Thursday, March 27, 2008

what makes games fun

heard an interesting article on Public Radio Marketplace about a video game that combats personal insecurity by training you to focus and spot the encouraging faces. An interesting and great idea, a game that's actually good for you instead of just a murder sim (as someone once called the games we make)


my notes from articles found on gamasutra about what makes games fun

Decision Making in Games

1. More difficult decisions are more fun.
2. Decisions that have the most significant and tangible effects are more fun.

Many decision points present far more than two possible options, which make them even more challenging.

The richness and temporal density of the stream of decisions presented to the player is what has made RTS games so popular. ( aka The variety of decisions needed to be made quickly all with multiple answers)

Uniqueness is a sub-property of difficult decisions. In order for a decision to be difficult, it must be sufficiently unique to this moment in time.

If you present the player with exactly the same situation over and over, he will learn what the best thing to do is and thus the choice becomes easy.

Interactions between multiple players add exponentially more complexity to the situation.

So, in order for a decision to be fun, it must be difficult, and in order to be difficult it must also be unique.

The aftermath of a decision-making event is important as well. A player's enjoyment of a game can be enhanced greatly by the amount and type of feedback that they receive from the game as a result of their decisions.This is why impressive explosion, gunfire and blood effects are important in FPS games, or why good puzzle games often include flashy effects to mark important events.The same difficult, unique choice can be gratifying and interesting, or rather pedestrian based on the strength and tangibility of the feedback it produces.

Multiplayer games, interestingly, have an inherent advantage when it comes to rewarding a player's good decision. This, in addition to the uniqueness of human opponents, is one of the things that have made multiplayer gaming so compelling.

Also, note that the last two decisions, whether to change routes, and whether to grab the fallen AK47, happen within 3 or 4 seconds of each other, and are both made within one second. Both decisions, as obvious above, are quite complex.Any game of Counter-Strike, analyzed deeply, becomes a series of extremely complex decisions made at intervals generally between half a second and five seconds.

Creating good decision-based games requires three abilities: The ability to recognize a decision point, the ability to evaluate how fun a decision is, and the ability to design fun decision-making play without compromising other aspects of the game (i.e. without requiring lots of new assets or making the game too complex and difficult to learn).

a well-designed game presents decisions very frequently. Imagine playing the game in realtime, step by step, skipping nothing, you should be having to make decisions every 1-3 seconds.Consider each decision point separately, and determine how difficult each decision is, and how likely it is to recur. If the decision is easy it is worth little. If it recurs a lot, it becomes easy and thus is worth little.

Being able to fire guns However, it is worth the cost because of how many ways the designers can and did use the player's ability to fire a weapon to create decision points.\\

An example of a directly-placed decision would be a situation where a player is presented with two separate attack routes which were both explicitly designed. One route will inevitably be more advantageous for any given player's playing style. Once the player tries both routes, he learns which route is better. Thus, if the exact same routes are presented to him again, this becomes a non-decision, and the player's brain becomes disengaged. All explicitly-designed decision points have this problem of staticity. The solution, of course, is to create a gameplay system that dynamically generates emergent decision points.

Game designers should rarely be designing decisions directly. The job of the game designer is to develop gameplay systems that present emergent decisions. Only emergent decisions can be unique over a long period of time. Static decisions cannot be relied on to provide gameplay interest, though it should be noted that they cannot be eliminated altogether.


Another common feature is that the contents of a rogue-like game (level layouts, adversary placement, items and treasures, traps and unique areas and other encounters) are cleverly randomized each time a new character is created. Every game is different while at the same time being tailored somewhat to the player's initial character creation choices.

Except for the length of these games, we like features like this because they provide for variety and replayability, and the lack of a save feature means that more is at stake. Life and death decisions are made, so choices are taken more seriously. In other words, it's dramatic and you have to think before you leap.

Randomization of this sort means that, if you provide enough items and encounters to keep things fresh, the game should be highly replayable. One way we used this was to simply categorize encounters as common, uncommon and rare. For example, the rarest events might manifest in one out of twenty games.

Allowing no saves until you quit a session ups the intensity considerably. The problem for most people is that rogue-likes are so large that when you die permanently, it seems like so much time has been wasted. But we were already covered on that one. We knew we wanted our new game to play easily and briskly to its conclusion, and player death would be no more disconcerting than starting a new hand of Solitaire.

We wanted gamers to get into SAIS quickly without having to refer to anything remotely technical, and play by intuition and observation, not dissect the game on the operating table. Given a brief description of an item, weapon or alien artifact, players would deduce the rest through the results of their choices and actions, and specific sounds and visual effects. Instead of telling a player what an item does with numbers, we wanted them to discover these things themselves through experimentation.

So, I ask you again, would you rather play that big $50 space game, night after night, just so you can watch the ending FMV and then put it away forever? Or would you rather play Strange Adventures in Infinite Space, pay a lot less and generate two or three space operas during your lunch hour? Hopefully I'm not putting you on the spot this time.

Designing for Fun
Players have fun when they are interested in the decisions they are making, when they are kept absorbed by the pacing of the required decisions, and when they feel a sense of reward and accomplishment when good decisions are made. When the required decisions are too trivial or random, the element of fun lags.

A player must be actively engaged by a new game within 15 minutes of starting or we risk losing the player forever. There are three keys to getting a new player into a game: (1) an interesting starting situation; (2) minimal barriers to entry (interface, back-story); and (3) giving the player a few decisions to make initially, and increasing that number as the game progresses (this is the inverted pyramid of decision making). Get the player into the game quickly and easily so that they are absorbed and having fun without any frustration. When done properly, the player gets into the game successfully and significant time may pass before they are aware of it.

Games that require a lot of pre-play work from the player because of special controls, character introductions, or background story, must create tutorials or other clever ways to educate the player while providing entertainment. In-game tutorials are the best.

"Anyone who thinks there is a difference between education and entertainment doesn't know the first thing about either."
- Marshall McLuhan, Communications Theorist

it makes perfect sense that we're hard-wired by evolution to enjoy improving our survival skills from the simple logic that early humans who perfected those skills were more likely to survive to become our ancestors in the first place.
Deer Hunter/ Sports Fisher. Slotmachines and Pacman satisfy gathering impulses (and other hearts/coins/stars/etc.) Exploration and discovery .

The essence of intelligence is the perception and manipulation of patterns. Tetris excels in letting us exercise this ability. Our biggest trait that helps us to survive, our brains. In fact it was the observation of game designer Brian Moriarty (designer of Beyond Zork and Loom) that people love to find patterns in things which led me to this realization.Other games that excel at this range from video games like Bejeweled, through various toys and pastimes like crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, or physical puzzles like Rubic's Cube. Even appreciating music is a form of mental fun, since music is patterned sound just as poetry and song are patterned words. Tthe more abstract function of quickly recognizing - and acting - on patterns is quite useful.

As long as any discussion of fun is kept at the purely subjective "I'll know it when I see it" level, it is very difficult to achieve consensus or make decisions on any objective basis, but it gets much easier when a possible game feature can be measured against its ability to deliver on physical, social, or mental fun as described here.

Making learning games fun
the things that make an experience engaging are also those that make for effective learning!

Contextualized - the learning should be in a setting where the learners actions make sense. A story, if you will. Learners learn best when it's in a meaningful context.

Clear Goal - the learner should have an end state that they are motivated to achieve. (Note that the goal doesn't have to be obvious at the beginning, in fact some research suggests the contrary.) Learners are better able to take action when they have an outcome they know they're trying to achieve.

Appropriate challenge - the level of difficulty has to be beyond the learner's capability, but not so far that the learner can't accomplish the task; learning happens best in the space just beyond the learner's capability where, with some effort and support, they can accomplish the task. Learners learn fastest when the challenge is significant but not impossible.

Anchored - the actions that the learner takes have to have a meaningful effect on the outcome. There can't be meaningless actions by the learner after which the story proceeds, but instead there have to be real consequences in the story line of the actions they take. Learners learn best when they're operating in ways they recognize are meaningful.

Relevant - in addition to the actions taken being meaningful to the story, the story and actions have to be meaningful to the learner. We need stories that appeal to their interests and motivations. Learners learn best when the setting is one they viscerally care about.

Exploratory - the environment has to have a wide variety of possible choices (or at least a perception of same), and the ability to try different things and explore the internal relationships. Learners learn best when they have to make choices and face the consequences of those choices.

Appropriate feedback - the feedback from the world has to come in a way that makes sense in the world. They need to know they've acted, even if they don't immediately get to know the final outcomes of their action. Learners learn best when they get feedback about how they're doing.

Attention-getting - the action can't be totally deterministic, there needs to be some randomness and probability. Total determinism isn't desirable. Learners learn best when their attention and curiosity is maintained.


Fourteen Forms of fun

Thrill of Danger: adrenaline rush, can be simulated by making the stakes high enough, Diablo no save you die that's it (can be more frustrating then fun, one compromize, you can only save every 5 minutes so you don't endlessly backtrack but you still have to be careful)

Physical Activity: intense physical activity, DDR

LOVE:Caring for something (virtual pet) The second conclusion is that showing appreciation for the player's skill when they succeed helps promote replayability. Having some character in the game congratulate the player character for succeeding after a tough level could increase the players enjoyment.

Creation: creativity is fun

Power: making your character's more powerful

Discovery: Introducing new things progressively in a game can make it more interesting and this has been used with great effect in many games. (weapon's, world's, character's, skills)A good example of this is Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The main source of entertainment in this game is the exploration of the world. The world of the game is large and it is expanded slowly as the story evolves. Moreover, the exploration is encouraged by all means possible: ghosts must be hunted in the wilderness, tokens that contribute to getting new things are hidden in remote corners of the world, all of the game's dungeon contain a new weapon or tool to help the player, etc. The world is detailed, interesting and everything in it is there to make the player want to explore more of it. This is an excellent example of how discovery can help make a game more fun. It also shows that discovery is often closely tied with immersion (see above) as both forms complement each other. Immersion involves the player in the world while discovery keeps him interested and willing to keep going forward in the game. The mix of discovery and immersion is what constitutes exploration: going to a different environment to find new things.having a large game world with interesting things to discover (a small village or a sub-quest for example) outside of the game's main path encourage the player to explore more and makes him have more fun. Also allowing some non-obvious use of the game rules (like allowing the rocket jump) can make for some really interesting discoveries.

Advancement and Completion:
Playing a videogame is fun, however conquering a game is one of the greatest accomplishments of all. Actually, the simple act of going forward in an activity and getting closer to completing it, is something everybody enjoys. This is one of the reasons why being stuck in a game is frustrating. Advancing is fun, but finishing even more so: the act of actually "beating" a game is something some players always aim for. In this case, it's actually a form of competition with the player pitted against the game. Of course, finishing is also a sad moment for gamers who would like to experience the game again. Multiple solutions to problems gives more chance to get past problem reduces chance of being frustrated at being stuck, and encourages replayability to find other paths.

Application of Skill: Learn a skill and do it well. First-person shooters like Quake or Unreal are based on the ability to move, aim and shoot correctly. Fighting games like Dead or Alive or Soul Calibur are centered on the ability of the player to enter complex moves correctly and to anticipate the opponent's moves. One common thread among all games is that the players ability must be used in a challenging situation.The important thing about this form of entertainment is the challenge. If the application of a skill is not difficult then there is no fun in doing it. Because of this, it is important to avoid making the player use skills in trivial situations, like clicking repeatedly on a monster to kill it.


and that quote from Invisible Ink again
Stories are primarily a way of passing along information from one person to another. Good stories remain essentially the same after many retellings.Games are a way of practicing, physically or intellectually. A good game varies its scenario, and makes us change how we play it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Disney Training from back in the day

OG Disney Training transcripts from the classes Walt intated back in the day

Dave Burgess 11sec Crit

Dave Burgess 11sec crit

Character is crouched over looking away from cam, bracing himself on his knees, when he turns the hand drops and turns as the head does as well. Dave says this starts feeling mechanical, he suggests using opposing action so let the hand drop, and use that as an opportunity to raise the head and upper torso in kind of an antic in the opposite direction, the opposing action makes it more dynamic and also breaks it up into some more overlap.

SplineDoctors Kahrs interview

Spline Doctor's interview with John Kahrs.

If there are parts of the face that are static and dead, then the audience gets disconnected from the feeling that they are alive. 7 dwarfs have so much S&S in the lower half of the body, and it affects the shapes around the eyes and everything. We have the controls to do it, we just don't always think to put it in.

Like Illusion of Life he says that the characters touching each other really helps add to their believability, when they interact even though it's a pain to animate, we naturally touch each other in life, so just put it in, cuz it adds to the believability.

Puts in eye darts and upper lid change in the blocking. If it goes left to right there's like a 10th of a blink. If the upper lid is sympathetic to what the pupil does it feels really natural.

Sweetland is famous for the drifting spiral settle that comes to the stop. Sweetland's arcs are all like perfect sine waves, so very stylized and clean and stylish, not dirty noise like real life.

mentions that Doug sweetland on Mike wazowski tests would open the eye not all at once. Didn't just slide open, the middle would lead and the sides would follow, so there'd be slight change of shape as it opens, it would feel a little sticky. The audience feels but doesn't see it. Makes sense the bulge of the cornea would affect the shape of the lid as it slides across it, which would affect the 2d shape.

he points out that you can tell a human walk from single point captured in mocap (like the dot on the hips moving in space) or his other example was seeing a flashlight coming towards you in the dark, you know there's a human attached because of how the cone of light moves.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Acting for Animators

rereading Ed Hooks' Acting for Animator's. I was never super impressed with this book, seemed like just a rehash of basic acting theory, I think his workshops are probably a lot stronger.

Character must always be doing something in pursuit of a goal, never just chilling, better unwinding after a long hard day so can be ready for a hot date.

Based on who we are as individuals we assess the incoming stimulas and develop a conclusion based on that (someone's running at me scared and there's smoke behind them, there must be a fire in the building) then we have an emotional reaction to that conclusion that motivates an action (oh no! I gotta get out of here)

Emotion is what pulls the audience in, and how they connect with a character, by empathizing with them, through seeing the character's emotions. Emotion is the key (I think empathy is an instinctual response, we unconsciously mimic facial emotions we see, and when we were an emotion on our face we begin to feel it)

Needs are stronger than wants. If your character is driven by a need their performance will be stronger. Hooks talks about tapping into big primal needs, need to attract a mate, need to eat, in order connect unconsciously with the audience.

"make the audience feel the emotions of the characters, rather then appreciating them intellectually" - Ollie and Frank

"Chaplin understood that audiences empathize with feelings, not thoughts or gags, and he looked for ways to allow the feelings of the little tramp to be visible. The important thing was not what happened to the Tramp, but how he felt about what had happened to him."p. 41

Adrenaline Moment, an event that is so significant in the character's life that they will remember it on their death bed (Kenny Roy talks about them too I think) if your scene is just lying there, consider how it might be an adrenaline moment for the character.

He says that Miyazaki fills the stillness (ma) with emotion, it's not just empty stillness, and that's what keeps it interesting

Talks about Michael Chekhov: psychological gesture everyone has a zero, a base movement they do (wringing their hands when nothing else is going on), also an action can upgrade a verbal idea (mime breaking with your hands while saying "my heart is broken") which upgrades it even if you just think the action instead of actually doing it.
atmosphere the atmosphere of a social space will affect your behavior (you'll act different at a wedding then at a funeral even if they're both in the same church) every space has an atmosphere.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Jason Ryan acting

In his ramp up tutorial Jason Ryan says he uses WOFAIM to plan out the acting

Wants - what and why
Objective -immediate -long term
Feelings -current emotional state/ mood
As If -impersonation
Intentions -character intends to: (show everyone else up)
Moment before -continuity

I don't quite know enough to fill in these blanks

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

weight in a walk

Wayne Gilbert guest writing in Shawn Kelly's tips and tricks column in the Animation Mentor newsletter.

"Keep in mind, the slower the cadence the more weight shift from side to side there needs to be. The further apart the feet are the more you have to shift weight side to side."

Friday, March 7, 2008

line of action

found a little vid tut from an Australian animation school blog about line of action. Interesting idea he had:

Draw the ball of the head first, then draw the line of action down from there (this helps to keep the weight centered, as opposed to drawing from the ground up you might wind up unbalanced.)

He claims that a relaxed or casual character will tend to flow more with the line of action, whereas a tense character the tension will pull the limbs away from the line of action.

So flowing the limbs flow from the line of action like a Y (like branches), vs tension a lot more perpindicular working against the line of action like a + or T, down to the thumb sticking out from the hand instead of flowing from it, and interestingly the head tilted against the line of action.

Also 7 golden camels had an interesting post along time ago about using 1 side of the character straight for the line of action, as blunt and clear as possible, and then using the other side to make it look like the character has ribs hanging and stuff. (see pic above) And it flips, the back is the straight line, the bottom of the character fills out the shape of the character the belly hanging the arm hanging down and stuff (so it isn't just a stick figure) and then it flips and the bottom of the beak is a straight line and the top of the head defines the character's anatomy.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

James Baxter animation podcast 2

think of the drawing your on as the last frame of the hold (not the first) while blocking, because all the drawings slowing in will basically read the same for blocking, it's basically the same drawing so you're trying to control that 'window' of the pose (CG often uses copied pairs to do this)

how's is this part going to move to make this emotional statement?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Jason Ryan, Moving Hold

Jason Ryan's advice on moving holds from his tutorials

So, the first thing that I would do for a moving hold is a breathing pass. Ask yourself a question, how does your character's emotional state effect his breathing?. Once you have your Golden Pose worked out then try to play that pose with a subtle inhale and exhale and you will now be that much closer to a moving hold that has a purpose.

Also, don't forget that the last 2 have an assignment to do before watching the video. And I think there's a demo of flipbook that's free