[Chris Crawford] The Art Of Computer Game Design (BookFi org) pdf


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The Art

  Po pular characterizatio ns o f the co mputer alternate between the o ld image o f the co mputer as o mniscient, co ld blo o ded, giant calculato r, and the new image o f theco mputer as purveyo r o f video thrills and 25 cent fixes. While the arguments presented in public debates no rmal- ly fo cus o n fo rmal issues such as delinquency fro m scho o l, creatio n o f large gro ups o f ro wdyteenagers, and so fo rth, the co ncerns expressed privately reflect a distaste fo r the games, a vague suspicio n that the games are a waste o f time.



  Players may gain o r lo se po ssessio n o f symbo ls either by rando m pro cess- es o r by matching so me co mbinatio n allo wed by the rules o f the game. Since the number o f co mbinatio ns is very large, precise co mputatio n o f the requi-site pro babilities exceeds the mental po wers o f almo st all players, rendering the game a primari- ly intuitive exercise.


  In truth, the runners do interact psycho lo gically, fo r the perfo rmance o f o ne runner can affect the perfo rmance o f the o ther runners. Altho ugh these games co ntain simple mental and physical co mpo nents, Instead, the player’s primary co ncern in these games is the use o f so cial skills illuminating the fun- damental ro le o f the gro up in human life.


  Mo st o f the time the puzzles are a mino r co mpo nent o f the o ver-all game, fo r a game that puts mo st o f its challenge value o n included puzzles will rapidly lo se its challenge o nce the puzzles have been so lved. In the fo rmer, o ne plays against the lo gic o f the situatio n; in the latter, o ne uses the lo gic o f the situatio n to play against the o ppo nent.


  Just as ro ck 'n ro ll was the entry po int into the wo rld o f music fo r an entire generatio n, so will skill-and-actio n games be the entry po int into the wo rld o f games fo r the who lepo pulatio n. In the shape o f an airplane we can see the principleso f aero dynamics; so to o in a taxo no my o f living creatures can we see the hand o f natural selec- tio n.


  There are many variatio ns o n this theme, mo st arising fro m variatio ns o n the geo m- etry o f the situatio n o r the weapo nry o f the o ppo nents. STAR RAIDERS presents the co nflict in first-perso n geo metry ( that is, the televisio n screen sho ws the same scene that the pilo t wo uld see.) SPACEWAR uses much the sameweapo nry and mechanisms with o ne crucial difference: the geo metry o f the game is third-perso n rather than first-perso n ( that is, the player sees his o wn and his o ppo nent’s spaceships fro m a dis-tance.) The difference in result is o bvio us to anyo ne who has played bo th games.


  Fo r the mo ment, co mputer wargaming is to o clo sely asso ciated with bo ard wargaming in the minds o f the public and mo st designers; until it can shake free fro m the co n-straints o f bo ardgames and, establish its o wn identity, co mputer wargaming will evo lve slo wly. Indeed, o ne o f the mo st intriguing o f card games, po ker, is based no t so much o n co ld pro bability assessments as o n the deceptio ns made po ssible by the limited info rmatio nemplo yed in the game.


  We must remember that the co mputer is the servant o f the human; the co nvenience ( No w o ur hero is plummeting earthward fro m the to p o f a cliff, furio usly flapping makeshift wings attached to his arms.)O ne o f the mo st disgusting denizens o f co mputer gamedo m is the transplanted game. Altho ugh yo ur initial flash o f inspiratio n may fo cus mo re o n the to pic than thego al, yo u must have the determinatio n to take co ntro l o f the design and impo se yo ur o wn go als o nto the to pic rather than allo wing yo urself to be swept away by the mo mentum o f the to pic.


  Yo ur game must give the authentic feel, the texture o f the real wo rld, and this can o nly be achieved if yo u firmly understand the enviro nment o f the game. Yo u may well find yo urself adjusting yo ur go als as yo u perfo rm this research functio n; such erratic decisio n-making is an embarrassingadmissio n o f po o rly-defined go als, but reflects an ho nest willingness to adapt to the exigencies o f the to pic-enviro nment.


  The o nlyplace where striking but uninfo rmative graphics and so und can be useful is at the beginning o f the game, and then o nly if they help to establish the mo o d o r to ne o f the game. Fo rtunately this pro blem is o verridden in STAR RAIDERS, because the fantasy puts the player at the co ntro ls o f a starship, and so the player finds the intricacy o f the co ntro l layo ut a suppo rtingelement o f the fantasy rather than a hindrance.



  Games have failed to live up to their po ten- tial because the pro grammer did no t expend eno ugh effo rt, o r rushed the jo b, o r didn’t bo ther towrite in assembly language, but in few cases has talent o r lack o f it been the crucial facto r in the pro gramming o f a game; rather, effo rt o r lack o f it is mo st o ften the respo nsible facto r. The inclusio n o f zo nes o f co ntro l in the game no t o nly so lved the unit co unt pro blem; it also made the lo gistics rules mo re significant and gave the game a richer set o f strategies.


  A co m- puter game is created fo r the benefit o f the human, and therefo re is cast in the intellectual terri-to ry o f the human, no t that o f the co mputer. To co ntinue with the example abo ve, a better algo rithm might be "determine the enemy unit po sing the greatest co mbinatio no f threat and vulnerability ( based o n range, activity, facing, range to o ther friendly units, co ver, and sighting) ; fire o n unit if pro bability o f kill exceeds pro bability o f being killed".


  So me games co ncentrate the bulk o f o ne activity o n o ne side, making o ne side the attacker and the o ther side the defender. Mo st games pro vide a direct relatio nship between o ppo nents, as sho wn in the fo llo wing diagram:Since the o ppo nent is the o nly o bstacle facing the player, the simplest and mo st o bvio us reso lu- tio n o f the co nflict is to destro y the o ppo nent.



  The mo st impo rtant facto r in the creatio n o f the illusio n o f winnability is the cleanliness o f the game. But if the player believes failures to be attributable to co rrectable erro rs o n his o wn part, he believes the game to be winnable and plays o n in an effo rt to master the game.


  In the simple days o f the seventies, when co mputer games were co unted by the tho usands rather thanthe millio ns, no bo dy much cared abo ut their effects because they were a mino r co mpo nent o f o ur so ciety. This is the same line o f tho ught that extrapo lated co mput- er develo pment in the late 60’s to predict ever-larger, ever-faster mainframes as the primaryavenues o f develo pment in the co mputer industry fo r the 70’s.


  Thus, the same fo ur stages o utlined fo r the auto mo bile o ccurred with televisio n: pio neer, co nquest, transfo rmatio n o f so ciety by the techno lo gy, andtransfo rmatio n o f the techno lo gy by so ciety. The co mputer will change o ur habits and o ur leisure time, but it will no t change o ur perso nalities, fo r emo tio nally we are still the same peo ple who builtthe pyramids, fo ught the Crusades, and co lo nized the New Wo rld.


  Just as mo vies and televisio n fell prey to the fo rmulas o f sex and vio - lence, co ps and ro bbers, sitco ms, and the o ther mechanical incantatio ns o f the mass media, soto o will games fall victim to the tyranny o f the mass market. War is the mo st extreme expressio n o f human co nflict, the greatest evil o f human existence, and the highesttragedy o f o ur species; it is therefo re an o bvio us starting po int fo r a serio us artist.


  I spent a great deal o f time trying to add the lo nely so und o f the wind whistling against the blade o f the swo rd, but I was never able to o btain satisfacto ryresults. Yet, fro m the dreams o f the vanquished aro se the legend o f the co nquering King Arthur, a legend that passed thro ugh the ages and agreeably mo lded itself to suit the needs o f any sto ryteller.


  These six mo nths were no t a to tal lo ss; indeed, much pro gress was made: Larry co mpleted the eco no mics pro cessing, the BRITAIN mo dule, disk swap-ping o f mo dules, the presentatio n o f diplo matic news, and a number o f majo r co nso lidatio ns o f the ever-burgeo ning co de. O ne way to characterize the difference between the "thesis" o f a histo rical game and the "thesis" o f a bo o k o r article is that the game thesis can be written in present tense ( e.g. "the FrenchRevo lutio n resulted fro m a go vernment fiscal crisis, an eco no mic emergency and a lessening o f mo narchical autho rity" ) whereas a co nventio nal textual thesis is in past tense.

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