Game Usability: Advice from the Experts for Advancing the Player Experience (Ch. 9)

Swain, C. (2008). Master Metrics: The Science Behind the Art of Game Design. In K. Isbister and N. Schaffer (Eds.), Game Usability: Advice from the Experts for Advancing the Player Experience (pp. 119-140). New York: Morgan Kaufmann.

Swain describes eight metric-based game design techniques currently in popular use, based on interviews with leading game designers. Overall, he points to several ways that creative processes such as brainstorming can be aided by analytic approaches.

8 metric-based game design techniques:

  1. Listening to Metacritic (up to a point)
  2. Morphological Analysis (define parameters; generate examples of each parameter; combine examples from different parameters)
  3. Quantify Types of Emotions Evoked (offer three or more, among fiero, curiosity, amusement, relaxation/excitement) – see p. 128-9
  4. Use “Heat Maps”
  5. Use “Time Spent” Reports
  6. Track Engagement with Biosensors to Quantify User Experience
  7. Simplify Controls through Measured Complexity Models (Control Dimensionality)
  8. Integrate Playcentric Design throughout Development

Themes from high-scoring games:

  • Large in scope – 20+ hrs of content
  • Variety of player choice/activity
  • Highly replayable
  • Top quality visuals and sound
  • Responsive and easy controls
  • Engaging story/characters
  • Quality interactive world/artificial intelligence
  • Responsive camera

Themes from low-scoring games:

  • Gameplay undifferentiated from similar titles
  • Shoddy production values or controls
  • Player unsure of what to do or what just happened
  • Game mechanics disconnected from premise
  • Non-interactive environment—too linear
  • Does not flow
  • Save points too spread out
  • Long repetitive load screens

Types of emotions:

  • Fiero – means “personal triumph.” Mechanics that involve mastery tend to evoke fiero. Other game elements: goals, challenge, obstacles, strategy, power-ups, puzzles, score, levels, and monsters.
  • Curiosity – implies imagination, surprise, wonder, and awe. Game elements: iconic situations, exploration, experimentation, fooling around, role-playing, ambiguity, details, fantasy, and uniqueness.
  • Relaxation/Excitement – Game elements: repetition, rhythm, completion, collection, meditation, working out, simulation, and study.
  • Amusement – choices with other people increase emotions and social bonds. Game elements: cooperation, p2p competition, communication, performance, spectacle, characters, and personalization.

Control Dimensionality – measure of the degree of complexity inherent in a control mechanism (see p. 136-7).


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