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Extra Credits

Season 11 2020

  • 2020-01-15T05:00:00Z on YouTube
  • 42m
  • 19h 36m (28 episodes)
  • United States
  • English
  • Documentary
Join James Portnow, Daniel Floyd and Allison Theus each week as they take a deeper look at games; how they are made, what they mean and how we can make them better.

28 episodes

Season Premiere


11x01 Escort Missions - Dragging Dead Weight

Season Premiere

11x01 Escort Missions - Dragging Dead Weight

  • 2020-01-15T05:00:00Z42m

Escort missions, the bane of almost every gamer. You can see countless forum posts, articles, and memes trashing the helpless victims we're supposed to be protecting, but who keep getting us killed over and over and over again. Why do designers keep punishing players by chaining them to NPCs? And is there a way to do escort missions right?

With graphics that age quickly, cartridges and game systems that can be elusive to find, and so many new games coming out every week, it can be hard to understand why anyone should have to go diving through the primordial ooze of games from yesteryear. But if you're looking to get into game design, there's a lot of reasons you should try to twist your hands to fit a N64 controller. Even if newer games copy a particular formula and genre, you should try to dig into the roots of what makes that series good or popular.

Eddy Webb tackles the tricky subject of how to play a villain well. We've all had that experience with that one player who wants to dive right into the Chaotic Evil side of the chart... and that's okay! It's fun to be bad every now and then, and can even really open up stories to some great possibilities. But as with all tools, there are ways to use it poorly (and how!) so we're here to help show you how to play bad, good.

You would think that an industry built on technology and a lot of solitary work would be perfect for introverts. But there are a lot of ways that the gaming industry is still geared towards people with more extroverted tendencies. Networking events that involve large crowds, brainstorming sessions that require immediate responses, and deferring to the loudest voice are all ways that unintentionally make working harder for introverts. So how do we help create spaces in business to help everyone have a voice? Guest writer Renato Pelizzari is here to help answer that question.

Ever wonder why there are some NPCs that stick with you for ages after the game is finished and others that you forget almost as soon as you have encountered them? We've talked about writing characters a number of times on this show, but today we want to look at how NPCs with different kinds of relationships with the player can be written with more depth. Let's take a look at villains, mentors, and companions and see what makes them tick.

It's happened to all of us at least once. A game that we might have loved suddenly disappears (or is patched out). There's no way to access it or find it... except through roms. That's okay. You bought it once right? That means it's yours! Weeellll... The legal grounds of ownership can get trickier than you might expect, especially as more and more of our media becomes digital exclusive. Luckily we have lawyer Ryan Meyer from the law firm of Dorsey & Whitney LLP (https://www.dorsey.com/) here to explain what an archival copy really means.

Sometimes a game flops. And negative reviews are inevitable. But with the rise of aggregate review sites came a new way for consumers to let studios developers know just what they think: review bombing. We talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of reviews on the internet.

From the beginning days of gaming, it was pretty customary to build new sprites and engines from the ground up because of changing technology. But now that tech is bigger and more expensive to use, is that slash and burn mentality always a great idea? Is asset reuse in games an example of laziness or cut corners, or is it a useful tool in a game designer's toolbox?

We've talked about gamification before on this channel, but let's dig into some more. Gamification can feel like a huge drag, but that's usually because designers focus exclusively on extrinsic rewards. But how can you incorporate intrinsic rewards as well as extrinsic? What would that look like?

Thanks to the help of guest writer and astrophysicist Erin Macdonald, writer of the Science of Sci Fi (https://adbl.co/2yRxVWK), this Extra Credits is going to be a little unusual. Have you ever wondered how rooted the science in scifi really is? Well in Mass Effect's case, there's actually some very solid ground. We'll be talking about how the Mass Effect relays work and what the theoretical working behind element zero is, and how, if we could replicate those effects using real elements like dark energy, we might also be able to date some aliens. ... What do you mean that wasn't the point of Mass Effect?

We've always said that Games Matter, but there's a lot of different ways games can help us and the world that we live in. This week, we're going to dive into some games that have a real and tangible effect on our physical meat space.

There's a lot of ways that you can approach a game. But what happens when the only way to have fun is to play "optimally"? What does Optimal Play even mean? And how can you best design a game to accommodate different play styles?

Hey everyone, we wrote this episode several weeks ago, before the murder of George Floyd. While it is important for everyone to take action in the ways that they can, it is equally important to take care of your community and yourself to prevent burning out. We hope that this episode can still offer some ways and ideas that you can connect with your loved ones.

The Trolley Problem is one of the most famous hypotheticals in the philosophy of ethics. There are endless permutations, focusing on different aspects of the question: What if the one person on the second rail is a great leader? Is ethics a simple numbers game where 5 is always greater than 1? All very important questions but ultimately there is no correct way to answer the trolley problem. And many games strive to mimic this design by providing players with choices that, like the trolley problem, reveal more about the player's philosophy than a simple right or wrong answer.

We talked a little bit about video game copyright law beforehand but let's talk about including real-world brands and people in your game. Trademark and visual likeness is similar to copyright but has a few key differences that can make or break your case for fair use. So could you include a McDonalds in your game? Or would it have to be MacBonald? And if a person is dead, does that mean you can use their face without issue? Well, it can depend on how you're using it!

Skinner boxes are fairly infamous in the game space at this point, but not all boxes are created equal. Why do some games grip and hold onto our attention but some games just end up falling by the wayside, despite having great graphics, gripping narratives, or engaging gameplay? Why do some RPGs just feel a little... off? That can be a factor of operant conditioning which relies on two big factors: variable ratio reinforcement schedules & variable interval reinforcement schedules. After all, finding a penny 200 times and finding 2 dollars results in the same outcome, but feels drastically different!

With games that continue to expand into vast open worlds and the number of hours a game takes to complete goes up and up and up, we have to ask ourselves: is this game really worth my time? Is this 90 hours of engaging material? Or is it 5 hrs of engagement stretched over 90? How do you design around potential grind fests, even when you're working in a genre that needs them so the player doesn't burn through new content, like MMOs? Even small changes to game design choices and UI design can save players some time and prevent people from burning out.

Fawzi Mesmar, the author of Al-Khallab on the Art of Game Design, has worked as a game designer and manager in many different parts of the world. Through his journey and career, he's noticed that each place he's worked has a slightly different approach to how management and employees work together. And each one has its own unique benefits which can help inform how a studio approaches work. By learning from each style, we can work better together in our increasingly global teams & you can adapt them for your own particular style.

Thank you to Lane Stanely for writing this episode ( www.lanemichaelstanley.com ). The Bystander Effect is a fairly well-documented phenomenon that states when people are in a crowd, they are less likely to offer help to people in need. There are a number of reasons for this. One might be the assumption that someone else will take responsibility. Another might be that we tend to look to other people to gauge how serious a situation is. When no one is reacting, we assume that the situation isn't dire. But how does this effect show up in games like Overwatch or League of Legends? Can MMOs like World of Warcraft help us overcome the effect?

President Trump wrote an executive order asking for clarification on section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. But what does that mean? What is CDA 230? And more importantly, why should people in the games industry care? CDA 230 is often referred to as the 26 words that formed the internet & grants Platform Immunity. That's the stipulation that provides platforms & users can't be held liable for what other people put out on the internet. It also is what grants platforms the power of the ban hammer.

You ever just feel swamped by the number of game titles out there? Sometimes it's easy to miss gems in the tidal wave of games on every storefront. We explore the 5 biggest reasons why you might not have found your favorite game. From localization issues, to niche storefronts like itch.io or dmm.com, to different cultural taboos, there's a lot to navigate! What is your favorite overlooked game or platform?

Portal has a lot of science fiction elements from selective matter destroyers, hard light bridges, and cake. But the core gameplay is focused on a very simple principle in physics: momentum. Manipulating momentum is key to solving all of the problems Glados sets out in the game, so you can contribute to Apature Science the best you can. But what if the portals in Portal actually destroyed every principle of energy we know of today?

Destiny is a fun looter shooter but in order to balance the game, each of it's three main environments are treated more or less the same. The Moon, Venus and Mars have more or less the same gravity and movement variables. So what would need to happen in order for that to be true in on their real-life counterparts? Maybe there really is a wizard in that moon.

Bioshock Infinite takes us through Columbia where things aren't exactly right... And then we find Elizabeth who can tear rifts in reality. Booker, catch! But... how stable is this plot on real world physics? Strangely, Bioshock Infinite gets a lot right on the underlying quantum mechanics of the world. And it gets one very important thing wrong.

The last of our mini series of science in video games, we turn to one of the classics with full life consequences. One of the most ingenious & famous guns of Half Life is the gravity gun, a weapon that doesn't fire bullets but makes it so you can pull items to Gordon Freeman, or launch them into the stratosphere. But... how would that actually work on a science level? Dr. Erin Macdonald helps break down the science with gravitons, quantum gravitational fields and words that feel more comfortable in a scifi novel than actual science.

Abraham's love of games started by sneaking down to play Wolfenstein 3D and thanks to the encouragement of his mother, he was able to follow his passions. And when his mother became sick, he was able to find a lot of comfort in games which led to thinking: "could games be helpful & theraputic to others too?" Fast forward to the future, where now he works at Children's Hospital Colorado as a Gaming Technology Specialist.

You might remember Jane McGonigal from our earlier episode about games helping the world & she was kind enough to share more of her story! Back in 2009 she hit her head and got a concussion. But unfortunately, the concussion didn't heal quickly and Jane was forced to deal with Post Concussion Syndrome. This made it difficult to remember things, difficult to read or write, and frequent headaches. To make matters worse, it was difficult to express these symptoms to friends & family. But Jane McGonigal ended up using that trauma to create a game to help herself, and other people also suffering: Superbetter.