Being annoyed at uncertainty in games

24 May 2018

Game designs often have suspense and anticipation. You have to get excited for the future! This… “Uncertainty”, if handled badly punishes the player even if they played well.

Some things are a slight irritation. Most players wont realise they’re being irritated.

  • Not knowing when a temporary powerup finishes (countless examples)
  • Never being able to explore certain dialogue options (especially ones that have pre-requisites)
  • Multiple paths to the goal done carelessly (high quantity, medium/low quality design)

Then we have poor visual indicators or appeal. As a player I should have answers to questions such as:

  • Is that area part of the game world? Can I go there?
  • Is the enemy taking damage?
  • Am I “closer” to solving a puzzle?
  • Can I make this 3d platforming jump? How do I know I’m above a platform?

The strangest things about minor irritation is that some players might not blame the game if they lose. How am I supposed to pick that up during playtesting?!

All uncertain things become more certain after trial and error, but if your main gameplay just boils down to memorising the location and timing of unfair moments you might as well try and fail at cooking, studying, public speaking, etc. Anything for the future.

If your videogame can’t make the player a better person than theres something wrong. Don’t force your game to compete with homework for no good reason.

It should stand out on it’s own. Thats why more people know what “tetris” is than “megaman”.

Have fun out there, won’t ya?