Just Your Luck

February 17, 2008 at 4:14 pm (Game Balance, Game Design, Philosophy) (, , )

Though the phrase “games of chance” tends to refer to gambling, random elements show up to a greater or lesser degree in many other games.  In fact, in many genres, they are so ingrained that it is difficult to imagine playing the game without them.

On the face of it, this is rather odd.  Games are fundamentally about making decisions–whether strategizing or just “playing around”–and adding in random outcomes can only reduce the amount of control the player has.  Why would so many games engage in such an apparently self-defeating behavior?  Other than the ones that are doing it to get your money, I mean.

Well, I think there are three significant reasons a for game to include randomness…

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What Does This Do?

February 6, 2008 at 7:06 pm (Game Design, User Interface)

In order to play a game (or, in the age of computers, maybe just in order to play a game well), you need to know how.  In an ideal world, you’d simply dedicate some time to learning whatever you need to know–read the manual, play the tutorial, peruse a FAQ, or what have you–and then you’d remember it all.

Unfortunately, most players have neither unlimited patience nor perfect memory, so that typically doesn’t happen.  Players who want to play your game will generally want to start with as little time commitment as possible, and they won’t remember everything you tell them.  So in order for them to play the game, it has to be possible to learn at least some things as you go along.  The game has to be self-documenting: the game itself needs to contain the information necessary to play it.

This doesn’t mean that you should have a button in the game that brings up the player’s manual (though perhaps you should), but that players need to be presented with context-sensitive help giving them information relevant to their current situation.  If the player wanted to simply hear everything you want him to know presented in the order you think is best, he’d be reading the manual.  What he probably actually wants is precisely the information that will get him safely through the next ten seconds of his game.

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