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Why must games be simple?

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I started this in infused thread, but realized it was way off tangent: While I agree that average Joe Player has a short attention span, and is not willing to invest in a large learning curve...perhaps that is exactly something that should be explored. I''ve noticed that there is a large camp here in gamedev.net that feels that games are just that....games. All they are is pure harmless entertainment. No more no less. Basically you have your jollies and then you are done with it. You give nothing to it, and you take nothing from it. But I think that''s very shallow and narrow design point of view. ALL things in life follow this maxim; if it''s easy, it''s not worth it, and that includes entertainment. I''m not saying you have to struggle to be entertained, but the other truism in life is that you get out of something what you put into something. Trust me, the more effort you put into something, the more rewards you will get out of it. If you have never played a flight sim before, you probably won''t understand....but there is a certain satisfaction that comes with being able to virtually pilot an airplane with a certain sense of realism. IT takes practive and it takes skill, but once you put in your time, it pays off because you feel like you have accomplished something and gained a skill....something more than just fiddling with a joystick and aiming cross hairs at enemy planes in arcade style games can provide. Anyone who plays a musical instrument or does some kind of art will also understand what I mean. As your skills progress, you feel proud of what you can do...and that''s just icing on the cake for the art or music that you get to perform. What stops people is the learning curve. They get frustrated usually because they don''t get enough positive feedback early in the beginning. To be very frank, I''m tired of hearing arguments that "that''s too hard...players want things simple". Maybe as designers we should be creating games that make players feel like they are gaining skills or accomplishing things. I''ve read several times now in differnt books that one of the ills of our society is that we no longer have a sense of accomplishment in what we do. We work 8+ hours a day...living for that moment when we are off the clock. We no longer make things, or create things...we have become a society of voyeurs rather than a society of do''ers. In essence, we want something for nothing....and out natural assumption is that entertainment is like this. I watch it or play with it, and it provides me with fun, while I don''t have to do anything in return. Our idea of entertainment is to escape that sense....of enslavement. Think about it....do we have industry and machines to serve us, or do we serve the industrial machine? I think that as an interactive medium, games can and should become more than simplistic, mindless, and escapist entertainment. I think if we make games complex and more diffucult, then it becomes a challenge. And by challenging us, it makes us grow. The trick is in providing a challenge that is still rewarding....either by making us feel happy or making us feel proud of of doing something. Look at exercise, it''s not really all that fun, until you start to build muscles and lose fat. Or when you are able to throw that high kick or make that 360 degree spin. Unfortunately, I think it is human tendency to want things simple and easy. TO most people, fun means "not having to work at it". To me, that''s relaxation, and I think simplistic games have their place as relaxers. But I think they can be a lot more than that. Most people don''t want to be challenged, they like their nice little comfort zones, and will even resort to pulling other people down to their level...because they don''t want to see others work hard and surpass them (ever been on a diet and have friends seemingly try to sabotage your efforts by suggesting going out for pizza or desert?). I think that as game designers, we almost have to trick the players into being challenged. Start things off easily, but start progressing things until it becomes more complex...and more rewarding.

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There is a very old game named GO...it is very simple to play...but takes a lifetime to master...there is a old game named Chess...it is very simple to learn, buttakes a lifetime to master...do you see a repeating trend here?

Both games offer up more then they seem...GO is often taught to management types as a meens of learning simple stratigies that can be applied in the real world...It takes commitment to become good at these two games...and they offer up a sense of accomplishment when you strive to become good at them.

You don''t need a game full of complex rules inorder to do this...life itself isn''t very complex when viewed through a microscope...it''s a small set of very simple rules that produces a variety of different life/gameplay permitations.

To many people that are new to game design want to put everything "and the kitchen sink" into thier games...the trick is to know what to leave out...to know what isn''t needed...I cannot streass the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principal enough...start with a limited set of simple rules that are designed to create a multitude of vastly different permitations...and you will end up with deep complex gameplay.

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Oh my god... I don't even belong in this section but.. isn't it obvious... complicated games aren't fun, and even if you do play it and win it, it's not that rewarding. Would you rather have the history teacher that reads out of the book in a monotonious voice or the bubbly history teacher that tells you about past expereiences, and brings in photographics and takes you on a journey? I seriously don't think games, they way you describe them, are fun, much less take you on an experience or a journey. To me, it sounds like you want to make a movie that repeats the past. I mean, its one thing to try new things and be creative, and it's another to copy history and give everyone what they already decided they didn't want in the past. Why have a discussion about making games they way you want them to be made? why not make your game the way you want it to be made? at least then you'd have your game to play and be satisfied. don't mean to be harsh but i roll my eyes at you. ROLL THEM I SAY!

¬_¬

EDIT: As I once was taught, never try to make an all-in-one minimart. You're never going to please everyone, and you can nevver provide everything anyone would need. Start with something simple, and expand on that. Also, i really think you're idea that everyone is dumb and plays games for fun is misconcepted. People get a lot more out of playing games that you might think.. Sure they might not get the things out of games that you want them to get out of them, but they get stuff out of it. I mean, I cry whenever i hear warcraft music. I love it that much.. It moved me.. it inspired me. I dream about it, I compare it to real life and I think about how it could be better. It's just a great game. It doesn't take two seconds to play a game of it, it takes about 45 minutes. I do not consider myself to have a short attention span. Blizzard inspired me to learn how to program and to learn how to create my own games. If you start with having fun, many things can grow from it. Having fun does not mean relaxing, or being lazy.

[edited by - Fuzztrek on September 14, 2002 1:31:38 AM]

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I do think some games should be more complicated. I agree a lot of people want simple games, but a lot of people do enjoy having more rules and options and having to learn things that other people wouldn''t "waste their time" on. Look at rpgs... on one end of the spectrum, you have final fantasy, which leads the player by the nose through mostly computer controlled animations and movies, and sometimes lets him run around and press X to open chests or kill monsters. On the other end, you have nethack, which requires the player to learn not only a massive amount of commands, but also a massive amount of information on how the game works and what effect certain actions have, just to let the player progress a few levels into the dungeon without being slaughtered. There are people who love Final Fantasy, there are people who love Nethack, and there are people who love both.
I''ve heard people use chess before as an example of a game that''s easy to learn but hard to master and how we should all try to be like chess. I don''t think this is very true. The rules, to a degree, are simple, but if someone came up with a game that had as many rules as chess just to simulate a small scale combat, game desingers everywhere would cry "That''s so over-complicated! Keep it simple! Just have every piece be able to move in any direction and have them do a certain amount of damage to other pieces. The player will never want to learn all these ridiculous movement rules that don''t make any sense or have anything to do with real combat!" And they''d be right. I think the majority of console gamers would say that chess is actually pretty difficult, because the rules are pretty strange and arbitrary. The other problem is that chess is a very closed game depicting a very small thing. If it was a video game it would be a puzzle game. People like other games like FPS''s, RPG''s, and RTS''s. These games have to present far more situations to a player than just a static 8x8 grid where 2 armies of 16 men each try to kill eachother''s king. If every part of an RTS or RPG had the complexity of chess for all its situations, it would be impossible to learn. And trying to fit a bunch of different situations that would arise in these games into a ruleset as restrictive as chess would also be impossible.
SO... unless you''re writing a puzzle game, a certain amount of complexity must arise as you give the player more options. And many players would like more options. People love Nethack, not for its complicated rules, but because of it''s many, many options and opportunities for strategy. But niether of these would be possible with a "simpler" ruleset.

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The ultimate design in this case is to give the option to the player. If they want to play a game simply, allow them to. If they want to make it complicated for themselves, they can do that too and still be effective (and get what are hopefully more interesting results).

[edited by - Waverider on September 14, 2002 2:46:47 AM]

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well for any game to be good it has to have a deep (or at least interesting) storyline. the player should have to think a little not just have mindless button pushing. though i agree game should push a gamer to new challenges, it doesn''t not mean that the game being complex will be rewarding. i''ve played games that took me months of religious playing to beat only to get a convoluted storyline or even worse.... scrolling credits. i think if the gamer can be engrossed in the story, be rewarded with skills, given optional stages to play in (FF VII for example) or even have the player learn a new skill to play the game and beat it and all the while having that new skill being able to apply it to the real world..... (i don''t know how possible that last one is).

game are meant for relaxation but they should challenge and intrigue also. for the game developer/designer/programmer, you should build what you can then build upon it... IMHO. games are a media of creativity. and creativity requires you to think and challenge yourself to think outside of the box.

Knowledge is what you learn, wisdom is how you apply it.






find your element
at mutedfaith.com.
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Perhaps splitting the learning curve up a little - giving it a couple of plateaus - would help. The player has to learn a little to play through the first 20% of the game - then, they have to learn more, and then they play through another 40% of the game. As much as players enjoy being challenged, I don''t believe they enjoy being taught or learning - or at least, knowingly so. If you can combine a long learning curve with something else - say, a cliffhanger storyline - you can persuade the player to keep at it and learn the game properly.

Players who master the game, of course, can feel good when they go back to play against other people.

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Yes, a round of applause is warranted. You have just articulated the future of this business. Congratulations, games are about to step out of the stone age servicing business, and you, my colleagues, are going to be part of the first wave of the biggest thing to hit since a particular asteriod some time back....


Everyone take a bow, for indeed, game designers will save the world.

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