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Asvarduil's Gauntlet - The Game Mechanic Pokedex

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by AndrewGrayGames, Sep 8, 2015.

  1. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    Introduction:
    So, one thing I've learned after Sara the Shieldmage (it's dead. For real this time.) and the First PC Game Challenge, is that I'm the type of developer who works best when I build a game around a mechanic, as opposed to a setting or character.

    After some conferring with Gigi on the state of Sara the Shieldmage, I set out to find a new game idea - I like making games. Fortunately, this week, I was on vacation from the day job! It was a perfect time to figure out a new idea! Except for one problem: I have no inspiration, nothing I really want to make.

    The Game Mechanic Pokedex
    While I'm finding a new game idea, it occurred to me that I shouldn't let my research go to waste. Thus, my personal Gauntlet: in the next 12 weeks, I am going to produce a research catalog of at least 12 game mechanics. My ultimate goal is finding inspiration for my Next "Big" Project™, but in doing this research I think I'll find what I'm looking for. I may also help some other designers in the process, which is a nice bonus.

    Also, it should be noted: the Mechanics Pokedex won't just be flat text, for the most part. This is actual research. I'm going to do independent analysis of what makes these mechanics work, what player abilities and feedback are required, what makes the mechanic feel fun, and what makes the mechanic feel bad. I'll also attempt to come up with a Pokemon name for each mechanic as I find it. I may scribble a picture of the mechanical Pokemon as a memory aid. Last, but not least, I will reference video games that use the mechanic in question.

    I'll append entries to this post, as well as make a subsequent post in this thread about the mechanic I'm researching. Please feel free to refute my findings, or inform me of points I will inevitably miss on this journey.

    Finally: Don't ask why Pokemon is on the brain. You won't get an answer.

    All Pokedex Entries Exist On This Blog!
    Some basic information about my conventions is here.

    Mechanics Pokedex Entries:
    1. Beating a Timer
    2. Leveling Up
    3. Quick-Time Events
    4. Incrementing a Score
    5. Acquiring Currency and Purchasing Upgrades
    6. ???
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2015
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  2. Martin_H

    Martin_H

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    Do you have a full list of mechanics you want to research already or do you still take submissions? I'd be interested to read some research on what makes "killing" as a game mechanic fun. Or "jumping"...
    I'm currently playing the new Mad Max game and I really appreciate that it has a jump button, although it's basically good for nothing. And I have to say I quite enjoy the ground combat, while I found the combat in Batman Arkham Asylum rather dull and unsatisfying. The mechanics are almost identical, yet one implementation feels far superior to me.

    Edit: What about "customization" as a mechanic? I normally don't give a S*** about cars, but in Mad Max it's MY car. I've worked for every single part and the story gives it context and meaning. Imho there is much to learn from that game and a 95% positive review score on steam shows the amount of polish paid off.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2015
  3. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Though it's unclear where you're heading, I wish you great success getting there! Go @Asvarduil!
    Gigi
     
  4. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    @Gigiwoo - The 'concrete' destination is a useful list of game mechanics. The abstract destination is inspiration on my next game. I have a feeling that on the way to my concrete destination (A detailed listing of twelve mechanics), I'll find my inspiration. If not, I've at least made a useful game design contribution!

    @Martin_H - I read this on the bus this morning, and I've thought about what you're asking about. The perspective you're presenting is that of a player, which is good; mechanics fail or succeed based on a player's interpretation of them. I was approaching this as a designer.

    I was originally thinking, "Pssshaw...these are too high level to make the list!" Really though, the things you express wonder about actually are mechanics, just using different language to describe them (in particular, the whole "killing stuff as a game mechanic" thing).

    I don't have a set list, but you've added some things for me to put down.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2015
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  5. RockoDyne

    RockoDyne

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    As a topic of research you may want to read this because I'm going to reference it's terminology. At that level of minutia, mechanics themselves aren't the thing that is fun, it's the dynamics. It's the dynamics of navigation, to which jumping creates an extra dimension to, that provide the conflict and tension to make jumping fun and rewarding.

    A mechanic without context is meaningless. Think about how many skills or weapons you've rarely, if ever, used because it was outclassed instantly, or required such specific conditions to live up to it's potential that it wasn't worth ever using. Context is king.
     
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  6. LaneFox

    LaneFox

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    On a principle level you're doing 1GAM but without the things that make 1GAM work.
     
  7. ironbellystudios

    ironbellystudios

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    I for one am all for it. Who knows what ideas it may inspire to simply look at mechanics. I'd keep one thing in mind throughout any mechanic you look at. Emotion. How does this mechanic affect people on the emotional level and how, as a developer, can we manipulate that emotion through our mechanic to achieve a desired result. That's winning at game design! :D
     
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  8. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    @LaneFox - Not really. 1GAM is about making fully-fledged games in a month. I'm wanting to understand commonly-used mechanics better. In doing that, I may find inspiration for my next game. Also, 1GAM is only helpful to the developer doing the challenge; this is something that will help others as well, regardless of if I hit on a good game idea.

    Still, when I get to 12 mechanics, if I still am not inspired, it couldn't hurt to make a prototype of each mechanic, for reference purposes of course. Sometimes learning inspires; other times, it's the doing.

    One last thing - 1GAM has nothing to do with this. Actually, a better inspiration is 300 Mechanics.

    @ironbellystudios - Oh, that's one thing I'm looking at. I'm not only interested in the circumstances where a mechanic flourishes, but where it feels bad as well.

    @RockoDyne - Good read. I agree that mechanics are meaningless without the context of dynamics. A "Timer" system, for instance is represented by a single time value - the target time. The "referee" (be it a player, an external item like a watch, or a computer running game code) provides the current time, and evaluates that to see if the players have succeeded or failed at whatever.

    You make me consider something else, too - games expand well beyond digital games. For my Timer mechanic that I'm researching, a good 'reference' game would be Speed Chess - cerebral, and Ragnarok-proof.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2015
  9. Deleted User

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    Games are a holistic venture, only strong as the sum of it's parts. If you've got a weak link others will suffer, it's best to avoid focusing on one area..
     
  10. Martin_H

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    Thanks for the link, I already had that PDF in my download folder. Must have been there since 2012 or 2013 and I doubt I read it back then. I did now and while I feel I understand what they are getting at, I don't know if it actually helps me make a better game in any way.
    I think I'm more a fan of seeing a game as a whole like @ShadowK says. Let's take your example of skills and weapons that are quickly outclassed by better ones. The player might not use them anymore, but the fact that they exist and in comparison the player has more powerful tools at hand now, they still serve a purpose of making the stronger weapons feel more powerful.
    I guess I'm a player first and designer second. Whether that is good or bad for me remains to be seen.
     
  11. RockoDyne

    RockoDyne

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    Not really. Can a game become terrible for one part of it being atrocious? Yes, but do good games have lackluster parts? All the time.

    Symphony of the Night, heralded as one of the greatest games of all time, has so many systems in it that are just... meh. It's an RPG with a leveling mechanic that you aren't likely to care about because finding more powerful equipment is easy in the first two thirds of the game. The magic system that works on fighting game style combos is completely forgettable. Using items is entirely out of the picture when you have to equip it and use it in-game. The familiars have one or two serious uses, but might as well be decoration most of the time. Sub weapons have less and less use as you continue. Yet none of this hurts the game, primarily because the player is the one to decide what is or isn't useful. It's a kitchen sink approach to game design that gives the player a problem, gives them a workshop full of tools, and says have at 'em.
     
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  12. Deleted User

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    Ok I'll re-phrase. So correct me if I'm wrong, but you're saying it's OK to have crap portions of a game just because in your opinion a revered game (which I'm a fan of RPG's and never heard of) has some stuff in it that you don't believe works well?

    Also if the game doesn't force you to use these mechanics? Then what has it got to do with the post I mentioned? If it's not core or central to anything, then what relevance has that got to do with balancing out a good game?

    Finally the OP is talking about mechanics for a game, then you're saying well this game has crap mechanics? What's the message? That the OP should not focus on mechanics because it doesn't matter if they suck or not?
     
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  13. AndrewGrayGames

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    @ShadowK - Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is something you probably haven't heard of if you're exclusively an RPG fan; it's a metroidvania originally for PS1 that just happens to include RPG mechanics (though, I think this is one case where an XP System is completely superfluous as a mechanic. Hey! I can put XP Systems on my list too! Thanks guys.)

    I think you can actually download it on Steam for PC now. I haven't played it, because the whole gothic horror setting just doesn't do it for me, but I haven't ruled it out either. I've heard good things about it...

    @RockoDyne - ...that being said, calling it one of the greatest games of all time is also something I've not heard of. I keep hearing people call The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time the Greatest Game of All Time™. I'd disagree with them; it's good, but personally I think The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is.

    @Everyone - As good as opinions are, though, I think it would be more productive for us to focus on game mechanics and their dynamics, over which game is our favorite! I'm doing my research on Timer systems, which should be done shortly.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2015
  14. RockoDyne

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    I've at least heard it put on the "best games of the PSX" list. I should have added snark tags. It's good, but it's one of those games you had to have played the ever living S*** out of to totally enjoy it (a category I also toss chrono trigger into, yes yes, burn the witch/wizard/warlock, whichever you want to put me in). I only got around to playing it in the middle of the Bloodstained kickstarter.


    First off, what the core of SotN is, is like asking what the core of an orange is. It's not exactly how the game is built.

    Going back to the original post:
    "Games are a holistic venture" -not when you can safely ignore a good chunk of it, so I have no idea what you actually mean by that.
    "only as strong as the sum" - I don't feel like arguing how dynamics make things greater than the sum of their parts, so whatever.
    "[with] a weak link others will suffer" - you can't have a weak link if it's not actually chained together.

    The mechanics of SotN are actually quite week. What is exceptional about these disparate mechanics is that they resonate and become greater than the sum of their parts. An example is a good chunk of the weapons and shields can be paired with some rod that causes some kind of super attack. There are a ton of these kinds of complementary behaviors, where new possibilities exist when at first glance there's nothing. Context is king, even for the game that put vania behind metroid.
     
  15. Xenoun

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    If you're taking suggestions Permadeath has always seemed like an interesting mechanic to me, would be cool to see your take on it.

    To me what makes it great is you invest time into your character/game but if you mess up and die it's all gone. Can be discouraging after you die but it helps you form an emotional connection with the game and what you've done in it feels more real because of it. That's if it's done right anyway....have played games where it feels like permadeath is just used to artificially extend the length of a game.
     
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  16. RockoDyne

    RockoDyne

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    That would be a pretty good one. As much as it is one mechanic, it completely changes your relationship with a game.
     
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  17. Martin_H

    Martin_H

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    I suggest including Dead Rising into your timer research.
     
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  18. tedthebug

    tedthebug

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    It's the 12 mechanics of Xmas, out in time for the holidays :D

    This should be interesting results to read. Just starting out myself with limited coding ability I've been trying to think of an interesting mechanic I can code & then seeing if it is fun & in what context. I have a couple that seem ok for light weight games but I don't think the individual mechanic could carry a multi-hour game. (Except driving, driving always seems to suck away the time. I've heard the driving in the latest mad max game is one of the best bits)
     
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  19. AndrewGrayGames

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    You may want to read the article that @RockoDyne linked. Mechanics are usually just data structures. Where things get interesting, is getting the mechanics to work in an engaging way.
     
  20. Martin_H

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    It feels heavily "authored" to not make you look stupid, which I consider a good thing in this kind of game. So far I'm 12 hours into the game and haven't flipped my car on its hood once. To me it feels like they have made it so this just isn't possible to avoid player frustration due to a situation that feels out of their hands.
    I couldn't say if it is overall "realistic", but it looks and feels like what you would expect from seeing the movie. Everything has impact and weight, which makes it a very satisfying gaming experience to me.
     
  21. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    Here's the first mechanic! Please feel free to discuss my findings. I'm allowing for a day or two for discussion in all of these cases.

    Mechanic #001: Beating a Timer

    Pokemon Name - Ticktockster (Lightning/Steel)

    About The Mechanic:
    The Timer mechanic is all about completing some task or tasks, at or before a certain amount of time has passed. This mechanic is useful for providing players with a chance to take a skill they feel confident with, and express mastery of it by doing it quickly and with precision. This mechanic creates stress for the player; historically this mechanic is often used when tension is required in a work.

    The "Referee" of a game is responsible for measuring this mechanic; the game's interface is responsible for letting the player know how much time they have to complete their task, however.

    Referee Information / Data Structure:
    Target Time
    Start Time
    Elapsed Time = Current Time - Start Time

    Player Information / Feedback:
    Remaining Time = Target Time - Elapsed Time

    Designer Information:
    Margin = Target Time - Expected Execution Time

    Conditions:
    Victory: Elapsed Time <= Target Time
    Failure: Elapsed Time > Target Time

    When Is This Mechanic Engaging?
    1. The player has been well-trained in a particular skill, or that skill is so intuitive it doesn't require much training.
    2. There's a well-balanced margin between how long it takes a player to do something, and the target time.
    3. When a feeling of stress is needed.
    4. The challenge can be retried, so that the player can improve their mastery of the skills, if appropriate to the context the mechanic is used in.
    5. When other players are involved - beating another player's time is a long-standing social tradition dating back quite a long ways!
    When Is This Mechanic Distracting?
    1. The player has not had adequate practice with skill(s) - the player feels like they can't succeed, and gives up.
    2. The margin of failure is too long - the player has so much time that there is no tension, thus there is no emotional effect on the player or audience.
    3. The margin of failure is too short - the margin is so small the player feels like they can't succeed, and gives up.
    4. The payoff is not appropriate to the margin of failure - the challenge of beating the timer needs to be worth it.
    5. The consequence isn't proportional to the margin of failure - short challenges should be less consequential if failed; long challenges should be more consequential, up to and including non-standard game overs.
    Game References:
    1. Speed Chess during each player's turn. Each player has to quickly reason what their best move it, and make it before the timer sounds.
    2. Super Metroid's intro where the player has to escape a self-destructing space station - as an early 'quest', the player has a comfortable, but short time to escape. Also, the escape from Zebes, after Samus defeats the final boss with a super-weapon gained during that boss fight - just like the intro, the player has a balanced time to escape.
    3. Final Fantasy VII's intro uses this after the Scorpion Robot fight to add tension to the escape sequence; the time limit is extremely lax, however, as it's the first quest in the game. In Wall Market, a part of the quest to get into Don Corneo's mansion involves challenging a body-builder to squats to gain a required item. Failure is only minimally punished; you get an inferior item that still counts towards advancing the quest. A bonus boss, Emerald Weapon, is fought under the ocean, while the party has a limited oxygen supply. Also, the boss itself is really freaking hard.
    4. Any video game speedrun (many people give up speedruns due to not being able to beat a high-profile runner's times at a particular game.)
    5. World of Warcraft, the Dwarf starting area has a quest where you're supposed to take a mug of hot hot something to an inn. The quest gives you five minutes; the quest is achievable within one. There is no tension, and the mechanic feel superfluous in this case.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2015
  22. tedthebug

    tedthebug

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    Nice, & I agree with the cons. I quit assassins creed as I was stuck in a cavern where I had to negotiate between ledges etc in a certain time & I just couldn't complete it yet the game gave me no way to exit it & continue playing (either a chicken button like in 'splosion man or if it wasn't a stage necessary to the story then just a quit back to the street outside would work). I've never wasted my money on any more of their franchise.

    Not sure if it is on your list but Timing might be an interesting extension of Timer. Sometimes it is a separate mechanic e.g. Geometry dash, timing your jumps, or is an implicit part of Timer in that you have to time your actions correctly in order to complete the task within the timeframe e.g. Get onto moving platforms & time your movement so you get to those platforms when they are in the correct position for you to get onto them so you don't have to sit there & wait while the timer ticks down.
     
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  23. AndrewGrayGames

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    I think the role timing plays into Beating a Timer or any related mechanic, is that that's the skill we're trying to teach the player. When beating a timer, we're specifically asking for the player to do something as quickly as possible.

    QTEs are what I'd normally expect people to think about when they hear the word 'timing'. That's actually a mechanic that entire games have been built around, and it seems like a good candidate for the Mechanics Pokedex.

    I'm working on drawing a "Mechanics Pokemon" for Beating a Timer too. It'll be...special?
     
  24. tedthebug

    tedthebug

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    I've never considered a qte as timing since the player has no control while they are running. I'm was trying to differentiate between games where you need to complete tasks within a timeframe (your timer mechanic) & there is usually a bit of leeway in the timing of your actions (so you can just finish in time or finish with a fair bit of time left depending how good you are) & games where there is no time limit but the skill involved is just about timing your action e.g. Those endless runner tap/jump games where you die as soon as your timing is wrong.

    Edit: I can foresee lots of discussion on each of these mechanics. Maybe you should start a thread for each one & just post the link in this main thread so it becomes the index?
     
  25. AndrewGrayGames

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    Really, platforming is the same thing as a "modern" QTE, only with vastly better presentation. Instead of a big thing that says, "Press X To Not Die!", you have a platform heading toward you, and an obvious place you can't cross without losing. You have to do something to cross that place, but you have to do it at just the right time, or you'll fail.

    ...Crap, you've already got me writing it as if it's the second Pokedex entry...maybe when #01 is done, I should just skip straight to QTEs.

    It's good you bring that up. I was going to try to link to individual posts, but I'm not sure if the Unity Forums support that. Perhaps it might be more effective if I create some short YouTube videos with each Mechanical Pokedex entry after the discussion concludes, or create a Blogger blog or something.
     
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  26. tedthebug

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    I think if you create the other thread then copy the link you can paste it back in here.
    Or create a 1 page Pokemon comic per mechanic with your new creations & put it on your blog :)
     
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  27. AndrewGrayGames

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    To do that, I think I may need the blessing of @Gigiwoo since he's sort of the overlord of this subforum. Getting the benediction of @hippocoder might not be a bad idea, either, just to be sure that such an approach is agreed upon, and that talk of individual mechanics aren't cluttering the forums.

    Failing that? Blog and/or YouTube.
     
  28. RockoDyne

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    Look at the URL for the post time. It's got the actual post number at the end, so you can use that to jump to a specific post.
     
  29. BackwoodsGaming

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    I've kinda been lurking and reading along, as I have the opportunity to.. Instead of doing separate posts, might be easier for people like me who are trying to follow to keep it in one post. Maybe blog the different ideas and continue the list under the Pokedex Entries with links to the blog posts. If it were only going to be four or five posts, individual posts might be ok. But I can imagine the list could probably get pretty big.

    Just my two cents.. Enjoying the discussion so far. I'll try to throw some input in once I can read a little more thoroughly and wrap my head around it! :)
     
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  30. tedthebug

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    Have a 5 minute guest slot on games & zen,one guest mechanic an episode. Or do your own podcast series :)
     
  31. cozduin

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    What if you already found it? Some time ago, I was thinking about what mechanics I should use in my next game. So I wondered, what if it was all of them?

    Like, in each stage, you had to choose among several heroes,each with a different power, and that'd make the camera move to a different position and the game would start with a new mechanic: like, speedster hero -> auto-runner; bird-man -> fluppy bird dodger; super-strong -> angry birds destroyer. Since you're in a similar situation I was, I thought it would be appropriate to share it. Regardless of the path you choose, good luck!
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2015
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  32. AndrewGrayGames

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    It's possible that's what I may find. Still, thanks for the good wishes and your experience!
     
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  33. AndrewGrayGames

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    Small update - I've spun off a blog. I'll be sure to link to the appropriate blog entry when a mechanic is out of its discussion phase. If you have any advice on the aesthetics of the blog, please pass me a PM - I'm working on that.
     
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  34. Gigiwoo

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    Overlord? I was overlord of the bathroom once. Though, the minions rarely follow orders.

    Within reason, you can make any thread, blog, or youtube you want. If you want to link a specific post within a thread, simply find the time link for that post. It's the '55 minutes ago' part, like in this image here:

    presso_2015_09_10_num_01.png

    Gigi
     
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  35. AndrewGrayGames

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    @Gigiwoo & @RockoDyne - Thanks for the heads up on where to find the post link, that really helps!

    I've committed Beating a Timer to the blog - since there wasn't much discussion, I'm assuming it's found to be accurate. It's a reproduction of what was put here, and I'm calling it 1/12 mechanics done.

    Next on the list: Gaining Experience. It's ubiquitous, so research shouldn't take long.
     
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  36. tedthebug

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    As in the character gaining experience & levelling skills & abilities or the playing gaining experience so requiring graduating challenges?
     
  37. AndrewGrayGames

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    Experience and Leveling Up are what's on the agenda. It's a very, very, very common mechanic. I went with "Gaining Experience" because it was the first phrase that came to mind. Do you have any suggestions on a better alternative?
     
  38. tedthebug

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    Nope, was just curious how you meant it. I did assume that it was the more common 'character experience levels' but you know that old saying about assuming :)

    Could be a big topic because it is so common & has some nuance to how it is used, with its effectiveness being largely defined by how it integrates with the game e.g. A good system in one game may suck in another as the rest of the mechanics around abilities don't integrate well with it. Can't wait to see what you come up with.
     
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  39. AndrewGrayGames

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    I'm going to try to be fair to all of them. My research so far has a lot of uses for an XP system.
     
  40. Martin_H

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    Make sure to dive into the skillcap/gating aspect as well as into the effects on user engagement and pacing. In some genres I can happily accept this mechanic as part of the experience, but in Multiplayer Shooters like COD I have come to loathe it and I think the concepts of Counterstrike and Insurgency are far better for the game. Imho if you feel you NEED unlocking mechanics to keep engagement up in your game there is something wrong with it.
     
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  41. Xenoun

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    In my experience the unlock mechanic in COD doesn't keep engagement up. At best I get half way through them before I stop playing the game. Other people that are madly into FPS will go through all the unlocks and then that prestige thing and do it all again.

    It's more of a mechanic to give players a feel of progression rather than a way to improve engagement.
     
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  42. RockoDyne

    RockoDyne

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    Rather than progression, it's more about pacing. Since you only get a few things at a time, you're more likely to experiment more substantially with all the gadgets you get and really get to know what works best for you.
     
  43. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    Nice post. I'll be following along.

    I find it interesting including code and mathematics along with the discussion of the mechanics. Traditionally I've kept them separate in my head. But new approaches never hurt.
     
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  44. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    That's the thing. Let's assume you don't want a digital game; what if you want something like D&D instead? You still need to know what to keep track of. Especially then, the mathematics is still useful for balancing purposes.

    I don't want to open the "What is a game?" question, but one thing that I find distressing that gets left out, is that games very much are a mathematical system, in addition to all the other things they are that we don't need to discuss because that's not the point of this thread or the GMP!

    There are clear mathematical premises on how things work; this is part of the territory, even with something as innocuous as checking a timer. By knowing the math, you can do a quicker and better job of balancing The Game™*. That is why I include the math and the shape of the data structure. It doesn't matter if the game is physical or digital; it's information that will be exercised if you use the mechanic in question, plain and simple.

    In other news, my XP System/Level Ups/Gaining Experience research is in pretty good shape, it should go up on this topic tomorrow for discussion/peer review. I was getting worried about it for a second, because Level Ups do many things for a game. Should be a good read.

    *: Not actually trademarked. Also not related to the horrible Season 1 TNG episode of the same name. Evil video games aren't the only thing Riker brings back from Risa, apparently...
     
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  45. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    Ready for another mechanic? This one is a biggie...be sure to chime in with any thoughts you have. I don't doubt that I may have missed something.

    Mechanic #02: Leveling Up AKA
    Pokemon Name - Experithar (Psychic)

    About the Mechanic:
    Within the context of a work, the levelup mechanic simulates the player character practicing something; the character's ability as a result is represented as a level (Lv. for short), while steps towards advancing the level are noted as experience points (XP for short.) More usefully, the numeric parts of this mechanic often operate as feedback unto itself; typically an entity that is Lv.3 is less effective than one that is Lv.15. If you have 80% of your XP bar full, you know you have a short way until your next reward (the next levelup.)

    The 'skill' players are taught is to prioritize learning where or how to more efficiently gain XP. Levelup mechanics work against the mechanics they are keyed to, and instead train players to be more efficient in their execution of high-level concepts.

    The most consequential aspect of levelups is that this mechanic implements concepts of a psychological construct known as a Skinner Box. Levelups produce a habit due to an irregular reward schedule for actions that the mechanic is keyed to give XP for. Presenting the player with XP information 'weakens' the Skinner box, but interestingly does not remove the effect from the construct.

    Further, it's very rare in works for a player to be penalized XP for failing a challenge. As a result, most implementations of levelup mechanics result in quick iterations that aren't repetitive. If a task is failed, the mechanic requires you to take the player character and practice somewhere else, barring the effects of other mechanics.

    Referee Information / Data Structure:
    XP
    XP to next level
    Character level

    Player Information / Feedback:
    XP
    XP to next level
    Character level

    Designer Information:
    XPRate = Action XP / Action Time Investment
    LvRate = XP To Next Lv / XP Rate

    Conditions:
    Victory: XP >= XP To Next Level
    This mechanic has no common failure condition.

    When Is This Mechanic Engaging?
    1. It doesn't make sense for the player to be an 'instant expert' at something - The levelup mechanic simulates the character practicing that skill over the course of the work.

    2. Player skill renders a work, or a section of a work, solvable in a trivial amount of time - be warned that it will require attention to game balance, as well as modification or addition of content, to increase the time to solve the game. Levelups will only provide the player with a mechanical view and justification of this process unfolding.

    3. You want to mechanically show the player character growing over the course of a work.
    When Is This Mechanic Distracting?
    1. The challenges of the work are explained as the player already being an expert - they have no need to practice them, as they know them.

    2. Some high-level mechanic is a trivial action - trivial actions are presumably already mastered by the player character.

    3. Too much time is spent 'grinding' - All uses of Levelups require the player finding and learning to find more efficient fonts of XP. In playtesting, if players can't reach their levelup goals in a time that they find reasonable, it will lead to disengagement.

    4. Similarly, the amount of time to gain a new level increases too sharply - The "Skinner Box" aspect of levelups works best when it eases the player into creating a habit; major changes in the numeric progression of the system can lead to serious disengagement.
    Game References:
    1. Dragon Warrior I is one of the prototypical JRPGs. This game is built nearly entirely around grinding as the Dragon Warrior tries to save the continent of Alefgard from the Dragonlord, bent on conquering it. The character is practicing fighting in general. That being said, one of the primary complaints of the game is that it is "too grind-ey", particularly at late levels when the Dragon Warrior has conquered most challenges of the game.

    2. Dissidia: Final Fantasy is a fighting game that uses levelup mechanics to impose a skill cap. For instance, if you're great with one character, but are a low level, you will lack access to certain moves. Additionally because of the stat-dependence of the game, your attacks will deal less damage, and your defenses less effective. That being said, an extreme skill disparity can still result in a low-level character beating a significantly higher one, as the level/stat mechanics don't fully negate the role of player skill.

    3. The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim features levelups for high-level skills like schools of magic, speech, and sneaking, but does not present XP information; you merely get rewarded for practicing a skill. "Skill-ups" are frequent at first, but get infrequent quite quickly; the game tries to mitigate this by including skill trainers that you can speak with to purchase instant skill-ups with in-game currency.

    4. Planetside 2 features levelups under different names for your character. Levelups don't affect your play ability in this case; PS2 is a MMOFPS that is nearly entirely-skill driven. Rewards are often in-game currency that can be used to buy upgrades. This is a great example of using Levelups to cultivate a habit, in this case of playing a character.

    5. WarCraft III has Hero Units that can be 'built' at a special building for each faction. These are powerful units with powerful abilities, but to be effective they need to be involved in combat. This serves to shift the metagame away from the standard 'RTS' vision of having more, stronger units than the opponent, to instead prioritizing training heroes and having a unit composition that complements the hero's abilities and weaknesses.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2015
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  46. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    Hey guys! I'm calling it 2/12 now - Leveling Up has been added to the blog. Again, I'm taking the lack of argument as confirmation that I got it right for the time being.

    I'm looking at a couple of significantly smaller possibilities for the next mechanic, specifically ones that don't appear as often in RPGs. Next week's mechanic will be a surprise.
     
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  47. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    I wish lack of feedback implied positive support :). To be honest, I haven't read them, which makes me feel bad. And at the same time, that's the big challenge all of us content creators must overcome.

    Gigi
     
  48. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    The great thing about a blog? I can edit it. It's also possible I've not yet written about a mechanic people find interesting. Maybe it's not in a way that people find interesting. Altenatively, maybe pre-posting here is a bad idea.

    I pre-post as a sort of academic peer review. Now, as game developers, we're not stuffy, university-types, but it is always good to know if I've missed something. If it's not working, though, it's a moot point. Still, it helps in its own way as I can dedicate roughly two more days to research. So...win/win?
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2015
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  49. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Getting eyes on Content is hard. I've blogged, built apps, and lately, have the podcast. No matter the quality, the sheer VOLUME of content available in the universe means few will find it, even fewer will consume it, and only a tiny, tiny percentage will actually engage at a deeper level.

    I think, in this case, I would continue if you find it meaningful, fun, and compelling. Just because you said you'd do 12, there's no reason you have to. And, if you decide to put it on hold after releasing a few, then you can use that to help inform your next adventure (maybe I'll just shoot for 3 next time, or just 1). Try, improve, repeat.

    Gigi
     
  50. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    All fair points.

    This will continue, though. 12 mechanics in 12 weeks is doable, thus why I chose it - I've had projects in semi-recent history that I have not finished, that I thought I would, to my sadness. I'm done with not finishing things I set out to do for a while.

    Also, as I said - I need to be more knowledgeable about mechanics, especially since I've discovered I design best when I start with mechanics. I find it enjoyable, and it helps me, in multiple ways. The reason I share it, is it may help others - there's no way I'm the only person who's at their best when they start with mechanics. It also helps me refine my communication skills - just because I communicate a lot, doesn't mean I'm doing it well.

    Lastly, as cool as 300 Mechanics, I find the "mechanics" highly suspect - while good ideas, I find very few of these to be the building blocks of a greater game. I want to dig down and find the things that make those "mechanics" actually work, and more importantly why.

    The reason I set out to do this was to improve myself, and find inspiration. I haven't lost sight of that. If the only thing that sees my blog is a caterpillar, that's OK, provided I do a better job of making games going forward. #3 is still coming up.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2015
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