Keith Burgun's blog

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My book on game design!

Hi everyone! I really need to post here more often. But, between AURO and several other smaller projects, I've been super busy!

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Hey all! Sorry I haven't posted much these days, it's because I've been working so hard on my new turn-based strategy game, AURO. I've got you guys on my google reader though, so I have been keeping up with my lurking.

I just wanted to let you guys know about the progress of AURO, and in case some of you don't know, what AURO is.

AURO is a turn-based, tactical, hex-based game with nice pixel art animation. Its design is driven by a strong philosophy: basically, that games are all about making decisions. If the decisions presented to you are interesting, that's a good thing.

I think that most video games are really, really bad at delivering these decision-situtaions. 99% of the time you're playing a modern video game you are doing one of the following things:

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Why do we keep buying video game sequels?

A friend asked this question on Facebook and I thought I'd share my answer here:

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I just looked down and thought about my mousepad for a moment. It's got a cow-print design and it says "GATEWAY 2000". I realized, wow, this must be from before the year 2000, then, and looked it up. Sure enough, Gateway Computers dropped the 2000 in 1998, which means that I bought this, my most recent mouse pad, in or before 1998.

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How "Turn-Based" Became a Bad Word

Most of us who are heavily involved in games and game design realize the massive benefits to simple, classic turn-based mechanics. I'm not going to say that turn-based is "better" than real-time any more than a screwdriver is better than a hammer; they're just tools which we can use to get the job done. These days, however, many game designers are indeed using a hammer to nail in a screw, and building some pretty shoddy birdhouses. So many games coming out today would greatly benefit from a turn-based gameplay mechanic - often you can see that the designers knew this, but that something held them back from using one. Today I'm writing about what this something is - a deep-seated cultural mistake that we make about games in general.

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GOG's Death (Not?) and the Shame of Abandonware's logo. RIPToday, Good Old Games ( shut down. It was one of the very few ways available to customers who want to purchase a game that's more than five years old.  This is sad news, but not nearly as sad as the cannibalistic reality that we've been living with for a very long time.

"Abandonware" is a term that should fill the heart of anyone who cares about computer gaming with shame.  Imagine if you couldn't buy or borrow a book written more than five years ago - or if older films like Casa Blanca or Citizen Kane were simply impossible to get your hands on.  The grim situation - if you're not already familiar is this.  After a game is about 5 to 10 years old, two things happen.  Firstly, it is "succeeded" by a sequel.  Instead of adding bug fixes, new content and other improvements to the original game, those are usually released in a new box and sold as a separate piece of software.  Then, the old software is simply forgotten, and it is assumed that no one cares about them and they are not sold.  The other problem that leads to the existence of Abandonware is the insane, frothing-at-the mouth technology arms race that we've found ourselves embroiled in since day one.  Technology has, of course, always been linked to computer games;  but for the past twenty years, the situation has been ridiculous.  If your software is more than six or seven years old, chances are most people won't even have a suitable platform to play your game on.

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My Philosophy and the Tale of 100 Rogues

In December of 2008, a friend of mine was asked by his boss to create an iPhone game for their company.  He and I were already engaged in some independent game development, so he said "I know just the guy to help us!"  That guy's name is... me! 

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Pictured: My Face (got stuck like that long ago)

I'm a writer, artist, musician, and even a little bit programmer, but I usually introduce myself to people as a game designer.  Most indie developers (or pros, for that matter) don't refer to themselves in this way - if a person designed and programmed a game they'll usually say they're the programmer or software engineer.  Game design is too often an afterthought - something that someone just does - despite the fact that it is the most important element (and the only necessary element) to creating games.  After all, you can create a game with nothing but words (like the game "Ghost") or nothing but rocks (like the game "Let's Throw Rocks At Each Other").  Game design is so ubiquitous to the human experience that we do it all the time without necessarily even realizing it.  As children, we practiced the art of game design when we would tell our friends "Ok!  You can't touch the rugs!"  And then if that was too hard, we'd practice our game balancing skills by "patching" our game - perhaps by saying something like "alright, well, you can touch the rug as long as you have your hands on the table."  Children understand the craft of game design without anyone explaining it to them, and yet so many in video game development in particular seem to lose sight of this as adults.  I have many theories for why this happens;  it's often the technological arms-race that we get sucked into, or a feeling like our games have to be more than just games to be worth anyone's time, or perhaps we just get lost in the theming of a game.  With my first commercial game, I was determined to not let any of those things happen.

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