Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Games mechanics and tweaking

Hello everyone, welcome to my thread on game mechanics and elements. Here I will attempt to demonstrate some qualities that make up a good game, and those to avoid. Most games are entertaining, some are good, but few are extraordinary. What is the perfect game, and how do we define what makes a game truly enjoyable? For many gamers this isn't a question easily answered in a few words, and no two gamers will have the exact same idea of what games are good and which are not. I understand that my opinions are my own, and do not necessarily meet with everyone else's. Here is a list of items to stay away from when making a game and how to solve them.

Playing on the hardest difficulty - A game should not be defined by how impossible it is to beat. Publishers need to recognize that not all gamers are l33t, and not all pro's want to play a difficult game all the time. I'm forced to bring up one of my favorite games Dark Souls. This title is truly amazing in every way, but it's massive learning curve discouraged many of my friends from playing past the first few areas. Your game could be excellent in every other way, but if it's too hard then much fewer players will enjoy it.

Solution- Incorporate a difficulty selection at the beginning of each game.
He who has the most stuff wins - Items, weapons, armor and vehicles. These are the staple products of most games. The objective from start to finish is to upgrade your stock to the next best thing and use it to kill better or achieve a mission goal more efficiently. You may argue that the missions and the over-arching plots themselves are the driving factor. In reality you could strip all these things and just have material objects and the game would still be viable. Don't believe me? Try playing Minecraft for less than ten minutes. This can drastically hamper the fun of a game too, though. A good example of materialism gone wrong is Armored Core V. The game penalizes you for every scratch and bullet shot, and is literally constructed entirely around your AC building strategies. The plot is paper thin, single-ply economy toilet paper thin. Front Mission was more forgiving and had a better plot.

Solution- Hire professional writers and/or screen-writers to orchestrate a compelling plot. Or ask the fans what they liked and where they'd like to see the series go next (if a series game). Games are sold to an audience, the consumer should have a say as well.

Bait and Switch - Do NOT change protagonists from one game in a series to the next if you advertised the same protagonist in the coming sequel. Metal Gear Solid 2 does this within the first few hours of game-play, shifting to the feminine looking Raiden when we all thought we'd play the series as Snake.

Solution - It's all in the delivery. Sometimes you want to deceive the gamer. Just remember that this tactic is not always well received. Imagine if The Legend Of Zelda series replaced Link with Hero Nakmura! It would be anarchy, and I might actually play LOZ again. Assassin's Creed 3 demonstrates for us the correct way to pull one over on us. The switch felt far too arbitrary in Sons of Liberty, whereas AC3 makes it an understandable transition point.

BFG 9000 - The ultimate weapon. Every game has one. In Quake III it was the dark matter cannon, in Duke Nukem it was the Nuke launcher, in Tetris it was the mighty line. The best weapon is the best, but the best games don't save the best for last. Putting the ultimate gun on the very last level does not earn you points. Unless there is a new game + option that lets you start with the same weapons you beat the game with.

Solution - Having several opportunities to pickup the weapon, in secret locations of course, throughout the game. Turok 2 hid it in pieces. Resident evil 2 let you start a new game with old equipment, and had a survival mode! There are numerous ways to do this.

Was it good for you? - Many games these days seem to be one shot wonders. I pick them up and play them through once but they have no replay value. A few rare exceptions like Dark Souls and Dead Space 2 crept up but they are few and far between. How do we extend a games endurance and make it playable time after time?

Solution- Adding a secret difficulty can be fun, but it has to be more than just harder, it should also have unique aspects to it, and a reward for beating the tuxedo you could earn for defeating Red Grayfox on Metal Gear Solid on the hardest difficulty. Alternate play options are fun too, such as RE2's survival mode. Being able to play through again with all the gear you beat the game with is also a good way to add replay value to a game, thank you Deadspace 2!

OMFG! BUGS! - Theres no denying, playing a game riddled with glitches is not fun. Some can be funny, but others certainly are not. Game Mill software provides me with the perfect example of what not to do. Rock Band Manager (not to be confused with Rockband) was a ten dollar PC game for windows that had the promise and addictiveness of the Tycoon series. What it also had was one of the single most debilitating programing glitches a game can have (short of not starting or making the computer self destruct) ... the save glitch. The game would only save once, after which any successive saves would simply not register. I played this game four hours and got through six tours before calling it a night. Imagine my surprise when I logged on again the next day only to find there was only my first save at three minutes and fifty seconds into the game.

Solution - Playtest,Troubleshoot and debug! If you can't figure this stuff out then you shouldn't be making games or software of any type. Play the stuff you make and make sure it works before you charge people money for it. That's business ethics 101.

Hey! Listen! Hey! Listen! Snake? Snaaaaaaaaake! - When a voice actor wants to be heard in a game they will be. Voice acting adds a great degree of personality to a game. From GTA 3's protagonist blasting Maria at the end to AC Altair dialog with his targets - voice is important but it is not more important than fun. On more games than I can count I have run into the auto-save just before a dialog. When met with death a short few moments later I was again greeted with an unskippable cutscene or dialog in which I had to listen to it all over again.

Solution - autosave after the dialog or cutscene. Pretty simple Crytek. At the very least give us a fast forward option. I spent most of Crysis 2 with the voice volume on zero.

That's about it for now. If you think of any more feel free to post them here!