Game Development Reference
O, victory! Thy favor bought
With screams of pain and endless thought
Yet without battles so hard-fought
'Tis a hollow prize, all for naught
CHALLENGE CAN CREATE THE suspense of competition and the thrill of
victory. It can generate fascinating strategic decisions to engross the mind
and teach fascinating lessons. And it can create the social experiences of
defeating or helping others.
But any game that uses challenge—and most do—must deal with the
issue of player skill. A challenge that is too hard for a player is frustrating.
One that is too easy is boring. Good, flow-sparking experiences live in the
Goldilocks zone between these extremes.
The catch is that the Goldilocks zone is different for every player. A
rotating crib mobile is fascinating to a baby but pointless to an adult. A
hyper-competitive tournament game like StarCraft is engaging to profes-
sional players but intimidating to the rest of us.
Dealing with skill means understanding the lower limit of skill below
which a game becomes frustrating, and the upper limit beyond which it
becomes dull. It means determining whether and how to expand those
limits to include more players. And it means knowing how to create
meaningful skill tests with real failure in the balance, without that failure
destroying the experience when it actually happens. These topics are the
subject of this chapter.
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