Game Development Reference
The only hard-and-fast rule of flow pacing is that it should vary. Neither
bore the player with long, slow periods, nor exhaust him with long, fast
It's possible to do a rough decision-pacing analysis on a design that has
not been implemented. Just imagine playing the game as a player would.
You are emulating the game systems in a very inaccurate way using your
brain. Think about what's going on, what you know, what you don't know,
the decisions being presented, and the thought process required to make
But there's a trick to this. The human mind will naturally skip to the
most interesting parts of any imagined or remembered story. This will
hide flow gaps. To think about decision pacing in a useful way, you must
go through every second of the experience in your mind in real time, with-
out skipping anything. This isn't natural or easy. It's palpably uncomfort-
able to sit there and imagine every boring animation, loading screen, and
pointless button press. It feels weird to spend five minutes thinking about
a five-minute experience. But it's essential to preserve time if you're to gain
any useful knowledge about pacing. This process isn't as good as playtest-
ing the game, but it's better than nothing and much, much easier.
Decisions Case Study: Counter-Strike
I first played Counter-Strike back in 1999, when it was just a Half-Life
modification made by two people. The gameplay was straightforward:
teams of special ops soldiers would fight it out with gangs of balaclava-
clad terrorists. Once one team was eliminated or completed its objective,
everyone would reappear for another round. Players would gather money
for killing enemies or completing objectives, which they could use to buy
better weapons and armor in later rounds.
It was a good game. The standard pattern for good games is to get an
explosion of popularity which slowly tails off to nothing over a few years.
But that didn't happen with Counter-Strike .
I stopped playing by 2001, but the community kept going.
Technologically advanced competitors like Unreal Tournament 2003 came
and went, but people kept playing Counter-Strike . Half-Life 2 came out,
and people kept playing Counter-Strike . The game got a graphical update,
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