I’ve been wanting to start blogging for a while now as a way to record my thoughts and share them with whomever is interested. I don’t really want to limit my topics here but I have a feeling it will mainly revolve around games, design and the things I do.
Today I’m going to take on the same assignment I gave to students in a game design course I’m teaching on that is part of the interaction design bachelor program at Malmö University. The assignment is to choose a game they like, and write a blog post analyzing the game and reflecting on the things they like about it.
My wife and I have recently been having a blast playing Diablo III on the PS4 so it naturally came to mind for this post. Diablo III is an action role-playing game developed by Blizzard Entertainment. Set in a fantasy world, players choose one of 6 character classes and go through the game world defeating demons and the like, collecting items (loot!) and gaining power. I played the game on PC when it first came out and enjoyed it quite a bit. The console version however, is a whole other beast (Pun not intended. They just come naturally).
The first thing I noticed when we started playing was how different the controls would feel. The PC version uses a click-to-move scheme using the mouse while the console version uses the analog stick for direct movement. I call it “direct” because that is how it feels. When clicking to control movement, you are giving a command to the character and then waiting for the character to walk to that position. This creates a sort of disconnection between the player and the character, or at least that is how it feels when compared to the direct response I get from the controller. Simply put, I felt more connected to the character and the action.
Now the second thing I noticed was how much more fun local multiplayer was than online multiplayer. Now this is no news to me. Through local multiplayer we were able to start our game together, advance together and maintain the same level of engagement in the game. If anything, I think we both enjoyed the expansion more than the base game because that part of the game was unfamiliar to me. In the main campaign I was familiar with game mechanics, story and boss fights (the fact that it was a few years ago and the game had undergone some patches helped me enjoy it nonetheless). This meant that I had to slow down at times to explain certain mechanics and my wife had to deal with me being a know it all. She also may have missed out on the satisfaction of figuring some dynamics out on her own. When we reached the expansion campaign, we were at the same level of skill and the story was new to the both of us. This balance between us led to a more enjoyable experience.
The last thing I want to talk about is something I really enjoyed: Legendary loot!
It seems that the loot system was designed to build up anticipation and excitement. In the case of legendary items, it does so in 3 ways: When the item first drops there is a beam of orange light going upwards from it which distinguishes it from others which causes initial excitement. Until the item is picked up, the players don’t know who will receive it. This is where anticipation starts to build. Once a player has received the item, it is unidentified (unknown name and stats). They must “identify” it by pressing the square button and wait for a progress bar to load. This step costs nothing and it’s only purpose is to build more anticipation (I assume). For my wife and I the experience goes a little something like this:
Who’s gonna get it!?
Ooh it’s for you! Check it out! Check it out check it out!”
Then we like to do a drum roll while the progress bar loads…
“Wow! that is definitely an upgrade. Equip!”
Of course the build up of anticipation and excitement can either lead to joy when the item is good or disappointment when it isn’t. This is where balancing drop quality and frequency comes in. You can read more about that here.
This is as clear as I’m going to get in using the MDA framework for analysis (Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics) in this post. It is a framework that looks at mechanics as the components of a game, dynamics as the way mechanics behave and interact with each other and with player input, and aesthetics as the emotional responses they trigger in players. You can read more about the MDA framework here.
That’s all for now. I hope it was a good read. More to come later!