A few days ago, I was playing Deep Rock Galactic.
(it’s a game where you’re a space dwarf collecting minerals on alien planets)
A horde of aliens spawned and started running towards me.
So I pulled out a grenade, threw it and then… I had a micro-decision to make:
Do I stand there and watch the aliens explode in a firework of guts and blood…
(which would be the fun thing to do)
…or do I switch to my gun and start running in the opposite direction?
(which would be the optimal thing to do)
This is probably not true for everyone, but I personally hate having to make that decision.
Sure, I want to complete the mission.
But the whole point of completing it is to:
- Get more resources
- Upgrade my weapons
- So that I can kill more aliens more easily
If I can’t even enjoy watching aliens die, what’s the point of doing it all in the first place?
I think it takes away a bit of the fun. So while designing my games, I try to follow a simple rule:
Make the optimal play and the fun play be the same.
Honestly, I’m not sure how the grenade situation could be improved with that rule.
(maybe we could make the explosion more instantaneous?)
But there are a few other cases where we can apply it. Consider these:
- Your player recovers energy / mana…
- …over time: the optimal play is to wait, which is boring.
- …by hitting enemies: the optimal play is to kill more enemies, which is fun.
- Killing enemies that are spawned infinitely…
- …gives the player coins and items: the optimal play is to wait and kill as many of those enemies before moving forward, which is boring.
- …gives the player nothing: the optimal play is to stop the spawning and move forward as quickly as possible, which is fun.
Now, what’s considered fun or boring entirely depends on who’s playing the game.
Some people love repeating the same tasks over and over while others hate it.
Some players love going fast and others like taking their time.
You can’t design a game that everyone will like.
So design a game that you would like. You can bet there are others who’ll share your point of view.