Game Development Reference
The important values in a game are the ones that are superior to every
other offering on the market. Every other value can be fulfilled better by
Values that a new game offers at a lower level than existing games
aren't worth much. Players who want these values have better options else-
where. Values that a new game offers better than all competitors are the
ones that matter. People who want this value will play this game because
they can't get that value better anywhere else.
But the greatest victory is in values that have no competition at all.
For example, consider the unique market positioning of BioShock . Many
games offer first-person combat, stealth gameplay, reactive story, and dark,
atmospheric worlds. Competing on these values is difficult because the
market is so crowded. So, instead of competing in the values that every-
one else competes in, BioShock invented completely original values that
nobody else was offering. Its art deco world and charming Big Daddy/
Little Sister ecology are both fascinating and unlike anything else in the
market. Players who wanted these things—and many did—had to go to
BioShock because there was nobody else. So the game was a great success.
Value curve comparisons make it obvious which parts of a game are
important and which aren't. It's the superior and unique values that really
matter; the values that are better found elsewhere are not selling points.
This helps designers by showing them where to focus their development
Every value costs resources. That's why BioShock didn't try to create a re-
active story as deep as that of Deus Ex ; doing so would have made the
game too expensive to produce. In addition, each new value reduces the
emotional purity of the experience. Too many values increase the risk of a
game dissolving into a murky, overcomplicated mess. Finally, some values
are simply incompatible. BioShock is set in an underwater city in 1960,
so it couldn't possibly include a cyberpunk conspiracy plot and remain
So achieving value superiority in the market isn't just about being
better or working harder. It's about shifting resources and focus to where
they can do the most good. Great games don't try to do everything; they do
a few things very well.
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