Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Game design is about action (Designing Single-Player Mobile Game). Thus, the important question for the game developer is, “What do the players do and how do they do it?"

Single-player actions

In single-player games, users struggle with challenges provided by the game. Basic challenge types in single-player games are physical challenges, puzzles, beating Artificial Intelligence (AI) opponents, and the learning of game-world mechanics. These actions are usually connected to learning (see the table below).

For example, when players are beginning to play an action game, they first learn the basic controls. After this, they continue to learn how to use controls efficiently. The players learn which actions are efficient against certain opponents in certain situations, and their reaction times become faster and more reliable. This learning of physical controls is also connected to learning the mental model of the game, since correct use of controls is only possible when the player knows how to correctly interpret the game world and anticipate game actions.

Users overcome game challenges with different actions:

  • Moving
  • Moving player: jumping, running, crouching, moving focus
  • Moving objects: transferring, giving orders
  • Doing
  • Attacking, blocking
  • Manipulating objects
  • Manipulating the game world
  • Thinking
  • Guessing
  • Making decisions
  • Solving
  • Remembering

Learning to overcome challenges with these basic actions — that is, trying, sometimes succeeding, and sometimes failing — is an essential part of game design, and has a great effect on the game experience. To ensure a good user experience, basic actions should be intuitive, but they should also be hard to master. For example, game controls should be relatively simple, but mastering them should be difficult. If the challenges are too tough, players will get frustrated. On the other hand, if there is no real challenge, they will be bored.
Game experience and actions should be designed to help players perform these actions and give them the feeling of beating the challenge.

Multiplayer actions

In multiplayer games, other players provide the main challenge for the game, by acting with the player. Players beat the challenge cooperatively or try to beat each other. Although the basic actions — moving, thinking and doing — are the same, players need to understand how their own actions affect other players, and how the other players’ actions affect them.
In addition, a player may act with other players outside the actual game. Game communities, high-score lists, or discussions with other players about game strategies and tactics can be an essential part of the game experience. The presence of other players has a great effect on the game experience; even simple games like Paper-Rock-Scissors can become interesting if played with a human opponent whose actions other players try to predict.

Examples of possible actions outside the actual game include:

  • Communicating with other players
  • Commenting, chatting, discussing
  • Sharing knowledge
  • Competing with other players
  • Comparing scores and achievements
  • Challenging, accepting, and denying challenges
  • Sharing
  • Uploading scores
  • Uploading ghosts

Designers should design multiplayer game actions that give players the feeling of beating the challenge in interaction with other players.