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Community Spotlight: Means-Based Game Design

Posted by MikeB Thursday March 18 2010 at 4:14PM
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This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on the thread “Means-Based Game Design” by SirBenedict. The post is SirBenedict’s first post, so he has certainly gotten off to a good start! While it’s still early, and there are not many responses at the moment, I found the content of the original post to be quite thought provoking and I’d like to highlight it this week.

In the thread, SirBenedict wonders why we don’t see more “means based” game design, I.E. design based around enjoying the ride, instead of rushing to the destination:

“What if there were a game about means rather than ends, the experience rather than the completion. It appears to me that "leveling up" "beating the game" or "killing the monster" are not the inherently rewarding components of a game. Take sports as an example. People don't play sports just because they want to win. Rather, they play sports because the mere experience of engaging in them is rewarding on a level far below the abstractions of status and hierarchy. Sipping hot chocolate or smelling a frangrant flower are engaged in because the experiences themselves are rewarding, not because once you've drunk the cocoa you get "cocoa xp" or because you "leveled up your flower-smelling ability." In short, I think that the whole concept of designing games around "success" or "end" should be exchanged for games which focus on the experience of the game or means to its "end".”

Kaiser3282 is definitely feeling what SirBenedict is saying, and relates by stating he currently gets this feeling while playing certain FPS games:

“Would be great if games were designed more along those lines, but instead 99% of the market insists on trying to clone WoW and giving us more and more of this repetetive boring ass gameplay that consists of tab targeting and pressing your most useful hotkeys. I definitely get more of the feeling youre describing when playing FPS games vs othe rplayers because the fight itself is actually exciting, wether you win or lose. Same goes for single player RPGs where theres some real depth to the game and the story and more innovation behind the combat systems to make them unique instead of the same tired crap weve been using on MMOs for like 10 years and theyve all become about getting to end game and being the highest level with the best gear, not about actual fun & skilled combat.”

GreenChaos really loves to prolong things, as he knows once he hits the end game, well, it’s a bit more of a literal end game for him:

“It really depends on the person not the game. I played City of heroes for 5 years and never reached endgame, because I like the process of getter there and creating new characters. But many people rushed to end game, said there was nothing there and quit.

So it really depends more on the player not the game.

What what you really want to talk about is means base game playing not game design. I played WoW for 2 years and never got to end game. When I do hit end game I stop playing the game. For me end game is END GAME.”

SirBenedict’s words strike a particular chord with me, as I’ve been pretty much saying the same things to friends for many years now. I could never get into many MMOGs because it did not matter what metagame options the game offered, as I often felt the journey itself was uninteresting. This is why I too, was into Age of Conan initially. SirBenedict brought up the combat, which is one area I particularly agree with him on. Combat has always been one of those issues for me with MMOGs, and it was impossible for me to “enjoy the journey” when the combat gameplay of most MMOGs tended to be pretty damn archaic, falling way behind the standards players could expect in their traditional game counterparts. Conan, however, offered a more interactive and visceral combat system, which is why I was, admittedly, such a fanboy early on with the game. Of course, the game launched and we all know the story there, it’s not important to go over that. I don’t agree that Conan was about the journey, but I am not sure that SirBenedict was making that point. I think what he was really getting at is that the combat gameplay itself was engaging, which for the most part it was.

I think SirBenedict will have a lot of fans in sandbox gamers as well, as sandbox games tend to inherently be about the journey, after all, there isn’t really an endgame so to speak, other than one you create for yourself. I mention Star Wars Galaxies a lot in my blogs, and while Star Wars Galaxies didn’t have the most exciting or intuitive combat in the world, it offered many gameplay options, including interesting combat options, and this really prolonged my interest in the game.  

How about you? Are you the rush to the end type or the enjoy the journey type? Let us know in the comments below!