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Monday, July 2, 2012

What makes a Great Video Game

For some video games genres, fans come by default. For example, with sports video games, the ones most likely to play them are fans of the games in real life. For most genres of video games, however, you need to work to earn your players. While the following will apply to action/rpg games, these are points that can apply to any type of video game.

The most essential part of any video game is a good, solid storyline and plot. One of the great things about video games is that they have the ability to tell a story. Of course, books, which have been around for much longer than video games, do the same thing. Where a video game excels in contrast to a video game is the ability to actually "act" out the story yourself through the character onscreen. For example, with a battle scene, the visual aspect of the video game helps to give form to that scene in the way which the author saw it. A good exposition will introduce the main character, the protagonist, and other main or secondary players which play a great part in this story. The rising action part of the story will help to build the story up, giving us extra needed information about a character or characters and the setting(s), until we reach the climax. This is also where the villain can be introduced if he is not introduced to us in the exposition. The climax will most likely be that final struggle, that final boss battle, which decide the outcome of the story, and ultimately, the game. The resolution should tie everything together. If there is to a sequel to the game, this is also where you can create that "to be continued" feeling and set the player up for the next game.

The second most essential part of any video game is good characters. People should be able to relate to a character in the game, especially the protagonist, in some way, shape, or form. A character's nature can work to help draw the player further into the game. Good characters also help to make the game more memorable. Uniqueness of a character plays a big part here. What makes your character different from all the other video game characters out there? I realize that a character can only be so unique from the others, but what matters is how the character looks, thinks, and acts.

The third most essential part of any video game is side quests (and variability of them). A main storyline is good, but what is going to convince players want to continue playing your game if they want to deviate from the main storyline a bit? Side quests accomplish this function, creating a "game within a game". A simple, yet enjoyable mini-game can keep a player playing for hours on end. One of the reasons that Final Fantasy VII was so enjoyable is that it had many side quests to keep a player coming back for more, even after the main storyline was beaten.

Another essential part of a good video game is its "battle system". If your character gets into a conflict, or battle, how can the character act in battle? Does the character have just a simple kick and punch, or can the character do some flashy "super moves" as well? Does the character use any kind of special weapons or movements? The game camera plays a big part here. One of the biggest things that can turn off  players is a bad camera. A player should be able to have a clear view of what he or she is fighting as well as the ability to freely move about. The controls should also be easy to use as well.

Another part of a good video game is its music. As a composer, singer, and saxophone player, I know how music can set the mood of a scene. If the main character in the game is in a frantic moment, the music will probably be fast-paced. If it's a more sad and somber scene, the music will reflect this as well (usually being in the key or either D minor or G minor, but not always).Repetition of a particular musical theme is fine and can help to engrave it in the mind of the player, but don't overdo it. Part of the reason why the Final Fantasy prelude and victory themes are so memorable is because they occur in every game in the series. A good soundtrack also means that people are more likely to buy the OST of your game.

The issue of graphics quality is a mixed bag. High quality graphics is always desired, but this is not an issue which, alone, can decide the outcome of a person's purchasing decisions. Try to be modest with your graphics. If the graphics quality is high, it can slow a game down unless a person upgrades their hardware to handle that high graphics quality without slowdowns. The amount of frames per second (fps) which a game should strive for to have a smooth playing experience is around 60 frames per second.

As I said before, these points can apply to any video game out there. If you create video games, theses are some points that can help you in really making it great for the players and memorable too. Be as creative with your game as possible. It is, after all, your masterpiece. If your game can stand the test of time, you will know that your game has done well.

I realize that I might have missed something, or not given enough information on a given point. If you know of something I missed or if you have some ideas of your own on what makes a video game great, please share it in the comment box below, or e-mail me at You can also comment (and follow me) on twitter (twitter username is @rctechgeek). Feel free to subscribe to my rss feed as well. If you like this post, please share it with your family and friends.

In the meantime, while you are thinking or playing great video games throughout the years and feeling thirsty, drink some tasty Mystic Monk Coffee (use this link or click on the picture below to access the store and purchase). Trust me, it's good coffee (in most instances, much better than Starbucks coffee) and you won't regret buying some (just keep it away from your computer keyboard or laptop/tablet). For the summer, they are also offering Iced Coffee as well. If you like tea more than coffee, the monks also offer tea for sale. Using the link (or picture below) to buy the coffee (or tea) helps the monks out and helps me with college expenses as well.

Feel free to try out my apps for Windows Phone: Mobile Media Manager, a media player app I made which has some features which (I feel) are missing from the system Zune player, and BSA Eagle Tracker, an app that boy scouts can use to track their progress to Eagle Scout (when the scout handbook isn't always handy). New versions of the media player with new features/bug fixes is coming within a week (most likely sooner than this, but definitely within 2 weeks) of passing Microsoft Apphub certification. The update for the free, ad-supported version of Mobile Media Manager got denied in Apphub certification, but it will be resubmitted within the next day or two. The update for the paid version will be in certification with it (I've been busy lately, and hadn't had a chance to submit the paid version update to Apphub yet). BSA Eagle Tracker is also getting a bug fix for an obscure bug I noticed recently, so it is also due for an update.

BSA Eagle Tracker download:
Mobile Media Manager (paid, ad-free version) download:
Mobile Media Manager (free, ad-supported version) download:

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