Almost no one enjoys calculations. Humans prefer heuristic (rules of thumb) relationships or continuous equations far more. The heuristics feel good when you figure them out and the continuous equations can only be predicted which also seems to scratch an itch in our brains.
- Dan Bunten (designer of M.U.L.E.) :
Seven Questions I always ask myself to determine if an idea is worth pursuing.
1. What are we trying to do? What’s the core idea?
2. What’s the potential? Why do this game over all the others we could do?
3. What are the development challenges? Really hard stuff is fine — impossible or unfundable? Not so good…
4. Has anyone done this before? If so, what can we learn from them? If not, what does that tell us?
5. How well-suited to games is the idea? There are some things we’re just not good at and shouldn’t even attempt. A love story, for example!
6. What’s the player fantasy and does that lead to good player goals? If the fantasy and the goals aren’t there, it’s a bad idea.
7. What does the player do? What are the “verbs” of the game?"
If I can’t answer the questions above, or the answers come out negative, the idea never makes it to the next stage — conceptualization.
- Warren Spector
I picked this up from a post in the nerfbat blog comments and I thought it was worth posting here for further thought. The article is here and the post I took this bit from is the 4th or 5th comment.
From a behaviorist standpoint, end game content is actually better at retaining players than the levelling of the pre-end-game. Raiding, and the upgrading of a character through random drops relies on what is known as variable ratio renforcement, while levelling uses variable interval renforcement. Variable ratio renforcement works by giving a reward after a varying number of succesful actions - in the case of most end game raids, that means you get a reward in the form of an item upgrade at a variable rate due to the random nature of drops. This sort of a reward system is proven to keep people coming back and making attempt after attempt. Levelling, on the other hand, occurs after you get a fixed amount of experience, but the interval between levels varies based on how quickly you accumulate the necessary experience. So, the end game as it currently stands in games like WoW and EQ2 is actually quite profitable in that it is very well designed to retain customers.