松散：存在大量矛盾的、干扰性的信号，并且与原因无关。在Jeff Minter的《Space Giraffe》中，最关键的技巧之一就是，学习理解迷幻背景的视觉噪音。
紧密：具有确定性，即特定的起因总是产生相同的后果。在国际象棋中，移动的结果总是相同的；骑士以“L”形移动，捕获前方的棋子。你可以想象一下，如果是转动骰子决定赢家，概率是多少。你可以通过限制概率使系统更加紧密，这样某个人转到的骰子数就比其他人的更大。用20面的骰子玩《Pawn of Doom》，概率就非常小了。
Raph Koster在《A Theory of Fun》中指出：
Jesse Schell在《The Art of Game Design》的看法则是：
如果你看过Salen和Zimmerman的《Rules of Play》，那就应该听说过社会学家Roger Caillois对四种玩游戏形式的看法：
游戏设计师Marc LeBlanc所列出的元素比Caillois更详细和实用，尽管从他的职业来看我应该将其划分到上文的内容中，但我发现他的工作更适合从学术角度发表观点（游戏邦注：Marc LeBlanc与美国西北大学的学者合作甚密）。
举例来说，我发现《Apples to Apples》是一款傻气十足的游戏——它的赢家是随机选择的，但我还是喜欢玩这款游戏。为什么？因为我发现自己会忽略其中的竞争和学习元素，总是沉浸于社交互动和众人欢笑之中。对我来说，友谊就是我玩这款游戏的唯一原因。
作者：Christian Philippe Guay
篇目1，The 5 Degrees of Fun
by Brice Morrison
Exactly how much fun is it possible for someone have playing a game?
My game design philosophy has always been that games create an Experience. For the vast majority of games that are made, I would say around 99%, the core experience that companies, student developers, and indie developers are shooting for is for the game to be fun.
But how much fun should we be shooting for? Is there a way of measuring fun? Sure, ratings and reviews give us a scale of how well made a game was, on a 100-point scale. That’s a very high level of detail. But what if we aren’t talking about the overall quality of the game, we’re just talking about how fun it is? If a game has been polished to infinity, if every game design choice was perfect, thePunishment and Reward Systems tuned perfectly, how fun could it possibly be?
This is the ultimate question for every game designer. It is a very interesting question that not only ask questions of game design, but also of human psychology. To understand how fun a game can be is to understand how much fun people can have across all their experiences. And if we look at it from that perspective, I would propose that there are only 5 Degrees of Fun that players can experience at any moment in a game.
How Many Words?
One interesting way to look at the level of depth and breadth of an area of study or emotion is to count the number of words associated with it. Language does not come from a dictionary; language is created on the fly by people who are trying to describe the world they are experiencing. We use the words that we know to describe what we understand and what we want to share with others. But when new experiences commonly occur that can’t manage to be encapsulated by existing words or phrases, new ones tend to be invented.
For example, “Unfriend” was a verb (“I unfriended her on Facebook.”) that didn’t exist until the last couple of years, because it didn’t really make any sense before the age of social networks. However now many people have experienced being unfriended or unfriending other people — the idea has a place in people’s experiences, and so the word itself was born.
Japanese and Chinese have thousands of words to describe martial arts moves, philosophies, and styles. French has thousands of words to describe cooking, tasting, and food. In different areas of expertise, the number of words associated with a subject can be a strong indicator to the variety of experiences people can have with the subject. And by looking at the words that exist to describe something, we can see the number degree of definition that something can sustain.
The Degrees of Fullness
One interesting example is the subject of eating and fullness. In some ways you can view your stomach as a kind of measuring cup. You can put food in by eating, and when it fills up you get full.
You would think then that on its way to being full, your stomach would pass markers like “20% full”, “50% full”, and so on. But this doesn’t actually happen. In a study done at Cornell University, participants were sat down in a room and told that they could eat as much soup as they wanted. While some of the participants had normal bowls of soup and ate until they were full, others had unusual bowls of soup hooked up to tubes that, unbeknown to the diners, refilled the soup as they ate. So even after a couple bites, the soup would in reality be just as full as it had been.
So what happened? You would think that the ones with the refilling bowls would get stuffed and quit eating while the bowl was still full, right?
Actually, the researchers found that the people who had the magical refilling bowls ate substantially more soup than people who had a normal bowl. However, these participants, who ate up to 73% more soup than the other participants, didn’t notice at all. They didn’t say that they felt more full or bursting at the seems. After the meal, both groups actually sounded basically the same. They were stuffed.
What does this mean? It means that people generally can’t tell how full they are to the degree you and I would imagine. And what’s interesting is that this is reflected in the number of words and phrases we have (at least in english) to describe how full we are. Consider the follow words which represent the degrees of hunger:
* Kind of hungry
* Not hungry
Of course there are other words, but they essentially align themselves with these measures (“peckish” is the same as “kind of hungry”, “satiated” is the same as “not hungry”). But essentially, that’s it. We only have about six degrees of being able to tell how full we are. Enough to help us get by? Certainly. But not exactly the 100 point scale we were imagining.
The Degrees of Fun
So if we agree that the number of words around an experience can reflect the degree to which people can measure themselves, then we can make some interesting observations around playing games and having fun as well.
I have been playing games my whole life, making games for over 10 years, and playtesting games for more than 7 years. Playtesting is incredibly valuable, where you sit a player down, watch them play your game, reading the emotions on their face and asking them questions. You watch what they do in the game, and in turn you see what the game does to them. Do they pur
After doing years of playtests, any developer will tell you that they will begin to see patterns in how players feel. In my experience, there are only 5 different Degrees of Fun that players can experience and describe having in games:
That’s it. The names of the Degrees themselves may not be surprising; what’s most surprising is that one of those five words can accurately describe the feeling that players have in any given game in any given situation. Let’s break these down:
Bored. When players aren’t interested in what they are doing, they don’t understand it, it’s confusing, or just doesn’t strike their fancy, then they are bored. They are just about to quit playing (unless they have a strong Long Term Incentive to pull them through) unless something changes fast. If you ask them in the moment of being bored, “Would you like to play this game again?” they would likely respond, “No.”
Being bored is the absolute bottom of the barrel, the worst place that your game could be in as a Designer. A boring game is a game that has failed to interest the player. It’s doesn’t make their life worse, but it doesn’t make their life better either. Thus we have our first degree of fun.
Frustrated. Next up is frustrated. When players are actively becoming upset at something, then they are frustrated. They don’t understand how the game works, they are losing over and over, or they strongly disagree with how the gameplay is going, then players become frustrated.
However, being frustrated is actually better than being bored. Why? Because if people are frustrated with your game, then at least they care about it. Players who don’t care about your game, that just go, “meh…” and move on, they won’t be upset that the UI isn’t working or that the third boss has way too much health. Bored players don’t want your game to be fun because they aren’t invested. And so while the first Degree of Fun leaves players ambivalent to your game, the second actually reduces their enjoyment of their life because of the frustration.
Interested. When players are just starting to play a game, exploring something that catches their eye, understand what they goals are and want to continue going, then they are interested. It may be the Aesthetic Layout of the characters or the fun feeling of the Base Mechanics, but something has pulled the player into the game and beckons them to keep going. They want to learn, they want to see more, and they want to play more.
You can see this almost any time you see someone playing a game they enjoy. A Final Fantasy player exploring the world and looking for treasure. A Call of Duty player searching the map for opponents. These are moments where players are continuing to play the game of their own free will; they aren’t frustrated or bored with the game, they are interested in it, and that interest compels them to continue on through the play experience.
Satisfied. While being interested can last for hours on end, being satisfied is often only a single moment within a play session. When someone is satisfied with a game, then they have a feeling of accomplishment and a spark of happiness. They are proud of what they has done, what is happening, or what they know is about to happen. They would be happy to play the game more. The game gives them a small degree of joy, which is one of the things that games are the best at.
Satisfaction doesn’t have to always come in the form of game-driven goals. Of course when a player completes a level of New Super Mario Bros., they are satisfied. But they are also satisfied when a mayor completes building his empire in Sim City. When someone beats a high score, saves a comrade, or rolls a 12, then they receive payoff for the time they have invested in the game and enjoy themselves.
Delighted. While a game that satisfies players is often enough of a goal to make a successful game, games that allow players to be Delighted are the ones that find special places in their hearts. Delighted is not simply “more satisfied”. Delighted is a distinctly different magical moment, a moment that may only last for a few seconds and occur every few days or weeks. Delight is the pinnacle of a game experience. Moments when players are delighted are moments that stay with them their whole lives.
Completing a game and being dazzled by the ending or a plot twist often delights players – the delighted moments from Braid or Bioshock spawned entire forums full of discussions . Winning a tough match in Starcraft with your friends that you were sure you were going to lose, yelling “Holy cow! I can’t believe we won!” is a moment of delight. Watching Kirby inhale an entire bear and laugh out loud at the unbearable cuteness is a moment of delight. Or coming back to your favorite facebook game to see that your mom has sent you a present, even though you haven’t talked in days — these are moments of delight. Difficult to engineer? Most definitely. But moments of delight are some of the magic of games, and mark the fifth Degree of Fun and enjoyment.
Which Degree does your game reside in?
I should make a note that the 5 Degrees of Fun do not speak at all to the other emotions of playing a game. Resident Evil makes players frightened, while Shadow of the Colossus gives a sense of wonder. Heavy Rain causes players to think deeply and feel regret, while Forza gets players hearts racing and lifts their emotion up and down. I do not claim that the 5 Degrees of Fun are a complete vocabulary with which to describe all player experience. My only claim is that is a sufficient vocabulary to measure the aspect of Fun.
The 5 Degrees of Fun have made the game industry what it is today: an industry of creating fun experiences for millions of players around the world to enjoy apart from, inside, and along with their normal lives. Creating moments of interest, satisfaction, and delight while avoiding boredom and frustration is what entices players to come back to games again and again.
篇目2，Building Tight Game Systems of Cause and Effect
To play a game well, a player must master a mental model of cause and effect. You learn that pressing a specific button moves you forward. You figure out that a sequence of controller moves lets you dodge a fired rocket. You observe a slight pause before an enemy attack and theorize that you could fire off a headshot at that exact moment. At each stage of learning, you create a hypothesis, test it via your actions and refine your mental models of the whirring black box at the heart of the game.
This escalating refinement and mastery of new mental models and tools is essential to what makes many a game enjoyable. Such mastery obviously depends on the player. Yet it also is dependent on the designer and the systems they build. You can accidentally create a broken black box.
Not all systems are readily amenable to the intuitive formation of models of cause and effect. As a game designer, it is your job to create systems that are intriguing to master without being completely baffling. If the system is too predictable, it becomes boring. If it is not predictable at all we assume that the system is either random or spiritual in nature. Both of these are failure conditions if you are attempting to encourage mastery.
Tight and Loose systems
I am a mechanic who fixes broken black boxes. One importance concept that has served me well is to think of the relationship between systems and the feedback the game uses to describe interactions with the systems as either ‘tight’ or ‘loose’. A tight system has clearly defined cause and effect. A loose system make is more difficult to distinguish cause and effect relationships.
There is no correct ‘tightness’ of a loop. However there are clear methods of increasing either the tightness or the looseness.
Techniques for adjusting tightness
For your reading pleasure, I’ve put together a list of tools that I use to tweak a system’s tightness. Not all are applicable to any given system but all of them should be part of an expert designer’s toolkit. Some of the tools are worthy of dedicated books so I apologize up front for any obvious shallowness. For example, probability has so many subtle flavors that some designers devote their lives to studying how it impacts a player’s ability to predict outcomes. At best this is an overview.
To tighten a system, I’m making the cause and effect more obvious. To loosen a system, I’m making the connection between cause and effect less obvious.
Strength of Feedback
Tighter: Multiple channels of aligned feedback such as color, animation, sound, and touch that reinforce one another. The classic example is Peggle which uses particles, rainbows, Ode to Joy and time dilation to let you know that yes, the match is over and glorious points are being scored.
Am I using all the potential channels I need to make an impact?
Is the feedback sequenced correctly so that player can read it clearly?
Does the feedback leverage an existing mental schema so that becomes more impactful?
Looser: One channel of feedback that is weakly evident. In multiplayer FPS games often the only sense that you have that another player is near comes from the faint patter of their footsteps.
Expert players gain immense satisfaction from being able to predict the location of their opponent by combining knowledge of the levels with tiny hints of where they might be.
Does the feedback have nuance that is not readily understandable upon casual inspection?
Can the feedback be combined with other non-obvious information to give a clear picture to an expert user?
Tighter: A clear signal of effect that is related to the cause.
What is the most important piece of information the player needs right now?
Have I removed extraneous elements that distract the player’s attention?
Is my feedback at the center of the player’s attention?
Looser: A multiplicity of conflicting, attention sapping signals, which are not related to cause. One of the critical skills in Jeff Minter’s Space Giraffe is learning to see through the visual noise of the psychedelic backgrounds.
Are there ambient elements I can add that distract, but don’t annoy?
Can noise create a perceptual puzzle for the player?
Assassin’s Creed 3: Nice use of contrast and perspective
Tighter: Visually or tactile feedback is often more clearly perceived. Consider the many billions of dollars spent on improving visual feedback each year so that we can demonstrate the visceral impact of a players bullet on simulated flesh with ever greater fidelity. Tight visual feedback is highly functional; it communicates the effect to the player in an elegant efficient fashion. It is not just about making pretty pictures. In a recent update of Triple Town, we changed the color scheme so that the background was the same general value as the foreground objects. The result was attractive, but players were pissed because the icons weren’t nearly as visible as before.
Am I using good visual design such as color, motion, contrast, line, white space, shadow, volume, perspective so that my visuals read clearly?
Did I make something pretty when I needed something functional?
What feedback is functional and what is evocative or aesthetic?
Am I over investing in visual feedback?
Looser: Auditory and smell are less clearly perceived. Not as much has been done here, but due to the looseness that come such systems it would seem that there are potential systems of mastery. It is perhaps ironic that most music games, a topic typically associated with auditory mastery, can be played with the sound turned off.
Tapping Existing Mental Models
Plants vs Zombies
Tighter: Closely map the theme, feedback and system to existing mental models. Due to decades of exposure to pop culture, players know how zombies move and that they should be avoided. One means of quickly communicating the dozens of variables in a particular slow moving group of monsters is to label them ‘zombies’.
What is the cartoon model that players have in their heads (vs the ‘realistic model of how the real world works)?
Does my theme support my mechanics?
Does my theme inspire useful variations on my core mechanics?
Am I engaging in the cardinal sin of watering down my mechanics to fit the theme?
Looser: Step away from existing models and introduce the player to new systems that they’ve never experienced. Consider the metaphors involved in Tetris. Falling elements are something our brain can process as reasonably familiar. Tetriminos that you fit into lines that disappear to earn points while Russian music plays? That doesn’t fit any known metaphor that I know, yet it results in a great game.
At what point do I no longer need a gateway schema and the game can stand on its own internal consistency?
Are there opportunities for surrealism or intentional disorientation?
Can we step away from cliches to synthesis fresh experiences?
Advance Wars: Limited units and small numbers.
Tighter: Discrete states or low value numbers. Binary is the tightest. For example, recently we were playing with units moving a various speeds. By making them move a 1, 2, and 4 tiles/sec, it suddenly became very obvious to the player how each unit type was distinct. This is one of my favorite techniques for getting unruly systems under control.
What is the minimum number of values that I need to create meaningful choices?
Can player clearly distinguish between the effect of each increment in value?
What would happen if I had to reduce this variable to 3 discrete values?
Looser: Analogue values or very high value numbers. For example, in Angry Birds, you can give your bird a wide range of angles and velocities. This makes the results surprisingly uncertain. Think of how predictable (and boring) the game would be if you could only pick 2 distinct angles and velocities.
Do I have enough range that players can play creatively?
Do my values add interesting uncertainty to choices?
Diablo Loot Pacing
Tighter: Short time lapses between cause and effect. When creating mouse over boxes like you find in Diablo, a common mistake is to add a delay between when the mouse is over the inventory item and when the hover dialog appears. If the delay is too short, the hover dialog pops up when the player doesn’t expect it. If the delay is too long, the dialog feels laggy and non-responsive. (In my experience, 200ms seems ideal. That’s right inside the perception gap where you’ve decided to do something, but your conscious mind hasn’t quite caught up)
Where does the game play lag?
What happens if I speed timing up?
What happens if slow timing down?
What systems allow me to vary timing in an indirect fashion?
Am I adjusting pacing using manual content arcs when I could instead use with algorithmic loops?
Looser: Long time lapses between cause and effect. Too long and the player misses that there is an effect at all. Imagine an RPG where you have a switch and a timer. If you hit the switch, a door opens 60 seconds later. Surprisingly few people will figure out that the door is linked to the switch. On the other hand, early investment in industry in Alpha Centauri resulted in alien attacks deep in the end game. This created a richer system of interesting trade off for players to manipulate over a long time span.
What are the longer loops in the game?
Are there long burning effects that cause players to reconsider their models for long term play loops?
Castlevania Medusa movement (via Kotaku)
Tighter: Linearly increasing variables are more predictable. Consider the general friendliness of throwing a sword in a straight line in Zelda versus catching an enemy with an arcing boomerang while moving.
What happen if I simplify the model and make the reaction linear?
How can I remove non-linear systems from early gameplay?
Looser: Non-linearly increasing variables, less so. The Medusa heads in Castlevania pose a surprisingly difficult challenge to many players because tracking them breaks the typical expectation linear movement. Even something as commonplace as gravity throws most people off their game. After all, it took thousands of years before we figured out how to accurately land an artillery shell.
What systems are exponential in nature?
How do I constrain my non-linear systems so they are predictable?
How do I create interestingly chaotic behavior via feedback loops?
Tighter: Primary effects where the cause is directly related to the effect. In Zelda again, the primary attack is highly direct. You press a button, the sword swings out and a nearby enemy is hit.
What systems can I remove to make the results of an action more obvious?
Is my cognitive load high enough?
Looser: Secondary effects where the cause triggers a secondary (or tertiary) system that in turn triggers an effect. Simulations and AI’s are notorious for rapidly become indecipherable due to numerous levels of indirection. In a game of SimEarth, it was often possible to noodle with variables and have little idea what was actually happening. However, the immense indirection yields systems that people can play with for decades.
How can simple system interact to create useful indirect effects?
How can I layer useful indirect effects to create wide expressive opportunities for the player?
Tighter: Visible sequences that are readily apparent. For example, in Triple Town we signal that a current position is a match. The game isn’t about matching patterns so instead the design goal is to make the available movement opportunities as obvious as possible.
Is there something hidden that shouldn’t be?
Is there something visible that doesn’t matter?
Looser: Hidden information or off screen information. A game like Mastermind is entirely about a hidden code that must be carefully deciphered via indirect clues. Board games that are converted into computer games often accidentally hide information. In a board game, the systems are impossible to hide because they are manually executed by the players. However, in computers the rules are often simulated in the background, turning a previously comprehensible system into mysterious gibberish.
Would hiding information fully or partially make mastery more challenging?
Tighter: Deterministic where the same effect always follows a specific cause. In a game like chess, the result of a move is always the same; a knight moves in an L and will capture the piece in lands upon. You can imagine a variant where instead you role a die to determine the winner. You can make that tighter again by constraining the probability so that certain characters roll larger dice than others. The 1d20 Pawn of Doom is a grand horror.
How do I make the outcome highly deterministic?
Is this direct action still interesting if repeated hundreds of times?
Looser: Probabilistic so that sometimes one outcome occurs but occasionally a different one happens. In one prototype I worked on there was both a long time scale between the action and the results as well as a heavily weighted but still semi-random outcome. Players were convinced that the game was completely random and had zero logic. If you pacing is fast enough and your feedback strong enough, you might be able to treat this as a slot machine.
Do I need a simple method of simulating a complex system?
Do I need a means of adding interesting pacing to the game?
Does the player perceive that they have the situation under controls despite the randomness?
Tighter: System requires simulating few steps to predict an outcome. In a vertically scrolling shooter, you see the bullet coming towards you. It doesn’t take a lot of thought to figure out that if you stay in that location you are going to be hit.
How much can the player process in the time allotted?
Are players getting mentally fatigued playing the game?
Looser: System requires simulating multiple steps to predict an outcome. On the other hand, in Triple Town, good players need to think dozens of moves ahead. Thinking through all the various machinations necessary to get the result you want adds a serious cognitive load to the player. A single mistake in the player’s calculations yields unexpected results.
Do players feel smart?
Can players plan multiple moves ahead?
Can players debug why their plans didn’t work?
Tighter: Fewer options are available to consider. In a recent upgrade system I was building I give players 3 choices for their upgrades. I could have given them a menu of 60 upgrades, but that would be rather overwhelming. By focusing the user on a few important choices, I give them the mental space to think about each and pick the one with the biggest impact.
Can I reduce the options?
If I had to remove one choice, what would it be? Would the game be better?
Which options are the most meaningful?
Looser: A large number of options must be considered. In a game of Go there are often dozens of potential moves and hundreds of secondary moves. This options complexity is a large part of why the game has been played for thousands of years.
How do current options yield an exploding horizon of future options?
How do I re-balance outcomes to make more options useful?
Death of Lord British in Ultima Online
Tighter: Another human broadly signals intent, capabilities and internal mental state. In an MMO, a player dresses as a high level healer and stands in a spot where adhoc groups meet up. There’s a good chance you know what they’ll do if you ask them to go adventuring together. Or in a managed trade window, you know exactly what you are getting when he puts up a potion for your sword. There is little ambiguity.
Can I make a character automatically signal future intent via their current actions?
Do the options collapse to a reasonable number so that I can predict what the other player might do if they are acting rationally?
Do I know enough about the goals and resources of the other player?
Have a spent enough time with the other player to model their internal state?
Are there predictable methods of interacting between players?
Looser: Another human disguises, distorts or mutes intent, capabilities and their mental state.
Can people communicate?
Can people lie and what is the impact of that?
Can people harm others? Can they help? Are there repercussions?
To what degree is my choice dependent on another player’s choice?
What are group dynamics that influence behavior?
Tighter: Requires simulating the model at the player’s preferred pace. This is related to processing and option complexity since players can only execute their models at a given pace. Players are more likely to make causal connections if the time pressure is greatly reduced. For example, the game NetHack has complexly interwoven systems that require real detective work to decipher. In order to increase the likelihood that players will make the connection, the game is set up as a turn-based game where players may take as much time as they want between turns. You’ll see that as the situation becomes more complex, even good players will slow down their play substantially so they can understand all the ramifications.
How much time does the player need to understand what is happening?
Can I let the player choose their pacing or do I need to force a universal timing?
What are the multiplayer ramifications?
Looser: Requires simulating the model quickly. In a game of WarioWare, there isn’t really much complexity involved in each individual puzzle. However, we can dramatically ramp up the cognitive load and increase outcome uncertainty by setting a very short timer.
Would time pressure push the player’s cognitive load into a pleasurable flow zone?
Is the player feeling analysis paralysis?
Is the player feeling wildly out of control?
Applying the tightening techniques
When I run into the common situation where players don’t understand the system, I often use the tightening techniques to make the system’s cause and effect relationship more crisply defined for the player. In almost all cases, my changes are in response to observations stemming from playing a prototype myself or from watching someone else play a prototype. I find them to be most useful as tuning techniques and less reliable for making grand plans in the absence of functional code.
Gameplay is composed of loops and these loops have distinct stages (Actions, Rules, Feedback, Updating of the player’s mental model). Depending on where in the loop the observed issue might be, I use different techniques to tweak it.
Feedback Problems: Feedback failures are the most common error I find when dealing when implementing known systems. Most new designer make feedback errors. Intermediate designs often focus on feedback to the exclusion of other problem areas.
Strength of feedback
Tapping existing mental models
Tightness vs the stage of player mastery
Skill loops build upon one another. The jumping in Mario evolves into advanced platform navigating skills. What I find is that often the lowest levels of skill loops need to be the tightest. These are the systems you need to be most obvious in the first seconds of play…they are the gateway into the rest of the game, so to speak. Keep the number of options low, tap into existing mental models and make the cause and effect as crisp and obvious as possible. Then once the player is comfortable manipulating the basic system, you can introduce looser connections that take more effort to master.
The player’s perception of tightness and looseness changes over time. There’s a mental chunking operation that occurs as we master skills. Sequences that were once confusing and complex get reduced down to easily repeated and manipulated patterns. So the higher level skills that are made of multiple chunked precursor skills end up feeling very clear and obvious. You’ll often find controls that a new player describes as twitchy or sloppy are described by an expert player as extremely precise and tight. Mastery can turn loose systems into tight tools.
New designers often treat the systems at the heart of their games as inviolate features of nature. The properties of a sniper rifle, the combo system in Street Fighter or the energy system in a farming game are treated as mathematical facts. You can tweak some values, but the basic system has always existed and will always exist. Yet the truth is that these systems were invented and then adopted because they had useful properties. They are easy to pickup, yet provide sufficient depth for long term mastery. They are designed artifacts.
We can design new systems that hit the sweet spot between mysterious and boring. By looking at you new games through the lenses listed above (and likely some others that I’m forgetting) you can iteratively tune the systems, models and skills at the heart of your game to be more or less understandable. By following a methodical process of invention, you can take a weak game and turn it into a great game that dances hand-in-hand with player capabilities.
篇目3，Gamification: Framing The Discussion
by Tony Ventrice
[As a prelude to a full-on examination of gamification, Badgeville's Tony Ventrice digs deep into what makes games games, using work that's come before as a basis to explore this new tool -- the first of his ongoing series of articles on gamification.]
A lot has been said about gamification recently, and a lot of circular arguing has gone around what it means to compare an experience to a game.
I have two responses to this discussion:
1. “Gamification” as a term is indeed opportunistic and vague. While the word seems to imply a land-grab for everything that is great about games, in current practice it only represents points and badges: loyalty and reputation systems.
2. Games have a lot to offer, and the current form of gamification isn’t a bad place to start. There is a lot to be gained from tying loyalty and reputation systems to a website or product and, as the concept evolves, other aspects of gameplay are sure to follow.
What I would like to do is define the full scope of what makes games fun (not a trivial task by any means) and then explore the practical application to real-world businesses. This journey will be made in multiple parts.
* Part 1 will be to dissect the concept at the intersection of the following words: Game, Fun, Play. The objective will be to end with a list of aspects — aspects of what make games fun.
* Each of the following parts will explore how these aspects might be applied to business enterprise.
What Makes a Game Fun?
This question has been asked many times, by both academics and game designers. A common conclusion on the game design side is that games represent choice and learning. I’ll let a few of the most prominent experts in game design put it in their words.
Raph Koster says in A Theory of Fun:
Fun is the act of mastering a problem mentally.
Jesse Schell says in The Art of Game Design:
A game is a problem-solving activity, approached with a playful attitude.
I agree wholeheartedly. In fact, I came to basically the same conclusion when I defined gameplay for myself as: interesting decisions (apparently Sid Meier said the same thing — I may have got it from him.) I came to this conclusion because personally decisions and challenge are what I enjoy about games when I play them.
And this definition is perfectly functional if you’re designing games for people like me and Raph and Jesse; games like the video game industry has been designing for the past 30 years, and will go on designing for the next 30 years. A deeper understanding is only really useful if it’s your job to deconstruct a game and rebuild the “fun” in a completely new context, like, say, a corporate website.
An Unexpected Truth
Gradually, we’ve seen examples of games where the learning has been peeled away. FarmVille and Foursquare are evidence that people are willing to call something a “game” even if the decisions are vapid and the learning is simplistic. Defining a game by choices and solutions doesn’t seem to be enough anymore.
An argument can be made to defend the old definition. There is learning in FarmVille, if just a little bit. And Foursquare, well, I suppose you learn where you have a chance at maintaining mayor status and where you don’t…
But I’m not buying it. The fact is, the learning aspect to these “games” is so thin it hardly counts. Even if you posit that the average FarmVille player is less intelligent than the average “real game” player, it doesn’t explain why FarmVille players play for so long — we’re talking about months, more than enough time for even a simpleton to learn everything there is to know in the game.
The truth is, we have only two options: either refuse to call these things “games” or admit that there is more to games than just learning.
But before we move on, we’ll give the old definition one more chance. We’ll note that Schell and Koster didn’t say games were just learning, they said games were learning with a playful or fun attitude. Raph elaborates:
The lesson here is that fun is contextual. The reasons why we are engaging in an activity matter a lot.
So, the definition of a fun game is more than just learning, and neither Koster nor Schell has found it simple enough to condense into a one-sentence definition. Fun, it turns out is a very tricky word.
Once Again: What Makes a Game Fun?
The game designers had their say, and have given us the first aspect of fun for our list: learning. I think it’s a suitable first element, and examples of games where the fun is represented almost solely by learning might include pattern-solving puzzles like Rubik’s Cube or Mastermind.
I’m sure the designers have a lot more to say on the topic but, in the interests of time, I’d like to give the academics a turn now.
If you’ve read Salen and Zimmerman’s Rules of Play, you’ve heard of the sociologist Roger Caillois. Caillois posits there are four forms of play:
Competition, Chance, Role Playing and Altered Perception
The list seems rather arbitrary. As a sociologist, Caillois is not a game designer, but you have to appreciate the distance he’s given himself in his definition. And I think he’s made some rather unique observations.
Competition seems like an obvious addition to our list — almost any activity that can be measured has been turned into a game at one point or another, from spotting out-of-state license plates to shoveling coal faster than the other guy.
Role Playing also seems obvious — what other way can you explain children playing house, or firemen, or any other game young children play?
Altered Perception is probably Caillois’ most interesting proposal. From recreational drug use to rolling down a grassy hill and then attempting to run in a straight line, altered perception is an undeniable, albeit often over-looked aspect of play.
It even turns up in video games occasionally (some games “mess” with the player by distorting the reality of the game rules unexpectedly, while others bombard the player with lights and sounds, resulting in a “trippy” experience). I’m tempted to include altered perception to our list — yet, by and large, this is not an aspect of play with many practical applications, particularly in the context of business, so out of the interest of space, I’ll omit it.
Finally we have Chance. Chance is a mechanic desirable in competitive play to avoid deterministic outcomes. Given two players of unequal skill, in a game without chance, the outcome is known before the game even begins. Chance is a very important mechanic for game balancing and building suspense (something I’ll get to later), but not inherently fun, or a reason, per se, to play a game.
Game designer Marc LeBlanc gives us a slightly longer and more practical list than Caillois. While LeBlanc might find better company in the previous section with the other designers, I’ve included him here because in his work he’s chosen to take a more academic approach (he’s even collaborated with academics at Northwestern University).
LeBlanc’s list of eight kinds of fun:
Sensation, Fellowship, Fantasy, Narrative, Challenge, Discovery, Expression, Submission
In the interest of time, I’ll cut through these quickly, picking out which to keep based on their value to our investigation.
Sensation might include fun things like the plunge of a rollercoaster, a runner’s high, or a pleasant massage — but in the context of gamified experiences, it is probably even less useful than Altered Perception.
Fellowship introduces the idea of a social aspect — a sense of friendship or belonging. Finding a single game represented purely by fellowship is difficult, but many people choose to play party games solely for this reason.
For example, I find Apples to Apples to be an asinine game — winners are chosen arbitrarily — yet I enjoy playing the game. Why? I find that to enjoy the game, I ignore the implied competition and learning, and focus instead on enjoying the social interplay and collective laughing. For me, the only reason to play Apples to Apples is the Fellowship.
Fantasy and Narrative are relevant but quite similar (I’d say they respectively describe the premise and events of a story). I don’t know if anyone would call a story a game, but in watching the interplay of a campfire story or a bedtime story you can’t help but see the similarities and at least admit the presence of fun.
Many games contain stories, and I have even heard of people playing games that were terrible simply because they wanted to know how the story turned out. I think this is enough evidence of fun to keep these two — at least as a single shared entry in our list.
Challenge and Discovery are What Koster and Schell were talking about (the player discovers new techniques and applies them to challenging problems) so we’ll categorize these with learnign.
Expression is very similar to role playing, and we’ll group the two for now and see if we can’t come up with a common feature.
Submission is, honestly, a bit unexpected. LeBlanc defines Submission as “game as mindless pastime”. Although this is a very tempting addition to our list, it unfortunately says nothing informative. By this inclusion, 3:00 AM television infomercials are fun, and I think anyone can agree that such a stretch results in a definition far too broad for our purposes.
We’ve made it through Marc’s list and retained 6 out of his 8 items, at least in some respect.
Next, I’d like to introduce an academic named Nicole Lazzaro. Nicole’s study covers the basics of choice and challenge that we’ve already talked about, but what she does differently is focus her studies around the emotional state of gamers.
In her own words:
Game Advertising Online
Our results revealed that people play games not so much for the game itself as for the experience the game creates: an adrenaline rush, a vicarious adventure, a mental challenge; or the structure games provide, such as a moment of solitude or the company of friends.
While she seems to view every aspect of a game from the perspective of emotion (and the utility of this perspective may be questionable) she does raise a worthy point: pure emotions most likely have a role in the concept of “fun”.
After all, why do people watch scary movies, flirt with their own spouses, play practical jokes on each other, or play Crocodile Dentist? They find surges of emotion like fear, arousal, humor, suspense and surprise to be fun.
I have one more academic who never seems to get integrated properly into these discussions, and his name is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Csikszentmihalyi is the foremost expert in what we know as flow. In his own words, flow is:
Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz.
Flow is often used to mean “balanced difficulty”, or is just as often dismissed as simply another emotional state. I believe the topic is actually much more interesting than either of these interpretations, and warrants its own entry in our list. For examples of flow that might be called “games”, I might cite bouncing a ball repeated off a wall or flinging cards at a hat. While these activities do involve learning a skill, I think the fact that it is a worthless skill might be indicative of something else going on.
What Makes a Game Fun? A Summary
We’ve heard from some of the most recognized experts on the subject (hopefully I haven’t abbreviated their voices unfairly), done some paring for utility, and here’s our working list of features that make games fun:
1. Learning / Challenge / Discovery
2. Role Playing / Expression
5. Fantasy / Narrative
Before moving on, I’d like to do a little editing — nothing serious, just some renaming and a little shifting of shared similarities. I’ll include my reasons below for anyone who cares to argue.
We now have a list of aspects that make games fun. I believe any proposed addition can be categorized under one or more of these seven. If it can’t, I’m more than willing to add another entry (or acknowledge and dismiss it, like sensation).
If we take the word “game” to be defined as: an activity engaged in for the pursuit of fun (and this is basically how the dictionary defines it), I think we’re ready to move on with our analysis of gamification.
In further articles, I will address each of the aspects on our list, what they might look like independent from the rest and how they might be used in a context outside of traditional gaming. Given the breadth of the content, I won’t be able to go into exacting detail, but I hope to cover each enough to set a trajectory towards further constructive thought.
How I Arrived At the List
For our first entry, we already have three proposed names: learning, challenge, and discovery. I would like to propose a fourth to represent them all: growth. Growth conveys an unequivocal sense of going somewhere, improving on a previous state.
What I prefer about “growth” is that it cuts more directly to the center of the desired experience than the others; I might be learning something, but not feeling as if it’s progressing towards any useful end. I might be challenged, but resent it as an unnecessary or pointless obstacle. I might discover something, but feel it to be irrelevant. Only growth clearly conveys both personal development and a positive experience.
Once you filter out the concept of story (covered under fantasy and narrative), role playing and expression are actually very similar. They describe an opportunity to assert the values that make you who you are and the freedom to try out new values without judgment. This seems to convey two things: identity and choice. Identity is important, but it’s already been covered elsewhere on the list (see below). That leaves us with choice, or autonomy, which is important enough to warrant an entry of its own.
Fellowship is a funny word that can’t help but conjure up images of Hobbits. What we’re really talking about here is a sense of belonging — a role, or place, in a social context. Nothing seems to describe it better than identity. I know who I am, and so does everyone else. While fellowship implies a purely friendly social relationship, friendship may be too specific — it’s probably safe to say almost everyone desires a sense of identity, but not everyone craves harmony and alliance.
For fantasy / narrative, as I mentioned earlier, these two respectively describe the premise and events of a Story. “Narrative” is a probably the more inclusive of the two, but yet seems too cold to properly convey the fun feeling of getting wrapped up in an engaging story. The users call it “story”, and I feel it makes the most sense to do the same.
篇目4，The Origins of Fun
Christian Philippe Guay
Fun is a familiar word and, to this day, it is still hard to define. We do have that strange ability to understand how to make something fun, but so little understanding of its actual origins. For years I’ve been asking to myself many questions:
Where does it come from?
How can it be produced?
Is fun exclusively subjective?
Is it possible to create something fun for everyone?
Is fun all about learning something new?
Why do I still enjoy older games more than the most recent ones?
Are we losing our understanding of fun?
Is engagement the same thing as fun?
What is the future of video games?
Could a unified theory of fun exist?
I never found a proper answer to these questions in any articles on the internet, nor any book. However, I did find out a lot about fun, because most articles or books pointed out a lot of the factors that result in fun experiences.
They never, however, clearly explained what fun was or how to produce it. After months of intensive research on the subject, I had a hard time believing how many fun products we’ve made as an industry without even understanding what fun is or where it comes from. It’s amazing, really, what we’ve accomplished so far.
Desperate and without answers, I started to think. I spent years looking for those answers and, more importantly, underestimated the value of my own experience in solving the problem. Fifteen minutes later, I found my own answers to all of those questions.
That’s when I realized how much we know about fun, and how little we know about ourselves. By the end of this article, I’m sure most of you are going to be amazed by how much you knew about fun, and discover that the real trouble was in connecting the dots.
Where Does Fun Come From?
Everything that exists follows what we call a structure: recipes, books, films, video games, chemical formulae, etc. We all know that fun can be experienced during or after an experience. In other words, by better understanding the structure of an experience, we will gain a better understanding of fun. We’ll find that structure in the creative process is necessary to create an experience.
Whether it’s based on a specific audience target or simple personal inspiration, we first create the vision for a game. Some designers might prefer to call it a blueprint. That blueprint is, exclusively, an idea located in the mind or on paper. It is not yet perceptible or interactive, and yet this step is the heart of the experience.
To make that blueprint interactive, we need to make it perceptible to our human senses. If the idea was to create an interesting enemy, we would have to make the 3D model first. I usually use the word context to cover all that. Fighting on a battlefield is different from fighting in a moving elevator, right? Also, some games feature a story. The perceptible story is found on this specific layer.
Once we’ve made the idea perceptible, then we can give it a mechanism. We add to our character the bones he needs to move in the intended way. Just keep in mind that everything perceptible will always empower the mechanism and make it better; that’s why old school 8-bit games aren’t necessarily better even when they offer cooler, more innovative gameplay than contemporary titles.
The ultimate goal of a designer is to give to players tools to influence the world, AI, and other players; it’s all about the mind game and the challenge. When it comes to the story, while the context covers the perceptible story, this layer covers the one that we create as we play.
Now that our experience has a mechanism and is interactive, what we want to do is to add that subtle layer of emotions. That’s actually one of the steps we often forget, but it is absolutely crucial to the creation of a great and memorable experience. Do you want to throw rockets that will profoundly stress the player? Did you create a room so empty that the player will know for sure that he needs to prepare for the next big fight? Do you desire the player to feel that this area is a peaceful or dangerous place?
Once the player performs the interaction, from cause and effect there is a direct result. Did he counter an attack? Did he eliminate his opponent? Did he hear a sound? What treasure did he find by opening the chest? It’s important to notice that there is a challenge and a reward, but the reward is not the last thing to think about. There are a few other steps to an experience.
Once the player gets the result, then he can be conscious of the time it took to complete the experience. The notion of time moderates the intensity of an experience, and it creates rhythm or repetition.
Finally, it’s only once the player is aware of the time that he can achieve a full realization of the whole experience. That’s the moment when he registers the data in memory and can compare its quality with other past experiences. By going through this final process, the player also forges his judgement. By creating an experience, we also forge our audience; a natural evolution cycle of which we are all part of.
The Structure of an Experience
The structure of an experience consists of seven layers — categories or guidelines. It really doesn’t matter what we call them. The following bullet points contain examples of what each layer comprises.
Blueprint: Vision; Game design documents; Pitch; Teaser; Trailers
Context (everything perceptible): 2D art; 3D environment; 3D models; 3D animations; Music; Sound effects; Special effects; Menus; HUD;Perceptible story
Mechanism: Gameplay mechanics; Learning curve; Controls; Difficulty curve; Ergonomics; Level design; Playable story
Emotions: Joy; Anger; Fear; Surprise; Sadness
Result: The player found new equipment; The player found a shortcut; The player gained points; The player unlocked a new feature
Time: Intensity; Rhythm; Repetition
Realization: Did it help to understand how to perform a gameplay mechanic? Did we learn a new twist in the story? Was this adventure more enjoyable than the ones made 10 years ago?
It’s even more important to understand that one experience can be made of multiple and smaller experiences, or be part of a bigger experience — just like a game is made of levels, and those are made of gameplay sequences, and those are made of gameplay, and that is made of actions, etc. It grows infinitely big and infinitely small.
Life; Activities; Video games; Games; Game levels; Gameplay sequences; Actions; Controls
It’s the ancient principle of correspondence, the theory of relativity, the phenomenon of fractals, or the relationship between the microcosm and macrocosm. That’s also where it easily gets confusing to analyze the different layers, because things move up or down the scale, and everything is relative.
Seven Principles of Engagement
Our seven principles can be considered as seven linear steps that can put the player into a greater state of engagement. If the player dislikes one step, it can be enough to prevent her from continuing the experience. Ideally, we want the player to be seduced by all the steps as much as we possibly can. Simply put, all steps should be better than what can be found in past games, films, books, or music.
A greater degree of fun is experienced when we simply experience something of greater quality. Basically, engagement allows the potential fun of a game to emerge.
Still, all the products have their own strengths. Some games will offer greater visuals and others greater mechanism or emotions.
In order to produce greater states of engagement, to do less is more, because the more we add details, the more we increase our chance to make a mistake or to create things that are disruptive or disturbing to the experience.
More importantly, everything created must have a compelling reason to exist, and ideally it should empower the rest. It’s pointless to add 50 accessories to a character if none of them actually tells us more about him. The simple color of the cape, the shape, or the way it moves should alone tell a lot.
It’s always great to keep in mind that time is money.
Is Fun Different for Everyone?
A game isn’t supposed to be fun for everyone; it was designed for a very specific audience. The group we can attract is gamers. Is everyone a gamer? Absolutely not.
Fun is subjective, but not entirely. From one perspective, because we all experience different things and are born with a certain approach to life, we might find things fun that wouldn’t necessarily be so for others. Still, experiences forge our judgement; those experiences are limited to what exists. That means if you understand what exists, you can obviously make something that’s more fun for your audience.
That means fun is only wholly subjective if we don’t know what is out there, or if we can’t create something more fun than what the audience can create in its own mind.
Different Skill Levels, Different Perspectives of Fun
The different skill levels of the players will influence how they perceive fun. As mentioned earlier, fun is only potential, and the more a player develops her skills, the more she can understand and appreciate.
A simple approach would be to break down the audience into three categories: Newcomers; Advanced players; Pro players
Those are not necessarily representative of their physical skill level, but more their mentality, because physical skills can be lost over time due to a lack of practice.
The newcomer is obviously new to the game and mostly cares about something basic: ”I just want to shoot people”. If we were to design a map for them, it would be smaller and more chaotic.
The pro players need the total opposite. They would instead need a map that offers better pacing and plenty of tricks and strategy. The advanced players are right in the middle and can enjoy both aspects of the game.
Ideally, a game should offer gameplay and maps that can please the three categories of players. More importantly, every multiplayer game should also offer a system that matches the players based on their categories. Otherwise, pro players will always give a hard time to newcomers, and some of them might just not enjoy their experience at all.
Fun isn’t a Static Force, It is a Potential
We do not create experiences that are fun to a very specific degree. As said earlier, fun is relative to the past experiences of the players and to everything created in the past. What game developers do is give to players tools; by taking advantage of those, they can experience fun, to a certain degree.
Usually, the fun will also increase as the player progresses in mastery of the game. By improving her skills, she will increase the degree of memorable moments that happen. That will also intensify the degree of fun — and that’s why games are so enjoyable.
However, game developers must also make sure that the learning curve isn’t too intimidating. Some games lack sufficient information or tutorials, and players can’t understand how to play them, or what about them is fun. A lot of multiplayer games suffer from that problem, and that can be easily solved.
How can I Improve My Ability to Create Fun Products?
We have to be aware of what has been done before, as it is important to not repeat past mistakes.
If you want to get better at creating a blueprint, then you have to study pretty much everything. Be aware of what is going on, anticipate what is coming next, and develop the ability to find holes in the market. To study and understand marketing and psychology might also help a lot.
If you want to get better at creating context, what is perceptible, it’s going to be difficult. You would have to study anything artistic; music, films, video games, photography, etc.
If you want to get better at creating a mechanism, then I suggest you play and study a lot of games, sports, and martial arts. I would suggest to any designer to take one game and spend enough time to master it. There are things that can only be properly understood once they’re truly experienced. In reality, the more we master an experience, the more others become alike, because everything in this universe is based on the same principles. We realize that the same mechanics are used, but in a different context. By doing this, it becomes easier to create interesting gameplay mechanics or learn how to fix them.
To create more emotive experiences is probably the most difficult task, because it still is fairly new to game developers. It is always a plus to understand what makes other passions so great. Films, books, video games, and the daily news might be great things to look at if you need inspiration. Most humorists understand how to trick the audience, add a twist to a story, and trigger very specific emotions.
If you want to get better at creating a result or a reward, video games are obviously the best reference.
If you want to create a great realization, then at least make sure the experience was worth it, and better than what you experienced before.
I tend to think that to study the greatest games of all time would help us to better understand how to make better games. However, those games are often so engaging that we might not see how to make greater things, because when we play them, we aren’t thinking critically about how they’re constructed; we’re experiencing them as players. However, if we play the worst games, then everything frustrating will jump in our faces. Then we will see what needs to be improved, and that forces us to be creative and find how to fix those problems.
A Bright Future
The creation of useful games is the way of the future, and there are many approaches we can take to achieve that. One idea: the creation of games that are as much educational as they are entertaining. This medium is one of the easiest and most accessible we’ve ever had. We don’t get injured while playing games, because our body isn’t at risk, so we can keep learning. Video games are an easy way to experience thousands of things in a short period of time. It would make perfect sense if video games became part of a new educational system.
Right now, video games are an easy way to study and better understand reality on a physical level; powerful tools for self-development, and that’s something we’ll have to push.
A Unified Philosophy of Fun
I invite you to perceive this article more as a unified philosophy of fun rather than a theory. There still is a lot more to say about these seven principles of fun, but the goal was to give you the keys that will allow you the find the rest of the answers on your own. You will, at least, know where to look.
I hope you enjoyed reading; feel free to comment, ask questions, or debate.