Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Player-Centric Design

Player centric design for games means keeping your audience in mind and designing for them.
While making a hobby game, it is perfectly acceptable to make a game that interests YOU.
This method is designer-centric. You make a game you like and hope others will like it.

Different player types are usually driven by what motivates them to play or continue playing.
Motives can be things like high score, beating level 1, playing the story, exploring the world, playing with friends, competition, stress relief, or combating boredom.

These motivations in turn affect what sort of games the player likes to play. A player motivated by story and exploring a world would probably enjoy an adventure game. Likewise, a player interested in stress relief or relieving boredom or trying to relax may want to play a puzzle game or arcade game. Something that does not require too much focus or hard concentration.

Here are some more samples of Motivation for playing a game:
  • Entertainment (relieving boredom)
  • Relaxation
  • Social Activity
  • Completing All Obstacles
  • Obtaining the Highest Score
  • Narrative (interest in story, characters and worlds)
  • Exploration (both physical and psychological)
  • Role Play (Part of the personal exploration.)
  • Competition
  • Cooperation
  • The Gaming Experience (entering the "flow" state/Immersion)
  • Social Status (reaching a high level in an MMO for example)
There are of course many more ways to describe motives for playing. This is just to get started.

There are several theorists that divide players into certain types based on their motivation. Bartle's model is wide-spread as a model for MMO games. However, this is not enough to aptly describe a player. It is better to think of various motives instead. Bartle's model is mostly related to MUDs (the old-fashioned MMO). Here are some samples of player types that I have come up with.

Hard-Core Gamer - plays for long periods of time, high hand-eye coordination, motivated by being highly skilled, looks for a challenge, plays many games.

Casual Gamer - plays for short periods of time, motivated by game experience, looks for quick satisfaction, has not played many games.

Narrative Player - motivated by game story and characters, looks for rich worlds and narrative, prefers an easy challenge to progress in story.

Active Player - motivated by immersion into the game, plays for long periods of time, looks for rich narrative elements and challenge.

Passive Player - motivated by the effects of game play (stress relief), looks for gameplay elements, sometimes motivated by narrative arcs, likes patterns

Social Player - motivated by social aspects of gaming such as showing off scores, playing with people, competition or cooperation.

Non-Gamer - motivated by quick completion of goals in a game, easy instruction, low hand-eye coordination, low pressure situations, positive feedback, has not played many video games.

New Gamer - quick understanding of rules and controls, exploration of possibilities, low pressure, positive feedback, low hand-eye coordination, easily recognized patterns.

Nicole Lazzaro, Founder of XEO design and an expert on player experience wrote a report about the four keys to fun. They are Hard Fun, Easy Fun, Serious Fun (oxymoron!), and People Fun (or social fun).

Hard fun refers to overcoming a challenge. This is exciting for a player to experience and satisfying.

Easy fun is about curiosity and exploring possibilities. This is more about the visuals, the story, and the environment.

Serious Fun is when a player uses a game to evoke a feeling, sometimes stress relief. It's a way to relax.

People fun means games are social. Whether it is multi-player in nature OR you are able to share your experiences with friends.

This is important to remember because games are suppose to be fun. There are aspects in a game that cater more to one than another. Also certain player types probably enjoy more of one type of fun than another. For example, a "hardcore" player probably enjoys Hard Fun more than Easy Fun.

Certain types of players tend to be attracted to specific genres of games. Just as certain people have preferences for genres in books or movies.

Role-Playing (RPG) refers to any game in which you take on a role. Well, this could be any game you play a character in really. However, RPG is often associated or coupled with another genre: adventure. RPG/Adventure games are most likely what you will create with RPG maker. These are games that have strong narrative influences.

First Person Shooter (FPS) are games that often take a first person view. Usually these are war games. The camera is not giving the player a view of the character, only what the character sees.

Real-Time Strategy (RTS) are games like Starcraft, Age of Empires and Civilizations. It is all about managing resources and developing a strategy to win a war, thrive, or expand empires.

Arcade Style blankets many older 2D games such as Space Invaders, Frogger, and the like.

Simulation should remind you of Flight Simulator or the Sims series. Some theorists argue that these are not technically games, but we won't delve into that. Simulation reproduces an experience in a digital form, such a flying a plane or running your own Zoo or raising a pet dog.

Casual is a fairly newish genre consisting of online games, puzzle games and the like. They are quick to play, easy to learn and addicting. One of the more famous examples is Diner Dash.

Rhythm/Music is a relatively new genre as well. The advent of Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero. The only other game (that I remember) having special controllers was a Nintendo Track game where you had to stomp on a running pad.

Collector-style games are what I call the Pokemon series. It is an RPG/Adventure as well. You could also file the Yu-Gi-Oh series under this.

Racing games are pretty obvious. You're either behind the wheel of a car, on the back of a horse, or steering a Pod-racer.

Massive Multi-Player Online Game (MMO, MMOG, MMORPG) are online games that have thousands or millions of players connected to play a game. Often this is coupled with the RPG/Adventure genre, however FPS also have online play features. There are also casual. World of Warcraft is the obvious example of an MMO.

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