There is a new article up on No Hidden Info. It’s an attempt to explore the very nature of interesting decisions in a less “vague and unsatisfying” manner than many of its precursors. The heart of the essay lies in the concept of “tension”:
Rules (player actions and environmental rules alike) come into tension with one another as a result of three properties interacting to create clashing incentives: exclusivity, situationality, and indirectness.
Keith Burgun weighs in on the recent discussions about score systems in strategy games. His new article basically argues for getting rid of them since they lend themselves better to short-term tactics or race-like structures than well-planned strategic decision making.
Thinking of your game in terms of points, and these short loops of getting points, I think lends itself to a game that repeats many short arcs. It also lends itself to thinking of a game as sort of arbitrarily expandable. […] The inherent nature of “gathering points” is, perhaps, less suited for a strategy game than for a contest. A strategy game is a structured thing with a beginning, middle and end. A contest is a measurement.
Ethan Hoeppner continues his previous exploration of using a continuous “par” number to adjust a game’s difficulty. To further support this approach, he this time makes a case for continuous goals in contrast to a binary win/loss states, arguing that the latter lead to a loss of important feedback information:
Ultimately, the problem with the win/loss system can be thought of in this way: The player attempts to maximize their probability of victory, but they aren’t told how well they did at that, instead the feedback they receive is just a single bit of information; the “win” or “loss”.
You recently might have found Raph Koster’s little “brain teaser” about abstract games to be interesting. Well, now you can hear an in-depth conversation between himself and host Keith Burgun on the Clockwork Game Design Podcast. They touch on a range of topics from the broader state of the game design craft and the surrounding discourse to more concrete guidelines for designing abstract games.
You might recall the discussion on Skinner Boxes we highlighted a couple weeks ago. Now Reddit user VMaikel continued that discussion in a new thread, partially taking it to a meta level by pointing out the difference between internal and external operant conditioning.
Clear language and a willingness to understand each other is what’s needed for better game design philosophies. We have to be aware of our own design goals and those of others. If we want to have more meaningful discussions we need to make a difference between disagreeing with a design goal and the methods used to achieve that goal. The fact that you disagree with a design goal does not automatically mean that the methods used for that design goal are ineffective.
At this year’s GDC, Stefan Engblom of Supercell talked about the team’s approach to card balancing in Clash Royale. While he pointed out a few areas where collecting data can be useful, he also emphasized that it’s clearly not everything. Instead, he underlined the importance of flexibility and quick iteration when trying to find the fun. But most of all, he recommends every creator to play their own game over and over again during development and after, to gain a deep understanding of and feel for the gameplay.
Thomas Grip of Frictional Games, the creators of Amnesia and Soma, tries to get to the mechanical bottom of “Walking Simulators”. Comparing their core mechanism to other kinds of games centered around moving an avatar around, he concludes that it is probably not the walking itself that keeps players engaged. Instead those titles seem to require a certain “meditative state”. He is not content with assuming players will be wanting to reach that state of mind though. Instead he hints at new possibilities to densely pack the environment with important information, which Frictional seems to be aiming to explore in future games.
Walking forward is just a matter of pressing down a key or stick. And unless you are my dad playing a game, this doesn’t pose any sort of challenge at all. Your brain is basically unoccupied and the chance of your mind starting to drift is very high. Instead of being immersed in the game’s world you might start thinking of what to cook for dinner or something else that is totally unrelated to the experience the game wants you to have.
Recently some single-player strategy games, such as Auro: A Monster-Bumping Adventure or Minos Strategos, started using ranking systems of dynamic difficulty, specifically to combat some of the long-standing problems of the highscore model. In his new article, Ethan Hoeppner argues that this approach, while being a step in the right direction, comes with its own problems and can be improved upon further. He suggests presenting players with optional challenges, and discusses a difficulty format based on a single “par” number in depth.
Keith Burgun’s new piece contrasts the meaning of solvability in the computational sense with how it can be defined to be useful for game designers. On top of that it makes a few unusual points about how “too much depth” and in turn “too little sovability” can actually lead to the opposite of keeping the game interesting for its players in the long run.