Over the past week, I have been looking at adding and subtracting mechanics in games. This comes back to the fact that bigger games are definitely not always better. Something that is always important when making games is keeping scope in mind and making sure you don’t over scope. We tend to make games which are bigger than they need to be and its important as a designer to be comfortable with throwing ideas away.
In order to keep your scope low, you always have to be asking yourself. what experience do I want the player to have? and what is essential to that experience? You must add or subtract elements to create the desired experience and figure out which elements you cannot afford to lose.
So why might you want to add mechanics?
You may want to add new mechanics simply because a publisher demands it or the market changes. Another reason may be simply from feedback after doing game testing or new ideas as well as gut feeling. These can help the game match the intended vision and player experience, however you may also want to cut mechanics.
So why might you want to cut mechanics?
This could also be due to publisher demands and market changes as well as play-tester feedback. Another common reason is because of development concerns and costs. It may also simply be a change in vision or even going back to the original vision for the game.
Whenever you add or subtract something from the game you must play it and find out what the intended effects were and more importantly the unintended effects of the change. By doing this you will iterate on the game, getting a much more streamlined and engaging game at the end.
Before you go about adding and subtracting features in your game however, it’s important to be certain of where the issue lies since it may not actually be because of the mechanics. You have to consider other elements first as adding and subtracting should be about finding the core experience rather than simply fixing issues. You can look into this by simply doing a lot of playtesting and finding out which features the players engage with and where the players tend to get bored
Subtraction is far more important than addition as it allows for simplicity in games which the players can engage with instantly. When you subtract due to development pressure then it’s a failure of design, however when you subtract to achieve better gameplay then it’s a success. Addition, however, isn’t always about mechanics, but rather clarity. Addition can often be symptomatic of issues within the game; however, it could also be necessary or simply enforced.
The Iron Designer Challenge
Similarly, to last week, this week we had to pick a pre-established game that was in the steam top 100, and then tell another team what it was. This week however, instead of swapping games we had to choose a mechanic for the other team to add to their chosen game.
Our team chose the game Farming Simulator 2022 as we all wanted to see how we could change it by adding new mechanics since it was a very simple concept. When we shared the game we had chosen with the other team, they told us they had chosen Resident Evil 2 and we had to come up with a mechanic for them.
Very quickly we all agreed that it would be hilarious to see them try to implement farming in Resident Evil and so presented the mechanic to them to which they responded in the same vein by giving us the mechanic of zombies.
So, we had to make farming simulator 2022 with zombies!
Overall, I think this game would be incredibly fun to play and I am now deeply disappointed that it doesn’t already exist. I now vow if I am ever working for the creators of Farming Simulator, I will propose this as a new separate game. I think the inclusion of zombie’s ads a whole new dimension to the game which completely changes the theme and tone of the game. I am very happy with this game and hope to try one day to make something similar to it.
The Games Design Document
Last week I mentioned that I wanted to get started on the document itself and get at least 3 pages done. I can confirm I have done at least 3 pages.
In fact, I have done 31 pages in total.
Last week I focused purely on the design document and managed to get 95% of it completed. All that is left to do next week is to proofread it, fix the backgrounds and add all of the references. The backgrounds are currently wrong as I moved some of the pages around as they linked together better than where I had them originally. Also, I need to redo the contents pages as they are no longer correct but shouldn’t take long to fix.
As you can see in the image above, the backgrounds no longer get darker as the slides progress. I hope to fix this next week as I go through and format it all properly before submitting it.
While this is a lot of progress, the actual contents on the slides are what I had already discussed in previous weeks, meaning that it was just a matter of getting the information onto the slides. Something that I did have to think more about however, was the Accessibility and target demographics slides. I also spent a while on the Inspirations slide as I hadn’t thought about where the idea had come from.
For the Inspirations slide, I thought back to the beginning of the project. This was when the idea first started to form, and I remembered thinking about how Job simulator used Virtual Reality very effectively by having a very simple concept and not making the player move. I wanted to see if I could take this further so I included the idea of “Will You Press The Button?” which was a very simple game which went massive a few years ago on social media.
Then as the game gets progressively darker, it draws inspirations from Inception as it is reminiscent of being in a dream within a dream and not knowing whether you are still in one or not. Another great source which I cited in this blog was having a murder mystery in the third scene which was directly inspired by the murder mystery games I played with my family at Christmas.
Finally, I included an epode from a TV program I watched as a kid called “Derren Brown: Trick or Treat” in which he had a simple button which if pushed would kill a kitten. He told people this and that they shouldn’t push it yet every single one of the participants pushed the button, thinking they had killed the kitten. This psychology is what inspired me to make the button ask for the player to stop as every player will end up trying to push it again even though it said that.
For the Target Demographics slide I drew inspiration on something that Nick Dixon said during one of his weekly lectures in which he said something along the lines of “Lots of people don’t have time to finish games” and “In some ways I prefer completability over repeatability.” This inspired me to make sure the game was short and easy to complete for middle aged people as they would have the most dispensable income, increasing the profit margins of the game.
I also looked into Bartle’s Taxonomy which helps define players into separate categories and found what sort of players would enjoy the game. I saw this done on multiple other Design Documents and thought it was a good idea to highlight the type of people this game would be targeting.
Finally, the other slide which I had to do a lot more research into was the Accessibility slide. Here I mostly drew on the theory lectures I had by Tim Philips as we covered VR simulation sickness and how to mitigate it, as well as the accessibility requirements by Facebook.
Here I outlined what options would be available to users which may limit VR sickness as well as options for subtitles and how they would be tackled in a VR game.
I also took into consideration the fact that I was targeting middle aged people who relatively commonly struggle to bend down and pick up items. To tackle this, I added an option for distance grabbing which means the player can pick up items from slightly further away than usual.
There were multiple other slides where I added additional information which I hadn’t fully considered before last week, but they are few and far between. Like I mentioned earlier, next week I hope to have proofread the document, fully referenced it, formatted it correctly so it will be fully ready to be submitted. I am very pleased with the progress made last week; however, I suspect it will slow down as I start to shift my focus to other assignments due the same week.