Seven Deadly Sins: Strategy

Seven Deadly Sins Of Game Development: Strategy

Computer gaming has been around for several decades now. Everyone has their favorite style of game. The likes, and dislikes for vary as much as the people who play them. Some people enjoy action games. Some people enjoy card and gambling games; some people like, simulation games, some people enjoy strategy games.

The strategy genre has been around for the longest time developing a strong tradition.This includes games that range from M.U.L.E. to Civilization; and a thousand titles in between. No matter what game you enjoy playing, it is apparent that there are several design "flaws" that seem to show up.

Scripting the game

Strategy games are descendants of board-games. A large portion of the fun that we had playing board games comes from understanding the rules and mechanics of the game. We then make decisions that have consequences, within the game. Computerized strategy games let one player, experience, the game world on his or her own. This was great because several people owned a copy of the same game. Players experience different outcomes based on the decisions that they make in the game. Strategy developers began to create lengthy, scripted games because, the single player option was appealing. As massive amounts of people began playing the same game, options and expectations changed. Technology has allowed a multitude of people, to play, the same game at the same time. In different locations, simultaneously. The scripted scenarios don't feel right. The game is written with the same rules, but it does not take specific actions into account. Artificial Intelligence takes action depending on its development, through the game or maybe from a strategic standpoint written into the code of the game. In some cases, the human player can't lose because a defeat path was not programmed into the game. This will cause the scripting, to freeze. This happens most often in games where specific objectives must be met to accomplish a specified result, such as destroying a specific structure or capturing a single point. In the artificial environment, the decision-making ability is taken away from the player. In my opinion, making it less of a game. Often there is only one path to victory. Instead of being based on player performance, there are only objectives that are laid out that must be accomplished to move on. This may be an enjoyable aspect for some people, but, for others, things get boring quickly. One of the more popular concepts now; is game designers returning to open or “sandbox” worlds. This returns us to the point of open maps, without preset choices. By limiting preset objectives and, events that need to be triggered. This allows players to return to just enjoying the game based on the decisions that are made.

Overload

When playing strategy games, there is always the temptation to overload units and buildings. There are a lot of developers that think of their games or characters, as a collection of stuff. Any adventurer knows that good game design is a collection of decisions, and objects that you pick up throughout the game. There are two sides to this argument. There are those who think that there are too few options available to players. While the other side believe that there are too many options available. How do you know when you reached just the right amount? A well-known software company uses the number 12 to make sure that their games don't get too complicated. That allows 12 units, on each side. Other companies have different models based on their, titles or objectives. There is a faction of fans that feel that there should be no limitations placed on things such as units tools team members or other objects that you pick up during play. These particular individuals are known for merely overpowering the game to gain a victory as quickly as possible. I have been known to do this! Sometimes that is the fun of the game. Remember cheat codes? Early on strategy games had holes in their system that allowed us as players to modify the parameters that were set for each game. Whether or not this was done intentionally remains to be seen, but it sure was a lot of fun! Some Developers are returning to that mantra as they put out new games. What some games are lacking storyline, they certainly do not lack in being able to "OP" the opponent.

Variety….Or Not

Realistically, no matter how well your game is designed and built it's going to get old after being played enough times. It's often, unfortunate that a well-designed game doesn't take the steps necessary to allow people to change things and create new options. This will enable players to change things in the game, and form, unique scenarios that weren't built to follow a storyline. Some games even allow players to design their maps, creating entirely new worlds and allowing players to enjoy the game based on their input. By allowing players the ability to change the world the characters and the items associated with those characters the lifespan of the game can indeed be increased. By doing this, game companies and their designers can reap the benefits of a product that allows multiple variations and no right ending. With today's generation of users having the ability to manipulate the game structure and code sometimes adds to the enjoyability of the game. As technology advances and users become savvier with the systems that control the parameters of the game, sometimes that is precisely what they are looking for.

Another good aspect that the designer should take into account is the difficulty level associated with younger or more inexperienced players. There should be an ability to have a learning level and a more advanced level. I have experienced a lot of this. I found a great game that I wanted to play, and it looked great and may have been however the designers did not do a good job of explaining the mechanics of the game early on, thus, leaving me on my own and struggling instead of enjoying the game. It doesn't happen very often, but it is possible. While, Advanced levels should be created for users that are familiar with the game and its platform. This ties in specifically to making modifications in the software and code that allow more experienced users to get more longevity out of their games. We don't buy games to own them we buy them so that we can enjoy them and play them regardless of our experience level.

Locked!

As we look at different games, we start to notice that there are similarities between several different titles even if the same company does not create them. This may be based on popularity; however, there is a big issue with companies locking their code and or data. This limits the amount of modifying I can be done to the software. Who can blame them I mean you spend months or years developing a product the last thing you want to do is leave it open to being modified and or possibly stolen. Think of altering as computer gaming's Choose Your Own Adventure, or fanfiction. This allows fans to write and adjust their scenarios, develop their worlds, and propagate the lifespan of the game. The thing of it is, nobody is stealing your code you're essentially giving it away to the fans that should make you feel great. From a business standpoint, it's also a fantastic marketing tool. It is possible to lock your source code explicitly for the core of the game and create other aspects that will allow more advanced users to manipulate the system that you have in place while not compromising the work that you put in. More game manufacturers should take this into account when designing new products, if you give the customers more bang for their buck, and they genuinely enjoy your platform they will come back and purchase other products as you release them.

Arrrrrrrgh! Pirates!

Along the same lines of locking your source code, we also need to look at piracy in the computer industry. Unlicensed or pirated software has been an ongoing issue for many years. It used to be that companies would create security questions based on materials that were listed in the game manuals provided with copies of software. Now software is not packaged or sold in the same way that I used to be, and titles can be downloaded online and electronically. The way that we acquire games is so different. Many companies are now allowing the multiplayer option of the game to be played for free When a player wants to play individually then it becomes necessary to purchase a copy of the software either in physical form or electronically. This allows for a multitude of people to be able to experience the game and enjoy it before spending the money for something that they may not appreciate or may only enjoy a portion of this, is a strategy employed by many companies. Often times prior to a significant release they will provide trailers, or a short movie clips and screenshots of a game being played in the hopes that it will pique the interest of prospective customers, while some developers and companies require a physical copy of the game to be present, many of them create a "beta" version or playable demo this allows the customer or prospective customer to play the game and experience the environment and development of the game prior to committing to a purchase price for something that they may not like, or thoroughly enjoy. Let's face it people are going to steal software rather than purchasing it, unfortunately, that's human nature. There are ways to minimize this, and I think that most companies are using this to their advantage.

In The Beginning, Middle, End

Lastly, we have to consider that putting the story in the wrong place is also something that happens frequently players don't necessarily want cut screens, they also don't want to sit there and watch dialogue play out across their screen for long periods of time. Another substantial complaint is that the storyline wasn't placed in the right place in the game and it didn't make any sense to the player at that time in the story. In this case, often the player could not skip the cutscene and be forced to watch instead of playing. It seems that many companies are doing this now. There is a necessity for cutscenes and animations. However, their placement has not always been in line with the best timing of a playable sequence. When the developers are testing out the production of the game, it is possible for them to discover where the cutscenes that have been added may not fit the gameplay. That begs the question as to whether or not the cutscenes are added before or after the beta versions of the newer games are product tested by players. If they have been added before then, the people playing the beta versions should be providing their feedback to the company. So that before a game being released the cutscenes and pauses in the game can be edited so that they do not interrupt game Flow and also so that their placement in the chronological order of things can accurately be judged.

As technology and the gaming industry evolve, we shall see if developers take note of these issues that have been plaguing game design apparently since the beginning. One would think that the people designing the games would also be fans of the games and would understand these issues. Then again if you think about it, these issues may very well be what cause people to love the genre and continue to play the designs. There is never going to be one solution that is problem-free for everyone. The only thing to do is then create the best product that you can, and market it to the right group of gamers. One thing is for sure there will always be strategy games out there to play!

Seven Deadly Sins Of Game Developers: Strategy

This is a writing piece that was done directly for a client as a re-write.