Assignment nr. 4: Experimental game design

I chose chapter 20 Experimental Game Design. Design experiments are part of most game developments. So first of all experimental game design has to be done strictly and secondly it has to find answers to more questions, not just how to make a game better. The aim of this method is to understand something general and the basic side of the game.

In experimental game design, game testing is not actually necessary. Many parts of the game can be tested without involving players. Game designers use other tools for that, like Excel to calculate the game balance. It is possible to experiment also with simulated players. Problem with these methods is that, they generalize the player by using the information they know about how the player might behave.

Experimental game design can be used on sketchy or fully developed games or prototypes, which are made public for some time period. There are controlled experiments which seek answers for descriptive or evaluative questions and experimentations; which are more open where the goal is to explore and develop innovative solutions. It can concentrate on a certain aspect of the game or full game.

Controlled experiments are mostly used for empirical experimentation. There you compare multiple setups while changing some small parameters to measure the effects. You can perform a controlled experiment where different participants can experience different game conditions or each of them can try all the conditions.

Controlled experiments can be used to study how people learn how to play games and in gameplay experience research. They have found interesting use in online gaming industry. Launching A and B online test at the same time to different player population and is later evaluated based on player responses. For example if one version of the game is played more, then that version can be launched as new standard. In order to do experiments the game has to be fully developed and run smoothly.

It can be challenging to experiment with the game design, since every part of the design is connected to each other and changing one aspect might change the game itself. Also one problem with controlled game experiments is that the players can play game differently. Games can be played in several ways and changing some minor aspect in game design can change the way how people play the game. Controlled experiments have to be repeated several times to get reliable results.

On the other hand informative design experiments are less strict and are done for understanding the abstract qualities of the games in general. Also to understand how some design choices evoke different behaviour and experiences in players.

It might not matter who is playing the game, sometimes the designers themselves can also be testers, but then the problem is that the designers will design game for themselves. Though the experimental testing is done by designers, but if the research questions are related to target group then the testing is done with them from the start. Game mechanics can be tested as a board game and also there is body-storming where you can study the social or physical interaction between people.

Although the evocative game design experiments are easy to carry out but there is some problems. First of all the game has to be simple. In order to test a part of the game then that factor has to be fully taken out from the game. But also game has to be playable so the game has to have something which players can interact.

Since I like playing MMORPG’s, so for second part of the assignment I chose game called “Rocket League”. As an example I would make a new in game map with different aspects. For this I would choose controlled experimental game design method. For testing, I would make it available only for EU server.  On this test map I would for example increase the car speed in the game but would remove the speed buffs which are used to get boost. In addition I would put some obstacles on the map so controlling the ball and scoring goals would be bit more difficult. I can study the change of players behaviour how much it changed the car control for them and also the motivation to play the new map. Also if there were changes in teamwork and communication with players.

I can only speculate that constant speed and also having obstacles would change the players style of controlling the car in game. As for teamwork since the scoring is not so easy anymore the players have to communicate with each other more and use voice chat more often than before. Now the players have to make decisions faster and let others know what they are doing. For some players, the changes can be difficult to adapt to and it would lower their motivation to play the new map.  But since we know there are different players and different ways people play, then for some the map can bring change and make the game more challenging and interesting. This would result in making the new map more popular. In order to see if the map has any future or not is to see how much people play it and also getting feedback on forums; and in game popup questions can give some idea how players are liking the new map and game aspects.

Since I did not take part in this games alfa and beta testing so I cannot say which changes they have made. Therefore all of the above is just my own imagination of how I would use experimental game design method.

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