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I agree with most of what you say, but disagree with point three. Games don't need to be empowering. They can be, but they don't need to be.

A good example is Limbo.


Oh I disagree there.

I've touched on it a bit in some posts (but not directly yet) but when I use the term 'empowering' I mean more than weapons and powerups etc. It means the ability to affect real change in a game world in a way that you rarely get to experience in the real world.

Scrabble is empowering, Tetris is empowering and - yes - Limbo is empowering. That third point is referring to futile busywork, or actions that have no clear consequence.

Thanks for the comment!


I've added a small edit to make that clearer.

Simon Strange

I absolutely agree that aiming for a realistic simulation is usually the wrong way to approach a sub-system like movement. But I wouldn't say that "feeling right" is a better way to frame the goal, because people tend to correlate good "feel" with how closely a feature matches a similar feature in another game.

For example, some small number of people really like the tank-style movement controls of the old Resident Evil games. If they have that in mind they might get the feel just right - but most people would still hate it.

At the other end of the spectrum, relying on feel can make it very hard to innovate.

Many games - most even - would do well to focus more on feel. I wouldn't say it's not a valuable metric for creating systems within games. But I do think it's wrong to say that feel is _always_ the best way to evaluate things.

I nitpick because I care.

Gary Penn

Feel is EVERYTHING (well, almost). Feel is broad and nebulous, encompassing sensory and emotional stimulus; a need for everything to feel direct, tangible, reactive, plausible; to make you feel moved, involved, empowered, like you make the difference - like you are just enough in control that success and failure always feel like your doing.

Feel almost feels so vague as to feel meaningless. But feel inescapably encompasses and reflects so much beneath the surface.

Red hat reactions are the best form of feedback for designers. As much as it can hurt, you can't argue with feel. If something feels unresponsive or unfair to players or clearly doesn't move players - that's how they feel (but shouldn't be confused with black hat reactions).

The tricky bit is trying to get those players to express as honestly as possible so you can more accurately identify the issues; the trickier bit is trying to figure out how best to fix the issues (but, again, feel can provide a target - an end).

Most versions of Tetris have bad feel. The latest incarnation on Facebook is fantastic - the best yet. (I was so wrong that it'd had its day.)

Scrabble is extremely variable in feel. Some of the undirected play and random letter selections can feel VERY unfair - as can inadvertently playing against someone significantly better than you online :<

Limbo is a mixed bag that's sometimes more successful than not. The visual style occasionally contributes more to the quality of the feel than the unremarkable controls. That said, the feeling of playing with an incapable character clearly out of his depth does have its moments (even though it usually left me swearing).


Awesome Gary!

Miaou Meow

Do you mean to say that all actions should be 'as simple as they could be'? While I agree that a lot of actions benefit from being simple and immediate, like Mario's jump, there are some things where adding a step enhances the feel - the example that springs to mind is the boost feature in 'Star Wars Episode 1: Racer', where you had to push the control stick forward until it was ready, then let go of the accelerator button and press down on it again (and this feels really powerful, I've experienced few things in better games that have the same effect). By my reckoning that's 2 or 3 steps when it could have followed 'F-Zero's lead and had boost on its own button - but that would have lost some of the feel of the thing.

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