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Is this thing on? Intuition And Intellect Deconstructing The Design of Oasis Marc LeBlanc GDC 2005 Part I: Overview Or, what this talk is, and what it isn’t. Outline Demo Oasis Discuss “Intellectual” and “Intuitive” Design Outline an intellectual framework Deconstruct Oasis

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Is this thing on?


Intuition And Intellect

Deconstructing The Design of Oasis

Marc LeBlanc

GDC 2005


Part I: Overview

Or, what this talk is, and what it isn’t.


Outline

  • Demo Oasis

  • Discuss “Intellectual” and “Intuitive” Design

  • Outline an intellectual framework

  • Deconstruct Oasis

  • Bring up some moments of Intellect/Intuition collision


Disclaimers

  • This talk is not a post-mortem

    • Not “What went right”

    • Rather, “What we were thinking”

  • This is not a “how to win the IGF” talk

    • Like I would know


Part II: Let’s Play Oasis…


Part III: Intuition and Intellect

In which we talk about talking about game design.


Intuition vs. Intellect

  • Intuition:

    • Life Experience

    • Mysterious and Creative

    • Quick and Dirty

  • Intellect:

    • Study, Research, Synthesis

    • Articulate and Analytical

    • Slow and Precise


“The intellect is a Bailey bridge built between islands of inspiration.”

- Mike Myers


Another Metaphor

  • Intuition is “high gear”

  • Intellect is “low gear”

  • Speed vs. Power tradeoff


You need both gears!

  • Without Intuition you will get left behind.

  • Without Intellect you will get stuck.

  • Intuition AND Intellect, not Intuiton VS. Intellect


However

  • Intellect is inherently easier to communcate.

  • Welcome to the GDC


Part IV: An Intellectual Framework

Wherein concepts are classified, and terms are defined.


Games asSoftware

Code


Games asSoftware

Code

Process


Games asSoftware

Code

Process

Requirements


Games asSoftware

Code

Process

Requirements

Rules


Games asSoftware

Code

Process

Requirements

Rules

Activity


Games asSoftware

Code

Process

Requirements

Rules

Activity

“Fun”


A Design Vocabulary

Code

Process

Requirements

Rules

Activity

“Fun”


A Design Vocabulary

Code

Mechanics

Process

Requirements

Rules

Activity

“Fun”


A Design Vocabulary

Mechanics

Process

Dynamics

Requirements

Game

“Fun”


A Design Vocabulary

Mechanics

Dynamics

Aesthetics


The MDA Framework

Mechanics

Dynamics

Aesthetics


Part V: Back to Oasis

Where we finally get back to that game we looked at.


Aesthetic Objectives of Oasis

  • Challenge the player

    • He has interesting problems to solve.

  • Create a strategic landscape to Discover

    • The player crafts his own “game science.”

  • Create an emergent Narrative

    • Convey a sense of dramatic tension building to a climax.

  • Fulfill a Fantasy

    • The player feels like he’s building a tiny empire.

  • Create a spectacle of Sensation

    • Sights and sounds for the player to enjoy.


The “Design Thesis” of Oasis

Oasis is the “anti-Minesweeper”

  • Clicking yields information, but

  • Clicking is good instead of bad.

  • Many carrots, one big stick.

  • Some carrots are sucker punches

    • Use sights & sounds to lure the player


The “No Bad Clicks” Principle

  • Became an aesthetic yardstick.

  • We had to refine our notion of “bad.”

    • “Worth less than nothing”

  • Killed many, many potential features.

  • Still, some emergent “bad clicks” remain.


The Strategic Landscape

  • Player starts out as a tourist.

  • Eventually, he becomes a native.

  • Map Generator

  • Combat System


Dynamics that Challenge

Mechanic: Resource Contention

  • Different moves compete for turns.

  • Some also compete for followers.

    Combined with:

  • Random Maps

  • Random Players

  • Limited Information

    Challenging decisions emerge.


Difficulty “Balance”

Q: How do you find the balance point?

A: You don’t.

Impossible

Easy

Challenging?


The Oldest Trick in the Book

Start here

Impossible

Easy

Challenging?


The Oldest Trick in the Book

  • The player has to win before it becomes impossible.

  • You still need to tune, but now it’s possible.

  • This reflects our whole attitude towards “balance”

Impossible

Easy

Challenging?

  • March Onward and Upward


The Dramatic Arc

Climax

Falling

Action

Rising

Action


Dramatic Dynamics

  • Difficulty: Easy … Hard … Impossible

  • Choices: Few … Many … Few

  • Flow: Turn-based … Timed … Real-time

  • Combat: Losing … Even … Winning

  • Some arcs are authored, some are emergent.


The Combat Mechanics,The Simple Version

  • Each round is a coin flip

  • The winner kills some of the loser’s troops


The Combat Mechanics,The Less Simple Version

  • Each round is a lottery.

  • Every soldier has a ticket.

  • Technology can add or remove tickets.

  • The winner’s team gets to kill some of the losing team’s troops.3 + <treasure bonus>/2


Some Combat Observations

  • The better army usually wins.

  • BUT, losing one round doesn’t cost much.

  • Ties can take a while to “snowball.”

  • The weaker army…

    • Still has a fighting chance

    • Can last a long time


But There’s More

  • Each side gets 200 “bonus tickets.”

  • When a side kills N soldiers, it loses >N bonus tickets.

  • So:

    • At the start, the battle is biased towards a coin flip.

    • There’s some negative feedback.

    • When the bonus runs out, the fight becomes more skewed


All This Adds Up to Drama

  • Fights stay close for a while, and then the tide turns.

  • The player starts out the underdog, and then wins.

    • Numbers vs. Firepower

  • Not too bad, for just numbers going down.

  • Again, the drama is emergent.


Part VI: Intution and Intellect, Revisited

In which the previous parts are related to each other.


Creating Oasis

  • Our day-to-day process was largely intuitive.

  • Intellectual processes helped us:

    • Get out of ruts.

    • Communicate objectives.

    • Design tricky mechanics


Another Example: The “Smitey Glyph” Feature

  • Problem: All levels are won or lost, no “region of forgiveness.”

  • Proposed Solution: The “Smitey Glyph”

  • Many theoretical problems

    • Creates a “stalling” opportunity

    • Diminishes the “sucker punch”

  • But it Just Made Sense


Example: Pharaoh’s Challenge

  • Publisher asked us for “campaign mode” to create an increased sense of “content.”

  • We felt free to experiment, create an “inferior game.”

  • We could rationalize that freedom intellectually.

  • We relaxed the “No Bad Clicks” rule.


Example: Level Flow

Three Phases:

1. Turn-based explore & build

2. Timed troop deployment

3. Non-interactive battle.

  • Were we nuts?

  • Conventional wisdom says yes.

  • Conventional wisdom is largely intuitive.


It’s All About Drama

Battle

Deploy

Explore,Build


An Important Precedent:Golf Games

Ball Flight

Swing Meter

Aiming,

Club Selection


In General

Result

Execution

Planning


Example: Difficulty Coupling

  • Originally, difficulty only determined starting level number.(Easy = 1, Normal = 11, Hard = 21, Insane = 31)

  • Empirically, a bad idea.

  • We changed it so all levels start at 1.

  • The change bought us tuning freedom.


Questions?

  • Slides and Stuff: www.8kindsoffun.com

  • Oasis: www.oasisgame.com

  • Me: [email protected]


Example Bugs

1. “10 Second phase” is too “solveable.” (challenge)

2. When the player’s scarab power is low, defeat seems inevitable. (drama)

3.Not enough ways to take risks (drama,challenge).

4.Treasure searching is too random, not skill-based (challenge)


Example Solutions

  • “10 Second phase” is too “solveable.” (challenge)

    Introduce a penalty for each city lost.


Example Solutions

2.When the player’s scarab power is low, defeat seems inevitable. (drama)

Introduce a special treasure that repleneshes scarab power, if defended. (Also addresses #3)


Example Solutions

3.Not enough ways to take risks (drama,challenge).

Introduce a special treasure that earns score, if defended.


Example Solutions

4.Treasure searching is too random, not skill-based (challenge)

Treasure placement has a more learnable pattern. (No duplicates, ascending order.)


Here’s What We Did

  • Saw Oasis

  • Discussed “Intellectual” and “Intuitive” Design

  • Presented MDA

  • Examined Oasis

  • Discussed moments of Intution and Intellect at work.


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