One of my favourite games is Super Smash Bros. It’s usually played as a multiplayer beat’em-up game with friends controlling the other characters. Instead of making famous characters because of the game (f.e: Yoshimitsu of the Tekken series) this game turns it around and makes a game famous because of it’s characters. Almost each character has a completely different set of moves which gives the game an exploration factor. Initially the option to play as Pikachu versus Mario drew me to play this game, but the fun gameplay and unlocks kept me addicted.
One of the funnest aspects of the multiplayer mode is that next to the official rules we are able to make up some new rules. For example:
- You can’t select the same character twice. Which almost assures that even the best player at one point has to select a character which he isn’t familiar with.
- Pokémon mode: Everybody selects a Pokémon character and the only items turned on are Pokéballs. Of course we also pick the Pokémon Stadium level to play in.
Total War is actually not a single game, but a series of strategy games for the PC. Up to now, the games have all been set in a certain period in history. The first game, Shogun: Total War, was set in feudal Japan during the Sengoku period, the Japanese civil war between the various samurai clans. This was followed by Medieval: Total War, which as its name suggests, focusses on Europe and the Middle-East during the Middle Ages. Next in line is Rome: Total War, now portraying the known world during the time of the Romans. They revisited the Middle Ages in Medieval 2: Total War. In Empire: Total War, the focus is on the Napoleonic times, while in the most recent incarnation, Shogun 2: Total War, Japan is the theatre of war once again.
The game is a mix of a turn-based strategy game and a real-time strategy game. The turn-based game is reminiscent of board games like Risk and Axis & Allies. Each player controls a certain empire/nation and tries to maintain/expand his territory. This involves managing the cities in the provinces under his control, constructing buildings and recruiting arming. Players engage in diplomacy with each other, or take it to the next step on the field of battle. The real-time aspect of the game comes into play during these battles. Players have the option to change from the strategic map view, to the tactical battle view. Here they can lead their troops into combat in glorious 3D, showing thousands of soldiers on the screen at once.
I like this game because of this combination of turn-based board game like play and the real-time action of the battlefield. These games involve a fair deal of decision making, without becoming overly complex. They also take some time to complete. And I’m rather fond of some depth and layers in a game, and that give you a real sense of accomplishment when you’ve finally conquered your enemies.
To discuss in class, I’ve read the paper “Balancing Skills to Optimize Fun in Interactive Board Games” by Eva Kraaijenbrink , Frank Van Gils , Quan Cheng , Robert Van Herk , Elise Van Den Hoven. The paper can be found here.
The paper researches the effect that balancing skills has on the user experience. The main experiment was done with a stratego-like setup. The board was replaced by an electronic device, so that a computer could calculate the currently winning and losing player. The balancing was done by displaying bonuses whenever a piece was taken from a player. In a balanced game, the bonus would appear closer to the losing player, in an unbalanced game, the bonus would appear randomly on the board.
The game was tested on pairs of two, and each pair played 2 times. One of the times, the players where informed about the balancing, the other time, they did not know. Results showed that players in a balanced game felt more successful. Also, the players preferred to know in advance whether the game was balanced or not. They saw the balanced game as more challenging, and if they know it in advance, other tactics can be used. This creates a new aspect to the stratego gameplay where the better user might sacrifice his bad pawns to be able to get the bonuses.
I’ve learned from this paper that rules change gameplay. Although this was a research to see if balancing the skills would improve the gameplay, it’s clear to me that if the users are aware, this balancing becomes a new rule, and this changes the tactics of the game. When creating a game, the influence of every rule must be taken into consideration, because adding one rule to much may drastically cripple the game or make it a great one.
My favorite game is risk. Most people will be familiar with the game. It’s a turn based strategy board game in which you have to conquer the world. You can deploy armies and attack other regions on the map by moving your armies to enemy territories. Bonuses (extra armies) are given if you have control over an entire continent.
It’s my favorite game because it has a good balance of tactics and fun. You must think about which territories you want to attack, where to leave troops to defend your territories and how you can sabotage the other players by disabling them to get bonuses. This is the tactical part, and although it may sound difficult, it’s a lot easier than chess. You have a better view of the opponents moves and you can anticipate on those moves early. For me personally, not having to think too hard, makes it more fun. In these kind of games, a balance between the fun factor and the strategic part of the game is important.
If we switch to computergames, a similar trend can be seen. In first person shooters, I prefer the Call of duty series over the Rainbow six series, because the fun factor in call of duty is higher. It has scripted events that keep everything spectacular and fun. Nevertheless, Call of duty (when played on a more difficult setting) still keeps it challenging, so it isn’t too easy.
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