Are you guilty of gluttony in game writing and design?

It has been said that there can be too much of a good thing, and game writing and game design is no exception. The sin of gluttony embodies this concept, but gluttony isn’t about quantity but excess. Continuing on our exploration of the Seven Deadly Sins, how does gluttony play a role in game writing and design?

Too much writing
Gluttony in game writing is far too obvious. The dialog trees go on too long. The cut scenes last forever. Even well-written games have fallen prey to the sin of gluttony. While Bioware games are a shining example of good story and writing in games, one blogger joked how you could learn the deep dark secrets of your plumber if Bioware were writing the interaction (if anyone can find that post, drop a link below!). Some have nicknamed Planescape: Torment, another example of great story, Planescape: the Novel. In game writing as in all things, moderation is key.

Too much “art”

Gluttony brings to mind rotund individuals shoveling food into their faces, but according to the History Channel series, gluttons come in all shapes and sizes. If you always eat fine foods, you could be a glutton as well. Medieval priests would claim you are in essence putting your experience of the food first before your relationship with God.

Does this mean we should make sure there’s something flawed in the games we design, like medieval artists who put flaws in their work? Luckily or unluckily, we have yet to see a perfect game. Instead, we should strive to use all aspects of design in moderation — not too much emphasis on gameplay over story, nor too much emphasis on story over anything else. Furthermore, we need not drill down a theme or concept to its very core. We end up with games that are too serious or try too hard. At the end of the day, it is only a game.

Too much fun?
The goal is to make the game more fun, but some developers have approached design with the goal of making it more addictive.  Of course, studies have shown that compulsive gaming is not an addiction, but that hasn’t stopped some developers.  The drawback with this approach becomes apparent whenever you talk to people about playing games.  They reply: “Oh, I can’t play games.  I would get nothing accomplished!”  In this way, encouraging player gluttony could actually hurt sales.

On the other hand, I have worked on an MMO where we aimed to create gameplay experiences that could be accomplished in 15 minutes or half an hour.  This way, players could better weave gaming into a full life.  Which way do you think the wind is blowing — toward more addictive games, or games that can be played in moderation?

Clearly, gluttony has more than one face when it comes to games.  In what area do you think the game industry is stumbling the most?

Posted by Anne for Writers Cabal, a game writing and design partnership.
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Published in: on January 22, 2009 at 2:20 pm  Comments (5)  
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  1. An example of ‘glutton’ that I’ve found with most amateur game developers in the past is ‘Too Much Features’. Though features rich game tends to be better than a plain and simple one, it harms the development cost and time.
    So the game with too much features almost always came out with lower quality than it was expected.

    For that matter and tight budget, some designers are being apathetic. Resulting as some recent games came out rather dull. So how to balance this? My opinion- Less Features & More Addictive

    As the casual market is glowing bigger everyday, more game will be made with easier goal (or shorter level) for player to finish it with 15-20 minutes.
    On the other hand, the game must be addictive enough to get player attention. This model is already be implemented for casual game and most handheld platform.

    But what about other genre? To cover more audiences ground, the design will goes the same way. Since addictive is countered by learning curve, the minor goals will be more important. However nobody likes to do whatever s/he was told to do, so we will see more of the ‘free roaming’ game in the future.

  2. Yes, “feature creep” has been a problem for developers for ages. It can create lots of unnecessary work for designer and programmer alike. Plus, it can be offputting to the player if there are too many bells and whistles. This is where the old “editorial eye” comes in handy, to get to a game that’s simple and fun.

    If a developer wants to avoid gluttony, I don’t think switching one gluttony for another is a good plan. Trading “too many features” for “addictiveness” would do just that. I do think trading “too many features” for simplicity and fun would work though. Fun is fun, and people will play fun without it having to be addictive.

    Of course, if you don’t mind gluttony, then aiming toward making your game more addictive might get more players, but it also might scare some off when they hear it’s addictive. If you decide to go this route, just watch out for backlash if your internal memos reach the press ;)

    -Anne

  3. […] 90% of Compulsive Gamers are Not “Addicts” Pretty relieving point-of-view – so from overall gamers 1% is addicted? (Found via Writer’s Cabal) […]

  4. […] 90% of Compulsive Gamers are Not “Addicts” Pretty relieving point-of-view – so from overall gamers 1% is addicted? (Found via Writer’s Cabal) […]

  5. Thanks for the insight.
    I would add a problem I first noticed with the Tomb Raider series, although the old Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins had it too: equating more difficult with more fun. The reasoning seems to be that if the game requires utter concentration and has no room for error, people will be that much more obsessed and proud of it. But this factor has to be balanced with reward!


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