Design & Style, Sports & Gaming

Design Player-Centered Experiences

Will Wright

Lesson time 16:15 min

Will believes that failure is critical to helping players learn, and making failure fun is a key part of game design. Learn how Will keeps players entertained throughout their experience.

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Topics include: Enable a Flow State • Failure Accelerates Learning • Design Nested Loops of Success and Failure • Make Failure Fun • Build a Smooth Ramp in Complexity • Create a Landscape With Different Paths • Rewards and Incentives


One thing the game designers really should know is that, you know, it's about the player. You know, it's a player-centered experience. And the player is the one driving that experience. You know, it's the difference between being on a roller coaster and being in a car, behind the steering wheel. Now that player, because they're holding the steering wheel, they're responsible for where they go. They have choice they have decisions to make. And because of that, they take ownership. And that totally changes their relationship to whatever it is. You know, the fact that they were the ones to steer left or right, and because it went off the cliff, it was their fault, or because they, you know, won the lottery, they did it because they picked those numbers. So I think that that's the first and foremost thing, is that when somebody feels like they're in control of a process, they own it. And it now has a fundamentally more personal connection to them than something that's one size fits all, here's the ride, get on it, hope you enjoy it. [MUSIC PLAYING] Flow is kind of a state that the player can get into. And I think of it as basically something that's right at the limit of your abilities. It's pushing you mentally. But it's not too easy, not too hard. If it's too hard, it seems random, it seems arbitrary, it's frustrating. If it's too easy, it's predictable, it's boring. Flow is putting you right on that edge of your abilities, and really testing them. I used to actually race cars. And there was kind of a rule of thumb in racing that if you didn't crash 10% of the time, you weren't trying hard enough. You need to design the game such that failure is interesting and understandable, so that go back and say, aha, now I need to avoid the turtles or whatever it is in the game. And then you kind of build and grow that model. But also you're building your ability to problem-solve and strategize. Every player is can be different, different abilities, different skill sets. In a lot of ways, you want to make the game such that the player is the one adjusting the difficulty. You know, they can choose to go a little bit further, try for this harder thing, or stick with the easy stuff until they're more comfortable. So in some sense, a lot of it can be kind of player-paced. There are more advanced systems that are called DDA, or Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment, where the computer, behind the scenes, is kind of watching with the player's doing. And if they're failing too much, the computer can actually lower the difficulty level, or increase it, you know, if they're not being challenged enough. But in a lot of games, you know, by giving the player enough freedom but also enticing them to try for the hard things-- you know, if you try for this harder thing, you might get this bigger reward. So at that point, the player can kind of choose their own level, and put themself in the flow state. [MUSIC PLAYING] There is a whole topic known as f...

About the Instructor

Learn the art and science of game design with Will Wright, the mind behind SimCity and The Sims. In this game design class, Will teaches you how to create games that empower players and unleash their imagination. You’ll develop a tool set for understanding player psychology, as well as learn Will’s approach to generating and pitching ideas, prototyping, playtesting, and building a community.

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