Game Design - Who needs it?!

Updated: Apr 1, 2019



I have played a lot of games through out my gaming career. Some of them I immediately feel a part of the game, I am eased into it with cutscenes and it makes it clear who I am and what my purpose is.






They give me little micro tutorials on how to move, shoot, hide, run, jump, and all the other cool things designers add to their games. By the time I am on my own at the start of the game I feel like “Hey I’ve got this!” and I am having fun enjoying the experience.


Then there are “the other games”. I am thrown into the game and something kills me before I have had a chance to adjust my lounge cushions! Or I am running around looking for something to do or get involved, watching other players seemingly achieving things, completing tasks, and it makes me feel like a total noob because I don’t know what to do. And then there are games that I invest time into, am enjoying, but at some point find myself in a situation that sets me back a number of hours.


An example of this was back in the late 90’s a friend of mine and I were playing the original “Tomb Raider”, sharing the challenging duties of Lara Croft. We were in a cave and swam to the bottom of an underwater area. Now I am not sure who it was (probably me) executed a quick save near the bottom. Unfortunately, after that critical error, no matter what we tried we drowned before we could get out, and the last main save we had made was a couple of hours earlier. Needless to say this was very demoralizing.


The point to my recollections is that regardless of how “cool” a game is in terms of looks, actions, and experiences if there is even one negative aspects I can guarantee gamers will find it and focus on it. Some things like difficulty can be a great draw card for hard core gamers. They love the challenge, the grind, and will persist endlessly to be the one who beat the game.


However there is “hard” - involving skill, and then there is “hard” - OMG! this game is impossible and frustrating. Getting a balance can be difficult. In the end it all comes down to game design, with some Roblox developers get it right, but sadly a lot are missing some crucial elements that get players interested and coming back. For the game Jail Break, that has so many players, we can find comments that support the good, the bad, and the ugly side of game design and experience.



Jail Break - Good for some

Now, when I say good that does not necessarily mean I personally love the game and I am receiving some benefit for talking them up. The focus here is on game design, and the elements these developers have included that obviously have appeal because of the number of players playing the game. At the time of writing this article here are some of the games appearing at the top.


Jail Break - Playing 43,043 - Favorites 11,662,564 - Visits 2B


For the uninitiated at the beginning of each game session you can choose to be a Police Officer or a Prisoner. Depending on what you choose depends on what your goals and roles are in the game. Now the numbers don’t lie, people like this game, but why? If you do a quick google search you will find numerous differing opinions about why people like to play it, and just as many opinions about why they do not like it.


Why People Like It

  • It is updated regularly

  • Able to customize a lot of aspects of the game

  • Large Open World Design

  • Simple Rules

  • A lot of different game mechanics - run, crawl, driving, flying.

  • Variety of vehicles

  • Progression System - Skins and Garage - Acquiring ItemsPrestige of acquiring hard to get items

Why People Don’t Like It

  • Glitches that set you back - Tesla Car

  • Getting a keycard is hard

  • Lag affecting non lagging players

  • Being attacked by other players

  • Changing existing behaviors expected in the game, or glitch patches.

  • Other player behavior negatively impacting your game.

  • Unexpected actions - Arresting people through walls.

Being one of the great success stories on Roblox Jail Break has a lot of positive aspects, however there are also a lot of things that annoy players, and keep in mind the things that people don’t like are comments from players who keep playing the game!

This brings me back to the some of the crucial elements of game design. If the positive outweigh the negatives players will keep coming back!


From A Game Design View


Jail Break has a lot of positive features, and as pointed out earlier in this article, it also has a lot of hard core players willing to point out its problems. Here are my views on the Jail Break game design.


  1. No tutorial system —> When you are a new comer the messages like “Go to the dining room and get some food”. Ok cool, so off I go to the dining room (which I am not guided to), and there is no food. To me, not only did it not help me in the game, but I didn’t get any food! So I then run around watching other players to see what they do. Then I manage to escape without a keycard and discover that is pretty important, and very annoying.

  2. Getting A Keycard Is Hard —> This system is a good idea, but the fact that to get a keycard you need to stand behind a cop, who has to stand still and let you take the keycard is not well implemented. Not to mention that should you escape the jail successfully without the keycard then your gameplay options are severely restricted. The improvement of this system would greatly improve player enjoyment of the game for new and old players alike.

  3. Progression? - What is it? How do I know how I’m going? What can I do? Where can I go? How do I rob a bank? All these things should be clear to the player when they start the game. It lets new players see who is a serious player, and who is new like them. It give them goals, and choices, instead of floundering in the dark being preyed upon by other players which is a really negative experience for most players.


Summary


I have highlighted 3 major problems I find with the design of Jail Break, and my point is not to run the game down. I aspire to create a game as good as it is. It has some great features. Instead I wanted to share my insights from a long term gamers point of view and experience, which is what all gamers should do with the developers of the games they play and love. Developers want to please players, but they can only do so with constructive feedback. Rather than just making comments such as “This is boring” or “Your game sucks” have a think about why the game makes you feel that way, express it clearly, and even suggest a fix or improvement so they can make your games better.


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