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orionburcham

What are qualities of a good game design?

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Will you help me with a quick experiment? I'm studying psychology as a path to better game design. I'd like to relearn the basics of game design by learning how they affect a player's brain directly. My hope is that by studying this, I can learn to better predict and influence a player's behavior and experience. If you have a moment, will you help me out? Please list any qualities you feel a good game design should have. I'm not collecting these to try to learn game design, but as data for an experiment. Any number is fine, and will be quite helpful to me. Thanks a lot :) -Orion
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+ A large outlet for creativity.
Planning (Star Craft), crafting (RPG), building (Sim City), managing (The Sims)..

+ A large outlet for destructivity.
Highly detailed and destructible environment, big screen-shaking explosions, intricate enemy destructibility (space ships, robots)..
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You should find this an interesting read:
http://www.xeodesign.com/xeodesign_whyweplaygames.pdf

[Edited by - Tangireon on December 31, 2008 1:45:18 AM]
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On concept level:
- A game based upon solo competition drives me away, a game based on team play and social structure appeals me.
- It should be easy and quick to learn but hard and time costly to master (meaning skill and intelligence comes into play).
- I want to see the time and effort I spend, seen back later (think of persistance). Whether I play 30 minutes or 6 hours, should only matter in the intensity, but it should always be there.

On design level:
- High replay value; The action I do and decisions I take are allowed to be repetative, however there should be plenty of room for alternation.
- Room for creativity; I want production tools that allow me to produce stuff with high levels of freedom. Think of standard professions in RPG's, concocting potions via the mixing of random ingredients, I should be free to use any amount of different materials at any quantities. The result of my choices should be consistant yet with some randomness added (degrees of random quality).
- No predefined class-system, no avatar levels, no predefined class abilities! The game should be classless and the abilities my avatar(s) gets should be determined by me, through my actions.


If I would combine the MMO's Eve-Online and World of Warcraft, it would probably result in the game that suites myI love the most. Both have wonderful concepts; Eve-Online got characters that are fully customizable and trainable, WoW has the ever loved medieval settings.

Regards,

Xeile
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In no particular order...

Balanced Controls - A control system that is clunky or inordinately complex for basic things is bad...likewise I find controls that are too simple to be really bad as well...Zelda games are a big violator of simplicity. You play the entire game by pressing A to do everything using an context based system to decide what do, but that takes out some of the fun and skill as sometimes that context is missed by the code and instead of making a jump you fall to your watery splooshiness...RE controls are too clunky, but it is somewhat acceptable based on the fact that they were working with something relatively new, but how obvious is it to make the character go on the screen relative and not to the character itself.

Camera... Any game that has locked camera angles but makes you move in a complete 3D environment fails miserably. If you want to lock the camera pre-render and work like that other wise let the player have full control of the camera without the program ever taking over.

Those are two of the biggest detractors of a game once i get it and start playing it because they simply frustrate and annoy while breaking me out of my immersion. A game should be crafted so that the controls are elegant and breaking immersion should be avoided. Pop up screens and menus are things that if you can do away with you should.

There is this great idea i saw on G4 i saw a while back during a FPS demo, don't remember the name, but what they did is put their heads up display as being projected out so that the character can see it as if it were him messing with the menus but it was large enough so that the player could see and manipulate it as well. This way they got their Menus and maintained immersion. Whenever you build in stuff like that the game overall is better if you can do it properly.

Good game design should, in my opinion, like all art media, make the viewer/player/reader lose themselves in the art. If you focus on that I would think that the overall game design is easier to actually come up with and those places where the game may falter like story or balance will not call so much attention to themselves because the player will be engrossed with playing and not in things they shouldn't really care about.
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Another interesting read :
http://www.mud.co.uk/richard/hcds.htm
by an admin of a rather large MUD who once asked the question : "what do you like in this game". He came at the conclusion that there were 4 basic players profile (in MUDs, which are MMORPGs ancestors) He calls them metaphorically Spades, Diamonds, Hearts and Clubs. They are respectively explorers, achievers, socializers and killers.

Explorers want to know everything there is to know about the game, notwithstanding the official goals. They want to find exploits, take shortcuts, understand the rules of the world and get the most out of them. (they're spades, they dig)

Achievers want to wind the game by amassing whatever is the goal of the game : power items, levels, XP points. They like to complete every task, every subquest present. (They are diamonds : they seek to amass treasures)

Socializers look for the human contact. Obviously, they only exist in online games. Progressing in the game is fun but the best is having a team, knowing their members, making new friends. (They are hearts, for obvious reasons)

Killers seek to gain power and to grieve other players. There again, they only exist in online games. They really have fun in that and argue that it is a part of the game. (They are clubs, they pwn noobs with it)

For your statistics, I would put me under the explorers category. I would like to be more of a socializer than I currently am. Achievers profile do not interest me the slightest. I may have a slight Killer tendency if the idea is to create a roleplay feud between players but the whole "I'm so good ! I killed you thanks to my 20 levels superiority !" is kind of silly in my eyes.
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A very long time ago, I played the DOS game Wipeout, and remember two moments to this day: One was at a racetrack starting line, the music was bursting with vibe and intensity. The other was on the racetrack, where the joystick control was so rock-solid that my hands sweat from maneuvering. Descent also had a really good connection with it's controls, and I got my money's worth out of a throttle/joystick setup with those two games.

One of the original Rainbow Six games had a waypoint system that allowed action orders and team coordinating at each waypoint. This planning stage of the game felt like raising the perfect child. Another successful version of conveying this emotion was the advanced transportation waypoint system in Supreme Commander -- delicious. I got this same sensation when I first saw and laid out plans for the perfect fleet in Space Empires V: Set up the beast, and let em loose on the universe. They do the killing, I watch my plan bear fruit.

Another title that still gets my attention from 20+ years ago is NetHack. It has so much detail that coming back to it after six months is a learning curve. This is the same sort of fascination that got me playing Space Rangers and Master of Orion. The sensation that there is an immense amount of unknown just waiting to be discovered and played with. The complexity of MOO-3 is something that drew me in for similar reason.

[Edited by - AngleWyrm on January 1, 2009 2:12:32 PM]
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I can't claim to be an authority but in my opinion there are only two things which influence exceptional game design:

Atmosphere and Immersion

The game has to have that feel and that ethos in it's bones saying 'play me play me'. It has to really have a Feel about it. Eventually you get addicted to that feel - if people didn't nobody would bother with the old PSX/NES/GB games and all that.

This goes hand in hand with Immersion. Immersion covers all aspects of human-player interaction, content such as graphics, musics, sounds, gameplay such as questing raiding puzzles. The user interface as well plays a large part in this, if you don't feel like you bond with the interface the game always feels foreign.

The more you have there within your atmosphere to keep people amused the more they can get immersed, the more they can get involved. I mean, dare I say it a prime example is WOW. Goodness knows how or why the game does what it does, but still people play it inccessantly and addictively day after day, even when there are better games out!!! Cheaper games, superior graphics... something about that game keeps people interested.

However look at many of the free MMO's you find. Most of them have inferior graphics, poorly written quests and a general lack of effort and professionalism about them. After the first 10 minutes, you're bored. You soldier on a bit further see a bit more content... but still everything is so distant and inaccessable. Naturally only a few thrive and even then these tend to be the ones where the content is absolute meat for hungry dogs, all the eye candy all the gucci toys... but as in any other game when the novelty wears off it's all over.
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The single most important topic you can study in psychology and/or neuroscience that relates to why we play video games is goal-directed behavior. A secondary topic that relates directly to goal-directed behavior that you should also research is motor learning. Goal-directed behavior shows why humans play video games while motor learning shows how to make good games.

As far as things that are necessary for good game design:

1) The game needs to be (or at least *seem*) fair.

2) The player's character/avatar needs to control well and respond in a predictable fashion (this ties into the game being fair).

3) The challenge of the game needs to match the player's skill level (note: no game is going to have the perfect challenge at all times, so this isn't going to always be true until adaptive difficulty is perfected).

4) The player's goals (both long-term and, more importantly, short-term) need to be obvious at all times.

5) The player needs to have clear feedback that allows the player to know at all times how well he is performing at the current task in the game. It's important to note that any negative feedback/punishment that is given to the player should be treated as information and not as mockery. A game with good design never concentrates too much on a player's mistakes. It's best to make the mistake obvious without badgering the player. Games like Bioshock that just automatically restart you without even having a death animation or text that essentially says, "Hey, even though it's completely obvious to you that you just died, I'm going to say it anyway... GAME OVER, LOSER!" have good game design in this respect.

6) The rewards and punishments need to be structured properly. I.e. the player shouldn't be given a huge reward for a trivial task, and the player shouldn't be punished too much for a small mistake (one example of bad design in this regard that I constantly encounter is in platform games where you're in a vertical level traveling upwards, make one bad jump, fall for what seems like 5 minutes, and then start at the very bottom of the level all over again).

I hope this helps.

-Adam
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