GAMING ADVICE WITH PROFESSOR KNOW-IT-ALL: HOW TO KEEP YOUR GAMING AUDIENCE ENTERTAINED

Otherwise they’ll just go play something else that’s a lot more…“fun”

  • Addit
  • 07/09/2013 11:27 PM
  • 16621 views


Good day, ladies and gentlederps. The name is Professor Know-It-All. And I’m here today to teach you all about the secret art of game making and general game design. You can just call me “The Professor” for short, considering that’s what most people call me around here. For the next ten minutes, or however long it takes you to read all of this, I will be sharing my wisdom of many years of game making experience with you all. Although my speculative advice may come free and is considered well-informed by most, please take into the account that even I, the great and mighty professor can sometimes be faulty. So make sure that you have a clear head that is full of common sense and a willingness to go beyond the boundaries of knowledge as we take a look at today’s informal lesson.




Boredom.

Let’s face it, we’ve all sat through some pretty dull, dawdling moments in the course of our lives, whether it be some boring new reality show on T.V. that a friend is forcing us to watch or another bad George Lucas film – we’ve all been there, struggling to break free from the grotesqueness of our helpless situation. And in video games, it is no different. There are so many horror stories you’ve heard or seen that involves a game that may look good on the outside but it’s a whole different can of pinesap on the inside. You often hear about long loading times, frustrating controls, unskippable long cutscenes, boring tutorials, excessive level grinding, and, perhaps the most dire of them all, an unlikeable cast of characters with a lame ass, main villain with no real sense of purpose to his or her own schemes that it doesn't make a lick of sense of purpose to anyone, even you.

This, my friend, is just some of the many measures that drive people into utter insanity. And when the player can't simply take any much more of this hogwash, in a final desperate attempt of resistance, the game is suddenly then turned off. The game’s image is then removed from view from that person’s mind…forever.

My friends, this exact instance happens on this site EVERY. SINGLE. DAY! That’s right! While the overcrowded gleam of excitement may tickle your croissandwich, there are some rather brave souls out there going through the exact same motions that I just listed above. They download one of your games, think it’s pretty cool lookin’, give it a spin, find something that takes them out of the experience, and then – WAM! A bad review is pending.

Here’s a step-by-step comparison:



…And, thus, your game was never mentioned again.


But there is a way to save your precious lurkers and audience members from going through these same exact step-by-step motions? Oh, yes! By eliminating what stands as dire to those will generate more positive reviews and some more sexy fan-art for yourself (if you know what I mean).

My friends, I’m going to explain to you some of the types of steps to avoid having people go through the boredom phase. Although not everyone may find these distasteful; it’s usually just only a certain percentage of people that consider it acceptable more than anything else. But we want to eliminate such things as much as we can and gather a much wider audience to your game – both nerds and cool cats. Let’s break it down, shall we?

#1 - The Intro Screen

The introduction before officially having the player start the game should be as flashy and as brief as humanly possible. After all, you’re just giving your audience members a brief explanation about what is going on in your world and a brief summary of some of the characters that are involved in it. There is no need to go all out in your introduction phase, unless it plays a primary role in your overall story and contains rather important elements. For more experienced veterans, you should consider making your introduction skippable – especially for those who have already played your game once before. It also helps to break up the monotony by having the player thrown into the game rather immediately by participating in an event to help ease them into the experience. For a role playing game, this is pretty important. Most non-role playing games, like platformers, can usually just instantly send the player right to the start of the game with no explanation of what’s going on at all because most platformers don’t need that much of a story. Your introductions should be no more than 5 whole minutes. 5 whole minutes, tops. Count ‘em.

#2 - Skippable Cutscenes

Similar to the introduction phase, you should also allow the player to have the ability to skip certain cutscenes to save them some time or save them from having to view the same scenes over-and-over again, especially if they died on a particular boss fight or during a tough challenge. Although some cutscenes may be important to the overall story and experience, some people just don’t really care. By adding in this feature, this can not only help save time but allow certain adrenaline junkies to do certain speedruns of your game and post it on someplace like YouTube to give your game even more intrigue. If you’re not going to add in the ability to have skippable cutscenes for some reason, at least have it so that the text speed can scroll down a lot faster than the usual normal speed. Same with the walking speed, if possible.

#3 - Tutorials

Tutorials “should” always be skippable and only be used to explain a system mechanic that is important towards the game’s overall completion. Teaching your audience how to play your game usually is best if you have them learn from your game rather hands on. Throw your player(s) into the lion’s den with a rather…certain circumstance and, after a while, they should get used to the game's mechanics rather quickly. A lot of earlier games used to do this back then and it still works rather well today. I mean, most of us are not that stupid to put two and two together. Keep the boring seminars down to a minimum.

#4 - Backtracking

Backtracking is a term for having to go back to previous locations or levels in your game after the player acquires something that allows him or her to achieve something that they couldn’t previously do before. Now, backtracking is a wonderful thing to include in your game IF IT IS DONE RIGHT! The best examples are those that have you backtrack in order to acquire more powerful items, spells, and equipment to make the game a whole lot easier to complete. It shouldn’t be used that often to have the player actually finish the game, as that should be more normal for the game’s overall progression.

#5 - Grinding

Ah, the bane of most people’s resistance – especially in RPG’s: grinding. I’m pretty sure that you all have experienced this at least once in the course of your lives. Grinding is usually a mixed subject among those who play certain adventure / role playing games. Some people don’t mind spending some time fighting the same repetitive monsters over-and-over again using the same repetitive battle tactics, all in the name of growing stronger and actually having the ability to complete the game at a much easier level. For some, however, it’s quite daunting and can sometimes ruin the whole experience. So what’s a game maker to do to rectify this? How 'bout offer up a variance to your battle system to make them more interesting, like real-time combat or something of that nature. Or, how about reducing the number of times it takes to reach a new level, location, or even earn a particular new item? What about even finding a way to reduce battles at all? You see, RPG’s in general, are sometimes mostly focused towards the story. If your world, narrative, and characters are all your strongest attributes – why not focus more on them and less to do with all the other tedious stuff. Unless your game’s main focus IS the battles themselves, then you should try to keep grinding to a minimum. Besides, more time to enjoy the finer things in life – like going out for steak and lobster!

#6 - Diversions

Variety is the spice of life, that’s what someone famous said. Instead of offering your player the same-old-same-old for most of your the game – try switching it up and offer them something new. Usually, mini-games and fetch quests can switch up the flow and give your game a little bit more personality. After all, you wouldn’t like doing the same thing over-and-over-and-over-and-over… *deep breath* and-over-and-over…

#7 - Progression

Leaving a player out to sea with no understanding of where to go or what to do next will probably result in them giving your game a complete shutdown. You see, sometimes a strategy guide isn’t available for your audience, not to mention you have other things to do with your busy time, like flossing your teeth and looking at your self in the mirror, and you certainly don’t want to have to hold his or her hand through the whole way through, right? Sometimes a good idea is to have a gentle reminder of what the player needs to do next so things aren’t so cryptic for them to understand what to do next. Sure, you don’t want to completely do it yourself and have them just breeze through everything and just sit there, but a little gentle push never hurt anyone.

#8 - Keep It Fun

In the end, we play games to be entertained – not tortured. Whenever you try to play your own game and you think others might enjoy it as well - ask yourself this question: “is this game as much fun for me as it will for them?” Because in the end, that’s what your audience wants; an enjoyable experience that is well worth their time.

Class, whatever you wish to place in your own games is up to you. And by no means should you take my advice to total heart. But remember that sometimes playing a game is like driving a car. You’re doing several different things while you drive that switches up the pace and keeps it from not being too repetitive, like checking your mirrors, looking to see how much mileage you piled up, chatting to your friend in the backseat, counting different colored corvettes that drive by – tons of things. Driving may be the main part of the experience, but you’re constantly doing many other things too to keep it still enjoyable. Keep that in mind as you design and build your games. Remember, nobody ever remembers the boring, boggled down parts of a game; they just remember the good parts, the good times. Even if it shaves off just a few hours of your total game's titme, it’s better to keep it short than keep it long.



Class dismissed.

Posts

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edchuy
You the practice of self-promotion
1624
author=Addit
“mini-games” areand “fetch quests”


Good article Prof Addit. I would say of all the things you mentioned, the one that has caused me to quit playing games most often has been lacking a clear sense of direction (what or where do I go next?). Most of the time I am able to put up with all the other non-entertaining aspects of the game.
J-L
"I cannot complain when your icon of choice is a penguin"
1791
The article brings up some good points (tutorials not always being a good idea, grinding and backtracking being negative things...), but you truly brought my animosity upon yourself when you said that cutscenes should be skippable and introductions should be as short as humanly possible. In a friendly way, that is. Let me explain why.

I found myself skipping some cutscenes in a game I played some weeks ago. This is very unusual of me, but why did I do it? Because it was an arcade game and the sheer action of the gameplay and playing it as soon as possible were could conceivably be more important than learning about the game's very limited story and reading through cheesy dialogues. If the game hadn't allowed me to do so, I would have taken the hint that the dialogues had a major role and that I should know what's being said in them.

You do not seem to make any distinction for different genres, and this should be pointed out. I will have different expectancies and tolerances towards cutscene and introduction lenghts depending on the kind of game I am facing. I do agree that introductions should be as brief as possible. A horror game with a simple story should have a brief introduction (the opposite of what Kidnapped and Resident Evil: Remake Disc 1 did).

So is a short and preferably skippable intro always the best choice? No! Reincarnation -Dawn of War- had an exceptionally brief intro which could be skipped with no great consequences for the player's understanding of the story. I personally believe that this was one of the things that made the demos story not-so charming and one of the weaker aspects of an otherwise good game. A story can be told while the player progresses (see Portal), I'll give you that. But if both introductions and cutscenes are to be kept short and skippable, when does one learn about what's going on?

An intro that is skippable gives the message that its content is redundant. Same for cutscenes. Of course, there will be some players that will not like to sit through different scenes, but catering to everyone's needs has its drawbacks and inconveniences. What if Final Fantasy IV did have this option? There would inevitably be some players that would skip everything they could thinking that the story is mundane and they'd be clueless about what would have to be done next. Even if they made it to the end of the game, most of them would be like "Who the hell is this Zemus guy?". So what would be next? Add a quest system to make sure the player knows exactly what to do but has no idea why?

Scenes must never be longer than necessary and they must be well written and well planned. But the five-minute rule seems a little random to me. Take Vagrant Story, a game highly praised for its plot. The full and sometimes playable introduction is a nearly 30 minute long cinematic bliss.

Besides, would anyone in their right mind agree to let someone who could have easily skipped all the cutscenes review their game? What if a player who really is into the story skips a cutscene accidentally? Would you go through the trouble of making a theater mode to make all cutscenes re-watchable with the potential bugs and resources that might take just to make the few people who do not want to read a bit content?

A game offers entertainment and requires some interest and time in return. By all means and when possible, don't make things longer than they need to be and keep them interesting. Especially if the gameplay itself is the game's forte and the story is not so important.

However, I believe that if a person truly can't bear to watch a few cutscenes for every hour of gameplay then they should consider playing something that requires a shorter attention span.
Adon237
if i had an allowance, i would give it to rmn
1743
I love this article, now I know what to watch for! This advice is all very appreciated!

The only thing that bugged me was the repeated use of "quotation marks".
Another great article. I will be fixing if not replacing some games entirely.
@ edchuy – Thanks. I guess I don’t really mind some games that lack a sense of direction, like the original Zelda's for the NES because they’re supposed to be that way since they’re adventure type games and the whole objective behind them is pure exploration and trying to figure stuff out on your own. But, sometimes, a little hint never hurt anyone, you know? (This is why I prefer “A Link To The Past” because they have something called a “map” – thank you, Jebus!)

Besides, “level-grinding,” for me, I HATE with the utmost of passion. *shutters* Too many baaaddd memories (FF8, drawing magic for hours-and-hours-and-hours… Please don’t kill me, Kyrsty; I still like FF8...just not THAT part.) <_<

@ J-L – Yeah, you’re right; I should have explained a little bit more in detail about “skipping cutscenes / shorter intros” based on the many types of game genres instead of just mainly focusing on RPG’s in general. But to my credit, I did briefly mention a little bit about examples for different types of genres in the “grinding” part of the article but it should have been more focused in other parts of the article too. Oh well… Live and let learn.

And yeah, sometimes shorter introduction sequences with the ability to skip cutscenes may not always be the right idea, especially when trying to showcase and explain an important element of the plot. I’m glad you brought up “Final Fantasy IV” because not only is it my favorite FF of all-time but some of the cutscenes seemed, to me when I was little, a bit pointless and a bit too lengthy for my tastes. But imagine when I was a kid and you could skip all the way to the end and then fight Zemus? You’d be like, “What? WHO IS F*** IS THIS GUY!?” And my overall experience towards the game would probably be tainted. So, yeah, it’s not always the best option. I suppose more “action-based” games like “Starfox” would benefit more with a skippable cutscene option (which it does) more than a game that relies solely on a heavy inducing plot (like RPG's).

author=J-L
Besides, would anyone in their right mind agree to let someone who could have easily skipped all the cutscenes review their game?


People on GameFAQS do that all the time (burn). I know, it’s pretty stupid for someone to do that, but it happens. *sigh*

author=J-L
However, I believe that if a person truly can't bear to watch a few cutscenes for every hour of gameplay then they should consider playing something that requires a shorter attention span.


That’s why “FPS’” were invented; to combat the slow and the impatient.

@ Adon – Yeah…sometimes I can go a bit “quotation mark friendly” at times. It’s just another reason to keep on improving for future articles.

@ Davenport – You’re very welcome.

--

Thanks for the feedback, guys. ^^

Also, holy sock puppetsTHIS FRACKIN’ PIECE OF TRASH GOT “FRONT PAGE MATERIAL”!?

A W E S O M E!!!

(Thanks, RMN! :D)

(Also, I’m digging my new achievement badge, even though I never chose “Squirtle” as my first Pokemon back in Generation 1; I was more of a “Bulbasaur” sort of guy. ^^)
J-L
"I cannot complain when your icon of choice is a penguin"
1791
Thanks for adressing my points. FF4 is also my favourite one! I never meant to be too critic, this is a good article and I hope more people read it!
I'm not a fan of skippable cutscenes in an RPG, unless it's right before a boss fight that won't allow saving your game between the cutscene and the fight. How many people are willing to sit through your free RPG Maker game for multiple playthroughs anyway? For most game developers here they're lucky to have people playing their game even once.
@ J-L: Hey, criticism is always good. I appreciate your feedback.

author=Milennin
For most game developers here they're lucky to have people playing their game even once.


Geez...us indie developers sure get the short end of the straw sometimes. It would be nice if people had a bit more patience and played some of these games for than just five minutes before tossing it away in the recycle bin. But then again, maybe they did that for a reason? Just sayin'...

author=Addit
Geez...us indie developers sure get the short end of the straw sometimes. It would be nice if people had a bit more patience and played some of these games for than just five minutes before tossing it away in the recycle bin. But then again, maybe they did that for a reason? Just sayin'...


Hm, out of my own experience I never stop playing a game because of a cutscene, though. I mean, RPGs are meant to tell a story, so if the game's creator needs his 5-10 minutes to do so I'll take that. The usual reason for me to stop playing a game before the end is when the game requires me to grind (which you mentioned in your post) or doesn't give me directions on where I should go.
To skip cutscenes in an RPG feels like skipping the action sections in a fighting game.
But it IS useful to skip cutscenes if you died on a certain boss fight and you don't want to watch the whole cutscene play out over-and-over-and-over again.


At least "this" game allows you to skip cutscenes whenever you wish. ^^

(BTW, I failed on this boss about 13 different times before beating it.)
author=Addit
But it IS useful to skip cutscenes if you died on a certain boss fight and you don't want to watch the whole cutscene play out over-and-over-and-over again.

Yeah, which is why I said that it's only OK if it's right before a boss fight and doesn't allow you to save game between cutscene and boss (because that's just annoying, lol). I don't think I can remember having played an RPG that let me skip cutscenes (early Final Fantasy, Pokémon, Golden Sun, Tales of Symphonia).
But I remember in Golden Sun the Lost Age there was a long ass cutscene right before the final boss... really sucked having to watch it over again every time you wanted to fight that thing.T__T
I'd still prefer the game allowing me to save game right before a fight than letting me skip a cutscene, though. But that's just me.=P
Oh yeah, I think I remember that one from Golden Sun (painnnnnfullly long to watch, ugh). X_x

author=Milennin
I'd still prefer the game allowing me to save game right before a fight than letting me skip a cutscene, though. But that's just me.=P


That's actually not a bad idea... (why don't some games use this?)

-- Might have to "steal" it if I ever plan on working on an RPG! ^^
author=Addit
That's actually not a bad idea... (why don't some games use this?)

-- Might have to "steal" it if I ever plan on working on an RPG! ^^


Lol, nope. That's what I'm using in my game already. It's mine only.>8)
author=Addit
@ edchuy – Thanks. I guess I don’t really mind some games that lack a sense of direction, like the original Zelda's for the NES because they’re supposed to be that way since they’re adventure type games and the whole objective behind them is pure exploration and trying to figure stuff out on your own. But, sometimes, a little hint never hurt anyone, you know? (This is why I prefer “A Link To The Past” because they have something called a “map” – thank you, Jebus!)

Besides, “level-grinding,” for me, I HATE with the utmost of passion. *shutters* Too many baaaddd memories (FF8, drawing magic for hours-and-hours-and-hours… Please don’t kill me, Kyrsty; I still like FF8...just not THAT part.) <_<

@ J-L – Yeah, you’re right; I should have explained a little bit more in detail about “skipping cutscenes / shorter intros” based on the many types of game genres instead of just mainly focusing on RPG’s in general. But to my credit, I did briefly mention a little bit about examples for different types of genres in the “grinding” part of the article but it should have been more focused in other parts of the article too. Oh well… Live and let learn.

And yeah, sometimes shorter introduction sequences with the ability to skip cutscenes may not always be the right idea, especially when trying to showcase and explain an important element of the plot. I’m glad you brought up “Final Fantasy IV” because not only is it my favorite FF of all-time but some of the cutscenes seemed, to me when I was little, a bit pointless and a bit too lengthy for my tastes. But imagine when I was a kid and you could skip all the way to the end and then fight Zemus? You’d be like, “What? WHO IS F*** IS THIS GUY!?” And my overall experience towards the game would probably be tainted. So, yeah, it’s not always the best option. I suppose more “action-based” games like “Starfox” would benefit more with a skippable cutscene option (which it does) more than a game that relies solely on a heavy inducing plot (like RPG's).

author=J-L
Besides, would anyone in their right mind agree to let someone who could have easily skipped all the cutscenes review their game?


People on GameFAQS do that all the time (burn). I know, it’s pretty stupid for someone to do that, but it happens. *sigh*

author=J-L
However, I believe that if a person truly can't bear to watch a few cutscenes for every hour of gameplay then they should consider playing something that requires a shorter attention span.


That’s why “FPS’” were invented; to combat the slow and the impatient.

@ Adon – Yeah…sometimes I can go a bit “quotation mark friendly” at times. It’s just another reason to keep on improving for future articles.

@ Davenport – You’re very welcome.

--

Thanks for the feedback, guys. ^^

Also, holy sock puppetsTHIS FRACKIN’ PIECE OF TRASH GOT “FRONT PAGE MATERIAL”!?

A W E S O M E!!!

(Thanks, RMN! :D)

(Also, I’m digging my new achievement badge, even though I never chose “Squirtle” as my first Pokemon back in Generation 1; I was more of a “Bulbasaur” sort of guy. ^^)

You get an achievement badge for having stuff featured on the front page..? I wonder why I didn't get one when my review of Star Stealing Prince was featured...
edchuy
You the practice of self-promotion
1624
author=Sated
You get an achievement badge for having stuff featured on the front page..? I wonder why I didn't get one when my review of Star Stealing Prince was featured...


My guess is the system is rigged against you, since your MS is reaching levels that threaten other people's egos. (Really, I think it is probably just somebody's honest mistake that needed to be pointed out to be rectified.)
author=edchuy
author=Sated
You get an achievement badge for having stuff featured on the front page..? I wonder why I didn't get one when my review of Star Stealing Prince was featured...
My guess is the system is rigged against you, since your MS is reaching levels that threaten other people's egos. (Really, I think it is probably just somebody's honest mistake that needed to be pointed out to be rectified.)

Clearly this is an outrage!
edchuy
You the practice of self-promotion
1624
author=Sated
Clearly this is an outrage!


It's a conspiracy at the highest level, methinks!
Fallen Griever, Sated, I'm wondering if you only get an achievement for having something like an "Article," "Blog Post" or "Tutorial" being featured? Then again, I think having reviews featured on the front page should also count too.

Have you talked to Kentona or anybody else that is staff about this? I'm sure they can fix that for you.

author=edchuy
My guess is the system is rigged against you, since your MS is reaching levels that threaten other people's egos.


Yeah, lol, that's gotta be it. ^^
I'm actually not that bothered because I wasn't even aware that you got achievements for such things. Anyway, this is wildly off-topic.
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