Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
Twitch decisions are the smallest meaningful decisions. They take less
than a second to think through, and require only simple conscious reason-
ing. Punch or kick? Reload now, or wait one more second? Look left or
look right? Jump or dodge? Twitch decisions are a common basis for flow
in games because they're easy to generate. We don't have to set up interest-
ing, elegant systems of partially predictable cause and effect and have the
player think through them. We need only compress a simple choice into a
small time space. That's why action games are often called twitch games—
they are based almost entirely on twitch decisions.
Tactical decisions are the next class of decisions. They require one
to five seconds of thought, and noticeably engage the player's conscious
mind. Which equipment should I buy? Which units should I build? These
kinds of decisions involve more information than twitch decisions. A
player might consider the positions of multiple characters, and their abili-
ties, conditions, and tools. He might even think back to the outcome of a
similar situation that took place earlier.
Profound decisions are the largest decisions, taking 10 seconds or
longer to make. Decisions this large use so much information that they go
beyond the game itself and draw from the player's broader knowledge of
emotion, culture, and humanity. They push the player to look inside him-
self and scrape his thoughts, memories, and emotions for every fragment
of information he can find. When chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov
stares at a chessboard for a quarter hour, he is making a profound deci-
sion. He is putting all his knowledge from years of study to work. His
mind is swimming through knowledge of his opponent's habits, hundreds
of possible future game states, recently discovered tactics and strategies,
previously made plans, examinations of his own judgment in the moment.
Profound decisions only arise from the most elegant, subtle, fascinating
game systems. Most games never present one.
Impossible decisions are beyond a player's ability to understand. If a de-
cision requires a subtlety or volume of knowledge that is totally beyond the
player, or the potential outcomes are vastly too numerous to understand,
the decision becomes noise. The player must be able to wrap his mind
around the decision and choose one path for comprehensible reasons,
with a coherent expectation of results. If he cannot, the decision is impos-
sible and does not contribute to flow because the player will just choose
randomly.
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