Saturday, January 3, 2009

The key to good game design

Sorry for not posting much, I have much to post about, but little time in which to do it (as all the time I am feeling constructive I spend on revision!) However, I saw a clever post of that I thought I'd share. You can read the full thread here, not that interesting though!

Anyway, here is the post, the poster describes what he thinks are key to good game design.

1) The game needs to be (or at least *seem*) fair.

2) The player's character/avatar needs to control well and respond in a predictable fashion (this ties into the game being fair).

3) The challenge of the game needs to match the player's skill level (note: no game is going to have the perfect challenge at all times, so this isn't going to always be true until adaptive difficulty is perfected).

4) The player's goals (both long-term and, more importantly, short-term) need to be obvious at all times.

5) The player needs to have clear feedback that allows the player to know at all times how well he is performing at the current task in the game. It's important to note that any negative feedback/punishment that is given to the player should be treated as information and not as mockery. A game with good design never concentrates too much on a player's mistakes. It's best to make the mistake obvious without badgering the player. Games like Bioshock that just automatically restart you without even having a death animation or text that essentially says, "Hey, even though it's completely obvious to you that you just died, I'm going to say it anyway... GAME OVER, LOSER!" have good game design in this respect.

6) The rewards and punishments need to be structured properly. I.e. the player shouldn't be given a huge reward for a trivial task, and the player shouldn't be punished too much for a small mistake (one example of bad design in this regard that I constantly encounter is in platform games where you're in a vertical level traveling upwards, make one bad jump, fall for what seems like 5 minutes, and then start at the very bottom of the level all over again).

Number 5 is quite clever and something I hadn't really thought of. Game Over screens are basically just rubbing something you already knew in your face.

I would add to number four that it also needs to be made clear to the player why they are failing (if they are). For example, in Gear of War 2 in that sequence on the back of the cargo truck type things - I didn't know why I kept failing (I wasn't shooting the mortar fire) It was an incredibly frustrating experience and definitely not fun.

The final thing I would add is that if puzzles/challenges use a new mechanic, should fit with everything that has gone before. Good games lay down the basic rules early and then just interpret them differently. If at the start, the player can't run, this should remain the case and not just be changed when it suits the puzzle.

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