Case Study Proposal -- Resource Management Mechanics
Resource management mechanics are commonly seen in many games, in which the players must skillfully manages limited resources such as time, money, military units, building materials or number of possible actions in order to achieve a goal. I want to analyze three types of games that utilized this genre of mechanics: construction simulation games (e.g. Theme Hospital, SimCity), strategy games (e.g. Warcraft, StarCraft, Civilization), and time management games (e.g. Diner Dash, Nanny Mania). I’m planning to explore how this genre of mechanics contributes to the player’s experience and pleasure in those games and try to find out new territories that could utilize it.
For a particular player, an interesting thing of Mafia is how the world change and generate itself even if he takes no action. Other players discuss, nominate suspects and vote. They argue, concur, waver in their stand on their own, which gives the player a very complex environment to explore. You’ll never know when the spearhead may point to you. You always try to figure out the world, but at the same time, the world is figuring out you. The world does not open everything to you at the beginning but reveals itself to you as you explore. I believe there will be interesting ideas on generative algorithms out of this.
I encountered this game today – maybe it’s not a very new game. But its mechanic is interesting and it reminded me of Sebastian’s finger game – and it’s free (on Mac). Basically, it’s a multitouch game in which player uses two fingers to control a skateboard and make tricks. Have a try if you haven’t.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time takes place in a mystical Middle Eastern setting, all bathed in soft, warm light and looking like something straight out of a storybook. You play as a young prince who possesses exceptional athletic and acrobatic skill. Early on in the game, the prince steals the dagger of time, a treasure from a rival nation, as a token for his father the king. When his nation’s traitorous vizier compels the prince to use the dagger to unlock another treasure, a huge hourglass, everything goes wrong. The sands from the hourglass blow forth, enveloping the kingdom and turning its guardsmen and citizens into, for lack of a better way to describe it, “sand zombies.” The prince, the vizier, and a young woman named Farah are among the only survivors. In the prince’s efforts to undo his mistake, he’ll join forces with Farah, seek out the hourglass, and confront the vizier. The game’s story takes a backseat during most of the game, but it is bookended nicely and is framed as the prince’s own retrospection. So, for instance, should the prince fall and die at a certain point during the game, you’ll hear him say, as narrator, something like, “No, that’s not how it happened.” Not only is this an interesting technique, but it compels you to keep pressing on. You’ll want to know exactly how his complicated ordeal will unravel.
The prince’s new dagger of time has other uses besides causing calamity. It’s the key to defeating the evil spread throughout the palace, and it also makes the prince virtually immortal. In most cases, should the prince fall to his death or be slain by a sand creature or a trap, with his last breath, he may use the dagger to “rewind” the course of time to a point prior to the unfortunate incident that would have ended his life. Each time you use this ability, it costs a “sand tank,” which you earn a greater quantity of as you get farther into the game, and which you restore by defeating sand creatures. In practice, you won’t often run out of sand tanks, but even if you do, you’ll restart the prince’s story from a recent location.
The innovation of this mechanic is it’s the first of its kind that allowed the player to reverse time. This allows the player to correct mistakes and shift time to a point where they are safe or even still in the middle of danger. An example is if the player has accidentally mistimed a jump and falls into a pit, the player can reverse time and try again. This made the player happy because they wouldn’t have to restart from an earlier checkpoint and go through tedious obstacles.
I came up with this idea when I was talking to my wife, who is an excellent cook and is addicted in cooking. She told me that she finds a lot of pleasure in the kitchen, and I asked her why. She started by talking about the creativity and sense of accomplishment, but in the end, she concluded, “it is just fun when doing it.” That’s true, many cooking actions/skills are fun, especially when you’re starting to master it.
After the paper pan is made, I found a lot of variations of this simple mechanic. It was interesting making those devices too. I had a lot of fun doing it. Hope you’ll enjoy it.
I should have post this earlier but due to my English writing proficiency, I waited and prepared it for a little bit. I just want to write something to start discussions. So please leave some comment to post your opinions and correct me if I’ve made some grammar mistakes.
As you may have been all aware, in the class, we made a lot of sequence games. For the first prototype, all but two of the games are sequence game, as I remember. And for the second one, even though we have a bunch of materials to support the interaction between the players, there are still a number of sequence games being designed. I started to think of the reason. Why we tend to design sequence games? Intuitively, I think one of the reasons is that they are easier to be designed as a meaningful/playable game. From one starting point, like rock-paper-scissors or some party games, we can figure out a large number of variations playable with only our physical bodies. And most of them are fairly interesting to play. With a little deeper reflection, I found that sequence games are conform to a natural pattern of interaction – to act and react. Like conversations, sequence games can start from a very simple point and develop gradually into a very sophisticated position.
However, although the sequence games are prevalent in the class, I found that the games which can break the sequence are much more interesting to play. For the first prototype, the “slap-hand-on-the-table” game and the “hop-and-touch” game (sorry I can’t remember the names) are the most enjoyable ones for me. Why I feel this way? Maybe it’s because they can bring more tensions where any player can win or lose at anytime, instead of just in his/her turn. From the book How We Decide, I found more clues. As discussed in class, feelings are very important to strengthen the interaction thus get the players more involved into the game play. And based on the ideas of the book, decision making depends on and involves a lot of emotions and feelings. And in real-time games, the players are required to make hundreds of decisions in a single second. As a result, we need to be extremely focused on the game, perceive the subtle changes in the environment, and learn quickly from our errors. This makes the players feel the excitement and participation of the game, and may be it’s the reason why I found they are more interesting.
But on the other hand, in the real world, there are a lot of good sequence games. Nearly all the board games are sequence games (I’m a big fan of board games), and many of them existed for centuries. I think their longevity and popularity are also come from the ability they have to evoke a strong emotion/feeling of the players. Many of the good ones require sophisticated strategies, which involve both micro and macro decision making skills, and thus bring a implicit tension not only between the players but also the players and other objects in the game.
So, maybe there is no winner in the war sequences v.s. non-sequences. And again, one of the most important factor discriminating good and bad games could be their ability to anyhow give the players a strong feeling of something.
I watched this TED talk one year ago, and was amazed at the idea that gaming possesses great power to solve the real world problems. At that time, I was working as a software engineer making MMORPG games. I had some feelings about what games can do and what aspects to consider when making them interesting and addictive. But those feelings were very vague. This video is one of the inspirations that made me want to do more research in this area and become a game/interaction designer.