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					Is this thing on?
Intuition And Intellect

Deconstructing The Design of Oasis

            Marc LeBlanc
             GDC 2005
Part I: Overview



Or, what this talk is, and what it
               isn’t.
Outline
• Demo Oasis
• Discuss “Intellectual” and
  “Intuitive” Design
• Outline an intellectual framework
• Deconstruct Oasis
• Bring up some moments of
  Intellect/Intuition collision
Disclaimers
• This talk is not a post-mortem
   Not “What went right”
   Rather, “What we were thinking”
• This is not a “how to win the IGF”
  talk
   Like I would know
Part II: Let’s Play Oasis…
 Part III: Intuition and Intellect



In which we talk about talking about
             game design.
Intuition vs. Intellect
• Intuition:
   Life Experience
   Mysterious and Creative
   Quick and Dirty
• Intellect:
   Study, Research, Synthesis
   Articulate and Analytical
   Slow and Precise
“The intellect is a Bailey bridge
 built between islands of
 inspiration.”
            - Mike Myers
Another Metaphor
• Intuition is “high gear”
• Intellect is “low gear”
• Speed vs. Power tradeoff
You need both gears!
• Without Intuition you will get left
  behind.
• Without Intellect you will get
  stuck.

• Intuition AND Intellect,
  not Intuiton VS. Intellect
However
• Intellect is inherently easier to
  communcate.
• Welcome to the GDC
Part IV: An Intellectual
Framework

Wherein concepts are classified, and
 terms are defined.
Games as Software


 Code
Games as Software


 Code     Process
Games as Software


 Code     Process   Requirements
Games as Software


 Code     Process   Requirements

 Rules
Games as Software


 Code     Process    Requirements

 Rules    Activity
Games as Software


 Code     Process    Requirements

 Rules    Activity      “Fun”
A Design Vocabulary


 Code     Process     Requirements

 Rules    Activity       “Fun”
A Design Vocabulary


  Code      Process    Requirements
Mechanics
 Rules      Activity      “Fun”
A Design Vocabulary


            Process    Requirements
Mechanics   Dynamics
             Game         “Fun”
A Design Vocabulary



Mechanics   Dynamics   Aesthetics
The MDA Framework



Mechanics   Dynamics   Aesthetics
Part V: Back to Oasis


Where we finally get back to that
 game we looked at.
 Aesthetic Objectives of Oasis
• Challenge the player
    He has interesting problems to solve.
• Create a strategic landscape to Discover
    The player crafts his own “game science.”
• Create an emergent Narrative
    Convey a sense of dramatic tension building to a climax.
• Fulfill a Fantasy
    The player feels like he’s building a tiny empire.
• Create a spectacle of Sensation
    Sights and sounds for the player to enjoy.
The “Design Thesis” of Oasis

Oasis is the “anti-Minesweeper”
•   Clicking yields information, but
•   Clicking is good instead of bad.
•   Many carrots, one big stick.
•   Some carrots are sucker punches
     Use sights & sounds to lure the player
The “No Bad Clicks” Principle
• Became an aesthetic yardstick.
• We had to refine our notion of
  “bad.”
   “Worth less than nothing”
• Killed many, many potential
  features.
• Still, some emergent “bad clicks”
  remain.
The Strategic Landscape
• Player starts out as a tourist.
• Eventually, he becomes a native.

• Map Generator
• Combat System
Dynamics that Challenge
Mechanic: Resource Contention
   Different moves compete for turns.
   Some also compete for followers.


Combined with:
   Random Maps
   Random Players
   Limited Information


Challenging decisions emerge.
 Difficulty “Balance”

Easy          Challenging?       Impossible


Q: How do you find the balance
  point?
A: You don’t.
 The Oldest Trick in the Book

Easy                Challenging?   Impossible

       Start here
 The Oldest Trick in the Book

Easy             Challenging?        Impossible


   March Onward and Upward
• The player has to win before it becomes
  impossible.
• You still need to tune, but now it’s
  possible.
• This reflects our whole attitude towards
  “balance”
The Dramatic Arc

               Climax



   Rising               Falling
   Action               Action
  Dramatic Dynamics
• Difficulty: Easy … Hard … Impossible
• Choices: Few … Many … Few
• Flow: Turn-based … Timed … Real-
  time
• Combat: Losing … Even … Winning

• Some arcs are authored, some are
  emergent.
The Combat Mechanics,
The Simple Version
• Each round is a coin flip
• The winner kills some of the
  loser’s troops
The Combat Mechanics,
The Less Simple Version
• Each round is a lottery.
• Every soldier has a ticket.
• Technology can add or remove
  tickets.
• The winner’s team gets to kill
  some of the losing team’s troops.
  3 + <treasure bonus>/2
Some Combat Observations
• The better army usually wins.
• BUT, losing one round doesn’t cost
  much.
• Ties can take a while to
  “snowball.”
• The weaker army…
   Still has a fighting chance
   Can last a long time
But There’s More
• Each side gets 200 “bonus tickets.”
• When a side kills N soldiers, it loses >N
  bonus tickets.

• So:
   At the start, the battle is biased towards a coin flip.
   There’s some negative feedback.
   When the bonus runs out, the fight becomes more skewed
All This Adds Up to Drama
• Fights stay close for a while, and
  then the tide turns.
• The player starts out the
  underdog, and then wins.
   Numbers vs. Firepower
• Not too bad, for just numbers going
  down.
• Again, the drama is emergent.
Part VI: Intution and
Intellect, Revisited


In which the previous parts are
  related to each other.
Creating Oasis
• Our day-to-day process was largely
  intuitive.
• Intellectual processes helped us:
   Get out of ruts.
   Communicate objectives.
   Design tricky mechanics
Another Example: The
“Smitey Glyph” Feature
• Problem: All levels are won or lost,
  no “region of forgiveness.”
• Proposed Solution: The “Smitey
  Glyph”
• Many theoretical problems
   Creates a “stalling” opportunity
   Diminishes the “sucker punch”
• But it Just Made Sense
 Example: Pharaoh’s
 Challenge
• Publisher asked us for “campaign mode” to
  create an increased sense of “content.”
• We felt free to experiment, create an “inferior
  game.”
• We could rationalize that freedom
  intellectually.
• We relaxed the “No Bad Clicks” rule.
Example: Level Flow
Three Phases:
  1. Turn-based explore & build
  2. Timed troop deployment
  3. Non-interactive battle.
• Were we nuts?
• Conventional wisdom says yes.
• Conventional wisdom is largely
  intuitive.
It’s All About Drama

                     Battle
            Deploy



 Explore,
 Build
      An Important Precedent:
            Golf Games

                               Ball Flight
                 Swing Meter


Aiming,
Club Selection
              In General

                       Result
           Execution



Planning
  Example: Difficulty Coupling
• Originally, difficulty only determined
  starting level number.
 (Easy = 1, Normal = 11, Hard = 21, Insane = 31)
• Empirically, a bad idea.
• We changed it so all levels start at 1.
• The change bought us tuning freedom.
Questions?
• Slides and Stuff:
  www.8kindsoffun.com
• Oasis: www.oasisgame.com
• Me: mahk@8kindsoffun.com
Example Bugs
1. “10 Second phase” is too
   “solveable.” (challenge)
2. When the player’s scarab power
   is low, defeat seems inevitable.
   (drama)
3. Not enough ways to take risks
   (drama,challenge).
4. Treasure searching is too random,
   not skill-based (challenge)
Example Solutions
• “10 Second phase” is too
  “solveable.” (challenge)

Introduce a penalty for each city
   lost.
Example Solutions
2. When the player’s scarab power
   is low, defeat seems inevitable.
   (drama)

Introduce a special treasure that
   repleneshes scarab power, if
   defended. (Also addresses #3)
Example Solutions
3. Not enough ways to take risks
   (drama,challenge).

Introduce a special treasure that
   earns score, if defended.
Example Solutions
4. Treasure searching is too random,
   not skill-based (challenge)

Treasure placement has a more
   learnable pattern. (No
   duplicates, ascending order.)
Here’s What We Did
• Saw Oasis
• Discussed “Intellectual” and
  “Intuitive” Design
• Presented MDA
• Examined Oasis
• Discussed moments of Intution and
  Intellect at work.

				
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posted:12/1/2009
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