How long should it take from pressing "Start Game" to player's first battle?

Autofire

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Maybe we should step outside of the realm of entertainment if you want to explore game theory. There are other kinds of games that we don't normally think of as games because they're not played by people or done for fun.
My bad. My description wasn't inclusive enough. By my definition, elections, musical performances, classes, and trials are all games. I only mentioned entertainment because it was most relevant to this topic and my experience. But you're absolutely right.

Heck, we could consider this argument/discussion a game. Every player has their own reason for participating. Some just want to discuss topics like these, others want to "win," as you've mentioned. I won't even try pointing fingers at anyone, since that's against my "victory condition," if you will. It doesn't push the discussion in a way I find useful for my ends.


You can't understand them as games by reading a wikipedia definition.
This is my definition that I've given you, not someone I got from somebody else. I may have started with Extra Credits stuff, but they never talked about this AFAIK. I've been building my portfolio for a decade now, and I've been analyzing games all the way. This is what I've come up with after hearing enough arguments about topics like this. (No professional experience yet, but I'll get there! It turns out that there are a lot of CS classes to go through to get a degree... :kaodes:)

I realize when people talk about "games" here they really mean their project. And therefore "gamedesign" in that sense implicates storytelling and marketing and whatever other associations could possible draw into it because they do everything themselves.
Agreed, and keeping it into scope is pretty important. Talking about how a prosecutor attempts to win a court case isn't going to get us anywhere. But we might be a little limited on the terms we may use, or may use things in ways that don't quite jive with any "generic" terms that come up.

I almost get the sense that you mean mechanics in the way that I mean gameplay. But I'm having trouble penetrating your lingo.
Um... I don't think so. But I suppose it's best that I give an example. Tell me if your intuition is correct after reading this example, please.

I think of mechanics as the simplest of rules. MDA defines them as "the particular components of the game, at the level of data representation and algorithms." For example, my game has a weapon switching mechanic. The player may choose to make a party member swap weapons. Every weapon provides a unique set of skills, and there are situations when certain weapons are more useful than others. Furthermore, swords have a combo system and guns have an ammo system, which both reset upon switching.

Using MDA's definition, these four mechanics (weapon switching, combos/ammo, weapon-based-skills, and type-effectiveness) work together to (hopefully) produce a dynamic of choices determining efficiency and damage output. For example, if you switch right after you run out of bullets, you don't waste a turn reloading. But these bullets are "lost" if you switch sooner. (No, bullets are not a finite resource. We're talking turn-efficiency here.)

This, along with other things like the AI and limited resources come together to (hopefully) produce the aesthetic of a mental challenge. The overall goal of these systems is to make players plan ahead and make decisions. To make them feel like they're winning because they're making wise decisions, rather than following a perfectly set path.


Alright, I suppose I have to say that my game isn't the best example. I haven't gotten nearly as much testing as I would have liked. I don't really know if any of these mechanics supply the dynamics or aesthetics I intended. However, it's one of my more recent projects, and it's most relevant to this forum.
 

Kes

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Can I just remind everyone of the question that the OP actually put. Here it is, with emphasis added by me.

What do you think? How important is it that a player gets to experience your game's battle system as early as possible while fitting into your narrative and enhancing your overall storytelling and game's purpose?
It seems to me that this thread has begun to wander in realms far outside that specific question.
The question is not simply "How soon should the player experience your battle system?" The final clause of the sentence is an integral part of the question.
Nor is it about "What is a game?"
 

Dankovsky

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Wow, some of you guys are really going out of your way to feed a troll :)
 

TheoAllen

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My take is "as soon as possible". I'm not sure how long in minutes but when things get "let's get this over already", then it's already too long for a new game to first battle. The gap between a start new game and battle should be "long enough" to present what is going on right now without much info dumps.

But the thing I hate is when I need to do errand left and right before I could start my first battle. I always like a game that started in a battle / tension scene right from the bat. Iirc, God Eater 2 did this, which the thing I hate. Fallout 4 intro in my opinion also too long. One thing I like is something like what Prototype 1 or 2, you started right from battle scene. Or skyrim if the carriage intro is not too long.
 

mlogan

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What do you think? How important is it that a player gets to experience your game's battle system as early as possible while fitting into your narrative and enhancing your overall storytelling and game's purpose?

I feel like a big part of the problem and source of much disagreement in this thread is that the title is very much at odds with the discussion points presented here.

The title is phrased in such a way as to present that there is one best way to do this. Particularly the word "should" implies that there can come some agreement as to a set amount of time that the first battle needs to occur.

However, as the questions presented within the original post, as well as all of the responses, show, that the title is pretty near impossible. There are so many personal opinions and preferences that factor into it and no one is ever going to agree to one viewpoint on this.

Take for example, the fact that TheoAllen states that they felt the Fallout 4 intro was too long. I don't normally like overly long intro scenes, but personally I liked the one from Fallout 4. I've pondered the fact that being a parent myself may play into this, as overall, I felt a particular pull towards the intro and the storyline. But obviously others did not feel the same way.

That being said, I've played RM games where I couldn't click through the opening dialog fast enough to get through the drawn out intro. Another RM game I tried literally launched you into battle immediately after the title screen. It had unique complex battle mechanics, and went through what to do so quickly, that I couldn't sort it out. It was annoying and I didn't play past that battle.

So my opinion (which is really what this topic is about, what is your opinion on it), is that it really depends on how it is pulled off. Games can have long intros that work. Games can have long intros that are boring and make a player want to stop playing. Games can launch straight into battle with a positive or negative effect. It's all personal opinion and there is no way to come to a definite conclusion on "should".
 

TheoAllen

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Take for example, the fact that TheoAllen states that they felt the Fallout 4 intro was too long. I don't normally like overly long intro scenes, but personally I liked the one from Fallout 4. I've pondered the fact that being a parent myself may play into this, as overall, I felt a particular pull towards the intro and the storyline. But obviously others did not feel the same way.
I don't particularly hate/dislike the scene, it's well presented. But the first time I was into the scene, I have no idea what to do, what the sequence I should have been done to trigger the next sequence, then I realized I spent my time into the scene longer than it should be. I have an experience on playing the previous fallout games so I wanted to know what's the new fo4 gameplay looked like (I was too excited to find out but stuck on the scene longer than I desired).

Playing it the second time was okay since I know which interaction that triggers the next sequence. But I still resort a mod that skips the whole intro sequence and let me wake up from cyrogenic right away :p
 

coyotecraft

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@Kes And this fit with the comparative M&M analogy that @Tai_MT and I were having.
SOC said:
...and enhancing your overall storytelling and game's purpose?
As you said, Kes, it's not about what a game is. But to discuss "a game's purpose" you have to look into genres. Right? If you wanted to put M&Ms into a category of Junk Food or Health food you have to understand what that means. Is it really just a label? Or does it actually mean something?
I think all the moderators here can reconcile with the fact that "moderator" is a group status, it means something. It subjectively separates them from the rest of the members. But it's not subjective in a way that people can decide for themselves what it means. Unless you're suggesting that moderators don't serve a purpose.

The game is serving an audience. But people people have tastes. Accommodating those tastes is respecting the genre.
 

mlogan

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@TheoAllen I didn't say you hated it, just that you said you felt it was too long. I don't think there is anything wrong with that either, and your further explanation makes sense. I was simply trying to point out that people have vastly different viewpoints on these things, as you and I felt differently about this particular game's intro.

@coyotecraft Of course things are going to be grouped, even games. The problem people have had with your posts is simply what I pointed out in my previous post: The title of this thread uses the word "should" implying that there is a specific answer. And you are trying to assert a specific answer. But both the title question and your answer are faulty because it is an opinion based question, not one that has a specific answer.
 

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@mlogan It's okay, and no, I wasn't accusing you or something. And since you mentioned me and how you feel about that particular scene, it was just a nice timing that I also wanted to explain further why I feel that way.
 

Autofire

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It seems to me that this thread has begun to wander in realms far outside that specific question.
The question is not simply "How soon should the player experience your battle system?" The final clause of the sentence is an integral part of the question.
Nor is it about "What is a game?"

Right, sorry. I'll stop. I just enjoy talking about topics like this. I felt that, for the argument I wanted to make, it'd help if I was being clear with my definitions. But I got a little carried away... :kaosigh:
 

Kes

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It's much more than just how you insert your first battle. Here's where the second half of the OP's question becomes really pertinent.

Studio Blue have just done a Let's Play of Nocturne: Rebirth which illustrates this beautifully. The game has its first battle quite soon, and then totally destroys any 'hook' it might have given by one of the most poorly paced, tedious, hand-holding non-exploration bit of exploring that I have ever seen. Their commentary is immensely funny - far more entertaining than the game they were playing. It's worth watching as an example of what not to do. Pacing involves far more than just working out the timing of your first battle.

@coyotecraft Your referencing of genre, M&Ms, Mods etc. is in this context a red herring. As has been said to you in many posts, your insistence on a single, definitive, absolute answer ignores the complexity of the question, a question which, as mlogan reminds us, is one which cannot deliver on the topic title because there is no one specific answer to it. There is no 'should'. You seem to believe otherwise. We will have to agree to disagree.
 
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hadecynn

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How important is it that a player gets to experience your game's battle system as early as possible while fitting into your narrative and enhancing your overall storytelling and game's purpose?

My thoughts:

In general, designers should strive to let players experience the (designer-intended) most appealing/defining aspect of their game as early as possible. That is, you should put (what you think is) your best foot forward, be it the battle system or something else. For me personally, all things considered, the battle system is one area that I can most easily define and differentiate my game, and therefore I aim to introduce that to the players early on.

Reasoning:

We live in an age where we have more games (and other forms of entertainment) than we have the time to consume them. In this endless competition for the attention and buy-in of our prospective users, it's especially important for us indie developers to have a well-developed 'hook' delivered as soon as it is sensible to do so.

Why? With established franchises and IPs, industry veterans have the luxury of using the established expectations and trust of their brands to get users to invest more time in their product before the user decides whether the new product is something they like or not. Most of us don't have that luxury; we can't just slap "Final Fantasy" on our games while knowing that even if it's garbage, we can still make some good sales numbers by virtue of the brand alone.

If we then take away the areas that most of us would not be able to compete in, such as high-fidelity graphics, engaging multiplayer features, etc. then we see our options have mostly been laid out for us. It comes down to things like lore, plot, characters, aesthetics, gameplay, etc; I have more faith in my game-design abilities than my storytelling or artistic abilities, and that's how I arrived at developing projects with heavy emphasis on gameplay. Tying this back to putting my best foot forward, and I'm inclined to introduce my battles to players ASAP.
 

Touchfuzzy

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I generally prefer for games to start off getting into their combat relatively early, BUT that isn't written in stone. Sometimes it doesn't fit the narrative (P3/4 are examples of this), sometimes you can capture something else by delaying it (Fallout 4's intro really gives more weight to the post-apoc), etc.

I think in general though, you should get to it fairly early unless you have a solid reason not to.

The biggest thing is always to think about WHY you are doing something. Why am I putting this early? Cause it is a core part of my game and I want to get people to the core part of the game early! Why am I delaying this? Because the story is also a core part and it doesn't fit into the story I'm working with (a possible answer).

I do suggest though that people try not to delay it too much unless they have something else really engaging at the beginning of their game. P3/P4 has its mystery building for instance.

On the other hand, maaaaan the beginning of Dragon Quest VII is ENTIRELY TOO LONG and is boring If it hadn't been a DQ game I'm not sure I would have ever finished it.
 

coyotecraft

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You're all giving safe and obvious answers. Dancing around the subject of design by putting whim over reason.
 

trouble time

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While i agree that putting your best foot forward is a good idea, i feel that you should set the audiences expectations. In persona the school life parts show you that the school life stuff will be important. In my own game you choose the order you recruit your party to show you the order you do quests in is important.
 

Kes

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@coyotecraft Twice now you have been asked to say how you have handled this in your game(s) and why. Twice you have declined to do so. People will draw their own conclusions about why you are "dancing" around the subject.

Your latest post #74 accuses everyone else of giving what you describe as "safe and obvious answers". This is, presumably, in contrast to what we must suppose to be your daring and non-obvious answers. But maybe your non-obvious answers are non-obvious because they rather miss the point that is being discussed. For example, you have stated that: "when I talk about games, I'm talking about it in an elemental sense" (post #58). Yet in that post you bundle together game theory and game design. Please note, those are not the same thing, and game theory will not illuminate the question of when to insert the first battle. And using a spider spinning a web as an example of game theory demonstrates that you don't understand what game theory is at all. Oh, and we are "to learn to look past context." (does that equal "ignore"?) So we have this arbitrary, non-contextualized elemental something. Hmmm.

In that post you also say "I realize when people talk about "games" here they really mean their project." Well, what a surprise that is. On a site dedicated to helping people make their projects, in a section of the forum entitled "Game Development" people are so dense that they thought their projects were games. I'm flabbergasted at their elementary (not elemental) mistake. You follow that astute observation with this:
"And therefore "gamedesign" in that sense implicates storytelling and marketing and whatever other associations could possible draw into it because they do everything themselves."
This appears to be saying that storytelling is only considered to be part of game design because people have made 2 mistakes - first the one of thinking that their project is a game and second because of doing everything themselves.
And then we have your masterstroke of announcing that you think of games in this mysterious 'elemental' sense which enables you to draw a line between "it" (undefined, but one must assume that here the pronoun is refering to the now purified concept of game) and all those associations. Hmmm.

I could go through other posts in a similar way. Instead perhaps I should direct you to the concept of obfuscation, because that seems to be what you excell at.

In the meantime, as you appear to have no wish to say how you have actually handled the OP's question, nor do you consider other peoples' projects as games, I am unclear what your objective is in participating in this conversation. Unless it is, as an earlier reply from someone pointed out, that you intend to educate the rest of us from the depths of your extensive experience. But hey, you won't tell us what your experience is. Is that because, unlike the rest of us, you don't make the mistake of thinking of your project(s) as a game(s)?
 
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Soryuju

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You're all giving safe and obvious answers. Dancing around the subject of design by putting whim over reason.

So if everyone but you is giving the wrong answers in this thread, will you not be satisfied until we all just drop our own experiences and values and agree that you’ve shown us the One True Path?

You criticize our “safe and obvious” answers for being “whimsical,” which is an interesting contradiction, and you haven’t even bothered to attach an argument to this latest dismissal of every other participant in the discussion. Your celestial bodies and M&M’s haven’t convinced anyone about your absolute rules of game design, so you accuse us of abandoning reason. It’s already been said, but you clearly think you’re smarter than every one of us.

And you know what, I won’t even deny that you’re smart. I’ve enjoyed reading some of your other recent posts on different subjects, even if I didn’t always agree with everything you said. But if you approach discussions thinking that you’ve already arrived at the “correct” answer, and that you’re just going to do everyone else a favor by gracing them with that knowledge, you’re going to eventually paralyze yourself for fear of being wrong and lose out on opportunities to improve your own craft. You’ve done just that in your most recent post - your refusal to step down from that lofty pedestal has left you without support and nowhere to go, so you just shut down and tell yourself that everyone else is wrong and narrow-minded.

So please, drop the tortured analogies designed to teach everyone else “how to think.” Stop deflecting arguments with semantics and definitions. These tactics drip with condescension and have only served to wring the substance out of this conversation. You don’t have to agree with anyone else here, but at least treat the people you disagree with as your equals. None of us here have the formula to make the perfect game, so all we can do is accept our limitations and try to learn from each other.
 
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You're all giving safe and obvious answers. Dancing around the subject of design by putting whim over reason.

I did the math AND if it takes any longer than 3 minutes and 27 seconds to reach the first battle your games bad and your a bad developer. 3 minutes and 27 seconds folks, not a second more or less!
 

Tai_MT

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You're all giving safe and obvious answers. Dancing around the subject of design by putting whim over reason.

Okay. I was bored enough to do this. I went back and reread the whole thread to try to see what you were on about. I wanted to know just what you were trying to discuss and how you arrived at that conclusion.

Your opinion on the subject is "get people into combat as quickly as possible" and "you do not have an RPG if it is not super combat heavy". Okay, I can sort of understand that. I don't agree with it, but I can understand that point of view. Some people play RPG's for the simple reason of wanting to make numbers go up and down and feel superior. Power Fantasy. I get that. I like Power Fantasies too. I generally like them more complex than most, so when I do manage to get to be powerful, I feel like I was smart enough to earn it, but I can see the allure in games where having a Power Fantasy easily fulfilled is fantastic (I do play Warframe after all... Balance in that game is one-shotting everything, so if you're not doing that, you need to gain power to do that).

I get it, I really do. That's your ideal game. Drop the player into combat as quickly as possible. That's what you enjoy.

But, after that, you started arguing semantics about any and everything with people who disagreed with you. Why? I don't know. Maybe you can't handle that people disagree with you. I won't presume to know you as a person, but that's what it reads like. When that didn't work, you started devolving your posts into "pseudo-intellectual nonsense". Or, as Cartman from South Park says, "College Know-It-All Hippies". Meandering posts about nothing. Long strings of sentences that go nowhere, prove nothing, and have no point to existing. Impenetrable word phrases to confuse the topic and those replying to you.

Then, you eventually meander in... and turn into a hypocrite. "You're giving safe and obvious answers". That's what "drop a player into combat as quickly as possible" is. It's safe. It's easy. Everyone does it. At least, everyone who doesn't have skills writing does. A fair few of these devs also don't have skills in creating an interesting combat system either.

This is the reason I'm against "dropping a player into combat as quickly as possible". Because, if you don't know what you're doing, you're better off avoiding the stuff you don't know how to do until you can learn it. If you don't have a robust/interesting combat system, why are you dropping me into it as quickly as possible? All you are doing as a dev at that point is showcasing to your audience that you don't know what you're doing and have created a substandard game.

As others have said, how you start an RPG largely depends on what you're trying to accomplish.

My RPG starts with a 3 minute long Credit text with wind in the background over a black screen. Is it boring? Probably. But, it's a taste of what my writing is like. People should get their recognition before I do anything else with my game, because my being grateful is more important to me than anything else I've done with my game. The next thing I do? Depending on your reading speed... roughly 20 minutes in cutscenes to set up the story, the setting, the major players, and almost all of your future party members. After that? 5 minute cutscene to set up who you are and what you'll be doing. The cutscenes set up the "dual world" nature of my narrative. There's the world of your memories, of things that happened, where you'll be making choices and molding the narrative of all the characters involved... And then there's the world you're currently interacting with that affects the "here and now". You'll be primarily interacting with "the now", but at key points in the game, you will interact with, "your memories". It is important to set up the proper context for this mechanic. It is important to me, as an amateur game dev, to provide them with the context necessary to make the very difficult decisions to come. The first "major decision" in the game is you remembering what happened one fateful night a decision on who lives and who dies. There are three choices, but ultimately two major outcomes. Do you kill your best friend, whom you've known your whole life? Or, do you kill your wife and children? Without context, there's nothing to sway any player from their initial gut reaction choice. People with children in real life are more likely to sacrifice their friends to save their children. People who have had similar long lasting relationships with best friends will choose them instantly over a wife and children because that relationship to them is stronger. So, I set up the world. Set up the context. Does that mean my Combat is terrible? No. Or, at least, I hope it's not. I've invested a lot of time to try to make my combat system interesting. Divorcing Stats from Level Ups was one way of doing this. Removing Dedicated Healers (and magic that heals in general) was another way.

What I'm trying to accomplish with my game is simple. I want the player to keep coming back to make a choice. Large or small, I want the player making hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands of choices in the game. Everywhere I can make them do it. I want them making these choices without knowing that's what they're doing. Without knowing that it's the primary point of the gameplay.

To that end, there's no way I could start the game with combat. Combat in every RPG, dropped into so early, is devoid of all choice by the player. You're often either told what to do, how to do it, or given so few options as the conclusion is foregone. That doesn't fit the tone of my game. At all.

But, when the cutscenes are over... You're plopped into the middle of a field next to a tent, and will be harassed by enemies all the time from then on. But, to reinforce the "making choices" aspect of the game... You're given a Quest Chain in that tent, which will give you some basic combat gear and stats if you complete portions of it... and all you have to do is grind the easiest monsters in the game to do it. It reinforces the purposes of my game. Combat will be boring if you're not making choices in it. Exploring options. Taking risks. Buying your choice of consumables.

So, tell me, what is "safe and obvious" about starting a game without combat for roughly 20 minutes like that? I'd honestly like to know.

I suspect everyone here has "simplified" their answers for clarity and avoid turning this topic into something about their own games. The only "safe and obvious" answers are the ones where players do whatever they're doing "just because". "I like combat, so I'll front load my game with combat". That's safe. That's obvious. It gets worse when that combat is done poorly. Or, doesn't serve the game at all. "I like telling stories, so I'll front load my game with narrative". That's safe. That's obvious. It gets immensely worse if that writing is terrible as now you're sitting there without a way to avoid it.

Lots of people here prefer one method over another. They do it in their own games for their reasons. Not many on these forums do these things, "Just because". Almost all of us have a reason why we've started a game the way we did. Or at least, a reason that's deeper than what most of us have provided. When we spend a lot of time in the engine, designing and redesigning, our games begin to take proper shape. We give them reasons for being the way they are. Reasons to redesign or not redesign them. Reasons why something is finally "the best it can be".

But, in a topic like this? We usually just say, "I prefer a game do X instead of Y because of Z", because trying to describe that thought process creates a massive wall of text like this. Furthermore, it serves no purpose to do so, since any of us who have spent a significant amount of time here, know what each other are talking about. It's the shared experience of game design.
 

bgillisp

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I did the math AND if it takes any longer than 3 minutes and 27 seconds to reach the first battle your games bad and your a bad developer. 3 minutes and 27 seconds folks, not a second more or less!

Nuts, I'm 2 minutes and 15 seconds too early :p

I know I mentioned I had mine early, but I did fail to mention why back in the beginning. Reason I did so was you start the game exploring a cave, and I wanted to slip a battle in during the controls tutorial. So tutorial slime shows up. It's a joke, and falls in 2 hits (and you cannot miss it either), but is meant to show you the battle interface and let you play around a little with what each feature does if you wish.

But in my case, I felt it fit as it was mixed in with the controls. But the earlier version (old IGMC2104 version) I had no battles for about 40 minutes while you tried to figure out what was going on. Some loved it, and some thought it had too many pointless scenes. In the end I think they were half right as I was brand new and didn't know what I was doing so some of my development was like "A pool scene here would be neat. Let's add one". But, I wasn't thinking through how it all connected, and the early version of the game suffered as a result.

In fact, I still got a copy of that IGMC2014 version somewhere. Last time I fired it up I remember going "What on EARTH was I thinking here?". Live and learn, huh?

In fact, I actually feel kinda sorry for the judges for having to play that grade A garbage that the game used to be. But, we learn from it. And sometimes we learn by trying a set up, seeing it fails, then changing it. So for our games (and back to the OP) you may have to just try something, get feedback, and adjust. It does vary by your game and what you want to do with it, so pick what you think will work, try it, and if it doesn't work, at least you tried, versus not even trying to make a game.
 

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Uugh, got a passive aggressive complaint at work and now I'm not sure how to respond...
I really wish I could find work with a similar schedule to my gf(10-5 or 11-6)
I need some moneys >.>
I didn't realize that Deers can grow so big... I almost hit one while going home from work - phew... approx 10cm separated us from accident... (tomorrow link to video from my dashcam). I'm too shocked to think straight.
Just watched a very good drama. It left this very heavy sadness inside me T.T

As a game dev, there's always this other feeling I have after, for example, watching a sad drama: "Understanding +1!"

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