1. The Moment

      written by noklu

      What makes you want to play a game again and again? What drives you to replay a few favourite maps? I would say that a game is defined by only a few moments, repeated again and again. These are the unique, enjoyable moments of pure, unbridled enjoyment. Awesome moments. It is these few moments that players enjoy; they are the moments that players return for. In both level and game design, then, these moments should be crafted exquisitely in order to maximise player enjoyment and replays. After all, you don’t want a player to only play your game or map once!

      Just a Moment?

      That’s right. Just a few moments define a game, or a level. I’m sure everyone knows the feeling that I mean: that glorious moment of epic brilliance – and you simply must do it again and again. But what about the rest of the gameplay? Running around a corridor isn’t particularly fun, nor is dying. The moments that cause enjoyment in a game are precisely that: momentary flares of pleasure. And they occur right across the board – literally as even Monopoly or Scrabble has these moments: triple word scores, anybody? In Halo, there are very many such moments, more than I could name off the top of head – you try and name some in the comments. Hint: check the medal list. Most games tend to attach a basic reward system like medals or experience points to these game-defining moments. It makes design sense: encouraging players to home in on the very best that a game has to offer is naturally going to improve player reception. Not only that, but campaigns often offer set pieces to introduce players to these well-crafted moments. If design is about player enjoyment, then it must also be about leading players to these great moments.

      Momentary? Or not…

      While the moment itself only lasts for a few seconds, the afterglow pleasure often overrides the following seconds. This can be to the extent that a great moment can override a subsequent death or other misfortune. These moments, if well-exploited, can be of great power, although there is naturally some variance in pleasure from moment to moment, player to player, map to map. The exploitation of these moments is the sole aim that designers should have, as moments are the requirement for pleasure. Balance, flow, and all other design elements are subordinate to these moments; they are tools to enhance these moments' frequency or intensity. The tools available in game design are naturally far more varied than in level design: a game designer has the ability to design the very moment itself! A level designer, however, must work with existing moments. Level design creates environments that allow these moments to occur. Naturally, some environments will focus on certain moments, but also exclude other moments: a cramped, winding corridor would enhance CQB moments but degrade sniping. Therefore, when designing a map, a designer should keep an eye out for ways to exploit moments.

      Intensity and Frequency

      A well-designed map is one that the target audience enjoys. If one aims a map at snipers, then perhaps CQB players may not enjoy it – but are their opinions as important as the target audience? If a well designed map is one that is enjoyable for the target audience, and these moments are the primary way to cause enjoyment, then a well designed map is one that maximises the frequency and intensity of these moments. Frequency and intensity are paradoxically at cross-purposes: if assassinations are a dime a dozen, then they aren’t as intense; on the other hand, if they are once a game, they become intense, but the overall pleasure is less due to the lower frequency. Therefore, a mean between the extremes of frequency and intensity is needed. This average differs from moment to moment and map to map; there is no perfect average for all cases. Further to that, it would be beneficial to focus on the particular moments that cohere to your purpose and audience. Perhaps you could write out a top ten list of moments that you wish to focus on in a map, and then ensure that they are there!


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