Oblivion Analysis: 2015 Update

Oblivion's Opening View


Five years ago I wrote an analysis of the exploration in Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. For those of you who haven’t played it, it’s like Elder Scrolls: Skyrim but not as user-friendly. It’s pretty cool, but hard to read the way I originally wrote it. I vaguely recall I was swamped at the time, so I probably cut some corners.

So now, five years later, I’m updating the article and making it easier to read. Enjoy (again?).


One of the coolest things about Oblivion is how “free form” the game feels. As you wander through the world, attempting … Continue reading

A ‘Madlibs’ Game Design Doc: Part 2

Warning — I didn’t give this post my usual level of editing and scrutiny because I haven’t been feeling too well.

I wanted to post it, even in its raw state. Hopefully you’ll find some use from these rough notes, and when I move on to the later parts I’ll develop them more fully.

Think of this as a chance to peer inside an in-progress design.

In our last adventure, we went through the theme and designed the enemies. Part 2 is about designing player abilities. If you haven’t read the previous article, this one might not make much sense. … Continue reading

Magic: The Warcraftening

I’ve been playing a lot of Blizzard’s new digital-only collectible card game Hearthstone, and I really like a lot of the decisions they made. There are a few things I really miss from
playing Magic: The Gathering, though — and I’d love to give the following “merger” of the two a try some time:

Magic: The Warcraftening

Rules:As Magic: The Gathering, except:

Deck Construction

A ‘Madlibs’ Game Design Doc: Part 1

A quick note. The following work is considered public domain information. Use it however you want. If you’d like to tell me about it afterwards, I promise you it will make me a happy man — but if you don’t I won’t lose any sleep.

On twitter the other day, I decided on a whim that I wanted to create and fill out a madlib and then design a game based on the answers I got.

I’m trying to design a game via ‘madlibs.’ I’ll ask questions, and the first response dictates the answer. I’ll post the design on my … Continue reading

Why do games cost so much to make?

This was an FAQ I got from a lot of people, most recently from Youtuber Rebellion3112. My most recent attempt to explain it got so long that I thought it might just be better to post it here so that everyone can enjoy (and so in the future I can redirect people here and lazily continue lazing about).

Everyone thank Rebellion for sharing. (Thanks, Rebellion).

So let’s get started. It is REALLY hard to explain this without going into a ton of detail, but here’s how it works in the simplest possible explanation (and this is still really long):

Continue reading

At least two types of players….

I found this post I made on a gamasutra article, and I thought it might make good blog fodder.

It was in response to a comment about games that felt “disrespectful” of their players.


It seems to me like there are at least two types of players who want different things. One type likes to FEEL smart, or powerful. The other wants to solve problems that require them to BE powerful or smart, or whatever.

I’ve seen these groups over and over again in my career. We even designed separate multiplayer modes for each of them in Resistance 1. … Continue reading

Diablo 3 is not just about loot

Well, it KIND of is — but give me a second just to put a word in.

I hear a lot of people say that “Diablo is fun, but not because of the core mechanic — it’s because of the loot.”

Don’t get me wrong, I loves me some loot. Loot is probably the main driving force for me when playing a lot of games. So I’m not saying that Diablo 3 isn’t about loot.

I’m saying Diablo 3 is not JUST about loot. The mindless clicking IS fun.

In Diablo 3, there are a ton of different enemies. They … Continue reading

Some updates

I haven’t been posting here recently, but hopefully this is the beginning of a reversal to that trend.

I’ve posted a few things on the YouTubes that you might be interested in:

First, after getting lots of requests, I’ve put together a version of my GDC talk that I think is legal to show. I recorded the audio myself, and cut together slides over it — so I don’t think I’m using anythign I shouldn’t.

Be warned, it’s an hour long.

Secondly, we’re now 13 episodes into the RC3 developer commentary. The latest episode is about my trials and … Continue reading


Our friends over at GeekDad just keep writing great stuff about Skylanders:


The article I linked above has one passage that made me stop and marvel.

They don’t actually use the Skylanders DS styluses to play on the DS at all. Firstly they used them to create their own plays in a make shift cardboard theater. By poking the stylus up from behind they could get the miniature Skylanders figures to act out different chapters from their adventures.

They then moved on from this when one of the styluses got inadvertently broken (apparently during a particularly hazardous Skylanders … Continue reading