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Case for Dumbing Down – because others deserve to enjoy games too


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#1 Koobazaur   Members   -  Reputation: 691

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Posted 22 July 2013 - 12:20 PM

Bit of a shameless plug, but just wanted to share a story from developing and testing my own game I was just writing about:
 

Item highlight, arrows or contextual controls make “hardcore” gamers rage but developing my game I learned they’re not always about dumbing, but accessibility.

Full Article here
 
TL;DR - I learned that "dumbing down" is sometimes about allowing players with slightly different skillsets but similar gaming tastes to enjoy your game. Other times, it can also be a last-minute solution to a design problem that you simply ran out of time to fix properly by redesign, often a monumental task in itself. 
 
And other times, yes, it's just plain dumb tongue.png

Edited by Koobazaur, 22 July 2013 - 12:22 PM.

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#2 demonkoryu   Members   -  Reputation: 976

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 04:09 AM

The question is, when does a game stop being enjoyable to the typical player? When it is too hard, or the flow gets lost.

 

For example. journals, or highlighting of items. It is almost necessary because games tend to be built from repeating elements ("prefabs"), which are arranged in certain different ways. This allows memorizing map layouts and stuff up to a certain point; after which the gamer gets lost and has to consult help or search everything over again. Contrast this with the Real WorldTM, which has only unique items and locations that give many clues to the brain that helps to distinguish and remember stuff: Here a distinct dent in that box, here a scratch, this box is a little yellow at the bottom from the carrot juice, and so on.

 

What I want to say is, games rely mostly on location memory; whereas our real world gives much more clues and context; making mental clutches much less necessary. 


Edited by demonkoryu, 21 August 2013 - 05:06 AM.


#3 Stormynature   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3423

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 07:02 AM

Dumbing down games is something I don't overly like especially in this day and age of where you can virtually find any solution to a problem in-game somewhere on the internet. If we are talking about purely twitch based mechanics or perhaps latency affected games I could and would (living in Australia where no bloody servers ever get built (well hardly ever)) at times find a dumbing down of the reaction speed needed to play some games probably helpful but then I am getting old and slow. But having grown up with the likes of Zork and The hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy when games were much simpler in programming requirements but at times fiendishly frustrating, I find the current trend of catering to the unwashed masses by simplifying gameplay is leading me to a disenchantment with many Triple A titles these days. This doesn't mean to say that from a commercial point that it doesn't make sense...just rather I would have the experience of trying again and again until I succeed and thus reap the rewards of having accomplished something rather than being given it, unless of course the complexity was to the point of obscenity and served no purpose in which case why play it.



#4 Toothpix   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 810

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 02:35 PM

I think that a perfect game would be so unique that everyone would be a beginner to boot, and a master at the finish line. What I mean is that when you say "hardcore" gamers know how to play without hints, you are basically admitting that games are unoriginal and strictly follow genre conventions, so if someone who is a fan of a genre is playing a game of that genre, then they will already have mastered skills of previous games in that genre and be better than other players. So a good game designer will build a challenging and unique game that is very accessible, but provides a challenge, be it in reflexes or thinking.


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#5 theBenni   Members   -  Reputation: 158

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 05:55 AM

I think that providing accessibility in game design is admirable and sensible in certain markets, i.e. the particularly competitive ones (mobile). However, if you're creating a small game and you hope to be original, I don't think there's any problem with allowing a greater complexity of design. The reason being, that big developers and publishers are knocking out all the genre stereotypes for us. Adding some of these features can sometimes make games feel a bit like under financed versions of their macro-scale contemporaries. 

 

Sometimes the mainstream dumbed-down features just work with a game, and in that instance they should be used. However, if someone has to opportunity to do something different, a twist on an established convention, it should be seized.



#6 SuperG   Members   -  Reputation: 569

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Posted 18 August 2013 - 12:04 PM

Dumbing down is the negative alias of accessibility.

It's the glass is half empty vs the glass is half full.

 

Apparently gamers are selfish. More non selfish proposal would be a good skill adoptive game.

problem is, that no easy task and add to complexity of game production. So often limited to a setting like Easy Normal and Hard etc.

Large funding's and production cost needs large target audiences.

I have no problem with it. Dumbing down is fine with me. Most singleplayer games are some how story driven. So I like a smooth story flow. Instead a QTE that rewind as a A-B loop. replay the same part n times. Or a end boss you try to beat 20 times. That conflicting with story flow.

Also games have a difficulty that is perceived not constant level trough the game levels and gamers differ in how hard or easy a situation is solved.

So a game that dynamical act on player skill and adopt in a smart manner would be great.

 

Some games have more then 4 difficulty levels.



#7 AngleWyrm   Members   -  Reputation: 554

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Posted 18 August 2013 - 03:38 PM

Some book authors write "Children's Books," not because they are good at it, but because they cannot imagine content that would entertain an adult.


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#8 wodinoneeye   Members   -  Reputation: 879

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Posted 19 August 2013 - 08:00 AM

Question might be  can you change factors to  make the game easier for some players (via a difficulty setting slider) while retaining much harder modes for other players?  To do it in a balanced way - evenly across the games interactive features?

 

 

Its not really 'dumbing down', but tailoring the player experience.  Just about anyone can make a game for which ALL humans dont have the reflexes or thinking power before the game vaporizes them into total obvious defeat.   On the other hand a game the player just 'waves his hand at' and wins might not go over well (unless winning ISNT the goal --- like a tourist game, where seeing the wonderous/spectacular soul-bending scenery/objects/plot and special effects is the real point).

 

You want players to be able to play, to have whatever challenge level you are targeting (hopefully with sufficient difficulty settings to hit most of the bell curve of player abilities).

 

You might have some few 'difficult' achievements which require higher skill  - some percentage (?)  low enough that the majority of players who will be denied success and whatever result that success brings them.

 

If  reaching entire areas of the game is blocked by difficulty, how much work will you want to expend on such things which a minority will 'get' -- which will detract from the amount of effort of making the common part of the  game which the majority can play/reach  sufficiently well (and thus a majority who will bother to buy this game)


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#9 samoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 5038

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Posted 19 August 2013 - 09:06 AM

There are more non-hardcore players than there exist hardcore players. Also, both in real life situations and in games, the vast majority of people regularly encounter situations which... do not exactly testify their superior intelligence.

I'm trying hard to avoid saying something like "90% of all people are stupid", but you get the idea. People get to struggle in important situations (some struggle more, and more often, and some struggle less), and adding extra burden "just because" does not make this better.

 

Including designs that cater a mere 5% of your prospective customers and that frustrates a large share of your customers because it is needlessly complicated when they're already struggling is not an intelligent design decision. Unless of course you do not care about being successful.

 

Also, most of these features are not "dumbing down" (well, arrows are, somehow), but a mix of ergonomy and accessibility. That isn't the same thing.

 

Dumbing down is a "click here to win" style of gameplay, but for example item highlights are a valuable visual hint both to novice and experienced players that they're pointing at the right spot, and not a pixel or two too far left or right. There may be people who simply don't see all that well, too.

 

Contextual menus make your "workflow" less cumbersome -- why would one want to annoy the player with a purposely hard to navigate menu. It's similar to contextual popups in most desktop environments. When hovering over a red icon shows a popup "Pressing the Red Button will close the program without saving data" you might yell at the developer for how stupid he is for stating the obvious. What else would the Red Button do.

 

On the other hand, if you don't know because maybe it isn't quite so obvious to you, he just made your day, and at a neglegible cost. You could of course have read the 200-page manual, too. You do read manuals, don't you. Of course, everyone does.



#10 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4004

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Posted 20 August 2013 - 03:15 AM

Difficulty levels. I could never understood why they so rarely make diffuclty levels (and by this I mean more than the standard 3 easy/normal/hard, because it's a bit not enough). There are some games (genres) I beat at hard and some I can't beat on easy... Especially, since such difficulty levels are frequently quite easy to implement (reduce damage from enemies for example).


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#11 Jungle Friend Studios   Members   -  Reputation: 115

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Posted 23 August 2013 - 03:39 AM

I thinking dumbing down is pejorative and used incorrectly in the industry. Not everyone has the same capability for hand eye coordination and reflexes and that doesn't make them any worse. The fact that there are different markets to serve should be applauded. Our jobs as game makers is to entertain people - you choose who you entertain.


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#12 wodinoneeye   Members   -  Reputation: 879

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 12:14 AM

Difficulty levels. I could never understood why they so rarely make diffuclty levels (and by this I mean more than the standard 3 easy/normal/hard, because it's a bit not enough). There are some games (genres) I beat at hard and some I can't beat on easy... Especially, since such difficulty levels are frequently quite easy to implement (reduce damage from enemies for example).

 

Depending on the game mechanics and what options they have to make things easier/harder   they dont want to have to test/debug/tune too many difficulty levels (or possibly worse a continuous slider difficult controls effects)

 

 

Some games it might only ge adjusting enemy hitpoints, hit probabilities, target AABB or damage-to-opponents/damage-to-players multipliers.  But not all games have factors that linear and modal changes can cause pendulum swings (or open up loopholes) which need to have many other things adjusted to keep the game playable (or to achieve the desired REAL difficulty)


--------------------------------------------Ratings are Opinion, not Fact




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