View Full Version : Understanding interactivity
10-14-2006, 05:42 AM
Hi, so heres my try to start a learnig discussion about games and interactivity... wish me luck :), and please comment, discuss, point out errors, say your own opinion, correct me, im here to learn, i cant learn without effort and pain :D
I have been thinking for the past few years that interactivity is not well understood like music, graphics and programming, even though so many years have passed, game devs have opted to simple copy the things that have worked but didnt worry to learn why they worked, so thats why right now we have just grasped the surface of this new art...
This new art of interactivity is for me an abstraction from life, its a simplification of life experiences, and they work because experiences are reproduced with the help of the interactive capacity that the computer offers.
Saying life is very broad (wich mean infinite possibilities), but i mean it like saying "the things that happen to me", that would translate as "the player".
So a good game would be a reproduction of experiences that can happen to me, like achieving things for example... beign robbed feels bad, getting hurt feels bad, beign insulted feels bad, feeling frustrated feels bad, beign loved feels good, winning a price feels good, dressing well feels good, etc etc, a computer game would be a system of this experiences that make a complete experience as a whole, and the art would consist of carefully choosing what experiences to reproduce and do so in harmony to achieve a specific goal that the game designer wishes.
But as you know, even text editors are interactive, but such tools are made for making tasks, games are made for playing, i think that this is very important, because we can have many types of "games" like puzzles, sports, card games, competitions, well, the taxonomy can get a little tricky i guess, but the thing is that games have goals, wich are like tasks, with the difference that they allow play with expression from the player, i belive that if a game imposes tasks to the player then its a bad game...
Expression is anything that a person can do that comes form the inside to the outside, its alsmot un-consient (if not completelly), like an accident, its trully doing freelly whatever you want, this is what play allows and i think its essential for having fun.
The purpose of play needs expression to work, to play in anything you need to allow yourself to be open to the experience and trully do whatever is inside of you that wants to come out.
A task doesnt need expression, the purpose of a task is to achieve something like clean the floor, you can dance while you do it and thus have fun, but this is not integrated in the task, but in life you can be very free to play anyhwere anytime, but a task doesnt need expression to work, play does.
What makes interactivity so different form the other arts?, it can not be seen, it can only be lived, its impossible to predict.
Its easy to get confused for example when you think on an new design, in your mind you see images, you hear sounds, music, animation, and you get so exited because you think its such a great idea for a game, but in truth, you are not getting those emotions from an interactive experience but from something you are seeing, you dont live the same experience of watching a soccer match as playing one, its not the same beign robbed that watching someone beign robbed.
Animations are an art in istelf, they can make you feel things, but interactivity can make you feel things on its own way separate from non-interactive arts. A game needs a way to communicate with the player and vice-versa, it needs input and output/feedback, it needs an interface to communicate back and forth, but the interactivity is not this interface itself, its on the other side of it, the game is not its graphics, but the graphics speak about the game.
I think that misaking graphics for interactivity is one of the mayor problems of game making this days, but this is because of lack of understading as i said above, but i recognize its a pretty obscure thing to think about, very abstract. Its easy to get distracted by the posibility of interactive moving things, like interactive movies, movies in wich we can participate...
To understand interactivity i think its important to look at the past, beyond computers, because games allready have millions of years of existance and refinement, and we should learn from them if we care to learn.
Take board games for example, they offer very rich interactive experiences, but since they cant focus on great and impressive movie like things, they have no other choice than to offer us they thing they do best, that is a system of rules that can make us feel fun trough its interactivity, its pieces, cards, board, dices, etc, are just the interface that allow this game to be played, without them you have no game.
So, graphics are important, they are necesary, but they are just the surface of the most important thing, the interactivity wich allows you to play.
Enough for now, please comment :)
10-14-2006, 07:26 AM
I think the best kind of interactivity occurs when the person doesn't know they are interacting with the object. Innovation and fun aside, the ease of the interactivity is a major concern. But you might want to keep in mind the ease of use as is relate to the user.
From a gaming perspective, if you look at the old 2D Sonic games, they had relatively easier interactivity; you used the direction pad to make Sonic move, and all the buttons on the Sega controller made him jump. It would be very easy for someone to pick up a Sonic game and get to the end of the stage. I would think (though I could be wrong) that a person who is not a hard core gamer could easily find themselves immersed in a 2D Sonic game in only a few minutes of their first time playing.
Likewise, more complex interactivity requires a higher level of dedication to reach immersion. Street Fighter is an example of this. All the buttons do a different basic attack. The attack changes depending on the direction the player is pressing when they hit the button. The players can also pull off special attacks by entering a complex combination of buttons and directional input. I would think it more difficult for a non-hard core gamer to try and reach that immersion in Street Fighter without putting some serious hours into the game and mastering the interface.
A person who is accustomed to a more complex interface--be it with a keyboard, a gamepad, or an item menu screen--might have a different definition of ease of use. For example, WoW players (please pardon my stupidity of WoW, as I am not a subscriber :) ) won't find it easier to play WoW if they have fewer options available to them by mouse-clicking or keyboard macros. That's why they have the option of using macros. As a result, I would say such an option streamlines the user experience as it relates to the world of WoW, but the keyboard interface becomes slightly more complex as they have to remember what key does which command.
Outside of games, the same theory can be applied. For example, if you've visited the website for the 3D creation software Teddy, you'll see video of small children making 3D models in a few minutes using a very simple tablet interface. However, for a more experienced 3D artist, they want tools that will make optimal polygonal modeling and animation a lot easier and will instead opt for something like Maya, Max, SoftImage, Blender, or Modo. To the average computer user, the interfaces for these programs might look daunting. But to the dedicated 3D artist, they might make their artistic careers easier.
So it really does depend on the person who uses the interface. A designer can claim that their interface is easy to use, but if they target it at the wrong people, it becomes harder to validate that claim.
10-14-2006, 08:11 AM
I totally agree with you, target audience definition is very important, as well as good designed user interface for such audience.
10-14-2006, 12:13 PM
A game is an indirect dialogue between the player and the game designer. If the game is too open with not enough content, then the game designer is not speaking and the player is just left talking to herself. This usually leads to boredom, although some people seem to get a kick out of hearing themselves talk. If the game is too closed, then the player doesn't get a chance to speak and is reduced to the role of passive listener. The game can still work, but only if what the game designer is saying is compelling enough that the player doesn't mind sitting still and listening.
10-16-2006, 03:20 PM
Read this article, its really good and it gives things to think about
So, having in mind all this, how does one start designing a game?. As i said before, games are abstractions of life. My aestethic profesor explained to us what abstraction means by this example: you see a door, now stop seeing it, now draw it, you are abstracting yourself from the door, you are not drawing the door as it is, but as you imagine it is. The door on your mind is not the door on reality, its just whatever it might be for you, its "less" than reality and its also your "version" of that door. So its like saying: a modified piece of reality.
Now, i must take this pieces from life, life is infinite, how to choose from the infinite?, because we cant work with all the infinite things from life, we must choose something about it that we want to transform into a game.
As you know, games are mechanic systems, so we can start to make a game with a mechanic piece of it, like saying "i want to make a game with moving pieces on a board" for example, or "i want to make a game of cards", and so on.
Another more artistic way of starting to design a game (i think) is to start the other way around, take an idea or concept or theme or issue from life and translate it into a mechanic system, decompose such idea into something reproducible in a game (as seen in the article i provided above). Example of this is "i want to make a game about war", and so you begin to work on what aspects of war you want to reproduce on your game, you decide on what perspective you want to take on doing this decomposition (like, you want the player to be the president on war?, or a general?, or a tank commander?, or a little tiny solider?), there are many perspectives you can take on a single issue/theme that in the end will decide what kind of mechanic will the game have.
10-16-2006, 06:55 PM
Well, there are many ways to go about designing a game. Sid Meiers thought "I want to make a game about pirates" and created Pirates. Fumito Ueda, however, thought "what if your life bar was personified?" and created an interesting and engrossing relationship between the two main characters in Ico. Or Shigeru Miyamoto, when asked how he designed a game, said that he imagined a player being in a box and he would think of fun toys to give them to entertain themselves.
A personal experience of mine...
In our game criticism and analysis class, we were given the task of making a card game in only 2 hours. My group was at ends with itself and couldn't decide what we were going to do. I got very fed up (I was impatient that day), grabbed a card, wrote the words "attack" on it and said to my friend:
"I'm going to attack you with this card? WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO IN RESPONSE?"
"Uh... I'm going to equipped my kevlar vest and boost my defense..."
And he drew on a card to represent his kevlar vest defense. And we just kept adding from there. That's another way to make a game (though I won't admit it was very good)
With the game I'm attempting to design, I've picked my favorite genre- turned based role playing game- and then I thought "What do I like about RPGs?" I made sure to encorporate those elements. But at the same time, I said "What do I hate about RPGs?" And I've been trying my best to twist those elements to my liking while asking my opinions from friends who play similar games.
So there is no real way to go about it; you can start off abstract, you can be specific, or you can be dynamic in your design. There's no set path to making something fun.
10-21-2006, 07:44 PM
There may be not one absolute way of doing it, but there are bad ways, and good ways, yours is a bad way i think (because you said it didnt work very well?), its like designing blindfolded, the idea i posted before is a more clear/focused way of designing i think, more artistic, it guides the decitions you take to a more emotional way of doing things.
Rayner, could you give us an example of a game of what you say?, because im not sure if i understand you right.
10-23-2006, 01:46 AM
Well, there are at least two clear parts to this:
The mechanic is the underlying action, the "what does the user DO" part.
The theme, is the aesthetic you use to present this mechanic to the user. It can provide a grounding influence on the mechanic, in that if you present a theme the user is familiar with, they may then intuitively understand the mechanic. An example would be giving them a ball and a basketball net. The mechanic might be to throw the ball, or to just the length of shot, or some mixture of same. But the user will intuitively know the task from the theme.
I usually approach games design from the mechanic end by preference, but often find myself considering them from a theme point of view, which I think is a very newbie to mistake to make. Ask someone to explain a game if they know nothing about design, they talk about the THEME and not the mechanic.
Its pretty clear that the same mechanic can have multiple themes and still work, for instance CakeMania, Betty's Beer Bar, Roller Rash and DinerDash all have the same core mechanic (optimisation of multiple queue's), clearly the theme is malleable to some extent.
But theme is the shallow "what the user engages" first perception, so clearly it is important.
I didnt really answer anything, but I posed myself some new questions just then :) like when does the user start to percieve the mechanic and forget the theme, or does the theme even need to be there?
10-25-2006, 09:24 PM
I believe that the mechanic can not be percieved, you allways think about play in terms of its context, that is "i shot this guy, i throw a granade, i used the hand-brake, etc", you never say "i made a movement with the mouse to match my target with the reticle on my hud and pressed a button so that i could make the interactive obstacle in from of me innoperative..." more or less, you know, the theme is just an interface to communicate the mechanic and to be able to use it in a more friendly way, theme says a lot about the play of the game, thats why its so important, its the card of presentation of the game, its the image of the game, the looks of its face and body and clothing, by percieving the theme of a game its like percieving the looks of an animal like differentiating a mouse from a lion, or a man from a spider, thats why its so important.
There is allways a theme, even tetris has one: blocks with different shapes, thats why whenever you see a shape made with little squares you inmediatelly recognize the theme of tetris.
10-25-2006, 10:09 PM
Mechanics exist purely to support the theme. Let's say I create a game about, say, ruling an intergalactic empire. That's the theme of the game. I would then create mechanics that support the illusion of ruling a galactic empire. For example, I could create a complex mathematical system the determines the economic production of the empire, and allow the player to affect the outcome by twiddling with the input variables. That's the mechanics. Removed from the context of the game, the mechanics reduce to maximizing the output of an unknown mathematical function by throwing random inputs at it. The player isn't playing the game because she wants to maximize the output of a mathematical function, she's playing the game because she wants to rule an intergalactic empire.
10-26-2006, 06:27 AM
That's not the only reason mechanics exist! In board game design, more than once, I have shoehorned in a mechanic because it would be fun to play that mechanic even though it doesn't necessarily connect to the theme that well. More often, I've done it because it was part of the contest (BGDF monthly design challenges).
But that is very common - mechanics chosen and then tweaked or just renamed to fit the theme. It's more notable in board/card games than in computer games, since things are necessarily more abstract there. Making a game isn't a matter of trying to project a theme as clearly as possible. It's about making a fun experience, and if the theme is getting in the way of a fun mechanic, I let the mechanic win. Like the teleporters and monster generators in Gauntlet (and "It" in Gauntlet II). Those don't make any sense in a fantasy maze of monsters - well, maybe a teleporter - they're just added to get some more fun interactivity.
Sure, you wouldn't usually want mechanics stripped entirely of theme (though many board games are truly that, like all games played with a regular deck of cards - and some PC games, e.g. Bejeweled), but mechanics do much more than support a theme. When I was inventing skills for my latest game, I thought about what was fun. They all fit the theme of a fantasy world (hard not to... magic is magic!), but I added a 'blizzard' type spell late in the game not because theme demanded it, but because I felt like I really wanted a large area-effect damage-over-time spell, because I found I was having lots of fun using one in Champions Of Norrath. The mechanic was appealing. I actually didn't want to make it the same 'theme' as the CoN one, but I only had an Ice magic spell that I wanted to replace, so I was pretty stuck (and the fact that my game offers 4 spells each in 5 schools is an arbitrary mechanical choice, totally unrelated to the theme).
I'm generally more interested in pasting a theme over some fun mechanics than developing mechanics to support a theme, but I kinda go both ways on that.
10-26-2006, 06:36 AM
Mechanics exist purely to support the theme. Let's say I create a game about, say, ruling an intergalactic empire. That's the theme of the game. Waiter! There's a verb in my theme! ;) "Intergalactic empire" would be the theme, "ruling" would be the mechanic. Just so you're straight on your methodologies.
Waiter! There's a verb in my theme! ;) "Intergalactic empire" would be the theme, "ruling" would be the mechanic. Just so you're straight on your methodologies.
Everyone has different terms. Some people call Theme the Base Setting and use Theme to describe the idea behind the game play.
Depending on who you talk to the them behind Virtual Villagers would be
A castaway's paradise on a tropical island
Building a community
10-26-2006, 08:46 AM
I always have considered the mechanic to be the driving force behind the game. Although the theme is what you typically are discussing, as you become more of a designer and less of a voyeur, you inevitably end up discussing the mechanic that underlies the theme.
I guess in a way, we cant seperate the two. For instance bubble-poppers. We call them bubble poppers which implies bubble = theme, popper = mechanic.
For me personally, I tend towards wanting to design mechanic, but visualize theme.
But for me, theme overlays the core mechanic, so I would always want to start with getting that right. Does the key aspect of what you are supposed to DO work? I.e. does your core interactivity engage. If it does, then the theme can really add that extra dimension if done correctly, otherwise youre simply not going anywhere.
To me, a game mechanic is an aspect of how a game system works. Basically it's a rule.
A rule controls how objects in the game system "relate" to each other.
For example: In Bejeweled, the core game mechanic would be.
Swap any 2 jewels if their positions are adjacent to each other.
This mechanic is used as the skeleton for the game's primary goal. Which is actually just another game mechanic.
To form groups of 3 or more identical jewels, in a row or column, and eliminate them from the game board.
10-26-2006, 10:49 AM
Everyone has different terms. Some people call Theme the Base Setting and use Theme to describe the idea behind the game play. Many people may have their own vocabulary, but there are established phonemes for game design that educated designers like to use to minimize confusion during discussion. There are many game design books out there that use this vocabulary as well, and a couple even have glossaries. In fact, I saw a rather elaborate glossary on-line at some point. Try Googling for it - it's well worth a look. :)
10-26-2006, 07:35 PM
Finally some action!!! :D
Ok, so, i agree having a common vocabulary is necesary to avoid confusion and to promote progress, but we first must understand the basics... we must go from generalities to details, from big to small, first things first :)
I belive we must differentiate both perspectives about games, the one from the player and the one from our point of view, designer, for the reasons BMC said, i think that we should take the definition of theme of board games, themes are for the players, to call their attention, to allow easy communication with the game and player, to provoke the player into buying the game (marketing), to show what the game is about, i think thats all.
The mechanic is the most important thing just like hamumu said, the theme is just there to help the mechanic into giving fun play for the player, if for some reason the theme doesnt help, then we break it a little because we have the freedom to do so and mold/create a new theme.
The mechanic is the thing that allows play, it allows and restricts "verbs" (i really like this verb thing, since i allways think in what verbs the player will be able to do in a game).
10-26-2006, 08:51 PM
This isn't the one to which I was refering, but here's a nice game development "dictionary." (http://www.half-real.net/dictionary/)
10-27-2006, 10:29 AM
The real "problem" is that i think that interactivity doesnt communicate anything as other art forms do, the core or essence of games is interactivity, or its mechanics, the theme is just there as a face, the interface to make it accesible to players, the theme is the thing that communicates (it allows imput an output as a common languaje for game and player), and the problem as i was saying is to know or determine how can this interactivity be used to create art.
Since interactivity is composed by actions, and actions are allways a result of a thought and then an exteriorization or physical reaction of the thought, then we can divide an action in exterior (physical) action and interior (mind) action of the human beign.
Hand eye coordination games are the ones that mostly use physical actions, they concentrate on this skill, but they can be mixed with thought skills (minimal, for examlpe football, there is a little of tactics involved).
This is important, there are games that are focused on hand-eye coordination (physical games) and other games that can be focused on interior skills (thought games).
Phisical games are very simple, move this, throw this, jump this, grab this, and so on, again, they can be mixed with a little of thought, but they are mainly physical. (i think that if a game mixed high quantities of both, it would be so extremelly difficult that it would be impossible to play)
Thought games are very different, since thought and reason is what makes us human, and because of this, they are the most interesting, exiting and fun games that could exist, they can have a little of physical skills, like in chess, you have to move this tokens, but thats not the point of the game, the point is thinking, using your brain.
By saying "use your brain" its like saying "be human", think about what things can we do with our brains, the possibilities are endless, but with physical games the possibilities are not endless, actually its a very narrow universe, specially if you are in front of a computer, you just have to move your eyes and fingers, pressing the buttons of your mouse, moving it, etc, and this for all games, but the thing that can change for all games are the brain processes, the things that happen in your brain, this offers infinite possibilities of experiences!.
Im not saying that if you are phisical you are not thinking, thinking gets you phisical, and getting physical gets you thinking (i say thinking in a very broad way, as like "your human brain in used"), we humans are mind and body, both at the same time, the important thing is that we have more mind than animals, but we are essentially equal to body with animals, we must explore this mind part of us, the more human we make our games, the better appeal they will have.
10-27-2006, 03:23 PM
I think that theory is more than a little half-baked, and really only reveals your own particular bias. I think quite a lot of people find football to be more interesting, exciting and fun than chess. I also think you underestimate the amount of tactics and strategy involved in high-level team sports.
There's also an assumption that moving away from our animal nature is going to lead to more satisfying experiences; I'm not so sure about that either.
10-27-2006, 06:26 PM
I made this thread as a way of helping me think, to have discussions of different points of view, im very extremelly aware that i am learning and that this hipothesis is half-baked, but this discussions help me cook it :), so its great to see different opinions, it helps me to develop it, and i hope it helps other to think too.
Ok, i know some people find footbal more fun than chess, but it wasnt my intention to say that chess is more fun than football, fun is a very personal thing and it changes from person to person, fun its like an opinion for something.
I also think you underestimate the amount of tactics and strategy involved in high-level team sports.
This is interesting, not everyone who plays football uses such high-level tactis and strategy dont you think?, there is a high-level in chess too, not everyone who plays chess uses this high level tactis and stuff, this is important. Casual players dont use it, profesionals do. This high-level thinking has much in common with many things at stake, i mean, the game is taken so seriously that much high-level thinking and thought is used to increase the probability of winning, there is a huge need to win, and i dont consider this as play of a game, but as a job or task of a profesion, its serious business.
Im aware the level of seriosuness in this cases, for example in the olympic games there are cientists to help the players win, they even make special clothing, they dont play for fun!, they play for something else... this is very interesting, i think its important to make the disctinction from this two kinds of play.
Im not trying to say that with such seriousness you cant have fun, the definition of fun is so broad that it can mean anything, sado-masoquists have fun while suffering for example, technicians may have fun while fixing things, painters may have fun with their brushes whiel painting, if you are watching a comedy show you are having fun, a mathematician may have fun resolving problems, and so on... "play" i belive is more defined, if you are having fun it doesnt necesarily mean that you are playing, a joke is fun and you cant play with a joke for example... why play a game?, many reasons, visit the link bellow to see a few answers....
Why did i say that getting away from physical play and creating a more mind involved (mindfull) play is better?... because its doing a game specially designed for us humans. The thing about us, that thing that makes us speciall is our minds, dont you agree?, its the thing that sets us apart from animals.
I think that the best things that we enjoy are the things that involve our minds, movies, music, paintings, comics, novels, other people, we like all those things because we use our human mind to enjoy them, animals cant enjoy those things because they have an underdeveloped mind but they seems to enjoy running, jumping, biting, chasing, rolling, and ehem, "other" things...
If we create a game with a more human play involved, then im sure it will be a better game than a physical one. Examples?, civilization, tetris, the sims, simcity, all very popular because people from all ages can enjoy them, physical games are enjoyed by younger people but not older.
Real life physical games like soccer have a benefit on our bodies, but physical games on computers dont, but mind games in both computer and real life have a benefit on training our minds in different aspects.
Why we play games?
10-29-2006, 01:08 PM
This is interesting, not everyone who plays football uses such high-level tactis and strategy dont you think?, there is a high-level in chess too, not everyone who plays chess uses this high level tactis and stuff, this is important.
You have a point here. Professional chess and football players alike have a solid understanding of advanced tactics and strategies (consciously or otherwise) while amateurs just play about. Your average playground football match wouldn't involve much thought.
Different people respond to different stimulus. I much prefer chess to football (though I prefer sudoku to both). You can't write a game that appeals to absolutely everyone - at best, you can produce something that can be played in a variety of styles. Some will prefer to go and play football than any computer games anyway!
11-08-2006, 03:23 PM
I think you should also consider that a typical chess or football game is strongly tied to the mechanics, but one could put another layer on top that requires different kinds of thought, and perhaps even emotional interaction.
For example, BOTH types of game could have a career level where you owe the mob money and you have to make a call between throwing a game early to pay them back or committing yourself to a win or die approach.
Apart from high level strategic stuff, a game can cultivate a mind-set by subtle parallels with the real world. Zero sum games can generate a sense of competitiveness. Games where actions are irreversible can create a sense of tension. Other styles may have a more creative or dreamy vibe. There are plenty of types of problem in the real world that a player will readily identify with a game once they understand the mechanics of the game.
Storytelling can be achieved by setting up an initial game world which excludes some outcomes. Tragedy can be manufactured by establishing relationships with characters early, but providing insufficient resources to save them all. A sufficiently broad game world allows the player too much freedom to make a point... I think the emphasis should be on allowing the player to choose the timing, means and combination of options even though the options are in fact limited. I don't think players mind being forced to do something - the world forces us to do things sometimes - as long as it's their choice and their schedule.
11-08-2006, 04:01 PM
A great essay regarding the grammar of games (http://onlyagame.typepad.com/only_a_game/2006/11/playing_with_gr.html).
11-08-2006, 06:45 PM
Nice essay, i didnt read it all but i think i got it, interacitivy is about communication, back and forth accions and reactions.
I think a good way to think about making a game is to think about how to design play, instead of thinking it as game mechanics. So when you create a game you have to think about what would you like to DO to have fun, or what things are fun to do, or what things that can be done could be interesting to reproduce, allways from this perspective of the feelings you get from DOING things, then the only thing left is to analize those actions, grab the necesary bits of it and build an interactive enviorement in wich such actions can be reproduced with the desired effect on the player, add graphics, sound, music, and thats it, i never tried this, but i think it would work very well, what you think?.
11-10-2006, 03:04 PM
I wrote something about thinking game design as PLAY design isntead, its on my blog, if you are interested go there and comment something, im a little in a hurry but i wanted to write something anyway, i hope its not un-understandable. THanks.
11-13-2006, 06:14 PM
Anyway, just as painters learn how to see real life correctly to be able to paint well, we as play designers must be able to see real life experiences to be able to reproduce them with the help of rules.
In paint we have to know about color, composition, perspective, anatomy, light, form, line, and more, so, what are the components of an experience so that we can reproduce them?.
I think they are: verbs (as explained above i think), objects to use (explained too), place in wich the player is doing this things, the obstacles (what and how many), the quantity of tension and stress of the player, things at stake, dangers, objectives, possible feelings that the player can feel along the experience, in the middle of it and in the end, we also have to know how each emotion is triggered in us human beings (this is done i think by meditation/analisis of a personal feelling like "what made me/he/she/they feel that way?"), possible reactions of other players, rythm of play (how fast things happen, how much time to use our brains we have), and i dont know what else, please comment on this, see if you can add more...
And from where do we analize experiences?, from our own experience, that is from our memory, the things that happened to us in the past (a good example of this is Shigeru Miyamoto withi his zelda game, i think you know the story...), the things that we are going trough, or experimentation of new things (youll have to "live the life", be a little brave, experiment with new situations, places, people, games, plays, mechanics, prototyping, mixing mechanics, experiment in the borad sence), you also can analize other peoples experiences and put them all together to make one experience or an imaginary person like "what would the ruler of the world do?".
Please comment :)
11-13-2006, 08:57 PM
Im aware the level of seriosuness in this cases, for example in the olympic games there are cientists to help the players win, they even make special clothing, they dont play for fun!, they play for something else... this is very interesting, i think its important to make the disctinction from this two kinds of play.
In my mind, I have always separated these two forms out as "Play" and "Competition". Play being for fun, and competition as being the more serious of the two.
Competition may involve a "Game", but that is because of the nature of Competition (being the flip side to play). Competition can be "fun", but it is a different type of Fun than the fun of Play.
Play centres around learning, whereas competition is all about putting that learning into practice.
Take a group of people playing lunchtime football. They do this for Fun. That fun is a reward for their learning physical skills and the rules of the game of football. They might not be doing it for any other reason than the reward that they get from learning, but that (although shallow) is not a bad reason at all.
But a professional player plays football for an entirely different reason. Besides money, fame and all that, the reason that they pushed themselves to that level is the enjoyment of competition. The find it fun to pit their own skills (what they have learnt) against the skills of others.
They are not enjoying the game as such (although they still probably still find the game fun in its self - as they still would be learning), but have gone beyond the game and appreciate the challenge of competition.
And this is why I think there is a distinct difference between "Play" and "Competition". Competition has a different focus than Play, but fun can be had from both.
It is also why I think Multiplayer games are so popular. They allow this Competition to flourish. Against a computer, once you have beaten it, there is no more competition and the reward you get from it disappears. With Multiplayer, there is always fresh opponents that you have never played against before, and so you always have that challenge and the reward from it.
But back on topic: I think that to understand interactivity, we need to understand what motivates people to engage in that interactivity or not. We don't just need to understand why someone plays a game, but also why other choose not to.
11-14-2006, 04:18 AM
Most people here give a perspective that is rather analytical and designer-like.
When I read Christian I see a person who wnats to take what real life offers and why that appeals of rather, affects them on some level and asks how to incorporate that into a game.
There are I believe some factors that are the basis to all the more technical talk of many repliers. Many of these are means to ends.
But if you want to create a game wherein a player merges himself into the world he plays in you need to apply to them and one why is understanding why a player plays a game.
Somehow, a certain game appeals to them. Is it the ranking? Is it to get a feeling of superiority over others? Is it to be the best person he can be? From that comes a choice in interactive design. That means to me the way the game gives the player the tools and interface to fulfill these needs to his satisfaction.
I think we all know how multiplayer games work and why team deathmatch is more a matter of 'I want to be number 1 in my team' opposed to the original idea to 'help, aid, sacrifice so your team wins'. I have not seen a 1st person shooter accomplish to give or rewards somehow the player to do this.
A sense of satisfaction is derrived from some basic psychological needs. The desire to succeeed, to show off a skill or series of skills, to be admired and gain resepct. Basically, games in this sense are notbing but the things an animal in the wild strives for in order to get the girl.
So, as Christian asks I I get him at all, is, what do people do that satisfies these needs? And if you relate that to actions offered to a player in a game, how does an in-game action relate to or be based on that basic inner need?
Opening an door irl is trivial but in a game it can be made to be significant. Is this the way to go? Or can a player not relate to that at all?
There is a reason these days the developper tries to sell by telling players they can influence the outcome of the game or choose the path to follow. This allows an open ended game by giving alternate routes instea dof shoving him in front of a door, to be or not to be, open the door or step away.
The reason is that developeprs recognise the need for people not to be lead by the nose, to give a sense of freedom. And freedom and being in control of your own actions is what makes a game comply with the rule that the player must be given a satisfactory experience which in turn is based on the aforementioned psychological needs.
This is the perspective I come from and the background before any interface is designed or even a type of game established.
Any in-game action should be aimed to fullfill or help fulfill a need. It should also be logically embedded in the storyline and connect smoothloy with what the player sees and experiences with his senses. Only then will the need be fulfilled without the player feeling his actions do not really matter to reach a goal.
If this makes any sense to anyone perhaps I can go on translating this more theoretical mumbo jumbo into actual game design features or handling of stuff.
11-15-2006, 06:53 PM
Edtharan: i belive, as you do too i think, that there are many degrees of play, you can play with a game, you can play with a toy, you can play a guitar, you can play with a piece of paper, and os on, profesional soccer players do play a game and have fun too, but as you say, its a totally different kind of fun and play that the normal-person-player.
I belive that a more correct word would be "sport", not competition, because you compete in the simplests of games too, but sports involves more seriousness in practice, strategy, it requires more involvement, more "work" wich is the oposite of play, but it doesnt stop beign fun, because fun is such a broad word...
So, why someone plays a game and not another? i think this link revelas much of that question http://www.xeodesign.com/whyweplaygames.html
What you say is very interesting, although at times i had a hard time to understand you.
I absolutelly agree with you that there are basic psycological issues that games satisfy, like beign rich, having power, beign the best, but is this the only potential of games?, i belive not, actually i think it would be pretty sad if it was.
I personally think that helping people train their mind habilities, like creativity and learning of new and interesting subjects is a better way to go than just "satisfying primal needs of the human mind", you know, i think there are better and superior things to do than that... although that primal needs are allways present, i dont deny that... but our human minds are more than just "basic", they are more advanced, we dont have just basic needs, we need more than that to feel fulfilled or happy...
What you speak about is, i think, called "sensitivity", we feel it for living things (people and pets only (maybe cute animals too)), for example when we are on a team, we feel something special for our team members, we have consideration for them, you know, its special, quite the oposite for when we are walking in a crowded street, we dont feel anything special for the people around us, we have no sensitivity for them... this is another aspect we should have in mind when analizing experiences like "is there any sensitivity on the experience?". You can feel many things for people and pets, not just nice things, also bad...
Please elaborate more on what you say, it seems you also studied on this subject, please translate what you want, its good for everyone i think :)
11-16-2006, 12:16 AM
I get what you are saying, we are more than our most basic instincts. Although that is true, most of these , let's say to keep it simple 'top layers' of desires are based on those more primitive instincts and needs.
That may be sad but doesn't have to be in the way of advanving games to be fun in any way. Even a simple puzzle game without any human competition is based on the need for a player to prove to himself he is able. And that he wants to prove he has a brain maybe true, but that is the top, beneath is still the need to succeed which in turn is based on a primal instinct to be the top dog in the pack and get the girl. However, delving into the dark mines or should I say 'the Underdark' is not really needed. All that you have to realise is that we demand to be satisfied. it is why books are fun reading, why sports can be thrilling and exciting.
What a designer needs to do is use modern civilized ways of appealing to those desires. And in itself a game is a means to that end. From there on you can while designing anything keep that in the back of your mind so to not ge tlost in feature thinking or interface mesmerization.
A game with one button to push is not satisfactory. Features are added to give a sense of accomplisment of the inner needs and desires will not be satisfied.
The features must be paths to that satisfaction, the interface facilitates.
Interface and features need to be attaractive as tools to get where we want a player to be. To accomplish that we appeal to feelings, logic, interests and the design flows from that.
As you say, people in general like pets. pets allow people to exerience many emotions. And impact the life of the pet. We can command it, establishing command is satisfying, we hold power over them, we own their lives and so we can grant awards or punish, which also satisfies. We can unleash bad and good emotions onto them.
Bringing a pet in a agme is what you see as you play a RPG where as a Druid or Ranger you can command a Familiar. A pet or Familiar becomes the bridge between the real world that we know and what we find appealing in a game. This is a good example of what I think the OP seemed to talk about.
The trick of the developper is to take what real life offers and imnplement them in a game in such a fashion that there is this bridge.
Other examples can be the ability in a game with cars to create his own paint job. This gives a player a feeling of control, like with the pets or Familiars and applies to his primal instinct to parade in front of the ladies looking like the best option for good strong healthy kids. Peacock syndrome.
it also provides the ability for a player to insert his identity into the game. These can be seen in RPG's as well, where you can, at the strat of the game, choose how you look. If you look at the NWN2 forums and see what fuss is being made about Elves not looking like Elves and the general graphics and images of them being ...well..basically unsatisfactory, yous ee the point. it is unsatisfying to want to BE an Elf while having to choosee a bad graphical representation of your self-image.
Another example is a horor game. A gloomy dark atmosphere and then opening a door is an experience. It appeals to primal fears of the unknown and of monster that lurk under our beds,the game lets the player relive those tense moments but it stays pleasing because there is some distance to those past days and logic keeps in check the outbreak of irrational fears. Horror films and games are fun, the shock effects are nice because it happens to another and you are safe playing a game, watching the film, but it still applies to your fears.
We know the reviews of games where the writer applauds the effects and shock of sudden unexpected events.
When you realize all this designing appealing games and creating the right interactivity becomes much easier. There are many ways to bridge the emotions and our inner desires to what happens on screen. First you have to decide what desire to satisfy. Then think of the way to achieve that and then design the environment or features and interface to faciltate it.
Hope this clarifies it somewhat.
11-16-2006, 06:42 AM
A game with one button to push is not satisfactory. Features are added to give a sense of accomplisment of the inner needs and desires will not be satisfied. I think you overestimate humanity (http://get.games.yahoo.com/proddesc;_ylt=AkveH6dOjr7qF2iOVBQuvygU330u?gamekey =slingo). In fact, I think the vast majority of game developers overestimate the wants of most people, which is why gaming has remained a tertiary form of entertainment. There is a strong correlation between the amount of demand a means of entertainment places on the user and its popularity. Music, for example, is the most popular, universal form of entertainment and requires the least attention from the user.
11-17-2006, 05:11 AM
of course you are right in the sense that people want instant gratificaton. If you could design anything, a game or whatever, that would upon the mere push of one button grant that instant gratification and satisfaction, people would buy it. Music is easy to gratify yourself with because it requires no effort apart from having 2 ears -note that most humans already ship with 2 ears so that requirements is met in most people.
But a game is a system through which satisfaction is achieved...or so one hopes by combining fun with the tools needed to reach that fulfillment. In that sense a game is a choice, the choice a player makes to go through the hassle of a game to reach that satisfaction.
So it ios a choice not to bush merely a button and you have to take that into account. people like a fun way of getting there and be happy in the end pleased with themselves for solving the game and playing it back anf foth.
So we are both right. yes, we would want instant gratification but a game is a system people choose to go through to get there and call it fun. And so there is no conflict between what we oth say.
12-01-2006, 07:56 PM
According to cognivite behavior therapy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_behavior_therapy) thinking leads to emotions ("... our thoughts determine our feelings and our behavior. ..."), so thats another way to think about the design of play experiences, one must think on how are we thinking in a specific situattion that leads you to such emotion, so that you can simplify that experience to make the player think in a certain way, sort of getting rid of the unnecesary paths to guide the player to only a reduced number of paths.
12-02-2006, 01:06 AM
That is a cognitive approach. But thoughts and emotions bounce off of each other. It is a continues cycle. And all are based on our deeper motivators.
A designer therefore needs:
1: to understand what basic emotion he wants to call upon,
2: how that emotion can be the basis of thoughts that are evoked,
3: how to describe the circumstances and setting where those thoughts can guide a player, based on nr. 1, to take an action.
In terms of interactivity with NPC's, the same rules should apply. When a designer gets a player into a conversation with an NPC, the dialogue should be written to reflect those rules so that tyhe reply options are based on recogniseable emotions and the reactions logical to understand why an NPC becomes angry or pleased.
For example, if your adventurer speaks to a nobleman, a cocky peacock drssed in expensive fine clothes, saying anything that negatively gioves commentary on that outfit would call on the emotion of lack of confidence. This resulots in the cognitive defense where the NPC says something to defend himself against this attack. It would lead to thoughts and liogical response, so the NPC might become a snob and tell the player off, conversations options close.
If the player admires him for the outfit, the NOPC will feel affirmation of hus superiority that he wants to display using those clothes which is nothing but a cover for his insecurity. Logically he will have positive thoughts and say tha the player is perceptive and right.
A designer can choose what basic emotion an NPC is hiding beath the conversation. Insecurity, over-confident.
I beleive it is possible to create matrix of basic emotions tha can be used for any NPC. Cinversations would immediately feel more real and the result of talk will be predictable, logical and give a player a way of choosing what to say nect. Clues will need to be given where the NPC standsm walks or lives, what he wears, how he talks to servants if they are nearby, also a way to enhance interactivity with the environment. Way they walk and if details are possible, show faces and expressions, body language.
Usng these 3 logical in psychology based terms you can endlessly vary while keeping it simple and predictabvle so that a player does not get the feeling to just guess what response would be best. he can figure it out to his advatage how to respond. I been in situations in games where I stared for minutes at 3 options of treply only to pick the wrong one.
Also, it will become something more than just the good, neutral and evil conversation option.
So we are both right. yes, we would want instant gratification but a game is a system people choose to go through to get there and call it fun. And so there is no conflict between what we oth say.
Fun is a way of obtaining gratification. The only reason why people play games, watch movies, read books, learn new things, etc, is to gratify the arbitrary feeling of "doing something" and "achieving it", in order to accommodate "the need to gratify the feeling". And most people like to do something and actually succeed in it. Funny thing is that cognitive science says that thinking provokes emotion, but I think that's a complete deranged idea of the human mind. It's more natural to assume that a feeling of gratification (emotion) provokes thought and in return by fulfilling the need, we feel delighted or capable or incapable of having done something successfully or not, in gratifying the need.
Most of the time, the feeling of success, or imitating the feeling of success, is what sells video-games to the "hardcore-audience" (talking about for example, CS players). Most hardcore gamers aren't interested in the process of learning something really difficult and actually prefer the success rather than the learning process of learning new skills or improving the original ones (but learning/improving skills is of course a determinant of success).
I would most likely say that the feeling of having actual fun is derived from the free and fearless process of learning something. Which could be anything, since you have nothing to lose as a gamer (free and fearless gaming). Nintendo games for example are very much like that, while at the same time they can pump up the difficulty pretty easily, to make it more hardcore.
The best kind of interaction is the kind where the learning process is fluent, fearless and free. Choice-based gaming without putting strong limits on the choices is one of the ways of gaming that is the most successful, because the results are always surprising. You interact to explore what happens with the mechanism (game), not only to satisfy a feeling of success or just a single set of feelings. You want to know what the result could be, if you wanted to be challenged or challenged yourself. You want to be challenged, yet success is only part of the deal. Video-gaming is a basic interaction that became most successful because of games that used explorative learning, challenging its players to dig in many different areas of what you could feel. This is the kind of gaming I believe in. It is the soul reason why video-games are gratifying to play with in the first place.
01-01-2007, 07:56 PM
Hmm, I got an idea for an easy fun game (which no doubt I won't make). It's basically a surreal driving game. You're in a car that can't reverse and never stops. A wall springs up behind you so can you never go back where you've been, although if you work the mechanics work right you could make it seem like it was always there (combo of turning radius and min speed). So there's this trippy landscape (fractal? random? other?) ahead of you with canyons and bridges that raise up and stuff. Various items fall from the sky which give you points, or fuel, or trigger the bridges, or let you fly short distances. You can go as fast as you like, but the acceleration drops the faster you go. There'd be bonuses for max speed, good jumps, stuff like that. Sometimes obstacles come up out of the ground, but a good distance away so you can avoid them. Maybe have special jumps or tunnels or something that take you to different zones with different look/feel/bonuses. I have this picture in my head you probably can't see. ;)
Edit: in retrospect this sounds like a version of Skyroads with 2 degrees of freedom and a few tweaks. ;)
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