Thursday, April 14, 2005

Right, then!

Well, this room has a good echo, so I suppose that will do for conversation. ;)

Post broken in two for purposes of defining the scope of the theory and the theory itself.

This theory (which I have not yet explicitly tested, but plan to when I get, oh, eight weeks of free time) involves ONLY kinematic games - games where motion on the screen is the primary game mechanic. Things like shmups, or frogger, or Llamasoft games. Games such as DDR and Frequency may fall into this frequency - but they have such a nonvisual component, so I'm not yet decided on how that will affect things.

The 'practical theory' is still in early form, but I suspect that won't matter, since I'm not exactly performing in front of a full house. It doesn't much care about the grand global scale of things, it is specifically about IMPLEMENTATION. Specifically, WHICH things contribute to this kind of fun and HOW.

Here is a detailed dissection of the type of play I'm talking about:

You've heard a lot of ideas on gameplay and fun. My favorite, which has been independently discovered by at least two people, is that gameplay is a pattern, and your mind's interest in it is in trying to comprehend and 'master' the pattern. This may or may not be true, but either way, it isn't exactly HELPFUL when it comes to consider "how is my game PLAYED".

What IS helpful is realizing what PARTS of the brain you're using for this kind of a game. The part of the brain getting the most workout is the PHYSICAL PREDICTION part - the part that figures out where things are going, what vector to take to intercept them, and so on. Knowing this gives us several examples of 'the way things are':

Most such games have primarily 'one hit, one kill' feelings. Situations which require multiple hits are relatively rare, usually less than 10% of a given set of enemies. This is because there's nothing interesting about REPEATEDLY performing the SAME vector analysis... ah, but if anyone is reading this, they're probably thinking 'bosses take lots of hits!'

These games have a fluctuating set of patterns, usually containing several mobile safe or danger zones plus several mobile target zones. A boss isn't the same calculation over and over: the safe zones are continuously changing, trying to kill you and simultaneously ruin your shot. You're not shooting the boss: you're maneuvering into a position where you can shoot the boss. And maneuvering is definitely vector analysis.

Now, not all of this kind of game have danger points, but they all have targets. Some of these games are nothing but a progression of targets. That's fine, if you KNOW HOW TO MAKE IT FUN. After all, dangerous zones are merely targets in reverse.

Okay, that's the basics of HOW these games work. They consist entirely of vector analysis challenges. Bullets, enemies, moving, attacking. Some games contain an extremely rarified set of these, such as Frequency. Some games contain the full horror, such as any shmup ever released.

But they are ALL about vector analysis. "How long will it take for the arrow to reach the top of the screen" is the same analysis as "how can I dodge that bullet".

So, in my next post I'll talk about the actual theory, which theoretically explains the BEST way to create these vector analysi. Analysises. How to put your game together so it doesn't suck.

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