Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?

Gameplay: the Missing Ingredient In Most Games 308

An anonymous reader writes "Game designer Tadhg Kelly has an article discussing the direction the games industry has taken over the past several years. Gaming has become more of a business, and in doing so, become more of a science as well. When maximizing revenue is a primary concern, development studios try to reduce successful game designs to individual elements, then naively seek to add those elements to whatever game they're working on, like throwing spices into a stew. Kelly points out that indie developers who are willing to experiment often succeed because they understand something more fundamental about games: fun. Quoting: 'The guy who invented Minecraft (Markus "Notch" Persson) didn't just create a giant virtual world in which you could make stuff, he made it challenging. When Will Wright created the Sims, he didn't just make a game about living in a virtual house. He made it difficult to live successfully. That's why both of those franchises have sold millions of copies. The fun factor is about more than making a game is amusing or full of pretty rewards. If your game is a dynamic system to be mastered and won, then you can go nuts. If you can give the player real fun then you can afford to break some of those format rules, and that's how you get to lead rather than follow the market. If not then be prepared to pay through the nose to acquire and retain players.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Gameplay: the Missing Ingredient In Most Games

Comments Filter:
  • No silly (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 25, 2012 @06:35AM (#42085977)

    Gameplay is what happens when you play the game.

  • Re:No silly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by robthebloke ( 1308483 ) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @07:03AM (#42086057)

    Sure but the article was about that there should also be more to a game than just "doing stuff".

    Nope. You use metrics to analyse your freemium game to graph tedium against profit. If you make it just tedious enough, people will hopefully pay some money to avoid actually playing your game. Welcome to the modern approach to game design :/

  • by Anonymous Cowherd ( 13230 ) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @07:23AM (#42086105)

    The article claims that these games are popular because they are hard but it seems that nobody every talks about how challenging they are but instead they always talk about how creative you can be within the game. Both Minecraft and The Sims allow you to be infinitely creative in the way you approach and what you do in the game, and that is what has made these games so popular.

  • Notch is not a God (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 25, 2012 @08:05AM (#42086231)

    Can we please stop circle jerking Notch already?

    Notch made a great concept and everyone bought into it, with promises of much much more, but after about 6 months the updates just stopped, he was too busy doing everything possible but working on Minecraft until he finally gave up the ghost and let Jeb take over, who is trying to keep promises Notch refused to. Notch made a lot of enemies because he went from working with his community to make the game what he promised it to be to going on vacation constantly. The game is not a shadow of what it was promised to be and he just got extremely lucky to take off as it did.

    Notch is not some Indie Diety who knows all about gaming. He is just a guy who got picked out by 4chan to make his game huge, then when he was expected to keep his promises he fled into the night. Several months after this he announced 1.0 and released the beta with minimal changes (He added a bad boss fight at the end and a Livejournal quality poem for "the end of the game").

    If you enjoy Minecraft that is great, but please look into the history of it before you start listening to Notch. All he will teach you is to take people's money, break promises and when people call you on it to run and hide among a bunch of ass kissing children.

  • Re:No silly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GuldKalle ( 1065310 ) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @08:16AM (#42086253)

    "Completed" means doing all achievements, not "playing through the story". To me it seems quite natural that if it's the story that carries a game, people are not going to play through it multiple times to unlock every achievement.

  • by Infestedkudzu ( 2557914 ) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @08:30AM (#42086279)
    A few of us still believe in the old prophecy. Some day there will be The One, and he will find a way to take grinding out of video games. And the old times will come back. and we will have games like zelda (nes) and metroid again.
  • by lattyware ( 934246 ) <> on Sunday November 25, 2012 @08:43AM (#42086313) Homepage Journal
    What promises were broken? The Notch hate just seems to be people who imagined a minecraft where you could do literally anything, and were never going to be pleased unless he worked 24/7 on it forever.
  • Re:No silly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by somersault ( 912633 ) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @08:45AM (#42086321) Homepage Journal

    What you're talking about aren't games, they're more simply interactive art pieces to enjoy.

    Games should be fun.

  • Re:No silly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MaskedSlacker ( 911878 ) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @09:48AM (#42086517)

    Yes, but they should be fun FIRST. I'm with you on the 'exploring the use of the medium for artistic expression' point, but just as a painting exists to be viewed (and thus should, on some level, be visually pleasing) and music exists to be heard (and thus should, on some level, be audiotorially pleasing), a game exists to be played (and thus should, on some level, be FUN to play).

    Paintings which break this rule and are not visually pleasing are little more than novelties that are soon forgotten (see any number of pieces in abstract art). Same for music (who actually listens to the things Cage did to pianos?). If I want engaging narrative alone, I've got any number of superior novelists and film directors, who do a far better job than any game I've ever played on that single aspect.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 25, 2012 @10:29AM (#42086699) Try reading that image. It will explain a lot of things.

    No one expected unlimited things, but there are a bunch of things promised and missing. Modding, torches burning out, Sky worlds. People aren't out to hate Notch because he is popular, they are annoyed they payed for a game to be developed and then once enough money rolled in he stopped developing it.

  • Re:No silly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @11:00AM (#42086859) Journal

    Basically I want a game that rewards perseverance without demanding skill.

    How is merely putting in time rewarding? In RPGs that's derisively called "grinding". There's no sense of accomplishment when you finish such a game, as there was never any doubt you could do it.

  • Re:No silly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lgw ( 121541 ) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @01:00PM (#42087553) Journal

    He'd probably just as much watch a movie.

    People who like hard games and puzzles like to be challenged. They are not discouraged by failure or if they are their competitive nature takes over.

    You can divide the world into two kinds of people those who watch and those who like to do, only the ones that do things can fail or succeed.

    The MMO world ~10 years ago showcased the difference. Everquest was really listening to it's hardcore players. Not willing to stay online and awake 36 hours straight? Then you won't get the boots that let you run a little bit faster. Not will to try 100 differnt approaches to a raid? The your guild won't get the prize. I knew people who were really into this, who actually collapsed from exhaustion while playing. The were unafraid to drive off the casual gamer.

    WoW came along with "how about we do the same game without the grueling, annoying parts?". In the abstract, the gameplay of the two games was similar: same sorts of in-game objectives, same basic idea about the stuff you would do in game, but WoW was carefully tuned to be appealing to the casual gamer, unafraid to drive off the hardcore gamer.

    The results of course were well know - EQ peaked at 3-400K subscribers, WoW at what, 12 million? 15? Everyone making games for money learned that lesson! For each person looking for a true challenge in a game, there are 30-50 people just looking for some entertainment.

  • Agreed. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ultrasawblade ( 2105922 ) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @01:40PM (#42087833)

    The pinnacle of game design is the old arcade game Robotron 2084. Here's why:

    - Put in a quarter, game starts. No bullshit story, no waiting 5 minutes for the game to let me do something. Gimme gimme now.
    - Everything is constantly flashing colors. You never saw an 4-bit indexed RRRGGGBB pallette worked so hard. I love that. Fuck realism. Reality sucks.
    - Objective is simple but has an element of depth to it. Shoot anything that moves except humans.
    - This game has two joysticks, one for movement and one for fire. You have unlimited ammunition and can shoot many fast-moving missiles in any direction. Instantly. I don't have to turn around to shoot backwards. Yes.
    - The balance is that you have anywhere from 10 to 100 enemies surrounding you trying to run into you and/or shoot you. So you get to blow up a lot of things. You HAVE to blow up a lot of things.
    - So the game is HARD. The unlimited ammo does not help you as much as you think. You are constantly needing to move and keep one step ahead of everything.
    - Because there are many things attacking you, and shooting at you, you will die a lot. So you HAVE to rescue the humans to earn extra lives.
    - A multiplier is at work when you rescue humans. So the first is 1000, 2000, etc. up to 5000. Starts over when you die. Gives you a LOT of incentive to not just shoot absolutely everything that moves, but keep maneuvering through this always changing morass of robots trying to kill you and humans needing to be saved. Also, due to this, you are always forced to evaluate whether it's better to try to rescue a human or simply let them go. But you must keep an eye on your lives.

    It's really the most engaging game I've ever played. Nothing else comes close to it.

  • Re:No silly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by loufoque ( 1400831 ) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @02:59PM (#42088379)

    A lot of role-playing games are simply based on storytelling, and do not require skill. That's true even for table-top role-playing games.
    It's not grinding either, you're just enjoying exploring and interacting with an imaginary world.

  • Re:No silly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @05:53PM (#42089279)

    You're post is correct except you are missing two key definitions:

    1. In MMO's grinding is just another form of gambling, aka, The Skinner Box. []

    2. Definition of a game: Unless you have a winning state then your game is really a toy, at best.. Interestingly enough, conversely a game doesn't need a losing state. A winning state is necessary, a loosing state sufficient.

    i.e. MMOs are NOT games, they are toys. There is NO WAY to WIN at a MMO. You don't "win" at WoW or another MMO (although some people would joke that the only way to "win" is when you quit playing, but I digress. :-) )

    Also, people want closure in movies, books, and games. That is not say an open-ended sandbox ala Minecraft, WoW, aren't fun. They are, but once you remove any sense of closure they have stopped becoming games and have become toys where you play. They are more about the journey then the destination. THAT is the key difference between a game and a toy.

  • Re:No silly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @08:52PM (#42090067)

    I cordially disagree. Minecraft's gameplay (i.e. the rules that dictate how something is played) is subtle, but very present. And it's definitely a game, not just a toy, though it's hard to tell from the outside (I would know, I was a doubter).

    The problem with many pure sandbox games is that they are simply too open-ended. Left with so many possibilities, many players face a paradox of choice [] and oftentimes cease playing the game before they accomplish anything much. Effectively, there is no "game" to it. It's just a toy, as you said. Kinda like Legos with no instructions. For some people, that's all they want, but there is no gameplay provided in that since there are no rules dictating how you put things together or for what purpose.

    In contrast, Minecraft provides some initial gameplay to get people started, then gives them a structured and intelligently designed path to help them discover their own "emergent" gameplay. By adding hostile monsters to the game, Notch established a basic purpose for the player's actions: build things to survive. Establishing that as the basic rule acting on the player forces the player down the path towards creating a structure to keep them safe from the monsters. Stuck in that place, players naturally expand it and embellish it, which forces them to locate additional resources. To do that, they need to explore either outwards or downwards, either of which will involve challenging the thing that has kept them in their safehouse. And as they explore and find additional resources, they find new things that they don't understand, which forces them to experiment. In all of that, the player's actions have a foundational purpose of survival, but as the game goes on, additional forms of gameplay begin to emerge as players discover and create new rules to guide their actions and purposes for doing what they are doing, be it to create the best city, live for as long as possible, or find the most awesome pieces of terrain.

    The genius in Minecraft is that it naturally leads the player down that path without the player realizing they are being led. To the player, it feels like a set of open-ended decisions in an open-ended world, rather than that they are being led down a path. In reality, their choices were guided by some excellent game design and a subtle application of simple rules to drive the player's actions in a certain direction. From the outside, it just looks like a box of Legos without instructions (and early versions of it were indeed just that), but it's much more than that. The game actually has exactly as much gameplay as it needs, which is to say that it has enough to prevent the paradox of choice but little enough that it allows for a lot of creativity.

    As a quick aside, I don't believe that game difficulty correlates to good gameplay. There are plenty of examples of easy games with good gameplay (Minecraft, Okami, Super Mario Galaxy) just as there are plenty of hard games with great gameplay (Demon's Souls, Ikaruga, Super Mario Bros.). Instead, I believe that gameplay should be tweaked to make a game as difficulty or as easy as is warranted by the game itself. Were Okami frustratingly hard, the Celestial Brush would have become a chore to use, rather than being the charming and exciting gameplay mechanic that it is. Were Demon's Souls too easy, the oppressive environment and epic bosses would have felt trite and unsubstantial, leaving the game hollow.

    I do believe there has been a recent trend to make games easier than is warranted, but that's another topic entirely.

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson