Fun-ness

Nibbie
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Joined: 2010.11
Post: #1
So, after making a few games of- how should I say it, limited fun-ness, I have realized that although I have few limitations in the technical aspects of game making- I know the languages I need to know, I can make graphics that look fairly decent, etc., I really am not the best at making fun games. Each year I enter contests such as 3DU and uDG, and place somewhere, usually not last, sometimes fairly highly up, but rarely near the top and the end result is never something that I really enjoy or am particularly proud of.

So, my questions to the successful shareware developers here (ones who have made more money than me at game dev, which would be >$5.50 USD- one license for my first game and a .50c donation for a text based MMORPG I made in grade 10):

1.. So you have a clean slate, an empty .c file, a brand new project folder or whatever you start with and what do you do, start to finish, summarized heavily, to create a fun game?
2. Are the game that you are most proud of the ones that you enjoyed the most?
3. Is there any way to break away from that first 95% of the game is 50% of the work deathtrap?

And anyone who has made popular freeware, feel free to answer as well. I'm all ears.
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Post: #2
1. Write games that you want to play and have confidence in from day one. Ideally, you should be able to 'dry run' the game and either play it on paper or mentally play it through. It's also worth trying the two day rule. If you can prototype the game in a weekend and it's playable (and fun) there's a good chance it's a good one.

2. Generally yes, although after debugging them for 3 months non-stop I might not have played them for a while after finishing them Smile

3. Yes. Good testers. Ones that can report bugs properly and still enjoy playing the game. Apart from helping you track down and splat the annoying stuff that makes you feel the game isn't finished, they'll also help keep you enthused about the project.
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Post: #3
Not specific answers to your questions, but some items from my never completed book. My track record is a couple of PDA shareware games I released at the turn of the century.

A game has to have something in it that makes the player want to keep coming back. A lot of time and effort has been wasted if the game is put down after only having been played a couple of times and never looked at again. The key elements that make someone keep coming back for more are:

A target to beat
A high score, a quickest time, a new level to reach, an opponent to conquer.

Variety
The game has to keep changing, even if the changes are only small. No-one is going to want to have to do the same thing over and over again for 50 levels. Change the level layout, the starting positions, the intelligence of the opponents, the number of opponents, etc. Even just changing the graphics occasionally adds freshness to a game. How many times have you played just one more to see what the next level looks like?

Easy to learn
Make the actual game play very easy to learn. You want a player to be able to pick up your game and play it straight away after only a quick explanation of the rules. Make solving the puzzles or beating the opponents the challenge, not working out how to play the thing!
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Sage
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Post: #4
Zwilnik Wrote:1. Write games that you want to play and have confidence in from day one. Ideally, you should be able to 'dry run' the game and either play it on paper or mentally play it through. It's also worth trying the two day rule. If you can prototype the game in a weekend and it's playable (and fun) there's a good chance it's a good one.

How do you come up with ideas like this?

Sir, e^iπ + 1 = 0, hence God exists; reply!
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Post: #5
unknown Wrote:How do you come up with ideas like this?

I find it is a case of the ideas finding me. Sometimes overhearing a conversation triggers off an idea or seeing something in the street. Playing games can also trigger ideas. I'm sure you have played something and thought "what if it did this instead?". Take that what if as a starting point and move on from there. If the process works correctly you could end up with a game idea that is nothing to do with the game you were playing.
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Post: #6
Fantastic suggestions so far. The only thing I have to add is the usefulness of watching over someone's shoulder. If you have a working version or prototype of your game, sitting someone down in front of it and watching what they do, what they enjoy, and what frustrates them is tremendously informative. The only problem is that they'll frequently get hung up on unfinished features or a not-fully-polished UI, so this may be something you'd want to do late in the development process.

I also had something interesting revealed to me recently: If people aren't having fun with your game, it may be possible to make it more fun without having to change gameplay at all. memset 0x801 was essentially a remake of a classic game, and I wanted to keep the same game mechanics as the original. After adding some features like online high scores, more variety in the graphics/sound/music, and a more polished and intuitive UI, I found that players were enjoying the game much more even though I left the core gameplay as it was.
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Post: #7
The past contains a wealth of game ideas to plunder. There are about 30 years of games to seek inspiration from. Don't just go for the obvious ones as there have been lots of quirky ideas which have unexpectedly worked.
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Post: #8
If game ideas seem difficult to come up with, an idea is to look for market presence, especially on the Mac. There are many games or game types that simply do not exist for the Mac, and identifying those areas will certainly garner you some interest from game players.

Quote:3. Is there any way to break away from that first 95% of the game is 50% of the work deathtrap?
Do you view the 1.0 release as the first 95, 99, or even 100% of the game?

If so, it is impossible to break away from this 'death trap.' Supporting the game beyond the initial release, and responding to customer's issues, ideas, complaints, etc., is a unique advantage internet-distributed games have.

And as mentioned earlier, the appropriate polish can transform a mediocre game into a very fun, impressive game. Polish polish polish - which often comes after a 1.0 release, or in that last 5% of the game! Stick with it and keep polishing your game if you think it's fun after reading all of the aforementioned excellent guidance.

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All too often, art is simply the loss of practicality.
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Member
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Post: #9
1) Partner with someone (named Matt) who has a knack for coming up with fun game ideas Rasp

2) Nope. I've never been a big classic board games player, but I'm most proud of the work I did on the BBBG.

3) I agree with Zwilnik about testers, but I'll extend it to enthusiastic partners as well. If you have a publisher/partner who is actively trying out your builds and providing you with daily feedback, the motivation to keep going is much stronger.
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Post: #10
KittyMac Wrote:3) I agree with Zwilnik about testers, but I'll extend it to enthusiastic partners as well. If you have a publisher/partner who is actively trying out your builds and providing you with daily feedback, the motivation to keep going is much stronger.

I cannot agree enough about this one.

For a long time while working on a product I had constant feedback and bug reports from a dedicated tester. Having that friendly battle of trying to get their list down to zero as they keep adding new items is a great motivator.

Unfortunately, due to circumstances out with my control, I no longer have this luxury and the motivation has taken a massive hit.
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Post: #11
I'll be your partner Andrew Smile

Anyway, I do agree with what Andrew said. Good ideas often just sort of arrive. You can also generate ideas almost procedurally. You may or may not remember Whizbang, an entry I did for one of those crazy 24-hour contests, with this little robot hopping around circles. It was super fun (at least, I thought so...) and I might make it again, but more like a platformer, with scrolling. Anyway, the procedure for that was trying to think of a sort of world that people aren't used to traversing. So I started with primitives, and came up with a world full of circles, and those circles are the only platforms, and you have to have good control to bounce between them and still shoot. It had almost FPS-like controls, so it was easy to learn, but it was still a totally new game.

Also think about what people like to do. (Shoot stuff, make things work/fit, etc.)

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Post: #12
KittyMac Wrote:1) Partner with someone (named Matt) who has a knack for coming up with fun game ideas Rasp

Thanks, R, gave me a lift.

I suspect most of my games aren't REALLY fun in their initial state, but I think they are amusing and some demonstrate potential to be fun. Given time, tweaking, and lots of feedback, some of them might become truly fun. [Edit: to clarify, not saying they aren't fun fun, but they are not yet compellingly fun to most people the way a polished game like Wingnuts or Fizzball is.]

I think I tend to try and shove my ideas down the player's throats, not unveiling the game until I think it's close to being finished. That is probably a mistake. How does Blizzard do it? Blizzard develops their game, and then spends many months, a year, just tweaking it to make it more fun. If you aren't cloning a game that is already tried and true, the advice I hear is to develop something playable quickly, then play it and get feedback, and tweak the gameplay for as long as possible. If it doesn't come together, start over or throw it out (e.g. Warcraft Adventures; Starcraft Ghost.)

The Sims started life as an architecture sandbox; the sim-people were almost an afterthought, needed to test the workability of the homes the player designed. But they were more fun, so they became the central part of the game.

Once you have an idea there are techniques to make your game more appealing. I don't pretend to know much about this, but one I've read about and noticed in many games: find ways to reward player progress, and give them hints of things to come, dangled just out of reach. In Myst, you could see things in the distance that you would get to much later. In Wingnuts 2, you get to fly a souped up plane for a few minutes at the beginning before it is cruelly taken away from you. Many games feature a world map that you can gauge progress on. Etc. Notice these tricks when you see them in other people's games. In the absence of subtler goals, at least add a high score list so the player can try to beat their own score or their friend's.

Richard Rouse and Chris Crawford have interesting books with ideas for generating game ideas and developing them into games. I'm sure there are other books people can recommend. Ernest Adams writes a good column in Gamasutra.

Ideas: I keep scribbles and notes of ideas I've had. Some are from back when I was a teenager! Many are unworkable as games, or noone would play them if I made them (text adventure, anyone?) But I keep them anyway. The game I just did for 3DU is based on an idea I scribbled on a piece of paper over 5 years ago. I just let it sit until I was reminded of it recently and realized how feasible it was. (Boy, it's sure nice to actually cross something off my list!)

A recent thought I had: writers have exercises that they perform to hone their craft and to get themselves out of ruts. For example, reduce something you already wrote by 50%. Write something without using any adjectives. That kind of thing... I wonder if there are exercises for a game designer? For example, try switching the player and computer roles in an old game design. Plan a game that uses only one button.

This discussion is great, BTW. It's giving me ideas already. I hope more people jump in.

Measure twice, cut once, curse three or four times.
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Post: #13
MattDiamond Wrote:Many are unworkable as games, or noone would play them if I made them (text adventure, anyone?)

Yes please. Nothing wrong with a good text adventure. People still read books and people read text on computer screens so no reason why a good text adventure would not work. Just because a certain percentage of people would not have the patience or attention span for a text adventure don't write the rest of us off.

Think of the extra benefits a modern take on text adventure games could bring:

* Multiple dictionaries - the player could be able to get the text in their language using localisation techniques.

* Computers can now talk the descriptions decently if the player wants.

* It would be much easier putting together the content nowadays with text editors that provide spell checking.

* Fast advanced parsers.

* As the adverts are fond of saying - and many many more! This is just a quick post so not going to spend hours listing them all. You can take this as one of those ideas jumping off points.

There may even be the added advantage of teaching the kids (and more scarily some adults) how to spell and use grammar correctly Wink
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Post: #14
This is an excellent discussion. Personally, I really recommend reading the Theory of Fun book:

http://www.theoryoffun.com/

I bought this for our library, if you can get a hold of it, I highly recommend it. It's basically a discussion of what makes a game (in general, but aimed towards computer-y games) fun. It talks about achievement, solving puzzles, and a lot of the excellent ideas that have already been mentioned.
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Post: #15
unknown Wrote:How do you come up with ideas like this?

One of our methods, when we're in need of emergency inspiration is a variation of David Bowie's word scramble idea for songwriting.

Essentially.

1) Make a fairly decent random number generator, either as an app or throwing D10 that'll let you generate a 3 digit number.

2) Pop down to your local library

3) find the first book with that dewie decimal code or nearest to it.

4) use the subject matter of the book (or even the picture on the cover) to kick start the inspiration process.

There's lots of other variants of this idea. For instance, I've written an app before that generates nonsense words from 2 character phonemes to trigger ideas, or one that picked random words from a dictionary file.

A lot of ideas though start with "I'd really like to do something along the lines of __insert game you've liked here__ but with explosions".
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