Thursday, November 12, 2015

Nukulibrium Art Assets

Concept art for a potential game I'm working on. Sketches by Jody Osentoski, tech tree by Joe Hopkins.

I'm imagining the intro/hype video to have the Death God throw a necrotic looking spear, only to have the Life Goddess wave her hand and turn it into a spray of flowers and a dove. The dove then flies up only to be struck by lightening and turned into a drumstick, which the God of Fried Chicken then catches and chows down on. Zoom out to game title, tap anywhere to begin playing.

Waximus, the God of Death - Rough Character Sketch

Waynia, the Goddes of Life - Rough Character Sketch

Drumstick, the God of Fried Chicken - Rough Character Sketch

Another idea for Drumstick.

Example objective tree of things the gods would need to help humanity build to colonize Mars.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Bad Experiences by Design

Bad design, well, sucks.

We live and play in a designed world. The screen you're reading, the seat you're sitting in, the electricity you're consuming is all there, for better or worse, by someone's design.

I can count the number of times these have been used on one hand.

Which is why it's important to study design, both the good and the bad, to understand how to build better systems. Thinking through systemic design is important. Without foresight, you can leave your users frustrated and extremely vocal about the system's shortcomings.

So how do you avoid a design problem like this? Well, a simple trick is to put yourself into the shoes of a future user. If they knew nothing about the design, would they understand what to do at a glance?


Another tactic is to test drive your design before it hits the big stage. Jesse Schell recommends using kindergartners. If they get your design, then everyone else will probably understand too. They're also pretty brutal with their feedback and hold nothing back. You'll recognize a problem very quickly when a 5 year old is tearing your design a new one.

Any door with an instruction manual is a design failure.

Design is like a joke, it's not very good if you have to explain it. How many times have you pulled on a door with a "Push" sign above the pull handle? This design flaw is EVERYWHERE! There are books with entire chapters dedicated to badly designed door handles.

It's pretty clear you have to push this, hence no "PUSH" sign.

Riot Games recently made a frustrating design decision with their League Point (LP) system. When you win a match of League of Legends, you gain LP. When you lose a match, you lose LP. Win enough, and you are promoted to a new shiny tier with a new shiny badge. Lose enough, and the opposite is true.

Sounds great right? A clear indicator of how well you're doing and if you're getting better or worse at the game! Well, sometimes.

Riot decided to add in an extra tier just above diamond (where the top 1-2% of the playerbase plays) called Master Tier. When they did this, they made it so players newly entering the Diamond tier could not gain or lose LP in a regular fashion. Essentially, you would win a game, get +10 LP, lose a game, get -30 LP. So a win and a loss was one step forward 3 steps back. Check out what it did to the Diamond player distribution:

Click the picture to make it bigger. The player count in Diamond V is the interesting part.

Currently ~73% of Diamond Players are stuck in Diamond V. This is significantly higher than any other tier's V distribution (For example, it's only ~42% for the Gold Tier).

This has left a lot of the top players frustrated. The system that's supposed to tell you if you're improving or playing worse is automatically set to tell you that you do not belong (regardless of how you're playing). The reddit rage is pretty hilarious to read.

That frustration is translating into gameplay. The top 1-2% of the playerbase is now trapped in the most toxic part of the player distribution. You have a mix of the frustrated players desperately trying to get to Diamond mixed in with the chill players that got Diamond, but don't care anymore and are learning new champions. Add to this a dash of tryhard rage stuck in a one step forward, three steps back cycle, and you get a play experience where every match is pretty angry. That anger is sucking the fun out of the game.

A system designed to give feedback on performance, now has a choke point that does the opposite. This has created a ton of frustration which is translating into toxic gameplay (people raging at one another, intentionally throwing games, quitting the games early). Riot Lyte recently gave a talk at GDC showing that this kind of toxicity makes a player 320% more likely to stop playing a game.
They probably want to fix this since their most diehard players are getting hit with this systemic toxicity. Lyte also has the solution in his talk when he says that "Clear feedback is everything." This would all be fixed if the LP system did it's job, and told players how they were performing. Fix that, fix the toxicity, everyone's happy. Hopefully Riot realizes this soon and saves the day!

Don't be a victim of bad design.
So when you're designing the next big thing, take a step back and look at it with fresh eyes.

Is it easy to understand?
Is it working as intended?
Can a 5 year old get it?

A little foresight goes a long way.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sejuani Mathcrafting for Patch 5.1 (League of Legends)

Tomorrow Season 5 of League of Legends begins. This means that the ranked ladders will reset and and everyone will need to climb back up to the top! Generally Riot will do something like:

(Your preseason MMR + 1200) / 2 = Your new Season 5 MMR

Worldwide League of Legends player distribution.
Compliments of

1200 MMR is the average league of legends player. So Riot will do a soft reset pulling everyone towards the average. This means that I get to be matched with and against lower MMR players, who will probably make more mistakes than what I'm used to. To compensate (and win games doing it), I did a little math to figure out a solid build/strategy for early game dominance.

(One of the top ADC players playing against the very bottom of the playerbase)

Against less skilled players, games are often decided in the first 20 mins of the game. If you can apply enough pressure or demoralize the enemy team, they'll often surrender at this point. My favorite champion is strongest late game (~30-40 mins), so I need to adapt my playstyle/build for the start of the new season. Here's my plan (math included) for doing this.

How to win the early game

Have you ever heard of a player named Ryan Choi? He is one of the best Rengar players in the world. The reason I mention Ryan, is that he made popular an interesting strategy to mitigate early game statistical weaknesses on his favorite champion. He stacks Doran's items (items that are cheap, give very good stats per gold spent, but don't build into stronger items) until he has enough gold to afford his more expensive late game build. Here's an example of how it works:

My favorite champion is Sejuani. She is a late game monster tank that becomes pretty damn unstoppable as the game goes on. But like I already mentioned, most games are decided in the first 20 mins, so I need to tweak my starting item build path (much like what Ryan Choi does) to compensate for my weak early game. Here's the item that's going to win me games tomorrow:

Here's why. Sejuani's damage scales with her maximum health, and ability power. It usually takes a while for her to buy enough items to be really scary though. Early game, she has trouble staying out on the map due to running low on mana (fuel for her abilities that do damage). Stacking Doran's rings gives her extra damage, and extra mana to compensate for her early game statistical weaknesses. Here's some math comparing what we could buy when we recall ~7 mins into the game ~level 5 with ~1600 gold (We should already have our upgraded jungle item).

What would you want to buy with ~1600g, to be strongest in the next 5 mins of the game?
The idea here, is to get our upgraded machete as quickly as possible since it gives us 30g per large monster kill and a bunch of extra damage/sustain. On our next buy, instead of buying REAL items, you grab 3-4 doran's rings. BECAUSE THEY GIVE US MORE STATS than real items at this point in the game!!! We will have more damage, and due to the mana regen and passive (free mana per unit kill), we should never run low on mana in the jungle. We'll also be using some % max health seals/quints to make the health worth a little more as well (we already talked about why this is smart in a past post). If we buy 4, we're spending 1600g. We can sell these back for 640g, so we're really only down 960g. If we can farm a few extra camps, get a kill or two, or win a tower/dragon after this buy, the Doran's rings pay for themselves.

(The power of Doran in a championship game)

As the game progresses, we'll sell off our Doran's rings to make room for better items. Hopefully we will have already made a bigger early game impact by the time that happens. The season resets tomorrow (1/21/2015), so feel free to tune into my stream on Twitch if you'd like to watch and see for yourself:

Watch live video from GundayMonday on

Thursday, January 15, 2015


New year, new goals.

Over the past year I focused a lot on my job at Quicken Loans. Would spend weekends building my coding chops (I am now a SQL deity) and learned how to do a lot of cool stuff. But I didn't get a chance to do a lot of the things I used to love. This year I want to fix that.

Got over my fear of public speaking in this band. Also my fear of everything.

Music has always been a big driving force in my life. Nothing is better than a great song. I admire those that create masterworks capable of shaping emotion from sound. My heroes are those that conjure the obscure, the triumphant, and the different kinds of tunes that make feet tap and smiles form.

(My favorite song)

I used to make music every day. Last year, maybe a month or two? And I only finished two songs.

This year, I want to change that. I want to create a full album that I can really be proud of. I want to take my time and really do it right. Spending an immense amount of time focusing on tweaking the little things to make it perfect. Don't even care if anyone else likes or listens, this one's for me.

So that's resolution #1, make an entire album of music that I can be proud of.

Next resolution's a little nerdier. I'm a pretty good League of Legends player. I'm the best Sejuani (Pig riding champion) in North America currently, and am in the top 10k players out of the entire continent (Just hit D3 ranking last night!). That's pretty good for a game with a multi-million playerbase. I want to do better though.

Riot recently created a new Master Tier to hold the absolute elite of the competitive player base. I want to break into it. I want to do it my way too. Most of the players up there use a specific playstyle that specializes in killing other players (they carry bad teammates this way). I want to break into the top tier by playing tanks and supports (champs that specialize in making teammates better). I'm already pretty close, and I think it's doable, but there aren't many tank/support players currently in the top 0.01% of the player base. I want to be one of the first.

Resolution #2 is to break into Master Tier for my favorite game while still having fun and playing it my way.

3rd and final resolution coming up (Wanted to keep it doable!).

Watch live video from GundayMonday on
Recently built my own computer from scratch, and started streaming on Twitch. This is honestly one of the most fun things I've ever done. After ~2 months, I have some quality individuals hanging out in my chat watching me play. Which is super weird! Complete strangers are looking at me while I play video games and sometimes posting penis emoji (seriously, what do you think will happen if you click that link?) all over my stream! But it's awesome and SO MUCH FUN.

I want to get better at streaming. I am going to arbitrarily validate my success via my follower count. Right now I have 58. I would like to shoot for 1000 by the end of the year. I think that's doable if I keep at it, but definitely a tough goal to have (wouldn't be fun if it were easy). Plus, always nice to make new internet pals!

So there you go. Resolutions for the year. Wish me luck!