[MUD-Dev] DGN: Reasons for play

cruise cruise at casual-tempest.net
Thu Sep 1 12:55:26 CEST 2005

Paolo Piselli spake thusly...
> --- cruise <cruise at casual-tempest.net> wrote:

>> After this wonderfully long discussion of the motivations behind
>> game-playing and the such, I've yet to see any firm
>> conclusions. Different people have their own pet theories, but we
>> seems to be lacking a general consensus for the fundemental
>> reasons our entire industry exists.

>> Anyone else find that faintly disturbing?

> Nah, so long as enough game mutations are produced in a given
> generation, an evolutionary process will help us continue to
> select good design features.  The thing to be worried about is
> therefore things that reduce variation, such as barriers to
> creating games and getting them out into the wild.

But a lot of people, myself included, feel with /have/ reduced
variation. When games started being written, the market was almost
exclusively young males. So games to appeal to them were what
sold. So we've spent the last two decades carefully honing how well
we make games for young males, because that was our entire market

Unfortunately, the user base for computers has become steadily more
representative, while our games, as a generalisation, haven't.

>> Here we are, merrily coding or designing away, with scarce more
>> rationale behind our decisions than "I think it's cool." And
>> sometimes people agree with us, sometimes they don't.

> IMO that is great, because people have so many different ideas
> about what is cool that some of them are bound to stick (assuming
> they see the light of day).

Undoubtably. But without having some ideas of what might work, you
might as well go to Vegas. I'd rather not leave my future to chance.

>> Surely a good understanding of what is actually wanted is the
>> first step of any design process? Or is that perhaps what
>> seperates business from art? An artist creates something, then
>> other people like it. In a business, people like something, and
>> so you provide it.

> Not every buisness venture that must design something has the
> advantage of market research.  With a startup, just as with an
> independant game or movie, someone just has a guess at what people
> might like.  Think about the dot-coms: lots of people with lots of
> ideas, most of which didn't stick, but the few fittest survived
> and even thrived.  Was it because their leadership had market
> research, a scientific theory for understanding what people like,
> or was it because they made a better initial guess?  I'd bet there
> are alot of cases of "lucky guesses" or
> survival-of-the-fittest-ideas preceding an actual deep
> understanding of a market.  IMO it would be a dangerous ego-trap
> to fall into to mistake a lucky guess for a deep understanding
> (see: Wachowski Brothers).

Again, I don't dispute your point. But I don't much like the odds,

>> The list seems to be divided pretty equally between the two (if
>> we're going to apply another of those artificial dichotomies that
>> are so very useful) - some want to make games that appeal to the
>> people, others want to show the people what is so appealing about
>> games.

> IMO the latter is better for the evolutionary process of selecting
> new design ideas, the former is just inertia.  From a buisness
> standpoint, you can't ignore either one, because if you abandon
> what people are known to like, then you are riding entirely on
> your guess, but on the other hand if you stagnate, it leaves room
> for the innovator to swoop in and grab your market.

I'm not talking about games people are "known" to like. Perhaps a
more concrete example will help explain my precise line of thought.

When designing a there's market data on colours, shapes, etc. that
people are known to like. But fundementally, people want a car to
travel quickly and comfortably between two locations. There are some
additional variables that vary which segment of the market the car
appeals to: performance, economy, luggage space, passenger space,
durability, comfort, etc.

Currently, the games market seems to be making various forms of
racing car, and we know that we can adjust colours and suspension
and the fuel-mixture, and sometimes these adjustments appeal to our
market, and sometimes they don't. But our understanding of the
underlying needs we're filling by those tweaks is woefully
inadequate, if even recognised.

>> Either way, grokking what is fun to play and what isn't must be
>> of use to anyone. But we're a long way off a Standard Model of
>> Gaming Mechanics.

>> Is such a thing even possible?

> I think the difficulty is that there are so many different likes
> and dislikes out there, that no model could give you more than a
> fuzzy statistical idea of what a certain type of person would
> probably like, and aiming at the center of such a target would
> likely land you in bland-ville (see: Hollywood).

There exist cars of all shapes, size and purposes, that appeal to
almost all types of people. Yet there is still an underlying
fundemental principle that explains why people buy a car.

I'm convinced a similar "principle zero" exists for games, when
taken at their most general. Understanding this isn't aiming for
bland generality, but simply giving us a firm foundation for working

[ cruise / casual-tempest.net / transference.org ]
   "quantam sufficit"
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