Game Development Reference
If that's not enough, we can deny the player success or create small
setbacks. The player may lose a few resources or an ally, miss a small piece
of narrative content, or lose access to a bit of information. But in each case,
the game can continue moving forward along a new path. As long as play
doesn't collapse into repetition, there is no problem.
StarCraft II : In the single-player campaign, failing at an attack only
means the loss of some units in a broader strategic scenario. After failing,
the player can usually still rebuild and launch another attack. Play hasn't
restarted, and he isn't repeating a challenge. Rather, he's trying another
approach in an ongoing situation.
Super Meat Boy : In this action platformer, failure is a ubiquitous,
almost celebrated part of play. Meat Boy's lifespan is often less than 10
seconds. But every time Meat Boy is ground to hamburger or broiled by
fire, he reappears within a second, ready to try again. The sheer speed
of Meat Boy's resurrection means that flow never breaks. It's OK to die a
hundred times in a row, because play never stops. Death in Super Meat Boy
isn't painful (for the player), but players are still fully motivated to avoid it
and feel immensely gratified when they do.
Dwarf Fortress : In this game, failure is a rewarding experience in itself.
A collapsing fortress goes through a series of often-hilarious paroxysms
before finally imploding in a maelstrom of besieging goblins, flooding
chambers, and unhappily sober dwarves. The dwarves suffer horribly, but
the player loves every minute of it because the game is always moving
forward into a new and interesting experience.
Sometimes games end up emergently punishing players much more se-
verely than intended.
A FAILURE TRAP is when the player spends a long time locked into a
situation where failure is guaranteed.
The classic failure trap appears in sports. When one soccer, baseball,
or hockey team is far behind the other in points, they become a team of
dead men walking. They have no chance of winning, but they must still go
through the motions of play and finish the game. A half-hour of this can
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