Monday, September 13, 2010

Let's Make a Game - Part 5: Talking Without Words

Welcome back!

Last episode we dealt very briefly with a fascinating element of Game Design called Player Feedback. I just wanted to delve quickly back into it and maybe flesh out a couple of points before we get into the next topic. So, what is Player Feedback? Player Feedback is incredibly important to any good game, it's how your game speaks to you, how it tells you things, how you know what you're trying to achieve.

Good games are difficult to play. It's at the core of any gaming experience, it's the reward for playing. Things have to be difficult so that when you beat the game you really feel like you've achieved something.

Or you could just pull the stickers off.

But here is the important distinction: a good game has to be difficult, not impossible! There has to be someway for you to stumble your way into the right course of action and make it feel like you (as the player) knew what you were doing the entire time.

I'm free! I mean, I knew where I was the whole time!

How do you tell your player to go this direction rather than that one? How do you make them learn that the red apples are healthy but the green ones are poisonous?

This is where Game Designers use Player Feedback. Computer games are (obviously) highly visual. Think of them like a TV show or a movie. When you're watching a movie, you don't need words to know that that's the evil guy when he comes on screen. No one needs to hold up a huge sign that says "Look! The hero is now being brave!"

Movies prefer to use music and action on the screen to explain what's going on. Words tend to just get in the way. It's more exciting and the audience isn't getting sidetracked with huge blocks of text.

Oh wow! They're just about to start the gun-fight!

Last episode we used the way the forest looked and sounded to suggest that it was scary, and we designed the castle in such a way that it seemed daunting but exciting nonetheless. The players don't need to read anything - they just know that the forest is scary, or that the castle is exciting, just like it would be in a movie. Both levels make it very clear that the player doesn't want to stay there. The player almost instinctively knows that they have to get out, that to win the level means leaving.

And that's Player Feedback, simply: explaining a game without words. It can be very difficult, but it's always important to try to reduce the amount of pure text in your game. We've rushed through a lot today, well done! Don't worry if you're still a little confused, the Teacher- and Student-Handouts go into a lot more detail about Player Feedback, and suggest a few ways you can implement it into your game.

So we'll leave it here for now. Next week we'll be wrapping up our Let's Make a Game series with the fun part: Testing!

Stay tuned!


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