Thumb Stadium: Eight Games Using Just Three LEDs

I’ve recently spotted on GameSetWatch a note about ThumbStadium, a ultra-minimalist gaming console. With an interface composed only of three leds (green, green/red and red) and two buttons, we’re far from the “now-gen”, and yet this proves once again that you don’t really need so many bells and whistles to create a fun experience.

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Space-constrained DEFENDER

Defender

DEFENDER of the Favicon is a port of the original DEFENDER by Eugene Jarvis. This version, through webdev voodoo, was made to sit in the space reserved for Favicons in browsers: a mere 16×16 pixels!

Agreed, this version is much simpler than the original DEFENDER, which could mean that Mr Jarvis had already used his available space in a very optimized fashion. Nevertheless, this minimal version manages to capture the general feel of the game un just a fraction of the original space, which is quite commendable.

I strongly suggest you play this version and then play the original somewhere, in order to compare them.

Measuring “choice” in games

While reading a very interesting post over at Chris Bateman’s blog about player choice in games, I obviously tried to find a constraint in how much power over the game you give your player, ranging from total (sandbox games) to none (his Guitar Hero example is quite fitting).

But then, reading it again, I wasn’t so sure it could be called a constraint. Player agency is a variable you can adjust while designing, but it has no real, tangible value you can set as reference. You can say “This game gives me more choice than this one”, but it’s hard giving both games a value you can compare mathematically.

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Constraint: Controls

I consider control to be the last of the constraint categories based off the physical characteristics of play. Also, it is one of the few “universal” constraints I might talk about, as it is applied to any kind of games. I would even go as far as stating that most games are determined by some form of constrained controls. Continue reading

Constraint: Time of production

Time has long been thought as a negative constraint to game development. Huge, multi-million dollar productions sometimes last for 3+ years and still manage to feel incomplete at the end, sometimes even requiring a patch to run properly. The general assumption is that more time and more money will forcibly yield a better game. However, this is periodically proved false.

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Potential Games

What is a game? What is a game made of?

Is it built from the bottom-up? Top-down? Can it be without characters, levels, points? Does it need a story? Can it be boring, or make us cry? Does it need to have X or W, Y or Z?

There have been many different approaches to answering this question. Academics, professionals, journalists, and others have their own approach, mostly based upon previous work on media theory or using their field of expertise as a measuring stick.
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