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.
The narratology/ludology war wages on! Check out a recent entreaty by our very own Fabian Fischer about how artistic media is best when it plays to the strengths of its form. Link to the full article is below:
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.
Today’s article is a nuts and bolts dive into a specific implementation of the information horizon. Push The lane currently uses fog of war to manage the point at which new information is presented to the player over the course of a match. This is crucially important to the design of strategy games, especially single player ones, as single player games are not able to rely on other player’s future actions as a source of ambiguity. You can find the full article below!
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.