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Respawn‘s clever art design is both aesthetically pleasing and practically useful

Iwant to preface this article by saying that I feel the art and design of multiplayer spaces is something that’s actually very underappreciated. Folks regularly write lengthy essays about the design of single player titles; even a middling single player platformer will recieve multiple long-form analysis, but unless it poses a major problem to players, the design of multiplayer spaces tends to be taken for granted.

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Welcome to Olympus. Source: Respawn Entertainment.

I think this is a shame, as designing the aesthetics of these multiplayer spaces comes with a unique set of challenges for the developers to tackle. This makes good aesthetic design in this space particularly remarkable. Most notably balancing aesthetic and function can be quite difficult. …


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Does the franchise’s fourth entry resurrect and restore the legacy of the iconic mascot?

Crash Bandicoot was the most prominent video game character of my childhood. As a kid growing up in the ‘90s, I don’t think this was at all uncommon. Every weekend my sister and I would go down to the video store and rent one of the Crash games, and we’d do this every week until it simply became more economical for our mother to buy them outright.

When I was home alone, I’d most commonly be playing either Crash or Spyro, and when we had friends over, it’d be Crash Team Racing or Crash Bash. …


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There’s a “disability tax” associated with the PS5 Disc Edition

When people talk about accessibility they usually refer to things like custom button remapping, subtitles, or screen reader support. Features inside of the game that enable players with disabilities to experience the game in a way that’s more comfortable.

But many games still lack common accessibility options. For instance, last year we saw the Spyro the Dragon Reignited Trilogy ship without subtitles in its cutscenes, and you’re unable to re-map your controls in popular titles like Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Other titles like The Last of Us 2 have a whole host of accessibility features, but you often don’t know what you’re going to get until you have the game in front of you. While some developers put out accessibility blog posts, detailing all of the different accessibility features featured in the game, this information is usually much harder to find. …


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Build your own controller

I am something of a controller design enthusiast. As a user researcher in the games industry, and I’ve always had an interest in user centered design, and how that’s applied both in software, and hardware.

With my PS4, this interest quickly lead me into the world of custom and PRO PS4 controllers. I always felt that the standard Dual Shock 4 was missing something, wanting to press more buttons than I could reach at any one time, or wanting to be more accurate than I felt the standard Dual Shock analog sticks would allow. I always found myself seeking a better alternative. …


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I had the pleasure of seeing Lost Words: Beyond the Page during its development more than two years ago. At that point the game had a different art style, but the vertical slice that I was able to play immediately captivated me with its unique gameplay style and interesting story concept.

Lost Words: Beyond the Page seeks to tell the story about a young girl struggling with the loss of a relative. This heartfelt narrative is delivered through an interactive diary come storybook, with the player guiding the young girl through its pages.

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Lost Words: Beyond the Page sees players navigating the pages of an interactive book.

Recently, I had an opportunity to speak to founder of Sketchbook games, Mark Backler. I asked some questions about both the game’s approach to storytelling, and more pragmatic decisions made in releasing the game (such as Stadia exclusivity). …


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How Granblue Fantasy Versus’ elegantly simple controls dovetail with surprisingly deep strategic gameplay

Granblue Fantasy Versus, the latest fighting game from Arc System Works, differentiates itself from the competition in a number of ways. At its core, the beautiful art direction steals the show, with Granblue appearing as if a Japanese anime had come to life at the will of your finger tips as you move its carefully-stylised 3D models around the screen.

But as stylistic as Granblue is, I want to put the spotlight on a different and perhaps more unique element of the game. Specifically, I’m writing about its controls.

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If you’re unaware, Granblue Fantasy Versus has an unconventional control scheme, at least for a 2D fighting game. Specifically, the game features three core design changes which I think help make Granblue a drastically more accessible entry point into 2D fighters than its peers. …


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Insights from the industry

For players with disabilities, video game accessibility is incredibly important for a several of reasons. Not least because video games are an significant element of popular culture and being able to play these games enables players with disabilities to be included in the activity, as well as any surrounding discourse.

With this in mind, developers are increasingly seeking means in which to make their games more and more accessible, to make sure that everyone can play. …


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Apex Legends highlights the difficulty of establishing a competitive battle royale

We’re now several weeks into season 2 of Apex Legends’ new battle pass, and I’ve also had a few weeks to sink into the game’s new ranked mode. Some form of competitive (or ranked) option was something the community had been asking for since launch. At the moment, this same community seems divided on the new mode.

Before levelling any criticism at the ranked gameplay it’s important to highlight what people enjoy about their battle royale experiences. I think for many, the compelling component of battle royale — and what sets it apart from other genres — are the stories that each match tends to tell. These stories — about how you made last ditch effort to get out of the storm on a motorbike and ended up shotgunning someone down as you flew past, or how a single player narrowly escaped a scenario where they were by all accounts, outnumbered and outgunned — are what I would argue make battle royale games so compelling. It’s like pulling a lever on a slot machine; every time you drop into the map on a game like Apex Legends, the experience is different. Each game features a large group of players, all with different strategies and goals, as well as the randomised loot distribution, which leads to different gameplay scenarios every time you drop. …


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How Factions is the Last of Us’ best kept secret

It’s not altogether uncommon that I tell people The Last of Us is one of my favourite games. It was a game I sank countless hours into on the PlayStation 3, and a game I was happy to dip into a second time with the PlayStation 4 remaster.

Sitting as one of the highest rated PS3 titles on Metacritic, The Last of Us received resounding critical acclaim, with the singleplayer often cited as featuring some of the best story telling offered within our medium — especially among the bigger budget titles. …


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From a player with more than 100 wins

With the recent launch of Apex Legends, it seems like just about everyone is looking to become the champion of Kings Canyon. But battle royale games are complex, and the competition can be fierce. With this article, I’ve compiled a list of strategies that should help you both win more often, and techniques that can help you become a better player.

Diving in

In general, the aims of the drop are two-fold. You want to drop into an area where you can gear up quickly, while also not putting yourself at too much risk. Immediately dropping down to a nearby location is often a poor choice, as it leads to an encounter that you can’t predict. …

About

Jozef Kulik

Games User Research consultant and IGGI PhD Researcher in the area of Game Accessibility. https://twitter.com/ChronoJoe

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