Thursday, June 23, 2011

Game and Simulation, Part 2

In the last post I pointed out that every MMORPG can be judged from a gameplay as well as from a simulation point of view. For the game designer it is desirable to make the game the best possible simulation, while also using the best possible gameplay.

To that end, the developer should chose the simulation in a way that it allows for the best possible gameplay. For example, instead of allowing players to drink potions while they are in the middle of combat and have two swords in their hands, just give them healing runes, engraved in the swords. This is exactly the same gameplay, but a better simulation.
Another example are the already mentioned shields that recharge fast, instead of allowing every player to rapidly heal his health.

Sometimes there are no good simulations available or an IP doesn't allow them. In that case, the gameplay should be changed to be as compatible as possible with the simulation.
One example are death penalties. Often a constant "I live again" doesn't make sense from a simulation point of view. But a harsh death penalty is unbearable from a gameplay point of view. To solve this problem one needs to understand the pure gameplay value of death: clear feedback.

The clear feedback can be moved into a sub-activity of combat. For example, the player can have a fast-reloading shield and ten life-points. When the shield drops he starts losing life-points. To lose one life-point is clear feedback that can be supplied reasonably often, without the player actually dieing. To recharge life points, the player can be forced to wait some time between combat.

This way, the player is penalized for losing the shield, but the penalty can be designed to be trivial, while still compatible with the simulation. It is much better than just using a shield (=health bar).
The loss of a life-point has to be made dramatic by visuals and audio.

If this game is reasonably easy, the player never runs into the problem of actually dieing, which allows the designer to use a rather harsh death penalty that is compatible with the simulation, but doesn't hurt the gameplay.

If the designer wants to empathize the fear of death, mobs can be allowed to have a very small chance to outright kill players that lose the shield. This is terrible gameplay, but, by definition, happens very rarely and is thus tolerable. Players need to be very aware of this mechanic. So aware indeed, that they fear it a lot more than the probability justifies.

The fact that this is terrible gameplay almost helps here, because players hate to be killed unexpectedly fast; it feels so unfair! But no players rage quit, because it happens so very rarely. In fact, since they survive a dropped shield all the time, the players constantly consider themselves lucky. In the very few cases in which they do die, the game needs to communicate clearly what happened. A manipulated RNG that prevents dieing to this too often in a short period of time can also be useful.

In general, the trick is to hide the gameplay inside the simulation. Without knowing, the player plays an engaging game. But he feels immersed into the simulation, because the abstract gameplay is hidden from him.

No comments:

Post a Comment