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Theory: players don't know what they want


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#61 Bigdeadbug   Members   -  Reputation: 173

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 05:36 PM

@Legendre

A developer is essentially creating periods of play that are potentially not enjoyable for the player. That may not be a concious decision by the developer (and sorry if my original wording made it seem like I was implying it was), instead they would probably view it as a way to better engage the player in the game. To do this they will face the player with a challenge, one that they can feasibly, but easily, overcome. In the case of a game like SC2 this challenge is predominantly a test of skill, while in the case of an MMORPG grind it is predominantly a test of dedication. This challenge will undoubtedly be seen as unpleasant by part of the player base and as a result you are creating periods of play which are not fun from that players point of view. When the player overcomes these challenges they get a sense of achievement that would otherwise not be there without said challenges. In the case of SC2 this does in fact mean that the games a player loses can help provide a much more satisfying and enjoyable experiences for them when they win.

It is not a case of making the game enjoyable all the time but instead making it enjoyable most of the time.

[There is of course a lot more to it than just that and what you or I said are not mutually exclusive by any means, the periods of unenjoyable play server to create a more entertaining experience for the player overall.]

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#62 J03_b   Members   -  Reputation: 131

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 09:20 PM

@Legendre

A developer is essentially creating periods of play that are potentially not enjoyable for the player.



I'd just like to interject real quick and clarify that it's not always "not fun", but more like play that feels like work. I think everyone will agree that questing and doing dungeons to progress and explore new areas can be really fun, but after doing it for so long it starts to feel like a chore. However, there are those games that are literally just killing the same monsters over and over again which is probably what people refer to as a "grind fest". In those cases I don't think that is the developers intentions, but instead just lazy developers that don't feel like coming up with consistent new content. There is a big difference between those two types

#63 Bigdeadbug   Members   -  Reputation: 173

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 04:35 AM

It also varies from player to player. Even the classic "grind fest" is seen by some players to be fun. Developers have become much better at masking the grind by making you do more engaging activities and there is defiantly a distinction between lazy game design and good game design. Then again the techniques used seem to age poorly in a lot of cases so it may just be a case of the game, and by extension its design, being old.

#64 Malabyte   Members   -  Reputation: 589

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 04:52 AM

Players wanted AAs, bloom and a progressive ranking system in Reach, and I'm pretty sure that all of those things contribute to Reach's low level of success (compared to halo 3).

I don't know enough about Reach and their developers to be able to have an opinion on that. But typically, something can be suggested by the players and then implemented by the developers, but that doesn't mean that it was those players who made them implement it. Developers also have a brain.

I mean, I suggested flying in Azeroth, Goblins, underwater realm and a ton of stuff in WoW and other games that has since been implemented. But was that because of my suggestions? I highly doubt it. Cataclysm was probably started on long before even WotLK was launched.

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#65 Malabyte   Members   -  Reputation: 589

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 04:58 AM


Saying that I want the game to be different doesn't say anything about what specifically you want to see in the game.


I don't think players would "want" a game to be different without specifics. It is usually the case where they want something over another.

E.g. players who hate bloom in Halo wants the old system back. players who love bloom in Halo wants bloom and doesn't want the old system back.

Does anyone have an example of how "want" can be different from "don't want"?


My point is that gamers aren't as good at identifying the underlying issue. If they were, they sure as hell wouldn't be complaining about gear score in WoW, for instance. Because if you remove the gear score, you're still going to have the need for that level of gear, but now it's just gonna be even more players complaining because of how difficult it'll be to figure out the benchmarks.

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#66 Malabyte   Members   -  Reputation: 589

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 05:04 AM

In those cases I don't think that is the developers intentions, but instead just lazy developers that don't feel like coming up with consistent new content. There is a big difference between those two types


The grindfest is what's called the "treadmill" by devs, and it's something that the professionals take very seriously, because it directly affects game sales. Too much grinding, and players start quitting the game. That's why they try to mask it with interesting stuff, because the right amount of grinding in a game (that which occupies your time but doesn't feel grindy) can make it survive for a lot longer.

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#67 Legendre   Members   -  Reputation: 966

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 06:25 AM

I'd just like to interject real quick and clarify that it's not always "not fun", but more like play that feels like work. I think everyone will agree that questing and doing dungeons to progress and explore new areas can be really fun, but after doing it for so long it starts to feel like a chore. However, there are those games that are literally just killing the same monsters over and over again which is probably what people refer to as a "grind fest". In those cases I don't think that is the developers intentions, but instead just lazy developers that don't feel like coming up with consistent new content. There is a big difference between those two types


Yep. This is one of the points that I was trying to convey.


My point is that gamers aren't as good at identifying the underlying issue. If they were, they sure as hell wouldn't be complaining about gear score in WoW, for instance. Because if you remove the gear score, you're still going to have the need for that level of gear, but now it's just gonna be even more players complaining because of how difficult it'll be to figure out the benchmarks.


Yes I completely agree. Developers/designers too can fail to consider the full impact of a feature.

However, players/gamers can sometimes come up with amazingly detailed explanations of why certain features should stay/go. E.g. I found enlightening analysis done by fans about bloom and armor ability in Halo Reach (its not as straight forward as "bloom and armor ability is good/bad").

#68 Legendre   Members   -  Reputation: 966

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 06:34 AM

It also varies from player to player. Even the classic "grind fest" is seen by some players to be fun. Developers have become much better at masking the grind by making you do more engaging activities and there is defiantly a distinction between lazy game design and good game design. Then again the techniques used seem to age poorly in a lot of cases so it may just be a case of the game, and by extension its design, being old.


*Nod*. Class grind can be fun for some players. E.g. I have little time for games nowadays and enjoy just logging on and mindlessly grinding mobs for 10-20 minutes knowing that I at least gain some EXP and Gold.

The grindfest is what's called the "treadmill" by devs, and it's something that the professionals take very seriously, because it directly affects game sales. Too much grinding, and players start quitting the game. That's why they try to mask it with interesting stuff, because the right amount of grinding in a game (that which occupies your time but doesn't feel grindy) can make it survive for a lot longer.


Yep. I am currently programming an RPG by myself, and have come to realize that I would need to add some "masked grind" because I don't think I will be able to output new content fast enough.

However, I would like to emphasize that I am not trying to intentionally add in "unenjoyable" activities. The goal is to somehow make it fun to repeat old content.

#69 josh1billion   Members   -  Reputation: 195

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 10:35 PM

I'd be curious to see whether psychologists have studied, and given a name to, this particular phenomenon: the disparity between what individuals think they want and what they actually want. The phenomenon is certainly not unique to just games.

Edit: Introspection illusion, perhaps.
Further reading: http://uxmyths.com/p...-what-they-want

Edit again: I'd forgotten all about this -- Malcolm Gladwell has a great TED Talk on this very idea: http://www.ted.com/talks/malcolm_gladwell_on_spaghetti_sauce.html
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#70 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 5057

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 10:54 PM

From what I've seen of newbie game designers' attempts at game design documents, I think designers often don't know what they want at the beginning of the process either. Half the fun of the design process is figuring out what you want, and half the challenge of the creative process is figuring out what to input into yourself to make useful ideas come out.

Edit: I decided I wanted to ramble more about the psychology of creativity, since it's such an interesting topic. First off, I think game designers aren't fundamentally different from players. Every designer has to _be_ a player, just like every writer has to be a reader, every musician has to be a music fan, etc. If you're not consuming it you could make random attempts at producing it but you're not going to have any feel for what's functional and enjoyable. Many run of the mill players come up with a stray design idea or two when playing a game. It may or may not be a good idea, but the same can be said for the ideas of an experienced designer. The difference between the player and the designer is just that the designer has put time into thinking about design, and with that time has probably acquired a broader experience and more developed conceptual framework of what a game is and how it functions. With that experience and theoretical foundation the designer has mental tools to test ideas (and how they fit with other ideas) that an ordinary player doesn't have, and the designer also has the habit and mental toolbox to produce more ideas faster. But designing, like all creative and artistic fields, is intensely personal. We all have different experiences, have chosen different bits of others' theory to incorporate into our own, and that's why it's so rare to find two designers who can agree on a game concept to start developing. So, since "developer skill" is not a consistent or objective thing, nor a discrete thing that players absolutely lack, I don't think it really makes sense to draw a line in the sand between players and designers, as far as whose ideas are valid or interesting. Even once an idea has been fully implemented it's difficult to say if it is a good idea because that can only be measured in whether the players are having fun, and one game design is different amounts of fun for different players because they have different tastes and abilities.

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#71 josh1billion   Members   -  Reputation: 195

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 11:42 PM

The difference between the player and the designer is just that the designer has put time into thinking about design, and with that time has probably acquired a broader experience and more developed conceptual framework of what a game is and how it functions. With that experience and theoretical foundation the designer has mental tools to test ideas (and how they fit with other ideas) that an ordinary player doesn't have, and the designer also has the habit and mental toolbox to produce more ideas faster.

Very well said.

Every designer has to _be_ a player, just like every writer has to be a reader, every musician has to be a music fan, etc. If you're not consuming it you could make random attempts at producing it but you're not going to have any feel for what's functional and enjoyable.

One possible counter-example to consider would be Shigeru Miyamoto. Despite arguably being the world's most famous and successful game designer, he reportedly spends very little of his time playing games. I'm sure he plays the games he's working on, so your argument may still hold in that regard, though it would seem that one can still theoretically be an incredibly successful designer without actually gaming regularly.

(But don't get me wrong: I'd certainly agree that playing others' games would have a much greater benefit to a designer than not doing so.)
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#72 Malabyte   Members   -  Reputation: 589

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 09:15 AM

However, players/gamers can sometimes come up with amazingly detailed explanations of why certain features should stay/go. E.g. I found enlightening analysis done by fans about bloom and armor ability in Halo Reach (its not as straight forward as "bloom and armor ability is good/bad").


Good point, there's definitely pros and cons with both groups (gamers and developers).

However, I would like to emphasize that I am not trying to intentionally add in "unenjoyable" activities. The goal is to somehow make it fun to repeat old content.


I think the most ingenius example of a positive grind in gaming history must be Diablo's system of difficulty (normal/nightmare/hell; where you need to beat the game in a certain difficulty to get the next unlocked). Essentially the same content all over again, yet wrapped around a context that makes sense and it's incredibly fun.

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#73 Legendre   Members   -  Reputation: 966

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 09:27 AM

I'd be curious to see whether psychologists have studied, and given a name to, this particular phenomenon: the disparity between what individuals think they want and what they actually want. The phenomenon is certainly not unique to just games.


This topic has been extensively studied in economics. E.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revealed_preference

Basically it says that asking individuals what they want is useless, and the best way to find out what they want is to actually see what they end up picking.

"Preference" is a huge topic in economics, both historically and in current times. It is highly mathematical and rife with controversy and debate (see Rational Agent Theory, Expected Utility Hypothesis, Behavioral Economics etc).




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