Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Secret Ingredient is...

If anyone ever tells you that developing a game is easy, I can categorically say they are lying.

Of course, the difficulty of coding is directionally proportional to how good a developer you are. I’ll factor that out for now. It's not even pulling all of the resources together which can also be challenging. Sprites don’t grow on trees, and picking the right boom sound for your bomb from thousands takes time!

It’s finding that magic ingredient and coercing it to behave nicely in your game – that’s the hard part.

After all - make a game too hard and nobody will invest in the reams of content you've painstakingly lined up for them. Make it too easy and you'll alienate the die-hard gamer (which also makes up a large chunk of your potential audience).

Unfortunately you can't slap the difficult smack bang in the middle either, as again players will simply lose interest. You could adopt a linear approach, where things get a little harder each level, however this can still leave the gaming a bit flat. So, the magic formula, from my humble opinion, would be adopting a difficulty curve to broadcast a subliminal mental challenge to unaware psyches of your audience. Make sure that you don't start too easy, and don't end in the land of the impossible (although there are some games that lean that way).

Make a game too complex and people will walk away, too simple and you’ll patronize them.

Of course, how a difficulty is portrayed in your game can come in any shape or form. For example, in Livestock Vs The Undead, I have literally hundreds of factors that I can tweak. From creep speed, to tower firing rate, to number of bonus drops, the list goes on and on and is growing with each new feature I add. And any of these has greater or lesser impacts on how the game finally plays.

Another trick is throw accomplishments and treats along the way. Everyone likes presents, so giving your customers 'thank you’s through the medium of a power boost, or extra time will go down a treat (pardon the pun).

On top of all this you have to slap layers of probability. Thirteen year old Canadian females might life fluffy pink rabbits in their games, whereas Italian 27 year old males would prefer sports cars. So, you have also have to try to appeal to the middle of the curve.

Developing games is not easy.

It is fun though.

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