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LAFS Game Design 1 - Working With System Dynamics
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LAFS Game Design 1 - Working With System Dynamics


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Session 5 of the Los Angeles Film School's Game Design 1 class.

Session 5 of the Los Angeles Film School's Game Design 1 class.

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  • 1. Session 5 David Mullich Game Design 1 The Los Angeles Film School
  • 2. Designer Perspective: Will Wright G4 Icons Episode #9: Will Wright
  • 4. Systems A system is defined as a set of interacting elements that form an integrated whole with a common goal or purpose. At the heart of every game system is a set of formal elements that, when set in motion, create a dynamic experience in which the players engage. Game systems can be simple or complex, predictable or unpredictable.
  • 5. Systems A system is defined as a set of interacting elements that form an integrated whole with a common goal or purpose. At the heart of every game system is a set of formal elements that, when set in motion, create a dynamic experience in which the players engage. Game systems can be simple or complex, predictable or unpredictable.
  • 6. Basic System Elements  Objects: game pieces, the players, avatars, terrain, resources  Properties: qualities or attributes that define the physical of conceptual aspects of objects  Behaviors: potential actions that an object might perform in a a given state  Relationships: how objects interact with each other
  • 7. More on Properties and Behaviors  Properties and behaviors can be fixed or fluid  The more properties or behaviors an object has, the less predictable its actions are
  • 8. More on Relationships  Objects with no relationships between them is a collection, not a system  Relationships can be fixed and linear, or loose, interacting with them based on proximity or other variables  Relationships can be determined based on rule sets or chance  Changes in relationships can be introduced based on choices made by the player
  • 9. CHARTS
  • 10. What Is A Chart? A chart is a two-axis grid of information. Along the left column is a list of objects in your systems. In each column are the properties in your game. This is the most useful tool a designer has for analyzing a system. Enemy Radius Normal Speed High Speed Damage Hit Points Womp Rat 5 3 5 1 5 Vorpal Bunny 10 10 20 2 8 Bug Bear 20 5 10 10 15
  • 11. What Are We Going To Chart? No one chart can display all the relevant information in your game. It would be unreadable! Therefore you can : • Make separate charts for each system. • Make separate chart for each rule in the system. • Make charts to compare two or more properties you are trying to balance.
  • 12. Literal Values Literal values are the actual numeric qualities of an object’s properties. However, just because the numeric value of one object is twice the numeric value of the other, that doesn’t necessarily mean the object is twice as good! There may be other factors involved. Enemy Radius Normal Speed High Speed Damage Hit Points Womp Rat 5 3 5 1 5 Vorpal Bunny 10 10 20 2 8 Bug Bear 20 5 10 10 15
  • 13. Relative Values It may be difficult to quantify properties early on in the design phase, so sometimes we use relative values to express how things should relate to each other. Enemy Radius Normal Speed High Speed Damage Hit Points Womp Rat LOW LOW LOW LOW LOW Vorpal Bunny MEDIUM HIGH HIGH LOW MEDIUM Bug Bear HIGH MEDIUM MEDIUM HIGH HIIGH
  • 14. The Lens of the Dynamic State Game playing is decision making. Decisions are made based on the information available. Determining the different attributes, their states, and who knows about them is core to the mechanics of your game.  What are the objects in my game?  What are the attributes of the objects?  What are the possible states for each attribute? What triggers the state changes for each attribute?  What state is known by the game only?  What state is known by all players?  What state is known only by some or one player?  Would changing who knows what state improve my game in some way? Jesse Schell, Lens #22
  • 15. CHANCE
  • 16. Chance As A Game Mechanic Chance is an essential part of a fun game because chance means uncertainty, and uncertainty means surprises. A good game designer must be a master of chance and probability to create an experience that is always full of challenging decisions and interesting surprises. Jesse Schell
  • 17. Ten Rules of Probability  Rule #1: Fractions are Decimals are Percents  Rule #2: Zero to One – And That’s It!  Rule #3: “Looked For” Divided By “Possible Outcomes” Equals Probability  Rule #4: Enumerate!  Rule #5: In Certain (Non-Mutually Exclusive) Cases, OR Means Add Jesse Schell
  • 18. Ten Rules of Probability  Rule #6: In Certain (Non-Mutually Exclusive) Cases, AND Means Multiply  Rule #7: One Minus “Does” = “Doesn’t”  Rule #8: The Sum of Multiple Linear Random Selections is NOT a Linear Random Selection (3D6 Distribution Curve)  Rule #9: Roll The Dice (Practical vs. Theoretical)  Rule #10: Geeks Love Showing Off (Gombauld’s Law) Jesse Schell
  • 19. The Lens of Chance  What parts of my game are truly random? What parts just feel random?  Does the randomness in my game give players positive feelings of excitement and challenge, or does it give them negative feelings of hopelessness and lack of control?  Would changing my probability distribution curves improve my game?  Do players have the opportunity to take interesting risks in my game?  What is the relationship between chance and skill in my game? Are there ways I can make random elements feel more like an exercise in skill? Are there ways I can make exercising skills feel more like risk-taking? Jesse Schell, Lens #22
  • 21. Examples of Game Systems  Scoring  Progression  In-Game Economy  Health  Combat  AI (Enemy Behavior)  Magic  Multiplayer
  • 22. Health System Example  The player starts the game with 3 lives.  The player can gain an additional life by one of these methods:  Collecting the Reincarnation Medallion  Defeating three Mummies in less than 30 seconds  The player loses a life when his health reaches 0% (see Combat System).  If the player has at least one life remaining: ○ The player’s Health is reset to 100% ○ The player respawns at the nearest player respawn point ○ All enemies respawn at their respawn points at 100% Health  If the player has no lives remaining, the Lose Game Screen appears.
  • 23. Progression System Example  The player starts the game with 0 Experience Points.  The player gains experience by successfully performing actions in this chart: Action Points Earned Collecting gold 1 for each gold piece Opening a treasure chest 50 points Defeating a minion 100 points Defeating a boss 1,000 points
  • 24. Progression System Example  The player gains an Experience level each time he accumulates the necessary number of Experience points according to the table below. Experience Level Experience Points 1 0 2 100 3 200 4 500 5 1200
  • 25. Progression System Example  When the player earns a new experience level:  A pop-up appears announcing: “Congratulations! You have reached level <LEVEL> and have earned <REWARD>.”  Player level rewards are determined by the table below. Experience Level Experience Points 2 Iron Sword 3 +1 Strength 4 Steel Sword 5 +1 Speed 6 Vibranium Sword
  • 26. Combat System Example  The attacker is the character (player character or enemy character) who initiates combat  Combat occurs in a serious of rounds, in which the attacker strikes the defender, and then the defender (if still alive) strikes the attacker)  The amount of damage done in each attack depends on the character’s weapon, according to the table below: Weapon Damage Fist 1 Club 3 Dagger 5 Short Sword 10 Long Sword 20
  • 27. Combat System Example  The damage done by the weapon is subtracted from the target’s health.  If both characters’ health is greater than 0, then combat continues for another round.  If either character’s health reaches 0, then combat immediately ends (see Life System).
  • 28. AI System Example  There are 4 states in the basic AI: Patrol, Follow, Combat and Runaway.  PATROL: Each enemy starts the level in Patrol mode. In Patrol mode, each enemy walks between two assigned waypoints at normal speed.  FOLLOW: If the player moves within an enemy’s sight range while it is in Patrol Mode, it goes into Follow mode. In Follow mode, the enemy follows the player at high speed.  COMBAT: If the player and enemy character collide, the enemy goes into Combat Mode (see Combat System).  RUNAWAY: Each 10 seconds the enemy is in Follow mode, there is a percent chance equal to the player’s Experience Level, that the enemy will go into Runaway Mode. In Runaway mode, the Enemy returns to its closest waypoint at High Speed. Once it arrives, it returns to Patrol mode. Combat Patrol Follow Runaway
  • 29. AI System - Example Enemy Radius Normal Speed High Speed Womp Rat 5 3 5 Vorpal Bunny 10 10 20 Bug Bear 20 5 10 Lion King 30 15 20 Komodo Dragon 30 5 30
  • 30. Extra Credits: Energy Systems Extra Credits: Energy Systems
  • 32. Economics Many games allow for the exchange of resources (money, gold, raw materials, manufactured goods, property) either within the system (such as with Monopoly) or among players (such as in World of Warcraft).
  • 33. Questions To Ask Yourself  Does the size of the economy grow over time? For example, are resources produced, and if so, is the growth controlled by the system?  If there is a currency, how is the supply of that currency controlled?  How are prices set in the economy? Are they controlled by market forces or set by the game system?  Are there any restrictions on opportunities for trade among participants: for example, by time, turn, cost, or other constraints
  • 34. Simple Bartering In the game Pit, players receive cards with different commodities on them. Players call out the number of cards they want to trade but not the commodity on the card. Trade continues until a player has all nine cards of a single commodity type – a “corner on the market.”  Amount of Product = Fixed  Money Supply = N/A  Prices = Fixed  Trading Opportunities = Not Restricted
  • 35. Complex Bartering In Settlers of Catan, players trade resources with each other to build settlements. Trade is fairly unrestricted, but there are a few constraints. The relative value of the resources change based on market systems, and the total amount of product in the economy changes over the course of time.  Amount of Product = Controlled Growth  Money Supply = N/A  Prices = Market Value with Cap  Trading Opportunities = Restricted by Turn
  • 36. Simple Market In Monopoly, players buy, sell, rent and improve real estate in an attempt to become the richest player in the game. Players can trade properties between each other at any price they agree upon.  Amount of Product = Fixed  Money Supply = Controlled Growth  Prices = Market Value  Trading Opportunities = Not Restricted
  • 37. Complex Market In many online RPGs, players start with few resources and enter a “labor market” to acquire more. They sell the resources they acquire to shopkeepers (who will buy anything and keep players “employed”) and to other players (who will set a market price for highly valued items).  Amount of Product = Controlled Growth  Money Supply = Controlled Growth  Prices = Market Value with Base  Trading Opportunities = Not Restricted
  • 38. Metaeconomy Metaeconomies arise when players trade resources outside of the game, such as in trading card games. The game publisher has control over the overall shape of the economy in terms of the rarity of cards they produce, but they have no control over how those cards are traded after they have been purchased.  Amount of Product = Controlled Growth  Money Supply = N/A  Prices = Market Value  Trading Opportunities = Not Restricted
  • 39. The Lens of Economy  How can my players earn money? Should there be other ways?  What can my players buy? Why?  Is money too easy to get? Too hard? How can I change this?  Are the choices about earning and spending meaningful ones?  Is a universal currency a good idea in my game, or should there be specialized currencies? Jesse Schell, Lens #46
  • 40. Balancing Game Economies  Fairness: Do players get an unfair advantage by buying certain things, or earning in a special way?  Challenge: Can players buy something that makes the game too easy for them? Is earning money to buy what they want too hard?  Choices: Do players have enough ways to earn money? To spend money?  Chance: Is earning money more skill-based or chance-based? Jesse Schell
  • 41. Balancing Game Economies  Cooperation: Can players pool their funds in interesting ways? Can they collude in a way that exploits “holes” in the economy?  Time: Does it take too long to earn money, or is it too easy?  Rewards: Is it rewarding to earn money? To spend money?  Punishments: How do punishments affect a player’s ability to earn and spend money?  Freedom: Can players buy what they want, and earn the way they want? Jesse Schell
  • 42. Video Game Economies The Rise of Videogame Economies | Off Book | PBS Digital Studios
  • 44. Considerations  How much information do players have about the state of the system?  What aspects of the system do the players control?  How is the control structured?  How does that effect gameplay?
  • 45. Information Structure For players to make choices about how to proceed in a game, they need information about the state of the game objects and their current relationships to each other. How information is structured in a game has a large influence on how players come to their decisions.
  • 46. Information Structure An open structure emphasizes player knowledge and gives full disclosure on the game state. It will generally allow for more calculation-based strategy. A hidden information structure does not reveal certain data to players about their opponents. Players do not receive certain data about their opponent and allows for strategy based on social cues and deception or bluffing.
  • 47. Information Structure Many games have a mix of open and hidden information. The amount of information that players receive about their opponents’ states often changes during the course of the game. This provides an ever-shifting balance between strategy based on knowledge and strategy based on cunning and deceit.
  • 48. Controls The range of controls in games is extreme, everything from pencil and paper to flight simulations with mock cockpits. One type of control system is not inherently better than another. What matters is whether or not the control system is well-suited to the game experience.
  • 49. Controls Direct control of movement is a clear-cut way for players to influence the state of the game. Players can also have direct control over other types of input, like the selection of weapons. Some games, like SimCity, do not allow players direct control over many game elements. The player can change certain game variables to see what impact that has on the behavior of game elements not under their direct control.
  • 50. Controls Control often involves a repetitive process or action performed throughout the game, referred to as the “core mechanic.” If this basic action is hard to perform, unintuitive, or just not enjoyable, the player might stop playing the game altogether.
  • 51. Feedback Feedback implies a direct relationship between the output of an interaction and a change to another system element. Feedback can be positive or negative, and it can promote divergence or balance in the system. Positive Feedback Example: If the player scores a point, they get a free turn. This reinforces the positive effects of a scored point, creating an advantage for the player. Negative Feedback Example: Every time a player scores a point, they must pass the turn on to another player. This has the effect of balancing the system between two players, not allowing one to get a larger advantage over another.
  • 52. Feedback Reinforcing Relationships: A change in one element directly causes a change to another element in the same direction. This might force the system to one or the other extreme. Many games use reinforcement loops to create satisfying risk/reward scenarios for players that drive the game toward an unequal outcome based on player choices. Balancing Relationships: A change to one element causes a change to another in an opposite direction, forcing the system to equilibrium.
  • 53. Tuning Game Systems 1. The designer needs to test to make sure the system is internally complete so that there aren’t any situations that can block players from resolving conflicts or allow players to circumvent conflict. 2. The designer then tests for fairness and balance. A game is fair if it gives all players an equal opportunity to achieve the game goals. A system is balanced if there aren’t dominant strategies or overpowered objects. 3. Finally, the designer tests to make sure that the game is fun and challenging to play.
  • 54. 1. Download GM Tutorial - Lemonade from the LAFS GD1 website Resources page 2. Create a Lemonade Stand simulation