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Rampant Games - Positive and Negative Feedback Loops

by Corwin, 2009-08-17 02:03:18

Jay's current blog entry consists of a fascinating explanation of the use of Positive and Negative feedback loops being incorporated into basic game design and the pitfalls that might be encountered. It's something I'd never considered, but now that I'm aware of it, I'll be more observant in future. Here's a short sample:

Positive feedback reinforces the player's current performance, whether good or bad. It acts as a positive multiplier. Whereas negative feedback tends to push the player towards the middle ground, becoming more challenging for better players and giving a boost to the players who are struggling. It is, in effect, a negative multiplier on the player's efforts and success.

When you have a loop, the positive or negative feedback multiplies itself even further. Poorly performing players might find themselves in a "death spiral" in a positive feedback loop situation, and successful players may find the same game "too easy." On the flip side, negative feedback loops can cause a sense of frustration that their exceptional efforts OR their failures have no effect on the game.

Both can be powerful tools in game design. And powerful weapons to ruin a game if used incorrectly.

So with a positive feedback loop, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The dude who is losing in the RTS has an increasingly more difficult time making a comeback. The guy with the mad skills in a scrolling shooter gets all the power-ups necessary to make the rest of the level even easier for him, while the player who is struggling faces a tougher time of it without the advantages of getting the right power-ups.

Is this desired behavior? Maybe.

Head on over and have a read.

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