Sunday, August 28, 2011

This Week's Summary

1) Fun Fallacy. Fun is not an inherent property of an isolated activity.

2) Instead, fun is a consequence of the interaction of journeys and destinations, which are nested into each other, interact with each other and interact with everything around them, including the player.

3) Destinations need to feel worthwhile, considering the respective journey.

4) The journey is generated by the rules of the game.

5) Games have only very few natural rules. (e.g. other players)

6) Journeys become frustrating if the player thinks that he "shouldn't have to do that".

7) Thus, one of the most important things that determine whether a player has fun, are his expectations. To a degree, these expectations can be managed. But usually they have been shaped by earlier games and especially earlier versions of the same game.

8) Journeys need to keep the players' minds busy. (Not just the players). Therefore they should be about things like gaining, learning, deciding, and nested Journeys&Destinations.

9) The teardown of rules creates a competitive advantage. This explains why games become more "convenient" all the time without the players reporting to have had less fun in the past.

10) I repeat. Fun is not an inherent property of an isolated activity.

Remaining questions:
- What influence have rules on goals?
- Do modern MMORPGs try to control the teardown of rules (and thus make it part of the game!) ?
- Is the playground part of the rules?
- Can players' interactions with stories be described within the framework of journeys & destinations?
- Are games just a collection of journeys & destinations ?
- ...

Your comments are very welcome. But please make sure they are on topic.

Note to myself: I should stop using ever different words for the same things.
Rules = Boundaries = Restrictions
Goals = Destinations


  1. I will (attempt to) deconstruct your Fun Fallacy at some later date, since I imagine it is something you will be referring back to often. The underlying premise is sound (fun is subjective, depends on circumstances, etc), but I take issue with the notion that magnitude of fun has nothing to do with it (e.g. favorite game vs longest-played MMO).

    As for some of the other points:

    #3 is problematic considering what constitutes "worthwhile" is subjective. The best devs can do is guess, or treat it empirically (e.g. pseudo-scientifically). Even if they "stick to their original vision" or whatever, that is the same as treating it empirically.

    #8 is the reason why it is a good thing that portals were introduced in WoW. Going from Dalaran to Caldera for Nexus runs was a 7 minute AFK flight - I ceased playing the game at all and did another activity until I arrived.

  2. Maybe because I used to write/design software, but I think you do not count the UI and design as part of the idea. I.e., there is a huge difference between making the game decisions simpler and making the game interaction simpler.

    E.g., your recent looting "grays" example. When i get to a vendor and I have something that is only worth selling, then if I have to manually do it, I have one of those "I should not have to do that." moments. Yeah maybe in a real immersive world i would have to have a five minute conversation in Medieval English before he buys my loot. But I see a lot of commenters who confuse inconvenient with sophisticated. If there are no interesting decisions being made, I am inclined to want to facilitate the process. An AOE spell that attacks everything automatically is taking away interesting decisions. But if always want to equip silver spurs every time I mount Trigger, at some point I start to see it as annoying time sync rather than good game play. This is especially true of things like repair all, empty all bag, sell all...

    The fact that bag space and management matters is fine. That it takes 50 clicks to get all mail instead of 1 can get to be annoying.

    So if I am doing a bad/inefficient user interface interaction, I am much more likely to go into my "I should not have to be doing this; this is not fun" mode.

    #9) So I expect everything in my life to be more convenient over time. My iPhone 5 will be more convenient that version 4. Partly because it will have more processing power than a room-sized world-class supercomputer from a few decades ago. This year's browser and operating system will be more convenient than last year's. More automation, more shortcuts, better suggestions and defaults. Why would games be any different? Just because a game was a great game ten years ago does not mean that user interface is viable today. (Another topic but that increases the cost of new games since everyone expects chat, mail, AH, screen capture, ... before the authors can work on what makes them unique.)

    P.S.: My initial reaction is that goal and destination are not quite the same idea.