Matt's Podcast #3: The Five Games Every Designer Should Make Love to Every Night

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Matt Barton's picture

Does Compute!Does Compute!I'm back this week to talk about the Five Games Every Designer Should Know. Read the blog post if you missed it. There's also quite a bit of listener feedback that covers such topics as why Icewind Dale and Neverwinter Nights aren't as good as Baldur's Gate, and why Portal isn't as unique as some people like to think. Enjoy, and feel free to comment below. Who knows, perhaps your comment will form the basis of my next episode!

Grab the episode here: Matt Podcast #3.mp3.
Post a review on iTunes.

Be sure to listen to Chris's episode first.


Erez Ba (not verified)
My 5

Ok, enough ranting - and now for my top 5 that designers should look at. They are not by far the 'best' games, but just ones that I believe
either are unique within a genre (or transcend all genre altogether) - they also all have something in common, see if you can find it out :), w/o further ado:

1) Realm of the Haunting - I don't think I have ever played a game such as RotH. Part shooter, part adventure game, part survival horror, part FMV -
The story was an amalgamation of Stephen King's Dark Tower, Occult Conspiracies and a Supernatural Armageddon, it was so crazy it was unthinkable to hold up, but somehow it all made sense (in an LSD induced hallucination kind of way). If anyone is thinking about making a plotted game, please take notice - it had the perfect pacing between shooting, puzzle solving and mystery. Though the game was not without its problems, it managed to overcome - never at the same place twice, never facing the same type of challenges. It was one where the start, mid-game, and finish were all carefully woven to create this imperfect masterpiece. The ultimate game about the battle between heaven & hell. Oh, and yes...the ending sucked - get over it.
A wonderful review of this game can be found here -

2) Another World - there is still nothing like it, while other games of its time (the excellent ground breaking Prince of Persia and the later made Flashback) explored the the concept of the
cinematic platformer, none were able to create the same type of experience of exploration in an alien world (though Flashback to an extent was centered around it) as they focused too heavily on repeated combat sequences, and platforming challenges. Another world, on the other hand, focused on alternating challenges, each unique in scope and presence. From running away from the panther like
fiend, breaking free with your alien 'buddy', flooding the underground caves with water, disabling the security system, and many others. Few who played can forget that no dialogue were ever

3) Manhunter - an adventure game like no other. Usually, when we think of graphical adventure games - they are either populated worlds with lots of interesting dialogue and item based puzzles (the Lucasarts/Sierra model), or alternatively barren worlds with semi-abstract puzzles and a background plot rather than a story.
Manhunter (NY and SF) is neither. In a society where aliens have taken over earth and speech is forbidden (as it breeds resistance), all dialogues are communicated via facial expressions, body language and secret signs. You are a manhunter - a reluctant and unwilling human agent of the alien masters whose job is to capture the the terrorist members of the anti-alien resistance movement.
Puzzles revolve around tracking down (via a PDA like device) their movements post their 'terrorist' activities. Some fiendishly clever puzzles, a dystopian 'police' work
(since no dialogues other than your mission giver, you have to figure out who/what you are tracking, and where they are going both through the PDA tracker and on site),
eerily familiar locations and a story that is open to multiple interpretations (due to no dialogue) makes this a game a clever design of telling a story without telling.
A bit disappointing though that MH3 never came out and so we will never find out Psychotic Phil's last name…

4) Starcon2 - I probably won't say much about this one as it has a pretty substantial cult following, and I am pretty sure everyone here knows about it.
It is one of the few truly genre transcending games as it has come a long way from its melee origins. The combination between an adventure game, resource gathering (grinding ? :))
and space combat been mastered in this one game. Oh, and if anyone ever finds out why the bridge turned purple, put it on EBay, you'll make a fortune.

5) Stonekeep - seem like I don't have a dungeon crawler in here, so I might as well put one up. While there are many tile-based crawlers that are technically better than Stonekeep
(more playable, less buggy, more historically significant, etc.), and though it never achieved the popularity that it deserved, there are none that are as thematic and all encompassing.
Stonekeep is a holistic experience…from the orb you drop to the ground to produce the hovering automap, to enemies that drink healing potions in the middle of the battle,
singing faeries, a shamanistic goblin with questionable motives, a dragon taking the space of almost the entire floor (how the hell did he get there?), and your enemy - the SUN. One of the first crawlers who did away with interface to give you that real full-screen experience, Sure, it didn't have Patrick Stewart, but it had a lot of heart nonetheless.

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