Today I want to talk about Clarity –
“The quality of being clear, coherent and intelligible”
One of the most important factors when it comes to Game Design is how easily the player can discern what they are expected to do. When playing a game for the first time, players naturally ask themselves questions like:
“Whats my goal?”
“Why did that happen?”
“How do I progress?”
“Whats this for?” etc.
If the answers to these questions are not made readily available, they will continue to be asked, and soon enough, will negatively impact the players experience. Now, there are a number of simple ways in which this can be handled, the most obvious of which is to simply tell the player what they should do, and why, using text. However, this option tends to be avoided, as it is a little unimaginative, boring, thoughtless etc. After all, Game Development is a creative process, why should the method in which we aid a players exploration of our game be anything else?
An option with slightly more thought would be to simply weave it into the story of the game, that way, the player still gets to remain enthralled in the world of the game; their character getting the information they need to meet their directives, and the player is getting the same by extension.
Of course, there are countless ways in which the player can discover the mechanics of a game; from explicit direction to trial and error. It is our job to figure out the most appropriate way in giving the player the information they need.
Sometimes however, options for giving the player this information are limited; what if the game doesn’t have an explicit narrative? What if the nature of the games design made it hard to find creative ways of giving the players help?
The fact of the matter is this; the onus is on us as developers to find a way around any and all problems that our design/ implementation has caused us; if that means we have no alternative than to change the design, so be it.
Another “C” which goes hand in hand with the concept of Clarity is Consistency. If we are to maintain clarity throughout a game, being consistent in our design decisions is extremely beneficial, as it makes it so much easier for the developers, but more importantly the players to easily keep track of what is expected of them.
All in all, it is easy to get wrapped up in your game; to be absorbed by your game. To be blinkered by an attachment that can hinder and objective creative process. Sometimes however, it is useful to take a step back and ask yourself if you are staying true to these simple yet powerful boundaries.
Staying within them is the key to good design, and ultimately, a fun game.