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Update on Sentendo

This week I decided to take down the Sentendo thing. If you’re reading for the first time, Sentendo is the name that I give to my small business of game design consulting. It means a lot to me, but it’s clearly not working.

I prefer from now on to go simply with my name and surname. Being seen as a brand can put some interesting client in a weird spot and they can go away. I prefer to be more natural.

I am finishing the deck to send to my clients, and it’s hard.

Can effective teaching inspire narrative design?

I love to teach. Every time I am allowed to do it, I do it. It can be videogames, it can be Computer Science, or math. I love to put that seed inside of people. And I honestly think I am pretty good at that.

I was reading an article on effective teaching that appeared on The Guardian some while ago. I am doing it because I am taking a language course in Catalan and I believe that the teacher is really good. And I am asking why is that good to me. So I need also to make my mental model, as always. Designer professional deformation, I guess.

I am also taking a 3 week intensive course on narrative design with Kim McAskill these weeks. It’s very interesting, so my mind makes analogies and connections of course.

Telling stories

Although narrative design is different from storytelling, the purpose is always the same. It is actually the same as game design. Telling something, telling a story. If you want, we always want that. We always want to tell a story, our job and profession is one way of doing it.

And teaching is also telling a story, but you need your students to learn. In games you need your players to have fun. And having fun means, at the end of the day, to learn. That’s the spark of my idea on how to import things from teaching to improve narrative design.

Ideas for a better narrative design

I will grab the points describe in the article linked above and adapt them to narrative design. That is a branch of game design that puts in relationship the systems with the stories, creating settings, worlds, people, characters and the way of deliver them (dialogues, cutscenes, set pieces, and so on).

Narrative design is game design, and game design always creates narratives.

Let’s go:

  • Know your subject -> Have clear how Players can reach their goals: the most important quality of a teacher is, of course, to know what he’s teaching. The most important quality of a good narrative design is to know what the players need to reach their goals.
  • Praise can do more harm than good -> Giving too many rewards early make the Players skip some important step for learning. Players may feel frustrated later and quit, as well as students that may suppose that the teacher will be good with them.
  • Instruction matters -> Stories matter: the quality of teaching has impact on the students. The same is valid for a story. Games do not need a story, but games with a story may literally change lives.
  • Teacher beliefs count -> Designer beliefs count: there is something personal and unique in every teacher and designer. Our way of seeing how to teach or how to create fun influences the outcome. There is no best practice or rulebook, there are beliefs. It’s personal, it’s unique,
  • Think about student-teacher relationships -> Think about player – designer relationships: the interaction of the teacher with the students have a tremendous impact on the climate of the classroom. In a similar manner, designers especially in small realities have the opportunities to create relationships with students.
  • Manage behavior -> Manage behavior! Study the characteristics of your students and the data of your players to be more effective.

New project: UEFN Good Ol’ FRAG

Starting today I want to explore more the world of UEFN. I played a little with the experiences you have available on Fortnite right now and… oh my goodness, they are complete disasters from a level design perspective. What are we feeding our kids??? what?? *dramatic*

So I had this idea: recreate the most beloved maps from classic FRAG multiplayers within Fortnite. I need of course to tweak for 3rd person these maps, but my vision is pretty much this: to recreate classics in Fortnite. Because I want the kids to grow with serious stuff! (and if I can generate some income meanwhile, better)

I started by going on Copilot to look for data:

You are the lead game designer of a new project that involves Fortnite. Using UEFN, the project is to recreate the best maps that belong to classics of frag games (quake, unreal, and so on) in Fortnite. Converting them into modern versions. Make a table with the most enjoyed maps. On one column put the map name, on the second one a map image, third one the game, fourth column put the year and last column put notes on how to give them a modern touch

Prompt for Copilot

And I got a whole spreadsheet with a couple of tweaks:

I added some metadata and screenshots for the maps. So I am ready to start exploring classics!

Game design audit | find new ideas

Today I published this video on my LinkedIn profile.

Many companies struggle to find new ideas, so that I believe that it would be great to provide an audit on certain games to give them a starting point. This can become a subscription based service I can provide online.

The key to me is to start by playtesting your competitors to really understand why their games are working and what can be enhanced and improved. Then I complete my study by both playing the game for a week and studying its reviews. Finally, I create a game design audit. If you read this on my blog, here you have the audit for FREE.

What you gain in pre-production

I work for businesses, someone says B2B. My clients are usually medium-sized companies that are willing to find new formulas. New ideas to disrupt the market out there. And I think it’s a great choice for them to hire contractors like me for this stage. Someone calls it 0-to-1, but I still prefer the classic pre-production.

With internal teams, it is very hard to innovate, because of many factors. External contractors, instead, can help you find new ideas or variations to your ideas. You don’t have to pay the salary to an employee for this research, plus you engage with someone who is doing this every single day. I am looking at different challenges from different realities every single week of my life. My vision is broader than a common employee working on a single project every time.

Because the games industry has changed a lot in recent years, many companies are looking for people that make the whole games from start to end, but I think this should evolve. We need specializations in specific development areas. Pre-production, production, operations.

Over the last few years, I think I acquired huge experience with the first stage, the pre-production. This is because of specific requests from my clients. My clients helped to build my little business. My technical skills let me focus on both vision/strategy and content (level design with Unity, dialogues, and so on).

  • Pre-production: this is where I operate. I help you find new ideas to work on.
  • Production: your team will develop the complete game, once you decide to go for it. Once you have the 1 of the 0-to-1 stage.
  • Operations: your team operates the game. Still, sometimes I do small consultations for new features that need pre-production. New ideas for service based games.

One thing that I put the focus on is on the fantasies and aesthetics (more on this in another post), but the most important thing to me is quality. Oftentimes people tend to avoid quality in pre-production to quickly pass to production. For good games, the duration of pre-production is 1/3 of the whole project. Imagine your development time is 3-5 years, we are talking of 1-2 years of pre-production. A good 0-to-1 is fundamental to go 1-to-1000.


These days a protest is taking place on the ArtStation platform. Seeing some works generated with AI climb to the top positions, artists are uploading this pic everywhere.

I find that a very sensible and clever idea. I think artists are in a moment where they have to defend themselves. I want to dedicate this post also to confirm the fact that they are right. Artificial intelligence-generated works are not art.

Art is a human matter

To compose a work of art you need specific materials that are able to formalize forms. In this sense, artificial intelligence has things in common with human work. AI works on materials, in the case of digital art digital materials. But art to be art must be a physical expression of the human imagination. Artificial intelligence algorithms do not imagine. They realize a vision based on the algorithmic processing of a prompt.

If I want to create an image of my mother, I can imagine many things. I can think at any given moment that I want to put a particular pin or a special kind of tree behind her. If an algorithm has to imagine anything, it relies solely on a semantic decomposition of a sentence. The algorithm having no imagination does not add anything that is not within its analysis.

Art is a process

If human beings were able to realize what he has in mind without going through sharpening the points of the pencils and without tracing everything, they would not be human beings. They would be a deity. It would not be art, it would be a divine creation. Art requires a process. Artists are able to deal with this process. We are perfectly capable of recognizing art created with artificial intelligence. The fact that there is a market is due to the fact that creations are human. There will never be a big market made up of works generated with artificial intelligence.

In the case of video games, obviously artificial intelligence can be used to create variants of elements already created by human beings, to optimize processes. I find this interesting. Anyway, it is foolish to think of entrusting the creation of a product solely to machines. It will never be an artistically valid product.

Art starts with aesthetics

Aesthetics is the science that studies the essence of things. Art therefore also includes science (and this thing does not happen the other way around). This study is an activity that requires a lot of mental energy and all the CPUs on earth would not be enough to realize what the brain of one toddler is capable of. Studying the essence of things means imagining, forming a point of view, and expressing it with theories. Turn these theories into a thesis. It is a very difficult process even for us. How many good artists do you know? Few. These few artists are people who have succeeded in this mission: to study the essence of things. Have an aesthetic sense.

Artificial intelligence applies an algorithm to a context. This algorithm operates in a pre-determined way on each challenge it faces. The algorithm evolves and improves, of course, but it doesn’t imagine. It does not create theories, it does not seek theses. It does not reflect the aesthetics of things. It does not seek its essence.

AI art is not art.

Second love letter to the juniors

Dear junior,

One of those moments of radical change has arrived in our sector. I think you too have seen a beautiful image or a surprisingly well-written text. You will certainly have noticed that artificial intelligence algorithms have learned to generate content that is indistinguishable from human content.

I think we are ahead of a revolution, like the one that happened years ago with the arrival of 3D technologies. The revolution will inevitably involve the world of game development.

Not only do these tools allow for quick content generation, but they also learn from all the people who are entering their prompts. It is likely that in a short time the AI will optimize also the creative part of writing prompts.

There have been abuses in my opinion. Developers trained these systems with content taken from the web, without the consent of the people who generated them. Think of everything you’ve written on the Internet, think of all the articles, think of all the images posted on the most famous sites. Someone took all these images, codes, and texts and fed the algorithm which is now able to accurately imitate even the style of concrete people. I don’t know if this thing will be punished sooner or later. However, “the omelet is done”, as we say in Italy, and now these tools are there.

What does this mean to you?

The goal is human replacement

First of all, this technology has the main goal of replacing humans in certain activities. Those tools are capable to be faster of any artistic process. However, nothing can replace a human being. Our learning capacity is far superior to any existing mainframe. We are already quite capable, almost instinctively, of recognizing most AI-generated art. Did you noticed that? In the case of video games, one of the things that drive people all over the world to play games is the chance to see something created by other people.

This admiration surprises us, we like to talk about it with friends and online. “Have you seen the new God of War? They did an incredible job!”. It’s not God of War itself that surprises us as a game, it’s the thought that there are people who have been able to do this that creates a market. Games entirely made by AI will never have a big market, don’t worry. There will probably appear some pantomime of a game. And maybe someone will get rich thanks to that. But it will never be a big market, that’s my bold prediction.

Less bullshit jobs available

The second point is that surely someone will think about hiring fewer inexperienced people. In fact, many junior professionals are hired to support seniors in smaller tasks. Think of an RPG, maybe there are secondary characters in a city that the Players will visit. These characters will have barks to say, and these barks are usually left to junior writers. It will probably be possible to automate this process using AI. So that, it will so no longer be necessary to have a junior person who writes these contents. It will be enough to have only one person who will edit things already written by a machine.

However, studios will always need senior staff. And senior people inevitably have to go through the junior stage. It is convenient for the studios to also hire juniors so that one day they will become seniors. There will be less work, that’s for sure. If a company thinks of just automating, it means that that company doesn’t appreciate the value of human imagination. It means you won’t get that job, but that job was probably a bullshit job. You saved yourself a problem, believe me. My advice? Learn the techniques of your profession while also taking into account these new technologies. Be confident in your creative personality, but show that you also dominate these technologies.

We are afraid of The Terminator

The last point is that we don’t really know what will happen with all this. We can assume that the professional world will never be the same again. But we don’t know, maybe next week we discover a big scandal involving these new technologies. Maybe we will have proofs that someone stole intellectual property content from the web. As a result, regulators will shut down all these technologies. The world sometimes changes in a matter of a few hours. And this happens to us too! Therefore, when something really surprises us, the first reaction is defense. We think we’re going in the wrong direction, and maybe we’re even dramatic at times. Our defense mechanisms are also unpredictable. My final advice, therefore, is to accept the beauty of our nature as it is. Let all innovation amaze us, don’t be afraid of anything. ‘Cause none of them can stop the time, as someone said.

AI to improve my workflow

Recently, I began a new collaboration that I hope will yield positive results. I apologize for not writing in a while due to the overwhelming amount of work I have been facing.

act like you are an interactive romance story

I am currently testing the ChatGPT tool and find it incredibly fascinating. I believe that this type of technology can help me become more productive and improve my abilities.

Using ChatGPT, you can write prompts and generate well-done, yet basic, content. To create truly human and original content, you will need to add your own input and edit the generated content.

Overall, I believe that using ChatGPT will save me hours of work and allow me to focus on other important tasks.

How to avoid a layoff

With the quake in the tech sector over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a trend. The blame always lies with the CEO on duty and never with us, the employees. Still, if we were a little better able to discern where to go, we’ll save ourselves a lot of headaches.

This article is for people with more experience. When you’re a beginner, in fact, it’s not only bad to have negative experiences. You need a job and even if you get fired, you probably won’t have mouths to feed and you will find other opportunities. For me there are so many opportunities out there.

When we have more experience we must instead pay attention to every detail. The first and most important one is the project in question. Not the salary, not the team. If you have experience, find a good project to work on. Here are my recommendations:

  • Is this a project in a new market, a kind of game that no one has ever made? A first-person platformer for mobile? A match-3 with shooter elements for PS5? If that market doesn’t exist yet, there is a reason. Don’t join them!
  • Is it a game that is more than a game is an experience in a parallel universe where people will be able to own what they win like owning a pair of shoes? Flee.
  • Is this a game that wants to enter a crowded market? This is a good start! Is the market red or blue ocean? Are there many or few competitors? What unique things are they willing to offer to their Players? what problems will be solved? If you notice that it’s a copy of a popular game with no real thought of what to offer, get ready for a round of layoffs. Followers always end up like that.

How to use Twine for Player Experience Narrative

Play Lilys Choices in your browser here.

Game writers use Twine to write stories. It’s a great tool and pretty easy to learn. I have learnt during my certification course at The Narrative Department. This week I am prototyping a new feature for Lily’s Garden, so that I decided to use this new tool to test its effectiveness also in terms of feature prototyping.

You can play the Twine prototype here: we have the feature, Lilys Choices.

Final thoughts

  • Twine is a great tool to create a proper Player experience narrative for a new feature.
  • The idea of having an extra resource to start extra Dramas is not new, but it is very important that the dramas end up with a surprise for the Players. Also in terms of concrete rewards!
  • It is important for this kind of games not giving to the Players choices that exclude specific branches. First of all, produce all this content has a cost. Second, some Player may feel frustrated and may want to try the other way around. This thing is not possible in those games.
  • The narrative should be focused on a true fan of the game. At this stage other profiles in the team will probably find risks and flaws to the designs, so be prepared! It is very important to push things forward boldly.