StretchVanb Posted September 2, 2021 Share Posted September 2, 2021 Hey! Look! Lots of arguments about game design! I wonder what peoples' thoughts a- Oh, oh no. I try to avoid being too caught up in internet arguments, but I thought this would be worth posting on here after this long period of time here. As a guy who spent, like, 30 minutes in a game design class, I think I can say pretty definitively that I know absolutely nothing what I'm talking about. Because I love organizing things, I'm going to separate this post into multiple sections. Keep in mind most of this IS subjective because it is about, well, art, and please try to avoid another flame war in the thread. Please. Thank you. The Learning Curve Spoiler Ah, new players, the Hot Debate of the last 4 hours. Are the new players RUINING THE GAME? Is Don't Starve as a game series UNSAVEABLE and TERRIBLE game design? Well, I suppose it depends on your definitions of those things, but the first thing I would like to talk about is the game's method of teaching itself to new players. As mentioned by numerous people before me, this game is mostly made unique via it's preferred method of displaying new content to players- Death and hoping they memorize. This is, to anyone who's taken a Game Design 101 course, a really weird and strange way to do it. But it's not actually as terrible as you would think- It nearly perfectly mirrors how people learned about things in Real Life (TM) before we, y'know, learned the basics of what there was to know. So it would make perfect sense that it would appeal to lots of people- It grants a feeling of discovery and accomplishment even when you "fail". Giving players positive reinforcement when they die does encourage them to play the game more, and I think we can (hopefully) agree that the Game Being Fun is the most important aspect of game design. Why, then, does anyone complain? Well, the actual problem with the game's method of learning and teaching has nearly nothing to do with learning or teaching at all, but the feeling of helplessness it invokes into players. Or, at least I would imagine. Let's try a thought experiment. Imagine playing a new game, a lot like Don't Starve but with new mechanics. How would you feel if you "failed" at the game because of something you didn't know about? I would imagine many people would say it would feel "unfair". But as many "OG" players know, Don't Starve was actually billed as uncompromising. Which, well, should put us at a dead end, but it doesn't, actually. It turns out that the root of the feeling of "unfairness" has very little to do with unfairness at all. As a game (mostly) focused on strategy, Don't Starve is an excellent example of something essential to many board games, as well as video games- Choice. Your CHOICE to play a specific character, to use a specific strategy, or to start gathering a specific resource drives the entire game and it's interactivity. What would happen if you could move your character around, but no matter what you did you died in 10 seconds, and there was no other content? I think we could argue that there isn't really much of a game there, and with this knowledge comes enlightment. Enlightment on why Noobs (TM) can sometimes feel angry about death. Turns out, not knowing about something can effectively take your choices away. If you don't have any information about how to act, any two choices seem effectively the same, even though they might be different in game logic. So, if you don't know overheating exists, choosing to prepare equipment before summer or choosing to do nothing isn't a choice at all. You don't even have any idea that it's a choice you can make! And so the game, in that specific aspect, completely loses any interactivity. This is a good thing in some respects, as it does remove a lot of complication from new players, but it also can make them feel cheated when they die, because they never got an option to do anything that could have changed it. It tears away the illusion of free will we enjoy on a daily basis in a very sudden and very surprising way, and a lot of people don't like that. So, should we just give up on Don't Starve's discovery mechanics? Handhold players through the entire game, obviously or not? No! If we look at the problem here-A lack of agency- It becomes pretty obvious what the fix would be. Just give them some basic agency they can apply in any situation, and know about nearly immediately! This is already a thing in some respects, such as movement. Any player knows they can run away from things. Of course, adding a bunch of random mechanics just for this purpose seems pretty boring, but thankfully there's a much easier thing to do, and something Klei has been doing for ages- Just avoid instant death mechanics. Any time the player has time to respond, they have choices. Easy fix. Honestly, the only mechanic I can think of that DOESN'T do this is probably overheating, like previously mentioned. Getting too cold seems pretty easy to fix, I mean, most people just assume it means getting near something warm, but cooling down is waaaay more complicated. I mean, you have to know summer exists beforehand and make a bunch of items to practically do anything during it. You CAN survive without them, but not without some serious high-level plays that your average medium-level player can't even comprehend. So, still the same problem. You could argue rain is the same, but given it's main threat is sanity loss, I would say sanity itself is more of the problematic mechanic. This, however, is alleviated with things like positive sanity auras and negative sanity auras- Just by walking around certain things, you can learn that your sanity can be regained, and the same thing happens when eating random foods, which you kind of, y'know, have to, to not Starve. Not to mention that Sanity as a mechanic provides a ton of tricks for advanced players, and can be resolved by early players if they manage to kill a nightmare creature, basically reinstating choice. So why is this such a problem? I'm not sure. People have complained about Summer for ages, and honestly I would say that if there's a problem at all it lies there. Hound attacks are telegraphed, enemies can be run away from, everything else in the game still provides choice even if you don't know about it. TL;DR: Don't Starve teaches things really well, except for Summer, which is annoying, which everyone already knew about, and Klei has tried to fix multiple times (Whirly Fan, anyone?). The Only Actual Design Flaw I can Think Of Spoiler There IS still a problem with Don't Starve as a game, but it's only one very experienced players will ever face- The problem of complete knowledge. Simply put, once you know everything about the game, all of your choices are taken away. The game can pretty easily be reduced to math, and well, that's kinda boring. Thankfully, this problem is much simpler than the previous one, albeit much more present. So, how do you fix this? Well, Don't Starve is a roguelike game, and a tradition of the roguelike genre is r-r-r-r-randomization! Randomization mechanics are sets of mechanics which add unpredictability to the game. This can already (kinda) be observed in Don't Starve with things such as the spawning of nightmare creatures, but other than that and world generation, the game is mostly deterministic. That measn that after exploring the majority of the world, any experienced player immediately will know the course of action to take, which is BORING but also understandable because designing a game to be infinitely playable is really, really hard. Before you yell at me, because everyone knows how annoying randomness is in video games, hear me out. So, my suggestion would be to add randomization mechanics, but only for challenges. Randomizing beneficial things to the player would absolutely be unfun, because players might feel cheated if they don't receive them due to randomness, and random difficulties-only could also just be annoyances. My suggestion would actually be to implement random opportunities- Chances for the player to get something benefical, but very riskily. This could be done with different forms of weather, different enemy variations, tons of stuff. But ultimately I'm not certain what exactly would help, and this issue is much less pressing then the previous one. If you've been playing Don't Starve and Don't Starve Together for long enough to know every single action that's optimal to take, you should probably try playing another game if only for your sanity. TL;DR: Game is deterministic and so very easy to "solve" for experienced players, but this isn't too pressing of an issue. TL;DR: Choices good, randomizer mechanics good. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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