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Article - 'What Joe Public Looks for in a Game' by GaZZwa

An item about Game Design posted on Aug 8, 2003


GaZZwa discusses what the average member of the RM2k community looks for in a home developed game.


What Joe Public Looks for in a Game

So, the title say ‘Joe Public’, this article is more for those of you who are creating a game and want to know what, on the most part, the gamers of our dear community look for in a game. There have been numerous polls and topics about this, but here is an article anyway – just so I don’t get fired.

In any game, the main factor to consider is gameplay. A game has to be fun, else nobody will play it. It doesn’t matter how good the graphics are, how custom your battle system is or how fantastic your storyline is, if it is boring it will crash and burn (mentioning no names….Kindred Saga). So, when creating your game always keep the fun factor in mind. I know it can be difficult whilst sorting out the numerous variables and switches, fork conditions and timers needed for your “original, outstanding and l33t CBS”, but always try and play through your game, or even better, get a friend to play through it – ignoring it’s graphical or technical significance. If a game is fun, no matter how bad the graphics are, it’s sure to have a good reception at the box office. Er, I mean the forums.

Gamers (particularly at this forum) like to believe that the story and character development is very important in a game as well. This is not true. But, hey, if it’s what they’re looking for, then give it to them. After all, the customer is always right. But then, depending on the type of game, storyline and character development doesn’t always matter. If you were making say, a puzzle game on Klik, then I doubt you’d have to take this factor into consideration. In an RPG however, storyline is very important. It is what drives the game, what makes the characters believable and what (aside from gameplay) keeps the player interested. Now, let me get one thing straight. In no game is storyline more important than gameplay. Games are not books, they are games, an interactive medium designed to be played and to fuel enjoyment. Hence the play in the word gameplay. Whilst storyline certainly adds to the enjoyment, gameplay is what makes or breaks a game. I know of people who spend months planning the story and actions of the characters before they’ve even opened up RM2k. This is good, as the game will have an excellent plot and some pretty believable characters, but what if they had spent months planning every minigame, every ‘level’, every battle, and every moment that could possibly be determined as fun? Then what? I think they’d be on to a winner.

Another much debated subject is that of graphics. People time and time argue that graphics don’t matter a single but, and then go look at a PS2 game and cry out with glee “Wow! Look at those graphics!” Whilst graphics may not add playability or fun, they certainly add to the experience. Would MGS2 have been hyped up so much if it weren’t for the lifelike guards and amazing movie-esque cutscenes? I think not. And whilst looking at screenshots, and you determine the story, gameplay, quality of music or anything else? No. The only thing you can determine is anything visual – the graphics. If graphics don’t matter a bit, then why in reviews do (even I) people write “The graphics are only RTP…”. The thing is, something that is graphically pleasing will do better at first than something that is not. If you quickly play a game with RTP for a couple of minutes, without paying any attention to storyline or character development, then do the same with a game that has excellent graphics, you will feel you got a better playing experience with the latter. Why? It’s all to do with visual impact. If you saw two screenshots, and you didn’t know anything about the two games, one with RTP, and one with original graphics, which are you going to download? I rest my case.

I’m not an expert on music, but I know when it’s used well. The key to having a good soundtrack is to use a varied amount of tracks, and to use them in all the right places. This helps with emotional impact, and any other impact depending on the subject matter of the game. Another thing that many members of the community look for is customisation (is that even a word?) It is common belief that RM2k games nowadays must have a Custom Battle System, Custom Menu System, Custom Graphics, Custom Soundtrack and be the most innovative thing since the wheel. Sure, a CBS, CMS and all the rest prove what a programming wizz you are, but is that really necessary. Many of the CBS’ I’ve played in my time are slow, sluggish and don’t really work that well. Some are just so boring, you attack, they attack, you attack, etc until one of you is dead. In my opinion, unless you know what you’re doing, stick to the DBS and explore new ideas with that. Hell, my 3D rendered DBS in Fireblade set some people into ‘awe mode’ when they first saw it. So don’t push yourself if you don’t think you can handle a CBS just yet. It may add to your game, but it may ruin it as well. Many games regarded as the community’s best feature just the DBS (Legion Saga & 2, Bob’s Big Adventure and A Blurred Line) so don’t feel that your game will only be good if it has a CBS or CMS.

In conclusion, I’d like to say that customised features, original graphics and music does not make a game, but it does add to the whole playing experience. It’s a sad fact that these features may make your game more popular, even if the gameplay isn’t as good as it could be. Storyline is very important if your game is an RPG, but always keep in mind that gameplay is by far the most important aspect of your game. Graphics certainly aren’t the most important aspect ever, but try a little harder than RTP and your game will certainly receive a better reception. It’s not that the RTP graphics are particularly bad, they’re just so overused now, and not very varied. If (like me) you’re useless at creating graphics, then shop around a bit, places like Gaming World and RPG2knet have a good supply of chipsets and charsets just waiting to be used. That’s all from me today, I hope you’ve all learnt something. Good day to you, and happy gaming.

-- GaZZwa