The Perfect Game
There is no perfect game, but there are certain elements which make a
game fun. To get to root of what makes a game fun, look at one of the
most-played computer games of all time: Tetris.
The most important elements are the moments of fun, and the knowledge
that you are improving.
In computer games, typically you get your fun in small packets when
you suddenly make a bit of progress. In Tetris, this was when you fill a
row and a pleasing noise is made and blocks drop down. Neither the cute
noise or the little animation are what is fun. The fun part is that you
worked and planned and plotted to get that row filled, and finally you
succeeded. If you make a master-kill which gets rid of three rows at once,
you get an extra-large packet of fun.
The other crucial element to a fun action game is the feeling that
you are improving over time. Think about any action computer game which
you played until you got bored. You'll stop playing it when you either
reach the end, or when you feel you will never improve. This is because
your fun-packets which arrive upon attainment of a goal stop working if
there is no challenge or risk. This happens when you get good enough at
the lower levels of play. However, if you don't have any hope of
progressing to where you can beat the next level, then the fun is over.
You will not get fun from the lower levels because you have mastered
them; And now you won't get any fun from the higher levels because you
will never be good enough.
In 3D shooters, playing is not fun because it is fun to shoot
enemies. To make your game fun, you'll want each level to be unique.
You'll want to make your level so nobody can just run out and start
shooting and kill all the baddies directly. Instead, you'll want them to
have to learn the layout and form a plan. Because the player's fun will
be delivered when he finally figures out how he can blast the enemies and
Also, finding goodies is fun, but only if you need the goodies.
In general, to make your games fun, you'll need the player to
identify goals at the beginning of a level. To make the game fun for the
player, he should have to work for a certain amount of time before he
discovers the winning strategy. For example, at the beginning of a level,
you'd want the player to be thinking "Gee, if I could only get up on
ledge, I'd be home free.", or "That door obvious goes somewhere good.
How the heck am I supposed to get by that huge gun turret, though?"
Because the only sure way to get those packets of fun to arrive is when
they reach a goal they have been working for. No work, no fun.
There are lots of ways to do this. One way is to make a really
cool looking place. Have a few different ways that the player can see
this place through glass or over a low but unjumpable wall. But how to get
there? Doom did this frequently.
Another is design your game so the player will probably be out of
ammo during certain parts. Then have ammo visible, but out of reach until
the player can figure out how to get it without getting himself killed.
A roomfull of tough baddies could be impossible with a direct assault.
But to circle around it with the ability to pop into a doorway and get one
of them before running to the next opening could be the only way to clear
Since in the GCS you can revisit levels, you can do things like have
important-looking locked doors in earlier levels. Then throughout the game
you can put keys in later levels. That would be a moment of fun to
finally find the key unexpectedly. However, hunting for keys is not fun
I don't think straight puzzles in 3D games are that fun. Confronted
with 3 switches, you must find the right combo to get through. Snore.
Where is the risk? Where is knowledge and skill gained through
Using a power-up is also fun, particularly if it allows you to do
things successfully which have been dismal failures in the past. For
example, you could have a level with lots of difficult jumps between to
buildings. You had your moment of fun when you finally got where you
wanted to be. But then, 'oh no!, I need to go back!'. That stinks.
However, you just found the jetpack, so now you have enough fuel to sail
back through the whole think in seconds. That whole flight will now be
very fun. It is much more fun that if you are just walking along and
just pick up a jetpack and start flying.
The same goes for finding a new weapon. Having just gotten through a
difficult level with guys you could barely defeat, the new weapon would
bring great joy. Then you should be presented with a bunch of enemies who
are now pretty easily dispatched with your new weapon. The ensuing
slaughter is great fun, whereas if in the first level you have a great
weapon and tough baddies it is all ho-hum.
The point of all this is to remember that people are not playing your
games to see the great temple with light sources that you built. They are
playing for those moments of fun. The great looking stuff is important
for screen shots and to keep looking good enough to keep your customers
from getting soured. However, what will keep them playing (and what will
make them want to buy your registered version) is the packets of fun.
To get the packets of fun, make sure the player always has a sub-goal in
mind, and make sure they feel the reward when they get them.
Pie in the Sky Software