Introduction to Cognition and Gaming • 10/30/02: Gameplay Elements
Gameplay Elements • Gameplay element – anything that requires the player to make a decision that relates to the game, for the purpose of continuing play • Action – requires the player to move their controls, pieces, or characters around, for the purpose of explicitly interacting with the game • Resource – Elements that the player does not directly control, but effects how actions work or the state of the game
Gameplay Elements • Gameplay element – anything that requires the player to make a decision that relates to the game, for the purpose of continuing play • Tactical/Strategic – Change the way the game works – e.g., deciding when to perform a move or allocate resources • Time – Making the player deal with future events – e.g., waiting for a weapon to spawn. Never underestimate the power of giving a player a clock to watch!
Genre Action Resource Tactics Time Any Exploration, Communication with other players Points or score Timer or Countdown Action Navigate, Avoid/Follow, Combat Ammo, Health Weapons Choice, Map Memorization Real Time Strategy Asset Layout, Unit Selection and Orders, Combat Assessment and Unit Targeting Resource and Money, Accounting Repairing and Upgrading Units, Grouping and Positioning Waiting for Builds Gameplay Elements by Genre and Category
Hit Points as Gameplay Elements • If your goal is to develop a more realistic human response to combat (one-hit kills, lingering effects of damage), how would you replace hit points as a minimal health/damage system? • Injuries – Bodily damage • Mobility – Ability to move appendages and location • Will power – The likelihood of staying conscious and refraining from running away under the influence of intense pain • Stamina – The amount of ‘energy’ the character has left, and the speed and power that can be given to actions • Stun – Being temporarily at a loss for reaction
What are the Problems with this? • First of all, it’s much more complex than hit points, but removing any component seems to reduce its effectiveness - its metrics change quickly in mid-combat, and to deal with the changes requires an attention shift at the worst possible time! • Second, the goal itself is flawed. To allow one-hit kills may be more realistic, but it removes an entire level of resource management – radically shortchanging the player’s range of playability • Always keep in mind the play conditions under which this scheme would be used, and remember what the player will have to keep stored in STM at all times
Incorporating Gameplay Elements • Key Elements – The “meat and potatoes” of the game, often defines its genre. In an FPS, key elements include navigation, avoid/chase, combat targeting/dodging, health, and ammo • Supporting Elements – Differentiate the game from others in its genre. Driving games have navigation, steering control, and time limits, but Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit also adds evading the police as a major supporting element • “Old Reliable” Elements – Cliché when main focus, but good filler material. E.g., require player to have more money or higher skill for a given level of activity
Balancing Gameplay Elements • Understand who your audience is, what their goals are, and the pacing of your game • More action elements make the controls more complicated • More resource elements may speed up the feel of the game (players have to be constantly vigilant about supplies) • More tactical elements add layers of complexity to action or resource management • Time elements can keep player focused on precise movements and a single goal
Balancing Gameplay Elements • Too much – can dilute the purpose of the game in the first place – games are as much about their limitations as their freedoms • Too little – Gameplay novelty will wear off quickly. Some elements are strong enough to bypass this issue (e.g. Tetris) • Hidden – Either activated later in the game, or not explicitly described as a function. Different from Easter Eggs!
Additional Game Design Criteria • Meaningful game mechanics include the concepts of intent and consequence • Intent – The game makes it obvious to the player that a decision can be made, and that the decision will influence the outcome of events (e.g. the tech tree of Civilization) • Consequence – The game choice must not be trivially reversible. (e.g. not allowing save monkeys, advancing a chess pawn)
Advantages of Intent and Consequence • When choices are explicit, failure is more easily accepted. This helps the player gain skill faster, and the game is perceived as being fair. It’s easier to understand “needing something to attack aircraft” than it is to research +3 range instead of +2 (abstract) • When actions really matter, the play sessions are more memorable. Conversely, as choices become meaningless, eventually there is no reason for the player to be there at all
Examples • Starcraft – Siege tanks can either move normally, or go into “siege mode” and become more powerful (intent). It takes time and attention to switch between modes, and making the wrong choice can mean great loss (consequence) • Counter-Strike – a player is out for the rest of the round if he or she dies • Dodgeball, tug-of-war • Russian Roulette (hey, what could be more memorable?)
Disadvantages of Intent and Consequence • Overused intent can make the game simple and boring. An element of uncertainty should remain • If the computer told you how it would respond to a move in chess before you made it, it would make the game much less interesting • Consequences that are too harsh are stressful, frustrating, and discouraging (it takes 30 seconds to switch weapons?!?)
Homework #3 • Due Monday (11/10/03) • 1 page game vision statement • Describe basic gameplay elements, genre, setting, characters, story, interface (basic) • No RPGs • No post-apocalyptic environments • No law breaking (stealing, killing, drugs, etc.)
PSYC/CSCI: Game Development • Pre-formed teams of 5 students • Fill out survey on course website • Designer: ICG • Artist: Media Studio (Animation I?) • Programmer: DSA • Once approved, fill out “Permission of Instructor” Form at SRFS website