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posted by n1 on Thursday April 03 2014, @11:28PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the nothing-like-call-of-duty dept.

Mark Rosewater, the head designer for Magic: The Gathering, has written an article where he explains Lenticular Design. Some of the article uses cards from Magic: The Gathering as examples, but the main explanation is mostly generic.

The idea of Lenticular Design is that when designing a game, make some components mean different things to different levels of players so all skill levels can access them. If a component is complex, a newer player might be confused by it (which will put them off playing your game), but highly experienced players may eventually get bored with too many simple parts. Lenticular Design adds hidden complexity into components so newer players don't notice them, but more advanced players can take advantage of this additional level of complexity.

He lists a number of rules when designing (within the context of designing a card game, however the descriptions are general enough that they could apply to a lot of game types).

Rule #1 Some Complexities are Invisible to Inexperienced Players
Rule #2 Cards Have to Have a Surface Value
Rule #3 Experience Is Connected to How Far Ahead a Player Thinks
Rule #4 Novices Tend Not to Think of Causality
Rule #5 Players Will Try to Use the Cards to Match Their Perceived Function
Rule #6 Let the Players Play the Game They Want to Play

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by edIII on Thursday April 03 2014, @11:48PM

    by edIII (791) on Thursday April 03 2014, @11:48PM (#25932)

    Rule #3 Experience Is Connected to How Far Ahead a Player Thinks
    Rule #4 Novices Tend Not to Think of Causality

    If I am reading that correctly it means that you have no more dungeon crawls where you just keep clicking repeatedly to gain experience points to access the next realm of equipment.

    This game only rewards you when you think ahead, use tactical retreats, set traps, efficient use of potions, etc.

    This game penalizes you for truly reckless behavior outside of your class or statuses. So a wizard going full Viking beserker mode with a staff gets penalized, while a wizard operating properly from a distance as support gets rewarded.

    There also seems to be the idea that weapons are upgradeable and skills are accessible at all levels to some extent. It sounds interesting and can breathe life into an old weapon instead of replacing it the moment a higher level weapon comes along. That happens to some extent now, but this seems to be a little more expansive than that.

    Rule #6 Let the Players Play the Game They Want to Play

    That sounds like you really dictate what will happen and your experience and acquisition of materials is rewarded by just how well thought out and innovating your plans for success are.

    It's a truly interesting concept but I don't know how to gauge that property of "well-thought-out". How do you determine how far back the decision was made, and how far ahead a player is really thinking? How efficient are the players actions towards achieving a stated goal? Does it require knowing in advance like calling the pocket the 8-ball goes in? Does it figure it out automatically?

    That's a really complicated algorithm that needs to evaluate a lot of other properties over time.

    Sign me up though. I hate online games like this for their business models, but this sounds interesting as hell. Not as stale as RPG's have been to me lately.

    --
    Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by guises on Friday April 04 2014, @12:18AM

      by guises (3116) on Friday April 04 2014, @12:18AM (#25939)

      That's an interesting interpretation. Bear in mind that while the designer here is attempting to generalize to all games, he's not talking about an RPG specifically. Magic: The Gathering is a collectable card game.

      I don't think you're on the mark with the first thing you said - I believe the point that he was making is that dungeon crawls (or whatever) should be rewarding for naive players who just click repeatedly, but should also have a deeper level with more interesting gameplay (and presumably greater rewards) for advanced players. This would be the traps / potions / retreats that you're talking about.

      • (Score: 2) by edIII on Friday April 04 2014, @02:06AM

        by edIII (791) on Friday April 04 2014, @02:06AM (#25983)

        Perhaps you're right about that.

        I keep thinking that XP gain would be intrinsically linked towards an overall assessment of risk/reward and not be linked towards any particular monster being dealt with at the moment. Killing a dragon would of course still be a huge gain, but I'm thinking the majority of that gain would be because you actually planned something out and killed a fucking dragon. That's supposed to be a fantastic accomplishment. It's a dragon.

        However, maybe you should get a similar XP reward just for managing enough NPCs to take out an entire dungeon with minimal losses and damage?

        --
        Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 04 2014, @03:49AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 04 2014, @03:49AM (#26025)

        I believe the point that he was making is that dungeon crawls (or whatever) should be rewarding for naive players who just click repeatedly, but should also have a deeper level with more interesting gameplay (and presumably greater rewards) for advanced players.

        Yeah, we seriously need more games that are fun for both noobs and nonnoobs. It's not trivial to do but it's at least an interesting challenge for a game designer (rather than do the boring minimum for the usual skinner box crap).

        I tried some F2P MMO and wow it was boring, might be fun for real noobs to the game for a while but at level 50+ you were doing mostly the same things you were doing at level 1. The numbers were just bigger - health and damage. So if you were killing stuff in X shots at level 5, you were still killing stuff in X shots at level 50. The skills were mostly the same, the way you approached and attacked stuff was the same. You had more AOE skills, but that's about it. I tried SW:TOR too and it was still too similar to that for me (it reminded me too much of the crap F2P MMO ;) ).

        FWIW I'm still playing Guild Wars 1, despite it losing a big chunk of its player base to GW2 and other games. In GW1 PVE you can go around in a more conventional team killing stuff slowly (or not if you fail ;) ), or you can do fancier stuff like for a team (or even split into two teams) with skills that synergize to complete/clear an area really quick: http://wiki.guildwars.com/wiki/Speed_clear [guildwars.com]
        Or you can go around with an unconventional team build just for fun.

        Or farm solo with overpowered special purpose builds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dYfYP8oJcA#t=2m30 s [youtube.com] ( I find such solo farming in GW1 boring, but solo farming in games like SWTOR seems like it will be even more boring, judging from the guides and videos I've seen ).

    • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Friday April 04 2014, @05:33AM

      by Phoenix666 (552) on Friday April 04 2014, @05:33AM (#26054) Journal

      I've been developing a related game concept for years now that I have dubbed "Deepen." I love gaming, but become so addicted to them that I don't allow myself to have any consoles or PC games anymore, lest I lose months of productive time. At a certain point, after gaining 100% completion on GTA: San Andreas, I felt like I had eaten five straight cans of Pringles. And I thought, wouldn't it have been great if, instead of vaporizing two months of my life, I came out at the end of it having acquired some useful real-world skill like the ability to speak Chinese or understand Organic Chemistry? Wouldn't it be great if, having acquired that skill, that I also acquired college credit or a certification that would make me more marketable or effective as a professional? Note, I'm not talking about Serious Games or gamification of a standard school curriculum or anything dry and tedious as that. I'm talking about adding dimensions to a game you already love to "deepen" the experience. Take an RPG, for example. OK, you've hacked and slashed and spelled your way through the first orc horde, but now it's time to travel to the Eastern Realms for the next campaign; Trouble is, to book passage on the transport over there you have to learn to say it in Mandarin. It's only one simple phrase at first, nothing you can't handle, but little by little the story line requires you to learn more so you can communicate with the mysterious traveller huddled into a corner in the lower hold. And so on and so on, and by the end of the campaign the game announces you now have a 1000 word vocabulary, an intermediate proficiency in Mandarin, and college credit for having completed the equivalent of the second year of a Mandarin course.

      --
      Washington DC delenda est.
      • (Score: 1) by Woods on Friday April 04 2014, @01:23PM

        by Woods (2726) <woods12@gmail.com> on Friday April 04 2014, @01:23PM (#26168) Journal

        What an interesting concept. I believe that this could totally work. I used to watch a lot of subbed anime, and I started to pick up on Japanese enough to (sometimes) know what they were saying without reading the text.

        I think the tough part would be making it interesting enough to keep people playing, I would think you would have to have a good game as the backbone, and then build in the "learning" bit, but I am not a game developer and I have no idea if that is an accurate assessment.

        Once you get something workable, if you need someone to do some testing, let me know, I would be glad to help. I have a knack for breaking things and/or finding bugs where they should not be. My e-mail is listed in my profile here.

        • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Friday April 04 2014, @04:34PM

          by Phoenix666 (552) on Friday April 04 2014, @04:34PM (#26275) Journal

          Thanks for the vote of confidence! I will definitely take you up on that offer.

          You are quite right that a good game has to be the backbone. Else it feels like work, and you quit.

          --
          Washington DC delenda est.
          • (Score: 1) by Woods on Friday April 04 2014, @06:10PM

            by Woods (2726) <woods12@gmail.com> on Friday April 04 2014, @06:10PM (#26318) Journal

            Reminds me a lot of Space Cadets [strongholdgames.com], where you and your friends each control a specific station on a spaceship, each station is a mini-game by itself.

            If you play several games of it, depending on which station(s) you played, you will undoubtedly come away with a stronger grasp of spacial relationships, have better understanding of need vs want, and how to make due with what little you have.

            An example of that last one: We accidentally put all of our energy to our aft shields this round, so now helm has to come up with a way to dodge those asteroids, and end the turn with us facing away from the enemy.

            This comment is already long enough, I might as well mention that my time playing NetHack has taught me that if I am clever enough, there is ALWAYS a way out of any situation. I just have to stop and think for long enough, and consider all the possibilities before I act. Amazingly, this comes in handy quite often in the IT world.

  • (Score: 1) by gishzida on Friday April 04 2014, @01:14AM

    by gishzida (2870) on Friday April 04 2014, @01:14AM (#25963) Journal

    As a General specialist [i.e. as a generalist] I can see these rules can be said to apply to "all multi-player games of social interaction"... such as religion, politics, and yes even the interpretation of Science or the posting of comments on Soylent News.

    So he is on to more than just the rules of a card game.

    • (Score: 2) by clone141166 on Friday April 04 2014, @02:17AM

      by clone141166 (59) on Friday April 04 2014, @02:17AM (#25989)

      I agree, I think a key example of where this is applicable is user interface design.

      I think the real challenge to UI design is making an interface that is intuitively understandable to novice users while still maintaining more complex functionality that - while obscured from novice users - is still easily accessible by experienced users.

      • (Score: 1) by gishzida on Friday April 04 2014, @02:47AM

        by gishzida (2870) on Friday April 04 2014, @02:47AM (#26007) Journal

        I recently read somewhere a review of the Angry Birds UI [mauronewmedia.com]... which showed why it works as well as it does and does exactly what you have just described.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 04 2014, @04:53AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 04 2014, @04:53AM (#26041)
        In contrast with Windows 8 Microsoft made complex functionality harder for experienced users, and even made logging out and shutting down harder for novice users.
  • (Score: 4, Funny) by c0lo on Friday April 04 2014, @02:07AM

    by c0lo (156) on Friday April 04 2014, @02:07AM (#25984) Journal
    What exactly is the link between such a game and "lentils" - be them soylentils or not?
    (grin)
    --
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
  • (Score: 1) by dabiged on Friday April 04 2014, @04:04AM

    by dabiged (250) on Friday April 04 2014, @04:04AM (#26029)

    Older arcade games like Mortal combat and street fighter I felt struck a good balance with what he is talking about here.

    For the newer players you can just button mash, but for more advanced players there are specific combos you can learn to execute skills. The learning curve doesn't appear to be that steep but once you get into the game it is much harder than it looks.

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by ticho on Friday April 04 2014, @06:55AM

    by ticho (89) on Friday April 04 2014, @06:55AM (#26070) Homepage Journal

    How is this innovative? Concept of "Easy to learn, hard to master" is old as balls, and designing around it has always been a hallmark of any great game. Slapping a fancy-sounding name on it does not make it new again.

    • (Score: 1) by monster on Friday April 04 2014, @01:12PM

      by monster (1260) on Friday April 04 2014, @01:12PM (#26165) Journal

      It's not innovative, just long forgotten because "gamers must never have to face tough challenges, they only play for medals and insta-rewards" thinking has been creeping into game studios for a while. How many of them would reject the original "Legend of Zelda" because it would be too difficult? (No lives! No continues! Limited saving!)

    • (Score: 1) by RaffArundel on Friday April 04 2014, @05:16PM

      by RaffArundel (3108) on Friday April 04 2014, @05:16PM (#26296) Homepage

      I think you are being too harsh (or jaded) dismissing it as a "buzzword". I don't believe this concept is innovative, ignoring the everything-old-is-new again thing, but designing the game following rules specifically to create that environment is at least interesting. The fact that it came from a practical use case made it even better.

      So, from a design perspective it is interesting to see what goes into making the game "easy to learn, hard to master" rather than lucking into it or play-testing it to death. Gamasutra used to have interesting articles on this, but I haven't been back there in a while. I have recently become more interested in these discussions - what makes a game fun? Why do people start playing a game? What keeps them playing?

      If you are complaining about the name itself, its name is explained in the article. It needed a name, so he gave it one that made sense to him.

  • (Score: 1) by Woods on Friday April 04 2014, @05:53PM

    by Woods (2726) <woods12@gmail.com> on Friday April 04 2014, @05:53PM (#26310) Journal

    I hear rule #34 is where they get you. Be careful.