Design, analysis and research about videogames


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Blabbing Blobs 30/04/2009

A game about loneliness and friendship.
You play as a talking blob who can contact his friends through phone or mail.

Will you manage to make the others blobs talk to you so you don't feel alone?


See "Help" section inside the game for detailled instructions on how the game plays, and how the others blobs will react to your actions.

Code Monkeys 12/07/2008

Code Monkeys is a TV show portraying the incredible life of videogames developpers in the 80's.


The story takes place at "GameAvision", a videogame company, starring Dave and Jerry, two "code monkeys".


While their job is to imagine the stupidest games possible, they will usually live extraordinary adventures, which will lead them to meet a bunch of weird people : Steve Wozniak (creator of Mac and Breakout), Gary Gygax (co-author of Dungeon&Dragons), yakuzas, cowboys and even nazis.


As you will see, this comedy show features dumb and scatology-related humour. Sex themed insults are about as common as violent and gory deaths, which makes this show looks a lot like South Park !

So beware, Code Monkeys will not please everybody (and nor is  suited for everyone).


Anyways, the graphical realisation of this cartoon is just awesome, great quality pixel art which makes this show feel like it's played on NES. Moreover, besides the easy humour, you'll see loads of nice references to 80's videogames culture.



To summarize, this show is based on a very good idea, and besides some poor quality stories, you'll enjoy it without any doubt, especially if you like 80's and videogames !


By the way, the official website of the show features two stupids games : a test-your-luck game that you'll never win, and a hangman that will keep on insulting you !


Unfortunately, this show is only broadcasted on G4TV , an american cable channel.

Hopefully, you can still buy yourself the season 1 DVD !

Back online 20/06/2008

The site was down due a to a nasty technical problem, everything should be fine now.


By the way, I apologize for the lack of posting lately, I'll try to resume blogging this summer, when I hope to get a little bit of "free time" .

Voxelstein 3D 23/04/2008

A voxel-based remake of Wolfenstein 3D


Voxelstein 3D



The nice feature about this game is that it allows you to litteraly cut trough anything: you can use your knife (or bombs !) to dig holes into the walls... or into the enemies !


The idea was previously used in the Red Faction game, but was poorly used through the game after a first "technical demo" level...

Here, the author used the digging idea in some interesting ways...


By the way, this game is fueled by the "Voxlab " engine, created bu the famous Ken Silverman who also created the awesome "Build Engine " that was used several years ago by the classical games Duke Nukem 3D , Redneck Rampage and Blood .


Play it from the official Voxelstein 3D website.

JayIsGames Game Design Competition 5 : the results ! 09/04/2008

JayIsGames , the site to browse when it comes to indie web games, just announced the results of his fifth game design competition !

Read it (and play it) directly from the source: http://jayisgames.com/archives/2008/04/cgdc5_results.php

Videogames critics : Angry Video Game Nerd 30/03/2008

As you may already be aware of (if not, you should read Greg Costikyan), Quality critics about videogames does not yet exists.

Indeed, most Videogaming related press, either paper-based or online, can't afford to deeply criticize and analyse videogame while their review : they must stick to the flow of game released by the industry, so they are doomed to quickly review pre-versions of games, and are often severely limited in what they can say about the game, as many game editor litteraly buy review scores (remenber Eidos-Gamespot and Kane & Lynch ?)

So, if you are seeking for quality critics about videogames where should you go ?


On amateur website on Internet of course !

I already introduced you to Zero Punctuation columns in the Escapist, please now welcome The Angry Video Game Nerd, working for Game Trailers through his reviews of old and crappy games.


Beside the heavy humor, these critics are really deep and personnal, they shows what is wrong in each videogame through loads of reference to previous games, alongside with tiny fictionnal jokes about each games. In a few words, this is REAL videogame critic.


I hereby recommend the critics of Castevania 2 : Simon's Quest on NES, the one about Ghostbusters (three parts one , two et three) and Rambo's critics.

If you like it, you should really consider buying the DVD !

Video Game Name Generator Competition 08/03/2008

I have a dream... I dream of a world where people would create games whose titles would come from the videogame name generator.


And, thanks to the folks at The Independent Gaming Source, my dream comes true !


You have until March, 24 to create a game whose title come from the generator. There is nothing to win, apart from the eternal glory for creating titles like Tiny Platypus Pimp, Narcoleptic Soccer Rush or Presidential Crowbar Encounter


Who can create the weirdest game ?

The classification of videogames 25/02/2008

This article is the synthesis of a research study aimed to raise a classification suited to videogames, through the analysis of gameplay.


Conducted by Julian Alvarez and myself, this study led us to identify recurrent diagrams within rules of videogames, that we called "Gameplay Bricks". The combination of these different bricks should allow to represent a classification of all videogames in accordance with their rules.


For example, we noticed that, according to gameplay, Pacman is similar to racing games, which is quite unusual if we refer to previous videogames classifications.


Hence, we propose through this article another classification system based on videogames rules.


As reading research articles is quite a time-consuming activity, we made a short video in order to summarize how our classification system works :


Another look on the classification of videogames




This paper is part of an experimental approach aimed at studying the nature of videogames, trying to define what "gameplay" is. The first step of our methodology is to elaborate a classification suited to videogames.


We could consider videogames as applications interacting with players:


Player and game interaction cycle
Interaction cycle involving a player and a videogame


According to Chris Crawford[1] the interaction between a player and a videogame can be perceived as a dialogue: "A cyclic process in which two active agents alternately (and metaphorically) listen, think and speak."


Within this paper, we will focus on the "machine" side of the cycle: for now, we won't study the player's role in the construction of a gaming situation.


If we isolate the "computer" part of the videogame interaction cycle, we obtain a simple structural diagram divided into three parts: "Input", a collection of devices allowing the user to express choices. These choices are then evaluated by the rules of the "Compute" part, in order to produce a "result". This result is finally communicated to the player through "Output" devices.


Input, Compute and Output for a videogame
Structural parts of a videogame


Our approach is deeply influenced by the work of Propp[5], who raised a formal classification of Russian fairytales. As the usefulness of narrative concepts to study videogames is still controversial, please notice that we only borrowed the methodology from Propp's studies, not his results.
Indeed, Propp's methodology can be viewed as an interesting way to study any corpus from a formal level of analysis.


We then chose to apply this methodology to videogames, in order to try to identify formal aspects in our corpus.We especially focused on the study of videogames rules, which are managed by the "Compute" part.


Our previous researches[3][4] have shown strong recurrences within rules of a large number of videogames. These recurrences are exposed in the first part of this article. In the second part we will analyze these recurrences and try to draw an formal definition of "gameplay".



A Rules-based videogame classification

Gameplay Bricks

In accordance to the methodology used by Propp, we have developed a tool, named "V.E.Ga.S." (Video & Electronic Games Studies), that will allow us to index and to analyze a large number of videogames.
We hoped this tool could help us observe eventual recurrent aspects likely to become criteria of a classification.
We based our analysis on a as large time range as possible, in order to limit the influence of technical evolution on the results we may observe.


With this tool and a list of 588 videogames, we propose a first step for the development of a classification criterion: we have emphasized "Gameplay bricks", a kind of "fundamental elements" whose different combinations seem to be able to cover the gameplay of videogames.


Gameplay bricks
Gameplay bricks we have been able to discover as of now


After analysis[3] we noticed that every "Gameplay brick" represents a "recurrent diagram" within the rules of videogames. For example, in two games such as "Pacman" and "Space Invaders" we will find the following kind of rules:


  • "If Pacman does not avoid ghosts, then destroy Pacman".
  • "If spaceship does not avoid enemy's shot, then destroy spaceship".


We notice a very strong similarity between these rules and we can therefore consider they are both built on the following template: "If player element does not avoid an hostile element, then there is a negative feedback towards the player element."


Hence, this diagram is the definition of a "Gameplay brick", the AVOID brick. For now, we have identified ten "Gameplay bricks" built upon the same principle.


For example, the "Gameplay bricks" featured in "Pac-man" are: "MOVE", meaning player can move an avatar, "AVOID" for the Ghosts you have to avoid, "DESTROY" for the dots you have to eat, and "MATCH" because you have to match each dot's spatial position to destroy it.

But you can also find these bricks in a racing game such as "Need for Speed Carbon": MOVE a car, AVOID opponents, and MATCH on checkpoints you have to DESTROY. When reached, a checkpoint becomes "out of the game" and is not reachable anymore, so it can be considered as "destroyed" just like any dot eaten by Pacman.


Pacman and Need for Speed Carbon
Pacman (1980) and Need for Speed Carbon (2006)

As they feature identical "Gameplay bricks", "Pacman" and "Need for Speed Carbon" are gathered in the same family.




Nevertheless, if you look closely, these two games are still different: Pacman moves in two dimensions while you drive the car in a three-dimensional city, the way ghosts chase Pacman is different from opponents car behaviour in Need for Speed...


Differences between these games are related to two issues:


  • The abstraction level required by the bricks, which are built upon "rules template". For example the "Move" brick covers either 2D or 3D spatial movements.
  • Rules not covered by the bricks: in order to build an efficient classification we couldn't make a brick for every existing rule template



We then had to limit the number of Gameplay bricks, by trying to identify the most recurrent rules diagrams within our corpus.
Besides the recurrent factor, we also took in consideration the nature of rules: we focused our efforts on rules related to player actions.




Nevertheless, the total number of "combinations" obtainable through these bricks remains quite large.


Interestingly enough, we have noticed that some couples of bricks were found very often in a large number of games.

We named those couple of bricks "Metabricks" and after the study of games featuring one or two "metabricks", we gave them quite meaningful names: MOVE and AVOID became "DRIVER", while the association of SHOOT and DESTROY became "KILLER".


Metabricks : Driver and Killer
The two identified Metabricks

These "metabricks" seems empirically related to the core challenges proposed by videogames. Hence, they are the second component of our classification: they can classify the families obtained through the use of "Gameplay Bricks".


Two families featuring the same metabricks and also some different bricks seem to present a variation of a same core challenge. For example, the families of the games "Pacman" and "Frogger" have a difference on the DESTROY brick: Pacman has to swallow pastilles and thus to destroy them, whereas Frog's only objective is to cross a busy road.


To summarize, we have identified "Gameplay Bricks" representing "recurrent rules templates" within videogames. According to these bricks, we have elaborated a classification based on "families" of videogames. A "family" gathers games with identical "Gameplay bricks" combinations. These families can then be classified upon the presence of some pairs of bricks named "MetaBricks" in their bricks combination.



Anatomy of a videogame

Our classification raised several "recurrent rules" within videogames, which seems to be an interesting first step to study videogames rules. We will now focus on these "recurrent rules", and try to analyze them by looking back to the definition of a game.



Definition of game

We start the second step of our analysis with the definition of a game according to Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman[2]: "An activity with some rules engaged in for an outcome".
Hence, Salen and Zimmerman consider a game as an activity defined by two elements: the rules and the result, the latter one coming from a previous goal.



« Some rules »

If we consider that a videogame takes place in a virtual universe, we can also consider that this universe is composed by several "elements", in the broadest sense.


For example, in soccer, a game that can be played both as videogame and as sport, the universe is composed by the different elements featured in a match: players, pitch, goals and ball.


All these elements are driven by the "rules" of the game, alike the elements that constitute our own universe are driven by physical and behavioural laws.

From a "soccer" point of view, these rules are the physical rules defining the movement of several elements, for example the gravity applied to ball and players. But soccer rules also feature loads of "game rules", such as the one specifying that only the goalkeeper can use his hands to touch the ball.

All these rules together seem to build a "field of possible actions" that may happen during a soccer match. Salen & Zimmerman call it "the space of possibility".



« An outcome »

According to the definition above, a game proposes an outcome. Talking about an outcome imply judgment of the player performance. But in order to judge, you need a reference. In a game the reference is defined by the goal that the players have to reach.

For soccer, the goal of the game, identical for each team, is to bring the ball into the goal of the opposing team. The "goal" and "goalkeeper" words are thus very explicit.


We can also consider the goal of the game as a rule, a special rule of course: this rule will simply have to state "endgame", by announcing the outcome when some conditions are fulfilled.


In our soccer example, the game is "reset" when the ball enters into one of the goals, and the score of the team who thrown the ball in is increased by one point.
Even though a match usually lasts 90 minutes, the game outcome isn't only related to time: the winning team is the team with the highest score after 90 minutes of play.
Hence, the outcome of a soccer play is tied to the goal of this game, which is to throw the ball into the opposing goal.


Rules and goals of soccer
Rules and goals of soccer


Different kinds of rules

If the goal of a game is also a part of the game rules, does it means different "kinds" of rules exist?
The work of Gonzalo Frasca seems to indicate so, especially the typology of videogame rules he proposed [6]:


  • "Manipulation rules", defining what the player can do in the game.
  • "Goal Rules", defining the goal of the game.
  • "Metarules", defining how a game can be tuned or modified.


For now we will put aside the "Metarules", which leads us to the following conclusion: within rules of a game, some rules define a goal while other rules offer means to reach it.


As different kinds of rules exist, and as "Gameplay bricks" are based upon "rule templates", the following question emerges: On what kind of rules are the bricks based on?



Game + Play = GamePlay?

By analyzing the diagram of each Gameplay brick[7], we observe several characteristics shared by two distinct groups of bricks. Indeed, we may divide bricks into two categories.


The first category of bricks seems to be based on a principle that one would formulate in the following way: "to listen to Input and consequently to carry out modifications on the game elements".


The second category would rather correspond to: "to observe the game elements in order to return an evaluation of the quality of the previous modifications".


We here find principles very close to two of the types of rules evoked by Frasca: the first category approaches the definition of "Manipulation rules", whereas the second seems to be related to "Goal Rules".


But, from our point of view, the difference between these two categories of bricks is linked to the difference between the two terms "Play" and "Game".
Indeed, the bricks of the first category, as they are related to Input, can be connected to the word "Play", whereas the bricks of the second category are related to the goal and by extension to Output, and so are rather related to the word "Game".


Play bricks and Game Bricks
« Play » or « Game » related bricks

The difference between bricks of the two categories appears all the more clear when considering they are not in direct relation: the two categories of bricks "interact" trough "game elements": "Play" bricks modifies them, and "Game" bricks observes the modifications made by the first ones.


Moreover, if we look back to the "Metabricks", namely DRIVER and KILLER, we notice that they are composed by a "Play brick" associated to a "Game brick":


Game brick + Play brick = Metabrick
Play brick + Game Brick = Metabrick

We therefore feel that the "Game Brick" refers to a goal to reach whereas the "Play Brick" seems to represent a mean (or a constraint) to reach this goal.
For example, DRIVER, asks the player to avoid colliding with some elements, and allows the player to move its avatar in order to do so. In the same way KILLER asks to destroy elements, though projectiles that the player can shoot/throw.


As these "Metabricks" represents pairs of "GamePlay bricks" that we identified in a large number of videogames, we propose the following definition of gameplay:

"Gameplay is the association of "Game rules", stating a goal to reach, with "Play rules", defining means and constraints to reach this goal."



In order to analyze the nature of videogames, our approach focuses on game rules.

Being inspired by the methodology that Propp[5] used for his fairytales classification, we started a quantitative analysis of videogames.


This methodology allowed us to elaborate a classification based on "recurrent templates of games rules". These templates are formalized into an element called "GamePlay bricks". We are then able to group videogames into "families" featuring the same combination of "GamePlay bricks".


We also observed that some couples of bricks were found recurrently in the bricks combination of games we observed. We baptized these pairs of bricks "Metabricks", as they allow us to classify families of videogames.


We then used these "GamePlay bricks" and the rules behind them as a basis to propose a formal definition of what gameplay is, from a rules point of view.


Starting form the definition of a game proposed by Salen & Zimmerman[2], we identify two elements in a videogame : the rules and the outcome.

After analysis, we can relate these elements to two kinds of rules proposed by Frasca[6]: "rules" seem related to "Manipulation rules", defining what the player can do in a videogame, whereas "outcome" seems connected to "Goal rules", defining an objective the player has to reach in order to win the game.


By analysing the rules defining our "GamePlay bricks", we observe two kinds of bricks: "Play bricks", related to "Manipulation rules", and "Game bricks", related to "Goal rules".


We then obtain a draft typology featuring two kinds of rules, namely "Game" and "Play". As we also observe that "Metabricks" are composed by a "Game" brick associated to a "Play" brick, we propose the following definition for gameplay:


"Gameplay is the association of "Game rules", stating a goal to reach, with "Play rules", defining means and constraints to reach this goal".

Pursuing the formal deconstruction of videogames, the next steps of our study will now rely on two complemantory approaches :

The "bottom-up" approach will involve the verification of this typology by the realisation of an "experimental game" based on this conceptual model.
Named "Gam.B.A.S.", we presented a first prototype of this game based solely on "Play" and "Game" rules in a previous article[3]. We now have to add in "World" rules and see what games can emerge from this experimentation.


The "top-down" approach will be based on "V.E.Ga.S." and the videogame classification presented here, but with a much larger corpus.
We are modifying our videogame indexation tool, in order to propose a collaborative version of our videogame classification, freely accessible on the Internet.
You might then freely propose, evaluate or even consult information about any videogame on the following website:






Authors wish to thank Jean-Yves Plantec and Martial Bret from "Iode" Company, for their point of view on the concept of "brick", as well as Stéphane Bura, Art Director at 10Tacle Studios, who directed us toward a great number of references.
We also offer many thanks to Annika Hammarberg for the translation of this paper from French to English, and to Rashid Ghassempouri for his general help and thoughts in our earlier works about the videogame classification.



[1] Crawford C., "Chris Crawford on Game Design", New Riders, 2003.
[2] Salen K., Zimmerman E., "The Rules of Play", MIT Press, 2003.
[3] Djaouti D., Alvarez J., Jessel J.P., Methel G., Molinier P., "Towards a classification of videogames", AISB2007, Bristol - Scotland, 2007.
[4] Alvarez, J., Djaouti, D., Ghassempouri, R., Jessel, J.P., Methel, G., "Morphological study of the video games", CGIE2006, Perth - Australia, 2006.
[5] Propp, V., "Morphologie du conte", Seuil, 1970.
[6] Frasca G., "Simulation versus Narrative: Introduction to Ludology", in The Videogame Theory Reader, Routledge, 2003.
[7] Djaouti D., Alvarez J., Jessel J.P., Methel G., Molinier P., "The nature of gameplay: a videogame classification", Cybergames2007, Manchester - United Kingdom, 2007.


Far Cry - The Movie 16/02/2008

Uwe Boll, the talented movie director of the crappiest videogame adaptations ever made, proudly present the first trailer of his new masterpiece : Far Cry, based on the famous videogame by Crytek.


As the videogame takes place on a tropical island, the movie was logically shot in Canada, a well-known tropical country. The trailer obviously shows that "Far Cry - the movie" will features every mistake attached to previous Uwe Boll movies, namely  "House of the Dead", "Alone in the dark", "Bloodrayne" and "In the name of the King : a Dungeon Siege tale".
Aware of his unique talent, the videogaming community made a brilliant homage to Uwe Boll through a petition to ask him to stop any activity related to movies and videogames .
Apart from his obvious lack of any artistic skill, I do recognize that Uwe Boll also shows poor tastes when it comes to pick a videogame suitable for a movie adaptation. The best example of this is undoubtly "House of the Dead", a movie based on an arcade zombie-shooting videogame.
By-the-way, I warmly recommend you to watch this movie, as it deserve eternal glory for being the only film on earth to feature videogame images INSIDE the action sequences of the movie, without any sort of transition :

Hence, if any talented movie director feel like to adapt a videogame into a GOOD movie, he or she  shouldn't hesitate. After all, one will never be able to create such lame adaptations as Mr Boll's ones...

Zero Punctuation 16/01/2008

If have no problem to understand fast-talking people, then you should definitively pay a visit to the Zero Punctuation games review, featured on the online magazine The Escapist.


Featuring both in-depth gameplay review and hateful critics, the reviewer shares its opinion on videogames through funny video mocking each reviewed game.


Test de "Zelda : Phantom Hourglass"



Test de "Crysis"

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