Game design and player agency

Player agency, the ability to execute will, is key to game experiences. When a game forces something upon you, particularly something you can reasonably expect to be easily rid of, then it lessens the experience.

Some examples:
If you are forced to keep a bag of bait that you never want to use then it constantly gets in the way via your user-interface (UI). So a good game would allow the player to drop all pieces of the inventory. Removing gear ought not be done via standard play mode, eg. first-person shooting view. It is better done through an inventory screen so it’s not accidentally done in combat.

Control is agency

Automatic use of cover. I understand that this is a console gaming issue mostly but considering how console-ports retain this feature on PC it seems pertinent. Just put in the lean keys and let the player use cover.

Backpacks that you cannot drop. This is an old one. Sure you might lose your entire inventory yet it’s what soldiers do if they’re ambushed. Backpack can get you killed if it slows you down.

Unavailable items that show up all over fallen foes yet are not lootable. You’d just take it off the fallen and fix it, or cobble it together from the other fallen that have the same gear.

Over riding animations, uninterruptable effects, can sometimes be in games specifically to prevent player agency. A stun effect doesn’t need to lock out control when it could make your vision monochromatic and randomly skew your control sensitivity for a time.

There are methods to put in effects without removing player agency. Designers take heed.

Game design and player agency

Recording Songs

One of the things that can lead to self-attack for me is unfinished ideas. Everyone has at least one. For me it’s recording songs that come into my head. Making them “listenable” tracks for sharing. So the plan is to create a YouTube monetized channel once my first track is finished to share these ideas. What will I call it? Who knows? Maybe “Liquid Electric” which I’ve liked for ages.

Liquid Electric 1



For metal projects I’ve got these ones:

War Beast and DeSoulUtion





And of course as an over arching, progressive, kind of brand:

Archmage Demiurge









It’s all just ideas and that is what blogging is about.

Recording Songs

Worldsayer Update


Enjoyable moment whilst writing Worldsayer. Sometimes I get snippets, or flashes, of future moments in the story. In this case Larry Kray was ushered in to use some powered armor to take care of a problem for his boss. The actual draft caught up to that scene and wrote write into it. A great feeling to seamlessly join to something you wrote four weeks ago.

Kray, still wide-eyed, stepped into the powered armor. He had not realized how much he missed the rush of piloting a suit like this.

Big Horace smiled, a wry knowing grin. “I can see you missed having your own suit. Take it to town and sort out the mess. Make sure you kill that Slinger, Drachsam, and bring the boy to me.”

Kray nodded. “It’ll be child’s play in this.”

“I hope so. The last thing you want is to disappoint me again,” Big Horace threatened.

Kray licked his lips and closed the access panel. Inside, instruments and displays lit up – white, red, blue, yellow, gauges, reticles and sensor sweeps – while the life support systems cycled up with a soft whir.

Oh yes, it would be glorious, Kray thought.

Progress: 27,000 words.


Worldsayer Update

Edge Chronicles

I’d stumbled across the creators’ blog, and immediately fell in love with the artwork. It evoked the illustrations from Warlock of Firetop Mountain, first of the Fighting Fantasy series, by the master Russ Nicholson. Whilst at the library I caught sight of the books and thought, “It may be a bit young for me but I will read it anyway.”

I’ve not regretted that decision. In fact I love the lack of angst in the younger fiction and the stronger moral imperatives of the protagonists. Adult fiction seems to get hung up on the shades of grey and suffering in lieu of unfulfilled base-desires. It is so refreshing to have characters you are following in the narrative who are actually nice – not just nice while it suits them.

Should I afford it I would love to commission Riddell for the artwork to Grimsparrow and Mungbean. He could absolutely nail the style I desire.

Edge Chronicles

Uni Ball Insight 0.7mm Orange

A great rollerball with very nice smooth writing flow. Ink is legible on white, no mean feat for an orange inked pen, and it leaves a lovely line width. It contrasts well against a good black ink like the Smoothie 1.0mm from Bic. It is light without losing control and has an accurate feel. Like many pens it is better balanced with the cap posted and I found it much more preferable to write like this, yet without the posted cap it was still usable just a little more twitchy. I prefer heavier pens, though, so caveat emptor on that description.

The paper in the sample is a cheap diary from Aldi, cost $2, yet no bleed through. You can make out some lateral feathering from the paper grain in the high-res photo (click on it below) however I did not notice it before viewing the digital image.
Cons: cap leaves a gap between pen body and edge. No contours on the grip part of the barrel.
9/10 – overall a good budget pen.
$2.67 from Officeworks.

Uniball Insight Orange 0.7mm rollerball
Uniball Insight Orange 0.7mm rollerball
Uni Ball Insight 0.7mm Orange

RPGs Require Art

Inspiring art is a benchmark for a quality product in the RPG industry. Without a captivating cover the book relies on marketing and reputation to reach players. For the private publisher this requires budget. Cover-quality art is about $1000 per piece from pro-artists. It will be a gamble if the cover-art alone can net you sales to recoup those costs.

What does this say about the people we sell RPG product to?

They are visually driven. The branding of RPGs is around the imagination of the artist who illustrate the product. It also says, to me, that we gamers are far less imaginative than we believe.

Peace and giggles.

RPGs Require Art