Saturday, 29 August 2015

Surprise in games

A surprise can be one of the biggest parts of an experience for a player and can be the thing the player  remembers the most from your game. Surprises in games happen when the player realises their current view of ingame reality is different from what they believed it to be. 

Since games involve mechanics and not just story like movies and books there are lots of different types of surprises that can be found.

Types of surprises

A form of surprise in which the player has a certain view of how a mechanic or system works to then change how the mechanic or system works without the player expecting it. 
(an example is if a player thinks metal doors are unbreakable only to find when shot with a shot gun they fly off the wall and can damage enemies)

A form of surprise in which the player has a certain view of a sound’s or area’s properties (this also includes any other form of the player using their senses to perceive something within a game) to then change how the player perceives those properties without the player expecting it.

A form of surprise in which the player has a certain view of how certain elements within narrative work or how a narrative will turn out to then change how those views on the narrative are different to their initial view without the player expecting it. 
(This is the kind of surprise used in movies and books)

A form of surprise in which the player has a view about a future object, area or mechanics properties without perceiving that object, area or mechanics to then find those object’s, area’s, mechanic’s properties are very different then their initial thought without the player expecting it.
(An example is when you find a creature for the first time and it is much more absurd looking then you thought it would be)

A form of surprise in which the player finds or experiences a new object, area or mechanic without the player expecting it.
(An example would be if the player stumbles into a secret passage that they didn't know was there)

A form of surprise in which the player has a certain view about a section or part of a section they have previously experienced to then change that view without the player expecting it. 
(An example is if a player is repeating a level they find a secret compartment that they didn't find on their first play through) 

A form of surprise in which the player is expecting an action or certain action to occur but the action occurs at a time the player didn’t expect. 
(An example is when the player knows a jumpscare is going to occur but they don't know when) 
(Personally I don't know if this surprise should count as a surprise but you decide)

These are all the types of surprises I could come up with. I am sure there are more it's just that I may have forgot them, not seen them or not thought of them.

You may also find that is can be quite easy to mix types together. Having more layers and types of surprise mixed together makes that surprise stronger.

Using them properly

Surprises are very delicate and should be handled with care.

Surprises shouldn't be over used.
Using too many of the same kind of surprise will lead the player to expect the unexpected which then ruins the chance of the surprise being strong, memorable and of course surprising. The same kinds of surprises should be used rarely to keep the effects of the surprise strong.

Surprises can ruin an experience.
At the beginning of a game players a usually open to new things and big changes in the game because they are trying to understand the world but as they come to these understandings and they solidify them a surprise can be unwelcoming especially if they can't see how it fits into their understanding. 

Final Thoughts

I believe surprises are great ways to teach player mechanics, story and the game world. They are a lot more fun then just telling player how the game world and mechanics work at the beginning of the game.
I believe surprises have been forgotten by some people and I love to see more games using surprise.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Conflict of narrative and mechanics

I believe Games are different then other forms of media in that the player is a part of the full product and they would incomplete without them. Other mediums like movies and books only need to focus on 1 area which is the story whereas games have to focus on 2 areas, narrative and mechanics to allow for the player and can lead to conflict between each other.

Story based mediums like movies and books always (with a few exceptions) have linear stories so when games decided to get involved with stories that were more complex then "I lost X so I need to do Y to get it back" games decided to borrow these kinds of stories.

The conflict

The problem with linear stories or multiple choice stories is they can have direct conflict with challenge or game play.
An example of challenge interfering with story is when the player is playing a game with an interesting story and suddenly has to do a tough challenge to continue which stops the player experiencing the story. This can force the player to grind through game play just to experience the story and start hating it.


There are multiple solutions to solve the problems that occur from stories. Here are a few that I have seen:

Minimise challenge

Minimising challenge allows the player to not get stuck doing something they don't want to do just to progress and allows them to just experience the narrative. This has been done with some walking simulators like Gone Home and interactive dialogue select games like Telltales The Walking Dead and Life is Strange. The problem with this solution is that minimising challenge requires the game to minimise mechanics or to not push the mechanics to their full potential making this hard for some game genres to do without hindering the experience.

Player creates the story

Getting the player to create their own story from the mechanics of the game allows for an almost endless amount of different narrative experiences. This can be seen in the Sims and Animal Crossing. The problem with this solution is that it requires challenges that you can complete as you do other things and not challenges that get the player stuck where they can't experience the narrative mechanics of the game. 

Mechanics are the story

Making mechanics the story involves the interaction of mechanics being a metaphor for a system or experience and allows for mechanics and challenge to be embraced as a part of the story. The problem with this solution is that it can be incredibility hard to design larger games because the more content you add these games the harder it is to keep the metaphor stable and can break the story.

Final thoughts

To me games will always have problems with stories because traditional stories are cheaper to make and there is a lot more experience making them in the industry. But I believe some games don't need to have conflict with narrative and mechanics. 
And if you want to make a game based around challenge and want to avoid conflict with narrative and mechanics you can always settle for the old goal oriented stories.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Game Developers

To me Game Developers are 3 things artists, creators of products and entertainers.

They all have these 3 elements within them but they are not always reasonably balanced and can unhealthy for the games they make if unbalanced enough.

The three elements:

Artist element:
The artist element is about experimenting and creating a certain experience for the player in emotion, new gameplay or story.

Game developers that are more artists may create games that focus on trying to get the player to feel a certain emotion, use unconventional mechanics or create something bizzare which sometimes end up making the game not engaging or frustrating.

Creator of products element:
The creator of products element is about seeing players as consumers or seeing the game as making money and changing accordingly. (This can take certain forms such adding microtransactions to make more money or making the game moddable to make the game last longer for the community)

Game developers that are more creators of products may create games around making money, coming up with business strategies that may harm the game such as day one DLC or exclusive preorder content.

Entertainer element:
The entertainer element is about creating an engaging experience for the player and focusing on making the player want to play the game.

Game developers that are more entertainers may create games that are about fun and less about the meaning behind the elements within the game sometimes using known mechanics or be based off other games but with a twist. 

Interaction with each other

Now that you understand the 3 elements lets talk about how they interact with each other.

Creators of products and artists can have conflict with each other on design (for example the artists may want a multiplayer game where players in the game are anonymous but the creators of products want players to invite their friends creating conflict).
 Entertainers though can be much more lenient to Creators of products or Artists ideas and thoughts. 

Problems can occur though if the Creator of products element or Artist element is too valued in a developer it can make it difficult for entertainers to work with them because there ideas or work won't help sales or hinders the true meaning of the game.

In the industry

Lets talk about where you are most likely to find elements in the industry.

AAA dev’s tend to have more of a Creator of products element in them then an Artist element. 
This is because AAA can have quite large teams which requires a lot of money. This leads to the creation of games that are safe (games based off of mechanics that are known to bring in a lot of sales) and games created to get micro-transactions and sell DLC.

Indie dev’s tend to have more of an Artist element in them then a Creator of products element.
This is because Indie's usually work in small teams or independently so they don't need a huge amount of money to keep making games with some even making games for free. This leads to the creation of games that are different and quirky to different from other games or try something to new.

Final thoughts

To me game developers should be reasonably balanced between all 3 elements but to me the value of each is different with the highest valued being the Entertainer element followed by the Artist element and with the Creator of products element last.
This is why I would like to refer to game dev's as 'Entertainers' more then 'Artists'. 


Hi I'm Rosden Shadow and I have decided to begin this blog because I like think about games ,elements within them and the games industry and feel like it is worth sharing some of thoughts I have.

I hope my opinions help you enhance your thoughts about games and game design.