Game Development Reference
were new to shooters, while I wasn't. Today, most Counter-Strike players
have practiced for years, while I haven't.
Games don't have to have wide skill ranges to be good. BioShock , for
example, only provides a meaningful challenge across a fairly small band
of players. But the experience still works because BioShock is only 10 hours
long, and it creates most of its meaning through art and narrative. It's not
intended to provide years of learning through struggle.
Making a game that is either deep or accessible is tough enough.
Making a game that is both deep and accessible and so has a wide skill
range is one of a designer's greatest tests.
skill witHout exPliCit goals
Some games don't have explicit goals. Games such as Dwarf Fortress , The
Sims , and Minecraft let players freely explore or build or interact without
any official winning or losing conditions. It might seem as though these
toylike games can ignore the issue of skill. But even toys have skill ranges
because they require some minimum skill level before players can interact
with them meaningfully.
For example, The Sims is more toy than game because there are no
predefined goals. Players raise a simulated family in whatever way they
like. But to play the game at all, one must be able to read, use a mouse,
and understand the interface of windows and buttons. And to experience
the meaning of The Sims , players must have a cultural understanding of
Western-style living. They have to know what a bedroom, telephone, house
party, and extramarital affair are. Without this baseline knowledge, they
can't interpret the meaning of in-game events.
Beyond basic interaction and comprehension, there is another reason
toys have skill ranges. Most toys don't remain toys for long. Given a toy,
most people will almost immediately set themselves a goal within it. A
child with blocks will try to stack them higher. One with a ball will try to
throw it farther. The same applies to software toys. In The Sims , a player
might decide to try to make the most money possible. When this happens,
he is no longer playing The Sims . He is playing The Sims: Make as Much
Money as Possible , a skill game of his own design. If that newly invented
game is trivially shallow, the design has failed. This is why even goal-less
toys benefit from expressing interesting, nonobvious properties which can
be learned. Even toys can be deep.
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