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Paolo's Blog Posts

Napoli, my place!

I am writing this post from my hometown Naples, in Italy. This is the city where the Pizza was born when the queen of Italy, Margherita di Savoia, was going to the south of the country to visit the people here. That is why the first, and maybe most famous, pizza in the World has the color of the Italian flag and is named Margherita.

Dude look: the perfection!

This city has two active volcanoes, Vesuvius and Campi Flegrei. As you can imagine it is not the safest place in the World. Still it is my mother, here I grew until 28 and here is where I had my basic education. 

With the Pandemic, my job literally exploded. I now work for a company but I offer my services to a client here in Naples. They offer me their office space also when I am here. The client is AppIdeas, they are a strong team doing hypercasual games for publishers. 

This year we had also a success, the hit Level Up Runner reached more than 1 million people. You may want to check it out!

Revenue on SensorTower doesn’t take ads in account for estimations

I really hope this is the start of a new sector here in Italy. Right now there is not so much, especially in the South. Someone has to start helping, I think. I will definitely try it!

Have you created your framework yet?

I have been observing the profiles of the most renowned game designers for some time. They all have one thing in common: they have developed frameworks and shared them with the world.

What are the tools and methodologies you use the most to tackle problems? Group everything, create a mind map, and share your thoughts every now and then. Your framework is interesting to the world, believe me!

Don’t waste any more time, start building your frameworks. It helps to think about everything in the form of a system. Excellent tool for optimizing times!

People enjoy challenging fate

This truth is the basis of many of the first games that humans have played. I believe many have seen artifacts of ancient dice at some exhibit in the city.

Many people today condemn games that include gambling in their experience. “It’s just gambling, it’s not a game!”

And who are you to decide what a game is? To me it’s very simple: if there is a form of fun we can consider it a game. If people can learn something new without dying in the test, we can consider this test a game.

Gambling games, play-to-earn games, they are all games. They all offer their own form of entertainment.

Can a game ruin people? No. People ruin themselves. Accept it. People are a lot smarter than you think. Those who fall into addictions do so for a series of personal problems. It is impossible for a game, or any product, to be able to manipulate any human being.

The levels beat chart is your best friend

Before you put your hand on the engine of choice and design your level, or even think in the level itself, it is good to have a beat chart prepared. In this way you can have a big picture of the result of the level design iteration.

The most common way of doing that is by using the most important tool for game designers: spreadsheets.

Prepare a sheet with the following information

  • Level: the number of the level in the sequence
  • Skill Atom: what should the Player learn/practice/improve in this level?
  • Minutes: how much time should the level last from start to finish in a perfect scenario?
  • Difficulty: what is the fail rate percentage of this level for an average player?
  • Skills: Core, Secondary, Obstacles and so on. Color those cells to represent the presence of old and new skill atoms in the level
  • Author: Who is in charge of designing this level?
  • Comments: after each iteration the other level designers can leave comments here

How to self-educate in designing games

Improve your design abilities adapting this writing method by Benjamin Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin was born poor and he stopped being educated when he was 10 years old. He developed a method of self-education and became great at writing informative texts. Here there is his method:

“I took some of the papers, and, making short hints of the sentiment in each sentence, laid them by a few days, and then, without looking at the book, tried to complete the papers again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length, and as fully as it had been expressed before, in any suitable words that should come to hand. Then I compared my Spectator with the original, discovered some of my faults, and corrected them.”

Can this be adapted to game design?

Try this:

  1. Find good videogames and make hints of every interesting part you see. Start from the brickfile.
  2. Wait for a few days and then come back to the hints. Who is the target of this game?
  3. Try to reconstruct the features and mechanics that you can reconstruct. Focus on the simple things, don’t overcomplicate it.
  4. Wait again for a few days and then come back. Does that make sense? Is the audience the same again or you are looking for other kind of Players?
  5. Repeat 3 and 4 until you are happy with your result
  6. Prototype just the things you improved!

The best template to start with game writing

The best way to learn how to write for video games is to do it. Write, print your work, read it aloud. Reading aloud is critical to develop your text comprehension skills. Do not be shy nor lazy. Read your works aloud!

If you don’t know how to start because you have no time to code or to make a game, don’t worry. Think in the game you love, imagine a situation between two of its characters. The situation can have branches inside, but maximum 2 endings: the good and the bad.

Now it’s time to write your script. Sarah Longthorne released a while ago this fantastic template for branching narrative in visual novels. You may want to start from here. This is one of the best resources I have ever found for free.

If you are thinking in an RPG, of course that will be different from a visual novel. In this case the triggers that bring the story to the players are different.

You should think in those triggers and create your own template!

We need better words

Yesterday I was reading an interview to a games industry leader in Barcelona. He was speaking about the play-to-earn games and predicting how companies will behave in 2022. He said “it will be a blood bath”.

The other day I was listening to the video channel of a famous industry expert. He was talking about leadership and defended openly the need of “being cruel” in manage people and projects. Not hold the hand, for instance, when someone doesn’t work. Just fire them.

If we really want to have a better industry, we should double check the word we spread to the World. Our words are an important medium of influence of other people. We are all responsible for that.

When we say words, people listening us interpret our speech with their own perception. Perception almost never is equal reality. Perception imposes over our own realities. We are responsible, then, for everything we say and for how we say it.

When you say blood bath, I propose high competition. High competition is safe, is normal in our system and blood baths sadly happen every day in our World. When you say “lead with cruelty” I propose you to lead with patience. The same patience that built the great companies that today publish the greatest game we play.

Do you keep a gameplay journal?

Do you keep a handwritten journal for your gameplays? I think it is a fundamental part of my routine as a game designer.

We use everyday a lot of different tools, each one with its subscription models and stuff. But nothing can substitute a journal. On a journal you are alone with your inner self. In a journal you can identify clearly your personality. If you don’t keep a journal is super hard to not become a follower of trends and methods you don’t fully understand.

Do it now! Start a Gameplay Journal.

For every game you play and every time you play it, write a new entry down. What should you write? Well, it’s your journal. I can say you what I write down. This work in my own case.

First of all, I describe in detail everything that I remember. I describe without giving any opinion. “I like this, I don’t like that” is not really important. The important thing is what did I felt in any occasion.

When I am speaking about a new mechanic that I can identify, I sketch also a flow of its rules and how that works. I do it quickly, I don’t have to double check it and pass it to a developer. So that it’s just a way to train my quickness, somehow. I felt that I complete tasks at my day job way faster since I do that.

Finally, I try to reason on design choices and its audience. I also try to stress my assumptions imagining possible risks for the design approaches I find.

When you write down with your bare hands the brain makes connections that are not possible to make with a computer monitor writing with a keyboard. Keep use pen and paper, you will never regret it!

Data means nothing

Data means nothing without the ability to get meaningful information from it.

I still see a lot of discussions around pure data everyday, most of them completely pointless.

“I am sure this works, data says it clearly!”. False, data is raw. Data says nothing. Data has to be put in context.

“You think our players would like this? Let’s prove it with data!”. You will never prove anything with data, you should write down concrete hypotheses and then take the raw data and transform it first in information and, only after, in insight.

“Yes, I also like this. But I want to see the data first!”. If you want to make real games you should consider just being bold sometimes. If you really like something, put it on! Players will appreciate that. If results are bad, I swear, it will probably depend on other things.

If you use the data-driven approach, you risk to really miss your point because when anything becomes the subject of our analysis the result of this analysis will be influenced by this fact. You should use data to get information to inform your design decisions, not to drive them.

Decentralized finance is not here to destroy the gaming industry

Play-to-earn, the metaverse, NFTs, cryptocurrencies are not here to destroy the gaming industry. I agree that there is a lot of unjustified hype around those new technologies. Early adoption is always like this. 

The main discourse is too centered on two points: technology and money. And this is NOT where there is the real value of all this. Investors are joining in with crazy numbers. Millions invested in companies without a single game published. It’s weird, but believe me: it’s not the end of the gaming industry.

Historically, video games (together with military techs and porn) have always been pioneers for new techs. It is normal, since they offer a pretty safe testing field to try out things. So that it is completely normal to have continuous hypes and fashions.

But I learnt working in free-to-play for years that players generally put their attention and money in something they really enjoy. So don’t worry. The gaming industry is not about to end soon. 

If you are thinking that all those novelties are a disaster for our beloved industry, I kindly suggest you to go deep studying the new trends! Those judgements and fears always come from ignorance.