《Wii Sports Tennis》的原子机制是玩家摇摆Wii遥控，令角色挥动球拍。玩家通过此行为体验各场比赛。
The Game Design Canvas: Base Mechanics
by Brice Morrison
Dave is working on his blockbuster indie game title. He knows the genre, and he has a general idea of what he wants it to be about. It’s an action/adventure title about vampires and he wants the player to be able to steal blood from victims. He’d also like the player to have to avoid light in the day, and it would be a story about love and romance. Sounds like a great game!
He expresses this idea to a friend of his who is in the industry. His enthusiasm is apparent in his voice and his excitement about the idea, with the main part of the game revolving around the vampire stealing blood. But then his friend asks him…
“How does the player actually steal blood?”
Dave reminds his friend that the vampire will be able to go up to anyone and suck their blood, and that’s how it occurs. But his friend reiterates, “But what actual buttons will the player be pressing? How are you going to convey stealing someone’s blood as a vampire through pressing a button?”
Dave looks down at his shoes, realizing that although his idea may be exciting from an elevator pitch, he may have jumped the gun.
You Can’t Build a House without Bricks
Dave’s idea may be a good one, but will it come to fruition? It depends; all of his thoughts are fine ideas, but there’s no structure to them. Dave hasn’t taken to the time to build the foundation of his game; he’s just started with random anecdotes. Odds are that if good old Dave just goes ahead and starts coding in his idea without connecting the dots first, he’s going to end up with a mediocre game that feels kind of like…well, every other game. Which is to say it won’t really feel like anything.
To begin his journey of constructing a vampire experience, Dave will at some point in the early stages of production need to think about the Base Mechanics.
As discussed in our introductory post, the Game Design Canvas is an analysis and planning method that game developers can use to map out their game’s arc, goals, and player experience. By using the Canvas, designers can structure their game around the desired Core Experience that they’re delivering to the player.
Through the Game Design Canvas, designers, developers, and players can describe and break down of the major components of any game. Last time we discussed the importance of the Core Experience, the feeling that the developer wants the player to have while playing their game. In this post we’re going to talk about the second aspect of game design, the Base Mechanics.
Let’s start with an analogy. Houses are made up of bricks. People don’t think of the actual bricks, wood, or pipes when walk into a house. New homeowners don’t brag to their friends about the kind of mortar their home uses; no, they want to focus on the finer things! They want to show off the stylish hardwood floor, the marble counter tops, or the multi-story heating. The bricks are a given. If the bricks aren’t put together correctly, then nothing else matters.
In the same way, games are built of Base Mechanics. These Mechanics are the actual actions that the player performs. When the player presses a button, then there is a response on the screen. When the player moves their mouse, then there is a change in the game. When the player moves their Wii remote or whatever input device they’re using, there is an effect to pair with the cause. These interactions are what make up the game, and they are vitally important. Yet paradoxically, players tend to not think about the mechanics very much. On the other hand, to deliver a high quality title, it’s the developer’s job to be obsessed with these “bricks”.
Base Mechanic, meet Developer!
A Base Mechanic could be introduced as any pairing of player action and reaction in a game. While the player may be thinking about the game’s story, the goals of the level, or other high level components within the Game Design Canvas, what they are actually doing from second to second, moment to moment, can be described in the Base Mechanics. Without the Base Mechanics, the player does nothing.
To be a game, players must be interacting with it. If they aren’t interacting with it, then they aren’t playing a game, they’re just observing or not participating at all. Player interaction can be any number of things. For modern games it’s most commonly the press of a button, or for motion controlled games it’s the gesture of a remote. Outside of video games you have movement in sports and placing pieces in board games. All of these are examples of the player performing an action that will affect the game.
Games are symbolic. They give meaning to actions that would not normally be there. If I pick up a little wooden man and move him across the table, that action has no meaning (other than the fact that maybe be wooden man was in the way of my soft drink). However in the context of a game like chess, that action has the meaning that I am attacking my opponent with a pawn.
There are several categories of these Base Mechanics. To be able to apply them to our games, we’ll want to understand and use all types of them.
Atomic Base Mechanics
Some Base Mechanics are atomic, that is, they are the absolute smallest action and effect that can be found in the game. This is usually a single button press or gesture, but it could also be more complex depending on the game. The point is that, within the rules of that game, that action cannot be broken down any further into smaller parts.
In Bejeweled, arguably one of the most successful online casual game of all time, the player must click different jewels to swap their locations and make rows of three. For this, the Atomic Base Mechanic at work here is the player clicking on a jewel. The reaction to the player’s click is the movement of the jewels. While this game has been played for hundreds of millions of hours by players all around the works, when you map Bejeweled out on the Game Design Canvas, all those players are doing are clicking a jewel, and moving it. Over and over. This
In Wii Sports Tennis, the Atomic Mechanic is when the player swings their Wii remote, resulting in their character swinging their racquet. It is through this action that every match is played by every player.
Most games are made up of surprisingly few Atomic Base Mechanics. The two examples above have only one. Even complex modern games usually only have about 3 or 4 Atomic Base Mechanics at most. For fighting games there’s attack, defend, move. For first person shooters there’s shoot, move, using cover, and special items. In RPG’s the actions are traditionally attack, defend, use magic, and use items. These games may dress these up and build them into complex chains (more on that in a moment), but the atomic actions the player is taking are relatively simple.
Atomic Base Mechanics are interesting because they describe the game in such a scientific way that often sounds dull. While the goal of making a game is to attain a Core Experience, how they player will feel, the actual bricks of putting that together appear less enticing than the full package promises to be. Think about how fun the following games sound:
* All you do is move a ball and try to get it into a certain area.
* You click on something and then select how you want to interact with it. That’s the game.
* The only thing that happens is you read text and select from different choices.
Not very fun, right? And yet they are the Atomic Mechanics of some of the most beloved games in history.
* The sport of soccer/football
* The Sims
* Final Fantasy, or classic RPG’s in general
This example serves to show that you can’t judge a game by a description of its Atomic Base Mechanics. That’s like trying to say you know someone after reading a bunch of facts about them. ”This person has brown hair, is kind of tall, and enjoys baking. Do you like them?” Computers can think like that, but humans need to be taken a little further. The Core Experience of a game doesn’t begin to shine through until we get at least to the next level of Base Mechanics.
Complex Base Mechanics
Atomic Base Mechanics are important, but of course games are more than running and jumping. They are running through a crowded city and jumping up on top of a building without hitting their head. They are running over a gap and then jumping on top of three enemies. They are running, then pausing to wait for the guard to pass, and then running again.
Complex Base Mechanics are when multiple Atomic Mechanics are tied together to create something new. These new actions are usually only taught to the player after they have mastered the underlying Atomic Mechanics. The game may teach them, or given enough time, they may find them themselves.
For out Bejeweled example, we said that the Atomic Base Mechanic is the player being able to click on two jewels and swap their locations. This allows the player to connect 3 and . But what happens when the player connects more than three? The jewels click down into place perfectly and…bam! They’ve created a chain; extra high points! By performing their Atomic Base Mechanics in a specific way, they complete the Complex Base Mechanic of making a chain.
In Chess, a gambit is where a player intentionally sacrifices a piece in order to gain a long term advantage. For example, they may put a pawn into a vulnerable position, because when the opponent takes that pawn, the opponent will be in an even more vulnerable position. There isn’t anything in the Atomic Mechanics of chess that discuss this concept, yet all experienced chess players can tell you what a gambit is. It is a Complex Base Mechanic, a result of combining several Atomic Mechanics into something more interesting.
How much support the developer gives Complex Mechanics (or any mechanic for that matter) is up to them. For example, in an action game, the player might be able to run and jump, and so of course the player might be able to run and jump simultaneously to reach new heights. The developer may simply allow the player to do this using the already existing Atomic Mechanics, or they may add a little extra “umph” to it, allowing the run+jump combination to cause the player to jump unrealistically higher, with new special effects and sounds associated with it. How the developer crafts this and other Complex Base Mechanics is up to them.
The Big Picture
Base Mechanics are the building blocks of a game, but they are also heavily dependent on the other aspects of the Game Design Canvas. While they do make up the actions that the player is taking and constitute nearly 100% of the player’s playtime, a game made up of only Base Mechanics would be a boring game indeed.
A game’s Punishment and Reward Systems give meaning to the player’s actions; how does the player know what to do and when? In what way are these Mechanics supposed to be used and optimized? The Long Term Incentives provide the drive for the player to continue using these Base Mechanics over and over with continuing excitement and anticipation. And the Aesthetic Layout gives that pop to the player’s actions: a nice big “Combo!” when the player performs a correct sequence of actions. All of these aspects work together with the Base Mechanics, the player’s actions, to give them meaning and help deliver the Core Experience.
The Journey of a Thousand Miles…
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” says the ancient proverb. In the same way, games are built step by step, Base Mechanic by Base Mechanic. Always supporting the Core Experience, Base Mechanics provide the building blocks of every game, guiding the player’s each moment. And if those bricks are well put together, it can be an incredible collection of moments indeed.（Source：thegameprodigy）