Hello everyone! My name is Shawn Conrad, and I am a student here at MIT pursuing my Master’s degree while working on The Radix Endeavor. My focus is in user interface design, and I will be publishing a series of posts about the thought process behind the feedback systems being developed for Radix.
Any game can be broken into four main parts: goals, rules, player participation, and feedback. These pieces form a dialog loop between the player and the game. The game provides the goals and the rules, the player interacts with the game, and the game gives feedback to the player. The goals and rules of a game are considered “game mechanics,” and the game designers are working hard to provide mechanics that are challenging, stimulating, and of course a lot of fun.
As an example, the game Asteroids has two goals (destroy all asteroids and stay alive) and a few game mechanics (rotate, move forward, and shoot). Equally important, however, is the development of feedback in a game. While there is a vast number of choices for the goals and rules of a game, there is also a vast number of choices in how to present these facts to the player. The manner of telling a player when he stalls, succeeds, or fails can be frustrating or enlivening given its speed, delivery, frequency, tone, and a variety of other factors. For example, Asteroids has a simple counter for lives and score. The game mechanics and feedback of a game also decide the speed of rotation, size of asteroids, and frequency of bullets.
As a comparison, Asteroids 2012 is a remake of the classic game that keeps the goals of survival and mechanics of moving and shooting. However, this new game uses different controls, an over-the-shoulder view, and updated graphics. Developers at The Education Arcade are working hard to give players feedback that is “just right” to provide smooth gameplay and subtle direction to encourage exploration in the world of Radix.
All of this work is done to make sure that the final, and most essential, part of the game continues: the player participation. With interesting game mechanics, players will push themselves to reach their goals. And with thoughtful, responsive feedback, players will be empowered while reaching for them.