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Game Design Psychology: The Full Hirokazu Yasuhara Interview
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Game Design Psychology: The Full Hirokazu Yasuhara Interview

August 25, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 5 Next

Short, middle, and long distance -- how do you manage those goals? What is the critical difference between short and long distance?

HY: It depends on the player's moving speed. For normal gamers, these short-distance goals would be around 30 seconds each.

How do you judge when the player should feel he's accomplished a small goal -- or one type of goal, and now another type? What kind of feedback should the player receive in order to know "I've accomplished a bigger goal now"?

HY: The important thing here is that the player always feels like he's in control of his own fate -- that he's got a full understanding of the world around him and what's going on. That has to be a constant process.

And how can you do that in an open-world environment? In Sonic games, it was 2D and you can see everything around you, but in an open world, there's so much to interact with. How can you have the player feel that way?

HY: Well, for example, if there's a house in an otherwise completely empty area, then the player will probably try to go in, since there's nothing else to check out. If you're in a shooter and the enemy is shooting at you, then you know that you have to avoid the bullets and come up with countermeasures.

No matter what the environment, if something special is nearby -- whether it's hostile or not -- it will grab the player's interest. There are lots of ways this can manifest itself.

What about when players have multiple goals? How do you rank which goal is most important for them? Like, there's a guy shooting at you over here, but over there, there's a treasure. Do I get the guy, do I go for the treasure? How do I emphasize to the player that he should get the guy first?

HY: That's sorting in action, and that's the sort of gameplay I always try to have going. It's the player's responsibility to figure out how to best sort through his situation -- whether the threat is weak enough to merit ignoring it for the time being so you can get the treasure or not.

Is there a particular strategy that you take for that kind of scenario?

HY: Well, like I said before, you can see a middle goal, but there's no obvious way to get there -- you have to jump or cross a gap. The kind of game mechanic is important here. The player always has to think about how to get there. That's the way games are made, really.

It seems like an old way of doing that might be, before you reach the middle goal, you have to find a key so you can get past this gate and then go. But now we have more involved things, like you have to knock down a tree, or something, and you have to beat some enemies first. You could always knock down that tree at any time, but you have a small obstacle in front first. That seems like the more modern type of game design.

HY: Right.

How do you deal with that kind of situation?

HY: Hmm... like, the first person shooter approach to that sort of thing?

Even Resident Evil still does that sort of thing -- you need the red key for the red door...

HY: Yeah, that sort of thing is too obvious. (laughs)

What would your solution to that be?

HY: Well, it's plain that the "red key" approach doesn't really match up with the visual standard game worlds are made with these days, so I guess you need to have a more natural approach. A lot depends on the type of game.

For example, in a game where you can climb freely, you create areas where it's possible to do that, or you make a spot that lets you traverse your way elsewhere if you double-jump or something. Or you give the player tools to use if it's that type of game, like in Zelda.

In an open world like Grand Theft Auto, the player can go anywhere at any time, and do anything. Many American games are moving toward that, and so you must also have to be thinking that way somehow. In that kind of scenario, what do you think is important -- do you think it's important to keep a player on the designer's goal, or can they be doing whatever goal they may set for themselves?

HY: That really depends on the game. Even in GTA, you're still always reminded of the really important things that you should do. If you're lazing out on a mission, you'll get a call asking you what's up. That's the way the game motivates you to continue.

Really, "freedom" is not what you get in a game. In Second Life, they say you can do anything you want, but really, there's nothing to do there! That's not a game. In a game, the designer is a "game master", and he has to be thinking about you.

Do you think of yourself as kind of the "master" of that experience?

HY: I definitely think so. I think it's important you give the player an engaging and interesting experience.

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