Reading and reflection on “The Happy Way of Game Design”

The Happy Way of Game Design

Why is the game so fun?

Raph Koster believes that the fun of the game lies in learning, learning various modes and rules in the game. As we continue to learn, become familiar with and master these modes, the game will continue to give us feedback. It is in this process of learning, getting feedback, learning again, getting better feedback, learning again… Will feel happy.

How the brain works

In fact, “How the brain learns” may be more suitable for the title of this section. The answer is to master various modes.

So what is a pattern ?

We can roughly understand a pattern as a law, rule, or a template.

For example, if I throw a glass out, what will happen? The glass will fall and crash on the ground, right? We think this way because we have patterns in our brains about gravity and fragile objects. Throwing things will fall back to the ground, if the things are glass, then the things will break.

Obviously, the model is not necessarily related to the laws of physics.

Now, suppose we are just a child. One day, we discovered that as long as we cry loudly, our mother will give us candy to eat. In other words, we learned the pattern of “you can get candy by crying”. In this way, every time we cry out for eating candy, we are actually applying this pattern.

After we recognize a pattern, we can store this pattern in our brains through constant practice. So next time we apply this mode, the brain only needs to call up this mode to apply it, and it will be handy without thinking. A child is always clumsy when he learns to tie shoelaces for the first time, but when he learns how to tie shoelaces (patterns), how to entangle two shoelaces and how to tie the knots, he adds multiple times. When practicing and tying the shoelaces again, he would not think about how the shoelaces would be entangled, and his movements would become fluent, without the brain having to think too much. At this time, the pattern of tying shoelaces has been stored in his brain.

We use various patterns stored in our brain everywhere in our lives, but we hardly realize these patterns. For example, when we woke up in the morning to put on clothes, we took the shirt in our hands, we found the front of the shirt, and then put one glove in one sleeve, put the other hand in the other sleeve, and then buttoned it. buckle. So, how do we determine which side of the shirt is front? Oh, this is a simple pattern. We learned a pattern a long time ago-“The button on the shirt is the front”. We can continue to ask, how did we put a glove into a sleeve? How do we raise our hands? How do muscles and joints move? …Actually we don’t think about it at all. Control our hands and feet? That’s something we learned when we were young. These patterns are solidified in our brains early, and when we want to do this, we subconsciously make them. There is a saying that “you have to work very hard to appear effortless”, and this is the truth.

At this point, we can see that the small patterns stored one by one can form a large pattern. The mode of “wearing a shirt” consists of modes such as “determining the front of the shirt”, “sleeves”, and “buttoning up the shirt”. The mode of “changing clothes” is a larger mode, which includes “wearing a shirt”. A shirt” model. We combine many small patterns into one big pattern, which is called pattern blocking.

We master more and more advanced skills through the modularization of patterns. For a player who is not even familiar with the WSAD buttons, how can it be possible to kill all sides in an FPS game? And an FPS game veteran, when he controls the characters in the game to move around, doesn’t even realize how he presses the WSAD button. Because the movement of the WSAD key has already become a pattern solidified in his brain, when he learns this pattern, he can use this pattern to learn and build a larger pattern.

What we usually call muscle memory is actually the brain’s storage and subconscious call of patterns.

In fact, this is the essence of learning. We first identify a simple pattern and keep practicing to master it. With these simple patterns as a foundation, we have the conditions to learn more advanced patterns and keep improving.

Of course, the modularization of the model gives us the ability to master advanced skills and knowledge, but our thinking will also be solidified as a result. An apple will fall to the ground when it leaves the apple tree. This is a simple pattern. But Newton jumped out of the confinement of this model, questioning this model that everyone has learned since childhood—things without support will fall to the ground. This is why children ask some things that are absurd to us. They have not mastered the patterns we have mastered a long time ago. We do not think about these patterns when we apply them, and do not follow up on the phrase “why?” .

Therefore, sometimes in order to innovate, we have to resist the solidified models and think outside of these models.

Games make me happy, because learning makes me happy

A game is a system that contains various modes. In the game, we explore, learn and master these modes. When we master and successfully apply these modes in the game, we will feel happy.

In other words, playing games is actually identifying and mastering patterns. Happiness is the product when we successfully learn these patterns and successfully apply them. In other words, there is no qualitative difference between the joy of playing games and learning guitar, drawing or swimming.

Why can the learner be able to study for a long time and maintain the position of the learner for a long time, but the learner can’t? Because Xueba can taste the taste of happiness in learning, they constantly explore and verify various patterns, and finally successfully identify these patterns, and finally apply them to the exercises or test papers. They can apply various modes to solve a problem and feel happy and comfortable after successfully solving it. This is the joy of learning. The scumbag is either frustrated in the process of recognizing the pattern, or can’t hold on to it and give up in the process of constantly doing questions (practices) to verify the pattern.

Why do I not like school courses, but I like to play games?

Now, let’s take a look, since the scumbags don’t like learning (school courses), why they like to play games. After all, as we said earlier, the fun of playing games also comes from learning.

First of all, the game system contains various modes. The challenge for players is to explore, learn and master these modes, and to successfully apply this mode in the game. Only when this mode is successfully applied can the player feel happy.

In the beginning, the game system is like a teacher, giving players a little guidance, allowing them to recognize and understand the most basic patterns. After the player has mastered these basic modes, they begin to explore more advanced modes or new modes within the rules of the game. After the player recognizes a pattern, the player will try to use this pattern in the game, and the game will immediately give feedback. If the application fails, the player needs to continue to correct the pattern and try again. If successful, the player can master this mode through practice. When the player fully masters this mode and successfully uses it in the game, the player can experience the fun of what we call “learning”, and the player can then meet the next challenge and explore more advanced modes.

Now, let’s compare our learning process of school courses to see why we sometimes get bored with this kind of learning, and it is also a kind of inspiration for us to design games.

When learning a school curriculum, the role of the teacher is to help us recognize patterns. A student who does not understand the knowledge of the second grade is very strenuous to learn the knowledge of the third grade. Because the knowledge in the third grade is a higher-level model, it is likely to include those models learned in the second year. Therefore, basic knowledge (basic mode) is very important. If you can’t understand these patterns, then the joy of learning will be far away for him, after all, recognizing patterns is the first step. Now, after identifying the patterns, it needs to verify these patterns to see if it understands the patterns correctly. In our teaching in Greater China, of course, we are constantly doing questions. If you make a mistake, then you need to verify and adjust the previous model; if you do it right, then the model is correct, and then what you need to do is to completely master the model by constantly doing questions, and store the model in your brain , And then you can apply this model to challenge more difficult topics or more difficult to understand knowledge points.

In the whole process, what are the links that prevent students from experiencing the joy of learning?

First of all, the teacher’s teaching is the first point. Students must successfully understand a model through the teacher, otherwise they must learn by themselves and bear the risk of failure in self-learning. If a player enters the game and fails to figure out various operations, all kinds of monsters or puzzles will get stuck on his face. How to play?

Second, in many exercises, I was frustrated and gave up due to many failures. If the player is unable to play the skill in the game, even the ordinary mobs can’t be played, how to play?

Third, after the model is successfully verified, it is impossible to persist in practicing multiple times to solidify the model into the brain. If you can’t train players to operate various skills through level design, and encounter more powerful enemies, how to play?

Fourth, because the pattern cannot be fixed into the brain, it will not be able to be familiar with the application of the pattern, succeed in the exercises or exams, and will not experience the joy of learning, and at the same time, it will not be possible to continue to challenge higher-level problems (patterns). Similarly, if you cannot master the skills proficiently, it is impossible to challenge the boss of the level. Of course defeating mobs can make people happy, but defeating powerful bosses is really exciting.

(Note that for the convenience of presentation, I used typical game concepts such as levels, mobs, and BOSS. In fact, for different games, they may correspond to some other things.)

A well-designed game will use various methods or design schemes to guide players to avoid the above difficulties and ensure that players get the ultimate joy of learning. However, China’s traditional education system is huge and bloated, and it faces many social problems. Most schools cannot handle the above four difficulties well.

Why some games are fun and some games are not fun

Reflecting on the above four questions, it actually provides a way to evaluate the game. At the same time, it also provides a way of thinking about our game design, or it can give educators some inspiration.

When we use these four comments or design a game, maybe we can ask the following questions:

  • How should the game system guide users? When do you let go and let players explore on their own?
  • What if the player is frustrated after practicing many times? What kind of form can the exercise take?
  • How to design exercises so that players can master various modes in a familiar way without letting the players get bored?
  • When to test the player’s mastery of the mode and give the player the joy of learning? When will it provide a greater challenge? When will new challenges be provided?

How should the game system guide users? When should you let go and let players explore on their own?

The game system should give the user proper guidance and tell the user to perform various basic operations, abilities or rules in the game.

In general FPS games, there is usually a novice tutorial to teach various basic operations, telling the user to press E or F when interacting, and whether to squat down is Ctrl or C. Many RPG games will embed these guides into the game content.

There are many forms of guidance. The key is that guidance should be clear and appropriate, and only the most basic and important information should be given. If the guidance is less or unclear, the player will feel inexplicable, and the player may be frustrated and leave; if there is more guidance, the player’s fun in exploring and learning will be reduced. For example, in an RPG game, you can tell the user what the different skills do, and how to match the different skills should be left to the user to explore and learn.

What if the player is frustrated after practicing many times? What kind of form can the exercise take?

The usual approach is to reduce the difficulty. Many games provide options for difficulty selection. But for game designers, it is more important to learn how to design a series of small challenges to guide players to gradually master the mode. This is usually a matter of level design, and the pace of the game usually depends on the settings of these challenges. For example, in many games, after the user has mastered a skill, some ordinary mobs are set to challenge the player; after the player passes, more mobs or more difficult mobs are set to challenge the player; After this challenge, there will be a big BOSS, which is to test the player’s ability to use various modes proficiently and comprehensively.

Of course, puzzle-solving games are somewhat different, and their solution is usually to give clues to guide users to continue playing. For example, players in “Magic City” can get answers to puzzles at any time, but they need to play a small game first to raise the threshold to watch the answers; in “Alice: Madness Returns”, when Alice is zoomed out, some graffiti can be seen clue.

What kind of form can the exercise take? This is also a very important point, where we need to open up our thinking, because BOSS battle is just a climax of fun, most of the game time will be spent in practice. In our usual education, practice is to write exercises, shouldn’t practice only be writing exercises? Can’t there be other ways to practice?

How to design exercises so that players can master various modes in a familiar way without letting the players get bored?

As mentioned above, setting a series of gradual challenges is actually a way to keep players from getting bored. It makes the player feel challenging, but not at least too difficult to continue.

Of course, there are many other elements that can encourage players to continue playing, for example, introducing various monsters or combinations of monsters to train players, which is a common method in RPG games. Or throw the player into another situation, or promote the development of the plot in a timely manner, which is often done in FPS games such as Call of Duty. In short, there must be change. In some games, after the player has mastered various modes, it is a long battle without providing much change. The footwear is as smelly and long.

When to test the mastery of the player’s mode and give the player the joy of learning? When will it provide a greater challenge? When will new challenges be provided?

In fact, in many games, this is the question of when to set up a boss battle. Defeating a BOSS usually gives people a great sense of satisfaction. It is a test of the player’s mastery of the various modes in the game. After defeating the BOSS, you can provide users with new challenges, or combine the original mode (may be the use of a certain skill or weapon) to provide higher-level challenges (for example, higher-level combos, or different skills) With the use of), allowing players to use these higher-level modes to challenge more difficult enemies.

In some games, BOSS battles appear as a more difficult challenge, not necessarily a BOSS. Some games simply don’t have a BOSS challenge.

The problems mentioned above provide a test method for game design, as well as a game design idea. Maybe not every game is fully in line with the above model learning process, but the design ideas involved are widely applicable. For example, many online competitive games do not have the so-called level, BOSS battle design. But usually online competitive games will have a plot mode to guide users, and then set up man-machine battle or casual matching mode to provide opportunities for practice, and then set up a ranking mode as a higher-level challenge, and gain more strength by defeating enemies and rank promotion. The fun of the game (this is actually a double-edged sword, the zero-sum game must have one party to be frustrated).

Are all games like this?

Do all games gain happiness by learning various modes? I think, to be precise, the most basic and important fun in the game comes from this. In other words, the fun of games with gameplay design as the core is obtained in this way.

If you design such a game, you can chat with many virtual male gods or goddesses with beautiful pictures in this game. Such a game is not a game with gameplay design as its core. Whether such a game can be called a game is open to question. It may only be said that this is a software that satisfies human fantasy or solves the needs of loneliness.

In addition, some games may incorporate a large number of social factors and only have a thin gameplay. The fun may come more from the society rather than the game itself. For such games, the gameplay itself is just a dispensable skin. That’s it.

But it should be noted that even if it is a game with gameplay design as its core, its fun does not all come from learning. For example, the exquisite graphics can also give people a happy and comfortable feeling. But what needs to be vigilant is that the fun provided by the exquisite graphics is only secondary fun, and the game with only exquisite graphics and no excellent gameplay is just an empty monster.

In addition, the fun of learning has direct fun and indirect fun. For example, the fun of defeating the enemy is direct fun, and the glorious ranking and the satisfaction of vanity brought by the record are also the great indirect fun of learning.

In short, learning makes me happy.