the art, design, and assorted garbage of


Super Battle Tactics: A Critical Analysis

When it comes to being successful in the free-to-play games market, a title has to have more than just addictive gameplay: it needs to feature elements that encourage the player to spend money and to return to the game on a daily basis. A few games have done well in achieving this, though most fail in some regard. To understand the difference between a hit game and one that misses the mark, it can be instructive to look at a game such as Super Battle Tactics, an interesting game with some evident flaws which currently hinder its potential.


Super Battle Tactics is a casual, turn-based strategy game for mobile devices developed by DeNA Vancouver. The premise of the game is that the player is competing on “Tank TV”, a game show where a winner-takes-all battle ensues between two teams of tanks. Much like real-world game shows, everything is designed to be over-the-top, from the music to the vehicles to the hosts themselves. The core gameplay is fairly simple in that it consists of building, upgrading and battling your team of tanks against an online opponent’s. It is within each of these gameplay modes that one can see DeNA Vancouver’s attempt at addictive gameplay mechanics, opportunity for monetization and hook to bring the player back to the game. (more…)

The Neurological Effects of Game Mechanics

I wrote this short thesis as part of my application to the Masters of Digital Media program at the Centre for Digital Media. I’ve decided to share it with everyone with the addition of images.

In order to create a successful video game, game developers are constantly chasing after the elusive elements that will hook the player in. The primary strategy developers rely on is gathering user feedback through data analytics and playtest sessions during the later stages of production. While this information is incredibly useful, it often comes too late in the process for any meaningful change. To improve the chances of success, game developers need to be able to understand neurologically how individual game mechanics affect player behavior before they even start prototyping. This understanding starts by looking at three categories of stimuli common in games: Physical, Mental, and Emotional.

Saccades_FPS Physical Stimulus


Five Steps to a Polished Game

Everyone knows that in order for a game to be finished, it is going to require a good amount of polish. However, few people seem to be able to define what this means exactly? If you ask a professional developer, they will likely say you need to juice it or that polish is fixing all the small details. You can’t disagree with those statements, but they are pretty meaningless as they can’t really be acted upon. In order to polish the last 10%, you need to complete the first 90%. So how does a developer, especially one that has never created a “AAA” product, know when they have hit that threshold? Can this threshold be quantified?

The answer is yes, so let’s walk through what I call the five steps to polish. I have created a very simple game to help illustrate these steps. There are three core elements to this game 1) a scoreboard to display the points, 2) every two seconds or so, an object will spawn randomly somewhere on screen, and 3) every time an object is clicked, the player is awarded 100 points. At no point will we change these elements in a way that alters their functionality, such as randomizing the point value or having the objects move around the screen. We will purely focus on polishing the experience as it is.