Game Development Reference
play in a reduced capacity by remembering his positioning and listening
for footsteps. In each case, the stun is meaningful, but flow is preserved.
An OVERFLOW is a moment where the player is overwhelmed by
Overflows are more obvious than flow gaps. Whereas flow gaps create little
moments of boredom, overflow announces itself through complaining,
stressed playtesters. Since it's so obvious, designers tend to correct it natu-
rally by easing off the decision pressure. So I won't cover overflows further
here. Watch for them, and reduce the decision pressure when they occur.
Overflows in finished games usually happen with players of lesser
skill. The designer might have reached a good rate of flow for the players
he tested with, but weaker players have a terrible time as they flail around
below the skill barrier. To some degree, this is inevitable. There are almost
always some players who are so unskilled that they can't play. This is why
it's a good idea to deliberately choose a minimum skill level and design
around that instead of trying to include everyone.
tuRn-BaseD DeCision PaCing
Up until now, I've discussed flow in terms of a real-time system. This
doesn't apply to turn-based games because turn-based games allow players
to pace their own decisions. When faced with a large-scoped decision, play-
ers simply take a long turn. Given a small decision, they take a short turn.
This doesn't, however, mean that turn-based game designers can
ignore decision scope — only that the consequences of doing it wrong are
different. In fact, two of the classic endemic problems in turn-based game
design can be described in terms of poorly scoped decisions.
Micromanagement happens where there are too many small-scoped
decisions. Players are forced to endlessly shuffle around tens or hundreds
of nearly meaningless tokens to optimize their performance. They end up
experiencing a flow gap, because the time it takes to move the tokens is
more than the time it takes to decide what to do. The game becomes about
the boring physical act of moving tokens instead of the mental dance of
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