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长文分析:游戏并不公平,神奇的是它让你觉得公平

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原作者:Jennifer Scheurle 译者:Willow Wu

我问了一些游戏设计师同伴,他们是怎么做出玩家想要的游戏体验?其中的秘诀和方法是什么?然后场面就变得有点失控了,但是是往好的方向。

我要向那些读完文章的玩家道歉。我们无情地揭开了神秘的面纱,毁灭了玩家心中的美好向往,但我们这么做是有目的的。看完这篇文章或许你就能更加了解我们所做的事。

“魔术师就是利用普通的东西创造奇迹。现在你想要知道秘密是什么……但你是找不到的,因为你根本就没有认真找。你并不是真的想知道。你想要的是做一个无知的观众。”
——《致命魔术》

游戏设计师跟人的思维打交道,同时也为它工作,我们在玩游戏的时候必须考虑到玩家的体验、感知和思维倾向。无论你在什么时候玩游戏,你都希望这个游戏的内容是连贯的,这样才能体会到身临其境的感觉。游戏玩起来是有道理的、符合逻辑的玩家才能继续玩下去。

你会按照游戏设计师所设定的那样,自动忽略那些与幻觉相悖的破绽,你是来这里体验快乐、紧张、放松还有各种交错的复杂感觉。我们利用了这种设计,带给玩家他们想要的游戏,即使游戏背后的真相和玩家现在所看到的并不一样。

游戏设计包含了不少魔法。如果你不想知道这种幻觉是怎么被创造出来的,那你还是不要继续往下读了。

新手游戏设计师要知道的一些神经学知识

你是一个漏洞很多、没有逻辑的生物,一点都不理解概率、距离、时间以及数量是什么。别难过,这个星球上的其他人也是跟你一条船的。

如果玩游戏时你有50%的机会能成功,但是连续两次都失败了,这时大部分玩家就会觉得他们被骗了。这个结果是概率问题,但是大部分人在玩游戏的时候会感觉他们好像遭受了不公平的待遇。这个50%的成功机会在他们看来就是如果我输了一次,那下一次就一定会成功。其实这些数字并不是准确的,游戏制作方多多少少是有捏造的,为的是符合玩家心中的期望(游戏邦注:伪随机)。

VR(from gamasutra)

早在几十年前,游戏设计师已经把这些偏见和不合理的情况考虑到了。不管玩家会怎么想,甚至要求什么,我们清楚地知道游戏体验比真实感更重要。

要创造紧张感、制造冲突、产生戏剧化的效果需要利用你的感知能力。通常情况下只要是玩的开心,人们都是跟着感觉走。这是一个无意识的决定,而游戏刚好就如你想象中的那样发展,你花钱就是为了种感觉。

举个例子,你在玩一个平台游戏,当你成功地完成一个高难度跳跃动作的时候,你会把它归功于自己的游戏技能;但其实每次跳跃失败后,很多游戏都会在你意识不到的情况下把你之前没跳过去的坑变得更大。

这就叫做基本归因错误,即人们常常把一件事的结果归因于内部因素,而低估了外部因素和条件的影响力。如果把原因归咎于外部因素会对我们会产生不利的影响或者是和我们的感知相悖,那么这种错误会更容易出现。你想在游戏中感受到自己是个技术牛逼的人,而你的大脑通常会无视一个事实:游戏本身也在帮助你获得这种感觉。

要实现我们的目标,我们必须要知道大脑的基本工作原理:

当产品设计师在设计那些日常用品的时候,例如椅子、刀具还有其它具有互动性、以人为本的物品,他们脑中想的是顾客会怎么使用这款产品、它涉及到哪些动作。在一定程度上,做游戏也是一样的方法,区别在于我们更注重玩家的思维能力和他们想要的游戏体验。

大脑产生情感和情绪的过程会牵涉到各种不同的化学物质。关于它们的功能以及如何在游戏中运用、操控玩家的游戏体验方式,这一切游戏设计师们都有自己的理解。

动机与奖励,共鸣与信任,成就感和自主性,这些元素的组合能让玩家感到身心愉悦,这就是游戏体验的本质。你喜欢的游戏大部分都是这些元素的综合体。

揭开神秘的面纱

现在,我们来说说这个话题的核心部分。先声明一下:这一部分所提到的作品本人都没有参与工作,所以这些细节信息都是根据开发者们在推特上的回复写的。我很高兴能有这么多游戏设计大师加入进来,一同分享我们自己的“魔术”秘密。

每种把戏或者是误导都是有意设计的,为的就是让你以特定的方式体验游戏,让我们从这个角度来梳理一下。好戏就要上演了。

成就感

成就感是游戏奖励所带来的一种主要感觉。每个人在某个时刻都有感受过被内啡肽冲击的感觉吧?想想看,你遭遇了困境,期间还遇到了接二连三的棘手问题,但是你最终还是熬过来了,那感觉真是好极了。

再比如设计一种机制增加战斗中紧张气氛,让玩家感觉在这种困境中只能勉强生存,但要让他们比他们想象中的还要安全。比如:

《刺条信客》和最近的《毁灭战士》,在血量很少的情况下玩家可以扛下更多攻击,比血量多的时候还耐打。血量看起来只有那么多,但实际上你是可以撑得更久,你心中会充满了危机感和紧张感,要生存是一件很难的事情。

《网络奇兵》中,我们设定玩家的最后一颗子弹可以造成双倍伤害,有点像是血条耗尽时候的最后一击。

— Rob Xemu Fermier (@xemu) 2017年9月1日

《生化奇兵》中,你本该承受最后一击,直接毙命,但取而代之的是你会有1、2秒的时间变成刀枪不入的状态,这样一来你就能体验到更多“难以生存”的时刻。

— Paul Hellquist (@TheElfquist) 2017年9月1日

Chevy Ray说在游戏中就算你掉下去,也还是能跳跃,这就跟“coyote time”一样。

这个词是根据动画角色歪心狼Wiley coyote而命名。通常就是那些难以察觉的差别决定了游戏好不玩不好玩。

— Chevy Ray (@ChevyRay) 2017年9月1日

上面所提到的例子是平台游戏中的非常常见手段,正是因为它的效果奇好,才有这么多开发者会去用。不管游戏有多真实,少了它的话会让玩家觉得这游戏“挺糟糕的”或者是“哪里不对劲”。

这些例子就是跟我们的成就感、还有它的作用密切相关。在残血状态下提升子弹的伤害值,或者是改变生命值是让你感受到成就感的有效方法。这样一来你的生命值其实是偏态分布的,刚开始会掉得非常快,让你感受到危险处境。剩下来的血条可能看上去很少,但是可能敌人的对你的伤害值也降低了,或者是实际血条比看上去的还长。

各种各样的方法都是为了同一个目标:制造紧张感、产生多样性、避免重复。动作游戏的目标之一就是制造出一堆能让你有虎口逃生感觉的场景,其实游戏本身自带的并没有那么多,为的就是能让玩家自己人为地制造一些危险。

联结

针对这类游戏体验,其实开发者们很早就有了对策,但是多亏了Tellta的作品、步行模拟器(walking simulators)还有其他侧重通过对话展开故事主线的游戏,让它卷土重来。这些互动行为都和我们的共鸣感、信任感、和游戏的连接有关。比如:

我要是拿我们自己的游戏当优秀案例讲可以吧?很多人都知道《看火人》中有个选择是不参与对话。

— Jane Ng (@thatJaneNg) 2017年9月1日

虽然你不回话,但是游戏还是会作出回应,这就能给你一种感觉:游戏中跟你对话角色仿佛是“真实的”,忽视别人的存在是有后果的。

— Jane Ng (@thatJaneNg) 2017年9月1日

Telltale Games并没有明确地告诉你不回答也是一种选择,但是如果你迟迟不选回复的话,你就马上懂了。

作为工作人员之一,我可以明确地告诉你,即使是“……”这种无语回答也是有用的,虽然很多时候它都不会作为选项出现在用户界面上。

— Explodey (@synchra) 2017年9月2日

Telltale的《行尸走肉》告诉你游戏中很多选项都很重要,但事实是很多选择都不会直接影响游戏的剧情走向。你会觉得很多决定都有关键作用,其实连这种压力都是开发团队刻意制造出来的。

如果你尝试过去写那种复杂、可以延伸出很多支线剧情的对话,你就知道要让每条支线都符合逻辑、能推动剧情发展、还要能吸引玩家,这真的是一项十分艰巨的任务。

尤其是对于独立开发者们来说,通常这会超出他们的能力范围。为了创造出有趣、能让玩家全情投入的剧情,还有制造游戏人物冲突,游戏设计师应用了一种称为“选择幻象”的技巧,就是游戏会直接告诉或者是暗示你这些选择会对剧情走向产生巨大影响,但是实际上只有几处核心剧情交叉部分的选择才有影响。

有没有这种压力,玩家的最终选择还是一样的,然而,这就是游戏的本意所在。这样一来你不用花多大力气就能得到预期想要的反应。

假装

这是多巴胺在发挥它的最佳作用。了解整个游戏的来龙去脉,提升自己的技能,开启游戏下一个阶段,所有的这些东西都是多巴胺驱使的。

有些设计手段是真的是能让你产生错觉,觉得这个游戏机制是存在的,这是我最喜欢的设计之一,因为这种设计方法揭露了我们多想当一个蒙在鼓里的人,真不真实,亦或者是感觉起来真不真实,这都无关紧要。这种真相比其它任何事情都重要。结果就是当它跟技能挂钩的时候,那些真实与虚幻之间的差别都变得无关紧要了。

在Hi Octane中我们就是简单地把各种汽车的不同属性值展示出来,其实这些数据从来没有更改过。

— Alex Trowers (@BulkPaint) 2017年9月1日

另外,我们认为不会有人注意到,事实证明我们是对的。

— Alex Trowers (@BulkPaint) 2017年9月2日

人们会夸这些汽车的属性很均衡,同时又继续升级他们爱车,让它们变得更有个性。

— Alex Trowers (@BulkPaint) 2017年9月1日

《地狱之刃:塞娜的献祭》的剧情UI元素告诉你游戏中的角色是可能死不复生的。但是目前还没有被玩家证实它到底是不是真的,其实也没什么关系,光是它存在的可能性就足以让你保持警惕了。很有可能它的作用只是警告,但这是可以改变你对整个游戏的感觉。

从上面所提到的案例,还有其他很多游戏可以看出,这种做法对游戏体验的影响是至关重要的。Hi Octane的那些数据就算不存在也对游戏体验没什么影响,只要玩家相信它有影响就够了。

大脑是个很神奇的东西,有些未知的区域,我们会用自己的臆想去填补空白,这种感觉和真实体验的快感一样好,我们每天都在欺骗自己去相信我们想要相信的东西。

公平

从这里开始就变得复杂了,因为人类真的不明白什么是公平,什么是概率。我们的感知总会产生偏差:总是会觉得我们会赢的,即使这种幻象是毫无缘由的。

游戏中运用了各种各样的办法来保持这种公平感。常见的手段就是告诉你失败的原因,或者是为什么会死掉,这就是我们理解的所谓公平的关键所在。如果被蒙在鼓里就会产生被欺骗的感觉。失败了一定要找出你错在哪里,游戏也该告诉你怎么改。

《生化奇兵》里面,敌人朝你开的第一枪总是打偏的……这是故意设计的,想想要是从头到尾都这样的话,就不存在什么出人意料的情况了。

— Ken Levine (@levine) 2017年9月2日

在《特殊行动》中我们也用了类似的而方法,游戏初期阶段敌人的射击精准度都是0%,先给玩家预警一下。

— Jörg Friedrich (@freejsf) 2017年9月2日

《神秘海域》系列用了一种非常巧妙的方法,提高玩家的成功几率从而保持游戏的公平感。

如果你脚下的东西正在崩塌,我们会调整它的速度,这要取决于玩家的理想逃生路径有多长。

— Kurt Margenau (@kurtmargenau) 2017年9月3日

从《神秘海域2》开始我们就用这个方法了,这样一来所有玩家都能顺利地到达结局场景,不管他们的技术有多“好”。

— Kurt Margenau (@kurtmargenau) 2017年9月3日

《神秘海域2》里面的火车、悬崖,《神秘海域4》的碎石,还有《神秘海域:失落遗产》中的各种。让我们创造出“决战时刻”,利用逆向工作法实现它。

— Kurt Margenau (@kurtmargenau) 2017年9月3日

据说Ninja Theory的《DmC:鬼泣》使用了一种简单但是很有用的办法,就是让玩家能够对抗更多敌人。

在《DmC:鬼泣》中,那些比较靠后的敌人会放缓或者是暂停攻击,这样就能避免玩家遭受盲阻,让玩家战胜更多敌人。

— Good Stevening (@_SteveThornton) 2017年9月1日

说实话,我是在玩游戏的时候注意到这个问题的,我经常会调整视角离敌人的攻击远点,让我有点喘气的空间。

— Good Stevening (@_SteveThornton) 2017年9月1日

如果玩家经常死的话,其实有很多游戏都会调整难度以及敌人的出现频率。如果玩家失败了不止一次,游戏会改变数值和比率,避免玩家还没来得及反应就死于意外突袭。

《异形:隔离》中的异形是有两个大脑的。一个确保异形跟着玩家,另一个用于控制异形对周围环境的反应。两个大脑是完全独立的,所以异形在猎杀玩家的时候二者是平等的,它不具有任何优势。由于第一个大脑的作用,它不会离玩家太远,但是第二个大脑绝对不会在背后搞事情。完全公平。

至于有些超级难的、屡让玩家受挫的游戏(例如《黑暗之魂》系列)没有失败是因为它们能够非常好地引导玩家去提升自己的技能。你知道为什么会死,知道怎么死的,而且还知道下次要怎么做才能更好。这就能激励你一直玩下去。

多人游戏

这一部分或许是最具争议的,我们通常认为多人游戏一定是公平的、透明的,这样才能玩的开心,其实这也是幻象。多人游戏也不是正态分布的。

在Gears中,有90%的新玩家是这样的:如果他们没有在刚开始玩的时候拿下一血,那么他们就不会再去参加第二次多人比赛。第一次玩游戏是很重要的……

— Lee Perry Yo! (@MrLeePerry) 2017年9月2日

所以如果你是刚开始玩游戏的话,我们会给你一些有利条件(像是额外伤害奖励),但是你熟练了之后,这些优势就会逐渐消失。

— Lee Perry Yo! (@MrLeePerry) 2017年9月2日

甚至连《英雄联盟》都有调整某些机制,让冲突变得更加有趣。

《英雄联盟》的大部分导弹都有lollypopping——如果导弹没有击中任何东西,它们会继续检查一圈,然后结束。

— Daniel Z. Klein (@danielzklein) 2017年9月1日

这样一来精准度就变高了,对于攻击者和目标都是。

— Daniel Z. Klein (@danielzklein) 2017年9月1日

《马里奥赛车8》是第一个使用“橡皮带(rubberbanding)”技巧的游戏,这种技巧现在在赛车游戏里很常见了。指的就是游戏的偏态分布不会让竞赛各方拉开过大差距,从而造成对抗局面。你后面的AI对手其实是可以开得更快追上你的。而且他们拥有更多有用的加速道具,能够把比赛弄得更白热化。

对于玩家来说,这些机制可能感觉挺不公平的,如果多人游戏在你眼中仅仅只是竞赛的话,那的确是不公平的,但也只是在这种情况下。游戏设计师们明白我们需要制造出多人的游戏体验,例如建立游戏社区或者是拥有不同技能的用户群体,让它在第一时间就能运作。

这仅仅只是个开始

上面所说的例子就解释了为什么游戏设计师要按照我们的方式制作游戏,相关的例子还有很多。为了契合人类的思维运作方式,其中很多游戏设计技巧还是必要的。

如果你设计一把椅子,你明白这把椅子必须承受得住一个人的重量,坐上去的时候我们的双脚要够得到地板,能靠背,要考虑到人体结构特性。

同样地,上文所提到的技巧涉及到了我们所学到的神经系统科学知识,还有在化学层面上大脑运作的运作方式,还包括成就感(内啡肽)、动力和奖励(多巴胺)、信任和共鸣(游戏邦注:后叶催产素),然后把这些都融合在一次精心策划的游戏体验当中(5-羟色胺),充分考虑到了玩家的人性特征。

很多玩家不知道,其实这些技巧是很常见的,而且有99%你可能永远都不会注意到。很多技巧都用了好几十年了,已经成了对应类型中司空见惯的现象,现在还成了玩家期待的东西,在如今,可能要等哪天它们不见了玩家才会注意到吧。

那我以后玩游戏还有乐趣吗?
了解这些技巧并不会破坏你享受玩游戏的乐趣。不仅是上面所提到的技巧,还有其他很多技巧还会被继续用下去,让玩家沉浸其中,而且这些技巧只要使用得当,你的大脑也会继续跟随游戏,欲罢不能。

设计师们还会继续研究我们的思维运作方式,想出新的技巧,让玩家的荷尔蒙飙升,沉浸在情感与动作的游戏旅程中。无论玩家知道多少游戏制作技巧都不会改变这一点。6年多来,我一直在用这些技巧,但我依然很享受玩游戏的过程。

如果我能给你建议的话,那就是冷静下来,放松,相信开发者们,他们会特别为你打造游戏体验,让你感受到乐趣。试着跟随我们一起经历这段游戏旅程,不要对这些技巧抱着抗拒的心态,这样你的游戏体验也会变得更加有趣,

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I asked fellow game designers to tell me the hidden tricks and mechanics they use to give players their desired experience. That situation got a bit out of control, in a good way.

I apologize to all the players who ended up reading it. We may have killed Santa and exposed the Matrix, but it wasn’t for nothing. If anything, the thread probably gave you a lot more insight into what we do.

“The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled.”
- The Prestige

Game designers work with and for the human mind; we have to consider human experience, perception and our mindset when we are at play. Whenever you choose to play, you likely want the game to feel internally consistent enough that you can buy into the experience. You’re able to go along for the ride if the game feels like it makes sense.

You are designed to be able to overlook things that don’t fit the illusion, because you are really here to experience joy, tension, relaxation and everything in between. We take advantage of that design to bring you the game you want to play, even if the rules that operate behind the scenes aren’t giving you the game you think you are playing.

And game design involves a fair bit of magic. If you don’t want to know how the illusion is created, you may want to stop reading now.

SOME LIGHT NEUROSCIENCE FOR GAME DESIGN BEGINNERS…
You are a deeply flawed, irrational being who is terrible at truly understanding chance, distance, time and numbers. Don’t feel bad, everyone else on the planet is in the same boat.

A majority of players will feel utterly betrayed if they miss a 50 percent chance twice in a row. That outcome is possible mathematically, but most people feel as though they were treated unfairly when they are in the mindset of play. They assume that a 50 percent chance means they will lose once, and succeed once. Games often fudge their numbers a bit to match what you think the results should be, not what the statistics show they would be.

Game designers have been taking this and other examples of bias and irrationality into account for decades. We know that the experience counts more than realism when it comes to play, in spite of what players may think or even ask for.

Creating tension, conflict and drama requires playing with your perceptions, and you are usually happy to just go with it as long as it feels good. It’s not a conscious decision, the reality of the game just matches what you think it should be. That’s what you paid your money to feel.

For example, you will believe it’s your skill that allowed you to make a difficult jump in a platforming game, despite the common game design practice of widening the window for jump input after falling off ledges.

This is called the fundamental attribution error, which describes our tendency to explain behavior based on internal factors while we underestimate the influence of external factors and circumstances. We are even more likely to do this if the option of considering external factors has a negative effect on us or our perception of ourselves. You want to feel skilled, and your brain will usually ignore evidence that the game helped in order to deliver that feeling.

To achieve what we are trying to achieve, we must know the basics of how brains work:
@japhers
When product designers design everyday objects such as chairs, cutlery and other interactive, human-focused items, they keep the desired use case in mind as well as the physical abilities related to it. While games have to do so too to a degree, we focus more on the user’s mental ability and desired experience.

All kinds of different brain chemicals are involved in the process of creating an orchestra of emotions and moods. Game designers have an intrinsic understanding of their functions and how to harness them in a game that is meant to control the way you experience it.

Motivation and reward, empathy and trust, accomplishment and autonomy and feel-good moods in combination is what game experiences really are. Most games you love are a mixture of all of these tools.

KILLING SANTA
Now, let’s talk about the actual meat of this topic. Disclaimer: I didn’t work on the titles mentioned in this thread, so these details are based on what developers have said when replying to the Twitter thread. It has been great to see how many skilled game designers have chosen to add to it in order to shed light on our craft.

Each trick or misdirection is designed to help you feel a certain way, so let’s organize them in that manner. This is where the good stuff begins.

ACCOMPLISHMENT
Accomplishment is a core feeling of reward. Endorphin rushes are something everybody has experienced at some point. Think of that high feeling of getting through a difficult situation and the sharp focus that ensues. It feels good.

On this spectrum are for example mechanics that are designed to build tension in combat, giving the player a feeling of just barely surviving difficult situations while keeping them safer than you assume. For instance:

Assassin’s Creed and the latest Doom allow you to take more hits when very low on health than very high. You can survive longer than your health suggests, giving you the rush of “just barely” surviving.

In System Shock we made your last bullet do double damage, similar trick to the last bit of health thing.

— Rob Xemu Fermier (@xemu) September 1, 2017
In Bioshock if you would have taken your last pt of dmg you instead were invuln for abt 1-2 sec so you get more “barely survived” moments.

— Paul Hellquist (@TheElfquist) September 1, 2017
Chevy Ray stated they called the effect of jumps working even after you’ve fallen off the side of a structure “coyote time.”

Named after Wiley coyote. It’s often the invisible difference between a terrible platform er and a really fun one.

— Chevy Ray (@ChevyRay) September 1, 2017
The above example is very common in platforming games because it makes so much of a positive difference. A game without it would likely feel “bad” or “wrong” to players, despite being more realistic.

These are examples that relate to our feelings of accomplishment and agency. Adding damage to bullets or shifting the value of your health as it gets lower is a great way for you to feel that rush. With a skewed hit point value, your health could go down very rapidly at first, making you feel the danger of the situation. The hit points that are left may look minimal, but damage taken from enemies could go down, or the actual hit points left may offer you more life than is visually indicated.

All variations of these mechanics have this exact same goal: creating tension and flow variety instead of repetitiveness. Creating situations where you feel like you survived by the skin of your teeth is often a goal in action games, and the numbers are sometimes … massaged, in order to make that happen more often than it would organically.

BONDING
Mechanics referring to this experience have been around for much longer, but have recently made a comeback with Telltale’s work as well as walking simulators and games that engage in storytelling through dialogue. All of these interactions relate to our feelings of empathy, trust and connection. For example:

Is it ok to mention something we’re proud of in our own game? :P In Firewatch, a player not responding to dialogue prompt is a noted choice

— Jane Ng (@thatJaneNg) September 1, 2017
the game reacts to non-response, and it helps create a feeling that ignoring someone has social consequence and the other person is “real”

— Jane Ng (@thatJaneNg) September 1, 2017
Telltale Games doesn’t actually tell you that not responding is a choice, but if you wait too long, you’ll learn the lesson quickly.

As someone who works there, I can confirm, that even “…” which isn’t always present in the UI, does make a difference!

— Explodey (@synchra) September 2, 2017
Telltale’s The Walking Dead is a game that tells you many choices matter, when many of them don’t directly impact the story. You’ll feel like many of your decisions matter, even if that weight is artificially constructed.

If you have ever tried writing complex, branching dialogue, you will know how incredibly difficult it is to make every possible path taken by a player engaging, logical and functional.

It is a behemoth task and very often out of scope, especially for indie developers. To still create interesting, emotionally engaging stories and character encounters, game designers implement something called the illusion of choice, which simply tells you or signals to you that those choices matter, when in reality only several core story intersections have real impact.

The player response is the same as if they were weighted, however, which is the whole point. You get the intended reaction without adding an enormous amount of work.

FAKING IT
This is dopamine at work and at its finest. Learning about the ins and outs of a game, getting to the next stage through mastery, all of these things are driven by this chemical.

Mechanics that straight-up give you the illusion of their existence are some of my very favorites because they reveal, more than anything else, how much we want to be fooled, and how little it matters what is real and what simply feels real. It turns out that distinction doesn’t even matter when it’s handled with skill.

Not a mechanic persee, but in Hi Octane we simply displayed different stats for vehicles without ever actually changing them under the hood

— Alex Trowers (@BulkPaint) September 1, 2017
Plus we thought that no-one would notice and it turns out we were right ;)

— Alex Trowers (@BulkPaint) September 2, 2017
People would say how well they were balanced whilst continuing to big up the apparent characteristics of their chosen favourite

— Alex Trowers (@BulkPaint) September 1, 2017
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice breaks its strict diegetic UI just once to tell you about its permadeath mechanic. It has yet to be confirmed by players whether it actually exists or not, but that doesn’t matter because the chance that it does exist keeps you on your toes. It’s very possible this entire mechanic exists only as a warning, but it shapes how you feel about the entire game.

The beauty of these examples and many more is that their impact on your gameplay experience is vital. In Hi Octane, actual stats not existing makes literally no difference to the way you experience the game; it’s enough that the player believes that it does.

Brains are magical that way because filling in the blanks is often just as good as the real deal, and we already cheat ourselves into believing what we want to believe on a daily basis.

FAIRNESS
This is where it really gets complex, because humans are terrible at understanding fairness and chance. We will always skew our perception toward the illusion that we should have won, even when it’s irrational.

Games employ a number of different strategies to preserve feelings of fairness. Usually, knowing why you lost or died is at the core of what we perceive as fairness. We feel cheated when we’re kept in the dark. Failure needs to feel like your mistake, and the game should be telling you how to improve.

First shots from an enemy against you in BioShock always missed…that was the design, think it got fully implemented. No “out of blue!”

— Ken Levine (@levine) September 2, 2017
We used a similar mechanic in Spec Ops, enemies started with an accuracy of 0% to give players a heads up.

— Jörg Friedrich (@freejsf) September 2, 2017
The Uncharted series uses a very clever trick to give you a better chance of success to maintain that feeling of fairness.

If you’re on something that’s collapsing, we slow down/speed up the anim of that object based on how far along the ideal path you are…

— Kurt Margenau (@kurtmargenau) September 3, 2017
We’ve used it in Uncharted since U2, so all players get a perfect transistion to the final animation no matter how “good” they are.

— Kurt Margenau (@kurtmargenau) September 3, 2017
The train/cliff in U2, crumbling rocks in U4 jungle, many things in UTLL. Lets us author a “final moment” and work backwards to target it.

— Kurt Margenau (@kurtmargenau) September 3, 2017
Ninja Theory’s DmC: Devil May Cry reportedly used a simple, but effective, way of letting you fight more enemies than you perhaps could otherwise.

In DmC, off screen enemies slow down or stop their attack patterns, to avoid hits from blindspots + allow players to fight larger numbers

— Good Stevening (@_SteveThornton) September 1, 2017
Tbh on this one, I noticed it as a player and would often rotate the camera away from slices of the enemy group to give me breathing space

— Good Stevening (@_SteveThornton) September 1, 2017
There are plenty of games that will tweak difficulty and spawn rates of enemies if you die often. Games that will change values and percentages if you have lost rolls more than once, and that will avoid killing players out of the blue without a chance of reaction.

The alien in Alien Isolation actually had two brains. One would make sure the alien was always close to you, and the second brain that controlled how the alien reacted to its immediate surroundings. The brains never talked to each other, so the alien doesn’t have an unfair advantage as it’s hunting you. It’s never far from you due to that first brain, but the second brain never gets to cheat. It’s fair.
The only reason that extremely difficult and frustrating games such as the Dark Souls series work is because they are exceptionally good at showing you how to improve. You always know why and how you died, and how you can do better next time. This keeps you motivated and engaged.

MULTIPLAYER
This part is probably the most controversial, because we’re usually under the illusion that multiplayer games have to be fair and transparent to be fun. However, multiplayer games tweak and nudge as well:

In Gears, found out 90% of first time players don’t play a second multiplayer match if they don’t get a kill. That first game’s important…

— Lee Perry Yo! (@MrLeePerry) September 2, 2017
So we started you off with some major advantages (like additional damage bonuses) that tapered off with your first few kills.

— Lee Perry Yo! (@MrLeePerry) September 2, 2017
Even League of Legends nudges some mechanics to make engaging in conflict more interesting.

Most missiles in league of Legends have lollypopping – if they didn’t hit anything, they check in a circle at end pos for targets

— Daniel Z. Klein (@danielzklein) September 1, 2017
It feels more accurate this way – both for the attacker and the target.

— Daniel Z. Klein (@danielzklein) September 1, 2017
Mario Kart first coined the technique called rubberbanding, which is now common in racing games and refers to tweaks that would keep the racing opponents close together to create conflict. The AI-controlled karts behind you would actually get faster to catch up. They also get more useful power ups, leading to closer races.

These mechanics may seem unfair to you, but that’s only the case if you see multiplayer games only as competitions. Game designers know that we need to design multiplayer experiences, such as community or building a skill-diverse user base, for them to function in the first place.

THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING
These are only a few examples of why game designers do things the way we do. Many of these game design techniques are necessary in the context of designing for the way human minds function.

If you designed a chair, you know that you need to be able to place a full human’s weight on it, that we sit on it with our feet on the ground and our back leaning against it. It takes the physical attributes into account.

In the same way, the above techniques take into account what we have learned from neuroscience and how our brain functions on a chemical level, taking into account feelings of accomplishment (endorphins), motivation and reward (dopamine), trust and empathy (oxytocin) and tying it all together into one orchestrated experience (serotonin) that takes your humanity into account.

These techniques are much more common than you know and you likely never notice 99 percent of them. Many are decades old and common practice in their own genres, and are now expected by players; you’d likely only notice them these days if they were gone.

IS THIS THE END FOR MY ENJOYMENT OF GAMES?
Knowing about these tricks doesn’t ruin your enjoyment of games. Games will keep on engaging you with techniques like the above and many others, and your brain will still be along for the ride as long as games use them well.

Designers will come up with new ways to exploit the way our minds work to ramp up your hormones into an orchestra of emotions and actions. No amount of revealing how we do it will change that. I’ve been employing these kinds of tactics for over six years now and I still enjoy games.

If I can give you any advice, it’s to lean back and trust developers to be a team that specifically designs for you and your enjoyment. The more you’re try willing to come on a journey with us, the better your experience will be.(source: )

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