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Must play games for Game developers


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You have to understand the medium you work in. I can't stand Jane Austen or the Brontes. Charles Dickens makes my eyes bleed. But I've read some of their stuff to (a) see what the fuss was about and (b) learn how they use language, characters and plot.


With movies, well I'm more interested in screenplays. That's a mad-crazy discipline. You'd have to study the form and drink it in.


So for games developers  - yes I'd expect them to have played a shedload of games.

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Every aspiring RTS developer should play Age of Empires II and Stronghold.


After that, they should be held at gunpoint and be forced to play Age of Empires III and Stronghold 3 before answering these two questions:


Why are Age of Empires III and Stronghold 3 uglier than their predecessors?

Why are they clunkier and less fun to play?


If "3D" isn't mentioned in the answer to both those questions, they should be shot on the spot.

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Master of Orion 2 --  The only retro game I come back to. Even the IE games don't flare up my interest, this one does.

Sid Meier's Pirates! -- Timeless classic, completely enjoyable even today without any graphic or gameplay upgrades via emulator. The linked version does have upgrades, but it's basically the same.

M.U.L.E. -- From the woman who knew multiplayer will become huge before the term "multiplayer" was born. Fun for the whole family! Some writings from Dani Bunten, worth reading, especially "The Importance of Play". There are modern remakes of M.U.L.E. all around the web, here's an iOS one which comes from the current copyright holder (Android soon).


With a score of 7.44 out of 10, in 1988 M.U.L.E. was among the first members of the Computer Gaming World Hall of Fame, honoring those games rated highly over time by readers.[24] In 1996, the magazine named M.U.L.E. as #3 on its Best Games of All Time list. Despite acclaim, the game only sold 30,000 copies.[25]M.U.L.E. was named #5 of the "Ten Greatest PC Games Ever" by PC World in 2009.[26] It was also listed as the 19th most important video game of all time by 1UP.com



Master of Orion II was quite simply the best computer game ever made... period. Such a shame that MOO 3 was one of the worst. It killed the franchise.

"While it is true you learn with age, the down side is what you often learn is what a damn fool you were before"

Thomas Sowell

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"Not to the common man whose interest in a medium is just for entertainment's sake, but to the professional who needs to understand good from bad there are must. This is true for every field, whether is fashion or sports there are certain "musts" that a professional needs to be aware of, even if they don't like them."


No. There are no musts. There are probably should, will help them be better, the more expereicne the more helpful, but there is no must. People are misuing the word must. It's hyperbole plain and simple.


You could make a perfectly fine RPG without playing a 'classic' like BG2 or Ultima. Afterall, you could play Ultima 3 or BG1 and get the same basic things out of it hence neither BG2 or Ultima are 'musts'.


There is no must. That's why these lists are nothing more than 'this is my favorite game' or for those pretending to be 'gaming intelelctuals'  will name some 'famous' game they dislike to try to prove lamely how 'unbiased' they are.

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Of the top of my head:


The Walking Dead: Just to strive for better writing.


Dishonored: Non corridor like progression towards objectives and sense of freedom in what are otherwise compact and dense levels that aren't the typical free roam open world. 90% of level designers in modern AAA should examine Dishonored.


Half Life 2: Pacing and variety in a linear first person shooter.

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It's hyperbole plain and simple.

It certainly is. I'm not sure if anyone thought otherwise.




Half Life 2: Pacing and variety in a linear first person shooter.

I think I actually prefer the first one for its pacing. I think TWD is interesting for exploring how you can leverage observer biases to allow you to use the same lines and have them deliver different meanings.

Edited by alanschu
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I actually prefer Half-Life 1 to Half-Life 2...overall. I liked some things more about Half-Life 2, but all the NPC so transparently gushing over you - particularly Alyx - drove me crazy. Half-Life 1, on the other hand, was very much a solitary adventure.

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How I have existed fills me with horror. For I have failed in everything - spelling, arithmetic, riding, tennis, golf; dancing, singing, acting; wife, mistress, whore, friend. Even cooking. And I do not excuse myself with the usual escape of 'not trying'. I tried with all my heart.

In my dreams, I am not crippled. In my dreams, I dance.

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Half-Life is a classic. But I chose the sequel because of that variety factor, you get your shooty levels, horror themed level, vehicle levels, "Tremors" level, command the ant-lions level, etc. The changes in pace that keep it fresh are more pronounced than the original.

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None. No game is a 'must' play just like no movie is a 'must' watch. It's absolutely asanine and beyond silly to think otherwise.

am thinking you is taking to ridiculous extreme. surprise.  


that being said, the game features and design choices that developers is gonna benefit or learn from is likely to be different than those features or design choices that vol or Gromnir or snigglefragglepoof thinks is fun or good.  am recalling the first time we sees citizen kane. "good movie, but it wasn't the end-all, be-all that movie buffs would have us believe," is what we thought. the thing is, we didn't know Why movie folks were so enthralled by citizen kane back when we saw it our firstest time. is loads o' filming techniques and storytelling devices that went complete unnoticed by Gromnir. one reason we missed is 'cause the deep focus, montage, and multiple dissolves used in kane is stuff that became norms After 1941... is stuff we had seen literal hundreds o' times 'before we ever saw "the greatest movie ever made." other reason we didn't see genius o' kane is 'cause we weren't educated 'nuff 'bout movie making process-- we didn't know where or how to look at a film. 




the things a game developer is gonna look for or benefit from is, we expect, gonna be different than just the stuff we liked.  lord knows that stuff that benefits a developer will be Very different than stuff that impressed vol. 


HA! Good Fun!

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"If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."Justice Louis Brandeis, Concurring, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)

"Im indifferent to almost any murder as long as it doesn't affect me or mine."--Gfted1 (September 30, 2019)

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Stanley Parable: Introspective look at reconciling telling a game story while balancing player autonomy in a video game.


It definitely does a brilliant job of exploring the contradiction built into games: the idea that we play them partly to experience a sense of freedom and control that we don't always find in our everyday life – yet we also know that every action we take in a game has already been scripted and accounted for, and in a sense, we actually have a need to know what some of the limits are, or it's no longer a hyperreal escape.

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Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad(PC)

The scale of battles is amazing and team-work really pays off.


Planescape: Torment(PC)




Probably one of the first FPS games that had a equal amount of action, gore, horror and most importantly: BLOOD!


Contra III: The Alien Wars(SNES)

You could switch between weapons, detonate bombs, ride tanks, bikes and even rockets that are fired straight from a heli!


Time Commando(PC, PSX)

It had really bad controls but back then it was a lot of fun! Travel through different time-periods, with each of them having their own unique enemies and weapons.


Z(PC, PSX, Saturn, iOS)

No need to gather resources in this RTS game, just capture a building and hold it for just a bit and it's all yours! Time also plays a major role: The more buildings you have, the faster you can build units. Building stronger units takes more time compared to smaller units such as Soldiers and alike.

Edited by Cat Food

There used to be a signature here, a really cool one...and now it's gone.  

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I would be interested in seeing how a film would turn out if it was directed and produced by someone who had never watched a movie in their life.  


Maybe it would turn out something like "The Room" by Tommy Wiseau? ;)http://www.theroommovie.com/


I have heard it aptly described as "the kind of movie one might expect an alien to make, after having had movies thoroughly explained to him." XD

Edited by jillabender
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Its a tough question. The guy who made millions on Minecraft didn't really have (or need) too many games for inspiration. If someone told me that one of the most successful games of all time would be a construction game that looked like Wolfenstein3D I would have told them that they're full of it.


In other words, you don't need to play all that much if you've got a strong idea. 


I have a few game ideas myself but nothing groundbreaking. Curiously enough, they don't take much (or anything) from the games that impressed me most, the ones that come to mind first when I hear "must play" - so I'd say the process of game design is, like all creativity, a very chaotic affair in which "knowledge" of previous games has its place, but is nowhere near mandatory.


Another problem when looking at games that are close to perfection in their intended goals is that they're great in so many aspects, that its impossible to really take something from them and use it because of how it all comes together.


Eg: Homeworld. 


You could say Homeworld is = great graphics, audio and art design +  a very biblical, very primal story (all the more emotional because its about a nation, something everyone can identify with - and because there are no characters to get in the way)  packed up in great sci fi + very good minimalist UI and solid RTS gameplay.


And you've said exactly nothing about making a game like Homeworld, except if you wanted to make something very derivative, which is how most games are made today.


Eg. Bioshock 2: Bioshock had a few nice ideas, mostly visual design and a strong story (for a video game). Bioshock 2 is a game made by an accountant. Someone sat down and skimmed over the original game, upon getting the orders to make a sequel, and asked: okay, what did people like about the first game? Some drone made a list at the top of which were the Big Daddies. At that point, another drone suggested: Why don't we make a game where the player is a Big Daddy? Oooooooh, a collective squeal of delight at all the pennies that this is going to bring in and bam - you get Bioshock 2, a bad re-run of BS1 without an ounce of originality.


In other words; playing good games is fine, but there is no substitute for original ideas and that's basically something you either have or don't.

Edited by Drowsy Emperor

И погибе Српски кнез Лазаре,
И његова сва изгибе војска, 
Седамдесет и седам иљада;
Све је свето и честито било
И миломе Богу приступачно.


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For me its about the technical side, what game did something really well and innovative from all the other games.
MineCraft is a perfect example of how the same appeal of Legos can be brought to games. Its about those mysterious things of the human brain that keep us playing Tetris after we put the game down or that get a kick from a little man jumping on the screen. If you want get a good solid idea for a game it needs to have that sense of biofeedback where you feel something when you perform that action. 

I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*


*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)


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