DoubleDutch Games: Teaching Game Design


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Casper van Est from the University of Applied Sciences in Amsterdam is going to discuss the teaching of fundamental game design structures such as risk/reward, feedback loops and visual cues, using examples from well known games as well as his own succesful indie game SpeedRunners.

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  • Max 2 min!Later on, we willseeexactlywhythis is notfun.Alternative:
  • Puzzle
  • -Action: The playerperformsanaction. For a skillatomencounterby a newplayer, the actionmightinvolvepressing a button. More advancedatomsmightinsteadrequire the playerexecute a batched set of actionssuch as navigating a complex maze. - Simulation:Basedoff the action, anongoingsimulation is updated. A door might open. - Feedback:The game provides someform of feedback to the player to let themknowhow the simulation has changed state. This feedback canbeauditory, visual, ortactile. Itcanbevisceral in the form of anexplodingcorpseoritcanbesymbolic in the form of a block of text. - Modeling: As the final step, the playerabsorbs the feedback and updates their mental models on the success of theiraction. Iftheyfeelthatthey have made progress, theyfeelpleasure. Iftheymaster a newskillorother tool, theyexperiencean even greaterburst of joy. Iftheyfeelthattheiraction has been in vain, theyfeelboredomorfrustration.
  • Implicit in this model is that the atom is often looped through multiple times before the user understand what it teaches. The first pass may only clue the user that something vaguely interesting happened. The user then presses the button again to test their theory and Mario once again bounces up into the air. At this point, the player smiles since they realize they’ve acquired an interesting skill that may be of use later on.
  • Eventually, the player uses an existing skill to grok another skill. They experience a wash of pleasure and start the process all over again. We can visually represent how players learn by linking our basic skill atoms together to create a directed graph of atoms called a skill chain.
  • Bylinking more and more atoms in, youbuild a networkthatdescribes the entire game. Everyexpectedskill, everysuccessfulaction, everypredictedoutcome of a simulation, every bit of required feedback canbeincluded in a simple, yetfunctionalfashion. A skillchain is a generalnotationthatcanbeused to model prettymuchany game imaginable. Your design canbebroken down intodozens of simpleatomsthat link together to form a clear and easilyreadable map of how the game plays. The skillchain, withitsability to describe the playerexperienceinstead of (just) the meremechanics of the game, provides a farricherdescription of the meaningfulmomentsthatoccurduringgameplay. DEPTH vs. WIDTH : a deep tree meansthatskills are stackedon top of eachother (i.e. youfirstlearnthisskill, whichyouthenuse to learn a more advancedskill). A wide tree meansthere are a lot of skillsthatcanbelearned, buteachskill is a bit superficial.
  • JumpingCoinsBreakingblocks -> opens up new routesPowerupAvoid / killenemyExamon jumping
  • Jump toavoidgetting hit ifyou’renot in a safe zoneIt’s best to takeonenemiesonebyone -> creates safe zones!
  • FinalExam: Find safe zones, takethem out onebyone and jump to avoidbullets
  • DoubleDutch Games: Teaching Game Design

    1. 1. Fun Game Design Casper van Est Amsterdam University of Applied Science DoubleDutch Games
    2. 2. What makes a game Fun?
    3. 3. Not this:
    4. 4. Then what? • Ralph Koster & Dan Cook say: Learning is Fun! • We use Skill Atoms, the fundamental building blocks of Game Design • Useful for: – Analysis: looking at the structure of a game – Design: helps in designing challenges in your game – Testing: provides quantitative questions
    5. 5. Learning is Fun!
    6. 6. Learning more is even more Fun!
    7. 7. Learning Basic Skills This is the first screen. What are skills that the player can learn just by looking at this screen?
    8. 8. Learning Basic Skills
    9. 9. Learning Basic Skills This is the ‘second’ screen. What are skills the player learns in this area?
    10. 10. Learning Basic Skills
    11. 11. Learning Basic Skills • What has the player learned so far? – That mario is heading right – That he’ll need to jump (A button) to get there – That he can use his jump to.. • avoid or kill enemies • collect coins • make power-ups appear (by hitting blocks) • smash bricks when big to open new passages • climb over obstacles • All in the first two screens – probably minutes of play! and without once explicitly telling the player anything
    12. 12. A Reward for Learning
    13. 13. Learning Complex Skills
    14. 14. Learning Complex Skills
    15. 15. Learning Complex Skills
    16. 16. So, what makes a game bad? • While IWBTG is fun is a sado-machochistic kind of way, it’s mostly frustrating and more fun for the audience than for the player. • Why? Because it doesn’t teach you anything. In fact, it actively forces you to un-learn everything you’ve ever learned about this game (and games in general)! – The Skill Chain is very wide and extremely shallow
    17. 17. How to make a fun game: 1. 2. 3. 4. Identify skills you want to teach the player Stack skills into chains Create a deep and wide skill tree Use smart level design to teach and test these skills
    18. 18. Recommended Reading • Raph Koster – A Theory of Fun • Dan Cook –
    19. 19. Q&A