Principles of Good Game Design - Part 7 - Let the Computer Do the Tedious Work

Principle 7: Let the computer do the tedious work

As opposed to board games, computer games can use the computer to automate or simulate certain actions or events. The computer can make stuff happen outside of manual player control. Characters can be programmed to move - independent of player actions. The weather system in the game might change. Buildings may suddenly collapse.

A computer game designer can use these features to his advantage. He can limit player actions to what is interesting, letting the computer handle the tedious work. As stated in the second principle, a good game is a series of interesting choices. The elimination of uninteresting ones thus represents an important game design principle.

The use of teleportation mechanics is a well-known example in this regard. Instead of forcing the player to travel long distances, which can be tedious, the ability to teleport can optimize the pace of the game considerably, leading to a more entertaining and varied experience. Making sure that the players don’t spend hours in a virtual fitness center with their avatar before a fight in a beat-em-up is also a useful example. Not having to manage inventory, navigate interfaces, or do other administrative tasks can also enhance the entertainment value.

In the driving game genre, we see more examples. What is interesting about being a race driver is the thrill and exhilaration experienced by the sense of speed. Generating this feeling is the focus for most driving games. You typically don’t’ spend hours preparing for a race, analyzing tracks, and evaluating your performance meticulously after a race - actions that would be necessary for a real driver. Even the driving experience itself is often limited to speed and brake controls, because these are the most interesting. Operating other mechanics such as shifting gears is often neglected, partially or completely.
This act of simplifying real-life behaviors is a common trait of computer games – and an important one in order to keep games interesting.

Principle found in: Mario Power Tennis

The Mario Tennis games simplify what tennis is all about in its most entertaining essence. The satisfaction gained when hammering a perfect baseline hit, doing a well-adjusted lob, a great volley, or an unbelievable save is emphasized considerably in Mario Power Tennis via its use of special attacks. These can be executed often either defensively – to save an otherwise impossible shot – or offensively – to hammer the ball with utmost precision and speed. Conversely, what is generally perceived as less interesting about tennis is ignored. All the strategic aspects are more or less gone. Even the act of hitting the ball out of bounds happens fairly infrequently, because it’s less fun than determining a duel with a winning shot.

Again, this principle should not be followed religiously if you’re making a highly realistic game. In the real world, we can’t always let the computer do the tedious work (and we certainly can’t teleport ourselves), so using this game design technique might break the immersion of participating in a real world.

I hope this all makes sense. If it does, please like it on Facebook☺ Next, I will look at all of the other (smaller but important) principles of good game design.

Read about all 8 game design principles here.