Game Development Reference
Real darts solves this problem by wrapping concentric rings around
the bull's-eye, each of which gives a different number of points. Most
people can hit the biggest ring and get a few points, but only the best can
hit the bull's-eye, so everyone has some challenging but achievable goal.
This is an elastic challenge .
ELASTIC CHALLENGES permit different degrees of success and failure
to provide appropriate challenges to players across a wider skill range.
A pass/fail design only serves players who are just barely good enough
to pass the challenge. If they are too skilled, there is no challenge. If they
are not skilled enough, they inevitably fail. So pass/fail games only work
for players in a very narrow skill range.
Elastic challenges solve this problem by presenting multiple levels of
success or failure. By allowing different degrees of success, they support
a wider skill range since everyone has an attainable but challenging goal.
For example, classic arcade games usually present elastic challenges
using granular scoring systems. Anyone who puts a quarter in gets a few
thousand points just by pushing buttons. But with enough skill and per-
sistence, players can rack up hundreds of millions of points. So no matter
how many times they play (and how many quarters they put in), there is
always a way to do a little better.
Variable scoring systems as in darts and arcade games are a common
form of elastic challenge, but there are others.
For example, in the Hitman games the goal of each mission is to assas-
sinate a target and escape. The twist is that players are rated based on how
cleanly they kill the target. Just killing the target is easy—all you have to do
is hose down the level with machine gun fire and kill everyone. But to get
the coveted Silent Assassin rating, the player must use a combination of
gadgets, disguises, stealth, and accurate shooting to kill the target without
any witnesses or unnecessary violence. And there is a whole spectrum
of ratings leading up to Silent Assassin. A player who leaves dead guards
around to be discovered, but is never seen himself, does better than the
wild bullet-sprayer but not as well as the perfect infiltrator who is never
detected at all.
Had Hitman just been about killing the target, it would have been a
generic shooter. Had it required perfectly clean kills for success, it would
have been impossibly hard for most players. Elastic challenges allowed
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