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CSCE 590E Spring 2007 Understanding Fun By Jijun Tang Announcements We will meet in 1D11 on Wednesday, 4:00pm (again) Each group should give me the names after class (paper or email) Please start thinking games you want to design (do not worry about techniques at first) Homework Results

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Csce 590e spring 2007 l.jpg

CSCE 590E Spring 2007

Understanding Fun

By Jijun Tang


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Announcements

  • We will meet in 1D11 on Wednesday, 4:00pm (again)

  • Each group should give me the names after class (paper or email)

  • Please start thinking games you want to design (do not worry about techniques at first)


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Homework Results

  • Some people did not turn in the homework

  • Almost all turned in are good

  • The most played games are:

    • Super Mario Bros, Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, Half-Life / Counterstrike, World of Warcraft, SimCity, X-Wing, Age of Empires, Diablo, Metal Gear Solid, Need for Speed, StarCraft, Tetris


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Volunteers

  • High school kids visiting

  • On Thursday morning and afternoon, 90 minutes each

    • 10:30-12:30

    • 1:00-3:00

  • We want to teach them flash games

  • We need experts in flash to help the instruction and supervision


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What is Fun?

  • Game is all about fun

  • Dictionary: Enjoyment, a source of amusement

  • It is important to consider underlying reasons

  • Funativity – thinking about fun in terms of measurable cause and effect


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Why fun?

  • It’s deep in our evolution root, and we must look to our ancestors (200 yrs of tech advancement haven’t changed our instinct)

  • Cats, dogs, etc play to learn basic survival skills (physical and social)

  • Games are organized play

  • Human entertainment is also at its heart about learning how to survive

  • Social rules are also critical to us


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Surviving

  • Life is all either work, rest, or fun

  • To survive, we must work

    • Our ancestors were those who survive

    • The survive skills are passed down

  • Who is more likely to survive?





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Learning is fun

  • Fun is about practicing or learning new survival skills in a relatively safe setting

  • People who didn’t enjoy that practice were less likely to survive to become our ancestors


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Hunting and Gathering

  • Basic skills are hunting and gathering

  • Current popular games reflect this

  • It’s a good start point to design games

  • Shooters, wargames = hunting

  • Powerups, resources = gathering

  • Sims, MMO = social, tribal interaction



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Natural Funativity Theory

  • All funs are derived from practicing survival and social skills

    • Key skills relate to early human context

    • Often in modern guise: play chess, football, dance, etc

  • Three overlapping categories

    • Physical

    • Social

    • Mental


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Physical Fun

  • Sports

    • Enhance our strength, stamina, coordination skills

    • Winning is also a mental fun

  • Exploration

    • Knowledge of surrounding areas

    • Explore unknown

  • Hand/eye coordination and tool use are often parts of fun activities – crafts

  • Physical aspect to gathering “stuff”


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Social Fun

  • Storytelling is a social activity

    • First virtual reality

    • Learn important lessons from others

  • Gossip, sharing info

  • Flirting

  • Showing off



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Mental Fun

  • Humans have large brains

  • Abstract reasoning practice

  • Pattern matching and generation

    • Music

    • Art

    • Puzzles

  • Gathering also has mental aspect, categorizing and identifying patterns

  • Gambling


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Multipurpose Fun

  • Many fun activities have physical, social and mental aspects in combination

  • Games that mix these aspects tend to be very popular

  • Incorporate ways to practice these skills to increase the popularity of games


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Great Games

  • A great game is a series of interesting and meaningful choices made by the player in pursuit of a clear and compelling goal

    • Must have choices, or it is movie

    • Must be a series of choices or it is too simple to be a game

    • Must have a goal or it is a software toy (some goals may be implicit, like Sims)

    • With multiple player games players may bring their own goals


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Qualities of Choice

  • Terms in which to discuss choices

    • Hollow – lacking consequence

    • Obvious – leaves no choice to be made

    • Uninformed – arbitrary decision

    • Dramatic – strongly connects to feelings

    • Weighted – good and bad in every choice

    • Immediate – effects are immediate

    • Long-term – effects over extended period

    • Orthogonal – choices distinct from each other


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Interesting and Meaningful Choices

  • Choices may be dull and uninteresting because it was easy to code that way

  • Or it may be the reflection of a lazy designer

  • Meaningful choices are perceived by the player as having significant consequences

  • May not have actual consequences


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Clear and Compelling Goal

  • Clear goals

  • It is not fun to flounder aimlessly

  • Compelling goals are goals that follow the concepts in Natural Funativity

  • Survival is always a compelling goal


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No choice

A Series of Choices


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A Series of Choices

  • Meaningless choices

  • Obviously fold back into same path

  • Players discover this quickly


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Infinite choices

Quickly become unmanageable

A Series of Choices


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Choose wisely

Kill off player with any wrong choice

Better but frustrating (Dragon’s Lair)

A Series of Choices


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Classic Game Structure

  • A convexity

  • Starts with a single choice, widens to many choices, returns to a single choice


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Convexity Qualities

  • Go from one to many to one

  • Can be a level, an act, an episode

  • Can be any kind of choice

    • Geography, weapons, tools, skills, technologies, quests

  • Examples

    • Exploring an island

    • Technology build tree


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Fractal Structure

  • Large scale structure repeated on medium, smaller scales, like a coastline

  • In the case of convexities, each circle is not a single choice, but a convexity

  • Age of Empires example

    • Take a defensive stance, create squad to defend left flank, collect resources to build a legionnaire, etc.


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Many games are chains of convexities

Points of limited choice (A) alternate with points of many choices (B)

A Series of Convexities


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A Series of Convexities

  • Many overlapping convexities in great games

  • Examples include Halo, Zelda games, Civilization, Diablo II, many others

  • Player can be starting one task or area, in the middle of another, and at the end of a third, all simultaneously


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Why Is This Good?

  • Give the player choice but not an infinitely expanding set of choices

  • Mix of some “any order” choices (B) and some in fixed order (A), blending freedom with linear storytelling

  • Can be structured so players see most of the game, minimizing waste

  • Can have difficulty go up in new levels


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Psychological Advantages

  • Alternating intense learning with time to practice is the best way to master new skills

  • Gradual learning and introduction of new skills at the heart of fun game play

  • “Easy to learn, difficult to master”

  • Always let players practice


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The Concept of Flow

  • Flow is a state of exhilaration, deep sense of enjoyment

  • Usually when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile

  • Avoid frustration or boring


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The Flow Channel

  • Start with relatively low level of challenge to match starting skill levels

  • Gradually increase challenge

  • Fast enough to prevent boredom

  • Not so fast as to induce frustration



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The Flow Channel

  • Flow state is common while developing the Physical, Social, and Mental skills noted in Natural Funativity

  • Best to introduce skills one at a time, let player master them, move on to new

  • This results in staggered increase in difficulty (wavy difficulty line)



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Typical Game Mechanisms

  • High difficulty increase: Boss monsters, climactic battles, quest resolutions

  • Low difficulty increase: Bonus levels, new resource- and treasure-rich areas, series of easy “minion” enemies

  • Overlap introduction of new skills, areas to explore, tools, enemies


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Story and Character

  • Back to “interesting choices” and “compelling goals”– how to achieve?

  • Story and character can add emotional association, strengthen reaction

  • Storytelling has long history, but interactive storytelling can differ critically from traditional linear modes


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Interactive Storytelling

  • Blend storytelling with design early

  • Use experienced interactive writers

  • “Do, don’t show”– let players experience story through interaction

  • Make it personal by having players make key choices, events affect them


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It’s All About Interactivity

  • Don’t make choices for the player

  • Story should add emotional context to the choices

  • Keep any cut scenes brutally short

  • Break up non-interactive sequences by adding interactivity, even if very simple


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Characters

  • Characters can make the game world seem more real and exciting

  • Bold stereotypes may seem crude but are better than colorless characters, and can help avoid boring exposition

  • Bring out character through action, not description or exposition


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Gameplay Trumps Story

  • If you have a conflict between gameplay or story, first look for a compromise that favors both

  • Failing that, make sure that the gameplay is good at expense of story

  • Always signal player clearly in narrative to interactive transitions with visuals, audio


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What is Good Game Ideas

  • Creative is the key

  • Start from our survival instincts

  • Play other games, search Internet

  • Examine current games and see what you can improve (AI, graphics, strategy, speed, multiple-player)

  • Mix ideas/plays from several games

  • Examine books, movies, comics, etc. (pay attention to license)


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How to Get Good Idea

  • Brainstorming meetings with everyone attending and actively involved

  • Ensure free exchange of ideas, no idea is stupid idea now

  • Make goals clear, ignore technique problems first

  • Stay focused, list points must be achieved, with possibility of changes

  • Make sure everyone is heard, and take detailed notes, send notes to everyone after the meeting


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Brainstorming

  • You can start with game play

    • Decide player interactions and style

    • Determines engines/hardware

    • Limitations of total resources needed for game

  • You can start with story

    • In some genre (RPG) story is central

    • May determine how players and game play interact

    • Technology should match story line

    • Compromise


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Brainstorming

  • You can start with technology

    • Game engine characteristics (rendering, AI, language parsers, etc.) often dictates type of game that can be developed

    • It also determines user interaction possibilities

    • It is generally better to find a topic first and then select a genre rather than the reverse


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