Author Topic: What Makes a Good Game Good  (Read 166 times)

Offline 7grant2

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What Makes a Good Game Good
« on: April 18, 2013, 04:29 pm »
I've heard this question asked numerous times, whether directed at me or to other people; what makes a good game good? I've heard several answers, some are very good, some not so good: focus on the plot, make great action sequences, be innovative, provide scenery, make it flow, be interesting. Some good, some not so good.

I'd like to take a bit of your time to answer this question in my own way, my experience being my validity; experience in games, literature, movies, voice acting, plays - some things we all have experienced and things we all know quite well. What makes World of Warcraft stand out from other competitors? What makes Skyrim better to some but Morrowind better to others? Why do extremely difficult games like "The Impossible Game" get so many views for just being a simple flash game?

This will be a bit like a lecture, so bear with me as I give background to Video Games. Obviously video games started off as simple 8-bit pixels moving about the screen, improving to 16-bit, 32-bit; better sound quality, graphics, even stories began to emerge from video games unlike their previous ancestors. Cut scenes were quite new in the 16-bit era of the SNES and Genesis, but take some time nowadays and play MGS4 and its almost like a movie in itself.

What could the 8-bit era and gaming nowadays have much to do with one another?

The experience of gaming as a medium of art.

Before I elaborate that, let me explain what that means. When something is a "medium" it is a way to experience it. The medium for "art" can contain pictures, video, sound, etc. Make sense? Good.

Movies and animation allow us to immerse ourselves into the experience as though we are there experiencing the actual film. You can hear the gunshots whiz past your head in Die Hard or perhaps feel the intensity of a drama. Literature allows you to imagine what exactly is happening through the amazing phenomenon of language, allowing you to even experience what I'm typing right now, amazing huh?

So how would I describe Video Games? My best example would be a really cool series of book series Give Yourself Goosebumps; this book was written in 2nd person (instead of "I" or "They", it used "You") at certain pages you were given 2 choices that would affect the outcome of the adventure. While for the youth, this is pretty nifty isn't it?

Of course not all games allow you to make choices that effect the ending, but what I found to be most interesing is that the books involve YOU, seeing as to how its written in 2nd person. Thats the amazing thing about video games, you are involved in making the decisions throughout the game. What kind of approach do you use when playing? Do you take it safe or take risks? In Spellmage's RPG Lonely Roads, will you do missions, help out people, or will you speed through the game?

These are some of the many choices that a player can have in a game, in which the experience of the player being involved in these choices make a game truly astounding.

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Lets take a step back into our world of Sploder and ask ourselves how it is relevant to us and how it is not. First, lets start off with what we are given.

Importantly, we are all given the same tools to work with. In a sense, there is a much more defined limit to what we can do compared to actual game makers in the AAA industry that make full-fledged games. We aren't working with coding, we are given simple flash game makers.

With that in mind, our variety to what we can give is limited. The most limiting game is in fact the 3D Shooter, and I will elaborate WHY that is not the most favored game creator and why its just not used as compared to the other creators.

To be quite frank, the 3D Shooter does not provide much variety. If you've played any of the 3D Shooter games, you get the feeling that they all have the same feeling when you play it. Of course it may partially be the lack of some objects given to us, but also remember, back when Sploder first started, some amazing games were pushed out of the basic game creator; CheckThePan, Darut, and Tookewl made their names out of that basic creator. Then why does that 3D Shooter not match up with it?

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Variety Theory: The first theory is that objects should serve more than one specific purpose and be extremely flexible in terms of what it can do. Lets take an example of both good and bad.

Take a look at a lot of objects in the 3D Shooter; a lot of them are very static. Crates move, but thats about it. A lot of the other items are just simple scenery, and a wall would have done the trick. Of course its pretty cool to have different looking textures and patterns, but that is almost all it provides. Even the enemies don't have too much variety; they all shoot blasters, move around the same speed; the only different is how much damage they put out and how much health they have. They are different, but not because of variety, they all do the same things just with different amounts of  stats. This is difference in kind, in which they are all similar and the only variety is merely stats.

The regular shooter though has some serious variety that can pump out amazing games. The map size can be shaped along with polygons, allowing for unique passages to be shipped out. The enemies also act differently, speeders move very fast, cruisers are average, mogura's have a unique attack pattern, helicopters fly over the player, stunners immobilize the player; that is some seriously variety in gameplay. This is why you can have a lot of amazing games come out of the shooter.

Simplicity Theory: This is one I've formulated a little bit, all usable objects should be simple enough to impliment in many games (while still have variety of course). The more complex an object is, the less scenario's it has to be used in. This is similar to Variety Theory, but it leans more towards the applicable usage of interesting objects.

Take for example the Movable Wall in the 3D Shooter; its a very interesting rotating object, but how useful has it been to many game makers? While it may have a great purpose for the occasional game, does it really serve its purpose well in a variety of games? I haven't found a very good use for it yet for most of my games, besides maybe a sequence or two, but does is it really simple enough to use in most games and complex enough to be implemented in several scenarios? People would have to work out specific and complex events just to make this object usable to really highlight its purpose, and therefore may be left out of a lot of 3D Games just for that fact.


Variety Theory is quite true, Simplicity Theory is not so proven right now (since it does have its flaws), but those two stand quite firm in the major role of objects into our games.

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Going back to the first section of this guide, I mentioned that a good game allows a player to make several decisions throughout a game. This is a key to making a very immersive game, giving the player those in-game choices and flexible scenarios. Imagine you are playing a platformer, and you are just in a halloway with a sword and shield and there are some enemies up ahead, what are your choices? You can fight them, you can fight them, or you can fight them; thats it. There is nothing you can do but just fight them off.

Now lets make things itneresting: what if you were given a grapple? You gave the player 2 choices now. What if there were an explosive barrel there that might harm the enemies making the fight easier? Another choice. What if you offered an alternative route? Another choice.

These in-game choices where players can decide what to take really makes the player think about decisions on what to take next. This adds to the uniqueness of an experience and really makes a great game great.

Of course not all games may offer such choices, but you will notice every EGL game contains some amount of choice to make in the game.

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What about games that don't offer many choices though? I'm sure you've been there, you weren't given much to use in the game besides a few items, but how were those games given such a great feel and use?

Variety Theory games right back into play, but not with objects! A variety of scenes will make a game be varied in how it plays and how it makes it's experience unique in its own.

Lets take Super Mario Galaxy by Neal for example, go play it in the EGL, just until you die, and I will highlight what just happened. *intermission* OK, now what just happened? You weren't given a lot to kill enemies with besides a raygun, but lets continue. You get a jetpack and fly up through some lava avoiding it, an interesting challenge; you then have to jump across alternating switches and make sure you don't fall down, quite interesting; there are still alternating switches except hot blocks are there you can stand on, its a simple change (Simplicity Theory) but adds a different twist to what you just experienced.

WOW, 1 minute into the game and you are tossed into 3 different scenarios, talk about fast paced and full of thrill.

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Of course a lot of our games are not plot heavy, but some games still offer plot that really make you think to yourself about whats happening. It adds an entire new twist; you are part of a story and that changes your perception of gameplay and the environment you are in. It affects the choices you make in game, if affects how you perceive the player and characters put into the game.

This is where games can be related heavily to Literature and Movies, in which the person experiencing such things can relate and become attached to certain characters of a movie or piece of Literature. You may have laughed at some comedies because you've been in similar situations or you can relate to that situations, or perhaps you just thought their situation was hilarious. Perhaps you've cried at sad movies because of their situation or your position in the situations.

Thats where games are absolutely amazing; YOU experience these decisions are those you are one to carry them out.

One great example is when I was playing Dark Souls; one of the bosses is Great Sif the Wolf (a giant wolf). He has done nothing to you, in fact, he is just protecting the grave of a dear friend named Artorias. You waltz on in and fight him. I realized this, but I didn't think much of it until the very end. Great Sif was limping after me, he could not hit me because he was too weak, and he didn't stand a chance. I actually wanted to not fight him, I felt very bad just for putting a wolf in that position and then I had to finish him off...

^That is amazing use of plot, it put some serious feels in me.

Of course with Sploder this is much harder, MUCH much harder to accomplish, since we have a difficult way of expressing much story other than through text.

However, the beauty of games comes to help us out. We are not providing a written story, in fact, we can EXPERIENCE the story just but having the player experience the game. You don't need words to transition from one spot to the next and the player will understand that. If you go underground into a cave, the player understands something may be waiting for them there, for just a random example.

If a plot is to be used, which is an amazing feat for a Sploder game, then by all means tell it through the game and not so much through text. If you can pull of such a thing, kudos to you, its rarely been done effectively and to the point of involving the player deeply.

My favorite game with plot is Bobbler's "Getting Your License" - absolutely brilliant. Sure it may not be a serious plot, but it really gave me a good laugh while playing it. He didn't need to say much more other than what was happening and what the manic passenger was screaming at you - hilarious.

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As with Music Theory, there is one rule, and it goes as following: once you understand a rule, you can break it.

By that, I'm saying that this guide is exactly what it is; a guide. Nothing more, nothing less, but a guide to help you out start a game. Sometimes you may not want to give the player any choice to emphasize contrast, sometimez the lack of variety is variety in itself, or a bad choppy feeling emphasizes a certian progression in the game itself.

I would say that before you break the rules themselves, you understand how these things are implemented. The only way to do that is to make games! Make games and see what works, what doesn't; read your reviews and take the criticism into the player's perspective. A lot of these little guidelines I mentioned can be figured out just by seeing a player's reaction to your game.

Thats why reviews are a wonderful tool! If you really want to get amazing feedback, ask for a play-by-play responce to your game as they play it. They might say "I didn't like it when _________" or possibly "I found this part amazing when ________". Take it into consideration and figure out why it gave the person that reaction.

Don't just stop with one person though, get a couple of people. The more opinions you get, the more reactions you can take in, and the more skills you can gain by listening.

The art to game making is not only in making games, but learning from your own mistakes through others.

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I hope this guide has helped some of you out! I wrote this in one sitting, so I may change it later, but it probably won't be nothing but a few more edits to make my message clearer.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2013, 04:26 pm by 7grant2 »
 

Offline Sree

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Re: What Makes a Good Game Good
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2013, 07:42 am »
WOW. That was a huge article kinda thing but it certainly helped me :)
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Offline woodchuck

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Re: What Makes a Good Game Good
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2013, 03:44 pm »
I read it all in one go. Brilliant.

Offline 7grant2

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Re: What Makes a Good Game Good
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2013, 04:26 pm »
I added a final paragraph that I forgot to put in; its important too :D
 

Offline 7grant2

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Re: What Makes a Good Game Good
« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2013, 12:51 pm »
Not much feedback but some views, I can't tell if its helping people or not xD