Sunday, March 8, 2009

Commencing Booya : A Few thoughts on design - Part I

ok its been a year and some such since I posted here I was way to busy getting an education and generally learning and making some stuff.
Video games are going through a major upheaval again after the 90s the focus is shifting from mature adult based entertainment to casual mass audience experiences. Game design in general now is shifting to accommodate this new change Games are becoming easier and easier to play in fact for most Casual games the design is focused around keeping the controls as simple as possible and making the player to understand the mechanics quickly. Now this is a current trend and most games that are designed this way are based around instant feedback for the most part the challenges thrown at the player are skill driven which means that a player has to learn a set of mechanics and then learn to get better and better at using those same mechanics in slightly different ways. Its a rinse and repeat mechanism and for the most part has become the swansong of the current generation of gaming. It has been tremendously successful and I think that some of the games designed around this idea are excellent and a lot of fun to play.
However this also leads to a one track approach to game design that is basically stifling the industry since its inception Game design has dealt with creating rule sets and defining what the player can and cant do and making the player understand that without confusing him/her completely. But I think that as game designers we need to ask ourselves are we binding ourselves down or limiting ourselves by constantly going back to 1 way of thinking ?

I think that it is possible to create a game where the user is not constantly aware of what he/she has to do next but still have fun. rules are important and necessary in a linear experience but is it possible to engage the player without a constant reminder to him/her that he/she is doing the right thing ? I think that controlling the experience that the player has is important but that can be done by limiting the number of variables in any given interaction if the player can interact in multiple/infinite ways but can do so only in a contained environment.
for e.g.
The player is a detective trying to catch a serial killer and he can do so in any way that he/she wishes the killer is still within a block of where the murder has occurred and cannot escape as the police has cordoned off the block and no one else can get in or out, the killer can be anyone within this city block and you can do anything to find him as the body count continues to rise. The player is not introduced to any mechanics except how to move and talk with people and maybe how to throw a punch. Every time a new game loads up the victim has changed and has been murdered differently. The player can solve the case in any which way that they choose to but they are confined to a single city block.

I think that if the idea is not too outlandish to a player then he/she does not necessarily need to have a set of rules and feedback that they are constantly being reminded of in a world. I think that for an idea like this to work it is necessary to have a world into which the player is close to completely immersed and easily identifies with. This means anything that the player thinks he/she can do they can do without really having to worry about but only in a confined space. This does not limit the players options but it limits the number of things that he can apply those options to.

While the grand theft auto series has been around for a while it does limit the kind of interactions the player can have while in game but it increases the space in which these interactions take place ,making the way in which those same options can be applied varied and seemingly limitless.
Again though the focus is on not really telling the player what to do but on letting him/her choose its a similar idea but while GTA is a sandbox what I'm talking about is a chemistry set with only a couple of beakers and a centrifuge but with every known chemical to man available.

I think that just throwing more options at the player just for the sake of it is not really good game design more is not necessarily better or fun a plethora of choices can overwhelm and stifle a player completely stifling the experience but I think this can be offset by making sure the player can do whatever it is that they want to do and make sure that the player is aware that his/her actions have a consequence or an effect by giving them feedback and letting them know that they have effected the world in some way.

Well that 's the end of part I will continue and hopefully end this post soon

1 comment:

Mr.Perfect said...


This is an excellent write up on the general trend on the Games Design, generally people comment upon various games in the market, but this one is too good for a person just out of school.

Keep up the good work!