What Makes A Game Fun – 3 Tips To Make A Fun Game
How do you design fun? What makes a game fun? We’re going to talk about that and so much more coming up. What’s up guys Tim Ruswick here from Game Dev Underground helping you build finish and launch better games. Today we’re talking about fun. More specifically how do you make a game fun. What makes an indie game fun. I think there are a lot of things that kind of incorporated into all this. There are a lot of important points to remember. And I first I would just say that not every game has to be fun. I think every game has to be entertaining. I think it has to really capture an attention and get the player to play through the experience.
Fun is generally the way that we do that right. It’s generally how we make it happen. And defining what fun is can be complicated because there are so many different games that are fun for so many different reasons. So how do you say this makes a game fun this doesn’t because there is so many different you know ways to get there.
So I think we’re going to talk in general abstraction terms today. We’re going to talk about some of the things that I’ve learned some of the stuff that I think I picked up over the years talking a lot of smart people way smarter than I am about how to design games and all that stuff.
So number one I would say games train people to master mechanics and overcome challenges. This is one of the things that I love about games because they allow you to say okay here’s a problem I have to solve this problem or I can’t move forward. And then once I solved the problem I get to move past it and I feel good about myself. And this I think is a core component of fun. It’s the the goal the obstruction and the bridge. Fun comes in with the bridge.
You’ve got a goal you’ve got something preventing you from getting to that goal and then the point of the game is for the player to build a bridge across past the obstruction to the goal. Now it’s it’s important to note that like how games work, it’s not always a hundred percent straightforward, it’s not always like how do we define this, and that’s why prototyping is so important, that’s why play testing is so important. You want to throw a bunch of stuff out there see what works see what sticks have other people get your input. Because then you can kind of find fun right.
Rather than design fun. Finding fun is always a lot easier than designing it because if you just want to think it up in your head as Chris DeLeon would say your brain is a horrible emulator. So like I think you finding it is a lot easier and that’s generally what I do because I’ll build a bunch of mechanics that I think are interesting. And then I’ll have somebody play through it and the objective that I haven’t played through is learning how to use the mechanics in certain ways and they have to overcome a goal. If a game is too hard it’s not fun.
And if a game is too easy it’s not fun. Because the player needs to feel that there’s some obstruction that there’s something that they have to overcome to get there. And I would keep that in mind when you’re designing your game. Like if if if all you have to like I see these games a lot where all you do is just tap right just tap tap tap tap tap. That I can’t if I can play your game without focusing on it it doesn’t really it doesn’t make sense in a way. So you’ve got to keep in mind there’s got to be some obstruction.
There’s got to be something preventing the player from getting to their objective. And they have to build the bridge they have to figure out how to cross that chasm if you will. Number two is progression. This is something that life doesn’t give us unfortunately. Because let’s say you’re fresh out of college you get a job opportunity you don’t know if that’s going to level you up.
You don’t know if you should quit college drop out of college start a company. You don’t know if you should go work for your mom and dad or whatever whatever it is. You don’t know the right path and you don’t know if that path will help you progress right. If there was a giant if you made a decision and all of a sudden a giant LevelUp screen appeared right in your face that would kind of be satisfying right. Like life would be yay yay we leveled up.
So you knew you were on the right path. Games don’t or life doesn’t work that way. Games do though. And that’s what make games satisfying. Because we feel like okay yesterday we were in level two now around level three. We feel like we’ve made progress. And there’s a very clear way for us to look at our progress. A lot of times bad games aren’t necessarily bad games they just have a bad way of indicating progress. There was a mine as it mine like where you a maze okay— maze where you you go through and you got to find a way to exit right.
The thing about mazes like especially first-person mazes right but top-down ones are cool but like if you’ve ever played like a first-person maze game like a real maze those games are ridiculous. Because you don’t know if you’re making progress or not. You have no idea. And especially if they have like you know you can’t tell where you are you can’t tell if you’re forward or backward. You can’t tell what’s going on or what’s happening. You can get discouraged. The player can get discouraged right. Because like it’s is this thing that like you don’t know if you’re making progress. So indicating progress is really important.
A lot of games do this a lot of ways sometimes you have like a an XP bar sometimes you have levels sometimes you have you know enemies are getting stronger or your weapons are getting stronger or you get to choose your skills and like RPGs. However your game progresses it needs some sort of progression because if you don’t progress the player it’s going to feel like you’re doing the same thing over again. So there has to be some sort of progression that’s number two on the fun list. Number three I think is wonder. Wonder is really important in fun.
Because if you know everything that’s going to happen if you’re a hundred percent sure and how everything is going to work and how it’s going to go there’s no sense of wonder and if there’s no sense of wonder there’s almost no point to play the game right. Like you know exactly how it’s going to lay out how things are going to work how the story’s gonna unfold. And this is one of the reasons why a lot of story games don’t have a lot of replayability.
Because there isn’t a sense of wonder. They’re very linear and story based there’s no reason to play them again. And there’s no sense of wonder left there. Whereas procedural games like FTL or Binding of Isaac stuff like that. There’s a lot of replayability there because there’s constantly the sense of wonder what’s going to happen next what’s going to happen when I go through this room what’s going to be in here what kind of enemies are going to attack me like.
There’s there’s a constant sense of wonder and your brain is constantly working on like what’s going to happen and be prepared for the challenges. So you got to keep that in mind there’s always should be a sense of wonder. I’m a big fan of like twists in movies or twists and storylines.
And I love that so much because especially like the the movies that do well or the stories that do it well like and I don’t want spoil this, but Halo uh if you don’t want to spoil it for Halo one leave the video now, but essentially when you’re playing through the game you’re like okay the flood or the the what the Covenant why am I bad with names today what the hell— the Covenant is the main enemy right you’re fighting these aliens these are bad guys you go into the ring world they think it’s important you got to like take it over because they’re trying to take it over, but no there’s another enemy deep dark beyond there and they are taking over bodies of the Covenant, they are going to like it’s an enemy that’s not advertised anywhere you didn’t know they existed like whoa who is this enemy.
And then on top of that whoa this ring not only is it amazing not only is it like worshipped by these aliens but not only are they trying to activate it because they believe it’s a god they believe it’s some kind of supernatural power these aliens— but you know that when they activated it’s going to wipe out all sentient life in in the galaxy including you so you got to stop them from doing that and that’s like a it’s a crazy twist the crazy riots what Bungie is so great it like that kind of stuff.
I mean they kind of failed in Destiny 1 but it got better over time. But the point is there was a constant sense of wonder in Halo. There was this ring world that we never seen before these aliens these new aliens that come. Different objectives from different groups you didn’t know what was going to happen it was crazy. And Halo kept my sense of wonder going that’s one of the reasons why that game was a major inspiration for me starting to make games, because the sense of wonder was still massive, and so that’s the third point.
And I would just leave you on that point. So just a recap overcoming a challenge is a big part of fun. Progression is a big part of fun. And a sense of wonder is a big part of fun. So if you do all three of those things I really don’t know how you would end up with a bad game. You know those things are hard to nail on their own so if you do all three of them you get a great title on your hands. If you have any ideas on what makes a game fun or you want to add something to this, leave a comment below cuz I love to hear from you guys it’s always a discussion not a dictation.
But once again I’m Tim Ruswick and I’ll see you guys next time.