My list of memorable favorite games include Civilization, Romance of the 3 Kingdoms, SimCity, Star Craft, Pirates!, Diablo, Shattered Galaxy, Master of Orion and Counter Strike. I got a chance to work on Windows C/C++ and DirectX in my first job, thus I had dream of game development and had frequent Gamasutra and GameDev.net. After a while, the game industry got saturated with many game companies close down or work on franchise or movie title, and game development cost had skyrocketed and innovation kinda stalled because the risk is too great.
Somehow I decide that it is impossible for me to get a job at a reputable game companies (most are overseas, except GameBrains and Pheonix), and the Indies path is more than I could handle. Besides, making a game require multiple skills, from programming to art, music/sound effect, 3D, physic, network, game engine, game design and etc, too much for a single person to handle. I put the idea behind for a while and move on with more commercially viable ways to make a living with my skills.
Anyway, my unfulfilled dream had come back to haunt me. Perhaps rather than building a great game the conventional way, why not focus on making a simple and fun game, with more focus on game play rather than technology and graphic. It sounds feasible, something small and fun. Before getting myself into the action of designing, perhaps I should lay down the fundamentals of what actually makes a simple and fun game? What make it simple and what makes it fun? Suddenly I thought of what makes me like a specific game, and what I don’t like about them at the same time. Wow! It seems like this is going to be a long article, and I’ll try to cover some grounds.
The Fundamental Philosophy of Simple and Fun Game
Point-based Experience and Leveling System is flawed
Though Diablo is a hack and slash game, but there is a few things very addictive about it, and one of it is leveling (and goodies collection as well, more on that later). As you kill more monsters, you collect more experiences, you level up, become stronger and get more skills and bonuses. In the beginning, you level up quite fast and that is a lot of fun. But after a while, the effort to level up get exponentially harder, with more time is spend on mindless hacking with less reward in leveling up.
This is the natural law of game where they have to make it harder for you to level up because the growth chart is limited (limited skills and bonuses). They have nothing much to offer you if you grow too fast, thus they have to slow down your growth. It wouldn’t make sense to create more powerful skills or bigger bonuses, as that would dilute the perceived values of these rewards. Thus the longer you play, the more time you need to spent and the reward is less.
We like leveling because it leads to a stronger character (self enhancement), opened to better skills (new things to try and explore) and enjoy better bonuses (more goodies to keep under out belt), thus we continue to do mindless hacking to gain experience. I don’t actually like the mindless and repetitive hacking, I just like leveling and its reward. But the game can’t let you level up naturally without doing anything, as that would make it not worth playing.
If I don’t actually like mindless hack and slash, why not replace it with something I like to do? What if I let you do whatever you like, where you can choose to slash monster, craft weapon, explore jungle, save princess, clean the town, heal people, sell newspaper, design building and etc. Not only you get to do anything you like, you actually get rewarded without bias by doing it. It doesn’t mean selling newspaper will gain less experience than rescuing a princess, as there isn’t a point attached to our action. We shall scrap the idea of point-based experience system. We want people to do what they like, not doing something with the highest reward point.
So, what do we get from doing what we like? What is the reward, besides having fun doing it? What if we say the reward is actually the opportunity to explore new things, try something slightly different everyday (or the same if you wish). Let’s say you like to be a sword craftsman, to make sword for people. What do I get or enjoy out of making sword?
- You get to design you very own sword, or even name it.
- You get to craft sword based on customer demand, and become more popular as the customer get satisfied with your work
- You need to find the raw materials through exploration, trade or even through chemical mixing
- A master craftsman you met in another city might teach you a skill in metal melding or alloy making
- A strange traveler might give you the formula to cast a cast an ancient sword
- An old friend might give you the treasure map to find a magical crafting hammer
- You might be appointed as the Royal Sword Craftsman by the King
- You could attend the best crafting school in the region, or learn from a drunken old craftsman at the back valley
- You could invent a automatic crafting machine to automate monotonous crafting task
- You could compete in the annual Sword of the Year competition
The monotonous Hack and Slash action had been replaced with the task of your choice, in anyway you like.
The rigid Point-based Experience System had been replaced by your passion in doing anything you like, without being penalized
The difficult Reward of Leveling had been replaced with more opportunities to explore and try new things, surprises in everyday life
Perhaps what where are trying to offer you is freedom. Freedom to do anything you wish, without need to worry about gain or loss, just follow your heart. We also give a system-less environment, where you don’t play to beat the system or get more points. You just play because you like what your are doing. We provide you with the opportunities to explore and participate in events. It is like you can’t predict what is going to happen next based on your action, but you do it anyway. You’ll get good surprises from time to time, or just purely enjoy the activities which you like.
That's all for today, it's getting too long and out of hand with just one fundamental philosophy.
Anyone interested to create a new kind of simple and fun game together?