|Pac-man: An age-old example of reactive gameplay|
|The Incredible Machine: an age-old example of deliberative gameplay|
These games have become very popular again with the introduction of gaming on mobile devices. It’s logical, because the games can be quite addicting, and because you have short gaming sessions, you can play on the go. They have become so popular, that both the iOS App Store and the Android Store have been flooded by these games. Some are a lot of fun to play, such as Doodle Jump, while others are so frustrating that it takes a lot of constraint to not to throw your mobile device against a wall.
So, why is it that some of these games walk the fine line between too little frustration and too much? Are there elements that we can identify that can make or break such a game? Below I will list a few of the more important ones:
‘What the hell just happened?’
Users should have the feeling that when they die, and in these reactive games they will, they have an idea why they died. If the system gives them unclear feedback, the user will become extremely frustrated and quit. If the user walks away from the attempt with a rough idea how to survive, they will feel that they are in control. This is also important from a user rewarding perspective: clear feedback enables the user to progress through the game and master certain patterns of gameplay (even though they might still have to go 9/10ths of the way).
|Super Hexagon: Acting reactively may not always be enough, by understanding that you have to move to one side continuously, you can learn how to deal with this chaotic pattern.|
‘You want me to do what now?’
Users should be able to attain a certain level of flow within the game; the user should not become bored, due to a low level of challenge, but the user should also not become anxious, due to a high level of challenge. Users should be able to select their own level of difficulty (or, if you only have one level, start out easy and become progressively more difficult as the game carries on). These kinds of games do not revolve around understanding, but capability, and that means that the user should have the opportunity to learn how to act.
|Super Meat Boy: The infamous kid level: by double jumping and wall jumping the user has to get from one side to the level to the other|
‘Oh gods, not again’
It shouldn’t take too much investment for the user to keep playing. There are two sides to this. The first is from a gameplay perspective, if each game session lasts about 40 minutes and users have to redo everything if they die, there’s a good chance that many people will give up. The second is from a user interface perspective, users should be able to have as little downtime as possible between a failed attempt and a new attempt. By making it as simple as possible for the user to restart, and by keeping the game sessions as short as possible, the user will be tempted to try it again.
|Stepmania: Playing a session for a few minutes is fine, but some songs are over 10 minutes long...|
While the above elements are also important for all other types of games, they are key for reactive games. However, as always, do not forget that these elements might not apply for the specific niche you are targeting.
|Demon's Souls: A game in which enemies get stronger as you die and levels can take hours to complete.|
Do you have any other elements that you think are important? Or do you have any other comments? Let me know below! In two weeks I'll be looking at another aspect of games, so stay tuned!