A Theory Of Fun For Game Design by Raph Koster

Discussion in 'Game Development (Technical)' started by Hamumu, Jan 20, 2005.

  1. Hamumu

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    Read it! In truth, I don't think it will help you make better games by any significant degree, but it'll get you thinking about all manner of issues in relation to what it means culturally and cognitively to make games in the first place. It contains a lot of ideas and information I either just didn't know about or hadn't thought deeply on before.

    One thing about this book I haven't seen mentioned anywhere is its format, which makes it really fun to read (got it yesterday, finished it yesterday): it's sideways like a Dilbert book, and each pair of pages has one of text (not a lot - for a 250 page book, this is a very quick read) and one with a cartoon of some sort on it. The cartoons reflect and expand on the text to some extent (sometimes they're more like diagrams in fact), and just make jokes sometimes too.

    For an extremely academic book (containing words like "systematizing" and "ludemes"), it's very light and fun. And as far as improving your game design, it does have a pretty handy checklist you can use to see if your game is good. That's a very small part of it, though. It also brings up a lot of really difficult notions, and probably some things you'll disagree with (I did!). A lot of it is of course common sense (like "don't make your game too hard or too easy"), but it explains the reasons behind it, with psychological stuff. It gives you more you can think about in regard to game designs than you surely ever have.

    And the epilogue is practically a poem. It's mainly for the epilogue that I am going to try to get my parents to read this. The epilogue talks about why what we do is important (no, I DON'T need a real job, thank you!). It's for the strong connection between my role as a game designer and the role of a teacher that I'm getting my wife to read it.

    Two thumbs up.
     
  2. Kai Backman

    Original Member Indie Author IGF Finalist

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    Thank you for the recomendation Mike. Added to the Amazon list .. :)
     
  3. gmcbay

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    I guess he forgot to check the list when designing Star Wars Galaxies?
     
  4. lacutis

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    14 kinds of fun in the game: http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20011012/garneau_01.htm
     
  5. Anthony Flack

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    A Theory for Practical Book Design by Anthony Flack:

    Don't print the damn thing sideways. It's a tremendous pain in the arse.
     
  6. Bluecat

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    Raph at one point had a webpage with an article about designing MMOG games. I don't remember the content exactly, but he had a lot of points about making sure the game experience is fun, don't have grinding, player experience trumps the vision/philosophy of the game. I always thought it was ironic that SWG pretty much violated most of the precepts that Raph layed out.
     
  7. Hamumu

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    One of the amazon reviews, if it hasn't been taken down yet, gives the book a 1 without mentioning the content at all (well actually it says "Great book", so why the 1?), just ripping on him for writing a book about fun when his game sucks.

    I have seen enough of the commercial gamedev world to know that while he could be at fault for designing it poorly, it's completely random chance whether he had much of anything to do with it! For one thing, we all know that game shipped notoriously incomplete, which obviously isn't a *design* flaw... not defending him, just saying who knows? Says he was "creative director" for that, but "creative lead" on Ultima Online, which people seem to have enjoyed. I'm not gonna sweat the credentials, because I loved the book!
     
  8. EpicBoy

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    No one person has absolute control over a game. People love to point to a person on a team and say, "How could he do that!?" Well, odds are that he fought against whatever it was, but lost. It happens.
     
  9. gmcbay

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    I'm fully aware that people are often singled out when they can be victims of a team effort gone astray, but at the end of the day, if you're going to put your name on the box/credits as "Creative Director" (Raph's title for SWG), you're going to get all the blame for bad creative decisions, and rightfully so. The flip side of that is that if everything goes great (eg, just about every Miyamoto game), you get all the praise too.

    I think a bigger issue than "too many cooks" or "publishers calling the shots" is that it is a lot easier to list 10 or 100 things that make a great game than it is to take those 10 or 100 things and really make a great game with them. The devil is in the details (how does the game control, how does the look psychologically impact the player, etc), not in the broad statements about what is fun and what isn't (which, for the most part, we can all agree on up front).
     
  10. Anthony Flack

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    Didn't Miyamoto claim to occasionally kick over tables at meetings? So I guess he can rightfully take credit for asserting himself.
     
  11. Bluecat

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    I apologise if I made it sound like the general crappiness of SWG was to be laid at the feet of Raph Koster. I realise that there is a team involved, and that reflects on how the game as a whole is created.

    Having said that, I think gmcbay makes a good point about people putting themselves up as the frontman... errr... frontperson for a particular project. If things go wrong, the obvious person to blame is the one in the spotlight.

    I'm also a strong believer in the responsibility of management when it comes to the success or failure of projects. It is always a management failure when a project fails. (Wow sounds harsh doesn't it? There are always exceptions to the rule too.)

    By definition, management is in control of the project. If there are problems in any area, it is managements responsibility to fix them. Having issues with staff? The boss has to deal with it, either through counselling, confronting, or termination. Getting behind schedule? Tough one... who is at fault... the lazy programmers, or management failing to handle their staff properly?

    Raph, did put himself up as the frontman for SWG, and hence perhaps he should take all the blame... but wait, he had bosses... SOE. Why didn't they keep tabs on the project? Why didn't Lucasarts?

    So no. I don't blame Raph, his hands were probably tied as much as the new intern. SOE and Lucasarts, I think should take more responsibility for the failings of SWG. In fact I think some of the poor decisions were straight from Sony Policy.
     
  12. Hamumu

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    Well, from what I understand about SWG, having not played it, it wasn't so much poorly designed as it was rushed to market. I remember how extremely excited people were about the prospect of the vehicles and stuff... which of course didn't actually end up in the game because they rushed it. So in this specific case, it seems all the more likely to not be his fault. Maybe he had an awesome design, and it was all the publishing guys who yanked that out from under him.

    I do agree that those who are in executive positions need to take the blame for everything under them, but as you say, there's a lot above him here. I would hold him responsible for anything you see as a stupid decision that was clearly a creative one (even though it's quite possible some marketing guy demanded it, it's still his business for not saying "screw you, I quit!" - he's still ultimately responsible). Such as dancing wookiees. Which incidentally is the only thing I really know about the game!

    Anyway, like my original point, I don't know that you'll learn a lot about designing games from this book, don't know that he has a lot to teach about it, but the book is great, and gets you thinking about tons of very big issues in regards to making games (ethics, the meaning of play, the meaning of art, brain types, psychology), not so much about the nuts and bolts of how many bosses you should have or whatever. It's highly academic, not a reference guide.
     
  13. Wayward

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    The Theory of Fun for Game Design is an expanded version of the authors keynote speech at the 2003 Austin Game Conference. You can get the original keynote as a pdf from the Theory Of Fun website, just for a taster. There's an excerpt too.

    GrandTextAuto have been discussing it to which Raph has replied.
     
    #13 Wayward, Jan 21, 2005
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2005
  14. Raptisoft

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    Hey, that theory of fun website is an awesome 1997 website.
     
  15. EpicBoy

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    You mean clean and easy to navigate?
     
  16. Abscissa

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    Wow, that PDF is really good. I will have to take a look at that book.
     
  17. illume

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    The pdf makes some interesting points, and definitely makes you think about lots of different things! Can't wait to read the book.


    I've always liked songs that make you think you understand them at one level, but are actually about something else. Multiple meanings.

    Discovering that something is not what you think it is, is entertaining. Can make you think you are smart and stuff. Or when you can see that the other obvious meaning

    hrmmm, that's a bit abstract.


    Was just thinking about pacman again. When you first see it, you think you know how it works. Just pick up all the pills, and avoid the scary ghosts. You do know how it works on one level. But... there is more to it than when you first thought you figured it out. There are also power pills, which let you get the ghosts. Then it is not just one arena that you play in. Then you notice the speed of the ghosts picks up on the later levels. Pacman shows you something new about it quite a lot.
    So that you want to see more of it. Then it makes it hard for you to go along the levels. But the difficulty of it is bearable, because something is changing all the time.

    That isn't all there is in pacman, but it's defintely one of the things that makes it a classic, great game.

    Anyway... quite interesting game design reading, without lots of abstract waffle. Yah!
     
  18. floofthegoof

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    swg

    Personally, I think SWG is actually pretty good. I don't play much, because MMOG's are so time consuming, but I keep my account and sometimes I get in the mood to go all out for an SWG marathon weekend. MMOG's have many issues that simply haven't been sorted out yet.
     
  19. Sirrus

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    I second that...

    I think people are quick to read reviews and judge a game, but the fact remains - SWG is actually a decent mmorpg.

    I think it is absolutely ridiculous that the majority of reviewers cited "not being able to start the game as a Jedi" as their number one gripe.
    Excuse me, but WTF? The point of SWG to build the Star Wars universe, not let everyone be super human.

    If you want to start as a jedi, play Jedi Academy or the hundreds of other Star Wars games. If you want to play in the Star Wars universe, where select individuals can become them, then SWG is avaliable. I think its just as fun to be a common Rebel soldier or creature tamer. Hell, even the dancer class is fun for a bit!

    The game definately has plenty of flaws (especially the ineffective smugglers, who are nothing more than buffers and have no role play merit), but I don't believe it deserves all the flack it gets.

    But, like most mmorpgs, still dropped my account since it sucks up all your time.
     
  20. Nutter2000

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    Sorry, I disagree with that somewhat.

    Star Wars Galaxies was good for the level of MMORPG games around at the moment I'll concede, but it was still a HUGE waste of potential, with having the star wars universe behind it, there was a massive scope for it to break the current mould of "grinding" MMORPGs.

    I'll admit that I had my own preconceptions about the game and so was disappointed because of them, but then again isn't that the whole point of using licenced material in a game? To create something for/and to the attract the fans?
    The whole problem, from my point of view, was that the game focused too much on grinding, it seemed to be the whole point of the game. For those that don't know, grinding is doing repetitive tasks to increase your characters XP levels. Once people reached the top of their profession, there wasn't anything to do, and getting to the top was so repetitive it was dull. It felt like a pretty generic MMORPG game wrapped in a thin star wars theme.

    [/RANT]
    {breathe in... breathe out...}

    But that's just my opinion and slightly off topic ;)
     

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