5 Replies - 449 Views - Last Post: 28 August 2013 - 09:27 AM Rate Topic: -----

#1 modi123_1  Icon User is online

  • Suitor #2
  • member icon



Reputation: 9498
  • View blog
  • Posts: 35,845
  • Joined: 12-June 08

Game mechanics - do you tinker with a tune up?

Posted 23 August 2013 - 11:28 AM

Continuing my 'Coffee Talk' themed posts...

The last few days I've been pondering about game mechanics. You know - that core set of actions and rules that help make a game stand out from the pack. Do you try and make something unique-ish tossed in with your game, or is it the same base side scrolling action but with different settings and artwork? I've noticed folks just hammering out repetitive games but with little to no real change outside of do I enjoy looking at 'Space Kittens' or 'Dimensional Dogs' while jumping for points. Quite a few pen and paper games follow a well trod path, and those that jump off either get trashed with esoteric rules or fail to cover the basics.

Do you have a favorite game mechanic, or something novel that you have seen? For me I think the coloring in "The Saboteur" was pretty cool (controlled/nazi areas were black and white and as the resistance increase so does the coloring), the VFX from 'Viewtiful Joe' (mimics movie special effects), and the really hands off/herding-cats of Eufloria. Of course there's the whole subgame-game in all the Final Fantasy games. Those were amusing.

How about inspiration? Do you just brainstorm for ideas up front, or just wedge something in when you come across it? Heck - do you even consider mechanic changes something you want to deviate too far from? Personally I try and find a general concept (super fuzzy) and get one core mechanic down... if sit around too long then I need to start pruning mechanic ideas lest I never fishing something.

Of course there's there's the issue of how to do you teach a user the mechanic. Sure most FPS you know how to move and shoot, but what about those super cool hack mini games of Deus Ex? Is it a visual thing you show over and over, or just a wall of text to explain?

Some interesting articles I keep handy:


Anatomy of a Game Mechanic

Evaluating Game Mechanics For Depth

Fewer Mechanics, Better Game

The Designer's Notebook: Machinations, A New Way to Design Game Mechanics

Is This A Good Question/Topic? 2
  • +

Replies To: Game mechanics - do you tinker with a tune up?

#2 e_i_pi  Icon User is offline

  • = -1
  • member icon

Reputation: 801
  • View blog
  • Posts: 1,689
  • Joined: 30-January 09

Re: Game mechanics - do you tinker with a tune up?

Posted 23 August 2013 - 06:38 PM

Interesting thread, glad you started it.

I agree that the Eufloria game mechanics are fantastic. It took me a little while to learn them to rote, but once you do, it frees you from the usually intense UI that you find in games nowadays, whether that UI is intense due to the sheer number of commands or the overwhelming visual nature of it. I think the makers of Eufloria really had this in mind when creating the game, so that the users attention is spent mostly enjoying the look and feel of the game, and immersion occurs at a quite different level.

I remember a while ago I was playing Fable at a friends house. I noticed that the prices of items at traders shifted slightly from trader to trader, and over time, so I created my own mini-game of being the middle man between the traders. My freind initially criticised me because it was boring to watch, but he changed his tune when he realised I had far more gold than his characters, and he quickly began asking how to go about trading for gold. I think I enjoy the self-created mini-games the most. Another example is Tokyo Jungle, where I have vowed to only play as the animal with the lowest generation, regardless of what I have unlocked. This gives me the opportunity to play regularly as various animal types and appreciate the game on several different levels. To date my highest score is with the unlikely Chick character, which I would otherwise have stopped playing as due to unlocking Wolf, Hyena and Boar.

In terms of treading off the path, I believe I'm doing so with the game I am creating. Being tired of the various Risk clones in the browser game space, I started working on my own site where users can create their own board games from scratch. I didn't want to limit the players with well-known mechanics, so I made the creation process very dynamic, only limited by what rules and functions I have coded up - as the game grows, so will the codebase, allowing users to create ever richer game surfaces to play on. As such, the product I currently have can easily meet the expectations of users that are accustomed to "old school" games, but can also accomodate for more recent developments in game mechanics, or indeed entirely new concepts in game mechanics.

[rant/self-indulgence/tangent topic...]
The biggest problem I've had with this sandbox approach to game surface creation is achieving game balance. While all the creation screens are subjected to workflow processes where only admins can give the final stamp of approval, it is still hard to achieve a truly balanced playfield for players once it gets to the game itself. Players will take every opportunity they can to win, and they can't be blamed for using successful tactics that are allowed within the framework of the game. I initially thought this was a game-balance nightmare waiting to happen, but then I recalled the games from my youth - most games were extremely difficult to win, and that didn't make it less enjoyable, just more challenging. I wanted to introduce this to my site, in other words, don't try to achieve an even playing field for every game from the start, but accomodate for the playfield being inherently imbalanced. I didn't want to use the ELO scoring system (as it is inhenertly imbalanced) but I did want to reward players that play many games and win often, so I created my own scoring system.

Imagine a particular game layout where one player starts in an underdog position, and the other player starts in a superior position. To balance things out and encourage players to play as the underdog, I've drafted up a scoring system that achieves balance by giving each game instance a signature based on the settings chosen, and then assigning points to players based on their final outcome vs their initial outcome in a particular game signature. Taking the example I just gave, imagine the underdog wins 1 out of 10 games, and the superior position wins 9 out of 10 games (under certain settings, i.e. a particular game signature). It would be unfair for the points to be divied out as 1 per win, as that doesn't recognise the difficulty of winning given a certain signature and starting position. Instead, the points are divied out according to the relative difficulty of winning from the signature and starting position, e.g.:
Spoiler

You might be thinking at this stage, how do you determine the chance of winning/losing for a particular position/signature combination? The answer is aggregated queries in SQL, and a scoring system that retrofits against the data. Using the above scenario, imagine we have three players (A/B/C) playing 1v1 games against each other, where the first three games in a position/signature combination go to the superior player, but then the underdog position wins the fourth game. The numbers will turn out so:
Spoiler

So, it's only until there is more than one position winner in a particular game signature that points actually get divied out. If there is a particular game setup where one player always wins (i.e. an extremely imbalanced game) then there will never be points awarded for winning or losing.

Anyhow, enough blowing my own horn. I hope this thread gets a lot of replies, it's a great topic that is worthy of lengthy discussion
Was This Post Helpful? 0
  • +
  • -

#3 modi123_1  Icon User is online

  • Suitor #2
  • member icon



Reputation: 9498
  • View blog
  • Posts: 35,845
  • Joined: 12-June 08

Re: Game mechanics - do you tinker with a tune up?

Posted 24 August 2013 - 10:06 AM

I hear ya! Now Fable.. I don't know.. I played the first one and wasn't overly impressed enough to try the others. It seemed like it wanted to be too many things...

For quite some time I was a pen and paper rules junkie. The old THAC0/multi die system to a more general d20 system.. then the World of Darkness's all d10s.. Shadowrun's love of d6 and so on. It was humorous to see the stress points where a average weapon did 1d8 damage in one game, 2d6-2 in another, and so on. That and how character stats went.. wheew... Hackmaster took it to a whole new level of badass. What? I _NEED_ "comeliness" every so often? Shit.. maybe I should haven't taken that hunchback flaw!

While I do enjoy super duper complex games (Diplomacy I am looking at you) which encourage getting up and conspiring in the corners of the room, and so on I do find a simple single rule game like Tsuro. Pick a tile, put a tile, move your piece.

Amazon turned up this book (Game Mechanics: Advanced Game Design (Voices That Matter) ) it seems like a solid read.

They have a free chapter on 'game economics' here:
http://www.peachpit.....aspx?p=1925649


Machinations: Game Feedback Diagrams A Flash based diagramming tool that "Machinations is a conceptual framework and diagram tool that focusses on structural qualities of game mechanics".

Damn... that's getting a bookmark.



I don't know - I sift through the 'Green light' games on Steam and find just an overabundant need to rehash old ground and barely try to redress the pig. As I am thinking about it a more novel one was 'Orks Must Die'. (though those guys never sent me my winners package for guessing their release date!) Basically a new take on tower defense..
Was This Post Helpful? 0
  • +
  • -

#4 e_i_pi  Icon User is offline

  • = -1
  • member icon

Reputation: 801
  • View blog
  • Posts: 1,689
  • Joined: 30-January 09

Re: Game mechanics - do you tinker with a tune up?

Posted 27 August 2013 - 02:57 PM

Ugh, I meant to reply days ago, I got caught up with something and then plum forgot hehe.

I took a quick read of that example chapter, and bought the book within about 5 minutes of starting the first line. It certainly looks the business, so I'll post up a review here once it arrives and I finish it.

One interesting point which is in line with this topic is the unlocking of content in games. This method of revealing content/complexity seems to be the trend du jour, with almost every game jumping on board, some modern examples being:
  • Borderlands 2 with the use of special items, such as shields, relics, grenades
  • Diablo 2 with the Horadric cube, which becomes essential in the later game
  • Eufloria, throughout the first 10-12 of 25 levels, slowly unlocking better functionality

I like that unlocking content slowly introduces a player to a game, and thereby allows them to builkd confidence and skills before tackling harder levels, but there is the problem of the unlockably difficult challenges.

A few weeks ago I was watching a TV program called Gameswipe by one of my favourite English comedians Charlie Brooker. It gave an overview of games and the gaming industry in his typically cynical approach, but he also had several interviews with celebrities, one of which was Irish comedian Dara O'Briain. He (Dara) expressed his frustration with Gears of War and Singstar, in that he wasn't good enough to get past the difficult challenges, and was thereby locked out of later game content that he wanted to play (apparently he'd only completed about 11% of GoW). He said that it was ridiculous that the approach of games nowadays is to lock content away, giving an analogy of a book, where you wouldn't be asked "have you understood the first three chapters?" before you were allowed to finish it.

In terms of the rehash, which you mention above, there is a blurry line between what constitutes new content, what constitutes a rehash, and what is an ostensible facsimile. Take Angry Birds for example - while I haven't played it, I have seen it played, and it shares elements with Worms, Tanks and Weather Wars (C64 game - I'm showing my age). What category does this fall into? Where do you draw the line here? The graphics are updated, and the gameplay has a few more elements, but it is essentially a catapult game. I think Angry Birds passes the "smells fresh" test, but there are a swathe of tower defence games that utterly reek.

I think the "overdone" genre I dislike the most though is the franchise (I'm looking at you Mario). New content is great, but when it's basically the same engine with a few different locations, or it's just a different format thinly wrapped around a money-making machine, it really disappoints me. On the rare occassion that I look for games to play, it usually takes me 4-5 hours to sift through the rubbish of this ilk and find something that appeals. Even so, I still get a strike rate of 50% on a decent game, and after purchasing something that I never play again (e.g. - Game of Thrones, aka don't even bother) I'm left with the same feeling I get when I go to the cinemas and spend $20 to see some Hollywood generated tripe that is all special effects and no content.

This post has been edited by e_i_pi: 27 August 2013 - 02:59 PM

Was This Post Helpful? 1
  • +
  • -

#5 modi123_1  Icon User is online

  • Suitor #2
  • member icon



Reputation: 9498
  • View blog
  • Posts: 35,845
  • Joined: 12-June 08

Re: Game mechanics - do you tinker with a tune up?

Posted 27 August 2013 - 03:07 PM

Ah yes.. the engrained game mechanic of 'unlock if you are able to pass X bar'... I would hope a game is shipped with a balance that allows the main thrust of the game to be completed, but if you want super duper cool bits you can get that after you beat the game or after X amount of failed attempts... though there is a cantankerous streak in me that says "so you can't get the uber-superd-douper cool head/cinematic/color scheme without having an above average dedication to the game then so be it!".

Side note - worth checking out as well.

Machinations: Game Feedback Diagrams
Was This Post Helpful? 0
  • +
  • -

#6 snoopy11  Icon User is online

  • Engineering ● Software
  • member icon

Reputation: 837
  • View blog
  • Posts: 2,462
  • Joined: 20-March 10

Re: Game mechanics - do you tinker with a tune up?

Posted 28 August 2013 - 09:27 AM

Well again,

not the greatest game maker in the world...(I mainly write Engineering software)
but I do enjoy dabbling...

Game Mechanics, things that I like... are being able to be in control of whatever
world I am in or constructing... things that I dont like are when you are immersed in said world not being able to do stuff that would seem obvious to a game player like trying to pick up that object and finding you cant pick up said object.. that just ruins the game for me...

But games are like other software in that you have to think of all the possibilities just on a much larger
and grander scale. Monopoly is one game that has great game mechanics (yes the board game not all games have to be computer games, yeah I know Im sick)... In Monopoly you can be immersed in that world and buy and sell do deals everything you could want to do in that board game including ganging up on your younger sibling and making them cry.

The best games are not always the ones that have the most complex game mechanics indeed some games are rendered unplayable by the game mechanics being too complex and making you feel you have to go on a 3 week training course to play it.

Game Mechanics should be obvious but also rich, in terms of playability and in terms of the game world you are in.

In the battle between Game Mechanics v Game Play..

Game Play should always win...

Of course some games are necessarily complex and require you to read instructions before you play it.

But this should be a pamphlet not a novella (in my opinion)

Just my two cents worth.

Snoopy.
Was This Post Helpful? 0
  • +
  • -

Page 1 of 1