How to cater to a vast myriad of players’ previous experiences

By @ 08/07/12 in articles

As evidently seems to happen when you’re designing a game, I continually receive input from the world around me and think about how it might affect the game.

I recently read an article on The Conversation outlining the multitude of ways in which pain is understood by the brain, already having some understanding of the vast and seldom grasped notion of how we each interpret pain differently.

“…[T]he brain draws on every piece of credible information – previous exposure, cultural influences, knowledge, other sensory cues – the list is endless.”

If the brain can adapt something as seemingly animalistic as pain based on cultural influences, surely we, as developers, ought to think along similar lines when creating motives for players.

Musing on this further, I find that the best answer a developer can give to the wild and untamable human mind’s propensity to interpret cues and signals in a game is with an open game.

Some players like to drag objects around on a screen, others tap at the thing they want to interact with, others try and draw lines, and yet other simply try and tilt the device.

I can’t for the life of me remember who it was, but one prominent developer once said that when someone was describing a game to them and they heard terms like ‘the player does this’ or ‘the player clicks on that’, they just stop and say ‘you’ve lost me’.

Their reason is that the arrogant presumption that players will do something just because you consider it logical (or to have been properly communicated). This is often not the case, and any developer who looks at a player’s reaction to a cue from their game and tells them they were ‘doing it wrong’ doesn’t realise the irony in their own sentiment.

Developers are not on hand to explain their game, and yet, no one likes tutorials.

If a series of cues from your game is read by the player in a way you didn’t intend, the player’s reaction should be considered one of the vast many you’ve yet to include in your game’s repertoire of responses to player inputs. The player isn’t ‘wrong’ – their background with gaming, with that particular input or decision in previous titles, their own cultural influences or a near limitless list of drives could give them the impulse to read your game in a certain way. That way is never ‘wrong’, but a new approach you maybe hadn’t thought of.

It’s with this in mind that, when I saw some family members attempting to navigate our game and saw them attempt to click-and-drag instead of tap to move, I immediately spoke to Rohan and asked ‘Could we do this as well?’

It turns out, we can, so our game will likely end up (unless further testing changes our minds) with control inputs which cater to whichever way people find natural when interacting with a 3/4 perspective title.

Not saying we’ve nailed it or anything, but at least we can press on, sleeping easier at night knowing that the click-and-drag market isn’t going to be alienated by our game.



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