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Game Feel
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INTRODUCTION PART 1: Deconstruction 1. Why Feel, Why Now? This chapter focuses on the impetus behind the book, asking the reader to recall the sensation of controlling a virtual avatar and talking about why feel is so important (and why it is often overlooked.) 2. The Grand Scheme of Game Design This chapter assigns feel a place in the larger realm of game design, defining its scope and boundaries, talking about how it fits into creating the Ultimate Game Experience of life-enriching flow and empowerment. Using diagrams and research derived from Maslow's Pyramid of Wants and Will Wright's concept of Granularity, feel is identified as one of the atomic units of game construction, one of the most basic building blocks of interactivity. 3. Games that don't Feature Virtual Sensation There are some types of digital games - Civilization, Solitaire, the Sims, and so on - that don't focus on feel or utilize it as one of their core elements, separating them from what will be discussed in the book. An interesting aside is that we are indeed experiencing virtual sensation whenever we use a mouse but that it is so intuitive and familiar that there's really no rational motion translation or skill to build. This brings up an interesting point: much of the pleasure of controlling something purely visual is in the challenge of mastering it, in the obfuscation. In fact, we're wired to receive pleasure for remapping our neural pathways to gain skill and mastery in this way, and it's one of the reasons that overcoming challenges (playing games) is so pleasureable. 4. What is Feel? How do players experience feel? It seems to be mostly subconscious, though there are some artifacts that will be of use to us. Citations here of various forum scrapings and interviews with players looking for feel descriptors (floaty, twitchy, smooth, unresponsive etc?) What does academia have to say about feel? What are the metrics that can be used for such experiences, and what kinds of research have been done along these lines? How can we better know what players are thinking, experiencing, and feeling, and what beneficial, applicable research has come before? A brief introduction to Flow Theory. Where does the rubber meet the road? How do game designers categorize various types of feel? What is their common language for describing it and what do they think about it? How do they test for it? Is there any kind of standard emerging? 5. Where Does Feel Exist? Virtual Sensation is a slippery phenomenon, arising from a system that includes software, hardware, input device, feedback device, and live players. Where does it occur, why, and how? It appears to occur primarily in the player's mind. If we view this as the ultimate goal - programming the player rather than the game (a Will Wright quote) - we begin to see that many different, equally valid strategies arise for creating sensation. This includes physics simulation, baked or layered on animation, ancillary effects such as screen shake, and tactile or external effects like controller rumble. Interestingly, the only thing a game designer can really affect (unless that game designer gets to design controllers and hardware too, like Nintendo's Miyamoto) is the space between player and game, often called mapping. A final note here is on the power of metaphor to frontload a lot of player programming, to load up a library as it were. Using a strong, easy to comprehend metaphor lowers barrier to entry and makes it much easier for players to engage with and find enjoyment with a given virtual sensation. PART 2: Classification 6. Genres: the Ugly Legacy A brief discussion of Genre Theory in film and classification in biology followed by a survey of the current game genres we have. A possible alternative for classifying games based on player experience rather than metaphor, perspective, or common rules and structural elements. 7. Foundation for Classification A comprehensive survey and deconstruction of the current state of game classification among players and game designers. 8. Virtual Sensitivity This provides the building blocks for a new system of classifying feel in games, based on the concept of virtual sensitivity (which includes Input and Reaction Sensitivity, and the affordances of input devices.) 9. Constraints Define Sensation The new classifications will be based on constraints and context, which are the primary ways a designer can create feel for a user. This includes various types and implementations of collision, gravity, dampening, and the method by which arbitrary force is applied to the system (through user input.) Finally, we account for context, both spatial and temporal, and how much this affects virtual sensation. For example, the same mechanic feels wildly different in the context of a cramped, overfull level. In a level where the objects are spaced in a way that's well suited to the mechanic, the same mechanic will feel great. 10. The Role of Sound How sound affects virtual sensation. In some instances (Pong and Wii Sports: Tennis provide nice bookends) sound is the main component of a game's virtual sensation. Again, it's all about creating impression in the player's mind. 11. Ancillary Indicators A discussion of screen shake and other ?Camera? effects and how they relate to virtual sensation. How can a well timed screen shake make something seem heavier? Conventions here have been primed and borrowed from film. Another interesting direction is in haptics and tactile feedback. This may be the future of virtual sensation. 12. The Importance of Metaphor How to factor metaphor into our classification. Should we? Or should we evaluate virtual sensation as if everything were reduced to its primary elements (had no metaphorical representation.) 13. How People Perceive Things Realism in Games The Real World vs. the Ideal World Every Game is Principia 14. A New Taxonomy of Feel in Games The culmination: a new classification of feel in games including everything discussed up to this point: Smooth, Hard, Floaty, Twitchy, whatever the final classification structure ends up being. 15. A Brief History of Feel in Games Important advances in game feel, with our new classification method applied. Oscilloscope Pong Spacewar, Asteroids, and Lunar Lander Atari Pong > Magnavox Pong Arcade Revelry - Space Invaders, Pac Man, Defender, Tempest, Joust The Jumping Man Mario Evolves Mighty Wings A Platformer Without Jumping Speed Machines Speed Machines 2 The Third Dimension Modern Refinements PART 3: Measurement 16. Existing Game Metrics Soft versus hard metrics. What are the existing metrics, if any for measuring a game's feel? A note here about the difference between soft metrics (are the players having fun?) and hard metrics (what was the score?) 17. How to Measure Feel On a scale of 1-10, what is love? The point here is that what we're trying to measure is very subjective, very difficult to quantify as a hard metric. Once again, what the players are telling us and what it means. Also, what measures and methods are available to use from the realm of behavioral psych and congnitive science? Likert scales, interviews, Csikszentmihyali's methods. How can we measure type, amount, and how do we account for subjectivity? 18. Four Metrics for Feel Four ways to measure the feel of a game. 1. Timelapse Diagramming 2. Playtesting Relativity Traditional Playtesting or "See What Sticks" Usability Testing Virtual Sensation Testing 3. The Input/Reaction Axis How to Apply Metrics 4. Integration with the Design Process PART 4: Creation 19. Exercises Sensitivity in Space Asteroids Spacewar Lunar Lander Sensitivity on Platforms Super Mario Brothers Sonic Bionic Commando Ghosts N Goblins Sensitivity in Flight Pilotwings Captain Skyhawk Afterburner Super Monkey Ball Sensitivity on the Road Gran Tourismo Mario Kart Grand Theft Auto Sensitivity in 3d Super Monkey Ball Super Mario 64 God of War Mario Kart DS 20. Feel the Future There are two main places for virtual sensation to go: new types of reaction, and new kinds of input. Look at games like Gish, Ski Stunt Simulator, and other physics games to get a sense of where reaction sensitivity can go, the different forms it can take on. Look at input devices like the Wiimote, Sixaxis controller, and Novent Falcon haptic feedback pen to get a sense of where input devices can go. 21. Where Can Feel Go? As a whole, where else can virtual sensation go? What frontiers is it pushing towards? What are its unsolved problems? What should its frontiers be?

Reviews

The following game design luminaries have promised quotes: Jonathan Blow, Company: Number-None, Game: Braid Matthew Wegner, Development Director, Flashbang Studios, LLC, Games: Sealab 2021 Sweet Mayhem Aubrey Hesselgren, Game Designer, Amorphous, Games: Hoop World, Unannounced XBLA game Derek Yu, Artist, Game Designer, Bit Blot, Games: Aquaria, I'm O.K. Alec Holowka, Programmer, Game Designer, Bit Blot, Games: Aquaria Katherine Isbister, Associate Professor, Rensselaer Polytech (RPI), Morgan Kaufmann game author.

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