Saturday, April 1, 2017

Day 111 FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 111 - Lens 69: The Lens of Interest Curve
What captivates the human mind often seems different for every person - but in fact it is remarkably similar for everyone. To see how a player's interest in your experience changes over time, ask yourself these questions:

If I draw an interest curve of my experience, how is it shaped?
First off interest curves are subjective, so mine does not equate to my players. Second I have worked on the structure of the game a lot to shift the interest curve to its present shape.  My curve as the designer is also not the same as a new player or even an advanced player, it is much more focused on the reactions of the other players and how engaged I need to be to maximize their enjoyment of the game.

The curve I intend of the players starts with a spike then a extended high plateau as they go through the tutorial section, then a tough as they fill out the board to the first conflict or challenge, then a spike for each challenge, then a large spike as they take the city, then a trough as the winner reads the victory note, then a spike if they pass it.

Does it have a hook?
Yes, the hook is the real time description and the esthetic of the game. This seems to be a pretty strong hook and gets most playtesters involved in the game.

Is there gradually rising interest punctuated by periods of rest?
Yes, the game rounds are short but the time from when you finish moving and others are finished is rest, as is the time when others are having a challenge. Of course players are also interested in observing and assessing in that time so it can also be seen as a period of interest. There is not as much rest time in this game as in almost any other game. Even a real time game like Loopin Louie has more rest as it has player elimination so the time you are waiting for the next game is rest.

Is there a grand finale, more interesting than everything else?
Well, that's the idea. I keep reworking the battle for the city to make it shine as the most interesting thing in the game. I am hopeful that the idea of making it be a challenge will help punch up the interest in that fight. Having it be just a straight fight is fast but feels kind of like a let down after all the effort to get there.

What changes would give a better interest curve?
I think the stronger finally is important, it needs to involve allies and the challenge mechanic. I have taught the players all of these mechanics and the finally does not use all of them. I also think there is a rough spot between the end of the tutorial and the first conflict where players are unsure what to do. Perhaps I could suggest that they explain what they have done on their turn for a few rounds until everyone is completely comfortable with what is going on.

Is there a fractal structure to my interest curve, should there be?
I think that there is, and that perhaps that is something that is intrinsic in any real time game. If the game is discrete then there is at least a minimal level of resolution to the interest curve, but with a real time game you can just keep zooming in.

I also think that in any game it would be interesting to zoom out and look at the curve over multiple plays. How does it change from the first to the second to the fifth to the hundredth game?

Do my intuitions about the interest curve match the observed interest of the players? 
They have not always matched, but I have adjusted the game so many times that I think the observed interest is close to my intent.

If I ask players to draw an interest curve, what does it look like?
I don't know! But I will ask players to do it for my next playtest!