What makes a game great?
- 2020 May 25 Sunday
- 5 min. read (941 words)
- What is elegance?
- How to achieve elegance?
- Elegant emotions
A good game can get 100 to 1000 reviews on Steam. A great game can get 1 k to 10 k reviews, and a glorious game can get 10 k to 100 k reviews. A good, great, and glorious game share the same core principles, but vary in execution quality. Most designers will learn the below principles in their first 6 k hours of practice.
What is elegance?
Businesses makes things people want to buy. The process of making things is called design. I define design as the process of mixing/ blending/ harmonizing different ideas to create a product that is unique, elegant, and beautiful.
In the "Good Game" blog, I already mentioned uniqueness and beauty. To make something elegant, we remove complexity and barriers without sacrificing core elements.
How to achieve elegance?
After combining things for a while, designers will notice that things that look similar or are similar sized tend to combine well. There are two way to combine things. Stacking is where we glue whole things together. We can still tell it is two things. Mixing is where we takes parts of things and combine them.
After our initial sketch, outline, draft, prototype, etc. we simplify by removing, moving, fixing, and combining parts. Removing, moving, and fixing is simple. Here are 4 tips on combining parts.
Constant: no growth
If every object in our room started moving, we'd get confused. Is the book possessed? Does it have good or bad intentions? Does its behaviour vary from day to day? Multiply this by 10 objects, and we get information overload.
What is the core of our game? Make that move. Everything else should be in the background. If the core feature is usually an inanimate object, then personify it.
Slow: linear growth
Big structures can be broken into smaller ones. Many learning resources have an easy, medium, and hard difficulty level. A book can be broken into chapters, which can be broken into paragraphs, etc. If our audience is having trouble understanding parts of our game, reveal it in steps.
Quick: logarithmic and exponential growth
We use contrast make differences obvious. If we think something is important, use contrast to make it memorable for the audience.
People love being showered with positivity. A logarithmic curve grows quickly at the start, but slowly in the end. Use log growth for positive emotions. Many RPG's have logarithmic level up curves. Players grow quickly to stop them from being bored, but grow slower near the end.
People dislike abrupt and negative emotions. An exponential curve grows slowly at the start, but quickly at the end. Use them for negative emotions. Having the character open with a rape joke is unwise. Tell a few clean jokes, then a few dirty ones, then bring out the rape joke. If we remove it, replace it with something equally extreme. People want extreme emotions. It is our job to figure out how to make it elegant.
Repetition: wavy growth
Repetition is elegant, because efficiency is elegant. We are reusing what we've already built. Don't copy and paste, add some variation. Instead of having 5 identical monsters. Make one the leader by changing its skin color, giving it a helmet, and increasing their height.
Many games are plot driven. It is easier for people to think of emotional events, bosses, items, or locations, and built set piece moments around them. The alternative is a character driven approach. I will not be covering it, because it requires writing skills.
At the core of every art is emotion, because the purpose of art is to make us feel. Instrument timbres, colors, body poses, and food flavors make us feel. Think of set pieces as ways to share extreme emotions. They don't need to be expensive, elaborate, and mind blowing like in action-adventure games.
The most common way to achieve extreme emotion is to travel between opposite emotions. Going from 0 to 100 is not as extreme as going from -100 to 100. An example of 100 to 0 is giving the player all powers at the start, but then take them all way later on. -100 power could mean inescapable pain, like torture or depression.
We can make a triad by going from 1 emotion to 2 emotions, like from powerful to afraid and sad. Say powerful to powerless is 100 distance, then powerful to afraid and sad is 70. Gameplay-wise, we could achieve this feeling by gradually losing powers, instead of gaining them.
This is useful if we want to transition to other emotions. Going from powerless/ depressed to happy is too hard of a transition, but going from afraid to happy is easier.
Red, orange, and yellow are distinct, but seem related to fire and energy. Analogy is used to add variation without too much effort. Remember the 5 monster models in the repetition example? If 4 monsters are red, we can make the captain orange or yellow. A green, or blue color would make it seem they are on opposite teams. Some parts of purple would work. For example, magenta is similar to red.
A monochromatic image is one where only 1 color is used like a black and white photo. The colors black and white belong to the grey scale. It is useful for when we want an emotion to dominate the scene.