I made another trip up to Vancouver this week to give my encounter design talk to another developer we’re working with and once again it went very well.

As in the past, though, once I get thinking about this topic it’s hard to stop. This time, my ponderings have inspired me to do some related-fields type research and it’s been fascinating.

Basically the more I think about this topic the more I become convinced it should be possible to procedurally generate good combat encounters, including the level design the encounter takes place in. Because of this most of … Continue reading

Airports are strange places

I’m returning from a quick trip to Northern California for work, and am sitting in an airport as I type this. I spend a lot of time in airport for my job, but this trip is the first time I’ve ever really taken a good look at one.

Most of the time I, like most travelers, move through the airport inside my personal space bubble. No one really wants to BE in an airport — it’s never a destination, just a stop on the way to where you really want to be. The whole thing is a pretty big … Continue reading

Stuff I’m thinking about now…

One of the really neat things about my job is that I get a lot of time to dissect things that I know intuitively. When I go to help other developers, my job is generally to try to explain why the changes I’m suggesting will make a game better. It’s one thing to intuitively know how something is done, but it’s completely another to explain why. It’s kind of like knowing what a word means and then being asked “why does it mean that?”

In the process of teaching myself how to explain the “why” of something, I often learn … Continue reading

My New Band?

This is one of those facebook forewarding thingies I usually hate, but this time it actually was kinda cool. However, since I hate the “chain letter” aspect of these things, I decided to just post the results here instead.

Here was the original posting, sans chainletterings:

1. – Go to Wikipedia and hit random. The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2. – Go to and hit random. The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.

3. – Go to … Continue reading

Dodger: World Traveler

Scant days after my first-ever trip out of the country, I find myself making a second.

Today I am in Canada (Vancouver, BC) for work. I gave a little talk for some developers up here on Encounter Design, and I’ll be giving another little talk tomorrow (assuming my voice doesn’t disappear).

It’s been an interesting trip. The money here confuses and frightens me, though after I spent a good 10 minutes staring at it it’s starting to make sense. The sheer volume of coins is a problem for me, though. Having 18 dollars worth of change is just not something … Continue reading

“Por qué – stination”

I procrastinate. A lot of the time I just sit down, look at what I’m supposed to do, and give up because it just seems like too big of a task and I can’t figure out how to break it down.  Sometimes I can’t think of where to start. Sometimes I’m afraid that even if I do do it, it’ll just suck anyway, so why bother?

There are a lot of reasons that I do it, and usually no matter the reason I feel pretty shitty when I do.

For example, I’ve been working on a couple of articles recently … Continue reading

Water, water everywhere…

… and SO much to drink!

I just got back from JoCo Cruise Crazy. After 6 days on a boat with a bunch of my favorite musicians, a concert a day, and my very first ever trip out of the country, I feel GREAT.

I’ve been off work since December 21st or so and I go back tomorrow. I guess I really needed the time off, but I didn’t realize how much.

The last time I took more than a week off (not counting unemployment) was in 2007, a few months before I left Insomniac. … Continue reading

They walked the earth…

Miyamoto talks about Super Mario Bros for 25th anniversary

This is an amazing article for a number of reasons, but it affected me deeply for one in specific:

Namely, it’s eye-opening to me to understand that these classic games were made by game designers.

It’s weird to say it, but up to this point (unbeknownst to me) I’ve been assuming these games just appeared in a vacuum, despite knowing the kind of stuff that goes on behind the scenes of these things. For some reason, these great works – these pillars of game design history, seemed to me to … Continue reading

Guest Post: Colin Munson – “Challenging Challenges for Thinking People”

My friend and fellow designer Colin Munson asked if he could write a guest post for my blog, and my answer was “HELLS YEAH!” Colin and I worked together for 5 years at Insomniac, and he’s one of my favorite Game Designers in the industry. I found the following editorial fascinating, and I’m proud to post it here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

The Adventure game for the 21st century
why we get stupid while playing modern video games
Challenging challenges for thinking people

By Colin Munson:

Continue reading

Idea: Using Movie Structure to Inform Game Design?

I’ve been reading a lot about storytelling recently. Besides rereading “Characters and Viewpoint” by Orson Scott Card, the most recent ones I’ve read have been the “Save the Cat” books, by Blake Snyder (great reads, if you’re at all interested in screenwriting).

Snyder proposes a very analytical breakdown of the plots in movies. He has a list of 15 beats that appear in all popular movies (and they do… it’s almost scary) as well as a list of unconventional “genres” — essentially the different types of stories that movies tell. Within each genre, he further breaks down common elements and … Continue reading