Because a lot of people have bugged me lately (mainly Tranberry I think, I can’t quite remember) to write some further articles on what my brain spits out labelled as “game design theory” as soon as possible, I’m going to oblige them by starting off with a note of important contents for all basically all games.
I recently realized what used to make me feel disinterested amid a campaign or a mission inside a game, be it Heroes of Might and Magic V, X, Etherlords or Earth 2140, which are all actually fine games, if it weren’t for that little thing.
I’m usually very patient. Usually. If it seems reasonable to me, I stay patient. After all, people nowadays have a much shorter attention span and tend to be less patient if they’re not directly stimulated; it’s not my fault that I’ve also been affected by that development. And I think it’s more or less the same with everybody else who has been tangent to modern media, be it the Internet and computers or just television or FOX. As usual, I can’t prove that statistically right now (Andrew :P), but there are several studies and more serious essays on the shortened attention span of people nowadays and how it affects our lives, the media and education for example, just google it. If it wasn’t so we wouldn’t have so many random and useless YouTube channels and the average American teenager could form complete and thoughtful sentences without chopping them apart with a “…like…like…”.
Joking aside; Games that rely on a single set of gameplay mechanics while trying to provide a more complex view of the storyline missions very often suffer from that very syndrom, because limiting oneself to that simple set means that over time, you must increase difficulty and the duration a single atom or objective draws the player’s full attention. That also happens very often due to lack of creativity. If you have to save a princess locked in the highest tower of the biggest castle full of evil minions, please, make that objective at least partly interesting by removing some of the grind elements and add enemies, puzzles or traps that should make the player actually ponder anew how to play the game. If the player dies/fails constantly in a certain part of the game, even though no new motivation, eg. something new to master, is given, something is going terribly wrong. And I’m not telling you to lower your game’s difficulty level or make it accessible for idiots, that’s what a great part of the gaming industry is there for, think of something else for christ’s sake.
Prime example, HOMM5. You got to get this and that, beat enemy hero. You must flee from someone, flee and capture city. You got to get somewhere, capture city. Inbetween, there are rarely any nameable events besides the enemy team sending heroes with an average number of troops every few turns to annoy you. You basically can’t do anything wrong, except if you haven’t grinded enough. I know it allows for a fast and idiot-proof level design.
You will reside way, way too long on one single objective or mission, which is bad, baaad I say. It is the devil’s opus!
That will be an important part of the guidelines when I working out my space sim game design. If it doesn’t happen, you’ll still have a nice resource of things you should ponder about when designing a game.
Have a nice day.