Game Development Reference
Eventually, I got good at predicting movements. Map knowledge was
easy, and aiming challenges were a nonissue. But Unreal Tournament wasn't
done. It reinvented itself again, into its final, consummate form: a pokerlike
game of psychological trickery. I knew what my options were, and what my
opponent's options were, and how each of these options interacted. He knew
all of this, too, and I knew that he knew, and he knew that I knew. When
both players have a crystal-clear map of the mechanical game in their heads
and the understanding to make near-perfect choices, the only thing left to
manipulate is the mind itself. So Unreal Tournament became about pro-
voking emotional outbursts, mixing up strategies to remain unpredictable,
reading the opponent's mind better than he can read yours. It became about
wrapping your mind around his and destroying him.
I never mastered that final reinvention because it is limitlessly deep.
Games broaden their skill range by repeatedly REINVENTING themselves
as the player's skill increases.
No game can stretch one simple skill out long enough to have a broad
skill range. There is only so much time one can spend on aiming, moving,
or learning economic strategies or map quirks. Deep games like Unreal
Tour nam ent sustain themselves by wrapping games inside games inside
games. Each time one is mastered, a deeper layer of play presents itself.
We can graph those reinventions out on a skill range chart. Just above
its skill barrier, Unreal Tournament is a game about fiction. As players
climb the skill range, it shifts again and again until it becomes a psycho-
logical poker game.
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