Author: rubix

Estimating Gameplay Entertainment and Intensity Values

Without some static and continually observable stimuli to document for empirical repeatability gauging entertainment value and gameplay intensity becomes far more challenging. Clearly those with the resources to record data on the matter with a high degree of reliability as far as their recording techniques go have the upper hand. However there are a few starting points and tools that can be used to get a better sense of what is more entertaining and optimally challenging.

An intuitive conception of what sort of notion is worthwhile as far as entertainment goes is inquiring whether the user has stopped playing the game prior to the typical length of time one remains attentive to a task that requires learning. In long-winded games, for instance, a user that stops playing twenty minutes into gameplay is likely not a satisfied one and most likely one who has not completed the game. The same user can play a different game for hours, and through data it can easily be shown that the characteristics and preferences of the player matter little as compared to the entertainment value of the game, measured in this case by the duration of play. Thus there is something to say about the quantification of entertainment as a value and there are some distinct indicators that can be adjusted to compliment gameplay as needed.

On the elementary level a risk-and-reward system must be created in order to take advantage of the primitive behaviors which partially undergird game interaction. Thus there must be a clear way in which the player interacts that offers a risk or punishment mechanism and a reward mechanism. These systems vary greatly but the evident value of a game dissipates without one or the other. Imagine, for instance, a shooter game where nobody dies or a football game where nobody keeps score. Chiefly among the characteristics which influence the understood value of an interaction is timing. Various parts of the brain contribute to risk-and-reward and participate in recording delays in some manner, such as the frontal and parietal cortex, the amygdala and the striatum [1]. Generally, the greater the delay in reward the less of a response is given to stimuli acting as reward-predictors. However in the case of the amygdala, for instance, neuronal response varies based on the population of neurons and the probability of instantaneous reward. Despite the complications the primary obvious issue is the relevance of timing in a reward system and the variation of the response according to the duration of the delay before the reward is given. Any game whose rules force the delay between action and reward to last far beyond the duration of the activity should not be expected to have the same type of satisfaction as those that moderate the proportion of investment value to delay.

Alongside this ought to be taken into account the relevance of user-control and the degree of control, since this appears to have a relationship with entertainment value or compliance; data showed that, comparatively, a more user-controlled environment lead to greater compliance measures than an automated environment [2]. Providing freedom and efficacy within the constraints of a game should generally lead to a more engaged player. This includes such seemingly inconsequential details such as the choice of reward and operation of play within the rules of a game.

There is also something to say about the juncture between the risk-and-reward system and the level of intensity or challenge of the game, as dopamine may be relevant in relation to gameplay performance [3]. Perceived difficulty has been recorded to increase monotonically (consistent increase) with measured difficulty and there is a threshold beyond which the goal of the game in question is rejected by the majority of users [4]. Thus the best sure method of intensity optimization is experimentation with a group of individuals within the population of the target audience. The design objective is to maintain a challenging encounter and goal acceptance and a high probability of success while conceding some leeway when it comes to probability of success.

In most cases it is not possible for designers operating on a small scale to gather the resources to experiment with control groups of a population so as to optimize gameplay performance and entertainment value but there are various human-universal characteristics which may contribute to the creation of a foundation on which smaller-scale testing can occur.


Works Cited:

[1] Bermudez, M. A., & Schultz, W. (2014). Timing in reward and decision processes. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences369(1637), 20120468. doi:10.1098/rstb.2012.0468

[2] Nagle, A., Riener, R., & Wolf, P. (2015). High User Control in Game Design Elements Increases Compliance and In-game Performance in a Memory Training Game. Frontiers in psychology6, 1774. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01774

[3] Koepp MJ, Gunn RN, Lawrence AD, Cunningham VJ, Dagher A, Jones T, Brooks DJ, Bench CJ, Grasby.(1998). Evidence for striatal dopamine release during a video game. PM Nature. 393(6682):266-8.

[4]  Erez, Miriam & Zidon, Isaac. (1984). Effect of goal acceptance on the relationship of goal difficulty to performance. Journal of Applied Psychology. 69. 69-78. 10.1037/0021-9010.69.1.69.

Review: Skyrim – Rigmor of Cyrodiil

In short terms Rigmor of Cyrodiil demonstrates that immoderation of detail and a unidimensional focus of development is an awful design combination.

Rigmor of Cyrodiil is a heavily story-driven narrative molded within Skyrim that takes the player on a journey to Cyrodiil where they encounter among their allies and enemies factions vying for political power.

Insofar as one can trace the compositions of meshes of visual structures to other creations the author cannot independently demonstrate their ability to compose well-formed architectural structure, but there are occasions that upset that typical reality, and in such occasions the author demonstrates the ability to create organized structure on a basic level. Consider the visual presentation of the entrance and exit to the maze and the topography of Bruma and Cyrodiil; they at least have a basic organization of visual harmony; there are pathways, organizational structural divisions and centered visualizations that work together to compose the geometry that makes up the architectural layout. However, there is hardly any demonstration of elaboration on architecture that can be attributed to the author and whenever the level design strays away from imitating preconceived locations most of the architectural motifs and contours vanish and the player is left witnessing completely simplistic designs. There are pathways such as the hallways in central Cyrodiil, for instance, but the crude geometry is exposed and there is no artistic variation within them. Likewise, preconceived environments have little creative touch to the degree that they can be altered for a sense of the author’s unique artistic presence.

Most environmental atmospheres presented in the level design are mild. Much of the potential that could be realized from preconceived environments such as the constructs within Bruma and Cyrodiil which come from other works dissipates due to poor visuals in the form of extremely low-quality textures. The best examples of visual immersion made manifest are in the exteriors where much of the terrain is lush with objects that harmoniously compose a believable environment. This contributes both to detailing and visual immersion. The music contributes to the immersion to enough of a degree that the auditory domain is not left unattended and some modifications to specialize interiors are made such as acoustic spaces, but beyond these additions auditory immersion is left largely untouched. Although the rubric does not necessarily concern itself with technical execution it is worth noting the technical malpractices rampant throughout Skyrim modding, most notorious of which is the production of poor-quality voice sounds that destroy auditory immersion almost completely in every case where they are present. This mod is no exception to the norm. Detailing of the visual kind is present enough to demonstrate adequacy as far as decorating environments goes, but no case is reached that can be construed as a steeled display of visual wealth in environmental detail. The placements and compositions of the placements of static miscellanea are typical throughout the locations encountered in the main quest from Bruma to Cyrodiil, for instance.

There is almost no evidence of gameplay as far as any conventional gameplay in Skyrim is concerned, such as combat, exploration, or questing. Instead the player is taken through some elongated link of scenes that unravel the plot, wherein some variation in choice is allowed so as to present a set of rules, choices and implications that may be construed as a game, but where no challenge can be definitively recognized and no distinct point can be found in small enough increments so as to motivate the existence of such a game. For instance, it takes over half an hour of dialogue to get to a point where the player can make some choices that vary the plot somewhat, but the whole idea of that gameplay breaks down in that there is no concept of winning or losing for a very long time, and the incremental steps that can be taken within such a game show little effect as far as game interaction goes. Finally after well over an hour of dialogue and travel, the player is presented with a maze and the entertainment is drawn out by suspense and the environmental transition of the player, but any climax is essentially non-existent as the player is not met with any sort of challenge at the end of the maze, but another drawn-out dialogue. This sort of pattern is rampant throughout the mod. Falskaar had, almost definitively, one of the slowest mundane introductions among other large-scale mods, clocking in at least ten minutes of dialogue and travel. Comparatively, this mod exceeds that amount by at least threefold. Hence the flux, while highly consistent, may be one of the slowest in Skyrim modding history, and thus partially defeats the purpose of gameplay flux.

The storyline is highly detailed. Virtually every primary character can be recognized by their personality and relationships. Many secondary characters don’t have much distinction from generic templates of participants in a medieval “politics and romance” story, although comparatively such a statement is trivial in light of the similarity to Skyrim’s secondary characters. The character’s motives follow along with the plot that gradually develops as the player converses with those involved, but not in any way that would strongly distinguish this particular storyline from the romantic and devious political ploys of a microcosm in a medieval play. All the predictable character templates are present: the manipulative and sinister queen, the hopelessly romantic, naïve princess, the deceptive and seemingly admirable noble courting her, the independent and gallant hero, and so forth. The plot follows a similar track. The uniqueness of this story largely comes from the deviation found between particular characters, such as Morag and Rigmor, the former typically being entirely antipathetic towards the latter though is not entirely so in this case. The depth is difficult to explore for the first half of the plot as much of it is spent listening to monologues about the political minutiae of the time and overindulging in a glutinous amount of detail elaborating a particular character, relationship, or scene.

Most players expecting an engaging mod in this case will be let down. They ought to expect slow and extremely detailed dialogues in which most of the discussion is concerned with topics adjacent to occurrences in the plot. The number of countable details given within a creation does not guarantee nor correlate in a quantifiable way with high-quality design. In short terms Rigmor of Cyrodiil demonstrates that immoderation of detail and a unidimensional focus of development is an awful design combination.


Overall Rating: 3.275/10

Tier Rating: 1

Rating ElementScore
Visual Immersion0.375
Auditory Immersion0.25
Visual Impact0.375
Conceptual Impression0.25
Visual Awe0.125
Visual Creativity0.0
Character Development0.5
Plot Development0.5

Review: Skyrim – Republic of Maslea

Reviewer: Xoleras777

The novelty and grandeur expressed here is overpowered by the severely lacking fundamental elements of design.

The Republic of Maslea, or Maslea for short, is a medium-scale DLC mod for Skyrim that mixes in some unique touches in to what would normally be a typical content package. Alas the broad strokes of this mod’s personality are painted on an unkempt canvas and it’s the fundamentals that overpower the more unique parts of the mod.

The outside world design fares far better than the interiors overall as the lush, mild semi-tropical climate of the islands is convincing as scenery. However, the architecture in both exterior and interior design suffer the same flaws. The design demonstrates the ability to maintain proper architectural structure but there is no demonstration of quality that would reflect exceptional skill in the crafting of the constructs as the overwhelming case is a set of simplistic pieces that would have sufficed in very old game engines solely due to their incapacity to visualize more vivid details. In other words the level of architectural detail and structure the constructs display is something I would expect to be seen in the Goldsource engine or any other engine that is incapable of displaying elaborate detail due to its native limitations. There’s an argument to be made that at some point sufficiently acceptable implementation of conventional architecture supersedes poor implementation of novel architecture.

This is a bizarre case where the two unruly extremes of combat intensity exist. The combat intensity goes from incredibly easy to incredibly hard. At the same time the number of enemies you face reflects the same pattern, except that usually the combat tends to be on the lighter end and the number of enemies encountered in proportion to cell span is incredibly sparse. In summary there are a handful of enemies in every interior and slightly more in the outside world. The flux reflects the same extreme pattern. There are so few encounters in some interiors that the player flows through the map unperturbed, but every so often they come to a complete halt due to vagueness of direction and the player typically spends an order of magnitude more time figuring out what to do in such cases relative to the amount of time spent gliding through blank spaces. Aside from a few interesting plays at novelty this mod doesn’t attempt to implement unorthodox combat gameplay –the mod does include some new weapon additions but those are minor details. It does, however, try its hand at designing platforming challenges which are at least unique and unusual as compared to vanilla Skyrim levels. Overall it’s a painstaking experience and the entertainment value suffers thus. This description is applicable to both interior end exterior level sets.

Visual and auditory immersion are diluted by the quality of the materials used in each respectively. Extremely poor quality textures, erroneous mesh placement, poor-quality normal maps and so forth relieve the player of any immersion they had enjoyed up to the point when they encounter those aberrations. The constant, poor-quality sound in the form of voice overs and ambient compositions for environmental simulation (such as the collection of outside world noises played in some exterior areas) are often harmful to the sense of atmosphere that the exterior visuals provide. While the exteriors provide high detail density in terms of detail mesh count per cell, the details in the interiors are extremely sparse and often totally inexistent.

The exteriors, while convincing, go no further than what is sufficient. The islands, for instance, look like islands in considering everything from the base terrain to the detailing and the meshes, but an up close view displays awkward landscape texturing and a general absence of a coherent natural environment. It’s very easy, for example, to find a portion of the island composed of awkwardly sloping terrain and nothing but scattered vegetation that seems to have been placed lazily about in an indiscriminate manner. The interiors are more creative but no more impressive overall. There are some unique designs that tie into the gameplay but they are almost always awkwardly built and look incredibly plain. The first dungeon is a set of trials the player must venture through in order to retrieve elemental stones. This dungeon in particular is an excellent demonstration of the lack of visual impression and detail. Cubic rooms and plain spaces are something you’d expect to see in decades-old engines, not in the Creation Engine. There were some occasions in the interiors where the designer clearly attempted to magnify the conceptual impression and grandeur the unconvincing visuals overpower them in virtually every case.

The storyline is difficult to follow in that it isn’t made clear what the characters were involved in Skyrim in the first place and there’s no central theme, nor plot, nor convincingly dominant antagonist to drive the storyline forward in a cohesive way. Not to mention that it’s roughly drawn out and while there is plenty of detail regarding the background and lore of the mod, there remains a void where there would otherwise be a more gripping storyline. There is scarcely any voice acting done here and the voice acting that is done sounds like someone is repeating what they are given on a teleprompter. Few characters are developed and have any sense of personality largely due to the combination of voice acting quality and the lack of introspection one can do for the characters that are relevant insofar as there exists a loosely conjoined set of plot events in which they can be relevant.

In short the novelty and grandeur expressed here is overpowered by the severely lacking fundamental elements of design.

Rating ElementExteriorsInteriors
Visual Immersion0.3750.2
Auditory Immersion0.20.1
Visual Impact0.850.75
Concept Impression0.50.5
Visual Awe0.250.125
Character Development0.1250.125
Plot Development0.50.5

Overall Rating: 3.3625/10

Tier: 1