Imposing Odds

Lum recently made the best quote about game design I’ve heard in a long time:

Game design, in many ways, is convincing players that they won a struggle against imposing odds. It does not mean actually creating imposing odds.

Scott’s responses to #2 and #5 in particular are spot on. I admit I sometimes build dev rage when browsing some of the more insular, entrenched message boards because they tend to be hangouts for posters who are personally tired of some of the characteristics of Diku-derived MMOGs. These folks proclaim, in no uncertain terms, that designers are either lazy or unimaginative for implementing things like level-based systems and launching games with fairly predictable AI for common mobs.

Game design is about making choices, and it’s next to impossible to explain to people why you make certain decisions if they’ve already predetermined in their minds not only why you’ve made them but that the choices you made are poor ones. Choices like the one between levels and skill-based systems aren’t inherently right or wrong; it comes down to how well they are executed.

All this is not to say that we shouldn’t strive for new ideas and drive the MMO genre to the frontiers of gaming. But at the same time, there’s plenty of opportunity left to use familiar, proven systems to lead players somewhere startlingly epic and amazing.

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Steve Danuser, also known as Moorgard, is a a writer, editor, and game designer.

3 thoughts on “Imposing Odds”

  1. not a game dev or anything of the sort but Id think doing something like 20 % new and 80 % reused ideas is prolly a good way to go so you have plenty of new flashy things for people to touch but not so many people shy away from it.

  2. I really enjoy learning about or listening to the developer’s process of creating what he/she is creating. One of the best features in gaming in the last five years HAS to be the developer comments in the HalfLife2 series. Looking at a game through the developer’s eyes can be very educational. It can also make you a better gamer. Realize that developers want you to play their game and succeed, not fail.

    It can also really make you feel like much less of a geek because, man, can you guys nerd out or what? Wow! :D

  3. I also look forward to reading about the development process, it gives us more of an insight into the daily work you devs have to do. I don’t really favour skill or level based progression as I’ve played and enjoyed both. The darkfall idea’s interest me no matter how good or bad the game turns out to be.

    The only dev direction I’ve strongly disagreed with recently is the introduction of station cash to all EQ2 servers. I am a fan of the monthly pay model as at least everyone regardless of real life income is then on an equal footing, MMO’s are a great leveler. It’s unfair (in my opinion), for people playing an MMO as a form of escapism to then find out that rich people in real life can have special items in game.

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