Tag: games

Why do players quit?

In my game and simulation design class, we were having a discussion on why players quit playing games early. We read this article on gamasutra, and then today this IGN article happened to get posted on slashdot.

I could go on at length on the topic and the issues it touches on, but in the interest of brevity I’ll just post the following quick points:

  1. This “quitting is bad” thing is something of a problem of perception. Until recently, game consoles weren’t online, and there was no feedback to tell game developers whether players were finishing games, or how many were quitting before they completed a game. It’s a big presumption to assume that quitting is a problem. How many “quit” playing before publishers had the intrusive capability to know?
  2. There’s quitting, and then there’s quitting. Videogames are, to most people, disposable distractions. For a few, like me, they may be an lifelong pursuit. But even so, specific titles rarely achieve the sort of status that games like Chess, Checkers, Go, Poker, Bridge, and so on have achieved. People may “quit” after they “beat” a videogame, but it’s still quitting. Chess is going on strong for milennia. Even so, there’s probably many more people who’ve played Chess and quit, than who never quit playing chess. What’s that got to do with whether chess is a successful game?
  3. Is this only a problem for games that have endings? Not all games have endings! There’s no end to Pac Man or Defender or Asteroids. Well, Pac Man has a killscreen, but it’s a bug not a designed feature, and it exists because no one ever thought a player would ever be good enough to reach it. Is everyone who never reached the 256th level of pac man a quitter? I hardly think so. But yet, games have their life in the market, and most of them have nowhere near the success of pac man. Whether they have an ending or not, people stop playing them, at least enough for them to no longer be worth the retail shelf space they take up, or the floor space in an arcade.
  4. On the other hand, this is what keeps game designers employed. People get tired of the old games and quit playing them, but they want new games to play, and they pay us to make them. If we created the ultimate game somehow, the only game anyone would ever need to play, we’d be done. So, quitting is in some sense essential. We just don’t want it to be too early, and we definitely don’t want to turn people off so that they won’t buy again. We want to make our money, and we want to create demand for more. And ideally that demand should be for something new, so we can keep working and make more money.
  5. Whether players quit and buy something new, or if they keep playing and spending their money on what is already out there, the industry doesn’t care, as long as they’re making money. The industry is interested in quitting only insofar as they want to analyze the phenomenon in order to maximize profit by having the optimal player-quit strategy. Depending on your revenue model, you may think of quitting very differently. Are you selling a game for a quarter a play? A CD-ROM for $60? A monthly subscription? It matters.
  6. Defining what constitutes “completion” is also a problem. I noted an extremely low level of completion for Guitar Hero III. What is completion? Is it playing every song? Beating the final boss? Beating the final boss on Expert difficulty? Unlocking all of the unlockable stuff? What about what the player wants? I’m never going to be good enough at Guitar Hero to play much past Hard. I’m satisfied with this. I am never going to play some song that I dislike, just because happens to be packaged with the game. I don’t really care about unlockable stuff — usually the rewards to unlockables isn’t worth the endless repetition and perfection required to gain the achievements. By that time the fun has long since worn off. I’m not obsessive-compulsive, and I have a life, so most likely I’m not going to “complete” everything. Maybe I am not interested in the single-player mode for an FPS, and only want to play deathmatch. Did I quit? Or did I get the game I wanted and played it the way I wanted? *I* decide when I’m finished with a game. The designer may hope that I’ll play every last thing that they put into the game, but it’s stupid to expect that I will, or that I would even want to.
  7. If I walk away and leave something “on the table”, it doesn’t mean that the game designers failed, it just means that there was something in the game that I didn’t care for — but perhaps many others who played the game did. I worry that industry analysts will stupidly look at completion statistics and say “Only 20% bothered to beat the game, so cut the final boss budget by 80%”. Or, “Players spend 90% of their time in FPS playing multiplayer, so let’s skip the single-player entirely. No more immersive stories.”
  8. If I quit because I was incapable of winning, to me that’s not a problem either. Having things in the game that few people accomplish is as much a mark of a game’s challenge as it is whether they designed a game that people want to play. I don’t believe that every person should be able to beat every game they play. I want a game to challenge me, and I want it occasionally to find my limits. If I can always beat everything, it just tells me that they’re not challenging me enough.
  9. There are games that I have beat that I still play. There are games that I didn’t beat, but played a ton. There are games that I still play to this day. Each of these categories includes great games. I’ve played Mega Man 2 and Metroid countless times, and I still enjoy it because of the great music and awesome gameplay. I played Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! and 1943 endlessly, trying to beat the final boss, and never managed to do it. They’re insanely hard, and I swore and cried at times. I loved every minute of it. There are games like Tetris, Ms. Pac Man, Asteroids, Robotron: 2084, and others, that I don’t think I’ll ever tire of playing. I may not play them frequently, but they’re perfectly-balanced, timeless classics that I don’t think will ever die.
  10. I’ve heard players complain about games not being worth $60 because they only get a few hours of enjoyment out of them — many of them first person shooters with short single-player mode stories. Here’s a game that people DID beat, and they’re complaining that it was too short. Completing the game, they still quit (didn’t re-play), feeling unsatisfied. That’s just as big a problem as the game that people didn’t complete.

Games: 5 Colors Pandora looks cool

I love graphical minimalism, and this game by Jordan Magnuson takes it pretty close to as minimal as you can get. The graphics are so low res, and only use about four shades of grey for the most part, yet you can tell exactly what stuff is supposed to be, because the shapes and animation suggest and the brain fills in the rest. Caves, buildings, cars, doors, are all readily apparent.

“You” are just a 3-px line, yet it’s enough to convey “person”. Foreground/background objects are conveyed through how dark/light its color is. I have little idea what’s going on plot-wise, yet, but it looks like you go around exploring a world trying to figure out puzzles to take you deeper into the world. Musical cues seem to communicate something about what’s going on, but that’s all I can make of it so far. Stylistically, I really like it.

It reminds a bit of Terry Cavanaugh’s Don’t Look Back because of the low-res graphics + atmospheric and evocative background music. The gameplay is a bit simple and could use a little more elements to this basic formula, maybe, but I’m not sure what just yet. Mostly you explore these large, empty areas and it seems like there should be more things populating these spaces in order to make them more interesting. You get a good sense of travel and exploration, and figuring out how to navigate and get around obstacles is an interesting puzzle that will take some time to figure out, but once you get past that, there’s not much more to engage the player. Items to collect and use, creatures or other people to encounter would make it more interesting. I could see it being developed into a deeper game with a story, maybe. Certain aspects of the game remind me of so many different titles that I like — everything from Pong, Adventure, Zelda II, Mario, Don’t Look Back.

Built with GameMaker, the developer is even distributing the source for it, which is very awesome. I might have to tinker with this a bit…

Get it here

Rosebud Games

Last night I hung out with the Cleveland Game Developers meetup group and had a good time just sitting around talking about what we want to get out of the group.

I love hanging out with people who have interests that I share, and who can talk about them at length. I really get a lot more creative ideas when I’m in an environment where I’m being stimulated by exposure to the ideas of others.

I had two really great ideas last night.

First, we were talking about the sort of games we want to make. I was 6 years old when we got an Atari 2600 for Christmas. It wasn’t long before I was “designing” my own game ideas. I’d take a big piece of paper and draw my concept for the game, and then I’d have my mom write down a description that I would dictate to her. So, ever since then, really, I’ve dreamed about being a videogame developer. There’s a box in a my parents attic somewhere that still has these papers.

So, for me, I think it would be very cool to dig those out and look at them and see if I can turn them into games. I coined a term, “Rosebud Games” to describe the concept. The term, of course, comes from Citizen Kane, and really, it’s the same concept: the thing I loved most as a child is what I want now as an adult more than anything. I think as far as motivating factors go, this has a lot of legs. Most of the ideas I had back the were very simple and shouldn’t be too hard to do as beginner/learner projects.

My other great idea was for a taxonomy project to classify videogames. I have a very clear idea of what I want this to be like, and it is going to be beyond awesome when you see everything that I plan to do with it. I don’t want to give away too much on it until I have something ready to show the world, but I think that this may end up being my big project for the summer.

DomeWrinklesCurl 1.1

I’ve released an update to DomeWrinklesCurl. This isn’t really much of a game still, it’s just a simple rock-paper-scissors programming exercise for Win32 CLI console.

The new feature in this release is improved stat keeping.

With this release, I’ve also cleaned up the code a little bit. The initial release ran OK, but internally was a bit messy. Not a big deal, you won’t notice unless you look at the source and compare it to the 1.0 release.

I’ve been thinking of ideas about what I where I want to take this project…

2.0 branch:

  1. Sound effects
  2. Colored text
  3. Select # of players (0-2)
  4. Named players
  5. External configuration file for settings, game stats to persist

future branch:

  1. 2-player network play

Once I get this much done, I’ll have enough of a framework developed to begin building a real game with, and I’ll start moving from the Console to GUI.

Download it here:

dwc.exe (zip archive)

dwc.cs (source)

DomeWrinklesCurl 1.0

I wrote a windows console game in C# as a programming exercise.

It’s nothing spectacular, but it’s my first game, and I’m happy with the way it works.

The game is a silly pug-themed implementation of Rock Paper Scissors that I made up, called Dome Wrinkles Curl.

The rules:

  1. Dome straightens the curly tail.
  2. Wrinkles cover dome.
  3. Curl wags away the wrinkles.

Download it here:

dwc.exe (zip archive)

dwc.cs (source)