Thursday, June 16, 2016

Understanding Mechanics: Broad Perspective

Recently getting back into the swing of things regarding game development, it has become abundantly clear to me that there are some things about the classic arcade games that we need to hang on to when making our own custom games. Taking into account the visual beauty of the games that come out today, we as gamers tend to forget about the gritty functions of gameplay and why they are so important in making a game work. Though they may not have the best graphics in the world and you have to take yourself back in time to the 1980's to enjoy their visuals, the arcade games of yesteryear serve as great reminders of how gameplay mechanics can be made or broken. Why is this? Because arcade games mainly rely on their mechanics to make a positive impression on gamers.

You can compare this to the likes of mobile games that are the popular thing today, and arcade games had that similar feel. There were certain limitations that you could only feature in the scope of an arcade game that you just couldn't fit in a home console game. With less space to work with you had to pay more attention to the core gameplay mechanics, and with this you would have a better chance of making a game that worked with gamers. That was the main challenge of arcade game makers back in the 1980's.

Now like you guys I appreciate great visuals in a game. I appreciate the cool graphics that today's games feature. They certainly do help enhance the gaming experience, but when it comes down to it, visuals are only cosmetic and are not deal-makers nor deal-breakers. If a game doesn't have excellent graphics, but manages to play well enough for you to keep coming back time and again, then that is a game to hang on to.

Donkey Kong is one example we can look at when you want to dissect general gameplay functions. Notice how simple the layout is. You have Donkey Kong tossing out barrels, you have a basic obstacle course filled with slanted platforms and ladders, you have the oil barrel at the start of the level which will occasionally spit out fire, and then you have the heroic Jump Man (later known as Mario) himself. Those are the key gameplay components. Nothing too over the top and nothing so ambitious that will just blow people away. It's a concept that's kept simple given the limited space of the game.

One point that I can make here is this: Sometimes too bold can be too much.

I love experimenting with different features in a game. I love giving players variety in the options they can choose from in a demo level. However, I have to keep things in perspective as a game developer. Sometimes the things that I'd like to see implemented in a game just can't realistically be done. As game developers we have to live with this possible outcome that will appear time and again.

If you are eager to just get something out there and present a demo level concept that will get people talking, then keeping things simple would be the way to go. You can't aim too high nor too low in expectations. You have to find that happy medium and go with what makes the most sense. Now if you have a fighting kind of game and you'd like to add a super cool weapon, you have to understand where it can realistically show up, and you have to determine whether or not that super cool weapon is even worth having in the demo. Game development sometimes involves making tough decisions that you won't be sure about at first, but like a fighting game you have to roll with the punches.

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