Thursday, December 27, 2012


This looks like a good moment to mention Ecofish, a small indie game created by just 4 guys 10 months ago: Eduardo 'Barkley' Jimenez (coder and project lead), Toni Ros & Manuel Usero (graphic artists) and me. We released it originally on iOS (Apple store), XLIG and recently on PSM, the store for Sony mobile devices and PSP Vita.

My part on that project was game designer (along with Barkley, the coder), level designer and kind of scrum master / tester / producer. It was a pleasure tele-working with them, and was also very helpful to ease the pain of working at my employer back at that moment. A pity I couldn´t invest more time, since I could barely spend a couple of hours on working days, so I had to book most of my weekends almost exclusively for this project.

Anyway, I feel proud of my participation on that project, I think it´s among the best pieces of work I´ve done in my career and (particularly the level designs) I can say I was practically the sole owner of them (so if you don´t like them you can certainly blame me for it :D). I recommend anyone interested on indie games to give it a try. More info here.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


I just found an interesting article of how the whole Hot Coffee crisis happened after the GTA San Andreas release. You can read it here.

Truth is, this may have been a turning point for Rockstar. That company was famous for challenging the boundaries, but after the Hot Coffee mod discovered hidden sex mini-games seems like the company learned the monetary value of taking some risks, and since then they haven´t exactly tried to innovate in terms of content. GTA 4 was more of the same in my opinion and I suspect GTA 5 will follow the trend. We´ll see.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Thanks to a friend, I took a look at a very interesting Gamasutra article, which I share now with you all (Click here). It´s about how to run a videogame studio without a central office but spread around the world based on teleworkers. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Actually it´s no surprise since everyone in the videogame business knew about it, but seems like it´s has been made public in the last weeks: The objectivity of certain websites is under question, since they regularly receive gifts, travels and other presents from publisher PR departments.

Anyway, make your own opinion. Here is one of the articles explaining the current situation.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Here is an interesting article about a designer´s tool for balancing game economies. Ernest Adams has written some good books and this tool (you can find it here) can be useful for data-heavy games...

... but honestly I think it´s not intuitive, requires some work to master and eventually it sounds easier to build a simple system in code rather than building these diagrams. Anyway, some people may find it useful. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 9, 2012


God bless the Steam summer sales. You get great games for almost nothing. I bought 7 for around 30 euros altogether.

And as usual, any game I buy I try to finish it. First one has been Mirror´s Edge. I played the Xbox demo 4 years ago and although I liked the visual style it was too difficult so I passed. But in PC is easier, so I gave it a try.

Mixed feelings. On the plus side it´s visually unique, the controls become second nature relatively soon, you do have the feeling of being a parkour artist and often suffer vertigo when jumping from roof to roof. I always value when you try to make something different, and for the most part Mirror´s Edge achieve it.

On the minus side the story is weak and predictible, the supposedly oppressive city and subjugated citizens look extremely bright and optimistic and you miss some variation on gameplay, since it´s always jumping and more jumping. Some additional game modes would have been appreaciated as well.

I recommend the title (not so much the iOS version) as long as you like puzzles and platforming. Too bad EA announced that it was not planned to continue the IP, I suspect a sequel would be much better.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


In a previous post I mentioned I had finished Duke Nukem Forever. Not a great game, but I dig the series humor.

Taking advantage of the Steam summer sales, I bought the expansion "The doctor who cloned me" and I recently finished it. Again mixed feelings: There are some fresh and enjoyable ideas regarding the Duke Nukem clone army that you fight, and some brilliant level design (like the portal-like scenarios where you need to pass the Duke Nukem tests) but again it´s often visually poor, and after you finish the doctor the plot totally changes in favor to another alien invasion which offers little to the game. I´m prone to suspect it was a group of levels who didn´t make it into the game, and later they were added to this DLC.

So once more, if you like the Duke Nukem persona or shooters in general I may recommend it, otherwise it´s not the game for you.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


Gensundheit is an iOS puzzle game. You control a tiny creature with the ability of throwing snot away. The objective of each level is to lure monsters into traps, and optionally collect some objects (stars) present on the scenario. Monsters are attracted to mucus, so you need to control their movements so they fall into traps. If they see you instead they´ll eat you alive.

Released by Konami, I downloaded it months ago due to some good reviews. The game is compelling and has a certain unique mix of moods: Comedy and kid´s nightmare. The basic ability works fine and there are a couple of interesting iterations along the game. Obtaining the 3 stars is really difficult in some levels, and the overall challenge is acceptable. Not many levels, though, but enough.

I seem to be attracted by mechanics based on controlling AI actors. I´ve not only created some designs about it (see The Friendmaker here)but also I like that in games. Interesting, isn´t it?

Sunday, June 24, 2012


A couple of weeks ago I finished Max Payne 3, a game I was eager to play. And frankly, it has been a little of a deception.

I remember playing the original Max Payne years ago. It was unique because of the use of bullet time, the cutscenes narrated as comic strips and the revenge-consumed main character. Updating the graphics and the gameplay sounded like a sweet deal to me.

But the game is disappointing in many aspects. At first the cutscene visual design is interesting, but it becomes repetitive quite fast, not to mention they are loooong as hell. I wouldn´t be surprised if one of the top shots of the studio got too much involved into the story and forced the experience to have so much time out of gameplay.

Next is the bullet time. Yes, it´s still there but the level design punish you for using it most of the time. At the end you´re encouraged to stay in cover all the time and shoot down enemies from there. That´s not Max Payne, dude.

The story itself is not necessarily bad, but I still feel a little disconnected with the new Max. He was consumed by hatred and now his motivations are more on the line of "it´s my duty to keep killing people" since he´s not really emotionally invested into the issues of the family he´s defending.

Several combat encounters are poorly design, without enough cover points, too many enemies and props which makes aiming really difficult. Also Rockstar´s trademark aiming reticule (far too small) makes it even more complicated. Additional game modes are just ok. They re-use the same levels from SP adding new challenges, and I didn´t have the chance to play MP so far.

On the plus side shooting enemies down is most of the time enjoyable, there are some interesting locations to play in and mission-unique gameplay moments which add compelling twists from time to time.

Anyway, unless you´re a hardcore fan of the character or Rockstar I personally don´t recommend the game. It´s right now rated in Metacritics with 86 points and I think it´s 4-5 points over its real value. Your call.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Last week I completed Cut the Rope on the iPad. Truth is I didn´t feel 100% motivated to finish it, but the playtime sessions are so short you can easily integrate them in most moments of your everyday life. That´s why is good for "momentos tontos" as we say in spanish (waiting times).

The gameplay is extremely well adapted to tactile devices (in most levels you just need to swipe once or twice on the screen) but there is always a mild challenge. It´s accessible for all audience types and the different gameplay iterations are properly introduced and exploited.

On the minus side you may say that the lack of story makes you feel demotivated to prolong playtime, and since it´s essentially a puzzle game if you get stuck on one level you can´t progress in the whole game which is a real problem.

Actually I feel we solve that problem in EcoFish allowing the user to play all levels from a chapter in the order they feel to. Too bad it´s not selling well...

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Last week I finished another iOS game: Batman Arkham City Lockdown. Loosely based on the characters and style created in Batman Arkham Asylum and Batman Arkham City, it´s essentially a fighting game. In every mission you´re supposed to defeat a number of thugs tapping and swiping on the screen at the appropriate time to counter-effect the enemies´ attacks.

The basic combat works most of the time (some of the tactile inputs are poorly recognized, leading to frustration) and the visuals are very good for the platform. However the game becomes quickly repetitive because of the lack of secondary challenges. No collectible items, no optional features to break the constant flow of brawling. Just fighting all the time. You can buy upgrades with the xp, but that´s all. Bosses include unique additional challenges, like aftertouch or cleaning up the screen, making me think why not using those mechanics in the rest of the game too.

It cost 5 euros, and frankly I expected a little more for that money. Not a bad investment since its gameplay is related to my current project, but still not the best purchase I´ve made in the app store.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


I have an idiosincrasy about games: Whenever I buy one, I finish it. And now I´m going to break that rule with Dead Rising.

Some friends told me it was really entertaining, and I bought it. I should have had in mind they were truly hardcore gamers. I´ve never been attracted by the zombie theme (the game waited on my shelf for 5 years), but technically it was an interesting twist because of the number of enemies on screen. Why not enjoy it?

My, what a hardcore game. It rarely offers second chances, save points are difficult to find, missions are time based (you need to activate them before the counter reaches zero) but offers little communication about failing conditions. Side quests are poorly balanced and offer more frustration than joy, not to mention their interface is really annoying.

Essentially you´re supposed to fail, restart the game from the beginning, learn from your mistakes and try to avoid them to progress a little more until you have to restart the game again.

In other words, another japanese game that forces you play by its rules, not allowing the user enjoy it in the way he wants. I don´t have time for that, sorry.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


And I finished my second iOS game: PUZZLE QUEST 2. It was recommended to me by Lolo, a friend, and I have mixed feelings about it.

On one hand I appreciate the mix of RPG elements with a basic puzzle system, but on the other the game becomes repetitive really fast. The production values are quite high for a mobile game, there is an interesting number of different enemies, spells and scenarios to visit. But they´re all 2D, and possibly handled by different artists since there are subtle style differences in characters and drawings. Also the game was prone to shut down itself from time to time, but the RPG element keeps you interested in your hero, as well as the story pushing you for finding what´s next.

The thing I liked the most was the fact that you can adapt gameplay to your needs. Each puzzle fight takes 5-10 min to be completed, which is very convenient for some short play sessions I have along the day (i.e. subway trips). That´s the main reason why I kept playing, and why I finished it. But ey, I only recommend it if you´re an RPG fan ;)

Saturday, March 31, 2012


I played the demo months ago and I found it interesting but since I´m not a great fan of stealth I didn´t buy it. Now, and for working reasons, I´ve played and completed it and I have reasons to think it´s a really unique and remarkable game.

It´s mainly based onto 3 core mechanics: Melee combat, Detective mode and Stealth. However the part I consider more interesting is how they managed to increase the playtime due to replayability. There is a number of collectables, hidden secrets and story elements in the rather small scenarios, and the plot forces you to cross those locations regularly, which re-uses their graphic assets constantly.

Also, I think the difficulty regarding finding hidden items is perfect. Being the Explorer type of gamer (also achiever) I was able to find lots of secrets, but the game offers a map which highlights more or less where every item is. Although it sounds like destroying the fun in finding them, most of those secrets are still difficult to find even with the map. I´m struggling to get 100% of the content without having the need to check the internet not even once, which is strange in most games.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Right after Uncharted 3 I completed Warhammer Space Marine. It´s not a remarkable game but a solid and professional work. Gameplay favors melee combat over ranged through a non-particularly interesting story which otherwise serves its purpose. Graphically it´s not impressive but I´d say it reflects nicely the Warhammer 40k universe.

I´d have to check other posts but I think I´ve stated before average games (i.e. around 70 in metacritics) deserve more attention than videogame media generally offers. Journalists tend to focus only in the 5-6 big titles of the year while you can have lots of fun with non-so-known games. If prices were not the same in both cases, I´d strongly recommend most of these titles.

Monday, February 20, 2012


I'm documenting for my next project, and one of the games used as reference is Uncharted 3, which I bought and finished the other day. If you liked Uncharted 2 you have to like this one since all mechanics and features are pretty much the same.

Still, not a problem. I think U2 was a really remarkable game, and I've talked about it in this blog here and here. I may have tried to add some more unique gameplay but achieving the level of 'movie-like' they maintain is not easy at all, so still a recommendable title.

Friday, February 17, 2012


Due to a work interview I recently played and finished Crysis 2. I remember I tried to play the demo when the game was released but it was multiplayer only and furthermore I couldn't log into any server so after a week trying I gave up. But now I've got the chance to play the game and the sensations are quite good.

Yes, the first levels are not as engaging as the last ones, which have unique scenarios and much more compelling enemies, but graphically the game looks good (although I keep thinking that I've seen NY destroyed in too many games / movies / series) and the tactical shooter type is unusual, a variation from the far-too-common Call of Duty approach so popular these days.

Anyway, if you buy it ensure to play until the end, that's where the best parts of the game are.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Taking advantage of my current state which allows me to have some free time, I'm intending to finish some games I have in the shelf. I've just finished Orcs must die! (PC), an excellent twist to the tower defense genre where you not only set your traps for the incoming hordes of orcs but you're also required to take them down with your crossbow or sword.

A nice twist which works perfectly, good story pieces with lots of humor, smart mechanics to favor replayability and an additional challenge when I discovered a friend on the leaderboards, so I felt compelled to better him.

In any case, a good purchase. I'll possibly play some more to beat my marks... and those from my friend.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Since now I have some free time, I finally had the chance to end up Mass Effect. It took me around 33 hours, and my overall sensation is quite good. It definitively deserves the money I payed for the game (a long time ago, I'm afraid). The production values are high, storylines are clearly above the line, and combat is acceptably engaging.

On the minus side (and it's a small side) frame rate drops were frequent, level design twists were not as common as you'd desire and the game is a little too easy. I barely used any of the special/biotic powers I was given.

Still, a great game. However, I still wonder how Bioware essentially makes the same game over and over and succeed. I mean the whole plot is basically taken from Knights of the old republic, as well as much of the core mechanics (team combat, inventory, dialogue system, etc). But hey, if something works and sells...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I've just read this news about Frank Darabont, the director of The Shawshank redemption is going to adapt for the tv L.A. Noir. At first I thought it was the videogame but seems like there is a book with a similar name.

Still, it sounds like the relative success of the videogame has pushed forward that project. I find it exciting in any case, we'll see.


Well, my contract with Digital Legends has not been renewed, so I'm free again. I'll take some days to relax and I'll evaluate my next steps shortly. I keep thinking this is going to be a good year in terms of opportunities so stay tuned!

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Here is an interesting lecture from an ex-Blizzard and now one of the managers at Riot games (League of Legends).

Assuming designers fail as much as any other professional (and it doesn't matter if they're senior or not) he encourages to share design work and ask for feedback as soon as possible to avoid those mistakes.

From my experience in the Spanish industry this doesn't work here. Early works are rarely judged as they are, and most of the time they're critizised to personal gain, or simply analized with low constructivity. I'd love to work on an environment as he describes, though.