Game Grammer 2: Revisiting “or”

So, after visiting “or” in Game Grammer last week, I’ve become more convinced “or” exists. There are lots of games that are complete enough and encompassing enough to be considered “or”s. World of Warcraft is a good example. It’s hard to argue that raiding and social play is not a fundamental part of the game, if not more fundamental then the leveling. But I’m still not clear on the value added.

In the most common cases, “or”s seem to add variation, very similarly to “with”s. The main difference is that “with”s are subtler and more optional – “or”s represent a broadening of the variation grey area next to “with”s. Many of these “or”s are not optional if you want to have the presented game experience, and they have the production and polish to show for that. But because there is limited focus in most products and they are not optional (World of Warcraft excluded), they seem to drag the overall quality of the game down. e.g. if you have both required combat and required vehicle levels in your game, both of them have to be easy and accessible enough that every potential player can complete them to continue. This is one of the reasons I think puzzle games may have struggled so much – puzzle games essentially are a sequence of “or” games strung together because the puzzles rarely build on learned skills over demanding new ones.

So what’s the lesson here? Be very careful adding “or”s to your game. If you can, find a way to tie them into the core game mechanically (“and”s) or make them optional (“with”s). If you can’t, recognize you’ve bitten the bullet and consider dumbing down at least one of your “or”s so that it’s not a barrier to entry and is easy to polish. And try again to tie it mechanically back into your main “core”, even if it’s just score or money. If you don’t try something early, you might find yourself dumbing all of your “or”s down instead of all but one.

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