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Default Gamasutra - Fewer Mechanics, Better Game

April 16th, 2008, 09:11
Fewer Mechanics, Better Game is a piece at Gamasutra written by programmer John Rose (Nihilistic Software) that asserts focus on a small number of in-game features will result in a better game. Some of the examples make immediate sense (games with tacked-on multiplayer modes) and others much less (Bioshock being too complex). Here's the start:
I've heard from many people that the ideal game is the one that has everything. It's a game where players are constrained by nothing. These people believe in a sandbox where their very imagination is the only boundary. They believe in game with no limits.

On the surface, this game sounds great. Who wouldn't want an infinite number of play mechanics? Who wouldn't enjoy the complete freedom of the ultimate kitchen sink game? But ironically, a title with too many avenues of influence becomes less of a game and more like life. This game would be horrible.

Of course, this game isn't feasible. The scope of its game world reaches well beyond what technology can accomplish. But what if we collapsed this game world into one small room, keeping the infinite game mechanics? What if we could do anything we want in this tiny space? Would it be fun? No. Because it's not this theoretical game world's sheer size that dulls it. The huge set of game mechanics is the villain, and its downfall is that there's just too much to do.
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April 16th, 2008, 09:11
What a complete jerk. Sure, some of his words ring a bell or too, but the article stinks… The part about Bioshock is just priceless.

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April 16th, 2008, 11:40
1 button for everybody, yeaaaa!!! I know let's get rid of even 1 button and just use a joystick again like in Pac-Man. Hooray for mediocrity and complete idiots who hate to think.

"In many a difficult situation players are left to decide between their guns, plasmid powers, hacking, stealth, and the use of one-shot items. The massive palette of game actions only serves to confuse and frustrate the player when challenged." Seriously though, Bioshock had too many choices? I want some of whatever he was smoking when he wrote that.

Do people really think this now? I don't think that people are so lazy or stupid that a few choices frustrates them.

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Last edited by skavenhorde; April 16th, 2008 at 11:54.
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April 16th, 2008, 14:45
Haha. But how about this: less choices that confuse, more choices that matter and make a difference.

"Mystery is important. To know everything, to know the whole truth, is dull. There is no magic in that. Magic is not knowing, magic is wondering about what and how and where." ~ Cortez, from The Longest Journey
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April 16th, 2008, 15:23
Originally Posted by Arhu View Post
Haha. But how about this: less choices that confuse, more choices that matter and make a difference.
THIS sounds much better, imho !

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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April 16th, 2008, 16:09
Well they could simplify the interface and actions alot, maybe just a button to move through the stroy, lets call it 'play' and one to stop the story when they need to take a break.. and maybe a pause control - not sure about that one it might get confusing. No button mashing and the designers can tell the story they want certain there won't be any wasted content that players don't see.
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April 16th, 2008, 16:30
The trend to simplify everything is in my eyes just a bow towards the masses of gamers - especially casual gamers - who just don't want to fiddle around.

And this bow is necessary, because games swallow so much money during development that they MUST appeal to the broadest possible number of players to actually receive profits.

The more difficult, the smaller the group of buyers, the thought seems to be.

Which might not necessarily be the case in the UI of Assassin's Creed …

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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April 16th, 2008, 17:46
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
The more difficult, the smaller the group of buyers, the thought seems to be.
I think that's right. I guess that the "Better Game" in the title of that article really means "Better Selling Game". All those discussions about Oblivion led me to this conclusion. Why should Bethesda listen to me? Their success shows them that, from their perspective, they were right with simplifying the game. That doesn't make me happy, but I cannot call bullshit on them, because the numbers are on their side.
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April 16th, 2008, 19:59
"They believe in game with no limits."
"Of course, this game isn't feasible. "

… and it won't be a game either.

yes, he's a jerk.
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April 16th, 2008, 20:06
Assassins Creed is selling really well and it has one of the most complicated control systems I have ever used. That means that this article is BS and is totally wrong.

All of the best selling games ever have been atleast semi-complicated and so disproves this entire article. (including Bioshock)
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April 17th, 2008, 14:41
I think, in general, people like variety, or rather, there is a vast variety of people. So over generalising in this way is really about sales in my opinion. I though Bioshock was simple - especially from a gameplay perspective.
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April 17th, 2008, 16:35
Originally Posted by guenthar View Post
Assassins Creed is selling really well and it has one of the most complicated control systems I have ever used. That means that this article is BS and is totally wrong.
Maybe it is selling so well despite its control system ?

Just out of the "OMG, how cool is that ???" hype ?

I don't know, I just think.

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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April 17th, 2008, 19:10
Originally Posted by guenthar View Post
Assassins Creed is selling really well and it has one of the most complicated control systems I have ever used.
Um, maybe it's because I haven't come far, but the system is hardly complicated. You can do all those neat freeclimbing tricks by just holding RMB and space and picking a direction with WASD. Other stuff usually amounts to pressing F and waiting/moving a bit/punching someone's face - again, hardly complicated. You've basicaly got 6 commands, which are all fairly accessible (LMB/Shift/Space and RMB+LMB/Shift/Space = 6 commands).
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