Saturday, December 1, 2012

Alternate Ways to Satisfy

Typically, when you approach the topic of satisfaction, it immediately jumps into the "how powerful is it?" category. Naturally, the potency of a game mechanic is the first point of importance to the player. But it goes far, far beyond numbers.

The most common satisfaction points:

  1. Potency
  2. Visuals
  3. Sound
  4. Control/Feel
These points are extremely important and must not be overlooked in the design of any game. The combination of these four traits is frequently referred to as Viscerality - the ability of the game to "just feel right". 

If you've been paying attention to my previous posts, you'll notice that many of these design qualities point to this concept of viscerality. However, it is very important to realize that viscerality is the product of a series of good design, engineering and art decisions. Just saying "let's make it visceral" doesn't convey the process needed to get there.

However, this isn't where the toolbox stops.  There's other ways to reach out to satisfy the human mind.

  • Deliver on a Fantasy
    • Become the greatest warrior/wizard/healer of all time
    • Become a humble farmer, tending her crops
    • Raise a family
    • Defeat and collect wild beasts
    • Lead an army against impossible odds
  • Pose a Challenge
    • Defeat a dragon
    • Diffuse a field of mines
    • Navigate a maze by connecting two points with portals
    • Solve a mind bending riddle
    • Twist a shape into the very best way for points
    • Win the heart of a sharp and witty seductress
  • Touch the Heart
    • See the story of a family torn apart
    • Inspire great action
    • Overwhelm with fear and horror
    • Share the terrible decision of saving the life of a friend or your entire family
    • Awe with a beautiful scene
  • Affect Real Life
    • Aspirations of professional success
    • Contests to become the best
    • Opportunities to share your story
    • Contribute to a greater cause

These lists could go on for ages, as these themes have been used by storytellers across all generations, but games all come back to the core rule: actions you have taken are properly rewarded.

Several games have done this in ways that were unexpectedly effective. Take for instance, Skyrim. While the combat was clunky, relatively unimportant and quite frankly grossly imbalanced, it did a wonderful job of allowing the player to choose the way they defeat their enemies. 

It didn't matter if you were a shadow-cloaked rogue or a blood-drenched werewolf, you could participate in their world according to whatever combination of fantasies piqued your interest. 

Behold... the Mega-Dad!
When I started at Blizzard, I quite frankly ignored the power in these tools. "It's good mechanics in good engines or nothing!" In fact, it took years of hands-on interaction with Alex Afrasiabi and Chris Metzen before I realized that tapping into the power of a player's self-defined fantasy dwarfs the creative juices of twenty genius designers.

That doesn't mean you should throw up your hands and refuse to define the rules of your world. Instead, it should encourage you to explore the wide variety of characters and opportunities that can exist. The more creativity and variety your worlds can support and endure, the greater the variety of connects players can make to your game. 

In the end, this blends very nicely into my next post, on the topic of "Fit". 

I formatted today's post differently than I have previous posts. Like it? Hate it? Comment below.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see you back! I'm really looking forward to the "Fit" discussions :)