Game Development Reference
same fight always ends the same way, and that the same counterstrategies
always work. This consistency is what allows players to plan complex strat-
egies. If soldiers had complex internal AI, the same battle would randomly
swing from victory to defeat and back as the AI decided to go left instead
of right, or lost and regained its courage. The AI soldiers would deter-
mine the outcome of fights instead of the player, which isn't what we want.
Automata-like soldiers make less sense in the fiction, but their mechanis-
tic predictability is what makes it possible for players to strategize with
confidence that their strategies will play out consistently.
The exception to this rule is in designs where fiction is more impor-
tant than mechanics-driven decision making. When a game's emotional
triggers revolve around nuanced interaction among AI characters, it can
be worth sacrificing the crystalline predictability of simple AI.
The character, difficulty, and complexity of a decision depend on the in-
formation that the player has while making it. The same decision can be
made incomprehensible with too little information, fascinating with the
right amount of information, and trivial with too much information.
This means that even without changing the decision at all, we can
transform the mental process of making it by adding and subtracting in-
formation. I call optimizing decisions this way information balancing .
INFORMATION BALANCING is the design process of providing or denying
information to a player to make a decision comprehensible without being
This is an elegant method of game design because it doesn't require
changing the mechanics themselves. The game stays the same. All we're
doing is hiding or revealing different parts of it, which is usually quicker
and easier than reworking how the systems actually work.
The two ways information balance can go wrong are information
starvation and information glut .
Inconsistent or incomprehensible systems aren't the only way to break pre-
dictability. Predictability can also break if the player doesn't have enough
information about what is happening. This is called information starvation .
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