Notes on 21st Century Game Design

I thought I'd post a quick summary of the player model presented in the book 21st Century Game Design, by Chris Bateman. He has since come out with a new player model, but the old one is still interesting to think about.

If you want to learn more about the book, you can read the review on Lost Garden.

In this model, the audience is grouped into four types of players:
  • Conquerors care about Challenge
  • Managers care about Mechanics
  • Wanderers care about Worlds
  • Participants care about People
The system is based on the Myers-Briggs personality types:
  • Purpose- where you get your energy
    Introverted (I) - long sessions
    Extroverted (E) - short sessions

  • Learning - how you process information
    Intuitive (N) - hardcore
    Sensate (S) - casual

  • Motivation - how you make decisions
    Thinking (T) - competition
    Feeling (F) - simulation

  • Structure - how you manage your time
    Judging (J) - goals
    Perceiving (P) - process
The four player types are defined in these terms:
  • Conqueror (TJ) - competition (T) and goals (J)
  • Manager (TP) - competition (T) and process (P)
  • Wanderer (FP) - simulation (F) and process (P)
  • Participant (FJ) - simulation (F) and goals (J)
There are also four types of skills:
  • Strategic (NT) - think ahead, invent, coordinate others
  • Diplomatic (NF) - resolve conflicts, find similarities
  • Logistical (SJ) - meet needs, organize, optimize
  • Tactical (SP) - read the situation, take action
The four player types prefer using certain skills:
  • Conqueror (TJ) - strategic (NT) and logistical (SJ)
  • Manager (TP) - strategic (NT) and tactical (SP)
  • Wanderer (FP) - diplomatic (NF) and tactical (SP)
  • Participant (FJ) - diplomatic (NF) and logistical (SJ)
Hardcore and casual players also prefer certain skills:
  • Hardcore (N) - strategic (NT) and diplomatic (NF)
  • Casual (S) - tactical (SP) and logistical (SJ)
I've been finding it interesting to analyze my own game ideas in terms of what play styles and skills they support.

For example, I came up with a way for Adopt an Invader to cater to all four player types in this model - conquerors, managers, wanderers, and participants. And in doing so, I realized that trying to appeal to all four types would make the design much too big and ambitious to actually create. So I decided to focus on the conquerors and participants, and make the experience as enjoyable as possible for those two types.

In case you're wondering, my favorite style of play is probably that of the Wanderer, which makes sense, given that I also tend to prefer Explorer and Seeker play. I tend to care more about the overall experience and fun than about competition and challenge, and I like to focus on the process instead of worrying too much about goals. But in real life, I am extremely goal-oriented. Which is interesting. :)

However, these player types are not clear-cut boundaries. They are fuzzy generalizations about the average behavior of large groups of people. As the book says, "The four play types are not mutually exclusive; one or more can be enjoyed by each individual player."

Just keep that in mind and you'll be fine. ;) I hope you have as much fun as I have digesting this new player model! :)


Quotes of Eastern Wisdom

Doesn't that sound corny? Eastern wisdom? Almost as bad as saying Wisdom of the East. Horrible.

Anyway, last year I had one of those calendars where you get a quote every day, and it was called Wisdom of the East. Surprisingly enough, there were a few good quotes in there - which I saved so I could read them again every so often. I thought I'd share them with you here.

Who knows if you'll get anything out of them, but they are actually meaningful to me. Here we go!

"Praying is not about asking; it's about
listening... It is just opening your eyes to
see what was there all along."

- Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche

"If your desires do not accord with
your spirit, sacrifice them, and you will
come to the end of your journey."

- Attar

"Do not dwell in the past.
Do not dream of the future.
Concentrate the mind on the
present moment."

- Buddha

"Pleasure is a freedom song,
But it is not freedom.
It is the blossoming of your desires,
But it is not their fruit."

- Kahlil Gibran

"To get rid of your passions is not
nirvana - to look upon them as
no matter of yours, that is nirvana."

- Zen saying

"Whatever you want to be, start to
develop that pattern now. You can instill
any trend in your consciousness right
now, provided you inject a strong
thought in your mind; then your actions
and whole being will obey that thought."

- Paramahansa Yogananda

"You are unique as you are here and now.
You are never the same.
You will never be the same again.
You have never before been what
you are now. You will never be it again."

- Swami Prajnanpad

"The resistance to the unpleasant
situation is the root of suffering."

- Ram Dass

"...don't make any conjectures on good
and evil! Don't try to stop your thoughts
from coming. Ask yourself only this
question: 'Which is my own spirit?'"

- Bassui

"Man falls from the pursuit of the ideal of
plain living and high thinking the moment
he wants to multiply his daily wants.
Man's happiness really lies in contentment."

- Mahatma Gandhi

One at a time.


The Story of the Mountain Climber

Over the past few weeks, I've realized that I enjoy working in the domain that I have become fluent in, but find it frustrating to untangle a new, unfamiliar system while simultaneously trying to build something with it. I like exploring permutations and connections, rather than untangling difficult puzzles. And I am able to focus much better and use my time more productively when I am doing something I like.

And all of this has helped me realize that I don't want to be a game programmer. I want to be a game designer.

I like to explain this in terms of the Explorer and the Achiever player type. I am an Explorer (or Seeker). Programming, or engineering in general, tends to be most rewarding for Achievers, not Explorers. Achievers feel a rush of pleasure and energy when they finally solve a difficult challenge. I, on the other hand, tend to feel relief rather than excitement. What I like is the part that comes afterward.

Here's a little story to help visualize the situation.

Imagine climbing a mountain. I'm part of a team of engineers, laboriously lugging a heavy load of code up the mountainside. It's hard going, and we have to keep our heads down, focus on keeping a solid footing, freeing our load from snags, climbing over or around the boulders in our way. All the while, we have to stay coordinated and make sure the whole team is making steady progress up the mountain. Our determination and caffeinated beverages keep us going.

But I tire of this more quickly than my companions, and often turn to look out, away from the rocks and mud and out to the valley below. Something about this valley excites me, in a way the challenges of the mountain never could. But I turn back, grudgingly, to my teammates who still depend on me to carry my share of the load.

Eventually, finally, we reach the summit. Cries of triumph can be heard from all around, and a jubilant energy fills the air. I, too, am excited - now, with all that hard work and preparation out of the way we can finally begin! I look out across the magnificent vista spreading before my eyes and the terrain comes alive with plans and possibilities. I see empires rise and fall, resources flow and networks grow.

Then, I turn back to see my fellow engineers putting the last load of code into place, heaped atop the mountain, waiting for the designers who will be arriving tomorrow morning. Time to head back down! We'd better be on our way if we want to reach the next mountain in time!

Wait a minute - we're leaving already? The fun part was just about to start. No - but the others have already started down the mountain, caffeinated beverages in hand. Can't wait to conquer the next challenge. I turn to follow, reluctantly, with one last wistful glance over the vista that had so captivated me earlier.

Just another day in the life of an engineer.

Achievers get a big rush of pleasure upon reaching the top of a mountain. The bigger and more difficult the mountain, the bigger the rush. Explorers, like myself, enjoy looking out from the top of a mountain onto the world below. Just drink it in. Getting to the top isn't pleasurable in itself, it just means that the fun can finally begin.

The more patterns, the more connections, the more fun. That's what being an Explorer is all about.

I guess that should give me an edge in the next Casual Gameplay Design Competition. The theme is EXPLORE! ;)


BrainHex - A New Player Model

You know Richard Bartle's four player types - like Achiever, Explorer, Killer, and Socializer?

Well, I just found out about a new player model being tested right now, from Chris Bateman, author of 21st Century Game Design.

It's better, because it has seven player types instead of four! :p

But seriously, I like it. I think it has the right amount of detail to be descriptive, while also being simple enough to easily grasp and use. And it's supposed to be based on neurobiology, more or less.

Thus, it is called BrainHex. Yay! :D

What's it good for? One useful benefit is, if you're making a game with a team of other people, you can more easily anticipate arguments about the design if you know the type of each team member. You can predict what biases each person will have, and what sort of design decisions they'll be more inclined to support.

Even if you're working on your own, it can help you understand what sort of games you'll be better at designing. What sort of fun do you get out of games? That's probably the kind of fun you'll know how to make.

Plus it's fun to find out what type you are, in a silly kind of astrology way. You know.

You can take this really quick survey to find out your player type.

I'm a Seeker. A Seeker-Socialiser, to be precise. :)

"You like finding strange and wonderful things or finding familiar things as well as hanging around with people you trust and helping people."

That means I'm a cat and a dolphin. :)

That there's an iconic representation of my hippocampus and hypothalamus. Apparently my favorite parts of my brain. :) Endomorphin and oxytocin for the win! :D

I always knew I was the Explorer type. But I'm also very introverted, so until I took this test, I never seriously suspected that I could also be a Socializer. But I am. I derive great pleasure from cultivating connections and collaborating with talented awesome cool people. And realizing this is an eye-opener for me. I feel liberated at last! :D

When I first posted about this on the Mochi forum, I found that a lot of developers there are either Conquerors or Masterminds, or both. I wonder why that is.

What are you?

Find out and let us know! :D


Zero Punctuation Interactive

I've been watching Zero Punctuation reviews. What are those? "A short experimental film in which I attempt to make a video using only recorded speech and static images." Like this.

I saw that a Zero Punctuation contest has been announced, with really poor terms - basically, they own everything you submit, and you get nothing, except maybe some publicity, if you happen to be the one winner.

However, I am inexplicably intrigued by Zero Punctuation, and would really like to come up with a way to combine its "static images" and "recorded speech" in an interactive format. Like a game. Recorded speech wouldn't make sense directly in a game, but the still images, as conceptual, pictographic communication kind of like comics, could have a lot of interesting potential.

I just don't know how. A game where you compose images for a review? A game where you are a character inside a review? How do you translate the experience from the linear format into something interactive? Magic crayons? Miniature gardens?

The recorded speech is what you create in your head, your train of thought, while interacting with the static images. Static images are to animation as what is to games? Animation is essentially many still images strung together in sequence, but Zero Punctuation slows it way down, down to the bare minimum. Hmm.

You put those images together in space, rather than time, and you have comics. Instead of recorded speech, you have text. But you also have the reader's mind filling in the gaps. You have the viewer filling in the gaps in Zero Punctuation, too. And the way the images play off the speech, and the way the mind bounces between them gives it a certain flavor that is very interesting. How do you describe that dynamic? How do you recreate it in a game?

Back to animation and static images. What are games made of, if animations are made of static images? Choices? "A series of interesting choices." But what happens if you slow those down - are we back to text adventures here? Whatever happened to information density?

But in Zero Punctuation, it's all about the timing. Comedy is about timing, animation is about timing, and Zero Punctuation is about comedy. The images in Zero Punctuation aren't slower versions of normal animations - in fact, they feel faster. They cut out the slow stuff, the stuff that makes things feel detailed and coherent, and it still feels good. It feels unique, it has its own style.

It suggests, connotes, implies detail like digital speedpainting. It does not elaborate. What is the equivalent for games? In terms of pace I'm thinking WarioWare or any number of Flash clones. But what would it look like to have these compressed choices, only the important or amusing stuff, maybe random and incoherent, but always contributing to the pace and feel if not the plot or the main goal?

What would it look like? How could you make a game like that?