Friday, April 1, 2016

Is it fun?

This week I ran into the same introspective question that I hit multiple times with Robo-Ninja: Is this game going to be any fun?

It's just really hard to tell, as the developer. I'm way too closely attached to every minute detail to have any idea if this game is remotely fun to play.  I'm pretty sure that's what happened with Deadly Towers.  The only explanation I can come up with is that they didn't get outside input to tell them how bad their game was, and they were too close to see it.  I really don't want to make the next Deadly Towers.


Bryan R said...

Perhaps it will help to think of the characteristics you've seen in games that were especially fun or especially boring.

It's probably easiest to identify the things that make a game NOT fun. For example, games without enough save points, so you have to replay an easy section over and over to get back to the point where you keep dying. Or, games that increase the difficulty by throwing more and more bad guys at you until your thumbs fall off from mashing the controller. Or, open world games that force you to walk or drive a great distance to get to the next place where something actually happens.

A couple of indie games I've really enjoyed are Braid and Thomas Was Alone. They featured clever concepts which were explored through creative and varied level designs. They were challenging enough to be engaging but not punishing. The solutions involved a mix of strategy and action, but with the emphasis on strategy. Of course, that reflects my preferences. I don't appreciate frenetic action as much as other players might.

None of this will guarantee your game is fun, but it might help point you in the right direction.

Nathan Tolbert said...

Yeah, your thoughts are right on (other than liking Thomas Was Alone. ;-) I got so bored after the first 3 or 4 levels that I never got any further. There just wasn't enough hook other than the clever idea of shapes with personalities.)

I've been spending a decent amount of time playing and thinking about old games that I liked and didn't like, trying to find the elements that made them work or not. The hard part is that sometimes it's really subtle, the things that make or break a game.

The thing I'm most worried about in Atari Anguna is that it will be too boring. There's not a ton of interactive content that I can add to each room, so I'm afraid the world will feel big, boring, and empty. (Of course, now that I've identified that, it's my job to try prevent that, by making the world slightly smaller, making clever dungeon designs that stay interesting, etc).

Bryan R said...

Thomas Was Alone had a real Zen-like quality to me, with its storytime voiceovers and minimalist style. Perhaps that's more of an example of a game whose appeal is subtle and hard to replicate. It doesn't surprise me at all that it would not be for everyone.

One other thought on making something fun: rather than aiming for the broadest appeal, try to make the game you personally want to play. I think that's what you're already doing.

Nathan Tolbert said...

"try to make the game you personally want to play" -- that's what I did with the original GBA version of Anguna. With this version, it's less "what I want to play" and more about the challenge of trying to make it work on Atari.

Which is part of what is tricky -- I'm not sure who (or if there really IS) a target person for the game itself :)

Either way, thanks for the comments!

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