Search Unity

  1. Unity 2019.2 is now released.
    Dismiss Notice

Creating an addictive single player game (positive way)

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Gor-Sky, Jun 19, 2019.

  1. Gor-Sky


    Jan 28, 2018
    Do you know this games where you play hours and dont even notice? Or you really dont want stop playing and always think just 15 mins more?
    What games did you get addicted to? Post them and the reason why you think it happened:)! Or do you know general techniques to achieve this effect?

    I am really wondering what mechanics and game design can make a single player game kinda addictive.
    Answers like "Make a good game" arent helpful. I really want to look in detail at the techniques used in games.

    Also In this topic I want to regard only single player games because multiplayer games have other design to achieve players being glued.
  2. Joe-Censored


    Mar 26, 2013
    The Civilization series, especially Civ 4. It really helped me that you could go into the options menu and enable the in game real world clock to keep track of time :p

    More recently CK2, EU4, and Stellaris.

    If I were to speculate, I'd say they are engaging for long periods of time because they are enormous in scope, yet constantly keep you busy with micro management towards your next goal. On goals, you always have some minor goal you are working towards in an effort to get to your larger goals. And these minor goals are just in the head of the players.

    For example, your minor goal you are working towards might be preparing your armies for an attack against a neighbor. It might be pulling yourself out of a losing war. It might be expanding your trade influence in a distant area of the map. Or it might simply be waiting until the time is right to act. In EU4 I've several times burned through 6 or more hours of gameplay just waiting for a stronger neighbor to get dragged into a losing war so I could declare war on them at the same time (playing as Ireland, waiting for England to drop troops into France and take heavy losses so I can attack England, etc).

    These games above all have play throughs of 30+ hours for a single game, and keep you busy with small stuff that doesn't feel trivial in the moment. Just building your country brick by brick, each one important and needed before you can lay the next brick.
  3. Pxltiger


    May 5, 2015
  4. Not_Sure


    Dec 13, 2011
    I really love games with orthogonal design. That is, games with an emphasis on situational decision making, rather than raw progression.

    So Doom has a set of enemies where each one requires different tactics, rather than the same enemies with a different color with a bigger life bar.

    I also prefer weapons that do different things, rather than have bigger numbers.

    I always hate it when skills in games like elder scrolls or fallout just do “does more damage”.

    Also, I hate, hate, HATE waves.

    Waves were invented when bsp design got over taken by dropping down models because making unique architecture became a huge hinderence (cough, shadow warrior).
  5. Volcanicus


    Jan 6, 2018
    The best way I found was to make it achievement based.
    There may be a grinding element to it but at the same time, you can mix and match it to create a level of mastery.
    Afterwards, you have to plan the mastery into different dimensions.

    In the MMO genre, let's pick WoW, you had different achievements based on the following:
    - Exploration -> treasure finding included
    - Professions
    - Dungeons
    - Gear
    - Raiding
    - Hard-mode dungeons/raids

    If we look at other types, like Warframe, you also have several mastery style achievements or challenges such as "Get 3 head shots in a row while aim-gliding" which is very difficult. It also has the ability to customize to the point that fashion can be a primary outlet. Better yet you can also collect stuff.

    So as long as the player can either build something or gain a mastery in a specific dimension of choice, you can make your game more addictive. This of course bars skinner-box farming. That is not fun... or positive.


    Jun 1, 2017
    For me, it's just gotta feel good. I played original Halo campaign over and over just cause it felt good to play. Used to play Turok 2 over and over for same reason. Blasting raptor heads into goo with the double barrel just felt awesome every time. And at the time, the movement felt really weighty and responsive.

    Game that got all sorts of praise but could barely get me to finish it was the Witcher 3. Had great production value, but just didn't feel great to play. Opposite spectrum is Demons Souls. Didn't look amazing but it felt right. Despite being obtuse as hell, feeling good was enough.

    Dragons Dogma is another action RPG I played dozens of times. Had epic soundtrack and really cool theme but mostly it just felt good to play. 30 minute long grinds against monsters were cool because it just felt good the entire time.

    The best rally racing game is the original Dirt Rally. It has the most robust physics simulation, and thus feels better than the more arcadey iterations. You can spend a hundred hours developing skill in manipulating the vehicles on all the different surface types. Simplify that, and it just takes fewer hours to get to that point where you say, "eh, i've got everything I can from this."

    GTA Vice City had some motorcylces that were a blast to drive. Hit the perfect balance between traction and weightiness that just made riding around really enjoyable.

    Can't remember the name, there was an N64 star wars flight game that was great. Tying the ropes around the big walkers was endless fun, as was bombing runs with the y bombers or whatever they're called.

    The Venerable Mount and Blade has the best feeling medieval combat, despite its age and simplificty. Nailing that perfect shot from the back of a war horse just never gets old. And the rock throwing.. man, how much fun is it to throw rocks at looters in that game.

    But For Honor? Forget it. It doesn't feel right! Too convoluted. Same with Kingdom Come. They tried to capture the nuance of sword fighting more accurately, but they made it too complex. Gotta be able to react as fast as you can think --faster actually, no time for thinking in a fight. Gotta be instinctive reflex.

    Anyway, trying to give some examples of games that I think "felt good" and kept me playing them for a long time because of it.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2019
  7. Deckard_89


    Feb 4, 2016
    Rogue Squadron ;-)
    BIGTIMEMASTER likes this.


    Jun 1, 2017
    thats it! I loved that game.
  9. Not_Sure


    Dec 13, 2011
    Oh, and never discount the "it's broken, but it still works" aspect.

    Goat Simulator is a prime example of this.

    Hell, it's the whole reason rag doll physics are so popular.

    Not because it looks cool. Because its a random crazy-(stuff) generator.

    Dark Forces 2 had a well fleshed out death animation system that resulted in some fairly believable deaths. But it's way more fun watching a corpse flail about like a cartoon.

    Blood did this really well with kicking head around and having enemies burst into flames running around chaotically.

    It served no purpose mechanics wise, but come on, dudes of fire screaming in pain zig zagging around! That's fun.
  10. Murgilod


    Nov 12, 2013
    Enemies on fire can ignite other enemies and also damage the player. There was an explicit mechanical purpose.
  11. JordanWBrace


    Jun 26, 2019
    GTA IV is probably the most replay-able game for me (single player included)...

    I didn’t particularly like Niko or his story necessarily, but the environment / city was just incredible. Liberty City was living and breathing, I don’t really know what made it enjoyable other than that.

    The physics in that game was a lot of fun too. Running across the street and being unexpectedly taken out by an impatient New Yorker was sometimes frustrating, but funny too... Especially in online.
  12. kdgalla


    Mar 15, 2013
    I don't even want people to know how much I've played Skyrim. I think the factors that keep me playing are:

    1. Tons of interesting, authored, content. This is sort of a brute-force approach that only AAA studios can do, probably, unless you make some massively crowd-sourced RPG.

    2. Always having multiple goals, including always many short-term goals at any one time, and handful of long term goals at any time, in addition to the endgame. I'm not speaking of quests only, but other things like always improving your skills, equipment, getting a house, etc. Constant rewards and progression a are fun.

    I like having more than one goal at a time, because if I struggle with one thing, I can go do something else instead of trying to replay one difficult part over-and-over until I can get past it.

    It's better to tease unreachable goals early-on too, so that the player gets excited about all of these things that they'll be able to do eventually. It contributes to that feeling of progress.

    3. Rewarding exploration. I guess this ties in with number 1 and 2, but I like how in the Elder Scrolls games, I don't always have to do what they tell me, I can also just wander around and go wherever I want and I'll usually find something interesting. The reward doesn't have to be loot, necessarily- finding interesting lore, funny details, easter eggs, or any sort of content can fun to find.

    4. Sandbox elements- Elder Scrolls can definitely go a lot further in this regard, but with the right elements you can create your own goals in addition to what the game gives you. A guess Minecraft is a much better example of this. Someone built a full-scale replica of the Starship Enterprise from TNG over the course of who-knows-how-many hours.