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The Genre Blender: Experiments In Social Gameplay
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The Genre Blender: Experiments In Social Gameplay


January 4, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4
 

Integration

The way that puzzle gaming was integrated into Fusion succeeded in several aspects, but failed to some degree in making the Hacker truly feel like they were a part of the shared experienced. The reason for this was the disconnect between the actual puzzle mechanics and the larger world.

All of the Soldier and Pilot's potential actions had some effect on the shared space, but the actual puzzle mechanics did not. Fusion's design made strong ties between success in the puzzle game and effects on the larger game, but the puzzle itself had no connection. We believed that the ties would be enough, but because puzzle games tend to make players myopicly focused on the task at hand, the disconnect between that task and what their allies and enemies were doing resulted in Hackers feeling more isolated than the other modes.

The lesson learned here is that the mechanics of any mode in a Fusion-style game should relate directly to the larger world as much as possible. Ideally, a puzzle game would relate directly to the terrain around the Hacker node and things like other players moving through that space would directly affect the puzzle.

With the current set-up, feedback about the world was helpful to Hackers, but it was often ignored because of how far removed it was from what Hackers were trying to accomplish from moment to moment.

Unintended Benefits

With Fusion, our hope was to allow each player to play a mode familiar to them, without needing to understand much about the other styles of play. Not only did that work well, we discovered an interesting aspect of Fusion that we had not expected.

In most of our play tests most players played a mode for three or so games and then switched to one of the others. Although they generally preferred their initial mode, seeing the other game types in the same world made them want to see how those modes worked as well.

In this way, many players explored game genres they otherwise have little interest in and in some cases enjoyed them more than expected. Although this is secondary to our intended goals, it's exciting that a Fusion-style game could allow players to not only play together, but also to share their own tastes with each other.

Conclusions

The purpose of the ACG project was to explore the difficulties and potential of merging genres into a single game experience. What we found is that the design of such games is difficult and presents unique challenges, but more importantly that these challenges are managaeble and well worth the effort. With more development time, we believe that a game like Fusion would not only be possible, but also very well received.

Merging the mechanics of multiple genres is not especially difficult. A well thought-out framework that translates player intent and skill between modes is an essential first step. This framework must provide a clear goal for the team of players independent of the specific modes. Once developed, this framework makes the process of integrating the games no different from any other design process. Then the development of specific interactions and features can progress just like any other design.

Merging audiences is similarly possible. The premise we worked from was that these different people already want to play together; they just do not have an enjoyable way to do so. That turned out to be largely true, and testing shows that a wide variety of gamers do enjoy Fusion and the opportunity it provides for shared play. It also provided a way for players of different genres to show each other their own skill in a context that would earn respect from each other. The main difficulty is in allowing different play styles.

Different audiences will enjoy different levels of conflict and strategy and it's important that players in each mode have an ability to play the game in such a way that it appeals to their tastes. We also recommend that in an asymmetrical cooperative game, different skins be available such that players have some control over the artistic style they experience. If players could control aspects such as the sound effects to the level of gore, they would be able to custom-tailor the experience to better suit their tastes.

The end result of our design, development, and testing is that we are confident that merged-genre games are possible and enjoyable. Within the scope of this project, we discovered particular difficulties with aspects such as keeping a genre's feel intact while affording it the same basic options as each other mode inside the game.

The changes we made in response to these discoveries have created improvement to the player experience even within our limited time frame and we have no doubt that such obstacles can be overcome without much more difficulty than design challenges in traditional single-genre games.

As a final note, we leave you with these general design principles that we hope can serve as guides in the design of this style of game:

  1. Translate intent and skill. Any action that a player takes in a Fusion-style game has to be understandable by each other mode in so far as they know what the player's intention is, and how good they are at it. This is the driving force behind successfully merging genres.
  2. Specific interactions are more powerful than general ones. Abstract systems such as points and inventories have their place in these designs, but they aren't enough to create a shared experience. There must be interactions between each mode that happen concretely in the game world and have obvious effects for each player involved.
  3. Decide on a theme for each mode. Determine what skills are to be most rewarded in each mode and design all interactions and challenges for that mode around those skills. If the theme of the overall game is counter to a mode's theme, one or the other may have to shift to accommodate.
  4. Share mechanics when possible. Understanding the specifics of other modes shouldn't be essential for a player, but they must understand other modes enough that they can support or hinder them. As such, if understanding an aspect of a mode is essential to helping or harming players in that mode, other players will be less confused if elements of that mechanic are integrated into their modes as well.

We hope that you have found this useful and that other developers will see the potential of Fusion-style games. You can take a peek at some of the gameplay of Fusion at http://www.youtube.com/user/ACGFusion. If you have any additional comments or questions, please mail them to [email protected]. You can visit the Fusion website at: http://www.etc.cmu.edu/projects/acg/.


Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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