets to what you’re actually hearing. What I mean is that after listening to the same kind of mistake multiple times through playback, you may actually think it’s fine. Mixing is a lot like designing games; even though we are the ones making the piece of entertainment, we must take ourselves out of the equation of experience. What will people actually hear when they hear it for the first time? How many times will they actually want to listen to it? Why? How people experience media is what we’re striving to learn, but since people experience things in different ways, we must continually look for opportunities to broaden our mind to understand the many faces of society.

Thanks for reading! You can check out my other work at, and if you’re feeling generous, consider contributing a couple dollars to my ko-fi. Have a great day!

Design Reflection: Creature in the Well

Hello! If this is your first time reading one of my design reflections; in this blog series I’ll be taking a look at three different “lenses,” or game design considerations determined by Jesse Schell in his “Deck of Lenses” app (which you can get for free), and apply these lenses to different games I’ve played. Please enjoy and feel free to leave a comment below about what you thought of the game.

Creature in the Well is an interesting top-down pinball like action puzzler with a wonderful minimalist, cell-shaded art style.

In this design breakdown I’ll be analyzing it through the following topics:

The Lens of the State Machine

To use this lens, think about what information changes during your game.

Jesse Schell, “The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses”

For being a cleanly-designed pinball game, Creature doesn’t have as many game objects as other games. What do I mean by “objects”? I mean the kind of intractable things within the game, including what the player sees on screen. There are roughly four different categories of objects that are within this game: the player, the ball, obstacles, and the creature.

The player is a scrappy robot that was long ago a worker at the factory located within the well. The basic action for the player is to move around and hit the ball by swinging their arms while holding objects like a bat or a club. There is another kind of “swing” the player can do, where they keep the ball in front of themselves so they can properly aim it. While spinning the ball in front of them, the ball gains a more electrical charge, causing it to go fast and rack up more points once it is hit. The player can move around freely, except when interacting with the ball. The player can also not fall off the edges of the playing field. Throughout the game, the player will find different kinds of weapons to use for both the hard hits and the spinning. Most of the objects are merely looks, but there are some that hit harder or show the player the direction of the ball once they hit it. There are also different capes that the player can wear that represent the different jobs of the robots (like electrical, or data science). These capes are also for looks. The last thing the player can collect are these broken power cores that can be fixed at the repair shop to “upgrade” the player. I believe the only thing that changes is how many points the player earns when they hit something. Since most of this game relies on the player’s ability to move and hit balls, it can feel like the whole upgrading and equipping of objects and clothes are fruitless in their efforts because they don’t change the game.

The balls are these kind of electrical orbs that must be hit against bumpers and obstacles to charge them with power. Depending on the room, these balls can pop up from certain locations in the ground, or be shot at the player through turrets. When the balls pass through red energy, they speed up in the direction they are moving, and can hurt the player if they come into contact with them while they are red. The player can get the balls out of this phase by hitting it or spinning it. Sometimes there can be many balls on the screen at once, and the player can hit and spin multiple balls at a time. The balls seem to have a mind of their own for the most part. Due to the strange angle of the top-down view, it is difficult to determine exactly how a ball will reflect off an object, and I have a feeling the balls are programmed to always reflect off objects at a counter angle. This means if a player would to try to angle themselves where they would hit the ball straight in front of them at a flat wall, the player would assume that the ball would reflect directly back at them while instead it would rebound at a 45 degree angle. This kind of improper judgement and almost random reflections makes it feel that the player has no control over game by how they can’t figure out where the ball will end up next.

There are various obstacles in the game, each with their own purpose. There are simple bumper panels that give the player points, turrets that shoot at the player, bumpers that shoot balls back at the player, obstacles that produce red energy that hurts the player, and pillars that send out a red shockwave that hurts the player. The game plays around with different ideas about these bumpers: sometimes there are time trials, sometimes they have to be hit in a certain order. While some mechanics are interesting, there comes a point where things start to get a little stale. Bumpers in this game aren’t necessarily “exciting,” they’re more or less these eclipse-shaped grey and white objects that cover the floor. There are a lot of times where rooms will have the same layout as a previous room, so soon it turns into the player grinding to hit these objects just to earn enough points (by points I actually mean electricity, but it’s easier to understand it as points) to open doors to the next room. Looking back on it, the developer could have possibly just made a shorter game with less repetitive rooms. While the overall time to beat the game would have been shorter, the game would have been more exciting to the player if there was a new scenario in every room.

The creature in the game is this big, lanky being that tries to stop you from powering the factory back up in the well. Essentially this creature is the boss at the end of every department in the factory, where the battles reflect the kind of obstacles you had to face throughout that section. While it hides itself mostly in the shadows, its tattered cloth-wearing arms and piercing eyes can be seen. While the player traverses through the level, its eyes are seen in the background, lurking in corners of the room. As mystifying as the creature is, it also suffers from reused assets. The room right before each boss battle has the creature perform the same animation where it reaches out and puts its hands on the floor. In the first few levels, the creature would tell of important information, but as the levels progress the creature’s dialog just boils down to “I’ll get you for this.” This statement is strange because after dying and failing in any of the rooms, the creature picks you up and tosses you out of the well. If that’s the case, if the creature really wanted to stop the player they could have easily done it the whole time. There is also minimal interaction between the creature and the player throughout the levels, so maybe if the creature swapped some bumpers around or caused a level to be harder that it was would make the interaction between player and creature more cohesive.

The Lens of Fairness

To use this lens, evaluate the game from each player’s point of view and skill level. Find a way to give each player a chance of winning that each will consider to be fair.

Jesse Schell, “The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses”

The mechanics of spinning a ball and being able to launch it in any direction in front of you is slightly strange and can take a little of getting used to. It’s interesting, but I think being able to stop the ball at any time and re-direct it almost makes the game feel “easy.” Of course this game doesn’t get easy near the end (we’ll talk about that in a moment), but because the player has such power over one of the most important objects in the game, the game loses its sense of difficulty.

The progression of difficulty is of course gradual, as to have the player get used to how things function. The problem with the mechanic of launching a ball, however, is that a player can’t really practice how the ball can reflect off of different objects, making each level different each time it is done. While a player can practice dodging red energy beams or balls, they cannot predict that other factors of the level that are not directly affecting the player. This can leave a player feeling a loss of control, so instead of having the player feel powerful by controlling and launching the ball, the player feels powerless to the obstacles that surround them.

While moving throughout the levels, the difficulty in terms of how easy it is to die ramps up dramatically near the end. There was one point in which the creature was flinging balls charged with red energy at two shockwave pillars, and the player has little to no time to avoid being hurt. Luckily a player can create a checkpoint right in front of a boss. Unfortunately, however, the whole boss sequence has to be replayed over again. I can understand that the developers want to make their game difficult so players wouldn’t breeze through it, however I’m not sure they considered how many times a player had to die and what steps they had to take every time they did.

Every time a player dies, the player starts outside the factory in a small town. The player has to walk back into the factory by going all the way through town. There’s also a pool on the left when entering, which heals the player. The way the pool heals is by slowly raising their health bar back. The player then has to walk back up to the level selector platform and walk across the bridge to enter the level. All in all, it takes about a full minute or two before the player can try a boss again. If the player dies before the boss, they have to traverse through the level all over again to get to where they left off. If a game was planning on being difficult and the player had to die a lot, having the player go through 3 minutes worth of walking around to start a level again can be infuriating.

The Lens of the Player

To use this lens, stop thinking about your game, and start thinking about your player.

Jesse Schell, “The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses”

So from reading this design review you’ve probably come to the realization I have mixed feelings about this game.

On one hand, the art is amazing; pleasing to the eyes, almost a combination of hand drawn and cell shaded textures. The audio is also well done; I love the moments going back into the town because of the bittersweet music that plays.

Okay,okay, these design reviews aren’t suppose to be about my personal opinion about the game, it’s really analyzing it for its design choices, but I can’t help my feelings about the game bleeding into the design analysis.

Who was this game for? Players that like both pinball and hitting things? To me, the gameplay really feels like those billiard games where you would pull the cue back and line up your shot. This game’s focus more about accuracy rather than keeping a ball out of the wormhole like pinball.

What are people expecting when they get into this game? Well just by going off the title and title screen alone, it’s fairly uncertain what is going to happen. The game gives an ominous air about exactly what the creature is and what it does. All we really know is that the creature want turmoil for those that woke it up from its resting place. The awe about the creature soon starts to wear off as players progress through the game, soon becoming more disgruntled at the creature than questioning what it is. The problem with keeping the creature in the shadows is that even the game doesn’t know what it is. The creature is never fully seen, only its eyes and arms are shown the whole time. I would have at least liked to see maybe a scary face or something at the end, something to give me reason to stop its torment.

This game is not for everyone, especially if pinball isn’t really your cup of tea. In my case, I found whacking balls and hitting bumpers were oddly satisfying for me as I was playing it. This game skipped all the bad things we don’t like about pinball: the ball falling down the wormhole causing us to loose, the constant but precise movement of the flippers. Instead the game focuses on what excite players the most about pinball: the initial launch of the ball in the beginning, and hitting the bumpers to score points. With the pleasant, smooth art, and the continuous positive reinforcement from the bumpers, this game hits all the points to have it a satisfying game.

It’s unfortunate that the designers decided on duplicating rooms and assets to help earn the player more points. I wonder what kind of game this would be like if it was more of an “art game,” where there was no dying. It could still require skill, and perhaps some more intricate level design with railways that guided the balls around. The game is satisfying to play, but by having to deal with the death sequence and the repetitive rooms and assets, those satisfactory feelings become nulified.

If you’re looking for a game with cool art and a want to whack things across the room repeatedly, then Creature in the Well may be for you. If you’re looking for a casually fun pinball game (that’s actually pinball) may I suggest Yoku’s Island Express to try out.

Thanks for reading! You can find the “Deck of Lenses” by searching for it on the app store. You can find Schell’s full book “The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses” here. Try Creature in the Well for yourself here! What did you think of the game? What were your favorite and least favorite parts? Let me know in the comments below. Have a great day!

Psst! If you liked this blog and you want more, please consider contributing to my Ko-Fi. It helps me make new and exciting media like this blog and you get a game in return! Check it out here