Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
and players often fire on zombies with no intention of killing them, just
to slow their approach. Tying offense and defense to the same tool means
players must trade off their offensive and defensive needs. Will you slow
down the zombie shambling toward you, or headshot the valuable target
in the distance?
These sorts of multirole trade-offs are everywhere. One unit in a strat-
egy game might be usable for attack, defense, and scouting. The turning
mechanic in racing games might be used to negotiate corners and block
other drivers. And in some stealth games, the player can throw objects to
knock guards out or make noise to draw their attention.
Mechanics that don't overlap one another's roles smell like elegance.
A role is a way in which a mechanic can be used. For example, a strat-
egy game unit may be a harasser, a scout, a disabler, or a deceiver. In a
building game, a tool might be an excavator, a constructor, or a decora-
tor. A fighting game attack might be a punch, a block, a block breaker, or
ranged harassment. Each one of these tools has a purpose that can't be
fulfilled by the others.
When these roles overlap, the game loses elegance because you're
paying the cost for two mechanics to do the work of one.
For example, if a strategy game provides one kind of scouting unit,
there is no benefit in adding another unless it fulfills a different role than
the first. The second kind of scout must drive some set of new and mean-
ingful play experiences that can't happen with the first. If it doesn't, it's
dead weight in the design.
The most elegant mechanics are so distinct in their role that they
open up completely new kinds of play. Don't create variations on exist-
ing interactions. Instead, seek mechanics that introduce new strategies or
avenues of exploration that didn't exist in any form before.
Mechanics that reuse established conventions and interfaces smell like
elegance because they leverage knowledge that players already have.
We can ease comprehension burden by using symbols and conven-
tions players already know. These conventions can come from anywhere:
other systems in the game, other games, real life, or cultural archetypes.
As long as players already know them, we can benefit by using them.
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