Common Flash Game Mistakes

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By Brad Merritt, Lead Games Designer at Cartoon Network studios.

Everyone should probably read this… :-D

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Link doesn’t work:

Sorry, the page (or document) you have requested does not exist.

Google pops up a few references to the talk (assuming it is “Common Flash Game Design Mistakes”), but no direct links I can see.

Edit: did you mean the link from this page? I think you need to be registered with google docs to see it – or maybe that link only works for you.

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You mean this page
and i looked at it very good presentation :)

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hm, cutting and pasting the link into kong forums seems like it screws up the formatting.

lysis: Yes, the link from evilzug’s LJ. _

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Got it to work by following Lysis’ link.

Nice presentation. “This is your game.” … “This is your game with system keys”. Guilty :(.

Useful presentation, too. For those unable to watch it, I’ll try to sum it up.

Camera- Remember that 2D games have a camera too. Ensure the player is placed properly on the screen, and that the camera always keeps track of the player, and lets them see what they’re doing.

Controls- Don’t use system keys, or you’ll get sticky keys/other problems. If your game uses isometric, let players configure controls. If your game uses keys, make sure players can navigate menus using just the keyboard.

Communication- Make sure things that do different things look different. Whenever two objects interact, have an effect (ie bullet hits tank, make tank flash white). Contrast back/foreground. Too much text in instructions = bad, use pictures/visuals instead of blocks of text.

Random- Random numbers being repeated (I can’t see this as much of an issue?). Randomness creating impossible scenarios, ie a wall of randomly placed obstacles. Too random – games have parts that are too easy/hard – use bias in your random numbers.

Emulation- Make sure you understand what you emulate. “Improving” classic games – ensure you know what makes the first game fun before you try and improve it.

Difficulty- Don’t make it too hard or too easy. Games that are very hard from the start will not have a longer life than others. Make a proper difficulty curve. Distribute powerups as player requires.

General- Powerups do not make a good game. Focus on the core game. ‘Issue: Attempting to make game elements “realistic”. Why: Listening to people who don’t play games. Solution: Ignore those people"’. Introduce mechanics one at a time. Having too long intros, people want to play fast. Pace your game properly. Just because it’s fun for you to make cool player explosions doesn’t mean its more fun for the player to be blown up in a cool way – success is more fun than failure.

(That was longer than I expected)

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I have to say I question some of his points:

Issue: Continuous jumping while jump key held. This becomes a large issue with variable jumps that depend on time key is held.
Why: Familiar with game
Solution: 1 key press = 1 jump

So he wants to remove variable height jumps – and not for a stated reason as far as I can see. … And they seem fine to me, from the early Mario games onwards..

And I can’t figure out what his ‘good’ example of visual communication is supposed to be saying. I can tell what all the components are, but not what the point is. Was is supposed to be animated?

Issue: Randomness is not random enough

Now that’s just plain wrong. (I know what he’s saying but he should word it better.)

I’ve no idea what the two diagrams in the randomness section are meant to be showing.

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I agree with the communication point, but the example he used was very poor. I couldn’t understand his “good” one at all.

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You also have to keep in mind that these are slides from a presentation. So if you were there I’m sure it would all make sense.

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Yes, that’s true. Although it probably makes his poor grammar more embarrassing. I suspect he had to get it ready in time at the last minute (which is a ‘common presentation mistake’).

It doesn’t make any difference for the visual communication thing, it’s just a really bad example. And yes I agree – most of the time a good diagram would be better than words, although I think there are numerous exceptions. Some concepts are just not simply diagrammed (classic example – draw ‘dignity’), and even some simple ideas are hard to draw in a way which can’t be mis-interpreted. But lets bear in mind he’s making games for two year olds.

I guess most of his observed common mistakes stick out like a sore thumb to gamers – and there’s not much I haven’t heard before – but as he says, people keep on making them.

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When is a game’s instructions gonna include dignity? ;)

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… well they might do. :-)

OK, a more relevant example – from a game I’m currently working on, so I’ll be a bit vague about the details. In one particular level, you can move particular (roughly circular) objects around by pushing them using the mouse pointer. I observed playtesters take a while to work this out – once they’d observed that there was some interaction required, they’d variously try frantic clicking, dragging and ‘riffling’ (waving the pointer over the object). And start to get frustrated, because while the objects would move a bit, they wouldn’t move enough.

So I put up a message at the start of the level: “You can push the [objects] using your mouse.” Now admittedly I don’t know how well this will work, I’ve not had other people play it yet. But how could you diagram that without ambiguity, without words? There’s no button involved, so even allowing those (which is only fair) doesn’t help. But using words like ‘push’ would be cheating – you might as well just put up the text. The best I can come up with is drawing a mouse pointer over the object and a green (to highlight) arrow leading away from the object… which isn’t entirely satisfactory.
And that is a really simple concept.

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Lysis, I dunno if you’re actually looking for suggestions, or just trying to make your point.. but a graphical representation for your scenario could be a mouse pointer with circles coming off it, pushing the objects away. Like the way radio transmitters are drawn with the circles growing out from the transmitter.