Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
My Name is Phil Ward and Iím a Games Design Student at Teesside University in the UK and Iím going into my final year of study in Sept/Oct 2012.

Iím sure youíre probably aware that as a final year student I have to create a project to investigate a particular subject and to show off my skills as a designer (Mine is going to exploring linear and non-linear gameplay) but I also have to do a dissertation/thesis that informs me and others about something to do with gaming.

The title Iím working with at the moment is ďWhat makes a Memorable & Fun Game MechanicĒ and Iím going to be using Portal 1 & 2 (and a few other games) as guides for my dissertation, my theory is:

ďIf a player is introduced to a game mechanics slowly, one at a time, then is given a situation where multiple mechanics converge then it is more fun and sticks in playersí minds longer that other games/mechanics that may use complex mechanics to complete 1 objective.

The Mechanic has to be simple, the gameplay is where it is used can be difficult, but the mechanic has to be as simple as possible so a player can use it in many ways to complete objectives set.Ē


What Iím going to explore is if my theory is correct and if so how can that be applied to any game in any setting.
The reason I want to explore this is because it might show me what makes great games and then I can apply that to future projects.

What i would like to know from you gamers and possibly the Cryptic Devs is if this is a good project to follow for me and for the industry?

Many thanks
Phil
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 2
06-10-2012, 09:20 PM
The problem is that this is make a sweeping generalization that doesn't work for the industry as a whole. While what you are saying does apply to many people it is not everyone. I myself find games that have very complex systems that demand my time to research and experiment much more appealing the simplistic games.

Now I go so far as to say have a simple and easily accessible base core will promote the game to be more wildly acceptable it will not be a thing that makes it a "good" or "bad" game. Two games that show what I am talking about is Pokemon and Borderlands.. both games have very basic entry level mechanics but also have a complex system under the hood, don't want to know more fine.. you can play the whole game without learning them. However both games have very complex back ends pokemon kept it hidden from the users for the most part ( I am referring to IV, EV and the like) Borderlands dealt with it all the variations in gun stats.

Both these games are hugely popular. But by the same coin Duke Nuke'm Forever is very simple you can pick that game up on go too, but look how it faired.

So basically I believe you core statement is flawed, however the statement is true for accessibility to a larger audience.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 3
06-10-2012, 09:30 PM
What makes a game popular is more than the mechanics.

There were many side scrolling dungeon games that ended with a battle against a dragon; why did Mario Bros rise above them?

There are many slingshot games; why did Angry Birds become so popular while others are barely noticed?

There are many FPS that require you to kill aliens; why is Halo the standard?

Mechanics are fine, but what makes a game memorable is not the mechanics themselves. There's more to it.

And since this is your dissertation, I'll leave it at that. But in my opinion, you need to look beyond the mechanics.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 4
06-10-2012, 09:57 PM
Commodore_Bob, you are quite right.

However that's a HUGE thing to try to study, so the OP's aim to focus specifically on the effect of mechanic setups and to evaluate their effect is a pretty decent means to actually try to answer something and to ensure he/she is not in the program forever. In other words, the mechanics of a game/games are certainly only a piece in a larger machine, but they are definite piece that can be studied and evaluated.

ZeroScifer, it's also true that the OP's research may have to account for differing players' likes and attitudes. However, it's arguable that whether or not someone likes "simple" thing A or "complex" thing B in games doesn't prevent an analysis of reactions to and experiences with mechanics alone with respect to the appreciation and enjoyment of a game. Additionally, it's my opinion that even if the study results in a heavy amount of the data (qualitative I am assuming) suggesting that you CANNOT break mechanics away from the effects of each participant's personality and own likes/dislikes that is valid and worthwhile to discuss (even though things may seem like common sense or reasonable when we sit around and talk about them, there's always room in academia to further explore and discuss it -- and more specifically validate or refute it -- in research settings).

There's also room for quantitative analysis to show proper introduction and integration of mechanics having an influence over the ability to complete and succeed in a game -- e.g. sticking with Portal as it was mentioned, each test introduces additional puzzle elements to the player, allowing her to build upon the previous experiences piece-by-piece before flinging her out on her own to use all of that knowledge to escape/proceed. If a proper contrast of systems was selected -- i.e. something with "friendly" mechanics that does this vs. something that's a bit clunky or that throws it all at a player without the training -- I think a decent statistical analysis on player performance could support the OP's research as well.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 5
06-10-2012, 10:42 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by synkr0nized
Commodore_Bob, you are quite right.

However that's a HUGE thing to try to study, so the OP's aim to focus specifically on the effect of mechanic setups and to evaluate their effect is a pretty decent means to actually try to answer something and to ensure he/she is not in the program forever. In other words, the mechanics of a game/games are certainly only a piece in a larger machine, but they are definite piece that can be studied and evaluated.

ZeroScifer, it's also true that the OP's research may have to account for differing players' likes and attitudes. However, it's arguable that whether or not someone likes "simple" thing A or "complex" thing B in games doesn't prevent an analysis of reactions to and experiences with mechanics alone with respect to the appreciation and enjoyment of a game. Additionally, it's my opinion that even if the study results in a heavy amount of the data (qualitative I am assuming) suggesting that you CANNOT break mechanics away from the effects of each participant's personality and own likes/dislikes that is valid and worthwhile to discuss (even though things may seem like common sense or reasonable when we sit around and talk about them, there's always room in academia to further explore and discuss it -- and more specifically validate or refute it -- in research settings).

There's also room for quantitative analysis to show proper introduction and integration of mechanics having an influence over the ability to complete and succeed in a game -- e.g. sticking with Portal as it was mentioned, each test introduces additional puzzle elements to the player, allowing her to build upon the previous experiences piece-by-piece before flinging her out on her own to use all of that knowledge to escape/proceed. If a proper contrast of systems was selected -- i.e. something with "friendly" mechanics that does this vs. something that's a bit clunky or that throws it all at a player without the training -- I think a decent statistical analysis on player performance could support the OP's research as well.
I beleive you and I are actually in 100% agreement we just look at two different points of the OP. My main focus was the results that he wanted pull. " it might show me what makes great games" this where I I say the direction he is going for that result is flawed.

You are correct that the research in and of itself is worth while. I just mean that it will not lead to a formula for a great game that requires more like Bob was saying. Now the exact same tests focusing instead how such results effect accessibility to a larger audience. Is something hardly anyone would not want to know.

So just a different take on the same premise.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 6
06-10-2012, 10:55 PM
Ahh, I see your concern there. Makes sense.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 7
06-11-2012, 01:32 AM
What you're all saying is perfectly valid and true that mechanics are based on game type. i'm not sure i would agree on player likes and dislikes as i know people who love one type of game but hate another even though under the hood they're identical (call of duty and battlefield)

Thankfully its just a theory in progress as i don't need to start my thesis till dec (ish) so what i'm doing at the moment is just finding out what means what.

If you strip a mechanic down to its barest and simplest form it really is simple, its the fluff around it that makes it into a game.

any FPS, the main mechanic is "Aim, Shoot, Fire" thats it.
The fluff around it are things like; rate of fire, weapon type, weapon range, damage etc

So the fluff around that main mechanic is what makes the game, things like Arma, where the player is working in an almost realisitc setting where they have to take into account gravity and other environmental factors that effect their shooting, but then you have Metroid Prime where gravity has no effect on projectiles

What i'm probably going to have to explore Player side and Game side Player side mechanics, so things the player can see and change and things the player can't see or change and has to work with/around
so a player side mechanic would be movement and a game side mechanic would be gravity.

even star trek online, when broken down, is very very simple
there are 2 main Game Side Mechanics: Shoot to kill & Search and Gather
The missions require you to fight off enemies or gather resources of some description.
The Player side Mechanics are: Offensive, Defensive & Movement
So STO is made up for 5 Core mechanics

But like i said my theory is a WIP and i'm adjusting it and adding/changing things to see where it takes me

Phil
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 8
06-11-2012, 05:09 AM
If the dissertation has to be on mechanics, then focus on simplicity. I've played video games since the mid-80s and there are games even I avoid due to them being too complex.

Anecdote: there was an episode of Phineas and Ferb where they design a video game. They called it "Jump and Duck". It was just a simple side-scroller where to avoid obstacles you had to jump and duck. Now, whenever my daughter sees me playing Mario on my DS, she says, "Daddy, it's jump and duck!"

The point of that story is that even at four, my daughter has recognized the similarities. Because, what do you do in Mario Bros to make it to the end? You jump and duck (and shoot).

It's that simplicity that makes the game experience more fun. I'll pick up Mario or Angry Birds when I'm just sitting around. I have to make a conscious decision to play Skyrim or STO. Both of those latter games are enjoyable, but they are not as easy to just jump into.

So that's my take on mechanics. Games go bad when they try to be too complex.

*******************************
But if this is a study of why some games are more popular, then you need to look into the following:
Art direction
Level design
Story
Marketing
Platform (ie Angry Birds is more popular using touch than a mouse)
Fanbase and reputation (How many people would still be playing SWTOR if not for the "Star Wars" part?)
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