Games and Interaction design

Monday, July 25, 2005

What makes up a game? Where could game innovation lie?

been thinking a bit about what ultimately constitutes the structure of a game. not in terms of its artistic content, storyline, aesthetic etc but in terms of the bare parts of the interactive system. So heres my definition! hopefully ive not subconciously robbed this from somewhere else (although it is more than likely)

A game consists of a number of elements and systems that act upon these elements. These elements can consist of assets (passive elements) or agents (active elements). Each of these elements can have a number of attributes that affect their behaviour within the active systems. All games involve changing the value of these attributes or the attributes of the systems, with the goal of the elements being configured for a goal state. The attributes are modified by the player using one or more verbs. The final part is the input device allowing expressions of these verbs.

So for example in pong, you have 5 elements - the top wall, the bottom wall, the left bat, the right bat, and the ball. The bats and the ball are active elements. The walls are passive. The goal state is to get the ball past the opponents bat. The verbs you are able to use are to modify the height of the bat directly. The game system dictates how the ball behaves when it interacts with other elements. There is also an AI system controlling the opponent (unless also controlled by a human).

Or in a simple platform game you have your character and a number of AI controlled enemies (the active elements). You have a number of pickups and the environment elements (the passive elements). The verbs available to the player are apply a force to the left and right of the hero character, or apply a jumping force. The goal state is to get the player to a specific location. The systems in place are a general collision system restricting movement, gravity, and AI systems for each enemy.

So, given that those are the bare parts of games where can innovation lie? well i guess you could say:

Types of element
Types of simulation relating to gameplay (advanced AI as seen in Halo, advanced physics as seen in Half life 2, metaballs simulation in mercury, water/wave dynamics simulation in wave race)
Types of verb available to the player (rolling-collecting in katamari damacy, assigning creature behaviour in lemmings, swinging off buildings in spiderman 2, running up walls in PoP, holding hands in ICO)
Input device/method (eg Eyetoy, konga drums, gesture recognition in black and white)

Of course combinations of many different things is also innovation but this has helped me isolate areas for consideration for innovation and helped me to try think about the bare bricks of games .


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