Players and creators have been mistaken in merely hoping that they might someday share the stage with books, films, and television, let alone to unseat them. To use games to tell stories is a fine goal, I suppose, but it’s also an unambitious one. Some of the best games in history haven’t had a plot per say, for example Pacman, Super Mario Bros., and most escape game room titles which are my favorite.
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”.
Goals and win conditions are a popular topic in game design circles, but a lesser explored area of discussion is loss conditions. Trevor Murray goes into fine detail examining the relationship between the goal and the loss condition, how that plays out in several real-world examples, and advocates for a game system wherein player actions can often take them closer to winning and losing by way a specific loss condition, and how when coupled with a timer, this can result in desirable risk-reward balancing on the player’s part.
Our editor Fabian Fischer has a new article on up Gamasutra about something that’s pretty near and dear to the cause of gamedesigntheory.org: improving the discourse surrounding game design and game design theory.
“That’s just my opinion!” This sentence or a variant of it is often put up as a kind of protective shield for people’s statements and arguments when talking about games. Of course this phenomenon can be observed in other forms of media as well. At first sight, the critical discourse about art and entertainment is primarily concerned with the audience’s personal opinions. However, given the youth of the professional industry and its still fairly underdeveloped theoretical foundation, the “opinion safety factor” is especially high when it comes to video games.
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.
Ryan Rothweiler, who has been working on a tool for strategy game designers to quickly prototype their new ideas, also recently wrote an article about how we can improve the process of game design.
The process of game design is filled with difficulties and road blocks. I’m not talking about games as software development — I’m talking about games as rulesets design. The wants and desires of software developers are entirely separate from the wants and desires of a game designer, yet both use many of the same tools. Game ruleset designers need better tools if they want to push the boundaries of the medium.
Interesting and practical talk by Soren Johnson (Civilization 4, Offworld Trading Company) about the nuts and bolts design decisions that went into Offworld Trading Company. Topics covered include:
-The consequences of converging resource buy/sell price to the same value
-Buying your own shares, buying other players, and combating snowballing advantage/complexity
-A “Game available” system for small multiplayer communitiies
-Allowing players to play singleplayer while queuing
-Eliminating players early early to mitigate kingmaking
-Initial bid to establish stating locations
-Requiring tournament players to stream to build a community
-The value of Discord as a community building tool
-Splitting a traditional RTS game along Macro and Micro lines because they simply contain so much
Micro: MOBAs Macro: Offworld Trading Company
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.