"Simple" and "Easy" aren't the same thing

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Morello

Lead Designer

07-18-2012
1 of 11 Riot Posts

In this type of discussion, I think "simple" is the wrong paradigm to use (since simplicity isn't a goal in and of itself), but instead we think a lot about clarity. And you're right that clarity and "easy" aren't actually associated.

Let me go into detail about this - this is something that I think about a lot, and something I think is really misdiagnosed by a lot of the games industry currently.

What is clarity in regards to game design?

Clarity is a design paradigm in which you try to make gameplay-relevant information readable and understandable at a glance. From artistic direction to game design, from abilities to VFX, clarity (or the lack of it) effects every aspect of a game, top to bottom.

You said understandable at a glance! That is noobish/casual/etc

This is the broad misconception that couches this entire debate. Actually, most good competitive games have good to great clarity, and every single professional sport and highly-watched eSport has it too. The secret is, almost none of these games are simple or easy.

What are some examples of deep, clear games and sports?

My favorite go-to is Counter Strike. While this is somewhat a byproduct of 2000-era gaming technology, Counter Strike is extremely clean and easy-to-read. There's no clutter, foliage or camolague in regards to players and textures. Maps are generally well-lit. Weapons act in an understandable and predictable fashion, things happen in ways you intuitively expect, and when big pro plays happen, everyone from a first-time spectator to a top player understands it happened - and more importantly why it's fun, cool and exciting.

On top of this, its also very competitive, has a hardcore rule set (high lethality, weapon money snowballing, round-based permadeath) and has been a dominant competitive force for a about a decade. Clear, but deep, skillful and fun. I could name a laundry list of less competitive games that are also equally less clear.

Other examples are American football, Chess (to an extent) and the original Starcraft. Oh, and League of Legends.

Hi Morello, I'm a hardcore, competitive gamer and will overcome any obstacle or learning curve. Why the Hell do I care about clarity?

While I fit into this camp too (Fighting games have you learning how many frames moves are, Natural Selection, etc), clarity is important because legitimacy as a real competitive game relies on two associated values: high "watchability" and fresh competitive blood to enhance the scene and replace teams and players who leave, which is inevitable at some rate. Basically, will it be a spectacle for all levels of players to watch and get excited about, and is there a sensible path from highly skilled to amateur competitor to pro player.

Also, it makes it easier to explain complex mechanics because you can more clearly show what's happening on a basic level and get people started, whether just to your friends or teammates, or to mentor less sophisticated players.

Anything that makes a game harder makes it more competitive, and therefore, better.

This is the other Red Herring argument - it's not only false, but difficulty isn't a goal in its own right. What is important is ways to make skillful plays meaningful, let that be deep, interesting and fun, and to let the best players consistently win because they are better at the game. Depth is the goal which infers some minimum amount of "difficulty to master," which is good when done well.

Go add resource micromanagement to Counter-Strike. Add skillshot aiming to Starcraft. Add "builds" to chess, and you end up with three very inferior games and inferior competitive titles. More is not always better, but instead, making smart specific choices adds depth and costs little in the way of clarity. Doing it wrong detracts from what is interesting, exciting or skillful about the game in the first place.

To anyone who says League of Legends is an easy game...you're ****ing high. MOBA's core ruleset is incredibly complex and takes a lot of skill and coordination just to navigate at a base level. Being good at it takes tons of time, dedication, tribal knowledge, understanding a shifting metagame, and being able to do this seamlessly in a real-time environment where a single mistake can cost an entire game. It's simply not dumb, easy or overly simple, and I personally feel it's really snobby to think it even could be.

tl;dr: Clarity is the most important thing on this front, and when done right, makes a game more deep and make more sense. These are not competing goals, but instead, complimentary ones.


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Newguy9854

Senior Member

07-18-2012

Morello, better nerf irelia.


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Nishaven90

Senior Member

07-18-2012

Good guy Morello.


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Whizzard

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Senior Member

07-18-2012

yay morello


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Aela Brighteyes

Member

07-18-2012

What is morello even doing up right now?


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Flightmaster69

Senior Member

07-18-2012

honestly more people play this game over DotA not becuase its simpler or some other stupud reason DotA players provide. People play this game over other for 1 simple reason that people do not acknowledge. League is a better game than DotA fullstop.


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Red XVI

Senior Member

07-18-2012

Quote:
Originally Posted by Morello View Post
.
lay down your arms, elitists. you cant argue with that.


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how2pley

Senior Member

07-18-2012

Not to step on your toes Morello, but Starcraft does have skillshots in spells and Counterstrike (even though I never played it) I assume has limited ammo/nades and I'm sure has limited clip sizes, which in a way is resources management.

Bad mechanics is one of the primary reasons Starcraft lasted as an E-sports this long infact, things like not being able to hotkey multiple production buildings (speaking of SC1 here), as well as other difficulty/faulty controls despite taking away from casual appeal both in terms of watching and playing added to the enjoyability and complexity of the competitive scene.


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Slashiroth

Senior Member

07-18-2012

Simple and easy is very similar really. At least from my perspective, DOTA took me considerably longer to get good at.

LoL is not easy to get lets say, gold rating, but its easy to get to 800 rating, at least thats from my standpoint, it depends on your rating and such.

But as a game I find LoL simple and easy, but i dont care, i love the game because its simple.


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PuIsefire Lux

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Senior Member

07-18-2012

Quote:
Originally Posted by Morello View Post
In this type of discussion, I think "simple" is the wrong paradigm to use (since simplicity isn't a goal in and of itself), but instead we think a lot about clarity. And you're right that clarity and "easy" aren't actually associated.

Let me go into detail about this - this is something that I think about a lot, and something I think is really misdiagnosed by a lot of the games industry currently.

What is clarity in regards to game design?

Clarity is a design paradigm in which you try to make gameplay-relevant information readable and understandable at a glance. From artistic direction to game design, from abilities to VFX, clarity (or the lack of it) effects every aspect of a game, top to bottom.

You said understandable at a glance! That is noobish/casual/etc

This is the broad misconception that couches this entire debate. Actually, most good competitive games have good to great clarity, and every single professional sport and highly-watched eSport has it too. The secret is, almost none of these games are simple or easy.

What are some examples of deep, clear games and sports?

My favorite go-to is Counter Strike. While this is somewhat a byproduct of 2000-era gaming technology, Counter Strike is extremely clean and easy-to-read. There's no clutter, foliage or camolague in regards to players and textures. Maps are generally well-lit. Weapons act in an understandable and predictable fashion, things happen in ways you intuitively expect, and when big pro plays happen, everyone from a first-time spectator to a top player understands it happened - and more importantly why it's fun, cool and exciting.

On top of this, its also very competitive, has a hardcore rule set (high lethality, weapon money snowballing, round-based permadeath) and has been a dominant competitive force for a about a decade. Clear, but deep, skillful and fun. I could name a laundry list of less competitive games that are also equally less clear.

Other examples are American football, Chess (to an extent) and the original Starcraft. Oh, and League of Legends.

Hi Morello, I'm a hardcore, competitive gamer and will overcome any obstacle or learning curve. Why the Hell do I care about clarity?

While I fit into this camp too (Fighting games have you learning how many frames moves are, Natural Selection, etc), clarity is important because legitimacy as a real competitive game relies on two associated values: high "watchability" and fresh competitive blood to enhance the scene and replace teams and players who leave, which is inevitable at some rate. Basically, will it be a spectacle for all levels of players to watch and get excited about, and is there a sensible path from highly skilled to amateur competitor to pro player.

Also, it makes it easier to explain complex mechanics because you can more clearly show what's happening on a basic level and get people started, whether just to your friends or teammates, or to mentor less sophisticated players.

Anything that makes a game harder makes it more competitive, and therefore, better.

This is the other Red Herring argument - it's not only false, but difficulty isn't a goal in its own right. What is important is ways to make skillful plays meaningful, let that be deep, interesting and fun, and to let the best players consistently win because they are better at the game. Depth is the goal which infers some minimum amount of "difficulty to master," which is good when done well.

Go add resource micromanagement to Counter-Strike. Add skillshot aiming to Starcraft. Add "builds" to chess, and you end up with three very inferior games and inferior competitive titles. More is not always better, but instead, making smart specific choices adds depth and costs little in the way of clarity. Doing it wrong detracts from what is interesting, exciting or skillful about the game in the first place.

To anyone who says League of Legends is an easy game...you're ****ing high. MOBA's core ruleset is incredibly complex and takes a lot of skill and coordination just to navigate at a base level. Being good at it takes tons of time, dedication, tribal knowledge, understanding a shifting metagame, and being able to do this seamlessly in a real-time environment where a single mistake can cost an entire game. It's simply not dumb, easy or overly simple, and I personally feel it's really snobby to think it even could be.

tl;dr: Clarity is the most important thing on this front, and when done right, makes a game more deep and make more sense. These are not competing goals, but instead, complimentary ones.
Whatchoo doin up at 2 am.