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Mephs

Diminishing returns of complexity

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Hey all, I've been pondering on the question of the complexity/simplicity of some games and have been wondering at what point does a game become too complex to be accessible to a wide audience? By this I'm referring to the core feel of a game. If you took an average 2d platformer, almost everyone can get to grips with it in a short timespan provided it doesn't have too much fluff. If you took a fully accurate flight simulator, chances are that a lot of people may never be able to master it because it is too complex. Now I think some complexity to the game adds to the immersion/fun factor... if it didn't I guess we'd all be playing games with a single button (or something equally simple)! Under that assumption (which perhaps is not valid) what level of complexity is best in a game? Is pushing a 2d platformer into a 3d environment losing us a large portion of potential audience by being too complex for the majority to grasp? I do know a lot of people who will really only play the most simple of games because they just can't grasp anything more complex! Now I'm not asking this question purely in terms of a platformer, but in terms of games of all genres as I'm wondering whether I'm being too ambitious with my own 4E4 project and should perhaps cut it back to be less complex and more accessible... perhaps even gaining some playability in the process due to the complexity factor I've been talking about, but I'm also very wary of ending up with the aforementioned single button game with limited appeal to anyone. Any opinions would be appreciated! Cheers, Steve

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I doubt there's a hard-and-fast rule for how much is too much. Your audience will change depending on how complex your system is, that's for sure, but there's no easy way to know how.

If you can assemble a number of testers to give feedback, they might offer comments like, "It was fun, but there were too many buttons to keep track of. Can't you get rid of the aura system? It makes far more sense for it to be automated, and reaching way over to the numpad in mid-game is tiresome."

I think playtesting and feedback is your best bet.

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Alot depends on the game.

For a flight or driving simulator, I'd want it to feel as real (complex) as it could. That's what a simulator is supposed to do, given the name. I would also say that joysticks or steering wheels compensate for much of that complexity, and inevitably add new gameplay elements. For games such as this you can generalise these complexities into different difficulty levels, giving you a wide gamut of demographic to show to.

First-Person perspective games are a little different. Complexities in this genre are generally put toward interaction, rather than reaction as with simulators. Talking to others, picking up/throwing/shooting objects/people, following/giving orders, etc (Many of which can/do operate with few buttons). However, the large range of different games of this genre makes it difficult to judge an approximate maximum allowable complexity level. So I won't try. :)

For real-time strategy games, I think there is a limit on the complexity you can add in here (and still retain most of your user base). Games like this involve thought processes, as the name implies, as well as quick reflexes, as the name also implies. The bottleneck here is clearly in reflexes, in my opinion, as I think most people are intelligent enough to be able to (at least) grasp the complexities of an RTS, which is not that much.


I read 'complexities' as 'capabilities', but I'm an optimist. To the people that say Myst is too complex a puzzle game, I'm greatful I'm getting my money's worth.

OT: Having ranted all that, I do think that if some games had the proper vehicle for communication (controller), much of the complexity in the presentation would melt away magically. In my opinion.

:stylin:

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Your game can get away with being complex if you:
A. Ease the player into the complexities over time with the first mission(s)/quest(s).
B. Leave some complexities automated or unneeded for the more casual gamers, while giving an advantage by micro-managing them for powergamers. Example: hot-keys, rather than menu navigation, in an RTS.

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Count the number of buttons on console controllers. That gives you an idea of where the market is now, in terms of complexity tolerance, and how much more complex the status quo is compared to 20 years ago. There are numerous other implications to be drawn from this. (Hardcore market has grown, casual market might be growing more quickly if complexity had been kept low, etc.)

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