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Keeping Track of Game Factors

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In a non-turnbased game, how much can the player keep track of at once? I mean, as something to go on for the average player, not what the maximum hardcore gamer can do.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
You mean like remembering stuff or fighting multiple enemies? Anyways, like already said you must be more specific.

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I mean, general categories.

Like in an FPS, say, what your health is, how much ammo you''re carrying, and where the enemies are.

Or in an RTS, resources, what the enemy''s doing, etc.

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In psychology, this "retention" rate is given the magic number 5+-2, which is in effect 7 for the most complicated stuff, but some people can go even further then that (though at the same time, some people can't even get 3).

Now, in terms of design, this doesn't mean "7" things, but 7 groups of related objects. Like, a full sentence could be come one of those groups, and a 7 sentence paragraph would then get grouped into a single idea, giving the reader a 7 paragraph retention (if the ideas were appropriately written out). For video/image recognition, the trick is to group things together nicely, like HEALTH and BODY ARMOR should be right next to each other, so rather then 100%/100%, the player will think 200%.

Edit:
Oh yeah, its 7+-2, not 5. Oops. Same mentality applies, group objects together so the player can remember them as a single chunk. Take the numbers 1, 9, 4, 2, 2, 0, 0, 3, 1, 7, 7, 6, 1, 8, 1, 2 ... Quite a mouthful until you look at it with hyphens, 1942-2003-1776-1812. Now thats 4 object groups rather then 16 items.

[edited by - inmate2993 on February 8, 2004 2:32:58 PM]

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The traditional view of short term memory in cognitive psychology states that a human can store 7 plus minus 2 units of information in short term memory [1]. The plus minus means that some people has a better short term memory than others.
To be able to keep more information in short term memory you need to group information together to form bigger chunks. Like whem recalling a telephone number, if you group numbers together you will recall it more easily.

This 7 +- 2 need to be considered when creating user interfaces so that the short term memory of a player does not get exhausted. Ofcourse, it could also be by game design that the user should not be able to recall everything that is happening. For normal user interfaces though, the magic number seven need to be considered.


[1] Miller, G.A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psycological Review, 63, 81-97.

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