LAFS SVGI Session 3 - Game Design and Analysis
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LAFS SVGI Session 3 - Game Design and Analysis

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Lecture for Session 3 of The Los Angeles Film School's Survey of the Video Game Industry course.

Lecture for Session 3 of The Los Angeles Film School's Survey of the Video Game Industry course.

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  • From Jason VandenBergh’s “Dominions of Play” presentation at GDC 2012. <br /> <br /> Jason VandenBergh is Creative Director at UbiSoft and has worked at Creative Director at Activision and Lead Game Designer at Electronic Arts. He is author of the book “100 Principles of Game Design.” <br />
  • Cooperation and competition reflect two ends of a spectrum. Individual players often have a preference for where they fall along this spectrum. For them, a game’s fun factor is higher the closer it comes to their personal preference. <br /> <br /> Cooperative games make players work together to complete objectives. Massively multiplayer online games often include lots of cooperative gameplay. <br /> <br /> In other games, the objective is to outperform and opponent. Competition motivates people to practice their skills and think of different ways to succeed. <br /> <br /> Whether playing with friends, family or even rivals, multiplayer games help build and strengthen ties. <br />
  • Games with the element of threat are fun because of their heart-pounding action and the enjoyment people get out of defeating their opponents. First-person shooters and racing games are examples of games that appeal to a player’s threat instinct.
  • Richard Bartle co-created MUD (Multi-User Dungeon), the text-based precursor to today’s MMORPGs, while studying at Essex University. He ended up formulating the theory that all MUD players could be broken down into four main types: killers, achievers, explorers, and socializers. <br /> <br /> Bartle theorized that MUD players could be split into four types, giving psychological portraits of players populating a virtual world for fun: <br /> <br /> Killers like to provoke and cause drama and/or impose them over other players in the scope provided by the virtual world. Trolls, hackers, cheaters, and attention farmers belong in this category, along with the most ferocious and skillful PVP (player vs player) opponents. <br /> <br /> Achievers are competitive and enjoy beating difficult challenges whether they are set by the game or by themselves. The more challenging the goal, the most rewarded they tend to feel. <br /> <br /> Explorers like to explore the world – not just its geography but also the finer details of the game mechanics. These players may end up knowing how the game works and behave better than the game creators themselves. They know all the mechanics, short-cuts, tricks, and glitches that there are to know in the game and thrive on discovering more. <br /> <br /> Socializers are often more interested in having relations with the other players than playing the game itself. They help to spread knowledge and a human feel, and are often involved in the community aspect of the game (by means of managing guilds or role-playing, for instance). <br /> <br />
  • In the above diagram, the horizontal axis represents a preference for interacting with other players vs. interacting with the world and the vertical axis represents a preference for (inter)acting with something vs. (inter)acting on something. So, achievers prefer to act on the world, while socializers prefer to interact with other players. <br /> <br /> Bartle found that players tended to belong to a primary category, but drifted between several others depending on their mood, situation and preferred goal in the game. Having categorized those type of players, drawn to the same virtual world for different reasons and still acting and interacting in the same playing field, he was now able to better balance the game.
  • This is the internal drive of making progress, developing skills, and eventually overcoming challenges. The word “challenge” here is very important as a badge or trophy without a challenge is not meaningful at all.
  • Extra Credits, Season 2, Episode 10 – Gamification <br /> <br />

LAFS SVGI Session 3 - Game Design and Analysis LAFS SVGI Session 3 - Game Design and Analysis Presentation Transcript

  • Session 3 David Mullich Survey of the Videogame Industry The Los Angeles Film School
  • Players vs. Designers Players want the fun of playing a game as well as the enjoyment of being with their friends. Game designers are focused on how the game works:  How do you make it, and how to you break it?  What are the different elements and how do they fit together?  What skill level does a player need to successfully play and win?  Does each player have an equal chance of winning and a fair chance of experiencing all that the game has to offer?
  • Main Role The game designer’s main role is to be an advocate for the player. In some ways, designing a game is like being the host of a party. It’s your job to get everything ready and then open your doors to guests to see what happens.
  • Other Roles  Builder  Engineer  Scientist  Dreamer  Teacher  But NOT Boss
  • Designer Skills  Communication  Teamwork  Process  Inspiration  Creativity  Becoming A Better Player
  • The Designer’s Journey  Stage 1: Consumer  Stage 2: Tinkerer  Stage 3: Masher  Stage 4: Creator Teale Fristoe
  • Stage 1: Consumer We all begin our game designer lives as game consumers. Most children play games, and for many people games are significant and meaningful. If you want to make games, you probably already love games. To consumers, game design is pure magic. Consumers believe that a game designer imagines a game, then creates it exactly as he or she envisioned it.
  • Stage 2: Tinkerer Tinkerers tend to imagine new games in terms of modifications (often additions) to existing games, sticking closely to their underlying rule sets. Many games come with a level editor. This allows Tinkerers to get involved with a game in a whole new way. However, Tinkerers begin to realize that game design is not magic, but it is a lot of work.
  • Stage 3: Masher At this point, the designer is creating entirely new games, but the design process tends to involve mashing existing genres, mechanics, and themes together. Mashers envision new games as collages of existing game components. They tend to focus on the mechanics and theme rather than on the player experience.
  • Stage 4: Creator Before long, a game designer will shift his or her focus and work style. Instead of having visions of a specific game, the designer will be interested in exploring broad or incomplete ideas. The ideas can be about theme, they can be about mechanics, they can be about player experiences… really, they can be about anything.
  • Stage 4: Creator Designers at this stage approach new games with a healthy emotional distance. Obviously, they are excited by their ideas, but they know many ideas never work out, so it’s dangerous to become attached to an untested one. They also know that the initial conception is very rarely the best implementation, so keeping an open mind and keeping nothing sacred will tend to result in better final games.
  • Design Specialties  Lead Designer  System Designer  User Interface Designer  Technical Designer  Level Designer  Content Designer  Game Writer
  • Extra Credits, Season 1, Episode 16 - So You Want To Be A Game Designer (7:36)
  • Discussion  Why is communication the game designer’s core skill?  What other skills does a game designer need?  Why is “idea guy” a poor definition for what a game designer does?  Why shouldn’t game designers get too attached to their ideas?  What is the number one cause of failed games?
  • The Game’s Journey Every game takes its own journey from concept to product, but skilled designers use the iterative design process Teale Fristoe
  • Ideas All games start out as ideas. Some games come from one powerful idea, but most are formed by combining many ideas to create a unique whole. It’s very possible that initial ideas will be (or should be) abandoned, and lots of new ideas will be considered during the process.
  • Inspiration Ideas don’t come out of thin air. Game designers are influenced by personal interests and hobbies. Spend a significant part of every day doing something other than playing games:  Read a book  Go see a play  Listen to music  Exercise, draw or sketch  Study a new language  Volunteer at a neighborhood organization
  • Game Designer’s Notebook Many designers carry a notebook for jotting down their ideas.
  • Game Idea Sources  Brilliant Inspiration  Licensing Hook  Technology Hook  Filling A Gap  Following Coattails  Orders From Above  Sequels
  • Brainstorming A group creativity technique to find a solution to a specific problem by gathering a list of ideas spontaneously contributed by its members. In games, brainstorming is used to generate a large number of ideas about game's concept, mechanics, setting, characters, etc.
  • Brainstorming Osborn’s method of brainstorming has four general rules:  Focus on quantity  Withhold criticism  Welcome unusual ideas  Combine and improve ideas Alex F. Osborn
  • Advice About Ideas  Come up with more ideas than you’ll need  Never rule out an idea as bad until you’ve tested it  Never accept an idea as good until you’ve tested it  Do not get emotionally attached to ideas
  • Stages of Creativity Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes the classic stages of creativity:  Preparation: Becoming interested in a topic  Incubation: Period where ideas “churn around” in your subconscious  Insight: The “aha!” moment, where an idea comes together  Evaluation: Deciding whether the insight is worth pursuing  Elaboration: Fleshing out the idea
  • Planning Once a designer has promising ideas, it’s time to test them. Here, the keys are minimalism and focus. Your playtest (coming up next) is an experiment, so be prepared for it. Identify what the most important questions you want to answer are and figure out the quickest way of discovering those answers.
  • Prototype Create a prototype that answers the questions at hand. A prototype is an early playable version of the game, section of game, or game system. A prototype, whether paper or electronic, should be: • Playable • Quick to Make • Easy to Change
  • Playtesters Playtesters are the people who play your game and provide feedback on the experience.  Observe their experience  Pay attention to what interests or frustrates them  They are your guide and it’s your mission to let them lead you
  • Playtesting Playtesting is an iterative process where the game is tested, the designer makes changes based on feedback, and the game is retested, over and over. OTHER TESTING  Alpha Testing  Focus Group Testing  Closed Beta  Open Beta
  • Playtesting Extra Credits: Playtesting (6:55)
  • Discussion  How soon should you begin playtesting your game?  Why is listening so important during playtesting?  How much talking should a designer do with playtesters?  Who is the worst playtester? Who is the best?
  • Evaluate After you playtest, consider your data.  How does it answer your questions?  If you were testing the quality of an idea, did it pass the test, or should it be thrown out?  If you saw problems, what caused the problems, and what can you do to fix them?
  • Done? Knowing when a game is finished can be even more difficult. A game is never finished, it’s just due. But you often won’t have external due dates, so it can be tempting to go on making tiny tweaks ad infinitum. Eventually, you’ll have to accept that a game is as good as it’s going to get.
  • Game Concept Defined by four elements:  Hardware Platform: Determines the controller configuration and technical limitations  Genre: Determines what the gameplay will feel like. Genres can be categorized by along two dimensions: Action vs. Strategy and Exploration vs. Conflict  Key Features  Gameplay Mechanics
  • Pitch Presentation A pitch is a concise verbal (and sometimes visual) presentation for a film, TV series, or game, made by the producer to an executive in the hope of getting the financing to do development. "Pitch" is a contraction of "sales pitch."
  • Elevator Pitch An elevator pitch is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product and its value. The name "elevator pitch" reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes. The term itself comes from the scenario of accidentally meeting someone important in an elevator. If the conversation inside the elevator in those few seconds is interesting and value adding, then the conversation will continue after the elevator ride or end in the exchange of a business card or a scheduled meeting.
  • Example Pitch Somehow it always falls to Mustachio to rally his friends for their many adventures. Run and jump through a side-scrolling world made of and inhabited by blocks. With mustaches. A world full of action, puzzles and arbitrary danger that Mustachio faces boldly with his mustache-fueled power to make block duplicates of himself. What? Cloning AND mustaches?! You betcha!
  • Mood Board A Mood Board is a type of collage that may consist of images and text that graphic designers use to visually illustrate the style they are pursuing. Mood Boards can also be used to visually explain a style of writing or an imaginary setting for a storyline. They serve as a visual tool to quickly inform others of the overall "feel" (or "flow") that a designer is trying to achieve.
  • Greenlighting To green-light is to give permission to go ahead to move forward with a project. The term is a reference to a green traffic signal, indicating "go ahead". In the context of the game industry, to green-light something is to formally approve its production finance, and to commit to this financing, thereby allowing the project to move forward from pre-production to production.
  • Game Design Document (GDD)  The lead designer is the principle author of all the game design document.  To a programmer and artist, it is the instructions for implementation.  However, design documentation should be a team effort, because almost everyone on the team plays games and can make great contributions to the design.
  • GDD Topics  High Concept  Background Story  Tone  Objective  Gameplay  Interface  Perspective  Story Structure  Multiplayer  Difficulty  Completion Time  AI
  • GDD – Other Topics  Characters  License  World  Controls  Menu Structure  Levels  Graphics  Cut Scenes  Music  Sound Effects
  • The Soul of the Game A good GDD describes not just the Body but the Soul of the game. It should convey the feel that the game should have, the purpose behind each element, the experience each user will have, and any other aspects of the game's look and feel the designer can envision and describe.
  • Game Genres  Action  Ball and Paddle  Beat’em Up  Fighting Game  Maze Game  Pinball Game  Platform Game  Shooter ○ First Person Shooter ○ MMO FPS ○ Light Gun Shooter ○ Shoot ‘Em Up ○ Tactical Shooter ○ Rail Shooter ○ Third Person Shooter  Action-Adventure  Stealth Game  Survival Horror  Adventure  Real-Time 3D Adventure  Text Adventure  Graphic Adventure  Visual Novel  Role-Playing  Western/Japanese RPGs  Fantasy RPGs  Sandbox RPGs  Action RPGs  MMORPGs  Rogue RPGs  Tactical RPGS  Simulation  Construction/Management  Life  Vehicle  Strategy  4X Game  Artillery Game  Real-time Strategy  Real-time Tactics  Tower Defense  Turn-based Strategy  Turn-based Tactics  Wargame  Other  Casual Game  Music Game  Party Game  Programming Game  Puzzle Game  Sprots Game  Trivia Game  Board Game What’s YOUR favorite game genre?
  • Game Genres
  • Game Genres  Defined by gameplay interaction  Classified independent of their setting  Most fall within one genre but some are a combination of two or more genres
  • Game Genres
  • Combining Genres Extra Credits: Combining Genres (4:52)
  • Discussion  When combining genres, what should you focus on?  What is wrong with the hacking minigame in BioShock?  What’s right with the combat in PuzzleQuest?
  • Core Game Elements  Player Format  Objectives  Procedures  Rules  Resources  Theme (for some games)
  • Player Format  Single Player vs. Game (Player vs. Environment)  Player vs. Player (Head-to-Head)  Multiple Individual Players vs. Game  Unilateral Multiplayer (One vs. Many)  Multilateral Competition (One vs. One vs. One… or Free-For-All)  Cooperative Play  Team Competition
  • Player Format
  • Player Roles  Sports: Team Leader vs. Team Mate  Mastermind: Codemaker vs. Codebreaker  D&D: Fighter, Magic User, Cleric or Thief  MUD: Achievers, Socializers, Explorers or Killers
  • Objectives (or Goals) Objectives give players something to strive for. They define what players are attempting to accomplish within the rules of the game. Ideally, they should be:  Obtainable, but challenging to reach  Worthy of obtaining  Immediately replaced by new goals
  • Types of Objectives  Capture  Chase  Race  Alignment  Rescue  Escape  Forbidden Act  Solve  Outwit  Beat the Clock  Collect  Build  Destroy  Explore  Advance Story  Outwit
  • What Makes Goals Addictive  Worthy of Obtaining  Challenging to Reach  Obtainable  New Goals Replace Old Goals
  • Types of Goals STRATEGIC (Mental) REFLEX (Physical) CHANCE (Random)
  • Procedures Procedures are the methods of play and the actions players can take to achieve them. One way to think about procedures is: Who does what, when, where and how.
  • Types of Procedures  Set Up or Starting Action: How to put the game into play.  Progression: Ongoing procedures after the starting action.  Special Actions: Available conditional to other elements or game state.  Resolution, or Resolving Actions: Bring gameplay to a close.
  • Rules Rules define game objects and allowable actions by the players. In digital games, rules can be explained in the manual or they can be explicit in the game itself. Too many rules might make make the game too complicated for the players to understand. Leaving rules unstated or poorly communicating them might make players feel confused or alienated. Rules should be consistent with the game’s theme.
  • Rule Groupings  Rules  Mechanics  Systems Examples of Systems  Scoring  Progression  Economics  Combat  Artificial Intelligence  Multiplayer
  • Resources Resources are assets that are used to accomplish the game’s goals. Resources must both be useful and be scarce (or they lose their value). Managing resources and determining how and when to control player access to them is a key part of a game designer’s job.
  • Examples of Resources  Lives  Health  Currency  Actions  Energy  Mana  Time  Moves  Turns  Power-Ups  Building Materials  Combat Units  Inventory Items  Spells  Territory  Special Terrain  Information
  • Theme  Story  Setting  Characters  Helps players become engaged  Makes game easier to learn  Tells a compelling story
  • Abstract Games While many games are thematic, some are abstract, meaning that they don’t have a theme.
  • The process of creating content and rules for games.
  • The Player’s Journey “Great games are compelling because the player’s experience and expertise changes over time in meaningful ways.” – Amy Jo Kim
  • Experience Phases Most people talk about a game as one summed up experience – the game is good, bad, interesting, easy to use, funny or boring. But in reality, a user’s interaction and journey with a game is continuously evolving. The game that people play on day 1 is a VERY different game to them on day 20. The features they see are different, and the reasons why they are playing the game are different. If a game attracts people at the beginning, but as time goes by becomes boring and uninspiring, that’s a failure in design. Similarly, if a game offers an amazing experience only after 20 hours of play, but before the 20 hours it’s a grinding and boring experience, that’s a failure in design too.
  • Experience Phases Therefore, a good game designer will look at one game as 4 different games, which emphasizes on the 4 Experience Phases of a game, ad defined by Professor Kevin Werbach:  Discovery  Onboarding  Scaffolding  Endgame
  • Discovery Phase  This is when people first discover your game.  How did they find it? Was it from a friend? Through the news? Or a clever marketing campaign?
  • Onboarding Phase  This is when you train them to become familiar with the rules of the game, options, mechanics, and the win state.  This is what most designers focus on because everyone thinks once a player plays their game for some time, they will fall in love with it.  Mastering the Onboarding Process can get your users to start participate in your game with excitement and interest.
  • Scaffolding Phase  This is the phase where players use all the rules and options they learned during onboarding to try to achieve the win-state as many times as possible.  This is where the most “fun” should happen.  Once you have a well designed win state in scaffolding, you will start to see player engagement and motivation.
  • Endgame Phase  This is when players have done everything there is to do at least once and are starting to see more repetitive actions to get to the win-state.  In this phase, if the designer didn’t create a good endgame, people easily get bored and quit the game.  But a good endgame can be achieved through evergreen mechanics as well as creating a system where the game producers can easily add new content in a system consistently.  If you mastered the endgame, you will create a lot of contributors, evangelists, and long-term customers.
  • Game Design Goals  Fun  Interactive  Social  Easy to Learn  Hard to Master  Well-Paced  Immersive  Replay Value  Affordable  Manageable in Scope and Time
  • Flow Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. When players experience flow, time stops, nothing else matters and when they finally come out of it, they have no concept of how long they have been playing.
  • Flow Psychology professor Mihayi Csikszentmihalyi identified some key factors that could lead to such a phenomenon:  Clear goals and progress  Constant and Immediate feedback  Balance between the perceived challenge and the perceived level of skill needed
  • Flow In 1997 he provided the world this visual representation of his theory.
  • Flow  If a challenge exceeds the abilities of the current skill level, it can lead to frustration  If the skill level is increasing faster than the challenge, it leads to boredom  Both of these will normally end with the player leaving the game
  • Flow  If we combine the ideas of Flow and Player Journey, you can begin to see how a game, in theory, should behave in an ideal world.  You start off with a challenge that is acceptable for a new comer who is starting in the game – on-boarding.  Over time, you increase the challenge as skills increase. Most games tend to build up each level to a boss battle of some type.
  • Flow  Not all games have this “ideal flow”.  A game like Tetris would have a flow like the top line. Tetris. There are no lulls in the progression with Tetris. It just gets faster and faster, and you might feel frustrated until you achieve Mastery.  A game like WOW would have a flow like the bottom line. You must endure grinding until you get to the interesting sequences.
  • Difficulty  How easy or hard it is for a player to complete a game objective.
  • Games should be easy to learn, but hard to master.
  • When Difficult Is Fun Extra Credits: When Difficult Is Fun (7:44)
  • Discussion  Why were early video games so difficult to play?  How did the game industry transition to the philosophy of “Everyone Wins”?  Why are we seeing more difficult games now?  What’s the difference between “difficult” and “punishing”?
  • Difficult vs. Punishing  Rules should be consistent  Players should be given enough resources to solve challenges  Players need to be given enough information to make decisions  The player’s choices should be meaningful
  • Difficult vs. Punishing  Randomness should only be used for variety and uncertainty (replay value)  Low iteration time for trying again  Create useable control interfaces  When the player fails, they should feel they could have done better
  • Balance The relative strength of different resources, mechanics, objectives and starting states. A balanced game does not give an unequal advantage to any player (or the game system).
  • Are these two characters balanced? The fighter, on the left, can do 6 points damage, but the archer, on the right, does only 1 point of damage.
  • Perfect Inbalance  Slight deviations from perfect balance so players can discover what choices will give them an edge  Cyclical Inbalance: When players gravitate to a weaker gameplay element looking for ways to defeat a stronger one.
  • Metagaming Metagame literally means 'beyond the game' and refers to any planning, preparation, or maneuvering that a player does outside of actual gameplay to gain an advantage.  Strategic decisions to exploit the game’s rules  Strategic decisions to exploit an opponent's or map's style of play  Strategic decisions to exploit a player's reaction or weakened mental state in the future. This is also known as 'mind games' or 'psychological warfare'.
  • Complexity The number of rules or the number of elements with which the player interacts. The greater the complexity, the harder it is to learn how to play the game.
  • A cluttered or non-intuitive interface can also make a game too complex.
  • Depth The ability to find enjoyment in a game as one’s skill improves. The greater the depth, the harder it is master the game.
  • Depth Depth is directly related to the number of interesting decisions the player can make.  Tic-Tac-Toe has few decisions, but it also has few rules  Chess has more rules and elements, but it has many interesting decisions  Monopoly has even more rules and elements, but relatively few meaningful decisions
  • Complexity vs. Depth  It is the designer’s job to get the maximum depth with the minimum complexity  Complexity restricts depth
  • Ways to Reduce Complexity  A well-crafted tutorial  Don’t require the player to learn all the rules before they start playing  Intuitive user interface  Lower the rate at which player’s must make decisions
  • Pace Pace is the speed of play, or how quickly the player receives information and takes action or makes decisions. Turn-Based Real-Time
  • Pacing in Star Wars
  • Proper Pacing  Grab the player’s attention at the start, but keep it short  Give them a breather to set the proper baseline for the experience  Oscillate engagement level in a steadily increasing manner  Intermittent reinforcement is more powerful than constant reinforcement  Bring player’s down after an intense experience so that they feel closure
  • Engagement Segments  Arc: The game as a whole  Scene: A subsection or level of the game (this has its own engagement curve)  Action: A specific moment of player experience (even this should follow an engagement curve)
  • Replay Value  Play Value: The reason a person plays a game  Replay Value: The reason they play a game over and over again Designers increase replay value by:  Adding more choices to make and things to discover  Increasing depth  Multiplayer gameplay
  • Age Appropriateness The age or maturity level of a game’s intended audience.
  • Sid Meier G4 Icons Episode #12: Sid Meier (21:18)
  • Discussion  Why do you think Sid Meier has had such success as a game designer?
  • Everything You Know Is Wrong GDC 2010: Sid Meier Keynote (53:58)
  • Everything You Know Is Wrong  Game design is a psychological experience in which the designer needs to make the player feel good about playing the game  Winner Paradox: Player gladly accepts a win, but complains about an (unsatisfactory) loss  The First Fifteen Minutes: Needs to be very engaging and foreshadows the rest of the game  Unholy Alliance (between designer and player): It’s important for the designer to make the player feel good about their ability, while the player needs to suspend their disbelief