Simulated Skill

January 12, 2008 at 9:15 pm (Game Design, Game Mechanics) (, )

One of the indelible properties of games is that people who play them get better at them; players develop skills that allow them to play more consistently and effectively.

A more arbitrary notion is the concept of the player’s avatar becoming more “skillful,” through a convention commonly known as “experience points” (XP) or “levels.”  The idea is that, within the secondary reality of the game, the character (or other entity) controlled by the player is also practicing, learning, and growing in power, presenting the player with new or enhanced options within the game.  While most closely associated with role-playing games (RPGs), this mechanic is now pervading a wide variety of games, from shooters to puzzle games, rewarding the player’s accomplishments with additional powers, and sometimes greater options for customizing his avatar.

While initially this may seem like a nice secondary feature, easily attachable to a wide variety of games, the addition of this mechanic often substantially alters the way a game is played and balanced–not always for the better.

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