Simplicity vs. Complexity in Game Design
About a month ago, Peter Molyneux made a statement while talking about Fable III that simplicity is better than complexity. Simplicity offers a more streamlined experience for the player and makes the bar for entry as low as possible so new players can enjoy the game faster. A more complex game gives the players more choice, and it takes a bit longer to get satisfying feedback from the game. A game needs elements of both in order to be successful and fun.
Let’s break it down a bit and take a look at both sides of the coin.
Simple is good. No one wants a clunky user interface, a bad save system with checkpoints five minutes away, or a cumbersome control layout. We want to be able to know what we want to do and be able to execute it in-game with as little effort as possible. If you’re five hours into a game and you still haven’t figured out the controls, then the game is doing something wrong. Simplicity can also be the death of a game for a hardcore player. If a game isn’t challenging, then you might not play it for very long.
Hard is also good. We want to be rewarded for our efforts. If every game just handed you the victory after six hours of pushing the spacebar (or the X button for you console people), you would probably get bored of video games pretty quickly. You want to feel good when you defeat that dragon that took you three hours to kill. Sure, it kicked your ass ten times, but when you finally get it right, it feels pretty awesome. You feel like you could climb mountains and kill yeti with your bare hands (if you weren’t a nerd that didn’t go outside, that is).
So now that I’ve laid out my cards on the table, let me get to the meat of all this: There has been a disturbing movement in video games to become easier and easier, and it’s rather irritating to me. I like video games, and I like to play them. But I like long, complex games that are rewarding, not “Hey, my six-year-old kid can play this too!” games.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was a pretty hard game to beat. It could take hours to perfect a certain fighting sequence, and the acrobatics had a steep learning curve. At first it was a bit frustrating seeing the Prince fall to his death every three minutes and having to redo the whole room, but once you got it down and could pull of the moves like clockwork, it was very satisfying.
The new Prince of Persia game (the cel-shaded one, not The Forgotten Sands) took away all the difficulty and made it easier… a lot easier. You can’t die, fall, or be defeated in combat. The running sections are all too obvious on the screen, and it looks like a roller coaster track. Pressing one button will usually get you across half the map, and the really tricky stuff might require a second button. I played about four hours of it, and it felt so repetitive and dull that I couldn’t stand it anymore. It was too easy. There was absolutely no challenge, and it made me cringe to think that this game descended from Sands of Time.
The streamlining of games isn’t necessarily making them easier, but it does take away from their overall complexity. It’s a pain in the butt to walk across the map to get to your next objective, but it is part of the journey. Modern shooters have put you on rails and let you only play out the exciting parts of the story; you start inside the embassy, rather then having to sneak in, and as soon as it’s done, you’re rewarded with an obnoxious “Mission Complete” message. Half-Life 2 did it right: you were never pulled out of the game world. Sure, you had to walk and drive a lot, but it was a better game because of it.
Regenerating health is also becoming predominate in a lot of games. The old method of finding health packs is going the way of the dodo. Games like Max Payne built up their tension by forcing you to go through the game with only a small portion of health left. It forced you to get it right. You couldn’t just run into a room like an idiot, shoot 12 guys, nearly die, and wait for your health to come back before going on. If you were almost dead after killing those guys, the next guys would get you for sure. It made you think and play smarter. Getting the moves right to kill a dozen guys without getting hit was one of that game’s high points. Regenerating health might work for some games, but I hope shooters in the future stick with the old standard (if Deus Ex 3 has regenerating health, I will throw up).
So that’s my take on the whole simple vs. complex debate. Jump in with your opinions in the comments below.
Keep on gaming, people!（source:fronttowardsgamer）http://fronttowardsgamer.com/2010/07/10/simplicity-vs-complexity-in-game-design/
Simplicity vs. Complexity in Game Design Part 2
I had a lot of interesting feed back on my first article, so I have decided to do a second part.
If you haven’t read part one, please do so before reading part two. Or, don’t. I don’t care what you do with your time, but this will make more sense if you do.
There is something to be said for easy games. Sometimes we just want to turn our brains off, and look at all the pretty colours on the screen. These games should exist. I don’t always want to be putting out 100% of my effort when I’m playing games. That’s why there is Farmville. (I’m not saying anything more about it)
A good difficulty slider can make a game much more accessible to a broader audience. If you want it easy, put it on easy. If you like it hard, make it hard (that’s what she said). A good chunk of games fail to get this right.
Sometimes easy isn’t easy enough. I played Tomb Raider Underworld on easy, but I still found myself falling to my death because of bad game design. That might not be what the developers intended, but it’s what happened when I played. I’ll admit I suck at shooters, and I like easy mode, but most of the time I still find it frustrating to play them. If I’m really trying my best to get past a level without success, it bugs me. Maybe games could benefit from dumbing down if you keep failing. They don’t have to tell you that it’s getting easier, just give you a little extra HP or make all your shots hit. I wouldn’t mind a game going easy on me if I couldn’t get past a zone for 2 hours.
As far as hard goes, I know there are people who beat Halo 3 on legendary the first time. That to me doesn’t seem very hard. Your hardest game mode should be reserved for players who have beat the game once, and are looking for a greater challenge. That way your players always have another challenge to face. There are always crazy people who want their game to be as much of a challenge as it can be (before you get all defensive, I tend to be one of those people when it comes to RPGs). So just add some hit points to those monsters, take away my mana potions, and let us have at it. We might die a lot, but that’s what we want.
Multiplayer games are a bitch. The learning curve is based on the people playing it. The only sure way to fix it is to have good matchmaking. If I can be paired against people with a similar skill level, then that makes it easier for me to compete. No one wants to be the guy getting no kills with 15 deaths. Another interesting idea would be to keep people who have played the game for less then 20 hours confined to newbie servers. That way they are safe from the wolves in the world outside, and they have a chance to learn the game without getting frustrated. A game like Battlefield Bad Company 2 could easily break up people with different levels, but they don’t. It seems simple, but for whatever reason they don’t do it that way.
Whether easy or hard, we all want one thing out of our games: to have fun playing them. And I intend to go do that right now.（source:fronttowardsgamer）