Module: AG0982A - Creative Research

This blog documents my 3rd year research project at Abertay University. The focus of my research is on video game progression, tutorial design, and how to teach the player. My vision statement could be stated as such:

A game often needs to gradually introduce its mechanics and skills to the player. This needs to be done at such a pace that the player is neither anxious nor bored, and needs to be clear without sacrificing challenge. How can this balance be achieved? To investigate this, I've created a simple puzzle game, and released it to a sample of players. I can use data from their feedback to improve my game.

This issue came to my interest when I noticed that many games do a superb job of gradually teaching a player how to master a complicated system (such as Portal), while many other - often more complicated - games are lacking in comfortable and effective tutorship (such as Crusader Kings II), forcing players to resort to online wiki reading, and YouTube guides.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Finding Design Problems with OAP

A few weeks ago, I set to work on integrating my classmate's Unity analytics tool (Oliver's Analytics Package, or OAP) into my Circle Puzzle game. The tool works by tracking specified objects in a game level - in my case, the puzzle pieces with gems on them - uploading that data to a database, and downloading it for replaying at will. This allows me to see how players have played my level.

Though OAP did have some barriers to its usability, I was able to use it to make inferences about how well designed my game was. For example, using OAP, I was able to determine that 3/8 of my players were solving Iteration 2's 3rd Level (the puzzle shall now be named Simple Primer) in such a way that there was very little difficulty in solving the puzzle at all. This occurred because players were moving a piece that I didn't expect them to move as their first move. The challenging part of this puzzle is working out which order the red and green gems need to be deployed in, but solving the puzzle in this unexpected way destroys this challenge.

(Simple Primer - Iteration 2 Level 3)

I looked up the survey ratings for these three corresponding players, to see if there were any major differences in how they rated this level ...

Average enjoyment of Simple Primer (out of 5): 3.375
P1 enjoyment: 4
P2 enjoyment: 4
P3 enjoyment: 2
Average of P1-3: 3.333

Average difficulty of Simple Primer (out of 5): 2.75
P1 difficulty: 2
P2 difficulty: 4
P3 difficulty: 1
Average of P1-3: 2.333

So neither average enjoyment nor average difficulty rating dropped below the overall average by a significant amount, indicating that this accidental strategy did not cause any lapse in the players' enjoyment, when compared to the ratings of other players.

Why was this the case? I would expect players who are finding an easy solution to one of the puzzles to rate it less difficult, and less enjoyable, that those who aren't finding the easy solution.

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