LMU Elements of a Game Discussion


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Powerpoint accompanying a guest lecture I did at Loyola Marymount University about creating a learning game.

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  • Thematic elements – stories, settings, characters – give games topics. They answer the question, “What is this game about?”, which is different from the question, “What is this gameplay about?”Not every game has a theme, and not every game needs a theme. However, a well-chosen theme can have a big impact on a game.Thematic elements have three primary purposes:Help players become more engaged. Players personalize the game experience if they identify with the character. Similarly, an interesting setting can add emotional weight. A game set in a fantasy realm will cause a different response from one set in World War II, even with the same game mechanics.Make the game easier to learn. Players in a racing game, for example, expect mechanics for accelerating, braking and steering because that’s how real vehicles work.Tell a compelling story. Games can be used to convey interesting stories, just like other media.Themes can also create expectations. Such expectations can create unwritten rules for how a player or designer thinks a game “should” be played.
  • There are three categories of rules, all important to a successful play experience:Setup involves things you do once at the beginning of a gameProgression entails what happens during a gameResolution indicates the conditions that cause the game to end and how an outcome is determined based on the game state.Mechanics are a collection of rules that form a discrete chunk of gameplay.Systems are collections of mechanics that make up the biggest chunks of the game.
  • Resources are all the things directly under a players control that can be used as a game advances.
  • Games can be difficult, but not so punishing that they turn the player away.Rules should be consistent. Examples of inconsistency are monsters that are killable in some situations but not in others. In general, the more difficult a game is, the less it can change its rules on the fly.For something to be enjoyably difficult rather than punishing, it has to give the player an outlet to resolve problems in new ways. When the player fails at overcoming an option, he needs alternate choices so that he has an opportunity to succeed.The player needs the ability to make informed choices about the game, even if they are split second ones.. Everything needs to hint at its consequences in some small way.
  • Strategic (mental) and reflex (physical) gameplay are different expressions of player skill. In both cases, the player has control over the outcome through his decisions and actions.By contrast, chance-based mechanics have a randomized outcome. Chance adds uncertainty to a game, which can create tension and make it more exciting. Too much randomness can be frustrating. Players want to make meaningful decisions, but decisions lose meaning if the outcomes are decided solely by dice rolls or card shuffles.Chance-based mechanics also come in different flavors with different mathematical characteristics. Determining the right type and amount of chance-based mechanics is a big part of being a game designer.
  • What are the players trying to do? Game objectives determine who won or whether the player has beaten the game or a portion of the game. They can also vary in scale. Complete the level or mission is an objective, but the bigger objective might be complete a series of levels or complete the storyline. Here are some common game objectives.Score: Get more points than your opponent; or, be the first player to reach a certain number of points. There might be one source of points, or different actions might have different point values.Capture/Destroy: Eliminate all of your opponent’s resources from the game. Chess is a well-known example where you must eliminate opposing forces to win.Collection: Many jumping and exploration games like LittleBigPlanet and other platformers require the player to collect a certain number of objects scattered throughout the levels.Solve: The game Clue is an example of a game where the objective is to solve a puzzle.Chase/Race/Escape: Generally anything were you are moving toward or away from something.Beat the Clock: Trying to reach an objective before time runs out.Spatial Alignment: A number of games, like Tetris, involve the positioning of elements as an objective.Build: The opposite of “destroy”, players use resources to build structures or assets. In the game Civilization, players have must build things at many different levels: combat units, structures, technologies, cities. RPGs include the objective of character advancement where the player characters gradually gain power and capability.Avoiding a Loss: Some games end when one player performs an at that is forbidden by the rules, like Simon Says.Advance the Story: Sometimes the objective of a game is just to continue storyline and see what happens next to the characters.Explore: Game worlds like the Legend of Zelda series encourage players to travel around the world and discover new characters and places.
  • LMU Elements of a Game Discussion

    1. 1. Loyola Marymount University Presentation David Mullich Game Production Instructor, Los Angeles Film School March 11, 2014
    2. 2. Career Highlights
    3. 3. Elements of a Game  Theme  Rules  Resources  Conflict  Goals  Game Loop
    4. 4. Theme  Setting  Characters  Story  Helps players become engaged  Makes game easier to learn  Tells a compelling story
    5. 5. Rules  Easily Understood  Consistent with Game Theme  Setup  Progression  Resolution Rule Categories  Rules  Mechanics  Systems Rule Groupings
    6. 6. Complexity The greater the complexity, the harder it is to learn how to play the game. The number of rules or the number of elements with which the player interacts.
    7. 7. Depth The greater the depth, the harder it is master the game. The ability to find enjoyment in a game as one’s skill improves.
    8. 8. Depth  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 Depth is directly related to the number of interesting decisions the player can make.
    9. 9. Game Mechanics  Avoid unkillable objects  Instant death  Game repeats until you die  Remember an increasing number of things  Repeat pattern  Forced constant movement  Block puzzles  Game keeps getting harder until you die  Uncountable number of possible paths  Big gains for you can be big gains for your enemy  Block path  Information Overload  Disinformation  Switch modes  Push mole down, mole pops up  Cut off one head, two grow back  Bouncing object  Gravity  Mouse dexterity  Spinning plates  Teleports  Squad  Race  Chase  Collecting  Interrupt Action  Squad  Scarce Resource  Jumping  Hidden image/ Where’s Waldo?  Timed  Protect a target  Undirected exploration  Bullet Hell  Buy Low, Sell High  Brawling  Dialog Tree  Building  Crafting
    10. 10. Resources  Currency  Building Materials  Energy  Health  Combat Units  Inventory Items  Time  Turns  Moves  Territory  Power-Ups  Information Anything the player must gather or protect to help in achieving the game’s goals.
    11. 11. Conflict Anything that makes achieving the game’s goals difficult.  Enemies  Puzzles  Time Limits  Resource Management  Hidden Resources or Obstacles  Randomness
    12. 12. Difficulty  How easy or hard it is for a player to complete a game objective.
    13. 13. Games should be easy to learn, but hard to master.
    14. 14. Difficult vs. Punishing  Rules should be consistent  Players need to be given enough information to make decisions  The player’s choices should be meaningful  Players should be able to obtain enough resources to meet goals
    15. 15. Goals Achievement milestones that advance progress in a game.  Elementary (Minor) Goals  Intermediate (Level) Goals  Primary (Win/Loss) Goals
    16. 16. Types of Goals STRATEGIC (Mental) REFLEX (Physical) CHANCE (Random)
    17. 17. Examples of Goals  Score  Capture/Destro y  Collection  Solve  Chase/Race/Es cape  Beat the Clock  Spatial Alignment  Build  Explore  Advance the Story
    18. 18. What Makes Goals Engaging  Worthy of Obtaining  Challenging to Reach  Obtainable  New Goals Replace Old Goals
    19. 19. Game Loop The set of rules that a game follows during each game turn. All game’s have turns, even if they appear to be continuously be running. This is because most modern video games don’t stop and wait for player input.
    20. 20. 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.
    21. 21. Brainstorming A group creativity technique to find a conclusion 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.
    22. 22. Brainstorming Osborn’s method of brainstorming has four general rules:  Focus on quantity  Withhold criticism  Welcome unusual ideas  Combine and improve ideasAlex F. Osborn
    23. 23.  Break into groups.  Receive 3 game mechanics from your speaker.  Brainstorm a learning game using at least one of these mechanics.  Present your game concept, including:  Theme (or Learning Topic)  Resources  Obstacles  Goals (Both Game Goals and Learning Goals)
    24. 24. Boy Scout Game Examples
    25. 25. Minecraft Four ways to learn with Minecraft:  Build writing skills by having writing a Minecraft blog  Encourage reading by crating a structure or scene from a book  Teach Math Literacy by building structures to demonstrate understanding of mathematical principals such as ratios, integers, quadrants, area and volume.  Practice Digital Citizenship and Online Social Skills  Learn Javascript programming by having students create mods
    26. 26. MinecraftEDU The official version of the game specifically tailored for teachers and students. It features simplified technical issues such as setting up servers, managing account privileges, configuration scripts, and defining the limits of player space and options. MinecraftEDU creator Joel Levin says sessions are most productive--and fun--when “teachers to talk to the kids about the meaning, purpose, rules, and how the world for the given project should operate.”
    27. 27. Minecraft Resources  The Minecraft Wiki: the definitive guide to all things Minecraft  Massively Minecraft: an online learning community for kids age 4-16 and their parents.
    28. 28. SimCityEdu Six missions, all related to the theme of managing energy and environmental issues in an urban setting. Each mission consists of two types of activities:  In-game: Modify a pre-built city to meet an objective;  Concept maps: Complete a cause-and-effect flowchart that shows how variables affect outcomes. (This is all done in a web browser; there is no gameplay.) The developers say it covers 5 Common Core literacy standards for grades 6-8 around identifying and citing textual evidence to support analysis and conclusions, along with Next Generation Science Standards around “Human Impacts on Earth Systems” and “Systems Thinking.”
    29. 29. SimCity Resources  SimCityEdu Lesson Plans