Game Development Reference
Over time, I realized that the idea of counting viable strategies was a
red herring. My faulty logic had gone like this: if two viable strategies are
better than one, that must mean that three viable strategies are better than
Wrong. Once you've got two viable strategies, there is no inherent
value in adding more. More viable strategies might make a decision more
interesting. But they might not, or it may not be the best way to do so.
We could invent a version of poker with many more useful moves, but it
wouldn't necessarily be better.
The real goal of balancing for depth is to create a rich thought process
inside the player's mind. We want to spark a fascinating chain of internal
logic that gives players epiphanies, doubts, and dilemmas, and we want to
do it even when the player is very skilled. For that to happen, there must be
more than one viable strategy. But once we have two such viable strategies,
adding more doesn't automatically improve the experience. Improving the
experience means making the decision process more nuanced.
This idea has an important implication for designers. It means that
the practice of adding more choices as a way to deepen a game is wrong.
More choices might be easy to create and easy to measure, but they aren't
inherently valuable. Often, they add more complexity than they're worth.
The designer's real goal is to enrich the player's internal experiences.
That goal is harder to achieve, and it's damned difficult to measure. But
it's the truth. And pursuing that truth makes our designs smaller, sim-
pler, more focused, and more elegant than they could ever get by strategy
Balance and Skill
Young k ids enjoy tic-tac-toe. It's a real game for them, with real skill, real
challenge, and real strategy. This seems hilarious to adults because the
game is so simple, and the perfect strategy is so obvious. We're bored by
tic-tac-toe. So how can a game that is fascinating to one group be pointless
A game that is balanced for players at one skill level may be imbalanced
for players at another because players at different skill levels have
access to different strategies.
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