Tuesday, April 21, 2009

May 2009: Trends of Simplicity

May 2009's topic, Trends of Simplicity, was submitted by game designer Jenna Leder.

She writes:

Simplicity is an important thing. It’s a recognized mark of good design if a game can be simple and unconvoluted while still maintaining a players interest. But “simple” shouldn’t be confused with “easy”, and from class nerfing to auto-aim to the abolishment of player death, “easy” in the pursuit of “simple” is a disturbing trend that seems to have hit the industry in the last few years.

There are many admirable and legitimate reasons for this: The casual games boon, a desire to increase market share by lowering barriers to entry and increasing accessibility, shorter production cycles, etc. Bottom line, simple is good for the bottom line. But how can we reconcile the need for simplicity and ease of play required for open market share with the needs of the core player who relishes the challenges of overwhelming odds? How can we accomplish simplicity without committing the sin of the Meddlesome Grandmother Effect?
  • Are games getting easier? In what way?
  • Is the “easy” trend in gaming a response to player needs, or market pressures?
  • KISS [Keep It Simple, Stupid!] has always been a core tenet of design. If “simple” has become intertwined with “easy”, how can we divorce them from one another? Is it even possible?
  • Not every game needs to be Ninja Gaiden. When intentionally making a game easier, how can it be done without becoming the meddling grandmother?
  • How do we lower the barrier of entry to appeal to a wider audience without alienating the core audience?
  • Is it even always necessary to lower the barrier of entry? Does everything have to be dumbed down for the masses? Can some things remain the domain of the mainstream/hardcore enthusiast, where others are welcome to play if they can keep up?
  • Is it our responsibility as developers to create the games that some people want to play, or everyone can play?
  • One would never suggest a Pee-Wee softball team should play in the same league as the New York Yankees. In the pursuit of a level playing field, is it even fair to try to bring different kinds of players together?
Jenna Eden Leder is a Junior Game Designer at Slingo, Inc. She holds a BFA in Interactive Design & Game Development from the Savannah College of Art & Design, where she focused on character art and animation for games. She is a frequent contributor to industry blogs, newsletters, and White Papers, and an outspoken opponent of censorship & First Amendment infringement in games.*

*The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Slingo, Inc, its affiliates, or its employees. Void where prohibited by law. For external use only. Not intended to treat or diagnose any condition. In case of accidental ingestion, seek professional help immediately. I am not a witch. So say we all.


Wadjet Eye said...

It's not just casual gamers. I think a lot of developers nowadays (myself included) take it for granted that the majority of players are going to hop online for a walkthrough when they get stuck - GTA4 even has a section on its option screen where you can store cheat codes - so there is less effort on making the game challenging and more so on making it fun.

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