Scott Howard
These are the personal musings of Scott Howard, Producer / Designer / Gamer

Over the last 15 years in the games industry I have worked on console, mobile, social and free to play games enjoying the nuance and challenges each of these brings. 
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Tuesday
May062014

Down Time = Game Time

Having some down time on my hands gave me a chance to catch up on a bunch of games I have been wanting to play for a long time now. I feel like when I got home from my grandparents house on christmas eve, busting in the door to dump the contents of my stocking on the floor and tear off wrapping paper like a thresher maw from Mass Effect. 

So what have I been playing?

I could write up a ton of stuff on each, but I actually wanted to call out three games that I thought were really doing some good stuff in the F2P mobile space. 


HearthStone - Fit, finish and polish
The attention to detail is just fantastic. The art is beautiful, just sifting through cards is a pleasure. Sound is great and doesn’t get old. Everything is animated and feels alive. They “Peggled the shit out of it” (Thanks David Scott for this term), when you win a match and even when you lose there is a sense that you can surely win the next one. What is amazing to me is that for all the visual polish, the game doesn’t feel noisey, or cluttered. In fact it feels simple and easy to use, with a clear consideration that less is more when it comes to interaction design. In short all F2P games should be looking at HearthStone and asking themselves, “How can I make my game feel like it has this level of quality”. Unfortunately, the answer is usually suck it up and make the effort to put the quality in. Don’t shortcut things or trim the details, they matter.


Hitman GO - Tactical shooter becomes turn based puzzle game. What the what?!?
I love me some stealth games, especially stealth assassin games. Metal Gear, Thief, Rogues in every Bethesda title, Assassin’s Creed, Dishonored, Deus Ex and of course Hitman. All of these scratch a particular itch for me. At their core though, they are puzzle games. How do I get in without being seen? How can I make it out alive? Etc. Since FPS’s all pretty much play like ass on tablets I thought Square Enix’s solution to bringing the Hitman franchise to mobile was brilliant. The game is incredible accessible, beautifully done and I believe will introduce a number of new players to the franchise, hopefully without alienating existing ones. This last point is of course a concern, people who play Hitman, have certain expectations, e.g. running around and either shooting people in the head or stabbing them in the neck. Time will tell if Square made the right call, but good on them for taking the risk to test the hypothesis, that there is a market for the Hitman series that doesn’t have to be more of the same, but can be something new and unique.



Trails Frontier - The complete package
Full discloser, I have worked with the amazingly talented people at RedLynx before, so of course I tend to like their work. That begin said, I was never a big fan of the Trails series of games. It’s not that they are bad games, quite the contrary in fact, it’s just that they are not really my thing. Now here comes Trails Frontier and I can’t put it down. Similar to HearthStone, the attention to detail is superb. Beyond the detail though, they have a fun story, solid humor, accessible controls, short play sessions, RPG mechanics as you level up your bike, a monetization system that feels fair and not “grindy”. In short, they put it all together extremely well. RedLynx has honed the gameplay to a razor sharp edge and packaged the whole thing up, serving it to the player like a prix fixe meal from the French Laundry

So food for thought.

Consider new ways you can use your IP. In the case of Hitman, even if you are using exsting IP, think about how you can use it in more interesting ways that might appeal to a broader audience. 

Pay attention to the details, fit, finish and polish. Sure, everyone wants to make a quality product, but that doesn’t mean you have to fill it with a ton of stuff. Take what you have and refine it so the attention to detail is unmistakable.

Lastly, make sure you put it all together like a fine meal, soup to nuts. That each piece of the puzzle works harmoniously together so your players put the game down satisfied to the fullest.

Ok now I have to get back to feeding my own personal game addiction ...