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Should the audience be considered in game design?

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by imaginaryhuman, Mar 2, 2015.

  1. imaginaryhuman

    imaginaryhuman

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    I find for me personally, that as soon as I start to think about the audience, who they are, what would please them, what they may like or not like, it starts to seriously impede my artistic expression and acts like a writers block. I get concerned about whether or not I'm doing the right thing, whether what I do is what people will like, etc... and this starts to change what I create. It also changes the reason for creating it, which is now to try to do what other people want and like, rather than just expressing what I feel is best (for me?) .... If I can stop thinking of any audience whatsoever then this pressure is relieved and I feel free to be artistic. This is probably a common malady I guess... any thoughts? Should an audience be considered at all in game design, or does it actually get in the way of artistic expression?
     
  2. orb

    orb

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    The answer to this sort of question is always yes/no/maybe ;)

    Either you make games you want to play, or you try to think up something you want as many as possible to enjoy. Sometimes both. And sometimes you just want to make what you think will earn the most money. Or a combination of everything. Everything is OK, really. If the game is too evil and IAP-laden, people will avoid it anyway.

    I don't really work with more than a general idea of what I want to make when it comes to my own projects, so mine change a lot. Then I scrap them.

    tl;dr: Yes.
     
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  3. Teila

    Teila

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    I always consider my audience. Having worked on other games with a similar audience makes it easier for me because I know what they want. :) I also ask potential audience members what they want. Rather than blocking me, it frees me to focus better on what will make our game appeal to the niche we are targeting. I can't image going in cold, with no idea of who might play our game. I would be overwhelmed!
     
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  4. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    What about 'people like me'? That's an audience too. In which case, you'd be the judge of what works well. And even so, you have the curse of knowledge. So, you need to consider 'How can I make this better for people like me, who aren't me?' That usually leads to simpler mechanics, juicier interfaces, and better feedback. There is always an audience, whether it's your 16 year old son (my current project), the lady in line at Wal Mart, or yourself.

    TL;DR - There is always an audience. Decide who it is. Consider best practices - flow, simplicity, finish.

    Gigi
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2015
  5. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    Hell yes.

    Having written some games that have flopped, it became obvious immediately that making sure my audience is happy is "sort of" important - not only for the success of the game, or what I get out of it, but more importantly for what they get out of it. We write games for our audience, which as @Gigiwoo notes, may or may not include ourselves.

    We can't account for individual taste/expectations. We can get around this problem by noting that the audience served by a genre typically expect certain things. This is why we often write games for some combination of genres. I think Gigi's note about 'people like me' as an audience is doubly astute, because if an audience excludes you, you're probably going to write a flopper.

    My example is Zombies vs. Knights, my cut-down RTS project from four years ago. First things first - I hate the twitch RTS as popularized by WarCraft III/StarCraft II; if I start talking about what's wrong with StarCraft II in particular from my viewpoint, I won't be able to stop, because I feel the game is systemically flawed from the ground up. I consider the game itself a game design anti-pattern. The TL;DR version is, I don't think there's any strategy in said games at all. My disdain for twitch RTSes was in every nook and cranny of ZvK - my 'cutting down' of the RTS pretty much led to units on autopilot with a single activatable ability, that the players found less than fun* and too random; it was expected that, being a strategy title, I would give the player more control so that there could be that "strategy" thing.

    *: Though, judging by the numbers on Wooglie, I'm assuming that for about a year and a half, gamers found it so bad it was good-ish. But, whatever.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2015
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  6. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    I think you should always have a target audience in mind and you should definitely be a part of that target audience. This doesn't mean you can't innovate and you have to just clone other "best of breed" games. It means you should have a feel for what you as a member of that target audience really want. Why do you like this kind of game? What have you always hated about games of this type? By asking questions such as those you put yourself in the position to be creative. You don't even need to set out to drastically change the design (and doing so would probably be too much change anyway). Instead you can try to focus more on the things you like and why you like them and focus less on the things you do not like. Maybe it is the feeling of being in control of this unit that you really like. Okay, so can how can you extend that feeling to other things in the game? Maybe it is the accumulation of power/money/skills that you like the best. Again, how can you really bring that area out? If you like platform games but always hated the pixel perfect jumps and so forth. Lose those and find another way to provide a challenge. No game is perfect. Even the most popular games in any genre have things that at least some players will hate and they have things that at least some players will love. And there is something about that game that appeals to all of them. That is the heart of the game. That is what you need to find. But any game that has ever been created can be improved upon at least for a portion of that target market.
     
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  7. orb

    orb

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    Does every programmer on the Barbie games also play them for other reasons than testing?
     
  8. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    I have no idea what they do. I suppose it is very possible they may play with barbies. It is more likely they understand the core of why people want to play with barbies (maybe through focus groups) and focus on that experience. But they could all have a collection of barbies at home I suppose.
     
  9. orb

    orb

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    I'm saying that the people working on any game aren't necessarily the target market. Even more true for games aimed at kids ;)
     
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  10. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    They could be. There a lot of adults who enjoy and play with toys. And there are a lot of adults who have children so although they would not be a direct part of the target market in one sense they actually are because as parents they would be the ones likely making the purchase. They know what their kids like and do not (or should anyway). And they know what they want their kids exposed to and what they want them to not be exposed to.
     
  11. Gigiwoo

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    I worked on a game at a AAA that had a dev team of approximately twenty. Two of them actually played the game outside of testing. It was still a good game.

    Gigi
     
  12. imaginaryhuman

    imaginaryhuman

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    Some good points. Possibly then I have not defined/identified my audience narrowly enough, hence the inflation of `pleasing everyone`... and the suggestion to please people like myself/be part of the audience, that's good too. I need to stop targetting everyone and be deliberately more narrow. It's sort of harder I think if you're making something somewhat outside the box or genre-spanning or artistic in general, because then it doesn't fit inside a nice tidy compartment so easily. I guess my project is mainly puzzle-platformer (more puzzle than platform, really)... so that narrows it down some.
     
  13. orb

    orb

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    Largely casual audience then? Make it very shiny, full of sound and write a list of features to definitely have and stick to that list ;)
     
  14. imaginaryhuman

    imaginaryhuman

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    Casual... as in iPad mainly, minimalist graphics style, cute, colorful etc
     
  15. CDMcGwire

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    When I design games (design in my case still being more fantasy than reality at this point, but I can dream... wait) I either seek to improve a design that I enjoyed or come up with something my friends would enjoy with me. In those cases, the audience is simple. Either its anyone who enjoyed the inspiration, and those who were turned off by the flaws I try to fix, or its for my buds and I already know what they want.

    If you're going for artistic expression, it's doubly important to consider your audience. If people can't interpret your expression, you may as well have never attempted. Not everyone will get it, but if expression is the goal then the key is design your game so that others are experiencing what you experienced.

    Maybe that's really vague. I'll just say yes.
     
  16. imaginaryhuman

    imaginaryhuman

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    Do you not think though that being an artist is partly also to do with, the raw expression of creativity, unbridled, which flies in the face of anyone's expectations and doesn't conform?
     
  17. CDMcGwire

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    I don't believe anything can avoid conforming. Everything we know is built off of previous knowledge, or is knowledge of pre-existing entities. Where the creativity comes from, is mixing influences to reveal that undiscovered (but still, pre-existing) knowledge and perspective. Creativity doesn't exist if there are no limits. Everything becomes arbitrary and meaningless at that point.
     
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  18. Tomnnn

    Tomnnn

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    Individual: yes
    Indie / small company: yes
    AAA studio: no, those talking wallets should be grateful that we're willing to take $60 from them
     
  19. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    As a professional? I think artistry is expressing creativity within the constraints of the project.
    Gigi
     
  20. Kiwasi

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    This question depends on if you are making 'art' or a 'game'.

    By definition a game requires an audience. The audience is required to interact. The audience needs to be considered.

    By comparison art can exist for its own sake.
     
  21. imaginaryhuman

    imaginaryhuman

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    you are saying art cant be interactive?
     
  22. Kiwasi

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    No, not at all.

    I'm saying that art does not require consideration of the audience. Many works of art do, but its not a required component of art.
     
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  23. RockoDyne

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    By what definition is this? Should I also get into schools of thought that art is subjective (beauty in the eye of the beholder and all that), and isn't actually complete without the audience? Seriously, it's an actual notion that art that hasn't conveyed it's meaning (sometimes just any meaning) is a failure.


    Can't say I actually think about an audience, at least not an explicit one. I mostly think in terms of play styles and how they get shaped and flow through levels. In theory, anyone could play it and find a natural play style.
     
  24. CDMcGwire

    CDMcGwire

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    A game isn't a game until the game is played. People play. People are the "Audience" he speaks of. I wouldn't call it an exact definition, but the general logic is on point if you consider the game players the audience of the game maker.
     
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  25. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    One I made up. I'm not trying to define art here. Simply sating that a game requires some level of audience consideration. At the very least you have to take in input and provide feedback.

    But I'm pretty sure if you looked you could find some school of thought on art that does not require an audience. One that is all about the internal process of creating art, rather then the external process of sharing art. I'm no art student though, so I should probably stop making grand sweeping statements about this.
     
  26. CDMcGwire

    CDMcGwire

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    Just consider it top down design.
    Start with grand, sweeping statements, then break it down.

    You can't just get rid of absolute, blanket statements. Forums would lose the gravitas and sense of importance that makes them so engaging. ;)
     
  27. RockoDyne

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    Willing to bet that's a minority though. For one it makes art a completely masturbatory exercise, but just think of how many artists want recognition and to be proud of what they've made. I don't think deviantart would exist if they didn't.
     
  28. Tomnnn

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    @BoredMormon it kind of describes the way I make games. I never have an audience in mind, and usually the projects I make are for my own enjoyment or to get an idea out of my head :D

    That's going to especially be the case when Sixense finally delivers their wireless Hydras. I have a lot of ideas I want to do with the system, but it's not going to distribute well due to the $300 for the hardware requirements and it might not even be fun to other people. I want to make games with almost no controls, but many things that can be interacted with by hand - like buttons and levers.
     
  29. Aiursrage2k

    Aiursrage2k

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    I think so though maybe not. For example in my starter pack#1, I added a poll to see what the users actually wanted more of, turns out it wasnt what I expected it to be -- I thought they wanted mainly big starter packs and models but instead it seem to be primarily more minigames. So its possible that your taking your game in the 'wrong direction'
     
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  30. Kirahy

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    I think the potential audience should matter. We solved it by studying many forums of games that are about in the class we plan. So we decided for a plot that we did not copy somewhere (at least not knowingly, I am sure there is some game out there people will claim we copied it). Right now we are working on the last decision, what style people like. This is a bit hard to read out of the forums, so we started a poll.

    So i think it makes sense if you get certainty about your doubts. It would really be painful to see that you created totally off the general taste of the audience after many months of hard work.

    However, once you have the last tips, you should do what your heart tells you and just work forward. Too many doubts are a real creativity killer as you also pointed out. As with most things the golden way is somewhere in the middle of getting the opinion of the crowd and your style as an artist and what you like. So once you got enough opinions to make your mind up, don't look left or right, just work.
     
  31. imaginaryhuman

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    I guess on the flipside of NOT considering the audience, would be the likes of community authored content, asking people exactly what kind of game THEY want you to make, etc. Some merit to that I guess.
     
  32. Atmey

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    Yes for me, but not directly, many people would say something and you would interpret it as something else, IMO you should look more at what people actually like from previous experiences/games and start from there instead of an open question.

    Some games include some specific elements that some fans want, but a huge turn off for the others (specific fetishes, out of theme items or costumes), so you have to consider all not just the ones you are asking.
     
  33. Billy4184

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    Every really good game is good in a general sense as well as a specific sense. By general sense I mean that, if you put programmer art in and took away 75% of the content, it is still reasonably compelling because it has nailed down the basic rules of game enjoyment.
    However, the best games always add onto that foundation, besides things like mind-blowing graphics and audio, some sort of unique artistic character that is not necessarily popular in the general sense, although usually even people who don't go for it particularly can appreciate it in some way, like fiction by a master writer in a genre you don't really like.

    So I think a good way to approach your problem is perhaps to make your game with cubes and 8-bit sounds until people can enjoy playing it, and then go nuts with your artistic creativity :)
     
  34. Aiursrage2k

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    The best game I played for IOS was hitman go a real minimalistic art style. Its super simple didnt even have any animations but very crisp looking, and fun, something that an indie could do.
     
  35. snacktime

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    This. I think most people would be surprised at how much of the story/creative art is added towards the very end, even on large well known games. It's not that it's not important, it's just not important until you nail the gameplay. Plus, a lot of art in real games is focused just as much on the functional and usability, which are things that surface by working on gameplay.

    As for the audience, you have to go by actions not words. Try stuff out and see how people actually react, pay much less attention to what they say.
     
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  36. Atmey

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    I'd have to go with George RR Martin on this: Art is not a democracy. People don't get to vote on how it ends..
    My personal opinion is most games' ending are very predictable and boring, you just killed/disabled the most evil person in the universe and if you didn't do so, he would've taken over the world an hour later, the beloved heroes you thought they died are not actually dead, but alive to make a fan service comeback in sequels
    Unless your audience are younger than 12~14 I think they can take a more interesting ending than a generic happy ending. MGS3 ending comes to mind.

    As for last minute additions, I think easter eggs would be a more suitable.


    - this game is too hard
    - Add easy more or more tips or tutorials (just make them optionall/non-obstructive to not annoy audience who like the game as is)

    - the music was better in prequel
    - add option to use classic music set from the prequel

    - character would look better with X
    - add optional customes/skins, DLC or unlocked in game, the point is to stay with YOU think would be more suitable in your game universe as cannon.

    - Game needs more polish
    - This is a tricky one, but see what you can afford budget and time wise, if it is still felt unpolished by the majority you might consider investing more here.
     
  37. ostrich160

    ostrich160

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    Depends why you do it
    For fun: No
    For money: Yes
    For a bit of both: Sometimes yes, sometimes no