Category Archives: Fun

Opinion – Pitch – Actual Pitch

Point.  Counterpoint.

Even the worst game ideas start off as well-meant concepts.  Developers include an idea in their game because they felt it was going to improve the user experience in some way.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out and even the best implemented mechanics have flaws.  This article presents the pitch for aspects of games….and the actual pitch that reflects how the idea worked out.

 

Stun Attacks

Pitch:  Certain attacks by players and enemies will prevent their target from acting.  This allows good players to show off their skills by stopping enemies in their tracks and incentivizes bad players to learn the ins and outs of combat.

Actual Pitch:  We can’t punish weak players physically, so psychologically is all we’ve got.  We’ll give enemies stun attacks so the player must watch helplessly as their avatar is pummeled to death.  By not killing them outright, we dangle the possibility of success in front of the player so that they won’t reload immediately.  I came up with this in elementary school when my teacher told us to envision a circle of Hell.

 

Quick Time Events

Pitch:  The players want to do cool things that we can’t always map to the controller.  Solution?  We temporarily remap buttons to perform those cool actions and notify the player via onscreen prompts.  We preserve the simplicity of a single control scheme while keeping the player involved in jaw dropping scenarios without having to work in a cutscene.

Actual Pitch:  We give the player on screen button cues so they can desperately look for the next prompt while other people get to enjoy the actual visuals.  We’ll also put up the prompts so quickly that players practically have to memorize the sequence and will consistently press the button too quickly or too slowly resulting in their death.  Think of it as a more painful game of Simon.

 

Death Animations

Pitch:  The player needs to know they’ve died.  This is how they know.

Actual Pitch:  Death needs to be even more frustrating and a load/exit screen just ain’t cutting it.

 

Unskippable cutscenes

Pitch:  We’ve established a brilliant narrative which the player will need to understand to truly appreciate our game.  We know it’s frustrating to go through unskippable cutscenes, but the joy they get in the long run will outweigh the frustration.

Actual Pitch:  Our artistic vision is way more important than the player experience.  Sure, the player will likely die to the next boss, and yes, this means they’ll have to rewatch the same scene over and over again, but that just gives them more time to appreciate our genius.  I see no reason why a scene would lose its impact upon repeated viewings by an unwilling audience.

 

Multiple Form Bosses

Pitch:  This last fight is going to be EPIC.  Picture this:  The player beats the final boss….but he’s not dead!  He comes back and he’s meaner than ever!  Even after the next death, the boss isn’t done yet!  He’s got one more form which is so devastating that the worn out player will have to summon up his last remaining strength to overcome the odds.  This is the kind of gaming moment that creates memories that last a lifetime.

Actual Pitch:  This last fight is going to be EPIC.  At least, if you define EPIC as long and boring.  The boss will have a ton of hit points and brutal super attacks, the mentally and physically taxed player won’t have any items or special attacks left, and no one will complain because everyone just expects this.  Don’t worry, we’ll shoehorn the fight in, even if it has nothing to do with the plot.

 

Instant Death:

Pitch:  Fuck the player!

Actual Pitch:  Yeah!  Screw that guy!

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Filed under Fun, Opinion, video games

Opinion – Ease of Play vs. Fun

Press lever, get pellet.

I recently completed a simple, little game called Game Corp DX. The basic idea is that the player controls a nascent video game development studio and must lead it to success and triple A gaming. I can’t say I had a lot of fun with this game, yet I invested a couple of otherwise productive hours into it. I did this because of the systems inherent in the game that make it easy to play, even if it’s not fun. Game Corp DX makes clear the distinction between a game that smoothly works the player through its systems (easy to play) and one that gives the player joy through its systems (fun).

The game begins by starting the player off with a small office and a few resources. By providing a helpful hints and obvious goals, Game Corp DX leads the player towards success in bit sized chunks. This prevents the player from being overwhelmed by the introduction of new mechanics and provides a clear metric by which the player can measure their progress. Game Corp DX doles out challenge in a way that clearly marks the path to success and so short circuits the frustration of not knowing what to do next. It also gives the player a non-stop succession of quickly achievable missions to always push them forward. In short, the game is designed to weed out all of the natural stopping points that cause most players to move on to something else. At no point has the player accomplished a major task or run up against an insurmountable wall that would encourage them to stop. There is always an easily achievable task waiting for the player joined with a tiny boost of success. Game Corp DX is easy to play because it is designed to be a smooth walk to inevitable victory.

Yet the game is totally unsatisfying. When the missions stopped, so did I. If something had caused me quit the game earlier, I doubt I would have picked it up again. The same traits that made the game so easy to play also undermined the joy that I might have derived from it.

Fun from a game often comes from the return on what the player invests into the game. The nature of the investment varies substantially. Sometimes it’s an emotional investment into the characters and their stories. Sometimes the player invests time and effort into improving their skills to overcome challenges and figure out puzzles. Investment may even come in the form of simply walking around and enjoying the sights. Regardless of what type of investment the player makes, the have to make one if the rewards created by the game are to have meaning. Game Corp DX never asks much from the player, including the all-important investment. There is no story to explore, no environment to discover, and little challenge to overcome. Every victory in the game is a tiny mote of success that is only slightly more than the small amount of effort invested in achieving it. Player investment is little more than the time it would take to go do something else. When the player overcomes that hump, they have no reason to return.

I beat Game Corp DX in a couple of hours while seeing all the game had to offer. I have few memories of the game and no desire to return to it. It was never fun for me because my investment never exceeded its convenience. That being said, it has much to teach about ease of play. Game Corp DX has a smooth difficulty curve and deftly teaches its mechanics. I just wish it had something more.

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Filed under ease of play, Fun, Game Corp DX, Opinion, reviewish, video games