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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.'"
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Gameplay: the Missing Ingredient In Most Games

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  • Re:No silly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 25, 2012 @06:55AM (#42086039)

    I thought most games these days were just ego wankery of some shape or form where you press E to win because you are the toughest hardest space marine that ever lived.

    To be honest this has been coming for a long while. Gameplay has been sorely lacking, especially around the switch from 2D->3D games. My own personal definition of "gameplay" is the extent and delay at which the user's physical input has direct relevance in the game.

    So a game like gunstar heroes would have more gameplay than contra because the characters in contra have no ability to throw enemies or use hand to hand combat.
    A game where character animations take a long period of time to execute after player input also would have less gameplay, in my opinion, since my input can not change the state of the game whilst this animation is being played.

    In this respect although Super Mario 64 was probably the 3D game I've played with the most gameplay, it still has less gameplay than Super Mario World. I don't think anyone has been able to replicate the feeling of jumping on 6 koopas in a row whilst holding a red shell in a full 3D playing field.

    I would like to see that though.

  • Re:No silly (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jetra ( 2622687 ) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @07:27AM (#42086117)
    I would like to post a couple of very interesting links

    http://penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/beyond-fun [penny-arcade.com]
    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CDEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.necessarygames.com%2Fmy-games%2Floneliness%2Fflash&ei=qP-xUJWwF-m6yAHEhIAw&usg=AFQjCNF2Ja0DJ6wMb55AkI_4DPdjLDZU1w [google.com]

    He makes some very interesting arguments against making games purely for the sake of "Fun." Does the game really have to be about fun? Look at Indigo Prophecy (PS2) or Heavy Rain (PS3). Even Metal Gear Solid, without the guns, stealth, and violence, could have been a very good interactive movie. I would have payed money to watch as snake goes to battle, only to die a little inside. We should really break this habit of making games fun and start exploring other aspects like engaging narrative. We could free the market, setting new standards for better games.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 25, 2012 @07:30AM (#42086135)

    I agree that games need to be challenging, but the way in which making things more difficult is implemented matters a lot. For example, I remember that there was a mod for Battlefield 1942 where you could fly modern airplanes and helicopters which was actually kind of challenging. I got a great kick out of making tricky manouvers in those things. Then EA/DICE release Battlefield Vietnam, where the helicopters were basically auto-hovering and required barely any skill at all to fly around - extremely boring and lame. The earlier mod with the helicopters is a good example of something that's challenging and fun, but they could've also just made it harder by giving the vehicles fewer hitpoints for example, which wouldn't make it any more fun at all.

  • Re:No silly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JMJimmy ( 2036122 ) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @07:34AM (#42086151)

    The sentiment behind the OPs comment is accurate. Difficulty != why people play games. Difficulty != fun. Just look at the stats on http://www.trueachievements.com/ [trueachievements.com] and you'll see this article is completely bunk.

    The Sims 3: http://www.trueachievements.com/game.aspx?gameid=3183 [trueachievements.com] 17k own it, less than 9% have completed it.
    Wanted Weapons of Fate: http://www.trueachievements.com/WANTEDWeapons-of-Fate/achievements.htm [trueachievements.com] 17k own it, more than 21% have completed it
    LEGO Rockband: http://www.trueachievements.com/LEGO-Rock-Band/achievements.htm [trueachievements.com] 17k own it, just over 1% have completed it.

    Similarly if you look at games with similar difficulties (by completion %) you get a range from 72 copies to ~60,000 copies.

    If you look at the actual top adoptions for games you see a theme: Great storytelling with great graphics and relatively bug free games. Difficulty is all over the map in the top selling games.

  • by Umuri ( 897961 ) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @08:30AM (#42086281)

    I can shed some insight here.
    Minecraft and The Sims are not "hard" in the sense that you will fail a lot.
    Merely that they are hard meaning you start the game with very little understanding in how it works, and then have to master those systems to do what you want.
    As you are placing blocks, you have to deal with resource management, your own life, etc.
    A game does not have to be hard to be challenging. Nor does being hard make a game challenging.

    My favorite example from recent games is one called Demon Souls. Many people say it is hard, and challenging, yet It has one aspect that I love because it perfectly demonstrates the difference between the two, because it is a perfect example of something that is hard, but not a challenge.
    It has what used called an arcade coin-trick. A piece of gameplay put in purely to eat your quarters and lengthen time playing, without adding an equivalent value of fun or different playstyle.

    The challenging part of the game is learning each individual enemy, how they fight, how you can react, etc. You develop actual skills as the game goes on and your proficiency goes up.
    The coin trick is the death and respawn limit. While you can argue it adds a sense of urgency and being careful to the game, one could have done this without such a harsh penalty (loss of all exp, plus time wasted attempting to regain it only to fail at the end). This is an example of a piece of a game that is hard, but not challenging. It is hard because it punishes failure, without adding much extra fun.

    So with this in mind, you can see why minecraft and the sims can be considered challenging in that they engage the mind and thought, without being hard.

  • Re:No silly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 25, 2012 @08:32AM (#42086287)

    The irony of this is the Notch quote. Minecraft is just a toy sandbox and has the least gameplay of any game I've ever played.

    Now watch as this gets buried into oblivion by the Minecraft apologists.

  • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @09:31AM (#42086441) Journal

    Yes, I said it: nowadays, the CPU and GPU are too powerful, and game designers are hell-bent on 3D and other graphical gimmicks, instead of focusing on gameplay. That's why you'll find much more creative ideas among Android and iOS games. Yes, there's a ton of copy-cat games on the Androis marketplace, but there are a lot of interesting gems.

    Most of the games I play nowadays are 5-10 years old, or they are Android games. It's why I also installed BlueStacks on my PC:

  • Re:No silly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dadioflex ( 854298 ) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @10:05AM (#42086609)
    I think you're doing a good job of showcasing that gameplay, like art, is in the eye of the beholder. From your point of view gameplay is missing compared to older games. From my point of view, and I say this as someone who died a million times playing Jet Set Willy, the gameplay was missing from the older games. I actually WANT easier games where I can stroll through them, see everything, collect everything and then move on having felt I got my money's worth. Basically I want a game that rewards perseverance without demanding skill. I skew older on the gamer age chart, but I'm trending towards the norm.

    Super Mario World used about half a dozen buttons and was, to an extent, a skinner box that drummed patterns into your head. I appreciate that you have every right to think that it has better gameplay than, say, Darksiders 2, but I really can't share that opinion.
  • Re:No silly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DragonTHC ( 208439 ) <Dragon@gamersMEN ... com minus author> on Sunday November 25, 2012 @12:22PM (#42087329) Homepage Journal

    Am I the only one who recognizes this as the first volley in the Wii U hearts and minds campaign?

    For years, I've heard Nintendo fanboys ranting about gameplay gameplay gameplay. Because their system never offered anything beyond gameplay.

    Now that news has surfaced about the Wii U being weakly incapable hardware, I feel stories like this are going to be more commonplace.

    It's not just about gameplay. Sometimes there's more than just gameplay. Sometimes a new mechanic placed on an old style of gameplay is enough.

    Sometimes being gorgeous is enough. Sometimes being immersive is enough. And once in a while, you get all of those things together and it makes a truly spectacular game. But those are rare, and I want it to stay that way.

"The pathology is to want control, not that you ever get it, because of course you never do." -- Gregory Bateson