Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Musing about game structure

I was thinking about positive feedback loops that one Craig likes to write about this morning.

I mused that most good games are about optimizing a chosen positive feedback loop that is in the game. The fun part lies in the skill in avoid disruptions to that loop. It occured to me that many thoughts on game balance are misguided in that you are not trying to minimizing the positive loop found in a game system. That creates a game that is approaching a point where every move is just as valid as any other. Games of alea aren't as bad as that since the whole point is that one move is better than the others it's just you're not sure what it is.

The goal for game balance is increase the difficulties in maintaining any one positive feedback loop. Add many valid and roughly equal positive feedback loops that are mutally exclusive (i.e. you can fast or tough units). And some wonky negative loops to balance it out, that's what big N did with Super Smash Bros. and its one of the most balanced fighting games I've ever played. Make the positive feedback loops hard to learn and hard to predict. Design it so that multiple systems have to be managed in sync to maintain a positive feedback loop like 4x games do.

Oh, and this is why it's easy to design multiplayer competitive games. Each competitor is trying to maintain a positive feedback loop but they're usually mutally exclusive (you can't both be winning).