Game Design Theory. What Is “Good Gameplay”?. Greg Costikyan www.ungames.com www.costik.com [email protected] “The Game” is Plastic. Paintball. Computer. Sports. Console. Online. Casino games. Arcade. The horses. “Folk” Card & Boardgames. Kriegspieler.
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“Folk” Card & Boardgames
...and, of course, wireless.
“Mass Market” Boardgames
Collectible Card Games
Play-by-mail and play-by-email games
But what makes them interesting?
What makes one better than another?
--We need a critical language.
Crawford’s Distinction: Games vs. Puzzles
If it isn’t interactive, it’s a puzzle, not a game.
“Interactive Game” is Redundant
Interaction must have a purpose
...or at least purposeful interaction.
Goals, objectives, are what make interaction purposeful
Goals don’t have to be explicit
RPGs & MUDs & MMGs
But you still have to point players toward goals
But goals aren’t enough....
Other obstacles can do the same
The environment, NPCs (RPGs)
Puzzles (graphic adventures)
Tuning “struggle”: Too hard is frustrating, too easy is dull
You have to make the players work
In life, struggle=pain; in games, struggle=pleasure
There can be no pate without cornichons.
“Let’s Pretend”: Unstructured play
small changes in structure can breed big changes in play
Algorithms (=rules mechanics) are the building blocks of game structure
Digital game structures affect player behavior in the same way
Structure shapes (but does not determine) player behavior
Game structure is analogous to economics
Endogenous: “Caused by factors inside the system.”
Is the Stock Market a Game?
“Fiction” vs. “Non-Fiction”
Can it be anything other than a game?
It could have no recontextualized meaning
It could lack struggle
It could be pointless
Interactive Entertainment means games
Example: Axis & Allies
Sensation increases our pleasure... but it’s not the core of gameplay
Wireless games suffer on this score
Analogous to “suspension of disbelief”
Fantasy helps create endogenous meanings
Doesn’t literally mean “story”
Easier to accomplish in pre-scripted games
Equivalent to our concept of “Struggle”
Tuning: Neither too easy nor too hard
One area where networked games have an advantage
Equivalent to “Community”
Online games excel
Exploring the world
Sheer variety of encounter
Central to RPGs, MMORPGs
Important in some soloplay games
Little tricks go a long way
Submission to structure: the basic transaction we make with games
Damn frustrating to play with cheaters
Gaining goals within the structure is what gaming is all about.
Begin with imitation...
Ultimately work with intentionality
What types of interaction? (Are they fun?)
Does the structure support my objective?
What makes it an entertaining struggle?
What meanings does it create?
Various rants: www.costik.com/articles.html
Marc LeBlanc’s rants: world.std.com/~mahk/gamedesign.html
Game + Design, Eric Zimmerman & Katie Salen, MIT Univ. Press (in press)