Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
inanimate objects in preparation for the grown-up world. The key element
of play is the cause-and-effect nature that reinforces certain behaviors. To
practice is to attempt to get better at some skill set. Without feedback on
one's actions, knowing how to improve is impossible.
When play becomes structured and goals, rules, and actions are applied
they turn into games. In the playground, simple play involving chasing other
children turns into a game of Tiggy or Brandy when one child becomes “it” and
the objective is to tag another child in order to make him or her “it.”
These fundamental actions of human behavior found in the play and games
of children are found at the very heart of computer games and make up the
set of core game mechanics presented herein.
4.2 Game Mechanics
If play is the practice of core human “mechanical” behavior, then a game
mechanic should define and constrain this behavior in a system with rules and
rewards; for example, a child playing at stacking blocks will be learning how to
position them correctly to build a stable tower. Once goals and/or restrictions
are placed on the activity it becomes a game; for example, build a stack of
blocks to 1 meter or build a stack of blocks to 1 meter in 30 seconds. In this
example, there is the play action (stacking), a goal (1 meter in 30 seconds),
feedback (if the blocks are placed incorrectly they will fall over), and rules
(use only these blocks).
The theme throughout this topic plays on the word mechanic to refer to
the actions taking place in games from the internal workings of animation
and programming to the interactions between the environment and the
player. However, the term game mechanic , in game studies, is used to refer
to designed game/player relationships that facilitate and define the game's
challenges. They are complex systems that include a set of possible player
actions, motivations, goals, and feedback. Understanding that a game
mechanic is much more than just an action and what other elements may
be applied with that action opens up a plethora of almost infinite ideas
for games by mixing and matching actions, goals, and rules. The cycle is
illustrated in Figure 4.1 . The player is presented with a challenge. To complete
this challenge they have tools they can use to perform actions and rules that
define the scope of these actions. The tools include peripheral computing
objects such as keyboards and game controllers, as well as virtual in-game
tools such as vehicles, weapons, and keys. The rules dictate how the player can
act in the environment. In a board game, rules are written in an instruction
booklet and monitored by players. In a computer game, the player is made
aware of the rules and the game's programming code ensures that the player
follows them. The program also provides feedback to players based on their
actions to assist them in learning how to better play the game and achieve
the challenge. Part of the feedback mechanism is to also inform players
when they succeed or fail.
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