Zileas' List of Game Design Anti-Patterns

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Ragura

Senior Member

11-28-2010

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zileas View Post
I challenge you to find a well-respected western game designer who will disagree with me on this one.
Well, this is getting harder and harder to do. But the reasons aren't as clear cut as you make them out to be. The reason most of your list of solutions made it into modern game design has less to do with making a "good" game, but more to do with making a game tailored to everyone. Except, replace everyone with casual gamers.

The gamers of 10 years ago, the ones that enjoyed games such as Baldur's Gate to death (contains almost every anti-pattern), think these anti-patterns are an exeggeration. Nobody is saying fun factor is unimportant, nobody is asking for an overcomplicated mess of a game and nobody is looking for a game that only elite players can play.

However, modern game designers have only one goal in mind these days and it makes me so very sad: How can I get my 6 year old sister and 80 year old grandmother to also enjoy this game? How can I get the cheerleader into gaming? How can we make ONE game for EVERYONE?

The answer to this is your Anti-Pattern list with solutions attached to it. But, this alienates the gamers that made gaming what it is today. You might gain the sister and the cheerleader, but you're losing the Baldur's Gate fans. Even Bioware has alienated those fans (including me) and it's their game.

And yet, there's not much choice for these "hardcore" gamers but to also play the casual games, because that's 90% of the gaming market these days. Probably close to 100% if you're only looking at western games. The Japanese gaming developers are also catching on to this. Hell, look at the Wii, it's the epitome of casual gaming for the most part.

So, all casual gamers play the casual games. Casual gamers do not play the games meant for the more dedicated group. Most dedicated gamers need to play these games or give up their hobby. I think the end result isn't that hard to see and it involves MONEY. Casual games make more money than other games. This is proven time and time again by sales numbers.

Nobody here is going to say LoL sucks because it's too simple or treats people like gaming babies or anything, else we wouldn't vehemently discuss these matters on this game's forum. But it scares me when I see Anivia called a borderline case for one of the anti-patterns because of her Q-E combo.

Someone here already said there's a big barrier to even starting with a MOBA game for newcomers to the genre and that is SO true, especially in this day and age where smurfs are everpresent and level 2 players ward the entire jungle for buff control. New players means more money, we get it. But the new players that make it to level 30 are perfectly capable of thinking about champion abilities and item builds. And the hundreds of champion guides should make this even easier. The genre isn't mean to be picked up and played without any thinking and strategizing involved.

However, I disagree that "complex" abilities are further cause for confusion among new players. When they get through the barrier of the general gameplay mechanics, champion specific handling and countering is a FUN learning process. This was the case for me and it also the case for a few of my friends who are still leveling up to 30. To get to the max level, one already needs to play a decent amount of games, it's enough to build up an average knowledge base for each champion.

The crux of the matter is that the current player base only has to really learn one new champion per two weeks. This is ridiculously simple, these days it takes players 2-3 days max to recognize and react to new champion abilities. This means that, after 60+ champions, basic ability design will turn stale. It's okay to increase the depth of an ability, but it still needs to make sense and not be complicated just for the sake of it (no abilities that divide current health by 3 + amount of debuffs on your character - buffs on the target).

Let's look at encounter design for World of Warcraft. The first bosses in Molten Core were, by today's standards, ridiculously simple. Often it wouldn't go past moving out of a Rain of Fire or putting down a tremor totem to not get feared. Or just running away and spreading out, simple stuff. However, now look at the encounters in Naxxramas, another entry level raid dungeon. They include the mechanics of the Molten Core bosses as a nuisance to add to the actual encounter mechanics. Look at Thaddius or Kel'Thuzad or even the whole Heigan dance mechanic.

The designers at Blizzard made these encounters evolve because their player base has learned more about the game. But Naxxramas is also a raid dungeon that some of the most casual players could clear. The same casual players that would have stood no chance in Molten Core. Why is this? Because there's a time difference of five years between them. Gamers have changed. Sure, you might not attract the girlfriends of hardcore gamers or the school's top cheerleader, but you also don't HAVE to. They can go play on their boyfriend's Wii, we don't NEED them here.

Instead the game needs to evolve over time. This means it's okay for new champions to have abilities that stray a bit from the simple design direction. You point out that an ability that deals damage if you move is too complicated. That's not actually true I think. Even new players can pick this up after having been hit with it twice. All it needs is a better UI or SFX to show the effects of these debuffs. Or, alternatively, a further expanded death recap that also includes a mouse over tooltip of the abilities that killed you.

AoE abilities that deal more damage the longer you stand in them, abilities that interact with buffs/debuffs, for example extra damage to stunned targets, more involved resource systems like adrenaline (Guild Wars fan :P), combo points, ... These mechanics are not complicated, they really really aren't. Yet, I doubt they'd make it into the game after looking at the list.

I would very much like to see an evolution of abilities for new champion as well as retrofitting champions with upgraded abilities for those that need it. In other words, fixing old champions by adding functionality to abilities rather than simple number tweaking which isn't always the best solution. I would like to see the design rules become a little more flexible and forgiving. This doesn't mean four wicked original abilities for one champion, but at least one per, even if it would go conform to an anti-pattern.

TLDR: We also want a fun game, but fun doesn't mean the same thing to everyone. We want to be treated as intelligent minded gamers who can handle an average burden of knowledge and some more complex abilities because we believe in evolving the game rather than stagnating it to conform to the needs of very casual players.


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AychAychAych

Senior Member

11-28-2010

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zileas View Post
One of the most basic tenants of modern game design is that the goal of a design is to create a SATISFYING experience. Put simply, "The purpose of a game is to be fun". Do you disagree? Because it sure sounds like you are.
I believe in this. "The purpose of a game is to propose set of tools that allows the player to create entertainment for himself". How I see this as different objective is that the developer understands that he can't guarantee fun. I am not saying that game should annoy or frustrate the player on purpose, these two happen usually because people who can't enjoy the game try to. It would be meaningless for From Software, the creators of Demon's Souls to start renovating the game in such manner, that it would no longer be a stupid game for most of gamer population. And I see DotA-esque games in same situations. It takes somekind of attribute to stand AoS games. Yes, DotA is still one of the most popular games, yet it is also one of the most hated games at the same time.
Especially when it comes to free games. People who do not like the game, will pick it up anyway. Thus there will be people who will raise their voice about the flaws of the game, and the effort to please them would just be counter-productive to the game. This is an extreme example, but lot of people have played these unfair platformers such as IWTBTG or those japanese romhacked games. Would they be better games if they were not unfair, even if that defeats the purpose of them being unfair?
If you say you want to create a satisfactory experience, do you want to make it for everyone or just a certain group of people? I think that is the question.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zileas View Post
Power without gameplay is a situation where as a designer you are creating overhead and legwork for yourself (play balance issues) without creating much satisfaction (which should be your #1 goal). Modern design seeks to not make complicated mechanics well understood by advanced players and designers. The goal is to make satisfying gameplay. I think this is the most basic pattern of all, and the least controversial. I challenge you to find a well-respected western game designer who will disagree with me on this one. (i.e. someone who has been start-to-finish lead designer on a very successful western online game)
But what also creates satisfaction? Isn't it obvious if the game is more diverse, it will allow larger selection of tools for enjoyment? Satisfying gameplay. Where goes the line where you think diverse gameplay crosses over to "too complicated"? Because doesn't more and more diverse heroes and gameplay elements create more diverse and unique matches, which result in satisfying gameplay? We both know it is boring if each match is too alike to each other, people get tired of seeing the same champions for example.
It is starting to look like we disagree on what actually creates satisfaction and satisfying gameplay. I know lot of my peers found understand and being able to put that knowledge of mechanics into practical use.
But then again, if you know your demographic, it is easy to know what it wants. Confusing LoL community for the sake of making the game harder when they don't need it makes no sense either. Expand the market, to be the DotA-esque game to refine the concept to such form that it pulls most people. Maybe I am just one of those old dinosaurs of DotA age who still believe that players as a whole want to learn the game rather than just play it.You know your players better, I wont say much more.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zileas View Post

Well, there's this game called Starcraft. and it's really easy to understand and avoids this anti-pattern heavily. And it has as much or possibly more strategic depth than DOTA... just saying... This is an optimization. All things being equal, less burden is better. "hard to learn" is only beneficial for a hardcore base that already plays the product to protect their elitism and feelings of superiority over less experienced playres, but you can give them the same mastery with simple to learn, hard to master mechanics, as starcraft accomplished, and make the game way more accessible.
Of course Starcraft has lot more. Starcraft doesn't have tons of items to know or tons of heroes to remember. Starcraft can keep its units simple because there is never need to have only one unit. SC's strategic depth comes from something else than knowledge because the gameplay is lot less restrictive. DotA format on the other hand, is just so rigid. One hero per player. No more, no less. One hero needs to be complex enough so that it is not boring and simple enough so that playing it is not a math test AKA not like this guy. Then all different kind of items bring more diversity and multiple builds. I think someone else in this thread already said how Starcraft and DotA work differently.

The question is, what is -hard- to learn? I can understand why you want to make the game easy to learn, but I don't see what you classify as hard to learn. I have never seen Rupture as a hard to learn concept: you stop running or you die. Is it hard to learn if it requires you to notice you are taking damage? Is it hard to learn if you need to understand where the damage is coming from? Rupture is pretty much an alternative way to make an enemy hero immobile, because they do not want to move. If you want, you can just replace it with a hold so they can't move, so now people who are new to game don't run themselves to death. Is this the way you see it?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zileas View Post

I give up. You are just being argumentative. If you seriously think Kunkka's ship is an obvious use case and can think of a bunch of times you've used it 'perfectly' (without the use of differential equations), I'm not even sure if there's any rational argument you are going to have.
I just don't agree with some things you said, that is all.
Define "perfectly". I don't know about others, but to me it is pretty obvious. Make it pass through my friends, make it hit the enemy. To make it, position yourself between the enemy and your team. Either wait for them to be still for better accuracy or try to guess ahead of them. This is Kunkka's ship in nutshell. I have usually hit one to three enemy heroes and about half of my teammates on average. Better players than me do it better.
Is it bad if there are different kind of results for spells that rely on player skill?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zileas
Under this logic, DOTA would be a better game if you added 4 more abilities to each character, with each of those abilities being 'bad' abilities.
Oh please. Of course it is silly taken to extreme, just like the other end. The game would be pretty bad if it always told us what to do. Again it just falls under my idea that learning is part of the game too. Adds diversity if some choices are more powerful than others.

Zileas, do you belief diversity is a major part of satisfying gameplay?
also yes I was wrong about fighting games, I know there is ton of **** you need to know
it was a bad example, should had said something like "shoot-em-up and how obvious it is that touching anything kills"


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SulphoR

Senior Member

11-28-2010

shoulda try laning against zilean for an anti pattern then. that time bomb is so harrasable it makes me want to cry and hang him with cheese wire.


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BLTsammich

Senior Member

11-28-2010

Zileas,

It seems you guys have thought out very carefully how not to introduce specific abilities and mechanics that do not cause consistent player frustration. However, given that there is a great deal of player frustration and "rage" in the game, especially among the non-expert crowd, what do you attribute these frustrations to? Do you think there are still aspects of LoL's design besides abilities/mechanics which be changed to even further mitigate these frustrations (e.g, more fundamental things like map size / spawn times)?


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Rofflwafflz

Junior Member

11-28-2010

How about take out flash, but add in an item that has a Flash usable outside of combat? Like, for example, Galio could get it and blink into the middle of the fight for good initiation. At the same time, it wouldn't be a get out of jail free card for the people who make bad mistakes etc.


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Zileas

VP of Game Design

11-29-2010
139 of 282 Riot Posts

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mischka View Post
Can someone explain to me how EXHAUST is not antifun?
Regarding to:
-Fun Fails to Exceed Anti-Fun

All hail to exhaust-stacking
well, I dislike it too. We will nerf it some time soon.


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Zileas

VP of Game Design

11-29-2010
140 of 282 Riot Posts

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ragura View Post
Well, this is getting harder and harder to do. But the reasons aren't as clear cut as you make them out to be. The reason most of your list of solutions made it into modern game design has less to do with making a "good" game, but more to do with making a game tailored to everyone. Except, replace everyone with casual gamers.

The gamers of 10 years ago, the ones that enjoyed games such as Baldur's Gate to death (contains almost every anti-pattern), think these anti-patterns are an exeggeration. Nobody is saying fun factor is unimportant, nobody is asking for an overcomplicated mess of a game and nobody is looking for a game that only elite players can play.
Actually, I think that BG 1 and to a greater extent BG2 are much stronger games than dragon age. The reason is that while the writing of Dragon Age is much better, BG2 gives a lot of very satisfying spells and items, while DA just has occasionally satisfying spells.

Additionally, BG2 has only a few 'screw the player' situations, while DA is stock full of them with stun locking NPCs and really out of control dynamic difficulty scaling. So I would say that the things that make BG1 and 2 great are in fact areas where t hey don't have many anti-patterns, and mostly are a good game ;p Dragon Age, to me, is a major step back mechanically vs BG2 in most cases.

Quote:
However, modern game designers have only one goal in mind these days and it makes me so very sad: How can I get my 6 year old sister and 80 year old grandmother to also enjoy this game? How can I get the cheerleader into gaming? How can we make ONE game for EVERYONE?
That's not true, and this flies in the face of everything that has ever been learned about marketing. While everyone would LIKE to sell an 'all' product, aside from a few very narrow things usually involving monopoly power, this just isn't possible because different customers have different requirements, and the more educated the customers become, the more discerning and 'nichey' they become. I think that gaming audiences are one of the most discerning of all.

Ultimately, broad appeal doesn't mean all appeal, and you are vastly over-simplifying here by equating 'casual' League of Legends users to 'general' casual users -- like farmville users. A "casual" league of legends player probably has played WoW and would be playing the latest Metroid or Call of Duty or whatever if they weren't playing LoL. Most people would call that a hardcore or mid-core gamer. It's possible to be a bit broader on a hardcore concept and still be hardcore -- with millions more users. But your argument seems based around this fallacy that there are two users -- 'hardcore' dudes like you, and a giant rabble of casual gamers who seek to destroy your fun through their market economics... when in fact, there's a tremendous number of types between.

We can't be successful appealing to 50,000 people, but we can appealing to several million. Just like you have stuff like True Blood, which appeals to a 'broad niche', you have the same in games. When you are choosing between games, as a gamer, you pick the most niche one that appeals a lot to you and which you are aware of. Broader appeal means there is more chance you know about it, but at some point, too broad means you won't like it as a serious gamer. Additionally, lots of decisions we can make please everyone -- so why shouldn't we do them? Good game design optimizes between these choices to get the least negative and the most positive.

Anyway, go look up some of the market sizing on this stuff. Casual games are not where the majority of game industry money. Sure, Facebook games make a lot. But compared to hardcore games in general? Compared to hardcore online games? Not as much...


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Swampf0x

Senior Member

11-29-2010

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zileas View Post
well, I dislike it too. We will nerf it some time soon.
I think Ragura makes some very strong points when it comes down to "complex mechanics" not being so complex, especially when presented in front of a crowd that plays this game as much as 8 hours a day, some even since beta stage.

I'd really like to see some of the aforementioned mechanics added to the game, regardless of how they don't fit in this game's patterns.


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4BCzhIBA86vfibsX

Member

11-29-2010

I love this post, but I don't think there is anything wrong with Rupture. It took me 1 game to figure out what the debuff looked like and exactly what it did. From then on, I understood that I could move and take a certain amount of damage, or stand still and get beat on until it ended.

I think decisions like this are fun.


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Heely

Senior Member

11-29-2010

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zileas View Post
Casual games are not where the majority of game industry money. Sure, Facebook games make a lot. But compared to hardcore games in general? Compared to hardcore online games? Not as much...
Tell that to Zynga...

http://www.techi.com/2010/10/a-dark-...igger-than-ea/