Monday, February 14, 2011

Gameplay Pacing

Doing story research for my last big unannounced project at Disney, one of the things I had the pleasure of learning about was some good rules of thumb when crafting an entertaining climax. One of those rules was to increase the speed at which events unfold as tension increases before the climax. This rule is particularly interesting, I think, when factoring in game design and the emotional mirror.

Gameplay usually gets more challenging over time, offering more and more twists that often slow down pace as you progress. More tiny platforms to land on, more death falls, and more ways to potentially redo content and really "prove" your skill. But there's a sense of slowness accompanies gameplay challenge that correlates with falling action. The opposite is also true; that there is a sense of speed that accompanies gameplay confidence that correlates with rising action.

When attempting to recreate a classic dramatic arc in games, I think it's a good idea to trade challenge for a faster pace in the final gameplay moments before the climax. Let tension arise from story as the antagonist gets equally close to achieving his or her goal. Meanwhile, a novel twist to familiar gameplay -- such as heightened power and new visual effects, presumably for story reasons -- gives the player just enough "new" to stimulate interest, but against simple or familiar gameplay and challenges that prioritize speed and mirror an exciting story pace.

A real-world example, tomorrow.

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