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SherrelE

How to "Streamline" a game

8 posts in this topic

So my friends and I were having a discussion on the Elder Scrolls series. I am personally a huge fan of Daggerfall, because of the sheer massiveness of the game (and various other reasons). One of my friends has only played Skyrim and was recently introduced to Oblivion, and now he can't go back. A couple of my friends say that it's because Skyrim is streamlined for more sales, and while I feel it too, I have to ask objectively, how does a developer "streamline" a game for a wider audience?
I'm not trying to start a fan-war or anything, by the way. If you like Skyrim best, god speed. [ o _ o ] Edited by SherrelE
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What exactly do you mean by "streamlined for more sales" and "streamline for a wider audience"?

I have never heard that word used in that context before, and I've been in the business for years.
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Increase appeal to a general audience, you mean?

Make things easier, goals more obvious, rewards more plentiful, limit complexity, etc. Very generally speaking.

This seems like a Game Design thread to me, not a Lounge thread...
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I'm not sure "streamline" is the word I'd use, but I think I know what you're getting at. It's very closely related, if not identical, to the casual "new school" versus hardcore "old school" argument. Here are a few typical examples of what I mean:

Should a map be a beautifully rendered in-game asset with automatically highlighted areas of interest and waypoint markers on it, or should it take the form of a half-ream of graph paper, covered with scribbles and notes?

Should a quest's description include specific details about how to fulfill its victory conditions and a list of the rewards, or should it vaguely outline the nature of the problem to be solved?

Is the game's user interface a powerful and clumsy or weak and intuitive?

Will you ever have to look away from the screen or put down the controller to do math, refer to a resource or consult your notes?

If you take a week off from the game, will you be totally lost and discouraged when you fire it back up?

If you're doing a terrible job at something, does the game try to get you back on track, or does it let you screw yourself more and more thoroughly until you're ten hours past the point of no return and have to sift through a dozen or more save files to find one from before you doomed yourself?

That sort of thing can be considered, so if you're looking for a way to broaden appeal and make the game more marketable, look no further than dominant commercial design trends. These AAA titles that make millions of dollars do so because their makers are not morons. They know that more people are willing to play a game that has user-friendly features. Here's a short list of features that I've personally seen come into vogue in the last decade or so:

Waypoints
Autosaving
Regenerating Health
Tacked-on Multiplayer
Achievements
Leaderboards
Fast travel
NPC Allies
Slow Motion
Waypoint Markers

I've definitely said mean things about each of these features, in various contexts, but I've played and enjoyed games that use them, too. I played through XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and was angry about the set-piece UFO landings and the forced dilemmas and the linear game progression, so I fired up UFO Defense and proceeded to hate the squirrelly mouse pointer and the three-hour battles and the minutes and minutes of clicking to get anything done and the paperwork needed to keep my bases supplied. I honestly missed having Central around to do that mundane crap for me. So it's not all bad, and some of it really is streamlining the gameplay, even though you lose a certain amount of the game's depth and character.
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[quote name='sunandshadow' timestamp='1354326803' post='5005913']
[quote name='Prinz Eugn' timestamp='1354313594' post='5005864']
Increase appeal to a general audience, you mean?

Make things easier, goals more obvious, rewards more plentiful, limit complexity, etc. Very generally speaking.

This seems like a Game Design thread to me, not a Lounge thread...
[/quote]
Oh, is this like how some MMOs have a quest tracker where each quest has a clickable link that will create an arrow pointing toward where you are supposed to go? And crafting quests list all the ingredients needed and how many of each are currently in your inventory? That could be considered streamlining, I guess. Personally I love those features, but I've heard other people speak disparagingly of it.
[/quote]

Kinda, I don't really play MMOs so I was trying to keep it generic. I think there's a fuzzy line depending on genre and personal preference between helpful usability features and the game essentially allowing you to let it play itself for you, if that makes sense. Some more involved features that more hardcore players might enjoy (like a complex crafting system) might get dumbed-down in a sequel so a wider swath of people can be proficient at it.
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Well i never played skyrim, and i tried oblivion and gave up. I am not sure there is a chance that the game is "streamlined" or as i understand it "dumbed down". This types of lets say audience manipulation is in place to bring in new customers. Things like regenerating health and "press 'x' to win the game" things are maybe dumbest things game industry has ever made. It makes for definition of streamlined gameplay.
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How to "Streamline" a game?

1. Identify everything that add depth to your game and either delete it or make it dumb-proof.
2. Replace the engagement gap with cutscenes, set pieces and achievements.
3. Add NPCs to praise how awesome the player is every 2 minutes.
4. Take away the player control as much as possible so they can't do anything wrong.
5. Hire a professional nanny as consultant to help with specific issues.
6. Focus test and use metrics to tweak further.
7. Delete all gameplay and make a movie instead. Edited by Luis Guimaraes
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[quote name='frob' timestamp='1354284639' post='5005690']
What exactly do you mean by "streamlined for more sales" and "streamline for a wider audience"?
[/quote]
I've the same understanding of streamlining like SherrelE. I think that steamlining a game has two meanings in the context of games.

The first one, often the developer view, is to make the game more accessible. The other view, often the core gamer view, is to make the game easier.

The goal is to make it more attractive to a wider audience, whereas the developer wants to polish the game and UI to attract people who have been frightened by the handling of the game, and core gamers often see it as making the game easier to sell as much units as possible.

I think, that making it more accessible is the right term, but I have to admit, that developers remove core features during a [i]streamlining [/i]session which makes the game appear more casual. Edited by Ashaman73
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