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Extra Credits

Season 12 2021

  • 2021-02-03T05:00:00Z on YouTube
  • 42m
  • 15h 24m (22 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.

22 episodes

When most folks think of the game designer, they normally think of something akin to the director of a movie. But actually, the role of game designer can mean a few different things, especially in bigger companies where people tend to specialize more. So which kind of game designer are you? Are you someone who dreams up worlds as a content designer? Draw out maps and place spawn points like a level designer? Balance numbers and spreadsheets as a systems designer? Or know how to combine nuanced elements to draw out a very specific feeling, like an experience designer?

We love a great character creator at EC, and we love cyberpunk! So of course, Cyberpunk 2077 was supposed to be a dream. And what we got was... ah, not exactly what we hoped for. But there were some basic problems with the basic design of their character creation screen, even before you hit the streets of Night City. So what exactly did CD Projekt Red do wrong and what can we learn about making inclusive character creators?

Roblox is might be one of the biggest games no one's heard of and a big part of that is their audience. Roblox dominates the younger gamer space, with around 75% of kids in the United States logging in and a massive concurrent user base. They have a great model, giving revenue to game devs who use their platform and making game development accessible to even tweens. Despite all of this... They still operate at a loss. So what does it mean for the future of Roblox to go public on the stock market? Aw yeah we're talking stonks! (that's what the kids say these days right??)

With the pandemic making home games more difficult, a lot of people have turned to getting their tabletop roleplaying fix by watching other people play. Some of these shows have gotten so big that they've actually introduced new people into the hobby, instead of the other way around. Critical Role, Rivals of Waterdeep, and The Adventure Zone come to mind. Heck, even we've given it a go for a charity stream! But what are the differences between playing rpgs at home, and producing them for an audience?

There's been a spicy issue that's come up a few times in the tabletop roleplaying community over the last few years: how do we handle evil races? Are they a vital part of the fantasy genre, imported from Tolkein's works and therefore untouchable? Or should we reexamine the way that speculative fiction can sometimes just paint species and culture with the same broad brush? Well, we think that outside of any connection or implication of real-world situations, evil races are just... kind of bad and lazy game design.

As games become more and more popular as a past time, there's become a growing conversation about the difficulty of games. We've all had that experience where we've hit a wall in a game we otherwise loved or a game was so easy it couldn't engage us for more than 10 minutes. Most games attempt to answer this difficulty by offering different modes that usually tweak enemy & player health, or enemy & player damage. Which is... fine. It's fine. But what about games like Ghost of Tsushima, Control, and the new gold standard, The Last of Us Part 2?

A good game designer knows that no idea is perfect and that you should start creating now instead of obsessing over the concept, but what happens when something isn't working out? Where do you go from there? Most of game design is based in iteration & feedback which will tell you when one of your ideas isn't working. But the actionable part is only half the battle. One has to develop emotional intelligence to learn from your own mistakes and improve. And that comes from a lot of practice.

Everything old is new again! All storytelling mediums eventually wrap around to trying to retell the stories of the past, but what does that mean? What is the difference between a reboot, remaster, and a remake? And how does Final Fantasy VII: Remake challenge the definitions we've set up for ourselves?

As we refocus the conversation about games around accessibility, there's one area that often gets overlooked. Technical accessibility can be just as important and as big a barrier for people as physical accessibility. Computer games can get expensive when you account for all of the parts that go into building even a modest gaming rig. And as games have exploded in budgets for dazzling particle effects and cutting edge graphics, it can cut out a lot of gamers from the experience. So how do developers go about making games that can be played on high and low end machines?

Nothing is more iconic to fantasy roleplaying games than class systems. The warrior, the mage, the rogue. These archetypes make up a lot of what people envision when thinking about games like Dungeons and Dragons. So how can you make your own classes, regardless of what genre you're designing for?

We've seen a lot of sandbox games and tools to make designing more accessible emerging and it got us all thinking: how do you design the tools to let someone else have enough flexibility to design their own experience? How do you prevent getting lost in the weeds of tool designing? Is this just tool-ception? But here are 6 guiding principles that can help solidify your designs so that players can solidify theirs in ways you never expected.

Genres can be a loose collection of ideas and mechanics so it isn't super surprising when particular games bust the mold. But usually those games are either unique or end up spinning off their own genre (Soulslike anyone?) What about wrestling games? Are they sports games? Fighting games? Or their own unique genre blended from the two? What do you think?

It's been 5 years since we did an episode on videogame movies so let's take a look at where we've gone and where we've yet to go. In a world where comic books rule the cinema and an entry into the Mad Max franchise swept through the Oscars, why have video game movies been left by the wayside? We think that it has something to do with how video game movies tend to treat the main characters... or rather, not treat them, as a way to preserve lore perfectly.

You ever have the absolute need to do something in a game, even if it was detrimental or made the game harder to enjoy? Anything from rolling through the fields of Hyrule to storing every last potion right up until the end credits roll juuuuust in case. Well sometimes that can be the result of messy design decisions. So how do we clean up our design and make sure the player can get to the good parts of the game, without the compulsory parts?

When we talk about game design on this channel, we often talk about the mechanics or even the narrative design of our games. But in order to play them they have to... you know... take place. Somewhere. Enter the level designer! There are loads of specialized level designers and loads of different kinds of levels but here are some tips and tricks of the trade!

Streaming has become a huge part of the games industry and we've seen how streaming can take a game and suddenly launch it into viral status like it did for Among Us. But are streamers overall helpful to the games ecosystem? Or does streaming actually hurt devs in the long run? Join in as Geoff and Will battle it out.

Ariana Grande's concert in Fortnite might not been the first of its kind, but it was the first that made Matt feel the way he did. And sometimes making a polished script is a little too long to catch the fleeting feeling. So let's go off-script and talk about the concert, what made it work, and what it might be signaling for the future.

While we've had episodes on Free to Play games, and on some of the paid elements like lootboxes, we've never really made an episode on monetization models in video games. And that's big because like it or not, how you choose to make money off your video game can have huge effects on how you go about designing your game. So let's pry open the game and take a look at premium games, downloadable content, season passes, and yes, even loot boxes.

Looking to add a little depth and intrigue to your D&D game? Wondering how to give your players tough choices throughout your narrative? Confused as to how designers can make you rethink your decisions and moral code when playing a game like Mass Effect? Well, find out all the secret details to building fictional belief systems and creating fictional morality today!

A lot of us have been playing video games since our early childhood. Interacting with our favorite medium for years but, outside the joy games can bring, does our dedication to them bring us any real-life benefits? Or to put it more bluntly, can the virtual skills we develop in video games materialize into real-life skills, and can we answer that question with some research and a jet ski?

Is AR (Augmented Reality) the future of technology? Will this create a virtual utopia, giving us the ability to translate languages in front of our eyes and make better choices based on instant information? Or will it be taken advantage of? With the government and companies manipulating the world around us.

Curling up with a cozy game like Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley, Spiritfarer, or Behind the Frame for the holiday? Come to think of it, what makes these wholesome games so cozy in the first place? Is it the narrative or theme? Maybe the mechanics, or connection you feel to people and characters? Join in on our discussion as we go behind the game design and explore the cozy game genera.