Friday, July 28, 2006

Triggers and Retreads

Designing Great Games
(or "How many indie game folk does it take to plug in a projector?")
by Roger Pedersen

This was less than exciting. Awkward start, awkward finish. For 90% of the presentation, Mr. Pedersen simply read his powerpoint slides in his Donald Trump-like accent. But to be fair, he appeared somewhat tired and perhaps under the weather. Nonetheless, Mr. Pedersen made several good points and food for thought if you could focus on what he was saying.

After pointing out that best selling games for many years have been retreaded sequels of existing games and licenses, he recounts conversations with famous game innovators on what makes a great game. The concensus was replayability.

Then he spoke to how you can enhance replayability within a game with what at first seemed a routine example, but given more thought, is actually an excellent point.

Say you have an action game and there is a coffin or something with a zombie in it. The first time you play, when you touch the coffin, the zombie rises and you shoot the zombie's head off with your shotgun. A simple thing: trigger -> event. But if you give the same event multiple triggers, replay is enhanced. The second time through the game, the zombie might be triggered after you leave the room, or only if you touch the other side, or perhaps even before you enter the room, etc. Thus, the game environment appears to be much more dynamic. This makes it much harder for the player to train himself to the optimal, and eventually boring, path to completing the game.

Mr. Pedersen also discussed designing games for specific conditions and markets, providing the example of a game he is working on to teach women internet users how to make mixed drinks of all varieties through playing a 'Coyote Ugly' styled game. The focus on appealing to women because a huge percentage of people on the internet are women (and he wanted to teach more women how to make drinks).

He also stressed the importance of playtesting the game by observing players who haven't been trained to play the game they way you think they should, a point reinforced my most of the speakers at the conference - I think they mean it.

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