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Rational Design: The Core of Rayman Origins

March 27, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 8 of 8

Player Types

Richard Bartle, a professor, writer and game researcher, in his paper Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs, presents us with a clear distinction between types of players that emerge when put in front of a gaming experience. Each player has his own personal taste and motivation when thrown into a game system, and this predisposition means that the game must have all the necessary tools for keeping this player personally engaged throughout.

However, this also means that we cannot simply cater to this singular player type, as the others might miss out on the experience entirely. As a game designer, we must learn what kinds of players exist, and then analyze how we can best keep the controller in their hands and motivate them to proceed further with the experience.

Bartle's proposed player types are as follows:

- The explorer: someone who wants to explore and discover every single thing there is to know about the game world, as well as see every possible thing that exists in the game's universe. They do not particularly revel in the thrill of a challenge; their challenge is based on careful observation, as well as understanding how to access a point of interest that might not be initially apparent.

- The achiever: he lives to exceed at in-game accomplishments, perfecting his grasp of the controls and mechanics, and collecting everything within his power. His greatest reward is something physical and clearly representative of his skillful achievement, and he is always willing to try to improve on his own personal best, just for the sake of it.

- The social player: they enjoy interaction with other players, especially through in game or other means of communication. They enjoy discussing in game events and working through solutions with others.

- The killer: these players revel in causing distress in other players; in a game such as Rayman Origins, a killer might simply enjoy following their co-op partner and kicking him into a spike at the last possible instant for the simple satisfaction of thwarting his friend's progress. He is most fulfilled when he is implicating others as a display of skill and superiority. He is inadvertently an achiever, but it is only fully satisfying for him if in the process he cuts down another player to steal the reward from him. The killer persona is clearly attracted to killing other player characters; killing an NPC brings him minimal satisfaction.

Bartle's player types are the ones I have chosen to examine for the purposes of this paper, but it is interesting to note that another game designer, Mitch Krpata proposes his own taxonomy including his "tourist"similar to Bartle's explorer, and the "skill player" most closely relating to Bartle's achiever. He has fascinating insights into how his player types are differently defined and less vague than those of Bartle, but personally I find Bartle's theories to cover the necessary range of player types for this article.

Running around the room is the only way to avoid being burned to a crisp by the deadly heartburn.

Player Types and Rewards

Since there is a range of player types, each motivated by different stimuli and personal goals, to fully satisfy these endeavours a system of reward must be implemented. The player needs acknowledgement from the system to feel the sense of accomplishment, whether it be through quiet and patient exploration or through raw achievement. Different player types appreciate different emotional and physical rewards, so it becomes important to ensure that all of the available rewards fit cleanly into the in-game economy and other systems so as not to disrupt the delicate balance of the game. Rewards in Rayman Origins relating to respective player types consist of:

- Lums - Lums are the generic collectible in the game, and they are present throughout the entire level for the player's collecting pleasure.

"There are also goals which may not be stated, but exist because a designer constructed them. For instance, I don't think anybody ever tells you in Crackdown to collect all the agility orbs. But they're there, in interesting places to go, and many of us will do nothing but hunt them down for big chunks of time." - Joel Burgess, Motivating Players in Open World Games

Nobody explicitly tells the player their goal is to collect Lums, but the allure of them is inherently strong, so every player will be drawn to them and tries to accumulate as many as possible. They are necessary for progressing to further worlds in the game, but a player can finish a level without a single Lum if they choose to do so.

- Costumes - costumes are something along the lines of a trophy case for an achiever and explorer alike; they require dedication to unlock through Lum and Electoon collection, which can both be fulfilled through either exploration or hardcore achievement. Interestingly, the social gamer will strongly appreciate the reward of costumes, as each new character has a story to tell in the context of the game universe, and they are no doubt dying to read all about it.

- Exotic bonus levels - chest chase maps in the game are an extra reward for the achiever in the form of a challenge; the challenge of overcoming a crazy difficult level is intrinsically motivating for the achiever in the same way a slap in the face when declaring a duel encourages the challenged to step up and prove himself superior. The level itself is a clear reward, but the emotional thrill the challenge of beating the level brings with it is all the more exhilarating to the achiever. An explorer will also be interested simply because it is another area of the game world to discover.

- Information - in the hub map, the Snoring Tree, the player can pull on the beard of the Bubble Dreamer and he will proceed to tell some simple stories related to the chosen character; an explorer will revel in the chance to learn more about the game universe, and a social gamer will appreciate the communication with the Bubble Dreamer.

- Cage maps - the explorer is rewarded for finding the entrance of a secret room, and the act of entering a hidden passage and being provided with a new gameplay experience makes the explorer feel like a great contribution in a party of different player types; because of him and his inherent sense of discovery, everyone in the party is treated to a unique moment of gameplay.

- Skull Coins - these function as a clear indication of a dangerous and otherwise risky challenge; when a player sees a Skull Coin floating above him, he knows that there will be some danger involved, which further excites and motivates the achiever. Similarly, two Skull Coins are hidden on each level, providing the explorer with a similar sense of accomplishment, only in his case it is achievement through his own area of expertise.

Motivation, as motioned in the earlier section entitled Flow, is extremely essential for bringing the player into the all important state of flow, and maintaining it for as much of the gameplay experience as possible. While the game has many devices for motivating the player, no sense of motivation is stronger than true intrinsic motivation; motivation to play the game simply because the experience of playing is extremely satisfying. This is what all designers should strive to instill in their players.

Closing Thoughts

While the concept of rationalizing anything can make it sound calculated, planned and inherently boring, this article has hopefully explained how the process can produce anything but boring gameplay; rational design is merely a tool for facilitating solid learning and difficulty curves and even helps us to inject a lot of variety into the game experience to provide memorable moments and unforgettable scenarios. I strongly believe in the rational design process, and intend to make solid use of it on all of my future projects.

Article Start Previous Page 8 of 8

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Vin St John
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This was a great write-up. Chris! Thanks for all the useful examples.

Nicholas Muise
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Fantastic Chris. I really appreciate the effort that went into putting this together. Well done!

Brad Borne
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Hm, I'd still like to know if The Fancy Pants Adventures had any influence on Origins.

Craig Hauser
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Fantastic article! Origins was my favorite game last year and I've been spending a week now trying to break it down and figure out what made it fun. This gives insight I probably never would have gotten otherwise.

Tjien Twijnstra
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What a great opportunity you had Chris! Thanks for sharing.

Jorge Diaz
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Great article

Eric Schwarz
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This is a great write-up and I think clearly outlines a number of very critical concepts. Game design is too often understood in terms of macro-level ideas, but it's building a deep understanding of the mechanics that govern gameplay that really allow designers to produce the most effective scenarios. I've never played the Rayman games as much as I've liked, but all my time spent with them has suggested they are very well-designed games indeed. After reading this piece I feel like I have a better grip not just on Origins, but the central design concepts driving the series.

Just one thing...

"Not only color, but size can have a large influence on the clarity of a gameplay element; if an enemy is roughly the same scale as the player character, it is quite easily understood that they are of equal strength, and as such the player should be able to dispose of them with little effort."

I realize we're talking about intuitive strength here, but shouldn't equal size suggest a fair challenge? I'd imagine enemies smaller than the player are the easily disposable ones - see goombas in Super Mario Bros. for the classic example.

ashish pratap
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Nice Article Chris. Rayman Origin truly proves that Rational Game/Level Design is a very useful tool for designers indeed. I loved the game.

Bhavin Sagar
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Very good article. But I'm still figuring practicing to adapt this method for social games. It will be great if you can give some inputs on that.

Dan Felder
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Social Games need rational design almost more than most other titles. Social games are games in minutiae and need to produce very specific results. Rationally designing to produce those effects is crucial.

Benjamin Hill
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A very good article and thoroughly great read. We apply a similar ethos when developing but I still feel that this article high-lighted many new points and placed them into words eloquently. I also though Rayman: Origins was one of the better games of last year and deserves to be recognised for its excellent level and game design rather than just its excellent art direction.

Muir Freeland
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This is my single favorite article to ever appear on this site. I love everything about it; I especially love that it's called "Rational Design," because a lot of people I've worked with treat quality design as some kind of weird enigma. It's just as much science as art, and it's awesome to read articles like this that treat the subject with equal parts process and passion.

Mauricio Gehling
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Awesome article for a fantastic game! I couldnīt stop playing until get the platinum trophy. This article helped me understand why I enjoyed the game so much.