Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Fail Faster

This week's Extra Credits knocked it out of the park. Totally obvious once you have any experience designing games, yet it's a truth nobody seems to grasp. In fact the mantra of pursuing and embracing failures is a good general rule for life I think.

Interestingly, when I saw the title "Fail Faster" I assumed they were going to talk about making the player's failures in-game quick and spectacular rather than drawn out and painful, which is another design cornerstone. (The exception being something like Cold War: CIA vs KGB where watching your opponent trying to fruitlessly dig themselves out of a progressively-more-hopeless quagmire is half the fun. (for you.))

By "spectacular" I mean that failure is generally much more frustrating when its visceral feel is muted. A great example of quick and spectacular failure can be found in Super Meat Boy. When you die, you literally explode in a shower of blood (which arguably less distasteful when you consider that the protagonist is after all made of raw meat) and then instantly respawn and try again. A few dozen attempts (that would be frustrating if not for their brevity) leave the stage completely coated in the gory allegory of your own incompetence, and it is glorious.

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