All posts tagged with "one of the test subjects got free and made such a fuss that we felt compelled to have him nerve stapled — another public relations nightmare"

The Skill Reward Gap

As a player gains mastery of a game they will often seek greater challenges which provide rewards different from those they sought after when they were less masterful.

In the case of, say, a time trial racing game, you perfect every corner until you can’t get any better, and then you start looking for things like hidden shortcuts that are risky but allow for greater reward for greater skill. If the game sets a goal of the shortest time, players will bend and break every rule they can to get the shortest time possible and do speed runs.

Here we see Bandits speed-running into a squad of redcoats.

Here we see Bandits speed-running right into a squad of redcoats.

Most games obviously aren’t just timed runs, but in almost every game with a stat than can be tracked, a player can optimize for that stat. Moreover, in many games designers will intentionally put in these “hidden shortcuts”, where a very skilled player can reap a huge reward – or optimization. These systems are often hidden or left at the very end of games so that new players don’t become frustrated by thinking they should be able to perform these difficult feats too early in their process of mastery.

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The State Of The Empire

So January!  Hello!  We’ve been working on Clockwork Empires for – I feel safe to say now – a fairly long time.  There’s a lot of code in there, and you guys haven’t been able to play it yet.  We all wish that weren’t the case, so I guess I should tell you what we’re doing about it.



Mid-December to the present was mostly a write-off due to familial obligations, plague, and stress relief in various forms, but some secret work was undertaken on the dreaded UI.  It was sort of like that montage in the Lord of the Rings where Gandalf leaves in the middle of the battle to go read some dusty scrolls in Gondor, except that was David, and it was a copy of The Elements of User Experience.  Suffice it to say that things are looking much better in that department.  Our loose framework of “technically sufficient” programmer tools are starting to actually indicate what they’re for.  It’s pretty cool, and a surprisingly laborious and meticulous job.

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